“Choosing” our Foster Child

People always ask if we can choose which children will be placed in our home.  Sorta.  The county asked us about our preferences regarding children’s characteristics, experiences and behaviors.  Training helped us think through what to expect and our social worker talked through our rationale one-on-one.  Then she created our profile, which will be used when the matcher tries to find a good fit between children coming into care and our family.

Here’s the different things we had to think through in determining the “kind” of kid that we feel capable of parenting well.

Age

The county offers three age brackets: 0-4, 5-12, and 13-18.  You can be as specific as you like,  though (only 11-year-olds, for example).

Sassy, our daughter, would much rather have younger foster siblings.  And, frankly, hubby and I feel much more comfortable with our current kids being older than any foster kids.  Teenagers can get into bigger trouble than younger kids when they’re misbehaving (drugs, sex, alcohol, smoking, gangs versus tantrums, bed wetting, name calling, etc.), and we’d prefer not expose our kids to the risk of a teen foster kid role modeling that kind of behavior.  So that’s 12 years as the oldest.  I really like babies, but my husband and I both work.  We’ve told our social worker that age two is our lower limit, since we wouldn’t be able to stay home with them.  But, we’d likely stretch if they needed a home for a baby and the county was ok with that baby being in child care.

Gender

Yes, you can choose boy or girl.

We don’t care about gender.  Well, Sassy wants a girl, because most of her cousins are boys, and she’s tired of being the only girl at family events.  When we adopted Silent One, we specifically wanted a boy, because we know older boys have a harder time finding a permanent home.  But in this case, gender is not a major criteria for us.

Race / Ethnicity

Options are African American, Caucasian (White), Asian, Latino, Native American

Since Silent One is the only Latino in our family, we’re eager to welcome more Latinos into our home.  I was surprised and touched by Silent One’s opinion that any kid of any color is fine – if they need a family, that’s enough for him.  Sassy says she’d rather have another kid that looks like her (white), so people won’t ask her questions about how she could be related to someone that looks different.  So our preference is Latino and white, though open to others.

Religion

Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist are the main categories.

We would be willing to take foster kids of any religion to their religious services and find someone of their faith to help guide them as warranted.  We’re also comfortable with some minor changes in eating habits, like no pork, but not drastic changes like keeping kosher or halal.

Number of kids

If I recall correctly, the form listed 1, 2, or 3+ as the options.

I feel super strongly about keeping siblings together, and it’s one of the major reasons why we decided to become a foster family.   We’re marked down as 2-4, I think, but with the caveat that we’re really interested in a sibling group rather than several unrelated children.

Health Issues

The county lists some common health issues: HIV, diabetes, sickle cell anemia.

Initially, we were fine with HIV positive kids, as we felt prepared to take appropriate precautions, administer meds, and take kids to doctor appointments. But since we want to be in a position to adopt if reunification isn’t an option, and, since we may have to transfer overseas in the future for my work, we reconsidered.  Many countries have restrictions on HIV positive people visiting.  Diabetes would be ok – we think we could get good health care in most countries.  Sickle cell anemia was a no.

Disabilities

The county asks if you are would be willing to parent a child with physical, mental, or learning disabilities.

Our house has a fair number of stairs, and we don’t have a lot of experience with physical handicaps, so we decided on mild physical disabilities.   Initially we were ok with low IQs or Downs Syndrome, but when we realized we could potentially be asked to adopt a kid after having them in our home for two years, we realized we were willing to make a short term commitment, but not a life time commitment to take care of someone who could not care for themselves.  We’re ok with mild learning disabilities as we have experience with dyslexia and memory deficits.

Mental Illness

You are asked about whether you would parent a child with mental illness or with a parent or family history of mental illness.

I’ll be frank.  Schizophrenia scares me.  I’ve met a fair number of inmates who committed crimes when their schizophrenia was not well treated.  It’s a tough disease.  Depression and anxiety seem pretty treatable.  We have experience with PTSD, generalized anxiety, and eating disorders.  Not sure how I’d feel about obsessive compulsive disorder or bipolar disorder.  We left this as “it depends.”

Physical Abuse / Neglect / Sexual Abuse

Do you feel capable of parenting a child who has been physically abused?  Neglected?  Sexually abused?

We have experience with traumatized kids.  We know sticking by a kid working through tough memories isn’t easy.  But we’re willing to give it a try.  We strongly believe in counseling and would be willing to participate in therapy as needed.

Acting Out Behaviors

The county provides a list of behaviors traumatized kids may engage in and asks whether it would be easy, moderate, or difficult for you to parent a child exhibiting such behaviors as bedwetting, crying, yelling, being quiet, lying, picky eating, smoking, and drugs.

Our social worker told us that every body has buttons that can be pushed and its best to know those buttons up front.  Tell me lies?  No biggie.  Getting up at night and washing wet bedsheets is not a big deal.  Smoking and drugs – not so keen as we’d be worried about Sassy and Silent One picking up these habits.  Yell at me?  Well, at least I know what you’re thinking.  Don’t feel like eating?  I’ll offer enough food variety over the week to get you the appropriate nutrition.  So what drives me batty?  Crying easily, uh, yeah that one’s tough for me.   Luckily, hubby isn’t phased and we can trade off.

So there you have it.  That’s how we “chose” which kids to welcome into our home.

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