Melissa and I tossed around the idea of adoption throughout the early years of our marriage. It was not until our second biological child was four years old that the discussions really took root. We started investigating the idea further and decided to attend an informational session about adoption. The meeting was a combined foster care and adoption meeting. Until this meeting, we had never considered foster care.
After poring over the information, and much prayerful consideration, we decided to forge ahead with both foster care and adoption home studies. If we were going to go through the hassle of all the paperwork, why not do both at the same time? Long story short, we received approval for both. Everyone who has been through the process knows just how long that story is. Now that the licensing was taken care of, it was time to meet the real challenge: parenting children with unknown histories.
We decided to work with an agency call PATH. PATH is a fantastic organization that works with kids requiring a higher level of care than the standard county social services. PATH’s philosophy is to work closely with foster families and determine which children will be the best fit for them. With children of our own in the house it was important for us to know, in advance, what child and behaviors we would be inviting into our lives. We wanted to make sure our kids would find the experience positive and rewarding.
The other wonderful thing about PATH is the variety of programs available. It seems they have a program to fit your needs, no matter what they are. We worked with a couple different programs during our first stint with them. We took in several full-time “traditional” foster kids, but we also worked in a program similar to “Big Brother, Big Sister.” This program allowed us to spend a few evenings a month with a child helping them work on some designated life skills, while they still lived with their parents. Each program had its specific challenges and rewards.
After a little over a year with PATH, we were ready to move on the adoption portion of our plan. After all, our adoption home study was only valid for two years and we wanted to expand our family before time was up. We hoped to adopt a young child. We had seen the effects of altering birth order dynamics with some of our previous foster children, and did not want to deal with those issues permanently. As a result, we decided to relicense for foster care through our local county. In our area, county homes tend to see more children in the age range we were looking for. Once our licensing was complete, we jumped in with both feet.
After only a short while with the county, we started doing emergency foster placements. These were both exciting and stressful. Getting a call at all hours of the day or night to pick up a child or sibling group always kept us on our toes. In fact, we were getting calls and kids so frequently that the local secondhand children’s stores began to recognize us from our multiple trips through their doors.
While many county licensed foster families do not go the route of emergency placements, we felt it was the correct niche for ours. It was a wonderful program and we were fortunate enough to know and care for numerous children along the way. We saw several successful reunifications with parents and kinship placements with extended family members during this time. We cared for lots of kids. Some were very hard to say goodbye to.
One of our foster matches during this time was a 14-month old little girl. She was a precocious little child who made us smile and warmed our hearts. When we learned there were no family options for her permanent placement, we immediately proceeded with adoptive paperwork.
The addition to our family of daughter number three brought a new level of needs for our family. We found that full-time foster care was too much for our new family of five. Our newest family member struggled with the constant turnover of kids. It was causing a lot of confusion and stress for her. We decided that the nature of PATH foster care would better suit us again.
The ability to work closer with a social worker, who understands our family dynamics, was something that we needed. We wanted to have the ability to make sure whatever foster kids we worked with would fit well with our family. We decided this time around with PATH that we would focus more on the part time, “Big Brother, Big Sister” style program. We have filled in on a couple other programs during the past few years but our focus has been working with kids to keep them with their birth families. It has been challenging and rewarding for everyone involved. We have seen several foster children grow and improve. We have observed the same changes in all the members of our family as well.
We did not know what to expect when we began this journey, but we knew we wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of children. So far, we have seen those changes in many of the kids we have worked with. We have also seen our own three children blossom into more understanding and caring people. Not only have we been blessed enough to make an impact on many kids who needed it, they have made an impact on us too.
Do you have room in your heart to care for another child? Please contact your local foster or adoption agency.