Lately, we've had a handful of perspective foster and adoptive dads hop on our page and that excites me and our leadership team to the core. Why? Because that means more kids are about to be loved and that's freakin' awesome!
So while this post may not hit everyone, this one goes out to our perspective dads! Welcome!
When you first want to get involved in the foster care and adoption world, you can become overwhelmed by the number of agencies, resources, support groups, etc. that are at your disposal.
So where do you start???
Research and then go to information sessions of a couple different agencies. This is key. You don't necessarily want to put all your eggs in one basket. Options are good. Typically, we as men like options. It's no different with this journey you are about to embark on. Research agencies or your local DSS, DHHS, or whatever it is called in your area. Attend informational meetings, ask a TON of questions and get to know who you may partner with in your foster and adoptive journey. Check and see if they offer post-adoption services or support after you receive a placement.
Have serious conversations with your wife about what you can handle. Make no mistake, parenting children from hard places can be extremely difficult. On the flip side, it can be incredibly rewarding as well. Talk with your wife about what you can handle. What do I mean? How many children are you looking to foster or adopt at a time? Can you take a sibling group? What ages are you looking to foster or adopt? What disabilities or behaviors are you OK with or not. It's OK to have limits. It's also OK to be completely open as well. But you have to be on the same page.
Get licensed. Once you have nailed down and agency and done some initial paperwork, it's time to get licensed for foster care. These classes, typically called MAPP classes, are held by your local DSS or agency and give you a crash course on what to expect, terms and definitions, etc. Each MAPP class is different, so what is covered is not always the same, but it is required. So get that taken care of once you choose an agency.
Home Study and CPR/First Aid Training. Depending on your state regulations, the rules for these may vary. Typically once you are signed up with an agency, they do a home study to ensure your home is safe, has enough beds, fire detectors, etc. It is to ensure the safety of a child that you will get placed with. Recommendations may follow, but don't fret, typically these are not that difficult as long as you are ready. On top of that most, if not all states, require you to have CPR and First Aid Training. Get that scheduled as well as it is vital you get this taken care of. The quicker you get this taken care of the sooner you can be placed with a child. Again, this may vary from state to state.
Know This: It's OK to say "No". I may get crucified for this, but I want to make this abundantly clear: if you and your wife are not on the same page, it's OK to say no to a placement. You are not going to hell. You are going to get to go past go and collect your $200 (monopoly reference). It's OK to say no. Now, while I say that, you are not going to get the perfect child so saying "no" for eternity is not an option. Again, going back to Point #2, know what you can handle. If you signed up for 3 kids and the day after all your stuff is done a call comes in for you to take a sibling group of 3 and it terrifies you...it's OK to say no.
Find Support. Support can be hard to come by for foster and adoptive parents. But look out for it. Search for it. Ask around. Ask your agency if they know of any support groups in your area. We have some churches in North Carolina that once a quarter does a Date Night for parents where you drop the kids off for up to 4-5 hours, and you go do what you want with your wife and they take care of the kids. It's phenomenal! If you have a larger family, look for food banks that could help out. Please utilize F/A Brotherhood for resources and support. But have a shoulder to cry on (yes, I said cry). Have a group where you can ask questions or share what you're going through. It will help you so much to know you are not alone.
Ok, hopefully I didn't lose all of you. However, I want to point you in the right direction. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a road map to help you get started. Feel free to post your questions, fears, and issues on our page and our guys will share their life experiences with you: what worked and what didn't, encouragement, whatever. We are here for you, brother!
So get started! It's 100% completely and totally worth it!