Foster Care Awareness Interview


Foster care / Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

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In May, for Foster Care Awareness month, Ryan and I were interviewed by Child to Family Connections, the fostering agency we’ve partnered with since the time of our licensing. We had fun answering their questions, and received permission to post the interview here as well.


Hi Ryan and Shari! How long have you been foster parents? Approximately how many placements have you had?

We were licensed in the fall of 2013 and received our first placement in 2014. That means we’re at seven or eight years! We are currently hosting our fourteenth foster child, not counting brief respites. We’ve hosted some sibling groups, so we haven’t had the rapid turnover that those numbers suggest.

Why did you initially want to become foster parents?

We first became foster parents because we fell in love with needy children in our town, and realized that we were in a great position to offer care for those who needed a temporary home-away-from-home. We envisioned adopting a child or two to add to our family. We love blended families, where love trumps genetics and surface similarities or differences.

You have worked through multiple reunifications, as well as transfer to kinship care, what is the most difficult part of this process, and what is the best part?

Yes! This has been the most transformative part of foster care for us. We went from a strong desire to “keep” the children who entered our home to a strong desire to give families a second chance, and to return a child stronger and healthier than he was when he landed with us. Of course that’s not always possible, but it has become our passionate goal.

The most difficult part, which probably goes without saying, is letting go of a child we have attached to and come to deeply love. That part feels like dying, though over time we have learned that a) We will survive it! and b) The kind of love that is willing to sacrifice for the good of another is an essential part of making our world a better place. We keep reaching for it.

Another hard part is team-parenting with people whom we don’t necessarily like or trust (don’t tell anyone we said that) – people we would never have signed up to raise children with. As reunification progresses, the teamwork between our two families (birth and foster) and our shared ability to form relationships across those artificial barriers is key to a smooth transition for the sake of the children, whom we all love. When done well, it creates the greatest success and happiness, no matter how many mixed feelings of grief we have to contend with.

We have learned so much from the birth families of our foster children. We count many of them our lasting friends, and they allow us an ongoing space in their child’s life. The best part of reunification is knowing that a family we love is starting again on a better footing. We see big change happening, with both adults and children becoming what they didn’t used to be. And we get to be part of the process! Part of the team!

What is your best piece of advice for someone wanting to become a foster parent, or someone who is brand new to foster care?

We all come to foster care with mixed emotions, histories, and motives. Please don’t forget that this story is not primarily about you. You have so, so much to offer – and you also have things to lose and to learn. You need to keep the endgame firmly fixed on what is best for the child, even if it’s not the happy ending you wish for. Fight only for what matters most – and then, fight hard. You will earn great respect and success if you are willing to respect the rules and work for the greater good. You will find foster care among the most rewarding experiences of your life.

How do you balance a new child entering your home, along with the other responsibilities in your house?

It’s kind of like having a baby. For a week or two, everything adjusts around the newcomer. We cut extra obligations and responsibilities to make room for the hard work of bonding and adjustment (on both sides!). We fix our new child’s favorite foods, outfit them with clothes, tell lots of stories, ask non-threatening questions, and focus on building relationship. We also ask that the child begin to adapt into our home, with family participation, small responsibilities, and general kindness.

We try to leave space in our lives for another child, when that’s what we’re trying for. We don’t sign up for things we can’t bow out of if the need arises. We ask family members and friends for grace and flexibility. And when a new placement arrives, we do things imperfectly for quite a while. [Wink.] We teach Sunday school with a child on our lap, or run that fundraiser interruptedly, with one ear tuned to the chaos next door.

How do you prepare your children for a new placement? What are typical things they like to know about the child before they arrive?

Our children are usually just as excited as we are! They want to know our new child’s age and gender, any quirks or special needs we know of, and above all: where he will sleep! It matters to our younger children that they will get to share enough time and space with our newcomer. It matters to our older children that their spaces and boundaries are protected in some way, and that certain places will remain private.

They want to know how they can help welcome our guest. Can we move beds around? Can we go out for ice cream tomorrow? Will she fit into the nice dresses I just outgrew?

We remind them that our foster children will be experiencing loss and grief. They may not want to interact, or they might be bouncing off the walls. They might be destructive or silly or withdrawn. They might not be very nice humans at first, and that is okay; they’re going through a lot. We need to be respectful of their feelings and personhood, and do what we can to make our new relationship our best yet.


There’s a lot we didn’t say. If you’re a foster parent too, what would you add to our answers? If you’re not, do you have a question you’d like to ask?

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Lisa
1 month ago

As a former foster parent, I would say that juggling the bureaucracy of the county agency can be harder than the hard work of parenting the hurt children. Maybe that was something you didn’t want to say to your licensing organization. 😊

1 month ago
Reply to  Lisa

Amen. And Amen, Lisa. We took our fostering courses several years ago and the paperwork, bureaucratic hoops, changes of directors…. it has been a disappointing journey. Currently wrestling with whether or not we should press forward or let it go. But, Shari, you have rekindled the spark in my heart with your interview. I would still love to someday be a resource for families in our city.

1 month ago

Yes, yes, and yes. Fostering is sooo good for biological kids. They learn to share, help and support, and gain an appreciation of the home they have. It’s not about us but about bringing Jesus to broken families.

Bethany
1 month ago

I love how passionate you are about this Shari. We have learned in our short foster care journey that it takes an all-in approach and passionate belief in the importance of the work in order to keep going.

One of my biggest fears going into this was my own bio kids. How will this affect them? Will their voices get lost in the drama? Will they be safe? And more personally -Are we out of our minds for even considering this?

Turns out – our kids had a lot to teach us parents about fostering. Their simple,straight-forward, acceptance of this other kid. Their this-is-one-of-us approach. Their lets just play and eat peanut butter & jelly sandwiches together attitude.

They fight too of course because that’s what siblings do.

They provide lightness and energy where I sometimes fail to. Sometimes I almost feel guilty at how much they do for our placement but then I realize they aren’t doing, they are just being.

Also we are impressed with all the wonderful resources the agency provides for us. Lots of good teaching and support available online.

Thank you for this Shari!

Renita
1 month ago

The pictures take me back to some similar ones I have of the foster kids we had in our home when I was a teenager. It was so exciting to foster, but there was a lot of hard stuff in it too. I really wrestled for years with the difficulties surrounding it– and now God has brought so many foster families into our church, soon after I embraced that part of my story. I love what God is doing through the beautiful brave families that choose to do this!

RachelG
1 month ago

Caring for foster children is absolutely impossible without a support group (I’ve been there and it’s a disaster). If you can’t be a foster parent, there are many helpful things you can do for a foster family; they CAN’T do it alone.

Misty
1 month ago

Loved this post! A huge frustration for us in foster care is the lack of communication and it feels like no one knows at times what is going on.

Also having a support system is huge. Just having another foster mom to talk with is wonderful. I dream of planning a foster care day retreat for foster mommas to connect.

1 month ago

I’m late getting to this discussion. I have a friend who did foster care and when our children were little we often had play dates. I have to tell you, as an “outsider” nonfoster mom it was hard for me not to get emotionally attached those children. I would just cry when they were returned to their parents. Having gone through that gives me a small glimpse as to what it’s like for foster parents to return children. Thank you Shari and all you foster moms here!