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As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been slacking on my blog posts lately.  But I’ve been slacking for a good reason.  The licensing process has finally gotten into full swing and life feels like a whirlwind right now!  It’s exciting!  I have completed PRIDE classes, submitted the first round of paperwork (which was approved) and have my first home study visit scheduled for mid-June.  YAY!  Things are moving right along!

May is National Foster Care Month.  I know many people hear that and think, “That’s not something I can help with.  I could never be a foster parent”.  Maybe you don’t feel you are in a place to foster but that doesn’t mean you can’t help kids in care and those families who have opened their home to those kids.  Below are some great posts I’ve found that share ways anyone can support these vulnerable children and their foster families.  I hope you will take time to read them and contemplate how you can get involved in supporting this important mission.  Foster kiddos need as many loving, supportive people in their lives as possible.

http://tapestryministry.org/10-ways-to-support-kids-in-foster-care

http://momsprobablywrite.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/baby-ive-got-your-number/

http://tamlynn75random.blogspot.com/2013/08/foster-care-bucket-list.html

http://foster2forever.com/2014/05/help-foster-child-family.html

 

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When you lose a loved one, there are certain days that always become difficult.  After losing my mom, days that usually evoked joy like Mother’s Day and her birthday, became days of sadness and loneliness.  But over the years, you learn ways to cope.  They never become happy days but they become days when you can fondly remember.  As the years go on, there are fewer tears on those days and more bittersweet smiles, thinking about fond memories.

Mother’s Day has always been the hardest for me.  When you lose your mom and don’t have children of your own, it becomes a day that represents nothing but loss.  A few months after my first Mother’s Day as a motherless daughter, I began volunteering at Chara House.  Those of you who have heard me talk about Chara know that my experience there truly changed my life.  The first day I walked through that door, I knew that this was where God wanted me to be, not just because of the work that I could do for these vulnerable children but because of the healing they would bring me.

Chara became my way to cope with Mother’s Day each year. It gave me a reason to celebrate on that difficult day. Each year it became a tradition that I would buy a Mother’s Day card for the staff, thanking them for being “moms” for these children.  They never knew why I made such a big deal about Mother’s Day every year or why I was always willing to volunteer on that day when most people took the day off from volunteering to celebrate with their families. Being at Chara made Mother’s Day a happy occasion. It gave that day a purpose.

After Chara was forced to close its doors, Mother’s Day lost it’s purpose again.  It went back to just being a day that reminded me of loss.  So, you can imagine how eager I am to one day have a little one in my life to give that Mother’s Day a new purpose for me. 🙂

But honestly, Mother’s Day isn’t the hardest day of the year for a motherless daughter in my opinion.  It’s those random days out of the blue when something happens and you just want to call and share it with your mom.  When you just want her there with you, for whatever reason, on a particular day.  And sometimes you can’t even explain why, you just do.  Those are the hardest days.  They catch you off guard.  It’s rare that I shed tears anymore on those expected “difficult” days like her birthday.  But those unexpected moments that come a few times a year…yep, those are still really sad teary days.

Most who have been through the experience seem to agree that the hardest milestone to deal with as a motherless daughter is becoming a motherless mother.  There are lots of things that have happened in my life that my mom has not been here to experience with me.  And that sucks.  But this is by far the hardest life journey to take without her.  My mom was a teacher.  She loved kids, she valued family.  She was the most caring person you could ever meet.  She would have adored being a grandmom.

Tonight is one of those “catch you off guard” moments when I just wish she were here.  Tomorrow afternoon, my “new to me” dresser is being delivered that will be used as a changing table/baby item storage area.  And I’m so excited to spend some time this weekend sorting through baby clothes and other items I’ve acquired already and organizing them in the dresser.  Yes, it’s a simple task that doesn’t require help but I just wish I wasn’t doing it alone.  I so wish she were here to sit on the floor in front of that dresser with me and fold clothes and daydream about that moment later this year when my first foster placement arrives and I get to pull out these cute little clothes and put them to good use.  This process of becoming a foster mom has been so full of joy, excitement and anticipation for me.  But becoming a mom without your mom is hard. 😦

Last week, we had an amazing guest speaker for our PRIDE class.  The topic was on attachment and trauma.  It was absolutely fascinating.  It would take me way too long to explain everything she discussed on here so be forewarned, if you ask me about it, I can talk your ear off for quite a while!  I learned so much!  The bottom line of her talk was that you cannot parent a foster child who has been through trauma the way you would foster a “normal” child.  Everything she said made complete sense and I know we all left there that night feeling way more confident about taking care of these challenging kids.  Can’t wait to have her back for class tomorrow night to talk about grief and loss!

One of the many themes that came out of last week’s class was trust.  And it’s not just building trust between the foster parent and the foster child.  It’s foster parents trusting that the system has the child’s best interest in mind.  It’s foster parents building trust with the child’s biological parents so that they will work together with us to raise their children.  It is trusting in ourselves that we are doing the right thing when that child continues to act out, knowing that in time our efforts are going to pay off.

So, the word trust has been on my mind a lot this week.  Recently, a friend asked me if I would be willing to help watch her kiddos while she and her hubby go out of town for a few days.  She was worried about imposing on me but I was so honored that she would ask me (and I love her kids so I am happy to do it!).  I have other friends who have left their dogs (who might as well be considered their children) with me when they go on vacation.  To know I have people in my life who think so highly of me that they would trust me with their most precious commodity is such a compliment.  And it makes me feel all the more confident that I can be a successful foster parent.  Loving this journey! 🙂

ReMoved

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook probably saw my post last week about a house that I have absolutely fallen in love with.  I’m not one to get really attached to houses but this one I just can’t stop thinking about.  It’s this big old farmhouse about 20 minutes away from where I live now.  There’s a huge porch with a swing on it that I can envision myself sitting on and relaxing with a book on a warm, quiet afternoon.  It has so much character!  I really cannot stop thinking about it.  There’s only one problem…It costs about $250k MORE than what I could ever possibly afford.  Minor detail, right?  So, this truly is just a dream home.

But what really made me fall in love with this house is the size.  I’ve never minded condo living until I started this foster parenting journey.  The more I become immersed in the foster care world, the more I wish I had more space to be able to take in more children.  I never thought I would want to take in more than one child at a time.  I didn’t want to be outnumbered. 😉  But after watching a few videos in our PRIDE classes and lots of reflection, I’ve started to feel a change of heart.  There are so many children who come into foster care with siblings.  It would be so much better if the siblings didn’t have to be split up.  However, so often foster home are not willing or able to accommodate a sibling set.

Around this same time that I started PRIDE classes, I noticed the short film ReMoved circulating on social media.  I finally took the time to watch it this weekend and all I can say is “Wow!”.  It is so powerful.  It just further placed in my heart this desire to take in multiple foster children at one time.  But that’s not possible in my current home.  I can only be licensed to care for a single child due to space constraints.  And I know this doesn’t mean I can’t make a difference and doesn’t mean that I won’t get to experience all the highs and lows of foster care.

But I just feel like I could be doing even more.  I can see myself living in that big home full of kiddos who need my love and support.  Rocking a baby in the beautiful glass porch.  Reading a book with a child on the window seat in their bedroom.  Sitting at that big dinner room table helping with homework.  Taking walks to the pond nearby to feed the ducks.  Yes, this is a complete fantasy, I know.  In reality, things wouldn’t be so picture perfect.  There would be temper tantrums and nightmares and fights over eating their vegetables at dinner.  But those happy moments would be there too.  And they would be together with their siblings instead of spread across multiple homes throughout the county.

As much as I would like to, I can’t save the world.  So unless I win the lottery (which is 100% unlikely to happen because I never play the lottery), I’ll make a difference in a child’s life one foster child at a time in my present condo.  And it will be an incredible experience.  But I can’t say I won’t stop daydreaming about that big farmhouse…

Watch the film: ReMoved.

The dreaded baby registry

Don’t let the title of this post fool you.  I LOVE shopping for baby supplies!  Absolutely love it!  But for someone who likes to do research before making a decision on a product, creating a baby registry can drive you crazy.  There’s so many products out there and for every product that someone loves, someone else will tell you it’s the worst product ever.  Let’s just say you can easily get a little (or a lot) obsessive and frustrated over the research. 🙂  So, to keep my sanity, I have convinced myself that my registry is officially done.  No more research, no more changes.

When you are fostering, it’s not quite as easy to shop as when you are pregnant or adopting.  At any given moment, I could find out I have a tiny newborn coming or a rambunctious toddler.  And I’m not going to know days or weeks in advance that they are coming.  I’ll be lucky to get a few hours advanced notice.  So, I need to have way more supplies on hand than a typical mom would have.  Nothing about foster parenting is “easy”.  But so worth it!

So, I’m working on selling furniture (anyone want a hutch or a bookcase?), continuing to figure out other items that I can part with and creating as much space as I can for all of the nursery furniture and baby gear that will soon fill my home.  Just thinking about that puts a huge smile on my face.  There are certain parts of this process that I have just been looking forward to and dreaming about for such a long time.  One of those is the day I walk into what is currently my guest bedroom and see a nursery instead.  It already makes me happy just seeing the baby supplies starting to piling up in there.  I just can’t wait to have furniture and decorations in there to make it an actual nursery.  It really will be a dream come true!

Foster parenting, especially as a single mom. is going to teach me many skills.  And I know one of those skills is to be comfortable with asking for, and accepting, help.  So, I’m working on that skill already.  I was telling a friend recently that it makes me uncomfortable sharing my registry when people ask about it.  I’m the one who made the choice to foster.  I should be responsible for buying what I need to care for these children.  I’m used to be very independent.  However, you can’t be independent as a foster parent.  Your entire role is to work with a team of people to raise this child.  So, I shouldn’t feel guilty about letting friends and family buy items for the nursery when they genuinely want to do it, right?

So for all of you who have asked…here is my registry: http://babyli.st/burdette

PRIDE Classes have begun!

“Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on the object we’re waiting for.” ~ Charles Stanley

Have you missed me?  There’s been a lull in posts as there was a lull in the process, but I finally got to start PRIDE classes this month.  PRIDE is Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education.  These are the required classes needed to become licensed as a foster parent.  There are 9 classes and in our county, they take place weekly.  I’ve had two classes so far and they just make me all the more excited to foster.  I look forward to the classes, the reading, the homework assignments.  I can’t get enough of it!

I’ve received a lot of questions recently from friends and family about what the process will entail from here.  The timeline is still fairly vague but this is what I know:

  1. PRIDE classes weekly until early May.
  2. After classes are completed, there’s lots of paperwork which will likely take a few weeks for me to complete.
  3. Once that paperwork is submitted and processed (takes about a week to process), then we start the home study.  So, I’m guessing the home study will start some time in June.  Home study will involve approximately 4-6 visits and the visits take place about every 2 weeks.  There also more paperwork to complete and during this time, fire safety and health department inspections take place as well.  So, the home study process will take a few months (June-August?).
  4. At the end of all of these visits, interviews, inspections (and more paperwork), the agency makes the decision about whether I will be licensed.  Once I’m licensed, it’s just a waiting game until they have a placement that would be well suited for my home.

It feels like a long way to go, especially since I know I still have lots of work ahead of me.  Hard to be patient when you are waiting for a dream to come true.  But I’m sure the time is going to start to fly by and before I know it, I’ll be eagerly awaiting that phone call saying they have a child who needs my love.

Preparing to be a foster parent is a unique situation.  It’s not like pregnancy when you know in 40 weeks you will have a newborn in your arms.  While I have a general timeline to go by, I have no idea when I will officially be licensed and no idea how long I will wait after that before I get a placement.  And even then, I have no idea what age the child will be who comes through my door (my age range is newborn – 18 months).  It’s a lot of unknowns and for someone who always wants to plan way in advance, this is teaching me many lessons.

I have always been content with the idea of not having biological children.  I can love a child who doesn’t have my genes just as much as one who does.  That has never been an issue for me.  From the moment I first walked through the doors at Chara, I’ve had a special place in my heart for fostering and adoption.  So while I am completely confident and comfortable with my decision to not have a biological child, it turns out I’m not ok with not being pregnant.  I didn’t anticipate that I would feel like I am “missing out” on something by not experiencing pregnancy.

Let’s face it, I’m at an age where many of my peers are having children.  They get to see their waists grow, hear their baby’s heartbeat, bond with other expectant moms over discussions of heartburn and cravings, and count down the days until they will have that child in their arms.  It’s not that I am upset I won’t have a child of my own (and I’m definitely fine with missing out on labor and delivery).  Even though I am taking a different path, I will have the same end result, a beautiful baby in my arms who needs my love and caring.  I just don’t know when I get to experience that end result and for how long.  It’s a very different journey to that endpoint and I feel like I am missing out on the “typical” journey to parenthood.

And there are frequent reminders that I am doing things differently.  On a foster parenting Facebook group I belong to, there was a rather heated discussion today when one woman made a comment that “you are foster parents, not family” in response to a woman’s post that she was sad to see her 1 year old foster son leaving to go live with a relative.

It’s a painful statement and as you can imagine, many of us were hurt and offended by it.  Yes, we all understand that these children are not “ours”.  Yes, we know that the goal is for each child that enters our home to be reunited with their family at some point if at all possible.  Yes, we know we are not the biological parents.  But this child is in my care.  It is my responsibility to keep them safe, show them love and help them reach milestones.  You don’t think I take that role seriously?  Officially, I am not his/her mom but you better believe I am loving these children and raising them as if they are “mine”.  Do you not think these children deserve to be loved and treated as if they were our own?  And is it no ok to be sad when we say goodbye to that child.  We know that it is for the best but we still have to grieve the loss.

This is not an easy journey.  But I still feel 100% confident that this is my life calling and I am eager for each next step that gets me closer to that first placement.  While many women are looking forward to their next ultrasound to mark their progress, I’m eagerly awaiting PRIDE classes that start in March to check off another “to do” in my journey toward becoming a (foster) mom.