“It takes equal parts giving all of yourself and putting yourself aside which is a tricky balance.”
“Often times they are just a little bit of structure and direction away from changing the world.”
Why did you decide to become a foster family?
We were getting to the point in our lives where we decided we needed to make some decisions around having kids and what that would look like for us. We had always talked about fostering or adopting at some point, and whether or not we would ever have bio-kids. Having a natural inclination towards teenagers, and knowing the staggering numbers around teenagers in the system, it almost felt selfish to go any route other than foster care and so we made the decision and moved forward.
When you hear the statistic that 50% of foster families quit within the first year, what does that make you think of?
It takes equal parts giving all of yourself and putting yourself aside which is a tricky balance.
It makes us think that people are signing up for the wrong reasons or not level-setting expectations. This is hard work. It takes equal parts giving all of yourself and putting yourself aside which is a tricky balance. We say all of that understanding that we haven’t quite made it far enough to not become a statistic.
When you hear the statistic that 90% of foster families continue year-after-year with a Care Community in place, what does that make you think of?
Your network and your community is critical. We have plenty of tough moments, but have yet to get to a point that feels like, “we can’t do this anymore,” and a lot of that has to do with our ability to lean on friends and family.
Do you have a support system? If yes, who? If not, would you like a Care Community?
We have a great network of friends and family that we lean on in various ways to support us, and then an extended network that reaches out without us even asking. We have a friend/neighbor that works out with our girls twice a week, we have another friend that offers to have them come to their place once a week to give us a break and play with their kids, and once this pandemic is over we will have family that will come for a weekend in a heartbeat if we need to get away. Different folks function differently. Some need a more formally structured Care Community, and for others that is sort of baked in.
In either case the most important thing is to ask for help. Early and often.
What are you hoping to give and gain through fostering?
We give hope our home, love and structure in hopes that we can unleash all of the amazing talent and dreams that exist within the kids in our care in a way that they can harness it to become successful – however that looks for them. I don’t think we could even dream of the things we will gain in the process.
What are some of your biggest fears with fostering?
The biggest fear has to be the unknown. What if they have to leave our home to go somewhere that isn’t safe for them? What if we can’t do enough to keep them from falling back into cycles of poverty, addiction, and violence? What if they run away? How do we toe the line between structure and self-sufficiency? How much is too much? Lots of questions and different answers for every kid in every situation.
What guidance or advice would you like to give those who are considering becoming foster parents?
Know what you are getting into, especially with teenagers. I don’t really have advice for foster parents with the babies, but if you are going to take in a teenager, or a few teenagers, know what you are getting into. You having been a teenager once is not appropriate experience. Having spent a weekend with your youth group doesn’t count. You have to spend time in the trenches with kids to see their true colors. The good and the bad. Go volunteer with your church or an organization and spend some real time around teenagers before you decide to take them into your home. After that, understand that they are whole human beings with their own thoughts and perceptions of the world. They have built the tools to be successful in some capacity even if it doesn’t look like success to you. They may have memories that you find inappropriate to think of fondly, but they are the only memories they have. You can’t just take a kid’s existence, try to erase it, and think you can start again. Most importantly, it isn’t all bad – in fact, it is mostly fantastic. Teenagers are snarky and sarcastic. They will give it to you straight with an eye roll on the side. They have fantastic senses of humor, and more to teach you about the world than you could imagine. They are smart, capable, hard-working, and contain so much passion it will blow you away.
Often times they are just a little bit of structure and direction away from changing the world.