Last night was a perfect night for this foster momma. I attended the Raise Hope & Foster Dreams event, saw some wonderful foster family friends, spent some time with my sons sisters adoptive mom and met some wonderful new people that support foster families.
Up first Judge Sharon Guffee, Williamson County Juvenile Court Judge, spoke about the need of the foster care system in Williamson County. Then afterwards we were able to hear from Lisa Brookover, the DCS Mid-Cumberland Regional Administrator and the numbers she provided were staggering.
In Williamson County ALONE:
We have 119 children in custody.
Their ages break down as follows:
That makes 42% of children in custody being over 13 years old!
43% of these children are placed in DCS homes
30% are placed in provider homes (OmniVisions, Youth Villages, etc)
There are ONLY 77 foster homes in Williamson County
(7th WEALTHIEST County in the country)
31% of the DCS homes remain empty
36 % of provider homes are empty
That means that 26 homes or 34% of all foster homes in Williamson County remain empty.
All too often people are 'scared' of bringing in the older children, they want the sweet little squishy babies, they don't want sibling sets, they don't want the 'issues' that come with certain children, teens are scary. Ok, here's my momma breakdown.
Babies are sweet, squishy and smell oh so delicious BUT an older child is able to have a conversation with you, they are able to bathe themselves, they are able to help you get to know them and understand their trauma. Older children need love and homes, they need stability. YES, an older child has most likely seen trauma... they have experiences in their young lives that no child should but they can talk about them. My 13 year old is full of sass, it's not because she was adopted or in foster care, it's because she's a teenager.. it comes with the territory, she isn't a 'bad kid' she's just a teen. Many of our teens in care don't know what a normal family looks like, they don't understand what stability, love, boundaries, or structure are so there is a learning curve to it.
I get that adding a sibling set is TERRIFYING! I mean, honestly I've had my "OH MY GOSH WHAT DID WE DO" moments. We went from 2 self sufficient children that got up, ate breakfast and dressed themselves to having 5 with 3 NOT being able to do any of those things. We have had our home flipped upside-down with these new ones BUT we figure it out. We have dance parties, we have family dinner and we have fun.
I recently spoke to a foster momma friend of mine, Jennifer Sackett, and she said this:
"Sibling packs are one of the best ways we as foster parents can help keep some sense of normalcy and family for these guys. Our true goal as foster parents is to help reunite the family and teach the entire family how to be a and work as a - strong family unit. I hate to say that most people become foster parents with the end goal of adoption and not the correct reason for fostering in the first place. That is why, in my humble opinion, most licensed homes remain empty. Because the child/children in need are not the "type" of child the home wants to help. Which goes against everything you agree to while going through the foster care certification trainings. I think we as foster parents sometimes need a reminder of why we started this mission in the first place."
Before you think YOU know what is best for you - open your mind and your heart to the possibility that you may not be right. We originally said NO sibling sets, emphatically. I just knew that we (I) could not handle it ... yet that is all we've had in the past year and we have been blessed by it. We have simply learned how to do it, we have been given the strength to get through the rough days.