Ever since I can remember I wanted to be a foster parent. I knew from a young age that I would have my own children but wouldn’t be done there, I wanted to look after and possibly adopt children that had been let down by their birth parents.
My home growing up was always full. There are 4 of us by birth and there were always more by invitation. We had more than a home with open doors! We had family stay with us, cousins moved in, an aunt and her two kids for a while, a runaway teen, guests visiting the church, friends of ours (as teens) that needed a break from their homes for a bit, a foster teen and then her older sister left home and came to ours, international students, families in between homes and list grows.My hubby comes from the same kind of home. Our upbringings are so similar you’d laugh. They always had an open door and the neighbourhood practically lived over there. They were “mom and dad” to lots more than their 5 by birth!
So it was only natural that when we got married we wanted our home to be the same. The teens in our church loved to come over and hang out, sleep over and some stayed for weeks, some months. As soon as we found out we could be host parents to international students, we did. 7 years later we’re still heavily involved with the international program at the college down the road. We got involved with the foster agency here in town in 2001. We went through their program successfully, finished all the requirements and home assessments and were told by our instructor that we were the best family to foster out of the group he had taught.
By early 2002, our hearts were broken.
Friends of ours, upon our recommendation, went through the foster parent classes with the hopes of adoption. In one of their classes with the same instructor we had, they casually mentioned that we were expecting our 3rd child. This was news to the agency as we had not yet told them – in fact we had not yet told most people. I was only a few weeks along and I was still waiting for an official test from my doctor, to add to that, my sister Lala had just suffered her 6th miscarriage so we were keeping quiet, except for a couple people and of course my hubby’s friend…
Our home assessment was completed but the worker who did ours said she needed to come by. She showed up and we were having a great conversation. My hubby was sick as a dog on the couch and could barely keep up. She asked us if there was anything else we needed to tell her. I started to rack my brain; this was my thought process, “I’ve never been in trouble with the law, Dave’s brother and my sister but not us…” I couldn’t think of anything we hadn’t already told her. She then announced, “I hear that your expecting”, “Oh yes, I am!” I happily replied, “I’m 7 weeks along”. She was concerned that we had kept information from them. She left and said that she’d talk to her supervisors about it.
She phoned me a few days later at my work where at the time I was working as the front receptionist (for a Credit Union attached to a School Board building). She told me that our “file was closed forever” to ever being able to foster, and while we had extremely good references and the instructor from our class had great comments about us – they felt that we were “untrustworthy”; what else were we “hiding” from them. I was floored and I actually got sick to my stomach. I had to get someone to drive me home from work, I was shaking so bad. We were devastated. Our church, family and friends were appalled. Remember our friends who accidentally let the cat out of the bag? They were told to get new references, anybody other than us. They completed the foster parent class but decided not to go any further. Many of our friends thought, “if they can’t be approved for fostering, what’s our chance?”
We didn’t know what to think or what to do at this point. Our friends, co-workers and family all wrote in “in protest” of us being denied to foster. Everybody who knew us; from homemakers, to teachers with the Board of Education, to friends who were raised in foster homes, to relatives who are Governmental Officials sent in e-mails. This – by the way – is how everyone we knew, including family and my work, found out that we were pregnant. My hubby made an appointment to meet with the supervisor but came home shaking his head. Her mind was made up, we would not be foster parents… ever. We were heartbroken. Ever since we met in 1995 we always talked about having our own kids and fostering, even adoption. Like I said before, I was raised in a family who took everyone in who needed help and so had Dave; it was in our family DNA. A few years later, we heard through a friend of ours who works at this agency that our name wasn’t to be spoken; that it had caused division within the ranks.
It has been quite a few years since then (we now have 4 children) and my heart still breaks when I get a letter that says kids are in need, our church is sent them often, or I see abused kids in the homes of friends of ours who foster. I cry when I think about the need that is there.
After dumping all this on you… what does a family like ours do? We have a heart that wants to help our community but can’t in an “official” manner. We still take in teens from time to time, who need a break from their home but that’s through relationships and not an organization. Our home has and always will remain open, it is a safe place for those who are hurting and alone ~ it will always be that way.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s better not to have this publicly funded government agency involved in our life. Is it safe? They like to wield a big stick kinda power. What would you do if you were in our shoes?