May is recognized as National Foster Care month. It is the perfect time pause and answer questions on how we, as military families, can play a part in bettering the lives of children and teens in the foster care system.
Whether you are called to foster or just want a way to help support kids and foster parents, there is a place for everyone to get involved and care for foster children!
Foster Care as a Military Family
Our journey into foster care was the classic hurry up and wait that comes with the military lifestyle. We talked about becoming foster parents or adopting from the beginning of our marriage, but the right time never seemed to happen.
My husband was in a training program while we had four children five years. Finally, after being married for twelve years and my husband being on active duty for ten, he was given three-year orders and jumped at the chance to foster.
We have been licensed for two years, have cared for thirteen children, and are in the process of welcoming two children into our home through adoption. It has been busy and we have learned so much.
Challenges of becoming a foster parent while being in the military
During our time going through the process of becoming a licensed foster parents, we have learned firsthand the challenges that face a military family.
Here are a few of the challenges that military families face in the process of becoming foster parents that you may want to consider before you begin:
- When becoming a licensed foster parent, you are licensed by the state you are planning to foster in. Most of the time, the classes you take to become licensed (around thirty hours), will not transfer to another state. Bummer.
- It will be hard to get an agency to license you if you have less than three year orders. Not always impossible, but less likely.
- Military housing will not consider your foster children as dependents. So if you live in housing, it may be hard to find a home large enough to accommodate a growing family.
- They require both parents to be present for the training. Depending on the active duty spouse hours and schedule, it can be hard to take the classes. I have seen a bigger push lately for online classes, which would be a great benefit for many trying to become foster parents.
- You will need a support system. It truly takes a village to be a foster parent. The doctor appointments, court dates, visits with biological parents, caseworker meetings… it all takes time and scheduling. Do you have a handful of trusted babysitters? Foster care can be very isolating and they will ask you about your community in the paperwork. If you don’t have family close by, start building your village now.
Military families are highly qualified as foster parents
Even though it is harder at times to become foster parents as a military family, I humbly believe we are more than qualified for this role.
We already have a desire to serve others!
The military lifestyle has probably made you more adaptable, and that characteristic is a must-have in your role as a foster parent.
How do I get started in my area?
Regardless, becoming a foster parent is going to be a life changing decision. It may feel like there is never a good time to start the process. But, if you have been thinking about starting this journey for a while, I would certainly ask myself, “What is holding me back?”
When the time does present itself, just make that call!
Call your local DCF (Department of Children and Families) office in your county or do research and see if there is a foster care agency in the area.
Even better, find a local foster parent in the area and ask to meet for coffee. There are likely already military spouses serving in the foster care system in your area! We love to talk to others who are interested in loving these children.
There may even be foster support group meetings in the area that welcome people who are interested in getting licensed. Having close friends who foster as well that truly understand what you are going through is so vital.
How can I help kids in foster care without being a foster parent?
Lastly, if becoming a foster parent isn’t the right choice for you, that is completely understandable, but there are so many ways to get involved!
Donations to a local foster closet, meals delivered on a court day, offering to babysit for a date night, these are just a few ways to get involved. Do you have a talent or a skill? Maybe you are a photographer that could take amazing pictures for a senior?
There is a place for everyone to get involved and care for foster children.
Being a foster parent is hard, but so worth it!
We were once asked in our classes if we were willing to have our hearts broken so a child’s heart could be healed. Being a foster parent is the hardest thing we have ever done, but loving these beautiful children is so worth it.
Cayela is a military spouse who is an amazing mom of four biological children, a foster mom, and now an adoptive mom from foster care. She is very involved with a local foster care support group and is passionate about serving those in the foster care community.
Her military family was blessed to adopt their daughter, Isla, who was placed with them at 7 days old and spent 700 days in the foster care system with their family.
Thank you Cayela for so graciously sharing your knowledge and experiences with us as so many military families have a heart for foster care!
If you are a family located in the Jacksonville, Florida area and would like to know how you can get involved in helping kids in the foster care system near you, please feel free to reach out to Fostering Hope for more information.
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