“Foster” means to help someone (or something) grow and develop, promote, further, advance, cultivate, encourage and nurture. All of these are apt descriptions of what many foster families do every day with children given to their care. But there is so much more to being an Operation Open Arms Family!
Operation Open Arms foster families are expected to care for the child for as long or as short a period of time as may be necessary. It is the goal of Operation Open Arms that foster children placed in our care will not be moved from home to home, so that attachment can occur. Sometimes placement in foster families can be for several years; sometimes, just a few weeks or months. Occasionally, the foster child becomes adoptable, in which case, the foster family will have the first option to adopt.
At Operation Open Arms, our families embrace each child entrusted to them as another of their own with the goal of our mission — to be sure that the child has a bond with the birth mother. This is not an easy task. Each family is aware that the child will love both the birth mother, and the foster family, which is best for healthy development. Knowing how to share that love with respect, is key.
In order to become an Operation Open Arms family, everyone in the household must be on board. Taking a child in shifts the natural flow of the home and the family. Most likely, this is a child who will leave the family at some point. This requires a different thinking and expectations. Open communication is essential.
Operation Open Arms foster families are very special people. Foster parenthood requires a new kind of parenting — to have for a while, yet not to keep; to love but not exclusively; to help children and their parents to maintain ties. It is an unselfish love directed more toward others than toward oneself. Foster parents are rare people who feel they can help a child without exclusive rights.
OOA is licensed by the state of Kentucky, so our agency trains, licenses, and prepares families after thorough background checks are performed. Our families are required to participate in 30 hours of start-up training as well as 6 hours annually. Some opt to take more, as special circumstances arise.
Of course, some children will become adoptable if reunification is not an option. However, we do not recommend that family who is interested in adoption at the onset sign up to be an Operation Open Arms foster family. The commitment to foster for as long as is needed is very different from the need to adopt, and it is not healthy for any of the family members (especially the foster family children) to be confused by this.