Cason Crew

September 25, 2016

Giggles and Tears

I get asked almost daily how we are doing. My usual answer is, "I'm exhausted! But we are good". Parenting is really hard! Most days I feel like a referee more than a mommy. With 4 girls in the house under the age of 6, there is A LOT of arguing and bickering. And to be honest, it can really wear on me. I get tired of hearing the fighting and fussing. But the girls really do love each other. I always say that they act just like sister. They can love each other and play together really well, and they can also scream and hit each other really well. 

Our daily schedule is getting easier. It's amazing how adaptable kids are. P and R have always had a pretty structured home. I wasn't sure how two new kiddos would be coming into our house who had probably never really had structure. But our two new bonus girls have done great! Just this weekend I had all 4 girls home alone and we were able to actually get ready and go places! I felt like I deserved a gold medal. 
Emotionally, fostering is tough. There are so many emotions involved in fostering...and just parenting in general. I don't think I have the words yet to adequately explain all that I feel. It's tough having all these feelings. Some of them are feelings of anger and disappointment. Some of them are of hurt and fear. Some of them are of little joys and happiness. It's a lot of "feels" around here. And I feel like I am constantly trying to understand my feelings.When I figure them all out maybe I'll write about them. 
I want to be real about our fostering journey. This isn't easy. I feel like I am a pretty terrible mommy most days. In fact, I think that has been one of my own personal struggles. I want so badly to be a great mommy. But so often I lose my patience and get angry. I struggle with being consistent and just wanting to be lazy most days. It's hard to parent and it's even harder to parent someone else's kids who have their own history. This isn't easy at all, but I don't guess I ever expected that it would be. I am genuinely praying that God can change ME through this process. I know I'm not fit to be a foster mom, but I believe that God has called us to do this. So I'm believe that he will make me fit. I'm clinging to the fact that every day is a new day and it's full of God's mercies. 

September 10, 2016

Fostering FAQ's

Until about a year ago, Drew and I really didn't know a whole lot about fostering. We knew that some of our friends had fostered and it sounded terrifying! But looking back, I think it sounded really scary because we didn't really know a lot about it. Since we've started actually fostering, we have gotten asked lots of questions about the process. Tons of you have shown interest in fostering but just aren't really sure of how it all work and the specifics. So I thought it would be helpful to write a post about some of the questions we get asked and try to help calm some fears about fostering. Obviously we don't know all the answers to everything and we are still trying to figure things out ourselves. But we do know some answers simply because we have gone through it. So here are some frequently asked questions about fostering. 

How do you even start the process?
There are probably lots of ways to go about fostering. We chose to go through the CALL. The CALL is an organization that helps you go through the process. They don't make placements or have anything to do with the actual kids. But they help guide and support you through the work of getting your home "open". So the first step is to go to an informational meeting. They usually happen every couple of months. And at that meeting you hear about the process and get signed up right then (or like us, wait a couple of months and then sign up)

What all is involved in becoming an "open" home?
After the informational meeting and you sign up, you will have a long checklist of things to do and as well as 30 hours of training. The CALL does the training during two weekends every other month. It's tough because it's a FULL Saturday and Sunday for two different weekends. That can be very challenging for people who work on the weekends. I have heard that you can also get trained through DHS and it's broken down into a couple of hours at a time over a longer period of time. But don't let the training keep you from fostering. There are ways to work around your work schedule and still get trained. It is possible! The checklist of things to do is quite lengthy. But it's easy things like make sure your pets are vaccinated, get physicals for everyone in the house, make sure you have a tornado and fire drill plan, prove that you have insurance on your cars and home...just basic things. It does take awhile to get it all done, but it is totally possible! Once you finish your checklist and get your training, you will then have a bunch of people come to your house to interview you and check to make sure your house is safe. It sounds like a lot and really confusing, but that is what the CALL is for. They help walk you through the entire process and help you the entire way. 

How long does it take to become an open home?
It depends on lots of different things. But I've had friends open as soon as 5 months and some took a few years. For us we went to the informational meeting in November and we were open in August. 

Do you get to decide what age and gender kids?
Yes...sort of. This is one of the most commonly asked questions for us. Once you are an open home, you will begin getting calls from different counties. When they call they will tell you the age and gender of the kids they are looking to place in your home. You are allowed to say no to any call. For us, we decided to only take girls at this point. So whenever we got a call for a placement with a boy we would kindly tell them no. 

Do you know about the kids before they come to your house?
Yes...sort of. You are allowed to ask any questions you want before accepting a placement. Some times DHS will know the answer but sometimes they won't because the kids are just coming into foster care. Some times the kids have been in placement before so they are able to answer more. In training, they teach you different questions to ask to be able to get to know the kids a bit more. They also teach you things to think about to know what you and your family can handle. 

Can we still foster if my husband and I work full time? 
Yes! The state will usually pay for daycare. You just have to choose a daycare that will accept state vouchers (most will). Of course most daycares won't accept a child if they are under 6 weeks old, so you just need to keep that in mind. I am a stay at home mom and I work for my husband as his office manager. I didn't know if I would send our children to daycare since I keep the other two at home. But I have found that it is the best thing to have a routine and structure for our foster kiddo. So going to daycare was the best decision for us.I'm sure every case will be different.

How do you handle doctor visits and insurance?
Foster kiddos will have a medicaid number. Some times they will come with the kid and some times you will have to wait a few days. If you need to take the kids to the doctor for any reason then you just document it. We've already taken our kiddos to the doctor and the dentist. You are also able to take them to counseling and any kind of counseling that they may need.

Do you get clothes provided for the kids?
Some times the kids will come with clothes, but most of the time not. The CALL has a lot of closets where they provide clothes. You might also get clothing vouchers from the state to help pay for some new clothes. All that to say, you will have some ways to get some clothes for your kiddos. 

How much space do you have to have for the kids?
Basically each kid needs about the size of a twin size bed. So not much! We just have a 3 bedroom house and so we were able to put our bio kids into one room and have an entire room opened. We got bunk beds and can have up to 2 kids. (technically we could have a baby sleeping in our room but for us that was not really an option)

How long will you have the kids?
That is something you will probably never know. Some times you can get a pretty good idea, but sometimes you have absolutely no clue. You have to go into fostering being very flexible and know that you could keep a kid for a couple of weeks or a year. You just never really know. 

What is respite care? And can we sign up to just do respite?
Respite care is basically a long term babysitter. To become a respite family you have to go through the entire process of becoming "open" just like a foster family would. The only difference is that you don't take full time placements. You can if you ever change your mind though since you are already fully open. Usually a respite family only keep kids for about a week or two to give foster families a break. This is a HUGE need! So a lot of times when families tell me they are not in a place to do foster care, I always try to encourage them to still go through the process of getting trained and being open so they can do respite. 

Can you adopt through foster care?
When you do foster care, the goal is reunification with their family. You will be asked to do everything in your power to send those kiddos back to their family. Of course, there is always a chance that the child's parent will lose their rights and they will go up for adoption. And then of course at that point you might be considered as a possibility. But it is never the goal. If you want to adopt then you can always make that known from the beginning. There are many kids that are waiting to be adopted right now. Most of the kids are older children. There is actually a really long waiting list of people who want to adopt babies and younger children. So if your goal is to adopt a baby then you might want to consider another route. But if you are opened to adopt older children then you can definitely go through DHS, you'll just want to make it known upfront. 

Will the parents know who you are?
No. Your foster kiddos parents will never know who you are unless you introduce yourself. If you ever have the chance to go to court or visitation then you would be able to meet them. But that is something that is usually up to you. They won't know where you live or who you are. 

Do you get paid for fostering?
You will get a board payment for each kid to offset the coast of room and board. I can't speak a lot about this because we haven't seen any payments yet. You will definitely not make money by fostering, but you will be helped a little. 

Won't it be sad to give the kids back?
Of course! I haven't gone through this yet so I have no idea how it will be. I'm sure it will be tough. But my goal as a foster mom is to love the kids as much as I can and show them what a good family looks like. Then I hope and pray that they go back to their family and that the parents have changed and are making great choices! I'm sure that the toughest part will be when the kids go back to a family that I don't feel is the best situation. But unfortunately that is not my place to judge. I do the best I can and just pray. 

If I can't foster then what can I do to help?
There are a million ways to help foster families. You can do respite and give families a break. You can also become a Foster Support Family. All you have to do for that is have a background check and fill out a little bit of paperwork. Then you are able to keep the kids at your house for a few days. This is HUGE so that foster families can have a break for more than a few hours. You can provide meals for families. You can offer to come over and watch the kids at their house for any amount of time. You can ask to do laundry. You can provide clothes for foster kiddos. Provide any kind of service you may, birthday cakes, hair cuts....all of these things cost money and it can add up. So anything you can offer helps. Drew started offering free birthday pictures for foster kiddos years ago. It was nothing but time for him but it was a huge deal for foster families who want pictures for their kiddos but maybe didn't want to pay a ton of money. Pray for families. Ask them how you can help. Be there for them to let them vent. There are so many ways to help even if you can't have an actual kid in your house. The foster system is in a crisis right now and it needs people to step up and help however they can. 

September 7, 2016

Pre-K 4

Today was Presley's first day of her Pre-K4 class. She was actually very excited. I'm not sure if it's because she went last year or that she has two other in the house right now who have been going to school for a few weeks. Either way, she was pumped. She walked right into her class and there were no tears. I could tell she was a bit hesitant for me to leave, but she did great! 

After I dropped off 3 little kiddos, Reese and I decided to have a special trip to the donut place. She was pretty pumped to eat donuts and spend some time alone with mommy. I'm not sure how much she's going to like everyone being gone though. After only 30 minutes she asked if it were time to go pick up the girls. HA!

September 2, 2016

My fruit loops

Life is flying by and here we are 3 weeks into fostering. I'm obviously not planning on updating every single week. But I feel like so many people ask me about it these days and I feel so compelled to talk about it. When people ask me, "How's it going?", my answer is usually "good!" And I mean it. I had so many fears about fostering before I got into it. And it's as if so many of those fears have been wiped away. I'm not saying that everything is perfect or that I don't worry about things, I'm just saying that what I feared for so many years had nothing to do with fostering as much as just me!

Being a parent is hard. It takes all of your time, it makes you be more patient than you ever thought possible, you have to be selfless beyond your imagination, you have to love when it's hard...and it's no different with fostering! The only different is that the two kiddos I have in my house right now were not birthed by me. But they are still children who deserve just as much love and patience as my two bio kiddos. It's not always easy. I can't say that I have felt an instant connection with our two kiddos. But I love them. And I tell them that every single day....many times a day! Because even when I don't feel it, it is true! 

We also get asked a lot about "How long will you have the kids?" and the answer is we don't know. That's the thing with fostering, you really don't know a lot. We may have these kids for a week or for months. And it's hard to plan for future things not knowing. And if you know me at all then you know that I LOVE to plan things. But it's been surprisingly easy for me to accept the unknown. (God is good!) I am trusting that whatever time we have with these kids is the time that we will love them and care for them. 

I always feel the need to say this in every post about fostering...WE ARE NOT PERFECT!!! Guys, some days I feel like a terrible mom. I raise my voice, I'm impatient, our house is a mess, I feed them poptarts for breakfast, I am selfish....I am not always a great mom. And I think one of my hesitations about ever signing up to foster was that I needed to figure it all out first and then I could be a good mom. But the truth is that no kid needs perfection. They just need love. And I am not always great at loving well either. But God can love through me if I let him. And I'm learning that as a foster mom that is all I'm asked to do...Love! Yes, it's hard. I'm just being honest. But in just 3 shorts week my family has changed for the better in learning to love others! (and we are still learning!)

August 28, 2016

Two Weeks Strong

So we've officially been foster parents for just 2 short weeks. But in some ways I feel like we've had these two girls for months. I guess it's just because so much has happened in such a short time. But I can honestly say that it is getting easier and easier. I really feel like fostering is way more possible for people than they think. A lot of my fears and worries have been put to ease in 2 short weeks.

I feel like we are starting to get into a little bit of a routine finally. The girls are getting use to waking up early and going to bed early. We are figuring out this school thing a little more each day too. The gingers (as we've started calling them to differentiate) and I have gotten use to some alone time during the day and that's nice. It's always such a sweet surprise when the girls are so excited to see each other when we pick them up from school. That makes this momma heart happy. Of course they are fighting like sisters (which is expected) but they really do play well together.

I took my first trip to Target alone with all 4 girls this week. It. was. stupid! I thought it would be a good idea but it clearly wasn't. Ha! I even had a game plan of getting popcorn and making it a "fun" trip. Nope. Never again! (ok, maybe some other time but not any time soon)

We have been so blessed that we have not had to really cook a meal in the last 2 weeks. What?!? Thank you so much to all of our amazing friends who have provided delicious dinners almost every night. It has been amazing and such a huge help. Moral of the story, if you know someone who is starting the fostering journey...take them dinner! You have no idea how helpful that is.  
The one thing I can't seem to figure out is our laundry. It's amazing how many clothes and towels we can use in a day. I have been doing a load every single day but I feel like I still can't keep up. I guess I'll eventually figure it out. As well as the dishes. Oh my the plates and cups!

Our foster kiddos are doing well. The emotional struggle of fostering is tough. We are constantly battling emotions of all sorts. It's tough to figure out how to discipline these girls when I have no idea what kind of situation they have come from. It's tough, but we have lots of support. And honestly, it's been ok. We are praying a lot and doing our best day by day. 

One of my greatest fears in fostering (there were lots!) has always been how it would affect my bio kiddos. I feel like it is going to be good. Presley is struggling the most with having to not always be in control. But that's life. And I think it's a great lesson for her to learn that she isn't the boss of everything. The girls are having to learn how to share more. They are also learning a lot about how it feels to have their feelings hurt. Lots of life lessons going on at our house. 

I know so many people are praying for us and we feel those prayers. So many people have told us that they have considered fostering but just not sure because...we have young kids, it's not the right time, we don't know what to do, we don't feel prepared...ya'll, there are a ton of excuses! I made those excuses for 5 years!!!! But I am so thankful that we finally said yes. This is possible. And I feel like God is using me for HIS glory. I know these girls are in our house right now for a reason and I honestly can't imagine life differently right now. 

August 19, 2016

One week ago...

One week ago our world was completely flipped upside down. Around 9:00 last Friday morning we got a call from another county asking if we could take 2 girls into our home. After asking a ton of questions (and feeling incredibly unprepared and nervous) we said yes. By 4:00 both girls were brought to our home. We spoke with the case worker for about 5 minutes and then we were alone with two very scared (and very sick!) little girls. To say we were overwhelmed would be an understatement. But to say we felt God's presence in every step since then would be the most the truth. 
We have only had the girls for a week but I feel like we've had them for months. So much has happened in the past 7 days that it almost feels a little surreal. We have gone to the doctor, enrolled in elementary school and daycare, gotten clothes, gotten medicine, battled lice, given antibiotics, bathed, fed, cleaned, has been a lot! And to be completely honest, I am exhausted! But I am also completely at peace knowing that we are exactly where we are suppose to be with the Lord. I have no doubt these precious little girls were always planned to be in our home. God saw in His perfect plan this home would be the safe place for these girls for the time being. We have no idea how long they will be with us but we are taking it day by day and praying that soon they can reunified with their family.

One of my greatest fears in signing up to foster was just feeling like we would be so overwhelmed, clueless and alone. And yes, I feel overwhelmed and clueless every day. But NEVER have we felt alone in this journey. From the day we received these sweet bonus children we have gotten so many encouraging texts. We've had meals provided for us almost every single day. I've had clothes from the CALL closet as well as from random families. I've had friends make random Wal-Mart trips for me and people watch my children at the last minute. I have been so completely humbled by the amount of support and help we have received so far. It has been amazing to see the Body of Christ come together to support us. 

So many people have told us that they "admire us" for what we are doing. But to be honest we are just obeying God. We are just regular (sinful!) people who heard God call us to do something so we obeyed (finally for me...I fought it for awhile. Read my story here .) So many of you have told us that you could never foster or that you've thought about it for years but just don't feel like it's possible right now. But guys, if I can do this....SO CAN YOU!!!! Believe me, I am the absolute last person in the world who ever thought I'd be a foster mom. And while I don't believe everyone can necessarily have kids in their homes, I do believe that everyone can help in some way. There is such a great need right now. It is a crisis in Arkansas. If you have ever even considered it! Don't try to figure it all out. Don't worry about all the things that you don't understand. Just trust that God will be faithful and will be with you through the entire process. And if you don't become a foster parent, support those who are. Go buy them toilet paper, take them a meal, babysit their kids for an hour, come clean their bathroom and do their something! You have no idea what kind of a blessing you will be to that family. 
I write all of this an encouragement to those of you who are following us on this journey. I know we are only a week in...and it's been a tough week! But I feel like we are going to survive. I feel like this is totally possible. Yes, there are tougher days ahead. But I also feel like there are greater days ahead. Just last night we were at the dinner table doing some fun 'Table Talk' questions. The question was "Who is your best friend?" Presley told me her best friend was our oldest foster daughter. And our youngest foster daughter said that Drew was her best friend. Melt. my. heart. Praise Jesus that our bio kiddos are learning to love others! I was so worried how fostering would affect Reese and Presley. And it has been tough on them this week. But I could not have asked for anything better in how they are welcoming and loving their new "sisters". I can only pray that this is molding them into compassionate, loving, and generous little girls who understand that there is a really big (and sinful!) world out there and that Jesus is our only hope. 

August 10, 2016

Short Hair, Don't Care

Yesterday Presley got a big girl hair cut! We have been talking about it for a few weeks now. It was completely her idea. I had just mentioned that it was time to get a hair cut, as in a trim. But she said she wanted it "to my shoulders". So I made sure to talk to her about what that really meant. I didn't want any big surprises. I was totally on board because she is SO picky about her hair. And usually it ends up just being brushed and down. So I'm fine with it being cut shorter. But I did not want to be the one that forced it. But she decided she wanted to do it so yesterday we went. She LOVES it!!!! And so do I. I think she looks so old now. *tear