May is National Foster Care Awareness Month and I love to use this space of mine to share stories from time to time of families that choose to Foster and/or adopt. They share their own experience in their own voices. Here is a story written by a Foster dad (so often these posts are written by mom, I love that a Foster dad wrote for us this time!). This family tells a story about how they sorta fell into Foster Care. This story is told by dad in his own words. I thank The Foster Parents for sharing their story!
We were familiar with foster care because my parents had been foster parents for a couple of years. But, we had never really thought of or had much desire to become foster parents ourselves. Then a couple of things came together that made us really consider becoming foster parents.
Deb wanted to be a stay at home mom. We had a two year old son with another son on the way, and we really felt that having Deb in the home would be worth more than any amount of lost income. Only problem was, in the real world you need income to survive. To make matters worse, in the summer of 2008 the housing market crashed. As a custom home builder, I was struggling to earn enough income to provide for my family.
My dad, who was also my boss, kept telling me what a blessing it was to be earning a little bit of money as a foster parent. Then, we saw an ad in our local newspaper asking for “Super Parents” to step in and help kids in need. The ad also mentioned that you could earn a little bit of money as foster parents.
I was convinced that this was what we needed to do. I had coached high school football for a couple of years and been a youth leader in my local church, and I really enjoyed working with young men. In addition to this, Deb had gotten her bachelor’s degree in Human Development and had also worked at a residential treatment center, working with troubled teens and had really enjoyed the satisfaction of helping struggling teens.
I was convinced; Deb, on the other hand, took a little more convincing. Because of her experience at the residential treatment facility, Deb knew exactly how tough it could be to work with teens. In the end, Deb’s desire to stay at home with our kids, and the worsening home construction market kind of pushed us over the edge, and we jumped in.
We were prepared, but we were under experienced.
As new foster parents, and foster parents in a private agency that provides an extremely high level of structure in each foster home, we received a lot of training and preparation. In fact, at this point Deb was 11 ½ months pregnant with our second son. We completed 32 or more hours of training and became certified “treatment” foster parents.
Treatment foster parents are a little different from most foster parents. We not only provide foster care, but we assist in treatment plans and the development of skills for the foster youth that we have in our home. The only problem was, with all this preparation, we had received little real-life experience. We were prepared, but very inexperienced.
We received our first two youth, and had them in our home for over a year. That first year was full of twists and turns and ups and downs. There were times that we loved what we were doing, and times that we were ready to throw in the towel and call it quits. Thankfully, as members of our private foster care agency, we received tons of additional training and oncall support from our consultant. Looking back, I realize that all of this extra support is the reason we didn’t quit in the first year. One year happens to be about the average time that foster parents last.
The support that we receive from our agency, and our desire to help teens in need, is part of the reason we have been able to continue as foster parents. Because we have been able to stick with “the program,” we have been able to gain the experience that we needed from the beginning.
Our road has been rough, and we don’t expect that to change.
Our lives as foster parents have not been easy. We have become very attached to kids, only to see them leave our home. We have tried to adopt some of our foster kids, only to have that dream yanked out from under our feet at the very last minute. We have struggled with tough birth parents and hard to work with caseworkers. We have been tempted to quit providing foster care, and we have even taken months off, but we know that we need to continue fulfilling this need. After 6 years, we have learned the skills and gained the needed experience to stick with this calling.
Life doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. In fact, if anything, life seems to get busier. I am now a principal at a Native American charter high school. Thank goodness Deb is a stay at home mom because my time at home has decreased as my new role as principal keeps me quite busy. On top of my crazy job, we kind of have a crazy life with 7 ½ kids. We have three kids of our own, with one on the way, and we have 4 sibling foster kids. Time seems to be a precious commodity that there is little of at our home.
Our new goal is to become the best parent that we can be and help other foster parents avoid burnout.
We are beginning to understand that we are only able to personally help a few foster kids at a time. But, we want to do more. We want to help foster parents prevent burnout. We realize that every foster family that quits foster parenting equals another foster kid who gets pushed from one home to another. Every family who decides that they just can’t take it anymore, means there’s one less piece of support in this system that so desperately needs all the support they can get.
We’ve managed to last as foster parents for 6 years. We’re not experts, but we’re on a mission. We want to develop supports for foster parents. We want to create a community of foster care providers who have experience, and a desire to commit themselves to becoming the best foster parents they can become. We want to be better. We want to be the best parents and foster parents that we can be!
Please join us on our journey. You can keep up with us at http://TheFosterParents.com. You can also follow us on Pinterest or Facebook. And we will be starting our own podcast very soon.
We hope see you there.
Ben & Deb Pugh