The other day, a few people looked at me and said that I had look exhausted! Normally I would have been offended by the comment, but instead, I just agreed and kept on rollin! I think our pastor’s message this past Sunday actually caused me to smile a bit at the comment. Apparently I had that “tired parent look” mastered! So instead of being offended, I kind of took it as a compliment! Strange, I know!
Like so many parents who choose each day to wake up and be an active and involved part of our children’s lives, my husband and I can say, we run the race each and every day like many parents, and often collapse in bed each night! While we attempt to give the children in our care every ounce of normalcy, we are also mindful that we must work through the often heavy and thick layer of foster care. I see it all the time on various social media sites with parents giving the run-down of what their day entails. We cannot share that information on a daily basis, and I am not sure I would, but I often sit and think about what it would be like to run our kids to activities and some other fun things without trying to juggle the appointments, visits, and visitors that literally run in and out of our home each week. Not to mention working on homework and fitting in some fun time or family bonding time each night. I have learned to appreciate our weekends on a totally different level and look forward to that short bit of time without worrying about something related to foster care.
One thing is for sure, I won’t complain about the caseworkers or others involved with our children, they are ALL amazingly wonderful people who have become more like family to us. The children are excited to see them and often times they love to share things going on in their lives. The children also understand that this part of the journey is necessary. One thing we do not do is tell the children what our week entails. Even though our oldest is beginning to understand the concept of time, we do not announce visits, visitors, appointments or anything else. It is in their best interest and helps to establish a sense of calm in our home.
I think often times there is a misconception that when you become a foster parent, you receive a phone call, make a choice as to whether or not you will accept the placement and then that is the end of it until the children are either reunified or placed for adoption. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since some friends have asked or realized how crazy our lives are, I thought I would share with you a typical week in the life of a foster family. In writing this, I write in generalities and not in specifics as to the children in our care. I am also writing this with a single child in mind. Now, bear in mind that often times sibling groups are placed in care and multiply that by the number of children you have in your home, in care. It can be daunting and overwhelming, but we have found that somehow there is always a way to make it work!
So what does a typical week look like for most foster families? Here we go, hang on and buckle up and keep in mind that we are asked to treat the children as our own… in which case that would add more activities to our list because after all, children should be about the business of being children… right? Like I said, this is NOT our specific schedule or plan, but this is what we see many/most foster families juggle on a weekly basis!
A typical week can and usually involves anywhere from one to three visits with the biological family. These visits can take place during the normal school day or in the evenings depending on scheduling. The length of visits are dependent on the court order. We are not required to take the children to visits and those are handled by the caseworker. Upon return of the visit, there is a brief debriefing, sometimes what is called a home visit. A home visit is basically the caseworker watching the children in the home interact with their foster family, and ensuring a safe environment These are required a minimum of two times per month. I think it is important to note that in many cases children in care require some down time or quiet time to process the visitations. These nights can be long and sometimes difficult as they are processing all that has happened in their lives. Sometimes it takes a few days for things to return to “normal” before they are ready to talk and move forward! Also don’t forget that these visits also occur on a school night and homework and bath times also need to take place.
We often joke that we leave the front door open and the light on because of the number of visitors that come to our home on a weekly basis. Again, we are not complaining and we really do love each and every one that is a part of this journey. Here is a list of people, or friends as we like to call them, who are required to be in our home a certain number of times a month. These numbers are based on our experiences and those of our fostering friends.
- Child advocate – 1 time per month, some choose 2 times per month
- County case worker – 1 time per month
- Agency caseworker – 2 times per month
- Life book – 2 times per month for a 3 month session (12 total visits for 1 round of services – services are often extended when a need is shown)
- Wrap around services – Determined by need and can be 1-3 times per week
- Caseworker for the lawyer – As needed, mainly before a court hearing or major decision is being made!
- Big Brothers/Big Sisters (or any type service) – Determined by need
- Therapy (Sometimes one time per week, sometimes times more and sometimes every other week.)
- Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech, Vision, etc.
In addition to these required or court ordered visits, many foster families attempt to involve their children in some sort of sport or activity like dance, Girl Scouts, Tai Kwan Do, or church activities. Remember, this is based on one child, if you have multiple children in your home, you may double that caseload. Most caseworkers cover a sibling group, but if you have two children in your home from different families, then you are literally doubling your caseload. While agencies will often help in transporting children to and from appointments, it is not always feasible for them to accommodate the schedule for other appointments and it may be imperative that you attend those appointments as well! Our agency transports the children to all visits, they also are with us anytime there is a meeting, court appearance, appointment or otherwise. We are grateful that they are extremely actively involved in our case and acting in the best interest of the child.
Another thing worth mentioning would be the parental involvement. As a foster parent, your involvement is mostly up to you. We decided early on that we were going to be an active part of the lives of the children in our care. So we do attend every court hearing and every permanency planning meeting. This is not for our own benefit, rather the benefit of the children in our care. As a foster parent, we believe it is our job to advocate and share the information that we have gathered while having them in our home. Sometimes that is great news and sometimes that requires reporting difficult things. Either way, your focus remains the children and what is best for them! You may also be asked to participate in things like interactionals. Interactionals are an opportunity to demonstrate that you have bonded with the children in your care. There is also often a question and answer piece to that appointment. Interactionals are mostly a pre-adoptive service, but non-the-less it is something that can be added to your long list of items to take care of in a given week! Not to mention the routine, doctor appointments, dental appointments, school meetings (like IEPs, 504 Plans, etc…) that would be considered the norm in most families!
I will also say this, on days we do not have something going on, which can be a rarity, we are thankful. Like I said, we LOVE all involved with the children, but there are times it is nice to just be a family and do family things together. I also think it is healthy for the children to learn and know what it is like to be part of a family unit!
My final thoughts… I didn’t share this with you for any other reason than to inform! There is no WOW factor in it and this is not seeking recognition for all that happens in a given week! My goal of my blog is always to share, enlighten and be a blessing to others! I never want to publish anything that is self-seeking! Yes, we are exhausted, but there are many AMAZING parents that are wearing their “exhausted parent look” quite well! There are many families who are busy with therapy, OT, PT, speech and other appointments in a given week for varying reasons. I share this because in the midst of attempting to heal the hurts and to give the children a “normal” life, there is often an extremely thick layer of foster care that dictates much of your week!
The biggest point that I can make… while we are often overwhelmingly busy, we are also overwhelmingly blessed! Given the opportunity to change the life of a child is not only the most difficult thing we are ever done, it is also the most rewarding thing we have ever done and we run the race every day in hopes of giving ALL the glory to God… not ourselves!
Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”