I knew a couple who had been trying to conceive for 5 years. They'd tried everything, the timed intercourse, the medications, the IUIs, a second and third failed IVF. They knew they just wanted a baby and they decided to take classes to become foster parents. At first it was exciting to be "trying" in a whole new way. The grief of not having genetic children did not hit them yet, they were just glad to be doing something different.
They took the classes, and met some other couples who had endured years of infertility. They passed all of the tests and finally became eligible to receive children into their home. Their social worker started to contact them with profiles of children in need of respite. There were many different ages and home situations that the children represented. The couple started to realize that becoming parents and becoming foster parents are two very different things.
After awhile they changed their profile to only accepting "legally free" children - meaning their parents had already terminated their parental rights and the children were available to be adopted. But then they weren't getting any calls at all. You see they came to understand that the foster system is mainly in support of reuniting children with birth parents. Of course the foster systems wants to keep children safe, which is where the foster parent comes in, but they are not necessarily in the business of making foster parents parents.
This couple eventually took themselves off the list for foster parenting. They discovered that while they wanted to help a child in need, they also needed to be careful with their own needs, after being pushed around by infertility for half a decade, it was too much for them to now endure court dates, social workers, and incompetent birth parents.
Becoming a parent through foster parenting is a wonderful and potentially fulfilling option. It is just really really different from becoming a parent through conception. If you are thinking of going this route and you've been enduring infertility for years, I encourage you to take some time off from trying to conceive before you try to foster parent. You must give yourself time to grieve the loss of having biological children. You need time to replenish your soul and spirit after years on the infertility roller coaster.
While you are healing, it is okay to sign up for foster parenting classes. There is no obligation beyond the classes and it can feel like you are still doing something in support of becoming parents. It is also a good opportunity to connect to other couples like yourselves and learn from their experiences. Through this process you can decide if foster parenting is right for you. You will always carry the wounds of infertility with you, but time will allow the healing necessary to welcome another child into your life.
Allison Ramsey is a licensed professional counselor and fertility counseling specialist in the Asheville area. She’s a member of Resolve, The Infertility Association and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and completed their certificate training in mental health counseling for infertility. Contact her to start feeling better.