Foster Care ~ What To Expect When You’re Expecting That Call

Call us crazy but last year, my husband and I decided it was finally time to get serious and get our license to be Foster Parents.  It was something we had discussed before getting married over 13 years ago but the timing just never worked out.  Now that we don’t plan to have any more biological children, it just made sense to us to finally take this leap.  In the past 6 months, we’ve learned several things about how foster care works.  So if you’re considering this path, I’d love to share a little insight with you.

Foster Care ~ What To Expect When You're Expecting That Call

  1. Be Prepared For Heartbreak:  It will come in one form or another.  Whether a placement falls through, you have to ask for a child to be moved from your home, preparing to send a child back into a situation you feel is unfit, or if a child is placed with you for permanency only to get taken away because a relation changed their mind at the last minute, foster care is not for the faint of heart.
  2. Each County & State Has Different Rules:  It amazes me that there isn’t some sort of uniformity to the system but there isn’t.  A girl that I graduated with only needed a background study done in her county and she had a baby placed with her.  On the other hand, with our state and county, my husband and I had a mound of paperwork, had to go to the police station to be fingerprinted, turn in a background study, take a car seat training class, shaken baby and abusive head trauma class, as well as two hours of mental health training before officially getting on their list to be called.
  3. The Wait:  We actually received our first placements the day we were officially licensed as we were the only home in the county available and willing to take a sibling group of three.  Then, our second placement arrived just three days after that sibling group left.  But then the wait came.  While we’ve received dozens of calls, they have either fallen through (see the heartbreak rule above) or we’ve had to say no because we knew it wouldn’t be a good fit.
  4. Foster Children Walk In Your Door With Next To Nothing:  All of our placements to date, as well as from what I hear from other foster parents, will come with very little other than the clothes on their backs.  So we’ve learned it’s a great idea to keep a few basics on hand like a toothbrush, comb, hair brush, pacifier, and bottle.  Once the placement actually arrives, it’s easy to make a quick store run after I’ve assessed the immediate needs. 
  5. The Food Battle:  Many times, children who have just been placed in foster care will not have the same food preferences as your family.  Our first placements struggled with tummy issues and only wanted Burger King and boxed Mac ‘n Cheese…..neither of which is a staple for our family.  So I just kept offering our typical home-cooked meals but made sure to offer an am and pm snack of crackers and fruit as we worked toward getting a handle on their tummies.
  6. Make Sure To Accept Placements You Think Will Be A Good Fit:  We got a call for a sibling group with a 7 year old, 17 month old, and newborn that absolutely broke my heart to say no to but we just couldn’t.  The reason was because I was going to have to transport the oldest 30 minutes each way to and from school, 5 days a week until they could get something lined up with the school to take over the transporting (would take at least a couple weeks to do that).  Add in the three times a week visitation in that town as well and that would mean loading up 8 children (our 5 + 3 foster children) a minimum of twice a day and spending a lot of time in the car.  This was just not doable.
  7. If You Don’t Know What Ages Would Be A Good Fit, Consider Respite Care:  We were nervous about taking on older children so we decided to do respite care over a weekend to get the feel of how it would be.  Turns out, we had an amazing weekend with three lovely girls who were 9, 7, and 6.
  8. Placements Will Should Come With Paperwork:  But they won’t.  We had three kids for two weeks before they moved and never received a shred of paperwork on them.  Not even a paper stating we had legal right to be caring for them!  So make sure keep checking in with their social worker to keep them on the ball with your case.
  9. You Will Fall In Love:  Even if you don’t plan to, these children will work their way into your homes AND hearts.
  10. The Rewards Are Great & The Cost Is High:  We got into foster care because we wanted to be a safe place for children whose lives are in chaos.  Yet these children have given us so much in return.  Many just need stability and love and will return that love willingly.  But when they leave, they will always take a piece of your heart with them.

Miranda

I’m a city girl turned country by my awesome husband and we have three busy boys and two darling daughters. I love spending time with my family, reading Karen Kingsbury novels, and catching up with friends while our kiddos have play dates. I’m blessed beyond measure and can’t wait to see what God has in store.
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This post currently has 15 responses.

  • Darla

    Thank you! I didn’t really know the basics of foster care prior to reading this post. What you’re doing is great, and it was nice to get a glimpse into that life.

  • Peggy Nunn

    You have such a large heart. My Aunt was a foster Mother. All I remember is they had three sisters for a couple of years and then suddenly they were taken. It really did break her heart but the girls kept in contact with her for several more years.

  • Laura

    My husband and I have been in the process of becoming licensed to foster (hopefully to eventually adopt) since July of last year. It’s been eight months since we started and the state is still working on our home study. We were originally told that it takes four months to get licensed, so it’s taking a lot longer than we expected. I’m hoping that they finish things up soon because we’re ready to get some little ones!

    • At the initial information meeting for our county, they said it was about 4 months as well. But they said the biggest hold up is on the applicants end with paperwork. So I made sure to get ours done and in within a week. However, because they were in such a need for foster families willing to take on sibling groups, I’d say it only took about 3 months to get licensed. Best of luck to you on this journey!

      • Laura

        My goodness, that is fast! I should have also mentioned that we are in Texas, so they do things a little differently. We had to take a month of training classes, among what seemed like a billion other things lol. God bless you guys!

  • Anne

    Thanks for your interesting and informative post. My heart breaks when I think of children in need, and I think it’s wonderful that you are able and willing to help. Makes me like you even more! 🙂

  • This is great i love all the advice

  • Susan Hartman

    You have a beautiful heart. My niece and her husband are waiting for their first placement. They have 4 children already but like you are finished adding biological children. Im going to pass this article to her. God bless you all.

  • I’m so glad you do this! You do sound prepared to handle all different kinds of children. I was in the foster care system and I can tell you the people who had me, did it for whatever compensation they were receiving from the government, not because they cared. This was 30 years ago before they educated potential foster parents on the mental health of children in the system. I was damaged, vulnerable and afraid. I wouldn’t eat, and my foster parents would spank me relentlessly. I felt like I went from abuse, to more abuse. So those who educate themselves on what it must be like to be without a family and what these kids go through and try to empathize with them, hold a special place in my heart because that isn’t the norm. Thanks for doing what you are doing!

    • Oh Heather, I’m so sorry you were treated that way! That is truly heartbreaking. It is unfortunate that some people are not in it for the right reasons. –Although in our county, foster parents are responsible for a lot of running to appointments, visits, school if out of district, and more. So we really don’t come out “ahead” in the pocketbook area but still gain so much by the overall experience.– Foster children are still children and have all the same needs as my biological…..mainly, it seems like love and stability are most important. The hardest part that we’ve come to realize is that the “system” itself doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of the children either. I wish the entire foster care system would get an overhaul and it would make it easier for people with sincere hearts to come along side each other and care for foster children.

  • ellen beck

    Fostering kids is such a needed service. I am glad to hear someone who truly wants to do it is. I have known many caring foster parents and a few who werent. It takes a special person to open their home and hearts for those who need it.

  • Amber Ludwig

    You are an amazing person for doing this!! I honestly don’t think I could because I would fall in love with every child lol!! But knowing that you make such a positive difference in these kiddo’s lives just has to be so worth it!!

  • Donna B

    I loved reading this article. I love what you do and I know children are better for your efforts. We need many more loving, caring, foster parents like you.

  • Celeste Herrin

    In my younger years, I was longing to take care of children. I was told I could not have any of my own. My husband and I decided foster parenting would be ideal for us. We started the process, which involved some classes and filling out a HUGE book. We were overwhelmed with the lengthy process, yet excited to get through it. Just as we were approved, I unexpectedly lost my Mother after a simple surgery. My life was suddenly turned upside down. I just couldn’t continue with the process at the time. A miracle happened and I gave birth to my first biological daughter 7 months later! I was actually pregnant while going through the Foster parenting process and had no idea! After all, the doc said I would not be able to have children. I just couldn’t believe how things fell into place! 25 years and 3 kids later, we are considering it again 😉

    • Hi Celeste,

      I’m so sorry about your mother. That is amazing that the doctors were wrong for you though! It took us 13 years to finally make the leap and finish getting licensed. 🙂 One thing to keep in mind is that you always have the option of saying no to a call if it doesn’t fit what you are comfortable with. That thought has been helpful to me, even though I’m terrible at saying no.

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