The month of May is National Foster Care Month, and we decided to participate in The Temporary Mom’s #FosterChallenge2018. We decided to compile every day of posting into a blog post so that you can learn more about our foster care story all in one place!
Our first night home with our first placement was quite eventful with a baby who was just a few days old. It was our first night as parents, period. Though he was anything but scary, caring for a premature, drug-exposed newborn baby who is not yours was intimidating, to say the least. We were not sure what to expect in the coming months as brand new foster parents, and not sure what we’re really supposed to do with the perfectly sweet little stranger. But that first night led to a lifetime of adventure with our little boy.
On our blog : what our first night home with our first placement was really like….
+ 12 must-haves to have on hand when fostering a baby, and 12 things you may not have thought of on the blog!
We have not yet experienced a “last night” as foster parents, though this next week could bring the news that our current placement will be moving to a relative’s home after being in our care for a great length of time. As the adoption process nears for this little one, we’re not sure what the outcome of this next court hearing will be.
It’s frightening. It’s heartbreaking. We’re scared straight of the many unknowns and what-ifs.
But we know that our God is bigger. God is bigger than this situation. He is bigger than our fear. He is more powerful than the foster care system. He is our Creator and holds our future in His hands, including this baby’s future.
We pray ultimately that God’s will be done and what is best for our little would take precedence. We pray for healing of grief that both our family and the bio family will experience as rights continue to be severed, and permanency plans are discussed. We pray for love and understanding. We pray for this child and his future.
As our online foster tribe, would you pray with us? Would you send us encouragement? Would you walk this journey with us? Would keep this sweet baby in your thoughts and prayers in the coming weeks?
Whatever the outcome, there will be joy. Whatever the outcome, all will experience grief. Whatever the outcome, he will always be a piece of our family. Whatever the outcome, we will trust in His plans.
Follow our foster care story on IG @journeys.and.dreams and on our
I think one of the top ways you can prevent burnout is by taking time for yourself, by yourself. This might mean you as an individual, or you and your spouse as a couple. It can be really hard for me to want to leave my kids with someone else, but trust me, you need time away.
You need time without kids. You need time to recharge. You need time to be able to step back from being a parent, and to be able to step away from what’s going on in your child’s case. You need time to be an adult again. You need time alone with your spouse, time spent not talking over kids or talking in code. You need time to refuel your mental, physical, and emotional health so that you can keep going and giving your kids all you have.
Other things on my list might be a good friend to vent to, support groups, and feeding your soul spiritually. But trust me: you need some time to yourself.
Here is what a typical weekday looks like for us with two toddlers in the house:
5:30/6:00 My time to shower and get ready
6:00/6:30 Kids wake up and get dressed
8:00-9:00 Kids play, I get chores done around the house
9:30-10:00 Snack then our littlest goes to bed
10:00-11:00 Our oldest gets play time with mommy. 2-3 times a week he has therapy. We try to schedule it during this block of time while our youngest is napping
11:00-12:00 Play time again for both kids
12:00-1:00 Lunchtime, cleanup, and laying kids down for afternoon nap
1:00-3:00 Typically time I have to work on the Journeys and Dreams shop. I love having the flexibility to work from home and when it works with the kids’ schedules!
3:00-5:30 Kids get another snack and I’m usually folding laundry in the living room while they play. I let them watch tv in the afternoons and take it easy until daddy gets home. While they play I finish up dishes from lunch and make dinner.
5:30 Daddy gets home and it’s dinner time
6:00 after dinner we play outside, or go on a walk as a family. When it’s too hot in this Arizona heat we play inside, and more often than not the boys get some much needed (light) boy rough-housing with daddy or some good boy play time with trucks and dinos, or whatever the kids choose.
7:00-7:30 is our bedtime routine – bath, bottles, and books. Though our kids are old enough to not use bottles, they still eat their warm milk in cups and read books. It’s become a weekly tradition to let the kids stay up later on a weekend night for pizza and a movie in the living room. But every other night we read books and lay our youngest down. Our oldest struggles with sleeping so it’s usually an hour log process or so from the time we lay him down until he’s actually staying in bed and falling asleep.
Around 9:00, we catch up on shows and spend time without the kids
10:00 the adults are in bed, and we do it all over again the next day!
Our task on this day was to post a poll in our Instagram stories. Since this has passed… tell us in the comments below…
- What age group do you foster?
0-5 Years 6-12 Years 13-18 Years
- Are you set up to only foster, or for foster adoption as well?
- Where do you find you gain more knowledge:
Continued Education Class or Foster Care Support Groups?
You’ve heard the phrase “scared children, not scary children,” right?
People see an out of control eight year old who screams, hits, kicks, and destroys everything in sight and judges his actions up and down. People see a twelve year old who crawls around barking, pretending to be a dog, and think she’s “mental.” People see a boy who acts out in class because he cannot sit still long enough to grasp new concepts. People see a pregnant sixteen year old and think she’s the most irresponsible person and their parents must be so disappointed, not knowing she was knocked up from sexual abuse. People see a nonverbal five year old and are not surprised he has no friends.
We see hurt, abuse, neglect. We see SPD, ADHD, RAD, SEN, PTSD, OCD, anxiety, trauma. We see the need for love. We see the need for caring parents. We see foster care.
Foster children are taken away from their families to live with complete strangers. They get moved to a new school and have to make new friends. They are separated from their siblings. They sometimes never see their biological family again. They don’t know neglect is illegal. They don’t realize you should eat three meals a day. They have extra sensory needs and the littlest things trigger large meltdowns. They think sexual abuse means love. They don’t know everyone else’s daddy doesn’t “discipline” in the form of bruises. Their brain is going a mile a minute and they don’t know how to express emotions. They are slower learners, but fast runners, loud screamers, and don’t know it’s from prenatal drug exposure. They don’t always understand why they are taken away. They can even fall victim to the generational cycle of abuse and can’t escape it. What they do know is their entire world just changed. And change is uncomfortable. Change scared them.
When you encounter a child with extreme rage, or extreme fear… when you see a child with learning disabilities or developmental delay… when you see an out of control child, or a child who can’t sit still… remember, put yourself in their shoes. We never know what they are really dealing with unless we have walked a day in their shoes.
C is for change. I am excited to say Arizona has been making efforts to change the foster care system. A brand new legislation was passed that will do a couple things for the foster care system.
In addition to a new bill that allows the state to work with bio parents to keep children in their care while they are in treatment programs, this new legislation will:
1. Require the state to be more active in searching for the child’s relatives
2. Allow the state to sever parental rights of a drug-exposed newborn by their first birthday if the parents have chronic substance-abuse problems – thus allowing for permanency sooner
3. Allow the courts to view foster parents as equal to relatives in the adoption process after a child has been in the foster family’s care for nine months.
Of course with these new legislations there are pros and cons… but, we’re moving in the right direction. I love that the state is aiming to keep families together and be more active in helping families with their drug problems. I also love that caseworkers are required to do even more that I know they are already doing to locate family members.
And if all this fails…. There is a shortened time frame to establish permanency with a newborn. Many newborns in the foster care system are taken away because of drug exposure, and unfortunately the parents often abandon them and never return. Visits are never set up. There is no contact with the child. They never show to court, and sadly they never take their opportunity for treatment. Giving the child a plan for permanency in these cases is crucial to their bonding and attachment. Allowing foster families, who have cared for an infant during this time, to be seen as equal to relatives when considering an adoptive family is a huge step forward. This is also important for the strong ties the baby has with the only family they have known to this point (a year old), and their ability to emotionally attach in the future.
It’s a start.
First off, let’s talk about training for licensing. To become a foster parent in the state of Arizona, you are required to take 30 hours of PSMAPP training classes, in conjunction with a home study.
This process usually takes around 5-6 months, and just like that, you are a licensed foster parent! I’ll be honest when I say those classes were brutal at times, but for the most part, we took away some great information that helped to prepare us for what was coming. (Really, though, the act-it-out scenarios were brutal) 😆
Now, let’s talk about continued training. In the state of Arizona, we are required to take a minimum of 6 additional training hours a year to maintain our license. This is pretty easy to do, and most classes we take provide us with 3 credit hours each. We typically take the classes our licensing agency offers, which are free to foster parents.
One thing about these classes, however, is that they usually seem like a waste of time. (And again, act-it-out scenarios) We really try to attend classes that seem the most interesting and seem to apply to our current needs. There are great takeaways from each class, just not as much helpful education as we’d like within the 3-hour class.
We typically find online courses and books more helpful with tools and information we are seeking about specific and situational needs. There are some online programs where you pay a small membership fee and can take as many classes as you’d like. Ask your licensing worker for a list of websites their agency approves of!
We also find that talking with other foster parents (another benefit of in-person classes), and speaking with our parents about our typical parenting questions, is more helpful than training classes.
I would also like to add that many therapy appointments our children have also count towards our Foster Care Training hours. This is definitely time-saving and provides hands-on experience for both us and the child.
Here are some fun numbers for us:
1671 days since deciding to start a family
1097 day since we started fostering
170 appointments and court hearings for just the kids
100 hours of training under our belts
30+ professionals (social workers, therapists, docs, etc.) have worked with our children
Little blessings in our home right now
☕COUNTLESS cups of coffee to stay afloat
Thousands of meltdowns ❤️ Thousands of hugs and kisses ❤️ Many lives to impact ❤️ Your one family can make a difference!
When the days are long… When the kids are tough… When your patience is gone… When the case is a mess… When you’ve pulled out all your tricks… When therapy isn’t working yet…. When you feel alone in this… When you dealt with another awful visit… When you lost another night of sleep… When another child goes home… When you feel like you’re at the end of your rope… When you feel like you just don’t want to do this anymore…
Take a step back. Take a deep breath. And take a break from this life when you can. Take time to recharge so you can be prepared for another day! Trust in your ability, trust in your calling, and Trust in the One who called you. No matter how you stumble upon parenting, the road is rough. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies, and children who behave in public, and children who don’t say inappropriate things, and children who respect their teachers, and sweet little angels who drift off to sleep peacefully when the day has finished. 😄
I read Paul talking to the Thessalonians about the Lord’s return, and I find much of what he says to them so fitting for us, as believers and as parents to children who come from a broken road. It is a reminder to stay alert and keep up the Good Work in front of us until the day our Savior returns.
5 All of you are children of the light. You are children of the day. We don’t belong to the night. We don’t belong to the darkness… 8 But we belong to the day. So let us control ourselves. Let us put on our chest the armor of faith and love. Let us put on the hope of salvation like a helmet. 9 God didn’t choose us to receive his anger. He chose us to receive salvation because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done…. 11 So encourage one another with the hope you have. Build each other up. In fact, that’s what you are doing.
12 Brothers and sisters, we ask you to accept the godly leaders who work hard among you. They care for you in the Lord. They correct you. 13 Have a lot of respect for them. Love them because of what they do. Live in peace with one another. 14 Brothers and sisters, we are asking you to warn certain people. These people don’t want to work. Instead, they make trouble. We are also asking you to encourage those who have lost hope. Help those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that no one pays back one wrong act with another. Instead, always try to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Give thanks no matter what happens. God wants you to thank him because you believe in Christ Jesus.
19 Don’t try to stop what the Holy Spirit is doing. 20 Don’t treat prophecies as if they weren’t important. 21 But test all prophecies. Hold on to what is good. 22 Say no to every kind of evil.
23 God is the God who gives peace. May he make you holy through and through. ❤️ May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept free from blame. May you be without blame from now until our Lord Jesus Christ comes. 24 The God who has chosen you is faithful. He will do all these things.
1 Thessalonians 5 (NIRV)
Take heart in knowing you’re not in this alone. There are foster parents all over the world walking out this journey too. Connect with them! Find foster parents in your area. Find foster parents on social media. Support one another. Encourage one another. We all need it. ❤️
Caseworkers can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Unfortunately,it just depends on who is assigned to your child’s case and how jaded they are by the system.
For the most part, we have been blessed to have some great caseworkers who are wonderful to get along with. They are genuinely concerned about the children and have done a great job advocating for their kids in care. ❤️
Love on them when you can. They have a tough job. They deal with scary stuff. They see really heartbreaking scenes as they step into homes and have interactions with bio family. They are overworked and often underappreciated by most people they work with. Show grace. Be understanding. Show them you appreciate them – especially when they are doing a phenomenal job, despite the many appointments and paperwork they also have to juggle.
When all efforts have been made to reunify a foster child with their parents, and attempts have been made to find other biological family, the courts move to sever parental rights and the child becomes legally available for adoption, and often times the foster family is who ends up adopting the child.
When we set out to foster, we had been trying to get pregnant for over a year. We still weren’t sure we wanted to do this, but we continued through the foster care licensing process, praying for guidance on our journey. We knew we were ready for kids and, by the time we had become licensed, we felt God was leading us to foster and open our home to children while we waited for our forever family to form. We didn’t set out to adopt, but we were open to this option, should a case plan end that way.
There are families who are like us and foster, but are open to adoption. There are families who only foster, and families who only foster with the intention to adopt – meaning they foster children whose cases are moving towards adoption, or whose rights are already severed and there is no biological family available to take them. And then, of course, many agencies also offer birth mothers and adoptive families private adoption services.
We are so incredibly blessed to have adopted our son. It was our first time parenting, our first time fostering, and this little boy forever became part of our family about a year and a half ago.
We joke when we say we barely got our feet wet fostering him because his case was SO incredibly easy. Aside from court hearings and home visits, he just felt like ours. There was no parent involvement, no visits. No biological family came forward. The caseworker seemed confident early on his case would turn into an adoptive case because of bio mom’s history. There were a few bumps in the road – mostly because the state attorney was NEVER ready with his paperwork at court hearings. It was practically a year and a half from the time he came into our home until the day we adopted him. And we could never imagine our lives without this sweet, spirited child!
He arrived at just a few days old and five pounds small. He has changed our lives in more ways that we can count. He has taught me a new love. He has challenged me to new heights. He has taught me probably more than I have him to this point. He has inspired me to be a better person, and I work hard everyday to be the best mama that he needs.
Reunification – this can be such a touchy topic. As foster parents, we welcome children into our home who turn from strangers into someone special stealing a piece of our heart. Bonds are formed, love is shared, memories are made, milestones are celebrated, and they become part of our family.
When a child returns home, we feel heartbreak. We grieve. We hurt. We cry. We lose a loved one. We fear that we will never see them again.
And this is exactly how parents feel when their child goes into foster care.
When a parent can come to terms with their struggles, face their addictions head-on, rise above extreme poverty, turn their lives around, provide for their family in safe environments, and be reunited with their child, THIS is something worth celebrating! Yes – CELEBRATING! (even while we grieve)
We can become so jaded by the foster care system, especially when we see reunification happen, and the same children rotate in and out of the system and their home. This is a heartbreaking piece of the reunification process, and I wish there was a way to prevent continued emotional damage on all parties involved and invested.
Nonetheless, let us not forget the beautiful stories- the magical moments when parents succeed, children heal, and families become whole again. Let us not forget to celebrate the moments when we see God at work in a family, and join in their joy.
Advocate. Fight. Communicate. Speak Up. Be Their Voice. Fight For Them. Fight For What’s Right. Fight For What’s Best. Don’t let people walk all over them. Don’t let them get lost in the case. Don’t let them be forgotten. Don’t let them be just another name on a piece of paper.
Stay balanced. Seek guidance. Get all the facts. Be positive. But don’t be afraid to speak up. You might be the only one advocating for the child in your care. You never know when your investment and your willingness to go to bat for them will make a difference in their life forever.
What is foster care? It’s much of what you might think, and maybe a little of what you wouldn’t.
It’s a broken system.
It’s busyness with appointments and busybodies.
It’s snuggles and bedtime stories.
It’s uneasy court hearings.
It’s zoo visits and happy meals.
It’s hurting children and healing milestones.
It’s messy living rooms and messy faces.
It’s parenting through struggles.
It’s IEPs and CFTs.
It’s sharing pictures without faces.
It’s visitations and new visitors in your home.
It’s a bunch of “hellos” and many “goodbyes.”
It’s sports games and ballet recitals.
It’s mixed emotions and mixed races.
It’s constant worry and constant worship
It’s tantrums and trust-building.
It’s double strollers and minivans.
It’s shedding tears, and little sleep.
It’s baby-wearing and redirecting.
It’s living in the here and now.
It’s ugly, and beautiful.
It’s sacrifice and it’s surrender.
It’s letting go, and letting God.
It’s mixed beginnings and love unending.
Did you miss our the first half of the Foster Care Challenge? See it here: