Spring Beauty Roundup: Mama Approved

I could not be more excited for Spring! Temperatures are rising, there’s more sun, more daylight, more time outside with Baby E! The warmer temps also gives me more reason to ransack my beauty cabinet and rotate old products out for new ones! This spring I find myself a busy mama with an infant and I just don’t have as much time to preen as I used to. This year I’m focusing on versatile products to get as much bang for my time as I do my buck! And now, more than ever, I really think about everything I’m putting on my body because what touches my skin touches my daughters skin. And she is so so sensitive to boot!  So this spring my beauty round up is not only fresh and glamorous but mom approved–even for high maintenance mamas like me! Here are my top warm weather, mama approved, beauty picks!

1.  – Jaclyn Hill Eyeshadow Palette  This is the best eyeshadow palette you will buy all year. These are the creamiest, pigmented eyeshadows I have ever used. The color payoff is so versatile from a wash of color to intense, vibrant payoff. Not to mention the price point is perfect–thirty-five colors for $38–and the pan sizes are huge. This palette will take you through spring all the way to fall. Seriously. I’m not even using any other eye palette right now! Also, it’s a one stop palette. Check out Jaclyn’s YouTube channel or Google “Jaclyn Hill Palette Eye Look” for lots of different eye looks. From sweet and natural, to warm smokey, or full on glam there is nothing this palette can’t do–the possibilities are endless!

2. – I tried this MORPHE Highlight & Contour Beauty Sponge for the first time a few days ago and can I just say–WOW. I’ve used MORPHE’s regular beauty sponge before but this baby is a game changer. You can do it all with this sponge: foundation, concealer, powder baking, contour, and highlight. Because of the way the edge is chiseled it is the ultimate sponge. This is also a great tool for mom’s because it’s an all in one tool. When I don’t have a lot of time I choose this sponge over my face brushes because it is quicker and I’m only reaching for one tool instead of five. And for $7 it’s extremely affordable. It’s a game changer.

3. — L’Oreal Voluminous Lash Paradise Waterproof Mascara  in Blackest Black. This mascara is the perfect dupe for Too Faced Better than Sex mascara at a fraction of the cost. And yes, the waterproof version is actually better. You can’t go wrong with this one. It’s so popular it’s sometimes hard to find! Busy mama tip: Stock up on these when your local Target or Ulta runs a buy one get one half. You’ll thank me later.

4 — Savvy Minerals Lip Gloss by YOUNG LIVING in Embrace and Abundant If you’re looking for a natural lip gloss that’s also beautiful look no further. It’s made with natural ingredients and is not tested on animals. It’s formulated without parabens, phthalates, petrochemicals, bismuth, talc, synthetic fragrances, or synthetic colorants. Need I say more? Baby E has the most sensitive skin and I can kiss her cheeks all day with stuff and it doesn’t break out her delicate skin. I am so so careful about what touches her skin and I love that I can kiss her sweet little chubby cheeks guilt free with this Savvy lip gloss! I love wearing it when I’m throwing a hat on and running out the door or with a smokey eye. It’s natural looking and somewhere between sheer to medium coverage. It applies flawlessly without the sticky tacky feeling of other glosses–which I love–and has a great peppermint smell! Baby cheeks approved! You can purchase this lip gloss directly from YOUNG LIVING at the link above or you can join our team as a member and get the lip gloss plus the entire Savvy Minerals Makeup line at a discount!

5 — URBAN DECAY De-Slick Oil-Control Makeup Setting Spray  If you’re an oily mama like me–pun intended–then you know when the warmer months hit this stuff is essential for a flawless all day makeup look. And as a busy mama I don’t have time to worry or fuss over my makeup. I need to get it on and go! This spray keeps my makeup from breaking up and running off my face all day. It also keeps my face from getting shiny. URBAN DECAY makes another setting spray called All Nighter but De-Slick is better for oily skin in my opinion–it does a better job for me.

6 — Flower Cosmetics Petal Pout Velvet Matte Lipcolo in Pink Orchid This budget friendly lipstick is UH-MAZING! I talked about this lipstick on my insta-stories a while back and I still feel just as strongly about it. The color selection reminds me a lot of Tom Ford and they have similar textures and consistencies. The pigmentation is amazing with a wide range of neutrals and bold colors. I love the matte formulation the best but they are both great and for $6 a pop you can afford more than one! Budget friendly and amazing quality don’t happen very often but Drew Barrymore does it here. I love a good pop of color for spring and this season I’m gravitating towards bright pinks, yellow reds, and orange-y corals.

7 — Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder As with the De-Slick Setting Spray above this a must have product all year round for me–especially during the spring and summer months. I always set my makeup with this powder because it mattifies my skin and soaks up any extra oil. This is especially a problem when the temperatures start to climb. This powder is pricey but it last me at least six months. Apply with a light hand to avoid looking cakey and powdery. I never put on makeup without this powder because I know I can set my face and not have to worry about transferring my foundation onto my clothes or baby E. Best powder for mamas with oily skin for sure!

8 — YOUNG LIVING Coconut Lime Replenishing Body Butter I can’t get enough of this vegan body butter. It is the most delicious, limy-y, beachy, juicy smelling body butter I’ve ever used in my life. I feel like I’m rubbing a margarita on my body. And there is absolutely NO FAKE COCONUT SMELL. It’s like a tropical getaway in a tub. I want to eat this every time I slather this stuff on and I guess I actually could. As a mama who’s always on the lookout for natural products I can use on my body I am so ecstatic to have found this stuff! Made without parabens, petrochemicals, colorants, or animal-derived ingredients, this vegan body butter is filled with skin-loving ingredients like mango and cupuacu butter. Mama approved right here! As with the Savvy Lip Gloss above, you can purchase this body butter directly from YOUNG LIVING at the link or you can join our team as a member and get it at a discount in a wellness box that comes right to your door every month!

There you have it! I’m so excited for Spring–if only the weather would cooperate! I would love to know what your spring beauty picks are! Leave your picks and suggestions in the comments below!

Maegan

Westbrook Family Visit

My parents came to visit last weekend and it was heavenly! I haven’t seen them in months and months and I was so glad they were finally able to meet “E”–as my mom calls her. We had the best time and they fell in love with Baby E! They brought her a chocolate Easter bunny that was almost as big as her, clothes, and the cutest little books! It was just a perfect visit! E recognized my mom’s voice as soon as they arrived!–she Facetimes with E and I quite a bit! That was so special to me that she recognized my mom’s voice. My heart was so full for E because she has been touched and handled by so many people for her whole life that it is really important that she has people she can anchor to besides myself and Sam. Like every child, she needs to know she has family who loves her and who she can recognize–even though, for now, we are her foster family. It is always such a range of emotions for me when E meets a family member for the first time. I’m excited for her to meet them but, at the same time, I worry it will be overwhelming for her and cause her to have a meltdown after they leave. I want her to know she has so many people who love her outside her foster care experience but I also want her to not be inundated with new people. Thankfully with both sides of our family she has been so comfortable! She laughs and plays and loves being with our families–and she has never had a meltdown during or after.On Saturday the weather was beautiful! We sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather by the pool, ate some Fuzzy’s Tacos, bounced the Baby and generally had the greatest time. Baby E loves being outside and I am so so happy because as the weather gets warmer we will definitely be spending more and more time out of doors! For me, the experience as a daughter and mother was really special because I get to see my foster child bond with my parents and my parents with her. This is my parents first grandchild too and that made it even more special. It is such an interesting experience to watch my parents from the perspective of parent and child. I understand now how important it is to have children because the experience makes you a more rounded person. It grows and matures you and your perspective on life in its entirety changes, and in a lot of ways becomes more realistic. A lot of things I believed were so important before we began fostering are not important as I believed them to be–and some of those things no longer matter at all.My Pop(my mom’s dad) also got to meet Baby E for the first time too! It was so sweet to see her so comfortable with him. Pop was all about her. It was adorable. Also, isn’t the family resemblance in the photo above striking? The Walker genes run strong! I took so many more pictures than I’m showing here but most of them have E’s face so I can’t show those. Boo! But seriously, it was so good to see my parents and for them to spend time with E. They are so attached to her that I think it will be just as hard on them if she is returned to her bio parent as it will be on us. I hope they get to visit again soon!

I am so proud of our families for embracing this sweet child like she was Sam and I’s biological child. So. Proud. So, so, proud. Not every foster family can boast that and I don’t take it for granted. She really does have two big families who love her so much. I don’t know many foster parents who can boast that! We are truly blessed!

Maegan

Johnson Family Visit

Extended family is hard to come by around here. Both side’s of our family live far away and have not been able to visit much since Baby E was placed with us. So it was a real treat to have Sam’s side of the family here for a visit two weeks ago. We were so so glad to see them! Sam’s brother and his wife were even able to be here and we had not seen them for almost two years! Having family visit with a baby is different–but in a good way. No one expects your house to be clean and no one expects you to entertain. And let’s be real–they all really came to see the baby anyway so no one is looking at my dirty floors that haven’t been mopped in several months. I’m into full disclosure around here.We had such a good time. It was nice to have eager helpers who were more than happy to bounce the baby, and feed the baby, and change the baby, and hold the baby. Everyone even pitched in to fold laundry–queue the Hallelujah Chorus! In the hustle and bustle of my two new jobs( parenting and foster care) I hadn’t realized I really needed a break or how much I really needed to see family. It was really great to sit around and chit-chat and just relax.

It was also nice to be able to step away from Baby E even just for a minute and goof off with Sean and Liana and just be normal adults. We made a quick Walmart run for–what else–diapers, and even though that’s a really simple thing we had a great time. Also, what is up with the new Lay’s potato chip bags. I mean, it’s brilliant marketing but it’s also kind creepy. We almost bought a bag of chips. Seriously.On Thursday we took Baby E on her very first Zoo trip! Sam has been DYING to take her to the Zoo ever since she arrived. She stayed in her stroller most of the time and slept but it was great to get outside and it was the perfect weather. It wasn’t too warm and there was a nice breeze but nothing too crazy. It was perfect! And we all had a really good timeI’m trying so hard to remember to take pictures when we are out doing fun things but it is so hard to remember sometimes! I’m dong better about taking pictures and now I’m trying to incorporate more video. This week I plan on getting my big mama camera out and start using it. I need a good camera strap–a cute one–so if anyone has a suggestion will ya leave it in the comments below? Thanks!

It is killing me not to be able to post full pictures of Baby E. We took so many good pictures with Papa Randy and MeMaw and Papa Baker(great grandparents), and then with Uncle Sean and Aunt Liana. I wish I could show them all! Maybe oneday  . . . I’m trying to share her as best I can while still complying. But it is SO HARD!!! There were so many good pictures y’all!On Friday night Sam and I got to go out on our first date since Baby E!!! We had the best time! We planned on dinner and a movie but it turned into a movie and fro-yo. It was a good trade off. We ended up seeing The Greatest Showman and it was so flippin’ good! We jammed out to the soundtrack all the way home–one of the few perks of technology–and I’m still loving the soundtrack weeks later. ‘This is Me’ is such a good anthem song, ya know? There was a shopping center near the theater and that’s where we took these photos. They are grainy and a little dark but I love these photos because they are so “us”. For once, I kept it simple and just wore a bold lip, a comfy shirt dress, and (gasp!) comfortable shoes. It was good to get away together for a few hours.It was a really great visit and Sam and I are so thankful for our family. We really are. Parenthood can be so demanding and with foster care added to the mix life can seem completely impossible. It was such a great relief to have family here because we got to forget about foster care for a few days and just be a family. Ya know? It was good just to be. We were sad to see them go! Johnson weekend visit was a super success and we look forward to seeing everyone soon.

Maegan

Our First Month as Foster Parents

I struggled with how to begin this blog post. How do I even begin to describe the whirlwind of life-changing events that was the last thirty days? Being first-time parents and foster parents has been a dream come true and overwhelming at the same time. It has involved all the emotions, struggles, and triumphs of being a first-time parent with the added stress of meeting the demands of foster care.

The Takeaway

I would have to say what I have learned the most from my first month as a foster parent is that the stress of foster care doesn’t come from actually taking care of the children. It’s not the crying, or the sleep deprivation, or the fact that I sometimes have nothing clean to wear and I haven’t taken a shower in three days–though those things pose their own challenges. The stress and the ‘negative’ that is the dark cloud hovering over foster care stems from meeting the demands of the actual foster care ‘system’.

Baby E

In the first month of Baby E’s life, she went to four doctors visits, four visitations with her bio parents, one visit from her lawyer, a court hearing (she did not attend), two visits from our agency, and a home visit from her CPS case worker. That is so so much to do for a regular adult–much less an infant. It’s taxing on her and it’s taxing on us–not that we are complaining. Our agency properly prepared us for what was ahead and it is a responsibility we gladly accept. It is hard to watch her struggle with such a demanding schedule, and though there is only so much that an infant can take, it doesn’t matter if she is having a rough day or if it would probably be in her best interest to stay at home and rest, she is obligated by the state to be at whatever visit or appointment they say she has to be.

I’ve also learned that is doesn’t matter what age a child is when they come into foster care, they ALL struggle to cope. I can only imagine how much harder it is for children who are old enough to understand what is happening around them. For Baby E, we all hope this is just a blip in her life–no matter what the outcome–and that she never remembers any of her foster care experience. On the other hand, just because she will most likely not remember, she still experiences the effects of going through the process of foster care. It doesn’t exempt her from how hard it is.

If I could get each person reading this post to come to the CPS office just one time with me and you could see the brokenness, the darkness, the sadness, and the hopelessness of that place, you would all be lining up to be foster parents. Not to mention, it is physically one of the filthiest places I have darkened the doorway of in my life–and I have been on mission trips to impoverished countries where people were grateful to have cardboard boxes to live in. Dropping Baby E off at the visitation office is the most gut-wrenching, stress-inducing, heartbreaking experience. I’m not going to sugar coat it for anyone. It is miserable. I’m not allowed to stay during the visit so I have to occupy myself for two hours until she can be picked up again–and we do this once every week. It is important for her to see her bio parents every week and I know this.  But, it doesn’t make it any easier on me to hand her to CPS and walk away. Each time, I have to remind myself that this is not about me and that no matter how afraid I am, God is in control. Sam and I are here to help Baby E because she needs someone to help her. If she didn’t have us, who else would be able to take care of her?

There are hundreds of kids who come into foster care every month just like Baby E. It is not some far-off distant imaginary thing that happens to someone else. Can you see how much these kids need you to help them? If Sam and I hadn’t decided to be foster parents, who would Baby E have right now? If not us, then who? It just breaks my heart to know how many children right this minute–not tomorrow, not ten years from now–have no one. Are you hearing me? They have NO ONE to be there for them. And guess what? That doesn’t mean that they still don’t have to do EVERY. SINGLE. THING. Baby E is having to do. Are you hearing me? These kids still have to go to every visitation, every court hearing (children four years and up have to attend hearings), every CPS visit, and every doctor appointment on their own. ON. THEIR. OWN. Are you hearing me? There is not one excuse for why every person reading this is not involved directly with a child in foster care. If you’re a Christian, then you really have no excuse. James 1: 27.

As the Foster Parents

I would say for us the struggle has been watching Baby E cope with her situation. She is a really easy baby with a sweet disposition and is not really prone to crying or fussing. And in the beginning, when she would come back from visitation, it was like they handed me a totally different child. She was a total emotional wreck when she would come home from visitation. Hours of crying and whimpering and needing to be held constantly. Constantly. Once I could get her calmed and soothed, she would be OK until I would try to lay her in her bassinet so she could get some rest or so I could go to the bathroom. Instantly emotional eruption. She would cry so hard all day long that she would make herself hoarse. The first month, I was the only one at home with her after a visitation and I was really just winging it on my own. A few weeks ago, Sam was able to be home with me on a visitation day and he was really blown away by how rough it is on her. It is rough for many reasons and thankfully it is getting better as we have figured out how to help her transition, but is it still something no child should have to deal with on her own.

Sam and I have had to learn how to manage her schedule in a way that takes some of the burden of this whole process off her too. She is definitely the victim of her circumstances and even though she didn’t put herself in foster care, she still has to abide by all the state rules and do as she is told. So, we have learned that there are just certain pre-visitation and post-visitation activities that we do or do not do. This has helped to reduce a lot of stress for her and us. We are learning there are just certain things that trigger her and certain things that soothe her.

I have also learned that our agency is an invaluable resource and support. I have no idea how anyone is fostering without the help of an agency. I really don’t. They have really guided us and helped in ways that I never could have anticipated. To me this is such a big deal I’ve written an entire blog post dedicated to this topic. If you are considering becoming a foster parent please, please, please find a great agency. Your experience will be so much better. I promise.

People’s reactions to Sam and my new life has been quite educational. People have one of two very distinct reactions–they either think what we are doing is amazing and inspirational and they are in turn very supportive, or they are very negative and distrustful of our decision. For example, the supportive person uses words like, what a blessing, thank you, I’ve always wanted to know more, how can I help, I’m so glad you can help Baby E. The negative person uses words like, I don’t know how you do it, don’t get too close, it is probably not going to work out, foster care is such a broken system, I have a friend (usually quite distant and removed and this person is truly ignorant and has no first-hand knowledge of the actual foster child or their situation) and it was a nightmare for them, just don’t get your hopes up.

Surprisingly, I haven’t been upset, but rather enlightened, by people’s opinions. And it’s very telling about what kind of person I’m dealing with. The person that uses supportive words unconsciously tells me that they look at foster care from a selfless place seeing the needs of others before themselves. The person who uses negative words unconsciously tells me how selfish they are. Foster care is about them and what they can get out of it. If it is too hard, or painful, and not all about them in the end, they have nothing positive to say.  So just know that I know who really supports Baby E and what Sam and I are trying to do, and who doesn’t as soon as they open your mouth.

And even after all the hard stuff I just shared–and I have just mentioned a lot of hard things–we have gotten to take care of Baby E and that has made it ALL worth it. Seriously. It is worth it. Sam and I get to take care of this precious sweet child who God knew before she was born and called her by name. We have already made so many wonderful memories with her. So many wonderful memories! And, it feels good knowing that I am making a positive life-changing impact on another person’s life, and in turn, on the world.

Foster care has also been a balm to my mama soul because it has allowed me to be a mother–despite all the hardships. I feel better now than I have in several years. I’m in the middle of writing a big blog post about this topic because I want people–especially women–to know how being a foster mom has changed me and empowered me and given life to my bones. I want you to know my experiences. So more coming on that soon!

I’m excited to see what the next month holds. Baby E is growing like a weed and is the sweetest, cutest little girl ever! If you would like to know exactly how to become a foster parent,this blog post has everything you need to know. If you missed her latest hearing update, you can find ithere.

Maegan

Over the Weekend

As Baby E has gotten a little bit older we’ve been able to get out and about a bit more, though with it being flu season we are extra careful and we don’t get her out of the car seat while we are out if it can be helped. This was our first big weekend to venture out of the house together as a family and we had quite a bit of fun. On Saturday we decided to have an impromptu lunch at Five Guys, which as some of you may know is a lot easier to manage when you have another set of hands to help you out. I tried to get Sam to take a few pictures for me and with me at Five Guys but all I got was his hungry face–and I was really hungry too–so this was as good as it got.I had my hamburger bun-less for the first time here and it was really good. Some places you go and get a bun-less burger and its a soggy mess but this burger still had a crisp bite to its lettuce and the burger was nice and hot! It was good all around!

Once we finished eating we decided that since we were out we should take advantage and run a few errands but we only made it to the Target parking lot before Baby E got hungry and we had to feed her in the backseat. We have been having a lot of back seat feedings and I am curious if this is the plight of a lot of first time moms. To me it makes more sense to feed them where you are then to force yourself to go home just so they can eat–and scream all the way there mind you.Once we were done with errands Sam and I thought a sweet treat might be nice so we drove to Sprinkles! Oh my sweet sugar overload. I LOVE Sprinkles! I particularly like their Salted Corn Flake Cookie Sundae with Captain Crunch ice cream. You guys, it’s drool worthy. My mouth is salivating just writing about it. So we drove to Sprinkles and split my favorite cookie sundae and it was scrumptious! Poor Baby E did not get to have any.

Sam was such a good Sport and let me take his picture. There are no pictures of me because I looked like a hot mess but as we get more and more used to our routine I’ll be able to better prepare myself for impromptu outings.Then on Sunday, Baby E attended her very first Sunday morning church service! I am so mad at myself because we forgot to ask someone to take our picture! We had so many people stop us and want to meet Baby E and express their excitement over her. She has so many people who love her and are praying for her–it is so humbling. I did manage to snap a picture outside before we got home. We also had out first Sunday after church lunch with some friends from church. Did I get a picture of that either? No. We also attended Sunday evening services and then went to dinner afterwards with more church friends. Sunday was a very full and joyous day. I’m so sad I didn’t get more picture taken but I know I will have those moments in my memory forever. I just wish I had more photos for Baby E’s scrapbook. Whatever God’s plans are for her I always want her to have good memories of her infant-hood to look back on.

In the next few days Baby E will be one month old! It’s so hard to believe! I look forward to sharing her milestone pictures here on the blog as best I can!

Maegan

Baby E’s First Court Hearing

I know this update is a little overdue. Thank you for bearing with me as I navigate motherhood and foster care at the same time. OK, on to the good stuff.

Last Friday Baby E had her first court hearing and though I cannot go into great detail I will share what I can. Every child in foster care has a standard court hearing two weeks after entering the care of CPS. The night before her hearing her lawyer came by the house to meet Baby E and introduce herself to us. I’m glad we get to meet her lawyer and that she gets to meet us too. Part of her lawyer coming by the house is to meet the child but also to have a first hand account of her in her foster care environment as she will have to report what she sees to the judge at each hearing. We were surprised and relieved to find out Baby E is not allowed to attend any hearings because she is so young and her attendance is too distracting for the bio-parents though older children do have to attend court hearings. Baby E has also been fortunate enough to have a CASA(Court Appointed Special Advocate) Volunteer assigned to her case who also appears at every hearing and acts as an advocate on her behalf. We could not be more excited about this! Not every child in foster care is fortunate enough to have a CASA Volunteer, so Sam and I are so grateful that Baby E is going to have the benefits of that extra support in her life!

We decided that Sam would go to this court hearing since the bio-parents have never met him or seen him. This turned out to be a wise decision as he was informed once he arrived that they did not want him meeting the bio-parents and that it was best they not know he was there. He did glean some information while at the hearing but we really learned more once the CPS investigator called us later that evening. I will preface with there are no definites in foster care until the judge makes his or her decision at the final hearing. We have our hopes and best interests always at the forefront for Baby E and we want what is ultimately best for her. That being said, it looks like at this time, unless something changes Baby E will be in our care for a while.

We are so humbled and honored that we get to be Baby E’s foster parents and walk the road of foster care with her. I’m also so so glad that she has a lot of people in her corner fighting for her best interests–and I’m not just talking about her lawyer, her CPS case worker, or her CASA Volunteer. I’m also talking about all our friends and family praying for her everyday and for our church family embracing her with open arms. We have had such an outpouring of love and support from so many people and I’m proud that Baby E has so many people who already love her and are praying God’s will for her life.

So as always we are just taking it day by day trusting God. I hear people say so often, “I don’t know how you handle all the unknowns. That must be so hard.” And it is. It’s extremely hard. But I trust that God did not lead us down this path and light our way for everything to end in misery. That’s not the God I serve. I am trusting and believing that God actual has–ya know–a plan, and that we are not just hurtling through our lives on a kamikaze mission of chaos. God has a plan for us and God has a plan for Baby E, and the Bible says his plans are Good.

As always thank you to everyone for your prayers. Keep them coming!

Maegan

From Orientation to Licensing—The Complete Step by Step Guide to Becoming a Foster Parent

acs_0004Since Sam and I have started this journey I have had so many people say to me, “I’ve always wanted to become a foster parent but I have no idea how to get started. What do you have to do to become a foster parent or foster to adopt?” Well, if you’ve ever had that question I’m answering it for you today. This is a lengthy post and for good reason. I go into detail about each step of the process and include tips and tricks Sam and I learned along the way. I want to note to that we are licensed in the state of Texas so if you live in another state some of these steps and protocols might look different for you but the basic bones of the process are the same. Ok, here we go!

First things first:

Choose an Agency

You need to choose an agency. You don’t have to use an agency but I’m NEVER going to suggest you try to go it alone. Fostering through an agency is an INFINITELY better experience for you and your placement. Why is an agency so important? The agency trains you for free (that CPR class you need would run you $200 and up if you were going it alone. And that’s just one of many many certifications you will have to have in order to be licensed.) An agency prepares you for every inspection and the home study and helps walk you through the certification process. But that’s not why fostering with an agency is so important. No, the most important part comes AFTER certification when you actually have a placement. They are your guide and liaison between you, CPS, the State, and the child’s bio family. They are your support people. If you have any issue, you vent to them and not CPS, or your CASA volunteer, or the child’s therapist, or a random stranger, or the internet(Ah-hem). They are there to support you and help guide you through court appointments, placement paperwork(that initial placement comes with over two hours of paperwork with CPS)–I could go on and on and on. Fostering through an agency is very important to the success of you and your placement’s experience. If you know someone who is currently fostering, ask them who their agency is. (We are with Upbring the largest agency in Texas) If you don’t know any foster families, Google: (Insert your city name here) Foster Agencies”. This will pull up all the agencies in your area. Go to their websites and and find out when their next orientation is. If it’s not listed on their website, call and ask!

Attend Orientations

Do your research about each agency and then attend their orientation. The following suggestions are personal preference of course, but there are some main factors I would never overlook such as; Does this agency like to follow ALL the rules? Do they expect you as the potential foster parent to follow the rules? Do they have strict guidelines and standards for certification qualification? Are they adamant about supporting their families? (In-depth blog post coming on this soon) Do they have a good relationship with CPS? Do they require you to have all the state mandated equipment in your home BEFORE an environmental inspection, BEFORE your home-study, and BEFORE your first placement? What’s their attitude towards the State? What is their motivation as an Agency? What are their spiritual beliefs? Obviously, you will want to spend a lot of time praying about this decision. Orientation is also a good time to talk to other people who are fostering with that agency. What is their attitude towards their agency? If you hear things like, “our previous agency never expected us to comply with “x” but your agency does?” multiple time from different people with different agencies you’re probably in the right place. A good agency will expect you to follow ALL the rules–and boy are there a lot of them.

Pray about it some more

 

Sign Up for Training

After you choose an agency you will receive a schedule of their next round of foster care training. Your agency will give you the schedule of when all your classes will be and you will be responsible for signing up for them in advance. Our agency didn’t offer all the trainings every month so knowing your schedule and keeping track of what trainings you’ve completed is important. With Upbring a person has three months to complete their trainings and receive their certification or they have to start the entire process over again. So look 3 months ahead in your calendar and decide if the next training round will be a good time for you, and know that soon beyond that point you will be receiving a placement upon receiving your license.

Fill Out the Preliminary Paperwork

At this point you will have some preliminary paperwork that you will need to fill out and submit before you begin training. This paperwork is pretty basic(and not scary)and it’s purpose is to determine whether you are a good candidate for going on to training. These factors are very practical factors like your Name, address, date of birth, etc. They are also going to ask to see your finances and tax records to determine whether you can you financially afford to take on another child or children. They are going to do background checks to see if you have gone to jail for murdering anyone or for abusing/molesting children(good things to look into I think); etc. They will complete a regular background check on you and then an FBI background check(we had to pay for our FBI background check). These processes are not about failing you, but about making sure the children’s best interest is ALWAYS put first. Should the government trust you to take care of the children in their custody? Are you realistically capable of taking on this commitment? These are all responsible, necessary questions your agency should be asking you because CPS and the State of Texas is going to ask them.

Training Begins

Print out your training schedule and put it up where everyone in the family can see it. Put in in your planner, and phone, and on your calendar. Hold on to your hats. Training is rigorous and emotional and mentally exhausting. It’s not that it’s too hard to understand–it’s just a very large amount of information at once. Be prepared to discuss, hear, see, and listen to difficult and upsetting topics and scenarios. There is a reason why foster care exists–and it’s ugly. That’s why children in foster care NEED good, loving, families to take refuge in. There’s a very valid reason.

Keep praying

Take your training in order. Trust me.

Pray some more–your getting in good practice for when you actually have that child or children come into your family

 

The Mountain of Paperwork

Your training will guide through the entire process including the paperwork you need to fill out. I can’t speak for other agencies but Upbring had our paperwork broken into phases so as you complete certain training you turn in the paperwork designated for that phase. This is why it’s important to take your classes in order! Sam and I took our classes out of order and that made keeping up with submitted paperwork much more difficult. During this time you will have some paperwork in your folder that is specifically for your references to fill out and mail in. As soon as you get your paperwork be thinking about who you would like to be your references. There are specific groups of people your agency wants to hear from including; clergy(or a boss), a family member, a friend, and a coworker. You will also be responsible for asking close friends or family to become certified babysitters and respite. Start this process as soon as you begin training because your babysitters and respite will all be required to have CPR/First Aid training and, regular and FBI background checks, plus the appropriate paperwork and government ID submitted. This can take a while to get all completed so don’t put this of until the last minute. You MUST have babysitters certified before you can be licensed so don’t put it off. It’s also rude and unkind to wait until the last minute. Offer to pay for your baby sitter and respite FBI background checks. This is the least you can do for all the hoops they are about to jump through for you. Your respite people will be required to complete all the requirements for your babysitters plus half of all the trainings you will take. Be gracious and kind to your babysitters and respite people. You will also be asked to submit photos of every room in your house plus pictures of yourself and all your family. These go in your file and are part of what your agency and CPS will look at when determining the best family for each child who enters the foster system needing a home.

You still praying? I bet your becoming a pro at it by now.

 

The Inevitable Doubt

I wanted to add this section because throughout our entire certification process Sam and I had plenty of doubts about becoming certified. This is completely normal. I would never want anyone to ever think that Sam and I just breezed through this LIFE ALTERING proccess without our fair share of doubts. Doubts mean you’re understanding and considering with seriousness the commitment you’re about to make. It also means you care. Just keep praying and be brave!

Complete Your Inspections

This the final phase of the training process. This includes all your inspections like the Fire Marshal, environmental, and(the not to be dreaded)home study. If you have a good agency then they will have held your hand and prepped you extensively and you should have no surprises or failed inspections. Both the fire marshal and environmental inspection checklists came in our paperwork and we knew exactly what each inspection would require of our home. There are no surprises here. They simply check the boxes on the check list and your done.

The Home Study

This is the most over hyped, demonized, horror storied part of the entire certification process. The home study is the final inspection you will complete and it’s not scary at all. Since you’ve had a fire marshal inspection and an environmental inspection(our agency pre-inspected our house to make double sure our environmental inspection would pass with flying colors) you will be extremely prepared for that portion of the home-study. If you’re with a good agency they will already have asked you a dozen times all the questions and topics that will be asked in your home study inspection. Have you lied about something from the beginning? Are you hiding something you don’t want anyone to know? Have you done something bad and are covering it up? if the answer to any of the question is ‘yes’ then you should be very worried about your home-study and I would just go ahead and tell you not to bother trying to get certified to foster–we don’t need your kind here. If you answered ‘no’ to all those questions then you don’t have anything to fear. When you decided to become a foster parent I hope you came into this with the right mindset; that mindset being that the government was going to go through every part of your life with a fine tooth comb. They are not going to bust down the doors of your life like a SWAT team, but they are going to find out all they can about you because–this whole process is not about you. This process is about the children and making sure their wellbeing is ALWAYS the first priority. I think most people’s aversion to the whole idea of foster care is because they have some skeleton in their closet they don’t want anyone knowing about–even if that skeleton is harmless. Embrace the home-study.

The Final Leg

Once your homestudy has been conducted you wait for it to be submitted to your agency, looked at, and filed into the system. It’s written by hand so it could take several weeks for your home study to be submitted. Now is the time to do bust out the confetti canon and celebrate the fact you made it to the end! Have fun and don’t sit around waiting to hear from your agency because you will drive yourself crazy. Celebrate all that you have accomplished!

Licensing Appointment

Your agency will call or email you that you have passed your inspection and schedule your licensing appointment. At this appointment you sign the final paperwork and file for your foster care licencing number. We received a giant binder full of pertinent paperwork our signed license, and other important information. You also go over all the burning questions you might have been itching to ask but just haven’t been relevant like; how does wic work, how long does it take to receive my placements Medicare number, how do I take them for their initial dr visits without their Medicare number, etc. You also get to meet your agency “case worker” who is assigned to you and is the person who works with you on every single one of your placements. It takes a couple of days for your liscnesing number to come back and be “live” in the system so again go and celebrate and have fun.

IT’S OFFICIAL YOU’RE FOSTER PARENTS IN WATING FOR A PLACEMENT

Once your licensing number is live in the system your family will be placed on the CPS vacancy list and now you are OFFICIALLY licensed foster parents. Once your family is live you will wait to be matched to a child who has come into the system via CPS. Your agency will call you as soon as they have a placement that needs you. For us, waiting for our first placement call was the most nerve wracking part so definitely fill up your calendar with things to keep yourself busy!

You made it all the way to the end of this blog post! Whew. That is pretty much the process in it’s entirety. Please remember that each agency and each state is different so a few of these processes and procedures might vary but overall the process will most likely be the same. I hope you are more educated and confident about how to start and complete the foster-care certification process. Please comment bellow with all your questions! I know there are bound to be a few!

Maegan

 

UP NEXT:

The Dreaded Home Study: It’s Nothing to Dread

The Call

I sit here writing this at a very late hour bleary eyed and incandescently happy. Friday afternoon we got a phone call for our first placement– a little girl fresh off the press. In a matter of hours CPS brought her to us and after a mind boggling two and half hours of paperwork our agency case manager and CPS packed up and left us alone with a precious, tiny baby girl. My head is still spinning a little.

We actually got our first phone call for a placement the day before; Thursday. That was such a nerve wracking phone call, mostly because of the unknown. The unknown is the hardest part of this entire journey to be sure. I was a nervous jittery wreck by the time they called us back. I just felt so much anxiety about the whole thing. It was definitely a learning process as we were under the impression that once they called us we would have a definite placement–this is not the case as we soon learned. What really happens is our agency is contacted about a placement, Upbring goes through their database for suitable families, they choose families and then start making phone calls. Upbring calls and ask if you are willing to take the placement and then they tell you they will alert CPS you are a willing candidate. Upbring alerts CPS and then CPS looks through the list of families and then decides which family is the best match for the child. Then your agency calls you back–eventually–and lets you know if you’ve gotten the placement or not.

So, Thursday we got a phone call, and when they called back to tell us we didn’t get it I was really really disappointed. I cried a little. I was more upset that I had misunderstood the process and I felt, understandably, that we had been misled about the process. But Sam was quick to point out that Upbring just can’t tell CPS that we will take the child–we have to give consent. That means they have to call us, and then update CPS, and then call us back. We just misunderstood.

We weren’t expecting another phone call so soon after our first. We were actually on our way out the door to IKEA on Friday when my phone rang. This time I felt completely at peace after they called. I think because I really knew what to expect I was much more calm and relaxed. They had a placement needing a family, we said yes and twenty minutes later I got a text from our case manager that our placement would be happening that day and the CPS agent was already at the hospital discharging the child. Things moved so quickly we didn’t even have time to go to the store and buy clothes or diapers. In a few hours our agency case manager was here, and then the CPS agent and the little girl.

It really did take about two and half hours to get through all the paperwork, the introductions, and then all the information they had to relay from the hospital. Once that was said and done, the CPS agent left and then our case manager made sure we were comfortable, answered all our questions, reminded us to call her if we had any questions or concerns and left too.

It was late at night by this time, but we still had to go to the store to pick up things Baby E (that’s what we are calling her) needed right then. So we–unbelievably–put this baby we’d known for a few hours in the car and went to the store. Yes, it seemed nuts to us too. But, it went beautifully. The next morning our case manager text me to check in and see how we were doing. Just one of the many reasons fostering through an agency is the best way to foster.

So far things are going very smoothly. She’s already almost back up to her birth weight, and she’s eating and sleeping well. What the future holds for Baby E is unsure but for right now we are enjoying her! She is the sweetest, cuddliest thing ever. Lemon loves her too! We have been so so so blessed to have so many family, church family, and friends be so excited and supportive of us and Baby E! She is already loved by so many people.

The next couple of weeks will go quickly and her first court hearing will be in about two weeks. Please keep us in your prayers as we transition into parenthood; for Baby E and all the important decisions being made that will impact her for the rest of her life; for her bio-parents; and for every person who is involved in the decision making process for Baby E. Whatever is decided we want what is best for Baby E.

It did take me a couple of days to get to a place where I had the time to write this post–I didn’t sleep at all the first night so welcome to parenthood–but that is already getting easier and easier as we establish a routine.

Maegan

Waiting

So, it’s been six days since we were placed on the vacancy list with our foster-care agency and we are still waiting on that phone call. Seriously. When we found out Thursday that we were officially on the vacancy list I freaked out a little and cried. I think it was just my being completely overwhelmed with the whole situation and also overjoyed at finally reaching a huge milestone after everything we have been through. It was a ‘nervous–cited’ cry. lol.

The next couple of days were the worst because every time the phone rang or pinged or chimed we both jumped like two feet. I’ve been constantly glued to my phone because I’m the contact person and I’ve been so worried I will miss that very important phone call. It’s important because if we don’t answer they immediately hangup and call the next family on the list. These kids need home like yesterday and they don’t have the luxury of waiting for you to call them back. After those first couple of days we have kind of gotten into a rhythm of keeping busy and waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. We are getting good practice at patience.

While we are waiting I thought I would kind of introduce our placement and answer some questions about what we do know about them. I shared our story here but I haven’t shared what we do know about our future placement.

These are some of the most frequent questions we get asked when people find out we are fostering to adopt:

How many children will you be fostering? 

One child at a time

What age will they be?

Newborn to Eighteen Months

Will you know the gender?

No.

Do you know what ethnicity the child will be?*

No.

*Sam and I honestly had no preferences about race or gender and that worked out great for us because specifying either of those in the state of Texas is not an option for infants.

Will the child have his clothes and toys from home?

No. Most children, if not all, come into foster care with nothing but the clothes they have on–and in our case that might be a diaper and nothing else. No clothes, toys, memorabilia, diapers, formula, wipes, bottles, pacifiers, blankets, car seats, bouncers, strollers, swaddles, nothing. none, zip, zero. They might have never had any of the things on this short list of items.

Will you know a lot about the child’s past, bio parents, family?

No. We will probably know very little about the child when they first come to us. A name, an estimated age, gender, race–that’s probably it since they will be so young and there’s nothing to add like what grade they are in, their favorite school subject, things like that. Bio parents information and the child’s past situation is not something by law we can know much about. And what we do know we cannot share with anyone because it’s against the law and violates the parent’s and child’s rights of privacy.

Will you be able to adopt your first placement?

There is no guarantee we will be able to adopt any placement we receive. It just depends on how everything plays out and that will take a while to figure out. It’s all in God’s hands.

How long will you have your first placement?

We don’t know. Maybe a couple of weeks? Maybe a few months or a year? Maybe forever! Each placement’s situation is unique and completely unpredictable. We will trust God and cherish each day we get to love and cuddle and spoil them.

Will they be adorable, perfect, squeezable, and basically the best baby ever?

YES! YES! YES! AND OF COURSE!!!!!! This we do know for sure!

I do want to touch on how the age and gender of placements is decided for each family because I think it’s pertinent. A lot of people think you get to choose the age/number/gender of children when you become licensed foster parents but this is an ignorant misconception–one that often sets people who desire to be foster parents up for disappointment. In almost every case you do not get to choose what age of child or gender of child you will be able to foster. There are actually several key factors and a complicated mathematical equation that determines those specifics. And those specifics are set in place by the State. Factors like available space in your home, number of licensed foster parents in the home, number of biological children in the home–their age and gender, foster parents working/not working or working from home, and what county a person lives in all play a role in what age and gender of children you will be eligible to foster.

For instance, because Sam and I live in a one bedroom town-home we can only legally foster children that can sleep in our bedroom. The state of Texas says that children who can sleep in our bedroom must be 3 and under. Because the foster and adoption process can take a year a to a year and half or longer to complete that means the child can be no more than eighteen months at the time of placement with us before they age out of our room. I stay at home full-time, we have no  biological children, and we also happen to live in a county that has an urgent need for EVERY age group. Because of these factors we happened to be good candidates to foster infants.

That’s the latest update and a little about our expected first placement. Please pray for us to have patience as we wait for that special phone call. We appreciate prayers so much!!

Maegan

Our Scandi Farmhouse Glam Christmas Home Tour 2017

We spent Christmas home this year just Sam, Lemon, and I and it was a nice change of pace. We really missed being with family on Christmas but with our foster licensing looming and everything so up in the air we decided to stay home. We made this decision earlier in the fall as we were going through the certification process because so much about the dates and timing where just so unknown. I tried my best to make the house extra festive this Christmas. The last thing I wanted was for us to wake up on Christmas morning without family or proper Christmas festiveness! I hope you enjoy my mini Christmas house tour!

Sam and I had a lot of fun making those stockings! We plan to add more to them next year–sort of progressive Christmas stocking. The red gingham ribbon in the tree is deco-mesh from Hobby Lobby.

Stop it. y’all she is to precious in that little Christmas dress!

Tobacco basket: Hobby Lobby, wreath: Walmart, ‘Tis The Season pillow: Target, large Pom Pom garland: my personal DIY

We also found these dog pajamas at Walmart. I wish they would make more because they fit her so perfectly. I hope you all had a very Merry and Blessed Christmas! We are officially live in the system for our agency so now it’s just a waiting game for that first call. There is still a very good chance we will get a call before New Years for our first placement. To say my stomach has butterflies is an understatement.

I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year and here’s to a blessed 2018!

Maegan