Ready? Set! Go! …Almost

The last two weeks… three weeks? Have been swallowed by the beginning of the school year. The fact that I’m not even sure how long it was that I first wandered back into my classroom to gaze upon the piles of boxes and blank bulletin boards knowing that in a little over 7 days the room would be full of brand new second graders, all expecting their classroom to be more than mis-matched furniture and boxes labeled “Classroom Library.”  I have so completely lost track of time that on Monday, Mr. Something asked me about some leftover pizza. I had thrown it away earlier that morning thinking that it was a way old leftover when we had, in fact, only had it for dinner a few days earlier. Had it only been a few days? Even now, as I sit on our couch with a cat snuggled under my arm, and the evening quiet of a Mr. Something already gone to bed, I am simultaneously working on something for school and blogging. I needed to blog tonight, just like I needed to do yoga. I have lost track of these personal pieces of myself and needed to reach out and find them again. I always tell everyone that they need to take care of themselves first, only then can they be a good mother, teacher, wife, etc. It was time to take my own advice. Sometimes it’s hard to be selfish when working in such an unselfish role but is taking the time to soothe your well-being really selfish? I hope not.

It’s been a few weeks, Mr. Something and I have decided to take the next steps: Find an agency and begin the licensing process. Whether our journey takes us to children in the foster care system looking for a forever family or to reach out and help Mr. Something’s dear little cousin find a home with stability and safety, this is a process that we see as extremely valuable. What I didn’t anticipate was how difficult it would be to simply get started. Websites are practically begging for foster parents. Surely there are people on the edge of their seats just just waiting for my call to come in so one or two more children can escape the system. Somewhere in the middle of preparing my classroom, I made a phone call to our regional DCFS office. It seemed from their website that they held informational meetings and could assist in the licensing process. When I finally had the chance to speak to someone, I explained what we were interested in doing (primarily foster care adoption) and they gave me the names and numbers of a few local agencies. I was a bit disappointed that I had been mislead by their website into thinking we could begin the process with them. However,  making that call felt like a momentous occasion for me. We aren’t even agreeing to anything yet but the enormity of the decision we have made was suddenly made real as I was having a discussion about it with a perfect stranger over the phone. As of now, Mr. Something and I have each only told one person, so these aren’t conversations we’ve had outside of each other very often.

Armed with my list of contacts, I played a bit of phone tag with the agency closest to my home but as soon as I had them on the phone they explained that they only focused on foster care and not foster care adoption (outside of foster parents adopting a child already placed in their home when parental rights are terminated.) Let a few more days slip by, school starts, and my window to make these calls gets frustratingly smaller. Having only worked in education, I like to think that the average person that works outside of education is able to take a call from, let’s say, their doctor during the workday as needed. Having a roomful of seven year olds makes taking any sort of personal call inappropriate and impossible. So, I have plan time, 30 minute chunks which are more like 20 if you factor in the 5 minutes it takes on either end to remember how to walk down the hallway and actually get to where we are going. Most places you call send you right to voice mail. Even if you leave a message and they call you back 10 minutes later (when does that ever happen?) you have to decide whether or not your remaining 10 minutes is enough time to get the information you need. The call is more often returned 30-60 minutes later when I am planted firmly in front of my students discussing single-digit addition strategies.

I digress. I would have loved to leave a voice mail if I could get through to anyone! I pursued the second agency on my list, the only other that has offices in the suburbs and after trying the number at various times during the day all I got was a constant ringing on the other end. Not your usual ring…ring…ring. No, this was weird it was just riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing. I even waited for a few minutes at one point thinking that maybe that is how their phone system works but there was no answer, no automated system, no chance to leave a voice mail. I’m trying to help children that desperately need it! You’d think people would be jumping at every ring! Or at least make sure their contact information is accurate on their website. 

After school I explored and found other numbers for other branches of this agency online. One number didn’t even ring. I dialed it and there was nothing but silence. I don’t know which was worse, the never ending ring or nothing at all! Finally the third number, another branch, offered me an automated system. By this point I’m not even sure if the office I was calling was an appropriate place to be calling for info on foster parent licensing but I left the kindest voice mail that I could explaining my plight and thanking them in advance for getting back to me and pointing me in the right direction. No returned call yet. I’m sure my phone will buzz on my desk sometime tomorrow during a math lesson and the phone tag will continue. I don’t want to play tag! I want to start. Listen, World, I’m ready to take this giant step, don’t make it so difficult right from the start!

Here’s hoping my next post is filled with exciting next step details. (We’ve decided that once we are officially heading into the licensing process we will tell friends and family! Eeeeeeee!) Good night to you all!

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It’s a Big Deal Now

I’m not doing enough fast enough. After meeting Mr. Something’s cousin last week, in desperate need of a stable home, I’ve been restless. Our Tiny Human Project has a name and a face. Today I sent her a gift. It was an “It was so great to meet you and we can’t wait to see you again” gift. Okay, so it was more like an “I think you changed my life forever and I want to drive those 12 hours back to you, put you in my pocket, and show you how safe, and loving, and wonderful the world can be” gift but I thought that would be a bit too intense for the pretty pink and sparkly greeting card I included in the package!

I took a ridiculous amount of time picking out books to send to her. Of course books. I’m an elementary school teacher with an advanced degree in reading and literacy. I know how powerful a book can be. So I looked for the perfect ones. It was as if my life depended on it as I weighed the options of sensible alphabet and color books or endearing storybooks. (I ended up with one of each!) If I could just send along a little bit of joy, something to make her smile, at least I’m doing something.

Despite the time and thought I put into finding the right books, the exact wording I put in the card, and the little flowers I drew on the envelope, I’m trying to keep myself in check. Even as troubled as her family life may be, I can’t expect her parents and grandmother to simply say, “Please take this little girl into your home and give her the life she deserves.” It’s sticky, oh so sticky. But either way I know there is a child out there somewhere that needs us. My heart is breaking but I’m thrilled at the same time because I know that this will become the hardest but most fulfilling thing I ever do.

I can confidently say that I’m ready to lead a selfless life. From everyday moments to bigger events I’ve been picturing a tiny human there along side of us, making everything more important, more special, more meaningful.  I’m ready to shout it from the rooftops that this is the path we have chosen, not because we were forced to make the choice but because something deep inside me knows that I am meant to do something bigger than myself, different than “the norm.”

I’ve started to wade into the world of foster/adoption agencies and I am already a bit overwhelmed. The websites have so much information and seem to be an endless maze of links. Right now my biggest question is if agencies are mainly state based or if they easily support foster care adoption between states. If anyone has any agency finding advice I will gladly take it! Moving forward. 🙂