My wife and I have been licensed foster parents in Clay County for two and a half years. During that time, we’ve had six children come into our lives through the foster care system. We adopted our oldest two children one year ago, and are currently in the process of adopting one of our other little boys.
If you would have asked me five years ago if this is how I would have imagined my life I would have started to laugh. Parenting six kids is not how I imagined my life would look at 26 years old, but despite all of the hard days I would not trade it for the world. Each kid that I have the pleasure of loving and caring for has their own unique story, and needs to grow and heal in their own individual ways.
The Decision to Become Foster Parents
My in-laws have been foster parents in rural North Dakota for 14 years and have had the opportunity to help over 45 children and families in the foster care system. There were two little boys that had needed a permanency option, and we instantly jumped at the opportunity to care for them.
We started the licensing process of paperwork, education, and house remodels in May 2017 and were officially licensed in October 2017. We did respite visits with the boys on weekends to help establish the parent-child relationship until they were finally placed in our care in December 2017.
Once we completed the six month criteria of the boys living at our residence, we could work towards adoption. This process took just under a year to complete, but in May 2019 we were able to officially adopt both boys into our family.
Requirements to Become a Foster Parent
Each state (and even county) has different guidelines and requirements. In Clay County, we filled out an application through Clay County Social Services. Our licensing worker then contacted us, and she was an essential resource for the rest of our licensing process and guided us on how to keep our license active.
In order to obtain our initial license we had to complete:
- Minnesota Adoption and Family Child Foster Care Application
- Individual Fact Sheet
- Background study/fingerprints
- Home Study
- Create a Drug/Alcohol Policy, Floor & Escape Plan, and Discipline Policy, and a Foster Family Fact Sheet
- Complete the following education: Car Seat Safety; Introduction to Mental Health; Normalcy, Reasonable, & Prudent Parent Standards; Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and Abusive Head Trauma
Myths About Foster Care
Foster parents are only in it for the money.
Yes, each foster child is allotted a stipend from the state and the amount is determined based on the child’s individual needs. However, the amount of money received is not enough to consider it an occupation. The money received for each child is to be utilized for basic needs, food, and clothing. The goal of foster care is to try and give every child the best possible childhood until either reunited with their biological family or adopted into a permanent home.
Adoption is expensive.
The main goal for children in foster care is to reunite with their biological family, if possible. However, it is not always possible and rights may need to be terminated if there are no other family members that are willing to be a permanency option. Fortunately, my mother-in-law could write our court documents so we didn’t need to hire a lawyer, and it was easier than expected. We also had to send a check to the court for a filing fee to get our court date. The only other expenses were the cute matching t-shirts we bought and of course the cost of obtaining their new birth certificates.
Foster parents must be married and heterosexual.
Every county may be different, but in Clay County they do not discriminate against same sex couples. The only stipulation the county has is that you are 21 years or older and consider yourself financially stable – you don’t even have to be married.
I work full-time and won’t have enough time or would have to quit my job.
As I stated before, foster care is not a source of income, but rather an aide that is available to assist for the child. Some counties also provide daycare assistance. I work full-time as a Registered Nurse and work weekends to make enough for my wife to stay at home with our six (busy) kids.
You can’t maintain relationships with their biological parents.
The goal is for reunification when possible, so it’s good to maintain a healthy relationship with the biological family so they have someone safe to bring the child to if needed. When an individual is deemed by the court to not be fit for parenting, it does not mean they are a terrible person. Rather, just it just means they are currently unable to meet the child’s needs. We have participated in visits and even continued to send updates/pictures to biological parents. Even with open relationships it is important to make clear boundaries and limitations.
I can’t do it because I would get too attached.
While it may be difficult to part with the kids once they safely can return home, being a licensed foster parent means these children receive all the love and support they need, even if for only a little while. From my experience, it does hurt when the kids leave, but it is so rewarding to watch them grow and see their character blossom.
Foster care is not for everyone, as it is mentally and emotionally challenging, but it is worth every tear shed to see these children surrounded by love and living their best life possible. We are very fortunate to have an outstanding support system with the county social workers, friends, and family. I am happy to know that we are making a difference in not only the community, but each child’s life that enters our home.
My goal is to foster as many children as our community and surrounding communities need until every child has a stable and loving home. I wish I could share a picture of my beautiful family and their smiling faces to show how much love we all share!
Shelby Jacobson grew up as a military kid that moved a lot until her dad became a pastor. She is a Registered Nurse and currently an ICU RN at Essentia Health. She is continuing her education in hopes of becoming a Nurse Practitioner. Shelby and her wife, Shayla, have been licensed foster parents in Clay County since October 2017. We love the family we have grown and the life we have created!