Guest Blogger, Brittany K.
Many times, when I see friends or meet people they ask, “What made you decide to foster?” or “Did you just wake up one day and decide?” Honestly, the simple answer is—everything and no.
I had my license for just over a year, and I have my first placement for seven months now, but the seeds had been planting for a long time. And I know the next question that usually follows is, “How long will you have him?” My answer is always, as long as he will have me.
Before reaching out to a licensing agency, I had experience with family, friends, and organizations caring for foster children. My grandparents were involved in fostering when I was young and working with AZ Helping Hands opened my eyes even more for the need to get involved. I started helping with birthday bags and their organized drive events and was hooked. My birthday is every year around the holiday drive and the toy pick-up has now become how I celebrate with my family. The array of services and volunteer opportunities is over-the-top and has something that caters to anyone in the community that wants to get involved or needs support.
After four years of participating and hearing the needs of the community, I started to leave the events and volunteer opportunities feeling like I need and could do more. I love getting my friends and family rallied around donating gifts and supplies or calling families to remind them of the pickup procedures but what about the actual kids that aren’t getting these services and have that advocate?
I bought my house in 2018 and started to look at my spare bedroom thinking this could be a safe spot for a kiddo to get some rest. So scared, excited, nervous, you name it, I started to explore becoming a foster parent. I didn’t know it but over the last few years, Dan and the staff at AZ Helping Hands were giving me the support and tools I needed to make this decision. I found a foster agency (there are many in Arizona, but I work with HRT) and jumped in with both feet.
As I went on this journey, I also started building a network of other foster and adoptive families that has become mine and my child’s support system. I finished the licensing process as the 2020 pandemic was ramping into full swing and every day worried about the kids that did not have school to turn to for a safe place of support. Then, I got the call and in about two hours, I was blessed with a three-week-old baby straight from the hospital. Instantly, I called my mom and knew I had an amazing adventure ahead.
Driving home I kept talking to Baby Boy and telling him that we would figure this out together and I would make sure that he felt safe and loved. I had been collecting items over the last year, so I was lucky to have the basics when we got the call, but our first outing was to Target.
You put in your license age ranges in five-year increments but do communicate your interests to your agency to help you prepare. After getting the essentials (formula, diapers, and other items), it wasn’t long before we started getting calls from all of Baby Boy’s networks (that’s what we call all his official caregivers). From the NICU nurse to DCS, to therapists, to family support teams, there are a lot of people ready to help and provide services. These are ongoing and we still have about seven people in our network team that we work with regularly.
I think the important part to know is you are not navigating it alone, yes GOOGLE does become a staple for everything but there are so many resources. (Yes, I had to GOOGLE before picking up Baby how to get the base off the car seat.) These resources are just the ones that you have a part of the system and you will also find there are six degrees of separation for people connected to foster care you never knew before.
So, we have our network but then we also have our Baby Boy fan club. Going through this process and becoming a new mom in a couple of hours, these people have been a huge part of supporting Baby but also me. My family and friends have been an amazing support system for me. In addition, we have a group of neighbors that we walk with daily, which is great when you are trying to keep Baby awake before bedtime.
We have our church family at Living Streams that have been instrumental in helping support us with the roller coaster of feelings and emotions that come with the process. And again, the six degrees of separation of people involved in the foster care system that really is foster care GOOGLE. People are so important in this process! It isn’t just becoming a parent, there are some sleepless nights of just worrying about the system, the present situation, the future, it can seem endless sometimes. Reach out! I had to actually make myself a little sign “It’s safe to ask for help. People want to support me.”
Lastly, I just want to provide some different resources that have been a game-changer for us. First, Taking Cara Babies is amazing support of sleep, schedules, and just baby knowledge. Second, Solid Starts is so helpful for introducing foods and navigating when and how to start solids. I will also mention again Arizona Helping Hands. They can help with every step of the way, resources, license agencies, license items you will need in your home, cribs and supplies, you name it!
If you are curious or even have a small push inside you about becoming a foster parent, REACH OUT! You do not realize how many people are involved or have been affected by foster care and your circle grows every day. Also, know if you aren’t ready or don’t have the ability to take a child into your home there are so many ways you can support the foster community. Another organization that has been a big impact on us and really helps our community is Homeless Youth Connection. Older kids are a big part of the population and they are also the ones just trying to blend in and do not raise their hand for help.
You can help in so many ways even donating a ride for a teen to a doctor’s appointment or providing toiletries. We also love Giving Sole, which was started by a foster family providing new shoes to foster kids of all ages. We started with volunteering and getting involved with these organizations and that truly got me ready for taking the next leap to open my home and becoming a mom.
And if you are reading this, you have already found Foster Arizona that can help you with an incredible amount of support and getting you connected to help.