foster parents

Waiting foster parents: Shed the expectations and consider kids from juvi

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Last month, we posted a few things foster parents waiting for their first placement should know. Here are a few more:

  1. Your child in foster care will need time to shed negative habits and adjust to your rules and expectations. Says Ami, a military foster parent, “I feel like it is easy to believe that the children who end up in your home can be “deprogrammed” in a short time, and then will live up to our expectations and meet our standards without difficulty. We adopted a boy at 16 and thought that, with love and kindness, he would be a thriving young man. We were very wrong. Love, to him, did not look like the love we wanted to give him. Responsibility, accountability, following and living by biblical standards—our son equated all this with mistreatment. He had lived on the streets of Memphis and did what he had to do to survive. His life involved   abuse and neglect, little supervision, and different standards when he was supervised. Drugs, sex, and gangs were all normal things for our son to take part in. Then he moves into our conservative home and we expect him to follow our rules and adapt to our way of living? That’s a fairy tale! Does this mean that we should not have adopted him? Of course not, but foster parents need to be aware that they will face real challenges that will require more than an extra dose of love. Today our son is 21, and he lives at home. He is a happy young man and we are so proud of him. I don’t regret one minute of having him in my life, but there have been many sleepless nights, many tears shed, and many days spent asking God what I was doing wrong.
  2. Kids that are coming from the juvenile justice system, while intimidating, can be the source of the greatest reward. Says Ami, “We love the older ones who have been in trouble. These kids are the ones that most people are “afraid” of, but if you get involved in the foster system because you want to make a difference in the lives of those who have been abused, abandoned, neglected, consider these kids. They look different, act different, and some are just downright mean, but for the most part this is where you will make an impact. Be prepared, be cautious, but be there. This is where the rubber meets the road, and you will possibly be the last stop for them before they’re emancipated. They need people who will not give up on them.”
  3. You will need a strong support system, specifically friends you feel comfortable asking to meet tangible needs. Says Sunita, who recently adopted a baby boy through foster care and whose story we shared last week, “Whether it is babysitting, bringing you a meal, or shopping for you, you will need extra help. Any time you bring a new child into your home, you have a lot of extra work, and there are many extra tasks that come with foster care that make a support system essential.
  4. The first few weeks are crazy! Says Sunita, “The nature of foster care is that you will have social workers in your home regularly, but the first few weeks are the most intense as the social workers have a lot of initial oversight responsibilities in getting a child settled. When you add doctors appointments, counseling, physical therapy, getting a child registered for WIC [government support for women, infants, and children], etc, it is overwhelming. But it gets better!

And a few web pages with great advice: My advice to foster parents, Foster care 101: Tips for successful foster parents, 6 foster care skills you need to know before being a foster parent, My tips for new foster parents

Foster care in the news

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This is a monthly roundup of news and blog posts about foster care and all things related. Come across an interesting article we missed? Email us: info@dc127.org

  1. Siblings in care should be kept together. Almost two-thirds of looked-after children with siblings also in the care system are separated from them.
  2. What it takes to be a foster parent. (video) Being a foster parent is a serious commitment. It’s something Isaac and Alisha Guadalupe know well. To date, they have fostered 11 babies.
  3. Shane’s story of aging out. (video) Shane tells his story with honesty and candor, reflecting on his experience as a foster child and the profound impact it has had on his life.
  4. Bennett Chapel–Saving Children. (video) Pastor William C. Martin and his wife Donna, of Bennett Chapel Baptist Church in Possum Trot, Texas, began by adopting several hard-to-place children from the foster care system. The Martins adopted more children, and members of their congregation followed their example.
  5. For years a father figure to many at-risk kids, Russ Sullivan now hopes to adopt 3 boys. Over the years, Russ Sullivan has been a guardian to nearly two dozen teenage boys. He is now taking on the task of raising three young boys whose mother died.
  6. Wanted (and needed): Home sweet home, at any age. As CCAI continues to celebrate National Foster Care Month and highlight the stories of older youth in foster care awaiting adoptive families, they are honored to share the story of one adoption professional who also bears the title of adoptive mom: Susan Stockham.
  7. Child welfare agencies offer targeted care to troubled kids. It used to happen dozens of times each year. A deeply troubled child would rage uncontrollably, and staff members would ride out the storm with holds and restraints.
  8. From hardship to hope. “Foster care is not fun for anyone,” says 24-year-old law student Amy Peters, who entered Nebraska’s foster care system at age 12 and remained until she “aged out” at 19.
  9. Three things you should know about foster parenting. We all know that the orphan crisis is a worldwide issue, but did you know that it is impacting children in your own community? The United States foster care system cares for thousands of children every year and as a result, the need for safe, loving, and supportive foster families is greater than ever. If you are considering the possibility of engaging this need through becoming a foster parent, here are a few things to consider:
  10. Famous foster children. Here is a sampling of people who were fostered or raised by someone other than their birth parents and grew up to be successful and famous.
  11. Giving boys a bigger emotional tool box. Is America’s dominant “man up” ethos a hypermasculine cultural construct, a tenet rooted in biological gender difference or something in between? Educator Ashanti Branch doesn’t much care or, more accurately, doesn’t have time to care. He’s too busy trying to make a difference in boys’ lives.
  12. 8 phrases foster and adopted children need to hear. Abandonment, rejection, hopelessness and helplessness are profound voices in the minds of children who’ve suffered trauma and loss. These are the echoes in their minds that form their identity. During the very critical years when a child should feel the most protected, loved and nurtured these children experience overwhelming loss and upheaval. Instability breeds uncertainty which develops into deep-seated anxiety and fear.
  13. Six things I’ve learned about adoption. While I certainly can’t give ‘advice’ as (or to) an adoptive mother, perhaps a few things I’ve learned can help others whose lives have been changed, blessed, and enriched in some way through adoption – or those who aren’t quite sure how to respond to a friend or family member who has chosen to adopt.
  14. Soup kitchens and word of mouth have brought Sharon Lockwood 37 godchildren. Her godchildren aren’t part of a formal mentoring program. They didn’t come to her through a church or a government mentoring group or a grant. But somehow, in a soup kitchen or because a friend of a friend introduced them, Lockwood forged deep relationships with more than three dozen kids, many of whom grew up in D.C. public housing.

  15. Orange is the new Black’s trailblazing portrayal of foster care. From “The Blind Side” to “White Oleander,” foster care has been grossly oversimplified in TV and movies, until now.
  16. HUD report explores options for youth aging out of foster care. Even though we’re all legally adults in this country at age 18, most Americans experience a longer transition into “practical adulthood” and economic independence. And for most of us that transition is supported, often financially, by our families. Many youth aging out of foster care, however, have no family support to rely on. For them, the transition to adulthood just happens overnight when they exit the foster care system, whether they’re ready or not.
  17. Monroe Martin: Finding the funny in foster care. Comedian Monroe Martin doesn’t shy away from any subject, which includes his childhood spent in foster care. Instead of dwelling on his past, however, Martin uses it, like everything else in his life, as material for his work.
  18. Donated cars put SC foster youth on the road to independence. Frazier is one of more than 70 foster youths in South Carolina who have received a free vehicle in the past four years through the On the Road Again program.
  19. Kids who age out of foster care need ongoing support, study says. Ivery Castilloux, 23, says he might have ended up living on the streets, or worse, had he not had support from Aunt Leah’s Link program that helps young people from foster homes land on their feet after they’ve ‘aged out’ of government care.
  20. Program helps L.A. foster youth become high school grads. Unlike most of her classmates, Alicia Rodriguez’ birth parents and siblings weren’t there to see her walk across the stage. Instead, her foster mother and sister were in the crowd, along with Aguayo and Hernandez, the Los Angeles County social worker and tutor who had helped her make it to graduation.

Rethinking Some Common Foster Care Concerns

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In May, we published a series of posts addressing concerns many people have as they consider becoming foster parents. You can read those posts here, here, and here. A few days ago, Jason Johnson wrote about this same topic for his blog, and he has graciously allowed us to repost it here. The concerns overlap, but we think anyone wondering about these issues will appreciate hearing answers from different perspectives. Thank you, Jason!

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone reading this post that foster care can be hard. No one ever said become foster parents, it’s super convenient and easy. Rather, the call to foster care is one which embraces the inherent inconveniences and inevitable difficulties as worth it for the sake of redeeming that which is broken and offering light into that which can be very, very dark. Foster care demands we advocate the cause of the helpless, seek justice for the defenseless and maintain the rights of the oppressed. No one ever said it would be easy, but as the Church we do believe it is worth it. This is nothing less than what Jesus has done for us. We, therefore, are compelled to do the same for them.

Here’s a few “concerns” about getting involved in the hard and difficult work of foster care I often hear expressed and some opportunities we have to “rethink” the way we address, understand and move beyond them.

1) I’m not sure I can really love a child knowing that I might have to let them go.
This is a very real and valid concern. On one hand I believe this hesitation is rooted in a good place – a place which says we REALLY do want to love these kids the way they deserve to be loved. On the other hand we must be willing to work our hearts beyond that concern into a place which says we REALLY do want to love these kids and we WILL for their sake no matter what. An inability to do so reveals a self-centered disposition within ourselves – one which is more concerned about what it will cost us to give love to a child rather than what it will cost a child to never receive love from us.

As my wife and I began the foster care process we had to make the decision that we would rather experience the pain of a very great loss if it meant the little girl in our home experienced the gain of a very great love – no matter how long she stayed with us. We would embrace the heartache of having to let her go if it meant she knew, if even for a short time, what it meant to truly be held onto.

Our call in foster care is not necessarily to get a child for our family – it is first and foremost the call to give our family for a child. A slightly different statement with significantly different implications. Our first responsibility is to give, not receive; to open our families to a child whose world would otherwise be closed off to the safety and security of knowing a nurturing and loving home. As we open our hearts we become more vulnerable and as we give of ourselves we become more invested – and this is exactlywhat that child needs from us no matter how long they stay with us.

By no means do I diminish the very real and raw stories of families who have loved someone else’s child as their own and after eight days or even 18 months been forced to let them go. I do, however, believe that in most if not all of those cases the stories could on some level all sound the same – It was devastating to lose them but worth it to have had the opportunity to love them. Hard? Yes. Worth it? No question.

2) I don’t want my life to be controlled by state regulations and policies. 
The temporary inconveniences and annoyances of a state-regulated system are the necessary means to providing a long-term and potentially eternal impact in the life of a child. In the end, we must maintain that giving our families, homes and hearts to a child is worth whatever complicated processes we have to endure in order to create space for that happen.

Let’s approach the child welfare system from a different angle and rethink our attitude and perspective towards it. In my idealistic opinion, the child welfare system in your state should not have to exist, or at a minimum should only have to function in a very limited capacity. It is the Church’s responsibility to protect vulnerable children and restore broken families, not the government’s. As we filled out stacks of paperwork and jumped through several bureaucratic hoops in order to become licensed foster parents I often found myself frustrated – not with the process but with the fact the process even had to exist in the first place. It was a constant reminder to me that the Church, myself included, has seriously dropped the ball on this issue.

So let’s stop shaking our fists at the inconveniences, regulations and bureaucracies involved in foster care – because remember, it is our failure to take responsibility that led to the need for those systems and processes to be established in the first place. Let’s accept responsibility for them and embrace them as necessary and worth it for the sake of helping kids. In so doing, the Church then begins to posture itself alongside and underneath the state system – demonstrating its heart to serve and support it, its willingness to reform it and its capacity to be a solution to the problem rather than a contributor to it.

In the end, a child being loved and cared for in a safe and secure environment is worth the hassle of installing extra smoke detectors in your home, filling out mounds of paperwork and arranging schedules around parent visits and court hearings. You weigh in balance any cost, stress, inconvenience, annoyance, struggle or frustration against the value of the life of a child and I guarantee you the child always win – every time. The child is always worth the process and more valuable than the costs.

3) I fear what bringing a child into our home may do to our biological children.
There’s mounds of research on birth order, social dynamics of interracial families and the potential effects of bringing children into your home who have come from hard places of trauma, abuse and neglect. All of these are very real issues that require great discernment, prayer and counsel in considering God’s call for you and your family and what your appropriate, obedient response should be.

However, even in all of those variables and factors to be considered, a prevailing opportunity we have – not only to change the life of a child that isn’t ours but also to change the lives the children who are – is significant and worthy of consideration. Our goal for our daughters in foster care was that they would feel the weight and magnitude of the situation but not grow to resent it. Our aim was that it would add to the fulness of their lives and not take away from it. On some level we wanted them to feel the difficulties, inconveniences and struggles involved in the process but also help them understand that for the sake of the little girl we had in our home, those things were all worth it.

In so doing we prayed that the young, limited worldviews of our own daughters would be enlightened and expanded through the presence of this new little girl in their home. We wanted her story to weigh on them – that they would realize while we all live in the same world, we all don’t necessarily come from the same “world”. Not everyone has beds like theirs or clothes like theirs or gets to eat food like they do. We wanted their little “worlds” to be shaken, not to destroy them but to drive them so that even at a young age they would begin to form an idea of what seeking justice, correcting oppression and giving of yourself for the sake of another looked like in real, tangible ways. God is beginning to form a heart in them towards these very things and we are eager to see how they manifest and express themselves as they get older.

Yes, bringing foster children into our homes will have an impact on our biological children – and perhaps that impact will express itself through a young mind enlightened, an impressionable heart changed and a life spent caring for the marginalized, neglected, abused and orphaned because that’s the legacy which has been passed down to them through the years. I do not negate the fact that there are some very difficult stories out there, but I never want us to lose sight of the fact that the next generation of seekers of justice and correctors of oppression live in our homes right now. Being a family which fosters care into the lives of other children can and will have eternally beneficial and consequential effects on our own.

© 2014, Jason Johnson. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.jasonjohnsonblog.com.

8 ways to prepare your children to welcome kids in foster care

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Are you considering becoming a foster parent? If you have children, you may wonder how you can best prepare them for the arrival of foster kids in their home.

  1. Discuss your intent to foster and your reasons for opening your home to children in need. When a mother is expecting another baby, both parents begin talking to their older child(ren) months before the due date, to prepare them for a sibling. Kids also deserve to know about children coming to your family through foster care, as far in advance as possible. And as you talk about your plans to foster, explain your reasons for doing so. Erin and Ryan Basch, parents of four children,  two biological and two through foster care, got involved with the system four years ago because of their faith. And they were intentional about explaining to their eldest, Emily, who is now 5, that they were taking in children because that is what Jesus called them to do. Erin admits that sometimes her daughter wonders aloud whether the family will foster forever, and then Erin acknowledges that indeed, loving children who have experienced trauma like those in foster care have is difficult, but she reiterates that Jesus loves these children and wants their family to open their home to them.
  2. Share some of what you’re learning through the training. Hours and hours of training is required to be approved as foster parents. Talk with your children about what you’re learning and encourage them to ask questions throughout the process.
  3. Explain that you won’t be able to give your child the same amount of attention as before. Any time a new child is added to the family—through fostering or birth or adoption—the other children won’t receive as much attention from their parents or relatives as they’ve been used to. But this can be especially true with children in foster care, who likely will need extra attention because of the difficult and sometimes traumatic experiences they’ve had, and because foster parents must take time to attend court hearings and meetings with caseworkers and birth parents. Time spent attending to the details of a case for a child in foster care is often time not spent with the other children in the home. Erin says that her preschooler struggled a bit sharing Mommy and Grandma. They’ve resolved that by designating special time with each parent, and arranging longer visits with Grandma.
  4. Encourage your children to share their feelings with you any time. Negative or positive,  feelings are important to let out in the open. Reassure your children that you welcome them to share those emotions. You’re there to help them process what they’re feeling, and you want them to undertand that anything they’re feeling is normal and not shameful.
  5. Talk about what your children’s relationship with a child in foster care will look like. A child coming from a traumatic situation might turn into a good friend, but he may not have the capacity for friendship at the beginning. Prepare your children to give the child space, both physically and conversationally. Children in foster care might not be comfortable with hugs, for example, or answering rapid-fire questions about where they come from. Also, teach your children the importance of confidentiality: even if the child does answer questions, that information stays in the foster home.
  6. Explain that discipline might look different for the children in foster care. Children coming into the home temporarily will be expected to follow the same rules, but because they may have suffered abuse in their past, they may not experience the same consequences for unacceptable behavior that your other children have come to expect. For example, you may spank your children for stealing, but foster parents are prohibited from using any punishment that involves physical discomfort.
  7. Talk about the kinds of situations that lead to children being removed from their families. When your kids start seeing children being brought to their home—and then removed again—they may fear the same thing will happen to them. Erin said her little girl expressed anxiety that someone would take her away. Erin and her husband explained to her that the children they were welcoming into their home had parents who weren’t able to be good mommies and daddies because they were making bad choices. But her Mommy and Daddy were able to care for her.
  8. Continually assess the needs of all the children in the home. If you have teenagers, for example, and they prove to warrant more of your attention at this difficult stage of their lives than you anticipated, you may be unable to provide the attention both they and high-needs children in foster care need and deserve at this time. Becoming foster parents might be an endeavor to pursue once you’ve helped your own children  conquer the challenging hurdle of adolescence.

The Internet has a wealth of information about preparing your kids for foster siblings. The tips in this post were compiled using the following sources: What to teach your child to prepare them for an adopted sibling; Preparing your children as you embark on the foster care journey; Preparing kids in your home for fostering

Other resources that might be helpful: Effect of foster care on birth children in the home; 6 foster care skills you need to know before becoming a foster parent; How does providing foster care affect children in your home?Brothers and Sisters in Adoption: Helping Children Navigate Relationships When New Kids Join the Family

4 things you can do to help foster and host families

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So many people want to help foster families but have no idea what is needed. If this describes you, read on. We have four ways you can support foster and host parents in your community.

  1. Set up a meal rota—and claim the first date! When a couple has a baby, what’s one way their closest friends bless them? By cooking meals! The last thing a new mommy and daddy want to think about when caring for their bundle of joy is feeding themselves a nutritious and delicious meal. Adults welcoming children in foster care are no different. No matter the age of the children coming into the home, foster parents experience similar discombobulation, stress, and excitement as parents bringing home their new infant. And they would appreciate dinners brought to their doorstep by their community just as much.
  2. Throw a baby/toddler/tween shower. All parents need clothes and toys for their kids, whether those children are coming into the home temporarily or for life. Many foster parents have either long since given away the clothing and toys of adult children or don’t have children of their own and are in need of the basics. But even parents with young children of their own still at home could do with new things to prepare for children in foster care. So just as you would for any friends expecting a baby, throw a shower for the friends who are anticipating their first placement! Find out what age child the foster parents have requested, and then gather friends and family to celebrate and provide needed gear.
  3. Scour yard sales. Are you a garage sale junkie? Do you look forward to weekends for the endless opportunities to find treasures among others’ junk? Indulge in your hobby and help a foster parent friend at the same time. Get a list of needs from your friend, and then get to rummaging. Regardless of their stockpile, foster families can always use more supplies. As in any family, stuff wears out and breaks. And if you find a stellar deal on something that would work for a toddler when your friend is currently parenting a teen? Consider snatching it up anyway. The need for foster families is so great, many end up parenting children outside of their specified age range.
  4. Become certified to babysit children in foster care. Foster families don’t have the luxury of recruiting the neighbor girl to watch the children that are in their home through foster care. Regulations vary by state, but many states require babysitters who care for these children in transition to have a background check and get fingerprinted. Therefore, foster couples have a much harder time going out for those precious date nights. Often they forgo the date nights and depend on other foster families for emergency child care. Tell your foster parent friends you want to give them a break, and they’ll let you know what you need to do to be cleared. Alternatively, you can contact your local Department of Social (or Human) Services for information.

These are just a few ways you can support a family caring for children through foster care. Have any other ideas? Let us know in the comments!

Concerns of potential foster parents addressed: Question 3

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Many people are curious about becoming foster parents, but they have concerns that make them hesitant to take the plunge. In this series, we will attempt to address a few of these concerns. Our social worker is Shelly Yost. Our foster parent for this question is Katie Ford. ICYMI, check out Question 1 and Question 2.

Q: What if I fall in love with the kids that come into my home through foster care—and then have to let them go?

Answer from a social worker: When I talk to parents about becoming foster families, this is the hardest part to talk about. This is the essence of foster care and why it takes a special family to commit to it: Families must love children like their own but be willing and able to give those kids back to God and their birth families when it is safe. Years ago, before the state had control of caring for vulnerable children, families would do it themselves. An aunt would take her nieces and nephews because their parents were unable to care for them.  The goal of our system today is to try to make those connections for kids that used to occur naturally.

Families that choose to foster must understand that they could end up as forever families but that the goal is for children to be reunified with their birth families. Also, a judge ultimately decides where a child will end up, and a family must accept that decision, even when they don’t agree with the standard the state sets, and even when they know they would be able to provide the child with more life experiences and opportunities.

Answer from a foster parent: The purpose of foster care is to provide a safe place for children while social workers help birth families reach a place where they can parent again. The whole idea is loving and letting go. I have to count the cost and ask, Lord, can I handle this. And if this is what I’m called to do, I will handle it.

I had my own epiphany about this idea of loving kids and letting them go years ago, when I was helping out with an outreach at a poor neighborhood. No one showed up, so I went out to find kids to bring them back. In my wanderings, I stumbled upon a little girl in her diaper, playing in a muddy planter. I asked the two little boys nearby if she was their sister, and they shook their heads and pointed out her house. Carrying the little girl, I knocked on the door, and her mom answered, apparently baffled that the little girl had found a way out of the house. I asked if I could take the little girl (who was named Star) to the outreach. Her mom insisted on doing Star’s hair first. I really wanted to take the girl right then, as I was worried the outreach had finally started. And I was a little miffed that the mom was more concerned with the girl’s hair than the fact that she’d been playing unsupervised. But mom was intent on plaiting the girl’s hair, so I went back to the meeting place to wait. I was singing songs and trying to praise God, but I was really upset. Here I was, a single woman who really wanted children and here was this woman with several kids who couldn’t be bothered to keep track of them. Then, while I was singing, the little girl walked up to me. Her mom had just dropped her off. I held her and continued singing with her, and asking the Lord why I couldn’t have several children, and I just sensed the Lord telling me: “Because if you had nine kids, you would not be with this one right now.” I felt so moved that God was watching that little moment. God impressed on me how important one little bit of time is, and that “the prayers of a righteous person avail much.”  My lack of parenting skills or experience was not important, and my love and desire to see little Star live a better life were not enough. My calling was to bring children into my home for however long they needed, pray for them, and then release them. And praying to a God who answers is what allows me to let them go.

If you truly don’t think you can handle releasing children back to their birth families when the time comes, you might want to consider adoption instead. Foster care isn’t right for everyone, and for those without other children, it can be particularly difficult.

Foster care: 5 ways to pray

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During Foster Care Awareness Month, we’re encouraging you to find your role in helping children in foster care. Some of you might decide to pursue training to become a foster parent. Some of you may check out one of the many mentoring programs in DC and invest in a child who needs an adult presence. And some of you may long to help but don’t have the capacity right now to be either a foster parent or a mentor. Your role (and everyone’s role) might be to pray.

The system is a complicated and messy one, but we serve a God that sees the inner-workings and knows each child in foster care. And so we pray. Pray because judges need your prayers as they adjudicate for the best interests of the child. Social workers need your prayers as they struggle to give each of their cases the attention they deserve despite being overwhelmed with work. Foster families need your prayers as they open their homes to children who may have experienced much trauma in their young lives. The church needs your prayers as it struggles to be a voice for those who aren’t being heard. Birth families need your prayers as they fight to rebuild their lives. And of course, the children in foster care need your prayers. They need to know they are not forgotten.

So take five minutes today and pray, for the kids, the foster families, the birth families, the system as a whole, and the church.

  • Pray for the kids in foster care. Pray that children will be placed in homes that are a good fit for them, and that their first foster home is their last foster home. Pray that sibling groups would be able to stay together. Pray that every child in foster care would understand that they are uniquely made by God, and that God cares for them. Pray that they will experience the unconditional love of a forever family, whether through reunification or adoption. Pray that they will heal from all past trauma. Pray that they will be able to form healthy attachments to their caregivers. Pray that they would be able to forgive those who have wounded them.
  • Pray for foster families. Pray that more singles and couples would become foster parents. Pray that current foster parents would have the resources they need to tackle the challenges they encounter. Pray that they would have support and understanding from their communities. Pray that they would not lose heart and that they would be diligent in seeking justice for the children in their care. Pray that they would have a positive relationship with the birth parents. Pray that these parents would be able to see these kids as they see their biological children—as gifts from God that deserve to be cared for in the best way possible. Pray that these parents would have the wisdom to discern when to say yes and when to say no to specific placements.
  • Pray for birth families. Pray for reunification. Pray that children in care would be able to return to their families quickly and grow up in a safe and supportive environment. Pray for parents struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. Pray that they would be able to complete their recovery programs and that reunification with their children would become a possibility. Pray that they would have a support network to help them make good decisions. And pray that families that are reunified will be strengthened and will remain intact.
  • Pray for the foster care system. Pray that all members of the foster care team will be able to make wise choices and act in the best interests of the children they’re representing. Pray that God’s hand guides the judges who have to make decisions regarding the termination of parental rights. Pray that social workers would experience joy in their work and that they would not grow weary in doing good. Pray that they would take their motivation from the gospel and its ability to do the impossible and transform lives.
  • Pray for the church. Pray that church leaders would engage in the child welfare system. Pray that they would speak to their congregations about the church’s responsibility to care for the orphan. And pray that they would be able to set an example, whether through becoming foster parents themselves or supporting those in their congregation that do. Pray that the Lord would reveal to each member of the church their role in helping children in foster care.

Prayer suggestions compiled from the following sources: 12 prayer requests for children in foster care, Praying for children in foster care, Prayers for foster care children, families, and more, and Foster care prayer guide.

 

Concerns of potential foster parents addressed: Question 2

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Many people are curious about becoming foster parents, but they have concerns that make them hesitant to take the plunge. In this series, we will attempt to address a few of these concerns. Our social worker is Shelly Yost. Our foster parent is Ami Smith. She and her husband are a military couple who foster hard-to-place children, such as teens about to age out and sibling groups. Check out the first question of the series here. 

Q: I already have younger children. Will bringing older children into my home cause difficulties for my little ones in terms of birth order?

Answer from a social worker: Most likely, yes. Typically, “messing up” birth order is not a good idea. Have people done it? Yes. Does it work out? Sometimes. If you currently have an “oldest child,” you can pretty easily understand why it could cause some disruption when he is suddenly not the oldest anymore. Many families choose to open their homes to children in foster care once their other children are older. Others take in only children who are younger than their littlest munchkin.

Answer from a foster parent: YES! I have experienced this and so have my children. However, the positive experiences that we as a foster family have encountered greatly outweigh the negative ones. The older children have a much easier time dealing with this type of thing than the little ones from my experience, and with the little ones, it just takes some patience, time, and lots of encouragement from mom and dad to help them through this challenge.

Alone time with each individual is a must in our home, so that relationships are nurtured. Specifically, girl time with mom, and boy time with dad has been a great tool that allows bonds to be made and relationships to grow. This way each person becomes secure in the family, no matter what their age may be.

We are dealing with this in our family now with my 2 and 4 year old. Our 4 year old was our first foster child, whom we have had the pleasure of adopting. We have since been blessed with a spirited 2 year old, that we now have legal custody of. The 4 year old is having a difficult time with the new addition, regressing with potty training and having temper tantrums and separation anxiety—all  the result of a birth order disturbance. But I don’t think it is any different than when a traditional family decides to have another child. It has taken about 8 months, but the problem seems to be diminishing now. Slowly. We offered lots encouragement and one-on-one time to each child, the 2 and 4 year old. We just try to remember to address things quickly, in love, not over react or over dramatize things too much, and laugh.  It is a challenge, but a blessing as well.

Concerns of potential foster parents addressed: Question 1

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Many people are curious about becoming foster parents, but they have concerns that make them hesitant to take the plunge. In this series, we will attempt to address a few of these concerns. Our social worker is Shelly Yost. Our foster parent is Ami Smith. She and her husband are a military couple who foster hard-to-place children, such as teens about to age out and sibling groups.

Q: What if children coming into my home through foster care harm my other children?

Answer from a social worker: This is a real and honest conversation every family needs to have about welcoming children into their home through foster care. Even children that come into foster care due to neglect often have experienced physical and even sexual abuse. With most children who come into foster care, we don’t know the whole story. Before you open your home to children in foster care, it is critical to have a conversation with your spouse—and perhaps even your children—and determine how you would respond if one of your biological children was harmed by a child in foster care. However, there are a few things you can do to prevent children in foster care from harming your other children—and still serve a child in need of a loving family:

  • Give each child his own room. This isn’t always possible, but when it is, it is a huge help.
  • Always properly supervise your children. If you do know ahead of a time that a child is a victim of abuse and is at risk for acting out, you might consider establishing a rule that two children playing together must be in a common area, such as a living room. This makes it easier for you to keep an eye on them and intervene if necessary.
  • Talk to your children about appropriate and inappropriate touch. Communicate openly with your children about their rights regarding their bodies and encourage them to tell you if anything happens that makes them uncomfortable or is painful.

Answer from a foster parent: We have a couple very strict guidelines that we will not budge on. (1) No sexual offenders of any kind or anyone accused of a sexual assault. And when we say “no sexual offenders,” we do not mean “no sexual issues.” Most of the teens that we have gotten to know and love through the system view sex as little more than a fist bump or just something people do, if not a tool used to get what they may want. So I kind of expect the kids we invite into our home to act out sexually or explore what they can and cannot get away with in our home. And that means that we have encountered many sexual issues. But we will not take in anyone who has been convicted of a sexual crime. (2) No kids convicted of violent crimes. Again, there is a difference in behavior that could be, and sometimes is, considered violent, such as fights, hitting, aggressive behavior toward others, and bullying. Most of these types of things we can and do deal with.

We make things very clear when a child comes into our home, what we expect of them, and one of those things is that we are all a family, and we treat each other accordingly. If one of my children were to be harmed by a child coming into our family through the foster system, we would handle it on a case by case level, depending upon the severity of the incident. We have had children get hit, bitten, and stolen from, and we have had some of our children through foster care fight among each other; however, I must say that we worked out these issues, and no one has ever had to leave our home because of violent behavior.

If one of my children felt that they were unsafe in any way, or if I saw any signs that there were safety concerns, we would put measures in place immediately to ensure every one’s safety, and we would contact the appropriate people to address the issue.

If you have any questions for us, or would like us to post a question and answer on the blog, email us at info@dc127.org.

 

Resources for prospective foster parents

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It’s National Foster Care Month! (See the Presidential Proclamation below). During the next few weeks, we’d like to offer some resources to assist you as you deliberate getting involved with foster care. A few of you will decide to become foster parents. While you can never be fully prepared for this challenging but rewarding calling, the links below will get you started as you embark on the adventure of opening your home to children in need.

Educate yourself:

  • Child welfare/foster care statistics. These resources provide state and national data on the number of children in the child welfare system, trends in foster care caseloads, and well-being outcomes. Learn about sources of data and statistics on children and families in the child welfare system and considerations for understanding the limitations and potential use of the available data.
  • FAQs about foster care. These questions cover the basics of how foster care works.
  • Foster care reading. This is a list of fiction and non-fiction books that will provide information about the foster care system.
  • Homestudy requirements for prospective foster parents. This product presents State laws and policies for licensing or approving family foster homes.

Prepare yourself:

  • Time for learning about foster care handbook. Being a foster parent means taking the hand of a child or adolescent and becoming a guide for a period of time during the child’s life. At the same time, foster parents have similar needs for stability, a way to handle intense emotions, and a method for organizing the world and anticipating events. This handbook is intended to be a guide to help meet those needs.
  • What kids want foster parents to know. In the writing contest in the last issue of Fostering Perspectives, children and youth in foster care were asked, “If you were a foster parent, what would you do to help the children living in your home?” These are their answers.

Let DC127 help:

  • Newsletter. Our goal is to unite DC churches around the foster care crisis and reverse it so families are waiting for children and all children available for adoption have a forever family. This newsletter is our way of keeping you informed about all the events around foster care happening in DC, organized by DC127 and other programs committed to the same goal.
  • Information Nights. We also offer regular foster care and adoption information evenings. Come learn more about the licensing process for foster care and adoption through foster care in Washington, DC. We’ll discuss the steps to getting licensed, agencies in DC, common fears, and the supports provided to make sure that you and the child succeed. Email us at info@dc127.org for more information, and the next date.

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Presidential Proclamation

Every child deserves to grow, learn, and dream in a supportive and loving environment. During National Foster Care Month, we recognize the almost 400,000 young people in foster care and the foster parents and dedicated professionals who are making a difference in their lives. We also rededicate ourselves to giving every child a sense of stability and a safe place to call home.

While the number of young people in foster care has fallen, those still there face many challenges, including finding mentors to guide their transition into adulthood and getting the support to make that transition a success. One third of foster children are teenagers, in danger of aging out of a system that failed to find them a permanent family.

Across our Nation, ordinary Americans are answering the call to open their hearts and homes to foster children. From social workers and teachers to family members and friends, countless individuals are doing their part to help these striving young people realize their full potential. My Administration remains committed to doing our part. This year, the Affordable Care Act will extend Medicaid coverage up to age 26 for children who have aged out of foster care, allowing them to more easily access quality, affordable health coverage. We are working to break down barriers so every qualified caregiver can become an adoptive or foster parent. Additionally, in the past year, we awarded grants to States, tribes, and local organizations to give communities new strategies to help foster children, including methods for finding permanent families, preventing long-term homelessness of young people aging out of foster care, and supporting their behavioral and mental health needs.

This month, and all year long, let us all recognize that each of us has a part to play in ensuring America’s foster children achieve their full potential. Together, we can reach the day where every child has a safe, loving, and permanent home.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2014 as National Foster Care Month. I call upon all Americans to observe this month by taking time to help youth in foster care and recognizing the commitment of all who touch their lives.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

BARACK OBAMA

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