I’m excited to announce that after 10 months of the certification process and years of discussion and planning Bekah and I have been licensed by the state of California to serve as foster parents. Since the earliest days of our marriage, we’ve discussed how we could care for children needing families. As we’ve worked through the certification process, we’ve learned so much about what foster care looks like in the United States and how important it is for children from hard places to have a loving, stable home as their cases work through the court system.

While last year was challenging, it was also the year that we began to take more concrete steps towards our parenting journey. We moved to San Diego county and got in touch with a local foster care agency. As the approval process wore on, we decided to move forward with buying a house that can provide more space and stability for our future foster kids. We are glad to have found a 4 bedroom home with a yard as opposed to fostering from a 2 bedroom apartment.

We are prepared to foster kids between the ages of 1 to 8 years old and hope to help siblings stay together in the same house. We are making some final arrangements, but we anticipate we’ll take our first placement next month. We won’t know who the kids are until shortly before they join our home, but will work with the agency to ensure our home is a good fit for the kids. Foster placements vary widely in length, from weeks to years, but between 6 and 18 months is typical. We hope that all our foster kids will be able to permanently return to parents or relatives, but we are also open to adoption if their case gets to that stage.

What does Foster Care look like?

Over the past year, we have learned a lot and know that many challenges and celebrations lie ahead. The foster care system is a complex arrangement of government agencies, nonprofits, and families trying to keep kids safe and struggling families together. In the US, about 420,000 kids are in the foster care system at any point in time according to the Administration for Children & Families. Kids enter foster care for a variety of reasons, but the most common are abuse or neglect by their caregiver. Processes vary by state and county, but ideally, social workers will work with the children’s parents to complete a reunification plan and be allowed to regain custody of the kids.

The modern foster care system began as a reaction to some of the issues seen in orphanages where kids weren’t given the loving attention of an adult. Children entering foster care often have experienced severe trauma and instability leaving them behind in language, social skills, and academics. A stable, loving home with attentive adults helps support kids through the emotionally and physically difficult transition they’re experiencing. Unfortunately, much of the foster care system is strained. Overloaded courts and social workers have the difficult job of sorting out what is the best course of action for a child and their parents.

What does it look like to be a foster parent?

We are entering this system knowing full well that it is not perfect and adds extra hurdles to parenting. In California, “resource families” serve as the guardians of kids who are legally considered wards of the state. This means that we will have most of the parenting responsibilities but not the right to make many key decisions. We won’t be sharing any pictures where kids could be recognized online because children’s foster status cannot be publicly disclosed. Travel is also restricted, requiring court approval to take foster children out of the state.

We have worked with our foster care agency to identify the age ranges, health concerns, and behavior issues we feel prepared to handle. When we are open to new foster care placements, we could be called at any time of day to discuss the possibility of a new placement. We could be picking up kids within 24 hours of being contacted.

In many ways, we will be parenting and caring for kids as any parent would; caring, feeding, loving, and disciplining. Some parenting will be harder due to the trauma the kids have experienced so we will need to work harder to bond with the children. Foster kids also have required family visits, social worker visits, and healthcare appointments that we’ll need to take them to.

As foster parents, we will have limited input on the direction of a child’s case. While social workers may have an idea of how a case is heading, things can change rapidly. Major court cases typically happen in 6-month increments but in some cases, kids will be taken out of a foster home with only a few days notice.

Ways you can help

We would like to thank all our close family and friends who have encouraged us as we’ve made our way through the approval process. Knowing we have friends and family behind us has made the road ahead feel less daunting. As we look forward to bringing kids into our home, that support is even more crucial.

I’ve heard from others that the first three months of a placement are the hardest. As we establish routines and build our relationship with the children our capacity will be severely limited. As we adjust to parenthood, we will sometimes be too busy to respond to messages or phone calls but your support is always appreciated. We also regret that we won’t be able to visit friends and family as often, especially out of state, and our visits with kids will be much more constrained. Most of all, please be patient with our foster kids as they navigate a very difficult time of transition in their lives. Their fear and hurt may look like anger or defiance but the trauma they’ve experienced makes it hard for them to manage big emotions.

Please pray for us, the kids, and their bio-family throughout this process. We will need discernment, compassion, and energy to parent well. The kids will need to learn how to trust us despite the challenges they’ve experienced. The bio-family will need to work through their biggest struggles if the kids will have any hope of returning to relatives. If you’d like to support us materially, we have a registry of items to make our home more kid-friendly. We also would like to find ways to bless the bio-families such as by giving them gas or grocery gift cards.

You can also help foster agencies and families like ours by getting in touch with a local organization. See what kinds of donations they are looking for as needs vary. Even if you don’t have the capacity to foster, you can support a local foster family by providing meals, cleaning, or babysitting. Some churches and organizations even have programs to help families going through a crisis so that the children can avoid entering the system and long-term separation from their parents.

If you are unfamiliar with the foster care system, I encourage you to learn more about what kids, bio-families, and foster parents face. We’ve learned a lot from others in the foster care community online as they share their experiences. One of the books we read while working on our certification was “Three Little Words” which describes one foster child’s first-hand experience in the system. The more you know about the system and the experiences of those in it, the more you can advocate for what the children need.

I look forward to sharing more news and information soon. I recognize we still have much to learn about foster care but am happy to share what we have learned thus far. I’ve set up a foster care page where you can find the latest information on our journey, resources about foster care, our registry, and information on how to subscribe to updates. If you have questions, feel free to reach out to me directly.