Forever Parents

Forever parents are vital to the success of a youngster that turn 18 and ages out. Although a young person may move out on their own after they age out, but they still need support during this journey. Just because a kid graduates from high school, attends college, gets a job, or moves into an apartment doesn’t mean that they don’t need a parent or a support system.

They are still kids and they will still be hit by the curve-balls life throws at all of us.

Two years ago, we had our 17 year old daughter move out of our home and give independent living a shot. Humbly, she came back to our home at 19 years old when the couches she was surfing on dried up.

This wasn’t an “I told you so” moment, instead, I used it as a teaching moment. My goal was to teach her that it doesn’t matter how old she is, she will always be my child.

It also gave me an opportunity to show the younger kids in the house that this will always be their home. Regardless of what one of the family members are going through, mom and dad will be there to help.

I also know the statistics that she is up against.

African-American youth who have aged out of the foster care system are three times as likely as white youth formerly in foster care to be looking for work¹.

I remember being 18 years old; I thought I knew it all. However, once a week, I went back home to my dad’s house for a hot plate and some support. My Dad would slip me a $20 bill; he was my dad up until the day that he died and, God-willing, I will be the same for my children.

One day, my children will have children. If I did my job correctly, they will be forever parents to their children and a cycle will be broken.

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The adoption event for our son – showing that adoption (and parenting) has no age limit. 

 

(1.Statistic from Brookings Institute. (2012). Pathways to the Middle Class: Balancing Personal and Public Responsibilities. Washington, D.C.: Sawhill, I. et. al.)

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Taking the Credit

BEYOND BLESSED to have these two amazing beautiful people in life. No they are not my biological Mother and Father but they are my parents. I appreciate everything they ever done for me. They’ll go to war for me with whomever and for that I am grateful. They attend every sporting event and be the loudest ones every time 😂. From the hundreds of drills to learning how to drive to traveling everywhere, they have supported me through it all. I love you Mom and Dad!

12939545_10209784104778083_1132449560_nThese words that were expressed by my son were probably one of the most validating moments I’ve had; not only as a foster parent but a parent in general.

In a perfect world, parents thrive to teach our children to be candid, honest, and selfless. Now, candid I can do. Honesty…well, that’s a work in progress. However, selflessness is a struggle. As foster parents, if we are not selfless then we’d get eaten alive (and we should really check our motives). But, then again,  it is human nature to want to be appreciated for a job well done and, well, I have contributed to quite a few “jobs-well-done.

Being that my son’s post was on social media, I saw some of his biological family chime in on it. Saying things like

“I love you.”

“Good job. Way to go after it like I taught you.”

“I’m proud of you. When are you coming to visit?”
With my son’s growing success in athletics, academics, and employment, he has become quite popular and, with popularity, people usually want to put their hands in the pot of his progress; as if they had a hand in his recent ‘model citizen sculpture molding.’

It is hard for me not to scream from the rooftop:

“I provided that stability! I dried his tears!”

“I helped him with his homework!”

“I helped him with his resume so he could land that summer job! I DID THAT!”

When these thoughts start to rack my brain, I must remember this:God didn’t put me in his life so that I can take the credit for his accolades and success. But that reminder and demand for selflessness is why my son’s testimony was so meaningful. That public display of affection is an indescribable warm and fuzzy feeling that makes it all worth it. His words of affirmation are the shiny trophy that I can put on my mental mantle in my attempt to take the high road and remain selfless.

I will continue with molding my son. My goal is to make him feel safe and secure in my home while help him navigate his feelings and relationships with his biological family.

As a foster parent, we don’t deserve the credit, but I will take an occasional “attaboy” when my kid is successful under my watch.

Self-Care

1185604_10153185298545300_2097549972_nOn our first date my then girlfriend Stacey asked me if I’d ever consider Foster Care/Adoption. Without even thinking about it, I responded by simply saying, “yes.”

She likes to tell people that at that moment she knew that she would marry me.

Now, one might not think that this would be a topic of discussion on a first date, but we had been friends for 10 years before we dated. So at that point, any and all topics were up for discussion.

The weird topics worked, though. Two years later we were married. Three months later we were Foster Parents to two 13 and 15 year old brothers. I had two kids from a previous marriage, so just like that, after being married for only few months, we were a family of six.

Imagine you are dating for a quick minute. Everything is fresh and new; it’s exciting. You are constantly having your emotional cup filled by someone that you love and care about. The “I love you” texts; the quick two-minute phone calls just to hear her voice. You have dinner on a Tuesday night just because.

That was how you started out taking care of each other. Before kids, you also had time to take care of yourselves. If you wanted to go for a run, or to get your nails done, you simply went when it was convenient.

Then the day comes for you to bring your kiddos home. Life as you knew it is now much different. Those lovable parasites have sucked all of the emotion out of your cup. By the time you get home from work, prepared dinner, help with homework, take Johnny to basketball practice, bribe them to take showers, and get them to bed, you are exhausted. All you want is a pillow. Three weeks of this and  you look up to see you haven’t taken care of yourself once.

Ahh, but there is a solution. Intentionality!

In order to take care of yourself you must be intentional about it.

Self-care is a vital component to surviving as a Foster Parent. On an airplane, they give you swift instructions on what to do in case of an emergency. “Put the mask on yourself, before you put it on someone else.” The reason for this is that we must make sure that we are okay before everyone else can be okay. Nothing can be truer when it comes to being a Foster Parent.

Do my wife and I still take care of each other and practice self-care? Absolutely we do

It’s different now that we have five children in our home. Time management is huge and good communication is imperative. We are lucky enough to have things in common that we can do together. We are both basketball coaches – our definition of a Date-night is going to a high school basketball game. I’ll still go hoop with buddies and Stacey will still go get her nails done, but now it has to be put on the family calendar.

We still do “happy hour,” except it is at 9pm after the little ones go to bed. We still get coffee in the morning before the kids wake up and the day turns to chaos. We take lunch dates while the kids are at school.  We also make a point to go away for a night once a month without kids. Ultimately, all these ways of sneaking in self care has to be deliberate, intentional, and constructed with the support of others. 

Being a Foster Parent has been one of the most rewarding things that I have ever done. It has also been one of the most stressful. So in order to fill the role of a foster dad and chase my goals and dreams,  I know I need to focus on my own well-being as well.