Unsung Heroes: The Wright Family, A Maegan Johnson Blog Foster Care Series

Unsung Heroes: The Wright Family

If you are new here I am hosting a four-week foster care series called Unsung Heroes. Each Monday I am featuring a foster mom and her family that has stood out for her devotion, dedication, and advocacy for all foster children. These women and their families are the Robin Hoods, the Dark Nights of our time–average people like you and me daring to change the world. I interviewed each foster mom about the ins and outs of foster care from the most commonly asked questions to the most sensitive. I’m confident that you’ll not only be inspired by each woman but may have some of your own questions answered and possibly leave with a new perspective!

This week’s family is very near and dear to our heart. We are blessed to call them long time friends as we have known Patty since we were in high school.  Their shining example as foster parents is one of the reasons why Sam and I decided to become foster parents ourselves. My guests this week are Patty and Ash Wright. Patty and Ash live in the Texas Hill Country and have a beautiful eight year old son, NRW, whom they adopted through foster care, and their wonder-dog Ranger. Patty is a stay at home mom (with a killer home decor Instagram FostermomFarmhouse) and her husband Ash is a political consultant. They love spending time together as a family and enjoy church, traveling, nights at the Austin Spurs basketball games, camping, fishing, family game nights and watching NRW play sports. The Wrights have been fostering for three years.

Unsung Heroes: The Wright Family, A Maegan Johnson Blog Foster Care SeriesMaegan: Patty, I’m so excited to have you as my series guest this week. I know we’ve talked about this before but what made you decide foster care was for your family?

Patty: After years of infertility, we started praying about how to grow our family! We had a coworker who had just adopted from foster care and their family referred us to their foster agency! We went to an informational meeting and we started paperwork the day of our first meeting!

Maegan: Timing is always a topic that comes up in foster care. When did you and Ash know it was ‘time’?

Patty: Very quickly after we learned about foster care and the growing need in Texas, Ash and I both felt like God was calling us to be foster parents! We were both excited and ready to provide love and safety to little Texans in need!

Unsung Heroes: The Wright Family, A Maegan Johnson Blog Foster Care SeriesMaegan: What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge as a foster parent?

Patty: The greatest challenge as a foster parent is the uncertainty associated with foster care in many different aspects! Every foster case is different and it is almost impossible to predict how long a child will be placed with you! We were eager to adopt and we fostered several children before we were blessed to adopt our son!

Maegan: What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a foster parent?

Patty: We always encourage people who are considering foster care to research foster agencies in their area and attend an informational meeting to learn as much as possible. There is such a need for good families to foster and we want to help change the negative stigmas associated with foster care.

Unsung Heroes: The Wright Family, A Maegan Johnson Blog Foster Care SeriesMaegan: If you could give one piece of advice to a new foster parent what would it be?

Patty: Don’t give up!  There will be hard times but always remember why you decided to foster in the first place!

Maegan: What is your goal as a foster parent?

Patty: To provide a safe, loving home for children! We believe in God’s plan for our lives and we believe we are doing our part in helping children placed in tough situations.   We also hope to adopt from foster care again!

Unsung Heroes: The Wright Family, A Maegan Johnson Blog Foster Care SeriesMaegan: Fostering is not sustainable lifestyle and it’s important to have a plan before beginning. Does your family have a set of goals you plan to or a specific end date?

Patty: No, we hope to provide a safe home for many children for many years to come!

Maegan: What is the best thing about being a foster parent?

Patty: Watching our foster children grow and learn is the best thing for us! When we think about how far our son has come in the past three years, we are so thankful that we were chosen to be his parents!

Unsung Heroes: The Wright Family, A Maegan Johnson Blog Foster Care SeriesMaegan: Attachment is one of, if not the biggest, concern most non-foster parents have about becoming a foster parent themselves. What are your thoughts on attachment?

Patty: It is super important for foster parents to teach children in their care about normal bonding and attachment practices. Most often, children in care are coming from a place of abuse and neglect and are actually craving attachment. It is important to treat each child in your care as “your own” for as long as you are blessed to have them!

Maegan: Why are you passionate about foster care?

Patty: Our world is a broken place and we want to provide a safe home for children who are put in impossible situations. It is our job as Christians to take care of those in need and we are thankful that we have the resources to do so!

Unsung Heroes: The Wright Family, A Maegan Johnson Blog Foster Care SeriesMaegan: If you could only use three words to describe the certification process, what would they be? Why those words?

Patty:

  • Paperwork-There is A LOT. Start with the easy pages and get those finish quickly!  Look over the more extensive questions and think about what you’re going to say before starting. Save the hardest for last!
  • Commitment-Do not get scared of the paperwork, trainings and information! Push through and keep your focus on becoming licensed!
  • Excitement-Becoming certified as a foster parent is such an exciting time! Don’t let the process overwhelm you!

Unsung Heroes: The Wright Family, A Maegan Johnson Blog Foster Care SeriesMaegan: There is a great need for foster parents all across America. Could you list some of the statistics for your area?

Patty:

  • On average, there are 7 children each night sleeping on cots at CPS offices while waiting on a foster home.
  • In 2015, there were 415,129 children in foster care in the US.
    • In Texas: 27,895 children
    • In Austin: 3,568

Unsung Heroes: The Wright Family, A Maegan Johnson Blog Foster Care SeriesThank you so Patty for letting me interview you today. And thank you so very much for all the hard work you and Ash do as a foster parents. And thank you for being a shining light to all foster children.

I hoped you enjoyed hearing from Patty and that you learned something new today. Please leave her some love here in the comments and Instagram–foster parents need lots of encouragement and support! If you personally know Patty and Ash I’m asking that you to support them with your hands this week. Call and ask when you can come over and do some laundry and/or wash some dishes or bring them dinner. Don’t call and ask what you can do–call and say your coming over to help or bring a meal. And then pray for them! It takes a community to foster–it takes lots of help. So, show Patty and Ash how much you appreciate all they do by lending a helping hand. If you’d like to follow along on the Wright family’s journey you can find them here on Instagram!

Follow these links for the Paxson Family and the Doss Family features!

Maegan –xx

Unsung Heroes: The Doss Family

This week’s Unsung Heroes Family Feature is the Doss family. Shelby and her husband Jerod–also known as Boogie–have two beautiful children, Layla age four and Pheonix age two, through adoption via foster care. This sweet family lives in Oklahoma and have been fostering for three and a half years! Shelby is a mom, photographer, writer and speaker and her husband Boogie is a minister. The Doss family loves Jesus, traveling, living room dance parties, Disney, and adventuring!

Maegan: Shelby, I am so glad to have you and your family as my guests today! So tell me, what made you and Boogie decide foster care was for your family?

Shelby: My husband and I knew we wanted to adopt before we were even married. About a year after tying the knot we started looking into how we would be able to fulfill that desire. We knew that it would be expensive and we wanted to start working on it right away (being 20 we knew it would be a while before we had the funds needed) that’s when I stumbled upon foster care. We saw the great need and we knew this is the route we needed to take.

Maegan: Timing is a topic that always comes up when talking about foster care. When did y’all know it was ‘time’?

Shelby: We had been talking about starting the process of getting certified to foster but since we didn’t know anyone personally who had done it, we didn’t even know where to start. One day while my husband was at work I decided I was going to call our local DHHR. When I called the woman on the other line they had classes starting in a week or so and signed us up! That woman ended up being our first home finder and it all just felt like it was meant to be. After that phone call I called my husband and told him we were about to start our journey. It’s hard to explain but It all just felt right.

Unsung Heroes The Doss Family a Maegan Johnson Blog Foster Family Feature Foster LoveMaegan: What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge as a foster parent?

Shelby: The biggest challenge to foster parents is not letting fear win. It’s easy to let the fear and anxiety creep in and take over. You’re in high stress situations, advocating, court hearings, meetings, therapy, facilitating visits, navigating relationships with biological family, all while doing your ‘normal’ everyday life. Don’t let the fear steal your joy. When you’re waiting to hear back from a worker about how court went, when goodbye is looming, or when you feel like no one is in your child’s corner-don’t let fear win. Don’t let it steal the moments you have RIGHT now. Don’t let it take the good that is there. Don’t let the thought of goodbye keep you from the joy of hello. Don’t think because you might not be with them forever that right now doesn’t matter. Fear is a lie.

Maegan: I have a lot of people ask for advice. What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a foster parent?

Shelby: Know your limits. No one can say ‘yes’ to every situation. And even though it is going to hurt when you have to say ‘no’, know that your no is someone’s yes! Know what you are capable of taking on at this point in your life. That likely will change and grow as your parent, learn the system, and become more knowledgable about parenting kids from hard places. But, especially in the beginning make sure you know what you and your spouse are ready to take on.

Maegan: If you could give one piece of advice to a new foster parent what would it be?

Shelby: Give grace. Give grace to yourself, to your child, to their biological parent, to the system. You will never be wrong in this-we could always use more of it. This doesn’t mean let everything go and just go with the flow. DON’T DO THAT! Advocate, speak up, protect, push for better! But while doing all of this recognize that we are all human and likely doing the best we can. We have a broken system and it can be disheartening and frustrating but, just like any relationship working together will get a lot more accomplished than continually pointing out shortcomings. Treat the system and the birth family as if we are all on the same side-because we should be! The side of the child.

Unsung Heroes The Doss Family a Maegan Johnson Blog Foster Family Feature Foster CareMaegan: What is your goal as a foster parent?

Shelby: While we had the dream and desire to adopt we also knew that foster care was so much more than a means to adopt. We became foster parents to be a safe place for those who needed it. We not only had a heart to be there for the children but to be a source of encouragement for the parent as well.

Maegan: Fostering is not sustainable lifestyle and it’s important to have a plan before beginning. Does your family have a set of goals you plan to or a specific end date?

Shelby: After being foster parents for over 3 years in West Virginia we packed up and moved to Oklahoma. Right now we are giving our family time to just be. We haven’t lived a life without workers, visits, and the state involved in our parenting since the day we became parents over 4 years ago. After a tumultuous battle for our son we knew this is what we needed. These past 6 months have been medicine to our soul. We still have a strong yearning to be involved in the foster care system and we are confident that one day we will jump back into being foster parents but this break was crucial. So, while we are on this respite we are looking for other ways to be active in advocating for vulnerable children. I’m working on getting certified as a CASA worker and we are hoping to be enrolled in a mentor program at some point. Even during the periods of times that we don’t have foster children in our home, I don’t believe there will ever be a day when we can fully walk away from foster care-we know too much. We have the ability, we see the need, and therefore we have the responsibility.

Maegan: What is the best thing about being a foster parent?

Shelby: The absolute best thing about being a foster parent is seeing our children flourish. I say our because as soon as a child is welcomed into our home-they are ours-even if just for a season. Being able to witness the broken being healed, the fear turn to peace, the dim light shine bright, is such an incredible gift. Being there to nature and help heal the hearts of the one that’s hurting is one of my greatest joys in life.

Maegan: Attachment is one of, if not the biggest, concern most non-foster parents have about becoming a foster parent themselves. What are your thoughts on attachment?

Shelby: Attachment is different for everyone and I can only speak for myself. Love is a choice. And as long as you are choosing to love these children attachment will come. It might be immediate (for both of my forever children it was instant), or it might take time. But making an active decision to love regardless if attachment takes place right away thing or not is the most important thing. And in time-attachment will come.

Unsung Heroes The Doss Family a Maegan Johnson Blog Foster Family FeatureMaegan: Why are you passionate about foster care?

Shelby: I’m passion about foster care because if we as foster parents aren’t then who will be? Our eyes have been open to crisis and we have a responsibility to speak up and out for those who cannot for themselves. I look at the world differently now. When I hear about a child in need the thought is ‘what if that was my child.’ Because, in reality it could be, and to think if I would have missed out or not been there in the time they needed me most of all because of fear or because I wasn’t educated about foster care. I’m so passionate about speaking about foster care because I want people to know two things: their child could be out there-needing them, crying for them, looking for them—regardless if it will be their child for forever or for just a season. That child is out there and they need YOU. James 1:27 is still in my Bible and I plan on living that out. These children deserve better, our future deserves better-and who am I to say ‘leave it for the next person-that’s just not my thing.’ Taking care of each other-that should be everyone’s thing.

Maegan: If you could only use three words to describe the certification process, what would they be? Why those words?

Shelby: Paperwork. Transparency. Preparation.

I would use these 3 words to describe the certification process. Paperwork-not much to say about that. Get ready for your hand to cramp.

Transparency-Be ready to open up and let people into parts of your life you normally wouldn’t. It can be uncomfortable for someone to basically interview you for the position of ‘mama’, but its all worth it. Preparation-Not only did a lot of what we were having to do to be certified prepare us as foster parents but it was preparing our minds and hearts for what was going to happen as well. The paperwork-it never goes away. The transparency was continuing as well–we had to get used to people coming in and out of our house, asking permission for things we normally wouldn’t have even age much thought to, giving an answer for doctor’s visits, formula intake, etc. So more than the classes, the attributes we were perfecting through this time were what were beneficial.

Unsung Heroes The Doss Family a Maegan Johnson Blog Foster Family Feature Foster Care Foster BabiesMaegan: There is a great need for foster parents all across America. Before we go, could you list some of the statistics for your area?

Shelby: In Oklahoma on any given day there are more than 350 children who are waiting for a forever home. That’s 350 children that are literally just waiting for someone to say ‘yes’ to them. There are over 5,000 children in our state in need of a safe place to land and more than 1,000 of those children have a permanent goal of adoption.

Maegan: Shelby, it was such a pleasure to talk with you about foster care! Thank you so much for all the hard work you and Boogie do as foster parents. And thank you for being a shining light to all foster children.

I hoped you enjoyed hearing from Shelby and that you learned something new today. Please leave her some love here in the comments and Instagram–foster parents need lots of encouragement and support! If you personally know Shelby and Boogie I’m asking that you to support them with your hands this week. Call and ask when you can come over and do some laundry and/or wash some dishes or bring them dinner. Don’t call and ask what you can do–call and say your coming over to help or bring a meal. And then pray for them! It takes a community to foster–it takes lots of help. So, show Shelby and Boogie how much you appreciate all they do by lending a helping hand. If you’d like to follow along on the Doss family’s journey you can find them here on Instagram! Have a great week everyone!

Maegan — xx

The Dreaded Home Study: It’s Nothing to Dread

acs_0175We had a wonderful home study experience. It was intense and our interviewer did ask many probing questions. But it wasn’t scary. The interviewer was never inappropriate and he never made any ugly remarks.

Exactly why does everyone dread the home study and why does is have such a negative connotation? What exactly is so horrific that the word ‘home study’ is whispered in hushed tones like the name Voldemort?

I think the general population has the expectation that a home study is to have their private life and home broken into and swarmed like a SWAT team on a drug bust. Glass breaking, wood splintering they kick down the front door and crash through the windows with automatic rifles flashing, screaming for everyone to get down on the ground–GET DOWN ON THE GROUND AND PUT YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR HEAD–as they shoot the family dog.  This is what people imagine about a home study because it is the kind of experience that has been described to them. There is a lot of bad and untrue information about foster care–especially the home study. It has to be one of the top three that gets lied about and/or blown out of proportion within the topic of foster care. Please always consider the merit of the person who is regaling you with stories or information about foster care–that includes me.

Most people– including myself before we became certified–know absolutely nothing about foster care or what the certification process looks like. When you are ignorant about a subject then you are completely vulnerable to misinformation. That’s how rumors and nonfactual information root themselves in the populous. When you get educated on a topic you can spot misinformation a mile a way. If you want an education on foster care, seek out several foster care agencies and attend their orientations. While you’re there ask the people who have careers in foster care what a home study is like. Never rely on just mine or anyone else’s second hand information. Always go straight to a credible source for credible information.

What most people are unaware of is that months prior to the actual home study everything you’ve ever done wrong; your darkest secret; the past you’ve only shared with your spouse or close family; all of it has already been written down and divulged to your agency. Remember all that paperwork you have to fill out–yeah, all that stuff about your past is part of it. There is almost nothing that your home study interviewer asks you or talks to you about that you haven’t already answered in your paperwork packet questionnaire or written in your autobiography. You will have already submitted your budget, bank statement, taxes, medical records, FBI background checks, autobiographies, house rules, job history, marriages, children, rabbies vaccination records for your pets, baby sitters, and the four different people who you asked to be your references(who submitted their own stack of paperwork of questions all about you asking very personal, honest and harsh questions about your integrity, your social standings, your finances, your personality, etc), you’ve submitted pictures of every room in your house, pictures of yourself, and your pets, and children. They have background checks on your cleaning lady and yard person and your nanny and babysitter(nannies have to complete a certain amount of foster care training in order to remain your nanny). They’ve already requested a lot of personal information from you. They already know EVERYTHING. There is almost NOTHING that the government doesn’t know about you by the time you have that home study. You have willingly made your life an open book and your home study interviewer has already read your ENTIRE file before they ever come to your house.

If you have been honest and upfront on all your paperwork you have nothing to hide or be afraid of at your home study. A home study is another way for the state and your agency to get to know you and all the members of your family–to better assess everyone. It’s the same reason companies have phone and then in-person interviews with job applicants. The in-person meeting helps to complete the already extensive picture that has been painted for them. That’s one of the big reasons why they have home studies.

So, there is no reason, NO reason to be afraid of a home study. None. And if that’s the one thing keeping you from pursuing foster care or adoption through foster care you have no more excuses. If you have nothing to hide then there is nothing to fear. It’s just part of the process to ensure the safety of the already abused children coming into foster care.

This foster care thing isn’t about you. And if you stop and think about this whole process from the perspective of what is best for the child then this process will stop looking like a governmental SWAT raid and more like good people trying their best to ensure that they are taking the very very best initiative to protect children coming into foster care. Wouldn’t you do the same if the roles where reversed?

Maegan

 

 

FROM ORIENTATION TO LICENSING—THE COMPLETE STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO BECOMING A FOSTER PARENT

Baby E Update

We are now a little over three months into fostering Baby E and, though I have not posted any updates lately, there has been a lot going on behind the scenes. Sometimes, I get so frustrated because there is so much going on that I believe is really worth sharing but I can’t because it is not my right to share. I believe the longer we foster the better I will be at sharing without breaking the rules. Y’all should know that there is always a lot going on that I can’t share and if it gets a little quiet on the ‘update front’ there is a high likelihood that there is a lot going on I can’t talk about.

For example, February was nuts–it was not a great month. There was a lot going on with the foster care side of our lives that was not positive and unfortunately none of it is shareable. I can say that Sam and I learned a lot of valuable lessons and appreciate our foster care agency more than ever. I’ve talked before about how important it is to foster with an agency and I cannot emphasize the importance of that enough. If we did not have such an amazing agency I don’t know if we would have survived February. I think my takeaway from February could be summed up in the words ‘appropriate communication’. Once the appropriate communication started flowing things got much much better.

On the personal side of things, I had to have a cracked molar pulled in February and that was miserable and complicated. I hate the dentist(as most people do) and it was just the worst timing for it to fall in the middle of everything that was going on. The infection was starting to spread down into my neck and ear so we had to bump up the extraction date and it just so happened that Sam was supposed to go out of town that same day for work. I was freaking out because I wasn’t sure how I was going to have my tooth pulled and take care of an infant at the same time. I was freaking out. But Sam has such an amazing and flexible job (and boss) who allowed him to move his out of town trip to the next week and he stayed home with me. It was a good thing too because they ended up having to give me laughing gas and I was so out of it afterwards. There was no way I could have driven home. I was glad to see February go. March was a much much better month. A lot of the foster care things got smoothed out and both sides of our family came to visit. It was a relief to have family here.

One of the things I am most proud of Sam and I for is our willingness to take on the responsibility of foster care despite both our families living far away. That is probably one of the most taxing parts of foster care for us. When we need a sitter, we have to have a certified sitter and all but one of our certified sitters(family) don’t live nearby. So Sam and I had not really been able to take a break until our families got to town. We got to go on our first date since baby E! And just having someone else to hold and bounce the baby so we could take a break or wash some clothes was much needed relief. I’d say that this is another lesson we have learned on this journey–have at least four babysitters certified and scheduled before you get certified. Seriously. By the end of February Sam and I were both exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. When our families came to visit it was like taking a swim in a cool spring–refreshing and renewing. I also learned that I have to reach out to people and tell them I need help. In the middle of February I started reaching out to friends asking if they would become certified sitters for us because we were drowning. By the end of April I think we will have several babysitters certified! I’m so very grateful for all our friend who are pitching in to help us out. SO So much.At the beginning of April we found out there will not be another hearing until the middle of the summer. That means we will definitely have Baby E until then. We are loving her, and really enjoying being her foster parents. As I have said before, I don’t know how this will turn out for her or us but I do still believe that God has a plan. We pray everyday for God’s will for her life. Our plan is just to enjoy all the time we have with her and take it one day at a time like we always have. Foster care is a waiting game and while we wait we have fun plans ahead! Sam and I have so many fun activities planned for E in the upcoming months!

Baby E is doing really great and I’m so proud of her! She has made HUGE progress with the OT and just the other day she rolled over for the first time! I am so proud of her! She might have been a bit behind but she is really making strides and catching up developmentally. She has also turned into a really bubbly and vivacious baby! She really really craves social interaction and has started a lot of ‘play’ behavior. She is definitely relationship motivated. She is starting to have interest in Lemon now and watches her every chance she gets. She is sleeping really well–almost through the night now–and Sam and I could not be more grateful. Conversely, she is staying awake more and more during the day. She still has a really gentle and easy disposition and she smiles all the time now. E has already started identifying Sam and I as her parents. We weren’t sure when that would happen. All babies are different and some don’t form that attachment until much later on. She still struggles after every visitation–though she does better now than in the beginning–and now when she comes home she wont look at me for several hours because she is mad at me. I try so hard not to take that personally. I put myself in her shoes and I can see that I would be mad too. Even at three months she is so aware of what is going on. It is so surprising to see how much she understands and that she is trying to regain some control over her world. I can only imagine how confusing it must be for her. I have said it before and I will say it again; no matter how young a child is visitation is still hard for every child.Aside from visitation day, she is a happy baby! We live a normal life six days a week–Sam and I make sure of it. I take so many pictures of her and us together. Right now she is definitely going through a growth spurt and she is growing like a weed right in front of my eyes! I wake up and something about her changes every day. I honestly don’t know how she is growing up so fast or where the last three months went. I am excited to see her growing though–that is a really great sign that she is going to be a healthy, happy, little girl. We only want the very best for her even if that means she wont stay a sweet snuggly baby forever.

We appreciate every single one of you who read our posts, and pray for us, and invest time in our lives. We feel your love and prayers. We are so grateful to have such an amazing support group like you!

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