Yes We Said It, We Love Fostering Teens

We’ve fostered 17 kids and adopted our two sons, ages 13 and 7. At this point, my husband and I only foster sex-trafficked teens and LGBTQ+ youth- two demographics of kids in care that are unfairly overrepresented. We just had our 15-year-old foster son reunify after several awesome months with him.

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4 Things I've Learned As A Single Foster Mom

But now I’m a parent - to other people’s children.  I LOVE the parenting part; caring for these children is my greatest joy.  I’ve got a lot of experience with infants and kids and feel pretty comfortable there.  But foster care isn’t regular parenting.  It’s parenting on a roller coaster, with lots of other people involved.  I’m still processing all that I’ve learned over the last year, but here are a few of my takeaways 18 months into this gig…

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How Learning About Sex Trafficking Changed My Life

When people first hear about sex trafficking, most assume that children are abducted and then sold into the industry, when in fact traffickers are incredibly resourceful, convincing & manipulative when luring their potential victims.  A victim’s heightened needs or perceived needs are not being met which causes the vulnerable to look elsewhere. By establishing a superficial relationship and using various techniques, the trafficker will gradually manipulate them into the commercial sex industry. They take time to familiarize themselves with the victim’s individual vulnerabilities such as shelter, food, attention, love, acceptance, friendship, money, etc., in order to convince the victim that those needs will be met by him/her. 

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Trafficking: Their Captivity is Psychological Not Physical 

In Romania, trafficking mostly stems from poverty, lack of opportunity, and unmet emotional and relational needs. It doesn’t matter if they are from a family or an orphanage, if a child has faced neglect, abuse or a toxic living environment, it’s extremely likely that their most basic human needs of safety, love and belonging have not been met. This makes them very easy to manipulate. An easy example is if the father has left the family, a trafficker will enter the picture and say, “I know your dad left you, but I would never do that to you. I will always be here. It’s you and me forever.” 

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A Lunch Date That Changed Our Lives Forever

Both of us 23 years old, my head was spinning as Sarah told me how she’d come to Asia after being promised a decent paying job at a restaurant. Because it was difficult to find a job at home, and because (not unlike me) she was excited to travel and see the world, she accepted the job, received all her travel documents, and got on a plane. Once she arrived, she was received by another Ugandan woman who took her passport and told her that she owed $5,000 for everything they’d done for her, but there was no restaurant. The only job was prostitution.

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A Social Worker Fighting for Family Reunification in Uganda

Family reunification is important to me because I believe that the protection of the family unit is fundamental to a child’s wellbeing. Every child deserves the right to grow up in a loving and safe home where family values are instilled and there is a great sense of belonging. The family unit also protects cultural values, which are often lost in long-term separation cases. 

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Learning To Walk Alongside Birth Families

I find it to be a great honor to get to meet someone at what is quite possibly the lowest place they will experience – having their children removed – and say I am here with you, you are loved, and I believe that you can do this. When I meet a new biological parent, I always try to picture myself getting down low to meet them eye to eye in the place they are currently sitting emotionally. It is too hard to help carry the load unless you get down under it with them.

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How I Got My Kids Back Part 2

Something felt different when Steffany reached out. I knew that she was in desperate need of support but I needed to see a parent who was willing to meet me half way in this journey… and Steffany did just that and more. Watching her fall and get back up and seeing her determination to get her kids back inspired me beyond words.

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International Adoption: RED FLAGS!

The statement that we have made over and over again throughout our journey is that just because something looks right, doesn’t mean it is right. Red flag after red flag, our family’s perfect international adoption seemed to be crumbling before our eyes. We should have seen the writing on the wall. “Our daughter” is not an orphan, and out of ignorance we nearly molded her into one.

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Being Pro Foster Care Means Being Pro Bio Parents

If you care about family unification and children getting out of the foster system I want to encourage you to invest in the parents. The best way to help parents resettle with their children is to be willing to be their to mentor and guide them if possible. Be a positive influence in their lives where they've maybe never had any. When we receive new children into our care we think about the moms and dads, how would they be feeling? You can do little things like text pics of the kids to mom several times a week, have the kids make her birthday gifts and Christmas gifts, make videos during the week and send those to mom to encourage her. Find ways to let mom know you aren’t trying to “take” her kids away from her but rather that you believe in her and want her kids to remember her.

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Reevaluate, Refocus and Resettle

As Fabiola held a backpack full of belongings and climbed into the tap tap with her mother, her eyes were red. Saying goodbye to the other children was like saying goodbye to her brothers and sisters.  But her eyes held something else, too. We read in them the excitement of a nine year old little girl who was looking forward to a lifetime of love and care that only her mother could give her. It’s moments like these that led Child Hope International to reevaluate how we serve children in Haiti.

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Thompson Adoption Day!

Two boys. Elementary school aged. Today.

That was the only information my husband and I received just days after we finished our foster care certification. We hastily built bunk beds (thank you, IKEA!) and got booster car seats, anticipating with excitement and dread (if I’m being honest!) the world-shift we were about to experience. But for five days, the boys didn’t come. Every day was going to be the day, but by the time we put our 10-month baby girl to sleep every night, the boys still hadn’t arrived. Finally, we got a call saying that the boys were not going to be placed with us. Instead, we were asked if we were willing to receive a 12-month old in three hours and pick up her baby sister from the hospital several days later?  We looked at each other -- and the now irrelevant bunk beds and booster seats -- and said YES.

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