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Feature Articles

A Heart for Foster Care
By Rachel Randall

Guess what? I do not hate my parents. Their decision to take in foster children while I was growing up was the best thing that happened to me. It was a difficult path, but I would not want to have grown up any other way.

This year I am turning 20, which terrifies me. Everyone is asking what plans I have for the rest of my life (and if I have a serious boyfriend, but that is a different topic). They want to know what my passions are. I have thought, prayed, studied and worried about what I should do with my life. It was not until this last year that I realized there is nothing I would rather do than be involved with foster care.

The world of foster care is natural to me. Not only did I grow up as a biological child of foster parents, but so did my mom. I learned a lot from her. My own parents were originally licensed when I was a few months old. After having my four siblings, they were licensed again. More than a dozen kids have passed through our home during the last five years, including my littlest brother and sister, who we adopted in 2013.

I have an inside view of the foster care system because it is a part of my home life. Foster care lingo — TPR, reunification, FASD, RAD, ODD, subpoena, DHS, IEP — is my second language. My family has been through 72-hour holds and the adoption process. I regularly meet social workers, judges, guardian ad litems, therapists, permanency workers, parental educators, mental health workers, other foster and adoptive families, biological parents and of course, children in foster care. Living in a foster home is a great way to learn about the system and meet so many different people.

It is not easy though. My heart is put through the wringer with each child who lives with us. When that kiddo walks through our door, his or her reality becomes a part of my life too. I see the child’s disappointment when parents bail on a visit. I wake up when the child screams in the night. I am there when the child lashes out because his or her world is falling apart. If it is hard for me, I cannot imagine how it is for these children.

Walking alongside these kids and their struggles leaves no room for my own selfish drama. I see things in a different light. Deciding what outfit I am going to wear is no longer a trial. Children arriving with only the clothes on their back and a pair of ratty pajamas in a trash bag keeps it in perspective. The heartbreak that my peers face often centers around the guy who dumped them. What breaks my heart is seeing my foster siblings told they will never get to live with their parents again. In this real world, I only have time for real problems.

Foster care changed me in ways like that. Everyone who is involved is changed somehow. Sometimes it makes people bitter or leaves them jaded. It can be a positive change depending on the choices you make.

For example, you can choose to ignore the messiness that comes with foster care or to guide your biological children through it. I had big questions. My parents were faced with explaining why someone would abuse a child or how addiction could have such a grip on people. By leading me through it, they gave me a mental framework to deal with tough situations wherever I go.

One of the other things I am grateful my parents did was to advocate for our family. They made sure our family’s needs did not get overruled or ignored. They set boundaries for the sake of their marriage and all the kids in our home; permanent and foster. While we were aware of traumatic situations that many adults were not, my parents made sure we could still be kids. To this day, we have random dance parties where we crank up a good song to de-stress. You should try it. If nothing else, it is good bonding time.

Though it is painful, having a wider perspective allows me to see more beauty. Foster care is a combination of good and bad; broken and beautiful. Laughter became my favorite milestone. The first time a child laughs in our home is precious to me. I do not mean just a giggle or a smile, but a burst of spontaneous, joyful, tears-running-down-the-face laughter. It is like all of their trauma is wiped away for a few minutes. That makes the journey worth it.

Opening up your home and heart to foster children is not a simple thing. It is a necessary thing. The need is not going away. As long as children need a home, temporary or not, it is the people involved in foster care who are providing it.

That is my passion. I get excited when I talk about foster care because it is entwined in who I am. The needs of the kids will always be with me. One day I want to be a foster parent. Whatever twists and turns my life takes, I know I will find some way to be involved in this work.

There are a few ways that I am doing that in my life right now. To support my family taking in foster children, I am living at home. Our foster baby is sitting on my lap chasing my fingers across the keys while I type this article. Every night I cook dinner for up to 12 people, depending on how many foster children are living with us. (Did I mention I have a love for cooking too?)

Every morning, I choose to stay in the trenches of messiness. It is hard; most things worth doing are. But at night, when I think over the day’s smiles, mishaps and laughter, I know there is nothing else I would rather do. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rachel Randall is the oldest of seven children, in addition to several foster kids. Besides foster care, she enjoys sushi, writing, dancing, raindrops, catering, musicals and geranium plants. She works at a local tea room and is almost over the shock of moving from the inner city of Los Angeles to rural Minnesota.

Feature Article Archive

July/August 2015
Reunification/Birth Family Connection

May/June 2015
National Foster Care Month

March/April 2015
Working with Agencies

January/February 2015
Mental Health

November/December 2014
The Foster Parent Calling

September/October 2014
Attachment & Trauma

July/August 2014
Parenting Teens

May/June 2014
Celebrating National Foster Care Month

March/April 2014
Working within the System

January/February 2014
The Dynamics of Working with Birth Parents and Kinship Caregivers

November/December 2013
Navigating Behavioral Issues with Children

September/October 2013
Back to School Parenting Guide

July/August 2013
Traditional Versus Therapeutic Foster Care

May/June 2013
National Foster Care Month

March/April 2013

January/February 2013
Kinship Care

November/December 2012
Understanding the Impact of Trauma and Abuse

September/October 2012
Nurturing Identity

July/August 2012
Working with Birth Families 

May/June 2012
Celebrating National
Foster Care Month:
Finding Support 

March/April 2012
Parenting Teens 

January/February 2012
Grief, Loss & Anger in Foster Care

November/December 2011
Promoting Better Communication Among the Foster Care Team 

July/August 2011
Discipline Techniques for Foster Parenting

May/June 2011
Celebrating National Foster Care Month

September/October 2011

March/April 2011
The Impact of Social Networking on Foster Care

January/February 2011
My Personal Foster Care Experience and What I've Learned

November/December 2010
Support Organizations Provide Assistance to Foster Families, Children

September/October 2010
The Importance of Keeping Siblings Connected in Foster Care

July/August 2010
Foster Care Health Care: Finding alternative therapies for healing 

May / June 2010
Celebrate National Foster Care Month and Foster Families Nationwide

March/April 2010
Kinship Care - The best interest for children or a foster care alternative?

January/February 2010
Emancipation or Family - Uncovering what's best for teens  

November/December 2009
Discovering What Foster Parents Really Need to Parent

July/August 2009
The Importance of Continuing Education for Foster Parents

May/June 2009
Celebrating National Foster Care Month

March/April 2009
Tips for Parenting Children into the Teen Years 

January/February 2009
Finding the Money Connection in Foster Care

November/December 2008
Looking Ahead at the Future of Foster Car

September/October 2008
Living the Daily Realities of Foster Care 

July/August 2008
Recognizing the Importance of Birth Parent Connection  

May/June 2008
Celebrate National Foster Care Month in May 

March/April 2008
Encouraging Foster Parents to Take Care of Themselves  

January/February 2008
Tips to Help Parents Tackle the Teenage Years

November/December 2007
Becoming the Best Parent for Children in Your Care

July/August 2007
Helping Children and Families Cope with Special Needs Issues

May / June 2007
The Power of Family

March / April 2007
Fostering Un
derstanding in Our Schools

January / February 2007
Finding Inner Peace in Parenting

November / December 2006
Are You My Family?

September / October 2006
Girl Scouts Beyond Bars

July / August 2006
Traditionally Speaking

May / June 2006
From Ward of the State to Defender of the Country

March / April 2006
Becoming Foster Parents

January / February 2006
Thank You, Foster Parents!

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