Foster Parenting

Has a newspaper advertisement ever changed your life? Well, one sure changed ours. Back in 1993, our own two boys moved back to Arizona to be close to their natural father, so Vicki and I found ourselves living alone in a big, quiet 4-bedroom house in Manassas, Virginia. Though this may sound ideal for a lot of people, we just weren't ready to stop being parents.... That's when we saw an ad from an agency called Braley & Thompson, asking for Foster Parents.

When we answered the ad, our lives were changed forever. We went through a thorough training program, and received our first child early in 1994. I should now, however, take a moment to tell you that Braley & Thompson deal with children of all races and backgrounds, and primarily place children who require special attention, whether it's because they had been abused or had gotten in trouble with the law, or both.

Our first foster child was a 16 year old African-American girl with a troubled past, and had come to us from a girls home in Central Virginia. We thought things were working out okay, but after a week and a half, she ran away, taking some of Vicki's jewelry with her. Her parole officer noticed her walking in Alexandria that same day, with the jewelry still in her possession, and picked her up. When asked about the jewelry, she said she took it because she knew that when she was caught, we wouldn't want her to come back to live with us. And truthfully, we did have our doubts about her staying with us. When questioned further, it came out that she really wanted to live with an African-American family (we are white), and thought that by running away, she wouldn't have to come back to our house. It's a shame that she didn't realize that instead of taking such extreme measures, she could have just asked her social worker to be placed with another family, and it would have happened. So, to end this chapter, we packed up her things, she moved in with a African-American family, and as far as we know, she's been doing fine ever since.

Needless to say, we were a bit wary now about the foster care system, but those fears were put to rest with our next placement about a month later. At that time, we had a two-and-a-half year old African-American boy placed with us. And about 6 months later, we were fortunate to have his one-year-old half brother placed with us. They also have a two-year-old sister, who we had planned on taking in as well, but that never came to pass.  The boys stayed with us until early November 1995, and during their time with us, they were a source of constant joy for us.  It really killed us when they left, because we had grown so attached to them, but we had to let go.  However, if they ever come up for adoption, we're seriously considering being first in line.

I should also mention that we also had a 10-year-old boy placed with us for about a year. He, too, was basically a good kid (even though he was constantly getting in trouble at school), but his behavior slowly changed to a point where we thought it would be detrimental to the 2 younger boys if he continued living with us, so he was placed with another foster family.

Right now, we are in the Alabama foster care system, and have no children placed with us.  Our last long-term care was a 17 year old African-American girl.  She graduated from High School this year (1997), and decided to move out of state once she turned 18. I give a lot of credit to the Department Of Human Resources social workers here in Huntsville for really caring for the children under their care.  Without their help, our foster daughter may not be having the chance to do the things she's done. It was a tough senior year for her, but the support she received from all involved helped her get through that difficult time.  We've had quite a variety of children pass through our house this past year.  We'll still accept respite children for a weekend or so, but no more long term placements for a few months.  But we've said that before....who knows what the future has to bring.

One thing to remember about being forster parents: Even if you don't plan on it, you inevitably grow very attached to the children placed with you. So, even though the kids are only with us until our services are no longer needed, it's sometimes hard to let them go.  However, with any luck, they're reunited with their regular family, so you let them go with the hopes that they'll be happy and safe.

There are some other web resources available concerning Foster Parenting. One of the best I've seen is the Foster Parent Home Page . Or if you're just interesting in tips on bringing up children, take a look at Kid Source.  Another good way to find more foster parent pages is to look at the Foster Care Web Ring .  I have not yet joined the Foster Care Web Ring, but will soon.

Anyway, for those of you who have ever considered being Foster Parents, we highly recommend it. If you live in the Huntsville, Alabama area, you can give Ruth Votava a call at (205) 535-4500, and she can fill you in on the foster care program in Alabama. If you live in Northern Virginia, give Braley & Thompson a call at (703) 385-6611 (Fairfax number), and I'm sure they will be able to answer any questions you may have. In addition to the joy you get from the kids, and the love they receive from you during the time they need it most, you also get non-taxable monetary reimbursement for your efforts. The kids are also covered by Medicare, and the county will usually pick up the tab for Day Care (if both parents work), so all you need to contribute is your home, time and love.

To this day, we are glad we checked into being Foster Parents. And even though there have been ups & downs, we wouldn't trade it for the world.

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Updated 10/13/97