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Foster Care Awareness Month

Posted on Thursday, November 7, 2019
"In 2012 we got a call that our daughter's half brother was living in horrible conditions. He was 8 years old, wearing a size 2T. His mother was high on crack and nowhere to be found - His dad was caught up in meth making - meantime, Anthony just fell through the cracks jumping from his couch to couch of his parent's "friends". He missed over 100 days of school in one year. All he would eat was McDonalds.
We immediately took matters into our own hands, not knowing what all needed to be done to protect him.
We learned about becoming a foster parent through our local agency through the state of Indiana. In order for us to keep him, we had to get a foster care license and qualifiy with hours and hours of training. Meanwhile, Anthony had to go live in an established foster home.
It took about 6 months for us to complete our training and home visits before he could come live with us for good. They did allow his parents 9 months of supervised visits (when they did show) while terminating their rights. It also meant hours and hours of therapy, extra help at school, doctors appointments, sleep studies, case meetings and lots of shopping as he grew! But after 6 months of getting our license and two years of fostering, Anthony became ours for good! We had a court hearing and we have full custody of him now.
It was nothing I ever expected to do. We got comments from friends and family about how it was a bad choice. People said we only did it for the check. There were SO MANY ups and downs during those tough years. Lots and LOTS of tears and second guessing ourselves. But now, I am proud to say, he is a member of our family. Anthony is almost 15 years old; He is an honor student, football star, amazing big brother and the funniest kid you will ever meet. "

The reason I am telling you this is because there are so many kids in the foster care system that are over looked. The impact that you can make on these children's lives are HUGE. They are children that may not have access to things that we take for granted - a warm home, a bed, food on the table and a little bit of love.

These are some of the questions I have been asked while we were in the Foster Care program, I thought I would share them with you:

1. Do you get to pick the child you would like to foster?
Yes and No - they do not have a book with children's pictures and a short biography about them that you see floating around on social media. At least in our state they do not. You can however, after training, have a preference set on what "type" of children you can accept into your home. You can prefer certain sexes, ages, races or religious backgrounds that fits your home and lifestyle. However, by checking more boxes, the less likely you will be to have a child placed with you.

2. How did I get involved and get to "pick" my foster child?
I was able to get custody of Anthony because he was a "kinship" placement. Meaning no other blood family relatives stepped up when they were contacted. The next thing he had to family was my stepdaughter, whom they share the same mother.
If you have family that are often involved in DCS/CPS investigating them, I strongly urge you to get your foster care license so IF they were ever placed in foster care, your home is already ready and approved for long-term placement.

3. Do you get paid to do fostering?
You get paid a per-diem. Which when my husband and I calculated it out, it was around 50 cents per hour. Which you also have to take into account the extra food and clothing they will need as they grow from a nourishing home. The per diem was just enough to cover extra costs such as clothing, missed time from work for court/therapy/visitations and toys for Anthony. By no way does it make you rich, which it shouldn't. Money is not the reward for fostering!

4. What happens once a "child ages" out of the foster care system?
When a child turns 18, they are no longer a "ward of the state" and can do whatever they want. Even if that means resume communication from the parents they were separated from. There are some programs for children to help ease them into the real word.
We did a one day respite for a 17 year old boy who was turning 18 in two months. When asked what his plans were upon turning 18, he had no idea. He stated that his foster family stated he could not live with them since they will not be getting a check for him anymore. HOW SAD!!!! We still do see him since he lives around the corner from us at a residential apartment set up for foster children who have turned 18. This is why if you plan on fostering, be in it for the right reasons!

5. Do I have the option for adoption?
Again, Yes and No. When you fill out your form for preferences, they ask if you want to adopt. Babies are typically adopted pretty fast - it's the older kids that are often overseen.
The goal in our state is re-unitification, which gives the biological parents over a year to get their ducks in a row. During this time YOU WILL GET ATTACHED. And often, they do return home. But if the parents fail to get their children back, the state will pursue Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) and at that time, you should have the option of adoption.

6. How can I get involved and start fostering?
- Talk to your state agency or a private agency in your county.
- Start the application process.
- Learn how to be a good foster parent. Research. What do kids need when in foster care. How can you help them with the process. Are you ok with all the appointments?
- Get your home ready for an inspection.
- Attend pre-service classes. Some of these will count towards your credit hours.
- Meet your caseworker you will be working with. This is who you can ask all of your questions to. It's good for them to get to know you to make sure they place you with the right child(ren).

Do not be discouraged. This process can take MONTHS and it is a lot to learn.

Fostering is so emotionally rewarding. You can literally change a child's life. Whether they live with long term or return to their parents, you can make a very strong impact on a child's life!

For more information, please visit AECF - AECF is PACKED with helpful resources for foster parents.