This post is part of the ‘Tales From The Other Side Of …’ series. There are so many stages, achievements, milestones and heartbreaks we go through as parents and whatever we are experiencing, whether good, bad, exciting or terrifying, it’s always nice to know someone else has already done it and come through the other side. To find out how you can get involved and share your story/tips and tricks click here. Today we have the lovely Phil & All from Parents Toolbelt with the story of how they became foster parents after already raising four children.
You’re going to do what?
The question isn’t always asked in words. Sometimes it’s just the raising of an eyebrow, or a tone in the voice. We completely understand it, of course. Half the time we think we’re positively certifiable ourselves.
You see, we were so close to the end of the race, with the finish line in view. And all of a sudden, we’re right back at the starting blocks parenting a toddler. Changing diapers (“nappies” for our British friends), broken sleep, playdates and all the rest of it.
Our four older children are 25, 23, 21 and 16, and very much self-sufficient. One is married, three are working, only one left in high school.
What would possess us to become foster parents to an infant now?
To answer that we have to start at the beginning.
Alli was adopted at 6 days of age. She was raised in a very loving home, but never knew her biological parents.
In the early years of our marriage, we would sometimes talk about finding Alli’s birth family. She would always say that she didn’t feel a great need to do so – she’d had a wonderful childhood with her adoptive family. But there remained a curiosity. A doctor would ask “Is there a history of … [some condition or other] … in your family?” And she could never answer. It would be nice to know some things.
Finally, in our mid-30’s (and with three children of our own already), we filled out the paperwork with an organization called “Jigsaw” to see if they could track down any of Alli’s family.
You’re told not to expect any news quickly. That the process of finding family moves slower than a glacier. It can take months, or years … and in some cases, no relatives are ever found, especially after more than 3 decades of separation.
Our phone call came within 24 hours.
The case worker on the other end was clearly quite shaken. She explained that our application had arrived on her desk, and reading through the details caused her to start rummaging through her in-tray. The very day before, an almost identical (a “matching”, as it turned out) application had arrived.
After more than 30 years, Alli’s papers crossed a worker’s desk within 24 hours of her two sisters’ application trying to find her.
Cue “The Twilight Zone” theme music.
It would take a post of its own to tell the whole story of what happened next. In short, it was a wonderful experience. Alli met her siblings, and learned a lot about her family. Her birth parents had already passed away, so she never met them. But it was a typical story of a profound mental illness making an impossible situation in the home. Being adopted had spared Alli from a lot.
But something else came out of that whole experience of reunification. A deep sense in Alli that she had been given a gift … a gift that she had a responsibility to “pay forward”.
We decided that one day, when the timing was right for our own biological family, we would open our home and our hearts for a child. That we would foster and / or adopt, and seek to provide the same love for a child that had been so extravagantly poured out for Alli by her adoptive family.
15 Years Later
That desire never left Alli, and we always knew we would do it … one day. In 2016, the time was finally right. With all our children doing fine and very much self-sufficient, we knew THEY were ready, and so were we.
We attended an information evening at our local office of the Department of Children and Families, and signed up on the spot to begin the mandatory training – one full night each week for 13 weeks. It turned out to involve quite a bit of homework, and enough paperwork to destroy a small forest.
Finally, though, we were licensed as a foster family, and within hours a precious little girl was brought to live with us. The beginning of our foster story.
Our “Tale from the Other Side” …
So, here we are on the other side of “there and back again”. After 25 years of parenting, we are right back at the start with a toddler. We have no idea where this journey will lead, and that’s a bit scary at times … but it’s okay. Fostering has it’s great challenges … but even greater joys.
How is our view from the other side? It’s pretty wonderful actually. Our home is noisy, our lives are busy, and our hearts are full.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you’ve ever had the thought of fostering or adopting, we encourage you to get more information. There are SO many children that need a safe and loving family. Some for a while … some forever. It doesn’t matter where in the world you live, you’ll find that those kids are in your town or city.
Thank you so much to Phil & Alli for sharing this amazing story. There are so many children out there who need a loving family to care for them and help them through what must be a very traumatic experience for them. The world could certainly do with a lot more people like this.
Phil & Alli have been married for almost 29 years. They write for parents on their blog, Parents Toolbelt, where you can read more of their story. You can also find them on the social media links below: