Why I Blog About Foster Care

Spring Cleaning FlowersThis post could really be titled, “my response to my post that went semi-viral on Friday”.

First of all, it’s so funny to me that bloggers long for an extreme amount of hits to suddenly show up on their doorstep like magic. It’s actually quite exhausting, emotionally and logistically. I started getting emails from my host site, warning that they might shut me down. I made the mistake of reading a few of the comments posted to the original post on Facebook (which suddenly had over 9,000 views because it was posted by AdoptUSKids) and had a hard time going about my day as a result.

All of this has inspired me to clarify a few things, and, more importantly, address the mission statement of this blog.

I will start with what this blog IS.

This blog IS a way for me to write about things that help me in my life as a mother, wife and teacher. If you’ve stuck around for a while, you know that this includes a myriad of things, from moving tips (coming tomorrow!), to funny/inappropriate stories, to outfit posts.

This blog IS full of articles about foster care, and will continue to be so. You see, when we first started foster care, there were not many resources for us, and what IS there often gets sugar-coated. We had already watched my sister-in-law go through the foster/adoption process, and yet there were so many things we didn’t know. We were absolutely blind-sided by a lot, and a little more information about what we were getting ourselves into would’ve gone a LONG way. As a result, we almost quit.

I’m so glad that we gave things another try. Our second experience has been a complete 180, in many ways, and I feel that it’s in large part because of what we know now. Our expectations are different. We know what’s normal, what comes with the territory, and also what’s unacceptable and needs to change. That line between manageable and overwhelming is a very gray area, and information helped us navigate it. As a result…

This blog IS a tool for me to encourage other foster parents, both current and future.  Three years ago, I had absolutely no idea foster care was in our future. And then it became 90% of our lives. Just like that. You never know when the Lord is going to call you to serve in this way, and you need to be ready.

 

All that being said, I can now tell you what this blog is NOT.

This blog is not the be-all, end-all source of information about foster care. When I wrote the 10 Things I Wish I’d Known, these were things directly related to my experience and our training. Different states, even different counties, have COMPLETELY different procedures. Foster care is a system, yes, but it’s made up of people. People are unique and people are flawed. Everyone’s experience is going to vary, even placement to placement. We went through three social workers in five months with our first placement. This time around, we’ve had one all-star of a social worker, one who treats this as her calling.

For the article, I picked 10 things that would have made my life easier had I known them the first time around. For instance, if I had known that I’d be spending so much time on the phone, doing therapy, scheduling appts., etc., I never would’ve tried to increase my work hours at the same time. I would’ve cut back. That, alone, would’ve made my life half as stressed during our first foster care placement.

This blog is NOT a place to share my foster kids’ personal stories or information. There are rules about these things, rules which I have signed and take seriously. I will never use my kids’ names, I will never use my kids’ faces in a picture, and I will never talk about anything that I haven’t seen them discuss openly amongst all sorts of people. If I need a small detail, here or there, to help me prove a point worth making, it comes down to a judgement call. But, in the end, if all I have to tell are their stories (which belong to them, not me) then I really have nothing worth saying on this forum.

I have received a small amount of critique on this arena because some believe that foster care should never be blogged about in any way shape or form, and that the only support worth having is that which comes in person-to-person contact.  Some of this boils down to arguments that one might have about why blogs, in general, are never as good as real relationships (more on this at the bottom).

I am always willing to discuss this, and I am always willing to admit that there are parts of my heart and selfishness and that I have not yet given over to the Lord. But is this blog a place of selfishness that I have not yet surrendered? Or is it an extension of me and my flawed gifts that the Lord is using to encourage and support others? At this juncture, I have only to see evidence of the latter, in the form of dozens of emails thanking me for the support.

I never wrote any of my articles for more “blog hits” (haha, I honestly thought that no one would read them! I just hoped that somehow, someday, my 10 Things article would somehow make it’s way to some hapless soul, struggling with their own foster care situation). Everything I have said has been to encourage or inform.

Having examined my motives extensively on this matter, it’s now up to me to not respond or react to the hurtful comments that come my way. They can say what they want– it’s up to me to choose how I react. I cannot stop writing about these things if I feel convicted to do otherwise. I cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that foster care needs more awareness.

This blog is NOT a recruitment tool. When the 10 Things article was first published on Facebook, I saw a lot of comments about how the article didn’t encourage them. Some people said that they used to want to do foster care, and now they don’t.

At first, this made me sad.

And then I realized.

If an ARTICLE is enough to turn someone off to foster care, how much more so the real thing? I didn’t even go into detail about how horrible our first placement ended (yes, it can happen to anyone). I didn’t even talk about the PTSD and the nightmares I still have from it all. Even good placements are still hard and a lot of work. I’ve never met a SINGLE PERSON who said that foster care was easy.

So, if my article scared someone off, then I consider it a job well done.

Because the turnover rate for foster parents is staggering. Long term foster placements are quite rare. Kids get bounced around from home to home like it’s not a big deal, as long as they have a bed and food. The reality is that I’ve seen more damage come from our kids’ previous placements than from their original homes. Every failed placement is another abandonment, and every time kids have to move it makes it twice as hard on the new foster parents to break through those walls of self-preservation.

The world needs more foster parents who can stand the test of time, not well-intentioned people who are only going to hang with things so long as they’re easy. That being said…

This blog is NOT a warning and scare tactic for potential foster parents. I firmly believe that there are not enough foster parents in the world, and that many people who SHOULD be foster parents are not (yet!). As I said before, three years ago, at the ripe old age of 25, I had no idea that I would feel called to foster care. I was pregnant with my 2nd baby, and had just figured out how to keep my toddler from running into walls. I barely knew how to balance a check book.

And that’s why it kills me when people say things like, “Oh, I could never do that!” or, “Wow, it takes a special type of person to do what you’re doing!”

Because it doesn’t.

I’m not a “special type of person” unless you’re talking about a “special type of selfish” or a “special type of anxious”.

I am a 28 year old who looks 15 and still gets carded when buying spray paint. I am a mom who constantly forgets to buy enough groceries.  I have two babies under the age of 3. We are a one car family, living on a shoe string budget. We don’t have tons of patience. We don’t have extra time. We don’t have a large house.

What we DO have is a calling from God to help the widows and orphans.

And God’s strength and love is more than enough to fill all those imperfections and minister, but only if we’re willing to make room for it. The clutter that surrounds our hearts in the forms of expectations, entitlements and selfishness needs to disintegrate if there is to be room for God’s grace and help. When I hear, “Oh, I could never do that”, I think that what the person might be saying is that they aren’t ready. And that’s perfectly alright. We are all on our own path to Salvation, and we all answer individually to someone not of this world. Far be it from me to decide who is called and when.

But the church is failing in this regard. We NEED more foster parents. There are tons of orphans in our own backyards, and many of us are too busy with all of our extracurricular activities to do anything about it. On the dreadful day of judgment, do I really want to look my Savior in the face and tell him that I didn’t have the time? That I was too scared? That I was too comfortable in my own way of doing things? Jesse and I have decided that the answer is no. We will not be too scared or too busy. We might take a break for a time or two, in order to regroup and regain our footing as a family. But we will always be waiting for God to show us the next step, the next hurting child.

 

Now that I’ve clarified what this blog is and isn’t, I have one last bone to pick, one last issue to discuss:

Foster parents beat up on each other and are some of the biggest critics of one another. One foster mom I know said she was the MOST worried about telling her foster mom support group things, because they were the harshest critics she had found, tearing her down instead of building her up (one of my arguments for online-foster care groups).

This criticism NEEDS to stop. For heavens sake, there are enough Mommy Wars going on, we don’t need to start Mommy Wars 2–The Fosters. Every foster mom is different, and there will always be the holier-than-thou bunch who go around starting a blame game about how someone is “doing it wrong”. We have enough battles to fight for the sake of our foster children– we DON’T need to start more of them amongst ourselves, if, indeed, we have the same goals.

For instance, many of those who made personal attacks against me as a foster parent can’t actually have the well-being of foster children at heart. Critique is one thing– ad hominem attacking is another. Perhaps it’s the nature of the internet, in that, just like road rage, people forget that there is a REAL mother behind the other computer screen.

What the harshest critics should have realized is they were critiquing a very REAL foster mom, with REAL foster kids to pick up within an hour of reading about how she was a basket case and shouldn’t even be a foster parent.

They were critiquing a foster parent who was battered and tattered after a week of fighting for her kids, without even a spare moment to herself.

They were critiquing a foster parent who has had to hold back tears daily, just so that she doesn’t add further burdens to her foster children who are barely holding it together.

In a very real way, those who threw harsh critiques towards me yesterday were spitting on a soldier fighting a battle. I pray to God that I never do the same thing to someone else.

You might ask, why all this critique? Why so intense?

Foster care is tricky because there is a LOT of emotion wrapped up within it. We all want someone to blame, most often, “the system”, as I’ve so often heard it called. People like social workers are easy targets because they are the gate-keepers, in many ways. Foster parents are also easy targets, because they can never fill the aching hole that the kids have.

But neither of these are the problem. “The system” is not the problem. Birth control or sex ed are not the problem. Lack of funding is not the problem. Lack of training is not the problem. Lack of awareness is not the problem.

The problem is that because of sin in our world, horrible things happen to beautiful, innocent children. It hurts. And we want someone to blame.

We need to realize this. We need to realize that all of our ranting and raving about who’s doing what wrong is just an effort to make ourselves feel better and more in control.

But we’re not in control, and thank God for that. All we can do is care for what we are given, one day at a time.

Hopefully, anything and everything I’ve written here helps you do the same.

 

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  • Seana Turner

    Great post, Kelly. Sin is the problem, children are the victims, we all need to help. Maybe not all of us can be foster parents, but we can support/exhort/encourage those who are. And, we can give to organizations worldwide trying to ease the suffering. Thanks for all you do!

    • http://www.ourconezone.com Kelly Cone

      Seana, you’ve always had the “encouragement” part of this down pat 🙂 Thanks for your support!

  • Abby

    Brand new reader who came here from the adoptus fb page’s reposting of your article and I just want to say that you come across as a very “real” person who is doing the very best she can to help make the world a better place. Keep on doing what you’re doing! <3

  • Robyn Shiels

    I like it when I find a blog that actually talks about fostering…. It is bizarre to live in a world that isn’t talked about, isn’t really written about and lots of people don’t even realize goes on around them. The ideas people have about why they want to foster or why they couldn’t imagine fostering are largely based on inaccurate info because there isn’t enough real information out there. I try to talk about it (and photo blog it) as much as possible (within the constraints of the system) so that it isn’t a foreign subject.