In order to adopt a child from the foster care system in Tennessee, you have to complete 30 hours of training, become certified in CPR and first aid, and complete a home study. Then, you are eligible to be a foster parent. You have to do ten hours of continuing education, keep your CPR and first aid certifications up to date, and have your home inspected every year in order to remain a licensed foster home. If you want to adopt a child whose parents rights have been terminated, you have to foster that child for at least six months before you are eligible to adopt them. Depending on the child's age, he or she must agree to be adopted.
We began our classes the first week of October. The first night was quite emotionally intense. We watched a video with a man who had grown up in the foster care system and had never been adopted. The losses he had sustained were still with him today, even though he is a highly successful doctor. Listening to him talk about how he felt growing up, and just seeing the grief on his face tugged at my heartstrings.
I have experienced a limited amount of loss, but nothing like him (or any kid in the foster system). But I could empathize somewhat with him. Still, it was really eye-opening.
There was homework after every class, mostly review questions on the material we'd learned. A lot of what we discussed about the kids and how to handle them I already knew, but maybe not in words. The take-home message for me was that the kids may do things that appear strange and dysfunctional to you, but that in their previous environment, those behaviors serve a good function. For example, an older kid may wet the bed because it's a good way to keep their abuser away. The trick to changing those behaviors is to help the child feel in control and no longer need to do those things. (Of course, that is often easier said than done.)