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What is the certification process like?
The certification process will look a little different for everyone. I can speak on behalf of what I know having been certified through a private agency, rather than through our county. For us, it took approximately 4 months to get certified, which is rather quickly. Our agency tells families that it can take anywhere from 6-8-12 months to get certified, the pace is really set by your family.
Few started an initial home visit, where we learned all the details of becoming a foster family which included the specifics on how foster care system works in our county, and general guidelines for certified foster families . After that meeting we moved forward with A LOT of paperwork (if you are considering becoming a foster parent or family, just know in advance it includes A LOT of paperwork) . We also scheduled our home study to take place quickly. This is an extensive home interview that builds a profile for your home if an adoption were to take place. This does not always get done within the certification process for foster parenting, but it’s the way our agency works. After competing the home-study, we continued to get all of the necessary paperwork in order and we started readying our home to pass a safety walk-though.
Some of the things we were required to do was lock our knifes and medicines, put up a pool fence, lock our paints and tools in the garage, make sure we had all our smoke alarms working etc. These are just a few of the things we had to have in place. Because we didn’t have any kids yet we also needed to prove we had a bed and the necessities for a child. So began working on our nursery. While we were working on these things we were simultaneously attending trainings. We had about 4-5 classes to attend, some online and some at our agency. The longest was an entire weekend training that covered EVERYTHING about being a foster family. It sounds like a lot but honestly it is super helpful and prepares you for when you start the journey. Once we completed all our paperwork and trainings, we had a final walk through to check our home. At that walkthrough, after passing, we were handed an approval paper to hang in our home, and could then get a call at anytime for a child. We ended up getting our first call less than 24 hours after that final walk through.
Is it hard to say goodbye? How do you deal with it.
This question has an obvious answer. Yes. It’s hard to say goodbye to anyone you love, especially a child who has become your own and has become family. One of the most common comments we get as foster parents is “I could never do that, I’d get too attached.” But the reality is, when you agree to become a foster parent, you agree to get “too attached” and take on the pain of the goodbyes. By taking on the pain of the goodbye, you are allowing a season, for however long it might be, of strong attachment, security, safety, healthy development and love for that child that they may not have otherwise been given. If it hurts when you say goodbye, you did it right. It means that that child was given a love so strong it breaks your heart when that goodbye comes.
For us, when we said goodbye to our first son, we took some time off from fostering. We knew that before we were ready to give ourselves to another child completely, we needed to heal and be whole again. We took about a month with no children in our home, and spent time grieving, reflecting, praying, and being together as a couple. We chose to celebrate the time we got with him, and pray over him as he was reunited with his family. We were blessed to be apart of a goodbye that although was painful, resulted in a beautiful reunification… and that made it easier. But please know that is not always the case for every goodbye. After about a month we knew our hearts were ready to love again, even if it meant another goodbye.
Can anybody be a foster parent?
For the most part, if you are old enough (age varies based on county) , and have a home kids can reside in, than yes you can be a foster parent. Again, I can refer to the way our agency works with certifying to foster. Private agencies do have the right to deny certification to families they don’t feel are in a good place – in the best interest of the children. But really, if you are teachable, willing to selflessly love these kids, and parent untraditionally (traditional parenting doesn’t work well with kiddos coming from trauma) – then you are most likely able to foster.
What is like interacting with birth parents?
When you become a foster parent, you are not only agreeing to love the children that come into your home, but in my opinion you are also agreeing to love their parents and families as well. Interacting with birth parents can be very uncomfortable and awkward – just think about how must they feel about it all. But it can also be very beautiful. The approach that Zach and I had was to make a conscious effort to let them know we were on their team. The ultimate goal of fostering is to reunify kids to a safe home with their biological family, and until that has been deemed impossible, it needs to be everyone’s shared goal. Is it hard? yes. But we believe the only way this system and problems in it will change, is to give birth parents the help and education they need to enable them to love and care for their children themselves. It is a tricky balance, because your child’s well-being and safety comes first, and boundaries may need to be set. But the opportunity for the birth parents to grow in their ability to love their children securely must be a hopeful goal.
What does it cost?
It is practically free to become a foster parent. We had to cover a few fees upfront such as fingerprinting for our filed and updates needed for our home, but even some of those costs were reimbursed. Foster parents receive a monthly stipend to help with their child’s expenses.
Will you guys continue to foster?
Yes! We are taking a break right now because it would not be the best thing for our boys with their current needs and ages. However, we most definitely plan to continue to foster, and serve this community in any way we can. As we are loving our boys and maneuvering the post-adoption life we are praying about what God has next for our family, but the door for fostering is most definitely still open.
I heard the foster care system is really horrible, would you agree?
Did you know there are over 400,000 kids in the United States foster care system? That number alone show that it is a rough system that needs a lot of help. I think just like any large system with many layers and factors, there are things that have slipped through the cracks making aspects of it cause more harm than good. But I choose to focus on the kids. They didn’t ask to be apart of this system. They didn’t volunteer to lose their homes, families, schools, and routines in a moment’s notice. So while yes the system is flawed, I choose to step into it for them. And I choose to focus on all the amazing people who, with the best of their ability, are working TIRELESSLY to help these kids as much as they can. If you work in social services , specifically with the foster system…thank you. I see you. I know it’s exhausting . But as a foster mama, I have seen how a strong , helpful caseworker makes these system so much more manageable for the sake of our kids. And I am so thankful that the workers we have interacted with thus far have been amazing.
Would you recommend going through an agency or the county?
As I’ve mentioned above, Zach and I were certified through a private agency, and we would 100% recommend it. You may find that working just with the county is best for you. For us, from my work with foster families prior to becoming a stay at home mom , I knew that a private agency would give us extra support. If a foster child is place in your home, you will work with a county social worker and if you are certified through a private agency, you are assigned a caseworker through them as well. This was a big win for us because if I had specific questions or concerns for either of our boys I knew I had someone I could reach fairly quickly. She was either able to answer my questions directly, or direct me to the right person who could. We are certified with an agency that we genuinely trust, so when things got hard or confusing (which they will as a foster parent) I had an extra unit of support. I would say the main two reason people don’t go through an agency are: 1) it’s easier through the county- usually their certification process is less invasive than an agencies and 2) there is more paperwork for you as a family if you get certified through an agency. You will have to submit forms to your county worker, but also to your agency worker. For us, the extra paperwork was worth it for the extra support.
What is the best part of being a foster parent?
Well first off, the kids. It’s not an easy parenting journey to choose, but the resilience, strength, and joy these kids carry is inspiring. It’s an honor to help raise them and to love them unconditionally. I wouldn’t be the person I am today had I not had the opportunity to have my sons (all 3) in my home at some point . Another beautiful aspect of being a foster parent is knowing that you are a soldier of God pouring out his love and grace on people and kids who desperately need it. You don’t always get to see the fruit of your love while loving on the kiddos or their parents, but when you do it will change you forever. For us, being able to experience a good reunification was such a gift and so hopeful. But ultimately, being a foster parent is hard. It’s a selfless choice you make to do good and serve others. You don’t become a foster parent for yourself, you wouldn’t survive it with that mindset. There are of course benefits and joys and growth from stepping in, but it’s a choice to step into other people’s pain, and the majority of the time, that is not a glamorous step.
What is the hardest part about being a foster parent?
The hardest part for me is balancing the confidentiality agreement. I fully respect and understand why it is in place. But it is BRUTAL as a mom to have to cover your kid’s face, and be careful how you speak when talking about them. It is encouraged that you treat your foster kiddos in your home as yours, and we do 100% – but then there’s this wall up that stops us from being able to show the world that they are ours. It’s a hard balance. I want to advocate for foster kiddos all the while respecting their families, and their stories . As a mama, all I want to do is brag on my kiddos, and I’m restricted in doing that.
I hope this was helpful for anyone interested in knowing more about foster care and becoming a foster parent! If you have any other questions please feel free to leave them in the comment section, or if you’d like it to remain private you can find my email in the contact page!