This article marks the first in a series on Today’s Modern Family, where we will celebrate the uniqueness and similarities of how couples have chosen to expand their families. Today, we will take a glimpse into foster parenting and explore their overwhelming capacity to provide shelter, care, consistency, and love to children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected…while at the same time, act as role models for those biological parents working to reunify with their children. But before we begin, let’s first look at some statistics, which reflect the need for loving foster parents.
According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, as of August 10, 2018, 24,067 children ranging from 0-17 years of age are currently living in out-of-home placements. Of the 24,067 children: 10,477 live with an approved relative, 7,210 live in licensed foster homes, 3,100 live with an approved non-relative, 2,052 live in group care, 1,076 are listed as other (runaway status, placed in adoptive home awaiting adoption finalization, receiving respite care, or are currently hospitalized), and 152 live in residential treatment…and those numbers just reflect Florida. Nationwide, over 400,00 children are in foster care and more than 100,00 are eligible for adoption.
Interested in becoming a foster parent?
Each person’s decision to enter foster parenting is different. For Rebecca Snyder, foster parenting was an example she was very familiar with. Her aunt from Michigan fostered 27 children and adopted 5. Her niece and nephew were foster parents in Indiana. An opportunity presented itself to adopt a little girl that both her niece and nephew had fostered. They reached out to Rebecca and her husband, Neil, who had not yet started a family. Although the Indiana caseworker had no issue with the Snyder’s and an out-of-state adoption, her supervisor did not want to remove the little girl from the state, having once had a bad experience with an out-of-state adoption.
“After the adoption fell through, we decided that since we had begun the licensing process, why not foster?” Neil Snyder said.
What are the requirements to become a foster parent in Florida? To qualify as a potential foster parent, one must:
- Attend an orientation.
- Complete 20 to 30 hours of foster parent training.
- Have a child abuse and criminal background check.
- Participate in a home inspection.
- Participate in a home study of one’s home and workplace to review one’s readiness for fostering.
“The training prepares you for many scenarios. It also reinforces that reunification is the ultimate goal of the foster program,” explains Rebecca Snyder. “During that time, you pick an age range of the children you will be fostering, decide if you can accept a child with medical needs, determine whether you will provide short-term or long-term placement, and choose a backup family to provide childcare for your foster child(ren) in case of emergencies or vacations.”
“The process to become licensed takes about six months, once everything is in place. We decided to provide long-term placement. Our first phone call occurred immediately after becoming licensed,” explains Neil Snyder. “We now receive urgent phone calls multiple times a week requesting immediate assistance to place a child or sibling group in need. The hardest part is saying no to a placement, because you really want to help every child; but in reality, that simply isn’t possible. We very seriously consider the needs of the children we are already caring for before accepting more placements, but it is never easy saying no.”
Another difficult part of fostering is having a heart of compassion, selfless love, and nonjudgmental understanding, which in my mind qualifies as super hero powers, knowing that reunification is always the goal. Ultimately, reunification is on the shoulders of the parent. If the parent does not work the plan, however, they will be placed on notice that their parental rights will be terminated, but every effort is made for reunification.
“As a foster parent, you are actively, in your mind, taking a step back. You try to make sure a relationship is established, and a bond is there. There needs to be a connection with the biological parent. You must put your own emotions aside and do what is best for the child,” Rebecca Snyder said.
What do the Snyders love most about foster parenting?
“Being a foster parent forces me to keep a consistent work routine and leave by 5:30PM, otherwise I would work much later. The kids need routine. They crave that family dinner,” Neil Snyder explained. “We are very involved in the community with Rotary and Kiwanis. Our foster children are learning to give back. They learn that community is about giving back and not taking…and that they have something to offer. It’s remarkable seeing them transition from what they can get, to what can they do to contribute.”
“Neil and I want to make it an experience that they won’t look back on in a bad way,” adds Rebecca. “We make it a fun experience full of activities. Being a foster parent is the most difficult thing, but it is also the most rewarding…their smiles make it all worth it. The smiles are everything!”
For more information on becoming a foster parent, go to: www.myflfamilies.com