Thursday, September 4, 2014

Earning Hours Through Books

Our local foster care agency requires that we accumulate a certain number of training hours each year in order to keep active status as a foster family.  In addition to actual trainings, a certain number of these hours can be earned by attending a support group, reading a foster care magazine (and taking a little quiz) or reading a book on the subject (and doing a brief write-up).

Nothing has motivated me more to get my hours in than actually having a foster child in our home.  Yes, because I want us to stay "active" but also because I want to know better so I can do better.  I've read four books this year on the subject of foster care, three of which are worth mentioning and even recommending.

The first is To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care.  Beam lays out the history of foster care in New York City as a way of helping us grasp how it has evolved throughout the United States. Dispersed between the history and politics/bureaucracy of it all are stories.  I  love stories.  These stories are of real kids, real foster parents, real social workers and attorneys, and real birth parents.  The social worker in me found the non-story sections interesting while the parent and foster mom was enthralled with how the author followed many of the children and families over the years.  What happens down the road? What impact does foster care have on these children?  I digested the book in small spurts, chapter by chapter.  This was in part because of the whole not-having-much-time-to read factor but also because I needed to take it in slowly.  It drew me back in each time, nonetheless.  If you're interested in the story of foster care, in all it's parts, read this book.

I picked up Angels Passing Through: Reflections on Growing Up with Foster Babies because I was intrigued by the perspective with which it was written.  The author is the biological child of a couple who took in over forty foster babies over the course of his growing up years. How did the revolving door of babies in and out of the home impact the permanent children who lived there?  And what of these babies?  The author talks about his parents, what life was like during those years of fostering, some of the babies themselves (and their incredibly moving stories), and how he feels this type of upbringing impacted his adult life.  I won't spoil it and tell you what he thinks...you'll have to read it yourself :-).

Lastly, my favorite, is/was Another Place at the Table.  I loved this book.  I read it on vacation and had trouble putting it down.  I think I liked it so much because I could relate to Kathy Harrison.  Not because I have 13 years of experience fostering and not because I've fostered close to one hundred children in that time but because the reasons she does foster care are reasons I strongly relate to.  The first chapter or so that describes their life pre-foster care parallels ours- living out in the country, growing their own food, raising animals, etc.  She's a homebody who wants her family to eat healthy, simple food and she's drawn to babies in need.

Some of the stories she shares are not for the faint of heart.  Not everything (or every child) has a happy ending and many of the details of what brought these children into her care are extremely hard to read and accept as real.  Despite all that, Harrison left me with an honest look at the highs and lows of fostering while giving me hope. Hope that it's worth it- despite the struggles that it's riddled with. And, she made me want to adopt her as a new BFF.  I'm not sure that was her intention but it happened nonetheless.

There are many ways to advocate for children in foster care without becoming a foster parent.  Learning about foster care itself is a great start.  If you have any other book recommendations on the topic, I'd love to hear about them.

In the meantime, do your best to make your little people feel special, loved, safe and celebrated.  Not all children are so lucky. Pin It

7 comments:

  1. Thank you for your recommendations, (as well as all your fostering posts) I have long since felt drawn to fostering. A few years ago it new it was not the right time in our just-started-family-married-life. (I realize there may never be a 'perfect' time) I now feel it is closer however still struggle as my son is four and we are expecting again. I guess I want the time to be now but I do have to honestly consider the needs of my family as well. I am especially drawn to the perspectives of the biological children, because I want to know how fostering may be possible even while your own children are so young that they need mommy a lot too. My husband and I are under 30 so I don't know that I feel 'mature' enough to handle teenagers either.... (Any advice is welcomed....) Thanks again, praying for you :)

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  2. Thank you for your comment and prayers, Simone. I was "ready" earlier, too, but I'm so glad we waited- not just for our kids to be older, but I needed my husband to come fully on board on his own. I can't imagine fostering without the full support and teamwork of a spouse. I know some families foster with very young children and without the full support of their partners and are able to do it very, very well. I, on the other hand, needed these two things to come to fruition before being ready. I think that was the key...if you have any doubt that you're ready, you're not ready. Pray and wait to see if the time will come. Just my novice advice:-).

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  3. Jane, have you read Orphans of the Living? A difficult book to read but also very informative about the foster care system.

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    1. No yet...it's on my radar, though. Thanks:-).

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  4. Thanks, and yes I have felt the same, that unless your both 100% on board it will not be as fruitful. This is part of the reason I feel like we are getting closer though.... I'm not trying to share my whole life for attention here, but perhaps part of our story will benefit someone.... A year and a half ago we suffered the unexpected loss of an (apparently healthy)infant daughter a week before birth, obviously our world was completely shaken. My husband, who had always known of my fostering dream, suddenly became so acutely aware that while we wanted to 'keep' her so bad and could not....there are countless other babies, equally as precious, who just have to go without the love that they deserve, and that is perhaps a worse fate than our girl experienced. I don't think we are just feeling the need to 'replace' with child we wanted to love either, we are just more aware than we were before of how precious every child is, despite the 'baggage' they come with. At this time I do feel hesitant to start until my youngest is perhaps 2-3.....we will take it season by season and until then prepare our hearts with education and literature on the issue. Thanks again! :)

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    1. Oh, Simone...I am so sorry for your loss....blessings as you discern. You're in my thoughts tonight!

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  5. My husband and I fostered for years. A very wise, experienced foster parent once told me never to take kids that were older than our own. Always consider younger ones first. Something to think about.

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