How does one survive chaos, or rather trauma*?

How does one move past the bits of life that you so desperately want to leap over? 

These are just a few of the many questions I have been asking myself for going on two years. 

For me it is no secret as to why our blog posts have slowed down to near non-existent. It hasn’t just been a combination of bad timing, a heavy work load, and kids. I suffered a traumatic blow to the structure of my life as well as the resurfacing of childhood trauma I had packaged tightly away. Nor was it just one small change that undermined life as I knew it or the addition of multiple small new things. Rather it was the culmination of big life changes, bad timing, kids, and trauma all at once.

Still I tried to keep up an appearance of life just tossing lemons my way and me trying to figure out how to juggle them.

The appearance of holding my life together helped keep me moving forward without feeling truly lost. But lost is how I felt when no one was looking.

I knew that I couldn’t maintain our blog while I felt so lost. Rent-a-Dad was busy with helping pick up the slack in other areas of our life that blogging was the last thing on his mind.

While I didn’t give up writing in general (journals, poems… starting a family cookbook) I felt like anything I shared on our blog was somehow tainted by what I was experiencing, and feeling. More than a few times I would start to write a blog post but either I didn’t finish; they felt non-authentic; I felt like my writing style/voice wasn’t represented; and worse… they all felt either too emotional or very watered down. Suddenly I felt like what I had to share had no value. I was struggling with the topics that I felt comfortable making contributions to as well as with feeling what I had to say was relevant, and the thought that I was a fraud (as if suddenly I was “less than” and unworthy to write/share).

Instead of burying myself in writing and coming out the other side through self-expression in blogging, I felt further lost. So, I put blogging on hold, always the thought in the back of my head of returning when I felt more like me.

I needed to find myself.

Looking back, it hasn’t been a journey about finding what I lost. I know what was lost and what changed me. The journey was really about finding a new “normal”/way of life that I could be comfortable with, and found joy in.

Suffering trauma was not new to me. The new factor that spun me around and rocked my foundation was drastic shift in my support system. This shift caused me a lot of pain, both physically and mentally. I was questioning everything I was doing including how much worth I had. 

For all mental health professionals, I am sure this is setting off alarms.

Between good friends and a supportive spouse, I knew I needed help. I talked to my doctor about my physical health and sought counseling from a mental health professional as well as from our pastor so I was taking care of my mental and spiritual health as well.

After a few counseling visits, my diagnosis was given and I wasn’t surprised. I knew I was depressed. Also that I have severe anxiety issues and lived with high amounts of stress. The only thing that really surprised me was being diagnosed with PTSD and that the counselor felt this was something I was living with since my childhood trauma. That the new traumatic event and shift in my support network was making me re-live some childhood trauma that had never really been addressed.

To the world at large I was still presenting a good face while inside I felt like my world was crumbling. Seeking help was what I needed to do. It made me feel better talking about what was happening and the ways I was trying to move forward. My counselor didn’t even feel I needed any kind of medicine to help me move forward. For me that was a relief on several levels but mainly that there is a history of alcoholism in my family tree, and therefore always a fear in my head of a hereditary gene for addiction.

Were there hiccups in all this? Yes, yes, and yes.

For months I only shared my journey with a select few. I had a hard time reaching out and confirming my new support network/structure.

Some close family wanted to call me crazy, messed up and worse. These specific family members were not interested in me as a person getting better let alone the length of time it might actually take. Sadly many people apply a pre-conceived idea of how long they think it will take someone to heal… Healing doesn’t work that way. We all heal differently and in our own time.

No one seeking to better themselves should ever be put down. 

Another truth, I owe no one an explanation into what caused my depression or what traumatic event set off my PTSD. Does not mean I didn’t, or don’t, want to talk about it. I am just a bit more closed off right now then I have ever been in my life. I am protecting myself better, and re-learning who I can/can’t trust; how that looks; and how that feels.

The problem that has existed with some family members is that because I have always appeared to be an open book with others, I was suddenly expected to continue with the same level of openness with the very people who caused the trauma. Those family members were not very happy with the boundaries I was trying to set into place and may never be happy with these boundaries, but they are necessary.

In addition to affirming my new support network and setting up boundaries, it has also been important to recognize the toxic people in my life, what their toxicity looks/feels like, and learning how to section that off from my daily life. Doing all of that while trying to keep pace with kids and other parts of my life has been a challenge.

Some days moving forward is not as easy. I have my setbacks and am still re-learning who I can lean on and for what. Even at the worst point of struggling with depression I still smiled and found joy. What I needed help with was not feeling ALL the feelings ALL the time. Time doesn’t heal all wounds but in my case time, and talking about my problems, has helped me find my perspective again. And in time, in finding my new normal, I am hoping my voice will reemerge.

My backstory and Take-Away:

In college I was blessed with having a good group of friends who openly talked about mental health. It wasn’t something to be shied away from, packaged up or hidden. I went to college in a small Midwestern town and because of the location many of the student body dealt with seasonal depression. January through March were some of the hardest months to deal with for seasonal depression. Not only do those months follow the holidays/joyous times with family/friends, but it also meant a return to school life. For many that alone brought on a heavy sadness. Added to that were wintry conditions that meant staying inside more and evening/nighttime descended upon us by 5pm. Many of us would enter the dining hall on the last few glimmers of sunshine, when it was present, and exit on full darkness. Talking about mental health was important to our daily life.

Leaving college, I found that mental health was not something people easily or readily talked about. It was once again something to be buried away, hidden, stigmatized… People couldn’t be depressed without the worry of being involuntarily committed for a psych evaluation. People fear how others will perceive them as if they are less or not worthy. Fear is as powerful as depression (perhaps more so) as it can hold someone hostage in their own personal hell incapable of seeking help.

Mental health should not be treated that way. The stigma needs to go. We all need to be set free from the fear of others knowing about hidden diseases and hidden struggles.

Everyone suffers from trauma and loss at some point in their life. It is why there are support groups. Counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists are there to help be sounding boards so we know that what we are feeling does not drive us to isolation and darker places. Mental health should not be boxed up and hidden away. It needs to be taken from dark places and light to be shown on it.

We all have our struggles. Talking about those struggles in safe places is what helps us move forward and be over all healthier people.

While everyone at some point feels that they are struggling alone, none of us are without struggles.

Reaching out is hard. If you are in a good place don’t forget to check in on your friends to see how they are doing. Reaching out does go both ways. If you aren’t in a good place don’t suffer alone…

To learn more about the crisis text line, click here

And remember… emotional distress doesn’t mean you are thinking about suicide right this minute, you could just feel isolated, alone, like you have no one to turn to and not sure what your next step should be… but it’s no reason to keep it all caged inside. Feeling isolated and alone can feel like a personal hell with no end in sight. A problem shared can make someone feel like their load is lightened so they can make clearer decisions. I have been reminded recently that humans are not meant to suffer alone or in silence. Call. Share. Lighten your load.

I have been reminded recently that humans are not meant to suffer alone or in silence. Call. Share. Lighten your load.

A problem shared can make someone feel like their load is lightened so they can make clearer decisions. I have been reminded recently that humans are not meant to suffer alone or in silence. Call. Share. Lighten your load.

* Keep in mind, trauma takes on many forms from the loss of a loved one, having to make an unexpected move (residence, schools, even jobs) to surviving events like a robbery or sexual assault. Trauma doesn’t take on one simple form like being a survivor of a war but can also mean you survived your own personal battles that have left you traumatized.

Even when we know that life is rushing by and things are piling up, we tend to forget to do things for ourselves, replenish, and even to just take a step back. This is something I am bad at sometimes. While I may have some form of perspective I tend to miss something important to me like taking my own medicine. If you have spent a few days with me then you know I have an afternoon alarm for meds, and used to have a morning reminder to eat lunch. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that sometimes I need to be reminded that I am not superwoman. Early last month I needed a reminder to cut something from my life and unplug.

With June’s post about my Roller Coaster Year, I openly admitted to feeling a bit overwhelmed and needing a breather. Since spring sprung I had been pushing to get a wide variety of things done from doctor appointments to school registration not to mention my ever growing “honey do” list. While I have been pushing very hard to shrink my ever growing list, not much else in my life has taken a break or slowed up.

At some point I realized the folly of my ways. If I didn’t slow something down, or cut something out, well I was quite likely to burn out. The anxiety of it all was physically wearing me down. Other than pushing forward and completing my honey dos, there wasn’t much I could do to ease the anxiety I was feeling. As one project after another was completed it was true that some tension subsided but the fear of burning out, or getting sick, stayed with me.

What would happen if I did get sick before the end of the summer? What if my summer honey dos got left undone? The big answer is that we would all survive. Life would continue to move forward.

Still I felt a need to get my honey dos done. What would give? The answer was step back; put projects into perspective (make a list); and see if anything could be sidelined.

The first thing to get evaluated was my limited free time.

After my first few kid free days, I knew the likelihood of having lots of kid free time was unlikely. Two weekends a month I watch one niece. That is always a given. While time with my other nieces and nephews is not always planned, my youngest nephew dislikes going more than a few days being away from his second home. So my free time is not really just mine. Yet my free time was the only thing I had any wiggle room with.

Ultimately the decision wasn’t hard. I needed to unplug and put our blog on hold.

After all, when would the kids ever be this age again? Answer: never.

Once school starts back up I will have more free time than right now. I still want the boys’ bedroom done and to get a good amount of my honey dos actually done. With my priorities straightened out in my head I plunged back into my list.

The good news was I had room to do plenty of fun things like visit with family; spend a weekend with an old friend and her family; and to have lots of adventures with the munchkins!!!

The downside? I was right about burning out. After a month of pushing, pushing, pushing… when I began to slow down a bit I did end up with a summer cold. While I need to slow down for a few days I still feel as if I am in a good place. Slowing down right now was well earned and I don’t feel guilty over taking a day or two that includes a few more activities centered around me. Like writing a blog post, or two.

Explaining life choices, like fostering, to an 11 year old is not quite what I thought I would be doing on Father’s Day. Instead of our normal low key Father’s Day activities spent with some variation of the kids in our lives we divided and conquered. Rent-a-Dad spent the afternoon with our nephews and their dad at a dinosaur convention. That left me with their mom, sister and half-sisters making a trip to the aquarium.

Sounds like fun.

It was for the guys.

For us girls, we had a mixed bag. Part of our day was supposed to include our city splash area but a good portion of that was closed. We also forwent our ice-cream treats as our afternoon took longer since a camera got mislaid and an a few other small mishaps took place.
The half-sisters only have summer visitation with as they live put of state. This means the only times we get to visit with them is also over the summer.

Ever since we first met the girls, they have readily accepted us into their family. From what I have heard they like to tell people we are their aunt and uncle too. It’s all very sweet. We like spending time with them when we get the chance.

We had all been looking forward to our Sunday outing. For the most part we took all of our glitches In stride.

The first sign I had that our day might be a little challenging was when the seven year old informed me she wasn’t going to ride in the booster seat. She is very tall for her age but she is still in that grey area where she should be in a booster seat. As she is not my child nor was she riding with her legal guardian, it meant I enforced my traveling rule. Either she could ride in the booster seat or she could stay home.

Of course this meant I received not just flack but questions starting with “but why?”. My general answer is “It is my car and as a foster parent I obey laws pertaining to seatbelts and child safety.”
In some ways that was that. Child got into the booster seat with minimal grumbles.

That wasn’t really the end of that. It just switched the subject. By reminding the girls I am a foster parent that opened up the flood gate of questions I received about being a foster parent. Both girls (ages 7 & 11) are very curious about what fostering means and why Rent-a-Dad and I do it.
The girls were respectful and asked if I minded that they wanted to know more about what fostering means. It is true that each time they get alone time with me they ask me a lot of questions about fostering. Often it is the same question or a variation on a theme. Honestly I don’t mind. My answer never truly changes so the girls get to have an example of an adult being consistently open and honest with them. All kids need that and the more they get that the better the chances are that they will have healthy honest relationships with others.

After I got home that afternoon I thought about how important that conversation truly was. Not only was I open and honest in explaining our decision to foster, I was reaffirming my own decisions and gaining experience on how to talk with those age groups about life choices. I look forward to future conversations with the girls about fostering and wonder what they will ask next.

If you are wondering what some of the questions and answers were… well I thought I would share a few here.

Why did you become a foster parent?

No-matter how many times I see the girls they always ask me this question. My answer is always the same. I always tell them it was something I wanted to do since I was a kid. That providing a safe heaven/home to kids who need one just seems right.

This time around they did also ask why we don’t have children of our own. Without explaining what infertility is, I explained that we tried and tried and tried. When the eldest told the youngest to stop asking me questions about why we couldn’t have kids, because that’s sad, I replied that it may seem sad but that I get angry too. That I still cannot understand the doctor who refused to run tests, even when I said I wasn’t feeling right, and six months later I was having masses removed from my abdomen along with part of my reproductive organs.

This then led into a brief conversation about not letting a doctor ignore their worries. That it is always important to be heard and understand what is going on with your own body.

Is it not hard to get attached to then say goodbye?

This is another question that gets asked often. The girls tend to forget that we have been lucky with the relationships we have built with the birth families. They have witnessed first hand those relationships. But it is still a good question.

The answer is yes, it is hard.

This year when I answered the question, the eldest replied that she thought so because she remembers her step mom talking about how sad I was when the boys first returned home. It was true I was sad but time helps with the sadness. It also helped that we didn’t have a forever goodbye with the boys and that they are still very much apart of our lives.

This then led into a variation of this question and a conversation about life choices.

If becoming attached and having to let go is so hard, why do you do it?

Right on the heels of that question it was followed up with a statement. The eldest girl declared how she wants to be a foster mom when she gets older. The difference is that she thinks she would only foster older children so she wouldn’t get as attached. That saying goodbye is too hard.

I laid out a few truths here.

No matter the age of the child, or how old we are, or how long we have been foster parents, we all get attached.

Saying goodbye is never easy. But we don’t foster because it is easy. We foster so that children entering the system have a place they can stay while the state and their family figure things out.

Then I pointed out a few other important things.

If we only ever did easy things, well there would be a lot of jobs going unfilled.

Being a doctor is not all about money. The schooling involved takes years. Once you get the job then lives of others are placed in your hands. That’s not such an easy thing.

Teachers are a lot like foster parents. Sometimes teachers see their students for more hours than the parents do. Teachers get to help guide their students through the year and at the end of that year they have to say goodbye.

Life would be pretty boring if we only did the easy bits. Think about some pretty great moments in our lives we would miss. Often the hard parts in life is what shapes what we want to do and has a hand in defining who we are.

There were quite a few other questions asked and answered but how can you top this? Nothing in life is ever truly easy. Don’t let the idea of something being hard be THE reason holding you back from doing it. That thing could be your defining moment, the greatest thing that ever happened to you.

My roller coaster year has been more than a bit extended.

Today I freely admit that I am a bit on the emotional side. Life in and of itself is a bit of a roller coaster. Some years are more bumpy than others. This past year has seems to have had more peaks and valleys than normal, as well as added speed.

roller coaster

While last week was the official start to our summer, this is the day that it all came slamming into me. All the “hurry up and go” squeezed out like the last bit of air in a whoopy cusion… “whoosh humph”. Suddenly I feel deflated.

The past month I have been busy busy busy from conference trips for Rent-a-Dad; kindergarten roundups and preschool registration; end of year physicals; annual foster care paperwork… and so much more. Towards the end of the month I felt it all speeding by fast and faster. I was dodging things I couldn’t control to get a grip on the things that had to happen.

As of today, all the munchkins in my life are currently at home with their parents. There are no deadlines this week and no doctor appointments to rush anyone too. Suddenly I felt a little bit released from the weekly tension May had and yet… there is this hidden tension I had almost forgotten about. Right now I may be out of air but I still have to hurry up for the next round of “hurry up and go”.

Last summer was the worst year of dealing with ants in the last ten years of residency at this house. Most years we would see an ant or two but the last several have gotten increasingly worse. Finally I had enough and called in professionals. It took some time but by this spring we really did notice a big difference.

In the midst of our ant issues, I found termite damage when I went to redo our office as a bedroom for our nephews. I was packing up books when I put my hand through our mdf baseboard. Sigh. It had taken a lot of convincing to get to where I was with that room. Now there was a hold up.

Termites gone… for months but still a holdup with that room. A family member fell on hard times so the money set aside for working on that room got used elsewhere. Then another problem hit, and another. More peaks and more valleys. A year later and that room is still in a state of “on hold”.

In amongst my crazy May scheduling I had squeezed some time to get back boxing up that room. With the boys starting school this August there is more of an urgency to getting that room worked on and set up as their bedroom, a home away from their other home.

Today I feel all that pressure of last year rushing back on top of me. I am a bit exhausted from the way May took its toll on me. Yet I am not at a point where I can jump up and down with any sense of accomplishment. There is still piles and piles of work to be done and only me to do it. So today I ask that my family, and the world, forgive my tired self as I crack a little around the edges. I am more than a bit done but I need a moment to breath and not panic before I put my resilient façade back in place and climb back on that roller coaster called life.

About this time twenty years ago I was preparing for my high school graduation. With a reunion on the horizon, I have spent a bit of time reminiscing about those days with friends. The idea of returning home has been on my mind as well as advice I received all those years ago.

Of all the advice I received there was one piece that made it into almost all of my graduation cards “you can never truly return home”. Depending on the age of the individual giving the advice it was either meant as a “take heed” bit of sage advice or as a tongue in cheek moment. One friend who had only graduated a couple of years prior wrote something like “Everyone will tell you not to screw up because you can’t go home. Well screw them. You are always welcome at my home no matter how much you screw up.”

With the advice from everyone (young and old) having a similar theme, I knew to pay attention.

One person giving the advice, ehh, maybe.

Ten people giving similar advice, well that has more weight and validity.

But how does one digest the meaning of that phrase?

In high school I spent a lot of my spare time at my youth mentor’s house. Denise wasn’t just a youth mentor at my church, she was the daughter of my mom’s close friend. Sure Denise was a good twenty years older than me but she was more like a crazy aunt than just another adult telling me what to do. She didn’t just have that rapport with me but with all the teens she mentored. It is what set her apart from other adults. More teens opened up to her than to their own parents, so when she gave advice we listened.

Being over at her house so much I had heard her give similar advice about returning home to other seniors. Denise would say how it wasn’t the act of returning home that was impossible. Rather it was the expectation that nothing, from relationships to the physical appearances of places, would change.

Denise would remind us that time stood still for no one so we needed to accept that everyone, including our parents, would change. If we accepted that inevitability then we would be able to know when to let go and when to hold on to friendships and relationships. It would make us better people who didn’t take things for granted and tried to make the best of every situation. In some cases it would help us move past bad situations where there may never be any closure.

At the time I thought I understood all of that and didn’t take the saying at face value. Now, twenty years later I am still learning new aspects of that same advice.

Returning home isn’t just a physical space but a frame of mind. We are all changing and evolving. When we expect people, places, and organizations to be the same as they were a year ago or twenty, we not only do ourselves a disservice but others.

I am not the same person I was when I graduated high school. Nor am I the same person who once managed a non profit organization. In essence I am both of those people while being neither. They are apart of my past that I can reminisce over but have no wish to truly return to.

Right now I am a mom, aunt, daughter, wife, caregiver, household economist… and so much more. To boil me down to one event in my life is folly. If I were to do the same thing to others that would be disastrous.

Often we look back to reminisce about the good times and to remind ourselves how much we have changed. Truly returning home is just living in a past that no longer exists or holds true for who we are this very moment. When we are done reminiscing we should shelve our good memories and free up room to let ourselves and others evolve and change.

The Written Word and Our Blog

In the past couple of weeks I learned the hard way that you can not easily write for both foster parents and birth parents. I never intended to write for both audiences. When Rent-a-Dad and I made the final decision to blog it was after months, even years, of consideration. The process included conversations with mentors, other foster parents, our case-worker, other DCS employees (there were and are still privacy rules), friends, family, and at least one of the birth families we worked with.

Our Blog

Balancing Life’s Lemons was created to tell our journey. We face infertility, and are foster parents; we are parents to some and children to others; we struggle with caring for ailing parents and sacrifice; we don’t always know when we need to replenish yet we know it is needed; we have hobbies that we don’t always get to indulge in; we have a journey that is all ours. The blog is to document that journey to inspire others but also to reach out beyond to those who wish to know us deeper (our loved ones) and share family moments that may otherwise get lost to the annals of time. The story is from our point of view.

Whenever the conversation of writing a post about fostering comes up, the intention is always to share something about our own journey through foster care. While we hope our posts are inspirational they are also meant to help other foster parents, and those interested in fostering, to better understanding the fostering process through our experiences and interpretation. Even with a system that gets classified as “broken” or as “stealing children”, there is still a need for foster parents, ones that believe in the process of reunification, and want to stay involved in the lives of their former fosters as long as their families need/want that connection.


My Take

Even though I believe in reunification and want to break down this wall in-between birth and foster families, I do not believe our blog can be easily read by birth families, especially not while they are going through the reunification process. When I write about breaking down the barriers it is in terms of reaching out to those who only paint birth families in negative hues and getting them to see birth families not as an enemy to fight but as someone going through a difficult time who needs your help.

Our blog is about our journey; our opinions; our struggles.

So far I have not been a birth mother who lost her child to the system. I am someone who has helped friends facing CPS workers, and the system, better understand what they need to do not to loose their children. At one point I was that child who had been threatened that CPS could be called at any point and I could be taken away from my parents. Those are pieces of my journey that I yet to write about. They are pieces of my journey that I struggle with.


Our Facebook Page

On our Facebook page I do share posts from other blogs as I think they may fit a train of thought I have recently been exploring, a new idea or outlook on something, even a point I feel others in similar circumstance should be aware of. In the future that may include sharing additional view points from birth parents to help others become more aware of their struggles with the same system. That said, this blog is still our journey.


Our Future with the Written Word

Even before recent events I have been trying to think about how to dig more deeply into our journey. Currently I am facing my mother’s health crisis, helping with our nephews’ education, facing job re-entry, and personal health struggles that seem so trivial in comparison to everything else.

Right now I do not have a clear path as to where my writing will take me. My journey with the written word is a bit hazy at the moment.

What I do know is how I try to be positive and encouraging with the posts I share. Perhaps I sugar coat things a bit much. How can I change that?  For about a month, I have been working on a series of posts to un-sugar coat a few things. Let’s see if I can do that without letting the pendulum swing too far in the other direction.


Closing Thought

At one point a couple of weeks back, I was cautioned that I need to be careful with my words as they are hurtful to birth parents. No one can please everyone all of the time. I am not writing to please others all of the time. While I try to remain compassionate and respectful to all, I am many things, including a foster parent, who documenting her journey for herself/her family, for those interested in our journey, for others dealing with similar issues and feelings.

Whether it is considered another “hoop” or “multiple steps”, the system has a way of making one feel as if there is always a “next step”. But what does this really mean? It can literally be getting a new placement and fulfilling all the needs of that new placement from doctor appointments to DCS paperwork. Or it could be seeing a successful reunification and waiting for the next placement. Each foster family feels different about what the next step for them means and where they feel their path may lead them.

For us we have had an idea of what we have wanted to accomplish as foster parents without rigidly sticking to one path. We have tried to remain flexible while holding to our own set of morals and ethics. So far we feel as if we have been able to accomplish those goals as foster parents and foster parenting mentors.

Almost four years, four children, and four mentees families in we have started to wonder “what is our own next step?”

We now over a year from the point when Stinkerbell, our last real placement, was successfully reunified with her mom. In that time we were able to take a well needed break; consider adopting two boys (about the age of our nephews); enjoy a multitude of family get-togethers; help with an emergency placement; deal with routine screenings; ailing loved ones; and keep up with DCS training.

For the first four or five months of that time I had baby fever but then got over it as I have helped with potty training three toddlers and dealt with their sassiness. Since September I have been driving one nephew twice a week to and from tutoring as he prepares for kindergarten and getting his speech up to the speed of his brain. In December, rent-a-dad and I sat with the mother of our former placement waiting at the hospital while Stinkerbell had pins placed in her elbow.

Since Stinkerbell had a successful reunification with her mom last year we have been nothing but busy. Our lives are full. The question remains should we continue to have a home open to major placements or consider just doing emergency placements and respite care?

Right this minute we are leaving that as an open ended question. We are still thinking over how rich our life has become and what we want to see happen in the next year. If it is it is possible to become a home for emergency placements and respite care that is what we would like to do because we don’t feel as if our journey with foster care it truly done. It is important to us that we remain true to who we are and the level of care we wish to provide to the children in our care, which for us can even include our former placements.

A couple of months back I read two different posts talking about re-imagining the foster system. One post talked about how the system would be a much better place if each able bodied couple (or single person) considered fostering just one child or child grouping in their lifetime. That the focus would be one that kid(s) not just at that point but even when they were reunified with their family or found another permanent placement.

The second post I read was about a foster mother who believed in fostering one child/child group at a time, which for her meant until their family could fully handle the reunification. To her this meant until the family no longer wished to use her as a resource.

I can admire both concepts and look forward to seeing more people interested in fostering in this manner. For those who find these concepts interesting, this could be your next step.

We all have some truths that feel more like monsters in the closet. The truth behind words buried deep within us can be bewildering and frustrating while also astounding and humbling. So many times over that is my experience as a foster parent, a temporary parent, and a co-parent.

My truth:

My nephew came to us only three weeks old. He returned home at almost nine months old. The time in between, and honestly ever since, has been heart wrenching and magical.

When he returned home it felt as if we had lost him forever. I couldn’t get my heart to listen that things take time and I needed to give his parents space. My heart felt let down. As time went on we started visiting more and more. A hole in my heart began to heal as I was no longer living without my “son” but rather I had gained a “nephew”.

As the years have progressed, I feel blessed by the relationship we have with his parents and the time we are allowed to have with him.

Sometimes I am still concerned that I will wake up and this will all have been a dream. While I am not seeking out something bad to strike, I fear as if the joy of having our nephew present in our lives is tenuous.


Because I feel as if our happiness comes at another’s expense. We are living on borrowed joy. Every time my nephew learns something new while he is visiting I feel as if I have robbed his parents of this experience with him.

When my nephew returns home I am a bag of mixed emotions. I am glad he is building loving relationships with his parents yet I am terrified I will never see him again. That doesn’t even bring up all the things I worry about when he is away.

If you ask his parents they seem quite happy that we are around. They admit to being sad that he is not with them 24/7 but also admit that they are unsure of what they would do if we were not in their lives. To them co-parenting is the only answer that makes sense. While I honestly never thought of being a co-parent, I could not imagine doing anything else.

We are so very blessed that our nephew is still so active in our lives. He is more than our nephew, he is also our son.

One truth from fostering in the system:

As a foster parent, when you receive a child that is between the infant and toddler age it is important to make sure that child bonds with at least one person in the house. This is especially important when the length of that child’s stay will be longer than the time they have been alive. One form of quick bonding is simply referring to you and your spouse as that child’s parents.

This is something we hear all the time from speakers at foster care classes to DCS caseworkers. Some people take naturally to this as it is a fact that you want what is best for the child in your care. Others struggle with this as they feel like they are robbing the birth parents of their “birth” right.

Truth is that child needs your bond. They need to feel safe and loved by you. For the time spent in your home you are that baby’s mom and dad.

Uncertainty of sharing this truth:

If you are concerned about how the birth parents will react, I know I was, ask for help from your caseworker. Tell the birth parents you don’t want this baby to feel different from other children and you want this child to be able to be confident. That forming bonds with others helps build that confidence. Remind them that they are still mom and dad and that your family is just a place holder for when they are ready to step in and take over.

Some birth parents listen and others don’t. Honestly you will have an idea of whether they will understand or not based on how they treat you over the first couple of months. If you feel they won’t understand then don’t bring the subject up.

Example: our foster daughter lived in our house for almost two tears and had attended daycare where she learned the power of having a mommy and daddy. She proudly claimed us to her classmates at pickup time. When the topic came up with her parents, we just reminded them that love is powerful and she feels extra loved by having more than one set of parents. We also provided another reminder that they would always be her parents while one day soon enough she would begin to call us by other names.

Emotional truths:

A very common thread through most foster care and adoption blogs is a Jody Landers quote:

Children born to another woman call me “Mom.” The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me

These are truly beautiful words that I think almost any foster and adoptive mom can relate to. Each of our stories may be different but we can all agree that being called mom is a privilege and to be called mom by another woman’s child can leave one with mixed emotions.

I for one am always in awe of what children do even if I see it a thousand times. Each child is a new interpretation. I always feel blessed to witness new beginnings but sad at the same time as their birth family is missing the same magical moments.

At the start of our foster care journey I had no idea how I could sympathize with birth families as a whole let alone individually.


There were many reasons from the number of negative stories we had heard about birth families to the horrible situations children had been removed from. Then there was the simple truth that I could not sympathize with what I did not yet know.

After our first foster children the question became “how could I not?”

No I was not naïve enough to think that all situations would be like this one case or that all birth parents would work hard to get their kids back. However, I was no longer innocent to the possible circumstances we could see. Yes I was still a newcomer and had much to learn but I could not pretend that a spectrum didn’t exist in between the black and white cases we had been told about.

It is hard to see all birth parents as villains when some are just as scared as the children you are caring for. Not to mention how some birth parents are mourning the loss of the child who you will mourn the daily presence of soon enough.

When you stop seeing the birth family as a group of villains but rather people fallen on hard times, those who have lost their way, young adults lost on their path… well you start to better understand the children in your care and their needs. You can see how these kids miss the people painted as villains. And you might even better understand these “villians” in ways you never thought possible.

That is how I began to sympathize with birth parents. As I further get to know each of them then I can better understand them as individuals including the hardships they have faced. This includes how isolated and alone they have felt at the onset of both their DCS case and the point where they lost their way.

Sadly some birth parents are hard to humanize and sympathize with. They can be incredibly selfish, do horrible things, and won’t let anyone get near them including their own children. And those are the cases we had heard so much about. The good news is that DCS doesn’t require you to sympathize with the birth parents. Thankfully those are not the type of birth parents we have dealt with, yet.

For more insight on how we have been able to build working relationships with birth families check out another of our posts titled: Fostering Relationships.

Are first impressions getting in the way of being able to sympathize?

Remember my post about Misconceptions?

Well we all have them and sometimes those get in the way.

When we can push that aside we can see that maybe this isn’t the best parent, perhaps they didn’t have any guidance or help like us, but they are parents. Just like any parent they are  worried about who this stranger is that is taking care of their child, where their child is sleeping and what they are eating. When we can remind ourselves of that fact it is hard to see them as villains.

Just because we can understand them better doesn’t mean we have to be best friends. The important thing is to build a working relationship do the kids in our care have the best team possible to help them succeed.

Whether you are casually interested in adoption, are in the early stages of considering, or are taking serious steps towards adoption knowing what some adoption pitfalls are can help you focus your energy in the place that is right for you.

Each November, when adoption awareness month rolls around, I tend to do a lot of extra article reading and sharing. I love learning about the adoption success stories. Included in most of those stories are the bumps along the way. The bumps are looked at as the necessary measures to finding the perfect family. Hearing about the bumps others experience shows that we all have them and that no story is complete without them.

Every now and then when I read these stories I look over the comments section. Sure enough located in each there is at least one person who talks up private adoption (specifically international) and talks down adoption through foster care in the United States.  It doesn’t bother me which process people ultimately use because one more child getting a forever home is always awesome. What does bother me is hearing others talk so badly about adoption through foster care that it discourages people from trying that as an option. All children are deserving of a forever home not just ones that are sought through private adoption.

So what are some of the complaints I have read? For both your benefit and mine I am going to clean up the top three complaints I have found and provide information that perhaps the complaint holder never acquired or overlooked.

I have looked at places like and have seen children I am interested in but there never is any contact information that makes sense.

Having visited many if these sites I have to agree. Contact information is not always easy to find. Some of the state sites linked to give names, numbers and email addresses while others might only have a 1-800 number listed. Sometimes there isn’t a contact page and you have no idea where to look.

Don’t give up. Try to stay calm and level headed.

When I couldn’t easily find the information needed for a state listing through I contacted the website thinking surely they would have the contact information for each agency/state they list. Nope. That is not what they do.

Don’t despair. If you found the profile of a child on, write down the child’s name, state listed and the case number. Through you can pull up various state listings. If that doesn’t work use your trusted search engine to look up the department of children’s services for that state.


Why does the process take so long and why is it easier to adopt outside of our country then from within?

The complaint here is a bit humorous to me. Adopting is never a quick process anywhere. Sometimes working with a private agency, national or international, can feel like the process is quicker but that is because the private agency can spare you from the tedium.

From start to finish an international adoption can take three to five years depending on the details. How much time depends on the amount of government red tape there is from the country you wish to adopt from.

For adoptions stateside I would have to say the same thing. The home-study process could take three to six months depending on whether you are going through a private agency or the state.

A private adoption can cost upwards of $10,000 for the whole process from home-study to legal fees.

If going through the state the process is free (or mostly free) BUT before you can adopt each state has a process you will need to go through. This will include a home-study and may, or may not, include time taking foster care classes or even time as a foster parent. Some of the state rules gave changed over the years to make it easier to adopt children in the system so make sure to do the five minute research before you assume it is too complicated. If there are fees associated with adoption through the state these are generally refundable or can be used as a tax write-off after the adoption.

Whether going through a private agency or through foster care, the average stateside adoption could happen in as little time as three months (following approval) or it could take up to five years. This all depends on the time it takes to conduct a home-study, length of the search process, court proceedings, etc. When some people talk about a quick adoption there are many scenarios but I would not consider any of them the average adoption. They may be referring to the time spent from the court proceedings onward or even the amount of time before a child has been placed in their home not the actual start to finish time.


I have been turned down (in terms of adoption) for multiple cases I have shown interest in. No one has ever told me why.

Any one interested in adoption needs to be flexible and open to the idea that not every detail will go according to plan.

If you aren’t very flexible, or are someone who wants specific answers and needs closure than I suggest working with a private agency. They have more resources and time to walk you through the process and provide answers to every question.

A private agency will only show you the cases (children) they feel are both a good fit and will end in an adoption. The process with a private agency may feel like it takes less time. Part of that is because your leg work (court papers and getting to know you process) doesn’t begin until a match has been found.

There are still bumps in the road with private adoptions. In the case of a private adoption falling through, the agency can tell you why it didn’t work because they are closely tied to the process. It comes back to private agencies having more resources.

Those who want to work with the child-welfare system first have to realize how limited resources are. The adoption process could be lengthy and at any time the process may halt with little to no closure.

In our own case of a failed adoption attempt, we never received a final answer. Rent-a-Dad and I had been in contact with our state and the state the children were residing in. A total of three or four case workers were involved in the inquiry and passing around of information. This was not the only case that each of those case-workers had. At first we had a good dialogue with all of the case workers but after a month all contact dried up.

After our initial contact with the primary caseworker, we were told the foster parents were still praying about if they should adopt, that the birth mother’s parental rights had not been severed, and there was no news about a birth father. Right there are three things that could be the reason the adoption never went to the next step. The foster parents could have changed their mind. The birth mother could have regained custody. A birth father, or another family member, may have been identified. That doesn’t even bring up the possibility that there could have been other prospective adoptive parents interested in this case.

When all contact dried up, Rent-a-Dad and I tried seeking information through our own case-worker but she also couldn’t reach the primary caseworker. So I looked back at the state website to find out the case and case-number had been pulled. Something happened to the case but the state was not going to discuss the details with us. Of course that left us with mixed feelings but we also knew that we were not owed a definitive answer. Maybe legally we could not be provided with one.

What made the idea of not knowing sit better with us is the fact that the focus of the state is on finding the right fit for the children in the system.

While a definitive answer on this case would have been nice we already had the clues placed before us. We knew of multiple reasons that could have stopped the adoption.

When an adoption fails there is nothing any one can do about it. The only time having a definitive answer is helpful is if something in your own records is the reason why the adoption fell through. Doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you or your household. It could be as simple as you have three dogs and the child you are interested is highly allergic or even terrified of them. The needs of the child will always come first.


Interested in adopting? Check out what Adoptive Families has to say about the process from start to finish. With some help from our caseworker, I have more Adoption Insights now then I did when we first started looking at adoption sites. American Adoptions website provides definitions and explanations on various types of adoptions. Knowing the difference in the types of adoptions there are out there can also help prevent some adoption pitfalls.