Called: Becoming Foster Parents

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In case you haven’t figured out from the title of this post, AJ and I have a big announcement! Probably the biggest announcement in the history of my entire blog. We will be opening our home and becoming foster parents at the end of this month! We started the licensing process back in April 2017 and figured it would take about a year to complete, giving us plenty of time to wrap our brains around the prospect of our entire lives changing. Spoiler alert: it did not take that long. I have a whole separate post coming on all of the nitty gritty details of the licensing process, in case you’re curious. But today, I want to tell you about what led us to this decision, how our feelings about it have changed, and what we think about it now. Brace yourself, this is a looonnngg post.

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We’re dreaming of winter and Rocket is dreaming of the days when he was an only child.

Feeling Called

As long as I can remember, I have always wanted to adopt children. I guess you can say I feel “called” to do it. I would consider having biological children if it was important to my partner, but the one thing I knew for SURE was that I would adopt someday. I didn’t know from where or what ages or genders or races, but adoption was non-negotiable. I have made this abundantly clear in every relationship I have ever been in. Over the years, I’ve been very intentional about checking items off my bucket list (like trekking in Nepal, visiting New Zealand, hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, seeing Victoria Falls, and going on safari in Africa) because I knew that I did not want to start a family feeling like I had missed out on something I really wanted to do. As I’ve now checked most of the HUGE things off my list, I’ve started feeling more settled and a little bit more ready to slow my life down, so AJ and I started tossing around the idea of starting a family. Without getting into every detail of the conversation, we decided to start by becoming foster parents.

Talking it Over

I’m not going to lie – there were mixed feelings about this decision at first. I feel extremely called to foster/adopt, whereas AJ came from a place of what would best be described as ambivalence. He wasn’t a hard no, but he also wasn’t super excited about it. We decided that it would make sense to start the licensing process, go through the required training, and see what we decided at the end of that process. If we were not both fully on board, we would not go through with it and would explore other options instead. To make a long story short, AJ got on board pretty quickly. Once he saw the statistics and numbers, started hearing what these kids go through, and started learning about what we could actually expect (versus the extreme horror or unrealistic success stories you usually hear), he agreed – we have to at least give it a try.

This is not a decision we came to lightly. We have thought through and discussed every aspect of this change that we can think of time and time again. After all, our lives are pretty cake right now – we travel whenever we want, go out to dinner, have expendable income, etc. It’s easy, you know? But then I think – how can we not take this opportunity? We have the time, the means, and the space. How can we turn away from these kids, just so we can travel more and go out to dinner whenever we want? There’s nothing wrong with making that choice, and of course, nothing is that simple. I know we will miss the way life was before, probably a whole lot. But I feel like we have to try, because there are kids suffering and not enough good foster families out there. We feel like we can be a good resource for kids and families in need.

Fears

At the beginning of the licensing process, we (although mostly me) were extremely nervous about what we might be getting ourselves into. Part of that was just having no experience with parenting in general (what do kids even do these days?), but another part was a deep-seated fear of being totally ill-equipped to handle behavioral issues that might arise due to trauma that the kids have faced. We (and again, mostly me) wanted this to work so badly – we see fostering as a long term thing – and I was terrified that we would become parents to a child with behavioral issues well above our pay grade and we would fail them. After reading more books on parenting kids from trauma backgrounds and attending numerous training sessions, I can now say that we don’t really worry about that anymore. We believe we have the tools and resources we need to help these kids unpack their emotional baggage. That’s not to say it won’t be hard, because of course it will! But now, it seems possible. Now, we (and again, mostly me, because AJ worries about nothing) worry about things like not knowing how to register a child for school. Does anyone know how to do that, by the way?

Motivations

One thing I’ve noticed over the course of my research and attending the trainings is that we have come to foster care a bit differently than many families in our area do. There are all sorts of reasons why families foster children, but here in the Upstate of South Carolina, there seem to be two big ones based on our experience: Christians feel called by the Bible to do it, or people struggling with infertility hope to grow their families through foster care and adoption. Neither one of those apply to us since we’re not Christian (AJ is Catholic, but that’s not Christian in the south – seriously) and, as far as we know, we are not struggling with infertility. So, that has left us in kind of an awkward spot. We have entered foster parenting with the simple intention of helping children and families who need it – nothing more, and nothing less. We are not fostering with the intention of adopting, although we are open to the possibility if the right circumstances presented themselves. The reality is that something like 50-70% of children who enter the foster care system are reunited with a biological family member at some point, and reunification is the goal of the foster care system, as it should be. We view foster care as hopefully a long term commitment on our part and not something that will end when our family, adopted or biological, reaches a certain size.

The Kids!

There’s a whole lot that happens when you begin the licensing process to become foster parents, but one of the big things is that you decide what ages and genders you would like to foster. When we started thinking about it, we had absolutely no idea! Our application initially said we were open to kids ages 0-18 which, needless to say, is a pretty big range. We had no clue what was right for us! After talking with our licensing coordinator and doing a lot of soul searching, we ultimately decided to open our home to boys and girls ages 4-11. Basically, elementary school age (kids here can start kindergarten at 4). Our primary reason for choosing this age range had to do with a couple factors. First, with both of us working full time and the logistics of the day care system as it pertains to foster care, we felt that we could not reasonably care for children that were below school age.Β  Second, given the fact that we are relatively young (31 and 29), we felt that taking on teenagers would be challenging with no parenting experience whatsoever. We definitely see ourselves working with teens in the future (there is a huge need!) but we wanted to get some experience under our belts first.

After deciding on an age range, gender, and the number of kids (we are starting with 1 but will eventually bump up to a sibling set) you are willing to accept, you then fill out an expansive checklist that talks about a huge range of medical issues, behaviors, and more that you are willing or unwilling to accept. So, for example, the checklist might ask if you are willing to accept a child with a learning disability or a family history of learning disabilities. If you say yes, you then have to say whether you are willing to accept mild, moderate, or severe forms. The list covers everything from cancer to hearing loss to food hoarding issues and mental illness and everything in between! This list helps the licensing coordinator write your home study (the giant report that talks about what you would be like as parents), which the Department of Social Services uses to match a family with a child. Of course, there are many times when a child may come into the foster care system and have issues that are not immediately known about or discovered, so there are no guarantees, but the list helps frame what you do and do not feel comfortable handling.

One thing that is super important to note is that there are very strict rules about sharing identifying information online or on social media about the kids in our care. Namely – we can’t do it at all. So there will never be identifying photos, names, or stories on this blog or any of my social media accounts. I will share some of the ups and downs with you as I can, and I’m happy to answer any questions about the process, but if you are looking for juicy stories about the biological families and why the kids are in care, you won’t find them here.

Getting Ready

As I mentioned, we’ve been reading, training, watching videos, and more for months now to get ready. Are we really ready? No, definitely not. But at this point, we feel as ready as we possibly could without having any parenting experience. We have got the kids’ room ready and are slowly accumulating all the gently used clothes, toys, and books we can find. After all, 4-11 is a big age range! We will be opening our home at the end of August but have no idea when we will receive our first placement or how long it will last. We know it will be a whirlwind trying to adapt to becoming parents overnight, so we are trying to enjoy the calm before the storm for now.

The Answer to the Question You’re Asking Yourself Right Now

“Are you really prepared to give up travel?” Of the few people who knew we were becoming foster parents prior to me publishing this post, every single one of them has asked me this question. It’s a fair question, to be sure. And the answer is “sort of.” I am fully prepared to give up traveling the way I do right now, which is constantly and by myself to crazy places for weeks at a time. I’m ready for that because, as I mentioned, I’ve checked the big things off my bucket list already – that was intentional and planned with parenthood in mind.Β  However, one thing we believe we have to offer kids is the opportunity to see and experience the world, and we are hopeful that we will be able to take trips with our foster children as often as the circumstances allow. There will be some kids who are not in a place where they can handle the stress of a changing environment, so in those cases, we won’t. But when possible, we fully intend to take them with us, whether it is to a wedding in New Jersey or Washington DC or out to Utah for a marathon. That said, we also plan to take breaks between each long term placement in order to take a breath and regain a sense of “normal life” for a while – probably a couple months. So, I’ll do big trips during those breaks. Don’t worry, your favorite globe trotter is not giving up the travel lifestyle anytime soon! It just might look a little different.

What about running?

To be honest, I have no idea what my workouts will look like once we become foster parents. I know that my days of two-a-day workouts are probably over. I know I’ll likely be doing early mornings and lunchtime workouts only. But I also know how important working out is for my body and my mind, so I plan to make it a priority to the extent that that is possible. It will depend on the child in our home, but I know I will be healthier mentally and physically (and a much better parent) if I can workout regularly. So, we’ll just have to wait and see what that ends up looking like!

Yup, it’s happening.

At this point, we’re just ready to get started and figure it out as we go. We vacillate between feeling ready and excited and completely terrified and like we’re making a huge mistake. I think that’s probably normal. I don’t know how long we will last or how good we will be, but we’re ready to give it a try. I look forward to taking you along for the ride!

LEAVE A COMMENT: I’d love to hear your questions or thoughts about foster care. Have you ever considered becoming a foster parent? What information do you want to know about the process?

58 thoughts on “Called: Becoming Foster Parents

  1. Congratulations! A co-worker just became a foster parent to two young siblings. They are so adorable and she has been sharing her adjustment stories. Another close friend finally was able to adopt their foster child and they are just so happy. This has been on my mind a lot lately because I think it is really admirable and special. Being a parent is difficult and a blessing all at once and I think it is so wonderful for these children to have a loving home.

    1. Thanks, Sarah! It will definitely be a big adjustment. We are just hoping to offer these kids a glimpse of what a healthy, stable environment looks like, even if it is just for a short time!

  2. So so many congratulations. I think that you and AJ are the perfect foster parent candidates. You will be the most nurturing and accepting home for these kids to come into. I’ve seen your joy and compassion when working with children on your travels, and I think that you will just give these kids so much where they have had so little! MAJOR kudos to you!

    1. Thanks, Suz! I think AJ and I complement each other pretty well, so hopefully we will be able to create a good environment for these kids.

  3. Awesome! We’re foster parents too, and I love seeing new families open their homes to kids. It is quite the adventure, and there’s a lot of love to give and receive in your future πŸ™‚

    1. That’s so cool, Sarah! Thank you so much for being foster parents!! I’d love to hear any tips that you might have πŸ™‚

  4. Little known fact about me: my undergraduate degree is in Social Work and my student placement was in a county children’s services agency, specifically in foster care. I attended the classes that prospective foster parents had to take, and I went on home visits with my assigned social worker/supervisor. It was eye opening. I think you and AJ will do great, and I commend you for taking on this huge responsibility. Looking forward to reading more.

    1. I had no idea, Sandy! That’s awesome. The training was so eye-opening in itself – I can’t imagine what actually having kids in the home will be like. It will be an adventure for sure!

  5. It may be that the social services department will ultimately have to be the ones to register the child for school – in some cases in my neck of the woods, parents also continue to have some kind of parental rights. Basically, though to register a child in school, you just go to your neighborhood school and they will give you a packet to fill out – with required information. For foster children, you may not have all of the records you will be asked for (like immunization records) but that should not be a barrier to enrolling (there are laws about that).
    Good luck!

    1. Thanks for the run-down, Kerry! I know we are responsible for registering them here. I visited the school district’s website yesterday to try and figure it all out and downloaded the school supplies list, haha! I don’t know why this particular aspect has me so irrationally anxious.

  6. I think this is fantastic! I often think about fostering children, but after having 4 children (becoming a mother at 19) and now still have 2 school-age children) and being 48 this year, I am finally able to enjoy a little freedom. Perhaps when my younger kids are older. I love that you are doing this. Best wishes!!

    1. I don’t blame you, Hollie! I think I’d be ready for a little break too πŸ™‚

  7. That is so incredible & amazing.
    Good for you stepping out in boldness to do this – because it takes guts to change your life for someone – but what a life you are giving to someone else for a better change? The world needs more people willing to do this.
    Cant wait to hear how the process goes … so excited for you.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Rebecca Jo! We are definitely nervous and intimidated, but we think it will be worth it.

  8. I absolutely love this!! I am a product of foster care and then eventually adoption and it is so nice to hear your motives are pure on this. Just helping the children. <3<3

    I also love to hear that you have put a lot of consideration and self-preparation to the process. When you went on your work trip and fell in love with the children, the first thing that popped into my mind was how great you would be in exactly this type of situation. Thank you for giving this a shot. πŸ™‚

    1. Gina, this comment means so much to me. Thank you!! I really hope we can be a great resource to kids and their families who need it.

  9. Congratulations to both of you on a VERY big decision, and I hope it works out for the best. Anyone who chooses to be a foster parent has a huge heart for kids because I can imagine you might have to take kids in from rough situations on such a short notice, and like you mentioned with learning disabilities or behavioral problems, not everything is “discovered” before they are placed.

    Also, my high school friend Adrienne was a foster parent and just adopted a child recently. I believe she lives up in the Greenville area near you guys too, and you would have a lot in common. She might be able to share some of their journey fostering if you want me to connect you?

    1. I would really appreciate that connection, Amy! Thanks! There will definitely be some roller coaster moments, and in some sense, you do sort of go in blind. We are just resolved to be committed and rock and roll with the kids through the ups and downs as best we can!

  10. Congratulations! We have two children (both adopted) and we have also recently started the process to be foster process. I look forward to hearing about your journey as we might be going through it at the same time, although we are going to be fostering babies.

    1. That’s wonderful, Hannah! It’s kind of a weird and occasionally ridiculous process, but I think it will be worth it!

  11. Congratulations on taking this step! I’m not sure I can put into words what I’m thinking and feeling right now. I think the most accurate word is awe-struck and inspired. I am in awe of your compassion and your willingness to open your home and your heart where there is such a need.

    1. That’s so sweet of you to say, Mel. Please let me know if you are interested in learning about how you can help foster kids and their families! There are lots of different things you can do that don’t involve becoming a foster parent.

  12. Eek! So excited for you guys! I have a chica who’s currently a foster parent to sibling set but they are adopt only. We only know them by initials but don’t know if they are their real initials. Can’t wait to hear more!

    1. Thanks, Jeanie! We will have to come up with some cute nicknames for all the kids πŸ™‚

  13. Congrats to both of you. Best wishes in your journey and happy to be of use if you have any questions from a mother or medical standpoint.

  14. I think (after reading your blog for years!) that you have the perfect combination of being prepared for adventures but also being flexible and resourceful when things don’t go exactly as planned. Congratulations!

    1. Thank you, Laurie! I am hoping I’ll be able to roll with the punches. AJ definitely will!

  15. Wow, congratulations! I did not think I could admire your goals any more than I previously did! You are about to become members of a very special group of people. (I used to run the foster carer recruitment programme in Edinburgh, Scotland) Best of luck πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you so much, Michelle! So cool that you were involved with foster care in Scotland. We could use your skills here – we need a lot more foster families here in South Carolina!

  16. Love, love, love!!! We fostered 10 kids (not all at once) over a 6 year period and adopted 5 of them once they became legally free! I am so happy for you all to start this journey!

    1. That’s amazing, Anna!! I would love to hear more of your story! We will eventually adopt through the system when the right circumstances present themselves, but we are not exclusively doing foster-to adopt. I definitely see adoption in our future when the stars align, though!

  17. Congrats! Looking forward to the next post with all the details as I am in the process of fostering as well here in NM. I’m going to be doing foster to adopt and it’s exciting. I want children but didn’t ever feel that it would happen naturally, or that it even could.

    1. That’s so cool, Melissa! I would love to hear more about your experience! It has really been a whirlwind and gone much faster than we expected. I’m so excited for you!

  18. What a wonderful and courageous decision you are a very wise and compassionate person Danielle I don’t know your husband but I congratulate him also , Children need parents like you

    1. Thank you so much, Maggie! I hope that we will be great parents or at least good ones πŸ™‚

  19. So amazing that you are becoming foster parents. As a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for children in foster care there is an incredible need out there for foster parents. Thank you for being willing to open up your home to a child (children) when they need it the most!! So awesome, and thank you again!!

    1. Thank you for all your work as a CASA, Kristina! I know CASAs are sooo important to foster kids, and it has to be a tough job sometimes. Thanks for all you do!

  20. I’m so excited for you both… and especially for the kiddos you’ll be fostering. You’ll do great! If you have kid questions call me… registering for school, etc!
    Also, I think the age you chose is perfect. Who wants to change diapers???
    We have traveled with our kids and we make sure they try all sorts of food… Handi & Pita House are 2 of their faves in town. Best wishes and thank you for opening your home to children in need.

    1. Embarrassingly, I’m pretty sure I don’t even know how to change a diaper! I guess that’s what youtube is for though, right?? We love Pita House but I’ve never been to Handi for some reason. Time to change that!! Thanks in advance for your help! If you have suggestions of kid-friendly activities in Greenville, please let me know!

  21. I am so happy and grateful for your willingness to help! My husband and I have a similar desire, but our licensing experience has been the opposite of yours. We started our journey last Fall and missed the first class (which in hindsight we totally should have made work); the next one our recruiter was on vacation when we responded to the invite, so the class filled before she got our email; and the next two were held on the same day of the week that we could not make work due to other commitments. Now we have to start the process all over. It’s very frustrating and we’re re-evaluating whether we should take this as a sign to try again later. : \

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that, Amber! Please don’t give up!! There is so much need out there and as frustrating as the licensing process can be, it will be worth it in the end. We were also under the impression that there was a huge demand for the trainings and it could be hard to get in, but that wasn’t the case for us at all. We probably would have been licensed in about 2 months had I not been traveling! It’s crazy. Please don’t give up though!!

  22. This is wonderfully exciting and I am so happy for you two! A family in the Corning area we’re good friends with has fostered even while having their own kids, and just adopted a wonderful little girl. I will not pretend it was all unicorns and moonbeams, but like anything, the good far outweighed the bad, and they are now a full family!

    As for life … it happens, we adapt, and we move on. You guys will figure stuff out, like everyone.

    Again – thrilled for you !

    1. Thank you, Mike! We certainly are not expecting unicorns and moonbeams, but occasional rays of sunshine would be appreciated πŸ™‚ We are keeping our fingers crossed!

  23. Congratulations! I love that you are doing this and I hope you and AJ have a great expreience!

    I’m from a lagre family (five siblings), and always thought I would have as many myself. I was also always certain that all of them would not be biologically mine. I just felt it was really selfish to contribute to overpopulate the earth when so many kinds needs parents. I am looking forward to hearing more about you expreience.

    Best of luck!

    1. So cool that you come from such a large family! I can see our family growing to be that size, but I’m pretty sure AJ will stop that from happening. I know biological children are terribly important to so many people, but I have just never felt that pull, so for me, it makes sense to foster and adopt, like you said. I can’t wait to tell you more about it!

  24. GAH!!!! You continue to amaze me woman. I couldn’t be happier for you and AJ and I’m especially happy for the kids. They have no idea how their lives will change simply by being WITH you two…ok fine so I don’t even know AJ but if he’s YOUR husband that means everything.
    Good luck with the coming weeks and months and I’m so here for you, should you foster twins πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks, Allie! You will be the first person I call if I need twin advice. It’s definitely a possibility once we open the house to a sibling set!

  25. I am full of admiration for you and AJ. I think any child you get will be so fortunate to be your foster child!! You and AJ are such polar opposites and yet totally compliment each other. I can’t imagine a more perfect home for a child to come to. Can’t hardly wait for the next step!!

    1. Thank you so much, Pam! That’s so sweet of you to say. We think we will make a great team for exactly the reasons you said.

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