Foster Care: Is It For You?
Our family started foster care after we lost our newborn baby to Trisomy 18. We weren’t able to help our baby, but foster care allowed us to help another child by giving our love and time. Foster care isn’t for everyone. It was ideal for our family because of our situation of not being able to bring our own baby home. Nurturing and caring for children who were left without a family of their own helped us to heal.
The Overwhelming Number of Children in Foster Care…
Over 400,000 children across the United States were reported to be in the foster care system in 2015. In Florida, as of 12/31/2016, around 12,500 children are living in foster homes per the Florida Department of Children and Families. Licensed foster care includes traditional foster homes, like we had, group homes, and therapeutic foster homes. There are an additional 13,000 children that were placed with relatives or significant persons in that child’s life. These statistics listed here leave out the number of calls that the Office of Child Welfare receives on a daily basis. There is a high number of calls coming in for investigations to access a child’s safety.
We heard about the great need for foster homes from my cousin and his wife who were fostering at the time and have since adopted out of foster care. Both of our families went through a program that trains and equips families to begin fostering in less than nine months.
We started with a home study which was basically just filling out forms about our family, jobs, income, etc. One of our agency’s staff members came to the house to walk around and talk with us about our application. At the time, I had high anxiety over this process but it turned out to be very low-key.
After we had completed the home study and several weekends of training we were ready to open our home for foster care. Our agency encouraged us to have a set list ready of what types of children and situations we were willing and not willing to take. This way, when the call came, we would be ready with a quick answer.
Our family had talked about what we could handle. We discussed how many children we would take, the child’s age, drug/alcohol influence, and medical background. Our agency felt an age gap of four years from our youngest to the age of the child was best. This helps alleviate any competition between the two. We were wanting an infant anyway, so this worked out well. Many children are born with drugs in their system or having fetal alcohol syndrome. We had learned that the drugs wouldn’t cause problems later but that the fetal alcohol syndrome could, so we opted for no children who had that. And then, having three of our own children to raise, we knew we wouldn’t be up to having a child with a medical condition.
I cannot stress how important it is to write down this list and have it close by when waiting for a new placement. We had waited several weeks after our training for the first call. When it came, our caseworker told us it was for two girls, ages 4 and 2. We were wanting a girl but had agreed that one would be enough to handle. Being overly excited I said YES to two girls and neither one is an infant! I had veered from our list and after just a couple days, I realized I had taken on more than we could handle, especially being our first placement.
Something else to consider when choosing the age you would like to foster is that all school-aged children have to be enrolled in the public school system. Because we had only planned to foster infants we were not aware of this. Being a homeschool family, having a four-year-old who had to be enrolled in public pre-k, didn’t fit well with our schedule. I had to get her up every morning and take her to school, come home and teach mine, then pick her up in the afternoon.
Foster Parent Responsibilities…
Foster parents are responsible for taking the child to a medical check-up within three days of being placed in your care. Most doctors are very accommodating and will work in the child when they hear they are part of foster care. All medical expenses, prescriptions as well, are covered under the foster care system.
Be prepared to have multiple visits every month by the state caseworker, and in our case, agency caseworker. They would usually call me to set up the weekly/bi-weekly visit. But I learned to keep the house picked up as sometimes they would call and want to come by that day.
Foster Care Does Pay…
We received $15 per day for our placements. This was paid by check once a month. Also, like I stated above, medical care is provided by the State. Vouchers for formula and baby food can also be obtained to alleviate some of the costs for an infant as well.
Our agency provided car seats as they were available and clothes and toys. The State does have a clothing allowance as well. Both our agency and the State of Georgia provided Christmas presents to our foster children.
The End Result…
Helping these children reunite with their families drives the foster care system. Foster-to-adopt options are available if reunification isn’t possible. Our family went into foster care with the hopes of adopting. We only wanted a child, though, if both parents had terminated their rights.
The day to day care of a child in foster care can be exhausting and overwhelming. This isn’t the hardest part of foster care though. The most difficult part, obviously, is sending the child that you’ve cared for and bonded with back to his parents or family member. My husband and children had a hard time with this. We had four placements over a two year period and it was never easy letting them go.
A word of encouragement though–my children (ages 18,16,13) say that the best years of their life were when we fostered. Our last placement was sent to live with her half-sister in a different state. My husband was offered a new job soon after. After a year in Florida, we are just getting settled. We’ve talked some about fostering again and I hope that we will! (:
Have you been thinking about opening your home to foster children? If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below.