at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

Fostering Hope in the New Year

2019 was a bit of a rollercoaster. And the ride has just begun! After a rough start to the year health-wise for me, things got even more intense as we navigated our journey with IVF. After that loss and the whole terrible experience (and poor results), we decided that that was the end of the road for pursuing biological kids. It took a long time to come to that end, and it was a painful end. But, it does feel good to finally have some closure. With that possibility off the table, it opened up another world of possibilities to us. We have room in our home and in our hearts, and a desire to make a positive impact on the next generation. So, this past August we decided to pursue becoming foster parents.

Becoming a foster parent is a daunting task in many regards! After completing an application, we had two home visits from licensing workers, had a textbook size stack of rules and regulations to read through, an in-depth interview about ourselves and our own upbringings, we got fingerprinted, background checked, submitted driving records, completed another giant stack of paperwork, and reorganized our home to meet all of the safety rules for foster homes. And then, we started classes. Two nights a week, 3 hours per night, for six weeks - plus homework. It was like an intensive college course! The classes were great, though, and we learned a ton. And yet, we still feel so unprepared for what may come!

And what may come, may come sooner than we anticipated. Our agency is required to have us licensed within 6 months (which would be in February) -- but everything was done and submitted to the state in early December. Top that with an opportunity presented to us on a potential foster-to-adopt scenario for two little boys, and BAM! Things just got real.

Even with all we have learned through this process, there's no way to really prepare for all of the unknowns of foster care, even with adoptive placements. Foster care is truly a wild card. Many times children are removed from unsafe environments in more of an emergency type situation, where a safe home is needed immediately. There's no time to get any background information. Foster parents are just presented with basic age/gender/number of kids and asked if they can take them. The call may come at any hour. And the children - they often have no idea what is going on. It's so confusing and scary to be taken away from the only home and parents they've ever known and taken to a stranger's house.

With the possibility of adoption presented to us, we are a trifle terrified at the prospect of becoming instant parents to not one, but two kiddos! We are grateful for our friends and family that are all super supportive. Everyone we have talked to so far is very excited for us. I think the one thing I want everyone to understand is that this is a situation that has been forged from heartache. There is a broken family out there. There are parents who lost their rights to see their kids. I don't care who they are or what they did/didn't do to get there - that is a devastating thing to have happen. And there are kids who lost their parents. And foster parents. And more foster parents. And may move yet again. Even if we bring them into a permanent home, the loss and trauma they will suffer from losing yet another set of caregivers cannot be overstated. So, while we are glad to be able to provide a safe home for kids, it's hard to consider it a purely happy occasion. Our children will have challenges and we will have challenges as we try to help them cope and heal -- on top of the typical trials of being first-time parents! The more we learn about the effects of trauma on the developing brain, the more it changes our own mentality. These kids will be strong and smart and resilient. But they will likely be operating in survival mode -- a state of hypervigilance, like a perpetual state of fight or flight. Love and trust will not likely come easily, with good reason.

But, we have hope. We have hope that we can work through the (many) challenges that will arise. We have hope that with time and love and compassion we can build trust -- a foundation to work from, a place where healing can begin. We have hope that the hard work we do as parents and the hard things they have experienced as kids will not be wasted, and that God will allow something beautiful to grow out of the ashes.

We won't be able to share many of the details of our journey with foster kids due to privacy reasons. Likewise, we are not allowed to post photos. Even upon adoption, if that's where this ends, our kids' stories will be their own -- to share if and when they decide to share it. We appreciate all of the love and support and encouragement we have received so far, and I'm sure we'll need it even more once kids are in our home!

In our state, there are about 13,000 kids currently in foster care, and about 300 who are unable to return home to parents or relatives and who are in need of a permanent / adoptive home. It was those waiting kids that really tugged at my heart and pushed me to pursue this path. If you want a good cry, visit the website for the Michigan Adoptive Resource Exchange to learn more. If you've ever thought about providing foster care and want to learn more, I'm happy to share what I know - though it's somewhat limited due to my lack of experience to date! Check out a local agency in your area to find out how you can get involved. Even if you are not called to be foster parents, there are still many ways to support kids in foster care. Join with us in fostering hope for 2020, for our future and for this next generation.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." --Galatians 6:9

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Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!