It has taken me two and a half weeks to write this post. I have gone back and forth on the computer, sometimes just staring at the words not sure what or how to explain. I realized the reason I have hesitated to write this post is because I feel guilty and selfish, but I shouldn’t. I have prayed for weeks waiting for an answer on what is the right thing to do. We have asked if this is the correct path for us to take. The only slight indication of an answer I have received is a pull I have deep down inside towards having another child of my own, despite all the risks involved. Let's explore how we made our decision.
Mike and I attended a foster care orientation through a local faith-based family services organization. I went into this orientation extremely excited and hopeful, but I came out feeling really confused and torn. The three-hour orientation walked us through the main programs offered to individuals looking to expand their family: Foster Care, Foster-to-Adopt and Straight Adoption. Mike and I went into the training knowing we were only interested in Fostering-to-Adopt, where most other people in the orientation were looking solely at the adoption process.
I am going to explain the facts as they were presented to us, so you have an understanding of how the system works. I am going to explain my thoughts and decision on why we chose not to pursue foster care. It's important to note that since we live in Texas, all the information we learned is based on the laws for the State of Texas. Each state may have similar or unique laws and regulations that govern their foster care process, so please consult with your own state polices surrounding foster care if you are looking to explore this option for your own family.
I was amazed to learn that Texas has an estimated 17,000 children in the foster care system. Given how large Texas is, it's relatively proportionate to its size. Foster care and adoption is extended for children ages 0 to 17. In order for Mike and I to eventually adopt a child through the foster care system (unless we wanted to go the route of straight adoption,) we would have to become foster care parents. The children that are placed within the foster care system are in the care of the State of Texas through the Department of Child Protective Services (CPS). The sole mission and purpose of CPS when children are removed from their biological home (for reasons such as abuse, neglect, harm, etc.) and placed into emergency foster care is “Reunification” or in other words, reuniting the children with their biological parents.
The court system allows birth parents a 12-month term period (once their child has been removed from their home) to work out a plan of service issued by CPS and the courts. During the 12-month period that the birth parents are working to be reunited with their child, the child is placed in an emergency foster care home where they remain until the courts grant or deny the birth parents' reunification. At any point during the 12-month period, if the birth parent satisfies the requirements of the court, the child will be returned to the birth parents' care. Reunification happens between 55% to 60% of the time, which means 40-45% of the time, the biological parents lose or give up their parental rights, and their child is placed up for adoption. When this happens, the foster parents that have been caring for the child for the 12-month period now have the opportunity to adopt that child.
This seems easy, however it's quite possible that foster parents could foster an unlimited number children, one right after another, before they are blessed with their forever child. Every time a foster child is reunited with their birth parents, the foster parents experience a loss. During our orientation we heard from a foster parent that was “5 for 5” with children being placed into her home through emergency foster care, and then being reunified with their biological parents sometime thereafter. We learned of another story where foster parents fostered a child, and after 12 months the biological parents gave up their rights so they were able to adopt that child right away.
Some of the other facts that we learned about the foster care system that stood out at us:
- All foster parents looking to foster a child must undergo an application process, an extensive background check, a 6-8-hour home study, a home study interview, and a variety of training courses prior to being approved.
- If you have participated in counseling within the past two years, they will ask your therapist for a simple statement stating that you have resolved your issue(s) as a part of your background check.
- Anyone (frequent or infrequent visitors, family, or staff) entering the foster home where the child remains must undergo a background check.
- Babysitters must be at least the age of 16 years old to babysit the foster child. All babysitters must be required to participate in a background check, complete an application, receive CPR/First Aid training, and provide a letter of reference prior to being allowed to “babysit” the foster child.
- Each person that lives in your home that is 13 years or older will be required to pass a background check and undergo fingerprinting.
- Foster parents must respect the religious needs the foster child has and will not be allowed to force them to attend church, or participate in religious activities if they do not desire.
- If you have participated in fertility testing or treatment, or experienced a miscarriage or any other significant loss within the past year, they require in a professional third-party evaluation to document that the loss has been resolved prior to passing verification.
- Due to the nature of placements and needs of the foster care children, there is an expectation that if you decide to pursue foster care, that you will not also be actively trying to conceive a child on your own.
- Weekly birth parent visits are administered at a government facility, and the foster parents agree to transport the child each week so the foster child can visit with their birth parents.
The facts above were just some of the main points that Mike and I had to consider when deciding whether or not to continue to pursue foster care as an option for our family. Most of the polices above were put into place because the foster care child is in the care of the State of Texas, and it’s their responsibility to make sure that child is safe and secure while in foster care. As I mentioned before, the state’s goal is reunificaiton of the child with their birth parents.
At the orientation they explained that as foster parents we were to look at reunification as a happy moment, when the foster child is returned to the home of the birth parents. This had me thinking about my own family, my own two boys (5 and 3) who would become attached to this new foster child in our home. How would they feel when I would have to explain to them that it was time for their new friend to go home? A loss for a foster parent is one thing, but a loss for a child, your own child is something entirely different. I’m not sure how my children would respond to such loss and I’m not sure they are at an age that they would understand the loss.
The background check part of the process was also a concern for us. As many of you know we moved to Texas without our family, and we only have one set of grandparents living close to us who visit us regularly. Everyone (family and friends) who visit us would have to be background checked prior to visit, as they all come out of state and stay with us in our home. This would be very inconvenient not only for us but for our family and friends. Having to find a babysitter that is also willing to undergo this background check, training and application process would also be very difficult.
The reasons why we shouldn’t instead of why we should just kept surfacing every time Mike and I discussed this as an option for our family. I think this is something we would have pursued if we did not have any children of our own. We would have been able to make the sacrifice and go through the process without hesitation. We would have been honored to be able to assist a child or multiple children who were in need of love and a safe home. I know we both would have been amazing foster care parents if the timing was right as we have a lot to give. But knowing that we have two children that are our main priority, this didn’t seem like the best decision for us right now at this point in our lives. Perhaps down the road, when our children are older, we could revisit this, but not right now. Right now, we need to be selfish and consider our own children before we can open our arms to consider others.
So what is the plan? Well, we are going to pursue trying to conceive on our own as we have been for the past five months. We know its going to be a long road ahead for us, and there are risks involved, but we believe that eventually we will be blessed with another baby. We obviously don’t know when, but we know there is a plan in place for us, and we are going to move forward with our faith to get us there. We might even explore fertility treatments as an option if we are unable to conceive on our own. Stay tuned for our next post and update on trying to conceive on our own.
"Gods Plan is always the Best. Sometimes the process is painful, and hard. But dont forget that when God is silent, He's doing something for you".