Dad Life

The Journey to Foster Care: Are You ready?

We were posed the question:

“Do you have any advice that you would like to pass on to people who are considering foster care?

 What do you wish you had known?”

 I had to think back. Back to when we were originally contemplating foster care.

We raised a puppy who graduated from obedience school. We are consistently told she is “the most well-behaved dog I have ever met.” We taught Lucy to sit – we could do this.

I can hear your eyes rolling from here…as if the experience of molding that young puppy mind would prepare us for parenting a 2nd and 3rd grader.

Wait. I’m starting our story at the end, like an episode of “Once Upon A Time.” Apologies.

We researched surrogacy, adoption, and finally decided foster care would be our route to travel to create our “future family.” We found an agency and went through 12 weeks of Foster/Adoption Pre-Service Training.

12 weeks? At the beginning of our journey, that seemed so long! An eternity even! (Think about it 12 weeks. Three months.)

In our little conference room in Pottstown, PA, our case worker couldn't cover everything, but she sure covered a lot. The good. The bad. The ugly.

Surprisingly, the 12 week course sped by like lightning. When we got into our car after our final class we turned to each other and said, “was that enough?” Did we feel fully prepared to take this on?

No.

We were exposed to a lot, but what follows are topics I wished we had paid more attention to:


  • Since reunification is always the goal, the birth parents have more rights than the kids. Or the foster parents. We have no legal rights. We have to ask for permission for so much as a haircut.
  •  Don’t blame the kids.

    Barry - Hair Cut

  • Who is more of an authority for the daily homework struggle? Who deals with the parent/teacher conference? Who strategizes with the teachers to get the kids where they need to be? Who attends the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings? But wait, do you get to sign on the dotted line? No.
  •  Don’t blame the kids.

  • When you are in the trenches day to day you will feel like a glorified babysitter. It hurts sometimes to have these feelings, but this is how the system works.
  •  Don’t blame the kids.

  • Oh, speaking of babysitters and the hoops you, your family and friends have to jump through….Want a night off with your partner? Only if you have a pre-approved resource.
  •  Don’t blame the kids.

  • With all these rules, and little to no authority, you can see how it can be very stressful to be the foster parent, and not the parent.
  •  Don’t blame the kids.

    If you’re looking to build a forever family, foster care may not be for everyone. But “Fate is kind…” I think about how differently our future would be if these two ”wish” children weren’t in our lives. These bundles of joy needed us. They’ve turned our lives upside down and around and around. For the better.

    “How would you have prepared differently with the experience you now have?”

    Nothing can prepare you. No class, no book, nothing can prepare you. It’s beyond scary. It’s nothing short of wonderful.

    Just be there for the kids. That’s all we can do. Be there for those hurt little spirits who devour the attention that they didn’t get.

    According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau, there are more than 400,000 children living in foster care in the United States. These kids need forever families like ours.

    Consider it. If you do, you don’t need to love the system.

    Just love the kids!

     

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    With everything going on in our country, I think saying that it has been a crazy year is an understatement. It has been emotionally difficult and draining at times for many. This year brought so many new changes that it is hard to wrap our minds around some of them. The daunting feeling of uncertainty looms over our heads as we march forward into this unfamiliar territory led by someone we do not particularly trust.

    With that said, one thing will not change- the holidays. For my family, this time of year brings cheer, joy, hope, and optimism for the new year to come.

    I have always had one golden rule when it comes to decorating our home for the holidays: the current holiday must pass before decorating for another.

    Recently, our two year old, Alli Mae, had started to develop an appreciation for all that Christmas brings. The way she lights up and gets excited when she sees Christmas decorations made me think for the first time in my life, what if I changed things up this year? Decorating earlier will also help attenuate the political frustration that this year brought. That coupled with the amazement that our little girl has for Christmas makes a strong case for decorating for Christmas early. Sure, there are diehard Thanksgiving fans that grumble at the thought of Christmas coming early and I am sure they will give this a healthy eye roll and, if so, that's ok. We are not replacing Thanksgiving... we are enhancing it.

    We will most definitely continue to teach our children the meaning of Thanksgiving and to enjoy the symbolic feast that comes along with it. The white pumpkins I usually put out for Thanksgiving really made a statement when I mixed them with the Christmas attire. I was quite surprised and impressed by the final outcome!

    These days, one of my primary goals in life is to create an environment for my family that is happy, healthy, and nurturing. I want them to get excited about Christmas, both the true meaning and the atmosphere that it brings. When my children walk into the house, I want them to be transported into a bright, cheerful place that they will always remember. Perhaps it will even inspire the way they celebrate the holidays with their families (and our future grandchildren) in the future. The world can be a harsh, cold and scary place, especially lately it seems. I would be lying if I said I didn't do this for myself, too. I am. For the first time in my life, I am worried for the future of our country. I am terrified of the direction we as Americans are taking and worry it is setting a precedent for what the future will be like for my family. Mass shootings seem to happen monthly now, yet there continues to be a lack of response by Congress to create solutions. Bigotry and racism, masked by patriotism, also plague our society. I know I am speaking of sore subjects, but all of these reasons give me the motivation for welcoming the Christmas season earlier.

    I do have faith that in time, competent leaders will emerge and will steer us in a direction that will help fade our fear into the bold and lionhearted society that we are. We as LGBTQ families need to comfort one another. Lets extend our hands to each other. Let this holiday season not be about the "correct" time in which we decorate for Christmas, moreover lets make it about coming together as a community that lifts each other up. Lets protect each other. Lets embrace each other for all the we are, all that we bring and all that we stand for. Let us not be silenced- and pushed into a corner but let us lead by example- while showing our children who their parents are by being respectful and tolerant and warmhearted as we welcome this Christmas season.

    Erik and Douglas' two daughters, Ella and Alli Mae, who recently turned 2

    May you and your family have the most beautiful and happiest of holidays, regardless of when you choose to welcome Christmas. I pray that 2018 will bring each of you happiness, patience, resilience and with time, we will get there, together!

    I would love for you to follow our family's journey on Instagram, Nolapapa.com and like us on Facebook.

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