Two Year Idea-versary

Two years ago tonight I threw, what I thought might be my most ridiculous idea yet, across the table at Mr. Something and suddenly found us traveling down a two year path, arriving at our now. There’s a few different things happening with our now so I will break them down…

1. Giant Boxes

Yesterday, half fueled by the occasion of reaching our two year idea-versary and half by our tax return check, Mr. Something and I headed out to shop for furniture. So far our second bedroom sits about 1/3 of the way ready for children. There is a fresh coat of paint on the walls, curtains and lighting hung, and an empty dresser awaiting tiny human clothes. There is still a smattering of boxes, dresses, suit jackets, and tote bags still residing in the closet, which has been utilized as overflow storage for the last six years. These items are making a slow shuffle to donation piles and imaginary “elsewheres” in our home. However, one giant item was still waiting to be crossed off the list. A bed.

stick-familyLast Friday, Mr. Something sent me a message during a mid-day conversation. It was something to the effect of, “When I think about THP, there’s never just one child. There’s always two…” He may have typed something about “three” shortly there after but to avoid a mid-workday panic I let my eyes pass that one over. 😉

This is not the first time this has come up. We have been open and preferring a sibling group since the beginning. We learned early on that siblings are often separated because single children are more “adoptable.” The horror of this realization and the idea that a child in foster care is already losing his or her parents, extended family, neighbors, friends, teacher, classmates, etc. how could you possibly take away a sibling as well? Plus, growing up with parents that aren’t biological is a challenge within itself. A sibling can be a valuable ally when navigating a sense of self that comes with growing up. We’ve wanted two since the beginning so two means one thing… bunk beds!

There are currently three giant boxes leaning up against a dresser in the second bedroom right now waiting to be unpacked and assembled into a bunk bed. It is taking all of my willpower to sit here and compose the blog post that has been building itself in my head all day. It is taking all of my willpower not to stay up into the wee hours of the night to put it together despite the fact that my week is going to be nonstop work with report cards due and three days of parent teacher conferences. Not to mention that Mr. Something may lock me up if I tried to even get the parts out of the boxes that are too big or heavy for me to move alone. (However history has shown that that has not stopped me before!)

Nevertheless, we are days away from having two extra beds in our house awaiting the arrival of two little bodies. It’s such a simple and basic need that we are meeting; a safe place to sleep, but the importance of it speaks volumes compared to where our children may be coming from. They are out there, somewhere, and we are getting inch by inch closer to ready.

2. Brand New

I cannot ignore the biggest event of our weekend, the arrival of my sister’s second son, our second nephew. stick_figure_baby_c03070_1Being in the hospital, surrounded by all sorts of new babyness, my life-decision sensors were cranked to high. Five years ago when our first nephew was born, Mr. Something and I were still preparing for our wedding four months away. We’d been in our house just about a year and our life together was in its infancy. Babies were far off my radar. Becoming an aunt was awesome but I had enough big life changes happening in my own world that it was something my big sister was doing, I wasn’t there yet.

This time is different. We are preparing for children and since we are choosing foster care adoption as our Plan A, I am always listening to the female chromosome within me, will I feel the ache, the pull, to have a baby of my own? Saturday night I held my new nephew and fell so in love with him. Like my other nephew I knew that, within a moment of meeting him, if anything ever happened to my sister and brother-in-law I would be there. No matter how many children we end up with, those two boys will always have a place in our family and we wouldn’t think twice about it.

I may be biased but new nephew is freakin cute. He was announced “birth announcement ready” because, let’s be honest, not all newborns are. They are all precious, yes, but some littles just need time to beef up, to grow into their features a bit.

So it’s Saturday night, I’ve waiting all day… no.. I’ve waited months to meet this little guy and marvel at who he is going to become. He’s all bundled up in my arms, looking up at me, making little smooshy faces and inside I am so quiet, listening. Is my womb aching? Is there biological clock ticking? All I could think was, “I can’t wait to meet our kids.” Not, “I can’t wait to have our kids.” or “I can’t wait to have one of my own.” Major life decision reassured. In the wake of all that new babyness, Mr. Something and I rode the excitement of picking out bunk beds, not a crib, through the rest of the weekend. (I may have done a some gushing when a kid, about 7 years old, laid down on one of the beds we were looking at. “There’s a tiny human in the bed! It’s the perfect fit!” Yeah… I think we are on the right track.)

3. Clueless

After Mr. Something’s phone chase for the status of our licensing, we did hear from Rep 2. This is what her email said…

“I checked with DCFS and all of your background checks have gone through.  I should get confirmation in the mail soon and once I have that I can submit for your license.  If you have any questions please call me…”

Hmm… interesting. You checked with DCFS? We got our answers weeks ago when we called them and did your job. The bad news is that there’s more paperwork that has to go through Rep 2. We aren’t just awaiting an envelope from DCFS with our ticket to find a new agency. So we are waiting, again, for things to move along.

Today we got an email from Rep 2 of a different nature…

“We need to schedule a time when I can come out to do a full evaluation of your home (I fill out a big packet at this time), this needs to be completed within the next 30 days.  What time do you and [Mrs. Something] get home from work on a weekday?  I can come out early next week.”

checklist-clipartWhat? Home evaluation? I knew of these through my endless hours of internet research but the last time we saw Rep 2 we asked her about things that needed to be done in our home, outlet covers, knives off the counters, medication locked up, etc. and she made a passing comment about how our home looked okay. Thinking that she’s the professional and that every state is different, I took her response to mean that there wasn’t a rigorous list of home requirements to fulfill. Now we get this email and she wants to come by next week. We haven’t even received a list of things that need to be done. Of course we aren’t going to pass! Mr. Something responded ten minutes later…

“When you say full inspection do you mean we have to have locks on the cabinets and covers on outlets?

Could you please send out a list of everything we need for this inspection?

Also, could you please elaborate on the next steps and time frame for each step so we can be more prepared for things like this?”

She hasn’t responded.

There’s a joke going around on the internet. Who am I kidding? By “the internet” I mean Pinterest. It’s something to the effect of… “When you don’t get to the phone fast enough and you miss a call, then you call them right back and they don’t answer. What did they do? Call you, throw their phone, and run away?”

I mean, seriously, ten minutes later? I have fallen victim to overflowing email inboxes but ten minutes later at least allows us some sort of response.

Once the license is in our hands, we are outa there.

4. WE WANT TO HELP CHILDREN!

I finally said those words today. Out loud. To a voicemail recording.

Knowing that we want to switch agencies as soon as we are licensed means that I am trying to get in touch with other agencies. I found one that is a million times closer to our house and has all sorts of family and child services and therapies in our area. We want in.

I requested information through their website contact form a week or so ago, waited a few days, and called. Not knowing what extension I needed, I waited through all the menus and left a message at the beep, “Hello, my name is Mrs. Something. My husband and I are close to completing our foster care licensing through another agency and are looking to switch to an agency closer to home. We would love to get more information about fostering through your agency. Please get back to me…” After a day or so, I didn’t get a call or an email in return. So, on Thursday, I vowed to call everyday. I will call every day until someone calls me back. So I call, and leave various versions of my first message, with no results.

Finally tonight, fueled by Rep 2’s cluelessness, I call again and leave this message, “Hello my name is Mrs. Something. My husband and I are close to completing our foster care licensing and are interested in working with your agency. We would like more information because, honestly, WE WANT TO HELP CHILDREN. Please call me back at your soonest convenience.” I didn’t exactly shout it but it was punctuated.

We. Want. To. Help. Children.

It seems so ridiculous. I know that state agencies are vastly underfunded but shouldn’t they be pounding down our door? All I ever hear about is the unending need for good foster homes and we are here practically begging to be taken on and we can’t get a call returned. Sometimes I feel like we are going in circles.

Our now is currently a lot of things. Two years ago I didn’t know where we would be now but it’s a comfortable feeling knowing that, despite the frustrations, now still feels very right.

 

Avoiding Asphyxiation

::blows the cobwebs from the corners and coughs a bit on the dust:: Is anyone still here? It has been four months since my last blog post and at the tail end of the coldest winter in recorded history, it has been a very long four months. My lack of posts can be attributed to a few things; the holiday season, a two week family vacation across said holidays, and a vast and echoing nothingness coming from our licensing rep.

It was four months ago that we had completed our home study interviews. We sent Rep 2 off with pages and pages of, what we felt were, five solid hours of heartfelt and honest answers to her probing, yet necessary, questions. We told her that we weren’t in a rush to be licensed quite yet because of our upcoming family vacation that didn’t include one or two extra plane tickets for suddenly placed small children. Perhaps saying we weren’t in a rush was our biggest mistake, but we had the general agreement that we’d touch base after the first of the year to see what else, if anything, needed to be done.

(Recap: Rep 2 was assigned to us when Rep 1 was transferred to another office. The agency didn’t assign us a new rep until an afternoon of phone calls up the ladder got us some results. Unfortunately, they were hasty results and our case was thrown at a caseworker that never licensed anyone before and was more accustomed to working with families after children were placed in the home. Translation: She really didn’t know what she was doing.)

So, like planned, after the first of the year Mr. Something called up Rep 2 to see how things were coming along. She was short with him, said she didn’t have any information, that our background checks hadn’t come through, that there was nothing she could do right now.

Okay.

Latching on her comment about the background checks, we looked into the fingerprinting company that we had both gone through back in October to see if our prints had made it out of their database. They confirmed that they were sent to both the State Police and the FBI months ago. Thank goodness Mr. Something has a desk job that allows for him to make and take calls a little more freely than my roomful of second graders would, because next he called the State Police. Surprised by how pleasant and helpful they were, he found out that our state background checks had been completed and forwarded on to DCFS, again, months ago. The FBI background check might be harder to track so Mr. Something made yet another call (seriously, Husband of the Year award here!) to DCFS.

At first, the representative at DCFS said that she could not release the state of our licensing process to us, that she could only report to agencies and to have our rep call her. Mr. Something explained that Rep 2 was being far from helpful and that she told him that she couldn’t get the information from DCFS. Well, Mr. Something found an angel that day. She whispered into the phone that she would look into it and call him back.

It was like this scene from Pixar’s The Incredibles, finally someone goodhearted on the other end of the line that realized that “the rules” don’t always apply. She called him back.

“Actually, Mr. Something, I am the one that processed your license,” at this point she spouted off our home address. “It should be in the mail and arriving in a few days.” Finally, a small victory! Mr. Something professed his gratitude for her help and that if he was there he’d hug her. She was happy to accept the sentiment of the hug, because after all, it was Friday and who doesn’t want to end their week with making someone’s day?

The information from DCFS was the final straw of our decision to find another agency the moment our license was in our hands. Yes, it most likely means starting the home study process over again, but once again I am left feeling like I want to stand on the roof and shout, “WE JUST WANT TO HELP CHILDREN!!!!” It’s heartbreaking how difficult to has been to squeak our way into getting our license.

Our elation has been short lived. That angel on the phone at DCFS said that our license would arrive in the mail within a few days. That was now a week and a half ago. There’s a bitter chuckle that rises within me when I think of our first meeting with Rep 1, the woman that we thought would be our guide on this journey. She said that we could be licensed and ready for placement within three months. We weren’t ready for placements in three months and, at the time, the estimation startled me, but as months slip by I’m wondering how Rep 1 ever gets away with making that claim. It’s been 11 months since that meeting.

I’m still trying to decipher the algorithm needed to translate “foster care licensing” time into “real” time. If anyone knows the secret, please let me in on it.

So, for now, I am opening the mailbox each evening and hopefully scanning the envelopes for a DCFS return address. I have sent off an email inquiry to a new foster care agency 13 months after I stood in line at the post office to mail our application to our first agency. Waiting seems to be the name of the game.

Monday is our 2 year idea-versary for this Tiny Human Project. (Where we were two years ago and last year.) Maybe something poetic is in the works with the universe and we will have our license in our hands on that very anniversary. Since then we have ebbed and flowed through a sense of incredible urgency about the whole thing to the exact opposite feeling of, “life is good, why would we complicate it now?” But in my heart I know that our children are out there. In the meantime we are enjoying lazy weekends and quiet weeknights knowing that if our second agency is actually functioning at a normal speed, things could happen quickly from here on out.

I won’t hold my breath.