Friday, September 27, 2013

OUR STORY: Adopting Through Foster Care

Ready for a different kind of story?  Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a faithful…….oops, sorry, I got carried away.  My name is Melodie.  I’m 51 years old and my husband, Audie, and I have been married 32 years and have 6 children (three biological and three adopted), and two grandsons and three granddaughters.  Whew, that wears me out everytime I say it.

An Adoption Day
2012 Christmas Pic minus 2 granddaughters

So, based on the above information, we’re no spring chickens!  And because of our age, it often prompts people to ask, “What were you thinking starting all over?” and we just smile and reply, “We’re not sure, but we figure it will either kill us or keep us young!”  That causes them to chuckle; removing any tension in the air.  But let me say, even at our age, we are still finding “Joy in Our Journey”.   We live a “not so simple life”, but God’s rewards have made it worth it!  So, before too many questions start swimming around in your head, let me back up to how our journey got started….

It was the summer of 2005, and a year I will never forget.  My husband and I loved being the parents to our three biological daughters, Ashley, Amber and Ariel.  Which contributed to that summer being so memorable.  We had just married off our oldest daughter Ashley,  when the time came for our middle daughter, Amber to move to Arkansas to attend the U of A.  I was experiencing a little bit of empty nest syndrome, but was handling it ok because we still had our youngest daughter, Ariel, at home.  Matter of fact, I was actually excited because this would be our chance to give her our undivided attention that she never really got to enjoy since she was the baby.  However, at 16 years old, Ariel was  beginning to feel smothered by my constant hovering.  I personally don’t know what the big deal was….Ok maybe following her to the bathroom was a bit much.  But to add to the list of not feeling “needed” anymore, we had just placed my mom in a nursing home with Alzheimer's Disease.  She had been living with us the past three years, during which time I provided her constant care.

The year leading up to that summer of ‘05, I cried, journaled, and prayed. I kept asking God what His plan for my life would entail next.  NEVER thinking what He was thinking. Ha!  Here we were nearing the days of freedom, and that was looking pretty enticing.  I kept reminding myself that my professional days of being a “Domestic Engineer” were about over. (I guess that’s what we get for “thinking” and trying to be in control).  But, little by little, God planted seeds and began whispering His plan to us.  Alright, I’ll admit it, I actually heard God first, then gently pointed my husband in the same direction.  Isn’t that the way it usually works?

For 14 years, I worked in a nearby school district and for five of those years I worked with kids with behavioral issues.  I loved it because I got to spend more one on one time with the kids; many of which came from “hard places”.  As I built a relationship with them, I earned their trust and they would share their stories of their life, dreams, and rough living conditions; my heart would ache.  Several of those kids were in foster care or had been in foster care.   And that’s when God first started calling me to join Him in His plan.  The next step was getting my husband on board.  It went better than I thought, and I believe it was because my husband grew up fatherless (his father died of a massive heart attack when his mom was 8 months pregnant with him).  Although my husband always saw God’s protective hand on him, and believed that God is the Father of the Fatherless, he remembered how hard it was growing up without a dad.  So, we contacted DFS (division of family services) and they sent someone out to speak to us.  It was a success!  We were in unity about what we were to do.   We had decided to be foster parents to “ONE” (we just wanted to concentrate on one child at a time) of God’s children. We also let them know that we were just going to do foster care with no intentions of adoptions.  The social worker signed us up to attend some classes for several weeks so we could be licensed.

These classes were great because they equip you in several areas, such as what it takes to be a foster parent, how to go from foster to adopt, the number of children in the system, behaviors you may encounter throughout your fostering and/or adoption process, services and resources that will be available to you, how to make a life book (scrap book) for each child that enters your home (which stays with the child everywhere they go), and most importantly, how to help this child feel safe, cared for, and loved.

Shortly after attending the classes, going through a couple of home studies and a background check (which they provide all for you free of charge), we became a licensed foster home.  Like I said before, we had no intentions of adoption, because we felt like we were too old.  Think about it, what kid would want to be stuck with old, boring folks like us? Well, needless to say, God changed our minds on that theory too.  Our first foster placement was TWO little boys that were half brothers and only a year apart. Yes, we gave in and took “two” even though we told them we only wanted one…..But we believed that is what God wanted us to do.  How did we know?  Because, when DFS contacts you about a placement, you have the right to tell them NO and they usually won’t ask you again, nor will they hold it against you.  I told them no because I had too much going on with my mom.  But God didn’t let them accept that answer and they called me back 2 more times.  So obviously God wanted us to have these boys.  

After two years of caring for them, the mother was about to lose her rights and she agreed to sign her rights away if WE would adopt them.  She said she knew we could give them a life she would never be able to.  So, we agreed to adopt them and told everyone that we were done adopting!  

“Oh Yeah?” said God, with His sense of humor, took another step to remind us who is in control. Three years later, God brought us an 8 year old girl to join our family.  We were her Second Adoptive Family. (FYI,  we’ve now learned to not make plans without consulting the boss).  We had other placements that stayed for a while then moved on but God had a way of protecting our hearts (and the childrens' hearts) and when the time came for them to move one, we received peace and trusted God because we KNEW He was in control.  And in all honesty, it’s not about us, it’s about what’s best for the Least of these.

Foster to Adopt is an amazing opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children who dream of a forever family.  I can only imagine what it would feel like to go to school, daycare, or out to eat, only to see loving families all around you.  Children in Foster Care are regular children who, through no fault of their own, had to be removed from their families due to abusive or neglectful situations.  An awesome aspect of being a foster and/or adoptive parent is that it always sparks a lot of conversations with friends and strangers.  It not only gives you the opportunity to share your journey, but has open the door to some lasting friendships.  Have you ever thought, said, or heard someone say the following statements?    

“I’ve always wanted to foster a child, but I just wouldn’t be able to give them back.” Or , “We would do foster care, but we can’t afford it!”

If so, you’re NOT alone! There are a lot of misconceptions that go along with being a foster parent and wanting to adopt a foster child.  I feel it’s important to help everyone know some truths about the whole fostering to adoption process.   And, there are a lot of advantages to fostering before adopting.  Before I give you some Facts and Truths about Fostering and/or Adoption, let me say God has done some miraculous things in our children.  There’s been growth and healing, but most importantly, they’ve all accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, making them a part of “God’s forever family”.  You will get to read more about our amazing journey with each of our adopted children at a later date. But for now, I hope I can shed some light when choosing this type of journey.  And, just for the record….. Fostering and/or adopting at our age isn’t always Fun or Easy, but the blessings outweigh it all.  Plus, at our age,  we are able to afford to go on more vacations with them,  give them a bigger family (which means more love for them), and a home and family they can call their own!  Thank You for allowing me to share my story with you.  May you ALL find Joy in your Journey!
             Facts and Truths about Fostering to Adoption: 
*  Children in the US Foster Care System: 399,546
*  Foster Children in the US waiting to be adopted: 101,719
*  Children in Missouri Foster Care: 10,100
*  Children in Missouri with No Identified Adoptive Parents: 1,400 
*  Children in Jasper County Foster Care: 524 (as if March 2013)
*  Children in Jasper County Pre-Adoption: 105 (as of March 2013)
*  Cost to Foster and Adopt: NONE - You don’t even need to be wealthy.
*  In most cases, it takes roughly 1-2 years to adopt from the FC System
*  YOU can be single or married, with or without children in your home.
*  YOU have to be at least 21 years old with a Stable Income.
*  You don’t have to be a stay at home mom to Foster a child.
*  Each child needs a bed of their own, NOT a room of their own.
*  YOU can live in an apartment, condominium, or home as long as it meets   licensing standards.
*  YOU Choose ...the ages you want to foster/adopt, the child’s sex you would prefer, the nationality/ethnicity, how many you would be willing to take at one time, whether you want children with disabilities or behaviors, etc.
*  If you want to adopt a child you are fostering, they consider you first most of the time.
*  YOU are trained to ask the right questions when you get a call about a child, so you know what to expect.
*  YOU have the right to say YES or NO when you get called about a child, without it going against you.
*  YOU get a monthly subsidy for each child you have in your home for as long as you have them.  (When you adopt them, money continues to be given to you until the child turns 18 years old) However, Money should NEVER be the reason you are doing this.
*  YOU get a small yearly clothing allowance for each foster child in your home.
*  All foster children are on Medicaid Insurance, Free Lunches at school, and
Daycare fees are taken care of if you use a Licensed Daycare facility.
*  YOU get Support, Help, Direction, and Resources when difficulties arise.
*  If the connection, or other reasons between the child and your family don’t work out, You can (if you really need to), give your case worker a written two week notice and the child will be removed from your home.
*  If you work outside the home and the child's appointments and visits with their parents, make it difficult for you to transport them, DFS takes care of it. (provided usually by the caseworker)
For more Information regarding Statistics, Fostering, & Adoption, check out the following websites: 

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