Foster Care FAQs

Leah Tripp

As of 2017, there are 10,500 children in the North Carolina foster care system. This number has been steadily increasing over time, and the need for foster parents in North Carolina is evident.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a foster parent, AGAPE of North Carolina would love to help you begin that journey. Below are some frequently asked questions regarding foster parenting and AGAPE’s role in foster care.

1. What are AGAPE’s requirements for foster parenting?

  • Foster parents must be at least 21 years old

  • Foster parents must be in good health

  • Foster parents must be Christians

  • If married, foster parents must have been married for at least two years.

  •  Both parents are permitted to work outside the home.

  •  Foster parents can be single parents.

    2. What is the process for licensure?

    AGAPE abides by state regulations and agency guidelines to match children with foster families. Families who are interested in fostering will submit an application and will be contacted by a caseworker.

    The caseworker assigned to you and/or your family will begin the evaluation process, which will typically take about three months. This process will include interviews, home inspections, and background checks.

    At the end of the process, the caseworker will give your family guidelines regarding the number of children that can be in the home, the ages of the child(ren), and any specifications regarding gender or special needs.

    3. What children are in foster care?

    Most children in foster care have been removed temporarily from their homes due to a threat to their safety (i.e. abuse or neglect). Additionally, some children in foster care have been given to an adoption agency, and are in foster care during the legal process of terminating parental rights.

    The age range of children in foster care can span from newborn to 18 years old. Some children are placed individually, while others are part of a sibling group. The majority of foster children have experienced some type of physical and/or emotional trauma, and therefore are in need of a stable, loving environment, even if that home is temporary.

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4. How long will the placement be?

The time spent in foster care varies from child to child. Some children are in care for a few days, while others are in care for years. The average AGAPE placement is in care for about eight months. During the licensing process, potential foster families will be able to discuss what placement lengths are preferred for them and their family.

5. How will I prepare to foster for the first time?

You will not be walking into your first placement unprepared. During the licensing process, potential foster parents will complete 30 hours of training that is specific to the age and situation of the child who will be placed.

After fostering begins, AGAPE staff is still on-call to help with any questions or concerns, and caseworkers will routinely be visiting and checking in with you and your family to provide guidance.

6. Is there financial compensation?

While foster parenting is a volunteer-based experience, AGAPE does provide reimbursement per month, per child to compensate for expenses directly related to the child and his or her care.

This reimbursement is meant to cover the basic needs of the child, and may change depending on age or situation (for example, older children may receive a clothing allowance). Additionally, foster families are not responsible for paying for the child’s medical expenses.

7. How do I get started?

If you, or someone you know is interested in foster care, contact AGAPE of NC at 919-673-7816, or visit our website at agapeofnc.org.

Your first meeting with AGAPE is not an obligatory commitment to foster care, and will consist of talking through information to figure out if fostering is right for you and your family.

We would love to hear from you!

Staff Spotlight: Kia Carter

Leah Tripp

Kia Carter is passionate about community.

As a social worker with AGAPE of North Carolina for a little over 2 years, Carter has seen just how important relationships, community, and connection are within foster families, but also within the agency itself.

Carter’s steadfast belief in the life-giving quality of community has led her to implement several initiatives, new to AGAPE this year, to nurture growth and connection among foster families.

One of these initiatives combines education and technology, as Carter is attempting to create an online study book for foster parents who are in the process of receiving their continuing education hours. Carter’s career as a social worker has shown her just how helpful support programs like this can be for busy families.

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“I know it can be hard to get the 10 hours that they need every year to continue their licensing, so I want to try and make it as convenient as I can with information that I know will be helpful for all of our foster parents.”

Carter also speaks to the importance of AGAPE’s quarterly connection gatherings as a means for foster families to support one another. These meetings allow foster parents within the agency to meet one another and share advice and encouragement. Carter explains that these meetings allow foster parents to support one another through challenges, and celebrate together in victories.

In addition to providing community for current foster families, these gatherings also give Carter hope for the future in terms of implementing a mentoring program for new foster parents. She explains that while she, as a social worker, can offer practical advice and experience, she realizes the value in hearing from someone who has truly been where you are.

“When you have someone who has gone before you and done what you are in the process of doing it is nice to have someone to talk to that gets it.”

While the concept of a mentoring program is still in the works, Carter explains that any program that creates community has its root in the gospel, and therefore, is worth creating and cultivating within an organization like AGAPE, which Carter says functions as a family in itself. AGAPE functions like a tight-knit family, and therefore seeks to create communities for those involved with its services.

Carter ends by sharing her ultimate motivation for her upcoming initiatives: her faith.

“Community is life-giving—and essential to following Christ. Scripture says that’s because we’re better together than we are alone.”

How Can My Church Serve Foster Children and Families?

Leah Tripp

While not everyone within a church will be called to be a full-time foster parent, there are other ways that your church can care for foster families and show Christ’s love to children in foster care. In addition to praying fervently for foster children and their families, churches can also serve in the following ways. 

Respite Care Teams

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Respite care providers are trained individuals who can offer babysitting services to full-time foster care parents. Respite care is important to the overall wellness of foster parents and their children, and provides a qualified, consistent support system for families. AGAPE of North Carolina offers training courses for respite parents. If someone in your church or small group is a full-time foster parent, consider supporting them through respite care. 

Mentoring

There are several programs in North Carolina and across the country that recruit mentors for older children and young adults in foster care. Mentors can make connections with foster youth and guide them in a variety of ways, including tutoring, job skills, college readiness, emotional wellness, and many other healthy lifestyle habits. Encourage your church family to serve foster children by signing up for a mentoring program. 

AGAPE of NC is licensing Young Adult Foster Homes that are in need of mentors from local congregations. To learn more about this opportunity, email Mary Arnold at marnold@agapeofnc.org. 

Care Packages

Care packages can be helpful for both foster children and potential foster families. There are a variety of organizations that sponsor care packages for children in care. Programs like Comfort Cases and Project Shoe Box provide care packages and/or suitcases with hygiene items, books, school supplies, and toys to children and youth in foster care. Churches can donate supplies and/or completed care packages to organizations such as these. 

Care packages can also be helpful for foster parents. Foster care placements can often come at short notice, which means new foster parents may be lacking in supplies for the child they just received. Consider having items like diapers, gift cards, and other necessities ready for any foster families in your community or congregation. 

The “Little Things” 

If there’s one thing I’ve heard consistently from my conversations with people involved in foster care, it’s that scheduling and time management can be really difficult. Foster parenting is a time commitment, which can make it easy for smaller tasks to fall to the wayside. If you know someone who is a foster parent, offer to bring them a hot meal, cut their grass, or pick up their groceries. Small acts of kindness go a long way, and there’s no telling how grateful someone will be to have the “little things” taken care of. 



What Happens After 18?: Aging Out of Foster Care

Leah Tripp

I remember the excitement I felt leading up to March of 2016.

I was turning 18, and I felt like I had the whole world in front of me. I was a senior in high school, I knew where I was going to college, and I felt like I had plenty of options open to me as I moved forward into legal “adulthood.”

18th birthdays should be full of promise and expectation, but for many young adults in America, turning 18 marks a time of great uncertainty.

Each year, over 23,000 children age out of the US foster care system.

Aging out of foster care can be traumatic for a variety of reasons. From a logistical standpoint, many children who age out of foster care become effectively homeless the day they turn 18 if they do not have a support system that is willing to provide them care and housing. According to the National Foster Youth Institute, homelessness impacts 20% of youth who age out of foster care.

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For those who avoid the immediate threat of homelessness, there are a range of other obstacles related to employment, education, and emotional health.

Youth who age out of foster care go to college at a significantly lower rate, as they may not have adults who are willing to guide them through application processes, academic requirements, and required testing.

Their lack of participation in post-secondary education is not due to lack of ability, but to lack of awareness.

In terms of employment, 50% of foster children who age out of the system will have gainful employment by the age of 24. Statistically, the other half of these youth will struggle to maintain stable jobs. The lack of consistent employment can contribute to cyclic patterns that keep foster youth from being able to own their own homes, pursue educational opportunities, or achieve career advancements.

Ultimately, foster youth are in great need of those willing to guide them, care for them, and invest in their lives and growth.

This care can come in the form of full-time foster parenting, mentoring, respite care, or volunteering.

Many Young Adult Foster Homes are beginning to address the challenges associated with aging out by providing care and guidance to foster youth ages 18-21.

These homes allow those who have technically “aged out” to have time to develop necessary skills and a support system in a familial setting.

If you are interested in learning more about helping foster youth, or about Young Adult Foster Homes, visit agapeofnc.org

5 Myths About Foster Care

By Leah Tripp

The conversation surrounding foster care can often contain misconceptions or inaccuracies that can make fostering seem intimidating or impossible for potential foster parents. The following article will debunk five common myths associated with foster care. 

Myth 1: “I have to be married to foster a child” 

There is no marital requirement associated with foster parenting. In fact, according to The Foster Coalition, 30% of foster parents are single. Foster parents can (and do) come from a variety of backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, and stages of life. To learn more about what AGAPE of NC requires of foster parents, click here

Myth 2: “I have to be wealthy” or “it’s expensive to adopt”

In contrast to some international and private domestic adoptions, the process of adopting through foster care is essentially free. Many agencies, such as AGAPE of NC, offer free trainings, financial reimbursement, and ongoing support for foster families. In addition, many states and government programs provide tax credits or reduced costs for foster children and their families.  

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Myth 3: “I have to be willing to adopt to be a foster parent”

While adoption can be an option for foster parents, it is not a requirement. The ideal goal for foster children is permanency, which can be found in the form of reunification with parents, kinship care, long-term fostering, or adoption. Respite care is also an option for individuals who are interested in providing short-term care only.  

Myth 4: “I need to have children/parenting experience” 

While parents with children are more than welcome to become foster parents, there are many foster parents who do not have children of their own, and have never parented prior to their participation in the foster care system. Many foster care organizations, including AGAPE, provide training for potential foster parents, as well as ongoing support groups and sessions for new foster parents.

Myth 5: “Foster parents have no say in which children are placed in their home”

Foster parents reserve the right to say “no” to any potential placement for any reason. AGAPE, and many other foster care agencies, also allow parents to express preferences regarding the children they feel comfortable accepting as placements. Foster parents will never be forced to accept a child into their care. 

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that there is no equation or situation that creates the “perfect” foster parent. Children in foster care need stability, compassion, and support. If you feel that you can provide a loving home for a child in foster care, please visit https://www.agapeofnc.org/foster-care/ or call AGAPE of NC at (919)673-7816. 

Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome

By Jordan Upton

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Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS) is not a formally recognized disorder but is a term that has been used since 1995 to describe feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression that some parents feel following an adoption. PADS usually affects adoptive mothers and can be attributed to a variety of factors.

The adoption process itself can be an emotional rollercoaster, but challenges may continue even after parents have brought their child home. There may be bonding issues, residual emotions about infertility, overwhelming pressure to be perfect, or a let-down that occurs after accomplishing a major goal or life milestone, like getting married or graduating from college.

Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome may present itself through:

●  Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities you used to enjoy

●  Fatigue or loss of energy

●  Excessive guilt

●  Feeling powerless

●  Feeling worthless

●  Sense of hopelessness

If you or someone you know may be experiencing these feelings post-adoption, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Reach out to a therapist or counselor. Contact AGAPE staff for their guidance and referrals. Take time off - whether it’s time off work or a day away from home to clear your head - take care of yourself so you can better take care of others.

Remember, you are not alone. A study by Purdue University found 18-26% of adoptive mothers reported depressive symptoms within the first year of bringing home a new baby or child.

Asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of. You, your child, and your family as a whole will benefit when you are honest about your feelings and seek help to be and feel your best.

https://www.adoptionstogether.org/blog/2013/01/07/why-arent-i-happy-recognizing-post-adoption-depression-syndrome/

https://www.seleni.org/advice-support/2018/3/16/post-adoption-depression https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2012/120322FoliResearch.html

Adoption in America

By Jordan Upton

In 2007 the National Public Radio morning show Morning Edition began a series titled “Adoption in America”. This four-part series examines the highs and the lows of adoption with four families and adoptees. The listener learns various aspects of adoption and how lives are impacted in sometimes unforeseen ways.

Part one talks with Judy Stigger and her now 26-year-old adopted son, Aaron. Over 30 years ago Judy and her husband, after discovering infertility issues, decided to adopt. They adopted two biracial children. Judy and her husband are both white. Judy and Aaron discuss the obvious and unexpected issues (such as the skin color of the angels on the family Christmas tree) involving race the family have faced.

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In part two, NPR’s Steve Inskeep hears a harrowing story from the Smolin family who adopted two girls from India in 1998. The Smolins were told that the girls were orphans who were looking for a new home in America. But, when the girls arrive in Atlanta the Smolins learn this was not the case. The two girls, Manjula and Bhagya, were emotionally distressed and tell their new adoptive parents that they had a home and a mother in India and that they were taken from her. The Smolins learn that the biological mother of the two was poor and in order for her daughters to be taken care of had temporarily placed them in a boarding school. This school turned out to be an orphanage and the director essentially sold the girls overseas and had given false information to the adoption agency in America.

Part three has Susan Soon-keum Cox tell her story of being adopted by an Oregon couple after spending her first four and a half years in South Korea. Adopted in 1956, Susan was one of the first children from overseas to be adopted in America. Susan’s childhood was spent learning how to be an American and she essentially lost all touch with her Korean heritage. Cox, now the vice president of an adoption agency, advocates for the retainment of an adopted child’s heritage and culture, which was not the case when she was adopted.

Finally, in part four author A.M. Homes talks about being adopted just after her birth. Growing up with no intention of finding her birth mother, Homes, then 32 years old, came home to find a voicemail stating that “someone is looking for you”. That someone, was her birth mother who wanted to get in touch. Homes talks about the complicated histories of her birth mother and her birth father, who she would also eventually meet, and how these events and histories have shaped her own understanding of identity.

These heartfelt, unique, and diverse stories are all available for free online at

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12138181

Why We Do Respite

Your donations support and equip foster families in your community who are opening their loving, Christian homes right now to children in need. Other Christian families assist them in this mission work by occasionally providing respite. Please watch & listen as the Williams family shares why they became Respite Providers.

Coping with Back to School Anxiety

By Jordan Upton

The start of a new school year can be a stressful time for parents and children. For children who have experienced personal trauma - like those in foster care who have been removed from their home and biological families - starting a new school may cause or worsen existing anxiety.

The goal for parents is to be supportive without increasing their child’s stress. Some tips for dealing with back to school anxiety:

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  1. Listen to and Don’t Dismiss Their Worries

    Worries are common but listen to them seriously. Rather than saying “There’s nothing to worry about”, acknowledging your child’s fears will help them feel more secure. Taking them seriously will help your child trust and feel comfortable talking with you over future issues.

  2. Problem Solve

    If your child has very specific worries, like forgetting their lunchbox or homework, work out a plan ahead of time for how you will solve it. Make sure they know who to contact if something goes wrong.

  3. Prepare and Practice
    If possible, take your child to the school before the first day. Let them walk around, find their classroom, get comfortable with this new setting. Practice driving to the drop-off or bus stop. If available, attend open house events where your child can meet their teacher and principal in advance of the first day.

  4. Focus on the Positives

    Ask your child what they’re excited about at school; even if it’s just recess or snack time, it’s a start. Focus on the fun parts of their day to distract them from anxieties. Find things to praise - going a certain amount of days without calling home, being prepared (not forgetting their backpack or lunchbox), good grades - that will encourage them and boost their confidence about attending school.

  5. Pay Attention to Your Attitude and Behavior

    If you are stressed or upset, your child will be able to tell. Be careful what you say and do as children look to you as a model.

https://www.anxietybc.com/parenting/coping-back-school-anxiety https://childmind.org/article/back-school-anxiety/