[Not news to any of you, but I figured I’d share it here anyway…]
Let me tell you, being a foster parent, you get a lot of interesting questions and comments. Of course there are always the crazies that ask the most inappropriate things in front of the kids (why yes, they do speak English and can HEAR YOU RIGHT NOW), but most of the time I welcome the questions because the more we talk about it and dispel inaccuracies, the better.
Here’s a bit of Q&A on the most common questions I’ve gotten over the past few years…
Q. “Where are they from?”
A. Foster care is generally managed state to state and in the majority of cases, CT children are placed in CT foster homes. This is important for funding and administrative purposes, but also to keep the children close to their homes and biological families. Proximity is important to manage the trauma and facilitates contact with family of origin.
Q. “What did you do to get licensed?”
A. We filled out an application, had a few home visits and interviews with social workers, took a class, filled out some paperwork including physician statements and references, and did a lot of waiting. From start to finish it took nearly a year and cost nothing.
Q. “Do they pay you?”
A. No. Being a foster parent is not something you do to get rich or support yourself. That being said, the state does do a good job of providing financial support for the children in your care. They provide a monthly stipend to cover clothing, food, activities and other kid expenses. They also provide childcare assistance, full medical and dental care, and respite (babysitting) coverage.
Q. “Do you have any say in the kids they put in your home?”
A. Yes! Of course! As an initial step foster parents complete a questionnaire about the types of matches they are prepared to take. You can specify anything including: age, number of children, race, gender, types of special needs (behavioral/medical/ect), level of legal risk (meaning how likely a child is to be available for adoption vs. being reunified with his biological family), and more. On top of those initial questions, every time the phone call comes in for a potential placement, the worker will tell you what they know about the child and you can decide yes or no based on those specific facts. I have turned down placements. It’s a terribly hard thing to do but no one benefits from a foster parent getting in over their head.
Q. Okay, this isn’t so much a question but a comment. Its one I get all the time: “Awww, you’re doing such a wonderful thing. Those kids are lucky to have you.”
A. I appreciate and understand that comment, but it tends to give me the deer-in-the-headlights look because, honestly, it’s missing the mark all together.
Foster children? Lucky? No.
Many are foster children before they are even old enough to know what that means. They have little permanency, no control, and they are at risk for severe attachment issues. They’ve been distanced by all the family they’ve ever known, including the woman that birthed them. They are literally just dropped at a doorstep and asked to put away their fears and open their hearts to complete strangers – survival depending on it. Not to mention whatever reason for which the state is intervening in the first place. These children are very unlucky.
It’s my spouse and I that are the lucky ones. We are privileged beyond explanation to have the opportunity to parent and love our children. They are amazing. They are resilient and powerful. A tiny three-year old taught me more about bravery, faith, and love than I had ever known. I am so lucky; they made my dreams come true. Contrary to popular belief, foster parenting is not a selfless act – you get so much in return.
Q. “Isn’t it hard to give them back? How do you not fall in love with them?”
A. I feel like this is one of those things people tell themselves as reasoning for not becoming foster parents. Here’s the thing…foster parenting is not right for everyone. Maybe it’s not for you. We all contribute to this world in different ways and that’s okay. But falling in love is not the reason.
The truth is, I actually haven’t yet said good-bye to a foster child, but we did come awfully close. Would it have been hard to give them back? Had I fallen in love with them? Oh my goodness yes. I mean, love is why we’ve moved away from the orphanage model and focused on foster homes. Love is the whole point. My heart was on the verge of shattering.
But the thing is, I love those children so much that I can’t imagine not being there for them when they need someone the most. I pray that being foster children is the hardest thing they ever need to endure and I love them so deeply that I would have broken my heart for the honor of being the soft place for them to land.
We’ve all had our hearts broken, healed and moved on, and probably for much lesser reasons. These are beautiful, innocent children…what’s more worthy of heartbreak than that?
What did I miss? What questions are on your mind? Leave them here and I’ll be happy to answer if I can! Any other foster mama readers? How do you answer?