Friday, February 28, 2014

Waiting for the Phone to Ring

We finally got our letter. We were approved! I felt like the phone would ring any minute. All through our training we were updated on how many children our private agency had to turn away due to nowhere to place them. But the phone didn't ring for almost a week. The placement has to be right for our available space.

There was so much anticipation. I was excited. Then I felt guilty. I felt like I shouldn't be excited because it was like wishing for disruption in a child's life. Many people have told me that was silly, bad things are going to happen anyway, but I still felt that way.

Late one night the phone rang. Caller ID is a wonderful thing. Butterflies. It was a caseworker wondering if we wanted to take a placement. We got as much history as the caseworker had and said.... no. The situation was so far above what we felt that we could handle, especially our first placement, especially with our own children in the house.

I couldn't believe the call finally came and we said no. Huge disappointment. Huge guilt. I still wonder where she ended up. Hoping she is getting help. Hoping she is loved.

Then we were back to waiting for the phone to ring...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Tragic Privilege

When I started this blog my plan was to walk my way through our journey that started a year and a half ago. Today I attended a panel review for one of my foster children and decided to jump to the present.

A panel review (for those unfamiliar) is a meeting with court appointed people who review the case and make suggestions to the judge. Along with them today were the case workers, the parent, and me. This was the first panel review I have ever attended. It's informative. It's hard. You sit while these people speak bluntly about what is not being done. You feel for the parent. The parent of the child I am parenting.

I met her for the first time today. I was nervous. I always am when I meet my kids' parents. As soon as she walked in and smiled, my nervousness faded. She was kind. She was friendly. She was grateful that I give her pictures of her son. Her son who calls her mommy. Her son who also calls me mommy. To be honest, he calls most women mommy. It's a role way too many people have filled in his young life.

It reminds me of an adoption quote. Though he is not ours permanently it still fits. "A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me." -Jody Landers.

It is a tragedy that foster care is even needed. But since it is, I'm grateful for the privilege to hear him call me mommy, even for a little while.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

In the beginning....there was a whole lot of paperwork.

The process for becoming a foster parent is not for the weak. What should you expect if you follow this path? Classes, training, paperwork (a LOT of paperwork), medical tests, and the dreaded home study.

We started with an orientation to get an idea of what we were getting ourselves into. Then we did IMPACT classes (this may be called something else in other areas) which you have to complete to be a foster parent. We had to be certified in CPR and first aid. We had to have clearance from our doctor saying we were physically capable of caring for children. A drug screen, TB test, and a syphilis test were also required. Yes, a syphilis test. That's always fun to ask for at the Dr. office. If you have teenagers in your house they have to have some of these things too. I recently had to take my 16 year old daughter for her syphilis test. I wonder how many times I mentioned it was because we did foster care? Not her most fun day.

The paperwork is immense. Personal questions - I mean really personal. Referrals - hmmm....who can I think of who will say nice things? Once this is complete they start the home study. I was a nervous wreck about the home study. In my mind people were coming in with white gloves to check out my house. Thankfully, that was not the case because we would not be foster parents. They gave me a list of what they would be checking for. I can follow a list. It's like a rubric we use in school. Do all these things, get an A. That I can live with. Working smoke detectors? Check. Medicines and cleaning supplies behind child locked cabinets? Check. Weapons in a safe? Check. Outlet covers? Check. First aid kit? Check. List of emergency numbers posted? Check. Drawing of house plan posted? Check (Still haven't figured that one out, but we have it).

The Home Study person has to come to your house 3 times. They meet with us together and they meet with us individually....including our teenagers. Yikes - no clue what they told her, but I guess it wasn't too bad.

When it's done, you wait. It takes time for them to write up the whole home study. You hear nothing. In my mind I'm thinking of all the reasons they won't approve us. Maybe I forgot to dust. Did I forget an outlet cover? The house is really small.

Have I scared you away? Hopefully not. This whole process took us 6-7 weeks. It takes most people a little longer but I happened to be on my summer break from school, so I was able to focus a lot of attention to it. I don't think they are worried about a little dust or a small house. Looking back it wasn't nearly as scary as I thought. These people want to approve you. They know how badly foster homes are needed. Of course, they want to be thorough to make sure the children are safe.

I can assure you that the foster kids will apparently be safer than my own kids were growing up. I doubt I kept outlet covers in and I didn't keep a first aid kit on hand. Somehow, they lived through it. There's a lot of rules, some which seem crazy...but that's a whole other post.

A lot of hassle. A lot of time. If only I could show you the pictures of the 6 faces we've come to love since then. Totally worth it!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Elizabeth Gail

30 years ago I picked up a book in the Christian bookstore where my aunt worked, and I fell in love. Not with a character but with foster care. The series Elizabeth Gail tells the story of a young girl who is in foster care who finally lands in a Christian home and is later adopted. Foster care was always in the back of my mind, but school, college, marriage, and biological children pushed it further and further back. My husband thought the idea was crazy and had no interest. I figured it was a nice idea, but not something I would ever be a part of. As we became more involved in church and my husband more involved in Bible study a verse jumped out at us. James 1:27  "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." We didn't know what that looked like in our lives. Were we supposed to adopt? We had stars in our eyes thinking of a baby girl from China. The cost of international adoption quickly brought us down to earth. We discussed foster care and felt like that was our direction but had no clue where to start. Friends of ours had begun the journey with United Methodist Children's Home so we figured we would start there. A year and a half later we have navigated unfamiliar waters, been frustrated, worried, unsure, and heartbroken. We've also experienced incredible joy as now 6 children have become part of our lives for different lengths of time. So, this is my story...of the hassle, the red tape, the frustrations that all pale in comparison to the incredible children we've gotten to share our lives with.