#Write31Days: Day 17 Shop Feature: Together We Rise

It’s Monday! Today is a HUGE day in our household!!!! Today…after two years and two months away, my parents are arriving at my house!!! Yes, we have not seen them in two years! I could not be more excited.

I’m also continuing with my Monday shop features, and today’s feature is a little less of a shop and a little more of an organization. Still, I thought that they deserved a feature and I wanted to share as much about them as possible.

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The organization is called Together We Rise, and they are doing incredible things for foster children.

Together We Rise is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization comprised of motivated young adults and former foster youth. Our vision is to improve the lives of foster children in America, who often find themselves forgotten and neglected by the public. We collaborate with community partners to bring resources to foster youth and use service-learning activities to educate volunteers on issues surrounding the foster care system.

TWR works with hundreds of foster agencies, social workers, CASA advocates, and other partners to bring our programs to foster youth across the nation. Our foundation has allowed us to provide thousands of foster youth across the country with new bicycles, college supplies, and suitcases so that children do not have to travel from home to home with their belongings in a trash bag.

I think what I love most about this organization is how it allows anyone access to impact foster children. Foster care can be hard to get involved in. Not only are there 8 million hoops to jump through to become foster parents, but I am the first one to agree that not everyone should be a foster parent.

Together We Rise does such a fabulous job of creating opportunity for anyone to help children in foster care. Yes, anyone! Here are a few ways you can be involved in Together We Rise:

Become informed about foster care in our country and foster children in your area

Donate.

Supply foster children with suitcases instead of trash bags.

Provide a child aging out of foster care with a bicycle for transportation.

Help support a foster child going to college.

PHOTOGRAPHERS: Volunteer to photograph an adoption or donate family photos to a foster family

Create an event. Work. House. Plan a Party. Get together, have everyone buy one “sweet case” and then pack them full of neccesseties for children entering foster care.

So there you have it. No more excuses. You thought that there was no way for you to help anyone in foster care! But there are so many ways, and this organization is doing incredible things that YOU can be a part of!

You can also follow them on all kinds of social media:

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Website: www.togetherwerise.org

 

Questions?

If you have any questions at all about foster care or adoption from foster care as I go through this series, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can leave a comment or send an email. At the end of the series, I will have a Q&A day and will be answering any questions I receive throughout the month.

Previous posts:

Day 1: Introduction

Day 2: Meet the Hines

Day 3: Shop Feature: Karla Storey

Day 4: Why We Chose to Foster

Day 5: The Process

Day 6: The Cast of Characters

Day 7: The Paperwork

Day 8: The Goal is Reunification

Day 9: Reflections

Day 10: Shop Feature: Ransomed Cuffs

Day 11: The Placement

Day 12: The Daily Life

Day 13: The Extra’s

Day 14: Bonding

Day 15: The Goodbye

Day 16: Reflection

Please share and interact!

As a blogger, it means SO much to me if you like, comment and share on these posts! You can share the whole series or just a particular blog post, but your support in that way means the world to me!

#Write31Days

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#Write31Days: Day 14 Bonding

Oh, bonding.

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As a mother who has gone through both pregnancy and foster care, I can say without a doubt that bonding is one thing that was incredibly different.

When I found out I was pregnant with Tera, it was there. The bond. There was a person growing inside me. Some people bond amazingly with their child throughout pregnancy, and I didn’t feel like I was one of those people. But I still had a ten month advantage on bonding with Tera compared to the two week’s notice I have of Little Miss’ life.

As soon as Tera arrived, we were parents. We were it. There was no one else to make decisions for us and there was no one else to take care of her if we just decided we didn’t want to. In fact, there was no such thought in our minds.

When Little Miss came into our home, it took some time. When I first brought her home from the hospital, I took hardly any pictures of her…because I didn’t feel like she was mine to take pictures of. I didn’t breastfeed her and therefore it was a lot easier to pass her off to someone else for a bottle. Little Miss was a difficult baby and I always jumped at the chance to take a short break from holding her rigid, screaming body.

Don’t get me wrong…we treated her just as we treated Tera. We fed her, cuddled her, held her close, sang to her, bathed her, loved her. But it took longer to bond with her.

If you are going into fostering, I highly recommend researching attachment parenting. If I could go back, this is one thing I would do differently with Little Miss. I wouldn’t let anyone else feed her bottles, and I would be very careful to only hand her over to a limited amount of people who want to hold her. I would have done far more skin to skin (she didn’t automatically get it from breastfeeding, remember). I would have done more research and let that girl cling to me like she needed.

I don’t think Little Miss will have any detrimental effects from all these things I would’ve done differently. I just think that I learned a lot from the time that she was with us. Here are some of my top tips for bonding with your foster children  (my experience is with an infant, but I’m sure some of these would apply to older children as well):

  • Pray for and over them. There is nothing more bonding than bringing them before the throne of God frequently.
  • Skin to skin. If you have an infant, take a bath with them. Take off your shirt and let them nap on your chest. If you have an older child, you have to be careful…but physical contact is still incredibly important. Hugs. Back rubs. Even just a pat on the shoulder can go really, really far.
  • Consistency with limited contact. You now have a child in your home who does not know you at all. When you take them to your church, you might trust almost everyone that you come into contact with. You trust them enough to watch your kid, supervise your kid, hold your kid and feed them a bottle. But your foster child does not know this. This know that they were taken from their safe place (no matter what reason they were taken away, it’s what they know and to them…it’s safe.), and they haven’t determined yet where a safe place is. Your job as foster parents is to show them that you are their safe place. This might take a few days, a few weeks or even months. Be wary of who you are handing your child over to, because it could cause you to go back days or weeks in the bonding department. I seriously recommend a period of time at the beginning where NO ONE else is allowed to hold your baby, and NO ONE else is allowed to be in charge of them. Yes, this even means saying no to respite while you are working through bonding.
  • Research adoptive attachment parenting. No, you might not be adopting the child. But each principle should come into effect in the same ways.

Of course, bonding is a hot topic in foster care. That’s what makes it so painful to say goodbye to them, isn’t it? That’s what we are all afraid of, because in the end…that is what hurts. Yes, it’s true. After bonding with a Little Miss for nine months I can without a doubt say that losing her hurts. However, it’s so, so good. It’s what the child needs more than anything else in their lives at that point. It’s how they will learn to heal and cope and it’s vital to their development. So, please…bond. You won’t regret it. I promise.

 

Questions?

If you have any questions at all about foster care or adoption from foster care as I go through this series, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can leave a comment or send an email. At the end of the series, I will have a Q&A day and will be answering any questions I receive throughout the month.

Previous posts:

Day 1: Introduction

Day 2: Meet the Hines

Day 3: Shop Feature: Karla Storey

Day 4: Why We Chose to Foster

Day 5: The Process

Day 6: The Cast of Characters

Day 7: The Paperwork

Day 8: The Goal is Reunification

Day 9: Reflections

Day 10: Shop Feature: Ransomed Cuffs

Day 11: The Placement

Day 12: The Daily Life

Day 13: The Extra’s

Please share and interact!

As a blogger, it means SO much to me if you like, comment and share on these posts! You can share the whole series or just a particular blog post, but your support in that way means the world to me!

#Write31Days

You can find the official #Write31Days and all the other bloggers who are linking up by clicking here.

#Write31Days: Day 8 The Goal is Reunification

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One of the most common misconceptions I have come across during our foster care journey is this that the children all need rescuing from their horrible pasts.

We have only had one placement thus far, but I have found that statement to be very far from the truth.

Here is how foster care works:

A parent is seen as unfit to care for the child at that point in time. This does not mean that the parent(s) are horrible people and that they should never have rights to children again. In some cases, this is true. But not in all.

The goal in foster care is reunification.

Let me say that again: the goal in foster care is reunification.

I went into foster care with a hero complex: I was going to rescue these children and give them the love that they weren’t getting at home.

As we grew alongside Little Miss, we realized how incredibly broken the system is. To us, it actually doesn’t seem helpful to take the children away from the parents and tell them to “get it together”. Often, no resources are provided or the bare minimum is done because of funding, rehab wait lists or unbroken cycles of addiction.

As we neared the end of Little Miss’ time with us, it dawned on us: this model of helping these families is not working.

We take the children away from the parents, then tell the parents to get it together, then insist that the goal is reunification.

Theo and I went into fostering Little Miss with the mindset that she needed to be kept safe and if her Mama could just get it together…that would be great.

By the end of our time with Little Miss, we have a completely different vision of what foster care and reunification should like it. In our hearts, it looks like helping the whole family. It looks like taking in not just Little Miss, but her Mama, too. It looks like helping her Mama learn how to do Mama things, instead of me doing 110% of the work, and all of us holding our breath and crossing our fingers that Mama doesn’t fall down the rabbit hole tonight with Mr. Boyfriend #7. It would look like setting boundaries and rules for Mama, and it would like a non-existent wait list for rehab. Because what are those Mamas (and Dads) doing while they wait? They are doing exactly what they are waiting to fight against.

The goal is foster care is not to hope that Mama and Dad will “get it together”. No, the goal in foster care should be to help the entire family be able to function as family. Maybe there are chains of addiction that need to be broken. That needs to be our goal as foster parents. Maybe there is an abusive relationship that needs to be done with. That needs to be our goal as foster parents. Maybe there is homelessness that needs to be tackled. That needs to be our goal as foster parents.

When we take in a foster child, my hope is that we don’t just advocate for the child and for a future reunification with their family. My hope that is while I keep that child in my care, I am doing everything to fight for them to be back in the family that they were born into. My hope is that I am not only an example of what motherhood could look like, but that I am also an advocate for that Mama to succeed as a mother. My hope is that we have a huge role in redeeming not just the trauma that the child has been through, but the things that the family has been through as well.

I know that this isn’t ideal, and I’m not naïve enough to realize that there are many families who simply should not get their children back. I know that the system is made up of broken people doing the best job they can while burnt out and barely scraping by.

But I just wanted to write Theo and I’s heart on this matter: we might have gone into foster care for the children, but God has led our hearts to see the needs of the whole family. I hope and pray that the Lord will continue to guide us as He sees fit to help these children AND the families that they have been taken from.

 

Questions?

If you have any questions at all about foster care or adoption from foster care as I go through this series, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can leave a comment or send an email. At the end of the series, I will have a Q&A day and will be answering any questions I receive throughout the month.

Previous posts:

Day 1: Introduction

Day 2: Meet the Hines

Day 3: Shop Feature: Karla Storey

Day 4: Why We Chose to Foster

Day 5: The Process

Day 6: The Cast of Characters

Day 7: The Paperwork

Please share and interact!

As a blogger, it means SO much to me if you like, comment and share on these posts! You can share the whole series or just a particular blog post, but your support in that way means the world to me!

#Write31Days

You can find the official #Write31Days and all the other bloggers who are linking up by clicking here.

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#Write31Days Day 5: The Process

Ok, so maybe you are interested in fostering.

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What’s the process to become foster parents?

First…ANYONE can be a foster parent. Yes, there are some difficulties that might come up depending on your circumstances, but yes, YOU can be a foster parent.

Single? You can foster.

Not enough money? You can foster.

Too young? As long as you are over 21 you can foster

Physical disabilities? Yep. Pretty sure you can still foster, although there are some things that will be taken into consideration

Live in a small house? Yes, you can foster.

Military service? Yes, you can foster.

Little kids in the home? Yes, you can foster.

Teenagers in your home? Yes, you can foster.

Empty nesters? Yes, you, too can foster.

 

So, the steps to become a foster parent go a little bit like this:

  1. Do your research. Do you want to foster? What does fostering entail? What ages are you interested in? Do you want to go with a private agency or a government agency? Do you want to foster, foster to adopt or both?
  2. Contact a local agency. Trust me, if you pick up that phone and make the first call, you will be hooked up! These agencies are just waiting for the phone to ring…and for it to be good news, like a member of their community wanting to know more about being a foster parent.
  3. Begin initial application paperwork. This is paperwork like filling out your name, contact info, number of people in your home, income level, etc.
  4. Homestudy and PAPERWORK. Once your application is accepted, you will begin to go through the ringer. The paperwork is incredibly intense, and it includes a lot of filling out applications, getting fingerprints, getting a background check, submitting a driving abstract, etc. It kind of feels like a really, really intense job interview. On top of the paperwork, there are interviews. A caseworker will come to your home and ask you 8 million questions. Maybe not that many…but it feels like it. Questions about strengths, weaknesses, goals, dreams, why you want to foster, how you would respond in different circumstances, etc. This same caseworker will then inspect your home for all safety requirements. Honestly, it’s not that hard to pass the safety requirements, also there are a few hoops that have to be jumped through such as getting your well water tested, putting outlet covers on all your outlets, contacting the fire department to do a safety inspection, etc. You also need to have beds for every age group you want to foster. If you want to foster babies, you need to have a crib. If you want to foster older children, you need to have a twin (or larger) bed. Some of the regulations are pretty silly, but all that needs to happen during this step, too.
  5. Pre-Service Training. Training comes in the form of weekly or bi-weekly classes totaling around 40 hours. Yes, that is a lot of classes. Yes, they can be SUPER boring. But, we had an excellent instructor and actually loved our classes for the most part. We learned SO much, and not just in relation to fostering.
  6. License! Once all this is complete, the agency takes it from there, and then you receive a license in the mail!
  7. Placement. Then, you wait. You wait for a phone call that tells you a child will be at your doorstep in a few hours. And it’s the most beautiful thing you will ever experience.

 

How long does this take?

It took us two years. It shouldn’t take that long. From the time we started to the time we got our first placement, we had one biological child, we both switched jobs, AND we moved to a new house (but still in the same county). I know people who have done it all in two months, but most people take 6-9 months to complete all of that.

How much does it cost?

Around $100. The agency pays for pretty much everything, but there were a few things that we had to cover, such as the cost of the well inspection and fire inspection.

 

 

Questions?

If you have any questions at all about foster care or adoption from foster care as I go through this series, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can leave a comment or send an email. At the end of the series, I will have a Q&A day and will be answering any questions I receive throughout the month.

Previous posts:

Day 1: Introduction

Day 2: Meet the Hines

Day 3: Shop Feature: Karla Storey

Day 4: Why We Chose to Foster

Please share and interact!

As a blogger, it means SO much to me if you like, comment and share on these posts! You can share the whole series or just a particular blog post, but your support in that way means the world to me!

#Write31Days

You can find the official #Write31Days and all the other bloggers who are linking up by clicking here.

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#Write31Days Day 4: Why and How we Foster

When we made the decision to become foster parents, we were completely blind.

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We knew we wanted to grow our family through adoption. Due to the requirements of international adoption, we felt like the door was closed to us. Due to the cost of domestic adoption, we also felt like that door was closed to us. As I was doing research on adoption, I stumbled across brief mentions of foster care.

Foster Care.

Foster Care.

It was there, in the back of everything I was researching. It was there, just niggling. And then it came to the forefront of our minds.

Foster Care?

The more research we did, the more we felt led to it.

Foster Care!

We initially went into foster care convinced it was about caring for America’s orphans. The abandoned, neglected, least of these. The kids in our own backyard who are being abused and going hungry.

And we learned that foster care is so much more than that. Foster care is coming alongside an American system that is broken. It’s coming alongside judges and caseworkers and doing our best to work with them, even when circumstances aren’t always pretty. And it’s coming alongside birth parents and trying to help them work towards a place in their life where they can take care of their children.

Yes, foster care is about helping the entire family. Surprisingly, it’s not about adoption, (although adoption does happen frequently).

So, why do we foster?

First, we foster because we are commanded to take care of the orphans.

  • To give children a safe home
  • To work within the system alongside caseworkers, supervisors and judges
  • To provide a safe home for children while their biological parents get back on their feet
  • To provide a bridge between our middle class lifestyle and the needs of those who live in deeper poverty

It is also important to note that as we foster, we have some “rules” and “regulations”

  • The goal is reunification with the parents. We need to be taking in these children and then cheering on their parents (sometimes so hard).
  • Our passion is for the families. As we have gone through fostering a child, we have realized that the system is so messed up. Removing a child from a family often does not solve anything. Instead, we need a system that comes alongside the whole family and helps them function as a unit. This system is not in place, but we will do our part to play a supportive role in helping birth parents get on their feet and have the ability to take their child back.
  • We have agreed as a family to be very careful about how many children we take in. I’m not talking about the background of the child or the history of behavior or anything like that. I’m saying that we want to take in children and make them feel at home, like they belong in our family. We do not want to take in every single foster child in Greene county, because we feel that would not be as effective.
  • We have agreed as a family to take a full month off from accepting a new placement after we say goodbye to a placement. Grief is tough, man. And we need to be able to process it in order to be more effective to future placements
  • We CANNOT do this alone. We need the body of Christ surrounding us every step of the way. We need prayers. We need physical items (frequently). We need listening ears and people who are willing to help us go through the grief…over and over again.

Questions?

If you have any questions at all about foster care or adoption from foster care as I go through this series, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can leave a comment or send an email. At the end of the series, I will have a Q&A day and will be answering any questions I receive throughout the month.

Previous posts:

Day 1: Introduction

Day 2: Meet the Hines

Day 3: Shop Feature: Karla Storey

Please share and interact!

As a blogger, it means SO much to me if you like, comment and share on these posts! You can share the whole series or just a particular blog post, but your support in that way means the world to me!

#Write31Days

You can find the official #Write31Days and all the other bloggers who are linking up by clicking here.

Save