Following my resolve to become a foster parentto a teen age person, I began my research. My first step was to attend an orientation given by the Department of Health and Human Services. I learned a valuable tip from the two hour session: A social worker stated: “The most important strength and ability a foster parent has over and above biological parents is the ability to constantly rise to unexpected challenges.” It would take thousands of pages to describe all of the unexpected challenges I have faced as a foster parent. Most unexpected challenges appear, are dealt with, and fade quickly but there were some which were past my capabilities. The other fact that I learned was that the stipend paid to foster parents was just not enough to cover hard costs. It was such a small amount, I was shocked.
I noticed an advertisement in the newspaper for foster parents. It was for a private agency. I responded to the advertisement and spoke with a social worker. The social worker explained to me that most foster care placements are done through private agencies and the stipends are larger. The county places all “special needs” children with private agencies which provide a higher level of care. She pointed out that by the time a child has entered the foster care system, the child is “special needs.” The social worker asked me a few questions about my home, my car and my family situation. She made an appointment to come to my home and interview me.
My home and my car were approved with the exception of a fire extinguisher and a locking cabinet for medications. Due to my status as a single mom, I needed a “back-up” person who was willing to be available when needed and produce a criminal background check. Since my home, including the room for one or two foster children was ready; I only needed to obtain the background checks, attend the classes and orientation provided for free by the agency, and take first aid and CPR. My parents, who lived in my neighborhood, agreed to be my back-up. Before long, I was a “certified foster” mom.
My first placement was a 15 year old girl named “Alisa.” Alisa was a beautiful girl, she looked older than fifteen and her makeup and way of dress were quite sophisticated. My ten year old daughter was very impressed and pleased with her new big sister. Many teenagers respond well to the adoration of younger children; Alisa was not one of these teens. I cannot really cite a particular incident but there was a lack of response to the unabashed admiration of my daughter Ivy and there wasn’t any behavior that reassured me on this lack of appreciation of her new fan. Still, Alisa had been through a lot, and she had no reason to trust us this early in her placement. Alisa was in counseling and the therapist she had been seeing was in the town of her previous foster home which was a one hour drive from my house. I decided it would be a good idea to make the drive each week because it would help Alisa adjust to our home. I was highly vested in the success of my first foster child and as I became more experienced; I was less inclined to drive an hour each way to take a child to weekly counseling. As time passed and I became more experienced, I appreciated the fact that Alisa did not steal, or abuse drugs or alcohol.
Monthly three hour classes were provided by the agency and for the most part, I enjoyed them very much. The classes included information about common disorders such as: Attention Deficit, Obsessive Compulsive, and Attachment Disorder. There were also sessions on bonding and nutrition which were very worthwhile. It was great to connect with other foster parents and social workers on a regular basis, and the social workers were very supportive.
My agency hosted two events every year: One event was the annual Christmas Party which provided all of the foster children a gift given by Santa and a dinner menu planned for children. There was also an awards dinner which was really nice. Since I was single and depended on my parents, I took one of them each year and they were recognized as “grandparents.”
I could not have been a foster mom without the support of my parents who have since passed away. They were as dedicated as I was, and worked very hard to treat each and every child as special. My children frequently refer to “Granny and Granddad” and they were essential to our large and ever changing family.
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