Friday, July 22, 2011

Foster Parent Friday - Our History and Future in Fostering

As I looked back through my posts I realized I had made a promise to you here to cover a topic "next week".  Well that was in March and "next week" is now today.  Yes I realize that next week should in fact be 7 days away and not 4 months, but forgive me please, life got crazy as it seems to do around here.

Question: What made you decide to get into fostering?

This initial question is pretty simple to answer and that's good because we get asked that ALL the time.  Unfortunately it appears as if the assumed answer is something more altruistic than our honest answer - people seem to expect that we have had this life-long desire to be foster parents or maybe we come from a long-line of foster parents or we were adopted and want to give back or something like that.

Nope, none of that is true.  In my very large family I would have to say that officially there were no foster parents or adoptive parents that I knew of.  Fostering and adoption were not foreign concepts but they certainly weren't familiar to me either.  That being said, when I look back I would have to say that we had A LOT of what I now know as kinship foster arrangements, many long-term.  Both of my parents have 7 living siblings and my number of first-cousins is right around 60.  On both sides I grew up with cousins who were being raised by my grandparents or their own aunts and uncles.  I did have a cousin who was not biologically related at all but was taken in when her own parents couldn't care for her.  I myself had a cousin who lived with my family on and off for 6 years and he was more my brother than my cousin.  And yet I never considered this all being "foster-care" - it was just being a family.  That's what families do (or so I thought...).  I'm just now coming to the realization that God did indeed plant foster-care in my heart when I wasn't even thinking of it.

Nevertheless, when my husband and I dated and then married, we never discussed foster care or adoption as something we wanted to do.  We never really talked about it at all actually.  I do remember before we decided to start trying to have children and my husband wasn't quite ready yet to take that plunge but I was, I would see the news stories about foster care and suggest that maybe we do that while we're waiting to have our own.  It wasn't so much out of a desire to be a foster or adoptive parent but just to begin the process of being parents at all on a more temporary basis.  My husband decided to start trying shortly after that suggestion.

As you know by now (described here, here, and here), after giving birth to a biological son conceived slowly but nonetheless without other intervention, we learned that we were infertile and that being of the severe male-factor variety.  We're technically sterile according to fertility standards and therefore the chances of us having one not to mention multiple children biologically are virtually zero.

So, we went through our options and decided to be foster parents.  Our desire was to foster-to-adopt, most likely a sibling group, this way we could grow our family larger, qualify for adoption assistance (which would help us to pay for the expenses related to growing our family larger), AND give children who needed a home a good family to live in.  When we talked about this decision we (my husband mostly) said that we'd do the foster-care piece 2 or 3 times and if those placements didn't work out for whatever reason, then we'd decide to do a straight adoption from foster-care.  He didn't think that he could handle the pain of losing the children.  Our primary goal was to adopt.  We chose to go through the state for a variety of reasons, but one of them was that the state homes were told they'd get first chance at fostering the younger kiddos, including infants, and therefore we had a chance to have children that were younger than our own who was just 3 at the time.

Since then you know we've had 5 placements and 8 children.  5 of the 8 children have gone home and we can now add 2 return-to care's where we couldn't take the kiddos back into our home and 2 failed adoptions to our foster/adopt belt.  We've also been considered to straight-adopt 3 sibling groups, all of which we were not chosen for during the staffing. 

Looking back from where we started we realize that God has definitely changed our path.  We no longer believe that we are going to be headed for adoptions, have a full house, and then be done with the foster care world.  We have the strong suspicion now (and have since our first placement) that we will be doing foster care for a long-time.  We quickly felt that we'd be one of those families that 10 years from now will say we've fostered  80-100 kids.  We were ok with that until recently.

With the pending adoption of baby, #4, and #1 and #2, that would have put our family at a total of 5.  At this point in our lives we're not feeling that God has called to have us have more than 5 kiddos, so that would mean that our home would be full and we'd be done fostering.  When my husband and I talked about that potential, though we weren't eager to turn any of it down for the sake of future opportunities to foster, we did feel that we weren't done fostering yet.  We honestly knew in our hearts that our home would not yet be closed to fostering, which either meant one or more of the adoptions would fall through or that God would call us to have more children.

And now here we are...we still have 3 foster children, one of which is a pending adoption and 2 of which are still very much foster-care at least until more case decisions are made in August.  We don't really expect them to go home any time soon and though we don't expect #7 & #8 to turn into an adoption (the case is just too crazy) we do expect them to be in our home at least through October and into November, at which point we will probably end up opening our home again for more placements. 

We (I) still have the desire to be pregnant again and give birth to a biological child again someday.  I don't know if that will happen and the longer time goes by the less and less I think that will happen.  I do believe God will take away that desire one day if He doesn't intend for us to have more.  That being said, I also know without a shadow of a doubt that God intends for us to keep fostering, at least for now, with or without the potential for adoption.

It seems we have been molded into folks who, despite our original intentions, will be foster parents for a while.  Flexibility is key - we don't know what's coming next ever and the day we decide to give up trying to guess will be a great day indeed.

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