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Foster Parenthood

I was listening to NPR in my minivan while trying to get my infant twins to GO TO SLEEP and Terry Gross was doing a piece on African-American babies being internationally adopted to European couples.  AMERICAN BABIES.  Being adopted to OTHER COUNTRIES.  I couldn’t believe it.  I mean war torn countries, countries devastated by natural disasters and famine, these are countries that aren’t able to take care of their own children.  But the United States? The richest freakin country in the world?  While I’m stopped at an intersection listening to this, a bus crosses with a billboard that says, “Foster a Child.”  I figured it was a sign.  And while I wasn’t at a place in my life to do it right then (I was nursing two babies and sleeping 15 minutes a night) I filed it in the back of my mind under “things to do when I get out of my pajamas.”

My husband and I have fostered several kids for short periods of time, and we fostered one little peanut until we were able to adopt him.

When people find out we are a foster family they say things like, “You’re amazing!” which is sweet and kind, but so not true.  This isn’t me being humble.  I’m average at best.  Truly.  But the great thing is you don’t have to be amazing to be a foster parent.  You can just be you.  YOU could be a foster parent.  Really.  You could.  And this is not to say that you, dear reader, are not amazing.  I’m sure you have many stellar qualities.  It’s just to say that you’re exactly the right  person to foster a child. You don’t have to be a born-again Christian or a total granola or a Duggar.  Just you.  That’s all you have to be.

To become a foster parent, you go to a few classes (which were four Saturdays for us), fill out a bunch of forms, photocopy your important documents (driver’s license, marriage license if you’re married, etc.) and go to a local office to get fingerprinted. Then you’re placed on a list and you wait for the phone to ring.

eileen kelly treacherous threesSometimes it doesn’t ring for months.  When it does, it feels like a family emergency.  Like when your sister had to get stitches and needed you to watch her kids.  You dropped what you were doing and took them, right?  Same thing here. These kids don’t have a reliable relative to fall back on, so you’re their aunt or uncle or grandma for a little while. Their lives have been turned upside down and they’re scared and need a soft place to be for a little while. Wondering what fostering a child is like?  It’s an extra bowl of mac and cheese on the kitchen table.  An extra booster seat in the back of the minivan.  I mean, I’m simplifying it a bit here.  Yes it changes the dynamic of things in your household. Some of it is wonderful.  Some of it is challenging.  But I can tell you without reservation that it’s all worthwhile. You’ve seen some of the horrifying stories in the news. Stories of abuse and neglect in foster homes.  Some foster parents are great, but there are others who somehow got certified to be foster parents that don’t give a damn about the kids in their care. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if an army of smart, accomplished, caring people became foster parents?   If the child welfare system had nothing but warm, loving homes for children in need? And the system does a lot to help foster parents.  If the kids that come to you are school age, someone will come to your house every day to pick them up and drive them to school.  If the child is younger than school age a social worker will pick them up and bring them to daycare during the week so you can do your day job.  And their expenses are covered, so you don’t have to worry about whether you can afford to help them. I hope my stories will shed some light on what it’s like to foster a child.  And maybe if you’ve ever thought about it, you will feel a little less scared taking the next step to getting certified. Because you can totally do this. Click Here to find out more about becoming a foster parent.  And if you want to ask me any questions, please friend me on Facebook and message me.  I’d be thrilled to hear from you.

My Stories About Foster Parenthood

Make No Mistake: “Rehoming” is Child Trafficking

The Arkansas Senate unanimously passed two bills recently, addressing the issue of “rehoming” adopted children. These bills were introduced in direct response to the 2013 case involving Arkansas Republican Representative Justin Harris. You may remember the headlines: “Arkansas Politician ‘Rehomes’ His Children With Tragic Results.” In March 2013 Harris and his wife Marsha adopted two girls. Six months after legally adopting them and a year after they’d been in their home, the Harris family “gave” the girls to Eric Francis, a man that worked for them in the nursery school they own. According to the Arkansas Times, Eric Francis’ wife Stacey said that they met the Harris’ through friends and that the Harris’s “were looking for a new adoption plan for themselves.”...

Considering Foster Care?

Becoming a parent gave me a deeper understanding of how fragile and vulnerable children really are. It made me want to help children in circumstances where there wasn’t someone protecting them and nurturing them. My twins were only 18 months old so I was still utterly in the weeds. What could I do at this stage of the game? I didn’t know, but I wanted to do...

Getting Certified

We completed our foster care classes and to be honest they scared the heck out of us. Every class was fraught with stories of abuse that the instructor said no amount of love could fix. The class would break for lunch and my husband and I would head over to the the diner across the street. We’d sit across the formica table, eating our tuna salad sandwiches and staring past each other like two deer caught in headlights. Eventually one of us would say, “I’m freaking out,” and the other would say, “Me too!” Then we’d talk each other off the ledge. We concluded that the classes were there to “separate the men from the boys” as it were. The state didn’t want anyone who wasn’t serious about helping kids and wasn’t ready to face some tough obstacles. The question was: Were we men or were we...

You Want To Be A Foster Parent? Get Rid Of Your Guns

Being a foster parent means being responsible for someone else’s child. Maybe the parent was abusive or neglectful. Maybe the parent needed to go into rehab. Maybe the child’s uncle got paroled and came to live with their grandmother and the state won’t allow the children to live with the uncle in the house and the grandmother is afraid to turn him away. There are a lot of reasons children end up in the system. Sometimes they are reunited with their parent or relative, sometimes they are not, but however long they spend living with a foster family, the state needs to make sure that that child is safe. One way to do this is to be certain the child is living in a house without guns. Valerie and Brian Wilson have made headlines recently speaking out in support of Nevada state Assembly Bill 167, proposed on Feb. 17 by Republican Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, which would make it legal for foster parents to have guns. The proposed law states:...

Opening Up My Home to Foster Kids Can Be Hard On Our Family, But It’s Worth It

Their problems extend much further than where they’ll sleep at night. “I’m not eatin’ that! That’s nasty!” It was dinnertime, and despite my best efforts to make a kid-friendly meal (chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, broccoli), to Zhaire, our foster child it might as well have been liver and turnips. He jumped off his stool and started running circles around the house, an act of rebellion that started the second day he was with us. Zhaire was almost 6, but at times he seemed closer to 16. He and his sister Akeelah had come to us late on a Saturday night when our three kids were home with a babysitter and my husband and I were out with friends. It was supposed to be an emergency placement for the weekend. Their foster parent had been admitted to hospital. But after two days the social worker told us that they felt the children were not being properly cared for by their foster parent. She asked if we could keep them until Thursday. Akeelah was almost two. She was so sick, but you’d never know it by her disposition. She had an ear infection, an upper respiratory infection, a terrible cough, wheezing and diarrhea. At night I would lie awake, listening to her struggle to breathe. Yet every morning she’d wake up singing, a big smile lighting up her face as I lifted her from the pack and play. Zhaire was having a harder time adjusting. He woke up sullen and ready for a fight....

Why I’m Keeping My Adopted Son’s Birth Parents In The Picture

Some may question my decision to do so, but I can’t come up with a reason not to.   My youngest son is adopted. We didn’t get on a plane and leave his birth parents on another continent. We weren’t carefully selected by a pregnant woman who had made the decision to give up her child. We adopted our son through the state foster care system, and that route has its challenges and its rewards. Our son was brought to us when he was just seven days old. After about a month, he had to start going for weekly supervised visits with his birth parents at a visitation office. Every Wednesday a van would come to my house and a teenager with drooping pants would come to my door, hold my son’s carrier like it was a basket of stinky cheese and put him in a van blaring rap music with other young children who’d been plucked from their foster homes or daycare centers. After I’d complained several times to our social worker that the young van driver wasn’t properly securing the kids’ car seats, I told her I would be taking him to the visits from now on. “The state can’t be held responsible if anything happens to you,” our social worker said. “The birth mother can be volatile and unpredictable.  There’s no telling what she might do if she sees you.”...

Make No Mistake: “Rehoming” is Child Trafficking

The Arkansas Senate unanimously passed two bills recently, addressing the issue of “rehoming” adopted children. These bills were introduced in direct response to the 2013 case involving Arkansas Republican Representative Justin Harris. You may remember the headlines: “Arkansas Politician ‘Rehomes’ His Children With Tragic Results.” In March 2013 Harris and his wife Marsha adopted two girls. Six months after legally adopting them and a year after they’d been in their home, the Harris family “gave” the girls to Eric Francis, a man that worked for them in the nursery school they own. According to the Arkansas Times, Eric Francis’ wife Stacey said that they met the Harris’ through friends and that the Harris’s “were looking for a new adoption plan for themselves.”...

Considering Foster Care?

Becoming a parent gave me a deeper understanding of how fragile and vulnerable children really are. It made me want to help children in circumstances where there wasn’t someone protecting them and nurturing them. My twins were only 18 months old so I was still utterly in the weeds. What could I do at this stage of the game? I didn’t know, but I wanted to do...

Getting Certified

We completed our foster care classes and to be honest they scared the heck out of us. Every class was fraught with stories of abuse that the instructor said no amount of love could fix. The class would break for lunch and my husband and I would head over to the the diner across the street. We’d sit across the formica table, eating our tuna salad sandwiches and staring past each other like two deer caught in headlights. Eventually one of us would say, “I’m freaking out,” and the other would say, “Me too!” Then we’d talk each other off the ledge. We concluded that the classes were there to “separate the men from the boys” as it were. The state didn’t want anyone who wasn’t serious about helping kids and wasn’t ready to face some tough obstacles. The question was: Were we men or were we...

You Want To Be A Foster Parent? Get Rid Of Your Guns

Being a foster parent means being responsible for someone else’s child. Maybe the parent was abusive or neglectful. Maybe the parent needed to go into rehab. Maybe the child’s uncle got paroled and came to live with their grandmother and the state won’t allow the children to live with the uncle in the house and the grandmother is afraid to turn him away. There are a lot of reasons children end up in the system. Sometimes they are reunited with their parent or relative, sometimes they are not, but however long they spend living with a foster family, the state needs to make sure that that child is safe. One way to do this is to be certain the child is living in a house without guns. Valerie and Brian Wilson have made headlines recently speaking out in support of Nevada state Assembly Bill 167, proposed on Feb. 17 by Republican Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, which would make it legal for foster parents to have guns. The proposed law states:...

Opening Up My Home to Foster Kids Can Be Hard On Our Family, But It’s Worth It

Their problems extend much further than where they’ll sleep at night. “I’m not eatin’ that! That’s nasty!” It was dinnertime, and despite my best efforts to make a kid-friendly meal (chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, broccoli), to Zhaire, our foster child it might as well have been liver and turnips. He jumped off his stool and started running circles around the house, an act of rebellion that started the second day he was with us. Zhaire was almost 6, but at times he seemed closer to 16. He and his sister Akeelah had come to us late on a Saturday night when our three kids were home with a babysitter and my husband and I were out with friends. It was supposed to be an emergency placement for the weekend. Their foster parent had been admitted to hospital. But after two days the social worker told us that they felt the children were not being properly cared for by their foster parent. She asked if we could keep them until Thursday. Akeelah was almost two. She was so sick, but you’d never know it by her disposition. She had an ear infection, an upper respiratory infection, a terrible cough, wheezing and diarrhea. At night I would lie awake, listening to her struggle to breathe. Yet every morning she’d wake up singing, a big smile lighting up her face as I lifted her from the pack and play. Zhaire was having a harder time adjusting. He woke up sullen and ready for a fight....

Why I’m Keeping My Adopted Son’s Birth Parents In The Picture

Some may question my decision to do so, but I can’t come up with a reason not to.   My youngest son is adopted. We didn’t get on a plane and leave his birth parents on another continent. We weren’t carefully selected by a pregnant woman who had made the decision to give up her child. We adopted our son through the state foster care system, and that route has its challenges and its rewards. Our son was brought to us when he was just seven days old. After about a month, he had to start going for weekly supervised visits with his birth parents at a visitation office. Every Wednesday a van would come to my house and a teenager with drooping pants would come to my door, hold my son’s carrier like it was a basket of stinky cheese and put him in a van blaring rap music with other young children who’d been plucked from their foster homes or daycare centers. After I’d complained several times to our social worker that the young van driver wasn’t properly securing the kids’ car seats, I told her I would be taking him to the visits from now on. “The state can’t be held responsible if anything happens to you,” our social worker said. “The birth mother can be volatile and unpredictable.  There’s no telling what she might do if she sees you.”...