Foster Care Aware: 10 Things to Know

ARE YOU FOSTER CARE AWARE_

I’ve been a little MIA lately when it comes to social media and blogging.  Lots of family stuff, end of school year angst, and various other things have taken a good portion of my mind and mental energy – which is okay.  Life (I mean REAL life, not social media, etc) should always take a front row seat in our lives.  Right?

May is National Foster Care Awareness Month.  Of all of the months for me to check out, this one should not be it.  I have worked in child welfare since 2001.  In a lot of ways, I’m a hardened veteran.  In other ways, I’m still learning and discovering things about the work at hand.  Two out of my three kiddos began their lives outside of the womb in foster care.  So, yeah.  May should not be a month that I decide to take a sabbatical from this writing experiment that I like to call a blog.

Since we are just a day or so away from it being the last of May (didn’t mean to rhyme that…), I couldn’t let the month draw to a close without saying something.  When considering foster care awareness, it is hard to fully explain and include every detail of the system at large, and the life experiences of foster children, biological parents whose children are in custody, child welfare professionals and foster parents.  It is impossible.  Each case is different.  Each state may have differing expectations.  Every single person whose life has been touched by foster care has a unique story.  It would be impossible to sum up all there is to know about foster care.

However, I have pulled together a list of facts to help people become “Foster Care Aware”.  Here it is:

  1. There are approximately 430,000 children/youth in the US foster care system.
  2. Approximately 117,000 children/youth are currently available for adoption in the US foster care system.
  3. There is a federal law that governs the state’s response for when a child is brought into care.  It is the Adoption and Safe Families Act (1997) and requires 15 out of 22 months of efforts for reunification with a child’s biological parent(s) once he/she enters into foster care.
  4. In order to be a foster parent, one must submit to background screenings, training, reference check and a home study.
  5. In a lot of foster care cases, emphasis is put on placing a foster child in the home of a relative or close family friend.
  6. Foster parents play a key role in the success of a case.  They need to be active participants and are encouraged to be mentors and supporters of their foster child’s biological parents.
  7. Close to 20,000 foster youth age out of the system each year without a permanent family.
  8. Single persons can foster!  (Actually, some kiddos do better in single parent homes.)
  9. Anyone who is interested in becoming a foster parent should research, ask questions and learn about trauma and how it affects brain development and overall functioning.  I highly recommend this website –Empowered to Connect
  10. There is a high need for foster families who will take in large sibling groups, older youth and children/youth with special needs.

As National Foster Care Awareness Month draws to a close, I hope this list helps to spread the awareness of key factors of foster care.  The saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  I couldn’t agree more.

In foster care, it does take a village and we welcome you to be a part of it.

Author’s Note:  The statistics noted in this post are from the Dave Thomas Foundation.  Learn more at:  Dave Thomas Foundation

It’s Been a Long Time, Birth Mother

It’s been a long time, birth mother.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the adoption of our son; yet, in many ways, it feels like it was just yesterday.  I often think back to when you and I were taking turns rocking him during visits.  Is this what other mothers formed through adoption think about?  Is this how other mothers formed through adoption feel?  In many ways, we are stuck in those first moments when little souls entered our lives.  In other ways, we feel far away from those moments.

To look back through this past decade, I still fondly remember the laughter we shared.  I also remember (with great appreciation) the tears we mutually shed in those last days when you were his “legal” mother.  Although the years have come and gone, I truly and honestly think of you all of the time.  You gave birth to this special and wonderful kid.

He is as loyal as they come.  He hardly ever (I mean rarely) speaks ill of anyone.  He makes friends wherever he goes.  He does not care about outer appearance or “coolness” or any of those things.  I’m not even sure if you realize this but you are the same way.

When we were fostering and working with you, you did not judge us.  You did not care what we looked like or if we were “cool” or not.  You completely accepted us for who we were – just some random couple who decided to become foster parents and won the jackpot by getting the call to become foster parents for your baby boy.

It’s been a long time, birth mother; one decade since the gavel fell, I looked into the eyes of our son and I knew he was home…forever.

photodayafter
the day after our “forever” day

As a mother through adoption, I go through many emotions – elation, exhaustion, humility and guilt.  Is it fair that I get to raise the son you grew in your womb?  Sometimes, I don’t think it is.  How in the world did I get so lucky?  When people tell me that I have blessed his life, I negate that.  The truth is that he has blessed mine.  So much.  This truth never leaves my side.  It beckons me to remember the magnitude of adoption.

Yes, it’s been a long time, birth mother.  The first moments I saw our son are forever sketched into my memory.  They are real and tangible; as if they just happened.  I suspect, or at least, hope that they will forever stay that way.

I have had people tell me that we were so kind and good to you while we were fostering.  We tried our best, given the awkwardness of the situation, but you made it easy.  You were kind.  You were good.  You accepted us.  You even referred to me as his “Mamma” a few times.

During his adoption hearing, with the backdrop of sniffles and tears from our family and friends, you were on my mind.  When the Judge meticulously went through the case and our son was officially declared “ours”, you were on my mind.  While we celebrated that special day and all that it meant, I went to bed thinking of you.  Even now, a decade later, I often go to bed thinking of you.

I will never be able to thank you enough for that.  I will never be able to repay my gratitude of how you treated us.  Instead, I pray and hope that I am raising our son (yours and mine) to become an adult who repays kindness to this world.

It’s been a long time, birth mother.

Yet, it feels fresh and anew each day.  As I watch him grow up, I think back on that blonde, curly-haired, happy-go-lucky little guy and I just become so overwhelmed.  Who knew that one little boy could grab a hold of my heart and history and change it in an instant?  He means the world to us, to our parents and to his Father in Heaven.  I know he means the world to you.

Looking back over the past decade, I have failed many times.  I have succeeded at others.  I have cried.  I have laughed.  I have wondered if I am doing this whole (adoptive) parenting thing right, but…I have never questioned the love you have for our son.  Not once.  It breaks my heart and swells it with love at the same time.  It is an essential truth that will always resonate deep within my heart.

It’s been a long time, birth mother; a long time since you and I took turns rocking him during visits. 

Children who enter our lives through foster care and adoption have a funny way of grabbing our hearts.  Sometimes, we are blessed enough to have birth parents who grab our hearts as well.

You did just that.