“Double your pleasure…double your fun!” — Wrigley Gum

Our first experience with foster care has been double the fun! A very positive experience…especially because we began to question our decision.

Our worker contacted me on Tuesday of last week and asked if we’d be open to providing respite care for two sixteen year old girls from Thursday through Tuesday. TWO?!!!?! Smack dab in the middle of the teenage years!! This could be a horrible decision…but we said yes because it’s not about us…it’s about them!

So we brought Rapunzel and Merida home from school and Dylan showed them their room. They have been a dream!! They are respectful and polite and have enjoyed my cooking! And even though their room looks like a war zone…they have been awesome and we’re sad they’ll be leaving us tomorrow.

This was exactly the reminder that we needed at exactly the right time. Not everything is within our control, we can only choose how we respond to the things that come our way. God knows exactly what we can handle and who to put in our lives. Stay the course, it will make sense in the end. And if it doesn’t…it’s not over!

 

And now we wait…

I mean honestly, that is where we have been for a few weeks now. If anything, my time in the military has prepared me for this singular nuance of the process. As we began this process six months ago, things moved quickly, almost at a blazing pace. There were deadlines for registration, prerequisites, and classwork. There were medical visits, forms to complete, and hoops to jump through. Each task prefaced as being the remaining barrier to our next step. Each step prefaced by the promise of expedited attention by the supervisor if we were the first to submit a form or task. Hindsight being 20/20, it all sounds very much like “hurry up and wait” which is the unofficial motto of the U.S. Military.

So, where are we? Everything that we can do is completed. Our forms filled out, the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed. Shots and physicals administered, and required classes completed. Now we wait to hear from our caseworker. In the interim, every plan we make and every opportunity we’re presented with works its way into our calendar with zero certainty of our ability to follow through. The best we can do is wait, and so we eagerly traipse through our days and weeks waiting for the phone to ring so we can start this journey in earnest. I know that waiting will eventually pale in comparison to the challenges and obstacles that we will face during the process of opening our home to children who have never seen the love we’re about to shower them with but until we get there, waiting is what we know. To be frank, waiting sucks.

Updates on all the things

It’s been a little while, but for good reason. Not the reason you were hoping…but other good reasons.
School has started for our bio-kiddos. Soccer is in full swing. We’ve both been slammed with work including preparing for a transfer to a local (yes, we’re staying put!) ship…woohoo sea duty!
Oh, you were hoping for foster care updates. My bad!
We have a room, we’re affectionately referring to as “the foster room”. It will be renamed when a kiddo reside in it. For the time being though, it has a twin over full bunk bed, dresser, bookshelf and a few little things. The room and our home safety measures have been approved by our social worker. We’ve provided all of our forms and answered all of her questions. Our finger prints and background checks have come back clean (duh!). The only thing left is her submission of our packet to her chain of command for review and approval. That review/approval process could be quick (a matter of days) or take weeks. We aren’t the only ones going through the process right now. We’re just the first ones that completed everything we’ve been asked to do. (Only a little bit of an over-achiever)
So in the meantime…what do we do? We go on as usual. Once we’re completely certified, we’ll be entered into a system as “open” and we could receive a placement within minutes or wait days, weeks, months, or even years. (We know a family that waited for 2 years!)
Because our preference of a child’s age is so wide, 3-21 but if there are siblings we’ll take under 3 yrs old, we could see a placement sooner than others might.
It won’t be just about the age though. Our city agency works really hard at matching kiddos with families that will be a good fit. So who knows…for now, we pray, remain prepared and go about living.

“Get it together, or else!”

—That quote has been rephrased slightly for less crass individuals. But you get the general idea.—

Home Visits – 2 down, 1 to go! I think our second home visit went well. At least, our case worker said we answered all of her questions, in detail. I’m sure we provided her with way more than she needed, but the 4 pages of notes she took will help her explain who we are and why we’re a good family for this to her Chief. The key is transparency, not perfection. We can’t be held responsible for our families and the stuff we’ve been through. We can only grow from it and use those experiences in our relationships and how we parent our children.

Fingerprints – Still in progress but no concerns.

Home Study Report – Our case worker is working on putting the report together with all the information she’s learned about us. This will be presented to the Chief who then gives the final approval.

Certification – Prior to certification, the following must be completed.

  • Bedroom ready – bed(s), mattress(es), bedding, dresser(s)
  • Fingerprints
  • Home Study Report
  • Home safety measures implemented

This weekend we purchased, picked up, and put together some super study bunk beds. The mattresses, mattress pads (you can never be too careful!), and bedding are on their way.

Though receiving a placement(s) could take days, weeks or months, it could also take just hours. With clean fingerprints, a Chief approved Home Study Report, and an approved room for foster kiddos, we could be receiving placement the same day.

In the interest of minimal impact to the kiddos, we want to be ready so that when certification comes, we won’t be making them wait.

“Ready” doesn’t just mean the room…how does someone prepare emotionally? Prayer. Building our support network. Being transparent. Talking to our kids. And more prayer.

Home Visits

After training, the next major piece of the puzzle is home visits. Our city agency requires three visits. The first is focused on our questions and a tour of our home. The worker will identify anything we need to acquire, fix or deal with before certification. The second visit is when the worker will ask us to expand on our responses to questions, our history, our everything. They will get all up in our business. And the third and final visit focuses on checking off the list of home requirements. A bed for each child, a place to keep their clothes, outlet covers, locked up alcohol, access to a phone, etc. With the conclusion of these visits, the workers approval of us (are we a good fit for this lifestyle?) and our clean background checks from the city, state, and FBI, we'll be certified!

During our first home visit, our worker only identified a few safety items we need to institute. My bio-kids were always really good (or I was really scary) and they didn't go into cabinets, drawers, doors they were supposed to and never put anything into an electrical socket. But…not everyone will fear the 'Mom look' so our Amazon order (Thank God for Amazon Prime!) should arrive today and we'll be able to start installing all of these things. It's for the kiddos….even if those door knob cover things are annoying and more adult proof than child proof. But alas, it's a requirement, so we will do it.

Our second visit is scheduled for this coming Monday. I'm emotionally preparing to rehash my family history, my divorce, single motherhood, etc. It will be interesting…and difficult. BUT…it's not meant to be easy, is it?! It's meant to provide the worker with a real picture of who we are. As individuals, as partners, as parents…we're taking care of the kiddos that they are legally responsible for. We have to be fit for parenting. Too bad this process wasn't required before bringing home our own bio-kids. That could potentially eliminate some of the need for foster families.

We've decided that we'll prepare our home for two kiddos. We've begun shopping for beds or bunk beds, mattresses, mattress covers (you're never too old to have an accident…and developmentally a lot of kids that come into care are a little behind in that area), sheets, lice and bed bug kits (because sometimes things suck), personal care items (toothbrushes, hair brushes, combs), books, luggage, and so much more. Often times when a kiddo comes into care, they have only minutes to gather whatever belongings they have. This scramble is often gathered in garbage bags. Very sad…but any kiddo coming into our home will leave (if they leave!) with luggage of their own. If nothing else, they'll leave our homes with some luggage and hope.

Milestone numero 1

Tonight we will complete one of the most daunting and emotionally agonizing steps towards fostering. Training will conclude after 27 hours of data vomit and awful examples of what fostering will be like. We still have a number of other pieces to the puzzle before kids will enter our home, but this is the first second major milestone of the process. The first was the decision…not LeBron’s but the one that took us years to come to. Bringing kids into our home will be inconvenient, time consuming, loud, likely aggressive, emotional and demanding. But that’s how we’ll feel…and it’s not about us. These kids have nothing and will come to us broken and scorned. They will hate us and fight us and hurt our feelings…and one day, one day it will click. That we aren’t going to abandon them or neglect them and that they are worth all of it. Giving a child some hope and teaching them to love and respect themselves is so easy…when it’s your own kids. But…if “it takes a village” then why doesn’t the village step up when there is a child in need? That’s what we’re doing…or trying and hoping to do.
It’s not a life many can agree to…but every helping hand is a part of the solution. Every meal, every bag of hand me down clothes and toys, every hour of babysitting, every hand to hold and shoulder to cry on and every prayer is a huge help.
That is The Village.

My hand hurts

The partner with the better handwriting is often times elected as the paperwork filler-outer. That spouse is me.
So when we received our packet last week I got to writing.
Filling in birthdays, addresses, checking the boxes, making selections, etc.
Along with our information, we also had to obtain our DMV driving records and bring copies of our marriage certificate, divorce decrees and even the dog's records!
The one item that takes the longest but are two of the most important are the state and federal background checks…for these, we had to be fingerprinted. (My first time!!) so off to work he police station we went!
We've turned in these forms to our assigned social worker and will begin waiting the standard 6-8 weeks. Thank God the military has trained us to "Hurry up and wait!"
In the meantime, we've scheduled our first home visit! Monday the boys get their TB tests (hopefully just screenings) and our social worker, Ms. S, comes to visit.

Today's class wrapped up early but covered so much! (As with all other training sessions) We even got a little practical with some reading material on how to handle African American hair! (The things you don't think about!)

We have training again on Thursday evening, just 3 hours this time. And then training is over!

Recap of our 2nd day of training

This past Saturday went by so quickly! The day was busy!

We got our packet of paperwork and list of documents needed to be certified. We need to not only answer a bunch of questions about our own upbringings and how we raise our own kids; but also prove our income and ability to pay our own bills, provide proof of our dog’s shot records, get fingerprinted and get physicals and TB tests.

Our initial home visit should be scheduled this week. We’ll be able to ask questions and answer the workers questions. They’ll also tell us if we need to do anything to the house to meet their standards. We’re expecting things like gates for younger children, outlet covers, etc. Nothing major.

Questions during our training often come in the form of examples. “Let’s say we have a 16 year old that has __ history, he does __, how do we go about handling that according to the rules?” To which the most frequent answers are in the form of examples of cases the workers have experienced themselves. The case workers have been very direct with us about some of the most awful and scary situations. They’ve also shared some of the saddest cases where the foster family just doesn’t care of the child as they should. There was a case shared with us last week where out of the 3 families at our table, all 3 of us wanted to take the kid described. It still blows my mind that people aren’t treating some of these kids as their own. They don’t break the rules for no reason or just to be jerks. They’re hurt and have been dealt cards that just plain suck. Don’t blame them and punish them for the live they’ve been handed.

Last night, I was told of a mutual friend that received a call about a kid in need. The 2 year old was at a local children’s hospital getting castS. When the cops responded to a domestic call, the kid was found covered in bruises and multiple broken bones. I don’t understand how people can do this to a child.

If nothing else has happened since we’ve begun training, I’m more encouraged that we’re on the right path. And I’m becoming more convinced that we’re going to need a bigger house before we know it.

Thoughts from the first 7

There are both public and private organizations that conduct foster training and each one is slightly different. We’re going through our local city both for training and where we will receive children from (some people will get the training from one place and support another city). In our city, it’s 27 hours on in-service training, 3 home visits, and LOTS of paperwork. We completed the first 7 hours this past Saturday.

We had so many thoughts, comments, concerns, questions, etc after the first session. Here are some of our top ones.

  1. Yes, we’re going back to training this coming weekend. We were bombarded with tons of information, scary stories and lots of “you can’ts” but they haven’t scared us away just yet.
  2. Why don’t new birth parents receive this kind of training? Seriously, we spent hours discussing and reviewing information about how a child’s brain develops, nature versus nurture, and attachment issues. The whole time I kept thinking that through two pregnancies, no doctor or class ever taught me these things. We’re the “bonus parents” and we know more…that doesn’t seem right.
  3. These stats are disgusting! There were at least 5 stats shared that made me sick to my stomach. Why aren’t more people opening their homes to help those in need?? After all, it’s not the child’s fault that they’re in need.
  4. We have a lot of preparations to make. Everything from a bed and dresser for each child, to talking with references (we need 3 EACH!), back up plans for days of school suspension and specially qualified babysitters. The lists are growing!
  5. Will we get a placement before school starts? Because we’re open to all age groups and siblings, we’ll likely get a placement sooner than others that are looking for just babies.

So now…we discuss our back up plans, talk with potential references, create an Amazon wish list of things we’ll need to purchase (I’ll write about that at a later date), do our homework (yes, we have homework) and pray.

This coming Saturday will be 7 more hours with training on becoming mandated reporters. Should be…overwhelming! But would you expect anything less?

The anticipation

Just a few more days until training begins. We’ve spent so many days, months, even years, looking forward to this journey. It’s like planning a road trip and only knowing that you’re going to get into the car and drive somewhere. You don’t know what season or activities to pack for. You aren’t sure where you’ll sleep, if you’ll need special gear. You can’t really prepare…only get in the car and trust in God’s GPS.