By: Deirdre Littlefield
Our youngest son is adopted from the foster care system. Everywhere we go, people comment on his demeanor, as he is the most animated, vivacious child you could meet. I love telling people the basics of his story to raise awareness for all of the children waiting for a home. People are always shocked that such an awesome child came from foster care, but I tell them there are many more just like him! Foster care should not describe the child; he did not do anything wrong to get there.
The first step is to call your local office and make an inquiry. They will send a worker to your home to check physical standards—space, safety precautions, etc. Then you and your partner will be put into a MAPP training class that usually goes once a week for ten weeks. This class is so enlightening whether you have parented before or not. Parenting a foster child is not the same as parenting your biological child but is just as rewarding. You will become very close to your classmates as you dig deeper into each other’s experiences. Your social worker will likely learn more about you than your best friend does, including your personal and medical history. She will then write a home study on you so that other workers can understand who you are in order to match the child properly. You have the opportunity to say exactly who would fit well into your home—age, sex, needs, etc. It’s very important in this process to be honest with your knowledge level and limitations. These workers are so picky with “their” children because nobody wants this match to be disrupted. I waited for about a year and felt thankful it wasn’t their policy to just place any child with me, but they were waiting for my perfect match. It really built a trust within me.
After you are placed, there will be a parade of people walking through your home—from court officers to social workers to early intervention workers and so on. It is an exciting but intimidating time. You have been trusted to take on somebody else’s child and keep them safe. There will likely be many doctor appointments as these children often come with higher than average medical needs. Visits with the biological family are mandated anywhere from a few times a week to monthly. They are safe at a supervision center or a local office. You may have the opportunity to meet the biological family or you can choose not to.
From there, everybody’s experience can be different. You can imagine with all the players involved that things can be unpredictable. It can be a very difficult time but also such an important process that somebody needs to take on.
There is support for each family from social workers, family liaisons (that’s me), and even other foster parents. We took our guy with a high legal risk. Policy states biological family first so we knew getting into this that their goal was to return him. It was scary, but I will tell you that I lived each day to the fullest because of this policy. I was afraid to get attached,but he needed attachment to thrive. I knew that whether I was his mother for a short time or forever I had to give him all I had. It was the most pure, unconditional love I have ever felt. The gift was mine.