It's clear most people don't have a great understanding of how the foster care system works or about the kids it helps.
Allow me to start by clearing up a few misconceptions and maybe answering some of your questions.
Just as their are misconceptions about the children, there are certain "labels" put on all birth parents who end up with kids in the foster care system. But I'm rarely quick to slap a label on anyone. Don't judge someone until you've walked a little while in their shoes. Many of these parents were victims of the same things their kids are now going through. It's a cycle that needs to be broken. Many of these parents need mentors to give them hope and show them a better way.
Even though there are obvious reasons that children are taken from their birth parents and put into foster care, it doesn't change the fact that those kids still want to be with their parents. No matter what their parents have done or how dysfunctional they're home life was, every kid wants to be with his/her parents. Likewise, many of these parents love their kids and fight to get them back.
The point of foster care is not to rip families apart. In fact, from everything I'm learning, there has to be real, solid evidence of abuse and/or neglect. I know you hear of "horror stories" of kids being taken from their parents when they shouldn't have been. From what I am learning, that is not the norm. In fact, DHS doesn't want to remove the children and work to do everything they can to keep families together. Once the kids are taken into care, the goal is reunification of the children with their birth family. Only when it becomes clear (usually after multiple chances) that reunification is impossible are the parental rights terminated and the children put up for adoption. That's why many of the children you hear of who need adopted out of foster care are older children.
That being said, not all the kids in foster care are teenagers. In fact, from what we've learned, 43% of the children in foster care in the state of Iowa, where we live, are 0-5 years old! The reason the child welfare service is always advocating for foster teen care and adoption is because there are so few people willing to take teenagers, especially teenagers with special needs. So many of these kids stay in foster care homes or group homes and eventually "age out" of the system without a family. Sad, but true.
We have two young sons, 7 and 4. Because we are thinking of their safety and well-being, and what child(ren) will work best in our little family, we are hoping to foster young children. This isn't some selfish, self-protective stance. Actually, in our PS-MAPP classes they have emphasized "knowing your family", really assessing your family and knowing what would/would not work best for/with your family, before taking placements. This is better for everyone involved, including the foster children who do not wish to be moved again and again. I have utmost respect for people willing to foster older children and that may be something we do in the future, but, for today, we're in "little kids" zone around here. We hope that some day we will have the opportunity to adopt out of the foster care system.
This is not PLAN B. When I was a teenager I knew I wanted to adopt some day, whether I had my own biological children or not. I felt strongly about it. I wanted to help hurting children, to show them the love of Christ. After Alan and I were married I mentioned the idea of adoption to him, he didn't like the idea. I was shocked because up to that point we had agreed on so many things. I decided that I wouldn't nag him or even mention it again, I would just pray. And that's what I did. Four years later, he said out of the blue one day that had been thinking...maybe we should adopt some day. GOD is amazing!!
We're not pursuing foster care/adoption because we had three miscarriages and have given up on having more biological children. We don't know whether we will have more biological children or not. Only God knows the answer to that question. We're open to what He has for us. We believe that children (ALL children) are a blessing from the LORD.
Psalm 127:3 Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb (*any womb) is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. 5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate. *extra words added by me
I thought adoption was something we would pursue later, when our children were older, especially if we went the foster care route. But last year God changed my heart and mind. Over the whole year He was working on me. It seemed like everywhere I turned, everything I heard or saw was about adoption. And I kept hearing about children in foster care. Still, I was leaning toward the idea of international adoption. However, the first time (last year) that I mentioned this stronger tug on my heart, the idea that the time might be now not later, to Alan, he wasn't enthusiastic. I asked him to begin praying about it, which he did.
As the year proceeded (we) kept processing and praying and it still felt like the Lord was leading that way. I couldn't shake it. The tug eventually became a burning conviction. Alan and I had several in depth conversations about it. In one of those conversations he expressed a desire to adopt children right here in Iowa. Together we decided that foster care was something we should do; that we could also care for and love children that we may never have the opportunity to adopt. In fact, we felt God directing us that way. We've always known God calls us to care for the widows and orphans. These are our modern day orphans.
Would it be easier not to do foster care and/or adopt? Sure seems like it. But what blessings would we miss? What about the children? Is there anything a person/family could do to impact the course of another person's life than this? Most things worth doing are not easy. We're moving ahead in obedience, peace and with joy. We know God has good plans for us and our family!
Our understanding of foster care has changed since we started this process. We have learned so much...and we continue to. The reasons we began were perhaps a bit different than the reasons we're continuing to pursue it. We can see more clearly now why God has called us to this!
But I will share more about that next time. I have so much more to say. This has to be more than one post...
Join me next time. :)
"Teach me how to live, O LORD. Lead me along the right path...I am confident I will see the LORD's goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently, for the LORD." Psalm 27:11, 13
At the beginning of the year I chose my words for the year 2014. God gave me: FEAR NOT. :)