Our decision to start fostering
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Our journey started about 6 years ago. My husband still had 2 girls who weren’t 18 yet; but they were teenagers who we didn’t see much anymore, because as anyone who has teens knows well, they were starting to work and had their own thing going on. My 2 oldest boys had moved out and started their life. We still had my youngest biological child at home, but my house felt empty. My husband and I talked quite a bit about the decision to foster. We eventually decided to do it. We had only planned to foster; but went ahead and become licensed to adopt just in case.
Becoming a foster parent is not an easy task. The road to fostering is a rough one. The paperwork you have to fill out alone is a major task. People constantly in and out of your home; as my husband puts it, all in your business. The home study, well it doesn’t stop there. Every year you must have someone come and check your home; and every 2 years you have to become relicensed so you get to do the process all over again. But I wouldn’t change a thing. This daunting process gave me the family I have today; and I thank God every day for the decision we made to become foster parents. These children were meant to be my babies. They just took the long way getting to us.
What you will need to do to become licensed
The first decision you will need to make is who you want to foster through. I didn’t realize at the time, but there are so many agencies out there to choose from. We did go through our county and I am very happy with our decision. I have nothing but good things to say about our county and the workers I have worked with. I know that is not everyone’s experience, but it is ours. Do your homework and check multiple agencies out to see where you feel you will fit best.
Once you have decided on your agency, and made initial contact they will send a huge packet to fill out. In this paper work you will be ask a lot of questions about the child you are willing to take. What type child? Age? Background? Will you except someone who have been sexually abused, who are sexual predators, a fire starter, drug addict, etc.? Just so in case you are naive like me, yes you will be asked to take kids with these very background issues. They will ask for copies of your pay checks to ensure you financially able to support any children coming into your home without the per diam they will offer you. They will also need to see copies of your electric, gas, phone bill, insurance cards, and you will need to see a doctor and have them fill out paper work stating you are healthy.
Our case worker scheduled a couple visits at our house prior to actually doing the walk through of the house. Before she did the final walk through we had to finish all the paperwork, get beds for the children we would eventually have in the house, get our background checks, and copies of all our documents we needed to give to her.
She scheduled us for our training. This took place ever Saturday for us, during a 10-week period. We had a couple Saturdays off during this 10 weeks because of holidays. You will need to take (in Ohio) 36 hours of pre-service training before you can become licensed. Then you will need to continue your training to continue to qualify as a foster parent. Once licensed you need to take 40 hours of training every two years. You are able to pick your own training for the ongoing training you will need to take; to me this was nice because after we started getting kids in the house I could see what I really wanted training on.
Now that you have finished your training, filled out all your paperwork, and finished your background check; it’s time for her to do a walk-through of your house. I had to show that all medications were locked in a lock box. This is prescribed medications only. That we have a fire escape route and it is posted on the fridge and everyone in the house knows where it is located and where they would go in the event of a fire. If you have any fire arms in your home, they will need to be locked up in a safe and ammo will need to be locked in a separate safe. I realize this defeated the purpose of having a gun for your family’s protection; but it also keeps kids who have never seen a gun or been educated on the proper handling of a gun from killing them self or someone else out of curiosity. You will need a bed set up for each prospective child you will be taking. Again, this is the state of Ohio, we are allowed to have 2 children at a time within our first year of licensing. This can be altered if need be. If there is a situation where they would need to place more than two with you; for example, if they have a sibling group that they want to keep together. The county would need to get a waiver from the state in order to do this. You also, in Ohio, can have up to 4 children in each room. There are exceptions to this however; the children have to be same-sex, and age must not be too far apart. So say you have a 2-year-old girl and a 13-year-old girl; they cannot be roomed together. Please understand though each state and even county is different and you will need to contact your county of residence to see the specific rules they have. We had to show our fire extinguisher to her and where it is located. All cleaning supplies must be put up so a child cannot reach them. You must clearly have an emergency phone list posted for all in case it is needed. You will need a car seat for each age you are willing to take. She will check to see that the toilet flushes and there is running water. Ensure that the fire detector is in working order. She will check that the furnace is properly ventilated, and that there is a working water heater. That both the furnace and hot water heater are in a safe location. Check to see if the windows are working if you have windows designated as a fire escape route. She will check to see if you have locks on the doors, and are there keys in case a child was to lock them self in. After all of this you now wait for your case worker to finish your home study and turn it into the state. Once the state has received it you are a licensed foster parent.
If you are considering becoming a foster parent, I would say to you that it is worth every bit of the pain you go through. People say to me all the time; thanks for what you do. I find this nice that they say it, but odd. I don’t serve in the military. I’m not putting my life on the line every day or anything like that. I’m simply putting my heart out there. We had a trainer who told us, if you can love with all your heart and then let go when it is time, fostering is for you. One of my best friends is also a foster parent. We have talked about how we hate it when someone will say “I could never do what you do”. This is actually insulting to say. I feel like you are in essence saying to me that I am heartless because I am able to bring a child into my home then let them go. It is not like that, trust me. My husband and I have had sleepless nights and cried for days after a child leaves. Worried they are not going to be ok, missing them so much. Hopeful that they are going on to have a great life. Being a foster parent is a hard job because you don’t know what will happen to the child they are brought into your home. They may only be there for a few days or weeks; or they may have just found their forever home. Happily, that was the case with our 3 children; and in a few months our fourth baby. Though when they come to us we had no idea that they would be ours forever. You just never know what turns the case will take.
Are you considering becoming a foster parent? I’ve been there I’ll bet, let me know if you have any questions or just a comment on this post. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Till next time…have a Magical Day – Teresa
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