I am Kate. You may wonder how I ended up with twelve children because sometimes I DO!!
Life began to get interesting when we felt that God was calling us, and our four children, to change countries. Leave Australia, and begin life with our business in Atlanta, Georgia.
Excited was not enough to express how I felt. You see I am a songwriter, a Christian songwriter, and I was going to where I could not only learn more, but write, write, write and sing, sing, sing.
But, there it is the BIG but. I found that while my experience counted, I was unknown, and drat it, forty!! Running out of time or so I thought.
And you know what? Thoughts are everything. If you think it, it will be it.
So IT became.
I gave up, disillusioned, disappointed, and full of self pity.
Can I tell you the land of self pity is lonely? Nobody wants to join you. I put my foot up and climbed out of the hole that I had dug for myself and looked to see what God had in store for me next.
What a surprise I had in store! Eight more beautiful children, including three sets of twins, and the privilege to speak into some fifty other children of all different ages that we fostered over the period of about six to seven years.
A writing career which included books and songs, an acting career, both stage and film, a teacher of vocals and musical theatre and so much abundance in my life with family, finances, and so many rich life memories that I add to every day.
I became a double Certified Life Coach which ties it all together and has changed my thinking and my life.
OUR RULES FOR ADOPTION
When we started fostering we had some rules, most of which we broke, but ended up with some very good rules that have served us to this day. They are listed below and feel free to take or leave any part of them that applies to you.
Each of these rules on their own does not solve much at all, but using what amazing hubby Rog likes to call “the swiss cheese” analogy, which is layering all these rules, it seems to make a pretty good sense. So here they are:
Rule #1: Be a foster parent first.
This is the single most important thing to do. If you don’t follow any of the other rules, do this one. We didn’t intend to be foster parents, but, being so made all the difference. Even if you only want to adopt, do the foster training; you’ll never regret it.
Rule #2: Adopt kids younger than your biological kids.
If possible, do this as well. This is not a hard and fast rule, and there are plenty of exceptions to this one, but our experience is that foster/adoptive kids younger than your own work best, because they’re more likely to fit into your family, rather than influence your family to change for them. Your existing kids naturally help set the expectations for the new ones. DFACS can’t and won’t tell you this, but pecking order is really important.
Rule #3: Don’t be scared of families, or multiples.
Lots of times, we’ve seen whole families come into care, and there’s nothing much wrong with them, except there are more than one, and people get scared of that. The downside is that it’s more complicated, but the upside is that there is already accepted structure in place and it tends to work better if siblings are kept together, because there is already bonding. If they can bond to each other, they can bond to you.
Multiples (twins, triplets etc.,) scare people witless. No one wants them because they’re so much work, and, make no mistake, they are work; but multiples are great fun. We have three sets of twins, and it’s not double the trouble, it’s double the love, and double the reward. If you can get multiples, grab them with both hands.
Rule #4: Be prepared to accept emergency placements.
This is another example of DFACS can’t/won’t tell you, but emergency placements are immensely rewarding. None of ours actually stayed permanently, because birth family or other foster/ adoptive families were found to take them, but every one of them taught us something and that was reward enough. Many times they come from a call from Child Protective Services after hours, or at least until midnight. Our kids often woke up to find a new child had joined the family in the middle of the night. We loved that aspect of fostering, and still miss it.
Rule #5: Be really, really careful about overseas adoptions.
It sucks to say it, because all kids deserve a shot at life, and there are lots of them overseas who need help, but you really need to be careful and do your homework.
When you foster/adopt locally, you get to know the child before you make a commitment, and there are a lot of checks and balances along the way. When you adopt from overseas, there is no trial period.
Here are a few issues. No child is perfect, they all come with baggage. Sometimes it is minor, like medical issues that are treatable, but sometimes the neglect has been so severe they are now Reactive Attachment Disordered, and that is a big one to deal with. You will not know that until the child is in your home and then it is too late to change your mind. You now have a long, hard road ahead.
There are success stories here, but unfortunately I have heard, and experienced, some incredible disaster stories because it is permanent from the beginning of the journey, and they are your responsibility.
Rule #6: You can get babies locally.
This means that Rule #1 applies here. For adoption only with babies, there is a long wait, but as a foster parent who accepts babies, or new borns, here is the reality. If the baby does not go back to the birth family, you get first choice if termination of parental rights occurs. Six out of eight of my adopted children came straight from the hospital at between 2 days old to nine weeks. The nine-week babies were extremely premature and stayed in hospital for that time.
A lot of these babies come from drug addicted mums unfortunately, so, also sadly, drugs are hard to kick, and the extended family is in the same place, leaving foster care the only option for the baby.
Rule #7: Don’t expect them to be perfect.
Guess what? Your biological kids aren’t perfect, and even though you might be close, you aren’t either! There are reasons parents get into trouble, drugs, alcohol, or untreated Bi-polar or other disorders. Often the parents are trapped in a cycle of poverty and cannot get treatment. Some of these disorders can be genetic, but most of this is medically treatable.
It is nature and nurture. We have had a lot of kids come into care because no-one in their extended families could afford to take them in, or they had previous convictions etc. These families are struggling to pay for the bare necessities and quite often it is a cycle that continues over generations.
Sometimes you may be asked to take a child with special needs. Don’t be scared of that either. You have so many resources at your fingertips free to use because every child has free medical. Part of the fostering process. All of my kids have a degree of “special needs” and they are great!!!
Rule #8: Discipline.
The single best thing to do regarding discipline is to stay one step ahead of your children. If you do that, you can usually preempt issues before they escalate. With eight kids still in the house, we have almost no problems with disobedience or sibling rivalry. What is necessary is providing structure, consistency and firmness. We require good manners, and try to keep enough of an eye of them to be able to head off issues.
As children grow to teenagers, that does become a little more challenging, but not impossible. We now have car trackers, phone trackers, curfews all in place. Of course, you may have the odd one who will be harder than the others, but when you do implement this rule from the beginning, it is much easier to deal with.
Rule #9: Don’t be an island – get help!
The single most important thing we discovered about fostering and adopting was the need to get help, and get it early. In Georgia there is a program called “Early Intervention” and I would expect there would be similar programs everywhere. They will assess your child and advise you of the course of action, whether that be Physical, Speech or Occupational therapy. The benefits of intervening early are enormous. For us it meant our child walked over being in a wheelchair for the the extent of her life. Also, join your local Foster and Adoptive Parents Association. There you will not only get training hours, but more importantly, you will find kindred spirits, a sympathetic ear when you need it and lots of experience and advice.
Rule #10: It’s great fun and immensely rewarding!
While this is a bunch of work, it’s the most rewarding thing we have ever done in our life. Not only did we have the privilege to be a part of over 50 little lives, and give eight children a permanent home, we have been blessed beyond measure. We have got a heck of a lot more from this personally than the children who came into our home.