Posts Tagged ‘foster care’

Fostering Families Part 2: The Gross Family

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Gross family photoOver the next month, we will be doing a three part series on fostering. According to childrensrights.org, on any given day, there are more than 400,000 children without permanent homes in the United States. Of those children, most of them will remain in the State’s care for over two years, some for much longer. Each of these families has a unique and impactful experience.

Anne Gross and her husband would be the first to tell you that their household is loud and crazy at times. With 5 adopted siblings, a rescue dog and 4 rescue cats, they say, “Our home is full of people, animals, and love!”

The Gross’s dated for three years before they married in Hawaii and actively discussed their passion for adoption early on in their courtship. As Anne explained, “I have always wanted to adopt. My husband is a cancer survivor and we had explored trying IVF, but adoption was always our first choice and never a back-up plan.”

Anne’s husband works in computers as an Operations Engineer while she works part time as an aid at their children’s school. They love to travel, are big foodies, and enjoy kayaking. Their adoption journey took a surprising turn 4 years ago when they went from wanting to adopt a baby to fostering a sibling set of five, 3 boys and two girls, that at the time ranged in ages 5-13. The children lived with the Gross’s for six months before they officially joined the family through adoption on March 13, 2012. The Gross’s are now advocates for adoption and keeping sibling sets together.

How did you first get started with fostering? 

My husband and I were approved and on a waiting list with a private adoption agency to adopt a baby. We even had nursery ready to welcome our new bundle of joy. Then we happened to sit in on a meeting about foster care. Here we were on a waiting list for a baby when thousands of older children are on a waiting list for a forever home. We immediately removed our name from a waiting list for a baby, donated our nursery full of baby stuff, and signed up for foster classes. This felt right. Our hearts felt peace and we knew we were on the right path for our own personal adoption journey. Two weeks before our foster care classes were over, our licensing worker called and told us about a sibling group of five that had a close knit bond. They longed to be adopted together. Our hearts exploded with love for them the moment we saw their photos. We had found our children.

What qualities do you and your family possess that make you good foster parents? 

I would say unconditional love, structure, as well as patience and understanding. It is a process for everyone to find that new normal. It takes time. We also had to set realistic expectations.

What did you/do you find most challenging? 

Our kids are really resilient and amazing! I think as parents we had a harder time adjusting. We definitely had moments where we felt spread thin at times; they were so eager to feel love and meeting 5 kids’ emotional needs can be a challenge! The cycle of grief is real. Triggers happen.

What have you found most rewarding? 

Raising 5 kids has made our dreams come true! We may have missed some of the kids “firsts” but we have experienced other “firsts” like getting their driver’s license, their first kisses, being able to give them experiences at nice restaurants, first plane ride, first trip to Disneyland, first fishing, camping trip, the list goes on!

What were your biggest concerns prior and have those concerns been managed or have they just changed as you’ve gone through the process? 

Josh and I were nervous as certain issues came up with each of our children. They have been through hell and back. Having a good therapist is a MUST! We wouldn’t have been able to deal with the issues and our concerns on our own. Reaching out for help, having a support group is important.

Have you met the children prior to them staying in your home? 

Only 2 weeks before!

What types of help and support do you receive? Therapy!

What have you learned from the experience?

We both have learned so much about ourselves. We teach our kids we are all human and it’s OK to mess up. We aren’t perfect parents either but we gave birth to our five kids from our heart. Love is thicker than blood.

What’s the most important thing you’d want people to know/understand about fostering? 

There are so many wonderful kids stuck in the system that are on a waiting list for a forever home. I hope our personal experience can help plant seeds in others hearts.

See the Gross Family on Ellen:

 Tessa Wesnitzer is a mom of two boys and a fitness coach. She lives and writes outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Fostering A Child When You Have Kids

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

Fostering when you have childrenOver the next month, we will be doing a three part series on fostering. According to childrensrights.org, on any given day, there are more than four hundred thousand children without permanent homes in the United States. Of those children, most of them will remain in the State’s care for over two years, some for much longer. Each of these families has a unique and impactful experience. This is the Anderson’s story.

Callie and her husband have been together for over 10 years.  They have two biological kids under the age of 5 and a current foster baby under the age of 1. Callie’s husband works in law enforcement while she works in healthcare.  They both love to travel, explore, cook, and experience life. I interviewed Callie six months after her first placement.

What was your motivation for fostering?

I have always felt called to fostering. Working in healthcare, we are exposed to the good, bad and ugly sides of the foster system. Seeing the need day in and day out, I have always had a hard time walking away from children in need.  My husband was against fostering–he was terrified of the stress it would put on our marriage and the attention it would take away from our children. He admittedly had no grounding on what fostering would mean for our marriage.  It took over 5 years, but he finally agreed to learn about fostering and took some classes with me. Early into the classes his opinion changed, and all the sudden we had our first placement.

Once you had decided to be a foster, how did you begin the process?

I offered–as a health care worker, we can qualify for placement as kinship as we already know and have a relationship with our patients.  I spoke to my social worker, who talked to DCS.  We then prayed and told God that we were willing, but it was up to Him to do the work because we were clueless–literally.

What qualities do you think make you a good foster parent?

Our family strength is communication. We listen to each other and are devoted to each other.  No one person is more important than another–we do our best to meet the needs of each person. Our children are raised to be aware of their feelings and to feel empowered to talk about their feelings. This is a HUGE need for bio children. Our other strengths include our education in discipline. We took voluntary parenting classes shortly after our first bio child was born. We have a lot of collective knowledge in child development and the legal process because of our careers.

What has been the most challenging part of the experience, thus far?

The most challenging aspect of fostering has been giving up control.  We cannot try to control the process or anticipate how it will end. When we try to do this, the balance is upset. There is a diverse group of people who are trying to decide what is best for our child–we have to continually reset and tell God, “This is your plan–this is your decision. We are merely your hands and feet.” Reunification is a hard pill to swallow for many—that’s when the child you are fostering is placed back in their biological home. We agree that reunification has to be the goal. Our job is to ensure the safety of the child and speak up when they cannot. People can change. People should be allowed to change. We strive to support the bio parents and not set them up for failure.

What has been the most rewarding part of the experience for you?

 The most rewarding aspect has been smiles and the knowledge that we are starting this little life out with love. The knowledge that no matter what happened, we have allowed many important brain connections to complete and these can never be taken away from the child. The love–our love for each other and our Foster has grown.  It has strengthened all our bonds.

What were your biggest concerns prior to the process and have those concerns changed over the course of the process?

 Of course there are always the obvious: How will this child’s trauma impact our children? Will our children be hurt or feel left out because a foster needs more attention? Is the commitment too taxing to maintain the family balance we have? Most of these concerns have not played out in our current situation, but we are prepared for them by our classes and support group should we encounter them in the future. We know how to identify needs and use our strengths to overcome them. I think having faith has really diminished a lot of my worries.

How have your bio children adjusted to your foster?

The kids have such an open heart. They love their foster sibling.  Both have readily accepted him into our daily living.  We make sure each child gets some one-on-one attention.

Tessa Wesnitzer is a health and wellness coach who lives in a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves her husband, two boys, black tea, long runs, and snowy winters.