We were approved for foster parenting around March of this year, and received our first placements mid-July. They are still with us today, and I would like to share the experience so far. I could probably write a novella, but will try to just hit the highlights here :)
(For clarity, FS is foster son, FD is foster daughter, DS is darling/dear son, DH is husband, etc.)
FD was 7 and FS only 2 when they arrived. We have had birthday celebrations for each of them (more than once per child!), so now we have a 3 year old in preschool and an 8 year old in third grade. They attend the same school my DS, age 5, goes to for kindergarten.
The first night was full of tears from FD as she unpacked her garbage bag of clothes and sorted the things out for her and FS (they have the same mother, and everything was just thrown into these bags). I comforted her the best I could, as she was still a stranger to me, and we finished working on putting things away together. I was excited, apprehensive, and a bit worried about what DS and DH's reactions were going to be. One was at Vacation Bible School that night, the other out of town for business.
The honeymoon period usually last 2-4 weeks, they say, and they were pretty much on track. They learned our house rules and we enjoyed the summer for a couple of weeks before school started. It was a busy time of clothes shopping, school supply accumulation and trying to get FS tested to qualify him for public preschool.
School started and the "honeymoon" ended as we were forced into a new routine including school buses, visitations and phone calls. We still had to get all the health appointments in (some required by the school, some by the Cabinet, others were just plain overdue) and plan for birthdays. So again, it was a busy time. I taught FD how a new way to study her spelling words, and made it clear that if her teacher had her write down homework in the planner, she was going to do it! That took some time, and some days its still a struggle.
Thankfully, FS did get into preschool and was able to start on his 3rd birthday, allowing me time to do other things during the day. DS rarely has homework, aside from reading beginner's books to me or DH before bedtime each night. The routines are mostly habits now and the mornings go smoothly. Afternoons aren't quite a smooth because there is no set routine. Monday are Girl Scouts, Tues and Thurs is soccer, plus some visitation with their mom, Wednesday I have things going on, etc. But all in all I would say that the 5 of us work well as a family unit, and I will miss them when they are gone.
Most of the bonding with FD occurs after a dramatic time-out and some sincere apologies. She has some issues (as do we all!) to work through but I made it clear that acting out at me will not fix her other problems. Hopefully this will continue to improve.
Bonding with FS happens after dinner, with bath and bedtime stories, and a bit of rocking before laying him down. This is usually when he gets sweet and I can talk to him without him running in circles or acting like a monkey :)
My own DS has handled the situation amazingly. He's a smart kid, and we had several conversations about the changes this would bring, and he said he still wanted a brother and a sister and wanted to help them out by giving them a nice home to live in for a while. The first couple of weeks were the hardest for him, and he had to do some growing up and giving up his only-child status. Once he got through that and saw everyone was treated as equally as possible, he really started enjoying free, imaginative play with FD. Its so sweet to watch them play for hours on a Sunday afternoon, pretending to be Star Wars characters or playing "baby", which is what I called "playing house" when I was little. I'm a little afraid for how he will deal with them leaving (probably in 3-6 months), but it will be hard on all of us to lose them.
Ah, well, that's the nature of the beast. You learn to love them as your own, they bond to you, hopefully while retaining the bond with their own parent(s), then they leave, possibly to never see you again.
Tonight FS starts overnight visitation with his dad, and they are both excited. Its very sweet, and I can't say I'm sad about it, as we'll be able to take weekend trips without worrying about being in town at a certain time twice a day for drop-off and pick-up. It will be a change, though, and I pray that it will not make the days he's with us harder. I imagine it may make weekends a bit harder for his half-sister, who exclaimed, "Its NOT FAIR!" when I told her about this change this morning before school.
In addition, their one hour with mommy has become three! So just as we were getting settles, things change. That's life! I feel like I may be ready to add yet another to our household, now that we have a fantastic new mini-van and don't have to squish when we all ride together! LOL