family reading book

Today we are lucky to have a guest post from entrepreneur and mother of three, Sharon Munroe. For some of us, motherhood started early (I was in college when my first two were born). For others, whether by choice or circumstance, motherhood comes a decade or two later.

It can be hard to know what to expect from pregnancy or parenthood at any age. But older first-time moms face even more hurdles. We’re glad to have Sharon share her story of pregnancy, foster parenting and adoption in her 40’s. And now…here’s Sharon!

“When asked about why I have three children ages five and under, I tell a story about my hopes and dreams and that I very much wanted to provide my son with a sibling. At age 41, with the potential of limited fertility, and the fact that my son (now 5) looks just like I did as a child, made me very open to other ways to give him that sibling. There are choices for adding to a family through foster care, domestic and international adoption.

My husband and I are keenly aware that there are many underprivileged children in the U.S., including thousands in our hometown of Austin. At any one time there are hundreds of children in foster care in our county that need a loving and stable home life, a forever family. We were open to learning more and went to an orientation with our state agency “CPS” in January 2010.

In March of that year we were selected to begin training in Texas’ PRIDE Program with the hope of being certified as a foster and adoptive home and being able to care for a child. (Many similar training and placement programs exist in our city and across the country, including those with private agencies.) As training progressed, we grew more interested in fostering with the hope of finding a child who was a great fit for our family, followed by their adoption if they were not meant to be reunited with their birth family.

PRIDE class was fascinating, spanning all-day each Saturday for six weeks.

Our trainers were an experienced social worker and numerous guest speakers invited to the class to cover all aspects of childhood behavior. We learned about attachment theory and the unique challenges of dealing with a child who has experienced trauma (so many foster children have been moved from their homes due to neglect or abuse). We were taught about the minimum standards for foster homes and given a very large binder of the rules and procedures.

In that six-week period, we had lots of homework, including paperwork to complete, home and fire inspections, a first aid and CPR training class and of course, a home study. Early in the process, we also had the mandatory criminal background checks.

Home studies are scary to many prospective foster and adoptive parents, but ours was relatively short – only about four hours. During that visit, we talked about a variety of topics including our own childhoods, and our values and plans for the placement. Importantly, we were asked about our support network and how our families, friends and neighbors would react to a foster placement and adoption of a child.

We also learned that this process wasn’t a one time thing. A foster home is certified initially and every two years to be sure that is a safe environment for a child. Mandatory refresher training is part of the process to remain a certified foster home.

Our son was just two years old when we were certified as a foster family and though we were interested in many children of all ages and ethnicities who were awaiting adoption, we were told over and over again by social workers that we would not get a placement of a child who was older than our son. I was surprised at first since the children who are older than age 6 are harder to place. Teenagers, sadly, have a hard time in the system.

But, a younger child suited us well as we were very comfortable with baby care as well as routines for toddlers.

Certified and Waiting

Once we were certified as a foster and adoptive family in early June 2010, we were excited and a bit anxious. My mind raced daily thinking about when would we get a phone call. What child would be waiting for a new home? The waiting was hard.

Our call came one Wednesday morning in August. I was working and answered the phone immediately. It was a social worker from our local child protective services office calling and a healthy baby girl needed a home, today. She was five days old and coming to our home straight from a local hospital with a caseworker in just a few hours.

Fast forward to today

ChildThat sweet baby who arrived with only a few hours notice is still in our home, a perfect fit, and now part of our forever family. Her adoption was finalized in September 2012. We think she never experienced trauma, is healthy and developmentally on track for her age (3 years old). We are lucky to have her and love her as our own daughter. Our older son has called her his “sister” since he could say the word. In September 2011 we welcomed our younger son, a second biological child, and her best friend into the family. The two are just 13 months a part and inseparable.”

Is foster or foster-to-adopt for you?

Lots of potential foster families think they won’t meet the requirements to foster or foster-to-adopt. But the truth is, becoming a foster is a lot easier than most people think.

For instance in Texas, there is no requirement that foster families are married (although, if you are, you have to provide a marriage certificate.) You can be gay or straight. There is no upper age requirement (21 is the minimum age for a foster parent.) You have to be employed or financially stable, but not wealthy by any means. You don’t have to own a home, or even have a separate bedroom for the child in most cases. Child care is provided for foster children under kindergarten age. You do have to pass a criminal and prior child abuse background check, but you don’t have to be perfect.

You can learn more, and find out if foster or foster-to-adopt is the right way to build or expand your family at the State of Texas website, or your state’s Child Protective Services website.

Bio: Sharon Munroe is the founder and editor of The Advanced Maternal Age Project, a nonprofit website and research program that provides support to women of age 35 or better, their health care providers, and younger women contemplating their future plans. Sharon is the owner of Little Green Beans, a children’s and maternity store, as well as a marketing executive. She, her husband and three children live in Austin, Texas.