We are the Arrogante family—Jen, Jed, Nathaniel, Elizabeth and Penelope. We have been foster parents through the County of San Diego for four years now.
We had always felt called to adopt, so when the time came, we began the process of applying to become foster and adoptive parents through the county. I’m not going to lie, it was not easy. All of the horror stories you hear about—lost applications, feet dragging, bureaucratic mess, etc.—happened to us. A process that should have taken 12-18 months dragged on for almost three years.
Our biggest fear going into the process was the impact that fostering would have on our children, six and 16 months at the time. My husband and I were highly prepared by the county, with over 60 hours of classes on attachment, risk factors, brain theory, parenting classes, etcetera, but our children weren’t taking these classes. All they had to go on was what we told them, that we were going to be helping children whose parents were going through a hard time, giving them a safe, loving space to live while their family members worked on creating healthy and safe spaces for them. They didn’t know how long their new sibling would be staying with them, how old he or she would be, or what kind of personality he or she might have. We did our best to prepare them. There was so much we couldn’t control for, we had to leave it to prayer and in the hands of our god.
Two months after ‘getting on the list’ we received our first placement. There is nothing that describes the emotions that surround a placement phone call. Excitement, nervousness, joy, sadness, fear. We were told that we were to go down to the hospital and meet a baby that had been safely surrendered at the hospital by her mother. She was three days old and in the NICU.
We were in the NICU for eight days with our sweet girl that we named Penelope. The nurses were nothing but hard to work with. Her medical condition needed constant monitoring and we were told we could be there for weeks or months. Eight days later we were told we were being discharged and told to ‘find a good pediatrician’ who could help us monitor her condition for another three months. By the grace of God, we were able to find one who had ample experience working with foster families and who knew how to help us monitor Penelope’s condition. Fifteen months later, we finalized our adoption and we are all now forever family. Today she is a thriving and amazing three-year-old who is a constant light in our family. We truly consider her life, her successes, and her very existence a miracle.
We got back on the foster care list when Penelope turned two, at the urging of our children. We found out that there was a need for short term placements for babies who have family members that are awaiting approval by the County. Since then, we have had one placement and know that there are more in our near future. Penelope is the biggest advocate and love to these sweet babies… she is such a light in our family.
For as many unknowns as there are stepping into the foster care system, there are even more reasons to be willing to step out into our fears and trust that what is to come is, not just good, but pure amazing.
If you’re feeling a call to foster, my best advice is to connect with other foster families. Knowing others are going through the same journey allows you to normalize some of the more frustrating aspects of fostering, along with giving you that extra love and support that you might need. Surround yourself with people who love you and your quirky family, who will support you through all the struggles and celebrate in all the achievements. And believe me, the achievements will be many and the amount of joy and love will be heart stretching in the most wonderful ways. We couldn’t have done this without all of our extended family and friends pitching in, helping out, providing words of encouragement and love. While you are out there supporting families through fostering, make sure your family has a support system as well. Finally, don’t over think it. It’s just kids, it’s just love. There is so much hard but somehow it makes the good that much sweeter.