Reflections on fost-adopt “boot camp.“
March 19, 2012

Over the weekend, Donald and I spent fourteen hours away from Charlotte (nine hours the first day and five hours the second) (this time includes two hours of transportation) so that we could drive to a nearby city and attend a foster parent training session jokingly referred to as “boot camp.”

My primary thought about this was overwhelming concern for how Charlotte was going to handle the separation.  I have never, not ever, spent this much time away from my daughter…unless you count the handful of times she has spent the night with her grandparents, which I don’t simply because I’m only awake for about two of those hours.  When we arrived at my parents’ doorstep on Saturday evening, Charlotte was having too much fun to care.

I cannot tell you how much I appreciated this.  Donald and I have always felt that sheer quantity of time I spend with Charlotte is good (healthy, even) for her but a part of me has periodically wondered if she is secure and independent enough to handle long stretches of time away from me since I’m such a constant presence in her life.

The answer is yes.  The relief is incredible.

My second thought about “boot camp” was simply that spending twelve hours in a folding chair is…well…HARD.  It’s been three years since I spent that much time sitting down.  My legs tingled.  My back ached.  My butt STILL hurts.

I know that several people here are probably curious about what, exactly, such a long training session covers.  It covers: appropriate discipline methods (no spanking, no punitive action, focus on time-ins and gentle verbal guidance), discussions about what a foster child is experiencing (loss, grief, anger, frustration, anxiety, mistrust, so on and so forth), privacy and personal rights (no photos of foster kids in Christmas cards or online, no conversations with friends or family about a child’s case history, no forcing a kid to do anything by physical contact even if it’s as seemingly innocuous as putting them in a tub when they’ve refused a bath, etc.), what the system looks like from the time a report comes in until either reunification or termination of parental rights, and other such topics.

We also came home with nine (NINE!) books to read.  These books are all specific to the cases that Donald and I are open to – that is, children under the age of three, single or in sibling sets.  As we delve farther into this journey, we will also be picking up books that deal with trans-cultural families and special-needs adoption as we are open to children with mild special needs and children from a different ethnic background.  But for the time being, nine books seems like PLENTY to get started.

So that was our weekend.  It wasn’t exciting, but this was a HUGE step for our family toward becoming certified foster parents and building our family through adoption.  If you have any questions, shoot.  I’ll do my best to answer.

** Charlotte is two years and seven months old.

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  1. By on March 19, 2012

    we completed our “boot camp” in february! wondering what books were recommended to you? i am trying to do as much reading as i can as we wait for placement. we have similar criteria as you, 0-5years, 1-2 kids.

    i am currently reading “attaching in adoption: practical tools for today’s parents” by Deborah Gray and finding it very insightful.

  2. By on March 19, 2012

    How is breaking the co-sleeping going? I’m interested in how you are doing it as I am ready to begin the same journey with my son.

  3. By on March 19, 2012

    I am curious as to if the children you are open to adopting will have a chance of getting back with their birth parents. I ask this because I had read another blog before of a foster parent and she had two different kids, both of which had parents who were invloved in drugs, jail, or just “crazy” and both those children got placed back with the birth mothers. I just couldn’t imagine having to let your child go. Since I know the one(s) you adopt will have the same love u have for Charlotte. Just curious as to how it all works. Also how long it would take for you to adopt them and then once you do adopt them the above rules, like no bath, no longer apply. LOL, I have a very headstrong 2 year old who doesnt always want to take a bath either, but she needs one!!!!

  4. By Sarah Christensen on March 19, 2012

    Sarah - The books are:
    Parenting the Hurt Child, by Gregory Keck
    A Child’s Journey Through Placement, by Vera Fahlberg
    Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control, by Heather Forbes
    Toddler Adoption, by Mary Hopkins-Best
    Parenting with Love and Logic, by Foster Cline
    The First Three Years, by Burton White
    Attachment-Focused Parenting, by Daniel Hughes
    Siblings in Adoption and Foster Care, by Deborah Silverstein
    Practical Tools for Foster Parents, by Lana Temple-Plotz

    There were a couple other books (Another Place at the Table…and one I can’t remember that focused on the importance and endangerment of empathy in a foster child’s life) that looked interesting, but nine books about parenting should last me one or two months, so I felt like we should cut it off there!  Only the first two are required by our foster-adopt agency, but the Love and Logic book came strongly recommended and the others are just “can’t hurt” sort of books.  Since we’re secular, we’ve found that some of the religious focus in a few of the books doesn’t apply to us, but for the most part the books seem excellent.

    Samantha - We haven’t started yet.  We have to prepare the spare room first and it isn’t ready, so Charlotte is still in our room.  A couple weeks ago she did transition to her own bed full-time, which is a few feet away from our bed.  It was a painless transition because it’s something she’s familiar with so I’m not anticipating any hardship convincing her to transition to her own room either.

    Courtney - Yes, until a court legally terminates parental rights and grants us said rights, children in our home will always potentially be reunified with their birth parents.  It isn’t an easy reality to come to terms with, but it is what it is.  My sister and several of my cousins are actually named after a child my grandparents tried to adopt who instead reunified, and forty years later this is still a highly emotional topic within the family so I suspect that if this happens it will forever alter the fabric of our family, but we’ve had to make peace with the possibility.

    The time frame varies significantly, but we will foster for AT LEAST six months before an adoption can be finalized, but that’s only if we enter later in the process.  It sounds like most cases take twelve to fifteen months to finalize, but it can take much longer and it can take much less time.  During the fostering period of time, all of the rules are applicable so you won’t hear anything about it on the blog because I won’t be allowed to write about it.  But after an adoption is finalized, the rules no longer apply.  At that point, we can make autonomous decisions about our family, but that doesn’t mean we’ll make immediate changes.  We probably wouldn’t start physically forcing them to take a bath or go to bed, for example, because they will by that point have constructed a complex “social contract” with us.  They wouldn’t understand a sudden shift in the environment of our home and it would likely cause difficulties within the family if we transitioned too quickly.

  5. By Sara on March 19, 2012

    Sarah -

    Congrats on this huge step

    I’ve heard great things about Parenting with Love & Logic - I think I’m going to have to check it out.

  6. By tara pollard pakosta on March 19, 2012

    wow, 9 books!
    that’s a lot!
    enjoy them!

    you are so like me & how I am as a mom!
    I was rarely EVER away from my girls. the first time overnight was when savannah was 19 months and that’s just because I was giving birth to ava (and she spent the night from about 6pm until 9am, so sleeping almost that whole time with her 2nd mama, my bff) and the next time we were away from both of them was when they were 5 & 3.5 and we were gone 24 hours and I thought I was going to DIE! I called about 10x! cannot stand to be away from them!
    take care and can’t wait until you get a new member or two to your family!

  7. By on March 19, 2012

    Best of luck on your family’s journey!

  8. By on March 19, 2012

    Very interested to hear your take on Love and Logic.

  9. By Sarah Christensen on March 19, 2012

    Sara and Kristin - I’m only about 1/4 through the book, but so far I think it’s fascinating.  I think I’m going to read it, let it sit in my mind for a few months, then read it again and see what I think at that point.  So far, I find myself equally liking and disliking the philosophies and ideas presented.  I get the impression that I might be a little less firm - maybe just a more lenient or softer parent as a whole? - than what is necessary for some of it.  I love the idea of letting kids learn from their mistakes on their own, but for example, I see myself bending more frequently than recommended on some of the issues.

  10. By on March 20, 2012

    We took the Canadian equivalent course here a few years ago. It’s mandatory for anyone adopting.

    What I liked most about it was the parenting seminars and videos. I think regardless of the method of becoming a parent, they should make courses like that available to everyone!

  11. By Sarah Christensen on March 21, 2012

    MC - I agree!  When we were talking about discipline - books, theories, science, etc. - all I could think was that I feel like A LOT of parents could benefit from that discussion.





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