After six weeks together our first foster kiddos were able to return to live with family members while their parent’s case continues to progress. This is great news for the kids as it will allow them to stay connected with their relatives. Throughout this journey, we were relieved to see how the children’s family actively working to connect and reunify with the kiddos. At the same time we are sad to see them go. We cherished the time we spent together and are hopeful we were able to make a positive impact in an extremely difficult time in their lives.

Reflecting on our time together

We were so blessed by our time with these two kiddos. I loved watching them laugh and play while running around the yard. Their giggles warmed our hearts. Even in the difficult times I could see their strength and resilience. These kids deserve love and care and it was an honor for us to be there for them while their family could not. They have a long road ahead of them but our hope is that their future is bright.

In the time we were together, we saw huge growth in both the kids. The 20-month-old started speaking dozens of words. Our five-year-old made progress academically and had lots of fun with the letter games we had. Emotionally they both had their struggles but we worked through our feelings together. They also learned how to express when they needed help in more constructive ways. We were able to get some critical health needs addressed which should improve their quality of life moving into the next step of their journey.

We are still processing this experience ourselves. I am proud of how we handled our first parenting experience. However, there were many times that were overwhelming. If it wasn’t for the support of our friends and family, it would have been much harder. The combination of exhaustion, sleep deprivation, busy schedules, and big emotions was a lot to handle. It’s difficult to tell how things would change if this placement would have gone longer. The first few weeks of a foster placement will often be the hardest but you never know what new challenges would have come up. How would their behaviors change as they adjust to staying in our home? How would we have handled if the kid’s schedule for family visits was more busy?

We also were able to see first hand some of the challenges of the foster care system that we had heard about. We faced challenges with the kids’ insurance and getting ahold of social workers. At times the amount of paperwork we were doing, which is meant to ensure adequate care, seemed to conflict with actually caring for the kiddos. While we struggled to keep up with documentation, we saw how frequently the kids’ case was delayed because the health and human services department struggled to keep up with their case. Still, everyone involved in the case acted with compassion and professionalism. The state does provide a decent number of services, both for the kids and the family. Though it can never be enough to offset the challenges kids face, I was glad to see that our county was making an effort to address their developmental needs.

Returning to an empty house

This post took me longer to write than I had anticipated. After the whirlwind of having the kids in our home and a last minute trip to attend a family wedding, we were pretty drained. Going into this experience I knew that the separation would be difficult but nothing can prevent those feelings. We poured our lives into the kids the best we could. I loved our time with them and learned so much in the process. So the kiddos returning to family did leave a big hole in our lives. As I’ve worked through my emotions of this experience, it has reminded me of how family separation affects both children and adults on a scale many time greater than I experienced.

In the weeks after the kiddos went with family we were able to see them a couple times. We’ve retained a good relationship with their mom and were able to help with some transportation. We were happy to assist them and reassure the kids that we still loved and supported them while also giving the family a break. The weekend before Christmas we brought them gifts, spent some time with their family, and took the kids to a park. We even got to meet their three-month-old sister. They all seem to be happy and doing great and we look forward to hearing updates in the future.

What’s next?

Looking ahead, I’m eager to see how we handle the next case. Our first experience definitely showed us some of the boundaries that are important to us but also how to be accommodating to the kids. I’m sure we’ll start with more structure but every kid is different so I’m curious to see how we change. I’m also trying to remember that each child is unique. The kids will have different needs. Their family will have their own set of priorities. So I’m trying to keep an open mind and stay prepared for whatever they might need.

We’re also continuing to examine the range of ages we feel comfortable parenting. We saw with our first experience how different ages and stages of development require different kinds of support. Our toddler needed more supervision, but our five year old needed more encouragement as he tried to understand everything that was going on. So we’re thinking about how the responsibilities as parents of different ages line up with our capacity as parents. We also continue to learn about what needs exist in the system, which kids are harder to place, and how we are best able to help.

I expect we will start our next placement early next year. In many ways I was encouraged by how much we were able to handle and accomplish but I also saw how easy it is to get overextended as a parent. We will be working with our agency to see how we can best help in the new year. Thank you to all who have been supporting us on this journey. Please continue to pray for our foster kiddos even as they leave our care and for their families as they worth through the next stage of their case.