Deciding to foster care for a child is a big decision for any family. However, I believe it is one of the most selfless things a person can do for a child. To open your home to a child is analogous to opening you heart to that child who needs you at that time. For my wife and I the process of becoming a foster care family is just beginning but the journey started a long time ago. That journey has been in the planning our entire life based on our experiences, thoughts, and concerns for children. Foster care families have a special place in their heart for these children, who need that place. The foster care process seems to be an altruistic act. I somewhat agree. However, the joy and experience of doing this is worth than the fortunes of the world.
The modern foster care system we understand today began in the 1850’s as the Orphan Train Movement through the Children’s Aid Society as a way to help the growing number of orphaned children living in major metropolitan areas such as New York City and Boston. Between the 1850’s and 1930’s more than 150,000 children left on the streets of major cities were moved to rural families in the west and Midwest. These children played an integral role of helping develop the farms and ranches in those areas. Other organizations start to help as the United States realized these children needed forever families.
Before these organizations, orphans were raised by relatives who were struggling to take care of their own. When times got tough the orphaned children were turned away or never taken in at all. One writer of the time described conditions that were better for animals that for the children. As a matter of fact there were organizations for protecting animals before there were organizations to help these children. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded soon after the Orphan Train Movement and before the foster care system we know today.
What is Foster Care?
To foster, means to nurture or help someone to grow. Foster care means to help others to grow in a caring manner. Foster care families are more than just a mother, father, siblings that help others to grow in a caring manner. A family is a group of caring people who are related. This relationship does not have to be blood relations. It can be a group of people experiencing the same events while caring for each other. The experience of fostering a child can be positive for all involved.
In Missouri, as most states, the primary goal of foster care is reunification of the biological family. The foster family is there to help this goal of reunification. They are a bridge from the biological parent, who is faced with a difficult situation to a time where they are able to provide in a caring manner for their child again. The goal of strengthening the biological family is the primary goal of the system.
Family Foster Care is a service provided by child welfare agencies to ensure the children who must be separated from their family are taken care of by trained and licensed people to meet the needs of the child. When the loving foster care family is called upon for these services, it does not matter what the reason for the child being displaced from the biological home. What matters is to help in the best way you can.
Let the Journey Begin
This article is not to be a history lesson and a description of the program. This series of articles is to be a process of a journey my family is taking to become a foster family. I will have to provide more information and definition but I hope to keep it simple and let you know exactly what we are doing.
Our journey began with a lot of discussion between my wife and me. We also discussed this with the children and made sure we were all in agreement in this decision. My wife and I ran through as many scenarios we could think of and the pros outweighed the cons. We both loved kids and realized there was a problem in our area and the Children’s Division was desperate for quality, loving, caring families.
After making the decision that we wanted to be a foster care family, we placed a call to the local Division of Family Services (DFS). The lady returned our phone call and we had to wait for a class to form and start. In our area of Missouri, the budget cuts have limited the number of classes and it took a few months before there were enough people interested in becoming a foster family to form. We received the phone call from DFS and were excited to get started. I have to admit we were a little nervous as well as excited about the process beginning. We did not know what to expect from the classes, but we knew this was a worthwhile goal.
What to expect next
The classes will begin soon and we cannot wait to go. I hope this series of articles give a true description about the journey of becoming a foster family. As our journey continues, I will provide you, the reader, with what we discovered. I do not have a crystal ball to tell what is to
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