How long did it take for the adoption to finalize?
It took just over two years to finalize Mason’s adoption, which is considered a fast case compared to most. We didn’t know it was headed for adoption until at least a year into having him in our family.
When did you have kids?
We became foster parents when Zach was 26 and I was 25. We felt like we were ready to start a family and were aware of the need for foster parents and decided it was our way to go. We had one kiddo for six months, before he reunified with his parents, and then Mason joined our family a few weeks later. I got pregnant while we were fostering Mason and had Liam when I was 27.
Did you foster with the intent to adopt? Would you ever foster and not adopt?
We initially started fostering without the intent to adopt. We always knew that if it was presented we’d say yes, but we really went in with a heart to support birth families and see reunifications (if possible and safe). We still firmly believe that reunification needs to be the initial goal of foster care and although it makes it more painful for us, it’s so important to keep families together that have the ability to stay together. So yes, we would foster and not adopt. However, we both stand firm that if a child is already in our care and a forever home we would say yes.
How many kids do you want and would you want to have a daughter?
Honestly, we don’t really know how to answer this question anymore. We want to continue to foster so we are following God’s lead on who is suppose to be in our family, for how long, versus setting a number. We would love to have at least four kiddos who are forever Kings, but are fully open to whatever God has in store. And yes, we would love a daughter, but I honestly am enjoying this season of being the only girl in the house. It’s fun to be a boy mom (and a little crazy), and I love watching Zach form the sweetest relationships with his sons.
I’m a current foster mom- any tips for getting through the frustrating times?
My tips would be to have a few individuals you can process everything with, and make sure you are taking care of yourself. Find a few people that you can really speak honestly with about everything- the good, the bad, the frustrating. People who won’t judge what you say, who will cry and laugh with you, and also pray for you and your family. Having those people through the fostering journey is so important. Secondly, taking care of yourself throughout this journey. Find something that brings you peace and do it as often as you can. It can be as simple as a bubble bath or as glorious as a massage. But don’t feel guilty about it, or make excuses for it, because when you are your best, you will be the best mom and be fully ready to tackle the frustrating things that (regularly) come up while fostering. Lastly, pray. The moments and frustrating times that seem unsolvable or heart-wrenching, bring them to God openly and honestly.
How did you juggle visitations with a normal life and having Liam?
Well to clarify we didn’t have Liam until visitations were over. I think they overlapped just a bit, with the final few visits right after I gave birth, and Mason’s family was great about giving us a few weeks until we were settled at home with Liam. So I have yet to maneuver through having multiple children and balancing visitation schedules. I have friends who bring their young kids to visits when they are at a park or public place, or they schedule them while their kids are in school or with friends. You have to figure out what works for you and your family. I think it’s hard to say you can have a normal life when fostering though because the reality is it’s just not normal. And visitations are one of the big factors that make schedules and life a little more chaotic and frankly, difficult, but they are so important if reunification is an option. Sometimes agencies have volunteers who can help sit in and monitor visits to help take a load off the foster parent so that would be something to check into as well!
What would you do if you are not getting responses from DCF & social workers, keep reaching out or be patient?
This question is tricky. I think that continuing to reach out is important especially if you are getting no contact or information. If you haven’t seen or heard from a worker in a long time, I would even contact supervisors. It’s tricky because I have such a heart for social workers because most are overworked and underpaid. However, this is your child and you are their advocate, and it’s imperative that their workers know their case and what is going on with them- so I lean more towards reaching out continually, but in a graceful manner.
Do you know any adoption agencies that work with couples married less than 2 years?
Our foster agency certified us and we were not married two years yet. We are certified through Olive Crest, and I know there are more out there I’m sure. In our experience they didn’t care how long we were married, but more importantly wanted to make sure that our marriage was strong enough to add kiddos. You can also be a foster parent if single, so I don’t really think length of marriage matters.
Do you have any recommendations for Christian International Adoption agencies?
The one I’m most familiar with is Dillon International which is based in Tulsa, OK but they work with families nationwide . I have family that works in their adoption program. The other one I don’t have any ties to personally but they are well known and that is Bethany Christian Services.
What advice would you give yourself when you first started fostering?
I would say my biggest piece of advice I’d give myself is to throw the plan out the window. I am a very type A person- I like my to-lists, my schedules and I like to have a projected timeline. Well that is not the reality of foster care, besides maybe the to-lists. Things change, sometimes overnight, and it’s really a day-by-day journey, trusting in God and loving your child. The process goes smoother and better if you don’t have your preconceived notions of how it should go or how it will go in the back of your mind. I would go back and really tell myself this so I didn’t miss any moments to love these kiddos because I was stressed about the “plan”.
What’s the most challenging part of being a foster parent?
I would say for me the most challenging part of being a foster parent is the lack of control. You unfortunately don’t have much of a voice besides what you tell your workers during their home visits and a one page report every few months to the courts. This is so hard when you are the one with the child the most, experiencing how visits and life changes are affecting them, and yet you can’t be the one to advocate for what’s best for them. I think this was my biggest struggle and where I really had to trust in God that He had a plan and that He loves this child more than I do, and know He has them in His hands.
Any advice for prospective foster parents?
Advice for prospective foster parents would be to make time in your marriage or life for fun and laughter, and to find other foster parents to be in community with. The journey of foster parenting while beautiful and incredibly redemptive, can also be incredibly painful, unfair and confusing. It’s okay, and in my opinion even important, to set aside time to not think about it and just have fun, laugh a little- enjoy life. Whether it’s a date night with your spouse, or getting a babysitter to see a movie, the time away will allow you to breathe a little and refuel you to enter back in. And in regards to the community, it’s imperative to have at least one other fellow foster family in your life. When you can sit with a fellow foster parent and cry and share what you’re going through and know they get it, it’s the most precious gift. There is a special bond between you that can’t really be explained and it’s a huge help. Most foster/adopt agencies offer support groups so if you don’t know anyone that’s where I’d recommend to start.
Do you ever get to see the kids you’ve fostered after they’ve left?
Yes and no. For us personally, we do not have a relationship with our previous foster son. Would we love to see him occasionally- of course! But that decision was for his parents to make and it never worked out for us to have contact. But I have MANY friends who have the most beautiful relationships with their previous foster kiddos and their families. It’s honestly such a special thing and incredibly awesome. So it really is case by case and hard to answer because it varies.
Do you have any advice on looking into foster care with bio kids already in the picture?
I would say keep moving forward and keep the conversation between you and your bio kids always open about the process (if they are old enough to have that conversation.) Another piece of advice I’d say is to make sure and ask questions from the workers that call with potential placements (once you’ve been approved). It’s important for your family to ask the hard questions, like what are the child’s needs and behaviors, their background, to make sure the placement is a good fit for your family. Nothing is worse than a foster family saying yes and realizing it’s not a good fit and having to give a notice for the child to be removed from their home and moved yet again. This way , you can determine what your bio kids need and what the child needs and see if it’s a good match.
If you are in therapy or ever were can you still be considered to be a foster parent or adopt?
I can’t speak for every agency but I would say yes from what I know. To be totally transparent I went through therapy a few years prior to becoming a foster parent and I shared that with them and it was honored. I worked on myself to make sure I was the best person I could be and they saw that. If anything, some agencies will ask you to do a few sessions to talk through any issues that might be triggered from caring for foster kiddos before certification. The agencies will determine if the reason for therapy aligns well with becoming a foster parent or not, so certain situations will vary for different people, but it doesn’t rule you out at all.