There’s a foster care family crisis in Arizona right now. There are 3700 kids in foster care in Pima county alone, and only 700 foster families in that area. Even if you’re not good at math, you can grasp how staggering the numbers are.
That leaves thousands of children without a family to go home to after school, a mommy to tuck them in and read them a bedtime story, and a father to care for them and tell them how special they are. I recently read this article forwarded from a friend of mine who is a foster mom: http://m.tucsonnewsnow.com/autojuice?targetUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.tucsonnewsnow.com%2Fstory%2F23364643%2Fcounty-sees-increase-in-number-of-young-children-in-cps-care.
We don’t live in Pima county, but when we were licensed foster parents, our first placement was from there. Mind you, we live a good two hours away from where this child was removed and we were the closest available foster home. We always said we were happy to help any children, and we took the first child that needed a home that we were allowed to take (there were age restrictions due to the ages of our other kids). I never thought they would be coming from so far away, nor did I realize the implications of caring for a child who didn’t come from our local area.
The first thing that was done in our foster daughter’s case was to implement visits twice a week. This meant someone would pick her up, drive her to her family’s neighborhood, let her visit for an hour, and then drive her back to our home. This was a 5 hour process if everyone ran on schedule and things went perfectly. It also meant that on those nights, she had to go to bed late and wake up tired the next day for morning kindergarten. Afternoon kindergarten was not an option because of when visits were scheduled. This took a toll on her.
Being so far from home also meant that team meetings were conducted without our family’s involvement. We were supposed to meet once a month with her caseworker, therapist, and birth family to connect and make plans. I was told I could sit in over the phone, but no one ever called me until the meetings were over. We got notices for court hearings after they happened, 2 hours away of course. We were completely out of the loop.
We struggled. We struggled with having to be home twice a week all day to cater to one child’s schedule. We struggled with homeschooling our own kids and having to school our foster daughter when she got home too, because her teacher said she needed so much extra help and it was my job to provide it. I went in for parent-teacher conferences once a week to help resolve issues in the classroom. I called our case worker over and over and they ignored my calls. I called my licensing agency and they said they couldn’t help us and to call our case worker. Our foster daughter had a personality conflict with my oldest. ll of this was on top of regular five year old behavior as well as the issues that come with having a traumatic past. Every day was a battle.
Amid all of it, I drew closer to God. I prayed more. I read my Bible more. I sought my husband’s guidance more with how to discipline our children and make our home run smoothly. I talked to other foster moms and moms of big families. I tried harder and I cried a lot. We were placed with another foster daughter just two days after being placed with the first and 6 weeks into being foster parents, I found out I was pregnant with our fourth child. I leaned on God more than I ever had before and I made it through each hour, each day, and each week precariously but with one foot in front of the other.
None of it was for nothing because that child had a home when she needed one. My family grew in compassion and love for others. My children learned how to pray for people when there is nothing we can do, but trust God to right things in His own timing. I learned to listen more and talk less. And nothing is more valuable than my relationship with God that grew in amazing ways as He provided just what I needed at each turn.
That being said, nearly everything I was taught to “prepare” me for being a foster parent was a lie. I had to take classes and much of what I learned was false, at least for our cases. No one tried to work with me or my family’s schedule. We were told what to do and when to do it and there was very little leeway. Our child never got therapy or help in school because the process to obtain it is so lengthy. Our child was not placed near her hometown, which we were told they do as much as possible. We were lied to or ignored by members of the “team” that were supposed to help us. The foster system is in crisis, which means that families who are a part of that system, just trying to help, are in crisis too. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but until I have some of them, my family has stepped out of the crisis. I want to help, and my heart aches, but I have other kids to consider as well because no one else is putting them first.
Are you a foster parent or considering becoming one? I knew we were called to it at the time we became a foster family, and it was an experience I would never give up. God may lead us back into foster care, or down some other road, but until then I’m praying for our foster care system, our leaders, our families, and these kids that have no home. Leave your comments below; I’d love to hear from you. Please keep it professional if you are a foster family or know foster children. No one wants their business spread on the internet without their consent. Thanks!
This post was originally “penned” in 2013 and is a part of the ongoing, monumental task of moving over an entire blog. Thanks for reading!