Fostering to Adopt: Answers

Oh friends, I’m so excited about today’s post!  My friend Meagan (pictured above with “Sissy”) is going to be answering your questions from our foster/foster to adopt post from two weeks ago. 
 Before she begins, I just wanted to say how much I admire Meagan and Tim for putting their hearts on the line and going through this process.  This is just the sweetest family and they truly want the best for these girls.  It’s been an honor and a privilege to watch them walk through this process.  Their fortitude, grace, love and faith have encouraged me more than they’ll ever know.  I’m truly grateful for them and their family.  
I also wanted to say that I’m praying this morning for you guys reading this.  I know that there are many of you out there that have adoption on your hearts.  My prayer is that the Lord will confirm in you what decisions need to happen in your own lives.  There are millions and millions of kids in the world that need a family and my prayer this morning is that maybe through Meagan’s post, several of you will feel prompted to action.  Praying for YOU today.
Here we go…
Hi, my
name is Meagan, and I am so honored to be here!
Today,
I will be answering your questions about foster care/foster to adopt. When Shay
called to ask if I would consider doing this post, I couldn’t jump on it fast
enough!
There
are currently more than 100,000 children in the U.S. in foster care awaiting their
forever family. Encouraging families to open up their hearts to foster care is
something I am very passionate about. Before we begin, I am only speaking about
my experience. We are new foster parents, knee deep in love and uncertainty. Each
and every foster care journey is different, just as every placement is uniquely
special, with its own challenges and blessings. These answers are strictly based
on our experience fostering to adopt our two girls.
Ok…here
we go! This is all seven of us…

How did you decide on fostering to adopt, as opposed to a
domestic or international adoption?
When God put
fostering to adopt in our hearts, it happened fast and it felt urgent. Before
that, we had only discussed adoption as a future possibility. As we know…God
has His own plans. The cost of a domestic or international adoption wasn’t something
we felt like we could do, but honestly, the calling we felt deep in our hearts
was to adopt through foster care and there was just no questioning it. Fostering
to adopt can be a long process- usually 12 months, or more, but the cost is
very minimal. Regardless of the cost, if God tells you to do something, you
listen.
How do I get started?
I didn’t know where
to start, so I called a non-profit in our town called Embrace and asked for them to give me
recommendations for agencies. It was so helpful! I most definitely recommend going
through an agency. Foster care is a very lonely process and your agency can
work as a great support system. God placed fostering to adopt on our hearts, in
November 2014. We started praying and researching a lot and, finally, began our
paperwork in February 2015. Since you cannot bring children to the training, it
took us longer than some to finish our training classes, since we had to get
babysitters. We finally finished the entire process and became a certified
foster to adopt family on September 29, 2015. It was such an exciting day!
What is the cost?
Adopting a child from
foster care is often times funded by the state, and in most cases, there are
little or no fees, which varies by state. Medical subsidies and financial
assistance are often available until the child is 18 years old. During your
training, you pay for a CPR class ($30), TB test, background check (for each
state you have lived in), fingerprints, and our agency required us purchase two
books and a DVD. As a courtesy, some people will pay for the background checks
for babysitters, which need to be certified in order to watch your foster
children. I am not as familiar with the details of the cost of domestic
adoption. Speaking of the financial aspect, several of you asked if you had to
make a certain amount of money or if debt would prevent you from fostering.
There is no income rule, but you do have to disclose everything. And I mean
everything. Your agency will review this and discuss any concerns with you. Once
you get a foster placement, your agency will pay you, monthly, based on your
child’s level of care.

How do you keep all the “rules” straight?
Oh the millions of
rules…When we were first starting out, I was so overwhelmed. How was I ever
going to keep our house perfect all the time? It made me an awesome person to
live with, let me tell you… That lasted way longer than it should have, and
then I finally gave our family permission to live in our home. As we speak,
there’s legos and army men all over the floor upstairs and I don’t care. It’s
great! We follow the rules, but we no longer live with them hanging over our
heads. That is freeing! Our agency gave us a binder that I keep on the shelf in
our pantry, in case I ever have any questions, I can always refer back. I also
keep an accordion binder, in the diaper bag, with our foster daughters’
information/placement papers. This goes with us everywhere. *Side note: I take
notes on everything from weekly progress to bio visits. This has been super
important. Document everything! Send this to your agency monthly.*
What kind of preferences can you have?
Following the birth
order rule of thumb, has worked best for our family. Discussing this with our
bio children ended up being very reassuring for them. You really have to pray
and trust that God will lead you in the right direction. I know plenty of
people who have adopted older children and it’s been the perfect fit for their
family. This is an area where you don’t need to beat yourself up. You can be as
specific as you want. You know what your family can handle and what you can’t.
Fostering is hard. It is very hard. God will stretch you in ways, you’d never
imagine. There is so much about this process that you have zero control over, but
this is an area where you can. You will be asked a million and one questions
about your placement preferences, between the paperwork and the homestudy. With
that said, when you get a call for a placement, the information they are able
to share with you is often, very little. Our specifics were pretty simple:
basic level/girl/age 0-12 months, but we were willing to go a little older.
Notice I said “one girl, age 0-12 months” and we ended up getting a two baby
girls!
Do I have to be a stay at home mom?
No way! These kids
need families!

Why do we have to foster the children with the hope of
adopting them?
There is such a thing
called “Matched Adoption.” These are children who are in the foster care system
and parental rights have already been terminated. Most of these are sibling
groups and older children. This is a wonderful option for a lot of people.
Because we have three bio children already, we wanted to stay in our birth
order and adopt a baby. To do this, you have to become certified as a foster to
adopt family.

Were you afraid of receiving a child that might have
special needs due to the treatment prior to entering foster care?
Not really. The truth
is, these children are broken and hurting, so their needs are more intense. The
training classes will prepare you for this. Regardless of their level of care,
they are coming to you with a past you may know very little about. You will find
out more information as time unfolds. It will break your heart and give you
more understanding of certain behaviors. There are two books that I would
highly recommend, that gave me confidence: The Connected Child by Karen B. Purvis,
Ph.D. and Wounded Children
Healing Homes

by Jayne E. Schooler

What would be the top recommendations for essentials to
have on hand while we are waiting for the placement call?
I made a list of
questions to ask our agency when we got the placement call. I carried this, a notebook,
and a pen everywhere I went. Once you get the call that you are “official,”
stop screening your phone calls! Besides having their room ready to go, the
essentials would totally depend on the age you are waiting for. Usually, you
will have time to run to the store to grab age specific items, after you get
the call. Or, you could be as lucky as I was and get the placement call while
you’re at Target! Score!
Here are some
suggestions…
Babies: bath toys, new
jammies, stuffed animal, swaddle blanket/wombie, night light, different types
of pacifiers, bottles.
Older children: new jammies,
stuffed animal, night light, water bottle, snacks (Consider getting a snack
basket for their room. Remember, a lot of these kids have had malnutrition and
this could be a comfort for them. Otherwise, you might notice them hiding food.
Even our one year old did this when she first arrived. She would hide cheerios
under the corner of the rug. It just broke my heart).

How do you prepare your bio children for your foster care
journey?
We prayed and prayed
and prayed for the Lord to prepare their little hearts to serve. It’s one thing
to dive into this with your spouse…It’s another thing to ask your children to
join you in something that’s going to flip their world upside down and bound to
break their hearts at some point in the journey. Ultimately, we spoke to the
kids, and told them very simply that God had put fostering to adopt in our
hearts. We explained what fostering meant and told them there was a baby out
there that needed a safe, loving home and that we wanted to offer our family to
them. It’s so easy for the kids to forget that the babies don’t belong to us,
so we do a lot of reminding about “loving on them for as long as God has them
in our home.” Keeping it short and to the point is important- you can always
give more details if they ask.

Do you worry about taking the kids out in public?
When the girls first
came, I was concerned that someone would recognize them, but that quickly stopped
when we ran out of milk and cereal. Life goes on. Doing normal, everyday things
with these kiddos helps them feel like a real part of the family. We do not
live in the same county that they were removed from, so this isn’t a big worry
for us. I know this is not the case for many.

Do we have any contact with the bio parents?
For privacy and
safety reasons, we have very little contact with the bio parents. I send a note
about the girls to every visit. I know several foster mamas who send a notebook
and pen, in the diaper bag, and write back and forth with the bio parents,
often sharing milestones, so the parents can still feel apart. I was able to
spend an hour with our girls’ bio parents, at the CPS office. It was very
difficult and I was a basket of nerves, but I am so glad that I went. It was a
meaningful experience for me.

Can you rename a child?
You may not rename
the child without permission. Most people have “lovey” nicknames that they use
instead, especially on social media. If not, using an initial, like “A” is
perfectly acceptable. Doing this keeps things private. We call our girls
“Sissy” and “Sister.” We are adoption-minded, so we have a running list of baby
names, in a safe place, in case the girls become a part of our forever family.
Some people may decide to keep their birth name, or a piece of their name to
honor their birth family. Other families change their name completely,
signifying a fresh start.

How do you deal with the emotion of possibly letting the
child/children go?
This was, by far, the
most popular question and I am not a bit surprised. I get asked this all the
time, but I hear- “I could never do foster care because I could never let them
go” or “It would be too hard.” We have had the girls a little over 3 months
now, and just the other day, we thought they were leaving. Just like that. I
felt a pain like I can’t explain. Loving a child that might leave is the most
difficult thing we have ever been called to do. We are committed to
experiencing the pain of loving and losing these girls. Even if they leave us,
they have gained a great love they might not have experienced before. We are
backwards in our thinking, if our fear of sadness overrides the fact that no
child deserves to be without a stable, loving family.

What are the risks?
I would be doing you
a disservice if I were not completely honest with you. Foster care is a high
risk commitment. Parenting hurting children is a whole different ballgame, and
then throw in a bunch of tedious rules, an agency, CPS, and an attorney. For
our family, the biggest risk was that we could end this journey with broken
hearts, instead of an adoption. For us, it is worth the risk to love these
children, with all our hearts and accept the costs that may come because it’s
worth it. Foster care is a beautiful expression of the Gospel. It’s worth the
risk, this I know.

What advice would I give for people who are planning to
become a foster family?
Practically speaking,
I would have researched the Department of Family Protective Services for my
surrounding counties. This is something I didn’t do beforehand and regret. Join
a Facebook foster care group for your area. This will be a great resource. Foster
care is a whole lot of waiting on the system. The State’s number one goal is
reunification and the process is long and not always logical. Document
everything and commit to being their voice. If you don’t speak up, it’s likely,
no one else will. When no one else is fighting for them, you do it. You be
fearless and faithful until. Foster care can feel very lonely sometimes. Try to
connect with other mamas who foster or who have adopted. It will feel like a
breath of fresh air. Find friends who are your safe place, who you can be
completely honest with, without judgment. I’m talking about the ones who will go
to the grave with your secret kind of friends. Hold them close. Live and love
in the moment, it’s all you are guaranteed. God will stretch you and refine
you. It hurts, but it’s also the most beautiful experience. These children are
in God’s hands. You have to trust in that.
Thank you so much for
the opportunity to answer your questions. I will be praying for God to stir in
your hearts, a desire to serve Him through foster care. If you have any other
questions, I am happy to answer them in the comment section.

Thank you so much Meagan!  

If you have questions, please leave them in the comment section, and as she has time, she will answer them ;).  To see all of my posts on adoption, click here.

Now, bonus…Meagan is also my resident expert on another very important topic…and will be sharing that with us next Wednesday!  Thank you Meagan for everything!  Love you friend. xo

On my foodie blog today…

Roasted Chicken & Sweet Potato Risotto.

See the simple recipe for this fancy sounding dinner here.

, Fostering to Adopt: Answers
  • Erika Slaughter January 26, 2016 at 11:10 am

    Meagan!!! Thank you for sharing your heart!! Just watching your family on this journey, we have learned so much. Thankful to have friends going through tough stuff because they're obeying the call. Love you, friend!!! XOXO

  • Chasing Pure Simplicity January 26, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Megan- thank you so much for writing this! I especially love what you wrote about bonding. We have fostered in the past (now have one bio and three adopted from foster care) and I have always struggled with the "I could never foster, I'd get too attached," comment. You answered that beautifully!

    Sometimes, it's our job to take on some pain in order to help someone else. It's what Christ did for us! Fostering is experiencing a love that can grow your heart so much!

    Praying for you!

  • Amber January 26, 2016 at 11:55 am

    What a blessing these babies must be to your family! You are truly "the hands and feet of Jesus." Praying for your journey!

  • Sheaffer {Pinterest Told Me To} January 26, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Watching Meagan respond to the call (both of them!) and be the voice for these precious girls has been amazing. Meagan, watching your faith in action has been so sweet to see. Continuing to be pray for your entire family! All sorts of love and respect from me!!!! xoxo, Sheaffer 🙂

  • Narci January 26, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    Megan, we are so thankful for your answer to God's call on your life. We are praying for you and your precious family!! We love you!! Xo

  • Elizabeth January 26, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Thank you for sharing!!

  • ClintandGina January 26, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It will be amazing to see families move forward in fostering and adopting because of your story.

  • kelly January 26, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Wow! This is truly an amazing sacrifice you are making to serve the Lord! Plain Ole adoption is a breeze compared to this! Very inspirational meghan.

  • Dawn Dannenberg January 26, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Such an awesome post! People like Meagan hold a special place in my heart. I was in foster care as a young child,(along with my 3 brothers) and am so thankful for my amazing parents. They wanted to adopt three boys and thorough the process, found out about me. They ended up adopting all 4 of us at once, (5 year old, and 3 year old triplets!) My mom and dad said it wasn't always easy, but they knew God was calling them to keep us all together. I also just recieved pictures of myself from my foster mom,(long story on how that happened) and it warmed my heart to think she saved them for 32 years! Praying for all those going through the adoption/foster process. Thank you for opening your hearts and home to a child in need!

  • Allison January 26, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    Fantastic read today, thank you Shay & Megan!!

  • "B" January 26, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Wow. This post is amazing! I pray we are able to adopt in the next few years. Foster adoption has been in my heart for several years!

  • Leigh (Balancing By Faith) January 26, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    What a beautiful post and heart for Megan and her family – what a blessing!!

  • Victoria Mazzola January 26, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    ??? Thank you so much for this. I am only 22, but my sister was adopted and I have always had a soft spot for adoption. I know it is something I feel called to do in my life- and this post opened my eyes to even more possibilities. Sending prayers to your sweet family!

  • Chelsea January 26, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    This post just melts my heart. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • CAR08CMR10 January 26, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    I so appreciated reading Meagan's responses.

  • Lindsay January 26, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Such an accurate representation of what being a foster parent is like! I worked in therapeutic foster care doing therapy with children in state's custody for several years, and it can be incredibly difficult while rewarding at the same time. The world needs more people like Meagan!

  • Sugar January 26, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    What a kind, kind friend you have in Megan. Wow. Love reading about people who are so faithful to God's calling.

  • Betsy Morris January 26, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Thank you for this! I loved it – we have had a foster baby for four months now. It was like I was talking to myself in the mirror. But it helps to always know that you are not alone in this. Thank you!

  • Debbie White January 26, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Wow, this is something I've never really thought of but can certainly see the benefits of opening your heart and home. Thanks to you and Shay for opening my eyes to the beauty and possibility of adoption as a whole.

  • Emily January 26, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Wow. If it wasnt already weighing on my heart to foster/adopt, it sure is now. Praying my future husband and I are one in this decision. Praying the Lord continues to place this on both of our hearts. THANK YOU for sharing!

  • Kristin Munson January 26, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I am an attorney in Oklahoma and Kansas and represent children, birth parents and adoptive parents in deprived child/child in need of care and adoption cases. It is always so helpful to hear the perspective of the families who are fostering to adopt. It is certainly a long ,difficult process. Praying for your family through this journey and thanking God for the wonderful families like yours that love these children the way they deserve.

  • Suzanne Hines January 26, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    YES. YES. YES.
    Meagan, you did such a great job communicating the life of a foster parent- both the incredible blessings and the hardships as well. I absolutely love how you answered the question about not being able to let them go. We have had our precious Little Miss for four months now, and we know for sure that we won't be keeping her forever. It does break my heart that we will be saying goodbye to her soon, but it was worth it. It was so worth it. And we will do it again. Thanks you for this post, Shay!

    Suzanne Hines
    http://www.suzannehines.org

  • vanillafrog January 26, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Gorgeous pictures of your friend and her girls, even with the little hearts!

  • Kelli @ A Deeper Joy January 26, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    Love this! We're officially licensed and are waiting on "the call". We actually did a call last Friday and submitted our home study but were not selected. We're taking in older children and sibling groups as well. Something I'd say to the question about the emotions involved with "letting a child go" is that it's not about you. I have a note on my computer that reminds me of this every day. The process honestly is not about you and your "feelings". It's about God finding a safe and loving home for these children. He wants what's best for them and if that's going back to the bio family, then your emotions can handle it. We've had to go into it with that attitude though I know there will still be pain. We want what's best for the kids. Thanks for doing this, Maegan! My heart is right there with you. Can't wait to be in your shoes!

  • Allison Ezell January 26, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    What a blessing you are to those girls! Thank you for sharing this!!!

  • jrodges January 26, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    I am curious. Do they consider a family where both parents work full time careers outside of the home a candidate for fostering?

    • Meagan Ruse January 30, 2016 at 7:16 pm

      Yes, of course!

  • Kristin Rydbeck January 26, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    Thank you for this honest post! Do you ever worry that the kids you foster will acuse you of abuse or something you didn't do, putting you at risk of losing custody of your biological kids? I know your two girls are young but I was recently talking to a social worker about this risk when fostering which makes me more hesitant. Thank you for sharing your story. Your courage is admirable!

    • Meagan Ruse January 30, 2016 at 7:19 pm

      It is scary. Our girls are babies, so it's not something I have to worry about then doing. I take a lot of notes and take photos of the girls before they go to their bio visit. I stay in close contact with our case worker and ad litem. They are in and out of our home all the time, so they know what's going on and what isn't.

  • Beautifully Seaside // Formerly Chic Coastal Living January 27, 2016 at 2:07 am

    The sweetest post! God bless all the parents out there who adopt and do foster care. The world needs more people like this to bless children with a loving home. XO

  • Dianne Hall January 27, 2016 at 4:31 am

    Thank you for sharing! You have such a beautiful family.

  • Megan January 27, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Aww this post!!! Love it so much. Thanks for sharing Meagan.

  • Colleen Anne January 27, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Quick question here! I might have misunderstood something. The part about writing notes back and forth with the bio parents…when you foster to adpot do you only have the children part time and their bio parents have them the other? Or once you are given them as foster children they are yours until adoption or replacement? Sorry if that all made no sense! Thank you in advance! 🙂

  • Bethany Parvin January 28, 2016 at 12:32 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your heart and family with us! We are currently expecting our first child and fostering/ adopting has been on our heart for a few years. We are currently stationed overseas so it's a bit hard. You are in my prayers! This is an awesome thing!

  • Monique January 28, 2016 at 6:26 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience! We have been foster parents for 4 years and will be adopting one of our foster sons very, very soon! It is so wonderful when foster parents who love God share their passion for foster care and adoption! A wonderful resource we discovered during our Licensing process is this amazing podcast that has given us so much information, knowledge, laughs and sometimes even tears (on foster to adopt/foster care in general)! The hosts Tim & Wendy (Christ-followers) take you through their experience of fostering and adopting two precious girls and opening their home to numerous foster children ranging from infant to teen. We have yet to find a better resource for foster parents. It can be found at fosterpodcast.com or searching "foster podcast" on the apple podcast app or on Facebook. Listen at your own risk, it's incredibly addicting and you will definitely be binge listening! 😉