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.
Sometimes 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.