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)
A lot times when the topic of adoption or foster care comes up I get a lot of comments like-"what? I thought she was your *real* daughter! Or I always thought you were their *real* mom!" To which I reply - “they are & I am." Usually they think I do not understand what they're trying to say, so they go on -"no I mean like I thought she was your own daughter-like you had her!" The word they're looking for is ‘biological’. Here's the thing-I don't mind you telling me that our daughter looks like my husband and me! I actually enjoy it! I don't even mind if you ask if they were adopted. Hey, you can even talk to her about it and she'll proudly tell you that she's adopted and chosen! And I'll chime right in and share with you about foster care & adoption-I always love an opportunity to talk about the need for good foster families! But what I don't like is asking if she is my *real* daughter.
Terminology matters. Certain terms and phrases support stigmas about adoption that we are fighting against. One thing I refuse to let anyone place on my children or any child is the idea of "less than." And the words of a stranger, a family member, or a loved one (no matter how well intended) can damage, hurt, and cause a child to question their placement and value in their family. The words that we don’t give much thought can hold a lot of power. What many don’t realize is that when we say things like “can you not have your own children?” we are insinuating that the children that we have are not a part of us, that they are secondary, plan B, a good choice but most definitely not the first. Oh-how untrue that is!
You see-My children are just as much ‘my own’ as the children you have birthed are to you. We love them just as much as you love your biological children & we fight for what's best for them just as you would yours, their pain is our pain, & their happiness is our light. And trust me when I say I'm their real mom. I was really there when they were teething & pushing boundaries, I was really there for the shots, blood draws, ultrasounds, and hospital stays. I was really there as they wobbly took their first steps. I was really sleep deprived as I rocked and prayed over them. I really battled through the curve balls that the system threw our way. I was really the one who fought for their safety and right to permanency. I really had to learn how to navigate relationships with birth family, I really had workers in my house monthly, I really prayed, begged, and wept for MY children. I really am the one who is there every moment of every day. It doesn’t get much more real than that.
No, my love for my children is not altered because they didn’t come from my body. When my daughter excitedly calls me to come see one of her many creations she doesn't call “Adoptive mama!” She calls ‘Mama’. When my son runs to me in tears because he fell he doesn’t yell “non-biological mother!” he cries for ‘Mama.’ When I look at my babies I don’t see children I could love more if they were flesh of my flesh. I see my heart outside of my body. Blessings that make my heart swell every time I look at them. I see God’s love, protection, grace, redemption, and I see His mindfulness. I see my children. My very real children. My own children. Period.
I beg you-Educate yourself. Let’s make sure that our speech is one that celebrates and acknowledges adoption in an accurate way. Remember your words have the power to perpetuate the dated and wrong assumptions that adoption is something that is shameful, to be kept secret, and inferior. As adopted children of the King it would do us good to remember that the Lord Himself placed adoption in high esteem-may our words reflect that.
~ Shelby Doss
Hi Jenna, We’re all thrilled for the new addition to your family! So first of all congrats! Today I have a few questions for you and your husband so that our followers & contributors can get to know you better. Let’s get started!
People are brought to adoption for various different reasons, what led you and your husband to adopt?
“We have suffered nearly a decade of trying to grow our family including 6 miscarriages. However our desire to adopt happened long before we struggled with pregnancy loss, long before we had our most precious daughter, Ainsley. It was something we always wanted to do when we were older and had several biological children. But it appears God may have other plans for us. Adoption isn’t just about expanding our family and allowing Ainsley to become a big sister. As Christians, we are adopted children of God. Adoption to us, is about raising a child who wouldn’t have necessarily had the opportunity to be raised in a strong Christian household. It’s about bringing another soul to Christ and expanding our Christian family.”
Just like every birth story is different every adoption story is unique as well. Can you share a little bit about your journey with us & of course we all want to hear about your sweet new bundle!
“We first heard about our sweet girl on August 2nd. She was 2 weeks old and needed a family as soon as possible as she was being discharged from the hospital the next day. After seeing her beautiful picture and talking with the birth mom on the phone, we knew was wanted this sweet girl in our family. As soon as we got word we had been matched we booked a flight to California. On the evening of August 3rd we got to meet the soon to be newest member of our family. We had to pick her up from the birth mother's home as the hospital had already discharged her from the hospital. They didn't want to wait on our 4 hour delayed flight to come in. Even though we were nervous and uneasy about interacting that closely with the birth mother, we decided it was the best option. As we entered the home, the first thing the birth mother said to Jenna was "Here, come meet your daughter." As we continued to talk with the birth family, it was clear this was a perfect match.
Adding a new member to the family always shifts the dynamics of the home. How’s your biological daughter received her little sister?
“Ainsley loves being a big sister. Her face lights up whenever Annaleigh does anything cute, which is almost all the time. We love getting to see Ainsley grow and shine in her new role.”
I know for me personally adoption has opened my eyes to a whole new world. How about you?
“Has adoption changed your perseption of the world or the dynamics of your faith? We see God's love, mercy, patience, and timing when we look at our sweet Annaleigh. We have prayed and prayed for our family to grow in His timing and in His way so it's very humbling knowing He chose this sweet, very happy baby to be ours.”
How’s fundraising going? What else is needed to have all of the costs incurred covered? And what is the timeline for receiving the needed funds.
“We have made some progress with our fundraising efforts. We were approved for an interest free loan, did a t-shirt fundraiser, and a go-fund-me fundraiser. We have gotten the balance from $19,000 to $6,000.”
What’s the one thing you would tell people who have a desire to adopt?
“I would tell those who desire to adopt to be patient. God's timing is perfect.”
What are two words that you think best describe this whole experience?
“Blessing & Humbling.”
What is something you want the whole world but especially the Lord’s church to know about adoption?
“Adoption is a blessing and a wonderful way to grow your family and the Church.”
Thanks so much for chatting with me today Jenna & sharing your family’s special journey.
~ Shelby Doss
AHFJ Board Member
Editors Note: I read the post below on FaceBook and the author, Moriah McCrary, was gracious enough to allow me to post it here on our blog. One might read this and wonder why a foundation who is concerned with adoption would be concerned with fostering. Our foster system is so broken. Just ask anyone who has had any dealings with the system. Children need a loving home. Period. So, whether it is through adoption or through a broken foster system, they still need a loving home. A home where they can learn about God's love, about Jesus' sacrafice for them and how to live a life worth living. A home that will teach them what love looks like between a mother and father. Unconditional love is not something we understand or learn without it being shown to us. Open your heart. Open your home...just like the McCrary's. ~Robin
Y’all let’s be honest, foster care is HARD!!! Let me say that again.... foster. care. is. HARD!!!!! If you have ever been a foster parent you know exactly what I mean.
This precious baby right here, I love to pieces! He has the sweetest little spirit and the most adorable dimples and cutest little Puerto Rican curls!!!
But what you don’t see, is the 4 weeks that we had to over come his terrible biting habits.
What you don’t see is the tears in his mother’s eyes when I have to take him back home from his visits with her.
What you don’t see, is the sleepless nights he, Josh, and I get from the very first day he came into our home.
What you don’t see, is the worry, fear, and tears Josh and I share for this baby when he does go back into his mother’s care.
What you don’t see, is the love my biological children have for him and how they beg for us to “keep him”.
What you don’t see, is him coming into our home and only knowing one word and is helpless when it comes to communicating.
What you don’t see, is us training him every night to pray to God for his mommy.
What you DO see...
Is a foster dad who loves enough to be selfless and take this child in like his own. No matter all the obstacles we face helping this baby heal, somehow we just keep pushing through. I know there are days that God literally carries our entire family through. This little boy has came into our lives and we have given him our hearts and one day he will leave us and it will break our hearts. But, we just have to remind ourselves daily... foster care-isn’t about us. It’s about him and every other child who enters our home.
So if you’ve ever considered foster care, my momma heart says DO it!!! But be ready for some of the hardest work and broken hearts you’ll ever face!
#fostercare #changingthefuture #memories #fosterdad
After months of preparing our home, stocking supplies, filling countless pages of paperwork, welcoming strangers into our home, delving into very personal parts of our life, a month worth of training, and lots of prayers, we finally received an email that read ‘you’re on the list.’ Now we waited and prayed some more.
About four weeks after we became licensed foster parents we received a phone call while we were at church camp. There was a little girl only 6 months old in need of a home. That’s all we needed to hear. The next day we drove home and met our daughter. Just like that, we became a family. The next year was filled with doctor’s visits, x-rays, court hearings, social worker visits, and filling out form after form. We were thrilled with the highs of little victories that were slowly guiding us forward to what we wanted so desperately but also had to grapple with the fact that something horrible had happened in order for us to be together. Someone had failed. Failed so miserably that a child, a baby, who had spent more time in the womb than out, was left alone and unprotected. But she’s not alone—there are thousands of children that share a similar story.
We live in a very small town but during the first year of fostering, we had 9 different children in our home. This is not counting placements that we had to turn away due to space or other circumstances beyond our control. There are over 397,122 children in foster care across the United States. Each week there are nearly 60,000 children who are being abused or neglected. These are children. Innocent and helpless children. Who, with the proper love and guidance, cannot only become productive citizens but also be introduced to the lifesaving Gospel.
So where is the church in all of this? There is without a doubt a need that must be filled by someone. As Christians, we speak a lot about abortion and the absolute horror of murdering an innocent gift from the Lord—as we should. We should raise our voices and cry out for justice for those who can’t. But, sometimes we forget about those same precious children once they have arrived safely. They’re here, but not all are protected. What now? We should be crying out just as loud for these children. The children that don’t have a voice, don’t have a home, don’t have safety. The children that need something so basic as the human touch and compassion. There is a desperate need for someone to stand in the gap. James 1:27 very plainly teaches who those individuals need to be: Christians. We are to care for those who have no one. James specifically mentions two groups: the fatherless and widows.
Again, where is the Church? What can we do? I understand that not everyone can become a foster parent/adoptive parent but, there are many who can and I strongly encourage you to honestly consider making this commitment. You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to be willing. But of course, there are
other things the church can do to stand alongside those who are ‘in the trenches’.
First, pray. Pray hard for these families who are navigating through the foster care system. Pray for the biological families, that they can be reached and introduced to the Gospel. Become a licensed respite provider. A respite provider is someone that is certified to care for foster children in case the foster parents
have to take an unexpected trip and the children cannot go. Or if there is a medical emergency and the family needs the children to be cared for. As foster parents, you cannot have just anyone babysit. Maybe you have foster families at your local congregation. If so, offer to make them dinner or drop off a gift card when they receive a new placement. As you can imagine the most hectic and exciting time is when you get a call and 30 minutes later you have a frightened child sitting in your living room. As foster parents, our main focus is on gaining their trust and making them feel safe. Often times the routine tasks become stressful during those first few days and having someone simply bring dinner is a huge blessing.
There is definitely a need. A need for the church to extend it’s hand and help, not only these children but also their families. Reaching out to these kids also means reaching out to their parents. Helping them escape the hold that Satan has on them. In almost every case, sin has played a part. Extend the love that Christ showed us when we were drowning in sin, show them the abundant life. It very likely could save their life.
Shelby Doss is the most recent addition to our board of directors. We are thrilled that she has desired to be a part of our mission at A Home for Jolee Foundation. She will be a valuable resource to fostering and adoptions. If you would be interested in contacting Shelby regarding further information on fostering,
adoption, or their story, please feel free to email her at: email@example.com. Also, please visit her blog at www.raisingmyarrowsblog.wordpress.com