Adopting and Fostering as a Single Parent

We all have them. A special group of friends whose opinions we listen to and whose advice we follow. I though mine, my external conscious, would stop me or at least tell me I was crazy when I mentioned becoming a foster parent on my own.

They didn’t.

Right after I turned 30, a crazy idea popped into my head. Most of my crazy ideas fizzle and fade quickly. My group of friends knows this. They help steer my ship into safer waters regularly. But, when I mentioned becoming a single foster parent – they ALL (every single one) encouraged me to find out more and spoke of the ways it made sense.

So, I ran with it, attended an information meeting in March and by May, my roommates had moved out and I was officially licensed to be a long-term foster parent. Adoption was something, however, that I was not open to. I had (and still have) strong views about the importance of fathers in children’s lives in the long term. I have seen the heartache in friends’ lives who have grown up without a Dad in the home and I didn’t want that for my adopted children. But, I also knew that I could be a soft spot for children in the short term.

My first long term kids came in September and stole my heart away. At the time, they were 13 years and 14 months old. They stayed for a year. After they left, I grieved. I mourned because of the love I felt for them.

And I was now open to adoption and the desire to parent for the long term grew and grew. A little over two years into fostering, a social worker called and told me about a little girl who needed an adoptive home. I said yes and about a year later, I finalized the adoption of my daughter.

I wouldn’t change it for anything, but… I still have doubts about raising her without a father.

I still have days where all I want is someone to DO this parenting thing with – to sleep in the same bed – to eat at the same table – to hear the same whining – and experience the same joy.

I try to remember that adopting as a single person doesn’t necessarily mean parenting single forever. I am loving being Sweetie’s Mom and am waiting for my husband – but I am not putting my life on hold until that happens.

More than a quarter of the children adopted from foster care in Federal fiscal year (FFY) 2017 were adopted by single people—almost 15,000 single women and nearly 2,000 single men adopted children from foster care in FFY 2017.

ChildWelfare.GOV

My plan when I was a little girl was to meet a guy in the course of daily life, date, get married, have babies and raise them together.  

Yet, at age 30, I was still single and burning with a desire to do more with my life than an amazing 9 to 5 profession.  I had training in child psychology, attachment, bonding, trauma and knew I could be a good parent to kids in tough situations.  

Being a single parent has come with its own set of issues, some anticipated and some an utter surprise.  Most are common to all single parents…  it is really hard to find childcare, there is no one to run to the store for me if we run out of milk or if I get sick or just need a minute to myself. Kids still have to get to be feed, brought to visits, appointments, and school.  

Its hard. But, one day at a time, I am doing it. And I am happy to report that my daughter is doing well and statistics are on her side despite what daytime television will tell you.

Children in single-mother-by-choice families do just as well as those in two-parent families, according to new research.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Amsterdam, found there were no significant differences in children’s well-being and behavior or parental stress between those two family types.

Charlotte Willis, WHIMN

FAQ’s About Adoption or Foster Care as a Single Person

How did you know when you were ready to make the jump into being a single foster/adopted mama? What needed to happen in your life before you took that step?

  • The decision for me came down to what I wanted my life to be like. I was 30 years old, stable job, psychology degree, pretty financially stable, homeowner, living with amazing roommates, yet I felt like I was too old to not have any responsibility for or to any other human being. I had always thought about working with kids who needed extra love and once I started thinking about it, it just made sense for me. With the support of my family, I looked into it and had my first placement 5 months later. (Alisa)
  • For me, I had accomplished my educational goals and had my degrees, was living by myself in a house and had no prospects of any partner coming along soon! I felt bored and lonely coming home every day to an empty house. I desperately wanted to be a mom but wasn’t quite sure about adopting without having found a partner, so foster care seemed like the perfect path to take. I could be a mom to kids who really needed one even if for only a short time. It took a year to get licensed and my first placement of three boys ended up becoming my forever family two years later. (Bessy)

How you make the finances work as a single parent? Tips and tricks?

  • I ain’t gonna lie, this has been a tough one for me. Making it all add up at the end of the day. I hate, hate that little lives are tied up AT all with money, but yet that’s part of the reality of being a stay at home foster mamma. I do work part-time outside of the home as a photographer. It is wonderful to have a creative outlet and a source of extra income on the months when I don’t have any placements and money is tight, but it is hard for me to leave the kids to “work”, because I see them as my job, my passion, and my whole life. Budgeting tightly helps a lot, as well as accepting help when you need it. Basically being okay with life being simple and about the kids. (Alisa)
  • When you are just starting out in foster care its a good plan to have a little extra money set aside for the first few months of placement. The “stipend” that you get will likely be paid 1-2 months behind, for example, January’s stipend is paid out on the 15th of February. This is really hard if you are having to pay daycare costs out of pocket or if it is not reimbursed until the stipend date. I have definitely learned to budget over the last few years! 
    • Toys and Entertainment Tips: I went way overboard on getting all of the “stuff”, partly out of excitement and partly out of guilt because most of these kids come to you with nothing. I wanted them to have everything 🙂 I quickly crashed and burned learned. Stick to the basics, if your kiddos want something special or expensive use it as an opportunity to teach them money skills, make then earn part of it or wait for it, they may not get the chance to learn these skills again. I’ve found it is better to spend money on experiences versus the stuff if you have to make the choice! We belong to the local YMCA near our house for a very minimal cost, any foster children we have can be added to our family account for no cost. They offer 2 hours a day of childcare while I get to workout watch TV and walk slowly on the treadmill. The weekly swimming lessons are pretty cheap and I have a good relationship with the Aquatic Director so usually, she cuts me a break on any foster kids swimming lessons. They also have a lot of family nights with free food and activities for the kids. Check local blogs and newspapers for free activities in your community.
    • Food Cost Tips: Foster children qualify for WIC, absolutely use it, especially for formula….that stuff is crazy-expensive. They also get free lunch at school, use it (make sure you get the lunch calendar so you can pack on special days or if its something they don’t like, you don’t want them to feel left out if no one else is eating hot lunch that day!). Since the kids have to come with me when I shop I have found a meal plan is a MUST to help the impulse to overbuy! I try and do all the shopping once every two weeks, sometimes even once a month and buy in bulk on items I can store easily. I let the kids tell me a couple of dinners or snacks that they would want for the month and be sure to grab those. I read a bunch of large family blogs to get ideas on cooking larger meals and then freezing portions for later in the month. In the summer we sign up for a CSA so we get local veggies and fruit each week, it’s like Christmas in a box, and then we plan the meals around that.
    • Clothing: Another category I totally go overboard on 🙂 I definitely check out thrift stores and used kids clothing stores (check with your agency if this is allowed). Most of the popular stores for kids’ clothes have frequent markdowns so keep checking if there is something you like, both in-store and online. I tend to wait till the end of a season and buy a lot of clothing items when they are waymarked down and save them for next year. If a kid goes home then I have a nice collection of things to pick from so I can send them home with a wardrobe that should last for several seasons or I can store them away for future placements. Let your friends and family know you are happy to take any hand me downs that they no longer want. (Bessy)

How do you manage work and foster kids as a single parent, what about caseworker visits, doctors appointments, etc?

  • I am blessed in that up until this point, I have only needed to work part-time. I am a professional photographer, which has been a good fit as the editing is all done at home (which takes the most time after a session). It helps to be home a lot of the time, especially when kids initially come, as there are so many various appointments to get the up to date and get all of the help they need as soon as possible. One tip that has worked well for me to try and “stack” appointments as much as possible, having the Dr and Dentist appointments on the same day, asking the child’s social worker and GAL/CASA to come at the same time if possible. (Alisa)
  • When I first started fostering I had the typical 9-5 job but it was pretty flexible and I was able to take time off to deal with phone calls from the daycare and school as well as appointments and visits. Even with the flexibility of my job I was finding it to be too much with my first placement.  There were a lot of behavior issues at school and home that I felt required me to be home more and I felt like I was missing out on a lot by working full time. I took a leap of faith and quit my job to become “self-employed”! It has been three years and has worked out great for me so far. I now only work a few hours a week while the kid’s nap or after they are asleep. I think having a flexible job or other people that can step in when you need it are key to fostering as a single person. Unfortunately, our kids can have lots and lots of appointments, visits, meetings, and “emergencies” that require your attention. If your job is not flexible you will need someone who can go out at the drop of a hat and pick up a child from school or take them to an appointment. (Bessy)
  • Simple answer… FMLA!!! Placement of a foster child is a qualifying event for FMLA, and I use every bit of it. I don’t do the traditional “maternity leave” though. I use it intermittently for foster care-related appointments, medical appointments, and illnesses for my child, court dates, etc. As long as you don’t go over 90 days in a 12 month period, you’re covered. I am also extremely blessed to have a very understanding and supportive boss and co-workers. After four years of fostering, they’re “old pros” as well.  
    • As far as the necessary time off work, the first two weeks or so after getting a new placement are pretty busy with all of the initial required appointments, but after that, I am very firm on when caseworkers, CASAs, etc. may come to the house during the workweek.  I tend to take the third Wednesday of the month off every month and tell everyone three weeks in advance that if they want to come to the house during the workday, they need to come that day. For the most part, they usually show up. My children’s CASAs have always been flexible and can come on weekends or evenings.
    • When it comes to weekly visitations for my children and their families, I tell their caseworkers upfront that they will need to provide transportation most of the time. On “slow” months, I will occasionally take off work part of the day to transport myself because I like to develop relationships with my children’s parents if at all possible.
    • I think the main thing to remember is that you can say “No, I am not taking off work at 1:00pm to meet you at my house. I will leave an hour early at 4:00pm, and be your last appointment of the day or you can come any time on the third Wednesday of the month like everyone else.” In the beginning, I was very hesitant to say “no,” but over the years I have learned that it’s okay. They might not be happy about it, but they’d be less happy if you lost your job and they had to find a new home for your children. (Mimi)

Guest Post – Foster Care Adoption, A Single Mom’s Journey

Tammy is a single lady with an obnoxious cat, daughter, sister, friend, cool Aunt Tammy, honorary “mom”, honorary “grandma.” Bio mom to none, but full-time working foster mom (aka. “Mimi”) to six kiddos and counting over the past 3 1/2 years.  Accounts Payable Coordinator by day (meaning Tammy pays bills in order to eat), aspiring author by night (meaning Tammy wants to earn enough money to eat through witty status updates and blog posts alone)…  Tammy blogs about her Foster/Adopt Journey at “I Must Be Trippin’“.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a mom.  I always dreamed of long road trips in an RV with my husband and gaggle of kids (five kids, to be exact) while I homeschooled and traveled the country with my family.  It turned out, God had a different plan for me when at the age of thirty, I ended up having a hysterectomy due to complications with severe endometriosis.  Still single, with no biological children, I spent the next few years praying and trying to figure out God’s plan for me.  I knew I was going to be a mother.  I just had no idea how it was going to happen.

In the fall of 2008, I decided to take a leap of faith and become a foster parent.  I had always shied away from foster care because of the usual fears related to having to say goodbye to children who I loved as my own, but as time went on I finally began to trust that God wouldn’t have planted this seed in my heart only to leave me hurting and devastated.  I began to trust that He would heal me through the hurt as I loved my children and let them go.  So I dove headfirst into the crazy, unpredictable world of foster care, and allowed myself to love my kids with my whole heart despite the inevitable hurt.

I got my very first placement in April of 2009.  A sweet baby girl with a broken femur…  I called her my “Immobile Munchkin.”  I remember being so excited because I was going to officially be a mother on Mother’s Day for the first time.  Unfortunately, I only had Munchkin for a week, and I once again spent Mother’s Day as a daughter.

The week after that first Mother’s Day, my little Booger Bear came to live with me.  He had a two-toothed little smile that made my heart melt, and that little baby had me hooked from the moment he crossed through my front door.  That same year, Booger Bear’s 16-year-old birth mom, Angel, came to live with us as well.  I went from “Childless Single Lady with a Cat” to “Single Foster Mom of a Teenager and an Infant” practically overnight!  2009 was a whirlwind of “mom” duties.  Appointments, parent-teacher nights, milestones, and “firsts…”  I quickly learned that the best sounds in the world are your baby’s laughter and the little “I yuh you’s.”  I learned that hearing the word “Mom” makes your heart smile.  I learned that baby hugs and kisses and “cuddle time” with your little boy could make a bad day turn around in an instant.  In the year those kids were with me, I learned what it meant to be a mom.

The kids left in early 2010.  Angel to another foster home in early January and Booger to his daddy in March…  Mother’s Day that year was the most difficult yet.  I had been a mother for a year, but once again I was alone.  I had quite a little pity party.  I wallowed…  I cried…  I wrote about it …  I had myself a good case of the “woe is me’s,” and then I did my best to get over it and move on.  I received my very first Mother’s Day card that year from a dear friend and co-worker.  With that card, she reminded me that I was, indeed, still a mother.  I might not be able to be with my kids on that special day, but those kids made me a “mom” the second they came through my door.

2010 proved to be a year of huge changes.  It brought me two more little ones when Little Miss and Itty Bitty came and then left my home.  It brought Booger Bear back into my life late that year, and it brought me, Heaven…  Booger Bear’s stepmom, who at the age of 17, gave up everything in order to pick up where I left off as Booger’s mama.  Over the next several months, I was blessed to have these kids become a huge part of my life and my family.  In February 2011, I was blessed with my honorary “granddaughter” when Booger’s baby sister was born. 

Mother’s Day 2011, I had just gotten home after having lunch with my mom when I heard a knock at my door.  What I saw when I opened the door made me want to cry buckets of “happy tears.”  My kids…  Booger, Heaven, Banana, and Booger’s daddy all standing there with Mother’s Day gifts that Booger had picked out himself and insisted that “his Tammy” desperately had to have.  My very first Mother’s Day gift consisted of a balloon, a corsage, a bell, funny pens with animals on them, and picture frames that Booger had painted himself with photos of the kids.  I don’t know if I can ever explain just how much it meant to me to have my kids show up at my front door on that special day, but Mother’s Day 2011 was the first year that I truly felt like a “mother.”  And just when I thought I couldn’t possibly get any happier, my little Chunky Monkey came into my life two days later.

It’s not every day that you hear a woman say, “Having a hysterectomy at the age of thirty was the best thing that ever happened to me!”  But for me, it is the absolute truth.  This Mother’s Day, I will be hanging out with my honorary daughter and granddaughter.  I will be loving on my Booger Bear and smothering him with cuddles.  I will be rocking my little Monkey to sleep.  This Mother’s Day, as I lay my head down on my pillow and drift off to sleep, I will be thanking God for making my dream of being a mother come true.


Guest Post – My Journey to Becoming a Single Foster and Adoptive Mom

Guest post by Bessy at Young, Single, and Adopting. I am so excited to share in this community of single mommas and papas! It takes a special kind of heart to take on this journey by ourselves!

I always knew I wanted to adopt, from the time I was a young girl I had been fascinated by adoption. My mom had been adopted as an infant so I understood from a young age that adoption was just another way to come into a family. Shortly after high school, my best friend placed her beautiful baby girl for adoption and I was blessed to be along for the ride of finding an adoptive family.

I had always imagined that my life would go like this: Go to college, find my husband, adopt a lot of kids, live happily ever after. So imagine my surprise when college came and went and no husband had magically appeared. There had been some serious relationships, some that I thought might even be heading towards marriage. However, adoption always seemed to be a sticking point. I thought I could make the relationship work that they would eventually come around to the idea of adoption, but wouldn’t you know they were all pretty insistent on just having kids “of their own”. Not that I was opposed to the idea of having children birthed from my own loins, but I wanted to adopt first. So off I went graduating college, still thinking my husband would be right around the corner. A few years went by and I realized that I still felt a strong desire to have children in my home. I figured that becoming a foster parent would allow me to fulfill the desires of motherhood while waiting for a husband that would share my desires to adopt.

So at 27 years old, I went through my local county agency, completed the classes and home study, and was licensed. Two weeks later I got a call for a sibling group of three boys who needed a place for the weekend. They were 5, 21 months, and 7 weeks old at the time. The joke was on me.

Three years later they are still here and are now my forever children! We are still dealing with the effects of their early childhood trauma and struggle with RAD, PTSD, ADHD, and Bipolar issues, but have made tons of progress. I still haven’t found a husband and quite frankly I’m fine with that at this point in our lives. We are in the process of opening back up our home to more foster children and are open to adopting again.  If the right person comes along, great, but for now I am enjoying being a Mommy.


Guest Post – Adventures in Single Foster Parenting – Lack of Alone Time

Bessy is the adoptive Mom of three boys (currently 8, 4, and 3) who came to her as a foster placement three years ago. The boys have a variety of issues due to their early childhood trauma that they have been working hard to overcome. Bessy works with Beyond Trauma and Attachment (BeTA) to help other families who are working through trauma and attachment issues. She enjoys to cook and bake and watches way too much television! She is currently opening her home back up to help more foster children and hopes to adopt again in the future.  And she blogs at: Blogs at: Young, Single, and Adopting.

I think THE hardest thing about being a single foster/adoptive parent is the lack of alone time. You know to do things like run to the store and grab some milk, leave the house for an hour and have your nails done, shop for birthday presents, or maybe take a shower that’s longer than 5 minutes…..or pee alone! Maybe this will get better as my kids get older and are able to stay home by themselves, although that thought alone makes me shudder! It’s just that they are there ALL the time, don’t get me wrong I LOVE my kids, but orchestrating a few hours to do something for me is like trying to teach my dog to speak French.

My options for alone time:

  1. Doing something while kids are in school.  Right now I am a stay at home mom. Two of my four kids are in preschool, the youngest only go Monday and Friday from 9-11:30. That gives me 2.5 hours twice a week. By the time you drop them off and drive somewhere and give yourself enough time to drive back and pick them up you are down to about an hour and 15 minutes. That hour is usually spent running errands, like grocery shopping, post office, paying bills, or picking up something we need. Not to mention trying to “volunteer” in all the kid’s classrooms occasionally during that hour and 15 minutes. So that option is pretty much out. Once they are all school age and gone during the day I will need to get a full-time job, so no luck there either.
  2. Paying someone to watch the kids.  This is easier said than done, especially when you are still fostering! First, I have to find someone willing to watch four kids. Then I have to find someone willing to watch four kids, some of whom have significant behavior issues. Then I have to find someone willing to do all the things my agency requires like background checks, fingerprinting, a sit down with a caseworker to go over discipline policies. Then I have to schedule something way in advance, no spontaneous “I want to run out and grab a coffee”. If I find someone willing to do all of these things, I then have to pay them….a lot! It’s hard to justify paying someone a whole bunch of money just so I can go to a movie. It’s usually not enjoyable anyway cause I’m worried about what’s going on at home or getting panicked texts from the babysitter about what is going on.
  3.  Finding friends or family to watch the kids.   This option sounds good, but my problem is I need to utilize my friends and family so much for mundane things, like taking one kid to an appointment or to go to school meetings/court dates, etc. That it then doesn’t seem fair to ask them to come to watch the kids so I can go out to dinner! Most of my friends have their own families to worry about and again finding someone willing to take on all the foster stuff and behavior stuff is asking a lot!

So what’s a girl to do? Id really like to get a hair cut, I mean it’s only been 13 months since my last one.

Resources:

IF you appreciated this article, please share with your networks!

Becoming and being a single parent by choice through adoption or foster care is not easy, but it is doable, tips by this single adoptive mom.

Published by Alisa Matheson, Attempting Agape

I’m Alisa Matheson. Previously a foster parent, an educator, recruiter for teens aging out of the foster care system. I became a full-time contractor and photographer in 2019. I love coffee, deep conversations, snuggles with my kid and justice on the street. I welcome you to share in my journey.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: