By: Bonnie Sharpe On: September 14, 2020 In: News Item Comments: 0

Carrie and Bobby’s Path to Becoming Foster Parents

This is part one of our series on Carrie and Bobby, a family’s foster journey. In this post, we learn more about the path that led Carrie and Bobby to Extraordinary Families and their journey to become certified foster parents.

Tell us, how did you meet?

(Bobby) We met in a class. We were both graduates at Boston College. I think the class was international human rights. That’s how we initially got to know each other. And then we ran into each other at a museum.

(Carrie) That’s right – and later we ran into each other at a museum where he gave my mom and me a private tour, which was so nice. We were friends for a long time. And eventually, we reconnected out here in California.

(Bobby) We both ended up moving to California at the same time and didn’t realize it. We ran into each other at a coffee shop and hadn’t seen each other in a while. I asked her what she was up to, and I think I also mentioned I was moving out to California. She mentioned she had just taken a job out in California, and that’s when we started to connect and begin a relationship.

What brought you to the decision to foster?

(Carrie) Well, a few years ago, a friend invited us to an Extraordinary Families Gala. After he explained about the amazing work they do with kids and foster youth and how his friend adopted two children through them, we were excited to attend. Then when at the gala, we were totally crying during the video stories and the youth’s speech. At the end (of the event), I filled out one of the interest cards – I was so inspired that I checked ‘yes’ right away. Then someone from the agency reached out to us and I was like, ‘woah, we haven’t even talked about this.’ I think we were newly engaged at that point. I was just so inspired and knew my whole life I was interested (in foster care). My family fostered a 13-year-old youth when I was young, and they talked about adopting. It’s always been a part of my family and something I had even looked into as a single woman. When Bobby and I got together, we thought about having children of our own. We weren’t told we couldn’t have children, but we were told it would be difficult at our age. So, we thought let’s just explore all of our options.

(Bobby) The stories in the videos are what really got us inspired and started the conversation.

(Carrie) And we just went to the Orientation knowing we didn’t have to make a commitment and could just get more information. But really, after the Orientation, we knew ‘we are doing this.’

(Bobby) I think every step along the way was like that for us. We didn’t begin this knowing exactly what we wanted, or if we were going to do it, but thought what better way to learn. I really appreciate how much Extraordinary Families set that tone from the beginning. It’s kind of like, ‘come and see, and if it is meant to be, it will be.’ And this was our feeling throughout the entire process. Its really been a positive experience.

What was the most surprising or interesting part of the certification process?

(Bobby) I think, for me, it was learning about the foster-to-adopt model and that this is the way the system is set up now. I really appreciated how Extraordinary Families explained how this (model) is shifting the risk to the adults and away from the children, which makes a lot of sense. The process is looking at what is best for the child, and this was very striking to me. I had an image, maybe from what we see in media, that the foster care system in general didn’t have this type of approach. And in talking to other people or family, this isn’t something that many people are aware of. So, I found this to be very surprising and interesting.

(Carrie) Yeah, just knowing this shift towards the child is very inspiring, too. And also, for me, I was really shocked about the statistics of how many children are in foster care. Those figures really struck me, and I think us – just knowing how many children do not have forever families or permanent homes, and how many youths there are in group homes. I think that really inspired me and showed the need. We had no idea before getting involved in the process – the different types of needs there are, and how much need there is – even for infants.

We often talk to people going through the certification process about the reunification – when a child reunifies with their birth parents. Have you two had a moment to process reunification and what this could mean for you as foster parents?

(Bobby) We’ve definitely talked about it. It’s hard to know exactly. We know that reunification is a reality and a part of the program. We know that the system is geared towards reunification and how frequently reunification is the outcome. I think having a good awareness is something that came through in training, and we are committed to the process at the same time. In fostering, we take it one step at a time, and that is what’s been really nice and affirming. It is not having to say that we know exactly at any one spot what will come after.

(Carrie) I think for me, and for us, we are just excited about the process and being able to care for a child – even for a short term – and knowing that this is helpful for their birth parents. It’s inspiring to me to know we can make a difference. I think we have come to terms and peace with reunification, and this is what’s best for the children. Sometimes we may not be able to see what we is best, and sometimes may think it is not the best, but we have to have hope in the long run. I’ve seen children at my school (where I work) experience the loss of their birth parents and it is so devastating. I am very sensitive to their loss – that loss for them is very real. I see how it affects their schooling. And on the other side, I’ve seen families who have recently adopted children from the foster care system and can see the beautiful transformation this has been for the child. I guess I’ve seen it both ways and hope I can bring that understanding into our own situation. I don’t think we can ever be totally objective – you can’t totally block your heart and your feelings – but I think, at least in this experience, we are open to wherever this leads us.

We are so happy you two were recently certified. In general, what would you say to someone new coming through the certification process?

(Bobby) From the very beginning, Extraordinary Families did a good job of setting out what the process would look like. In that, there is a set of classes, there is a lot of paperwork, there are different steps involved. It is not necessarily an easy process and not everything you are doing is fun or easy. But this is a part of the process that is needed. It’s geared towards being able to help children in need. Through this process, we also had a great opportunity to connect with each other and find out more of who we are as a couple. What we value and what we want to share with others who are going through all these different scenarios with us – from managing the different challenges we might face to going through different paperwork together. It was helpful. It can feel like a long process because there are a lot of different steps. But the plus side, for me, was having enough time to let each part sink in. It felt like I was able to say ‘yes, at each point, we are making a commitment to this in a deeper way.’

(Carrie) It also felt very tangible at each step. When you first get the checklist to certification, you think ‘that’s a lot of things to check off.’ But it felt good to say, ‘we got the car checked, we got our health exam, TB, and CPR done,’ so that felt very tangible. We also enjoyed the classes. I still call them our Thursday night dates. I would leave work early, when usually I stay late at work, to pick up food before the classes. It was also helpful to understand what is important to me – yes, I work all day – but it is important to learn about this and to be with my husband. It was quality time for us, but we are a bit nerdy like that.

(Bobby) And both of us being in education, it was really good information about children and child development. It is so important to be aware of certain issues, such as attachment and trauma (in children), and even in the world. It comes up in so many different places (in life). So, to be together in a class and to reflect, I think it was also very nourishing.

What would be your wisdom for someone going through this process?

(Carrie) I received some good advice from a friend of mine, a single woman, who has fostered maybe 6 or 7 children. She has always been open to adoption, but it has just not happened in her situation. And this last time was a heartache for her because she had the children for almost 3 years and became very attached. So, she was talking about this (experience), and then I told her that we are very excited to be getting involved. Her advice to me was ‘just do it.’ That for me was just so emotional. Because if she could say that after all she has been through with the system, and if she is saying you should still do this, then I thought ‘oh, we should do this.’ It’s just a real testament to this opportunity. So, I guess my wisdom is ‘just do it!’ If you are thinking about it, go to the orientation – it’s not committing. And if you are thinking about doing the next step, just do it.

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