First Steps on a Long Path

SW column topper

[Ed. note–Today we have yet another new contributor to introduce! Socialwrkr24/7 earned my respect years ago as a strong social work voice advocating for bringing the values of openness into foster care and foster adoption. Now she is starting in on the process of becoming a foster (and adoptive) parent herself. I am looking forward to reading along on her journey. -Heather]

ID-1006603My first experience with foster care was when my mother began supervising visits for a woman in our church whose children had been removed–I was nine years old. Obviously, I didn’t understand the full situation. I just knew that her kids didn’t live with her, but that we would pick them up every once in a while and go to the skating rink or McDonald’s so they could see each other. But it strikes me now that I never felt upset by the idea that this mother couldn’t parent her children. And more importantly, my mom never felt the need to shield us from the reality of the situation, or the mother herself. I spent quite a bit of time with her during that year and she always seemed nice. I still don’t know the full situation, but I don’t think those children ever went home. That fact still saddens me, as I clearly remember how sad the children were when they had to leave her.

Over the 20+ years that have passed since then, many more experiences led me to becoming a social worker and specializing in child welfare. And my perspectives as a social worker have changed over time as well. I started out as a naively passionate “child saver”, only to realize that saving children means saving parents, families, communities and possibly the world. It didn’t take long to realize that I couldn’t really “save” anyone. Instead, I focused on supporting families–since I believe that the stronger the parents (both biological and foster), the more secure and happy the child will be.

Since early on in my social work career, I knew eventually I wanted to be a foster parent and eventually adopt. I always assumed it would be after I was married, and probably after having biological children. Two years ago, the husband hadn’t shown up but cancer did! After I was declared healthy again, I decided to embrace the cliche “life is short” and fulfill my dream to be a parent. I chose foster/adoption because it is very important to me that I am able to be part of family preservation efforts. Yes, I actually want to be involved in the reunification process that makes most people nervous about adopting from foster care. And while I know it will be difficult, I hope that being involved in this process will result in a more successful open adoption if reunification isn’t possible.

I hope that having lots of experience with “the system” will be a benefit in the long term, but I’ve also already seen how it can make my own feelings more complicated. I’ve been licensed as a foster parent about nine months now and have not had any long-term placements yet. I’ve had a handful of super short-term, voluntary placements where I knew from the beginning that the child would be going home after the immediate crisis was resolved. I can’t wait to settle in with a longer term placement and see where this path takes me.

About the author:
Socialwrkr247 has worked in child welfare for the past 10 years and recently became licensed as a foster parent. She hopes to explore the topic of “openness” from both perspectives as a social worker and foster parent.

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7 thoughts on “First Steps on a Long Path

  1. I love how you say that you want to support families. And I’m eager to learn more about the foster – adoption system from you and your experiences. Can’t wait to read 🙂

  2. I identify with your post! We are foster parents. Our first placement was an eight-month old boy in 6/2011. We were told he would be with us for a couple of weeks. Over two years later we are his adoptive parents. Lots of emotions as we worked with the parents and extended family toward reunification. Now we are learning what an open relationship can look like.

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