Get to Know FAFS 40 Club Member, Janet Farrand
How long have you been fostering?
1989 to 2012, twenty-three years.
How many children in foster care have you had in your home?
How many of these children (if any) have you adopted?
What made you become a foster parent?
We had 2 and 4 year old sons and were considering adoption. Although we thought foster care would be too hard (to give the child back), we thought we’d foster one child, give something back, before possibly proceeding with a private adoption.
What advice would you give to your fellow foster parents?
You have to be flexible and keep in mind the reunification plan. Most children are reunited, and you need to help make that reunification be the best it can possibly be, by expediting visitation, helping to make sure the parent and children bond is as strong as possible. You probably won’t be in these children’s lives anymore after they return home, so helping to make sure the parent they are turning to is one that knows them, and that the child knows their birth parent, is the most important thing you can do for the children. Even when you don’t agree with the reunification plan, the best gift you can give the child is a parent who knows how they like the crust cut off their sandwiches, or what favorite book they like to read at night. You need to help build a bridge between the parents and the child, for both their sakes.
If the child does NOT return home, no harm, no foul. But if you haven’t helped continue that bond between parent and child, during the child’s stay in your home, you have done that child a disservice. Foster parents need to be advocates for all the children in their homes.
What is the most important thing you would like the public to know about foster families?
It is one of the most rewarding, but one of the hardest things, you will ever do. Nothing is better than making a positive difference in a child’s life.
How has FAFS helped you as a foster parent?
As a new foster parent, the most important resource I had was other, experienced resource parents who were available seven days a week and could help guide me through a very complicated and at times incomprehensible child welfare system. FAFS supplied that network at my local county support group, and later through trainings and other opportunities to network with resource parents across the entire state. Being able to communicate with other foster parents was what enabled me to handle any problem that arose, including the emotional upheaval of having our first foster baby grow from birth to age three, and then return home to his birth parents. FAFS also gave me an outlet for my strong desire to improve the system, which I felt needed A LOT of improvement during the last 23 years. Foster care and adoption would be different if it weren’t for FAFS. FAFS’s advocacy has resulted in wonderful programs such as the NJ Scholars tuition program, Fostering Wishes for Children, etc. But some of FAFS’s strongest advocacy efforts are hard to herald as they helped prevent something that would have had a bad effect from happening. But FAFS has always been a strong advocate for foster families, being a statewide voice that expressed why a policy would cause concern, unintended consequences, or hardship for foster families and suggesting ways, always with the health and safety of the children a first priority, to achieve whatever goal was trying to be reached without undue hardship or disruption to the homes of foster families. FAFS always remembers that foster families are just that, families who open their homes to children from the community, taking on their issues and problems, welcoming them in, while maintaining your family ebb and flow. FAFS helps you get information and training, when a new child in your home brings in a medical problem, an issue, something you have never had any experience with in the past.