Rachel had always wanted a large family and having grown up with two adopted siblings, she always considered the option of fostering or adopting. After going through the process to become a certified foster parent with two close friends, she has opened her family to a 17-year-old girl, now 19, and an infant with less than two hours’ notice. Read the interview below to learn more about Rachel’s experience working with Children’s Bureau to become a foster mother.
CB: How did you find Children’s Bureau and why did you choose to foster through this agency?
I have two best friends who were looking to have children and decided to go the foster route. They initially asked me to join their support group and get background checked to be able to help with the kids if an emergency came up. They had already decided on going through Children’s Bureau and introduced me to the agency. I had a guest bedroom and have always wanted children, so I thought “why not?” and decided to go through the process with them.
CB: What was the process of becoming a resource parent and what was your experience going through the process during COVID-19?
For me, the process was a little difficult because the training included mandatory Saturday classes that must be attended in order. Since I traveled for work, sometimes on the weekend, the overall process took longer for me. Otherwise, it was simple and the Children’s Bureau team was great, everyone from the initial classes to the home studies was extremely helpful.
In July of 2019, I was informed of a seventeen-year-old girl, Reason, who was homeless at the time. Knowing what I learned from the Children’s Bureau classes, I knew she had to be turned over to DCFS. It was a challenge to convince her to go into the program, but with the help of Children’s Bureau, Reason willingly opted in and in August of 2019 she was placed with me. Even though she transitioned into the Transitional Independent Living Program (TILP), in September 2020, she will always have a home with me.
This past December I was matched with an infant, Baby D. Even though it was during the pandemic, I was not scared to step in because of COVID, but what would happen if I did not? The process that time was extremely fast and easy because I am vigilant in keeping my certificate up to date, taking the Foster Parent College classes consistently, as well as communicating with my social worker. This was especially helpful because when I was initially called about Baby D I only had a couple hours’ notice before taking her in.
CB: What do you wish you had known going into it, and what advice would you give prospective resource parents?
Do not limit yourself to version of the child you “think” you want. Go into the program with an open mind. I was initially set on a younger child but being placed with a high school senior turned out to be the best thing for both of us. Just know that the kid that is meant to join your family, is meant to be with you no matter what their age, gender or whatever else.
It is also important to TRY to compartmentalize your feelings, especially in situations that may not turn into a permanent placement. Even though saying goodbye and returning the child to the birth family will be hard, in the end it will be the best thing for the child and their family.
CB: What inspired you to become a resource parent, and how has it changed your life?
Knowing that there are 50,000+ kids needing homes in Los Angeles, becoming a foster parent was an easy decision to make. I am thankful to Jason and Mark for asking me to be a part of their process and opening my eyes to the foster care system, not to mention educating me and helping break down the stigmas that come with it. My experience has been amazing and I have since been an advocate.
CB: How much contact do you have with the birth parents and what is that relationship like?
Reason and I do not have contact with her parents – her mother passed, and her dad forfeited his parental rights. However, she does have an amazing relationship with her brother and her grandfather. Both men adore her and would spoil her rotten if they could.
Baby D on the other hand had nine hours of visitation a week that were supervised by a moderator, who was the Great Grandmother. The birth parents and I texted all the time and shared pictures and videos regularly. From the second I met Baby D, I could tell that she was being well taken care of and would return to her birth family in some way. I reminded myself every day, because I knew when the time came for her to return to her family, it would be extremely hard. Afterall, she would have been with me for a couple of months, more than half her life.
Baby D, was place back with her family in February. I am not going to lie; I was a puddle of sadness the night she left and the following day. Compartmentalizing my emotions and seeing her back with her loving family was the closure that I needed. I know the love, support, and stability I provided for her (and her family) over those two months will leave a lifelong impression on her.
CB: How has children’s Bureau helped you on this journey?
Children’s Bureau has been great. With Reason and her unique situation, they gave me immediate answers and guidance on how to ease her into the foster care system. They were on-hand every step of the way, with finding doctors, therapists, and anything else we needed. Our case workers are awesome and made us feel so welcomed and comfortable from the beginning. A bonus of working with Children’s Bureau is the warm and welcoming family vibe you get from everyone who works there.
CB: What challenges have you faced as a resource parent and what have you learned?
With Reason, I learned patience, understanding and how to communicate better. I had to figure out how to reassure her and make it clear that I was not going to abandon her. With older kids, I found that it is important to learn their personality and pick up on the subtle ways they communicate to get through to them.
When Baby D joined me, having a support network to turn to for help was especially important. I was able to reach out to multiple friends to borrow baby supplies, help me quickly shop for the essentials and even drive me to pick her up. It is also good to create a community of people within the system that are familiar with the process and can offer advice.
CB: Tell us about your foster children’s interests today.
Reason graduated high school a year early with a 4.0 and got a full ride to Chapman University. She is flourishing and having a successful freshman year. She inspires me daily. Her “nothing is going to get in my way” attitude on life, school and success is amazing.
Baby D astonished me every day. At two months old she was already holding her bottle and laughing and giggling with us. She was super smart and very funny. She knows just what heartstrings to pull or actions to take to get attention; including grabbing my cheeks for a kiss when she was trying to get what she wants. She was extremely loving and I wish amazing things for her.