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Foster Care, A New Horizon

*Ahem*  Is this thing on?  I have a big announcement to make.  Mr. and Mrs. FullTimeFinance are now licensed foster parents. This post will explore why we chose foster care and the financial/emotional impacts of that decision.

Considering Adding Another Child

Over the last few years my wife and I have considered adding another child to our household.  We have two boys already, one 7 and one 4.  And yet my wife really wanted one more child.  Perhaps it was just the motherly instinct.  Perhaps it was that she worked full time for the first year of both our two boys lives and this time she could be home.  In any case, she convinced me to consider adding one more to our family.

A Decision: Adoption or Foster Care

And yet we are not in a position to have another biological child for various private health reasons.  So having that 3rd child would require some sort of adoption.  That really left us with a choice, foster to adopt or private adoption.

Why We Did Not Choose Private Adoption

We first looked at private adoption but this quickly went out the window.  The first reason we dropped private adoption is psychological.  I’ll be honest I’m not entirely sure how we will get on full time with another child.  A foster child gives us an opportunity to see whether a child will work well in our home over a foster period rather than committing to a lifetime. (Note: my wife does not agree or like my phrasing of this “psychological reason”, but I feel it was important to include as one of my main concerns over a 3rd child is already feeling overwhelmed with 2).*

Why We Chose Foster Care

The second reason we chose to foster, if I’m honest, is cost.  If you’ve checked how much it costs to adopt a child these days via private adoption you know it is in the $30K range.  While we want another child both myself and my wife agree we’re not missing that third child to the tune of $30K.  Meanwhile in a foster to adopt adoption scenario is nearly free.  The quote I heard from the local agencies was around $35 for paperwork.

The third reason is really all about helping the children.  Time to get a bit personal.  My wife has a family member that was adopted and so do I.  So adoption is a big part of who we are.  Private adoptions in the US seem to be fairly well serviced, hence the cost mentioned above.  But very few people take in foster children. 

They don’t want to deal with the trauma a child has experienced.  That trauma is very real and can make dealing with a foster child more of a challenge.  But, on the flip side, you are really helping out a child that really needs your help.  A little boy or girl that might otherwise end up in the system for the rest of their life.  There’s definitely an altruistic aspect to it all.

Foster Care Costs

Add to that everything that child needs while under foster care is essentially covered by the state.  Medical care, clothes, even a food stipend follows the child through foster care.  Some despicable people even foster children as a form of income.  That leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth to even say.  In fact, it seemed like some of the foster programs are set up around income incentives.  Honestly, that is not why we are doing this.  However, if this leads to adoption with little to no financial cost to us, then I’m all for it.

We Chose to Foster Babies Under 1

We have chosen to foster a baby or infant under 1.  Why so young?  Well, our youngest is only 4.  We want a child younger than him.  Also, my wife really wants to experience the baby phase again.  I’ve heard a few murmurings from those outside the system that getting a baby might be difficult.  However, in talking to the state I gather that is a remanent of a time in the past.  Sadly, due to the current US opioid crisis they have an abundance of babies.  It truly is sad, though it does mean we probably won’t be waiting long for a charge to arrive.

Permanency Versus Reunification In Foster Care

But what about concerns of being on hold to move to the adoption phase forever?  It’s a common myth of foster children that you could be in limbo over whether you can adopt the foster child forever.  This use to be true, but in many states, like my own, they’ve made some changes.

Within the first year of a child entering the foster system, many states require a hearing called a permanency hearing.  All fostering situations start with a goal of reunification: reuniting a foster child with their birth parents.  A permanency hearing is the point when a decision is made to switch that goal from reunification to getting that child adopted.  Thus, within the first year with a new child, we are guaranteed a review to determine whether the foster situation is heading towards adoption.

Having Our Choices and Limitations Heard

Add to that as part of the foster care setup in most states you are encouraged to have your limitations heard.  So if we say we are open to adoption, then the foster care groups will generally tend to send us a child that is more likely to be placed permanently.  There is, of course, no guarantees, but it also increases the chances of adoption being the end result. We’ve decided for all the reasons above there is little to no risk.  At worst case, a child will benefit from having a safe loving home while they stay with us.

Other limitations also are considered by agencies.  Let’s be honest.  My family couldn’t handle a severely disabled child in our current life.  We just don’t have the capacity.  We could handle a child with a short term delay or moderate trauma.  So those are the kids we told the agency we would consider.  The decision is on us to decide what we can handle.  Children with opioid dependency, for example, tend to have short term issues, but also if addressed early do not tend to have lasting disabilities.  A child with this type of issue might be a good fit for our family.  A child with something more severe may not be.

The Impact of Foster Care on Traveling

I’ve written on a few comments that our international travel may decline somewhat in the near term.  While you can apply for a passport for a child in your care, in general for major trips you need the birth parents permission or approval from the judge to take a foster child with you. There is no guarantee this will be forthcoming. If we did not receive approval and decided that it was important for the rest of the family to take a particular trip, we would have to place the child in respite care. 

Respite care is a situation where you leave them with another foster family while you travel. The foster care agency will allow small periods of respite in a year. To be honest I can’t see us taking a vacation without a foster child and leaving them in respite care.  That just seems jarring for a little one who is already experiencing a lot of upheaval in their life.  Instead, we expect we will have a period of more domestic travel and shorter trips.

Prudent Parenting Law and Short Day Travel

In 2017, a new foster care law was passed by the federal government called prudent parenting.  It allows foster parents to do things with their charges that would be normal for their family and would not require court or birth parent permission.  Pre 2017 a simple day trip to my in-laws, the beach, or city across state lines would have required pre-approval.  With the law for shorter trips we should be ok to stay at the beach for a day or 2 without needing to run through hoops every time, although we will notify the appropriate caseworkers for any trips across state lines regardless the duration of the trip.  We’ll still ask permission for potential larger trips, but for now most of what we have planned in 19 will be shorter trips locally.

The Foster Care Process

So, once we decided to consider foster parenting what came next?  Well, in our state we had to attend 10 training sessions, have our home inspected by the state, pass a background check, get a health test, and complete an in-home interview.  We’ve completed all the tests at this point.  I will comment here that the training for being a foster parent is very good.  In some ways I’d wished we’d received those same sessions when we became parents rather than having to learn on our own, they are that good. So we felt it was a good use of time.  The state also gives us a bit of a start-up stipend for the costs incurred during the initial steps.  So really it’s just our time that we had to commit to.

Will We End Up Adopting?

Will we end up adopting or just being a foster parent?  I don’t really know, it depends on what fate has in store.  But based on what I know about my family the answer is it depends on the agency and birth parents, not us.  As mentioned before, the goal of foster care is reunification, until it isn’t. As such, it is vital that we also support and work with the biological parents to make that a reality. However, I also know deep down once we have a child in our home if adoption is an option that child will stay.  So, I will admit I’m fooling myself with the trial period stuff mentioned above.  But on the flip side I really tend to undersell that strong positive feeling you get from helping a child in need to a more permanent life.

Our Current Foster Status 

We’ll see how it all turns out.  As of this posting we are on our second placement.  Our first placement was moved to be with family after one week, and we’ve now had another placement for a few weeks. My original supposition that babies were more common is sadly correct.

One Final Note

One of the first rules of foster parenting is that you should not refer to your child as a foster child.  You want to make them feel as welcome as possible.  Being anonymous I feel ok to promote fostering as it really is a needed thing in our society.  Anyone I tell about this activity in my everyday life I make clear should not refer to our new visitor as a foster child. We tried to be proactive about sharing that we would have foster children with family, friends, and regular acquaintances so that we would not be bombarded with questions in front of a new child. If you ever meet me in real life I ask that you maintain the same respect.

Is anyone else a foster parent?

*From a real-world perspective, any child we receive into our home will be treated the same as anyone else within our family for the time they are here. They receive the same love and care that our own biological children receive, and we introduce them as part of our family.  Any child that is placed with us will then be part of our family from that point on adoption or not.  IE even after any foster period there is a very real possibility you could remain in contact with that child over their lifetime.  That is something you do need to be willing to accept when being a foster parent.

15 Comments

  1. xrayvsn
    xrayvsn April 15, 2019

    Very informative post and congratulations on becoming licensed for foster care. It is a noble thing to give a child a stable home especially if coming from one that is not.

    Lot of responsibility but you seem to have already addressed the majority of things and likely won’t be surprised by issues when they crop up. Best of luck and hope your newest addition fits in and becomes permanent.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance April 15, 2019

      Thanks. So far she seems to be fitting in nicely.

  2. Joe
    Joe April 15, 2019

    Thank you for becoming a foster parent. I think that’s quite difficult. Foster kids need help. I hope it all works out.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance April 15, 2019

      Thanks Joe.

  3. Susie Q
    Susie Q April 15, 2019

    Good for you! I’ve thought about becoming a foster parent, but haven’t had the courage to move forward. I hope the experience is everything you want it to be.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance April 15, 2019

      So far so good. If you are interested you should look into it. There are ups and downs but it can be very emotionally rewarding.

  4. Lou
    Lou April 16, 2019

    Yay!! Congrats on becoming a foster parent. Foster parenting is something I want to do when I’m older and ready to have kids (I’m early 20s, single, in the hole of student and other debt… definitely nowhere near there yet!). My best friend aged out of the foster care system, bouncing from family to family. She nearly got adopted once, but then the family backed out at the last minute. Other foster families were either abusive or not loving. She actually keeps in touch with one of her foster families’ in-laws, and considers the woman her real mom. So it’d be ideal to be able to help out a child in need, plus I’m not super attached to the idea of bio children (of course, we’ll see what happens there). Oh well… one day. 🙂

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance April 16, 2019

      Interestingly enough there was a young single lady in our class about your age. Her goal I believe was to do respite. Essentially take kids in for a week or so while the foster parent is away. Might be a bit tough to go into it knowing they only stay a week though.

      Best of luck.

  5. Mark
    Mark April 16, 2019

    This post caught my eye because we also adopted a foster child. She is now an RN in Bakersfield. I blogged about it too. Congrats on being a foster parent and eventually an adoptive parent. The rewards far outweigh the burden. I could not imagine my world without my daughter.

    We always told her she was adopted but we never referred to her as a foster child. Luckily we got her when she was really young. Loved your post. I write about my daughter here (in two parts)

    https://www.theretirementspt.com/2018/05/11/foster-care-invest-in-a-childs-future-part-1/

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance April 16, 2019

      Really enjoyed the post, thanks for pointing it out.

  6. PFI
    PFI April 17, 2019

    Thank you! As someone who works in schools, I can say firsthand that we desperately need good foster parents. You will literally change the trajectory of someone’s life.

    Your approach to being a foster parent and integrating the child into your life sounds beautiful. Thank you again.

  7. Financial Samurai
    Financial Samurai April 17, 2019

    Thanks for sharing the good news! Was it hard to see the baby go after a week? I don’t know if we could handle that. Further, the baby face is really tough given the feeding and constant wake ups. Are you still primarily focused on fostering under the age of one?

    It feels like the separation would be too hard for most people to handle after the foster child is moved.

    Sam

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance April 17, 2019

      The first child was here a short enough period that it was not traumatic. Our boys were a little upset, but it was generally manageable. Kid two, about 6 weeks old, is on week 4 and if she ends up leaving it will be a lot harder.

      So far we’ve lucked out. Both kids sleep more soundly then our biological kids did at that age.

  8. Baby Boomer Super
    Baby Boomer Super April 21, 2019

    We looked into the possibility of foster care to adoption years ago, but at that time, babies were not usually available and I really wanted a baby. It’s sad to know that more babies are available now due to the opioid crisis, and that there are more children with unmet needs now than ever before. I’m happy that foster care is an option that will work for you & wish you success in growing your family! Everyone’s lives will be richer as a result of your thoughtfulness, love & generosity.

    Our family did not end up growing through adoption, even though we were matched with a baby from Guatemala. As it turned out, the baby ended up with his extended family, so hopefully that was best for him. I still think about him! I wrote about it here: https://www.babyboomersupersaver.com/the-money-mistake-i-dont-regret/

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance April 22, 2019

      I remember reading that one. The process of thinking an adoption is final and then having it pull back would probably be harder for us then Foster. It admittedly will be hard if the little girl stays with us for a long time and then goes back. But at least we understand currently that is the goal.

      Either way, it feels good to know this child’s life is better by someone just being available to take care of them.

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