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Cystic Fibrosis and Foster Parenting

PillowfightFoster parenting is in our future if all of the final licensing paperwork goes through! Yes, Fatboy and Beautiful are about to become parents, possibly quite frequently and many times over.

We’ve been keeping this area of our lives pretty buttoned up for the last… 1/2 year… because, like most news like this, it opens yourself up to questions every week until it happens. Now we are ready to take those questions because we are close enough to the “finish line” to take other peoples’ support in this big, new adventure.

Cystic Fibrosis and Infertility

I’ll just come out and say it: I’m amazed at how many people have known me for a decade or more and haven’t looked into CF’s symptoms to know that darn near 100% of CF males have a broken sperm delivery system. Infertility, not impotence – just want to be clear on that. Then again, we have friends who have looked it up and others who ask out of curiosity and/or insight to suspect that CF might be the cause of why we haven’t had kids after nearly 5 years.

So, CFers are generally looking at one of two major options: using a doctor’s help to do things biologically or using someone else’s biology and adopt. We have more or less (more than less) counted out IVF or any of those medical methods, which will be another post in this series. We also looked at international adoption – too expensive to do while trying to create our large disaster savings account. They say to not delay kids for finances, but we were pretty much stuck in that spot because domestic adoptions that we looked into all start at about $20,000.

State Adoptions and Foster Care

So, one day I decided to just man up and ask to see the social worker at clinic. I figured that if anyone would have experience with all of the options we, as CFers, have as options for being called “Mom” and “Dad” it would be her. I sure was right about that. She had all of the information we needed. I’ll be talking about the certification class more, but what I learned from the social worker is that (at least in FL) state adoptions are free and they provide healthcare through Medicaid for children up to 18 and they also receive in-state state college tuition as long as they meet the academic requirements for acceptance into the school.

That week I scheduled us to attend the monthly orientation meeting. Then we pretty much got our hearts ripped out. They were very adamant that every kid in the system for adoption is at least 2 years old and most are severely abused or medically handicapped. It was a scare tactic to see how sure everyone was that they wanted to continue down this path. Most are minorities and won’t look anything like us as pasty white as we are. Most are also sibling groups. Most will have severe behavior issues. Foster care was the same, only they return the kids to their own homes when their families comply with the DCF action plan. It was a very grim view of things. We left deflated, but hopeful of good options somewhere.

We didn’t sign up for the certification class.

MAPP Class

The state requires all adoptive and foster parent candidates to take a 10-week class called MAPP (Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting). The catch was that the entire system’s classes were only offered on Monday nights – the same night our small group meets. It was getting very close to the start of class, like the very next Monday close,  and we still hadn’t committed to signing up for the class because we couldn’t bring ourselves to skip/miss 10 weeks of our most social, recharging, and uplifting night of the week.

So, that last Monday night before class started was a game night. After dinner, everyone was on the couches where everyone could see me, so I just asked if I could make an announcement/ask a question before we started games. I had the floor. I’ll say it like I said it that night in early February.

We’ve been looking for ways to adopt, and found out that the only way to do that in Florida is to take a 10-week class. But… the classes are only offered on Monday nights, so… since we are committed to this group, we would like to ask if it’s okay to take leave for this time and come back when the class is over.

I don’t think I had to wait more than 1 second before the leader’s wife said “Why don’t we change what night we meet? We don’t want to meet without you two!” Everyone was in agreement and started discussing days of the week that work. I looked over at Beautiful next to me and almost started crying. Such love! We met on Tuesdays for the next 10 weeks and got certified. I’ll write more about the class in another, long post.

Opting for Foster Care

This is an entire post by itself, but the short version is this: we decided to choose the foster care path after the first class. We were both thinking it separately, discussed it the day after the first class (we are introverted thinkers), and the rest is history. We have stricter rules for the house and who comes over, taking vacations with them (because they aren’t ours), and babysitters need to be background checked and fingerprinted than adoptive parents do – since parental rights have been terminated for those kids. The class leaders have done foster care for over 10 years and it looks like they averaged 10-14 kids per year in and out of their houses. Some stay the night and others are there for 2 years or more or until they’re adopted.

The state “requires” that parental rights be terminated after 1 year of trying to straighten out their lives (or whatever put the kids in the system), but like anything with the word “system,” those rules are very much subject to change. We would have first option as current caretakers to adopt in the case that things don’t work out, but our main goal during each and any stay is for reunification with the family. Reunification – they said that over and over. You’re supposed to have your heart ripped out when they leave because that means you loved them well.

Can we do that? We think so.

We love kids, and we know we will get some that are really hurting and express that hurt in any number of ways: depression, anger, solitude, bad language, and any bad behavior under the sun. They spent the first week and a bit of every class preparing us for these issues and how to handle them in the kids’ best interest. They are different. You can’t treat them the same as your own because they may have been hurt in ways we can’t imagine.

We just have to love them.

Where We Are in the Process

We are bringing our house into shape. We converted our under-stairs closet into a pharmacy and chemical storage to meet DCF requirements (another post, again) and are getting ready to paint and re-arrange our master bedroom to put the office in there and get “the nursery” ready for our first kid. Then the third bedroom can take a bit more time to accept another, older one or a sibling group. Babysitter approval takes 30 days, so we have a couple of months to get everything ready and start our latest chapter – a new adventure.

Read Beautiful’s version of our announcement here: Foster Care Licensing

Next post: What being a dad will mean to me… the post I wanted to write on Father’s Day.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Foster care is an exciting experience! My parents were foster parents for a few years while I was in college/grad school. They went the foster-not-to-adopt route and therefore were optimal candidates for newborn babies (the state always tries to reunite them with their birth family so to avoid heartbreak, foster-to-adopt families aren’t considered for this in Texas). Of the 7 newborns they cared for, they could have adopted 4 when all was said and done. I’m sure something similar can occur in Florida as well so rest assured that you aren’t closing any doors by only picking the foster route.

    The fostering experience was really great for my family. It brought us together and taught us how to love a little stranger we knew nothing about. It was truly rewarding time in our lives and I wouldn’t trade it for the world (and I was just the “foster sister). My family are still in touch with several former foster babies. One who was adopted even lives nearby.

    If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. While I’m not the most knowledgeable on the subject, I’m a huge proponent of it. 🙂

    • Thanks, Amanda. In our class, they said they don’t even call it “foster-to-adopt” because the goal is always reunification unless they are already in the process of terminating parental rights (TPR). They usually wait to start that, but some kids come in with a concurrent plan to work it out and TPR. Doing 0-5, they said we will get more newborns than we would have thought because of the number of drug issues in Tampa that the babies go straight to the jail to enter foster care. Very sad, but we love this age range – I don’t think we’d be prepared for 8-15 year-olds!

      We’ve entered into a whole new sub-culture!

      • Anonymous says:

        I think the drug issues are the same everywhere. I’m sure you’ll get a feel for the system once you are immersed in it, but I just meant to mention that even if you are not officially on the books to adopted a foster baby, the opportunity may arise when reunification doesn’t work out. Take care!

        • We are counting on it, eventually. Not sure how many will come through
          before it happens, but we do eventually want to “settle down” with a more
          predictable lifestyle than foster care allows long-term. Having a 3BR
          townhome places its own limits on what we can do, anyway.

  2. It must feel great to finally be able to talk about this with more than just family and close, close friends. We are sure excited for you guys. You’ve chosen a wonderful way to give with no expectation of return.

  3. I am so very happy for you Jesse and found this post very moving. I know fostering isn’t that easy but I have a good friend who has run the gamut of fostering and adoption – I’d love to connect you with her on Facebook.
    Louise

    • Thanks! We’ve got things in full swing around the house to get ready. In
      time, I’m sure I’ll have a whole fostering list in Facebook, just not yet.
      I’m sure we’ll need the support later.

  4. Congratulations!  May God’s grace and Spirit flow abundantly to guide and assist you on your foster parenting!   I am so happy for the two of you and will remember you in my daily prayers.  

  5. Kristi Bowers says:

    You two will be awesome parents! What a blessing you will be. Praying.

    • Thanks. I think it’s a fantastic age. A think for thought, though: wonder if we’ll feel like we are in Family Circus, stuck in a time hole if our kids are always 0-5yrs old! “Won’t these kids grow up!!??” LOL

  6. Andreamichelle90 says:

    I am so thrilled for you two!! I hope for the best!  I can’t wait to read updates as the process continues!! Congrats! You two really will make amazing parents and I couldn’t be happier!

  7. Jamiebug says:

    I enjoyed this post a lot being that my husband and I also went through the many, many hours of training and certification classes to become foster parents. It was time well spent. We were able to take in a few foster children into our home before I became to ill to take on the physical challenge of having children to care for.

    It is not for everyone and there is such a need for great, loving, sincere foster parents. Good for you guys. I found most kids just want loved and a stable home where they can feel safe.

    We have considered getting our license renewed however, with the risks involved since my immune system is so compromised we are unsure if we are ready to tackle fostering again. I really hope you can find the right child/children for your home. You have my support and admiration 🙂 

  8. Kevin Callicutt says:

    Another awesome post. Congratulations on your new life journey. After reading your blog over the past couple of months it seems as if God is smiling down on you and your wife.

    • Indeed. I think we actually had to go through a valley of testing that got cleared to be put on us, but we passed and are being given more. O have a great first mate, too!

  9. MiddleAgedLady says:

    How fabulous!! I’m so excited for you and can’t wait to read about your new adventures. I would have loved to have done something like that when I was younger. I know there’s an enormous need. Don’t get too busy to keep us posted! 🙂

  10. Anonymous says:

    This area is such a diverse one for each CF’er and their spouse.  Like you mentioned, John and I chose IVF.  I guess having my twins already I had a hard time with considering adoption or foster care just because of the added attention those children require.  I felt like my kids would end up having to step aside.  My eldest daughter has enough needs to keep us on our toes as it was.  God has given us all a purpose.  I am proud to “know” you guys.  You are stepping outside of your comfort zone in a lot of areas of your life so that others may have.  To give is the greatest gift.  Though your children will come from all different situations, feel free to shout out for any advice for the age groups as needed!  You’ve got the market cornered on CF knowledge, but I can at least throw in a thing or two about what has worked with my kids at given times.  You and Beautiful are the best.  As if we didn’t already pray for you guys, now we just have something to add to the list.  🙂

  11. Lauramagsamen says:

    Congratulations!  This is very exciting news!  I look forward to reading your posts about this new journey.  I always love the topics/options that you discuss and how they relate to CFer’s.  It will be interesting to read of other parenting options.