Being a mom · Fostering · Parenting

Got questions?

I’ve been dying to blog more often but I haven’t quite figured out how to squeeze that into my  already busy schedule of work ‘stuff’, church ‘stuff’,  and all the ‘stuff’ involved in keeping a 1 yr old alive. Recently added to my to-do list has been ‘foster stuff’, which, for those who are curious, is one of those situations where you don’t quite know what you’re getting into, paperwork wise {actually in every aspect, but more on that later} until you are already in it.  “Oh, just fill out these 2 papers. Now these 3 and sign… now just 1 more but get it notarized”… (at this point you are certain you are nearing the end), then “ho hum, just this packet of 35 more documents. Plus your current physical, shot record,  fire evacuation plan,  car insurance,  dog vaccination records, photos of your house, your tax records, and your first born”. Just kidding about the first born, but everything else is accurate, if maybe a little exaggerated.

As many of you know, our family recently took in an itty bitty squish to foster.

squishy1

Ha, not really, but any time I hear that word I think of my Disney likeness, Dory.

This has been our first official foster placement since completing our training in July.  Many of our friends and family members have had a lot of questions about fostering in general, and more specifically our current fostering experience. I’m sure there are many more questions and comments you all have kept to yourselves or simply discussed with others. “oh my, Ethel, did you hear about the Bakers? Taking in that poor babe.  I’m sure he’s like a rabid squirrel (as all foster kiddos are). Where do they keep him? I hope he doesn’t bite Charlotte.” Ok, maybe none of you are having that exact conversation. We’re not even friends with Ethel anyway.

I digress. My hope is that this post will answer some of your questions; even those that few have been bold enough to ask, but many are wondering. Though I can’t share many details {in order to protect the privacy of everyone involved} I will share as much as possible.

One more piece of business. I just want to put it out there that Chris and I have the most awesome friends and family two people could ever hope for; actually that can be extended to friends of friends and family. .. or friends of friends of family… I’ll stop there,  but you get my point. We have felt the utmost of support and love from everyone and our journey has truly been a team effort (as I think God intends it to be). Thank you to all those who have provided formula, diapers, itty bitty clothes, and meals, washed our dishes, folded our laundry, snuggled our babies, and just provided kind words and loving texts. Y’all are awesome.

Now for the question and answer portion of this post:

1. Why foster and/or adopt?

Many people have different reasons, but take a gander at this post for our perspective.

2. Aren’t you glad you got a little kid?

Well, yes. Since I don’t know where a big kid would sleep. Once you become a fostering approved home, your name is not thrown into a hat to possibly be chosen each time a child (any age) comes into care, like a game of roulette.  A 12 year old carrying their life’s possessions in a bandana tied to the end of a pole, slung over their shoulder will not randomly ring your doorbell saying ‘hi, the city of Virginia Beach sent me over, where’s your food?’  A huge part of the application process is interviews with your caseworker about what ‘type’ of children you are willing and able to handle – age, gender, emotional/physical/psychological needs. Chris and I prayed at length regarding this and decided that we would accept ages 0-3, any sex. These parameters will most likely change as our family changes. Also, it IS possible to say ‘no’ to a placement; probably difficult {emotionally}, but possible if that is not what is best for all parties involved. Social services is not in the business of removing kiddos from their families at a whim or placing them in a foster home willy-nilly. Ideally, the caseworkers are familiar with which foster families are available to take placements and which ones would be best for that child. The goal is assistance to families, protection of families,  and protection of children.

3. How long will your current kiddo stay?

The short answer (actually, non-answer) is that “we will have him ’til we don’t”. I said earlier that fostering is one of those things that you don’t know what you are into until you are into it; this is the biggest area where that applies. There are so many factors and people involved. Each case is truly unique and there’s no way to predict It is truly a process… and a slow one at that. Patience and flexibility are the name of the game. Each hearing is an opportunity for a judge to determine what is best for this little life at this time. During any one of these hearings a judge could decide for Squishy to go with a suitable relative, back with his parents, or stay with us.

4. How is Charlotte doing?

As good as any firstborn is when another baby is added to the mix. Currently,  the combination of being one, sharing attention,  and 3 angry twelve-month molars popping through have brought her to tears about once every hour of every day. All other moments, though,  she is her happy, giggly self.  Another plus, she is able to communicate her basic needs so I am able to figure out more quickly what it is that is making her wilt into a little puddle of emotion. We play the question game “do you want a drink? do you want to eat? Do you want up? Do you want help (getting your hand unstuck from that Little People car)? “Yeah”. Awesome, mommy can help; your life is not over.

5. Why would a parent give their child up into foster care? And why wouldn’t they just give them up for adoption?

Foster care is a system that has been put into place to preserve families. This means the end goal is to keep families together. Sometimes, though, children must be removed from their home {whatever ‘home’ is for them} by child protective services because of a concern for safety or abuse, neglect {many different forms: emotional, physical, etc}. In these situations the parents are not voluntarily letting their children to go {as in adoption}; they are removed from the parents for the good of the child. Each case is different, but goals are then set for the birth parents to complete within a certain amount of time.  The goals vary, depending on the reasons for CPS involvement in the first place {parent education classes, substance abuse counseling, etc}. An investigation is also conducted to determine what, if any neglect/abuse, occured. I’m not sure of the entire process, this being our first kiddo and all. Basically, our job as foster parents is to provide a safe, loving environment for a kiddo whose parents are not able to provide that for him right then. He is not our child, but we will treat him like one of ours because that is what he deserves. His parents named him, love him, and presumably want him back in their lives. We will help keep him safe while they are given time to work things out.

6. Why don’t you adopt him?
At this point,  he is not available for adoption. The ultimate goal of foster care is to preserve a family. If, in the future, a judge decides to terminate parental rights {meaning his parents have not taken/ or were not able to take the steps needed to improve their situation enough to gain their child back}, and a suitable family member/relative has not been identified to care for him {kinship care}, then the possibility of adoption will be on the table for us to consider.

7. Does he have any issues?
This one always makes me laugh. The short answer is yes. He has issues, I have issues… we all have issues. Ha, that’s why we need God! Does he have any delays or disabilities? None that can be detected at this age, time will tell. One important thing to note is that there are different  levels of foster parenting. In order to care for children with disabilities {previously known at the time of placement}, you must become a therapeutic foster parent and complete additional training. If you do not believe you are able to take on a child with a disability, then that is not a placement a social worker would give you because that would not be in the best interest of the child.

8. What if you get another foster kiddo while you have this one?

That would ultimately be up to Chris and I. At this time… heck no. This mama can only handle 2 babies under 13 months at  time. I can’t fathom how those parents with multiples do it. Go team Baker! Our friends and family have also been ridiculously helpful with everything, as mentioned above. Yup, y’all are still awesome.

9. How can you afford it?

Well, as with the addition of any child there are costs. We were definitely not prepared for this  addition because it was so sudden – a human who doesn’t eat real food or use a potty costs significantly more right off the bat. Our squishy came with 1 article of clothing and whatever diapers we snagged from his hospital bassinet. We were given a purchase order for clothing and more diapers. Unfortunately, the store I had to use the PO in had very limited stock in the way of newborn sized clothing. like none. I ended up using the PO to buy mostly 18-24 month sizes, which will come in handy in 2 years for whoever is in charge of dressing him at that time. These clothes will go with him even if he leaves our care. He {and we} will also benefit from WIC, which will provide about half of the formula he needs each month. Chris and I will also receive a small amount of money from social services each month to help with anything else he may need during his stay {like covering the cost of formula that isn’t supplemented by WIC}. Let me put it in perspective for those who think that some people just foster as a source of income;  we will receive less in one month than I make in one day at work {so going the ‘sleepless nights and spit-up’ route to get rich quick won’t work…. but the non-monetary benefits certainly exist and are abundant}.

10. Where do they sleep?

Each situation is different. There are certain guidelines to follow as far as sleeping arrangements; the space in your home and the number of kiddos currently living in the home are all factors to take into consideration. Typically, same genders may bunk together, but it all depends on the needs of the child. Our squish is in a pack and play in our room, just like we would have any other newborn. At this time, I’m not sure what we will do if he is here long-term. We currently have 3 bedrooms: the master, Charlotte’s room, and the office/craft/sewing/junk room. I am considering moving our ‘office’ down stairs to clear up some space, but there is still just too much ‘craftiness’ going on in there to completely dissolve that whole room. Definitely a third world problem, I know. And so far down the road I shouldn’t even be thinking of it. bad Ashley.

11. What do they come with?

Each situation is different. I feel like a broken record saying that, ha. Sometimes they come with clothes, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they come with toys and possessions. Sometimes they don’t. Our squish came with nothing because he was so new to the world he hadn’t had time to accrue any possessions. Fortunately, we were somewhat prepared because our own babe only recently graduated from baby-hood to toddler-hood. We had to provide the carseat, crib, swings, pacifiers… all the usual baby stuff. Our friends and family have been rockstars and have provided a variety of boy clothing {poor babe would have been sporting pinkalicious garb} as well as donated tons of formula to get us through the first few weeks before WIC kicks in and some of his money comes in. Also, each kiddo comes with a name. Many people have asked if we named him, I think because he is a fresh baby. Most of the time, the birth parents are not voluntarily relinquishing their children to CPS, in comparison with adoption in which a mother may know that she will give her baby to someone else, and the adoptive parents may name the child? I’m not exactly sure, but all foster kiddos come with names. And history.

12. Where do they go during the day?

It is in the best interest of the child to continue in daily routines; if they were in school before being removed from their home, they will continued to attend the same school/daycare, etc. Otherwise, they go where you go. Church, vacations, family outings… you are loving them and treating them as your own child. Now, there are times when all parents need to get away, sans-children. Chris and I had planned a weekend camping trip for our anniversary last weekend. You never know when you may get a call, so you just have to be flexible {i’m laughing out loud right now as I type that. Me? Flexible?}. We had already planned for Charlotte to go to my parent’s house, but I was worried about what we would do with Squishy. You can’t just send a foster kiddo to anyone’s home. They must be another foster family, or at least have had a background check and approved by the caseworker {for shorter term babysitting}. Squish ended up staying with our friends who are also foster parents. It was such a relief to have him stay with someone familiar. If we didn’t have the Caton’s to take him, another foster family would have been asked to care for him while we were away… but there’s no way I would have been able to enjoy my time away. I would have been worrying about him too much, being so fresh and all.

13. Did you get a maternity leave? Why are you back at work?

I am so very fortunate enough to have an amazing job and a very understanding boss. I currently only work 2 days  week in a per-diem position, meaning no paid time-off and no benefits {so no maternity leave}. Financially, I was only able to take one week off work to snuggle and bond with baby {and my 13 month baby, too} – we just couldn’t handle me missing more than one week’s pay. When I am at work, Charlotte is at her Aunt Mel’s and Squishy is with another foster family {though this arrangement is temporary and I am currently searching for another licensed daycare provider for him, preferably in-home. So hit a mama up if you know of any}.

14. Won’t it be hard when he leaves?

yes. it will be hard. on all of us. there’s no way a little life can be a part of our family {for even one day} and not steal our hearts. but i’m ok with that. If squishy needs love, bonding, and a safe home then we will do anything we can to make that happen. I don’t believe a life lived solely for myself is the life God has intended for me, or my family… or anyone else.

15. Is it hard?

yes. and no. For me, the difficult aspects are:

  •       not being able to discuss details, post details about or post pictures of our Squish. It’s for his own protection and privacy, but SO difficult for me to control myself. I am, after all, a mom paparazzi.  There’s a small part of me that is worried his little newborn brain is sensing that there are 10 billion photos of Charlotte posted and zero of him. Of course, that’s crazy talk. His newborn brain processes eat + sleep + poop right now. However, I have been diligently taking pictures of him and recording important milestones,  just as I would for my own baby ,and saving them for his scrapbook. Those memories are important. For whomever he will spend forever with, and most importantly for him when he grows older. I haven’t been able to help myself completely refrain from posting a few snapshots of him, but have been very careful to not show anything identifying.

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  • Not knowing when you will be called to take a foster child, and then how long they will stay with you. Sometimes a case worker knows in advance that they will most likely be removing children on a certain day. Other times an emergency removal is done. In that instance you may be called in the morning and have a kiddo/kiddos in your home within a few hours {or sooner, as ours was. We had a squish in our home 4 hours after getting a call}. The length of time depends on the circumstances surrounding the removal and the needs of the child, birth parents, and other family members.
  • The addition of another life into anyone’s home adds some strain. Less sleep, less space, less time. It’s easy to feel run-down. It’s easy to lose patience with your hubby or wife. Most people won’t be able to simply take in another human and continue on with life as they know it. Things have to change. Your schedule will change, your free time will change. I have not been on top of laundry for a month {there has always been a load in the washer or dryer}, I have only been in my craft room one time in the past month, I am not able to take Charlotte to her Little Gym classes as often as I would like, my commute to and from work is now an hour, I have had to miss out on activities that were previously planned or modify the way I participate in them {yesterday some friends and I were scheduled to volunteer at a thrift store to benefit an important family program in our community…. I still participated, but with Squish strapped to me in a wrap}, etc.
  • Being compassionate.  I will be the first to say, it is easy to love a baby. If I’m being totally honest, which I am… because this is my blog, then I can honestly say it’s not easy to love the parents who may have jeopardized their baby’s well being. However, I am trying my hardest to be nonjudgmental.

I don’t want to continue on and on because that would be boring, and I also don’t want to focus on these aspects of foster care, because “this too shall pass”. The sleepless nights will not last forever, but time we are investing in this little life will be lasting, and that should be the focus. Please feel free to message me any further questions you have regarding foster care.

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