We’re Training to Be Foster Parents

Our biggest change in 2020 will be becoming a foster family. We are a bit uncomfortable and vulnerable opening up about something so personal, and not solely our own. But, given we share so much of our lives here, it would be impossible not to address it. Therefore, we want to explain why we’ve made this decision, how we will go about it, and what to expect from us. We will not be sharing info about the child(ren) who may join our home, and we appreciate you respecting our and their privacy.♥

For our family, 2019 was a year of change. I left corporate America and we intentionally traveled 4 of the 9 months since. When we returned home, Matt and I felt a pull to change our lives. We’d done and seen so much, and we wanted to find the best life for our family. I could feel it all those months: a nagging feeling of needing to do more. To have the gift of flexible, rewarding work – I was doing well by doing good, and I was in an awe I couldn’t shake.

We decided to make a big, scary change and move from Virginia to Florida, to a place we thought would give us peace, a permanent vacation. But as the process progressed, it didn’t feel right. In November, when our buyers’ ran out of time on their contract and they asked for more – we declined. We took the house off the market, and made a much different change:

We decided to stay in Virginia, and become Foster parents.

now that we have shared this news with our family,
our crytpic IG post and podcast probably makes more sense

Yes, we have 3 biological children.

Yes, they’re all boys.

No, we don’t pine for a girl.

This decision was made long before we ever had children. When Matt and I were just kids, before cell phones were what you stared at before bed, we’d stay up late and talk about what we saw in our future.

We wanted to travel the world.

We wanted to be the aunt and uncle that spoiled anticipated nieces and nephews from our sisters & brothers.

But we didn’t want children.

In fact, my mother was adopted, and I grew up my whole life realizing how important it is for people to participate in the system of finding safe, stable homes for children who need them. Imagine if her parents hadn’t adopted her how different her life, and my life for that matter, would have been.

I told Matt, and he agreed, that if we ever wanted to have a family that we’d adopt because there were too many children in the world who needed parents – and I didn’t have a desire to birth my own.

Life doesn’t always give you what you expect, especially when you’re a cavalier young 20 something with a terrible grasp on your own fertility.

In January 2005 I shockingly starred at a positive pregnancy test. I was a smoker. I was 23. But I was also in a committed relationship, we both had jobs, and lived on our own. We decided if we were going to do it – we’d go all in. I wanted to respect the life growing within me. Just like there were children in need of homes, there are couples who dream of having their own biological families.

We would have siblings and be a family. Both of us coming from divorced families, we committed to fight for our marriage, no matter what. And we’d quit smoking, drinking, and being stupid, selfish kids.

In 2005 we welcomed the most wonderful surprise we’ve ever gotten, and he changed our lives infinitely for the better.

I learned about health & wellness as I learned about breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, cloth-diapering, and baby-led-weaning. Soon I became an expert in attachment parenting.

I longed to grow that family I’d once not been interested in.

In 2008 Finian joined us, and for the first time in my life since turning 1 years old, I was part of a family with siblings that was together.

I cry as I write that.

I am truly grateful my parents knew they weren’t right for each other and made the decision to divorce before I was old enough to know the difference. But, it meant I grew up only knowing half-siblings and step parents my whole life and living separately from my brother and sisters. I knew the day I wanted to be with Matt forever: it was the first Thanksgiving I spent with his family, I fell in love not just with him – but with his family dynamic. There were brothers, parents, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and in-laws (well, at the time, girlfriends) all together, loving each other and enjoying each others’ company. It was special and I wanted to be a part of it.

And not just in 2008, but also in 2010 with Wesley, we created the family we both wanted.

I was the mom of boys, they were (are) all momma’s boys, and I’ve never loved anything as much as being a mother and wife to my best friend, partner, and father of my children.

But the truth was, the part of us that wanted to adopt and foster never went away.

In fact, we’d both wanted 4 children; but, my body was done after 3. Matt was one of 4 and I was one of 4, and I’d long thought (incorrectly) that the dynamic of families of 3 children meant someone would always feel sad or left out.

Way back in 2010, when we decided I’d have a tubal ligation with Wesley’s birth, we said to each other:

If we ever feel like our family isn’t complete, and we still want to help children who need homes, we will foster or adopt when the boys are older.

Which is exactly what we realized this fall.

So this year is a year of gratitude and giving back.

I cringe at saying “giving back” though, because for many of these children they’re being taken away. Life hasn’t been easy.

We are specifically looking to foster children who are older, “high risk,” and who have been through trauma. They may have experiences my boys’ potentially cannot fathom.

I look forward to the expansion of love, compassion, respect, knowledge, patience, empathy, and kindness as we welcome culture, memories, beliefs, and a background different from ours; we’ll learn from them.

We are grateful for the life we live, the family we love, and all the luxuries we are so fortunate to have. And I am grateful for all the intangible presents of presence anticipated as we expand our home in 2020.

It won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard.

Growth does not happen in the comfort zone.

And as I felt that pull for more, the minute the buyers’ fell through on the house, we knew this was a reason to stay in Virginia.

source, Virginia Foster Care Statistics 2019

A little more about the Foster & Adopt System

  • There are approximately 440,000 children in foster care across the United States (Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Report, August 2018 AFCARS)
  • The average length of time a child resides in foster care in the U.S in 12 months. (ACF)
  • There are approximately 125,000 children in foster care in the U.S. who are waiting for adoption (ACF)
  • Nearly 60,000 children in foster care in the U.S. get adopted each year (ACF)
  • 25% percent of children in foster care are adopted, often by their foster parents (ACF)
  • 20,000 children in foster care age out of the system at age 18 or 21 (ACF)
  • 20% of teens who age out of foster care will become instantly homeless (National Foster Youth Institute)
  • 70% of the young women who age out of foster care become pregnant before 21 (National Foster Youth Institute)

Other Virginia Foster Care Statistics:

  • Of the children in foster care in Virginia, 52% are boys and 48% are girls  VDSS)
  • 39% of Virginia children in foster care return to their birth family (VDSS)
  • The average age of children in Virginia who are waiting to be adopted is 9 years old. (VDSS)
  • 35% of children in foster care who are are waiting to be adopted are under the age of 5 (VDSS)
  • 30% of children in foster care who are are waiting to be adopted are over the age of 13 (VDSS)
  • Virginia ranks 49th out of 50 states in placing children in homes (Virginia Pilot)

source, UMFS Impact

About the program we are doing with UMFS in Virginia

  • It takes an average of 3 to 6 months to become a licensed foster parent through UMFS
  • 21 is the minimum age requirement to become a foster parent (VDSS)
  • There are 0 gender, cultural, ethnicity, marital status, educational, or home ownership requirements for becoming a foster parent (VDSS)
  • 8 is the maximum number of children in a foster care provider’s home, but most have significantly less (VDSS)
  • The standard maintenance payments paid to foster parents range from $450-700 per month depending on the age of the child. Annual clothing allowance is also age dependent and afforded to foster parents in the amount of $300-500 per year.
  • A family must foster a child for at least 6 months before the legal adoption process can begin

What We Expect

Our first training session was not sugar coated. We talked about a lot of worst case scenarios, worries we all had – or hadn’t thought of yet.

Three other couples were in attendance. The advocate explained that two of us would not come back. And that of the 2 who stayed, only one would go through with fostering. In the 60 couples (or individuals, you don’t need to be in a relationship) they talked to, only 1 would provide a home.

The program we are going through is for treatment fostering. The goal is reunification with family, where the parents retain parental rights. We work in partnership with UMFS, the children’s case workers, therapeutic counselors, and the child(ren) to give them the safest, most stable life possible.

It could be we foster as respite, which means provide short-term home while a long-term foster travels or needs time. Or we could foster – either a single child or same-sex siblings (based on the space we have available). Or we could foster to adopt, if a child with us does not have family to reunify with.

We are open to it all. We don’t have an age or gender preference. The age for foster children goes up to 21, but we anticipate child(ren) between the age of 9-16. We want to ensure our children are safe, but beyond that our goal is to help children.

We also anticipate needing to spend time nurturing and supporting the children. They could potentially have developmental needs, in addition to emotional needs. This is why my working less and having a flexible schedule aligns perfectly with this time in our lives to embark upon this journey.

all are welcome here at the Toth McCarry home

What Will Change

We traveled so much in 2019, we’re happy to take a break in 2020. Though, if we have a foster child over the summer, we anticipate taking them with us for family vacation.

Our home has a “guest” bedroom that will now be dedicated to foster child(ren).  When we have guests, our boys will bunk up and one of their bedrooms will be for guests.

We won’t share their personal identity, or anything about them. We are sharing our experience – to explain our why, as we always are real honest here. I hope to provide a resource that gives other families the inspiration, courage, and information they seek if considering anything similar.

We are Jon Snow, We Know Nothing

Our aim is to make the transition as seamless and natural as possible, for both the foster children and our own. While understanding, these children will have just gone through one of the greatest traumas of their lives – and no matter how wonderful we aim to be, we won’t be their family.

I’m sure we’ll look back at this post in a couple of years and laugh at our cavalier naivety. But right now, we’re filled with so much joy and hope. It feels right. We feel settled and at-ease in our lives and decision.

What Do Our Kids Think about Becoming a Foster Family?

Well, of course our teen and tween boys don’t say much about anything except memes and video games or they want something from us. But, we did have multiple family meetings and discussions, and in the future they’ll be included in the home study to ensure their thoughts or concerns are addressed. In the meantime, we continue to have conversation and talk about how it will (and won’t) impact them.

Wesley, 9

Our youngest, is passionate about the homeless. He inspired us to do volunteer work and make donations for the last several years. When we explained that children are often homeless or live in group homes without families, and read this book (What is a Foster Family, Anyway) UMFS recommended, his immediate response was, “Well of course we need to do this! How many children can we share our home with?”

Then a few minutes later, “Wait, will they be younger than me?”

Probably not.

“OK, good! I hope they’re about my age so we can play, but I like being the youngest!”

Finian, almost 12

It’s a cool idea and I’m glad we’re doing it. To help someone is pretty cool.

Cole, 14

Do I have to share a room?

No. 

OK, cool then. I hope it’s someone my age. Now that you have more time this is a good thing to do.

None of this would be possible without Beautycounter & this blog

This is all possible for us because I am home. A flexible schedule allows us time for various appointments the potential child(ren) will have, as well as time needed together. My ability to work at home, mentoring and supporting the team and helping you all love the skin you’re in gives us this gift. Matt actually starts his new job (the first real career since he started staying home with Finn in March of 2008) next week! 2019 was truly the year of change, and we are so grateful for it as we approach 2020 with much gratitude.

We appreciate your patience as we navigate this new world and prioritize time with family. We are excited to share this news we’ve been keeping to ourselves, and are so grateful for your support – past, present, and future!

 

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