Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Placement Hearing, an FST Meeting, and Countless Lessons Learned




Today Amos and I attended the placement hearing and first FST (family support team) meeting for our girls. The hours that we spent inside the courthouse and later at CD served as humbling reminders of how close each of us are to our own children being in protective custody. Sometimes it only takes an accusation for a family to be tangled into the system, and sometimes the accusations are going to end up untrue. 

I'm learning that I am a foster parent who is a defender of families and one who hopes that the good story is the true one. 


Today we met two very sad parents who truly seem to be working like mad to get their family back together. We watched a mother hear a judge say her babies could not come home with her today. We watched a dad wipe away tears and keep his composure because his wife was depending on him to be the strong one. We watched a room full of people work together in the name of reunification. The workers and veteran foster parents all agreed that it was the most productive and promising start to a case they'd ever witnessed. 

Today I came to understand that we foster families cannot allow our stories to be about us. 

We cannot be the ones to cry in a sad situation. The family that we're helping needs our support. That means that we have to put our own emotions aside until another time. We don't get to draw attention to ourselves; because the kids, and the parents, deserve every bit of effort focused on them. 



My foster parenting journey is not about me and my family. My day today was not about how my husband and I grew closer through it all, not about how great my sweet Miriam is at big sistering, not about how Miss J is getting so great at loving these sweeties with reckless abandon. No. 

Today is about pouring every ounce of effort into giving a family their best shot at once again gathering in their family room together. 

It's about validating a mother's love and knowledge of her children. It's about teaming up to create the best circumstances for her children until all the pieces of their puzzle are put together. Today is about making connections. Today is THIER day, not mine. This story is THEIR story, not mine. I am humbled and blessed beyond measure to play my small role, to be a witness to true love of a family.




And Here We Are.

Well, here's the post I finished writing an hour before we got a placement call. We're on our way to get 2 two-year olds right now, so we welcome any prayers....

...A year ago, I never, EVER, would have guessed that we would become traditional foster parents. 


In fact, 8 months ago, when we found out about classes, and went to talk to my parents about our plans, we assured them with absolute confidence that we were pursuing ONLY adoption. 

Oh... and there was something about being open to God's will in all of this. Yeah, we did mention that. 

I mentioned a few weeks ago that after our emergency placement left, I very much wanted to open our home to long term care. BUT, that I didn't want it to be OUR desire but God's. Lots of praying happened in the days leading up to our adoption worker's visit. In the meeting, we had plenty of time to visit with her and for her to get to know us instead of just the us on paper that she'd met through our home study. I was able to ask her about the avenues we were using for adoption; namely AdoptUsKids and Adoption Exchange. I suspected that there were more inquiries about the waiting children online than the workers could juggle, and it sounds like this is most definitely the case. 


In fact, our adoption worker, who has been working in the department for four years, is currently working with her VERY FIRST family who even made it to staffing for a waiting child listed online. 

WHAT?!? That was a reality check, and it made me realize that our family, in our current phase in life, may not be helpful with adopting a waiting child. The children we would be able to parent along with our bio kids are the same kids whose profiles receive hundreds of inquiries. 


What a perfectly clear affirmation of my eagerness to accept long term placements! 

We had a family meeting that evening, and it was decided. 

And so, here we are. We visited CD today to drop off a few items, get our foster parent cards, and visit with our licensing worker about opening our home for long term foster care. As we walked back to her office to chat, she shared that she was preparing for another STARS class to begin tonight. This class would be ONLY for families hoping to foster because the need for licensed homes was SO great. She said that every foster home was full right now with the exception of ONE home that had room for ONE infant. 


I was so thankful for this chitchat that served as a final go-ahead for us. 

It made me able to ask about expanding our license without hesitation. We will be accepting 1-3 children younger that ours, which means birth to 5 beginning at the end of March (we have travel plans that involve flights that would prevent us from taking new kids along). We also assured her that we would cancel travel plans without hesitation if we were needed. She knows to call us if the need arises, but our names will be on the official call list beginning March 25th. 

There is SO much to do around here in the next couple weeks. We'd like to add some more organization to the kids' rooms in preparation for semi-permanent roommates. Our sweet cousins are getting fingerprinted and licensed to provide care for our foster kids. The two of them deserve their very own blog post.
I have no words to express what a blessing they have been to us since they moved next door a year ago!

I think that pretty much brings this little blog up to date. I continue to wonder if this is the role we will settle into in the foster care biz or if there is more yet in store for us. 



Moment

I have a dark head of curls resting peacefully by my side after an hour of sad, worrisome tears. Little sister woke up crying which caused big sis to awaken. It was downhill from there. Big sister didn't relax until I snuggled them both onto the couch with me. Then, with a protective hand on her little sister, she drifted off. Saddest and sweetest moment of my day.


It was chaotic for much of our day. After getting the girls, we had to make an ER visit. It was 2:45AM when we slipped into bed. The morning was spent chasing down babes and doctor appointments. The afternoon was filled with food and school pick up . The evening was consumed with pulling little gals off tables, ledges, and railings. I never knew what danger existed in a small Rubbermaid storage crate! In spite of all the insanity, I am thankful that we have these two. I am even more grateful that they have each other.



Friday, February 21, 2014

Service

14
From today's Readings--- SO much of my desire to serve is put into words- 

What good is it, my brothers and sisters,

if someone says he has faith but does not have works? 


Can that faith save him?


If a brother or sister has nothing to wear


and has no food for the day,


and one of you says to them,


“Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,”


but you do not give them the necessities of the body,


what good is it?


So also faith of itself,


if it does not have works, is dead.


James 2:14-17


Monday, February 10, 2014

Missed Respite Call and Kids Clothing Collection

Our mini getaway last weekend would've been cut short if I'd remembered to forward our phones.

One of my biggest concerns during our licensing process (which isn't really that big) was deciding which phone number to list first on our contact information. Here in the sticks, cell phones don't work reliably. Oftentimes the phone doesn't even ring; and when it does register a call coming in, we're rarely able to hear a voice on the other end. It's a price we pay for the views. 




I'm a homemaker, so I'm home (and thus without reliable cell service) the majority of the time. It was important that we were able to receive calls at night as well, so we went with the land line (Yes, people still have those) as our primary contact number. For a few months, I was nervous when we left the house and tried to check for messages as soon as possible when I was gone. It wasn't as much about missing the chance for a placement as it was making sure the workers knew they would be able to get in contact with us easily. 




After three months, I called the phone company and learned that we could add call forwarding for a mere three bucks a month. That's a small price for peace of mind! NOW... the challenge has been remembering to forward the phones before I leave home. I've turned around on our driveway more than a few times to be sure that we are available to Children's Division. And several more times, like last weekend, I didn't remember until we were too far away to return.

Today when I was clearing messages from the machine, I heard our licensing worker's voice sandwiched between Noah's birthday greetings, and my heart sank. We'd missed a respite care opportunity. She didn't say if it was a sibling group that we'd had before, and I was glad. I'll be all the more disappointed if I find out it was our trio or the boys. I sure miss those kids- all of them! 

I emailed my regrets to our licensing worker and turned my attention to the pile of kids clothes that I needed to sort through. It is a monumental task to try to have basic necessities on hand for the ages and genders we're open to caring for. So far I'm stocked in girls 3-5 and boys 5-6. I have bits and pieces in the rest of the girls' sizes and almost nothing for the smaller boys. My goal is to have a medium size crate for each size and gender... But I think I'm going to have to live through another yard sale season before it's complete!



Saturday, February 8, 2014

Waiting for Sadness

I was asked a while ago how long it took to process the end of our respite turned emergency placement. In our situation, we were waking up every day with the expectation that it would be decision day. We prepared each day to send the boys back to grandpa. Because we had spent a Sunday afternoon with him and knew how much he loved and watched over his grandsons, we really were at peace with them returning. 

It was our first foster placement, so even though I felt that the boys were in good hands with their kinship placement, I wasn't sure how I'd feel after we said goodbye. Sometimes my heart and my head don't see eye to eye. I came home that night and gathered the rest of the boys' belongings to return the next day. I washed bedding and gathered baby items. I washed sippy cups and stored them away. 
And I kept waiting to feel sad
But I didn't. I missed the business and the constant excitement around the house. I missed the cuddles of a toddler, missed someone relying on me so completely. I missed big brother bridging the gap between my littles and the way the three of them got along so much better than my two usually do. But I wasn't sad. 

I kept waiting for the sadness, for a week or more. And then I realized that there wasn't going to be a moment when the emotions I'd been holding back broke through. I realized that I didn't have any sadness about the boys leaving. They were loved and they were able to be with family. 
Organic wholesome diets and smoke-free homes are nothing compared to blood. 
The boys will have identity. They will have connections. The will have a little less loss. These are all huge blessings!

Finally, when enough time had passed to be confident that the brothers wouldn't be returning, I asked Amos to dismantle the crib. We returned toys that we'd borrowed from my cousin. And we all began to look forward to the next time we would be able to open our home and our hearts to kids who needed us.

A Birthday, A Getaway, and a Foster Adoption Update

We just got home from a couple days in the city. 
We accidentally entertained our kids to the point of exhaustion, 
but it was SO MUCH FUN! It was 48 hours away from real life and real life issues. J isn't a fan of public pictures anymore (or at least right now), so just imagine a teenager along side the Littles! 



My sweet Noah celebrated his birthday. Eight is a big deal to him. He counted down the days for weeks and dreamed of Skylanders hiding inside brightly colored packages. 
Skylanders didn't appear, but he took the disappointment like a champ. 
Because of his grown up reaction to the disappointment, it was all the more enjoyable to see him open his little sister's present- a gift card to Game Stop to be used for the Disney Infinity system. We're taking video game Mondays to a whole new level around here!



We looked at the snow outside from the indoor pool, lined ourselves in the center of the theatre for the Lego Movie and cashed in the freebie birthday gifts at the mall. $5 for Build-A-Bear, a giant free cookie from Barnes and Noble, and a Lego cube (a promo from my Christmas shopping) to fill with building blocks. 
All free entertainment. 






As for the Foster Adoption Updates: 

Before we left home, we inquired about a little 4 year old who is in need of an adoptive placement. We're excited to hear more about this smiling girl with braided hair. 
It will likely end like our other inquiries have, with loose strings and the farthest thing from a tidy package. 
Like always, we are praying for God's will, not our own. God's plan, not our own. We're praying that this sweetheart is in her forever home soon whether that is with us (which would be so amazing!!) or with another family. 

We also heard from our adoptive worker this week to schedule her first home visit with us. 12 days cannot pass quickly enough! I'm so excited to have a chance to sit down with her and ask our mile-long list of questions. The whole point of the meeting is for her to get to know us and be able to better match us to children who are in need of adoptive homes. THAT is an exciting thought! 

Since the boys left a few weeks ago, I've been sitting on my hands to keep myself from changing our license to accept long term foster placements. We all loved having the boys here, and I felt like we were able to establish a great connection with their grandpa in the few days that they stayed with us. It was a short term emergency placement, just like we'd planned to accept. It worked in reality even better than it had in our imaginations. 
Why not commit to longer placements? 
I'm trying to keep in mind that we prayed through our decision making when we were getting ready to sign our foster care license, but in the back of my mind, there's a little piece of me wondering if that was just a stepping stone on our path to traditional foster care. I've watched God work in His perfect timing to warm us to the idea of adoption, then respite care, then short term foster care. There's nothing to say that this is where we will land. We have some big prayers to pray and lots of listening to do. If we're to settle into our current arrangement, then I'm praying for peace with that. If long term foster care is in my family's future, I trust that God will make that known to us.