With May being Foster Care Awareness Month, P143 wanted to share some stories of what led parents in our community to foster care along with 10 reasons families foster.
Here are the top 10 reasons people decide to foster children:
- Filling a home with love
Perhaps you feel that your home has extra love to give and share and you want to do that with a child or children who are temporarily or permanently removed from their families.
Your kids have flown the coop and you want to continue day-to-day parenting in your home. You miss having kids in your home and being able to provide a stable home to a child in an unstable situation is appealing.
- Reunification with birth family
You may want to be part of the support and guidance as a child works to reunite with their family. You have the ability to advocate for the children's needs and support them as they work back into daily life with their biological family.
Chronologically we became a family, then a billet family (explained below), followed by a host family, and eventually a foster family. I like to call that the progression of love in our home. None of those seasons have been all sunshine and roses but each of these seasons God has provided, he has worked deeply in our hearts and allowed his grace to follow.
A year after our oldest son moved out for college and we no longer were billeting, we met a local host family who was hosting a little darling from Eastern Europe; we soon followed in their footsteps and signed up to be an orphan host family. This would prove to be one of the most rewarding and heartbreaking opportunities on our journey as family. When you host from another country you will undoubtedly hear words, well-intended, but nonetheless hurtful, such as: “You know there are kids in America who need homes”, “Have you considered domestic foster care or adoption”, “Why overseas when so many kids here are suffering”. We believe deeply that borders are man-made and we were not created to love, care and support only humans within our borders, but all the comments did make our minds wander, especially once our host children had to go back to their home country. Our house just simply felt empty. Every time I would walk past the spare bedroom I’d have thoughts of emptiness and question if the bareness in our hearts was a calling to foster care. So, we called the local foster care agency and before we knew it we had our first placement.
One evening we were sitting at home preparing for dinner and we got a call asking us to take one of two children being removed from their home that evening and literally three hours later our foster daughter was dropped off at our house for what turned into a ten-month journey. Foster care is sad - it’s hard because trauma is real and trauma will break your heart. There are days that make you question everything you ever knew about parenting, the bureaucracy is frustrating to no end, and it can feel violating; but all of that silences in comparison to the amount of empathy, compassion, and healing that is possible. More days than not we looked at each other after our foster daughter went to bed and spoke words of how did we get here and are we strong enough to do this. Several months after she went back into a bio family placement we would get calls from her aunt who would tell us things like: "you are missed", "you changed her outlook on life", "she finally values school", "her teachers marvel over her happiness and desire for learning", "she is hopeful" and "thank you".
Those particular 10 months were honestly the most challenging times, which called for soul searching to find beauty in an ugly situation. Quite frankly, we were slapped in the face with our own biases and judgments of birth parents which we had to quickly overcome and find peace with less than ideal situations. We had to protect and advocate strongly for the rights and safety of this child, and while it was not always fun, it was undeniably worth it. She is worth it. We foster because there is not a child in the world who does not deserve a family and who can not gain from even a smidge of time in a loving, supportive, environment. We foster because all children are all worth it and truly, is it not the very least we can do?
Billet Family - Billets are families who invite junior players into their homes to be a part of their family during the hockey season. The billet family provides housing and support to young men who have moved away from home to pursue their dreams of playing the game they love.
Thank you to Vickie S., P143 Family & Volunteer, for sharing your story!
Your family may be wanting to add a child through the route of adoption and you want to do this through the foster system. Many families choose this option to not only add to their families, but to help a child in need in their communities and beyond. Foster-to-adopt is also an affordable alternative to other adoption routes.
- Called to a specific child
There are huge pushes for advocacy for children waiting to be adopted in the foster system. Some families see a child's story and feel compelled to move on that child's behalf into foster care. This can be through social media posts, waiting child specials on television, and heart gallery presentations.
I was at church and the SC Heart Gallery was there. The social worker and pastor both did a presentation on foster care. There were framed pictures all over the wall of children who needed homes. As I looked through the pictures of all the children there, especially the older ones, I felt God tugging on my heart. That is where he led me to my son.
Thank you to Lori W., P143 Family & Volunteer, for sharing your story!
- Giving back
Some families feel that they have been blessed and simply want to share and give back. Knowing that there are more children in need of foster families than there are homes for them can compel a family to step forward in generosity.
- Helping vulnerable children
Being aware of the needs of vulnerable children may inspire a family to be called to stand in the gap for the kids emotional, physical, and mental well-being while they are in a time of transition and uncertainty.
I suppose to tell this story I have to go all the way back to my childhood…. Being the oldest girl in a large chaotic family set me up perfectly to weather the storms of foster parenting.
My childhood was difficult, and I spent a lot of time caring for my younger siblings. My escape was the outdoors where ‘rescuing’ birds, kittens, and even insects brought me great satisfaction. I even rescued a bat once. Having a heart for the vulnerable (which is something I think you are born with) along with my childhood, put me in a position as an adult to seek out ways to ‘help’.
My first experience with ‘helping’ as an adult started with an animal rescue. I absolutely LOVE dogs and worked with a rescue in Summit County Utah. The husband wasn’t nearly as fond as dogs as me, and one day suggested (not sure if he was 100% serious) I rescue people, not animals. Hmmmm. Lucky for me I am married to a man that if not EXCITED to start the foster care journey, was at least willing and open minded. That journey started in 1997 and lasted for about 18 years. The result was over 100 foster/respite/shelter children passing through our doors, 3 adoptions, and a few foster children we still consider a part of our family.
In 2015 we took a hiatus from foster care. (we run our own business and I started doing that with the husband). In 2018 we decided to host with P143. Although I didn’t feel I had the time to devote myself full time to foster care, I felt I could make the short-term commitment that hosting requires. Three hosting’s later and we are in the process of adopting 2 sisters and just finished our training to relicense for foster care. I chose to become a foster parent because my heart pulls me there.
Thank you to C.G., P143 Family & Volunteer, for sharing your story!
- Sharing a home
Often, a foster family will share that they simply felt that they had extra room in their homes. They had an extra bedroom and an extra seat at their table and they felt compelled to share those spaces with a child in need.
- Enjoy a challenge
Being aware of the challenges foster children face due to their circumstances and traumatic backgrounds can be a challenge a family may seek to embrace and work with the child to overcome. The challenges faced can be incredibly difficult, but some foster parents find the overcoming of these challenges to be so empowering that it prompts them to do it again. And sometimes again and again.
- Older children & siblings
The understanding that older children and sibling groups are the least likely to be chosen as foster children can create a desire in a family to serve those kids specifically. This is a lifeline for these children and the social workers that so desperately want to serve them.
Whatever the reason that drives one to foster, there is not one right or wrong answer. It takes a village to serve the great needs of the foster children around our country. In the end, it is often said that the family feels blessed so immensely by the experience and opportunity.
Would you consider fostering a child or sibling set? For more information about fostering and the US Foster System, visit AdoptUSkids.