Most of us immediately have some of sort of feelings when we hear those two words. The negative stereotype that comes with foster care is something I would love to try and change. While I wish foster care was something that wasn’t even a thing, we unfortunately have so many kids in the foster care system all over the US and we have a huge need for foster parents in our local NWO community.
My husband and I were foster parents for just over 4 years. And while we just recently decided to stop until our daughter is older, I am thankful our experience and the way it helped us to learn and grow and to have so much love for so many new people in our lives. Whether we get so see them or not. Our first foster daughter was with us just under 24 hours, our second foster daughter was with us just over a year, our third foster daughter was with us almost about 18 months. Our last foster daughter we adopted last year! We loved all of them as our very own and still do. We have so much love for them and their families. While all of their situations were different, we tried our very best to let their families know we were there, not only for their precious babes, but also for them. It doesn’t always go over well. Again, the stigma of foster care is not great. But I am so passionate about foster parents being a good support system to the biological families.
The most common thing foster parents hear is “Oh. My. Gosh. I could never foster; I would never be able to say goodbye!” This is such an offensive thing to say to a foster parent. Does it hurt to say goodbye? YES. More than you can even fathom! And as crazy as it sounds, that’s how it’s supposed to be. Is the system broken? Yes. incredibly! But our community needs people who are open, accepting, loving, and willing to put in hard work for the kids that come into care, and wrap their arms and hearts around the biological families and help to reunify them.
We have learned so much about trauma and the importance of children being with their biological families and have so much respect for that. While adoption is possible through foster care, reunification is almost always going to be the first goal. My biggest advice to potential new foster parents is to really immerse yourself in learning about trauma. Whether it’s a newborn being separated from their mother or a sibling group of seven being moved to a new home, there is trauma. There is so much love, compassion and understanding that goes into being foster parents. You really have to understand the complexities as best you can about things we may not be familiar with. We as foster parents need to be a safe place for these innocent children to land. To help get them the resources needed, process what they are going through, advocate like heck for them, and love them through the good, the bad and the ugly.
I know for Lucas County (and I’m sure every county) there is a huge need for homes that are able to keep larger sibling groups together. There are so many options for foster parents. Maybe you’re a nurse and have the ability to care for medically fragile kids. You love working with teens. Maybe you may want to adopt, or you know you strictly want to foster and adoption isn’t even on the table for you. There are so many possibilities to help kids! I strongly urge you that if you’ve ever thought about fostering to look into it. I know there are some private fostering agencies but we fostered through Lucas County Children Services. They have a few Q&A meetings you can attend, and offer foster parent classes pretty often.
As a foster parent you are able to decide the ages and number of kids you bring into your home. When you go through the classes required to become a licensed foster parent, they will help talk you through all the ins and outs of what that looks like. You should know there is a lot of paperwork, requirements and caseworkers in and out of your home but it’s truly what is best for the kids, knowing that our most vulnerable kids are in safe homes.
Remember, kids are in foster care because their family is struggling, NOT because there is anything wrong with them. We have so many kids and families in our community that need love and grace and help. If you don’t want to foster but would be interested in helping. Consider becoming a background checked “back up” for a foster parent friend.
The LCCS Hotline # 419-213-3336 for more information.
Author: Ashley Schmalzried