Parenting. There is nothing else like it. It is the hardest and most rewarding thing I have ever done. You are responsible for someone else’s life 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. No matter how old your kids are, you are always their parent and doing what you can for your kids.
A few years ago, I was introduced to Amanda. She has never been married but has a love for children. Come to find out, she is a single foster parent. This really intrigued me. It had never crossed my mind that a single person could or would foster parent. As I have gotten to know Amanda, I realized that there are other single foster parents in my community and around the country.
I wanted to learn more about her story as a single foster parent and what advice she has for other singles or married couples who were thinking about fostering children. I hope that Amanda’s story gives you the courage to pursue a foster parenting role if you feel that you are being called to do so.
Q: Tell us about yourself
A: I am a nurse by trade. I started as a labor and delivery nurse, then I worked in a family practice office, and then I did OB/GYN nursing in the office.
I have always had a love for babies and children as far as I can possibly remember. When I was old enough, I babysat. Then I started working in the church nursery, and I will be around babies and kids as much as I possibly can.
Q: Why did you decide to be a foster parent?
A: I love children and I was not married and it didn’t look like I was going to get married anytime soon, so I wanted to take care of children and have children in my life. This was a way that I could care for them in what we call the “middle part” of their life. The middle part meaning that the kid(s) cannot safely be with their biological parents and so they need someone to care for them in the middle.
It is something that is a true passion of mine. It is something that I truly believe that God put on my heart many years before I actually said yes. I think He kept asking and asking and I kept telling God no, that I couldn’t do it as a single person. I always had an excuse. Finally, one day it just clicked and I said, “I need to do this.”
I also believe that not everyone is called to be a foster parent, but I believe that we are all called to help care for these children in some way. Whether that be volunteering with foster parents (helping them out) or donating to the foster closets.
Q: What are foster closets?
A: Foster closets are a place where people from the community can donate anything from formula, bottles, sippy cups, clothes, toys, cribs, highchairs, etc. Anything that you might need to raise a child.
As foster parents, we get to shop the closet for FREE. It helps us get the necessities that we need in order to care for our foster kids.
In the Cedar Valley there are two foster closets (located in Waterloo and Cedar Falls, Iowa). They are called Kaden’s Kloset. (According to their website, “Kadens Kloset is a 100% volunteer and donation run not-for-profit organization that exists to provide services and necessities for foster and adoptive children and families and children in need within our communities and beyond. Kadens Kloset gives EVERY individual a way to positively engage in community partnership!”)
In the beginning, when I first started out, I had to buy everything because these closets did not exist in my area back then. The foster closets are a huge blessing. Once you are done with the supplies, they ask that you donate the goods back to the closet so others can use it.
You can visit Foster Coalition to see if there is a foster closet near you.
Q: What expectations did you have going into foster parenting?
A: I don’t think that you can go into foster parent with any specific expectations. Some people go into foster parenting thinking; I’m just going to foster, or I’m just going to adopt, but it doesn’t matter what your expectations are, you have to be very open minded.
The goal of foster care is to keep these kids in a safe place until their biological parents can safely take care of them again. So, going in with a goal of adoption of a child who is in the middle process, is probably not realistic. There are cases where you definitely know that there is more likelihood that the child may go to adoption but quite a few kids are unified with their biological parents.
I think it is really important for foster parents to try to work with the biological parents as much as possible. Keep an open relationship with them. In my opinion, we need to minister to them as much as we need to care for the children. God calls us to care for all of them in the process. Sometimes it is safe to do that and sometimes it is not. You have to take it on an individual basis.
Q: Would you consider adopting any of your foster children?
A: In the beginning, I intended just to foster. I did have a child who was not able to reunite with his biological parents, the biological parents rights were terminated, and he was adopted by some friends of mine. Because of this, I get to keep in contact with him still.
I’ve been doing this for nine years now. The further along I go, I tend to get more attached to certain placements over others. There may be an opportunity for me to adopt in the future, and it would be something that I would definitely consider.
Q: What are the requirements to becoming a foster parent?
A: The requirements vary slightly from state to state.
According to Four Oaks and Iowa Foster & Adoptive Parents Association (IFAPA), the following are requirements for foster parenting in Iowa.
- Age – at least 21 years old.
- Six hours of training per year whether you have a one or two year license.
- All licensed foster homes must be certified in CPR & First Aid
- Mandatory Child Abuse Reporter Training
- Medication Management Training
- Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard Training
For more detailed information on your state requirements, you can visit childwelfare.gov.
Q: What has been the most rewarding part of being a foster parent?
A: The hardest part but also an extremely rewarding part is seeing them reunited with their biological parents when it is a safe situation. I had a little girl whose mother used illegal substances and had two of her children taken away from her (the rights were terminated). This mom worked really, really hard to get her baby back. I was with her every step of the way. I told her that I supported her and I prayed for her. We were in constant communication via text messages.
She now has her baby back and that mom is doing absolutely phenomenal. It is really rewarding to see someone work that hard to get their kid(s) back. She totally changed her life. She has a job and is not using illegal substances anymore.
Foster care gets a bad rap because people think that the state just wants to take away your children because you’re not a good parent. That is not true. There has to be some severe issues in order for your child to be taken away (ex. substance abuse, mental health issues, can’t provide basic needs like food and water for your children). They don’t take children away lightly.
Q: What has been the most challenging part of being a foster parent?
A: I had one case where the child had been severely neglected for the first six months of his life. When he came to my house, he was six months of age and was not able to roll over, and he could barely lift his head up when placed on his tummy. He had been left in a car seat all the time. To try to attempt to bond with that child because he had never really attached to anyone, and because he was severely developmentally behind, was a lot of hard work.
There are some children that have attachment issues in foster care. It’s something that you have to work really hard at attaching to them. There are days when it is not easy and you wonder why in the world you do it. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs possible, but with foster parenting, you are parenting someone else’s child. When the biological parent gets mad at you because you are not parenting that child how they would parent, it makes it even harder.
Q: What is the process for becoming a foster parent?
A: You do an inquiry stating that you are interested in becoming a foster parent. You are then contacted for an informational meeting. Then you are signed up for classes. Classes are 3 hour classes over 10 weeks. 30 hours total of in-classroom training.
During that time, they will also come and do a home study, background check, and check references. Once these are competed, the information is submitted to the Department of Human Services (DHS). If everything is approved, then you get licensed. The process for all this to happens can take between 6 months to a year.
So if you are interested at all in becoming a foster parent, start the process because it can take awhile for everything to get approved. You can drop out and say you are done at anytime.
Q: How much notice do you get before receiving a child?
A: It depends. If they are removing a sibling group of children, they may already be at the DHS office and you could receive a call and be told that these kids need a place to stay right now. Other times it might be a infant who has just been born and is in the hospital and that they know that they are going to remove, you might get a little more notice.
The least amount of time that I have had was 20 minutes. The child was already in DHS custody, I was at work and getting off at noon that day. By the time I got home, DHS was in my driveway waiting for me. In the case of infants and babies, I generally have 12 to 24 hours notice.
DHS will call you and explain the basics of the situation. They will tell you the age and gender of the child and as much information as they can safely tell you, which most of the time is very little. I normally go with my gut, but sometimes I really don’t know and I tell them to keep calling other foster parents and if you are not able to find someone to take the child, please call me and then we can talk about it more.
They always tell you that you can always say no. And don’t be afraid to say no if it’s not the right age for you or if it’s not the right time in your life.
Q: If you are currently caring for one child, could you get a call to care for additional children?
A: There is a limit on how many children you can care for. Currently, I am licensed to care for a maximum of two. I have the bedroom space for more but I know that I not able to care for more than two. Since I am currently caring for one child, I could get a call to care for another child. Right now, I would not take another one. I have only taken care of one at a time.
I have done respite care which is temporary care while the foster parents need a day off or go out of state. It is usually for a weekend or a week if they are going on vacation. We can take the children out of state if we receive permission from the biological parents and the judge.
Q: Do you need a family medical plan even if you are single to care for foster children?
A: No. Foster children are automatically covered under title 19 and state insurance. They never go on your personal insurance.
Q: Where do the children go while you work?
A: Daycare just needs to be a licensed registered daycare. You can work with DHS to find a sufficient daycare.
Q: What advice do you have for those considering becoming a single foster parent?
A: While it is a lot of work, it really is worth it. There are days when you feel like you just want to sit down and cry because it is not easy to listen to the stories of these children and what they have had to go through. It is absolutely heartbreaking sometimes. But, in the end, if you can be that safe person for them, maybe temporarily, or in some cases forever. It really is totally worth it, BUT it is not going to be easy.
Also, you never know how long a placement will be with you. Most of the time when you receive a call for placement, DHS tries to guess how long the child will be with you, but the estimates are not always accurate. The longer you do this and the more placements that you take, you tend to get a feel for how long certain children in certain situations will be with you.
Also, you do not have to attend the court cases for your foster children, but I highly recommend that you do attend. Most judges, if they know that the foster parent is present, will ask how things are going. The child is assigned a lawyer also known as guardian ad litem (GAL) by the state, so the child does have representation in court.
If you are single, foster parenting is totally doable. It is definitely not easy but there is a network of us right now and we try to stick together and help each other out. I rely a lot on my family and friends also which makes a huge difference. Having some sort of support system whether it is family, friends, or other single or married foster parents that can help you out is beneficial.
As a single person, I always thought that I couldn’t do it, but now I am on my tenth placement and haven’t looked back.
Q: What would you like people to know?
A: There was an online article I read about a family that has been trying to do a private adoption, and they have been getting scammed by people that are saying that they are going to give up their baby for adoption.
It started this long comment section below the article where people were talking about how people should try to adopt from foster care because if the opportunity arises to adopt, there is minimal cost and you are not getting scammed. However, like I said before, the opportunity to adopt doesn’t always happen as the child is reunited with their biological parents when it is safe.
Foster kids are adopted (when parental rights have been terminated) by other foster parents only. Some people get licensed to foster and adopt but they only accept placements that are free to legally adopt.
As a foster parent, you do receive a small stipend to help pay for clothes and food but it does not cover everything.
Also, the Cedar Valley now has a certified respite program. So if people are not interested in fostering or adopting but they are willing to do respite care for children, they can now become certified through the University of Northern Iowa. So people will come into your home and watch your foster kids (in your house), so the kids don’t have to switch houses, while you are away on vacation.
Rights of Biological Parents
The biological parents retain the rights to make a lot of decisions of their children even though they are not in their custody when you are foster parenting. For example, I cannot get a child a haircut or take a child to church without getting permission from the biological parents.
Thank You, Amanda.
I want to thank Amanda for taking the time to sit down with me and sharing her story about foster parenting as a single person. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, you can go to the National Foster Parent Association (NFPA) and find the contact information for your state.
If you have any comments or questions regarding this interview, I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below.