Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Not a Fairy Tale

We are now about 20 hours in to our 50 hours of training. We have learned SO much. I would absolutely say that the knowledge we are gaining will help us become better future foster parents to an older child.

Perhaps the most valuable information we have gained is the understanding that adopting a foster child in not a fairy tale. The child getting dropped off on our doorstep is the beginning of the hard work and dedication, not the happy ending. The instructor explained that there are far too many wonderful loving well intentioned families that adopt a foster child thinking they will fall in love with them immediately. The reality is that you will love them as a child that you care for but it will likely take several weeks or months before you love them as your own child. This is not because anything is wrong with you or the child, it is simply how the bonding process works. Both ends need to hang in there and one day you will feel that unbreakable bond.

There are several reason why it doesn’t occur immediately but the big one is trust. You know you are committed and want that child to be a part of your family but they don’t know that for sure.  The instructor said many foster children have it in their heads that “I am not living with my biological parents because something is wrong with me. As soon as this family figures that out they won’t want me either” So rather than embrace a new family, they fight it as a defense mechanism.  
She  explained that you may not get the response you want when you tell the child that you are their “forever family”. They may hit you, throw something and call you a liar. They may act out every day, damage things they know are valuable to you, call you horrible names in front of your friends or flat out refuse to follow any rules. What they are trying to do is push you away. You don’t know exactly what they came from. Another family may have told them that they were their forever family and then later decided to “return” them.  The best thing you can do is not to take it personally and stay consistent. They will come to trust you as you show them that you are sticking around for good. She said the tantrums should become less frequent over time but may last upwards of 6 months. The important thing to remember is they will end and even though the child may not be showing it, they do love you and want to be a part of your family.

I think this foster parents story captures the patience, love and dedication a foster child needs. This fathers' story is about bed time.

The other big thing we learned is that we shouldn’t decorate their room before they come. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed to hear this. I was really excited to get the room all set up really cute! But we learned that if you decorate the room and fill it with toys you will likely be searching for a big reaction from them when they see it. They may not give you this reaction and it may actually be putting a lot of pressure on them. They may see a room decorated with a baseball theme for example and think “oh they want a kid that loves baseball. If I don’t like baseball they won’t love me.” Also if their room is pre decorated it will feel to them like they are living in somebody else’s room much like when a couple gets married and moves into say the husbands already decorated house.

The solution to all this is to paint their room a neutral color (a brightly colored room will probably overwhelm them) and put only the essentials and a few basic toys. You can still have some personal touches for example little blocks that spell their name and a stuffed animal but nothing too big or extravagant. Then when they are ready you can decorate it together. She suggested this as a good bonding experience.

You probably noticed that I used the word “may” all over the place in this post. That is because every child is different therefore there is no way to be 100% prepared for whatever children will be placed with you. The best thing you can do is learn what to do should the most difficult scenario happen. Maybe your child will accept you right away and would have loved however you decorated their room but maybe not.

We will love our future child no matter what reaction they give us.  In the end it’s all about what’s best for the child not what you are picturing in your head. It is better to be prepared to deal with anything than to be expecting a fairy tale.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Not Good Enough?

I have been hearing stories about couples who were considering adoption or becoming foster parents and then changed their mind during the application process because of some questions in particular. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I thought I’d shed some light on the situation from our point of view.

We struggled at the beginning of this process as well. One of the questions on the application to the agency asks what kind of cases we are willing to handle. They ask about very specific medical and emotional problems. It was really hard for us to say no to some of these specific cases. It felt like we were rejecting a child in need and saying they weren’t good enough for us.

This weighed on our minds for days as we debated if we should even send in our application. After much research and prayer we decided we absolutely should turn in our application. Not only that, but we should not feel guilty about what we said we could or could not handle.

These children deserve the very best home for their needs. If we don’t have the knowledge or emotional understanding to handle a certain case we are not saying they aren’t good enough for us, we are saying we are not good enough for them.

This is not meant in a self deprecating way at all. We will be excellent parents and will love our future children no matter what the circumstances. We are simply saying to know your limits when it comes to foster children. Caring for any child is a lot of work. We currently have no children so to go straight into caring for a child we just met that has serious medical or emotional needs would probably overwhelm us. This would make it hard to be the caring stable parents that child deserved.

If you feel you could handle more than the basic problems that is wonderful. You are truly a special person/couple that can bless the lives of equally special children.  However if you are concerned about your limits do not feel bad and do not avoid the process out of guilt!! You can still change a child’s life and have a wonderful family. You can always go back and expand your comfort range for future placements.   Also consider the fact that although these children seem perfectly and healthy now, you don’t know what may have happened to them had they not joined your family when they did.

We felt we would be okay with basic medical issues such as asthma, diabetes and food allergies. Also the fact that we selected the age range of new born to age 4 means that there may be underlying emotional issues if we are placed with an older child. However at age 4 children are still very resilient. After talking to several people we learned that as long as we are careful and seek help when needed, there is a high chance a 4 year old that has suffered trauma could fully recover with minimal lasting trauma.

We also were excited to check “yes” to sibling sets of 2. We heard from several people that this could be such a blessing on both ends. The obvious benefit for the children is that they will get to stay together. This means they have a built in friend that understands exactly what they’re going through. This by default makes our job as parents easier since we don’t have a firsthand understanding of what they’re going through. There is the fact that there would be two children rather than one which means more work. But we’re okay with that.

We have decided these are our limits for now and we are very confident that these are the correct choices for our family.  The moral of the story is every family is different. Make whatever choices you feel are best for your current and future family. Once you have, don’t let yourself or anyone else make you feel guilty about your decision.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Forms Forms and more FORMS!!

We sent in our application the WACAP and were so excited to get started. Then we got the paperwork and our excitement was dimmed. We have been working on forms for weeks now and still have a long ways to go. To be clear, we are NOT complaining. I think it’s wonderful that they are so thorough in the process of clearing potential Foster Parents, we just had no idea what we were truly getting in to!

When we first opened the folder we thought oh this isn’t so bad. It had a few charts and “tool kit maps” about the process.  Then we started reading and got completely overwhelmed. Included was a disc with pages and pages of forms! I think the best advice we have at this stage is to breathe.  Yes it is a lot of work but it will be worth it. Just make a game plan and slowly work your way though. Everything will be okay! We decided we were going to do one form a day till we finished. That was a great plan until we got to forms with 9 pages of in depth personal questions. We then changed our game plan to 2 hours a day.

During this process lots of memories both good and bad have been brought to the front of our mind. We have parenting issues and possible solutions running through our head 24/7. I can see why they have potential adoptive parents go through all of this. Several questions brought up issues we knew nothing about. We have spent hours and hours researching various forms of discipline, education, and how to a comfort a children who have ben through emotional or physical trauma. We are feeling very well informed. Of course you can’t be prepared for everything, but we certainly have a plan of action for many situations. This will only make dealing with them easier when/if the time comes.

After starting this process I realized it would have been really helpful if I had someone to dumb down the process for me beforehand. That way the overwhelming feeling we felt when we opened our packet could have been avoided or at least lessened. I have decided to detail the process and our experience for future potential adoptive or foster parents.  I realize not everyone reading this will be interested in that. For this purpose, I created a new page at the top of my blog. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Touching Support

We officially announced our blog on Monday. Since then we have been so touched by the amount of love and support. We received countless texts and emails full of support and personal stories. We have loved reading every one.

It’s easy to feel alone in situations like this; it can feel like everyone around you is so happy and enjoying their family and multiple kids. All these stories you generously shared with us helped us realized there are many people out there that have gone through the same thing as us and now have beautiful families. It is a great source of hope. We hope to be joining you on the other side of this soon!

We also received several stories from couples going through infertility, miscarriages, the adoption process or even a failed adoption. These stories broke our hearts. We were pleased to hear that our story helped them and gave them hope and a sense of community. We plan to respond to each email, text and face book comment but it will take a while so bear with us.

Thank you so much for your support, it has truly meant the world to us. Please continue to share our blog and keep your stories coming. We would be honored to be a source of support for anyone who needs it. This whole process will be easier if we stick together!