Becoming a licensed foster parent is no easy task. You’ll fill out hundreds of forms. You’ll go through hours of trainings. You’ll have more home visits than you’ll want to count. You’ll think you’re prepared when you get that first phone call. The room will be ready, you will have all your paperwork in a nice stack, your medicines will be locked away, and you’ll have a fire extinguisher exactly where they tell you to put it. You’re heart will start beating a little faster when the phone call comes in and you’ll try to brace yourself for meeting your new child, but, some things you just have to learn from experience. Here the Dropping Anchors crew has come together to give new foster mamas a heads up about those things we wish we had been told in training.
“I wish I had known how confusing and difficult this road of foster care would be for family and friends. We go and get trained, and spend hours and hours learning about and discussing the different aspects of care, but our families and friends don’t always understand. They don’t always know the ropes, they don’t usually get the lingo, but they certainly feel the loss when our kiddos move to family or reunify with their parents.”
“That is really is ok to say no. This is a learned response. You go into foster care thinking you have to say yes every time they call. That just isn’t the case. You learn your parameters the longer you are raising children. You learn and know what fits with your family, what ages you have space for, etc.”
“I wish I had known it was ok to set boundaries with the other people on the child’s team. You will be asked to transport, change plans, cancel appointments, have people in your home at a moments notice and a million other things that may be inconvenient or uncomfortable. Go into this with an open mind and ready to be flexible, but when it comes to protecting your sanity, say no.”
“How to say yes to help. Or how to ask for help. Oftentimes I was so overwhelmed, and it wasn’t that the help wasn’t there and willing, but I literally was so “in the weeds” that I couldn’t even form enough of a coherent thought to ask for what I needed. Learning that even though they say decisions are for the good of the child, more often than not that’s not the truth. You’ll never be prepared for the hurt and heartache, until you’ve lived it. But on the flip side, the sheer joy and utter fulfillment you’ll feel isn’t something that can ever be taught, either. That you’ll be judged and scrutinized like never before. From workers whose job it is to certify your home, to biological families who may not see that you have the same goal of the child’s best interest, to other parents who don’t understand how parenting kids with a traumatic background is different.”
“I wish I had known how much interaction we would have with biological parents and family members. Going into foster care I thought “maybe I’ll see the family at court but that should be it”. For us, this has not been the case. We have supervised visits, spent hours together in court and doctors office waiting rooms, had countless phone calls with bio family members and served as a parenting coach/counselor/listening ear. For the most part these relationships have been positive but I was definitely unprepared for how closely we would be expected to work with the families.
This is not the case for all states, and some foster parents have very limited interaction with bio families but it’s definitely been my biggest adjustment since entering this crazy life!”
“That your feelings and thoughts will make no rational sense, from conflicting feelings about biological parents (from anger one second to love the next), to advocating for the child (crying tears over an impending goodbye, while urging the workers to find her adoptive home so she can bond with her forever family). To expect perfect strangers to think it’s their business to ask and know all the details about a child’s case…and to have an appropriate response rehearsed and ready. To keep a journal! For each placement, for each emotion or struggle or rejoicing. If you are a planner, you must give yourself permission to let go. Everything about this journey is out of your control, except the love you give. Releasing the details will allow you to love freely and live in the moment.”
“It’s a lot easier than you probably think it will be. And it’s a lot harder than you probably think it will be. And that’s ok.
Finding community that understands foster care is HUGE. Do whatever it takes to find someone who gets it. You will need that voice.”
“I wish I had known how much we would have to advocate for the kids. It may seem like people are on their side, but in our case no one was. The bio parents didn’t care other than about their pride, CPS didn’t really have a clue what was going on due to their huge caseloads and the case going from one worker to another to another. So it was up to us to advocate and make sure he didn’t get lost in the system, that he got the therapy he needed, and to relay info between bios and CPS.”
“What to expect in court. From the rhythm of court, to how to get your voice heard.
Time and dates are nowhere near set in stone.
Also, how to keep interaction and communication positive with social workers.
Lastly, how crucial attachment and bonding are and how you go about facilitating that when it wasn’t given to kids from the beginning. I wish I would’ve known how much parents’ rights trump what I would feel is best for the children I am caring for. Also, how I would need to be the squeaky wheel to our social workers in order for them to get things done in a timely manner for our children.”
“How to advocate for your child, the bio parents, and yourself.”
“How to give yourself time to grieve between placements. They didn’t teach us anything about the grief and trauma we would experience. The solution is different for everyone but I recommend taking as much time as necessary for you and your family to heal between placements, get counseling if you need it, let loose and have fun, recover normalcy in your life before you shake things up again with a new placement.”
“As a Christian family, it felt like we were called into this. I felt like “Ok, Jesus, you know what I can handle and the horror stories that I’ve heard I can’t handle but I trust you.” I think even if I never uttered it out loud I thought he would just bless this journey because of obedience and calling (ahhhhh dangerous I know) and when I thought of worst case scenarios.. I never imagined what our cases would look like. Or how horribly bad the stories could actually get… even if I thought I could.”
“I’m a planner. I like things to be ‘just so’, and I’m not a big fan of surprises. Guess what foster care is? It’s insane, and sporadic, and you can’t.plan.anything. You’ll get a call and you have just moments to say yes or no. You’ll have to change plans more times than you can count. You’ll have to learn to roll with the punches. Sometimes the people bringing the children to you know little more than a few sentences about those babes they are putting in your care. Having kiddos dropped at your doorstep is far harder than bringing a baby home from the hospital, but few people will understand the changes your family is going through. When you find community that gets it, cling to them. They will help you through the hardest days and, believe me, there will be hard days. Foster care is hard, and messy; it’s also beautiful and redemptive. It’s both the hardest and greatest thing I’ve ever been a part of.”