Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Top 3 Questions People Ask About Foster Care And Adoption

When people find out we have adopted or that we are foster parents, they always ask questions. Some of them are wildly inappropriate. Some of them are hurtful (as a friend said to me recently, "To be involved in orphan-care ministry is to be misunderstood."). But for the most part people have genuine and sincere questions that I really do want to answer.

Here are the top three:

1) How much does it cost?

Everything always comes down to money, doesn't it? But it takes so much more than money. It costs everything you have and everything you are. You can hold nothing back.

So the short answer to the question is "everything." The long answer is "it depends."

If you pursue foster care, the training is free, the state provides healthcare for the child, and you get a monthly reimbursement check to cover room and board for the child. But while the monetary commitment is minimal, the time commitment is enormous. You will be up at night comforting scared children. You will be spending hours on the road taking them to appointments and visits. You will sacrifice your comfort zone and your need for control and your personal space.

If you pursue adoption (outside of foster care), the monetary cost is often very high. It is not unusual for costs to reach $30-40,000. Most people do not have that kind of money sitting around. We sure didn't when we adopted. But did you know there are no-interest loans available for adoptive families? Grants and matching grants? Employee adoption benefits? Hundreds of fundraisers tailored to adoptive families? I'm told it's not good manners to talk about personal finances, but I'm going to do it anyway: when we adopted our daughter we received $16,000 in grant money and about $10,000 from fundraising efforts. We never could've afforded it otherwise.

So, how much does it cost? It depends. But you can be sure even when the state picks up the tab, there is still a price to pay.

2) How do I know if I'm ready?

People ask me this all the time and I still haven't figured out a better answer than "You don't." You didn't know if you were ready when you first started driving, when you got your first job, when you got married, when you had a baby, when you started a new job, when you bought a house. But you hoped you were. You did everything you could to be ready and then you held your breath, said a prayer, and dove on in.

If you're waiting for someone to come along with a magic wand and sprinkle Readiness dust on your forehead, it's never going to happen.

3) How can I be involved?/How can I help?/What can I do?

This question comes in many variations but the answer is always the same: be available. It's that simple and that complex.

If all your resources are maxed out on personal pursuits, you will have nothing left to give vulnerable children or families and organizations trying to help vulnerable children. And I'm not really talking primarily about money here (although you wouldn't believe the amount of joy a $25 gift card to Dairy Queen can bring an emotionally exhausted foster family). I'm talking about your time. Your love. Your thoughtfulness. Are you available? Or are all the days of your week already filled with all the many wonderful things you and your family want to be part of?

There's nothing wrong with those things. But if there's no breathing room in your life, no extra, what do you have to give? How will you be ready if an opportunity to help comes along? What happens if you become aware of a need you would love to help with, if only you had...more...time?

I'm not saying to give up gymnastics or art lessons or family bowling night or whatever. But for every yes, there has to be a corresponding no. So if you really want to help vulnerable kids, build some margin into your life. Choose your "yeses" and "nos" carefully. Be available.


So, what other questions do you have? What is the one thing you wish you knew about foster care or adoption but have always been too afraid to ask? Drop your question in the comments and click on this link to go to my website and download the Road to Adoption Guide, which answers the fourth most common question: Where do I start?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Plans change

It's been nine and a half months since Little Man left. Nine and a half months of my heart dropping into my stomach every time I see a little blond-haired boy. Nine and a half months of missing his belly laugh and wondering how he is doing. I can still feel his arms around my neck. I don't know if I'll ever not miss him.

But time marches on. We fostered another little boy for a few weeks, and then after he left we didn't get any calls from the state. Weeks went by. Months. No calls. My arms started to feel a little empty. I thought if the state called looking for a placement for another baby...well, I kind of hoped they would. I was ready.

Then it happened. A newborn was in the hospital and needed a safe home. Would we take him? Were we willing?

My heart was immediately invested. Yes! Yes, we would take him! But...we were on vacation. Can he stay with another family until we get back in a few days?

The case worker said yes. We told our kids they could expect a new baby when we returned home. My mind raced with plans. I'd have to get the bottles back out...set up the crib...see what size diapers I had under the bed...I couldn't wait to meet him. My heart was full to bursting. Then, plans changed.

Instead of moving the baby from home to home, the case worker decided it was best for him to stay where he was, with the family who had agreed to take him while we were gone.

He would not be coming to our house.

I would not be setting up the crib.

Why are we doing this? I wondered. Why did we sign up for this roller coaster ride? I prayed and asked God why this was happening but couldn't hear an answer over the roar of disappointment in my ears.

Three days after we got back, we got another call. No, not from the state. Not to foster. Instead, a nonprofit orphan-care ministry in Bozeman was bringing five kids from the Philippines to stay with five host families here for a month to meet other families who might be interested in adopting them. Five older kids who are running out of time to find a forever family. The program is called Summer of Hope. The kids were coming in a few days. But...one of the host families had to drop out. They needed another one ASAP. One that had a current home study and a foster care license and no placements. Would we do it? Were we willing?

It wasn't what I had planned. I could still practically feel the weight of a newborn in my arms, and now they wanted me to take a 10-year-old girl from the Philippines? My heart did this sort of gasping thing that feels like it's turning inside out. This was not what I had planned. This was not what I had planned!!!

But.

A child needed me. Needed our home. Needed a hand to reach out and span the distance between spending the rest of her life in an orphanage and finding a forever family. Yes. Yes, we would do it. No, it wasn't what I had wanted. What I had planned. But yes, we would host this girl. And when she comes, we will advocate for her, be her champions, so this can truly be a Summer of Hope for her.

You know, sometimes plans change. I don't know what God is up to. Why He worked this out the way He did. But I know that no matter how hard it is, how much it hurts sometimes, having a willing heart and an open home is a great position to be in.

You never know what might happen when plans change.


Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Camp-Out From Hell

(In honor of our upcoming vacation, I thought we'd revisit the 2017 Camp-out From Hell. You can't make this stuff up.)

It started with a "Daddy, I don't feel good" before we even got to camp. (And by camp I mean the KOA in Great Falls, which I know doesn't even qualify as camping to some of you, but we needed an easy place to meet up with my family and this was it.) Andy pulled over JUST in time for Simon to fling himself from the car and puke in the gravel on the side of the road.

It was all downhill from there.

We pulled into Site #6 at the KOA and stepped out onto a way-smaller-than-it-looked-in-the-pictures grassy area covered in dog poop. Right where our tent was supposed to go. You know what else was waiting for us where our tent was supposed to go? A yellow-jacket nest. Before I could even get the dog poop cleaned up, the horrible, vindictive buzzing creatures had zeroed in on the most vulnerable among us: poor Simon.

While Simon wailed in pain over two stings to the neck, I frantically tried to find some ice or something to give him. Why hadn’t I packed Benadryl cream? I’m a horrible mother. Then, another scream pierced the air. My sister-in-law limped over from neighboring Site #7 bleeding from her foot. She had stepped on - of all things - a tiny American flag pin laying on the ground pointy side up.

We’d been in camp less than 20 minutes.

The first night was miserable. Every hour the sound of my brother’s air pump whirred through camp as he re-pumped his air mattress, because it, too, had been punctured by the American flag. (This is the price of freedom, people.) Then, every time one of the kids had to get up to go to the bathroom…guess what? They couldn't get into the stupid building because the code on the door wouldn’t work. Not to mention that the man in Site #5 snored so loud we thought there was a landslide, and the drip hoses strewn willy-nilly all over the ground squealed like incoming missiles in the quiet of night. Needless to say, no one got much sleep.

So we were all exhausted the next day. But we were together, and that’s what camping is all about, right? Spending time as a family away from TV and cooking implements and clean sheets.

We spent most of the day at the Electric City Water Park in Great Falls and returned to camp with high hopes of having a better night. After all, we figured out how to shut off the squealing hoses, we stuck a rock in the bathroom door so no one would have to pee their pants, and my brother patched the hole in his air mattress. Things were looking up.

Then, in the wee hours of the morning, what was this? What are these strange sounds? Is the KOA being invaded by hostiles? Nope. A church group had come bright and early to set up a day camp in the field next to our sites, of course. Because the only logical place to hold a Bible camp is in the middle of a KOA while people are sleeping.

Did I mention the automatic paper towel dispensers in the bathrooms did not, in fact, automatically dispense? And that there was an overweight squirrel casing our supplies every time we turned around?

Anyway, our third day at camp was very strange. Everywhere we turned, there were little kids in matching neon green shirts doing crafts and singing about The Golden Rule. The hot tub at the KOA splash park was about as warm as the Gallatin River. And we caught probably a hundred yellow-jackets in the traps we set up.

But that wasn't the weirdest part. The weirdest part was that so many helicopters were flying back and forth directly overhead that we went to the KOA office to use their Wi-Fi so we could check and see if we had gone to war with North Korea. I am not joking. We thought World War III had started and we had missed it. We were relived to discover there was an Air Base nearby practicing maneuvers. Then we discovered someone from a neighboring site was working against us to keep those wretched bathroom doors closed. We didn't know who it was, but every time we stuck a rock in the door, they would come along and kick it out.

A mystery was definitely afoot.

And we had two more nights to go.

(click here for Part 2)