We were posed the question:

“Do you have any advice that you would like to pass on to people who are considering foster care?

 What do you wish you had known?”

 I had to think back. Back to when we were originally contemplating foster care.

We raised a puppy who graduated from obedience school. We are consistently told she is “the most well-behaved dog I have ever met.” We taught Lucy to sit – we could do this.

I can hear your eyes rolling from here…as if the experience of molding that young puppy mind would prepare us for parenting a 2nd and 3rd grader.

Wait. I’m starting our story at the end, like an episode of “Once Upon A Time.” Apologies.

We researched surrogacy, adoption, and finally decided foster care would be our route to travel to create our “future family.” We found an agency and went through 12 weeks of Foster/Adoption Pre-Service Training.

12 weeks? At the beginning of our journey, that seemed so long! An eternity even! (Think about it 12 weeks. Three months.)

In our little conference room in Pottstown, PA, our case worker couldn’t cover everything, but she sure covered a lot. The good. The bad. The ugly.

Surprisingly, the 12 week course sped by like lightning. When we got into our car after our final class we turned to each other and said, “was that enough?” Did we feel fully prepared to take this on?

No.

We were exposed to a lot, but what follows are topics I wished we had paid more attention to:

  • Since reunification is always the goal, the birth parents have more rights than the kids. Or the foster parents. We have no legal rights. We have to ask for permission for so much as a haircut.

 Don’t blame the kids.

Barry - Hair Cut

  • Who is more of an authority for the daily homework struggle? Who deals with the parent/teacher conference? Who strategizes with the teachers to get the kids where they need to be? Who attends the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings? But wait, do you get to sign on the dotted line? No.

 Don’t blame the kids.

  • When you are in the trenches day to day you will feel like a glorified babysitter. It hurts sometimes to have these feelings, but this is how the system works.

 Don’t blame the kids.

  • Oh, speaking of babysitters and the hoops you, your family and friends have to jump through….Want a night off with your partner? Only if you have a pre-approved resource.

 Don’t blame the kids.

  • With all these rules, and little to no authority, you can see how it can be very stressful to be the foster parent, and not the parent.

 Don’t blame the kids.

If you’re looking to build a forever family, foster care may not be for everyone. But “Fate is kind…” I think about how differently our future would be if these two ”wish” children weren’t in our lives. These bundles of joy needed us. They’ve turned our lives upside down and around and around. For the better.

“How would you have prepared differently with the experience you now have?”

Nothing can prepare you. No class, no book, nothing can prepare you. It’s beyond scary. It’s nothing short of wonderful.

Just be there for the kids. That’s all we can do. Be there for those hurt little spirits who devour the attention that they didn’t get.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau, there are more than 400,000 children living in foster care in the United States. These kids need forever families like ours.

Consider it. If you do, you don’t need to love the system.

Just love the kids!