We are so excited to introduce you to Jill Michalski, the newest member of our Foster Care team! Jill and her husband have been foster parents since 2013, taking placements of children of all ages. We've been getting to know Jill all year because of her heart for foster care, and using it to connect with and love birth families of children. You'll be hearing and seeing more from her, but for today, get to know her a little better by reading some of the common questions she's received from others.
Sometimes it appears everyone is drawn to foster care in some way or another. Whether it’s because you know God is calling you to do it, because you met someone in care or providing care and it stuck with you, maybe you were in care or adopted as a child and have always felt like you needed to give that to someone else or do it better for someone than what you had to experience OR maybe you just stare at foster care like it’s a car accident on the side of the highway wondering who in the world would ever sign up to do something that crazy! Whatever brought you to our site, welcome!
No matter where the originally planted seed inside you came from, as it grows it seems to lead to many of the same questions. In between the many drive by stares that we have received over the years, as our family changed its size, shape and color, sometimes by the week, these are a few of the questions and comments we often hear, and how we respond.
“I have always wanted to be a foster parent, but If I did it I would NEVER be able to give the child back, it would just be too hard!”
In our experience the hardest things you will experience are NOT going to be sending a child home. We believe a few of the hardest things are...
- When a child shows up and all their belongings are in one grocery bag.
- Watching their parents or even the visitation company cancel their visits last minute.
- Having a teenager explain to you why they were removed from their last 3 foster homes.
- When a child asks you why they can’t live with their siblings.
- When you bring a teenage child to a family team meeting and someone there speaks about them, one of their siblings or their parents as if they are not even there.
- When, if they do not have trust in the system, a child asks if you will adopt them if they don’t get to go home and you realize their life is in such limbo that they are working on their own backup plan to ensure they end up with someone to take care of them.
- When you are fully aware of all the things they are going through, and you get a note from a teacher questioning you on why you think they can’t stay focused in science class... but you can’t tell them all the details of this child's life or explain why even you feel the importance of what they are going through trumps them ever understanding exactly how the mitochondria functions in the human body.
- When a child just needs some answers, and you have none.
- When you grow to love a child and come along side of them, and you begin wanting for them what they want, and hoping what they hope, and then you have to comfort them when they realize that they are never going back home.
Watching a biological parent do everything they need to do so they can have their child back is not the hardest part, it’s the best part!
“I am not equipped to parent kids who have been through so much! I wouldn’t know how to help them”
First off, God does not call the equipped, he equips the called! So, if you KNOW for sure God is calling you to do this, you can stop reading here and call us to get information on our next training classes!
No, but seriously! If you need more proof, refer to His word. Were the disciples equipped? All they had to be was willing. They needed to simple start walking when Jesus said, “follow me,” and God did the rest!
If He wants you to slay giants, He will make you a giant slayer!
And if He wants you to help families, He might make you a foster parent.
Still worried because all you have been offering Him is excuses instead of steps so far? Well remember, that’s just how Moses & Jeremiah responded when they were called to do big things too, and God still showed up in the rest of their stories!
“You guys are saints!”
HA! ... I was considering having that be the entire response on this one! We think it’s so funny that others say this to us. MANY foster parents have shared with me over the years how they feel when people say it to them, and some have expressed that it really irritates them when people say it. That may sound crazy, until it’s explained a little further. They feel this way because once you love a child, you understand that it shouldn’t take a saint to be the person that wants to love them... that GETS to love them! It really just takes a normal everyday person to love them, because these kids are incredibly lovable.
I myself still take it as a compliment, and I know that’s how it’s always intended. It actually leaves me hopeful that in spite of the fact that I screw up every single day, people can still see God’s goodness in me.
“I don’t think I could afford to take care of a foster child.”
I am often surprised at how few people know that you receive a subsidy when a foster child is placed in your home. Now let me be clear, if you are searching for ways to make extra money or to pay off your credit cards, this is not it. You will not make money doing foster care, but you will be provided with enough money to be able to meet many of the needs kids have. While we would never want someone doing foster care for the money, we know many great foster parents would not be able to do what they are doing without it.
“How long do foster children live with you?”
The only thing consistent about each family's case is that NOTHING is anything like another family's case. It depends on factors that no one could guess. Why was the child removed? What is the case plan? Does the family have any support? These unknowns are hard on everyone - mostly on the child and their parents. Sometimes this is a great conversation starter, and even provides common ground to build a relationship with biological parents.
“Do I really need to have a relationship with their parents?”
Yes. In almost every case you will be encouraged to form some kind of connection with the biological parents. This is not just helpful for them, it’s helpful for you as well. It helps them to know a little bit about who is taking care of their children, because knowing they are being cared for well allows the parents to focus on what they need to do to put their lives back together. There have been multiple occasions where we have had children living in our home and their parents shared with me that they felt like we were the only other people in the whole world that wanted them to get their kids back.
Giving them support lead to them giving us support too. They backed us up on any consequences that their children earned while living with us and gave us incite on which of their children's friends were good influences and which were not. These relationships allowed us the freedom to work together on planning, which lead to more flexible visit schedules and not having to jump through hoops when we wanted to travel or sign children up for activities.
The most important thing that the relationship does though, is give their child permission to love two families. It helps them feel safe and protected through a very scary time. Knowing that everyone is looking out for what is best for them together allows them to be children instead of feeling like they need to take sides or wonder if their relationship with you may somehow dictate the direction of the case. There is so many benefits to this relationship while the child is in care but let's not forget that these cases always come to an end. This model allows everyone to wins then too, no matter the outcome. If the time comes to reunify, you will likely be able to remain a support in this child's life, which can make a huge difference in their future and the continued success of their family.
On the flip side, if the court decides to terminate the rights of the parents and they become free for adoption, we have seen many beautiful stories of biological parents supporting foster families adopting. From parents not appealing the decision, to giving the child emotional permission to move on, we have even seen biological parents who have relinquishing their rights to ensure that the children get to be adopted by the foster families when someone else begins to try to adopt them.
This relationship can be the difference between foster care being the hardest thing a child ever had to live through, to being remembered as a pivotal moment when their life began to get better.