One year later: What I learned as a first-time foster parent

Digital Journalist Erica Hernandez shares the latest on her foster-to-adopt journey

Digital Journalist Erica Hernandez, her husband and foster child (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since my husband and I became first-time parents.

This time last year I was so nervous about taking in a child that I knew very little about and who had already dealt with so much in her first three years of life.

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The year brought about many obstacles and while we were still trying to nail down a routine and get our little one adjusted, COVID-19 hit.

Still, to this day our little one has not had the opportunity to meet and get to know some of our family and close friends. It’s okay though because the pandemic gave us the opportunity to really get to know her and her, us.

I write this article to share some things I’ve learned that I hope maybe could help anybody else who is a foster parent or thinking about fostering.

Patience is key

Throughout the year I’ve had to learn that some things don’t just happen overnight or may not happen at all. We’ve had many moments where we thought we saw improvement and then major regression would hit. At times, it felt like day one all over again.

As a foster parent, I’ve learned that some things just don’t work and have to be adjusted. Techniques that work now may not work in a couple of months from now. Sometimes we just have to sit back and realize maybe what we are doing as parents needs to be changed. That realization has helped immensely.

Foster parenting not only means having to have patience with the child and the situation but with the foster care system as well. In my opinion, I think there are too many people involved in these kid’s cases and important information gets left out or not communicated. There are many entities involved in the foster care and adoption process including our agency, Family Tapestry, the ad litem and CPS, and information that’s important to our case isn’t shared completely between all parties. That has presented some problems as we have to wait to get paperwork and proceedings cleared and sorted out.

Another frustration is that we were cleared for adoption in August but are still waiting for it to happen. We see others around us have a quick turnaround, but that hasn’t been the case for us. So we just wait and pray that day will be here for us soon. I understand these agencies have a lot of cases and intense workloads and I do admire their work, but being on the other side of things I do see some of the inconsistencies that have arisen. So all in all, patience is so important.

You have no privacy

When you become a foster parent you are not only opening your life up to a child in need but also to a lot of other people, more than I ever anticipated. Before you get a child you have to have your home inspected by a fire marshal and a health inspector and your agency does a home study. When you get a child in your home, you have a CPS caseworker and possibly a CASA volunteer. Every month your case manager from your agency and CPS caseworker visit the home, sometimes unannounced. They not only stop by to check on the child but every quarter they inspect your home to make sure it’s still compliant. Your home has to be an open book and if you don’t like people walking in unannounced, this may be a hard thing to get used to.

Kids are resilient

The greatest pleasure of all this is seeing how much our little one has improved, learned and grown. When she first came into our home she was way behind in her age group and had a speech delay. We recently found out she is caught up and ready to start Kindergarten next year. And the progress isn’t just on the learning side, but we’ve also seen her be able to trust adults. This kiddo was a tough cookie and it took many months for her to let her walls down but she has and the little milestones along the way have been a blessing to see.

This little girl has really changed our lives in so many ways and has captured our hearts. Yes things get hard, parenting is tough and I have cried a lot this past year but I’m a mommy now and when she says those little words, “Mommy I love you,” it’s all so worth it.

If you are interested in fostering you can reach out to one of the many local agencies or Family Tapestry. If you have any questions for me please comment below or send me an email.


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About the Author

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

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