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What Being A Foster Mom Means

Being a Foster Mom means:

*Giving a piece of your heart to each child, knowing that you’ll never get that piece back

*Loving without regard for how painful it will be in the future when they leave

*Seeing the child, not the behavior

*Shaping a child’s future despite their past

*Accepting that you have no control over anything but your own actions

*Consistently hammering away at the wall of mistrust even when it seems pointless

*Putting in all the hard work knowing you might never reap the rewards

*Modeling empathy and sympathy without showing pity

*Helping build self confidence and self worth in a wounded soul

*Preparing a child to leave with a smile on your face while your heart breaks

*Struggling to find the silver lining on those cloudy days

*Teaching a child that love is more powerful than hate

*Educating the world that blood doesn’t make a family

One of the hardest part of being a foster mom is the grief when a child leaves your home. It hurts, regardless of whether it’s the first child or the hundredth child. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right. Even the children that were so very difficult that I felt a sense of relief when they left- it still hurt my heart to see them go.

I have a theory that helped me through the years. If a child leaves my home having learned one positive thing from their time with us, and better off than when they arrived- then I fulfilled my mission. It doesn’t make the pain any less or the grief any weaker, it just helped me keep going on.



The Art Of Foster Care Documentation

Documentation is a necessary part of being a foster parent. You just never know when you may need to rely on that information. Over the years, I perfected my own system of documentation that made it relatively easy to keep everything organized and in one place. I kept everything related to a case, and I do mean everything. I’ll give you an overview of my system.

I bought one of the large binders for each long term placement. I separated the binder into sections with those tabbed dividers. For most cases I used the following sections:

1- Court Documents: This included copies of all the reports I filed with the court as well as copies of all court orders.

2- Agency Meetings: This included copies of all Agency Reviews, Team Meetings, and Case plans.

3- Medical: This included all invoices from the pediatricians and specialists that the children saw, all pharmacy receipts, notes on all doctors appointments, therapists appointments and any test results or referrals.

4- Phone Calls: This included transcribed notes from every conversation pertaining to that case that I had with the social workers, GAL, supervisors, or anyone else from CPS.

5- Daycare: This included every report sent home from daycare or preschool when the children attended.

6- Visitation Notes: This included detailed notes from every visitation. I recorded the time and date of the visit, who showed up, and any behaviors seen during and after the visitation.

7- Incident Reports: This included documentation of every bump, bruise, scrape, etc that the child may have gotten. I recorded the time, date, place, and circumstances of the injury as well the time and date of when I notified the social worker. I also included a photo of the injury. If it happened somewhere other than with me, I included a handwritten and signed statement from the adult in charge when it occurred.

8- Photographs: I used special photo holder pages to keep the pictures of that child in one place. I sent some every week to the visits and kept the rest in the binder.

I was diligent in my documentation, probably excessively so. But that’s better than being unprepared in case of a false allegation. For the short term, respite and emergency placements I had one extra large binder that I separated with a tabbed divider for each child and kept all the above documentation together. For the long term placements, there was just too much paperwork and it would have been impossible to find anything had it all been grouped together.

My best advice is to do your documentation everyday. Take notes while you’re talking to the social worker and then type them up afterwards. I had my own shorthand style that I used while I was talking to the social worker and then I’d type up the conversation and print it out afterwards. File everything immediately so it doesn’t pile up and you don’t lose important paperwork. I can’t stress to you how important documentation can be, especially if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being falsely accused of some wrongdoing. It sounds like a lot of work, I know. But it is essential to protect yourself and documentation is one way to do so.



Our Foster Care and Adoption Journey

Matt and I had been married for just a couple of years when we decided to become foster parents. We were stable, owned our own home, and had established careers. We were also very young- in our early twenties. We began the process by calling the local Department of Family Services to ask about foster care classes. We had to attend 10 weeks of classes and have a homestudy before we could be licensed as foster parents.

 

Our state allows families to choose between being licensed as foster only or foster-to-adopt placement. At that point in our lives we chose to be licensed as a foster family only as adoption was not our goal. My reasons for wanting to foster were simple- I was adopted from foster care as an infant. The foster home I lived in was not a good one and there were some long-lasting effects in my life. One of my goals for as long as I can remember was to be a foster parent. We completed our training and finished all the requirements such as physicals and TB tests. Once we were done with our part we just had to wait for the state to process our paperwork.

 

We decided to foster ages 0-3 only. We had room for 2 children and a spot for an emergency placement. The social workers who taught our training class told us to expect to wait anywhere from 3 months to a year for a placement of a young child. It took around 6 weeks for our license to come through and be active. We actually got a call for a placement before our license was even active but we turned it down because the situation was not a good fit for our family.

 

Our license was active for less than 48 hours when we got another after hours emergency placement call. We accepted and that’s how Ty joined our family as a severely neglected, abandoned, 4 week old adorable red headed little baby. You can read about his foster care story HERE.

 

Over the next 20 months we fostered quite a few infants and toddlers. Some stayed overnight, some stayed for a few days or weeks, and a few were long term placements of more than 6 months. Some were very special needs and some were drug exposed newborns. Some were completely healthy and some were extremely abused. It was a very difficult journey and it was such a privilege to care for these children and love on them even if just for a little while.

 

Cam came to our family directly from the NICU when he was only a month old. He was a strictly foster placement at first and we had a great relationship with his birth mom. In the end she decided his special needs were too much for her to handle and still be able to parent her other children. She relinquished her rights and asked us to adopt Cam. You can read his full story HERE.

 

A few months after bringing Cam into our family I left my full time job to become a stay-at-home mom. Ty’s adoption was finalized by this point and Cam’s placement was already starting to look like an adoption placement so it was a natural progression for me. Being a stay-at-home mom was my goal- it’s what I always intended to do after we had children. I was very blessed to have that opportunity be an option in our family and to have a husband that supported my decision whole-heartedly.

 

We continued to foster for several more years until we had a very negative experience with a criminally dishonest social worker. After surviving through the aftermath of the situation created by this horrible social worker, which included testifying before a state committee and over a year of legal proceedings, we chose to turn in our license and leave the foster care system when Cam’s adoption was finalized. Less than a month after turning in our license we discovered we were pregnant with our first daughter.

 

We were blessed to have the experiences that we did, even the negative ones. We definitely have a greater appreciation for our family after how hard we had to work to create it. If you are considering foster care or adoption from foster care I hope you will find some of my posts here that will help you. If you have questions I will do my best to answer them for you. If you are considering foster parenting please don’t be scared off by our one negative experience. We worked with many many social workers in our 6 years and with one glaring exception they were fantastic- overworked, underpaid, and doing a very difficult job but they truly cared about the children entrusted to them. We still keep in contact with many of the social workers we worked with through the years. We also keep in contact with many of the children we fostered. None of the children we cared for ended up being permanently reunified with their birth parents. They were either adopted or placed with extended family members. We receive letters, cards, and pictures from a lot of them a couple of times a year. And seeing those kids grow up, safe and happy, makes every single tear we shed and sleepless night spent worrying worth it. 

 

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