Most of us enter into the foster care and adoption world with only the slightest understanding of what we are walking into. I know this was true for our family. We had no idea what we were doing, we only knew that each one of us wanted to say “yes” to the opportunity to help a child who needed a place to stay and people to care for them. We had an extra room, plenty of food, and between the 5 of us, we had 10 helping hands. Sounded pretty simple to us…but as we quickly learned foster care is anything but simple.
One of the first things we noticed was that things we saw as “simple” in parenting our biological children seemed quite complicated by the rules and standards of foster care. We knew “the standards” were designed to protect children, but definitely didn’t seem to be created with individual children, families or circumstances in mind.
For example, I remember standing in the court house, immediately after the judge ordered a child to be placed in our home and discussing with the CPS case worker and the child’s attorney that based on information given by the biological family, the child should sleep in a toddler bed in our bedroom for a while to help with the transition.
Made sense to us and could be easily accomplished. My husband and I reached out to a friend on our way home from the courthouse, borrowed a toddler bed, set it up in our room…and boom, we were ready to go for the following day when the child would arrive. When the agency case worker arrived with the child, I was told that I was absolutely, under no circumstances, allowed to have the child sleep in our room since the child was over 3 years old. And doing so would be a violation of our license and could result in the child being removed from our home. I quickly explained that this was the decision of the child’s CPS case worker as well as the child’s attorney, but the agency worker didn’t budge. This matter was later resolved with the child’s attorney getting a court order from the judge for the child to sleep in our room, in the toddler bed, for a 3 month period of time. All I could say to that at the time was, “wow”…this is just one of my many stories, and I have heard countless tales from others as well where things that seem simple are not so simple in foster care.
If you have experienced this, you’re not alone. Foster care is confusing and messy and often doesn’t seem to make a lick of sense. That’s when you remind yourself of why you said “yes” in the first place, you grab the hand of someone that you know will be supportive and you keep on marching. It doesn’t do any of us any good to quit because the system is broken, that’s the very reason we must stay. There are broken families in that system that need our help.
Today I’d like to introduce someone that I have come to admire. She understands this broken system and has learned to move gracefully through it and she’ll grab the hand of anyone in need along the way.
In this episode, my friend, Amber Robinson, shares her incredible insight on foster care and adoption. Amber and I serve together in a couple of capacities. We are both foster/adoptive parent mentors for Depelchin Children’s Center and we also serve as board members for Fostering Family, a non profit aimed at supporting foster and kinship families. We have spent some time together in those roles and I am always so impressed with her knowledge of the foster care system and her wisdom on navigating it’s muddy waters.
Amber says there is a “really steep learning curve to becoming a foster parent”. I would definitely agree, and while we spend many hours in the classroom being trained, prior receiving our license, most of the learning happens in what we typically call “on the job training”.
Today’s episode to full of really useful information, as well as heartwarming stories that are sure to bring a smile and possibly a few tears. Amber begins by sharing some of the spiritual reasons why she and her husband chose adoption. She then gives a brilliant explanation of the legal processes involved in foster care. She helps us understand what is happening in the court rooms and explains the role we play at those court hearings. She shares best practices for communicating important information to caseworkers, agencies, CASA and attorneys, as well as many other helpful tips. And, you definitely don’t want to miss the end of this episode where Amber shares the story of how she and her husband, Randall, have cultivated a beautiful relationship with the biological grandmother and siblings of their 2 adopted sons and the value they place on cultivating biological family connections when it is safe to do so. I told you it is full of good stuff. I promise you will not be disappointed!
DEEPER DOWN THE WELL
No matter where you are in the foster and adoptive journey, one thing is for sure, you can’t ever have enough support. The kind of support we need may shift at different times along the journey, but support is a critical part of parenting children with chaotic backgrounds. One thing I have learned is that it is more difficult to “ask for help” than it is to “find” the help…help is available and you’ll be surprised at the people you find who really do want to support you. There are Facebook groups, church groups and other non profits in almost every city. Be willing to ask for help and support and you may be blown away with what you find. If you are in the Houston area (Region 6), Check out Fostering Families https://www.fostering-family.org/ This is a great group of people, mostly foster and adoptive parents, who understand what it’s like to do what you do. It’s become their mission to “strengthen foster/kinship families and the communities that surround them through training and collaboration.”