Forever Family-Foster Care Expectations
Photos by Brandi Stage
When others tell Sasha Bledsoe they never could be a foster parent — that she and her husband are somehow special — she begs to differ.
“(Foster children) don’t need perfect parents; they just need a parent that’s willing to love them,” says the stay-at-home mom of two, “and loving a child is easy because children are so worthy of love.”
On any given day, over 400,000 children are living in foster care throughout the U.S., ranging in age from birth to 21 and remaining in the system for an average of two years, according to the nonprofit Voices for Children. Addiction figured prominently in Sasha’s own family and her husband, Eddie’s, she says, so they knew they could relate to children with difficult backgrounds.
“We went into foster care blindly and out of faith; we didn’t have a clue what we were getting into,” she says. “We just knew there was a need, and we had space in our home and our hearts.”
Years before the couple was married, Sasha says, they agreed to adopt before having biological children. Today, she adds, their “all-American, happy, fun-loving” family includes 8-month-old baby Isla and 2-year-old foster son Parker, whom they are in the process of adopting.
TAKING THE LEAP
Before Sasha, Eddie acknowledges, he never gave fostering or adoption much thought. They started by searching on AdoptUSKids.org, he says, and soon encountered a sobering reality.
“(We) found so many kids we hoped to help but were told the out-of-state adoption process is very difficult and almost impossible …,” he says. “I’d love for that process in the future to become easier.”
Prospective foster parents can earn their license several ways, Sasha explains; one being a weekend licensing program through Rescue 100 — a collaborative effort among the state Department of Child Protection Services, courts, and churches to streamline the process. Another option is contacting the county CPS office and getting licensed independently.
The training regimen includes instruction on dealing with certain situations foster parents are likely to encounter, interviews and a home study.
The Bledsoes took the independent route, signing up via the state CPS website, and became licensed in 2016. They’ve since had six placements, including Parker, ranging in age from 3 months to 4 years old.
“We’ve never really had a difficult experience with our placements, at least not anything that seemed out of normal for a child in their situation,” Sasha says. “Usually babies and small children are scared because they don’t understand what’s going on.”
The process has proven mostly positive, Eddie agrees.
“The thought of helping a child by way of providing a loving home for him or her to stay in makes me feel like we’re making a difference — and that is very rewarding,” he says. “One of the biggest challenges with fostering is knowing your time with a child is sometimes limited. You may only have a small window to try and make an impact on that child.”
Both Bledsoes recognize that the goal of fostering is reunification with the child’s birth family. The couple has seen several children placed with them go home, which Sasha calls “a beautiful experience to be part of.”
“To see a biological parent work hard and do what is best for their child, and the child be returned, isn’t painful like I originally thought it would be,” she says. “It’s joyous!”
Sasha says she also didn’t expect the experience of adopting their son to be so different than fostering other children. The couple has been forced to accept their lack of control, she adds, and learn to trust God.
“Throughout our adoption process, we don’t have a say in what we think is best for our son,” she explains. “Whether he stays with us or is reunified with his biological parents is up to his caseworkers and the judge to decide, and that is very hard.”
So far, their adoption journey has been ongoing for two-and-a-half-years, Sasha says, and they hope the adoption becomes official later this year or early next. When they got Parker, termination of parental rights had been ordered, but not yet completed.
“We went into foster care strictly to adopt; we never planned on being foster parents,” she explains. “God had different plans for us, though.”
Before couples make such a life-changing decision, Eddie advises them to pray about it. If they feel called to move forward, he adds, “use your support system.”
“We’re blessed enough to have an amazing church that encouraged and supported us,” Eddie says.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help, he adds; many support groups on the Coast can offer an array of resources.
Finally — “Just be willing.”
“If you take the leap of faith and decide to foster and it’s not what you expect, or it’s not for you, don’t worry,” Eddie says. “There are many other ways to help ….” He specifically mentions CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate) volunteers, who speak for the best interest of abused and neglected children in the legal system.
FINDING PEACE, LOVE
If a family is open to fostering or adopting, Sasha says, the rewards are endless.
“The love you feel is priceless; the peace you see in a child’s eyes when they realize they are safe is something you will never forget,” she says. “My favorite moments are when a child gets settled and falls asleep in my husband’s arms, or slides their tiny hand into mine while watching a movie.”
The Bledsoes stay busy keeping up with an active toddler and giggling with their baby girl. Some of their favorite family activities, Sasha says, are going to the park, swimming, traveling and jumping on the trampoline.
While Parker is fearless, adventurous and strong-willed, Isla’s personality appears to be more reserved, cautious and laid back, Sasha says.
“Both are loving, affectionate and super snuggly,” she adds, “so we have the best of both worlds!”
As a parent, Eddie says he strives to balance being a disciplinarian and a loving, playful dad. His spouse, he adds with admiration, is a natural, exceptional mom.
“She is kind. She is loving,” he says. “She is selfless and always puts the needs of her kids before her own. She is everything we all hope for in a mother, and for that, I am truly grateful!”
Writer for Gulf Coast Woman Magazine.