#write31days: Day 8


How much notice do you typically get before receiving a child (2 days vs. 10 minutes)? How much notice before they leave?

This is the part of foster care that moves very quickly. Very, very quickly.

For the emergency placements like I talked about yesterday, we typically know about an hour or two before the kids get to our house. Then we set the time for them to leave, usually on a Monday morning around 7:30, because for us, that allows us to get our Little Man to school and for us to get to work.

For our first long-term placement’s arrival, we got about two hours’ notice. Whirlwind!

For our current long-term placement, we knew a few weeks ahead of time that he was coming. His story is a little different because he was coming from a different foster home, instead of being fresh into the system. We are friends with the foster family that he lived with before, so we were really intentional with the transition. We had a goal date in mind of when he would be living with us full time. Then we counted back a few weeks to give ourselves some time to make the transition happen. First, he spent a weekend with us. Then he came on a Thursday night and spent through Tuesday morning. Then slowly, he would stay more and more with us, until he was with us 24/7! We had a family vacation planned, so we were able to take him with us on vacation just a few days after he was with us full time. We got to spend a whole week with both sides of our family really getting to know him and enjoy spending time with him. When we got back from vacation, he started a different school and it almost seemed as if he had always been with us. It was a really smooth transition and seemed to be really healthy for our Little Man.

Like most other questions, this one doesn’t have a simple answer.

When you have a child in your care, it’s important to build a good relationship with their DSS caseworker. The caseworker is the one who knows all the ins and outs of each case. They will keep you updated on how things are going, what direction they’re headed, and what you can expect with each placement. That being said, they aren’t all-knowing and things happen that are confusing and frustrating.

Our first placement came to us very quickly, with only two hours’ notice. They left us in that same time frame, also. We were at lunch one day and our caseworker called to say someone would be picking up the kids in two hours. Part of the frustration for us in that moment was that we did not have a relationship with the caseworker. There had not been enough time to build one, and we weren’t forward enough to march in her office and ask questions. We totally should have. (Take note!) She took a vacation for part of that month, and our understanding is that things happened around her while she was gone. When she got back, thing had changed and there was no way of stopping it.

In retrospect, I’m not sure anything would have been different if we had known more. They probably still would have left when they left, but if we had known what was happening around us, our hearts could have been more prepared.

So as you can see, there are a lot of moving pieces that determine the timeline of a placement. There’s never a simple answer to these questions, but hopefully, I’m able to explain our situation enough to better inform.


If you have any questions about foster care that you would like for me to answer, please leave a comment or send me an email! I’m compiling additional questions to answer in one post at the end of this series!


#write31days: Day 7


How often to you actively make yourself available to take in foster children? For instance,do you ever stay home/in town on the weekends just in case your case worker calls?

For us, specifically, this is kind of a complicated question. The answer isn’t always black and white.

There are really four classifications of foster parents: foster-to-adopt (which I’ll talk about on Day 25, so stay tuned!), traditional foster care (okay, not really a technical term, but it’s how I describe it), respite care, and emergency placement.

We fit in all four categories.

Traditional foster care (again, just a term I’m using), is when a foster child comes into our home for an indefinite amount of time. We organize child care and school and we make a somewhat permanent place in our home for a child. We are committing to caring for this child for as long as he or she needs.

Respite care is when a foster family needs child care for their foster child or children, as short as an afternoon, or for as long as a vacation. The licensing agency will call on potential respite families to find someone who is able to take the child for usually several days. A respite family must have an active foster license.

Emergency placement is exactly what it sounds like. Children are removed from a situation and need a place to go for the short term. This is the middle-of-the-night call. Or the can-you-keep-her-for-the-weekend call. Emergency placements are so important because they allow children to sleep in a safe bed in a safe place when they are taken from their home and are often frightened. This is sometimes the stepping stone to getting a child into a traditional foster home.

I’ve mentioned that our first traditional placement was twins. That meant that when they left, we had two beds, two car seats, two highchairs, etc. When we got our current placement, Little Man, as we call him, we still had an extra bed, car seat, and highchair. We asked to be put on the call list for weekend emergency calls. We aren’t able to get childcare at the drop of a hat, but we can certainly take in kids over the weekend when we are home. Our shortest emergency placement was just six hours long. She came at midnight one night and left at 6:00 the next morning. Our Little Man slept through the whole thing.

We often get these calls on Friday afternoon and we keep the children until the first thing Monday morning, to give us time to get to work. We don’t ever just “stay in town” to make sure we are there if/when the call comes. We would seriously be tied to our house 24/7 because there’s always a need. There’s always a call. However, we know when we have busy weekends on our calendar. If we get a call for that weekend, we often say no. There is always freedom to say, “This weekend isn’t going to work out for us.” It’s heartbreaking, and I feel like the worst person ever for saying that. Every. Single. Time. But there are weekends when it’s not best for our family or for our son. We really have to evaluate and ask, “Is my home in a place where I can bring in children and bring them comfort?” Sometimes the answer is “no” and that’s okay.

For instance, a few weekends ago, we got an emergency placement for two young boys. CUTE as buttons. They had so much fun playing with our little guy. And then our air conditioner broke. Quickly, the house got to be a miserable temperature inside. We were supposed to keep them through Monday morning, but Sunday afternoon, I had to call their casework and ask that they be picked up and moved to another emergency placement. We were all hot, sweaty, and miserable. We knew that we’d get absolutely NO SLEEP that night as the temperature kept climbing. We felt like it was the best thing for the boys and for our family for them to be able to go somewhere else.

As a foster parent, you have all the freedom and control to determine what kind of placement you want your family to be. At first, we started out as just traditional foster family with the option to adopt, if it ever came up. Then we realized that we would likely have the option to take in weekend placements on a case-by-case basis. We are really thankful for these opportunities to open our home to children as needed.

So I tell these stories to say, no, we don’t necessarily make ourselves more or less available IF the call comes. The call WILL come. We just always try to be prepared.


#write31days: Day 6


What practical things did you do to prepare for the first “call?”

This was one of the most exciting parts of the process for me. Since we weren’t pregnant, and we didn’t get to experience the “prepare the nursery” in the traditional sense, I went full-on foster nesting mode! The only difference was that for us, there was a little more guess work. :)

We asked for a child under two years old, either gender, so we started by painting the nursery, buying some toys, and buying a crib. I designed the whole nursery loosely around a fox theme. (I hate saying that and I didn’t tell anyone because then people would only buy fox stuff for gifts… :)) It was (and still is!) a super cute room! I love it so much!

So we set up a nursery with a really nice crib, a bookshelf that had tons of storage for books and toys, a great rug to lay over the carpet for some more design, and a dresser that doubled as a changing table. I went shopping at our local traveling consignment sale and spent about $100 buying an outfit or two and some PJs for each gender, size newborn through 18 months. I wanted to buy enough to get us through the first couple of days.

We got a list of local daycares from our licensing agency, and confirmed openings in our expected age range.

So the unisex room was perfect, the convertible carseat was in the car, the stroller was in the closet, and we were all ready for our first call.

In July of 2014, around 1:00 in the afternoon, I got the call that our foster license had been approved and was waiting on a signature! Yay!

Around 2:00 that same afternoon, I got another call. Our first placement.


One boy, one girl.


As in, two of everything. BOTH genders.


We had only prepped for ONE of everything, you know, because we were thinking ahead and we totally knew what was coming. Right?!

At 4:00 that same afternoon, the twins were at our house.

Yes, things happen very quickly in the foster care world. (Well, except when they don’t. Which is a whole ‘nother post.)

So, you can imagine our predicament. Y’all, COMMUNITY. I made a couple of phone calls/Facebook messages, and within an hour, we had a TON of extra clothes, diapers, another crib, two more carseats, an extra stroller, and the love and support of a ton of friends. COMMUNITY. (Remember the support I talked about yesterday? THAT.)

One moral of this story is that even though you can take some practical steps to prepare for the first placement call, you really never know what the Lord is sending your way. And THAT is how foster care plays out many, many times. Sometimes I think the prepping stages for the practical sides of things are really just, you know, prepping stages for this whole deal.



#write31days: Day 5


What support exists for foster parents? Are you a part of any support groups or discussion pages?

The answer to this question kind of piggy-backs off yesterday’s question about our licensing organization.

There is a lot of support out there for foster parents/families. Miracle Hill sends out a monthly newsletter filled with opportunities for connecting with other families at social events, training opportunities, and updates in the world of foster care. This is huge and filled with really useful information.

There are also lots of services for children in the foster system to help out parents. If you have child in your care that has certain needs, there are programs in place to help support you. [Full disclosure: we have not had a placement in need of extra support in this way, so I cannot speak to the details of these programs.]

Within 72 hours of a child coming into foster care, his/her development and physical health are assessed. If the child is four years old or above, his/her mental health is also assessed. Once those assessments are complete, the foster parents are made aware of the results, and care plans are put into place to get the child on track. This is incredibly helpful, considering many children that come into care are, on average, six months behind in development.

These are just a few of the many support systems in place for foster parents.

Cody and I are a part of a small group at our church that has been really helpful! We are able to share about our journey and receive encouragement, while also learning from others who have walked a similar journey.

We are also in a couple of private Facebook groups that are really encouraging. They are a great place to ask/answer questions and share information.

Our community, even those not directly connected to the foster system, has been so invaluable. When we got the call for our very first placement (which were twins and we were only prepped for one child), there were many things we needed within the first couple of hours/days. We were fortunate to have friends bringing over all kinds of clothes, and extra crib, extra carseats, and extra stroller, etc. We had even more than we knew what to do with! It was so amazing!

So, if you’re thinking of becoming a foster parent but are concerned that you’d be walking alone, consider these supports that are already in place. It is so helpful to know that there are others ready to help out!


#write31days: Day 4


Did you go through an organization? Which one and do you recommend it?

One of the biggest licensing hurdles we wrestled with before we started our application process, was whether or not to go through an organization. We knew people who got licensed directly through DSS and would admit that the process was about as good as one could expect. (I mean, let’s be real. If you know anything about DSS, it’s that they are way overworked and understaffed.) We had also talked to people who were licensed through the Youth Advocate Program, which works in several states across the country (YAP no longer licenses in our area. It’s possible that they do around other parts of the country.), but we didn’t necessarily feel that was the way to go. We also had several friends who were licensed through a local, faith-based organization called Miracle Hill Ministries, which interested us the most.

Mission Statement: Miracle Hill exists that homeless children and adults receive food and shelter with compassion, hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, and move toward healthy relationships and stability.

Support of the Foster Care System seems to fit right in with their mission statement! (I always get excited when I find ministries that provide support and aid to marginalized families and children.)

Once we decided to pursue Miracle Hill, I filled out their online contact form and within a couple of hours, I had an email in my inbox from a licensing worker and we set up our initial meeting!

Would I recommend going through an organization like Miracle Hill to get licensed? ABSOLUTELY. Without a doubt. If you live in upstate SC, and you’re considering becoming foster parents, please contact MH.

From Miracle Hill, we expected:
* Some help in getting our license
* A worker that would visit a couple of times a year to make sure everything with our home was acceptable
* That was all? Truthfully, we didn’t know what to expect…

From Miracle Hill, we have received:
* Carefully guided, step-by-step instructions for filling out our paperwork for licensing
* A well-organized licensing worker who handled each piece of paperwork and submitted our completed packet for license approval
* Support (and attendance) at every court hearing and Foster Care Review Board meeting
* A quarterly visit from our worker to check up on our family and to make sure our DSS caseworkers are on the ball! :)
* Frequent emails to check in on us and assess our needs
* A licensing worker who cares about and prays for our family
* Support from an organization that works closely with DSS
* Much more

We would, with no hesitation, recommend an agency like Miracle Hill for licensing. Our licensing worker has been an unexpected blessing throughout this process. We have been blessed to have great DSS caseworkers, but we’ve had several of them in the year that we’ve had our current placement. Jobs turn over, people get moved, cases get changed, and caseworkers have to play catch-up. It’s a frustrating process for them, but our workers have nailed it. Our MH worker, however, has been constant. She’s been able to find information for us, made phone calls, nudged certain things along, and answered any and all questions for us whenever we asked. She has truly been an incredible blessing.


#write31days: Day 3


What are the steps to becoming a foster parent?

Once we decided to become foster parents (all during the decision-making process, really), we talked with as many people as we could about the process. We wanted to know as much up front as we could find out. When we were ready to begin the process, I filled out an information contact form on a local licensing agency’s website. (I’ll talk more about that organization tomorrow!)

So here are the steps we took to get our license! (Please remember, these are the steps required in our state of South Carolina. Specific requirements may vary by state.)

Step 1: Have an initial meeting with a licensing worker. Our worker has been invaluable throughout not only the licensing process, but all throughout fostering. She came to our house one evening and we spent a little time getting to know each other. She talked us through all the details of the process and left us with a stack of well-organized paperwork.

Step 2: Fill out and submit paperwork. This sounds way more overwhelming than it actually is. The first page of the packet is a checklist that carefully outlines each piece of information that needs to be submitted. Examples of paperwork include:
* Application
* Autobiography: family background information about each applicant
* Home Study: background info, discuss values, decide what age, gender, etc. of child would fit best in your home
* Disaster Preparedness Plan: info about where you’d go if something disastrous happened to your home
* Forms for background checks
* Release form for driving record
* Discipline Agreement: no corporal punishment for children in foster care
* Supply copies of drivers licenses, auto insurance proof, social security cards, marriage license, and financial statements
* Checklist of what children are best suited for your home (age, gender, special needs, etc.)

Step 3: Get physicals, get fingerprinted, have a fire marshall inspection, and have a DHEC inspection. The fire marshall will measure the windows in the room where the children will sleep to make sure there is a 5 square feet opening (if it’s a first floor window. A 5.7 square foot opening is required for a second floor window.) He will also check to make sure there are interconnected smoke detectors in each bedroom, as well as a fire extinguisher located near the central area of the home and a fire escape plan hanging where it can easily be found. We keep ours on the fridge and our fire extinguisher in the pantry. The DHEC inspection will verify that all chemicals are locked away (we keep our cleaning supplies in the laundry area) and make sure that the house is generally clean and tidy.

Step 4: Attend 14 hours of training classes. This was two Saturdays, for us.

Step 5: All paperwork and information is combined into one packet by your licensing worker, which is then sent to the state level to be approved and for a license to be generated.

Step 6: Accept your first foster placement! (For us, this happened about two hours after our license had been signed. It wasn’t even mailed to us yet! More on this later…)

Overall, this process was so smooth for us. Our licensing worker has about 25 years experience at our licensing organization, and she is on the ball! She keeps very detailed records and was always quick to let us know when we could take the next step and move forward. We filled out our application in February/March of 2015, and received our license in July 2015. It usually takes about 4 months to be licensed, so we were right on track.

Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing about our licensing organization. Come back to hear all about our experience!


#write31days: Day 2


What is foster care? How is it different from adoption?

I get asked this question many times. For someone who doesn’t live in the foster care/adoption world, it can be confusing.

Foster Care: According to the National Adoption Center, foster care is “a temporary arrangement in which adults provide for the care of a child or children whose birthparent is unable to care for them.”

Adoption: Also according to the National Adoption Center, adoption is “a permanent, legally binding arrangement through which a person, usually a child or teenager, becomes a member of a new family. In this arrangement, persons other than the birthparents assume all parental rights and obligations. The birthparents no longer have these rights and obligations and are no longer the legal parents of the child.”

It’s worth noting that adoption can happen through private agencies where the adopting family does not have to be foster parents. For us, we have chosen to be foster parents while being open to adoption, if that comes along. We filled out some additional paperwork when we were initially licensed and we knew that would save us time if adoption ever came up for our placements. We are really thankful we did that and we would encourage anyone to do the same if adoption is in your mind!

These are the basic difference between foster care and adoption. There’s so much more to it, of course. Here is a document, provided by our foster licensing agency, that explains the differences more in depth.

Come back tomorrow to learn, step-by-step, how to become a foster parent!




#write31days: Day 1


Welcome to the October 2015 #31days series! This year, I’m sharing about our journey as foster parents and hopefully shed some light on this crazy foster care world! Each day throughout the series, I’ll be answering a question that I commonly get about foster care. Find the full list of questions by clicking here!

Along the way, if you find that I’m not planning to answer a question, please email me or comment, and I’ll add your question to the Day 30 post. I know that I can’t cover every aspect of foster care, so I’d love to at least be able to address any additional questions! No question is off limit! Please ask!

On to our story. :) In the interest of full disclosure, I hope to be sharing some really fun stuff, some really hard stuff, and some really [heart] stuff. No judgement, please. I know that everyone’s journey is not the same. This is ours.

Big Announcement


This was our “we’re expecting!” photo, except we were “expecting” an already-born child, not “expecting” to birth a baby. :)

Oh, we were just babies.

When we first got married, we made a “child plan” that included waiting five years after getting married to try to have children. Our original plan was to have natural-born children the normal way. Foster care/adoption wasn’t really a blip on our radars.

Thankfully, the Lord changed all of that.

Somewhere along the way, and I can’t even pinpoint when it happened, our hearts were completely changed. Twist-turned upside-down, if you will. We decided (which, side note, was just an illusion of control. The Lord totally changed our minds for us, in the best way.) that we would become foster parents before having children biologically. Then we even discussed whether or not to have biological children at all. (That’s still up in the air, by the way.)

We knew in our souls that fostering children temporarily, and adopting permanently, would be a huge part of our family story. We decided to apply for foster parenting just before our 5th wedding anniversary so that we could have our license sometime shortly after. The timeline worked out well and we were licensed foster parents as of July 2014.

We’ve been on this journey for just over a year. It has been quite the ride and we know that it’s just the beginning.

I’ll be digging into this more deeply this month, and I hope you’ll join in. I also hope that for any of you that are considering foster care or adoption, you’ll find some humor, some encouragement, and some community.


Little Willow Dog – Update

Happy Monday! Or Not-So-Happy-Because-It’s Monday. Either way, good morning! I’m drinking coffee with Pumpkin Spice Creamer, so that will at least get me through the next half hour.

If you’ve been here for a while, you know I have quite the obsession with my pets. This blog is even named after our dog, Willow.

Willow Collage 4

She’s our baby. We adopted her when she was about 2 years old. The first Thomas doggie. She’s full of personality and spunk. She LOVES to snuggle.

Willow Collage 3

She lets me put doggie clothes on her and she loves to be on the bed, even though we “don’t let her.” Ha!

Willow Collage 5

A few weeks ago, she began limping pretty badly. She wouldn’t put any weight on her back left leg, and she seemed unlike herself. We took her to the vet and he said it was likely a sprain or pulled muscle, so he gave her a shot and told us to come back if it didn’t get better. After a couple of days, she got way worse, and she wouldn’t move the leg at all. It just became really stiff. The strange thing is that she never acted like she was in actual pain. She would lay on the hip and jump up on the couch like normal, she just wouldn’t put any weight on the foot.

Cody took her back to the vet and the doctor did an X-ray and found a mass in her thigh. Thankfully, it was only in her leg, and not any where else in her body. He had mentioned before that he needed to pull a couple of her teeth, so he said while he had her under, he would take out the mass to see what it was. She had to stay overnight at the office, and our house felt pretty empty that night.

We went to pick her up the next morning. She did really well through surgery and had no ill effects from being sedated.

IMG_1241The first thing I did after bringing her home was buy some soft dog food and an obscenely large bed. It’s huge and she loves it.

By the time we got her home, she was already walking on her leg and she seemed so much better. Over the next few days, she continued to improve and return to her old self! We were so thankful!

We are a few weeks out from her surgery, and she’s finally old Willow dog, as if nothing had ever happened. Unfortunately, the vet got the results back from the mass he removed and confirmed that Willow has doggy cancer. We were so sad to get the news. The good part is that we still will have one or two years with her and we will make the best of that time!

It’s amazing how much our pets mean to us and how hard it is to let them go when the time comes. We are thankful that we have as much time left as we do!

[I know not everyone is a pet person. But if you do have pets, and you notice something isn’t quite right, get the to the doctor right away! We are so thankful we took Willow when we did.]

And to end on a cute note, here’s a sweet video of Willow having a doggy dream. :)

YouTube Preview Image

What I Learned – August 2015

What I Learned August 2015

This is my first time linking up with Emily for her What I Learned series! I stalk it every month and read about what others have learned, but this time, I’m sharing my own lessons!

Disclaimer: Some of the posts in Emily’s link-up are serious and beautiful and you walk away with a deep life lesson. Mine’s just silly. So there’s that.

1. My Instagram notifications weren’t broken after all. 

Y’all. For MONTHS I have thought my instagram was broken. I would open it up to see hearts on all my pictures but my phone would never tell me! I had gone over the notifications in the settings app a hundred times and everything was seemingly fine. Still no notifications. One day last week, I was plundering around the interwebs, determined to finally figure it out, when I found that there are notifications WITHIN Instagram! Presto-Chango! My notifications were back!

For those of you as lost as I was, let me shed some light.

Instagram > Little person in lower right hand corner > Little wheel in top right hand corner > Push notification settings > Adjust to your liking


instagram collage


Life. Changed.

2. Instagram allows not-square pictures now!

Okay, it’s the last instagram lesson, and this is not just a new-to-me concept, but was actually part of the most recent update from the last week or so. Make sure your Insta app is updated before you try it. Enjoy looking at and uploading not-perfectly-square pictures/video! Say goodbye to adding those white bars around your not-square pictures!

3. First class is the way to go.

Husband and I just got back from a vacation-ish type trip to Austin, Tx. (Many details to come!) We booked our trip through Cody’s mom, who is a travel agent, so everything was paid for before we left. That made things super easy and stress-free. It also allowed us to inexpensively impulse upgrade our return flight to first class. Y’all, it’s the only way to fly. Although, I only fly about once every 10 years so far in my life, I’ll probably not ever be one of those people who fly first class all the time but this one time was a great treat. The guy across the aisle checked his coat (what?!) and we were served a snack and a full meal on a two-hour flight.


Hot nuts. People eat hot nuts and it’s a thing. These mixed nuts were piping hot like from a microwave or something and I never knew people lived like this. I wish you could have seen the look on my husband’s face when he grabbed a handful and realize how hot they were.

And notice that we were served our snack and drink in glassware. And the full meal was served in glassware!

(And then I started panicking in my head because how much weight did glassware for first class add to the plane and did they account for that before taking off and what if it weighed the plane down too much and we crashed and shards of glass went everywhere all because of glassware in first class?!?!)

(And then I realized that it was a small plane and there were only 12 first class seats, so not that much weight, and you know, people go to pilot school and get their pilot diploma to make decisions about flying and stuff, so I could probably just sit back in my seat and relax.)


And the leg-room! People in the movies were not kidding about the leg-room! And for this claustrophobic girl, the leg-room was worth the extra cost!



4. Americano Coffee. Praise the Lord.

When I get coffee from a coffee shop, I order one of two things: either a fancy pants coffee drink with lots of sugar, or drip coffee. I know. Exciting stuff. But a wonderful coffee-giving friend of mine offered to make me an Americano on the spot (and HELLO free coffee!) so I took it and drank it and YUM. Then, a few days later, another wonderful coffee-giving friend walked up to me and handed me a black Americano (without knowing how much I loved them all of a sudden, because we are that much alike) and my love for Americano was secured. So that’s my new coffee shop thing.

5. Macaroons are really as good as everyone says they are.



I’m a slow adopter. When the masses are all on board with something, I usually stay away from it until I can be sure that I am fully appreciating whatever it is for myself and not just because everyone says I should. (My husband calls it hipster. I call it being sure of myself. HA! Yeah, right…)

Skinny jeans. Mumford and Sons. Shabby chic decor. I hated all of them at first.

I was the same with macaroons. There were pictures all over instagram. People were blogging about them. Pinterest was full.

And then this past weekend, I bought some. And now I see the light. Flaky, rich, smooth, creamy, delicious. Tonight I’ll be out and about running errands, and you can bet your sweet tooth that I’ll be picking up some more macaroons.

So there you have it. My life lessons from the past month. Hope on over to Emily’s blog to read more about what others are learning!