Have you ever considered being a foster parent? Until about a year ago, I hadn’t either. Yet I think I always knew that there was a need for foster families in Terre Haute and the Wabash Valley. Rather than boring you with statistics, let me share a few real life stories. For me, stories are often more powerful than statistics.
There are four local families who have agreed to anonymously (for the protection of the children) share their stories.
1) Where are you in the foster/adopt process?
- Family #1: 3 foster babies (ages 2 and under!) have been in the home for six weeks.
- Family #2: 2 biological children (a toddler and a preschooler) and 1 foster toddler. Foster toddler in home for 9 weeks. Foster child came 5 months after the licensing process began.
- Family #3: Fostering 4th placement. Currently have two brothers (toddlers).
- Family #4: Fostered 15 kids since 2012. 3 children adopted from foster care.
2) Why didn’t you foster sooner? What held you back?
Family 1: We didn’t foster sooner because we were trying to have our own baby. We were also both working two jobs and didn’t think we had the time to give to a child (or children) in need. We eventually decided because we had tried for almost 3 years w/o any success to conceive. Children are my passion and I felt like this was a for sure way to get children in our homes.
Family 2: We’ve been involved in international orphan care for many years. But when we started having babies, it became harder to serve overseas. We started to look into the local needs–which are much more accessible and just as needed! Since our biological children are so young, one of my biggest worries was how an abused or neglected child’s behaviors might affect our own children. How do we protect our bio children in this?
Family 3: We really weren’t even aware of it as an option since we didn’t know any foster parents. We actually decided after going to a conference that talked about orphans; our hearts were really drawn to the need for loving hurting kids in our city. After we made the decision to foster, we ran into some health issues that pushed us back about a year. Then we had to wait another six months for our first placement.
Family 4: It took us almost two years to complete the license because we started (and nearly finished) in one city and then moved for a job and had to start over. We didn’t really hesitate along the way, although we didn’t originally plan to foster. We got into it to adopt and along the way felt God led us to foster as well.
3) What’s been your greatest joy?
Family 1: My greatest joy so far is just hearing the kids giggle and getting to show them new things and help them learn and grow.
Family 2: To hear our bio kids talk about, comfort, bond with, and protect their “brother” has been a huge highlight! Also, we’ve had a lot of fun with our little guy–Holiday World, cabin camping, strawberry picking, bike rides. He’s such a sweet and easy-going kid who adapted quickly to life in our home. He’s a great fit for our family.
Family 3: The greatest joy is seeing kids live out their full potential when put into a healthy environment. I believe every foster kid is amazing! I have yet to meet a foster kid I didn’t like. (Seriously!) They sometimes need help to overcome the obstacles they have faced, but with proper love and care you will be able to see them take huge steps forward in all areas of life: emotionally, physically, academically, spiritually. It is amazing! The other joy is that the kids are just plain fun. There will be a lot more laughing with foster kids (and more crying too)!
Family 4: Seeing the kids thrive and be filled with joy. Laughter is definitely more frequent in our house because of the antics and adventures.
4) What’s been your biggest struggle, fear, disappointment, or frustration?
Family 1: My biggest frustration so far has been with the amount of coddling that the system gives the birth parents. The lack of communication about what’s going on is also irritating. You do so much for the kids and the foster parent seems to be kinda like a doormat. You just always have to do what they say
Family 2: I’ve wondered if people who want to be a voice for children might have more influence as CASA volunteers than as foster parents. As foster parents, we have very little influence in our child’s case and future plans. Also, it’s been challenging to have bio kids and a foster child. We have put some pretty strict boundaries in place for the protection of our family, and it’s been frustrating at times because DCS would like us to do more than we’re comfortable doing.
Family 3: The system is frustrating. If you know that going in hopefully it will take out some of the frustration. Another key to limit frustration, fear, and disappointment is to make sure that you are really in it to help the birth family when they are involved. Foster kids are not our kids. We love them well, but our goal is to help them to get back to a better situation with their family.
One fear I’ve heard is that it’s too hard to give the kids back. It has been hard, but we wouldn’t change anything that has happened. One thing I believe helps overcome this fear is to think about the situation from the kid’s point of view. The pain that the kids go through in all of the transitions (such as being pulled out of their family home) is far worse than anything you will go through as a foster parent.
Family 4: It’s very challenging to be constantly under the microscope of DCS. With monthly visits to the kids, it can sometimes feel like we are on trial as foster parents. It can also be difficult to get kids to their weekly parent visits and frequent doctor and therapy appointments.
5) What has helped you when times are tough/frustrating?
Family 1: Our support system–our friends, church family and family members. People have helped us babysit, helped with advice, brought supplies, prayed, and even offered to have our lawn mowed for the summer.
Family 2: At times it has been a lonely road, so finding other foster parents to talk with who understand what we’re going through has been an essential part of the experience for me. Also, it’s important that I stay humble and remember that if it weren’t for Jesus’ influence in my life, I could easily be making the same destructive choices as the bio families. We’re all one bad decision away from having our kids removed by DCS.
Family 3: You can’t do foster parenting on your own. You need to have people around you. We are so blessed to have people that help with respite care on a regular basis, and those that are in similar situations that we can talk through what is happening. Also, faith in the fact that God has everything in his hands and is the one in control is the ultimate foundation that is needed. Without this viewpoint, it would be much more difficult dealing with tough backgrounds and family situations.
Family 4: It has really helped to have friends who have been through what we are experiencing. A close couple also adopted their two kids through the fostering system and knowing that we are not the only ones going through it has given me some measure of comfort. Our verse for our adoption is Jeremiah 29:11. It’s been a sort of mantra, even now after adoption. We still don’t know where God is taking us on this journey, but we know He isn’t done with us yet.
6) What would you want to tell someone who’s considering becoming a foster parent?
Family 1: Don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with. Always try to keep an open line of communication between you and your caseworker. Pray often.
Family 2: Some people think you need to be called to be a foster parent. But for us it was a bit of logic and a bit of faith. We believe God wants us to take care of widows and orphans. Foster care is one way to do that.
Family 3: Go through training (even just the first session) just to get more informed on the need. Training is very eye-opening and will be a great education for anyone willing. If this season of life isn’t the time to be a foster parent, talk to someone who is fostering and see how you can help. If you do go through training and get licensed you still are in control of when you take in kids and who you take in. I believe to be a successful foster parent, you probably will have to say “No” on more placements than you say “Yes.” It is important for foster kids to be a good fit for your family. However, after you say “YES” and take the leap into foster care, you will have a deep satisfaction in your heart for the help you are giving. It is hard but it is worth the effort.
Family 4: You can do it! Yes, it’s hard work! But you have the capability and the resources and the community and kids need you. Consider making a difference in the lives of our youth.
Ready to take the next step?
Contact the Indiana Department of Child Services, Vigo County (30 N 8th Street, Terre Haute, IN 47807, (812) 234-0100) or visit the Indiana Department of Child Services: Foster Care website.
Centerstone’s Indiana Foster Care Select Program provides therapeutic foster care services and adoption services.
The Villages is Indiana’s largest not-for-profit child and family services agency.
If fostering isn’t for you…
CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteers are a voice for children in foster care.
Respite care for foster parents is crucial. You could be a short-term childcare provider for your friends with foster children through a process as simple as passing two background checks. This could give your foster parent friends a date night, an overnight away from the kids, and/or the chance to attend foster parent training.
When a new foster child enters the home, it’s a big change. Check in on your foster parent friends and offer practical help like meals or supplies.
Foster parents often “shop” at the free community swaps. If and when your kids outgrow clothes and gear, please keep foster parents in mind and/or donate your items to the community swaps.