Betty Crocker Wannabe has MOVED! I am now blogging solely at A Simply Klassic Home. I am still sharing printables, party ideas, and other inspiration. It's much more streamlined and clean. I hope you will stop by and say follow along there! I have lots of ideas for new printables coming this holiday season!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Navigating The Foster Care System

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on the foster care system or adoption. I can only share my own thoughts based on my own experiences. The purpose is simply to bring awareness to foster care and adoption during National Adoption Month.

First of all, what is foster care? Foster care is a temporary home for a child who cannot live with their birth family. A foster parent is a mother or father to a child in need of love and security. Foster parents provide what cannot be bought - love, concern, safety and understanding. Foster parents are married, single, separated, divorced or living with a partner. They are working parents and homemakers.

A Foster Parent is someone who
   • wants to make a difference in the life of a family.
   • can make room in their home and heart for children who need temporary care.
   • is flexible and capable of handling stressful situations.
   • can work as a member of a team with families, social workers and other professionals.
   • can help prepare a child for return to their birth family or to be adopted.
   • may become an adoptive parent.

Entering the foster care system, I wasn't really sure what to expect. As a child, I had known families who were foster parents, but really didn't know much about the system itself. When my life took an unexpected turn and I was faced with minimal choices for parenthood, I chose foster care adoption for two reasons: affordability, and guarantee.

The entire licensing process took about eight months.

First up was an informational class, in which they talked about what to expect in the system, why children enter the system, and the basic requirements of those becoming licensed foster parents.

The next step was training classes. Think "Social Services 101." The purpose of the training is to prepare the prospective foster parents in their new role, guiding them through the issues they will be dealing with as a foster parent. Classes met twice a week for six weeks.

During training, I was required to produce various documents, including, medical forms, birth certificates, and proof of income. There was homework, articles to read, extensive paperwork to fill out, and an essay to write.

We were able to network with other potential parents, meet several social workers, and even have a chance to meet foster and adoptive parents and foster children who had aged out of the system. It was amazing to get all of the different perspectives they offered. There were also two eight hour Saturday classes specific to adoption.

Once the classes were completed, it was time to prepare for the homestudy. Dun-dun-dun!

It's actually not as scary as people think it is. A Social Worker is assigned to you, and they stay with you through the entire process, so you really get to know them and it's wonderful to have them on your side. She was there when my first foster child left, and she was there in the courtroom the day my son's adoption was finalized.

For the Homestudy, there are several things required in order to get your home ready. Making your house appear as though it belongs in a magazine, however, is not one of them. I, along with most who go through this process, was so nervous about the homestudy, making sure my home was spotless. It was pretty much a waste of time to dust the top of the fridge and scrub the inside of the cabinets, because she didn't check them. They will give you a list of things, like having fire extinguishers, putting cleaning supplies & knives up high, and making sure your pool is gated. Clean your house, of course, but show quality is not what they are looking for.

Once the homestudy was complete, I just had to wait for approval, which took about two weeks. I was approved and in matching by mid-September 2006. I brought my son home in November of 2008. You can read all about what happened during that time here.

There are many different types of licenses, including Emergency Shelter Housing (ESH) (less than 30 days), foster care (children are expected to be returned to their birth families), and concurrent planning (or foster to adopt) (it it unlikely children will be returned to their birth families and will likely be available for adoption).

The process is not simple or easy, but the rewards truly outweigh the costs.

Have questions on the foster care process? Feel free to ask them here or email me at coopsmommy07 (at) aol (dot) com.

Next week, I will talk about what I have learned about adoptees, including what I've been accused of by an adoptee who read a comment I made on an adoption website.