Dear Foster Curious

Interested in becoming a foster parent?

We didn’t come out as potential foster parents until we took in our first kiddo. We didn’t tell anyone we were taking classes to become certified as foster parents, because we wanted to give ourselves the ability to back out. Becoming a foster parent is a very big and very personal decision, that for better or worse, tends to define a part of you. For us, we went into the first foster parent orientation class as a curious couple, not sure if foster care was for us or not. We left, feeling like it was something we were interested in pursuing… but we didn’t tell anyone.  As we got farther into the process, and closer and closer to being certified, we told a few family members, a few coworkers so we could adjust our work schedules, and some of our closest friends. Most of our family and friends had no idea that becoming a foster parent was something we were interested in doing until we posted on Facebook the night Ava (4-hours) was sleeping soundly in her crib the first night she was placed in our home.

We didn’t tell anyone that we were pursuing becoming foster parents for similar reasons that most people do not announce they are pregnant for the first weeks of a pregnancy. It is an exciting, scary time, with lots of unknowns, and the potential for things not to work out the way you plan. As we have mentioned numerous times throughout this blog, being a foster parent is not for everyone. During the certification process, there are plenty of opportunities to realize that you may want to help foster children, but you are not able to be a foster parent. You may also realize that you want to be a foster parent, but the timing just isn’t right, or it may take you a long time to get through the classes.

We didn’t tell anyone that we were pursuing becoming foster parents for similar reasons that most people do not announce they are pregnant for the first weeks of a pregnancy.

As you go through the certification process, you learn a lot about the System. You learn a lot about the families and children caught up in the system. You also learn a lot about yourself and if you are doing it with a significant other, you learn a lot about them and your relationship.  It is very possible that you discover that you are capable of being a foster parent, but your partner is not. If you become a foster parent, your immediate family (kids, partner, etc.) need to all be just as committed as you are.

We started this blog because when we became interested in becoming foster parents, we had a lot of questions, but had a hard time finding answers.  The certification classes provide information and insight, but they are mostly told from the perspective of DHS. This post aims to answer some of the questions that perspective foster parents, or Foster Curious, people may have.

What you need to know: 

Your Friends and Family Might Not Get It:

“Oh are you trying to adopt?!?!?!”

Be prepared for people to not know anything about foster care and ask some very personal, invasive, and inappropriate questions (LINK TO “We Know you Mean Well”). If you are “foster curious”, you probably have a lot of questions, because you are interested in learning about what it means to be a foster parent. You also probably have a lot of questions because there is not a lot of information out there about what it means to be a foster parent.  Now, imagine you have no interest in being a foster parent, it is not on your radar, and you don’t really know what it means to be a foster parent, and your family member or friend becomes a foster parent. You have a lot of questions too, but they are probably different questions, like:

“Are you going to adopt?”

“Won’t you be sad when they leave?”

“Don’t you want your own kids? Or kids you can keep forever?”

“Aren’t you worried that the kids will have a lot of issues?”

“This one is so cute, you are going to keep this one, right?’

It is also very possible that you have friends or family members who don’t ask awkward questions, they just tell you straight-up, that they do not support what you are doing. Hard to believe, but it happens. Don’t let it get you down, let it give you strength to persevere.

SAFE Home Study:

The SAFE Home Study is NOT fun.  The home study is designed to make sure you are a safe and capable person who should be allowed to care for vulnerable children in the care of the system. To figure this out, DHS asks a lot of very personal and awkward questions, and then writes it up in a very awkward report. The report reads like a list of all of the mistakes, flaws, and difficult situations in your life, and how these may impact your ability to parent foster children.  If you have a significant other who is going through the certification process with you, the home study process asks you private questions individually, and then shares your answers with your significant other. It takes a strong, healthy relationship without a lot of secrets to easily make it through the SAFE Home Study.

The SAFE Home study process is completed by your Certifier.  It is an awkward experience and might make you feel awkward about your relationship with your Certifier. It is important to realize that they are not judging you.  This is not personal. At the end of the day, your Certifier is your person, your advocate in the system, and it is imperative that you have a strong relationship with them. You trust them and they trust you.

It is important to realize that they are not judging you.  This is not personal.

Your Certifier is your person. No matter how you feel the home study went, they are still your person. We hope you get a Certifier who you are super comfortable with and you feel safe talking too, they are your friend in this.

Reunification is Always the Goal:

Reunification is always the goal. This is the mantra.  Always remember this. There is no such thing as “foster to adopt” in Oregon, at least initially.  The children you welcome into your home, the children you love with every fabric of your being, they are not yours.  At least, not until you have adopted them. They need your love, but they are not completely yours. Many of these kiddos have very loving families who yearn to have their kids back, and are working very hard to make sure that happens.

There is no such thing as “foster to adopt”

There are numerous studies (LINK) that demonstrate that if a child can be raised in a safe home with their bio-family, regardless of resources and hardships, they do significantly better than if they are adopted by a family with more resources. Even if you have the desire to adopt, keep that in mind as you foster. Foster Parents are desperately needed. Whether or not your want is to adopt, the service you provide as a foster parent, especially for the kiddos you do not adopt, is amazing. Understanding that many of these kiddos, and there parents, want to be reunited, is something you have to know. Patience, humility, and empathy are necessary. If you have a hard time seeing the good in others, foster care is not for you. You are not only caring for a child but you are teaching the family how to be better parents.

You Don’t Get Paid for This:

You do not get paid for this. READ THIS

Do not view this as babysitting. Do not think of this as a job. Think of this as being a parent, because that is what it is. Also, keep in mind that there is no assistance provided for child care in Oregon, so if you need day care, you need to pay for it.

These Kids Deserve the World:

It will be tough. Don’t get us wrong, it will be amazing! But it will be tough, too. There are a lot of emotions. A lot of emotions for all of you. A lot of emotions for you, your family, the kiddos in your care, and their bio-family too. Treat these kids like your own, even though they are not…at least not yet. Love them with everything you have, they deserve that. They deserve to be safe, healthy and loved, and hopefully you can make them happy too.

Many of them will have many firsts with you. Capture these moments and save the photos for them. Share these moments with the bio-family, who are grieving that they missed their child’s birthday or a holiday. Take them to a restaurant, to the beach, on a vacation, or to the zoo. Give them experiences that all kids deserve, that their peers are having.

They Are Worth Your Love 

Thanks for reading. If you are “foster curious” and have some questions you want answered, let us know and we would be happy to answer them.

Thanks for reading, if you have questions or comments, feel free to post them in the comment section below, we would love to hear from you.  To receive updates when a new post is published, click the “Follow” button, we appreciate your interest in our journey.

2 thoughts on “Dear Foster Curious”

  1. My parents are actively seeking to become foster parents. I am 16 years old and i was wondering if you had any advice for this future foster sibling. I appreciate it!

    1. Hi Shelby, thanks so much for reading, I hope you find some of the post interesting and helpful. That is amazing that you and your family are becoming a foster family, and it is amazing that you are thinking about your role as a sibling to these kiddos. We do not have any bio-kids right now, so we have not had experience with the relationship between foster children and bio-children, but some thoughts do come to mind. Definitely be welcoming, warm, and caring to the kiddos, but don’t take it personally if that sentiment is not returned, or at least not initially. Always try and understand that these children are experiencing a lot, and they didn’t ask to come to your home, and it can be hard for them to accept your love and good intentions. Accept them for who they are, and understands that they will probably not have the same routines, experiences, or likes as you, and that is ok. They may have never had dinner as a family, or a set bedtime routine, so even something as small as that could be difficult for them. Always be understanding and try and help, not critique. Honestly, just being yourself and showing your world and sharing your family with these kiddos will be a lot, it can show them how big and amazing the world is, and how much potential there is in the world for them. Good luck on your journey!

We would love to hear your thoughts!