Adoption Through the Rearview Mirror: Book Review

Scrolling through Amazon, I was quickly skimming to see if there were any books on adoption that jumped out at me. I’m in a season of reflecting on our own adoption stories and have largely avoided books on the topic because most of what I read in the past was full of clichés and wasn’t something I could really connect with. As I was moving down the page past all the “how to” type books and past the personal memoirs, somehow I landed on Adoption Through the Rearview Mirror: Learning from Stories of Heartache and Hope by Karen Springs. I have no idea why I clicked…the unassuming cover doesn’t really tell me anything. But I did. I clicked. And then I bought. And then I read…oh my. Adoption friends…this book…well, let me tell you about it.

The author started working for an international ministry in the Ukraine when she was just 23 years old. Their ministry was involved with caring for orphans and she quickly connected the problem of full orphanages…to the reality that there are many families in America who want to adopt and could provide loving homes for these children. And so she set about to promote adoption through various means in America and eventually facilitated hundreds of adoptions of mostly older Ukrainian children and teens into American homes. After years of placing children, stories started trickling back as she heard stories that caused her to really rethink adoption at every level. Having adopted an older child ourselves, I read the simple introduction feeling a bit of anxiety. We adopted our daughter when I was 33. She was 10. We had 7 kids in the house. The author of this story was placing children but did not have any children and had never adopted herself. I could feel the sense of optimism a young adult would feel placing a child in a loving home. I could feel the pure hope they would have….and yet, I could “feel” all the things they could not know because they had not walked in those shoes 24/7. And the best part of the book is that as the author writes this book with 14 years of experience and a lot of earned wisdom, she is able to express honestly the awakenings she had along the way.

Her journey to writing this book happened as she decided to take a 4 month road trip to America and visit more than 60 of the adoptive families. She pulled out a map, plotted out her route and made her way all around the country…interviewing adoptive parents, sitting with them over coffee and having honest conversations. Oh wow…the honesty is palpable…but kind too…so kind. I found myself on every page. I found the confusion, joy, anger, hope, shame and perseverance on every page. It was like she climbed in my head and saw all the thoughts on adoption that I’ve had. Some I feel safe to say outloud…and some…not so much. But she did…through her interviews with families, she was able to graciously articulate the big struggles that so many families didn’t see coming when they traveled around the world and adopted a child who would they hoped would be part of their family. I will say, that I felt very “seen” after reading this book which is why I recommend it in the strongest way to anyone who has adopted but has struggled in some way afterwards.

Through story after story, the author is able to uncover the many layers of adoption that can lead to a really difficult adoption experience. She covers topics from personal expectations, poor planning, spiritual warfare, not listening to the Holy Spirit, outside pressure, adoption disruption, beneficial therapies and so so much more. After reading it, I would say I found words to express some of the things we experienced as well. If you have adopted…or if you know someone who has adopted who seems to be struggling…read this book. If you are thinking of fostering and adopting, this one is for you too. I will be reading it again. This one is a keeper.

Bible Promises · Psalm 91

Psalm 91:1 YOU Dwell and Abide

I’ve always thought of myself as a peaceful person (my family would challenge this idea)…that I enjoy peace and am restful when there is not a lot of chaos going on around me. My husband took our 6 younger children to the beach with my inlaws for a week. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

This was my moment, I was going to enjoy the peace. I was going to get so much done. I had my list ready. I was going to sit, drink coffee, meditate, write, read a book…you know, whatever I wanted, without interruption or distraction..or so I thought. 

I got up in the morning and did read my Bible with a cup of coffee. It was nice. I was even able to exercise afterwards. Wow, amazing! But as I tried to settle in to get things done, I found that I had a lot of distractions…things I remembered I wanted from Amazon and Walmart…better get those ordered. Oh wait, I better take a shower before I start. I should fill that dishwasher before I start. Oh, I haven’t eaten yet…let me find an apple and peanut butter. Better now. Oh wait, I should make more coffee…it has been over 4 hours since my last cup. Didn’t I look up an “online distraction” software yesterday…what was that called. I need to find it again. Surely THAT will help me stay focussed. Haha! Can any of you relate? I may enjoy the quiet in my house currently but I am lying to myself if I say that I am peaceful or at rest…on my own…just because my little people are not here. I have plenty of inner busyness that prevents peace. 

As the title of this piece conveys, I was going to continue thoughts on Psalm 91…specifically the words…Dwell & Abide. I could not sit down…sit still to start writing which is so interesting because of how that connects to the words “Dwell and Abide.” Let me show you what I mean. 

Psalm 91:1 says: 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High (“Elyon”)

Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.(“Shaddai”)

What does it mean to dwell in the shelter of the Most High?  I dwell in my home. When I hear that word, I think…I dwell in my home..I live there. 

And then I think of all the things I DO while living in my home. I wake up there….I go to sleep there and everything in between. I rest there and work and think and create and talk to my family. I DO all of that in my home that I dwell in. I exist and stay there. In my my mind, Dwelling is just a short leap to DOING

Now lets look at what “dwell” actually means. “Dwell” is the Hebrew word “yashab” (H3427 in Strongs) and it means “to sit, remain or dwell.”

 I love the picture of sitting in the shelter of The Strongest God. I am doing nothing but sitting there under the shelter of his protection. I am choosing to stay in the shelter instead of running out physically or mentally to fight the battle on my own with whatever great idea I come up with.

This is echoed in this verse in Exodus 14:14:

“The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still.”

This morning, I realized that I’m fairly terrible at just sitting still doing nothing. DOING Feels Productive…SITTING & RESTING feels lazy. Even when my body is sitting, my mind is not resting…it just keeps do…do..doing. The Lord is teaching me that REST is a WEAPON. My fight is to enter and stay at rest. 

Let’s look at the rest of the verse:

Psalm 91:1 says: 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High (“Elyon”)

Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.(“Shaddai”)

So now we see the word “abide” here. Again, when I hear the word “abide,” I’m thinking of something similar to dwell…you stay or dwell or abide in a house for example. 

Abide” comes from the Hebrew word “luwn or liyn” (Strongs 3885) which means “to stop…usually overnight” and implies “to stay permanently.” 

I love it when the Bible repeats an idea multiple times in a short span of text…it is like God saying, “Hey, I told you something important. Did you hear me? Let me say it again another way!”I do this with my kids too! 

And right here, I hear God saying, I want you to come and sit under my protection in my shelter and I want you to STAY THERE. Don’t move. 

We will see a pattern of 24 hours several times in Psalm 91 and we see it here in the first verse. Come sit (daytime) and then stay there (overnight implication). We are invited to this place of protection…this relationship of protection 24/7 all the days of our life. We can come like small children to a loving parent and trust that our Father will take care of our needs. 

So today, I invite you to consider how the Most High God wants to provide a place of rest for you. We all carry burdens around but our Father wants us to stop trying to do it all on our own…in our own understanding and come sit with him and stay there. 

This passage is not just talking about a physical act..it is something we do in our mind. We sit…we stay…we dwell…we abide in our mind. I invite you to try something…to quiet your own mind…to set aside the to do list and the shopping list…to block out the background noise…for one minute.You can set a timer if it helps.  And when you do, ask the Lord to speak to you. And what do you hear?

Here is some of what I heard…I think its for you too:

“I love you. I love you how you are right now. You are special. Today is a good day that I have made for you. I am with you now and the next moment and the one after. I enjoy spending time with you and I want good things for you…..”

In fact, the words kept on going when the timer went off. He is always speaking to us if we listen.

Adoption · Fostering

10 Ways Foster Parenting Can Affect Your Family

When I am in conversation with people, especially someone I don’t know well, it will often come up that my husband and I were foster parents for many years. When people hear we have 9 children, the next questions is usually, “Are they all yours?” I’m comfortable saying, “Yes they are… 6 are biological and 3 are adopted.” But after a bit of chit chat, I’ve had so many people say to me with energy in their voice, “I’d love to talk to you more about fostering. I have ALWAYS wanted to be a foster parent!”

And every time, I feel a catch in my throat and my stomach tightens up and I have to remind myself to take a breath. Every time.

I want to be excited for them. I want to be part of that story but I also don’t. I want to be completely honest with them and I don’t want to tell them the truth. I was that person once and I haven’t quite figured out how to go back.

If you drive down major interstates in my area, you will often see billboards from Children’s Services that say “You Don’t Have to be Perfect to be a Foster Parent.” or “The Best Gift You Can Give a Child is a Home.” I used to see those billboards and feel a tug…here was something I could be part of…it was inspirational. And the thing is…it really is awesome. Fostering is a huge labor of love. But the reason I feel this catch in my stomach is that those billboards with happy faces and cute kids are so far from daily life while fostering that I see them and feel like its propaganda. I feel like the message they send is a bait and switch.

My experience tells me that cute memes and oversized billboards can’t begin to explain what fostering is. It has taken YEARS AFTER ADOPTING our foster kids for us feel somewhat normal as a family. This did not happen while we were fostering. So when someone tells me they want to foster, I kinda feel unsettled…how honest do I want to be with these new friends? Do I cheer them on and tell them, “That is awesome! You will be great!” Or do I tell them the truth….do I tell them how the system is so flawed, it completely disrupts your life in so many ways and what life is really like as a foster family? I never really know. But in case you stumble across this post, in case you are thinking of fostering, I want you to know. I wish someone would have given me a fuller picture of what it looks like to foster. There are so many pieces to this puzzle and its hard to find them all. I realize not everyone goes into fostering with the same expectations or situation, but between the horror stories and glossy promo literature, I had difficulty finding a good picture of what fostering could look like for my normalish family with young children to begin fostering. This is by no means comprehensive. It is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you look up information on fostering, here are some of the things they will look at to qualify you as a foster parent:

  1. How old are you? States have minimum age to foster. In Ohio you must be 21 to foster.
  2. Income & Employment – You must be able to provide for your own living expenses. They will check your tax returns to see that you are stable here and don’t have a recent history of bankrupcy.
  3. Housing – Does it meet safety requirements and does it have enough bedrooms to house children according to state standards.
  4. How many other children live in the home? Each state has a maximum number of children allowed to live in the home. Biological or adopted children under the age of 18 are part of that number. In Ohio you can have 10 children in the home (5 of whom can be foster children) but there are some states where the maximum is 5 children.
  5. Do you have a criminal record?
  6. If you are single or if both parents work, how will you go about providing care for a child when you are not available.
  7. Do you have adequate transportation or live in an area with public transportation.
  8. Are you healthy enough to foster?
  9. What kind of a support system do you have?
  10. If you have children, they will want information on all of them to make sure things are squared away – birth records, social security numbers, confirmation of school enrollment, health physical etc.

As we were planning to foster, I looked over the list above and my brain went…check, check, check next to each little box. Clearly we could do this. We already had 4 children of our own and I was expecting our 5th. We loved them like crazy and we had a great support system of family and friends. Our circumstances did not preclude us from fostering…therefore…it was totally doable in my mind. However, while the system is quick to run a prospective foster family through a rigorous process to license them as foster parents, they are not as quick to make sure you really understand that becoming a foster parent might just turn your life on its head. I’m not blaming the system or anyone really. If we had it to do over, we would ask better questions before we began to hopefully prepare ourselves better.

So while above I have shared 10 common requirements to become a foster parent, now I want to share 10 things you SHOULD consider before you become a foster parent. These are all from our personal experience and other families will have had other experiences that may not line up with ours.

  1. Having social workers come sit in my house every week or two for an hour or so at a time was pretty disruptive. We had young children and the workers might come at nap time or right before dinner. They often came while I was trying to prepare dinner because we had school-aged foster kids and they needed to see them and not just me. Trying to keep my little kids well behaved, talk to a social worker and get dinner on the table was just difficult. During that hour, I ended up talking to the workers most of the time as the majority of our foster kids were either too young to talk to them or did not want to talk to the social workers. When we added weekly counseling visits to this number, I had people in my house several times a week whose primary job it is to make sure that these kids were ok and that we were doing everything we could to help them be ok. I became accustomed to life under a microscope.
  2. I felt like I had to justify our lifestyle to social workers. It’s weird…having a social worker come to our house made me feel like I had to rationalize potentially controversial things about my family. For example, we homeschool, and many social workers do not associate that with good outcomes for kids because of cases of abuse that have entered the system and were “homeschooled.” Our first social worker was so kind. She was an older lady. She would step into the house and I would see her eyes immediately scan the diningroom, taking in the homeschool books spread across the table. Eventually I brought up homeschooling to see what she thought about it and because I wanted to clear the air. We had a pleasant chat. She really didn’t know of any diligent homeschool families who actually educated their kids. Her experience was on the abusive side of things, so she was noticeably cautious. She did seem to relax more after talking and eventually we settled into to a pretty good relationship. As part of our paperwork, we had to turn our annual homeschool notifications to Children’s Services proving that we were legally educating our kids. So, not only did we have to account for the education of the foster children, we had to account for our own kids too. I don’t think this is bad practice in any way, it was just one more way that it felt like “Big Brother” might be watching. There were other situations in our family over the years where we would have to provide an explanation or documentation that suited the system every time. Thankfully our county was pretty easy to work with but on our end it was stressful to have to explain the details of random situations to a stranger who then would “judge” it on its merits.
  3. When you foster children, it is really really hard to get a break when you NEED one. Life with your own little biological kids means you don’t get many breaks anyway. Maybe grandma will take them for the afternoon or overnight but most of the time, life is 24/7. But when you have foster kids, unless grandma is fingerprinted and background checked, she cannot babysit the foster kids (at least when we fostered) and she could not keep them overnight unless she was licensed as a respite foster parent. This requires the same training as regular foster parents in Ohio, which is extensive and very time consuming. None of our extended family were licensed as respite providers. In our case, if we wanted or needed respite, it was usually when we were desperately worn out. Without many respite familes on standby, it was usually several weeks before we could have a break and often we would need to drive an hour or so to drop them off with another family and pick them up there a couple of days later. Usually the entire process was so much effort and came at a time when the the crisis was over that respite care did not feel useful. If I had it to do over, with difficult cases, I would go ahead and schedule respite on a regular basis so I could have a planned break and the child could look forward to it.
  4. Having a rule for everything can make you feel crazy. Most people are used to having a range of possible parenting strategies but when you are a foster parent, those choices are heavily limited. I had no idea how many normal things I do on a regular basis would not be allowed with foster children. I understand all the limits but when you are living in the middle of chaos, all that “knowledge” is not always that helpful.
  5. Most social workers have never been foster or adoptive parents. In our case, we had some that had never had biological children either. Most of our workers were great people, but its hard to really explain what its like to have your life disrupted 24/7 for someone else’s children with people who have never fostered. After all, at the end of the shift, they go home. Yes, they might be on call and have to go out, and their job IS very difficult, but they don’t bring the kids home with them….and that is very different…no matter how understanding they try to be. There were times times I felt so stressed by our situation with foster kids, but there was no help and talking to social workers just made it feel more hopeless. And HOPE was my fuel when fostering...it is what I needed every day.
  6. Your family will take a back seat to the system. While the system resists calling fostering a “job,” if you think of it as a 24/7 job it will help you have better expectations. It cannot be called a job because it would pay something like $1/hour or less. However, just like an employer has the “right” to prioritize how you spend time on the clock, there are a large number of ways the system prioritizes your time and things you are allowed to do and not do as a family when you have a placement.
  7. The system will rely on you to create the boundaries you need to stay sane. You will need to learn the word “NO” very quickly!! If you are a safe, loving home, they will place as many children in your home as your license allows even if you personally feel overwhelmed UNLESS you say “NO.” This also goes for all the extras they ask of foster parents. Depending on the country, things like transportation to different activities may be required or optional. In our case, there were never quite enough drivers for things they provided transportation for so they would regularly ask foster parents to help with the driving. It was usually a kind request done a way that made you feel guilty for refusing if there was some way you could possibly rearrange your life to help. By the end of our fostering journey, I was very good at saying “NO.”
  8. When you license, they often warn you that your friends may not stick around for your foster journey. We did not have that happen. However, as we would encounter difficult behavioral problems, some of which were directly related to trauma, friends often could not understand. Often they would say something like, ” I don’t know, I don’t think that behavior is uncommon. My daughter also does XYZ” or “My son did that at that age too.” And after years of fostering and adoption, I can see that in some ways they were right in some ways BUT (and this is a very big BUT), that does not make it the same. In a foster situation, you definitely have trauma going on, you also have very limited ways of responding AND attachment (more like detachment) is a huge factor in how we as human beings respond to each other. Attachment has taken many years to happen with all 3 of our adopted kids and was never in place with our foster kids. So their behaviors and our responses were being filtered through brokenness and detachment and it made it really hard to figure out what we should do as foster parents. While my bio kids may not like consequences, we would talk about mistakes, learn from them and it would build trust. Consequences for my foster and adopted kids made them feel alienated or unloved for the same behavior. At the time, when my friends would tell me that parenting foster kids was the same as biological children, I just felt crazy because I could not figure out where the breakdown was. The parenting books did not have my foster kids in them…it was clearly different but I didn’t really have words for it at the time.
  9. Your extended family may really struggle with where they fit in to your foster journey. I have an amazing family…its big, supportive and a blessing in every way. However, my parents and siblings had never fostered or adopted. Being foster grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins was all new to them too. My family would offer a listening ear, give suggestions and empathize as best they could. It was difficult for them to see us going through really hard stuff with other people’s children. At times there were conversations where someone would say, “Do you think you will do this forever? Why do you keep doing this? or Is this the best thing for the rest of your kids?”
  10. When you foster, people will often say things like, “Well God bless you! You are a saint. Thank you for all you do. I could never do it, but the world needs more people like you.” I’m not much of a tongue biter....but this was when I usually bit my tongue. I would plaster a smile on my face and nod in agreement and not say ALL the things I wanted to say. I would usually meet one of these well-intentioned people on a bad day (of course) and I was so tempted to set them straight. I wanted to tell them that really I’m not a great person…I’m actually a fairly terrible parent on some days and these foster kids all deserve someone better than me. And I wanted to tell them that “I could never do it” either and yet here I was doing it. I wanted them to say, “Wow, fostering seems like it would be really hard. What is the hardest part for you?” I could have answered that question honestly and agreed that it is hard. But all the positive accolades made me feel like this was not the time to be real, so I just bit my tongue with a smile on my face while my inner critic reminded me of all the ways I was not saintly. When people think you are doing something special…something they are not part of, something they were were not “chosen” to do, it can be a lonely place. When we were actually fostering, I had a really hard time articulating this thought because it didn’t feel safe. Thankfully I did have people I could be honest with (usually other foster parents) but in those moments of temporary sainthood, I never did quite figure out what to say.

If you are considering fostering or know someone who is a foster parent, I hope that my experiences will give you another piece of the puzzle as you try to figure it out. There are so many words to say on this topic. My husband and I no longer foster, but I care deeply about this topic, especially the needs of the whole foster and adoptive family. If you have questions that you wish some foster parent would give you insight into, let me know. I will do my very best.

Disclaimer: My intent is to share my thoughts on fostering from the perspective of a foster and adoptive parent of “normal” kids for the purpose of discussion, education and connection. There are many resources about caring for children and their needs and that is wonderful, but in my experience, the needs of the foster parents and family often take a back seat. The children are the primary focus of the foster system as they should be but this makes it difficult to feel supported or find real information at times. Fostering rules are different in every state and may be different than what I have shared here.


Psalm 91:1-2 It’s All About His Names

In 2002, my husband and I were expecting our first child. We knew absolutely nothing about being parents, but we were so excited. And of course WE were going to do this right. Logically, good parenting starts with a good name. Our evening conversation would be interspersed with possible names for this new little one.

Should we pick one that reflected my husband’s Scottish heritage or should we pick a Biblical name. Maybe it could be both. Family members joined in the fun suggesting all kinds of ideas as well. This baby would be the first grandchild on both sides, so expectations were high…at least I felt like they were. I didn’t want to mess up this name.

So part of every great brainstorming session involved us bent over a computer scrolling through names and their meanings or flipping through a tattered copy of “Baby Names.” Names were discarded for having strange meanings like “dark warrior” or meanings that read more like a map “from the Oak Valley.” Slowly a list of “possible” names started to emerge.

It narrowed further when we found out it would be a boy! Finally, we chose the name “Ian.” It was derived from the name John (Biblical) and was Scottish in origin. But more importantly to me, it means, “God is gracious.” I had had a miscarriage prior to this pregnancy which was such a dark time of loss and questioning. So in this season of new life, this name captured so many things: dreams for our son, our deep appreciation for this blessing and a growing understanding of the character of God. This NAME carried meaning and expectation and that was why we chose it.

Many years later, I was introduced to Psalm 91. As I previously shared, it was a game changer for me. It was a pivot point that changed my life forever. As I read, I loved the protective imagery and strong language…abide, dwell, refuge, fortress, but my eyes mostly slid past the different names God. After all, most English translations don’t really make a distinction between the names. It is hard to tell if they mean the same thing or not…Most High, Almighty, Lord…God. You get the picture…they sound grand and big…and they are all names of God.

Anyway, at some point I was listening to teaching on Psalm 91 by Joseph Prince and he was specifically teaching about the names. What? The names? Dig out the Strongs Concordance…what is he talking about? Here is what I found. Read the first 2 verses with me:

Psalm 91:1-2 in NASB says:

1He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High (“Elyon”)
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. (“Shadday”)
I will say to the Lord(“Jehovah”), “My refuge and my fortress,
My God (“Elohim”), in whom I trust!”

Now, when I actually looked those up, here is what those words mean! (plus a bonus name we will look at in a future post that comes from verse 16)

Name of God in HebrewMeaning from Strong’s Concordance
Most High = Elyon (5945)Superlative God – surpassing all others – Supreme. Above all other powers and authority.
Almighty = Shaddai (7706)All Powerful Omnipotent
Lord = Jehovah (3068)Self Existent One – Eternal
Elohim (430)the Supreme God (plural form)

Yeshuwah (3444) (vs.16)

salvation, health, deliverance, help, prosperity
Hebrew Names of God & Jesus in Psalm 91:1-2, 16 with
Strong’s Concordance numbers

If I read those verses again…they read differently with the meanings inserted. 

Psalm 91: 1-2
1He who dwells in the shelter of the Supreme God who surpasses all others in power & authority
Will abide in the shadow of the All Powerful One
I will say to the Eternal Self-Existent One, “My refuge and my fortress,
My Supreme God, in whom I trust!”

The deck is stacked here in the first two verses. God is demonstrating by the use of His names that He is more powerful than anything or anyone else and He exists independently of the anything happening here in the world. The names chosen here demonstrate His strenghth, power and give us confidence that He is more than able to do what He claims in these verses.

What I realized for me though is this…All that is fine and good…He has some pretty great names. Did I believe Him? Did I actually trust that He was saying true things about Himself? None of the rest of the words or other verses really mattered if I didn’t. I thought I trusted Him….but as I considered….struggled through past hurts and disappointments, I knew in my heart that I did not.

I came to Jesus when I was 4 years old. I loved Him with all my 4 year old heart. But over the years, lots of teaching (some good, some not), disappointments, and self-doubt led to confusion. I came to realize through this time of confusion, that the foundation for my life was not ALL on the Word of God. I had built my life on the traditions of the church, the opinions of others, the teachings of man AND the Word of God. And the reality is, those things did not all line up. They were not the same. I could dress my family up in their Sunday best, take care of my family and parrot quality teachers, but at the end of the day, that was it. As I gradually came to the realization that I did not know what I believed, it all started to crumble.

I knew that I needed to rebuild my faith on the Word of God alone. I needed to learn who God is, who He says I am and what the Word of God says. Psalm 91 was my road map for rebuilding my faith. It starts with His names. I encourage you too look them up for yourself. Maybe pull out your Bible and pencil them in next to Psalm 91.

I use a Strong’s Concordance as well as other sources. A good online one is Blueletterbible.org. I invite you to look up these names and consider for yourself who God wants to be to you!


What Is Back to School Like with Foster Children?

Over the years, several of our foster children were school-aged. This is a distinctly different experience than having preschool or infant foster children because children going to school are going into yet another environment with expectations that exist…expectations from the agency, the school and from other children. In every day life, the foster agency already has expectations…a lot of them…but when you add school, it is just another layer. None of my experience with foster children happened during COVID-19…but some of the things I learned should still be applicable!

First, if you have other children in school, you are already familiar with the large amount of back to school paperwork required to go to school. I remember when I was in school that on the first day, we would come home with a large packet of papers & cards in assorted colors which my mom needed to fill out asap and return to the school. Multiply it times 4 kids in school and I’m sure she absolutely dreaded it! We homeschool most of our children, but I have had a couple enrolled in school, and I always think…”Why can’t they just copy off one form to give to each school department. I’m writing the same information over & over on different colored forms!” Things have improved around here since then and now the paperwork gets filled out in early August and the school has a “back to school” day when you come and turn in paperwork, get school pictures done and meet your teacher….all BEFORE school ever starts. The packet of papers to fill out is largely the same as the ones that existed all those years ago and ALL of them require a parent or guardian signature.

Now about that parent or guardian signature…no big deal. Whip out a pen, scribble on the line..done deal. Not so fast. When you are a foster parent, you are neither the foster child’s parent or guardian. Nope. That is not you. When we first started fostering, I had no idea…I identified with being the child’s guardian. After all, I was guarding her, taking care of her, and she was sleeping in my house. But in the legal world, I was not her guardian. Her guardian was Children’s Services. And so, every one of those colored sheets of paper needed a signature…just not mine. So, I would fill out all those papers (somehow my lack of position did not stop me from participating here!), send them to the foster agency where they would be signed by the proper authority and then they were finally returned to the school. Usually this step required a phone call or two….”Who do I send these to? Did they receive them? Did they send them to the school? Ok then, are we done with this step?” Some social workers were really on their game and made this all pretty easy, but other ones I had to walk through the process.

The second noteable area of significance is all the back to school buying….the clothes, the school supplies, maybe the athletic supplies etc. When you are fostering, talking about money is taboo…sort of. We all know, “It’s Not About the Money.” Only the bad foster parents think about the money. The really good ones…the ones that love children…for them, its not about the money. Ok, so I digress. I never had the luxury of not thinking about the money. Whatever kind of foster parent that made me…oh well. And when we are talking about school supplies…and clothes…we are talking about money.

If you have a child in school, you know what I mean. Johnny is in 1st grade and Mrs. Smith would like you to buy a supply list that looks something like this:

— Crayola 24 pack of crayons (not the other brand please, those don’t work)

–a 4 pack of black Expo markers (yes, I know the 4 assorted colors are on sale for $1.00..sorry too bad…4 black for full price)

–a 1.5″ binder (yes we know that they cost 4 times as much as the budget 1″ binder)

–a red folder and a yellow folder (I’m sorry…every teacher in your county also asked for yellow and red. No, we did not coordinate and suggest all the teachers pick different colors. Sorry if Walmart is sold out of these two colors. Maybe fold some out of posterboard)

–2 boxes of Kleenex (will sharing Kleenex boxes even be a thing after COVID??)

–24 wood pencils (please make sure you buy the good expensive ones because the other ones are junk and will break constantly if you do not)

—and on and on it goes. The list of required supplies. If you have multiple children, double…triple or whatever and there you have it…something that should be a separate line item on the budget right up there next to the car payment.

When I think about back to buying school supplies for foster kids, we encountered a couple of different scenarios. The first time we had a school aged foster child, our now daughter had been with us for months. She was starting the school year in 3rd grade, and I had the whole summer to gather things up on that list. In the world of dollars and cents, understand that this means that I had months to account for this cost and plan ahead how to budget this expense among any others we had at the time. I was able to shop the Walmart sales..get the right color of folders while they were still in stock and inexpensive, overall, I did not spend a fortune. However, the second time we did back to school buying, it was quite different. That placement came right AFTER school had started…like 2 weeks or less after school started. In this case, the supply selection was wiped out on many supplies except for full priced options. We homeschool and I happen to have a large closet that I usually keep stocked. So, our first stop was the closet, and then we made multiple stops at different stores to try to fill in the list with normal supplies as well as odd things like locks and lanyards that were on the list. At that time, they had been with us for a couple of days….there was no “check” to cover this and they were expected to stay only a couple of weeks. They needed whatever was on the list in addition to new book bags. There were few items available in the store and even fewer for a great price. So we spent significantly more than the first time…a LOT more. There was no time to plan…no time to shop deals…no time period. In addition, any local programs that give away free supplies were also over. In a practical, financial sense, the second placement came with a huge list of expenses and we had to meet those needs out of pocket. I knew money was coming later but this situation was backwards from the previous which was not something I had anticipated. The reality is, they could have left in 2 weeks and whatever I spent beyond on the per diem received in that time period would have been truly out of pocket and not reimbursed.

In a similar way, buying clothing for back to school can be a significant expense that is better anticipated ahead of time than decided in the moment. When I was growing up, I remember standing in line behind families who would stack the checkout high with new clothing purchases for back to school. In our family, we usually had one or two new outfits and new shoes but not a whole wardrobe. The rest of it came from thrift stores, hand me downs or my mom made them. When our foster daughter was 8 and preparing for school…we had the summer to prepare to gather the list. She was only 8 and the only one of our 6 kids going to school. Her wardrobe was a mix of new and used and very affordable. The second placement at we had for “back to school” was completely different. They were in middle school and high school came with zero outfits and needed everything quickly. It was far more expensive shopping that way. Since they wanted all name brands, trying to meet their needs was much more difficult. I found myself having a lot of internal distress over their needs, wants and a my own desire for them to feel welcome and cared for.

These girls were placed right after school started, and highlighted that we didn’t have a great solution for a situation like theirs. Our longer term solution that we implemented for the 10 months they stayed was for them to have a monthly budget for spending on clothes or makeup. I would give them cash at the beginning of the month for them to control. In the short term though, the back-to-school wardrobe was just a difficult, expensive situation. I did not feel like they were happy or that I was happy about how we got their wardrobe in compliance. Essentially, to salvage the budget, we bought a couple of new outfits and new shoes and supplies but the rest did come from the thrift store. One of the girls in particular did not like this and rarely wore the second-hand clothes…choosing instead to wear her few new outfits over and over or take my daughters clothes or unfortunately, steal from others. Not good.

The third part of the back to school experience relates to just meeting the educational needs of that individual child. Often times when a child is placed, the social workers don’t really have a full picture of what a child needs academically. They are often being removed in an emergency situation and they are primarily assessing the most iminent problems. But once a child is in the home and there is time to finish gathering details, an IEP often comes to light. An IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, is used in the school setting to identify and meet the specific learning needs of children who might need extra help or accomodation to make progress in their learning. One of my adopted children has an IEP, but as his parent, I am an integral part of his learning needs being met. I fill out the paperwork with all the background information, and I provide any outside documentation that medical providers, counselors or other services have provided. But when a child is placed that has not lived with you and has or needs an IEP, it is an entirely different experience. The school wants to look at you the foster-parent to fill that parent role. They know you are not…but they still visualize you that way….at least in my experience. They invited me to IEP meetings as well as a social worker. However, for foster children, I felt most comfortable handing this back to Children’s Services for a placement that was new. I did not have valuable experience or information that would be helpful in the process of obtaining IEP services. The county had more information than I had. So, while they would have let me be part of the process…I deferred on this one. In order for an IEP to be implemented, there are often several meetings with teachers, parents, and school psychologists. When we had a placement with older girls, they had IEPs in place but still needed meetings to implement. But as a foster parent, I had nothing to contribute because I did not know them, so I chose not to be part of the conversation and let the county handle it entirely.

All in all, doing the Back to School routine with foster kids looked similar to the experience with my own kids, but the timing of placement did affect how easy or stressful it was to make this transition. If I had it to do over again, I would actually make a plan for 3 things:

  1. I would create a “fund” early on in our foster journey to be used for “surprise” expenses related to fostering. Whether that was a placement with no wardrobe or buying a new carseat, having a slush fund that was only used for special purposes would be wonderful and would have relieved some of the stressful decisions made due to finances.
  2. I would ask Children’s Services what resources they have to help with clothing and school supply needs for foster kids. (Because we only encountered this back to school situation a couple of times, and only had one scenario where the children arrived without belongings, I did not establish a routine for how to fill these needs with community resources that do exist.) They do have and can usually give you a list. I would investigate those early in my fostering journey to become more comfortable with them.
  3. If I was fostering school aged children, I would educate myself on the IEP process and purpose. I would also educate myself on how to access IEP services. They take months to implement so if you have a placement that needs one, it is helpful to start the process shortly after placement.

Whether you are just investigating fostering or have been doing it for years, I would love to hear what other tips or ideas you have for the back to school season that would help other foster families navigate this more easily.



Terrified at Night – My Psalm 91 Story

Like many moms with little kids, my days were often routine and so were my nights. By the time evening rolled around, I was so tired…so, so tired. After a long day of chasing 4  little kids, feeding them, changing diapers and homeschooling, I was ready to call it a day. Simultaneously, I looked forward to the end of the day and dreaded it at the same time. My husband worked third shift so the bedtime scramble was all on me and then there were the hours of being alone at home at night. After putting the kids to bed, I would crash on the couch and flip on the TV to watch one of my favorite crime shows. I knew I should go to bed…tomorrow required energy and I didn’t have any left. It was so dark outside. On warm summer evenings with the windows open, through the thick muggy darkness echoed all kinds of sounds…cars humming along on the nearby highway mixed with engine decompressions from big rigs, crickets singing, our neighbors’s donkeys braying and stray cats fighting in the yard. It was its own whitenoise of summer. Finally after a show or two, I would think about going to bed myself.

Having just watched some crime show where a horrible crime or murder was commited,  just the thought of going to bed struck fear. After all, if I was asleep, I was not awake, and something could happen to my kids. Still, I knew I needed to go to bed, so I would quickly walk through the house carefully locking all the windows, checking to make sure the kid’s windows were locked tightly shut despite the warm mugginess, bolting doors, and turning off lights. Then after double checking again, I would go to my room. There, I would brush my teeth, wash my face, get out my 12 inch hunting knife, find my cell phone and crawl into bed. In the slight dip in the bed where my husband usually slept, I would tuck the knife and the phone and anxiously lay in the dark listening to the house creak. Often, a creak or two might sound like a footstep so I needed to get up to check again and again to make sure the kids were safe. Eventually, I would fall asleep. I had my knife…I had my phone…if someone tried to break in, I hoped it would be enough.

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with fear. I was afraid of sickness, people, new situations, and pretty much all unknown situations. I managed by carefully controlling what I could and by staying so busy there wasn’t time to dwell on the underlying anxiety. Even though the Bible says “Fear not” 365 times, it did not translate to me- I had no idea what it looked like to”fear not.” Fear seemed logical and wise. After all, the world is full of danger and unknowns are everywhere. Making choices based on fear seemed safe and good.

In 2011, the Lord  brought Psalm 91 into my life and changed my life forever. I’m not sure where my mom got a copy of the book, Psalm 91-God’s Promise of Protection by Peggy Joyce Ruth. But when she did, she gave me a copy and said, “You have to read this book!” I’m not even sure why reading it appealed to me…or why I cracked it open because reading about a Psalm was not that interesting to me.

By the point she gave me that book, I was pretty cynical about the Bible. After years of listening to Bible teaching, sermons, Christian school & Christian college, I thought I had heard it all…and there was a lot that did not add up in my mind. I didn’t know what to believe. I didn’t know who to believe and I would barely touch a Bible because it seemed confusing and largely inapplicable to me. I had no idea what part of the Bible was for me.  I no longer knew what I believed- I knew that Jesus loved me and that He had died for my sins but nothing more. After all, the Bible was written by 40 authors over a couple thousand years to different groups. There were 2 covenants and something had shifted and I had no idea where I fell in the mix. What part of the Bible was for me? I had no idea! My take away from years of Bible school was that you needed to apply very specific study principals to know if the section you were reading was for you, for the Old Testament Jews, for the early church etc. That had brought me to a place where I just didn’t touch it because I didn’t know how to read it…or really even want to. All that is a story for another time…the point is…I wasn’t really interested in reading about a Psalm.

Anyway, I remember opening that book and starting to read. And of course Psalm 91 is printed right there in the first few pages. I started reading:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

Will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

As my eyes slid further down the page and settled on the words:

You will not be afraid of the terror by night,

Or of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,

Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.

… and further down

For He will give His angels charge concerning you,

To guard you in all your ways.

They will bear you up in their hands,

That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

In a nutshell, my biggest fears were there…captured in black and white and somehow this was saying, I didn’t need to be afraid. Somehow this was saying I could rest…something I really truly wanted but could never have.

As I looked over that Psalm, so many words jumped off the page. I wasn’t sure what they meant or if it was really for me. But I wanted it. I wanted it for me. I wanted protection from pestilence (disease) and from terror, destruction, evil and plagues. I wanted all of that. I wanted to believe again that God would actually do all of those things. I wanted to be able to trust Him. 

And in that time…of reading and thinking and praying…hope was born!

As I read this book about Psalm 91, I was struck by the fact that the author had a similar background to myself and had struggled with all the same fears and questions. Her testimony of being set free from fear and learning to trust the Lord motivated me to keep reading and searching. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. I knew that if He did it before…He could do it again…and that was enough to begin a journey that indeed this Bible was for me.

Over the next few months, this passage became the only passage of Scripture that I read over and over. I studied, memorized it and quoted it regularly. In the evening, I started to change my habits…reading and watching uplifting things and quoting Psalm 91 when I was anxious before bed. As my mind became more peaceful, I didn’t need that knife next to me as I slept and sometimes the windows were left open. The cell phone was nearby but not necessarily right next to me. When my kids would ask to do something fun…but had potential dangers…I was able to let them do things without it always being an automatic “no.” And more than anything, that knot in my stomach dissolved. I have by no means perfected trust…but this was the beginning…hope that the promises of God were still true for me today. These habits have continued for nearly 10 years. When I am faced with a situation…something fearful or scary…I will automatically begin to quote Psalm 91 and actively hand it over to God in my mind. And when I do that…really hand it over despite my fear and the unknowns of the present…peace returns.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

Will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,

My God, in whom I trust!”

For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper

And from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with His pinions,

And under His wings you may seek refuge;

His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

You will not be afraid of the terror by night,

Or of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,

Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.

A thousand may fall at your side

And ten thousand at your right hand,

But it shall not approach you.

You will only look on with your eyes

And see the recompense of the wicked.

For you have made the Lord, my refuge,

Even the Most High, your dwelling place.

No evil will befall you,

Nor will any plague come near your tent.

For He will give His angels charge concerning you,

To guard you in all your ways.

They will bear you up in their hands,

That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread upon the lion and cobra,

The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;

I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

With a long life I will satisfy him

And let him see My salvation.”


My hope and plan is to take each verse and break down what it means. I so love this passage of the Word…it never gets old for me. It was like a life vest in the days when I was drowning and its one I’ve chosen to never take off. In future day and weeks, I will take verses and look at some of the Hebrew words, and the context…so we can see how good God really is and how much He loves us.

Get Real Life

Dr. Mom and The Alligator Forceps

On Saturday morning, April 10, 2020, several of our younger boys ages 9, 10 and 11 came running out of their room yelling, “Mom, Bob has a bean in his ear! He put a bean in his ear!” Five year old Bob came trailing after them, crying and a bit shakey holding a cupped hand to his ear. He was clearly in pain based on his short bursts of crying. I grabbed my cell phone off the counter and flipped the flash light on to peer into his ear. There, lodged deep inside, was a small red bean wedged perfectly in his narrow ear canal. I had no idea what to do and when a child is crying in pain it tends to scramble my thinking. All the thoughts came through my mind. “What should I do? Can I get the bean out with tweezers? What if I can’t.” My brain was trying to tell me that this was not worth stressing out over but the urgent cares are all closed and the crying in the background made it hard to think straight. “ Do people go to ER’s for this? I don’t want to go to the ER right now.  Would they even let me come in with him? Is this event an emergency? I hate that I don’t know what to do.”  Thoughts flew through my mind a mile a minute. So while I tried to gather my thoughts, I prayed for Bob that this bean would come out and that there would be no problems.

Thankfully my husband was home. Having a nurse in the family is handy, but he wasn’t quite sure what we should do. In our area, all doctor offices and urgent cares had been ordered to close due to the coronavirus pandemic. Doctors were conducting office visits via Facetime and people were urged to stay at home for all but the most serious emergencies. I knew for certain that no remote doctor visits were going to solve this problem. 

Mike & I decided to gather any tools that might be useful to try to remove the bean. So we gathered various assorted tweezers and a very thin dental irrigator and water. After several attempts to grab the bean with tweezers, it was clear it was wedged too far in and too tightly. Any attempts to remove it were painful. Next I tried to slip the thin wire dental irrigator behind the been to flush it with water. No luck. Nothing happened. Bob just cried more. This was not working.

We have been teaching Julia, age 2, to pray for people when they are in pain or need healing. So we went to go find Julia so she could pray over Bob. At the time she had just had a bath, so she only wore a diaper as she ran around the house. After asking her to pray, Julia put her dimply hands on Bob’s head and said in a small sweet voice… “All pain go now.” 

A few minutes later, Bob put his head on a warm heating pad and promptly fell asleep.

Meanwhile, I decided to try and reach my uncle Tom who is doctor. After sending him a text for advice, I also made a quick call to the Children’s Hospital nurse’s line while I waited for him to call me.  I explained the situation and they redirected my call over to the Akron Childrens ER where I spoke to Nurse Ratchet. I told her the situation and asked her what she thought my options were. In a nasally voice, she replied “Well, the first thing you need to do is call your doctor. I really can’t tell you what to do…” “Ok; I replied, “But can you tell me if this is the sort of thing you usually handle in the ER or is this something that they handle in a doctor’s office?” (Nine kids and this is the first and hopefully last one to put something in their ear.” 

“Well” said Nurse Ratchet with a slight rasp through her nose,” I really can’t tell you what to do. You can bring him down here into all this craziness if you want.”

“Ok then, thank you for your time”


Thankfully Uncle Tom called me back a few minutes later and was much more helpful than the nurse. He informed me about a few handy doctor tools that are not available in the drug stores. The one that seemed most interesting and probably the most helpful for the bean was allligator forceps to remove things from the ear. He assured me that this  bean in the ear was not an emergency despite what Dr. Google and my active imagination said.

So off to Amazon I went hoping that I could get some delivered in a couple days. Initially I had no such luck and started to panic. It was April 10 and every pair of alligator forceps said they could not be delivered until May 2 due to prioritized shipments for essential items. Three weeks…would Bob be o.k. with a bean in the ear for 3 weeks? This felt essential to me! A bean in the ear for 3 weeks could not be healthy! Thankfully, after a bit of searching, I found one pair of rainbow metal alligator forceps that could arrive in 4 days. Despite Google’s warning that beans should be removed immediately and could swell or cause infection, we were going to have to wait 4 days and just believe he would be fine. 

As I tried to figure out what to do, Bob took his nap. When he woke up, he kind of bounced up and hopped off the couch. All  the pain was gone! Praise the Lord!. Over the next several days, I would continue to check on the bean. The pain never returned and Bob didn’t have any discomfort either. 

On Tuesday evening, one of the kids realized that a small manila padded envelope had arrived with the mail. The alligator forceps had arrived early! Minutes after the package arrived, we were ready for extraction. The little tool looked something like a cross between scissors and pliers with a bend in the handle. I called for Bob to come so we could get that bean out. My poor kids, I do not tune in to anxiety well. But as soon as Bob saw the tool, he started shrieking at the top of his lungs and sobbing.  Despite our assurances that this would not hurt, he did not calm down. Mike held Bobs head still and in a completely anti climatic moment, the little forceps took 2 seconds to grab the red bean glistening with earwax. Bob was still whimpering when the bean was out… and it changed to a nervous laugh of relief. I should have grabbed a camera to snap a picture of the moment of victory but it didn’t happen. Instead I just thanked the Lord…for the nurse that lives in my house, a praying little girl, a doctor uncle to talk me through and Amazon’s quick delivery.

In hindsight, the bean drama showed me that when I encounter a situation with a lot of unknowns, that is when I feel a disproportionate amount of stress. It was easy to slip into fear and it seemed more significant (at least initially) than it should have.  Unknowns are around the corner every day of our lives. Life is like shifting sand sometimes and without an anchor, even the stable ground can move from beneath my feet. I love the verse, “Those who trust in the Lord will not be disappointed.” I Peter 2:6. It has become an easy baseline for me to remember to gauge if I am trusting or if I’m fearing…and has helped me move from fear to trust many many times.

Blog · Get Real Life

The Spiral Staircase

The big rambling beach house stands in the second row from the beach. Its tall ceilings and huge rooms are the perfect place to relax. We are staying here for a few days to get away from the Ohio cold. It’s lovely and has been such a nice retreat as we recharge. On one side are two giant sun porches…one on the 1st floor and another on the 2nd floor. Both have several sets of double doors leading inside the house. Both are connected to each other by a tight white metal spiral staircase in the corner. I love spiral staircases. They are unique, fun and more adventurous than regular old stairs. They are also another thing to worry about with young children!

Our two year old is very adverturous. Normally, she is up for anything and runs full speed into anything interesting. She jumps first and thinks later. She is quite a handful and keeps all 8 of her siblings busy keeping tabs on her. But this staircase, she has not been so adventurous about. We have been here for several days and she will walk up to the stairs and peek up through the spirals. She might climb a stair or two before cautiously backing down again. Strangely, we have not had to blockade the stairs or be super vigilant. She has been more than careful.

This morning, she found me sitting in the upper sun porch reading. She sat with me for a minute listening to a book and sipping my flavored water. But before the book was over, she was up walking toward the stairs in corner.

“Do you want to go down there Julia? Do you want me to help you?” I moved over to the stairs hoping to get there before her. She can get places so fast. As we stood at the top of the stairs, I held her hand and tried to lead her down and hold her hand as she stepped forward in front of me as I followed. She pulled back and took a few steps away clearly not quite ready. So we switched places and I faced her and backed down the stairs in front of her while holding her hand. So step by step we went down the stairs. She held my hand with one of hers and the railing with the other. And as we made a slow descent, she looked me in the face and was completely happy to go down one step at a time. There was no fear.

And as she looked at me, I thought of my heavenly Father who does this for me. He goes before me and leads the way through situations that feel uncertain or fearful. If I keep my eyes on Him, there is no reason to be afraid. He is right there and I peacefully do what He asks me to do and know that He will keep me safe.

Isaiah 26: 3 – You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Deuteronomy 31:8 The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.


How To Make a Contract With Your Foster Child

Several months ago, I made a “contract” with my teenage foster daughter. After she had been here about a month, it became apparent that there were some serious issues that nearly caused a placement disruption.  We were dealing with issues common to kids in foster care like stealing, lying and deception. Initially I handled the situation badly but after using emergency respite for the weekend for she and I to cool off, I asked a social worker to come to our home so we could talk over one possible way I would agree to talk about a way the placement might work. The tool we plan to use is called a “contract.” This is nothing new of course; we all use these in our daily lives. But for kids coming into a new home, they can be an important tool to keep everyone on the same page. Every home operates differently and has different expectations. Kids coming from disfunctional homes may find that any kind of structure feels oppressive and overwhelming. In order to help them feel in control and help the foster parents feel sane, a contract can be used to spell out the expectations and consequences (positive and negative) of abiding by or breaking the contract. I did quick search on Google trying to find a template for such a contract because I’d rather not recreate the wheel, but was unable to find one so I wrote our own. Below is a description of the four parts of our contract, a sample of our contract, and the template I came up with.

Part 1: Basic Information

The first part of the contract is simply a basic outline of who the contract participants are, what the nature is of the relationship, and the length of the contract.

Part 2: The Agreement

The second part of the contract is the terms of your agreement.

In our case, first I chose to outline state required rules of foster parents that were of specific importance to our foster daughter in order to build trust. I didn’t feel the need to outline all of them because that is a lot of rules and we are already obligated to do/not do those things by virtue of our contracts with Children’s Services. What I was trying to do was demonstrate to the child that we are REQUIRED to do certain things that the adults in her life did not do or did only occasionally. I used this as a tool between us and our foster daughter but also with the social worker and counselor. I asked these other adults to act as 3rd party to make sure we are all keeping our part of the deal. This may seem like a lot of extra work, but were hoping to build trust and teach her about boundaries in healthy relationships.

Next I outlined the house rules and specific expectations that pertained to this foster child. I don’t think a blanket contract would work for every foster child as every one of them will have special issues that they need help and confidence to overcome. I think some parts of the contract can be the same for every child but some definitely need to be customized

Part 3: How They Get Their Wants Met

Third, is our agreement on how to meet the specific needs of this foster child. For example, some kids to participate in extracurricular activites. Others want to talk on the phone or be able to make the choice to buy new clothes over second hand. Some kids want to have their own money to spend or have a chance to go participate in some special activity. With my own bio and adopted kids, I verbally tell them how they can have the opportunity to do the things they want or earn money, but in this case, it is being written down to be a reminder and to build trust between the child, foster parents, social worker and counselor.

Part 4: Consequences of Breaking the Contract

Lastly, our agreement spelled out consequences of either party not keeping their part of the bargain. In this category, we kept the consequences general because we wanted to have the freedom to adjust easily. However, wanted the child to know that she was not being held here against her will. If we weren’t treating her with respect and keeping our word, we want her to know that she could talk to the worker or counselor to help mediate or in a worst case scenario, ask to go to another house. Kids in foster care often feel powerless. Giving them the opportunity to feel a part of the process can help them feel more stable and learn healthy relationship skills.

Below I’ve copied the contract we chose to use. In the end, we did review it with her in the presence of the social worker so that she could verify that we were in fact obligated to do certain things for her and we would do so knowing that we would be held accountable. We did not end up signing it. In the past 5 months, we’ve never needed to review it…not once. Most of the issues we were having disappeared when we put in place this contract so that she knew she had a way to have her needs met and that they would not be rejected.


This contract is entered into between (foster parents/first party) and (foster child/second party).

The term of this Agreement will become effective on (today’s date) and will continue until (foster child) leaves foster care in the (foster family) home. (specific date or time frame)

The Specific Terms of this Agreement are as follows:

1. Foster Parent Requirements – As licensed foster parents, (names of foster parents) are required to do many things. Their first priority is your safety. In addition to that, they are required to make sure that you have food (3 meals a day and snacks), a bed to sleep in, and enough clothing (see the checklist), toiletries and school supplies. On top of this, they must make arrangements for doctor, dental and eye doctor appointments and provide transportation. When needed, they must arrange counseling as well.

2. House Rules & Special Rules for that Child –We do require that everyone be respectful (in how they speak and how they act toward others), be kind and be pleasant. In keeping with those rules, ask before taking or borrowing items. If you need or want something, please say so. If we do something that offends you, please say so.

3. How Needs and Wants are Met– Children’s Services give (foster parents) money every month to meet the needs of the child. Foster parents have a lot of discretion in how that money is used to meet those needs, but $60 every month is allocated toward meeting your clothing needs (see checklist). We agree that whatever money is left at the end of the month after meeting your required needs will be given to you to spend on extra things you might want. (snacks, makeup, etc). When possible, we will give you the choice to buy the required clothing new or second hand so that you can maximize the amount you have left at the end of the month if you choose.

If you have items that you want to buy that go beyond your current budget, the proper step is to ask (foster parents). If the item is permissible, some steps to obtain it may be to do a job to earn it or save money available after clothing purchases.

If there are activities you want to participate in, please ask. Foster parents cannot read minds but do try to help you achieve your own personal goals.

**This part of the contract really only addressed the areas where we were having an issue. Therefore we did not address meeting needs like food or shelter because those were not areas we were having problems with.This could easily be customized per kid.

4. Consequences of Either Party Not Maintaining the Contract – Being in foster care can be tough. Many decisions are made for you that you may not agree with or get to participate in making. However, in this home, if (foster parents) do not keep the agreement, the following steps should be taken: (foster child) should talk to (foster parents) – somethings things are overlooked accidentally or not done correctly and they would like the opportunity to fix the problem.  If that does not resolve the problem, talk to your social worker and counselor. They both have copies of this agreement and have agreed to mediate disagreements.  Lastly, if no agreement can be reached and the problem cannot be resolved, (foster child) may ask her social worker to find her a new home.

If (foster child) does not keep her part of this agreement, (foster parents) will talk to (foster child) about the problem. If the problem is not resolved, they will talk to her counselor and social worker. If it cannot be resolved, they may ask (foster child) to leave and go to another home.

In consideration of the agreement detailed above, the (foster parents) agree that they shall provide the agreed upon care and will respond as described in resolving problems.

In consideration of the agreement detailed above, (foster child) agrees that she shall understands the foster parent’s responsibilities and the behavior expected of her as well as her options in resolving problems.

This contract can be modified in writing if the need arises.

It is agreed. By signing below, the Parties agree to be bound by the terms of this Agreement.


Signature of (foster mom)



Signature of (foster dad)



Signature of (foster child)


Date: _______________, 20__


A Final Note: We are not legal experts and if you are concerned about that should consult with your local Children’s Services. They might want you to amend what you include or how you offer it to the child. Our foster daughter’s next option was a group home and she knew it so they were fine with us giving this a shot. Like I said, we didn’t end up signing anything but verbally going over it was a huge stride in the right direction.






Blog · Family10 · Favorite Places in Ohio

12 Cheap Places For Groceries & Goods in Amish Country (Ohio)

12 Cheap (1)

When you have a large family and limited budget, you have a variety of options for keeping your wallet intact. Most of them involve shopping at discount grocery stores and/or using coupons. But when you live near Ohio’s Amish, you definitely want to consider the discount options available there especially if you like to cook from scratch and are willing to buy in bulk.

For us a typical day of visiting Amish Country is all about the food. I don’t really enjoy most shopping and prefer to buy online to limit trips to the store. But I do love my trips to Amish Country. If you live in the area, you know that there are several larger towns in Holmes County. Our family is part of a dairy herdshare in Holmes County. (This is the legal way to obtain raw milk in Ohio). It is our turn to pick up the milk about every 6 weeks, so that is about how often we go to Amish Country.

My friends frequently ask where I shop down there and I tend to groan. (I know…I’m nice.) The problem is, things aren’t on neatly marked streets. GPS doesn’t work down there sometimes and cellphone reception can be sketchy…although it does seem to be improving. Explaining where to find things often involves more general directions like: Go through the 2nd stop sign past the 3rd pine tree and turn left at the second entrance of the white house with the curve around driveway. Great right! It’s not really that bad but its hard to explain in quick conversation. So,  I tried to take pictures of my favorite stops because some of these stops don’t have great signage or your might pass them if you don’t know what you are looking for.

Anyway, my visits to Amish Country start in Kidron Ohio on Kidron Rd. The following are my favorite stops. Most are food related, but some I just like!

MCC Thrift Store  –visit their website here

MCC Thrift Store Kidron Ohio

Growing up, my mom was a hardcore thrift store shopper, and I had a love/hate relationship with the whole experience. Some thrift stores are dirty or the merchandise is poorly displayed. Some thrift stores have piles of donations/garbage out by the dumpster making you question what exactly they warrant keeping and if your donations are ending up on the trash heap too. What I love about this shop first is that it is neat and tidy inside. Carpetted floors make it quieter inside and the display racks are neatly organized. Most items are fairly priced although like everything, prices tend to creep up here too. In addition to clothes, they have tons of books, magazines organized by title, homeschool curriculum, household goods, craft and sewing supplies, and more. I know that when I give things like curriculum

Favorite spot to donate and shop
Favorite spot to donate and shop for clothing and household goods.

craft supplies, it will be appreciated by someone else and not thrown into a hodge podge box of random items. I also like that when you buy games and puzzles here, they actually take the time to see if pieces are missing and clearly mark the box to indicate if anything is missing.

MCC Thrift Store, 4080 Kidron Rd, Kidron, OH, (330) 857-7802

Cash, check or credit accepted

Lehman’s Hardware – visit their website here

Lehman's Hardware
Lehman's Hardware

Lehman’s Hardware is a favorite stop for that perfect step back in time right alongside modern amenities. Whether you want to find quality tools and seeds for your garden, cooking supplies galore, classic children’s games and toys, nostalgique old time candies and beautiful woodstoves, this place is worth the stop just to browse. If I don’t have my kids with me, I could spend hours in here. With kids, it is more challenging as they want to touch and explore all the cool things in this place. Definitely stop here if you have never been.

Lehman’s Hardware, 4779 Kidron Rd, Dalton, OH 44618 , (888) 438-5346

Cash, check or credit accepted

L.E. Sommer’s Grainery


A number of years ago, our family decided to start raising chickens for eggs. It was a big endeavor for us non-farmers, but we wanted to try it. One of the things we quickly learned is that chicken feed can be expensive!! In our area, a 50lb bag is nearly $20 but at L.E. Sommer’s, the price for 100lb  usually ranges between $16 and $20. Their feed is not organic, although they may sell that. They do have feed for all kinds of animals, so if you have farm animals or pets, definitely check this place out.

L.E. Sommers, 13363 Jericho Rd, Dalton, OH 44618, (330) 857-2031

Cash, check or credit accepted. Discount for paying with cash or check.

Kidron Road Greenhouse

Kidron Road Greenhouse is a small family owned operation that is open year round selling produce and flowers. My favorite time of year to stop here in the spring for flats of flowers and veggies. Their prices are usually much better than nurseries local to us and they usually sell things like onion and sweet potato starts which are less common at other nurseries.

7478 Kidron Road
Apple Creek OH 44606-8807

Cash or check accepted

Country Salvage Scratch and Dent

9420 Kidron Road, Applecreek, Ohio 44606

cash or check accepted

I’m going to need to get a better picture of their sign for you. The day I took this, I was driving alone and had my arm hanging out of the car snapping random pictures hoping something would work! This stop is awesome…wonderful…a must stop if you have never been. Scratch and dent grocery stores are in various parts of Amish country and exist in other places as well, but this is one of the closest for us. These stores buy bulk goods from suppliers that have damaged packaging or are outdated on their “best buy” date. Most of the time they are very recently expired but not always. Every time you go, the selection is different, so if you find something good for a price you can’t beat, buy it all! Prices are usually 50-90% off retail. Things you might find inside are canned goods, juices, cereals, crackers, cookies, candy, rices and grains, coffee, tea and any number of other things from a grocery store.  Often there are organic or gluten free items as well. I would caution that if you are unsure of something and are planning to buy a lot, open one to taste and buy there in the store. If it is “off” then you will have saved yourself from purchasing a lot of something unsalvageable. There are no returns, so there is a slight learning curve to buying groceries this way. I’ve been shopping here for years and have only had a few things over that time that were unsuitable but I am more careful now. My personal tip is that canola oil does seem to taste rancid after the sell by date, so I tend to avoid that as an ingredient if possible.

Ashery Country Store – visit their website here

The Ashery Country Store is a bulk food store. I remember stopping here when I was a kid and loving the bulk candy selection as soon as you come in the store. From chocolates to gummies and jelly beans, there is something here for every sweet tooth. But the reason I come here is for the healthy bulk stuff, much to my children’s chagrin. They have a fantastic selection of spices at great prices, bulk grains and flours (I usually buy in 50lb bags for a 20% discount), nut butters, cheeses, crackers, cookies, ice cream, honey and maple syrup and all kinds of baked goods. As with anything, not everything here is a great deal, but I do have my regular items that work well for our family. Of course, this is a fun place to stop for all the samples too. If you come to here and Heini’s you’ll probably need to hold off on lunch for awhile!

Ashery Country Store

8922 Ohio 241, Fredericksburg, OH 44627
(330) 359-5615

cash, check and credit accepted

Stutzman Farms

If you are looking for the best place to buy organic grains and cereals, Stutzman Farms is the place you need to stop. Much of their grain is grown right here on the farm and they specialize in organic and non GMO. I recommend trying their honey sweetened puffed corn or spelt…it is amazing! Often they have fresh baked bread available too.!

6197 Township Road 605, Millersburg, OH 44654, Voicemail 330-674-1289

cash or checks accepted

Heinis Cheese Chalet- visit their website here

Heini’s Cheese Chalet is an alpine treasure filled with amazing cheeses of all different kinds. Made right here in the same building from Amish sourced milk, they sell all different flavors of cheese and fudge. The best part is all the samples of cheese, fudge and dips! They also have an amazing selection of cookie cutters and sprinkles galore in every shape, color and texture imaginable. When you are leaving, if you drive around the back of the building to exit, you’ll see all the milk cans used for transporting the milk from the Amish farmers.

6005 County Highway 77, Millersburg, OH 44654, (800) 253-6636

cash, check and credit accepted

Troyer’s Country Market – visit their website here

Troyer’s Country Market is a blend between a traditional grocery store with bulk foods as well. They have a bunch of samples to try too! They sell Troyer’s pies with are delicious and have a little cafe area inside.

5201 County Road 77, Millersburg, OH 44654, (330) 893-3786

Zinck’s Fabric Outlet – visit their website here


If you love to sew, be sure to stop at Zinck’s Fabric Outlet. This huge warehouse is filled with fabric, notions and sewing delights galore. You can find some super deals on fabric here. Some of their fabrics have misprints or damage on the bolts so be sure to look over your precut lengths or bolts carefully to make their any flaws won’t make the piece unuseable. My mom regularly goes here if she needs to make a bunch of table cloths, curtains, or pjs for grandkids!

4663 U.S. 62, Berlin, OH 44610
(330) 893-7225

Sunny Slope Orchard – visit their website here

One of our favorite stops in the fall is Sunny Slope Orchard for a huge selection of apples. They also sell pumpkins, squash and depending on the season…sweet corn, peaches, concord grapes and various other produce. Open year round, they sell Florida citrus in the winter and baked goods year round. Their cider is delicious too! The best deal here is their 1/2 bushel bags of seconds. The apples might be small or have some bruises, but most of them are fine. They are usually around $6 for a huge half bushel bag. Last year they had seconds even in February so it is worth checking even past the fall.

14960 Millersburg Rd SW, Navarre OH 44662, 330-833-9415

cash, check or credit accepted

Well, I hope this was helpful. I have a few more stops that I need to add into this loop of favorites, but in the mean time, I encourage you to visit these places if you get a chance to visit the Kidron/Berlin area. Let me know if there are any must visit food stops I should add in!

 Google Map Part 1 (MCC Connection to Troyer’s Market)

Google Map Part 2 (Troyers Market to Sunny Slope)