“Why foster? When you foster, you have to say goodbye, right? Families are ripped apart, correct? Foster children are difficult, and I just can’t do this to my family! Isn’t it an emotional roller coaster? How do you prepare your heart to take children in, only to see them go back into a questionable home situation?”
I’m glad you asked!
Actually, we were dead set against it!
By the way, there is no such thing as foster to adopt. The minute you step foot in the door, the county or foster agency will tell you that the goal is reunification with the biological family. Why did we choose to foster, then? Let me back up about five years so I can explain!
In 2016, I was diagnosed with ovarian failure. Basically, my body had gone through menopause at an early age, and there was a very, very slim possibility that we could conceive through medical treatments. We went through two rounds of IUI treatments and spent roughly $6K doing so. These treatments are not covered by health insurance. Every other day, I drove an hour to Cincinnati to report to the doctor’s office by 7 AM to undergo testing, ultrasounds, treatments, etc. Both failed. We were told that if we continued for 7-8 months of this treatment, our chances to conceive would increase. But we had run out of money, and we had to stop.
In 2017, we decided that adoption was our next goal. We were over the moon to get started. We signed up with Christian Adoption Consultants to get the ball rolling. It was very expensive, but we loved our consultant. She was so wonderful. I applied for approximately 50 grants. We did several fundraisers that were a huge success. We created a family profile book to show to expectants moms all over the country. Life was exciting.
Over the course of the next two years, we submitted our profile and a personal handwritten letter to fifty-two expectant moms. Basically, we would read about a mom, her health history and her personal situation, and then we would decide if we wanted to submit our profile to her. So, we would either overnight our book to the agency, or we would submit electronically. Then, with anxious hearts, we would wait for up to two weeks for answer. Fridays were the worst. Nothing happened on the weekends.
Our first match happened in October 2018 with a mom in Phoenix, but after she saw her little man in her 20 week ultrasound, she backed out of the adoption plan. We lost $16K. We matched a year later with another mom in Phoenix. She was four days from giving birth when she decided to back out of the adoption plan. Again, we lost another $16K. Our grant money, our fundraising money, and our hard earned personal savings went to an agency whose staff we had never met, and we still came out emptyhanded. It was incredibly difficult. We were confused, upset, and heartbroken.
We decided that we needed to shift gears completely.
We decided that fostering was more of a sure bet than the adoption route. At the very least, we would have a child in our home, and eventually, we would adopt a placement. We would be able to help a child who was desperately in need. We would be showing the love of Jesus. There are thousands, I repeat, thousands of homeless children in our county alone.
We started our classes to obtain our foster license. We didn’t know at the time, but each adult in the class is reimbursed from the state for taking the class. All background checks, paperwork, etc. are financially covered by the state. Foster families receive a daily per diem for each foster child in their home to cover the cost of basic supplies. The child’s healthcare is covered by the state. If it came time for a child to be adopted, all legal expenses would be covered. And following the adoption, the family would receive a daily per diem from the county until the child is eighteen years old.
Say what? That’s pretty good news.
So, we became licensed foster parents in June 2020. We received several phone calls about children who needed a home, and we either responded a bit too late, or we would decide that this situation wasn’t good for our family, so we declined a few times.
In August 2021, our lives changed. We got a call for a baby boy from a few counties away. Our agency suspected that this situation could possibly turn into a permanent placement and adoption. Our little man came into our home needing tender loving care and medical attention, but over the next few months, he began to thrive. As of June 2021, he is still with us today. It is probable that the situation will become permanent by the end of the calendar year.
Is using an adoption agency a bad thing? Absolutely not! But I would strongly suggest that you consider foster care. Yes, our situation is rare. Most likely, we would have had to go through several placements before adoption even became a possibility. But we are thrilled that in our situation, adoption could be right around the corner. Is fostering hard? Yes. We hear stories of difficult children and difficult homes. But truly, once removed from a bad situation, these children adapt to their current environment and begin to thrive.
It has been a crazy ride, but God led us straight here. We never, ever thought that we would be foster parents. Really.
If you’re on the fence, I highly recommend the book Reframing Foster Care: Filtering Your Foster Parenting Journey Through the Lens of the Gospel by Jason Johnson. It is life-changing. It addresses many concerns, but most importantly, it highlights the desired Christian mindset when it comes to foster care. “What we stand to lose pales in comparison to what everyone else, especially these kids, stands to gain…The beauty of foster care is showcased against the backdrop of the brokenness that surrounds it. In light of the gospel it’s our privilege to crawl into the story of others, to wrap ourselves in their brokenness and willingly be broken by it – to exchange our normal for theirs and so begin to craft an entirely new and better normal together.”
I’m excited to see where God takes us next. Will we foster more children? Probably. Do we regret any of our previous decisions? No. We did what we knew to be right at the time. Has it affected our biological daughter? Yes, but only in ways that have expanded her heart for Jesus.
We followed God’s calling through years of heartbreak, but He was there the whole time, and He will continue to guide us. His goodness and His immeasurable blessings in our lives have been apparent every step of the way. And now, it is incredibly obvious why He took us down the path that He did. We are changed. We are more dependent on Him. And we give Him every ounce of the credit for bringing two amazing children into our lives.
So, where is God leading you next?
Author: Julie Collins
Tim and Julie Collins were one of AHFJ's 2019 Caelyn Raine Memorial Grant Recipients.
Dear Friends of A Home for Jolee,
As 2020 comes to a close, I reflect on the events of this year with thankfulness. It has certainly been a difficult year, but our supporters have continued to prove their generosity even in the most trying times. Through many tragedies and tears, you all have remained enthusiastic about the work of A Home for Jolee, and we are ever grateful for your love and encouragement.
One of those tragedies was the loss of Sandra Cooper, former vice president of AHFJ. Though I did not know her personally, I am grateful for Sandra’s service to AHFJ and the difference her love continues to make in the lives of adoptive families. Through the Sandra Cooper Memorial Fund, we were able to fill a $5,000 grant for Trent and Amanda Key. As Robin Burroughs writes, “This grant will serve to fulfill Sandra’s passion of ensuring each child has a loving home and comes to know WHO they are, WHOSE they are, and WHO made them." To Sandra’s family and friends, thank you for honoring Sandra in this way. An adoptive family has been greatly blessed as a result of your love.
In addition to the Keys’ grant, in 2020 we also awarded the Gracie Gaines Grant to the Wallin family. At this time, their adoption has been put on hold indefinitely. The Wallins contacted AHFJ to let us know that they are not currently in need of the grant and would like to make those funds available for another family. They do remain in need of our prayers and support. As a foundation and Christian family, we continue to wrap around the Wallin family during this difficult time and ask that you continue to support them in any way you can.
Though this was a financially difficult year for many, our fundraising events had fantastic participation and we are especially grateful for that. Despite restrictions and hurdles, A Run for Jolee 2020 was a success and encouragement to all. We appreciate each of you for your flexibility and understanding. Special thanks to our t-shirt sponsors and our Christian family at Graphic Expressions for the beautiful t-shirts! We are excited to announce that next year’s run is planned for the spring as usual and will take place Saturday May 1, 2021. Please mark your calendar’s and stay tuned for more information!
We tried a new format for our Bids from the Heart online auction this year. From our end, it was much smoother and easier to keep track of bids and notify winners. If you participated in the auction, we welcome any feedback! As of now, we intend to use the same platform for next year’s auction. Thank you to everyone who donated items and placed bids. You helped us raise over $800 for our next grant family.
Speaking of our next grant family, for the first time we do not currently have any grant applicants or families we are actively raising funds for. If you have ever considered adoption, now is a great time to take that step! A Home for Jolee Foundation is here to help. Right now, we have $5,000 in the Gracie Gaines Grant available for emergency adoption needs, and $1,700 in the Caelyn Raine Memorial Grant. To find out more about these grants, please visit www.ahomeforjolee.org/grants.
In addition to financial assistance, we also offer support through our coaching team. Our coaches are experienced adoptive parents who are available to help you get started in the adoption process. If you are struggling in your adoption, our coaches are also available to speak with you and help you find the support you need. AHFJ is more than just a grant foundation. We exist to support foster care and adoption in a variety of ways. If you know a Christian family in the process of adoption, please encourage them to contact us!
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges to every facet of life, including the world of adoption. Both international and domestic adoptions have slowed down, fundraising events and speaking engagements have had to be canceled. Uncertainty has been the theme of the year. But some things have not changed. Some things remain very certain. Still, throughout the world, there are 153 million orphans. There are still over 110,000 children in America waiting for someone to open their home and say, “This is your home, too.” We may be facing many hardships and uncertainties, but we need to remember these children still need homes. They are still waiting for us. Let us continue to care for the fatherless and give them mothers, fathers, and church families to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
For God’s Glory,
President of A Home for Jolee Foundation
The year 2019 has come and gone with speed. Thank you to all of the friends of A Home for Jolee Foundation for making it a year full of blessings!
Robin Burroughs kicked off the year by leading our team in finishing out the Gaines’ grant as they prepared to pick up little Gracie from China. Around the same time, our first foster-to-adopt grant family (Scott and Melissa Clark) flew to pick up their new placement, Eli. They shared the exciting news with us recently that their adoption has been finalized and Eli is legally part of his forever family! The third grant of the year went to Tim and Julie Collins who are in the process of a private domestic adoption. We are praying for their journey as they wait to see what God has in store for them.
The beginning of summer brought big changes to the foundation as Robin passed the torch to me. I am nowhere near as qualified as Robin, but I am thrilled to be part of this great work. I’m proud of our Board of Directors and team of volunteers who worked overtime to make the transition as smooth as possible. Despite the overwhelming number of tasks they were assigned, these dedicated people stayed enthusiastic about our mission and have been a constant source of encouragement to me and the families we work with.
With the change of president and treasurer, we needed to change the state in which we were based. James Pasley, our new treasurer, put in many hours getting all the documents and accounts changed from Texas to Georgia. It was certainly a difficult process with many hurdles and road blocks. James proved up to the task, though, and we have officially gotten everything moved over.
In September we held our first “How to Change a Life” seminar at the Spotsylvania Church of Christ in Fredericksburg, VA. I am grateful to the elders there for allowing me to come speak (longwinded though I am!). It was a joy to have Scott and Melissa Clark present to help answer questions and show a great example of what adoption looks like. It was a pleasure to meet sweet Eli and get to know their family better. We are honored to now have Scott and Melissa on our Coaching Team as mentors for adoptive families. If you are considering adoption and would like to speak with one of our mentors, please contact us! They are happy to answer questions and help you navigate the (sometimes murky) waters of adoption.
The following weekend we were welcomed by the Blue Ridge Church of Christ for our second “How to Change a Life” seminar. It was a pleasure to meet that congregation. They have proved to be a great encouragement to us with their support! Our treasurer preaches at this congregation and we are grateful that they allow him the leeway to volunteer to AHFJ while ministering there.
In October we were notified of a family with an emergency need of funding. Nathan and Melissa Bridges got the unexpected blessing of a baby girl through the adoption of their children’s biological sister. The outpouring of love from the Church across the nation was inspiring. We saw their $5,000 grant come together in just 7 days; a true testimony to the love of Christian family!
If that was not enough to prove the faithfulness of the brotherhood, just weeks after filling that emergency grant we saw their love in action again. We got news that Tom and Maggie Frazier were matched with newborn baby Eli right around the time we were scheduled to hold our second annual “Bids From The Heart” online auction. Through that auction our supporters raised over $1050, which enabled us to quickly finish out the Fraziers’ grant. We can’t thank you all enough for your generosity in helping both the Bridges family and the Frazier family in such a short time period! God has truly changed lives through you!
Five grants were awarded in 2019, for a total of $15,734. This far exceeded our expectations for the year! Thank you SO much for making it possible for us to help these families! We thank our Lord and Savior for the great works that He does through His people. We pray you have a good year and look forward to seeing how God will use AHFJ in 2020!
All for His Glory,
P.S. Stay tuned for some exciting announcements regarding our grants!
Tom and Maggie Frazier began their adoption journey after a heartbreaking struggle with infertility. But adoption has always been a desire of their hearts.
Tom and Maggie didn’t realize what a prominent part of their lives adoption would become until they began to struggle with infertility. In 2016, Maggie became pregnant with their son Brantley. But the Fraziers faced terrible heartache when Brantley was called home to be with the Lord on December 24, 2016 after being born prematurely at 23 weeks. Though devastated, Tom and Maggie clung to the Lord and remained hopeful that they would one day be able to raise a child in the service of the Lord.
The following year, the Fraziers were blessed with another baby, their daughter Ella Grace. After a difficult pregnancy, Ella was born on October 7, 2017 at 25 weeks gestation. She remained in NICU under wonderful care, but sadly Ella contracted an infection and joined her brother in Paradise on October 31, 2017.
A consultation with their medical team resulted in the determination that another pregnancy would present too high a risk to Maggie and the baby. However, Tom and Maggie’s longing to raise a child in the Lord never wavered. It became clear that adoption was the right decision. Not only because they so greatly desire to be parents, but because there are thousands of children in need of godly homes. Rather than allowing their struggles to debilitate them, the Fraziers are determined to use their story to glorify God.
“We were given this life to share our story and hopefully help someone along the way.”
The Fraziers completed their home study in August 2018 and are currently waiting to be matched with their baby. Through various fundraisers and pouring their own resources into the adoption, their agency fees have been almost completely funded. What remains is about $5,000 worth of legal fees that are due immediately upon being matched, which could happen at any time. Tom and Maggie have worked diligently to come up with the funds to cover the adoption, but they are in need of assistance to meet this final portion. They reached out to A Home for Jolee and were approved to be the next recipients of the Caelyn Raine Memorial Gant!
When the Board of Directors interviewed Tom and Maggie, what stood out about them was their complete faith in God and love for Him despite the pain they have endured. Though they have been through more as parents than most of us can imagine, they remain wholeheartedly dedicated to God. The Fraziers attend the Godley Church of Christ in Godley, TX where they are actively involved. As employees of the school system, they are also both heavily involved in their community and enthusiastic about helping children succeed. They are workers for the Kingdom, and AHFJ is excited about the opportunity to help a couple that so willingly gives of themselves to serve others.
This is where you come in, our dear supporters! As a small organization, AHFJ does not have funds readily on hand to award grants. Instead, once a family is approved to receive a grant AHFJ begins fundraising on their behalf. We need YOUR help to fill Tom and Maggie’s $5,000 grant before they are matched with their child. Will you consider giving toward Tom and Maggie’s adoption?
Sometimes the journey to adoption is painful. But it is along this journey that we see the beauty of God’s people as the Church surrounds adoptive families with love and support. Without the Church, adoption is a lonely path filled with seemingly insurmountable hurdles. While adoption is difficult no matter the circumstances, it is made a thousand times harder when families do not have the emotional, spiritual, and, yes, financial support of their brothers and sisters in Christ. When we see a Christian family struggling to fund what God calls a “pure and undefiled” undertaking (James 1:27), we should be right there by their sides giving all we can give to help them fulfill His command to care for the fatherless. Tom and Maggie have been blessed with a strong support system within their home congregation, but they need just a little more help to reach their final goal.
Adoption is worthwhile. But it is hard. We should all strive to lift the burden of adoptive families in some way. One way you can do that for Tom and Maggie is to pray for them, their future child, and their child’s birth family. Another way you can support them is to make a tax-deductible donation to their adoption by sending a check marked “Frazier Grant” to:
A Home for Jolee Foundation
Or, you can donate online. May God bless you for loving the fatherless!
Please note that our mailing address has changed!
Our new address is:
A Home for Jolee
P.O. Box 323
Mineral Bluff, GA 30559
Thank you for your support!
I am Joshua Richardson, the new President of A Home for Jolee. My wife and I are so excited about this work and the great good it does for the Kingdom! When Robin first approached me about working with AHFJ I was honored. This foundation has changed so many lives, and I feel blessed to be given the opportunity to continue the work she began.
Our family’s adoption journey began on January 11, 2014. Little did we know, two days later our daughter was born halfway around the world. It would take us another three years to get her home. During that time, we experienced much heartache as we struggled with finances, failed matches, and changes in international laws. But we also experienced much joy in seeing firsthand the love of the Church as so many helped us bring our little girl home.
That is what A Home for Jolee is about – helping Christians care for the fatherless. I am excited about the future of this foundation! We at AHFJ want to help the brotherhood know just how important adoption is; how vital it is for children to have God-loving, God-fearing, and God-honoring parents. We want to help show the world how adoption is a picture of the Gospel. It is my hope that adoption will become such an intricate part of Christianity that the world will think of the Church of Christ as “the ones who care for the fatherless”. What a wonderful thing for which to be known!
One of my goals for AHFJ is to go beyond financial assistance for Christians who are adopting. Before Robin left the board she had begun the greatly needed work of educating, not only on the need to care for the fatherless, but how to care for them. We are expanding our coaching and education teams to offer even more resources for the mothers and fathers who open their hearts to these little ones. Many adopted children come from very hard places. We want parents who are struggling to be able to turn to Christians for help. As Brittany and I have traveled through our adoption journey, we (like everyone, I guess) have been offered advice and help from the world. But I’ve always been hesitant to invite the world into my home and ask them to show me how this institution designed by God should best operate under these special circumstances. AHFJ wants to offer the support adoptive families need – not just financially, but also emotionally and spiritually.
In addition, A Home for Jolee desires to equip other Christians to support adoptive families. I understand that though many will never adopt a child, they want to be there for those who do. We want to help churches and individual Christians be knowledgeable about what their brothers and sisters are going through so they can come alongside them on this rewarding and difficult journey. All too often when adoptive parents are in the trenches they either will not tell people what they need or, more regularly, don’t even know what to ask for. I am hoping that AHFJ can help churches support and encourage their fellow Christians so that no one walks this journey alone.
The heart of our foundation remains the same. “A Christian family who has the heart for adoption, should not have to bear the financial burden alone.” We are here to make that a reality. We want to help families pay for the enormous costs associated with adoption. To do that, we need you. I pray that both individuals and congregations will see the great need for adoption and this foundation, and consider adding A Home for Jolee to their monthly support budgets. This will enable us to help many more families in their adoption journey!
Robin's tireless efforts, love for the fatherless, and heart for adoption have been a blessing to so many. I am excited about what God has in store for this foundation and how He will use it to His glory and honor! Let us pray God’s glory and honor in all things!
In His Service,
Joshua is the preacher for the St. Croix Valley Church of Christ in Star Prairie, WI. He graduated from the Memphis School of Preaching in 2008 and married Brittany in 2011. They now have six children, including their daughter whom they brought home from Bulgaria in 2017. Joshua is excited to serve as President for A Home for Jolee beginning June 1, 2019 and is dedicated to helping Christian families care for the fatherless.
Today is a bittersweet day for me. As I sit here with a cup of coffee to write this blog post, my mind begins to race as I reflect over the past three years.
A Home for Jolee Foundation began in 2015 in the hearts and minds of my daughter, Brittani Aiken and myself. It would take several years before we would see our dream come to fruition. A dream that would help members of the church with the high cost of adopting. After walking the adoption journey with Jeremy and Jinnie Thornton and seeing all the struggles associated with the financial side as well as the emotional side, we knew that we wanted to help make a difference. After all, “we are all not called to adopt but we are all called to help,” as my daughter would so eloquently proclaim! The day that Jolee was born still remains one of the most exciting days of my life because it was the day that the Thornton's dream came true. They had prayed for a family for a long time. On this day, God answered their prayers. It was only fitting that this foundation would be named after this precious soul. A likeness of Jolee serves as our foundation's mascot and her own words are used from time to time on different marketing materials.
So, why is today bittersweet for me? It's today that I step down as president of this foundation that has always been my heart. This has been the hardest decision that I've been faced with making to date. However, my mother was recently diagnosed with ALS and it is very aggressive. It has been said that life comes full circle if you live long enough. This is a statement that has been proven true in my life. Now my precious mother needs me to care for her just as she cared for me long ago. This ugly disease has robbed her of her muscle strength and has stolen her beautiful voice but it has not changed her smile nor touched her soul. I am privileged to be in a position where I can care for her.
I'd like to take this time to express my gratitude to all those people whom I have had the privilege of getting to know through the work of this foundation. First of all, thank you to each woman who has served and who serves on the board of directors. Leading a group of women, such as each of you, has definitely been a challenging task. I have learned so much from each of you and I love you dearly. I am so thankful to God for seeing fit that our lives crossed paths, even if for a short time. Thank you to Casie and Nick Adams for allowing us to honor their daughter, Caelyn, with a memorial grant . The Caelyn Raine Memorial Grant has blessed five couples so far and will soon bless another. Thank you to those who believed in this foundation even before we were able to make it official. Brittani and I toiled and labored to make and sell t-shirts to raise the start-up cost. To the beautiful members of the Looxahoma congregation, it is because of your purchases that we were able to start this foundation. Thank you. Thank you also to the elders of the Looxahoma congregation who saw this work as a work worthy of monthly support. It's because of your continued support that we are able to have the donor software and website that we currently have. Thank you. To each person who donated and encouraged us with your kind words, thank you! To all of you who have participated in our fundraising activities, time after time, thank you! It's only through your sacrificial giving that we can provide grants to members of the church.
I've had the privilege of meeting six beautiful couples, whose dreams of adopting didn't stop with the dreaming. These brave couples worked hard to make adoption a reality. They give God the praise for His providential hand in their life. They truly understand that every child deserves a loving home where they will learn about God and where the example will always be to put God first. So thank you, Jeremy and Jinnie Thornton, *Megan and Luke Gurchiek, Caleb and Jenna Ashby, Scott and Melissa Clark, Daniel and Tiffany Gaines, and *Tim and Julie Collins. Each of you are the heroes of this foundation! Each one of you taught me something different about loving a child. Each of you showed me, through your example, God's love in action. Thank you. (*Note: Please continue to pray for these two couples as they are waiting to be matched with a birth mother.)
On June 1, 2019, A Home for Jolee's new president will be announced. I am extremely excited about the new leadership as the future of this foundation is in very capable hands. These changes will open doors of greater possibilities!
Your phone rings. "Hi Shelby this is Lindsey we have a little 3 year old girl needing to be placed." What next? If you want more information-ASK! They may have none or they may have a ton. Questions like: is this short term or long term? are there any siblings? Any information you can give on why she's being brought into care? And then guess what? Based on that information you can decide if you think you and your family are a good fit. It's ok to say no. In fact your encouraged to if you don't have a good feeling. Go with your gut. They would rather you say no and the child be placed once then having to disrupt a placement later on. Remember all that paperwork I talked about earlier? Well, there's a checklist mixed in that is very extensive and you get to check off what you will and will not be willing to take. There are ages, genders, behaviors, and types of abuse. you don't have to and shouldn't say yes to every placement-sometimes its not a right fit. Don't feel like they'll stop calling if you say no. They won't.
If you say yes:
The worker will usually give you a time frame of when they will come. Side note: its usually much later than anticipated. Usually there are at least 2 hours between the phone call to meeting the child. During that time we usually start setting up anything that needs to be done, calling family, etc. When the child does come usually the worker is there for maybe 10 mins. they'll share with you what they know, give you the name of the case worker if it's not them, and be on their way. And that's how you meet your new child.
Those first few nights can be rough. Give them a tour, Make sure you have lots of night lights, leave doors open, sing, pray, read. Remember you are a stranger, they've not only had one of the most traumatic things just happen in their short life, but now there with you. And yea, you might be great but to them it's all scary.
While finding your footing in those first few weeks expect to feel a little overwhelmed and maybe even confused. In a lot of ways it's just like adding a child to your home biologically. As a new mother or a mother adding to the children you already have, you have an adjacent period. You discover how your day to day life will need to shift and mold around the new little human in the house. Sleep schedules, work schedules, level of noise, and number of doctor appointments will change.
As far as how to make the transition easy on the one coming into your home theres not one answer that fits all when it comes to specific details. But, one thing that is true across the board is be patient. Realize that most of these children have experienced more hurt and disappointment in their tiny life than you have ever experienced. Have a standard of course, but do not be so stringent and expect them to comply every stop of the way. Remember that comes with a building of trust and proving of love.
Ok, I'm going to be real honest our schedule isn't that crazy. I will give you a quick rundown on what it was like when our life was at its busiest with foster care. We had 2 different cases. During that time we had the normal Drs visits as well as visits for both cases. Overall it was twice a week for 3 hours for our son and weekend visits for T. At the time we drove them to all their visits and one was one hour one way. As a stay at home that wasn't too tough on me. But, for others who have therapies, bio visits, and extra drs visits sprinkled in I can see how this could be overwhelming. My point is, it is different with every case. You might have some kids that have 0 visitations at all (Layla never had one) or you might get ones that have it twice a week, with other therapies. The good thing is there are services that you can utilize to make all of this doable. For instance a transporter for visits and Birth-3 which is therapy that comes to YOUR home.
Preparing for goodbye:
One of the first thing they will tell you in your training is Reunification is the Goal. Preparing for goodbye starts long before reunification is in sight. I'm not talking about keeping a child at arms length or not getting attached because if your doing that please don't become a foster parent. I'm talking about talking to other children in your home about 'tummy mommies' and mama is sick right now but she's working on getting better. Talking about how we will all love them forever no matter where they go. As far as truly preparing your heart-I don't believe we can. It's just one of those things that you must decide before you even begin fostering that you are willing to do. Some cases it will be easier to accept because you can see they're going back home to a loving and caring parent. In other instances it can be excruciating and hard to swallow because yes, sometimes the state makes mistakes. But it's all part of it. I won't say it isn't hard or ugly, or heartbreaking because it can be all of those things. But I'd much rather endure that hard, ugly, heartbreak than never be there for that child.
When Reunification isn't possible:
When a child first comes into care the state is first supposed to look for family that is available to take the child. If there are no family members able, then the child will be placed in a non relative home. Sometimes relatives come along after the fact but it usually has to be pretty early in the case for the child to be moved (although it obviously does happen later on in some cases). I'm saying all this to say if you are fostering a child and their biological parents aren't completing their case plan in the time allotted by the state, then the case worker and GAL will ask for termination of parental rights.
When parental rights are terminated the person who gets asked first if they wish to adopt the child are the foster parents. If you decide to say yes, you will be assigned an adoption worker who will help guide you through the process and get paperwork rolling.
Adoption via Foster care:
If you want to adopt from foster care without actually fostering you can do that too! There are thousands of children waiting for forever homes right now! You can head to sights like adoptuskid.org or you can become a certified foster/adoptive family through your local DHS and be matched with a child waiting in a foster home. The children available for adoption right now are generally 5 and over. Again the cost is minimal and the legal risk is basically non-exisitnet. These children's parental rights are gone and are legally free for adoption. If your family is a good fit for a child they will be anxious to get you started in the process.
Experiences from Foster Mamas who had biological children before becoming foster moms:
"We had to explain to our bio children that’s not everybody has it so easy
So yes your foster child will need some extra TLC ... if possible include all the children ... group love !!!!
Your children may get jealous of the foster kids ... but being open and honest is key ...
you already know if your bio children have needs and there behaviors
Try and keep everybody on the same page depending on the ages ... it’s not easy at first but when you find your system it will be fine" - Kim Berly
"Any child who makes a transition will require extra time and energy as we welcome them in our home and acclimate them to our home and family. We have also had counseling and therapy’s for most of our foster kids which of course is more time. However I also had a bio kid in therapy so it’s all relative. It affected our bio family/kids in a very positive way. We all learned a lot about people, equity, empathy, injustices. It opened our eyes, deepened our faith and strengthened our family unit. My short answer is you just do it. My long answer would be intentionality. Always looking for ways to be meeting the needs of everyone and in the moment making each kid feel that they are seen, heard and valued. Even a little bit of intentional time or some honest words can go a long ways. We were also pretty honest with our bio kids why some extra time or energy may be spent on a foster child" .-Brianne Talmadge
"In so many ways caring for a foster child is no different at all from caring for your biological children. They need the same things from you, a child is a child. In other ways there are real differences. If you raised your bio children with “traditional” parenting, used corporal punishment at all, that isn’t what will be good for kids who have been exposed to chemicals in the womb or who have lived through any kind of trauma.There’s also the added aspect of the fact that your foster child isn’t yours and you need to work with caseworkers, parents, specialists, etc, and the fact that you can’t make all decisions about the care of the child yourself, you need to ask permission for things. So that’s different. How will it affect your bio family? So much. You will all be better people because of the children your care for. Probably our extended family’s main concern about us fostering when our bios were small was their well being and concerns that it would be negative for them. Probably that is still their concern. But it has been the best thing seriously in making us all better people. Our kids, bios and now adopted kids, have learned how to love others so well! They are so selfless, they have learned their are hard things in the world, they have learned they have a role in helping, they have learned we have a safe home not because we are awesome but by the grace of God and that it is our responsibility to share that gift.In many ways our family life hasn’t changed, we are still the same family with the same values, lots of the same goals and hopes. In practical every day ways our life has changed a lot. Some of our kids have spd and we do special things to accommodate that. Some of our kids don’t do well work transition and are anxious so we have a lot more routine (providing security) than we used to. We say no to a lot more things than we used to as a family, when we know some of our kids won’t do well in a situatjon. How do we cater to all the kids? We make time for one on one with each of them. Even if it’s a dentist appointment and going out for lunch after. Every night at bedtime each kid gets a story and time to talk to just mom or dad in their bed. "- Amy
It's not necessarily more care than my bio kids- just different. We care for, raise, and love the babies as our own. However, there is extra care involved with paperwork, social worker appointments, CPS assessments (birth mom has reported us over 50 times, 9 assessments all unsubstantiated). Raising kids is A LOT of work regardless of fostering and ALL kids deserve to be loved and nurtured.2. We have grown in our love and compassion for others...understanding the pain involved in the 'system' and need for less judgement more love. There has been stress in navigating the brokenness. We are constantly talking as a family about what we are doing and why we are fostering. My prayer is that this will instill in my bio boys compassion, kindness, and service.2. Also, the extra time for appointments obviously will effect the family.3. If I had my boys, then a gap of 3 years before having 2 more babies, we would be experiencing the balancing act of different ages and needs. We view our babies as additions to our family...we have the big boys and babies not bio kids and foster babies. We are intentional in carving out time with the boys and celebrating their achievements and interests. In the same way, we collectively cheer on the babies with different milestones.We do our best to give each individual attention and pour out extra love when needed."- Christie Felker
"All depends on the child and the trauma they experience. Chances are our bios don’t score too high on the ACE testing (adverse childhood experiences) most foster children score a 5 or higher and therefore have greater emotional needs. With that said though I have one bio child that required more care than any of my foster babes due to his special needs. The amount of trauma will really determine the amount of extra care.2. Chaos and pure love will ensue all at the same time with many more emotions in between. Talk, talk and talk some more with bios. Check in with them. Never put the responsibilities of the foster child on the bio children at first unless they ask to help so that they don’t feel like they are a burden to them (I do this with my older kiddos...I never expect them to babysit I always ask and offer to get a babysitter!) also ‘date’ your bio kids. Take them to lunch. Give them one on one time!3. We take our foster children everywhere we go. Meaning if we are going to Disneyland they come with us. But sometimes the emotional or behavior needs of a foster child don’t allow that or sometimes our bios will feel restricted because of the foster child. That’s when we plan a big kids trip with just our bios and then make sure to plan a littles park date when we get back with just them!"-April Kennedy
Insight from a biological child that grew up with parents who fostered:
"In my head it was positive enough I chose to do it with my own biological children. I think it’s really important to remember that kids are people too. I’ve never been one of those “anyone can foster” people because at the end of the day-we all have different capabilities and some people are not able to do it. That doesn’t make foster parents amazing or people who can’t wrong. I can’t sing in front of a crowd, I can’t paint. People may not be able to foster like I could. And I’m a firm believer kids are the same way. A belief I see shared a lot in fostering communities is “well bio kids will learn to deal! They will love it” and I don’t think that’s necessarily true. We partially chose to stop fostering because the in and out was detrimental for our (adopted) kids. I’ve seen it be detrimental for bio kids too. So I think most important way to meet the needs is to open discussion with your kids ON their needs. We should love all children yes-but we can’t put our bio kids on the wayside to “save” other children. We need to be willing to help them through it and hear them out when it gets too hard on their little hearts.
I do know one thing my parents dealt with was this belief that the foster kids should be troubled and their bio kids “fine.”That was hard on us."-Lauren Jane
Insight from working Foster Moms:
"Yes it was definitely a challenge but definitely something that can be worked with. All calls came through my work phone. I let my supervisor know if she would rather have them call that number or my cell phone number and she preferred the work number so any time they need to get ahold of me during work hours they called my job.My work was very flexible with me. It was a lot of sacrificing, sacrificing my vacation time, sick time and personal time that I would use for the kids. Visits was the hardest to schedule but they are possible! Sometimes it took me rushing out on my lunch break to catch an appointment or visit...even making up hours over the weekends but I was thankful to also have a husband whose job was flexible as well
so we would switch off it's all about helping each other and taking turns that way it doesn't fall on one person and their job it falls on both equally.At times I did feel as if I wasn't giving them enough but we made weekends priority as long as you set aside one to two days throughout the week undivided attention, no work calls, no going into work, not even thinking about work. Just your family and making it the best time really made up for the times I had to be away at work. Don't be hard on yourself is the key! "-Angela Escalante
"When we started foster...I would freak out about how I would get everything in place for when a child arrived. At the time, I was a teacher + had limited flexibility. Prior to opening our home, I did a ton of research on things like daycares + schools. I also found friends and family that would be willing to be certified babysitters + respite, just in case. I found it calming to know I had help. I would say that the most valuable piece for me was the community. Other moms that fostered and just “got it”, as well as, having people to help with some of the burden of caring for a child.
Secondly, I have loved all the material from Karyn Purvis (TBRI). Her materials have helped me to really make the most of the hours after school/work. It’s given me an deep understand about the emotional needs of the child + how I can be most effective/healing parent. I also love my child’s daycare. They understand his needs + work with us to create just the environment he needs. We sacrifice financially to have him here because we love it and believe it is the best place for him.I would find a daycare or childcare that you absolutely trust and love. Lastly, there are plenty of children in need. If I missed a call...I knew another call would be coming soon. I prayed for each child that I heard about and trusted that they would be in a safe and loving home, even if it wasn’t mine."-Erin Puckket
"I work at a secular job as well. I explained to my boss on my interview day what I did and why I did it. I explained to her that it was my calling far beyond anything else that I am doing or will ever do.I went on to explain what that looks like when I would get calls for placements. Prior to being a kindergarten teacher, which is what I’m doing now, I was an administrator for a private school. This is when I originally got licensed. I was clueless as to what it would entail. Overtime I learned to understand it all and decided that I had to leave the administrative world if I remotely wanted to be a “good” mom.I went on to explain what that looks like when I would get calls for placements. Prior to being a kindergarten teacher, which is what I’m doing now, I was an administrator for a private school. This is when I originally got licensed. I was clueless as to what it would entail. Overtime I learned to understand it all and decided that I had to leave the administrative world if I remotely wanted to be a “good” mom.I use to be a preschool teacher before becoming an administrator. My educational background qualified me to become a certified teacher here in Florida. Knowing this information I thought it would be the best fit for me as a single parent. So, now I take temp placements during school breaks and during the summers I open up my home to whatever placements may come. This has worked for me." -Gay Brielle
Other ways to get involved:
Earlier I talked about CASA and how they are volunteers who are involved in making the best decisions for the child in care. Usually CASA worker's only have one case at a time and just like foster parents-can decide if they want to take a case. The courses are free and you can help make life altering changes in a child's life. You can help break the cycle.
Become a mentor:
By calling your local DHS and simply asking them what they have a need for I'm sure they could provide with quite a few ways to get started. Not too long ago in WV there was an agency looking for mentors. A great outreach and again, a way to show there's so much more out there than what has been handed to these precious kids.
Support the foster families in your area:
Become certified to be a respite caregiver. This means that you basically babysit for foster families if they are unable to take their foster child with them on vacation or need a little bit of a breather. Foster families can only leave their children overnight for people who have undergone training and background check.
Simply bring over meals or drop off gift cards to a foster family and don't take no for an answer. You don't have to come in-especailly on the first day of a placement, just send a text and leave it all the door. Be there to talk to-you don't have to 'get it' or even act like you do, just listen and pray.
The need is there, the responsibility is there, the question is which avenue will you take to make sure that you have the ability?
Written by Shelby Doss
107,918 children are eligible for adoption right now in the US. That's children that are simply waiting for someone to say 'yes'. There are no biological family visitations, no back and forth, or maybes. There are no court dates where you're waiting anxiously to see if the judge grants TPR (termination of parental rights). That is ALL done. Parental rights are terminated and these children need a FOREVER home right now. The cost is minimal usually ranging from 0-$2,000.
When we start broadening our scope to US children in foster care that number jumps to 428,000-670,000. Children who are in this position through no fault of their own. They need someone to be that in between, that safe haven, their refuge, and about half of the time this leads to a permanent home for the child as the case progresses.
I'm sure you've heard that necessity + ability = responsibility. Foster care flips that for us-well actually God does. We cannot deny the great need, nor can we deny the fact that the Almighty has already told us it was our responsibility so in knowing that we must FIND an avenue to ensure we have the ability. Before I jump into answering some questions and explaining more about the process of becoming a foster/adoptive family let me say this loud and clear: I do NOT believe that everyone should become a foster or adoptive family! If this is not where your heart is please do not be pressured into pursuing it. There are other ways you can visit the fatherless which will also be discussed in this post. Let's jump in.
How to get started:
*information varies slightly from state to state
Call your local DHHR/DCF and ask to speak to someone about becoming a foster parent. I promise you they'll be more than happy to get you started! Usually what that process looks like is signing up for training classes. In WV the classes were called PRIDE and they were every Saturday morning for a month. Here in OK we have a few options: online, a class Thurs-Sat. or the weekly Sat. option & I believe the classes are called PATH. During this time you will also be working on filling out all the paperwork, background checks, physical, and finger prints completed. The classes, fingerprints, background checks, are usually free. You should only have to pay for the basic physical. After the classes you will have a home study. This means a worker will come tour your home and make sure that it is suitable for children. They'll give you a checklist of things that you need to make sure to have (they don't want to have to come back to do another one & they WANT you to pass!). Things like: fire extinguisher, fire alarms, escape plan, etc. They'll also interview you and your spouse-together and separately; be prepared to be an open book. A lot of these questions can be very personal and even seem invasive but I'm sure you'll be able to see why they're necessary. Questions about conflict resolution, your values, your marriage. The state tries to complete the entire process from start to finish in about 60 days.
Most of the expenses (which were not many) we encountered before we actually began fostering. We had to buy things like a fire extinguisher, we had a few toys, clothes in various sizes, car seats, but most of that was gifted to us or found for cheap and it was not a necessity to have before having placements.
As mentioned above, Home-study, classes, finger prints, & background check are all free. The only cost you will have is if you have to do things around the house to make it up to code (ie. fire extinguisher, escape latter for 2nd story house etc).
When you initially receive a placement they will likely come with nothing or a handful of mix matched clothes a few sizes too small. The worker gives you a waiver (usually 300$ per child) and you can go to walmart for diapers, clothes, formula, car seat etc. ) Make sure that the worker lists all children items, stores can be very picky about wording. I will note that this does not happen in every state but in WV it did for us. It's alway a good idea to have a 'placement fund' set aside for when you get a call.
The state also pays for all medical bills. You’ll receive a Medicare card for the child and never will have to pay out of pocket for dental or medical care of any kind. We have never encountered an issue with any medical needs. This also goes for counseling and therapies. Obviously there are certain guidelines but this will all be paid for by the state as well.
The state gives a set ‘boarding fee’ per child. This is for any expenses to help care for the child left to your discretion-food, clothing, outings as a family, etc. Foster children also automatically qualify for WIC. If you are in need of a daycare service this is usually also covered at specific locations. When the child starts visitations with biological family the state also will set up a provider to come and transport the child from you to the bio family. If you do decide to drive there is a form you can fill out to be reimbursed for gas.
If you have a placement that leads to adoption it is also free. You will get allotted 2,000$ to pay for an adoption lawyer. There are a list lawyers who do adoptions for this fee. For both of our adoptions the only expense we incurred was paying for new birth certificates which were 12$ a piece.
Who can Foster:
As mentioned above about background checks etc. if you don't have a criminal record or any record with CPS you can become a foster parent. You also must be 21 in most states. They will ask about your financial state simply to ensure you aren't becoming a foster parent for the sake of money. You can be married, single, stay at home mom, or a working mom, both parents can be working parents, or they can both work from home.
Home requirements and Financial stability:
I know a lot of people that are confused about what kind of house they need and how their finances should look in order to get started. You do not have to be rich and have the nicest house on the block to foster. The main thing is that your home is safe and clean. You can have a trailer house or a 5 bedroom house. As far as regulations for sleeping arrangements they may vary state to state but as far as I have learned it is as follows: 0-2 are allowed to sleep in a crib in the parent's room. Once they are older than 2 they must be in a separate room. Girls can share rooms with other girls and boy with boys. Children ages 2-4 can share a room with the opposite gender in some states but not in all.
As far as your personal finances you just need to be able to prove that you have a steady and reliable source of income.
People in your circle:
A homefinder will likely be your very first contact. They will be the one to conduct the home study mentioned above. They also will be the one to contact you for a child needing a home. To explain: home finders go on rotation with a list of children needing to be placed. For example suzy will have it week 1, Frankie week 2 etc. They will look at the list and see that a little girl age 4, who has been physically abused is needing to be placed. They'll then look at list of foster homes and see which ones have said they would take a child that falls into that age, gender, and needs.
Case worker/social worker:
If you chose to go through the state and not an agency (we went through the state & plan to in the future). This will be your main contact. By law they are required to come once a month and lay eyes on the child. Usually this meeting is no longer than 30 min. They see you interact, its your chance to ask questions, discuss upcoming court dates etc. Don't be surprised if they don't have many answers-that's the nature of the beast. They likely have 50 kids or so over their suggested case load due to the high volume of children needing care. But do NOT be afraid to ask questions and when they say they'll get back to you-follow up. Email, text, call. Do not be rude or arrogant but Let them know you care about what happens to the child & appreciate all the hard work they do.
If you have a worker who is simply not doing their job, call the supervisor and request a new worker. We've even had the supervisor as our case worker before because of the lack of available workers.
Visits by workers are usually scheduled ahead of time. We have never been surprised by a visit (unless we forgot). They do not just pop up unannounced unless they have a reason to.
GAL or guardian ad liteum is a person the court appoints to investigate what solutions would be in the “best interests of a child.” A CASA worker is basically the same thing but are volunteers. Here's google's definition: volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court and other settings. The primary responsibilities of a CASA volunteer are to: Gather information: Review documents and records, interview the children, family members and professionals in their lives.
I will be honest we have only meet a GAL once and that was due to us calling and enquiring. I know others who have and extensive relationship with their CASA and I look forward to hopefully having one in the future!
This is the person who will take the child to and from visits. They will also be present during the visit to supervise. Usually your interaction is limited and very brief but you can feel free to ask how the visits went, etc. Sometimes they share and sometimes they don't it all depends on the person and what their company policies are.
Rules and Regulations:
I will just highlight the ones I get asked about most frequently and address them the best I can. When talking about these things we must realize there is a REASON for everything. The state is doing the best they can to protect children who have already been failed by those who were supposed to love them most and thus some of the rules may seem extreme to some but these rules are NEEDED.
I think it's pretty clear why this is not allowed. To the child coming into your home you are a stranger. Being a stranger you have not established a level of trust, love, or respect. Not only are you a stranger but they are a stranger to you. You do not know what level of abuse might have been inflicted on them. Yes, while the workers try and gather as much information as possible to help the foster parents, they still will not have the child's entire history. Therefore a simple, appropriate, swat on the rear for discipline could trigger a child who has been physically or sexually abused. It could put them right back to that place of fear and anguish and therefore not even be an effective tool to use when parenting this particular child. For those that have biological children and use spanking you will not be asked to stop discipling your biological children that way, but obviously it not something that is tolerated for foster children. When/if you become their legal, adoptive, family this topic can be revised by you and your spouse.
When a child is placed in your home they are a legal ward of the state. This means that the state ultimately has the say in your child's medical decisions. The state requires wellness checkups, vaccinations, dental and eye care. Again, this is the state striving to make absolutely sure that children placed in foster care are taken care of. And whatever your personal stance on vaccines etc. are the reason behind these laws makes complete sense.
You cannot force a child to go to worship with you. Obviously we have not come across before because our children are fairly young but I would encourage you to foster a love and interest in attending worship first. If the child still refuses maybe set up visitations for during that time. If that is not an option the child is welcome to go along and sit in the foyer and not participate.
You cannot homeschool a foster child. The children must be enrolled in a public/private school. Remember that insanely high number of foster children we talked about in the beginning? It is impossible for the number of workers there are to have an individualized schooling plan for everyone of these children. That is why there are these cut and clear guidelines.
Again, (I sound like a broken record) the state is simply doing their best to make sure that these rules are in place to keep these children protected, educated, and taken care of. Not all foster parents should be foster parents. Some people that these children are placed with are far from ideal. Just like biological parents there are good and bad foster parents. These rules were made for those that wouldn't make the right decisions and thus we must all follow them regardless on your personal preference.
To be honest the state leaves a lot up to our discretion. We are the child's parents for as long as they are in our home. So please do not get them impression that you are just a babysitter because you are so much more than that. I don't feel like I'm under any strenuous legal requirements-Just like everything else there are rules and I understand why they are in place. It can be an annoyance to have to ask to cut hair or get ears pierced. But aren't these kids worth it? Arne't they worth setting aside our desire to homeschool, our personal aversion to vaccines? While yes you can have your opinion on those things (we all do) the options are: care for a child within the guidelines the state allows or leave that child in the system. You choose.
If you decide to travel out of state you will have to get a waiver from your worker at least 24 hrs. before hand. This usually is no big deal and has only presented an issue for us once in the past and that was due to a worker failing to do their job.
I've read quite a few times that it's not a matter of if you'll be investigated but when. If you are a foster parent for any length of time there is a chance that at one point or another someone will make an accusation against you or a child will get hurt and you will have to talk with an investigator . It can be something as simple as a child having a bruise from rough housing, or a biological parent lying about your family. This has happened to us before when baby P sustained a burn on his arm from an iron. It was an awful accident, we took him to the ER, had it documented with the hospital etc. but we still had to talk to an investigator about how it happened etc. Obviously nothing came of it because it was a horrible accident but those things can arise.
When we first started fostering I was worried about every bump and scratch. But, as time went on I realized that was truly causing me more stress and anxiety. Obviously I don't want my children ever to get hurt but we all know scrapes and bruises are marks of childhood.
Keep records and utilize your free DR. visits. Write down when a child gets noticeably hurt in a little spiral notebook. Baby takes a tumble as he's learning to walk and bumps his head on the coffee table scribble down a note with the date and cause. If it's something that happens on the head or a deep gash, or burn. Go ahead and call your pediatrician and ask there opinion. If nothing else this will show on the record that you called and were not flippant about your child's health.
When an investigation arises remember that transparency is best. I know it can be nerve wracking and frightening to think what if they don't believe you. But, I truly think that most of these workers can tell those who truly care for their children and those who don't. Not only that but if you have a good track record with the state is nothing more than a formality.
To be continued...
written by Shelby Doss
(Please look for part 2 to post in a couple of weeks)