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November 1, 2019

We’re Officially Licensed for Transition Foster Care!

If you’ve been following along on my Instagram, then you know we started the process to get certified for Transitional Foster Care (TFC) mid August! We tried to get through the entire certification process pretty quickly and from start to getting our first two placements, it took about 2 months.

As we’ve been telling family and friends all about TFC, here’s some of the most common questions we’ve been getting:

What is Transitional Foster Care?

The agency we’re working with, Bethany Christian Services, explains it well here! In essence, “transitional foster care provides a safe, temporary home to unaccompanied children while we pursue their reunification with family in the United States.

Children needing transitional foster care are fleeing unsafe conditions (like violence, extreme poverty, unexpected separation from family, gang extortion, or sex trafficking) in Central America, with the most common countries being Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. However, unaccompanied children may also flee violence from other countries, and the U.S. is their first country of asylum.”

Here’s some quick facts about this program:

  • Almost all children will exclusively speak Spanish
  • Unaccompanied minors in the TFC program are not, and never will be, available for adoption
  • Average length of stay in a foster home is 30-90 days (subject to change and the current average is 25 days)
  • Unaccompanied minors often suffer from post-traumatic stress and common forms of trauma stemmed from abandonment or physical abuse.  Children may be dysregulated as they adjust to life in a new country and as a result of the experiences they have had.

Why are you doing this?

Since my sophomore year of college I’ve felt a strong desire to one day foster and/or adopt. The book “Anything” by Jenni Allen was a huge inspiration for this desire! Drew has always been on board but over our first three years of marriage, we had a LOT of transitions (Drew’s masters program, starting + going full time in our photography business, moving to a new state…just to name a few!) so the timing never made sense. That all changed at the beginning of July 2019!

A woman came and spoke at our church about a newer program in Indiana which just so happen to be Transition Foster Care. I was all in as soon as she started speaking haha. While she talked I prayed that the Lord would make His timing clear & that Drew and I would be on the same page- he would be the deal breaker! We went to the informational meeting after the church service and in that meeting Drew asked a few questions so I could tell he was seriously considering. When we got to the car, the first thing Drew said was, “So…when do we need to buy some car seats?” and we both just laughed. We took time to pray about it and re-evaluate our finances + work schedules and ultimately decided this was a perfect season of life to say “yes” to this scary step of faith!

How can we help?

Soo many people have been texting & messaging us how they can help- we are SO grateful for your love + support in this journey!! To specifically support us, we created an Amazon wish list of things to have on hand so we’ll be prepared as we continue to take kiddos! We are grateful for any used items (like bikes, scooters, PJs, barbies, toys, etc.) as well- the wish list is simply ideas for the items that would be helpful to have!

https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2T57FHF9TOVUG/ref=nav_wishlist_lists_2?_encoding=UTF8&type=wishlist

There are a lot of other ways you can get involved/help out too! Most states are offering this program so you can:

  • Donate toys, toiletries, clothes, etc. (given directly to families doing TFC or dropped off at agencies)
  • Babysit- this does require a background check, fingerprints, and some paperwork but it’s totally manageable and a HUGE blessing to families!
  • Help with school pick up/drop off for working parents
  • Certified for respite care only- this is where you go through the entire process but would only take short term placements (a few days at a time) to provide relief for families as they go on vacation, travel out of state, etc. With this specific program, children may not leave the state under any circumstances so this can be a HUGE blessing!!
  • Go all the way & get certified for placements of your own- you’d have children ~1-3 months at a time
  • Listen to podcasts on refugees. A great resource is episode #97 “Love Refugees as Yourself” by Culture Matters
  • Volunteer to mentor refugees (like Kentucky Refugee Ministries)

Do you still want to have your own kids?

We’ve gotten this question + “are you unable to have kids” a lot! Lord willing, YES we would absolutely love to have children!! We know this is an absolute gift, something we’re not entitled to, and can be very difficult. To be completely transparent- we’re still hoping to wait a little bit before trying for biological kids. We are hopeful that, in God’s perfect timing, our family will be a mix of adopted or fostered and biological children.

How long are you planning to do TFC?

That’s a great question! You know as much as we do haha. We’re planning to take it one placement at a time. With the nature of being wedding photographers, we travel a lot May-October so we likely wouldn’t accept any placements during that time BUT we’re really just figuring it out as we go!

What is your role as TFC parents?

“Foster parents are asked to provide a safe environment and a loving home for a child during a difficult life transition. Foster parents provide transportation to and from school, emotional support, and serve as a valued member of our treatment teams that help to assess and meet the needs of each child.” -Bethany Christian Services

The above paragraph sums it up perfectly! We just want kids to be kids– to not have to worry about being safe, fed, clothed, loved, etc.

I will add that neither Drew or I speak much Spanish. We are quickly learning + using the Google Translator app + practicing on DuoLingo daily. It’s definitely a plus if you’re fluent/conversant in Spanish! However, it’s totally doable if you don’t speak much of the language and that wouldn’t prohibit certification (we’re prime examples!). The agency provides a lot of support + resources! We’re super grateful for our church community as many of them who do speak Spanish well have gone above and beyond to help!

What’s the certification process like?

It’s the same certification process as domestic foster care plus some additional paperwork specific to this program. Check out my Instagram “Foster Care” highlights to see BTS of this process! Its 16 total hours of initial training. To yearly keep your license, additional hours are required. While the following may seem overwhelming, they agency provides SO much help/support so it doesn’t feel as daunting!! I really liked to see the whole picture before diving in so having this step by step laid out was helpful for me.

1. Paperwork (part 1) This is the same paperwork you have to do for domestic foster care + adoption. In additional to the physical paperwork, a background check is required (~$39/person) and if you’ve lived out of the state for more than 6 years, you’ll have to get background checks from that location too. For us that meant clearances in both Ohio (~$10) and Indiana.

2. Attend RAPT (Resource Adoptive Parent Training) We did our training Monday-Thursday from 6-9pm but there was also options to do 2 Saturdays or mix it up (1 Saturday + 2 week nights). Depending on your state & agency the specific training schedule/details may vary. We had a few friends from church going through the training at the same time so that made it a lot more fun for us!!

3. First Aid / CPR training/ Universal Precautions certifications We attended a 3 hour training on all things CPR + First Aid. This was super helpful and informative…could be helpful for all parents to do!! Depending on your state & agency the specific training schedule/details may vary. Just FYI: Even if you’ve previously had these certifications, you’ll likely need to do it again!

4. Three in person home study interviews These weren’t nearly as intimidating as I thought they would be! They gather information on marriage, family history, parenting, and ensure the home is safe and has enough room for children. It essentially felt like a more in-depth interview (a lot covered in paperwork part 1) and a walk through of our house to make sure it can safely accommodate kids.

They told us everything we needed to change around the house (moving all knives so they weren’t accessible, child locks on cabinets + door knobs + outlets, etc.) so that felt helpful to know what we needed to do specifically at our house. We actually didn’t have the kid’s bedroom 100% set up for our first home study so there’s grace in that too! Here’s a little peek into the kiddo room! We’re trying to keep it color neutral because we could get boys or girls placed with us. Need a few more girl toys then we’ll be set!

bunk beds & bears: IKEA, book shelves: Amazon, rug: Target, toys + basket + bedding: Big Lots

It’s required to have a fire extinguisher + CO2 detectors on every level of the house and a fire alarm in every room of the house- this is helpful to have done prior to the initial visit. It also saves time to have the square footage of your house, year it was build, and specific square footage of all bedrooms ready ahead of time too! We had all our child proof locks purchased by this time as well. This included: slide locks for our hallway cabinet, outlet covers, lock for the cabinet under our kitchen sink, & door knob covers I highly recommend having a child proof lock on all exits in case the child is a flight risk…not super common but does happen

5. Submit Paperwork (part 2) This is specific paperwork for the ORR (Office of Refuge Resettlement)

6. Review Home study Ours was 16 pages and was a written culmination of our interviews + paperwork. You just have to read through it and check that all information is correct. Send back with any changes + sign & you’re done!

7. Everything gets submitted to DCS for approval This can take a few days, weeks, or months depending on the state/time of year. Luckily ours only took 2 days!

8. Certified!! We are officially certified to have 2 children at a time! We did respite care (a family who the kids have been with but they went on vacation out of state) for our very first placement which felt like such a nice way to step into the process. Now we wait to either get a placement of our own or continue to provide respite care for other families!

**All information in quotes is provided by Bethany Christian Services

I hope this brought some clarity to what we’re doing, the program and how you can be a part of it! If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out through the comments below, email or IG message!!

Cheers,

Monica & Drew

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