What to Expect When Your Adult Child Becomes a Foster Parent


Guest Post by Brian Herzog, father of Dropping Anchors Mama Stephanie Hagen


It is definitely a mixed bag of emotions to watch your child enter into foster parenting. There’s the incredible pride to know your adult child is doing something that really matters and makes a difference. That they are giving their life and unconditional love to littles who really need it. Children who may have had experiences even as infants that no one should have to experience regardless of age.

That brings the “mixed” part of the proverbial bag; the suffering these little ones have endured; the trauma that will impact their precious lives, emotionally, psychologically, socially, physically, maybe forever; the overwhelming sense of the pain these children are living. Those things bring fear and sadness to me as a foster grandparent. Fear that my child will be hurt emotionally, psychologically, or physically by total immersion into loving and serving the children. Sadness for the “hard” that is sometimes every day.

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The pendulum then swings back the other way as my child becomes something unexpectedly brilliant. A force of unconditional love that flows in a beautiful, powerful, healing way that I thought impossible. Someone who more than rises to the occasion. That is overwhelming in a beautiful way. It inspires hope for hurting children. A gratefulness that there are those who have the unbelievable capacity to do this work.

I am so thankful and honored to get to occasionally, if only for a very short time, be “Papa” to sweet little ones that are being loved so wonderfully by one that I love.


Brian has been in full-time church ministry for the past thirty-four years. He has served in churches in Missouri and Illinois in positions as Youth Pastor, Worship Pastor, Associate Pastor, and is currently serving at Potter’s House Church as Creative and Technical Director. Brian recently went back to college and received a second degree in Music Therapy and is a Board Certified Music Therapist, Neurological Music Therapist, and works with clients both in private and group sessions.


 

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Life Project

We warned that jumping into the world of foster care would change us. I just don’t think I could’ve realized how many layers that change would strip away and reconfigure and shift, making it impossible to ever go back to our “before”. From big things like our faith, marriage, and parenting decisions to little things like my growing indifference to things that we’re now recognizing as superficial. We’ve been given a glimpse of where and with whom God’s heart beats strongest and we simply cannot go back to the days of spending the bulk of our waking thoughts on carpet color and pinterest-worthy birthday parties. We’re still trying to make sense of what this perspective shift means for our family and how it merges with our “before”, but what we know for sure is that we feel like we’re right where God wants us… clinging to Him with our eyes pointed toward the mess and hurting.

One of these issues that God has opened our eyes to is the thousands of kids who are aging out of the foster system every day. We’ve heard first hand experiences from our daughter’s birth mom who aged out of foster care and we now have a face and loved one that makes the alarming statistics all the more real. It’s estimated that 50% of these kids will end up homeless, 50% unemployed, and 60% of the girls will become pregnant within a few years (source: http://www.foreverkids.org). Not to mention the fact that, statistically, 1 in 4 eventually end up in prison (source: National Resource for Family and Policy Connections).

These statistics are not evidence of bad kids, they are evidence of a society that is failing its most vulnerable children.

But how can we do better? I truly believe that the most important first steps involve listening, observing, and engaging with these kids to better understand what it’s like to walk in their shoes. We need to actually come alongside them, not just throw more laws and money at the problem. We don’t all have the opportunity to connect with these kids in tangible ways, but we do have the technology today to make it possible for everyone to sit down and listen and come up with more informed ideas of how we can do better.

I was recently contacted by Barry Thornburg, a Denton-based filmmaker, letting me know about an amazing project he’s working on that will make this very thing possible. Barry is creating a documentary to show how “meaningful relationships with responsible adults is the distinguishing factor between foster youth who thrive as adults and those that do not”. Good gravy, this makes so much sense, you guys. This documentary will be a window into the real life of a young man, Donovan, as he navigates his way into the adult world after aging out of foster care. This is an invitation to better understand the lives of these kids who need us most.

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“The audience will intimately observe the intricacies of these decisions and how adults from different parts of his life get involved, for better or for worse.

What makes this film unique is that it draws upon his personal perspective. In addition to observational footage of him (gathered by a film crew), he is also given a camera in which he can record things that he thinks should be included in the film and giving him an opportunity to explain his decisions in his own words. This behind-the-scenes perspective can empower those in a position to mentor with empathy and understanding when interacting with people in Donovan’s shoes.
Whether it is finances, health care, transportation, employment or education choices, Donovan does not have the luxury of a traditional family support structure to guide him every step of the way or catch him when he falls. Social workers, medical professionals, educators and volunteers all have exceptional opportunities to mentor and guide youth and young adults in situations like Donovan’s because of their frequent exposure to them. This documentary will show us how they work with Donovan and how he responds to each.
This can change perceptions of foster youth, influencing child welfare policy, training and education, and encouraging responsible adults to mentor these newly emerging adults.”- Life Project

Barry plans on using this documentary to be a resource for the general population as well as professionals and lawmakers who are making decisions on behalf of these kids aging out. He’s also designed a lesson plan to accompany the documentary that will undoubtedly stir up life-changing conversations.

I encourage every single one of you reading this to go watch the short clip about this documentary and to support Barry’s efforts as you feel called. And please visit his kickstarter page to learn about ways to join the project. I feel so honored to be able to share this with you all!

“This can change perceptions of foster youth, influencing child welfare policy, training and education, and encouraging responsible adults to mentor these newly emerging adults.”- Barry Thornburg

chrystal

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FREE Printable Lifebook

A few months back, a few of us started talking about how we weren’t able to find a lifebook that we really, really liked. We wanted one we could print off with each kid who came into our home to make it fit the life of that child. We wanted one that could be used for both boys and girls, that was easy to use, and could be quickly printed and put together.

And so we created this: the FREE Printable Dropping Anchors Blog Lifebook!
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For the best results, print it on 8.5″x11″ card stock and let your child make it their own by allowing them to color in the frames, and use colorful scrapbook pens or markers to fill in the information.

We hope you enjoy this as much as we have!

Click here for the free Dropping Anchors Lifebook.

Also, if you need a page that you don’t see included in this file, please feel free to leave a comment and we will work on adding extra pages.

casey

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Why You Can’t Be Pro-Life Without Being Pro-Foster: The Crazy Math of Abortion


Part of the Dads Take-Over Series: Post by Trent Friberg


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My name is Trent. I have a problem. And I can admit it.

I get annoyed too easily. There. I said it. It is out in the open. I get annoyed by strange noises my kids like to make. I get annoyed when my computer freezes up. I get annoyed by drivers that do various things that I am sure I NEVER do. I get annoyed by endless demands of laundry and dishes. I get annoyed. It happens.

Knowing this about me helps give context to this statement: I get annoyed by Christians. More specifically, I get annoyed by people who identify as Christians and don’t live like Christ. I get annoyed by Christians who are so quick to condemn the “evils of this world” while being slow to celebrate the good and beautiful. I get annoyed by Christians who are grievously inconsistent in their theology and beliefs but seem to not notice or not care. As I said, I get annoyed too easily.

So here it is: It annoys me when people are intensely passionate about their pro-life stance on abortion but don’t mention anything about foster care.

Now, just to be clear (and before you rush down to the comments section) … I am an ordained pastor in a conservative Evangelical Christian denomination. Our church is strongly in the pro-life camp. I tend to agree with this position in most instances, although I respect and appreciate thoughtful discourse on this controversial topic. Thankfully, my position on the pro-life / pro-choice discussion is not what this post is about.

I have heard spirited and passionate discourse about the evils of abortion. I have listened to women and men, pastors, legislators, lobbyists and advocates declare the inherent “right to life” that comes with the combination of sperm and egg in the womb. They conclude that the beating heart of an unborn fetus entitles that organism the right to survive until it can be delivered and experience life outside of the mother’s sustaining womb.

But what comes next? Crazy math. Crazy math is what comes next.

I pulled some estimates from a document that can be found on the National Right to Life website. (Full disclosure: the statistics presented on this sheet are supposed to be unbiased estimates based on numbers given by the Guttmacher Institute, but this organization is strongly against abortion and the statistics reported should be viewed through this lens.)

In the document referenced, they estimate that in the year 2010, for example, there were over 1.1 million abortions performed in the United States. For the sake of this particular discussion, we are going to focus on abortions performed during the year 1999 or later up to the 2015 estimate. We focus on that period of time because children who would have been born in 1998 are reaching the age where they would “age out” of the foster care system. (More info about what aging out means.)

Adding up the abortion estimates between 1999 and 2015, Guttmacher Institute estimates that in the United States, there have been 20,077,000 abortions. Those who agree with a unilateral pro-life view might say something like, “That is over 20 million murders of innocent children in the last eighteen years!” I agree that the number is staggering.

For the sake of discussion again, let’s say that abortions were illegal during that span of time. Often this is the stated agenda of most pro-life groups and advocates. One such website states that the numbers of abortions will not be affected by making abortions illegal. At the same time, this website estimates the number of illegal abortions in America during the 1950s and 60s (prior to Roe v. Wade, i.e. when abortions were illegal in the U.S.) was anywhere from 200,000 to 1,200,000 per year. Such a wide range of estimates makes it difficult to determine a correlation between legality and abortion rates, but it seems fair to estimate the probable rate would be somewhere near the middle of these two. Let’s propose that if abortions were illegal during our time span, half of the women who would have had a legal abortion would choose to not have one.

Suddenly there would be 10,000,000 more children in our country ranging in age from 0 – 17. We also should consider the effect that carrying a child to full term would likely have on a mother or a couple. I believe that there are some who, upon carrying a child to full-term, based on my own experience, might begin to have a change of heart about an unwanted pregnancy. There are also some who might choose to find a family to consider private adoption. Again, we have to make some conjectures in order to continue this conversation, but let’s approximate that another half of these kids would be born to parents who decide that this unwanted pregnancy is a blessing or make arrangements for adoption so the child enters a safe and stable home.

That still would leave 5,000,000 unwanted children. Some would have been surrendered at the hospital. Some would have been raised by bitter parents. Some would have been abused and mistreated. These are the horror stories that currently make the news and wrench my gut. These are the children that the bus drivers and school teachers look at and wonder, “What am I supposed to do for this child?” I ask: What would happen to these 5 million? I believe that many would end up in the foster care system.

Again, I’m using broad and sweeping guesstimates, and by no means am I attempting to make precise predictions. But if anywhere near 5,000,000 more children were added to the already overwhelmed systems of child protective services and foster care, that would be approximately 275,000 more children EVERY YEAR. I wrote in an earlier post that the annual number of children taken into foster care hovered between 250,000 and 265,000 from 2010 – 2014. That would double. Twice as many children. Twice as many social workers needed (or twice as heavy caseloads). Twice as many supervised visits. Twice as many foster homes. Twice.

We are not ready for that.

So I ask: How can we be so passionate and proactive about the inherent rights of the unborn child and be so lethargic about the needs and care of those already born? People do things like this to care for unborn children, and yet children sleep in DSHS offices because there aren’t enough foster homes for them.

Here is my plea: Let our cry to care for children extend beyond the day of their birth. I’m not trying to talk anyone out of being pro-life. I don’t even know where this legal and political debate is headed. What I do know is that there is a great need right NOW, and I would love to see more people involved, at some level, in caring for already-born kids.

If we truly are pro-life, our passion to protect and advocate for children should extend well beyond their time in the womb and into our hearts … and our homes.


Trent a four-year rookie to this thing called foster care. He and his wife, Lynne, were married in 1998 and have four biological children and four foster children as well. He has served on staff as a pastor since 2000 at a church that runs about 200 – 220 every week in Washington State. He loves following Mariner baseball, watching movies (romantic comedies with his wife, Marvel and Star Wars with his boys), and spending one-on-one time with any of the kids

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The Toughest Words For This Foster Dad to Hear: “I Don’t Know How You Do It”

Part of the Dads Take Over Series: Post by Trent Friberg


There were a lot of question marks, a lot of unknowns, when we first decided to do this thing called foster care. If I’m honest, I had a lot of fears as well. Would it work? How would it affect our children? What were the risks to which we were exposing our family? Little did I know, these seven words would become the toughest part of being a foster dad…

“I don’t know how you do it.”

Let me offer this disclaimer… I have had family, close friends, acquaintances, and others who have all said this to me. If you happen to have been one of the people who has said this to me, relax. It’s okay. It has happened so often that I have learned what people mean, and I have practiced a reasonable, socially acceptable answer. But to be honest, this entire post is what I really want to say every time I hear it.

When you say these six words, what do you mean? Do you mean that you want to know how I do it? Or do you mean that it sounds really difficult, and you don’t think you could do it? Usually, if I drill down a little further, usually you mean that you would fear getting attached or connected to a child and having to bear the burden that comes with no guarantee of permanency.

When you ask, “How do you do it?” I often hear it with a tone of accusation: “How could you do it?” As in, “How could you attach to a child and then let that child, that human life, go?” I think that the thought of allowing your heart to attach to a child, inviting them into your home, caring for their every need, and then having the state tell you to release them scares the crap out of you.

Well, it scares me as much as it scares you.

Despite that fear, this truth remains: attachment is THE JOB. Teaching a child that they can safely attach to an adult in a healthy way literally might be THE MOST IMPORTANT job we have as foster parents. Once I was asked, “How do you guard my heart?” My answer is that I don’t! I give it away lavishly and recklessly to these children because they need it. A child who attaches to me learns that I can be trusted, that I will do everything in my power to protect, love, guide and instruct him/her. That child will later be able to attach to another adult. Even throughout the traumatic experience of being removed from my home, that child will search for another adult to which they can attach. Attachment is the job.

As much as having a child leave scares me, I have found something that scares me more. I imagine these children going through their childhoods without attaching to anyone. Like a river-worn flat rock I used to skip across the lake, this child could skim across the surface of life without learning that they are valuable, interesting, or worthy enough to ever have a deep attachment to a loving, caring adult.

That terrifies me.

Given that alternative, I choose risk. I choose pain. I choose to enter into the stories of these children. I choose to generously waste oceans of attachment on them because they are valuable and interesting. They are worthy. My heart has been broken on days when they have left, but my pain is insignificant in comparison to what these children have faced in their short journeys and will continue to face.

The cry of my heart is always:

“Let me CHOOSE to share an ounce or two of pain so that I may help you with the brokenness you had NO CHOICE but to endure.”

-Trent Friberg

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Trent a four-year rookie to this thing called foster care. He and his wife, Lynne, were married in 1998 and have four biological children and four foster children as well. He has served on staff as a pastor since 2000 at a church that runs about 200 – 220 every week in Washington State. He loves following Mariner baseball, watching movies (romantic comedies with his wife, Marvel and Star Wars with his boys), and spending one-on-one time with any of the kids currently entrusted into their care.

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Just For This Moment Dad

Part of the Dads Take Over series: Post by Shane Palmer


Hello little one,

It’s me, your “just for this moment” dad. You remember, don’t you?

I’m that guy whose house they brought you to and said, “Here, this is the place you’re going to be for a while.” I know it was scary. Truth is it was scary for me, too.

First thing I did was pray for you and me both. I prayed you were okay and by that I meant that you were not harmed mentally, physically or emotionally before you arrived at my door. Unfortunately, the fact that we met meant that you were in some form or another.

Next, I thought of what I needed to do for you, show you and give you in the short time we would share.

I then asked for the patience, courage and wisdom to offer you what you needed at that moment in your life.

If you don’t remember me yet, its okay. I know there have been several of us along your journey and that in itself hurts my heart; however maybe these next few memories will single me out:

I’m the one who met you at the social worker’s car door and opened it when you arrived in my driveway.

I’m the one who immediately took your belongings out of those trash bags and made sure you didn’t see your things in bags like that again.

I’m the one who prepared you a quick meal and drink before the social worker explained your situation to me, as you see, you hadn’t eaten in hours and it was 9pm on a school night.

I’m the one who had your room prepared for you even though I was given such short notice of your arrival.

I’m the one who laundered your smoke-filled clothes and had them folded for you by the next morning.

I’m the one who made pancakes, cheese grits and sliced you a banana for your first breakfast at my home because I knew it had been a while since effort was put into your meal.

You remember me, don’t you?

I’m the one who took you to see that play. The one who signed you up for ballet.

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The one who came and ate lunch at your school, the one who heard you whisper to your friend, “He’s my foster dad and he’s pretty cool.”

I’m the one who told you there was a lot out there that you could do and many things you could be.

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I’m the one who tried to show you so many things in a short period hoping something would stick and that you wouldn’t think life only had to offer what your were accustomed to.

I’m the one who held your hand in public because I knew you wanted the world to think I was your dad—not because I was awesome— but because you wanted the feeling of “normal” the other children had with their dads.

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I’m the one who knew I was your “just for the moment” dad but acted as if I was yours forever, even though I knew you wanted nothing more than to be at home with your family and to be loved the way you should be and to be holding your own dad’s hand.

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I’m the one who built that snowman and pulled you on the ice.

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I’m the one who spent hours watching movies, coloring pictures and riding bikes with you.

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I’m the one who likes to think he showed you what a dad should be; the one that hopes even though I was your “just for the moment” dad you knew you meant and still mean so much to me.

If none of that helps you place me, this final memory will be my last try:

I’m the one who when you left my home you said, “Please, Mr. Shane… Don’t cry.”

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Shane Palmer is the husband of Dropping Anchors mama Alisha Palmer. They have been therapeutic and medically fragile foster parents since 2013 and during these past three years have welcomed 9 children into their home. Shane works in behavioral health and sees how childhood trauma affects adults and their coping mechanisms, many times affecting the families he works with in the foster care system. He is an avid believer in trauma informed care. In 2015 Shane and his wife adopted their two daughters from the foster care system. You can read more about their journey in this post about their adoption, and this post about their one year familyversary celebration. 

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This is not a good time for me.

Part of the Dads Take Over series: Post by Shane Palmer


We are selling our home and are in the process of moving this month. To say the least selling/buying, showing a home, working out the finances, packing things up, storing things in a rental unit, holding down two full time jobs, all while raising two little (growing up so fast) girls can understandably be a bit overwhelming.

My wife and I had our quarterly visit from our foster parent caseworker mid-April and I advised her we needed to be put on a “not available status” for foster placements, due to all the above mentioned. Apparently she, nor the good Lord, seemed to care about my request and the next day we received a call that a 3-month-old little boy needed us.

I will admit to you, with guilt, I did not want this additional work load. I actually prayed, “Please, let another loving home take him. We just can’t do this right now.” You will notice I said “we” when in reality it was only me. Alisha, Kenya and Allison were all in from the word baby! I kept telling myself “This is not a good time for me,” but God kept saying to me, “This is not a good time for this child.” I understood the message and our home was quickly opened for business.

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I must tell you this little guy has brought much joy to the Palmer household in a short period. He has eased my wife’s heart knowing she is doing her mother’s and the Lord’s work. I have watched her become a great mother all over again with such a new little person. It seems so easy for her. I have seen my children welcome this new baby in our home with no animosity or jealousy. I know they understand our home is safe place for this baby, just like it was for them. I have learned these past few weeks to appreciate my family more, be thankful for our blessings, and to always remember:

“The Lord will not give you more than you can handle”

So, here’s to three-hour sleep cycles, a baby peeing on your wife at 2:30 in the morning, nasty little diapers, a cluttered house, vehicles filled with car seats, booster seats, diaper bags, and fitting 25 hours into a 24-hour day. You know what? I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Shane Palmer is the husband of Dropping Anchors mama Alisha Palmer. They have been therapeutic and medically-fragile foster parents since 2013 and during these past three years have welcomed 9 children into their home. Shane works in behavioral health and sees how childhood trauma affects adults and their coping mechanisms, many times affecting the families he works with in the foster care system. He is an avid believer in trauma-informed care and is a Mental Health First Aid Instructor. In 2015 Shane and his wife adopted their two daughters from the foster care system. You can read more about their journey in this post about their adoption, and this post about their one year  familyversary celebration. 

Posted in Dads Take Over, foster care, Guest Post | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments