National Foster Care Month – Personal Experience (Part One)
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In honor of National Foster Care Month, EVOLVE Family Services wanted to honor some of our amazing foster care providers. We asked a few of our providers to answer questions about their experience with foster care so far, what they have learned, and what they want prospective foster parents to know before beginning the process.
Our foster care team interviewed Heidi Hall about her journey as an EVOLVE foster parent.
Question 1: Can you share a little bit about your foster care journey, including how long you have been providing care and if you are a relative or traditional provider?
“It had been on my heart to do foster care for almost 15 years, but nothing about the experience has been close to how I had imagined or dreamed. After a difficult divorce several years ago and then working to get back on my feet, I bought my own home two years ago. I knew that my home would be a refuge and place of healing for people, but I was not sure what that meant or what it would look like. After taking two foster care classes with the county, I decided that foster care was not the route I wanted to go.
Instead, I got licensed through a non-profit, Together For Good, an organization that works to keep families together. I decided that I would provide weekend care for kids whose mothers needed a break. The first weekend I did it, about one year ago, I met a sweet four-year-old girl and six-year-old boy and we immediately hit it off. I took them a few other weekends over the summer to give mom a break. Suddenly in the fall, they ended up in foster care and I was contacted as a possible home since I was considered kin.
I am a single woman who works full time with weird hours, so I really did not think there was any chance I could do it. After a lot of conversations and time with God, I decided that He was inviting me to be a part of something beautiful. Six months ago, the two kids (who are now five years old and seven years old) moved in and I began my foster care journey.”
Question 2: What has been the most rewarding part of being a foster parent?
“The most rewarding part of being a foster parent has been watching the kids slowly flourish. The boy has been doing well in school, loves his teacher and classmates, and excels in school like he was not able to do before. The girl, who has selective mutism, began to talk in school, with other providers, and even sleeps through the night (which had been rare for her). It has been an honor to have the chance to provide these children with stability and see their natural gifts and abilities shine.”
Question 3: What have been some unexpected challenges while providing care?
“Being a single woman, with no biological children, I had not realized how much providing foster care would change my relationships with others. I am in my mid-thirties, so for the past several years I have not always “fit” with peers who were married with children and I became very close to people who did not have children. Suddenly overnight, I had kids and didn’t feel like I fit anywhere. It affected every relationship in my life in both good and hard ways and it invaded every part of my life…my time, physical space (my clean house now had stuff everywhere), mental space and spiritual space as I no longer had the capacity to spend time with God like I used to.
So many of the changes were beautiful, but it was the first time in my life that I had kids with me and I didn’t know when they would leave and I would get time for myself. Until the kids moved in, I had had my nephews for up to a week, but always knew when they were going home. It took a lot of time to adjust my thinking and routine.”
Question 4: What is something you have learned while providing care?
“I have learned just how blessed I am with so many amazing people in my life. I may be a single mom, but my village is large and has really stepped up. The kids in my care feel so loved by so many people and I could not do it without them. They have provided care, meals, sleepovers, encouragement, toys and so much love.”
Question 5: What are the ways you have continued to practice self-care while providing care?
“When possible I take some time to myself to read and take a nap. Until the pandemic, I was getting regular massages.”
Question 6: If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing when you started this journey, what would it be?
“It is not going to look like what you thought so take a deep breath and do your best to enjoy the ride. It is going to be one of the hardest things you will ever do, but also one of the most beautiful things.”
Question 7: Anything else you feel would be helpful for prospective foster parents to know?
“Speak up for yourself and ask questions. Take time to think through what you need and then ask for it! There are people who want to help, but you need to tell them what you need.”
Question 8: What resources have you found most helpful during the COVID-19 situation and what additional support would be helpful?
“I have appreciated that my Foster Care Family Worker has been responsive; she has always been quick to respond to any question I have and provides me with resources. A grant provided a $100 Amazon gift card that has been helpful. There are times I wish I could have a day to myself, but also know that it is not possible right now. I have several people in my life who have provided meals and that has been the best and most helpful thing!”