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Foster Care is a Journey

Much like this blog, my life has been all over the place! If you don't want to read all of this (or want to come back to it later) and are just looking for where you can help, go ahead and click here, or looking for my registry click here, and also, thanks!

Otherwise, let's start by catching up. After my dad passed away last year, I started to really dive into the work of undoing my misconceptions about him. To give him the grace that he never expected, never asked for, but so desperately needed in life. He had an unloving upbringing, one that never taught him what it meant to be a parent or to love. Yet despite that, in his own way, he did try to love us all. As humans, we think that loving and being loved are just natural abilities, and maybe to some extent that is true. Yet, without guidance, without modeling, it's so easy to fall into patterns that aren't really loving, but toxic and unhealthy. Without guidance, modeling, we can't form attachments - HEALTHY attachments - to other people, or even understand that our attachments are unhealthy. He was flawed, bc his parents were flawed, bc their parents were flawed, be their parents went through horrendous traumas that they passed on unknowingly.

When my dad first got sick, I began looking at homes to buy where he could come stay with me in his final days, but we never made it there. He died before it happened. In the days and weeks following, as I began my own healing, I decided to still move forward with getting a place, and one big enough to allow me to foster. I'd thought about it in my 20s when a friend first got involved, but I never felt stable enough. I thought about it again when my coworker began going through classes, but again, "it wasn't the right time." Now as I sat there, contemplating mortality, and all the things that were never the "right time" I realized it was actually the perfect time. I was financially stable, buying a home, had done my own trauma work & healing (something that is an ongoing process) my only excuse now was, well, I didn't have one. So I closed on my condo, settled in, and in December started researching Foster agencies in my county. Here's my issue with many agencies, and why it took me over a month to choose one - so many are "christian based" - look, I grew up in the church. I have many many fond memories, have life long friends from my home church, and don't begrudge anyone their religion. The problem with many (note I did not say all) of these agencies though, is their close-minded, bigoted, & racist leaning ideologies. Let's put something out there right now, so you know where I stand. The Adoption & Foster Care systems in our country are extremely flawed, rooted in systemic racism that highly targets black and brown families. So, that being said, many "well meaning" people have gone into these systems with a "God Complex" saving these children from their horrible parents - it's a bullshit mentality that sets the Bio parents up for failure before they've ever been given a chance. So, Agencies that won't take LGBTQ+ children or parents, that won't recognise other religious beliefs, or will force a child to follow the foster parents' religious beliefs against their will or their families' will, is not ok with me. Often these agencies don't prepare white parents to properly take care of the black & brown children in their care either, letting them use excuses for not styling their hair appropriately etc. It seems trivial, but hair, in many cultures, is deeply personal and deeply tied to self worth and self esteem in children. These are just scratching the surface of my issues there, but anyway, the point is, I needed an agency that felt inclusive. The people working at your agency, and the other families within the agency, are also part of your support system, and the last people you want to feel like you're fighting an uphill battle with. I wanted to know I'd be supported in supporting the children in my care, and their parents.

In February, I left for a month long sojourn to Costa Rica, and attended my first virtual info meeting. I'm not kidding when I say I had a list of 15 questions and asked every single one. These info sessions are a chance for you to "interview" the agency, make sure they'll be a good fit, and that you aren't caught off guard by their expectations. I immediately knew they were the agency for me, and filled out the beginnings of my application. So, now nearly 8 months later - though we had a 1.5 month hiatus for timing purposes - I finally completed my paperwork and started the Home Study part of the process. In this part, You get to do the fun (insert sarcastic emoji here) part of the process in which a stranger begins a deep dive into your history, traumas, life, & family dynamics, as well as judging your home. To be fair, they are simply judging the safety aspect as far as a child is concerned. And deep diving into your past because, well, you are taking on the massive responsibility of taking care of someone else's child. Still, it can be pretty uncomfortable at times.

Children coming into care are going through an extremely traumatic, maybe even the most traumatic, experience of their little lives. Yes, even babies come into care with trauma.

The goal of foster care is REUNIFICATION. The goal is not, and never should be, to strip these children away from their families, culture, identities, backgrounds. The job of a foster parent is to love and teach and foster healthy attachments and life lessons - for the child and for the parents. Something I didn't know until I started this journey was how important it is to try to have a relationship with the bio parents or bio family as well. Children are much less like to come back into care when their parents are also supported, and feel heard/seen by the foster parents throughout the process. And the state puts bio parents through A LOT. they really do, and with mostly no support. Some states even require them - these folks who are often times struggling to make ends meet - to pay child support to the state. I'm sorry, WHAT? I won't get into how this feeds into a pipeline of children being ripped from their families simply bc they're poor, (legal child trafficking??) when the states could offer more support BEFORE removing a child, but ok. Reunification is just that, reunifying the child with their family. Bio parents will have a "case plan" that they have to work, and complete, before the child returns home, and it's a foster parent's job to support them through that. Mainly we do so by taking care of and loving these kiddos. But this is also done through modelling good/safe parenting behaviours, being a cheerleader when they're feeling discouraged, and helping to maintain their connection to their child and vice versa. I want to also point out that not all children are in care because they've been removed from their homes. Some are from a tragic accident, or a sick parent who can't care for them - oftentimes they're only in care until a relative can come and get them, but sometimes there are no relatives, so through no "misdeeds" of the parent, children can still end up in the system. And I say this part to make a point - you have no idea why a child is in care and it's not your place to ask or to assume. Regardless of the reason, it's traumatic and it's the child's story to tell, not the foster parent. So if you notice me shying say from details, or straight up ignoring the question you've asked, it's not to be rude, it's to be respectful of the child in my care and their family.

So that's it. That's the story, in more detail than you ever needed, on my journey. If you're still here and want more info, or want to know how you can support me in supporting these families click here. You'll also find some FAQs that dive a little more into some of the topics I discussed above.



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