7 Lessons From Foster Care

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about our foster care journey, so I’ll give you a quick update. Here are seven lessons from my first seven months as a foster mom.

Photo Aug 30, 7 36 34 AM

1. Foster kids can become family, even when they aren’t legally yours. Zoe has been with us over seven months and feels very much like family. She rummages in the frig, does chores, argues with her foster siblings, leaves her clothes on the floor, and calls me “mom” on occasion.

2. Just when the plan seems to be on course, everything can change.  It looked like she would be going home for a 30 day stay (I don’t even know the right words yet) after court in January, but that didn’t happen. The next permanency hearing is in March. She and her siblings have now been in care nearly 16 months.

3. Interacting with family is important. Yesterday we took Zoe to Spokane to see her grandmother in the hospital. They haven’t seen each other since she entered care, which is a long time considering they’re used to living in the same tiny town and seeing each other nearly every day. Her grandfather, aunt, and two cousins were visiting too so it was a mini reunion. Of course, sometimes a child’s family of origin is unsafe and this isn’t an option.

4. I’m my foster child’s advocate, and sometimes it’s frustrating. One of my frustrations is the amount of school Zoe misses due to the demands of foster care. Foster kids have many appointments based on adults’ schedules, and very little control over their own lives. We foster parents talk about how frustrating these appointments are for us, but imagine how hard it is for a teen who falls behind in school and then misses sports practices to stay after school trying to make up missed assignments and quizzes.

5. I’m learning technical aspects of foster care. For instance, if a child is in your home six months and one day of the year, you can claim them on your taxes. Nobody officially tells you these things – I think my resource peer mentor told me when I was asking about something else.

6. There are so many joys. Zoe got her first college letter and was completely stunned. She’s never thought about going to college, but her name was on a list from a Christian youth conference she attended and that first letter came. We took a picture. As a foster child, there are financial benefits and supports available if she chooses to go to college.

7. Foster care involves a lot of waiting.  Zoe waits, we wait, her family waits. There is a lot of powerlessness felt on all sides, most importantly, on Zoe’s. She has very little voice in her life and it’s easy to see the frustration that brings. There are questions I can’t answer, permissions I can’t grant, information I can’t give because I simply don’t have it. We wait for phone calls to be returned, court dates, paperwork, family visits, and more. While we wait, her family is also waiting for many of the same things.

Question: Are you a foster parent? Can you share a tip with me? I’m wide open for advice.

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

7 Comments

  1. Johanna
    January 16, 2017

    I had no idea about the claiming them on your taxes thing! :O I guess I better look into that. I agree with everything you said – it’s a frustrating and joyful thing to be a foster parent. The other tip I have is to know when to say no and then do it. There have been times I’ve just had to put my foot down for our kids’ sakes and our sanity: No, I won’t ruin their naps every day of the week for visits, let’s find a better time. No, I cannot drive over an hour one way twice a week for that appt., but I can do it once a week or once every other week. Social workers will usually help find a way to make it work.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 16, 2017

      I’m learning that too – we had court scheduled for last Thursday. The weather has been terrible, tons of snow and icy roads. It’s our foster daughter’s right to attend court, and I think she should be there, but it is two hours away and was scheduled for 10:00 am before roads might be completely cleared or the sun might possibly shine on them. I agonized over it but knew I didn’t feel safe driving her. I finally emailed her social worker two days prior to court letting him know I couldn’t drive her in case he wanted to find someone else to take her or her attorney wanted to speak with her. I just couldn’t do it on our rural, mountainous highways. I felt tremendous relief after making that decision, and as it turns out, it sounds like quite a few people didn’t make it to court.

      Reply
  2. Shari McMinn
    January 16, 2017

    Great to read this. It helps me know how to minister to my friends who foster.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 16, 2017

      Thank you, Shari.

      Reply
  3. Amanda
    January 17, 2017

    All the responsibility and no authority is tricky for a foster parent for sure. I’m learning to say no on behalf of our foster kids and also keep boundaries in place for birth parents. I’ve tried to embrace the birth families, but for my sanity and the kids safety and peace we are putting some distance right now.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 17, 2017

      Amanda, good thoughts on balance; it’s the only we can be advocates for our kids and ourselves.

      Reply
  4. Sarah
    February 22, 2017

    I am a foster parent, and we recently had the first day of school for one of our foster children. She’s been with us since birth, and is now attending the same school as our biological children. This is my world, my kids’ world, and I was so tempted to buck against the idea of her birth family entering ‘my world’. We see them regularly, but they have not seen our life really at all outside of visits. But given that they are safe (and this is of course key), they needed, from all perspectives, to be there. I didn’t know how I would cope, as I was scared of only feeling the intrusion that my emotions wanted to run with, but as I stood there watching the beauty of the morning melt away the awkwardness that could have been, I was overwhelmed to see all the hard and beautiful come together into one room because we all love this girl. And I felt only thankfulness to be a witness to it. To be a part of watching the birth parents and grandparents see her life and be happy for her. Including them only added to our relationship, it didn’t intrude on anything. It’s just one story, but it’s a lesson I hope to remember.

    Reply

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