Our Experience with Foster Care/Adoption Training

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Scott and I spent the last two weekends getting our foster care training certificate through a private agency called Five Acres. The Five Acres mission is to provide safety, well-being and permanency to children and families in crisis. We were inspired in part by the journey of our friends Shawna Kenney and Rich Dollinger (Shawna wrote about it here), and also by the fact that we want to grow our family and are not sure the route we want to go yet. We’ve often talked about fostering a teenager at some point in the future, so we figure why not start learning all we can about it now.

So we’re out there gathering information, soaking it all in, waiting to have that feeling of rightness I had when I first looked at photo album of Ethiopia, immediately turned to Scott and said, “That’s where our kid is.”

During the intense four days of training, we grew to feel close to the other eight expectant faces we faced across that long white table, eating our lunches out of paper bags while gamely participating in role plays and discussions. I was moved by everyone’s willingness to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is such a rare and brave thing. We shared our questions, our doubts, our losses, our hopes for our families.

We learned the nuts and bolts of the foster care system, as well as talking in depth about loss, abuse, attachment, trauma and family. Together, we made lists on chalkboards:

What are things people need to feel safe?

What is an expected loss vs. an unexpected loss?

What are some reasons children are removed from their homes?

We watched a few documentaries that were uniformly well-made and heart-wrenching. I highly recommend them to anyone. They included Aging Out, From Place to Place and, one of my favorite movies about adoption, Closure (see it if you haven’t!).

After posting about the training on social media, I’ve had a deluge of emails and messages, all saying the same thing: I want to talk to you more about foster care. Clearly the daunting amount of children in the social services system (20,000 in LA county alone, 500,000 nationwide) is on the minds of a lot of people. And I’m so glad, because, wow, do these kids ever need help and love.

Hearing some of these children’s stories reduced me to a trembling, mascara-streaked mess. But they also left me feeling inspired to participate in some capacity, as well as empowered with the tools to do so. I’m not sure if we’re going to try to adopt through LA County, but the options aren’t just foster or do nothing. There are so many ways we can all help. Here’s a really great post about it from Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan: What you Can Do. You can also just call Five Acres and ask.

By the end of each training day, I was so drained that I pretty much came home and crawled into bed with Tariku, using afternoon movies as a bribe for snuggles.

As I’m reflecting on the experience, I keep thinking about a discussion our group had near the end of the training.

“When things get hard, asked the woman leading the workshop, “What will you have in your back pocket that will keep you committed?”

I answered that, when facing situations that might inspire fear or judgment, I try to build a bridge to my own life. Watching the movies of those teenagers, I was reminded of my own angry and confused adolescence. I was reminded of my brother- an epic seeker/wanderer- and so many of my friends who have struggled at various times. I was reminded of a time not so long ago when Scott and I held our heads in our hands every night, completely overwhelmed and despairing in the face of Tariku’s trauma-related behaviors. I would never for a minute think that any of us was undeserving of love, or help, or a home.

I believe this even now, when T is standing at the foot of the bed insisting that I listen to him belch to the tune of Gangnam Style (true story).

Here’s the other thing I keep in my back pocket…

I remember first holding Tariku as a baby, burying my face his little nest of hair and thinking that he smelled like powder and cookies and everything good and sweet on God’s earth and that he was truly perfect and I’d never be that happy again. I didn’t require anything in return. I didn’t require anything at all. I had everything I needed.

It was a small moment. I probably thought the same thing a thousand more times before he started smelling like french fries and dirty feet and all the rest went out the window. But for some reason, that moment is the embodiment of love for me. The memory of it can sometimes give me superpowers. I go back to it all the time when the waters get choppy.

6 thoughts on “Our Experience with Foster Care/Adoption Training

  1. Absolutely love this post! Brought me back to my training. Not sure if yours was anything like ours, but ours was such an eclectic group of individuals. You would never have guessed we were all there for the same thing. Ours was a few hours each week for 6 weeks. At the end we were such a bonded little group. I actually ran into one of the other women recently (nearly 7 years after the training) and we spent over an hour talking about where our lives had taken us and the children who had entered in and out for her, or just in for me. I look forward to seeing what is next for your sweet little family.

  2. oh that moment, that moment with your face in his hair, breathing him in for the very first time, I have a moment like that too

  3. I love this post – my husband and I just took a one-weekend training with KidSave.org (an amazing organization that matches people with older kids/teens in L.A. County to be “hosted” as “weekend miracles” – just one weekend a month for a year – and help mentor the kids and support them through advocacy and perhaps help them get adopted, or adopt them later yourself).
    It was totally amazing. I can’t wait to watch the documentaries you suggested. We watched a very sweet John Cusack movie about a child in a group home who thinks he’s from Mars. John Cusack adopts him, and it’s VERY dear what happens next. Can’t remember the name, but you can Google it…
    We were told there are actually 35,000 kids in L.A. in foster care/group homes (a fancy term for orphanages) and that it’s FREE to adopt them, once you foster. (Unlike most other adoption options).
    Groups like KidSave need tons of volunteers, people who want to come to events, drive the kids, donate, etc. The blog on Rage Against the Minivan you mentioned has sooo many great resources. Everyone can help!
    I can’t wait to see what happens for you and Scott and T. I’m sure it will be awesome. Your heart and compassion and care are sooooo beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Just read your post through Rage Against the Minivan, thank you for posting this. As an adopter who has struggled and who has had my marriage struggle since adopting and I watch my husband struggle with our new life and son, I just love the question ““When things get hard, what will you have in your back pocket that will keep you committed?” Because man alive it is hard. Adoption seeps into every nook and cranny of your being and flips you upside down. Sometimes daily. But it’s also amazing and wonderful and I wouldn’t change anything that we’ve been through. Expect maybe the incessant ‘why’ I hear 1000 times a day, I would change that.
    I’ve just started talking to potential adopters at their training sessions and I will take that question with me. Thank you.

  5. Foster momma of almost 2.5 years here! Love your thoughts here. I remember, all too well, those days of training and the mix of emotions. 17 kids and 1 adoption later, a house full of 6 amazing kiddos (3 forever mine and 3 currently fosters), I can honestly say it’s so very worth it all. Good luck and blessings!

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