My wife and I are quickly approaching the four month anniversary of having two foster children in our household, and although it’s been an experience unlike any other, I can’t help but to feel like an “Associate Member” of the Parent Club. Not that we give our foster children any less love, wisdom, discipline, praise or opportunity… but, it does mean that as legal guardians, we also have to guard our hearts a bit.
Through the process, I’ve come to form many opinions about the foster system. In no particular order…
- The foster system is a lumbering behemoth – I count no less than 14 federal, state, and local agencies, and that doesn’t include not-for-profit agencies, which serve as the intermediaries for most of this administrative chaos. As with most systems run with the “best of intentions,” it’s more compliance driven than it is motivated by problem solving. As a result, the tyranny of the checklist rules. Don’t get me wrong, there are some nice people working at these agencies, but “nice” doesn’t solve problems.
- It’s crass, but we’re state contractors – Perhaps it’s due to the above, or it’s because of the sheer volume of cases, or maybe it’s simply a flawed system. Whatever the reason, the administrative feel of the foster care program has the same tenor of those providing consultative, construction or agricultural services.
- There’s more junk than you can shake a stick at – And I mean junk. Trinkets, crayons, beads, posters, coloring books, fanny packs, book bags — all used as bribes. Whatever happened to simply expecting good behavior? These days, the first thing my foster daughters receive whenever they go anywhere is a bevy of material irrelevance. While well intentioned, these never-ending gifts create a something-for-nothing mentality and can undo any positive behavior being worked on in the background. I’m pleased to say our five-year old now politely turns down stuff (after she receives “The Look”).
I could go on… But I would be completely remiss if I didn’t mention some of the truly great things about being a foster father.
- Heart be damned, I love these children – I love them for who they are. I love them for trying. I love their idiosyncrasies — their perfect and imperfect moments. I despise being away from them even for a moment. They learn, emulate, and try. They attend Traditional Latin Mass with us, and the five-year old has learned how to say Grace, the Our Father and the Hail Mary (the latter two in English and Latin). I take care of them as if they were my own.
- I’m finally getting this whole “God, the Father” thing – I’ve never really appreciated the love that God has for me — for us — as I have since becoming a foster father. It has caused me to reflect on my relationship with the Holy Trinity. God’s corrections, patience, encouragement, and tenderness — these have taken on a far deeper meaning.
- The Tampa Children’s Home is fantastic – Yes, the men and women at our licensing agency are absolute rock stars. These folks are the masters at the “more with less” dictum. They’re conscientious, sensitive, and administratively squared away. If the entire system were staffed by these folks, there wouldn’t be any problems.
So that’s it, the good and the bad. Anyone else have foster parent experiences they’d like to share?