Wednesday, January 18, 2006

So You Want to Be a Foster Parent

Do you have what it takes? A good question, and everybody thinking about providing foster care will have to answer it in their own way, but there are some bare minimums that must be met and hard realities you must face before you even think of abusing yourself, your family and your house this way.

First, you'll want to read everything you can get your hands on, to find out as much as you can about how the system works and what some people have to say...this blog is one such resource, though it doesn't have a huge store of case studies or anything. Yet. The Wife and I got to mostly skip this step, given my lifelong experience in my parents' house and The Wife's license in social work. We had our eyes wide open coming into this, and in that we were a step ahead of a lot of would-be foster parents.

Can you handle it if a child kills themself in your bathroom? This has never happened to us or to my folks, but it very well could if we stick with it long enough. Could you live with that?

Could you live with it if a troubled foster child killed a family pet? How about if they had an "episode" and threw your TV through your picture window? These again are unlikely to happen, but there's no guaranteeing we'll be able to keep it from happening sometime.

Are you ready to "take the bull by the horns" and do whatever it takes for your kids to get the medical, mental, scholastic or whatever other help they need? Nobody will hold your hand. You'll have to make calls, then more calls, and then a couple more to get the right people on the phone and arrange whatever's necessary. It's a 10-mile-wide strip of bureaucratic red tape (double-side-sticky). You've never seen anything like it unless you've been in the military.

Can you keep accurate records? Without The Wife I'd be lost here. She's FANTASTIC at that. Me, not so much.

Are you ready to spend most of your compensation for fostering on the kids? You won't get rich doing this under any circumstances, and if you're doing it the right way you may even end up a little poorer.

Will you give 20 or more hours a week over to the effort, and be on call 24 hours, 7 days a week? Can you handle it if the phone rings in the night and a cop shows up with a kid on your doorstep with no clothes or possessions? That will certainly happen if you stick with it long enough.

Can you handle it if you work on a kid for 2, 3, 4 years or more only to see no improvement and have them hate you? That's maybe a little extreme, but it could happen.

Can you be hard-nosed? Can you drive a hard bargain? Can you say "no" (a lot)?

Can you love a kid that hates you?

My parents once fostered a girl whose ultimate dream in life was to become a hooker. How do you even approach something like that? Are you ready to approach it anyway, and give it your best shot?

So why, then do we and thousands of others like us do this to ourselves? Simple. We have to, because not doing it is just plain wrong. Our empathy makes us look at the situation, and won't let us look away from it until we do the right thing. Was it the way we were brought up? Probably, at least partly. Is it because we're better than other people? No. Just...wired differently.

We're not so much doing this to be good people, though some (including The Boss) have called us good people for doing it. We're doing it because we'd feel bad not doing it. It's selfish, really. Besides, what other parents get to have a fresh start over and over and over again? What other parents have the prospect of perhaps dozens of kids calling, coming and visiting, and inviting us for visits many years from now when we're old and grey?

And who else in the wide world but a foster parent can really, truly say that they didn't just protest "social injustice" like those morons with the peace symbols clogging up traffic in Saint Cloud last weekend, but jumped right in and did something about it with their own two hands? There are people that do that who aren't foster parents, sure. But fostering is the best way for us to do something really, truly helpful.

So whaddya think? Sounds like a blast, right? I think so. When time lends some perspective, I'm quite certain that the last few months will look like the best times of my life, and the best is just ahead!


At 9:27 AM , Blogger Wes Wright said...

You hit the nail on the head Dan.
We have a 10 year old that has not shown any academic growth since we got her 2 years ago although we wo with her daily.

Our newest boy is 13 but although he is bright he has a temper at the sound of the word no.

We do it because of all the reasons you stated


At 11:45 AM , Blogger Garrent said...

Thank you, Dan. I've just finished my classes and am waiting for a home study before I can get certified. I've been hearing so many horror stories from "others" that I've started second guessing myself. But your post reminded me why I want to do this so much. Thanks again.

At 5:33 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You tell the truth...and it brings encouragement. The world of foster parenting is insane and lonely. Your feel like your family doesn't fit in anyplace and the truth is that they don't. So often I fall into the trap of wanting to be normal...but that isn't the life that God planned for me. Being a foster parent is hard, unpleasant and stressful. It is also the most wonderful thing that I have ever done. I have learned what real love is...and how as humans, we cannot fully do it ourselves.

At 2:42 PM , Anonymous Ali said...

I still have my reservations but ever since I was little I always wanted to adopt or foster. I'm not really sure why other than I do want kids some day soon and I never really had that overwhelming drive for my own dna offspring. There are so many kids who need a home and I have a home and lots of love to give. Just makes sense to take this route. I'm not so worried about the stress it will cause me and my home I'm more worried about making mistakes that will damage the poor child even further. But I guess that's the fear of any parent whether the child is their own dna or a foster/adoptee.


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