This week we will be finishing up our PRIDE classes and getting our fingerprint/background check started. Once we get our background check back the state has 90 days to do our "home study" (a series of meetings to find out what kind of child we and our home are a good match with) and get us licensed as a foster home or we have to do the background check again, which they like to avoid. Once we are licensed it can be anything from days to months or more until we are matched with a child, but the primary logistical hurdle will be behind us and it will just be a matter of finding a child that we are right for and is right for us.
I've debated on whether or not I should include the next part, as I get a little preachier than normal, but having typed it all up and firmly believing what it says... here it is.
The classes have been an interesting experience to say the least. I've always felt that, in a world potentially pushing it's maximum occupancy, adoption is a great way for people with a desire to raise children to meet their and some childrens' needs, after these classes I am realizing that it is even more important than I thought. We spend a lot of time in the classes hearing worse-case scenarios about the "type" of children that end up in the foster care system and hearing that with foster care the goal is to return the child to it's birth family if it is a safe and functional option. Many of these children are coming from homes where they have been neglected, abused, or both, and some aren't coming from homes at all. There are so many great kids out there without the kind of home that can provide them with a safe and nurturing place to grow up and it seems so important for them to be given a chance.
The foster-to-adopt program is where the children end up when it is not likely that they will be re-united with their birth family. One of the biggest risks being part of the foster-to-adopt program is getting hurt by being attached to a child that is in your care and then returned to their family or moved to another home. Seeing examples of the many reasons that a child can end up in the foster care system has had mixed affects on my preparation for this risk. Knowing that any child who ends up in our home is coming from a place where they really need our help (however long they stay) makes it seem like it should be a fulfilling experience whatever the outcome, but knowing that they could be returning to a potentially unstable environment at risk of a relapse takes some of that good feeling away. I think that it's best to learn about the system and know that as a foster parent we are able to be an advocate for the child and try to make the whole process a positive one that makes their life better in some way.
We have been learning about the various ways the foster care system works and the types of trauma a child in the system is likely to have experienced. While the system is as complex as you would expect a state system to be it is difficult to imagine it any other way in today's litigious society and especially when the safety and well being of children is in question. To get an idea of the complexities, wrap your head around this: While in the care of a foster home, a child is still legally attached to their parent, who's permission is needed from something as simple as changing their hair style to something as typical as a school field trip, BUT the state has taken the child from their parents and is legally responsible for them and can be held accountable, SO the foster parents (on behalf of the state) take care of the child and meet their day to day needs and try to help them through this traumatic time while they deal with just about every emotion in the book because they are in this situation. While this is happening, the state is asking the parent to fix whatever situation has caused the child to be removed from their care so that the family can be re-united and at the same time if that reunion seems unlikely, the groundwork is being laid for the child to be placed in a permanent home where they can have the opportunities to lead the happy and fruitful life that they deserve. Add to that the possibility that the trauma they've experienced before this time has probably left them with emotional and/or physical scaring or bruising that they will be dealing with for a long time, and the racial and cultural differences they may have with the family they've now become a part of and you can see why it is so important that there are loving and supportive homes for these children who've had little to no part in the events leading up to this.
I don't think we started this blog with the intention of using it as a soapbox, but since I've got this box of soap under my feet... I strongly urge anyone reading this who thinks they may be up to the challenge to look into the program. We are looking to make our home a forever home for a child in need of that, but there are children who just need a roof over their head and someone to care for them for a few days, weeks, or months, and even those of us who may not think we've got the time or space can do more for them than we know. The whole process of becoming a foster parent is basically free, the state even provides money to support the children in foster homes and you're not going to end up with a kid if you decide it's not right for you. I'm just saying it can't hurt to check it out, and it may make a huge difference to some kids in need.
I've never been known for my generosity or compassion, but I honestly think that we will be foster parents in the more traditional sense sometime down the line. I think that at the moment we are best equipped to help out one child and I think that a stable home without children coming and going every few months is probably best for the early years of a child's life, but down the road I could definitely see opening our home to other children in need of a more temporary home to help them through some really tough times.
Washington State Foster Care Information