*Note: This post was originally written in June 2019. Whitney mentions part of their foster home licensing involved a lead paint inspection. As of July 2019, this is no longer a requirement for South Carolina families.
I’m Whitney and I wanted to share my story with you! My husband and I have always wanted to be foster parents, but we imagined it would be later on in the future. Life has a way of changing our plans sometimes! I still remember the exact moment I knew for sure I was called to this journey; I was sitting in church on Orphan Sunday and my heart just broke and I knew this was something my family was going to be a part of. I have wrestled with so many questions about doing it, and I thought you might have them too! We are currently in the process and still wrestling through these questions, but we are excited about moving forward without all the answers. A lot of what I’ve learned so far is that there is a whole community waiting to support you and help you answer these questions! I hope I can be one of those people!
A couple times while deciding to move forward I had to ask myself if we could actually do this. My family currently consists of my husband, Tom, and I, our son Zander and my step-daughter Savannah, along with our three dogs, Myles, Dallas and Thor. When making such a big decision, we had to make sure it was right for our whole family. We asked ourselves, “Are we equipped to give a child what they need?” Absolutely! We are already parents to two. “Will we be enough for them?” Hopefully. “Do we have enough toys?” Definitely! “Do we have enough space?” I’m not sure. “How will this affect my kids?” This is something that still weighs on my mind; I know it will affect them, but my hope is that we will learn together and that they will become better people because they have known each of the children who came into our home. The endless list of questions came rolling out. Once we sat down and really thought about it, we knew we had everything we needed. We have more than enough love to go around. At the end of the day, we can offer kids a place to be safe, loved, and valued. Everything else is just extra.
Do you have questions about if you have what it takes to be a foster parent? Check out these commonly asked questions on our website.
2. What if I get too attached?
Getting too attached was one of my biggest concerns before starting the licensing process. I wear my heart on my sleeve and when I love someone, I am all in. I was listening to a foster care podcast and the speaker said, “getting attached has been the greatest pleasure and honor of my entire life. I will do it again in a heartbeat.” I realized I shouldn’t let the fear of getting attached prevent me from all the beautiful things that could happen if we accept a child into our home. For me, I know that I will be devastated to say goodbye to any child that leaves my home, but more than that, I will hold on to the hope and joy of being part of that child’s story.
Saying goodbye to a child you love is hard and getting “too” attached is something that foster parents get asked about all the time. Read one family’s story of their hardest goodbye on the Care2Foster blog.
3. How long will the licensing process take?
At orientation we learned that the licensing process “takes as long as you make it take.” I was so happy when I heard this because I knew I would have everything done within the week! Or so I thought. I’ve learned that you do control some of the speed in which you accomplish different steps, but some of it is out of your hands. For example, you can set your pace in getting your fingerprints and background check submitted, filling out the paperwork you receive, sending in medical statements, and scheduling your classes. You can’t control when classes are offered, inspections are scheduled, or how fast your paperwork gets approved. We have been in the process for three months now. Because our house was built before 1974, we also have to get a lead inspection when we get our fire inspection and this makes the process take a little longer. We are hoping to be approved by the end of August. It can be hard to be patient, not always my shining quality, but I try to remember that the licensing workers have so many families they are working with, travel all over their region, and are truly doing their best to get you licensed.
Regardless of your agency, there will be certain steps you have to take in order to become a licensed foster parent. For more information about the timeline, check out 10 Steps to Become a Foster Parent or the DSS Licensing Flowchart.
4. How else can I help?
I wanted to find other ways that I could support foster care while I waited to get licensed. Rest assured, I have found plenty of ways! I hosted a Facebook Live SHAREfostering event to advocate for foster care and help my friends become aware of not only what my family was doing, but how they could get involved as well. It was so encouraging to have their support and even see some of them take next steps in learning more about getting licensed themselves. Another way that I supported local foster care was simply to bring some muffins and coffee to the local DSS office for the hard-working caseworkers I will no doubt be working closely with in the future. I offered local foster parents my time, talent, and resources like delivering a homemade meal, babysitting, or sometimes just encouragement. There are so many opportunities to help and to be a part of this journey, and I strongly encourage you to find what works best for you!
Not everyone can be a foster family, but everyone can make a difference in the life of children in foster care. Check out Fostering Great Ideas for ways to get involved- donate, fundraise, volunteer, advocate. Or connect with your local Foster Parent Association to discover their unique needs- childcare, meals, clothes, etc.
5. Why am I doing this?
My husband and I have a four-year-old son together and I have a seven-year-old stepdaughter from his previous relationship. For the past three years we have been on a journey of secondary infertility. As much as I want to fill this void I have in my heart, to fill the shoes of the three babies I lost, it was incredibly important for me to make sure that this alone was not my reason for doing foster care. The main goal of foster care is reunification. Every child that is placed in my home, I need to know and prepare for them to go back to their biological family. So why am I doing this? I am doing this because the children in the foster care system are displaced from their home, from their family, and from everything they know at no fault of their own. I am doing this because every child deserves to feel safe and loved.
Everyone’s story is unique. Read more about one foster parent’s “why” on our blog Finding Meaning in the Mess When Foster Care is Really Hard.
You may have lots of questions about foster care too. That’s okay! You may have some doubts about if you’re ready. That’s okay, too. Drop a comment below, and we’d love to connect with you. You can also go to the Care2Foster.org homepage and use the chat feature!