My Top Foster Care and Adoption Advice
Eighteen children (but a "core" of 13) call me “Mom” so your confusion is understandable when I tell you that, from the age of 15, I didn’t think I could have children. The short story… Seven infertility surgeries and LOTS of medication later I did have a child. It was enough of an experience that I knew if things didn’t happen on their own, I would adopt. I did everything up to in-vitro fertilization which, at the time, I felt was not an option for me. I adopted several children and two that I was unable to adopt stayed with me so long they became adults in my home. I thought I would share my experiences and advice for foster care and adoption.
I grew up surrounded by dysfunction, so opening my home (and my heart) for foster care and adopting children within social services touched an empathetic chord for me. I was one of those children. For nine years I was licensed as a foster parent and for 3 more years, I did foster care without getting paid. I feel blessed my life was touched by the many children that came through my home. I was ultimately able to get pregnant without additional “help” a total of seven times proving medical science wrong. From the scared 15 year old at my first OB/GYN appointment wondering what was going on inside me to a 43-year-old woman with the equivalent of a football team living in my home, I have grown considerably.
I began my journey with foster care when my oldest daughter was 4. It seemed at the time emotionally draining to get through the paperwork and home-study. It was time-consuming, the classes were eye-opening and heart-wrenching. I was driven by my own childhood and the knowledge that I could make a difference in the life of a child like someone had to me. It was a combination of healing myself, paying it forward, grieving for the children I thought I wouldn’t be able to give birth to and making a small difference in the world. It was letting ALL of my children know they are worth it, they are loved, they are safe, they will be cherished and I am proud to be their Mommy. Things I did not feel growing up. Things every child should know.
Working with an agency like Mountain Circle Family Services makes the process – which sometimes feels daunting – easier. It puts the emphasis on the foster parent and their needs. It increases the success of these children that sometimes seem lost and often feel forgotten. They are the liaison between myself, the children I’ve brought in to love and treat as my own, the biological family, and the myriad of services available. These are children that don’t necessarily know what a normal family looks like. While it’s up to me to give them that normalcy, Mountain Circle Family Services helps parents help children and without that assistance, it would make my job much more difficult. They free me up to focus on the kiddos which are ultimately where my time needs to be spent.
My journey with foster care (and parenting in general) is a roller coaster ride. I don’t intend to insinuate that bringing children into your home is rainbows and unicorns. If you asked me to describe my experience quickly I would say. It’s hard. It’s frustrating. It’s time and money consuming. It’s selfless. It’s exhausting. I cry. I wonder if I did enough. Above all?? It’s gratifying. It has moments of absolute bliss. It’s the best time I’ve had. It feels fantastic to give of myself. I feel young. I laugh a lot. It’s worth it. Anything in life that’s been difficult for me - training for a marathon, giving birth, having a successful relationship, raising children – every time has been worth it. Whether it was the foster children that came and went, came and stayed, were adopted or biological. It was worth it.
Time flies and that first little girl I was blessed to be pregnant with is now 22 years old. Of those 13 permanent children, 12 of them are between the ages of 11 and 22. That’s not a typo. We have 12 children in 11 years. The other one? She’s 4 years old – a big age gap from the others. Staying consistent with all my unexpected happenings in life, she is a joy beyond measure. Just when I thought I was all done having kids, she came into our home immeasurably altering the dynamic in a way that makes me feel like the luckiest Mommy in the world every single day.
I don’t feel old enough or rather, that enough time has passed, to have a 22-year-old (and 7 in high school this August!!!!) but here I am. My advice? If you’re even considering foster care as an option, do it. It’s a process in which you not only learn about the foster program, you learn about yourself. Especially if you work with an organization like Mountain Circle Family Services, it’s rewarding beyond my capacity to describe. As much as I’d like to believe that I made a difference to each of these children, what really happens, behind the curtain so to speak, is the difference they made in me.