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Posts from the ‘Foster-to-Adopt’ Category

An open letter to the other family members of a foster family.

Fostering a child can be an extremely rewarding experience for foster carers and their families. So, who can foster and how do you tell your family that you intend to become a foster parent?

The foster care process and becoming a ‘foster family’ isn’t about qualifications, it’s about your ability to offer a young person a stable home to grow up in. No matter what your relationship status, gender, age, sexual orientation, skin color, religion, or whether you have children of your own or not, you can be considered to become a foster parent.

“The fact that I’m a grandma has no bearing on my ability to provide suitable care –age provides great experience. We take part in lots of family activities together, my own children and grandchildren with foster children all together, having lots of fun.”

(Linda Tellwright, a grandmother & current foster carer to a 17 year old)

But this isn’t just about you. It’s about every other person in your life also. Your own decision to become a foster parent was unlikely to be something you decided to do in the spur of the moment and therefore telling your family also needs similar consideration and planning.

Be pragmatic – some family members will be more supportive than others and it is absolutely your choice as to whom you share your news with. Ensure that when you do, share your news with wider family members, you have a list of facts to impart AND answers to their trickier questions that are likely to come up, because believe me, THEY WILL HAVE QUESTIONS.

But during their questions… Try not to feel that you are justifying your decision, you are simply paving the way for fostering a child and ensuring that your wider family understands how they can best support you and be involved with your foster child. I have a fantastic support network of family and friends around me and this is important to any foster parent.

Be clear that it isn’t always going to be about ‘arrivals’ but also ‘goodbyes.’

Foster Grandparents, I know you have hesitations about how all of this is going to impact your life. I know you have fears and I’m not going to tell you they aren’t warranted. You’re worried about the work that is going to fall on the shoulders of your children, the time it might take from your other grandchildren, how your family will deal with loss, and you worry about safety issues. You want to be supportive, but you’re also unsure about how wise it is for your child to pursue this hard life– the life of a foster parent.

The role of a Foster Grandparent is important, but you probably don’t have people in your life to tell you how to do it well. I don’t know of any support group meetings for foster grandparents or resources written for them. No one can tell you how it is going to feel the first time you see that child who needs your family– that mix of love for them, sorrow for what they’ve gone through, and apprehension about how they may break your own child’s heart. You may be unsure of how to react or what to say. If you’re open to suggestions, here’s what I wish I could have communicated to my own parents when we started this process.

I know you may have reasons why you don’t think we should pursue this because you anticipate the pain we will go through. We know there will likely be pain and we’re okay with that. As my parent, sister, loved one, I know you don’t want to see me struggle, but WE are willing to struggle so a child doesn’t have to. I’m willing to do that, but I need you to be willing to support me even on my hard days.

We need to feel safe to cry to you. If I sense you aren’t supportive of our decision to be foster parents, I’m not going to feel safe sharing my pain. I’m afraid if you knew how hard this was you’d encourage me to quit. I need you to be someone who wants to hear my heart and can love me and this child without trying to fix the situation. Many problems in foster care just can’t be solved quickly or in ways that are going to make us all happy. I’ve got to be okay living in that tension and I need you to be there with me.

Remember when you had fights with your spouse during those newlywed days? You were always encouraged to forgive, to stick it out, to choose love. You’ll need all of those reminders again as you work through this difficult relationship with your foster child, their family and a frustrating legal system.

I want you to love this child. I know their future is uncertain. I know they may not exactly “fit” in this family right now. I know they don’t have my nose and my partner’s eyes and you weren’t there to see their first yawns and smiles. But I need you to be all in with them. I need to know you aren’t drawing boundaries to keep YOUR grandkids in and this foster child out. Please be thoughtful of ways you might be drawing hurtful distinctions– not giving them gifts the same way you would your other grandkids, not offering them physical affection, using language that implies they aren’t your “real” grandchildren, leaving them out of family traditions (even if it’s because you assume they wouldn’t care,) doing family pictures without them. I need you to realize how important you are in the life of this child. You may be the only healthy grandparent relationship they have and if you intentionally leave them out, they won’t ever get to fully experience it.

It’s important that you respect this child’s story. We have to be careful about confidentiality issues and we need you to be careful, too. We don’t want the private, painful details of this child’s story to become the topic of discussion at your prayer group. It doesn’t need to get passed around to the neighbors. We may also need you to be respectful if there are questions we just can’t answer. We need for you to be able to hear the hard things that might impact your interactions with this child and know that conversation stops with us. Please don’t think of that as a limitation on your ability to be honest, but as an important role in this child’s life– a keeper of their story.

Please be willing to learn along with us. I may be struggling to figure out how to do hair I’ve never worked with before. I may be dealing with health issues that are all new to me. I may be trying to problem solve behavioral problems, school issues, developmental  questions, and emotional outbursts that I don’t have the answers for yet. I’d love for you to be a student with me. I need you to know that traditional parenting answers may not work for this child because of their history. We might need to adopt some new family traditions and cultural practices as we learn to understand and value this child’s ethnicity. I’d love for you to be excited about the learning process and embrace the changes we might have to make.

I’d love your practical help. Bringing a new child into our home is a difficult process. If I gave birth to a new baby, there might be a shower from our friends and family and you might come stay with me and help out because we understand bringing home a baby is challenging. When we bring in a foster child, we have all those same challenges PLUS the need to build an attachment with this child who is likely fearful and angry. We’d love for you to be part of our support team.

I want you to be proud. In general, I don’t want the rest of society acting like I’m a saint because I love these children who are entirely lovable and worth loving. But, I do want to know you see how hard this is, you appreciate what I’m doing and you’re proud of me as your child. I want you to talk to your friends about the important work of foster care. I want you to see this as your own calling, too. I want you to take pride in your important role as a foster grandparent.

I asked my mom once when she changed from being nervous about us becoming foster parents to being supportive. She told me it was all about seeing the child. That’s what really drives the point home and minimizes the worried wonderings. We are in it for these kids. And Foster Grandparents, we’d love to have your support.

“I have a 19 year old son and a seven year old daughter of my own. They’ve adapted really well to being a foster family – my daughter was only two when we started and doesn’t know life without foster children. They are all the same age and are like normal brothers and sisters; one minute they are arguing and the next they’re full of love for one another!”

(Malika Azahri, 37, and husband Phil, 36, live in Norwich and have been foster parents for just over five years)

2018 Book Bucket List: For The Eager & Hopeful Foster Momma

Yes, this is a LITTLE EARLY… only like a month, so who cares? Haven’t you guys learned by now that I don’t do things on a reasonable time schedule?! I’m always early or late – never on time! So let’s get ahead of this one and be early, shall we?!

There are plenty of research-driven, practical and informative books written for foster and adoptive parents. They’re great books, but they’re not really ‘book bucket list material.’ These memoirs (and even a few thrown in self-help books) are “you’ll laugh, you’ll cry,” break-and-warm-your-heart type books that any foster/adoptive mom would love (and ‘normal moms,’ too!)

Beyond Consequences, Logic, & Control: A Love-Based Approach to Helping Attachment-Challenged Children With Severe Behaviors

Beyond Consequences, Logic, & Control: Volume 2

The Adoptive Parent Toolbox

The End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care

Garbage Bag Suitcase

Born Broken

Shattered: Memoirs of an Amnesiac

Blessed Chaos: A Journey Through Instant Motherhood

Another Place at the Table

Three Little Words: A Memoir

Terrified (Angela Hart’s Books are AMAZING! This is the first book in one of her series!)

Living Between Danger and Love: The Limits of Choice

Welcome to the Roller Coaster

The Garbage Bag Kids

Cruel to Be Kind: Saying NO Can Save a Child’s Life (Seriously anything by Cathy Glass)

Self-Care for Foster and Adoptive Families

No Matter What: An Adoptive Family’s Story of Home, Love, & Healing

Groomed: Danger lies closer than you think (Seriously anything by Casey Watson, too)

The Connected Child: Bring hope and healing to your adoptive family

A Different Beautiful: Discovering and Celebrating Beauty in Places You Never Expected

The Mystery of Risk: Drugs, Alcohol, Pregnancy, and the Vulnerable Child

There you have it, my friends… our 2018 reading list is complete! You’re welcome. Seriously though, I promise you will not be disappointed by any of the titles I listed above – I’m super eager to read all of these. 98% of them were recommended by fellow foster mommas! I’ve chosen them for this list because they speak directly into our journey from an authentic and been-there-done-that point of view. That’s precisely the kind of resources I need to help me through this often-lonely and isolating journey!

I’ll give some updates as I finish these and hey, if you guys want to pick one a month or so we can read them together and I’ll reflect with you guys via facebook or even here! (Anyone interested in starting like a book reading group where we share thoughts on what we’ve read from the books each month? JUST A THOUGHT!)

The Most Requested: Becoming Fosterees

After receiving yet another request for an “overlook of the process” I have put this together for you guys! As always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have either about fostering or about the agency we go through!

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INTEREST MEETING (Early July)

We attended an initial interest meeting led by the TREK training recruiter (TREK is the private agency we chose to go through out of Cartersville, GA. You can visit their website HERE.) at our home. Besides hearing basic information about foster care, how the training process works, what TREK does during the process, etc. She also did a walk through of our home, talked about things that stuck out to her in our home that needed to be done in order for the state to approve us (in our case we needed to build a fence because we live on a main highway, cover a few exposed wires from some home-improvement projects that weren’t quite done, put a lock on a cabinet for the medications and such.) This is an opportunity for you to talk to a real-life social worker, ask questions and get information before beginning IMPACT training and your stack of paperwork. For us, this was a good thing to be able to do because it was one-on-one with her so we were able to listen during the meeting and get questions answered that apply directly to us.

IMPACT (July – August)

Every Tuesday night for 5 weeks we attended IMPACT training. During this class we had a class of 4 couples (including us.) We spent a lot of time discussing how different things affect children, both trauma and good experiences, how you take those things and are able to shape a future for the child. We also spent time going around the room discussing our own stores, the “why” and “who.” Why being the “reason you’re there” and the “who” being “what age group you’re looking for” and “how many your home is open to.” In an effort to have realistic expectations, we also spent time reiterating the sacrifice and risk involved and shared a lot of “worst case scenarios.” Yes, there were some really awful, heart breaking stories but coming out of IMPACT, do you want to know what our mindset has been? “We understand the risks and are prepared for the worst, because we’ve also seen the opposite happen.”

PAPERWORK & WAITING (September – October)

During IMPACT training we were handed a binder with approximately 100 forms and tasks we needed to complete prior to our home inspection, including:

  • Background Checks: FBI, state, child abuse…. and some other ones with a whole bunch of agencies that needed to make sure we weren’t escaped criminals or predators on the run from the law. It seems invasive, I know but keep in mind that you are being vetted to take care of children (not to mention that have already been through trying situations.) If you (or anyone in your home over the ago of 18) has a criminal record, this will more than likely disqualify you. If you’ve ever hurt a child (or anyone else for that matter) you can go ahead and take your application and place it in the trash.
  • Medical Forms: If you’re anything like me (or Kate,) this is the part where you realize that you haven’t been to the doctor in nearly 5 years and quickly make an appointment so that the doctor can say she has, in fact, met you before, give you your TB test, drug screening, and RPR screening, and fill out said paperwork. This was also a push to make us get a primary doctor. 
  • Reference Forms: You’ll need to provide names, addresses, and phone numbers for quite a few references, like your boss, a family member, and a family friend or a neighbor. This is probably about the time you should mention to your friends/family that you’re doing this (NO, you should already be talking to them – they’re support is absolutely everything.)
  • Questionnaire: This is about the type of children you’re open to bringing into your home. (YES, you have a say so in your preferences.) This is pretty extensive and could potentially be overwhelming. It goes way further than gender, age, and race… it goes into great detail about mental disabilities, health concerns, etc. This is one of the big things where Kate and I had to sit down together and go through the list and talk through each set of circumstances. Age was easy, gender and race we didn’t have a preference. But there were certain things we had to talk through with mental health and physical disabilities – what we as a family had the ability to care for and what we had the time to be able to commit to. I wish we were the people that could just say, “oh yeah, give us anything – any age, any issue” but it’s not that simple, especially with us both working full time jobs outside of the home. When you get a placement call about a child, you have very limited time to make a decision – so having already had the hard conversations before the call both with your partnere and the agency will help the decision process go more smoothly.  On the other hand, this list will not always be referenced by everyone – you’ll still get the calls the agency has come across their desk, simply because everyone is a case by case basis and although you have the right to say no to any child, they will still ask you just to make sure your notes haven’t changed. When filling out these forms, you’re neither committing yourself to anything nor closing the door on anything – it just forces you, your spouse, and the caseworker to have this conversation and explore what you think you’d like to have vs what you’re willing to take.
  • Discipline Agreement: You cannot spank your foster child. Period.
  • Financial Statement: You’ll fill out all of your monthly expenses and income. Basically, the state wants to see the one number doesn’t exceed the other, so that you A) can pay your mortgage and B) aren’t in it for the money. Get ready to pull out some utility bills and check stubs to confirm your numbers. If you asked me the amount of our electric bill each month…. yeah, I have no clue. Maybe it’s $20, maybe it’s $200? Kate did this part of our paperwork.
  • Alternate Caregiver Forms: Who do you plan on leaving your foster children with when you go out for date night or while you’re working? Different states handle this differently but the state of Georgia’s rule basically states, “you can let anyone you would trust your own bio children with babysit your foster kids.” Grandparents want to keep them for the weekend? SURE, GO FOR IT! They just need to fill out this form and be able to pass a background check if it’s going to be an ongoing occurrence. 
  • Copies of Documents: You’ll need to get copies of your driver’s license, birth certificate, marriage license, home and auto insurance, etc. 
  • Background Questionnaire: This covers every intimate detail of your life past, present, and future – seriously. What was your childhood like? Did you have a good relationship with your parents? How were your disciplined? How many people did you date in college? What’s your relationship with your siblings like? How’s your sex life? How willing are your friends and family to help you with your foster children? What are your career aspirations? How many children do you want? Why don’t you have your own children? How do the children you do have feel about you adding foster children to your home? Time to flush your modesty, there’s no secrets – you’re about to lay out your life on paper.

Maybe you’re an open book who willingly enjoys talking about anything/everything in your life or maybe you’re a private person (like myself) who doesn’t typically choose to open up about any of the above topics – not to complete strangers anyways. Either way, this process can be uncomfortable.

Final Home Inspection (November)

TIP: Ask your case worker for a list of everything the DFCS workers will check for when they come to your home during “drop in visits.” The TREK caseworker gave us a checklist, and we went through the list until each thing was checked off and then wrote out next to it in our checklist where each item was stored within our home and stuck it in our binder (more on this specific binder in a few weeks – it’s a life saver!) so there would be no questions. This goes for things like first-aid-kit-examining, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire escape plans, emergency contact information, etc. 

Waiting….. and waiting…. and more waiting…. (November – December)

As much as any future foster parent may wish this part of the process away to just get on with the actual foster parenting, it’s the perfect introductory course into foster care. Maybe the discomfort prepares you for the trails of traumatized children and difficult social workers. Maybe the delays build the patience needed to await placements and court dates. Maybe the surrender of control prepares you for the challenges of parental visits and unanticipated changes – both last minute planned and cancelled. And maybe the sacrifice is meant to remind us of why we got into this journey called “foster care” to begin with.  

Tip: If you leave pestering, condescending messages for your social worker every day, the chances of this 5-7 month process becoming exactly 7 months to the day are 100%. If you leave the progress of your home study solely in the hands of your (well-intentioned, over-worked) social worker, the chances of this 5-7 month process becoming exactly 7 months to the day are 100%. We found a happy medium – be helpful, do what you need to do, and keep the social worker informed of the steps you’re taking in that direction without being overwhelming… IT IS DIFFICULT, YOU ARE EXCITED, BUT BE PATIENT.

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Extra, but very important side note: When you choose to get involved in foster care, well-intentioned workers, friends, and family will share horror stories with you. You must be prepared for the “worst,” but hopeful and prayerful for the “best.” There is, absolutely, sacrifice involved in foster care and, absolutely, risk involved in foster care. If you’re interested in an easy process of caring for or adopting a perfect little child, you may want to reconsider foster care (also, you may want to reconsider parenting, because spoiler alert: it’s all hard.) For every nightmare story you’ve heard, there is a miracle story to match it. I’ve watched children go into a home who, despite all they’ve been through, are sweet and easy and a joy to care for. I watched one of my best friend’s get the call for a baby who was “fast-tracked” to adoption not even 6 months after getting her license. These little stories don’t even address the little heart-miracles for those who experience those “worst” cases. Just be realistic about the risks while also remembering the miracles.

THIS IS US: This isn’t just a silly TV show.

This is going to be a quick one.

When every foster & adoptive mom in the country deems Tuesdays at 9 to be sacred. When we have a whole thread on the ‘Foster Mom Support Group’ Facebook page committed to talking about THIS television show. When my closest friends and I text through the episodes, and the messages aren’t just about the scenes on the screen but our own experiences with what we are going through RIGHT NOW and the comparisons of how we currently feel and how we will feel in a few months when these real life circumstances on this “ordinary television show” become our every day “normal.” This one is different.

This 24 year old has never fully understood all the chatter about “representation in media,” because this 24 year old girl is always somehow represented. But when I see this part of myself–the foster and adoptive parent part of myself that I rarely get to notice anywhere else–alive and on screen, I get it. It’s like an “aha moment,” like a light bulb finally clicks on and I get how powerful and moving and sweet and important it is to see your life mirrored before you. It’s all just so familiar, and it all strikes a chord way down deep.

I laugh just a little too hard when Randall laments that it’s been three whole weeks without a placement (especially when he faults “the blogs” for not fully preparing him. I apologize on behalf of us all, Randall) as I sit here and picking at my cuticles and constantly jotting things down that I could be and should be doing to prepare for our fast approaching home inspection. I cried way, waaaay too hard when ‘young Randall’ explains to his siblings that his craving for his birth parents is like a ringing in his ear and reassures them that it has nothing to do with them. And I run the full train of emotions… sadness/celebration/guilt/hope when he explains to his foster daughter that even though he didn’t know his birth parents, his life with his adoptive family was blessed and happy.

Seeing foster care and adoption on the screen like this is a gift to foster and adoptive families. But it’s not just a gift to those of us who are living it. It’s a gift to everyone else, too.

It’s a gift to the people who haven’t had the opportunity to see foster and adoption lived out in real life before. It’s a gift to the people who have questions about transracial families. It’s a gift to the people who’ve never considered adoption for their families. It’s a gift to the people who know that foster care exists but have never even considered that it had ANYTHING to do with them.

I remember two weeks ago, I cried watching the preview because “oh my gosh, they’re becoming foster parents” and I cried throughout the episode because “oh my gosh, that’s me!” But then I kept crying once the show was over (and again now) because of all the families whose hearts will open to foster care and adoption, and all of the children who will be brought into homes and families. All because of a silly TV show.

We’re Expecting: Falling in Love with the Journey.

It’s no secret, everyone knows (well everyone who will listen long enough for us to share) that we are getting ready to foster some little kiddos in the next few months. We have spent the last 6 months going through training, filling out tons of paperwork, and preparing our home to prepare for the child who instead of saying “our foster child” we call “little Travis.” I’m sure all of our friends/family who already know about “little Travis” are giggling right now – because it’s such a familiar, ongoing conversation. “Any more news about little Travis? When is little Travis coming? What do you guys have left to do to prepare for Travis? WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE CHILD’S NAME IS NOT TRAVIS?” As we went through IMPACT training, that was the #1 thing they stressed to everyone in our class (all 4 families) – talk to your friends, talk to your families, talk to your coworkers. This isn’t just effecting your household – it’ll effect everyone you come into contact with on a daily basis and it’s good to get everyone equally excited and involved. Believe me, WE ARE EXCITED.

 

I would be lying if I said we haven’t been on pins and needles the last couples of months, literally boiling over with excitement, anxiousness, so many different emotions spilling out. No, our situation isn’t “ideal” to a lot of people. In fact, at first with certain members of our family when we mentioned it they took a deep breath before asking questions because it is a frightening, nerve-wracking blessing.

 

Foster care is something that you HAVE TO go into with an open mind. An open mind for your placement, an open mind to the adjustments you’re willing to make in your life, and an open mind to the past your child will come from and possibly go back to. We have this same conversation weekly, both with one another and different family/friends – “What happens when you give a child all of these things and that child goes back?” You’re right, what happens? You can either give them everything in the entire world, dedicate your life and your love, give them all of these things they may never get to experience again.. you let them play softball, let them take that dance class, let them go to that festival, take them to white water and six flags, take them anywhere and everywhere a kid deserves to go to, let them be involved in EVERYTHING A CHILD DESERVES TO BE A PART OF or you couldn’t. You then take that from them just like people have their entire lives. My question is, “why wouldn’t you?” Because you don’t want them to feel a loss if/when they go back? How about let them feel the love, care, and have a wonderful life while they’re with you instead? How about make those memories with them while you can to make that extra impression and show them there is a life that’s worth striving for in the long run?

We have no stress when it comes to the unknown, but instead of the known, which is that when our call comes, life will completely change. Our hearts then go on the line, like clothes out to dry. While we wait for s/he/them to arrive, it seems like the laundry list of things I’m thinking of and going over in my head continue to grow.

 

5 Daily Thoughts That Go Through My Mind While We Wait

Visits. Will we have birth parent/family visits? If so, how often? Who will be there? What will they be like? Will I be okay with this?

The room. We have finally began getting the bedroom all set up – we are getting everything situated and I’m so excited to have my mind at ease as the project has come to a close. (FOR NOW!)

How will WE acclimate? How will OUR FAMILIES acclimate? How will LIFE acclimate? On the final home study questionnaire, they asked us how our families feel about us deciding to become foster parents – I think everyone is excited and WE are of course excited but there’s of course the nervous knit in the back of my mind as we tread into this unknown water.

When will s/he/they arrive? To say that I am no longer on pins and needles waiting for our call would be a lie, but I AM more at ease with it these days.. becoming more patient, or at least trying to be. But because I know the process is well on its way, I can’t help but think, “when?”

The long road to “Gotcha Day.” It’s a very, very long road. You know how sometimes you procrastinate even beginning a project because you know that once you start the end is still so very distant? Adopting from the foster care system has many parallels to that.

 

I imagine that before you give birth to a child you have your own laundry list of questions and stressers while you wait. I am not sure what your main ones are, but for me, I will say it’s absolutely all 5 mentioned above.

While we wait for s/he/them to arrive, though, I must do absolutely everything in my power to ensure the stress levels keep at bay. And I won’t lie, we have been doing an awesome job of staying in the present. It is so easy to look backward, then forward, sideways and then forward again. But all that causes is a dizzying effect, and so I am teaching myself to stay right here, in the now, for the present. And this is not just for me, but for Kate as well. We only have today, and today is perfect as is (even while playing this little waiting game.)

S/he/They are going to be here before we know it. Maybe you could help out while we wait with a little game? Are you up for the fun?! I have the same anticipation that any other mother has when she waits for her baby to arrive. If I had a belly bump right now, and the due date was approaching, people would start making their predictions about the arrival date. Our home inspection and paperwork should be sent off to the state by December 1st (hopefully!) So what do you think? What will be the date when we get our call?! I really love that you share this journey with us! And have I told you yet that I really love that you share this journey with us?!

PSA: I hate math but these are numbers worth looking at.

I despise math. My clearest (and most traumatic) memory of high school is my senior year sitting in the middle of geometry realizing “this is where it ends, this will be the reason I don’t graduate.” When it came to anything other than math I was fine, I could write papers for days and learn a study guide forwards, backwards, and upside down but when it came to math I struggled and miscalculated my way into failing nearly every test that was set in front of me outside of basic math that could be done with a calculator or counted up on my fingers. In a store, I can compute every item on the clearance rack in seconds. (I truly am smarter than a fifth grader.) But if you offered me a million dollars to calculate the number one million using trig or that-calculator-one, I would curl up on my bedroom floor and cry even now. (PSA.. I squeaked by geometry with a C and graduated high school.)

Here are some numbers that a simple mind like mine can’t grasp.

There are 153,000,000 orphans in the world, 18,000,000 who have lost both parents. (428,000 of those children are in the US foster care system at any given time – Over 670,000 went through the foster care system at SOME POINT in 2015… more than 12,000 of those were in Georgia.) Every day 5,769 children become orphans. Every year 14,500,000 children age out their country/state’s orphan care system. Of the 14,500,000 who age out, 4,200,000 of the young women will become prostitutes and 4,900,000 of the young men will end up in prison. 400,000,000 abandoned children live on their own. 1,200,000 children are trafficked each year globally.

If you read these numbers anything like the way I typed them, you just glossed over all the zeros and saw the precise number of “it’s a really big problem” and “that’s a really, really big number.” (Too many zeros?) These kinds of numbers are just too much to even process. These kinds of numbers are overwhelming, impenetrable.

American family units are equal to nearly all of the orphans in the entire world. American family units outnumber foster children 1,075 to 1 (298 to 1 in the state of Georgia.) Average Americans live on 70 times the amount of money the average orphan lives on. When you look at it like this, the numbers aren’t overwhelming in the least.  In fact, it’s almost shocking there’s a “crisis” at all.

I recently read an article about advocacy that recommended when you share stats you should “choose the smallest numbers.” No matter your math prowess, none of us do well absorbing all the zeros. We shouldn’t focus on the millions, we should focus on the “ones.”

So, you, one person reading this one article: There is one child lying in bed in your town who went to sleep without care, without protection. There is one couple in need of funds to bring their one child home through adoption. There is one single mother in a remote village, who is struggling to provide for her one child. There is one foster mom in your church needing prayer and encouragement and help. There is one child in an orphanage across the world who’s never known the love of a parent. We’re not talking numbers any more. Now we’re talking people.

For the vast number of needs that need to be filled, we each have our own numbers we bring to the table: the hours in our days, the beds in our homes, the dollars in our bank accounts. And most of all, the one number we all have: this one life given to each of us to live.

(All numbers are estimates, change on a second-by-second basis, and were pulled from UNICEF & UN reports.)

I took the one less traveled by & that made all the difference.

This post may be a little TMI for some, but I was asked to write about my story with infertility and #WhyAdopt a few months ago. This is your warning.

 I will never forget laying on the exam table of my OBGYN’s office doing a sonogram and the confused look on the tech’s face when she didn’t understand why she wasn’t seeing anything – anything meaning my uterus. I was 20 years old, and this was my second visit to the gynecologist to discuss “my lack of cycle.” At 16 I was told “well you just need to come in for your yearly visit once it comes, you’re just late – it happens sometimes and it’s nothing to worry about.” It was always the same thing.. talking to doctors who made assumptions about what the reasoning could be but never what it actually was. But right there on the exam table at 21 I watched the confusion on the tech’s face and then watched her proceed to call in another tech to “take a look” like I was some sort of animal at the zoo on display or like some sort of experiment she had in college – I was dumbfounded, I was angry, and more than anything…. I was confused. 

“I wish that when I had “sex ed” classes in school that they also covered just how common issues with fertility really are… maybe then I wouldn’t think of “infertility” as such a dirty and loaded word.”

 It wasn’t until the next week at my follow up appointment with the reproductive specialist that I got answers (as much as she could give me, because like the techs the week before, I was the first case she had seen.) She proceeded to tell me that I have MRKH, I won’t ever have my cycle, my uterus is deformed and nearly non-existent (it was originally under some other things in my abdomen and hard to locate,) and I will never be able to carry a child. It felt like I sat there in her office for over an hour, soaking it all in, crying because my life had forever changed. At 21 I didn’t WANT to be pregnant right at that very second, but I knew one day when I had settled down with the right person that it would be on my agenda but now it wasn’t even in the cards for me. 

Infertility is like a spectacular sport. I feel like I’m the only one sitting in the bleachers watching everyone play, and I’m unqualified to join the team. 

 That’s where the mourning started for me. After I found out I had MRKH, I faced depression for about a two years. One of the biggest issues, my sourest lemon has been infertility. No, it’s not life or death and to a lot of people it could often be “overlooked” not because it doesn’t directly affect them but because it’s not something you can visibly see in someone from the outside and that’s okay. Truly hard and devastating things don’t have to diminish another’s life, nor do they have to have any sort of reflection on it at all for it to be considered difficult. But for me, infertility was my most difficult. For a long time I battled infertility issues and my emotions with that… I didn’t want to be a mom “at that very second” but I knew eventually the crave would come, and when it did, it hurt ten times more than I could’ve ever imagined for it to have. Before that I felt if I wasn’t necessarily reminded of it as much then I could forget about it and it would go away. But don’t let me sugar coat it – I grieved. With every baby shower invitation I attended for a friend or a family member, and for every “Facebook announcement” it started over again – and believe me, you don’t know grief until you realize something is taken from you that you never got to experience in the first place. When there’s something you were born to be a part of that you can’t – there’s a brand new level of grief within that. 

It’s bittersweet, really. I would never wish for any person to experience loss, or infertility, or anything of the sort..but goodness, to be able to find and level with one another is really an incredible thing. I absolutely love all of the messages I have received previously in reference to adoption, fostering, infertility, etc. It’s the one thing that I will never get tired of talking about. I hate that it reminds me that there is this whole army of women out there walking around just like me..affected by the pregnant women we pass in the grocery store, affected by the baby clothes section of department stores,  the sound of any crying baby anywhere…the list goes on and on and on.
 
“I’ll switch your pregnancy pains in a heart beat. Yes, I would love to have your morning sickness, headaches, heart burn, joint pain, and constipation. Why? Because it’s part of the wonderful gift when you are growing a child.”

But finally, and yes I said FINALLY I have accepted the fact that I have MRKH and it’s not going to change.  To say it has gotten better would be an understatement – I’ve found my ways of dealing, I’ve come a long way, and for that I am SO thankful. Throughout the past two years, I have been thinking about it quite a bit and have decided that I’m going to embrace it. I’m no longer ashamed or embarrassed to tell people that I have MRKH because I was born with it, there’s nothing really I can do about it. This past year I have told more people, and more random people that I am not very close to, that I have MRKH. Most of the time people ask a couple of questions but never mention it again, either because of feeling awkward or forgetting. But I’ve decided I don’t want people to forget, I want people to remember MRKH and think “why does she have it?” and “what caused it?” and one day, I hope to know the answer. I’ve decided I want to bring awareness to MRKH and make it so young girls in the future will never feel the same way I did. One day I hope to work with Beautiful You MRKH Foundation and spread awareness so no girl with MRKH will ever feel alone again. And of course, in the meantime I am always an open advocate for the “foster to adoption” process. At the end of the day I hope that every woman, every family out there who wants to be a mother or father and is suffering with infertility, will explore all of the options and know that if you choose a different route, it is okay. 

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Sip & Share: Recommended Books

So.. I finished my 2017 Book Bucket List (Whoops!) But now I have something new to share..

These are my recommended books, and I could not be more excited to finally have an entire page devoted to this list.

I have read and continue to read countless books on all the topics which are near and dear to this blog: minimalist, relationships, wellness, motherhood, and adoption/fostering.

Here is the list, broken down by categories (as listed above)

 

Minimalist:

Packing Light

100 Simple Secrets of Happy People

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

 

Relationships: (Including Failing Ones!)

Wifey 101: Everything I Got Wrong

The Life I Live

 

Wellness: (Recipes, too!)

 A New Model

Fat Girl Walking

The Red Book

Strong Looks Better Naked

The Blender Girl (Yay Recipes!)

A Million Little Pieces 

 

Motherhood: (Also Foster/Adopt)

Bloom

With an Open Heart

Present Over Perfect (Yes, this has a faith angle with it)

The Lucky Few (Yes, this has a faith angle with it) (I even got Kate on board to read this one!)

 

I’m about to also start the Cathy Glass series – which I recently found on Amazon. It’s a foster mom who gives her REAL LIFE encounters through different children who’ve been through her home. They all look super good so I’ll let you know how that goes… here’s a couple of those if you want to check those out, too!

I Miss Mummy

Mummy Told Me Not To Tell

Can I Let You Go?

Another Forgotten Child

Why not Foster-to-Adopt?

“Foster care is so easy! They just, like, give you a free baby!”  I’m involved with this Facebook group that has different foster care parents in our area, and THAT LINE is one of our group’s running jokes. We’ve never once heard a foster parent allude to the ease of the process. It’s by far the hardest thing most of us have ever done. It’s true that it’s “free”—sort of. It’s definitely less out-of-pocket expense than other ways to adopt. However, the emotional, physical and spiritual cost is great. So why did we chose to get on this crazy roller coaster?

 

Let me start this off by saying that this is NOT to disregard the very real and legitimate things you need to consider before fostering or adopting; things like the health of your marriage, your pre-existing children, your finances and your own emotional capacity to bear the weight of broken stories and love the children who come from them. These must be taken into account when considering the best timing to foster or adopt. However, I find for most people it’s an issue of time, of busyness and of margin. “We want to foster or adopt,” many say, “but life is just so busy right now.” Again, sometimes this is valid, but sometimes it’s a smokescreen. I’m not one to tell you what it is for you right now – only you, through an honest examination of your own heart, can really determine that. However, I am suggesting you take the time to ask yourself the hard and pressing questions and consider that in the grand scheme of things, there’s never really a perfect time to foster or adopt; just a lot of opportunities to say yes despite the many reasons you may have to say no. I suppose faith, on some level, can be defined in that way – choosing to say yes despite all the no’s around you.

 

Allow me to encourage you – then challenge you.

First, the encouragement. Your life is probably crazy busy. But you are far more brave than you realize to say yes despite all the reasons you have to say no, and you are capable of handling far more than you could ever possibly imagine – even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. The good news is that although you cannot control everything in the foster care or adoption process, nor does anyone expect you to (although you’ll scream inside your head about all of the things that you wish you could) it’s more than okay that you can’t. Your success in this is not measured by your capacity to keep everything in order; it’s determined by your ability to trust that even in the chaos, that life is beautiful – and even in the mess, so is what you are doing by loving these kids the way that you are. You’re not expected to understand it all now; just trust in your faith and your family with the next step, and then the next, then the next…

Now, the challenge. Kids in crisis can’t afford to wait until it’s most convenient for you to care for them. They don’t have that luxury. They need you to stop rationalizing what you know you’re being called to do – and just do it. Your “no” is a lot more difficult on them than your “yes” will ever be on you. Perhaps these kids need your family as much as your family needs these kids. One is giving comfort and security for likely the first time in their life while the other is freed from comfort and security, and as a result, actually finds life. This is the point in which we find what life is all about – losing ourselves for the sake of someone else’s gain. Hard? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. What you stand to lose pales in comparison to what everyone, including yourself, stands to gain. There’s never really a perfect time to foster or adopt; just a lot of opportunities to say yes to losing yourself despite the many reasons you have to say no.

 

Now for the other side of the scale… As I mentioned earlier “Foster care is so easy!” Right?! When a friend suggested that I look into foster care several years ago when a lot of my health problems had finished surfacing and we realized that having a baby wasn’t in the cards, I’m almost positive I answered with what now is my least favorite comment ever. “Oh, I couldn’t possibly do foster care, I’d get too attached.” And being the gracious person she is, I’m sure she said something like, “Of course you would. That’s why you should do it.” Now every time I hear of this very conversation or something similar to, I just smile and shake my head because I remember, “hey that was me!” Looking back, I can only laugh at the conditions we had. Every single one of them has had a breakthrough.

Let me end with this: If you’re someone who keeps wondering about it, talking about it and praying about it then you’re probably someone that just needs to do it…and most likely somebody that would be great at it. And I understand this post may not be written to your particular circumstances right now. No book, blog or article ever can address the uniqueness of everyone’s situations. It is, however, written to those who are right now, or who have ever been guilty of, rationalizing, justifying and delaying obedience for the sake of their own personal comfort and convenience.

BIG THINGS are ahead.

It’s absolutely crazy to me how different things can feel for the same type of situation for what is considered to be a different life. It’s also crazy to me how sometimes “you just know” something is right for you and you follow your heart regardless of what else is to be said about it.

It has been an on-going discussion for months. A very cordial one at that. The conversations that we’ve been having lately are carbon copies of the many other discussions we have had on the subject up to this point but slowly but surely it’s all setting in to be our reality and life as we know it will soon be changing.

A few of you have heard from word of mouth – our closest friends, some of our family, as well as some other select few have already heard as well. We are about to embark on a new journey together, and I am about to step back into this whirlwind and roller-coaster that is the foster care system.

There will never be a right time for us to do this; there will always be a reason not to. There are kids out there that need us. The time is now.

I’ve said since the day everything changed for me that without a doubt I would foster again – that WE would eventually foster when “the time was right for us.” If it had been up to me (and it wasn’t) I would still be fostering today. And after many discussions, I mean many, many, MANY long discussions – we are more than ready to begin to prepare for this journey together, as well. We did NOT decide this overnight, in fact, most of our relationship has consisted of and even now still involves these conversations about our options and what’s the best path for us as a couple, as well as individuals.

It’s possible that the perfect season of life you are waiting on before fostering or adopting will never come. When will the crazy busy of life really slow down enough for you to then make it crazy and busy all over again by fostering? Have you considered that perhaps the parameters you have set to define when you’re “ready” may be too narrow? What if they leave no space for you to actually ever feel “ready?” What if you’re more ready now than you realize? It’s time for us to make a difference, to change a child’s life. Yes, there are risks and we are reminded of that every single day by different people who hear our story but it doesn’t change the fact that we are changing the life of a child (or eventually maybe even more than one child) who don’t have that chance to “make a decision for a risk.”

The truth is that not everyone is called to foster or adopt and if people are only hearing it’s about foster care, then those who aren’t able to foster but are still passionate about being involved will feel like there’s no place for them to really make an impact. Our message must be clear, broad and helpful – from the single college student, to the young family, to the “empty nester,” to the retiree – that we all don’t have to do the same thing, but we can all certainly do something. If it’s too narrow we effectively communicate that the majority of our people have no essential role to play in this, if any at all, which is certainly not the case.

Recently while I was working on my “pajama project” I had a chance to interact with and talk to one of those couples. The one who “can’t foster, but want to help” and she said to me, “We know what we can’t do, and we know what we can do, so we’re going to do what we can do well.” They told me that while they may not be in a position to bring a child into their home right now they can certainly do their best to bless those who are. I couldn’t agree more! While we are not all called to do the same thing, we are all certainly capable of doing something. Perhaps it could be said this way: You’re either called to bring children into your home or you’re capable of serving and supporting those who do – so find your “something!”

This is just the beginning, this isn’t about our process because our process is just now beginning – this is our introduction, our “welcome to our journey post” and there will be many more to come as our process continues to progress. I just wanted to clear some air and get the “he said, she said” out into the open because I know it has been circulating and I would much rather you hear it directly from us (me.)

There’s still a lot to come – we’ve officially submitted our applications as of last Thursday.

We’ve still got to complete the following…

  1. Background checks, finger prints, and “financial inspections” for our home. 
  2. Application process – to include any preferences in which we have and our reference checks.
  3. Our 1st Home Inspection – to be scheduled hopefully sometime this week.
  4. IMPACT TRAINING – IMPACT consists of twenty (20) one-hour modules covering the following broad topic areas: The Fostering/Adopting Process; Emotional/Cognitive and Behavioral Implications in Fostering/Adopting; Sexuality and Sexual Orientation; Communication and Partnership; and Identity and Cultural Issues. 

An environment where it’s understood that while we’re not all called to do the same thing, we’re all certainly capable of doing something. That’s the goal. Everyone. Doing. Something.