Tuesday, March 24, 2015

{Please} Don't call me a Good Foster Parent

Five years ago, Mike and I were called to something new. Something completely foreign. Unknown. We were nervous, unsure of the needed steps, and completely blind as to where the journey would take our family. We stepped out in faith--because we were called, and because it was the right thing to do.

We became foster parents.

copyright 2015 LeAnne Klopfenstein

To say we got off to a slow start would be an understatement. It took 6 months before we did respite care and then those children became our first placement--both things triggered because we offered to care for the foster children of some of our friends. When the placement ended, we put our license on hold for nearly a year--and then went back to waiting for the phone to ring.

Finally, the phone rang in the fall of 2011, and we slowly got into a rhythm. We had two short-term placements over the course of 4 months, and then our first long-term placement came in June 2012. That "rhythm period" is still ongoing, and has involved many people:  4 licensing workers, 2 case workers, 4 judges, an adoption lawyer, and 1 adoption specialist. State's attorneys, Guardian ad Litems, Case Review administrators, and many people within our agency who have varied roles and responsibilities. We've learned new terminology and feel relatively knowledgeable of how court hearings progress.

Through it all, there is a phrase to which I'm becoming more and more sensitive. What used to feel like praise brings immense heartache:
You're one of the good foster families.  {or} We love having good foster parents like you!

Quite simply, I should not stand out! I want to be as average as they come. Don't the kids within the foster care system deserve equal love & attention? To know they matter? To find security in the midst of their uncertain world?

  • My house isn't big. And it's never immaculate.
  • We aren't wealthy. I've learned the art of humility when family & friends help meet our needs.
  • I'm irritated when our foster daughter's mom doesn't show up for her weekly visits....and then I struggle on the weeks mom does arrive. It's a constant battle against self.
  • Yes, there is pain & loss when a child leaves our home. We haven't become immune, and are left raw every time.
  • I get frustrated with "the system" when we have to wait an additional 5 weeks for an MRI because the first set of paperwork didn't get completed by the state in time.
  • Knowing we are the 24/7 caregivers yet are merely the 'temporary' solution until the child goes home or until an adoption is finalized stings a bit.
  • I'm frustrated when the phone doesn't ring...and then I panic when we do get a call to take a child. It's a constant prayer of wondering what God wants us to do at any given moment or situation.
But within all my struggles of self, the key needs for each child are met in the simplest ways.
  • Love.  Every child is cared for, provided for, and protected. Everyone deserves love.
  • Laughter. Silliness brings a joy to me, Mike, our own kids, and to our foster kids. Everyone deserves joy.
  • Security.  Quite simply, we are here to bring peace to those in turmoil. Everyone deserves peace.
  • Consistency. To sleep in the same bed each night. To have a daily routine. Learn good behaviors. It takes time. Everyone deserves patience.
  • Kindness and praise. Affirmation is so very powerful. Everyone deserves kindness.
  • Compassion.  Overcome their hurt with good things. Everyone deserves goodness.
  • Steadiness. To know their foster parents are always rooting for them. Everyone deserves faithfulness.
  • Soft words. Some children have never heard anything except shouting. Everyone deserves gentleness.
  • Healthy discipline. It puts the needs of the child above my selfish attitude. Everyone deserves to have someone model self-control.
The simplest things are the things that matter most. And my biggest prayer is for others to step out beyond all their inadequacies and, quite simply, meet the needs that matter so that I can become just an average foster parent.

copyright 2015 LeAnne Klopfenstein

Friday, March 6, 2015

"My Daddy!" {the beauty of adoption}

Any mom will tell you she loves all her kids the same.  But if she is honest, a mom can list specific things about each child that add layers to her unique, individual love for them.  From the ways they laugh or dance around, to the ways they overcome challenges & fears, those connections fill a mama's heart.

Kaitlin~  She's my 14 going on 23 girl.  Confident, independent and a natural-born leader.  Full of compassion and laughter.  Sometimes my biggest challenge, but also the biggest forgiver I've ever met.  The one I see myself in more often than I'd like to admit.  Above all, she made me a mama, and blessed me with so many "firsts"--my first positive pregnancy test, first ultrasound, first time I got to name a person.  I pray those first moments continue with her for a very long time.

Connor~ My almost-a-teenager guy.  The kid I have the hardest time following through with discipline and "tough love" when needed because he reminds me so much of his daddy.  The boy who looks just like my brothers, yet has my husband's humor and charisma imbedded into his DNA.  My 7th grader who is still my sweet boy.  And I love the way he has always rooted for the "outsiders" and stood up to bullies on their behalf--even in the midst of feeling a little on the outside himself.

Kylie~  My 10 year old peacemaker.  The girl I wish my grandma was still alive to see; I am convinced that she is JUST like my own mom as a child, for she reminds me of my grown mom nearly every day.  A delightful combination of quiet and hilarious.  She constantly puts the desires of others above her own and is the peacekeeper.  Kylie's discernment of right & wrong is almost always accurate and present.  I love the way she is a tried and true friend, caring cousin, and compassionate sister.

And then there is Charlie.

Charlie, the 2 year old who lives to make us laugh.  The blue-eyed blonde who runs around his daddy's office (AKA the church office) slapping high-fives, giving fist-bumps, and helping himself to the M&M stash.

Charlie, who I still stare at in wonder that he is truly ours.  The boy who I know I didn't birth yet feel like I did birth all at the same time.  The boy who was born as the perfect sibling for my older three--the one who joins them all together. The boy I look at with awe because God chose us to become his forever family.

Charlie, the boy who looks out the window, sees Mike coming home from work, and hollers two words that bring a lump to my throat every time:

"My Daddy"--it sums up Charlie's love and adoration of Mike.  It reveals to me in a very concrete way how Mike has stepped in a filled a gap in Charlie's life the same way God stepped in and filled a gap in my life when I accepted Christ as my Savior.  And it's because of the love God has for me--for Charlie--for all of us--that will allow us to explain Charlie's adoption to him in a beautiful way as he gets older and begins asking questions.

I am so grateful that God has allowed me to be a mom.  And the fact that adoption was part of His plan?  That's pretty special, too.