On Parenting

I’ve been giving a little bit of thought to what lies ahead after Carlos and Christion move out, and some of that thought has been put into perhaps fostering a child. I’ve been looking into it, and checking out the requirements, all of which I meet, but I think I am going to spend the rest of the year losing some weight and getting in shape so there is no doubt about the physical health aspect. I saw this and it made me sad:

The characteristics that are used to describe special needs are defined as:

Over the age of 8 which presents a barrier to adoption
A physical or mental disability
Serious emotional maladjustment
A recognized high risk of physical or mental disability
Over the age of 2 and has a racial or ethnic factor
A member of a sibling group who should be placed together
Has been certified as a special needs child by the department

Many children awaiting adoptive families were removed from their biological families due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. These children have endured hardships, sadness, loss of relationships, and abuse. All of these children deserve a permanent home. Without a permanent, loving adoptive home, these children face the likelihood of entering adulthood with no parental guidance or support. We believe that all children deserve a loving, safe home.

That’s messed up. Where I live would be a great place for a kid over the age of 8, so I’m going to put this on the backburner and get my fat ass in shape. Do any of you have any experience with adoption/fostering?






101 replies
  1. 1
    Brendancalling says:

    Talk to the guy who runs upyernoz. I can introduce you, he’s a dear friend of mine. Also, Steve who used to blog at all spin zone.

  2. 2
    Poopyman says:

    This post may be in “other”, but I suggest creating a new tag, since this isn’t going to be the last post on this topic. Oh no, Precious.

    You’re awesome, btw.

  3. 3
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Not going to tell you how to live your life, but I have some experience with parenting, and it’s frequently helpful to have someone around to share the duties with, or to offer a different perspective on a current issue.

  4. 4
    MomSense says:

    Wow, John you would be great at this. And the lucky kid would get a Lily, Rosie, Steve, and Thurston for siblings. Good luck with the getting in shape part, too.

  5. 5
    Betty Cracker says:

    I don’t know anything about adoption / fostering, but I know a little about parenting. As far as it is possible to tell such things from afar, I think you’d be great at it. You may be gruff on the outside, but you’ve got a heart of gold.

  6. 6
    Eric U. says:

    You are a good man. I don’t think I could do it, hard enough raising my own children, one of whom is bipolar and a real handful. I know you wouldn’t give up, that’s essential.

    I also need to lose weight. My family has a history of heart issues, and my blood pressure and other markers for heart disease are strongly linked to my weight. Kind of annoying since I’m not that overweight, but 20 pounds will put my bp back into normal rather than “concerning” like it is now. And same for cholesterol and blood sugar. I assume that many people have the same link as I do, and when I think about it, the current epidemic of weight issues concerns me quite a bit. But Hershey Medical Center’s computer system can shove that “weight disorder” right up its computerized ass

  7. 7
    aimai says:

    You would be great at this, in a gruff, tuff, heart of gold kind of way. But its not necessariy easy–the fit has to be good and you will need a lot of support just for yourself.

  8. 8
    EJ says:

    De-lurking to say that I adopted my daughter as a single parent. Single parenting’s not an easy road, but it was the best thing I ever did and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, I’m considering going through the process again soon, this time through foster care. I’m happy to answer any questions and wish you the best of luck!

  9. 9
    Starfish says:

    I was a Court Appointed Special Advocate when I lived in Baltimore, and it was an eye opening experience. Many of the kids who needed that type of support were at least ten.

    There are different types of foster care including things like respite care and emergency placements which last a very short period of time until better long term solutions can be found. I believe Sharon Astyk used to write about providing emergency foster care.

  10. 10

    @John Cole – one thing to think about is kids who are high school aged. They usually end up in group homes because no one wants to adopt/foster kids in that age bracket. A friend of mine specialized in fostering that age. It was tough, but it made a difference.

  11. 11
    Trollhattan says:

    You’re a good man, JC. Just be sure to include the task of adding an 8YO to the current lap pile during Stillers season, to your planning list.

  12. 12
    The Mighty OCD says:

    You’re a goddamn saint, John.

    Pardon the vulgarity.

  13. 13
    JPL says:

    John, my sister-in-law takes boys from a group home on hikes. Volunteering for social activities or tutoring is a good way to get you feet wet. Most areas have boys and girls clubs that you can volunteer at.

  14. 14
    rikyrah says:

    Cole,

    you are good people.
    good people.

  15. 15
    Pogonip says:

    Consider how much time you have; even grade-school-age kids can keep you quite busy!

    Can’t wait to hear the interesting new words the kid learns after a couple of days at Chez Cole.

  16. 16
    JPL says:

    @rikyrah: When Hillary runs for reelection, she’ll have him on stage touting the benefits of fostering and adopting children.

  17. 17
    🚸 Martin says:

    My only experience is that I have a number of relatives that are adopted. Makes no difference. They’re family.

  18. 18
    feral1 says:

    My wife and I adopted Our foster daughter when she was nine months old. Her mother was a heroin addict and had to give up her parental rights. She’s nine years old now and amazing. Absolutely the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. However I don’t know how we would’ve handled it if she had been placed back with her mother after she had been living with us for a while. Which happens often. I just keep that in mind and also how incredibly difficult it is to be a single parent. That said I think you’d be a great dad.

  19. 19
    Fair Economist says:

    Animals are supposed to be good for foster and fost/adopt kids. They are, after all, all adopted themselves. I think you’d be a good father but do consider whether you can do it alone. It’s a lot of work to be a single parent. My husband and I adopted, and neither of us can understand how the single dads do it (although we know several who have!)

  20. 20
    mai naem mobile says:

    I have a couple of friends who have been doing it for a couple of years but with short term foster situations. The ones they got were infants/toddlers where the state wanted the parents to meet certain requirements to get the kids back. I’m not sure they have short term fosters for older kids. Anyhoo,my point is you might want to try that before you do something permanent. BTW,my friends are a gay couple.

  21. 21
    Starfish says:

    @TaMara (HFG): This is what I really wanted to say.

  22. 22
    satby says:

    I did John. I didn’t go about it with the planning and deliberation you did, and most of the foster kids I had were really lock out kids not in the foster system (not all over 18 BTW) but like all families we stumbled through with each other.

    Probably the most important advice I can give any new parent is to ask for and get help when you need it. And to pick your battles, because in the grand scheme of things their blue hair won’t matter. And to understand that kids, even your own by birth, are little individuals; we can guide and teach them but it’s not always totally up to us how it all turns out. But like plants, they turn to the light of love when it shines, and often are flexible enough to grow past any early damage that they’ve had.
    Edited to add since many have mentioned it: yes, while I was a single parent. Tough, but doable.

  23. 23
    Nick says:

    Just a point — there is no evidence-based way to lose real amounts of weight permanently. Some people do (about 6% of the population is successful long-term), but the reasons why they succeed and 94% fail are not understood. At the same time, being fat isn’t as unhealthy as people believe. In other words, don’t let fat be a reason why you put off doing something you want to.

  24. 24
    slag says:

    @JPL:

    Volunteering for social activities or tutoring is a good way to get you feet wet. Most areas have boys and girls clubs that you can volunteer at.

    I support this message! Also, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, etc. Try prolonged interactions first, keeping in mind that those interactions won’t be quite the same–for good and bad–as when you have to take the kid home with you.

  25. 25
    The Other Bob says:

    I am an adoptive dad. I am a white guy with two kids of African decent. My daughter was born in the U.S., my son was born in Ethiopia. Neither came from what would be considered a foster care situation. My kids were both babies when they came to our family. I have taken and participated in transracial adoption training. I guess they call me a single dad now too, but my kids have an active mom in my ex wife.

    If learning from any of my experience would help you, you are welcome to write me or call. I think you can grab my email from the system, but just in case I will drop you a note.

    Bob

  26. 26
    David Hunt says:

    The only experience I have with parenting is from the Being A Kid end, so I’m afraid I’m no help there. I will say that everything I’ve ever gleaned off of ten+ years of visiting here is that you are good people. I will give my totally unqualified opinion that your “good-peopleness” is a vital ingredient being a good parent. It doesn’t guarantee success (however you define success). Nothing guarantees success, but it is a major asset in the process.

    I would not have the courage to take on that burden even if I felt financially secure enough to justify it. In short, you’re a better man than I am. Best wishes and best of luck on this.

  27. 27
    R-Jud says:

    Re-de-lurking after several years to say good on you, Mr. Cole, and agree with other posters that I think you’d be a great Dad. As I’m now a part-time single parent I also would add that it’s a bonus to have flexible employment. The Bean is seven now, and without the luxury of freelance employment I would find it hard to get her to and from school and her tutoring or swimming lessons.

  28. 28
    Mnemosyne says:

    I think your front-pager Hillary Rettig has been a foster mom to refugee kids, so she can probably point you to some resources.

    And if you’re willing to take in older kids and teenagers, as others have said, you’ll be able to make a HUGE difference in their lives by giving them even just a few years of stability.

  29. 29
    Tee says:

    John,
    While getting in shape start taking classes at Department of Children and Family Services in parenting skills, high needs children classes etc. Get your background check done. Contact local school systems to ask about at risk programs for mentoring. Check with local church groups that have outreach programs for children and families. Take either BSA or Catholic Church Youth Protection Training (i.e.: spotting and reporting abuse, requirements etc) use the resources of your parents, siblings and work mates to connect with parenting groups in area. Learn about social, sport and academic programs in area to engage at risk youth. Check with vet and other animal experts on intergrating new people with emotional and psychological issues in with your pets. Often times pets will pick up “auras” of people with emotional and psychological issues to give you some warning to a “meltdown”. Develop your crockpot menus so that dinner can be a set and forget while managing homework, afterschool activities.
    Good luck and Blessings

  30. 30
    hovercraft says:

    You’re a good man, to want to help give a kid a good solid home with a loving family. Kids are tough as everyone else is saying, right now my 13 year old is a complete bitch, yes I said it, but there are still moments when the sweet little girl she used to be emerges to remind me why I shouldn’t kill her, my 10 year old autistic boy is the sweetest most affectionate momma’s boy you will ever meet. For all the trials, they are the best thing in my life. Best of luck, it’s tough but worth it.

  31. 31
    jenn says:

    This is fantastic, John! Best of luck.

  32. 32
    muddy says:

    I believe there are a lot of classes to take. Maybe you could get started on that in the meanwhile. I would say that I doubt they’d say no to you on account of your weight unless you are nearly immobile. I base that only on my observation of many who take in foster children in my town. Of course if you think you need to do it just to keep up, then it’s necessary (obvs just for yourself is necessary reason enough).

    I just don’t think your weight is any kind of determining factor here.

  33. 33
    JPL says:

    @R-Jud: I wish you would post more, and I glad that all is well.

  34. 34
    karen marie says:

    I hope you are able to do this at some point, John Cole. My only experience with foster kids is transcribing revocation of parental rights hearings. My advice is be prepared for A LOT of drama. In addition to fostering the kid, you’re very likely going to have to interact with one or both parents and other family members of the foster kid, all of whom are seriously messed up or the kid wouldn’t be in placement. Good luck!

  35. 35
    MomDoc says:

    We actually fostered (with the intention to adopt) a 13-year-old. Unfortunately, it did not work out because we have a daughter with special needs (Down Syndrome) and he was beginning to be a danger to her (taking her into a room alone with the door closed and getting under a blanket, etc.). He also taught her how to climb out of a window on the second floor! We tried to work it out in therapy and then it started to become more obvious that there may have been some s3xual abuse in his background (I don’t want to get stuck in the filter). We had to let him go. Right now, we are taking a break but plan to try again soon with a younger child.

    Older teens are really tough. My husband and I would have been willing to fight it out with him if it had just been the two of us or even if we only had my teenage son. But my daughter — her safety was the most important thing. You, John, are in a good position to make a difference in a kid’s life. For us, the young man really loved my husband — loved having a man to look up to, to listen to. A boy would love to have a grown man to rely on.

    I would advise getting yourself as healthy and prepared as possible. An older boy will stress you out and drain your energy so you have to be ready. But it’s a great thing that you want to do.

  36. 36
    Wyatt Derp says:

    Adopted a child from Guatemala. Mrs. Derp and I were paired with him when he was 6 months and had to wait for the legal system in Guatemala to finally let us take him home for over a year. That was rough but very well worth it. He is a great kid (14 now!) and probably more mature than either of the older two Derp spawn. If you are really committed I say go for it. You will be making a huge difference in the life of a kid who needs some help and crankiness aside it seems like you would make a great Dad.

  37. 37
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Nick:

    Most of the data from the Weight Loss Registry shows that you need to exercise in order to keep weight off, and exercise a LOT more than most people realize (like an hour a day and up).

    Most people can usually lose weight just by adjusting your food intake, but maintenance requires pretty intense exercise or it will come back.

    And then we come to people who have underlying undetected metabolic and/or hormonal disorders who can’t lose weight or can only lose a very small amount no matter what they do, and most doctors just don’t have enough training to help them. Your thyroid can start doing really wacky things to your weight at much lower levels than most doctors realize.

    However, regardless of weight, eating healthy foods in sensible portions and exercising in whatever manner you body allows is good for pretty much everyone.

  38. 38
    R-Jud says:

    @JPL: Oh, all ain’t well, but it could be worse. Thanks for saying hi. Hi!

  39. 39
    JPL says:

    John, You are a good person and if it comes to pass, please set up a collection, so we can help financially.
    Your parents are nearby, so I’m sure that the boy/girl will get lots of love. Like that great American said, it takes a village.

  40. 40
    guachi says:

    Good luck on the fitness thing!

    I have a friend from high school (we are now both 42) who has run a half marathon once a week this entire year. He was never much of an athlete, but he decided to do it and he did.

  41. 41
    Mnemosyne says:

    @muddy:

    I think John’s mindset is that if he’s going to have a kid or kids around, he wants to be in good enough physical shape to be able to enjoy them — take them on hikes, play games, etc.

    What’s the point of having kids around if you can’t do kid stuff with them? ;-)

  42. 42
    NJDave says:

    @Tee:
    In particular, learn about Attachment Disorder. For an infant, simple neglect can be profoundly abusive and emotionally crippling. The child may never develop a sense of empathy.

    With any kid there are good times and bad times. For us, the bad times were scarring. I suspect that we could have been better able to manage had we had a better idea of what was going on.

  43. 43
    Sandia Blanca says:

    John, as one of the lucky few who has actually met you in person (at Austin meet-up several years ago), I can vouch for your character. You are indeed, good people, and would be a great Dad.

    I am also an adoptive parent, and have recently lost weight using myfitnesspal.com (60 pounds in the past two years), so I have insights into all of the challenges you have set before you. We adopted our kids out of the CPS/foster care system, and they were in upper elementary school when they came to us 15 years ago. They are now adults, and enjoying varying degrees of success at adulthood, but we have to measure our success by comparing where they would have been without us, to where they are now. By that measure, we think it was worth it for all of us. Echoing some of the comments above, it is very important to know who and where your helping resources are (doctors, counselors, case workers, school staff, etc.), and to use them frequently. We never would have made it without help from all of the above, plus our church “family” (as our actual family members all live thousands of miles away). There are so many kids out there who have no one to belong to, it can break your heart. To be able to save even one of them from a life of constant uncertainty is well worth it.

    And get started on the weight loss program (seriously, myfitnesspal.com is easy to use, and it is free), but don’t worry too much about getting to a certain goal before you pursue the parenting option. The kid will run you ragged!

  44. 44
    bluefoot says:

    My cousin and her husband adopted two siblings who were 10 and 11 at the time.

    I would recommend talking to a lot of people about the resources and expectations for fostering. I know the process can differ a lot state to state. And you yourself will need support as well – taking on a kid is no small task.

    Older kids have a really hard time getting fostered and/or adopted. And it can take a while before you learn each other (so to speak) because often their home lives have been so unstable they haven’t had solid ground or consistent rules. How you handle that depends on a lot on the individual kid. My two nieces are *very* different people and needed different parenting.

    Re the race thing, the kids weren’t the same race as either my cousin or her husband. It came up during the adoption process – the social workers asked about their thoughts/feelings about having kids that weren’t the same race, how they would allow and help the kids maintain their ethnic identity, etc. The whole process was interesting – my cousin and her husband were pretty thoroughly vetted – multiple interviews and home visits, and friends and family also were asked to either be interviewed or gave affidavits, etc.

  45. 45
    Nick says:

    @Mnemosyne:
    The weight loss registry is hogwash — self-selected data with lousy inclusion criteria; and the people who set it up explicitly state that their goal is to prove weight loss is possible. Since it contains about 10,000 people, that means it is massively short of even reaching 5% of the dieting population.

    There are no successful trials for long term weigh loss at all, using diet and/or exercise.

  46. 46
    JPL says:

    @R-Jud: You are still a wonderful writer, with a beautiful child.

  47. 47
    muddy says:

    @Mnemosyne: All I know is he said it himself in regard to requirements. I don’t disagree with losing weight for whatever reasons. I’m just saying that I know a number of foster parents who are gigantic, so I don’t think that’s a determination.

    As a parent I am up on the requirements on how to have fun with kids. In fact my 33 year old son often praises me for how we did, and says he uses the same lessons for kids that work for him. Most lessons involve humor.

  48. 48
    Mike E says:

    I went with the 100/0 approach with my kid: give 100% unconditional love, but take none of their shit…ymmv. She’s 21 in a few days, still loves me(!) and buys me dinner on occasion, heh.

    I like the emergency foster idea since you’re a veteran of this mode in all of your dealings with college kids and pets

  49. 49
    Humdog says:

    “Get [your] fat ass in shape” never has an end point, so your back burner may be on simmer for eternity. Maybe a better goal would be to set yourself an exercise plan, set hour of every dang day, and get on a healthy diet plan. Creating healthy, slimming meals that are attractive to you can feel like a full time job. But the very striving for a better eating and exercise plan and carrying it out sets a routine that will be good for you, your four legged critters as well as any two legged individual you eventually add. Once you have made the new habits, you may find you are ready to reach out to a child before you are at any target weight. Good on you, man! And best of luck!

  50. 50
    Tee says:

    @NJDave: Knowing local counseling services (often on a sliding scale fee) can help as well. Often times children in system don’t have diagnosis so issues are trial and error without knowing what to look for in behavioral responses. The ability to advocate for a child to have testing, accommodation and remedial teaching can change attitude problems to accomplishment. Learning about these issues prior to encountering them helps to be able model correct behavior and beneficial learning strategies.

    It takes a village! or a Blog to raise the next generation Balloon Juicer!

  51. 51
    gogol's wife says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    So you’re suggesting he get married first? I don’t think the BJ community can handle that amount of change all at once.

  52. 52
    gogol's wife says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    He’s not that fat. He can do whatever he needs to the way he is. And in the doing he might lose weight.

  53. 53
    Original Lee says:

    Good for you, John! Also, stop reading my mind! Original Spouse and I are starting the research process now, thinking that we will probably be able to start fostering in about 18 months to two years. Our state has an age requirement, which I think we need to research further, that would mean we could foster only high school age kids. We don’t actually have a problem with that – my roommate in college was an unadopted foster child who bounced around quite a lot until her senior year in high school, so we have been aware of the need. We would like to be able to take in family groups, though, and it seems as if that wouldn’t be allowed if the younger siblings are still in elementary school.

  54. 54
    amygdala says:

    Do any of you have any experience with adoption/fostering?

    Nope. Just wanted to chime in with a couple of things:
    1) You’ll figure it out, and the kid(s) who wind(s) up with you will be fortunate to do so.
    2) You’re good people.

  55. 55
    NJDave says:

    @Tee:
    You’re quite correct, diagnosis is often quite difficult in children. The ADHD was pretty obvious and the neurologist called it a classic case. The other stuff was very confusing and we got a bad guess (BP) at one point. Now the pros are unanimous that the issue is Attachment Disorder.

    As you say, you do what can, beat the bushes for help. Our local school was accommodating and, after a bit, more open with their concerns about his behavior. One thing you find out is that your not alone, not by a long shot. For example, our church now has a “Perfect Mothers” group where experiences and tips are shared. Any help is welcomed.

  56. 56
    muddy says:

    @satby: I had a number of not quite foster kids myself, from 16 year old runaways to 18 year old recent graduates. Kids my son knew who were in a bad situation or been kicked out. A lot of parents seem to think that an appropriate gift for 18th birthday is kicking them out even if they haven’t done anything wrong.

    For my own son, I never cared about fashion, makeup or hair. And there was a lot of truly bizarre fashion, makeup and hair on that kid! He had to be clean and be polite and I considered that presentable. I didn’t allow tattoos or piercing (aside from ears) when he was under 18. I said, Make your mistakes on your own watch, that shit is permanent and is not going down in my column. ;-)

  57. 57
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @Starfish: This seems like an excellent way to get one’s “feet wet” so to speak. Fostering would be a huge change (especially compared to college kids). Maybe starting slow would make sense.

    I second the universal praise you’re getting, JC.

    Good luck!

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  58. 58
    Dana Priesing says:

    My partner and I adopted a three-year old boy last October. Two things I’d pass on to you John:

    1. The vetting process can be lengthy and exhausting, particularly dealing with social workers who wanna talk about ya feelings. Prepare thyself.

    2. Once you make it through the gauntlet, and have an adoptive child, there are many issues that come up in the process of forming an emotional attachment to one another. But you can handle these, I’m sure, judging from how you are with animals. Empathy, empathy, empathy!

    May I suggest that you investigate open adoption? Check out Open Adoptions & Family Services in Portland, OR. They work nationwide. My partner and I are in Pennsylvania. Tell ’em Dana sent you. Feel free to contact me by email if you want to chat further.

  59. 59
    cmorenc says:

    Back when I was doing some domestic relations work as a lawyer, I’ve represented foster parents seeking to retain children entrusted to them as fosters, after the state Dept of Social Services has decided to give an abusively neglectful single mother (where substance abuse was part of the issues with her) a dubious second or third chance.

    BOTTOM LINE: As a foster parent, you have to be ready for the day your dept of social services decides to give yet another chance to the dubiously-reformed parent (or some close blood relative of similarly dubious capabilities) – and aggressively moves to take the kid you’ve become attached to and begun successfully nurturing toward a better future – back into circumstances ripe with potential to Hellishly relapse and quickly undo your beneficial nurturing. In most states, there is a very strong preference by law and DSS policy to return kids to their natural parents from foster parents whenever feasible. Be prepared for anger and disappointment if or when this happens.

  60. 60
    Kelly says:

    I’m a stepfather. My boys were 7 and 9 when we met. Full of energy and wanting adventure. The divorce had been a couple years before we met. There was a tough spot spot a year in where you’re not my dad and mom and dad will never get back together because I ruined it. Since their parents managed an amicable divorce and were both caring people I ended up more like an uncle than a dad. Get a network of parents to help you tell the bad days from heading in a bad direction. My wife and her ex really helped me. Best of all now I’m grandpa and the 8 grandkids don’t seem to care how many grandparents there are.

  61. 61
    Davey C says:

    This is no doubt naive and horribly offensive, but how would Cole’s rather extensive and…err…colorful internet record affect his chances of being given the “okay” to adopt or foster by the relevant agency?

  62. 62
    Tee says:

    @NJDave: Tip for the ADHD stuff, my eldest son needed everything broken down to 15 minute increments because the medication would kill his appetite and he was dangerously thin. I learned through trial and error what worked best for him and then translated that into teaching the 13 boys in his cub scout den in small increments. Also learning if the child learns better with kinetic action (physical skill or “fidgeting”) helps cutoff objections to “behavioral” problems in school. Teaching them that they aren’t “bad” but wired differently helps them understand why they don’t seem like the other kids. I explain that it is like trying to play a PS3 game on an Xbox….different systems take different programs. Finding what works for the child to take advantage of their gifts and strengths is where having an advocate fighting for them to get the best out of the system and helps them understand their responsibility in making sure they own the need to learn the best way they can.

  63. 63
    Feebog says:

    My sister had an experience similar to Momdoc. They adopted two brothers, one about 12, the other about 15. The older boy was fine, but the younger one had some real problems, including acting out violently. My BiL finally put his foot down after the younger boy started throwing shit around in the house. Having said all that, I think you would be fine with the right child, but take your time and be 100% sure you and the child will be a good match.

  64. 64
    muddy says:

    @Davey C: They’d probably make him promise not to blog about the kids or something.

  65. 65
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @R-Jud:

    It is so good to see you again! I’ve wondered often how you are, and about the Bean.

    Seven!! Wow.

    Welcome back.

  66. 66
    Mary G says:

    I have an acquaintance who is a social worker who fostered, then adopted three children as a single mom. It hasn’t been easy, because they all have emotional and medical issues, but she loves it. You have a huge heart below the gruff exterior and would be great as a dad.

  67. 67
    Mark k says:

    …get a spouse, even through an arrangement. don’t worry about love etc at this point

  68. 68
    NJDave says:

    @Tee:
    When he was young, I’d cover up all but one math problem on a page. If he was confronted with a page of problems he’d freeze. One at a time, he nailed it.

    But that was a long time ago and before the other problems became the overriding issues.

    Look, I’m not saying “Don’t do it!”, but rather that one be informed that there are problems that are much more pronounced in the adopted population.

  69. 69
    singfoom says:

    I’ve got no foster experience and my parenting experience is limited to two identical almost two year olds. All I can say is if you adpot a baby or a toddler, be prepared to give up 99% of your existing free time to care for that child.

    I say this without bitterness, honestly, but it is reality. Once you’re responsible for a tiny little human being, you’re living for them, not for yourself. So yeah, get in shape now so you’ve got the energy later…you won’t have much time to do that during. Good luck! P.S. You’re awesome for considering adoption.

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    Lyrebird says:

    Parenting adopted child on my own == hardest thing ever. Also best thing ever. I recommend you read the Amzon reviews of “Beyond Consequences Logic and Control” (I might have some terms mixed up, but you’ll get there), maybe even read the book. English professor parent, is that right? Well it’s badly written, but the stories of the real kids are useful, and there’s good material to counter some of the excesses of parenting theory fashion swings.

    Please feel free to contact me through the email that goes with my nym if you would like further info re: home studies and so forth… I did this in PA, northeast of you, in a college town.

  71. 71
    Princess (now General) Leia says:

    @Starfish: Sharon’s posts on FB and blog are a clear eye into all that foster parenting can be. Highly recommend her!

  72. 72
    FarmerG says:

    So much experience, so much struggle, so much pain.

    Had a big reply typed up and realized there’s no way to do it justice.

    She’s still alive 20 years later. I take solace in that.

  73. 73
    RedDirtGirl says:

    Regarding the losing weight part of the post. I lost almost forty pounds just from giving up sugar and dairy, and eating lots of whole grains, veggies and healthy protein. It’s been 10 months and I feel great!

  74. 74
    NotMax says:

    Did you not post essentially this exact same sentiment several years ago?

  75. 75
    Ultraviolet Thunder says:

    Egad. I’m probably childless* and probably should be. Parents and especially voluntary ones are saints.
    If it feels like the thing to do go into it with your eyes open. The best people in my life raised kids.

    *to date none have come forward.

  76. 76
    Kathleen says:

    Thanks to all of you here who have fostered and adopted children. That is sacred work. John, I think you would be a wonderful father. You are a loving, caring human being who would enrich a child’s life.

    My coworker has fostered 2 special needs children (both younger than 7), a boy and a girl. Both have suffered physical and emotional trauma as a result of abuse and parents addicted to heroin. At least one of the children may never be able to live on his own because of brain issues. My coworker and his wife adopted one of the children and the second adoption should be completed very soon. In spite of all the problems, he worships those kids and talks about them every day. They are the joys of his life. Just sharing what I’ve observed.

    Best of luck!

  77. 77
    WaterGirl says:

    @R-Jud: Really pleased to see you here again! Lots of opportunity for person growth in your life, I see. Looks like you are embracing it, which is always much better than resisting like a cat on a leash being taken for an unwanted walk.

    Now that you have de-lurked, I hope we see more of you. All the best, WaterGirl

  78. 78
    Isobel says:

    My parents adopted 8 children (a sibling group) three of whom were special needs. Have a good psychologist on standby because integrating a family is very stressful on all members. Be aware that children regress very easily, especially when they have a history of trauma. Supervise their interactions with your pets carefully.

  79. 79
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    My husband and were what was called “specialized foster parents” here in Iowa, for several years. Although many of the kids were short-term placements of a year or less, our first child – who came to us when he was 6- stayed with us until he was 22 years old. The kids we ‘specialized’ in were those with a whole array of challenges, from autism to ADHD to attachment and personality disorders. Most of our kids were in the ten-year to 16-year-old range, and it was frustrating, fulfilling and sometimes, scary. So many good comments and observations in this thread – heed them (especially NJ Dave’s). If you foster a child through your state system, you won’t really have to worry about financial issues – you’ll be given stipends, medical care, child care, etc. that should JUST cover your child’s needs. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, or need support. These kids really need you.

  80. 80
    frosty says:

    My wife and I adopted boys from South America years ago- they’re in their 20s now. We were 40 and 44 when they were born, which meant we’d be trying to save for retirement while putting them thru college. So far ir’s worked bug it’s something to consider.

    We had our ups and downs. One is dyslexic and we spent the college savings for specialized elementary school teaching him to read. Both are/were ADHD. And both have turned out to be fine young men.

    The best advice I can give you came from one of our adoption coordinators: “Don’t feel compelled to do more than you can. If you can adopt older or special needs, great. But if you think you can only manage a healthy infant, then by all means don’t take on any more than that.”

  81. 81
    NJDave says:

    @FarmerG:
    I understand your sentiment. Ours is now working and sober, but still struggles.

  82. 82
    Miss Bianca says:

    You’d be great with fostering older special needs kids, John – do it! My sister fostered kids from the Ute Mountain Tribe when she still lived in New Mexico. Tough job, needs some can-do tough loving foster-adopt parents.

  83. 83
    PhoenixRising says:

    Having done both…

    Kids care a lot what you’re able to do, not so much what size pants. Set fitness goals with that in mind. You can be fit and look fat.

    Fostering and adoption are very different from each other. The way they are both different from starting with a newborn is the obvious nature of attachment. It’s a learned behavior. You have to decide to attach to a child who is new to you, and he will have to learn from you what healthy attachment looks like & how to works.

    This is more challenging for the child for each month he has lived in unstable, neglectful or abusive circumstances. It’s also harder for the parent because the coping skills learned by the child in those bad places can range from paradoxically dysfunctional to downright repulsive.

    Take the class as soon as you can. Once you’re licensed (yes, I had to get a license to raise my kid) you can always accept or turn down any placement. But step 1 is taking the training class, getting fingerprinted, providing tax records…

  84. 84
    Hungry Joe says:

    Re raising kids in general: My wife and I do NOT put much stock self-help books of any kind … but an amazing one that helped us a lot when our daughter started in with the pre-teen pre-teen-ness: “Get Out of My Life … But First Can You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?” by Anthony E. Wolf. I think I read it three times in four years. Kept me sane — or at least, kept me from going further insane.

  85. 85
    Vickie Feminist says:

    Was a foster care social worker for 5 years. One asset you have is your parents–foster care kids love their foster parents parents. It’s hard to do it as a single person so do look for friends who want to get fingerprinted so they can baby sit.

    Being loving and unflappable are crucial. The kids are more of a challenge than they initially seem because often the easy going kids get cherry picked by their relatives and more impulsive angry kids end up in the system.

    I’ll be available any time to help you understand social workers or any other part of the world of caring for our kids.
    You could start as a mentor as you go through the classes and fingerprinting etc.

  86. 86
    PurpleGirl says:

    John, Echoing the BJ gang: I think you would make a fine parent. You should look up the Andrus Family Fund and the Surdna Foundation. (They are interconnected and work in the fields of foster care and adoption. IIRC, they publish reports on their research and programs.)

    Don’t have experience with fostering or adopting but I have a story about a friend’s family. Tyla’s mother had been married and her 1st husband really wanted children but unfortunately Tyla’s mother miscarried several times. It was the early 1950’s and the man moved to obtain an annulment from the Catholic Church. Tyla’s mother was declared a barren woman. And the marriage ends.

    Go forward a few years, Tyla’s mother meets the man who becomes her 2nd husband and Tyla’s father. Also there are advances in medicine to help avoid miscarriages.Tyla’s parents marry. Tyla’s parents go to have 3 more natural children and to adopt and/or foster something like 16 other children. The children are from the US and other countries and are multi-racial.

  87. 87
    satby says:

    You have a lot of resources to call on John; and a built in booster club right here on this blog. You’re great guy, and have so much to offer a kid who needs a loving and stable adult. Go for it!

  88. 88
    Sarah says:

    What a wonderful idea. Let me know if you want any help with the getting in shape part!

  89. 89
    Scapegoat says:

    @R-Jud: A touching and insightful capture of a complex and very challenging time. Sounds like you’re on the right track. Been through divorce once before (albeit without a kid).

    Saved by two (new to me) things, beyond stalwart friends:
    1. The advice to “be selfish”.
    2. Buying a motorcycle. (Far more helpful than seeing a shrink.)

    Adventure lies ahead!

  90. 90
    Ruckus says:

    Closest I’ve ever been to being a dad of any kind was being a step dad for 2 years to a 3-5 yr old girl. It was an eye opening experience and I was not doing it alone. And she was an exceptionally self reliant child. Now I did help take care of cousins, including watching and changing diapers when I was 10-12 yrs old. But that made me think I didn’t want to be a dad. Was I ever wrong. But, and it is a very large, firm, round but, I had help with the step daughter, her mom. I’ve seen better moms but I’ve also seen far, far, far worse moms. And that little girl is 22 and has a college degree now. Mom did good. Daughter did good. Step dad passed the time.
    So my advice is like everyone else, kids are a pain in the ass, kids are the greatest, kids can break your heart, in a very, very good way and in bad ways. And you will never know which comes next. But when they are no longer kids and it’s time for them to go out on their own, I don’t think you can beat that feeling. Fostering and adopting are probably much more difficult, depending on the kid, their situation, and you. Take classes, absorb all you can, use your head and your heart, love them like your own and maybe even talk to your parents. What they think they did wrong, what they’d do different……..
    And good luck.

  91. 91
    snarkyspice says:

    None whatsoever, but your post made me cry. Through bad decisions and circumstance and whatever, I didn’t have kids and now I’m too old. I recently befriended a small boy who lives near me and who needed a buddy. I now wish I could do what you’re considering. You will have all kinds of doubts – don’t let them stop you. You will be so great at this! You’ve put a smile on my sad face tonight.

  92. 92
    Bumper says:

    We’ve fostered for 8 years now, taking in all ages. It’s much harder than it seems. Most of the kids have multiple issues-health, emotional, academic and more. It takes a lot of time for things like doc visits, therapy, working with the schools. A support system is vital-we’ve been lucky to have very supportive family around. It is doable and I think you are a natural caretaker. Just go in with eyes open. Sometimes there’s not a good fit and that’s okay . (But sometimes there is. We adopted our youngest and it’s like it was meant to be)

  93. 93
    snarkyspice says:

    @satby: “But like plants, they turn to the light of love when it shines”

    Wow, never a truer word was spoken.

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    Meridian says:

    Posting under a different name to preserve the child’s anonymity. I suggest you do some mentoring like through Big Brothers program before fostering . you’ll find out that it can be very frustrating and very rewarding. but I think it’s good to get your feet wet before taking on what may end up being a long-term or even permanent commitment .

    you have a lot going on and you have a lot of causes. will fostering a child basically put an end to all the other causes you want to be involved with? is it the best use of your time and talents ?only you can say . for myself I will say it is really freaking frustrating to give your best to a child to give her love and support and respect , and to teach her love and support and respect for others , and then to see that child go back into a hellish environment just like the person above said and get nothing from her real parents . nothing. like stupid ideas about what she might be able to do for a living . like no clue how to set a child up for success in school . like letting a 10 year old make their own ramen noodles for supper. like patent disappearing and sleeping at a different house and leaving teenage daughters with who knows who. and not making sure there’s anysfoob in the house. like playing on a smartphone all the time while your kid isn’t doing her homework and is hanging out with questionable peers. like lying and obfuscatong and hand waving in order to cover up your own idiotic deficiencies as a parent. like teaching the kids to do the same. How many times have I bought toothbrushes and toothpaste for the kids while the mother is highly focused on partying all night and kids teeth are rotting out of their heads . once a month or twice a month as the mentor i get to see the little one that and in between times everything is just going to hell in her life . you either have to hate total control or you feel like you can’t do any good . because you can teach lessons, But ultimately you don’t create the living environment for the child . so I’m saying if this is what kind of difficulty I experienced with a mentoring role, how much more difficult might it be for you and everyone if your foster child is returned to the same dismal abysmal hellhole of a house that he was in before you were involved. It’s just something to think about . because you enter into this thing that sounds good and kind but is in reality very serious and in a sense almost irrevocable emotionally . even if it ends up having a formal termination at a certain point. The trashy, worthless family “role models” will make you wild with frustration, and quietly livid on your child’s behalf, as you see her heautiful promise and potential gradually degraded more each year by their horrible, horrible parenting .

  95. 95
    Ruckus says:

    I should be beat over the head. One of those cousins has adopted or fostered at least 5 kids, most special needs along with her twin boys. She and her husband have moved a lot because he was in the Air Force. Don’t know how they managed with the agencies with moving every 3 years but they seemed to have. Because she has moved so much and so have I in the last few years we have lost contact. Last I spoke to her was about 6-7 yrs ago. The kids would all have to be in their mid to late 20s now.

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    Scapegoat says:

    Regarding exercise, do something you enjoy that involves cardio. You live in the land of mountain biking and the intensity of this activity seems (from afar) to match your disposition.

  97. 97
    OlFroth says:

    Been fostering for two years now, and we should be cleared to adopt or foster child in a few months. There are some hassles, case workers dropping in for visits for example, and until the birth parents were stripped of all parental rights, we had to endure taking our foster child to regular meetings with the birth parents. The rewards, however, are incalculable INHO.

  98. 98
    manyakitty says:

    I’m not sure if you know him or not, but David Gerrold (he wrote “The Trouble With Tribbles” is a foster-to-adopt single parent. He’s very active on Facebook, and I bet he’d be a valuable source of information to you.

  99. 99
    Tara the Antisocial Social Worker says:

    I’ve been a social worker in the foster care system for years, so if you need any questions answered, fire away.

    It’s hard to know where to start with any general advice. Foster parenting is hard, especially with older kids, because they’ve often been moved around so much that it’s hard for them to trust anyone at all. We really need more foster parents, people who can commit to hanging tough no mater how difficult a child’s behavior might get. And you also need to be aware that there’s the risk of heartbreak if the child goes back to the parents, or a relative steps in. But it’s impossible to overstate the difference a foster parent can make in a child’s life.

  100. 100
    Rainy Day says:

    My spouse & I adopted two Ukrainian orphans (two years old and six years old). The younger one had been left in a crib his entire life and could barely walk. Both children had only experienced minimal stimulation, so they both had deficits in language skills, motor skills, cognitive skills, etc. The older one (now 21) had PTSD triggers, but she continues to see a therapist and continues to fight through them. The younger one (now 17) is healthy in ALL aspects and a very happy kid.

    Here’s a synopsis of what you need to know:

    1. The older the child, the more likely they will have anger/aggression/trust/abandonment issues.
    2. The older the child, the more likely they will struggle with school. You will have to tutor them at home and help them internalize that they are NOT stupid; that they are, in fact, very smart. They will see proof of this when they succeed with your one-on-one instruction.
    3. You will need to remain in communication with all of the teachers, so everyone is on the same page (it’s take a village kind of thing).
    4. You will need to introduce them to your community, so they feel like they truly belong.
    5. You will have to obtain and keep ALL records for yourself and child. Birth Certificates, medical records, criminal background checks, home-study reports, school transcripts, etc. This part of the process is the biggest pain in the ass, but it’s also VERY handy to have ALL of your paperwork in one binder (ask people dealing with Voter ID issues).
    6. Make sure your health insurance covers mental health services. If not, make sure you have $$ to cover those services.
    7. Make eye contact constantly with your child and hug your child A LOT. This combo can rewire the brain connections, and it is essential for creating a strong bond.
    8. Have high, yet not unrealistic, expectations for your child. The child may fight you on this, but will ultimately thank you for it. Don’t allow your child to feel like a victim or a sub-standard person. No one wins in that scenario.
    9. Be 100% honest with your child. ALWAYS. Never punish your child for being honest with you. This is so important for overcoming the trust issues your child will likely have.
    10. Don’t say idiotic things like, “Don’t do drugs, have sex, cheat, etc.” Explain what the consequences are of doing drugs, having sex, cheating, etc. And it is never to early to repeat the mantra, “No glove, no love.” Don’t wait for the moment you think the child will be exposed to a temptation. Give them the tools to deal with temptations before they occur.
    11. Your child WILL lie to you!!! Your child WILL attempt to manipulate you!!! You must be prepared for this. You must know how to read your child’s body language and be able to address lies and manipulation in real time. Hint: whenever your child responds with indignation, he/she has likely lied.
    12. Know the location and history of the biological parents. If the parents are nearby, the child may attempt to run away. If the parents have drug/alcohol issues, the child will likely be tempted by the same. If the parents were abusive, the child will likely have anger/aggression/bullying issues. Be prepared to deal with the issues of the biological parents. Do your homework.
    13. You must establish clear rules and boundaries and schedules with clear consequences and rewards. Make sure they sleep for at least 8 hours every day. No computers, phones, video games, etc. in the bedroom until high school. Many kids up for adoption have been malnourished and have delayed growth. SLEEP is what helps kids grow taller — that’s when the body repairs itself. Nutritious food and exercise are not enough. They need SLEEP.

    Our kids have made our lives endlessly fascinating and fun. Of course, there were challenges, but overcoming those challenges and seeing the incredible young adults that they became has been infinitely rewarding. We adopted two potatoes, but they both had a spark in their eyes. A spark that screamed, “I want to live my life.” They went from being last in their school classrooms to the upper level in their classrooms because they were determined to never be called ‘stupid.’ They are happy, healthy, independent, compassionate kids with strong work ethics.

    In the nature versus nurture debate, you will see BOTH win at various times. But if you don’t give up, you will see that nurture will be the ultimate victor. You WILL make a difference. I wish you all the best!!!

  101. 101
    baquist says:

    De-lurking just to echo everyone else’s comment.
    You’re good people, Cole!
    I’ve never fostered – still raising 3, but there’s a special place in heaven reserved for folks who do. Volunteering with kid’s groups would be an excellent place to start practicing developing relationships, IMHO. My friends who adopted their foster child say their success was due to their reaching out and accepting all the help they could get.

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