Friday, October 5, 2012

"Foster Friday" Guest Post - How Foster Care Has Touched Me


Source
When I first made the decision to become a foster parent, I never really gave much thought as to how that decision would affect people outside of my immediate family.  It wasn't until I got my first placement that I realized just how much my friends, extended family, co-workers, and even acquaintances were touched by my me and my children.  We were connected through these kids who desperately needed us.

Foster care touches so many lives in ways that we sometimes never really think about.  Its effects can be seen when the mother of a foster parent comforts her child through her own tears as her child says goodbye to yet another little one.  It can been seen when the best friend of a foster parent gathers clothing and supplies the second they hear a new child is on the way.  This week's "Foster Friday" Guest Post reflects these stories and more, demonstrating how foster care touches everyone...  Not only those who foster...



Written by Heaven (Booger Bear's Mommy and the Daughter of My Heart :-)

     Foster care played a part in my life because my son (before he was my son) was Tammy's son, and I thank God for that every day.  And my "little brother" Monkey was also her foster son!  :-)  If it weren't for my son being in foster care, who knows how different my life would be right now.  Booger and Banana wouldn't have a Mimi.  I wouldn't have a 2nd mother who understands and listens to me before jumping down my throat.  We wouldn't have our silly family get-togethers.  There just wouldn't be an amazing family!

     Watching Tammy foster amazes me.  She is such a great mom...  The kind I wish I would have had when I was younger...  The kind my sisters and I needed to have instead of an alcoholic father who beat us and a drug addicted mother who left us...  I'm not trying to bash my parents, but with the life my sisters and I went through (and are still going through) makes me wish foster care would have been there when we needed to be loved.  It makes me wish that we hadn't been locked in our rooms or tossed around like we didn't belong by family members who continue to throw it in our faces every chance they get that it's our fault that we had to live/grow up in their home.  I wish that we could have had what Tammy and other amazing mothers give their children who come to them.

     Foster care has touched me by showing me that it makes families stronger.  And sometimes...  If you're lucky...  That family keeps growing and growing, which isn't a problem at all.  Because you can never really have too many people who love you that you can love back!  :-)





Written by Kelliann (College Senior, Former Foster Youth, Transitioned Out of Care at 21) - Kelliann blogs at "Faces of Youth"

Being asked how foster care has influenced my life feels a bit like being asked how being, say, a female has influenced my life –it has had such a pervasive impact on me that it is hard to untangle it from all of my other life experiences. This topic is also challenging because for me, foster care has at once acted as a saving grace and an enormous adversity.

My brother Brian and I entered the foster care system as young teenagers. On a chilly November evening, a half dozen social workers and police officers walked through the front door of our birth home, gave me five minutes to frantically gather the possessions I deemed most essential, and ushered us away a few minutes later. And just like that – my world was turned upside down. I was now living in the world of foster care.

I was fortunate to be placed in a home with my brother and to avoid changing schools. (Both of these are uncharacteristic of the typical foster youth experience.) A major adjustment was transitioning out of the role as primary caregiver to my brother, who is severely autistic. It was a challenging shift, but assurance of Brian’s well-being was easily the biggest blessing from my experiences with foster care. I was also able to simply be a relatively normal high school student without so much adult responsibility. Brian and I remained in foster care over the next several years after our birth parents’ rights were terminated.

After leaving for college at age eighteen, my relationship with the foster care system shifted. I had to fight for virtually every service I received, including simply remaining in foster care through age twenty-one as Virginia law allows. When I was in high school I remember imagining that I would be more “normal” in college, where everyone was seemingly independent. In reality, being a college student who has aged out of the foster care system without a family or permanent connections is incredibly isolating. I am reminded of the ongoing importance of family every time my friends go home for breaks while I search for temporary places to crash and every time I rely on Google and library books to navigate a new challenge like buying a car or renting an apartment.

The same system that saved me in high school has abandoned me in my transition to adulthood. I constantly wrestle with making sense of my foster care experiences because of this dichotomy and because despite all of the frustrations, most of my opportunities and outcomes have still been much more positive than the majority of my fellow foster youth. If this transition is so challenging for me, how much more difficult is it for others with fewer resources and advantages? Evaluating the merits and pitfalls of the foster care system is clearly not a quandary easily resolved –especially because right now it is simply my life.





 

Written by Laura (Best Friend of a Foster Mother)

Hello, my name is Laura.  I am a single mother to 2 awesome children, a 14 year old son and a 2 year old daughter.  I am currently attending school to become a middle school teacher. I have a love for children, and a desire to encourage and foster positivity, growth, and success in the lives of youth.  I know, you are thinking, “what does this have to do with fostering?”  Well, the answer is nothing.  J  That was just my “very shortened background.”  When Tammy asked me to write a guest entry for her very awesome blog, I was honored and a little dumbfounded. What do I know of fostering?  What could I say?  I met Tammy through my best friend, Natasha and her husband Don, who decided to become foster parents over 4 years ago.  I have enjoyed reading Tammy’s blog and keeping up with her journey and I am very appreciative that she asked me to write this post.  I will try to give an honest portrayal of my journey alongside Natasha and Don.

Natasha had mentioned fostering off and on, since we were kids.  Her childhood, like mine was not the most idyllic, and as adults we had often discussed disheartening situations we encountered and the fact that children are what, or rather, who is important.  When Natasha first told me that she and Don were going to that first informational meeting, I was so proud of her, of them, for taking initiative and putting into action what so far had only been words.  Initially I had idealistic thoughts and hopes for them, as well as concerns and fears with the possible, no probable, heartache that they would endure.  There was bound to be sadness.  I mean~You decide to bring a child that needs a loving and caring home into yours temporarily and offer them love and safety, and then have to give them back?  Most likely, you are sending them back into the home they were removed from for whatever reason.  Yes, that definitely sounds like pain.  Natasha and Don were asking for (not asking, but opening themselves) to an even larger pain, because they had decided that they would be a foster to adopt home.  They wanted to be permanent parents, to make their house a permanent home to a child that needed it.  They were going to be putting hopes and dreams into being able to adopt a child.  My question, not to them but to myself, was what can I do?  How can I be there as a support for them?  What will I be able to do when their children have to leave?  Will I be able to her, them?

Watching Natasha and Don go through this journey, I am trying to be as supportive as possible.  I can and will listen to her vent, wipe away her tears, and join her by vehemently appalled at some of the indignities that DO happen.  There is government red tape, budget considerations, timelines, legalities, etc.  While, everyone’s intentions might be in the right place, there are caseworkers that don’t have enough time in the day to fully handle their thousands of cases, caseworkers that have gotten burnt out, etc.  At the end of the day, you have to pray and pray some more.  I have witnessed Natasha struggle with her feelings of grief, anger, shock, and disbelief over some issues that she has come into contact with.  One of those issues has been racial and ethnic discrepancies.  I told you I was idealistic, well race was one area I didn’t think I was being “idealistic.”  I truly thought the system would be color blind.  I am a mother of 2 biracial children, and I do realize that racism still exists, but I thought the system would be fair.  I believed that a kid in CPS custody would be that, a kid…not an African American kid, or a Hispanic kid, A Kid. That hasn’t proven to always be the case, there have been differences when it comes to the system’s checks and balances. 

            I don’t want to give the impression that this experience, either mine or Natasha’s has been fully a  negative one.  That would be wholly inaccurate.  In fact, it has been a great experience for me with negative side effects at times.  While, I try to be there for the bad and be supportive through the harder times, we also share in the joy of the kids.  They bring joy, happiness, and sweetness.  As soon as Natasha knows she will be getting a new kiddo(s), we (my kids and I) are eager to hear about them and to meet them. We include her children in any family function that my family has going on.  They are family for whatever time they are with us.  My son, being older, understands the process to a degree, so besides having to explain to him Natasha and Don’s initial decision, it hasn’t been terribly confusing for him. He still asks after kids that have left though.  I will say that he did have to go through an adjustment period when he realized that his God Mama wouldn’t have the exact amount of time, nor money to lavish on his spoiled behind.  J He weathered the adjustment and understands that she still has the exact amount of love for him as she always has.  He also grasps that while he has me, and her, and Don, and a lot of other family and support systems in place, a lot of times the only ones that the children have ARE Natasha and Don.  My daughter is just now 2 and will probably soon be asking me questions about the comings and goings.  I hope to explain it to her in a way that she both understands and that is accepted as a matter of fact. 

I know that during my vicarious ride through the foster care journey with both Natasha and Don, and Tammy (the lovely creator of this blog), I have found that my want to assist the hundreds of thousands of kids that need help in this country has increased.  I wish more people would step outside of their comfort zones and assist in this problem. This can be done in so many forms, whether it be fostering, advocating, donating……  I will admit that while I have a huge desire to help, I haven’t always known how, or it seemed impossible and filled with huge obstacles.  I am still contemplating how I could foster both as a single woman and a mother of 2.  Through this “best friend” position I have been blessed with, I have learned a lot.  I have learned about the different agencies involved in the life of CPS. I had never heard of CASA (an amazing organization there FOR the child/ren) before Natasha became a foster parent.   CASA will be where I start my personal journey this next year.  I am truly looking forward to it. 

Through all of the pain, anger, and sadness, there has been joy and more than that there has been LOVE.  Pure selfless love is what I have seen my best friend and her husband offer and give to the children that come into there home.  Four years later, and I literally have to stop and count all the children they have provided refuge to.  I am truly thankful to have been blessed with wonderful friends and the ability to be witness to a show of humanity and caring. No matter the age of the child or the amount of time that they are in their home, a caring and loving safe zone makes a difference.  



 


Written by "Nanu" (Foster Grandmother)

     I didn't know if I could love him... Oh I knew I'd like him and I could play with a baby again, but would I be able to love him?

     My daughter and her husband got a call about their first placement.  Friends were congratulating them as if she just gave birth to him.  I really didn't understand that because in my mind, I'm thinking in order for her to get this baby something had gone wrong, very wrong, with his life..  She called me and told me she had him.  I asked if he was okay and she said yes.  She sounded so excited.  She had a little boy.  Me, I'm thinking, it was supposed to be a girl.  She already had three boys.  I wanted pretty... 

     I can't quite remember how much time passed before I was able to go visit and see him.  I don't think it was long.  I took one look at this little guy and saw this grin, this big ole grin that spread across his whole face and I knew, I knew in my heart I could love him as if she had given birth to him and his blood was part of mine.  He brought giggles, smiles and the cutest chuckle that I have ever heard in my life.  I still have a message of that precious laughing chuckle only he could do. 

     I wanted her to be able to keep him and make us his forever family.  As time went on we found that wasn't going to happen and that he'd go live with his Gramma and Grampa.   It's an indescribable feeling when you get that final word.  In his case he was going where he belonged and where he was going to be loved forever.  But oh it still hurt to know he wasn't staying where he belonged and was loved.  This is what his foster parents had signed up for.  They were supposed to take in a child who had been taken away for what ever reason and love him and keep him safe.  And they did.  

     But wait, I didn't sign up for that!  He wasn't supposed to be taken away from me.  I was his Nanu.  I loved him.  I wanted them to keep him so I could be his Nanu.  I had no problem with his Grands.  They had nothing to do with the reason he was taken away the first time.  But I was his Grand, his Nanu. 

     Quite some time passed before he had to leave, but that day ended up arriving and I was up visiting my sister.  I cried and she cried.  Would he be okay taken away from his home he knew, his brothers, and from his Mommy and Daddy, who had loved him like their own?  Would my daughter and her family be okay and would they do this again?  Heck would I be okay?  The answer is yes to all.  J is doing wonderful and is a happy three year old.  And there have been three more children come into our lives; one didn't stay, one looks like he's staying and hopefully one more will too.  Baby J was the first.  He led the way.






Written by Dawn Wright (Adoptive Mom of 9 and Foster/Adopt Advocate)

It's For the Kids

Our foster care story is different than some.  We knew we would not be able to have children biologically since I had cancer when I was 8.  When we first thought of adoption we thought of domestic adoption (which we have also done later on), but as the time came to start we really felt that there was something else we should be doing- foster care.  

Now there are many who think the idea is insane.  Take in a child or children for however long.  Love them with all your heart, but don't get too attached because they are working towards reunification either with birth parents or relatives.  We searched our hearts and thought that if God wanted us to have children through foster care than that would be fine, and if not then I guess God would lead us to where we needed to be next.  So we dove in eyes closed and ready, we thought, for the challenges ahead.  

Our first child came to us within a few days of completing our homestudy and classes.  She was 14 months old and beautiful of course.  Termination was to happen within a month.  As you may or may not know the only guarantee in foster care is that there are no guarantees - ever.  There was a time that came with a possible biological father and as we waited it out for a grueling 6 weeks of waiting (it's a long story) we had a choice......do we keep having visits and overnights with her knowing she may not be ours forever?  She wasn't officially placed with us yet.  We could just back out and wait until the tests came back.  We could just go about as normal knowing that no matter what we weren't in this for a guarantee.  Oh but our hearts....they ached.  It was like our brains wanted to believe she was ours.  We had fallen head over heals with her already, but if she was meant to be somewhere else then what?  But who were we doing this for?

Fast forward to her biological brother who was born later that year.  Due to complications in the situation the birth mom had moved to a different county.  And against everything that breathed inside us was born and placed with a local family......for 7 long hard unbearable weeks.  Did I mention this was over the holiday season?  Did I mention he was "supposed" to live with us?  Mom wanted him placed with us, but things changed when her address did.  Our hearts were shattered all over the place and the pain did not go away.  Who were we doing this for?

Fast forward another year minus a week and another biological brother was born.  This time shirt tail relatives stepped in.  Was this going to be a huge answer to prayer for the birth mom?  Would they help her out?  This time he was placed with us immediately.  The whole idea of back and forth did us in at times.  In the mean time though we held our precious little angel.  Who did we do this for?

We moved to another state.  Now with 3 adopted children.  We were happy right?  We had a 2 boys and a girl and we were so in love and all had been finalized- WHEW!  

Something just niggled at our hearts.  What was it?  That something inside us that said.....it's for the kids.  What?  What is for the kids?  Take the foster class again (By this time they had changed up the course to the present day MAPP class so we would have to start over with classes to foster again).  Are you crazy?  Hadn't we had enough?  I mean really I think we had done enough....right?  Well God won out in our hearts and we took the class again.  

2 weeks before our busy camp season (my hubby and I were camp directors at a Christian camp) we got a call.  It was urgent they said ;).  We could take a little time to decide, but really they needed to know soon.  With no doubt that God had directed us in this path we said yes!  So here we go.  The sibling group of 2 toddlers was adorable, but it was a crazy time.  Seeing grief of children we hadn't seen before.  Seeing the situation unfold made us feel uneasy.  It seemed pretty cut and dry for the birth family, and that our kids were definitely only going to be with us for a few months or so.  We were ok with that.  We had our other 3 babes, and these babes were not to be ours.  That was fine, but while there were with us let's do all we can for them.  Love them unconditionally, help read, snuggle, educate, have fun with them, and really just blend them into a family setting.  

Ohhh......now remember the only consistent in foster care is that there is NO consistentcy.  A year and a half later they were still with us, but now a sister has also been born.  Oh, but she didn't come to us until almost 6 months later.  This has to be it right?  They have been with us for 2 years now!  Ahhh.....but again.....we wait even longer.  What we thought was a no brainer became a heartwrenching situation that lasted 3 loooonnnngggg years before we heard those precious words- they are yours forever!

This was our life in very short story form.  Why?  Why would anyone choose this?  What if the child or children do go back?  What do you do?  

I am going to say that from our viewpoint there is only ONE ANSWER:  IT IS FOR THE KIDS!  That's it!  God doesn't say when you feel like it follow me.  When it is convenient for you and your feelings do what I want.  God says to follow Him even when it is a situation that leaves you broken.  There were many times we wanted to drive up to the social worker's office and drop off the kid(s).  Too many to count, but really when we were grieving and struggling we just heard over and over and over again in our minds....this is not about you.....it's for the kids!

We now are active in our community and our church helping to reach out to others who are doing foster care and adoption.  We have since then adopted 3 more babes ;).  We have walked alongside family and friends who are in "the trenches" and praying for them.  Remembering that everything we do- it's for the kids!  We are starting a connection in our church to say - let's walk this road together.  Let's get others involved because- it's for the kids!

My husband now works for 4Kids of Tampa, which is a Christian nonprofit that seeks to recruit, educate, and walk alongside of foster families.  It is a hard road to be so selfless in a world that seeks to be selfish.  It is a natural tendency to think that foster care is backwards.  I mean who is crazy enough to do that anyway?  US!  

I think the best part about foster care is the instant bond.  The graciousness that occurs when you see the birth family.  The way that God works on your heart when all you want to do is scream at them, but instead reach for a hug.  When all you want to do is shake the judges and social workers and say- are you alive and listening?  Instead you smile and remind everyone of all the dates and places and events when they have no idea.  The way that God reaches into your heart and whispers......this is what I have done and continue to do for you- to love you whether you love me back or not, to keep trying to earn your trust, to keep reaching for you when you push me away, to love you unconditionally not knowing if you will want me tomorrow or the next day.  

Maybe that is why I say over and over and over- It's for the kids!  Because if it was for me......I couldn't and wouldn't do it.  
 
The 11 Wrights
Jason, Dawn, Abigail, Andrew, Joshua, Matthew, Sarah, Elizabeth, Jonathan, Michael, and Joanna




***  Foster care touches everyone...  Whether you work with someone who fosters, work with children in care, volunteer as a CASA, or are simply inspired by a fostering family or foster youth.  Ultimately, we are all connected in some way through these children who need us.  How has foster care touched your life? ***



1 comment:

Brooke said...

We adopted our daughter through a direct adoption. She was originally adopted from Russia, but her first adoptive parents were not prepared for her special needs. Because she has done so well, we were asked to become foster parents for the purpose of adopting an 11 year old boy, also originally adopted from Eastern Europe. Our son was abandoned to the foster care system because his original adoptive family could not deal with his severe behavior issues. Our experience with the foster care system, through the adoption of our son, has been very good. I have now been asked to teach the foster parent training classes. We are keeping our foster license open, but with our five kids, plus two 16 year old relatives staying with us for the school year, our beds are currently full.

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