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Head of the Class: Life as a Foster Parent


By Tonnya Kennedy Kohn.

Joshua Bisker knows exactly what he wants to do when he graduates from Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis. He has a two-year-old reminder every day when he returns home––his foster son.

Bisker, a first-year and part-time law student, aims to practice family law, with a focus on representing the interests of foster children, including helping them get adopted into good homes.

Some of my friends have suggested that I get experience in other areas of law, and I probably should, but I am sure family law is what I want to practice,” says the 31-year-old.

Bisker’s focus on the plight of children began when he was just a child himself. He says he was raised by a single mother who suffered domestic abuse. “So I wanted to help out children who might be going through a similar situation,” says the Niles, Ohio, native.

His mother had his aunt and grandmother to help her with him and his brother, but Bisker notes that many single parents do not have that support. “Some parents just need someone to be there,” he says of his role as a foster parent. “And some children need someone to give them a home until their parents get on their feet.”

Bisker received his license to foster parent in 2008 when he was an undergraduate at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. (He began college at age 25.) In Indiana, foster parents must be licensed by the Department of Child Services. It took Bisker the usual several months to go through the licensing process, which includes filling out an extensive application, attending training, having his background and finances examined, and having his home inspected. Each year he is required to attend continuing education classes, have his home reinspected, and be relicensed. A caseworker visits him and his foster son once a month.

Bisker first fostered a newborn girl and her three-year-old sister for a few weeks. “They found a home that was better able to handle two children at the same time. I was an undergrad then,” he says.

Bisker picked up his current foster child directly from the hospital when the child was two days old. He will stay with Bisker until his parents are able to care for him or until he is adopted.

“The goal is reunification [of the family],” Bisker says, noting that if a child cannot be reunified with his parents, then the state will try to find a blood relative to adopt him. If that is not possible, the foster parent has the first opportunity to adopt the child, which Bisker would like to do if his foster son is not reunited with his family.

“When you are a foster parent that is what you are, a full-time parent basically,” says Bisker. “I take care of whatever his needs are.”

Bisker’s foster son calls him “daddy.”

“I just let him call me what he wants to,” Bisker notes, adding, “It makes me warm inside that he feels that way of me.”

Joshua after Class

  • Legal heroes: Bill and Hillary Clinton
  • Aha moment: Winter break.  I don’t know why, but this was the point law school started making sense.
  • Words you live by: Tomorrow is never promised, so live like it’s your last.
  • Most recent technology purchase: Xbox 360 Kinect


Vol. 39 No. 7

Student Lawyer Student Lawyer magazine provides guidance on educational, career, and related issues for ABA Law Student Division members and other subscribers. It is published four times a year by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. Student Lawyer is available online to members of the ABA Law Student Division and to print subscribers.