Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Foster Care: What it is, why we do it, and all you want to know!

I've had a lot of people ask me about foster care and what it means and why we do it. Most of you know from my previous post that we are struggling with infertility. But whether or not we have a baby, we will continue to foster. A lot of people don't understand this, but Ken and I want to foster for the rest of our lives.

I've been surprised to see the reaction of so many people when I tell them that we want our own baby but we are still going to foster disabled children (DD). And I think most people mean well and try to be nice, but Ken and I are doing what we feel Heavenly Father wants us to do, even if it doesn't make sense to other people. It makes sense to us.

A lot of people ask about adoption and when we are going to and what agency we will go through. We do not feel it is the right time to adopt. We have prayed for guidance and feel that right now, we need to foster, and fight for those children with no voice to fight for themselves. Many people suggest going through LDS Family Services, it is a service through our Church that helps pregnant teens through their struggle, offers counseling to those in need, and helps families trying to adopt find the best fit. I wholeheartedly believe in LDS family services. I think it is essential that people find as much peace with big decisions like adoption, and they definitely help.

We are not going through LDS family services because we are not ready to adopt, and they have a VERRRRRRYYY long wait period. So we are working with our agency All In The Family to foster, and if we decide to adopt, we will go through them. There are so many children who need homes and it doesn't take quite as long as if we wait for LDS family services.

Ok back to fostering. What is it? I get that a lot. Fostering is NOT adoption. It is taking care of children while their parents work to get the back. Children are only removed from homes in extreme circumstances, because here in AZ the state wants to keep families together as much a possible. So if they remove children from the home, they try to find family members who are licensed to take them, to again keep the children in the family. Which is really good, but can be frustrating at times. For example: I did not realize that when we got our first children- twins- I thought they would be with us a long time. If a family member steps forward and gets DD licensed (to care for disabled children) then they can take them away from a foster home. Which is what happened to us. But it's good, because they are with someone in their family and with their siblings. So its very good, but was very sad for us. But now we get the opportunity to help other children in need.

So, since we are a DD home, we not only care for the children we foster, but they require extra help. A lot of doctor appointments, therapies to help them grow and progress in all aspects, and then practicing what they learn at therapy here at the home. This is called habilitation. DD children require more work, but they are so sweet and it is soooo rewarding.

Here in Arizona the state pays foster parents a daily rate per child. Foster parents to children without disabilities get paid 1/4 of what DD foster parents are paid per day. Ken and I didn't know this at first, we just wanted to help those children who are in extra need of love and help. I studied Public Health at Brigham Young University in Utah, and have worked with many disabled people, and only 1 child. But I loved what I did, and told Ken I would like to foster disabled children and he was so excited and totally on board. Then we found out you can get paid to take care of them, so that is how we are paying for ken's school.

Our first experience was difficult because despite the classes we took, there is so much going on with CPS here in AZ that there is a steep learning curve. (Maybe you read in the news about the 400 or so files that were left in an alleyway all about children in foster care). So that was hard, but we found a fabulous pediatrician. He had his staff scour medical records so we could have a better idea of what the children had been through and what their needs were. He was amazing, and his NP is fabulous too.

Then the parents of the children began getting help. They have to meet specific requirements to get their children back. There are some amazing programs for them here in AZ to teach them how to be better people, better parents, and create a more stable home environment. Once they begin to accept the services offered through CPS/the state, they get to have visits with their children. Which is good because that helps them stay motivated to see their children, and helps the children form healthy bonds with their parents.

Now it is possible that if the parents don't work things out, and no one in the family comes forward and the children are placed for adoption, then we could adopt them if we choose. But if we adopt one or two or three or however many disabled children, it would make it very difficult to then continue to foster other disabled children. When you adopt a DD child, you still get help with medical insurance and things until they are 18, but its very costly and very time consuming to take care of disabled children, and at this point in time, we don't feel it appropriate to adopt and continue to take on more disabled children. Maybe someday when Ken is done with school we might do that, but we don't know what the Lord has planned for us, we just know at this time that we need to give lots of love and help to these special children.

I haven't written a post about my experiences until now because I didn't feel our foster experience was complete until I knew how I would react and feel when the children are placed with family, go back to family, or get adopted. It was awful. I cried a ton, it felt like they were dying. Of course they didn't die, but I may never see them again. And that was very hard. But after a few days I was so happy to have had that experience and love those twins, that I couldn't wait to get more children and help change lives.

We really did help so much. Just by giving lots of love and helping them develop and grow and practice their therapies at home, they prospered. It was hard and tiring, but I wasn't in it alone. A lot of people also like to point out that they don't think I'm cut out to be a mother or whatever because I have endometriosis and fibromyalgia. Those people don't know me or understand the power of Heavenly Father helping you fulfill your mission here on Earth. Which is too bad for them. But we are happy, and feel that The Lord is protecting us! But I didn't do it alone at all, Ken was there every step of the way, most times doing more each day than I did. And that's what marriage and fostering are all about. Being a team, loving one another, and spreading that love to special children the Lord lets us take care of! It feels like I have angles around me to help me do my very best during the day, then at night I sleep super soundly and look forward to the next day. Ken is amazing. He does online school, and eventually wants to run his own financial businesses and will work from home! So If I ever need a nap or I'm too tired to take twins to the store or whatever, he does so much and is so compassionate and giving. I'm very lucky and blessed to be married to him.

I also have some real life angel friends who help and support in so many ways! Thank you Danny, Meagan and Brittney!

And besides, having those children and loving them helped me feel better, and do more. Like take them on walks and start writing a book! They were so inspiring, and even though it was so painful to see the leave, it was worth it. Totally worth it.

Now, if you are thinking about fostering, do it! If you are thinking about adopting, do it! I love what we do and I can't wait for new children to arrive to do it all over again! Make sure you do your research and find a good agency. At first we were with a not so good one, but switched to All in the Family and have loved the people there helping us do our best. We have a fabulous agent and the owner of the agency calls and makes all the placements. It really feels like a family. I love it!

If you have any questions or want to know more, please feel free to comment, or email me!