Loving a Child That Isn’t Yours :: Starting a Foster Care Journey

Earlier this year, my family and I started on a foster care journey that has changed our lives forever. We wanted to open up our home to a child in need and possibly adopt a child if the opportunity arose. Many people thought we were crazy. We heard a lot of negative remarks about fostering: the kids are damaged; the system is broken; you are just glorified babysitters; and your own kids will resent you for it. But we also got equal amounts of support and encouragement from our friends and family. After much prayer and reflection, we took the plunge and decided to start our foster care journey.

Fostering is something I wanted to do way before I started having my own children. It was discussed, researched, and then put on the back burner until the desire resurfaced again. This cycle repeated itself over the course of many years before all the stars lined up for me to pursue fostering. I am, by no means, an expert as a foster parent as I’ve been one for less than 3 months, but I’ve learned a few things that might be helpful to those of you who may want to foster. I hope these tips and insights are helpful to your journey…

Loving a Child That Isn't Yours :: Starting a Foster Care Journey | Houston Moms Blog

FOSTER CARE QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

Are BOTH spouses on board?

I can’t stress enough how important this is. It took me a long time to start fostering because my hubby wasn’t totally on board with the idea. I didn’t want to force him to do something that he wasn’t passionate about. I didn’t want to do this if he was going to resent me in some way later on. He had lots of reservations, but he started warming up to the idea just this past year. He agreed to attend an orientation with me, and we walked out of that meeting hand in hand, knowing that we wanted to be foster parents.

Have you discussed foster care with your own biological children?

Make sure that you talk to your kids well in advanced about fostering. Explain what fostering means, ask them how they feel about sharing their home with another child, and let them know that they are, in no way, being replaced. I knew that my kids would be wonderful foster siblings because they are so compassionate and have such big hearts. When they hear about an abandoned or abused child on TV, they often ask me if we could pick that kid up and take him home. Being a foster family did bring to surface some topics that my children didn’t have any firsthand knowledge about, like drug addiction, alcoholism, physical abuse, and neglect. This has allowed my children to become even more empathetic and loving. Definitely take your children’s ages into consideration when starting this journey. I sometimes worry about causing permanent damage to my own children by letting them experience this love and loss. Every time we lose a placement, I always make sure to ask the kids if they want to continue or to take a break. So far, they have agreed to keep going forward even when their hearts ache.

Have you found the right agency?

There are different types of agencies out there. Find the one that fits with your goals. CPS and some privately run agencies offer a monthly stipend and/or reimbursements for fostering a child. This is definitely helpful, but to me it feels like they’re paying you to do a job. The agency that I work with is privately run but does not believe in exchanging money for children. There is no monthly stipend. You foster because you want to help. Agencies also have different types of focuses, including foster care, adoption, and crisis shelter. Every child in the foster care system will be covered by Medicare and can receive WIC if you chose to accept it. Our agency is awesome at bringing us diapers, wipes, and clothes for our foster baby as well.

Loving a Child That Isn't Yours :: Starting a Foster Care Journey | Houston Moms Blog

STEPS TO BECOME A FOSTER FAMILY

So you’ve talked about it, your family is on board, and you found the perfect agency to work with. Now what? Here are some details about our personal foster experience … tips we wished someone could have shared with us. It took approximately 8 months for us from orientation to receiving our first placement. We were on the ball with all the paperwork and inspections too. Please keep in mind that this time frame may differ from agency to agency.

Orientation/Application

A lot of the agencies will host an orientation every other month. Attend an orientation to see if they’re a good fit for you. It doesn’t hurt to go see what they’re all about, and you can always walk away. If you like that agency, your next step will be to fill out an extensive 20+ page application that asks for personal information, financial information, fingerprinting, and a thorough background check.

Interview/Home Study

The agency that we worked with came out to do a preliminary interview with us. {I really think they wanted to see if we were insane or not.} Once that checked out, we were scheduled for our home study. They interviewed both of us together, then individually, and then our kids individually. Again, be prepared to talk about your childhood and other really personal experiences. I was weeping through mine because it brought up some deeply buried childhood emotions.

Placement Preference

During the home study, they will ask if you have a race or sex preference, if you will take siblings, and the age range of the children you would take in. They also take into consideration your current family makeup. My family is heavy on boys, so they tend to call us with girl placements. Just be honest! They will not judge if you say you only want a certain race. The last thing they would want to do is to give you a child that you cannot connect with or build attachment to. I had a proud mom moment when my children were asked how they would feel if the baby was not the same skin color. All of my kids said that they didn’t mind at all. One son replied, “It’s not about the outside that counts. It’s about the love that you give to one another that makes a family.”

Classes/Home Inspections/Updated Immunizations

You will be required to attend classes at the agency and online. There was such a huge need for foster families that our agency condensed a normal three-month training into one month. Classes were twice a week instead of once a week.  We were all trained in CPR and also in how to deal with children that have experienced trauma. At the end of training, you will be required to childproof your home, as well as pass fire, gas, water, and health inspections. Updated shots for all family members and pets are also required before a child can be placed in your home.

Visits/Appointments

Your foster child will most likely visit their birth parents bi-weekly at the agency. Every time I brought my child in, my stomach would be in huge knots. It’s hard not to go into “mama-bear mode” to protect your cub when you know that they are seeing the people that actually hurt them.

You will have a monthly visit at your home from the caseworker. CPS may pay you a visit as well. Our foster child also had a physical therapist and occupational therapist that came 2-3 x/week to our house. Depending on your case, there could also be visits from an ad litem attorney or child advocate.

If your placement goes back, you must take them to see a doctor for a summary discharge. This was a nightmare for us because a lot of these after-hours emergency clinics refused to examine newborns. Driving around town to five different places with a baby in tow was not fun.

Unavoidable Attachment 

There are thousands upon thousands of children in foster care in Texas alone. My family has had two placements so far since August. We poured our unconditional love onto these babies. We endured sleepless nights and juggled our work schedule so that we could care for a newborn. Our family met every physical and emotional need that these precious babies were yearning for in order to build a sense of trust and love in them. It’s quite impossible to avoid attachment. We cried countless tears every time we had to say goodbye to our little one. What keeps us going is knowing that we have provided a stable, safe, and loving environment for these babies to thrive while they were with us. Foster care will make you vulnerable to love and loss, but the impact that you make on these children’s lives is worth every heartache.

Loving a Child That Isn't Yours :: Starting a Foster Care Journey | Houston Moms Blog

Please let me know if I can help you start your foster care journey. Inbox me to learn more about the agency that we work with. Share your struggles or highlights as a foster parent in the comments below!

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10 Responses to Loving a Child That Isn’t Yours :: Starting a Foster Care Journey

  1. Cindy Hudson November 9, 2016 at 12:03 pm #

    You have a beautiful family both inside and out!!!

    • Christine N
      Christine N November 9, 2016 at 4:06 pm #

      Thank you Cindy! I am so blessed to have my hubby and kids. I wouldn’t be able to do this without them.

  2. Roxanne Werner April 11, 2017 at 8:50 am #

    Thanks for sharing! We’re starting the process to Foster with the goal of Adoption with Depelchin. Our timeline is a bit different, but it’s really helpful to read something like this. Thanks!

    • Christine N
      Christine N April 12, 2017 at 2:33 pm #

      I’m so happy to hear this Roxanne! Please let me know if I can help in any way. I just received the BEST news yesterday…we are now able to adopt our current foster baby!! I will send lot of good thoughts your way and I hope that you will soon get your “gotcha day”. Best wishes!!

  3. Mel June 26, 2017 at 1:06 pm #

    Great info….however each state and county is so different. In AL all children in foster care have Medicaid (not Medicare) and only those under 5 years of age receive WIC. We also are licensed through a private agency but all foster placements come from DHR (same as CPS, I think). A monthly boarding stipend is provided by the State, which I do not believe is trading money in exchange for children.

    • Christine N
      Christine N June 26, 2017 at 11:12 pm #

      I love connecting with other foster parents! Thank you for sharing info for AL. Believe me…there are times when my husband and I thought a monthly stipend would help greatly towards childcare.

  4. patricia June 28, 2017 at 11:26 am #

    Hi there! Reading your story has provided such calm and wonderful insight! We are just starting to get into the process of foster to adopt. I would love to hear more about your journey, advice, etc!

    • Christine N
      Christine N June 29, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

      Hi Patricia! Your comment makes my heart so happy! I’m very excited for you and for all the children that you are going to make a difference for. Please email me or send me a message and let me know how I can help.

  5. Tina N. October 6, 2017 at 2:17 pm #

    Hey Christine! I’m 26, but I’ve been thinking of fostering for a couple of years now.. and that’s what led me to your post! It’s very inspiring, thank you

    • Christine N
      Christine N October 7, 2017 at 10:04 am #

      Tina, your comment made my day! You should definitely look into it. It doesn’t hurt to inquire about the process and attend an orientation. I knew for a long time that I wanted to foster but it didn’t happen right away. So please don’t give up on this dream because there will always be children that needs you. <3

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