Monday, May 11, 2015

Unconditional Love: A Foster Adoption Documentary

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 20,000 children age out of the U.S. foster care system each year, putting them at an increased risk for homelessness, unemployment, pregnancy, prostitution and incarceration.  This 2012 infographic courtesy of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption illustrates some of these risks:

The production of a public television documentary which tells the stories of five teens who were adopted by loving families is underway.  In addition, this documentary, appropriately titled Unconditional Love,  will also be highlighting organizations which have found successful strategies in finding adoptive parents for youth in foster care.

To make a tax deductible donation to the crowdfunding campaign to fund the filming of Unconditional Love and/or to help spread the word about the film please refer to the following links:

How Much Do Foster Families Get Paid?

I've shared my feelings about doing foster care for the money in the post In It For the Money but I recently came across two articles which are MUST-READS for anyone who has honestly ever wondered "How Much Do Foster Families Get Paid?" and especially for anyone who might erroneously believe that foster parents take children into their home solely for the money.

A shout out to Megan for this well-written article she recently wrote for, How Much Do Foster Parents Get Paid?

I Foster For The Money by Jill Rippy of The Foster Life had me chuckling at the beginning and quickly sobered me into silence the next moment.

The bottom line is that foster parents do not get "paid".  They are reimbursed for the costs it takes to care for the children placed in their homes which may or may not cover the actual costs.

To view reimbursement rates by U.S. state click here.

It does take money to care for children, but TIME and LOVE are other equally important sacrifices a family should take into account when considering what it takes to welcome a foster child into their home.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day Thoughts 2015

My Facebook Status for today:

"I'm very mindful this day (and always) of the women who gave my beautiful children life. It is truly humbling to share the sacred gift of motherhood with two women who gave my children what I could not give them myself. From this and other mothering experiences I have learned that love is not meant to be divided up or confined but is most beautiful when it is shared among many."

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Positive Adoption Language Infographic

I came across this infographic today courtesy of United Methodist Communications and I couldn't help but share as I've certainly been frustrated in the past by certain terms people use when talking about adoption. 

The thing is- not everybody knows that a certain term might be hurtful- and that is why I liked this infographic so much- these are simply suggestions of what terms to use- "instead of this, say this" in order to avoid miscommunication with a brief explanation of WHY a specific term might send an unintended message.

In addition to the infographic, adoptive mother and pastor Angela Flanagan, shared more helpful hints about asking questions, making assumptions, and even touched on some of the challenges unique to adoptive families, and transracial adoptive families in particular, where adoption is obvious, including the following:

Asking appropriate questions with healthy language of friends is very different from asking questions of perfect strangers. Before you ask or comment, consider what it might feel like to have your family questioned everywhere you go by people who you don’t know and what effect that has on the children. 
If you aren’t sure if a question is appropriate or if you are using appropriate
language, please refrain, or at the very least, refrain while in front of
the children."
On a related note of shielding questions about an adopted child's history- especially when asked in front of the child, sometimes it's not just those who ask the questions that need to take a step back, but those who answer and provide information (because adoptive parents are human, too)!

This is something which I'm learning to find a balance with.  On the one hand I love educating people about foster care or how the adoption process works, and I'm glad to be able to share my experiences with them.  But on the other hand I realize "Just because I want to educate others and am happy to talk about my experiences doesn't necessarily mean I have to share every detail about my children's backgrounds with everyone who asks- especially when they ask in front of the children- because although my child's story is definitely a part of my story- it is ultimately their story to tell."

Want to Become A Foster Parent?

Recently I shared some info about the legal requirements to becoming a foster parent, such as age considerations.  In the past I've written about health and safety requirements to foster- which will vary from state to state (and country).

Although getting your house ready, filling out all of the required paperwork and completing training hours are all vital and necessary parts of preparing to welcoming a foster child into your home, I have found that the hardest part of fostering for me has been the emotional aspects which begs the question, How does one prepare for the roller coaster of feelings that come with fostering that can really take a toll on your emotions?

I guess my answer is that I think there are some things you just have to experience to truly understand. However, I recently came across a blog post from a very seasoned foster and adoptive mother which contained such good advice that I wish I had had these concepts firmly etched in my mind when we first considered and started fostering. Even if someone hasn't yet experienced something, having some sort of idea or outlook of what to expect could at least help them make an easier adjustment to the situation.   Therefore, I am going to refer anyone interested in becoming a foster parent to these pieces of advice Felicia shared by clicking HERE.

"So you get the kids settled in and the journey begins.  This could be short term or years.  They could tell you it is short term but that doesn't always mean anything.  The thing to remember at this stage is that your job is to foster the children.  Do not start talking about how much you want to adopt the child at this stage.  Do not try to sabotage the parents.  At this point you should be working with the parents, reunification is the plan.  You should develop a relationship with the parents.  I still have relationships with some of my foster children who went home and their parents."

Absolutely!  I've been a little slow to learn that fostering is not just about providing a refuge for a child, but giving families another chance to stay together- which includes respecting and working with bio families.  This, of course, is not always easy.  

Although I knew in my mind when we first began fostering that reunification was the intention, that purpose would compete or become overshadowed with the desires of my heart to adopt a child.  Which leads to the next bit of sound advice Felicia shares:

"If you are doing foster parent because of a burning desire to adopt be aware that adoption may not happen for years.  You may have many kids in your home before a case goes to adoption.  Or your first case may.  Be prepared to support reunification because that is what foster care is.  Be prepared to be heartbroken, because all foster parents are at one time or another."

Another important thing I've come to learn is that you may not necessarily fall in love with every single child that is placed in your home- and do you know what?  That's okay!  It doesn't mean you're a terrible person- it means you're human.  Felicia goes on to say, 

"Foster parenting can be a challenge but it can also be a joy.  Some kids will steal your heart and others you will be glad to see them go home.  You never know what to expect and should be prepared for anything."

In connection with that thought, if you happen to be someone who feels the call and responsibility to help children through fostering, don't feel guilty if you can't "save" them all!  It's okay to say "no" to a placement if the timing isn't right or for whatever reason you don't feel good about it.  Similarly, It's okay to take a break.  I would even add, it is sometimes necessary to take a break so that you don't risk becoming burnt out.

One other critical piece of advice Felicia shares is:

"It is always good to have some support from your local foster parents or others who have fostered.  Others really won't understand all that you are dealing with."  Amen to that!

It is such a relief when I come across something that another foster parent has shared and I end up thinking- "Yes- they get it.  They really understand!"  or "I'm not the only one who's been through this before."