There is nothing more gratifying to me than to hear that a youth has been placed in a new foster home! Knowing the many months of “self-discovery” a family has weathered during the Foster Home Certification process and now, finally, they’ve come to the time of welcoming a youth, is amazing and wonderful!
I think back on the first day that I met them...that first email or call where they told me how they felt called to foster or adopt a child... but they feel they have no clue about what they are doing or how to do it. Then I learn about them at that first Home Orientation Informational Meeting; sitting across from them in their living room or at their dining room table or, nowadays, through a computer screen, and where we talk openly about their history, fears and concerns. During that meeting, I answer their questions about the application process--from the criminal background check, to the many hours of training they’ll need, to the home regulation standards they’ll need to meet, and, hopefully, I help reduce some of their fears and concerns.
The application process can take anywhere from three to eleven months, because, let’s be real, life happens and each applicant has their own journey. Having a Home Orientation is not a commitment to apply, it is merely a time to help inform them and for us to get to know one another. I have seen couples and individuals start the application process months or even a year or two after that initial Home Orientation. Again, it’s their journey.
More often than not, fears of doing this alone and wondering if they are ready to love and guide a youth can prevent them from moving forward with an application. And this is why I love my job! I get to come alongside them, pray for them, build a genuine and trusting relationship with them and, when they are ready, walk them through the application journey. In time, we get to know each other better and I become like a life coach--cheering and guiding them every step of the way and, like a life coach, helping them go after what they REALLY want. Together, we work on required documentation, scheduling pre-approval training (they even become CPR/First Aid certified!), creating a safety plan for their home, and connecting with the social worker who will do the assessment on their family.
This assessment, called a Home Study, is an important step in being approved as a foster parent. Together with the training and submission of documentation, it creates a profile that a team evaluates for approval. More than any other time, my support is vital to those waiting to hear if they will be approved or not.
During the waiting, there is something special that happens. And it never fails. The training and home study brings about discoveries for the family or individual. Some discover that this is not the right time for them, while for others it is a confirmation this it is the right time. Whether it is the right time or not, nothing of the process is wasted. I get to see the growth this process brings about into their lives. Their understanding about foster care, trauma and the struggles foster youth face is much richer and deeper, and I see how this changes the way they look at life and who they are as part of their community. I see how this process has made them better people, better parents, better communicators and more aware of themselves and their gifts to serve and love those around them...it has prepared them to welcome someone else’s child into their home.
The approval waiting period can be hard and emotional, but when they get the call that they have been approved and then receive their Certificate of Approval, there is nothing more amazing than seeing their faces of joy and accomplishment. There is excitement and nervousness about what their first placement will be like, but there is also much more confidence and assurance that they will not be alone in their journey of foster care. They have become part of our agency’s family!
The new journey will not be easy but it will be rewarding, and they know that. They have learned so much more about themselves, and have grown in their patience and understanding, and in their ability to give of themselves to those who will need their love.
Foster care is a sacrifice. A sacrifice of ourselves and our space. I have never been a foster parent, but I grew up in a family that welcomed anyone who needed a place to stay for months and months at a time. And that is how we think in my home today.
I came to this country as a political asylum refugee teen and there were those who opened their homes to us. It was a sacrifice of love and their space, but it was worth it because I wouldn’t be here today if it hadn’t been for these people’s sacrifices and their belief that I could have a better future.
It is the same in foster care. So often it is not about ourselves. You might not know what the future for a foster youth in your care will look like or know how their story will unfold, but I can guarantee you that your sacrifice will always be in their hearts even if you don’t know it in the beginning…it will be the light that can carry them through. You might just change some kids’ lives forever, giving them hope and a future!
If you're interested in becoming a foster parent or have any questions about foster parenting, contact Maria at email@example.com or call 805-215-0553.