When Mr. Bean and I were new foster parents, most everything we accomplished was through trial and error. We bumbled (heck – let’s not make that past tense!) our way through, using our resources to find out the answers that we didn’t have yet, and kept moving forward. (Fake it ’till you make it!!) One of the things I’m SO glad we did, though, was to prep our friends and family in advance to help them understand what we signed up for.
Why should I do this?
- Put yourself in their shoes and think about how oddball this life seems to MOST of the rest of the world. It is a foreign world to many, and let’s face it: most of the stories that make the news about foster parents are … uh … not positive, to say the least. #truth
- As new foster parents, you are going to need support. Bar none, foster parenting is one of the best things I have ever done with my life, but … it ain’t no picnic! It is chock full of sleepless nights, appointments, emotional landmines, paperwork, … and some awkward moments unlike you have probably ever experienced. So you NEED your family and friends to know up front what you are doing. Will they all understand? Nope. Will they all be supportive? Hopefully! And it is my hunch that the support level will probably go way up if they have a little heads up about things on the front end.
- Realize that they are going to feel protective of you, and need time to adjust to the idea of you as new foster parents. Do not be surprised when your tribe expresses concern about your wholeheartedly embracing kiddos that may not stay. This is totally natural, and I’d almost be surprised if your people DIDN’T feel this way. After all: they don’t want to see you getting your heart broken.
- They need you to help them understand. The foster care system is VERY convoluted. And we have found that even when it is “working,” it often does not make sense, or follow its own rules. This Drew Carey meme is one of my favorites. EVER. LOL
With that being said, I think its a great idea for new foster parents to sit down and write out your thoughts to your family and friends so that they are not broadsided. I do believe that it helped us a LOT in the long run. You will still have challenging times. There will be some who are not on board, and that’s OK. That’s on them, not you. But I believe that taking this step goes a long way toward preparing them.
A Sample Letter for New Foster Parents
This is by no means a perfect letter. But it was our letter. Verbatim, not one word changed. And I’m so glad that I put it out there. Now in hindsight, almost three-and-a-half years later, I might tweak a few things if I had it to do over again, … but not much. If you like any of it, you are welcome to steal it, and tweak to your own situation.
Dear family and friends, February 19, 2014We hope you are well! Mr. Bean and I wanted to take a moment to update you on our journey.As of yesterday, we are officially certified foster parents! Finally! It has been a long road to get here, but we are excited to be moving forward!You are a significant part of our lives, and as such, you will be significant in the lives of our children. So, we wanted to let you know a few things about our family, and how it will soon be shifting. We are aware that our decision to become a foster-to-adopt family will also have an impact on you.Since we are now certified, we could receive a placement (of a child or children) at any moment. That moment may be 6 months from now, or it may be tonight. We have no way of knowing. We ask for your understanding in advance when we can’t give you straight answers to your questions on this.We also want to let you know that we are not on the hunt for a baby. We may very well have one placed with us, but we would love to have older kiddos just as much. There will be a great many “firsts” that we will get to experience with these kiddos and we look forward to those moments! We also want to let you know that we are not on the hunt for white children. ‘Nuff said, and just an FYI. 🙂We also want to let you know that we are involved in what is called “concurrent planning.” You may want to look it up, but the simplest way of defining concurrent planning is that while our child is in our care in the foster system, our awesome social worker (and she is!!!) will be simultaneously 1) working to reunify this child with his/her family of origin and 2) preparing for a possible adoption if #1 is not possible. That being said, our ultimate goal is to adopt. Hopefully lots of kids eventually. Concurrent planning is, however, what’s best for the kids while they are in the foster system, and we feel strongly that it is the Spirit of God who has changed our hearts to embrace it.What this means is that we will never know things like how long a child will be with us, if we will be able to adopt them someday, and how long it will all take if we do. If you ask, be prepared for a lot of “well, maybe,” or “I don’t know yet,” responses. The foster-to-adopt process could be extremely fast, or it could take years.In some cases, we will need to be guarded in what we share, as situations can change dramatically day by day, and we want to be spared (and to spare you) the emotional roller coaster that could result from too much information being “out there,” and then having to go take it all back and set everyone straight once again if things change.What we do know is that for however long these children are in our home, whether for a season, or forever, we want them to feel the same amount of investment from us. We will consider them our kids, and will be considering (and calling!) you their grandparents, aunts, uncles, regardless of what the future holds. We hope and pray that you will support us in this.If you’d like more information on concurrent planning, or articles/books about foster parenting, just let me know. It is a very convoluted process, and takes a while to begin to understand (even after the training we’ve had!). But it is our heart’s desire that you have the information to be able to make sense out of this big change we are undertaking.We love you! We thank you for your support! We can’t wait for you to meet our kids!Lots of love and hugs,The BeansXOXOXO