The Call

The Call. Capital “T” capital “C”. I feel like we have been officially initiated into the world of foster care. Two and a half years after our first conversation about adopting from foster care we received our first Call. I know I should keep the outcome until the very end to keep you scrolling through my paragraphs but that’s a bit cruel for the people closest to us. So I will begin by explaining that yes, we received our first Call, but it was not The Call for us.

On Friday morning I had the rare chance to have a conversation with Mr. Something before we both left for work. Generally he is already out of the house by the time my eyes are squinting open. He asked me if I had heard anything from Licensing Rep 3 lately. Our Tiny Human Project had once again settled quietly into the corner of our lives, not quite ignored, but unnoticed for some time. It’s like when you call for your dog because you realize that the house is quiet and you haven’t seen him for a bit, only to discover that he’s been sleeping quietly under your chair the whole time. I told him that I hadn’t but I was meaning to email her to ask about getting the hours I spent on my CPR certification put on record with the agency. That was it, we were on our way, but it was the most we had discussed it in weeks.

Cut to about an hour later. I was well on my way to work and my phone rings. I didn’t recognize the number so I didn’t answer it. (Being introverted I seldom answer my phone when I do know the number if I’m not mentally prepared to have a conversation. It’s a thing. Look it up.) A few minutes later I noticed that the unknown number had left a voice message. I selected it and a voice filled me car, “Hi, Mrs. Something, my name is Important Guy I supervise Rep 3 at Your Agency and I was hoping to get in touch with you guys as DCFS has two kids that we would like the two of your to consider being placed with you…”

*Ding* Text message from Mr. Something, “Call me when you can”

Sure enough, Mr. Something had answered the call from Important Guy and spoken to him about the children that had been in DCFS custody since the night before. As he filled me in on the details my mind reeled, I’m pretty sure I blew a stop sign. Lesson one from this experience: Next time PULL OVER!  Luckily I was close to work, parked, and hunkered down in my car as he filled me in. The age of one of the siblings was perfectly in our decided range but the other was very very young, practically brand new. Our home isn’t even set up or equipped for an infant considering that we only have one kid’s room. (Our state doesn’t allow infants to share rooms with older children, even siblings.) Also, details about their home situation left us and Important Guy feeling like this was a solid foster case and not likely to lead toward adoption.

Even with those two major strikes against the case for us, my heart twisted in ways I didn’t know were possible. There was the shock in knowing that Mr. Something and I were making a decision to potentially change our lives forever there on the phone in our respective work parking lots. Even after two and a half years of preparing for this moment I never once realized how far away he would feel if The Call came when we weren’t together. I’ve imagined through the logistics of it, who could watch my students as I step out to discuss the details with Mr. Something on the phone, where in my building I could duck into to have this most private of conversations, etc. But the enormity of making this decision without being able to hold his hand, look into his eyes, read his feelings and emotions beyond the words he’s saying was like a blow to the gut.

Lesson number two of this experience: We are completely in tune with each other. We were exactly on the same page with every thought about this case. In step beside each other despite being 25 miles away. Mr. Something said he’d call Important Guy back and let him know of our decision. I hung up the phone and let the silence of my car surround me.

Now, I’m not a very religious person, spiritual, yes, but not religious. However, as I sat there and began to cry I also began to pray. I prayed for those two sweet children that had been taken from the only home they knew the night before. I prayed to calm their fears knowing that the first stop after being taken from home is the hospital for full body examinations. I prayed for their mother and the one single decision she needed to make to get her babies back. In an instant their story blazed into mine like a sudden lick of flame coming to life from quiet embers long glowing among the coals of our Tiny Human Project. I felt their warmth and I felt their hurt.

As I collected myself and prepared to go into my building, to face a day with twenty one children that got to sleep in their own beds last night, I was absolutely overwhelmed. But there’s no room for personal drama when you’re a teacher. (Especially on a day when an outside provider was coming in for an hour to observe you and a particular student.) In a complete fog I joined my colleagues in the teachers’ lounge for our traditional Friday breakfast together and quietly told my teammate what had just gone down. Not eating, I pulled up a text for Mr. Something and typed, “I wish I could hug you.” When my phone started to ring. He was calling me. I ducked out of the noisy lounge and back into the classroom.

“I talked to Important Guy and even though it’s not how DCFS operates he was wondering that if he placed the infant, would we take the other?”

My stomach fell to the floor. Very early on Mr. Something and I decided to be open to siblings because all too often they are separated to make them easier to place or adopt. We were horrified by this and vowed to work against that practice. Now here we were, dealing with our first Call and we were being asked to take part in that very situation. I couldn’t possibly care for a child knowing that their sibling could be with them if only we had been prepared differently or felt differently about a wider age range. Thankfully he wasn’t officially asking us, it was only an “if… then…” In talking to Important Guy, Mr. Something shared a bit of our background, our preferences, our story. Although told otherwise many times, we were worried that this first “No” from us would be a strike against us, but Important Guy explained that he would rather us be honest about what we are comfortable taking on instead of saying, “yes” out of guilt and having a failed placement. We like Important Guy and I have since saved his number so next time I will actually answer his call.

Shortly after the students arrived and my life began to settle into the familiar busy tempo of a second grade teacher, a student from my teammate’s class came in with a yellow sticky note. On it she had written, “No one said it would be easy, but it will be worth it.” -Someone Wise. I tacked it to the bulletin board by my desk like a shield to strengthen my resolve and turned to face my day.

After a long, exhausting Friday, I finally came home to Mr. Something and we got to have the moment that we both desperately needed earlier in the day. We ordered a pizza and prepared to settle in on the couch for an evening of hockey. My phone rang and I glanced at it. Instead of a number I didn’t recognize it simply said “No Caller ID.” Okay, sketchy. Probably some salesperson calling from the other side of the world. I silenced it. “Haha, wouldn’t it be funny if they were calling to give us more kids!”

*Ding*

Hmm, No Caller ID left a voicemail.

“Hi, this message is for Mrs. Something. This is Some Girl from Your Agency. I have a placement for twin very very young babies so I’m just calling to see if you are willing to have them placed with you…”

We had to laugh. It was slightly ridiculous. I’m now a bit afraid of my phone because as of Friday, every time it rang someone was trying to give us babies. No babies was the original thought that even lead us to this journey. Everyone loves babies. Those babies were snug and warm in someone else’s home by Friday night, I’m sure of it. As for us, we were asleep by 8:30.

Although on the surface, nothing has changed, I feel as if we have arrived at a new place. We worked through our first (and second!) calls for placements and even though they weren’t right for us, we grew, learned, and will be ready for the one that does change our lives. In the meantime, please don’t call me, texts are just fine. 🙂

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Honest Words

A few months ago I was plowing through audiobooks like crazy during my hour+ commutes to and from work. I wandered a bit from my usual fictional fantasy genre choice and explored the nonfiction section of my local library phone app. Without meaning to I came upon Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos and embarked on a “read” that was akin to long chats with a good friend that simply gets it.

2013-04-03-instantmomThe book is autobiographical in nature and briefly highlights Nia Vardalos’ rise to success with writing and starring in My Big Fat Greek Wedding as well as her subsequent projects. This storyline is told in conjunction with her struggle with infertility and her road to discovering foster care adoption. She is candid about her experience with being matched with and adopting her two year old daughter from the foster care system.

More than once while listening to Instant Mom I caught myself nodding along and proclaiming, “Yes!” Nia explains it herself in the beginning of the book, being a private person made writing and publishing such a personal and honest account of her experiences extremely difficult but she saw the value and need for positive press for foster care adoption. The tricky part of listening to audiobooks is that I couldn’t easily dog-ear a page or reach for my highlighter when encountering passages I wanted to hang on to, so as soon as I finished listening I bought a copy and began to reread to find the gems that made me want to shout, “She gets it!” So without further commentary here are a few of those prize nuggets from Instant Mom that resonated with me.

“I was surrounded by positive stories of adoption, but of course the scary ones kept me up at night. And the media did a good job of it too. It’s just human nature to pick up on the things that cause us anxiety. I could hear a hundred fantastic adoption stories in a row and then be stopped in my tracks by one negative one. There was always some story of some drifter who’d decapitated a store clerk because he’d once been adopted. Or wasn’t adopted. Or something. Googling ‘adoption’ took me to strange places. It was all a late-night Internet search haze.”

“We were at the swing set at a park and he’d heard from a mutual friend that Ilaria was adopted from foster care. He asked, right in front of my daughter, ‘Aren’t you afraid she’s damaged?’ Truthfully, this man’s only crime was saying such a dumb thing within my daughter’s hearing range. I actually don’t judge the question because I myself once had these same prejudices about kids adopted from foster care. I worried they’d been through so much that they might not be affectionate or would have trouble bonding or would be violent. It’s ironic that we’d all be more likely to bring a stray dog into our homes than a child. A stray dog has fangs and can eat our faces as we sleep. An innocent child just needs love. I’ve done adoption fund raisers and have met children from abusive backgrounds who were raised in loving foster homes–the kids are doing just fine. They’re well adjusted and doing average things like you and me–graduating from college, getting married, holding down jobs. Many of them become social workers and help kids much like themselves because they were raised by kind foster parents who treated them with the respect and kindness all children deserve. Sure, many kids live in not-great conditions in foster care and group homes. But I’ve met inspiring families: parents who adopted kids from terrible backgrounds. The kids then become happy, well adjusted and do well. Loving kids, providing them with comfort and safety, is what it takes. Plus a lot of patience. And so many people do it. So many adults have changed kids’ lives. You will rarely hear these stories portrayed in the media. But I have met them at the many adoption fundraisers I get to be a part of now. I have met adults who were willing to get into these kids’ lives and let them know they’re loved. They’re the most valiant people I’ve ever met. To be honest, they’re also quite average. They’re not superhuman. They’re just people who stepped up and said to a kid: hey, you deserve better. So no, the kids are not damaged goods. They’re just kids looking for guidance and love–like all of us.”

“Most of us have been around kids from many varied backgrounds. We’ve seen that ten-year-old boy who stomps toys into pulp. We’ve met that six-year-old girl who eats snot. We’ve known that fourteen-year-old girl who entertained the football team behind the bleachers. Were any of those kids adopted? No, they’re being raised by their biological parents.”

“Additionally, I see now in preschool all the kids are going through something, from hitting to learning disorders to anger issues, to shyness to crying fits to over-assertiveness . . . because kids are kids.”

“Yep, we’re all kind of strange. Can any of us really be defined as normal? Nope. Therefore, I’m not afraid my daughter will display issues because she is adopted. She may have issues, sure. Just like any kid. Just like I did. Just like you did. Uh-huh–yes, you did. And so did I.”

“The fear of the unknown can be a powerful deterrent from anyone adopting. Again, I am not suggesting parenthood is for everyone, so if you feel it’s not for you, I agree your life will also be wonderful without kids. But if fear is stopping you, please don’t let it. I’m wondering why as a society some of us are afraid of what an adopted child might do to us, when it was the Menendez brothers who shot and killed their biological parents. No adopted. Shot their parents while they slept. Shot them. Sleep tight, everyone.”

“A bonus in raising a child you don’t have a biological tie to is you will never saddle them with watching their every move and declaring they musical talent as ‘that’s from your dad’s side; his old Auntie Beulah played pianola.’ Or their bad penmanship as ‘well, there’s Grandpa Frank’s meat paws once again.’ Also, when someone says, ‘Your daughter is beautiful,’ you don’t have to murmur modestly. You can just boomingly and boisterously concur at the gorgeousness that is your kid and even point out her perfect bow mouth and tiny fairy ears, ’til that person backs away slowly. The benefit in raising the child you got to adopt is you just get to watch them unfold and become who they are.”

Through honestly and humor Nia tells it like it is. Her book is candid and refreshing and I highly recommend it to anyone thinking of stepping into foster care, is already involved in the foster care world, or knows and cares about someone that is fostering.

On the home front, we don’t have much to report. Last week, my first of summer break (yay!), I emailed our new licensing rep (#3) at our new agency because it had been weeks since I’d heard from her. She confirmed that she has received our information and wants to meet with us next week. Why, oh why, is it so difficult to give us more than a few words worth of  a response? Do we have to redo our home study? Where in the process are we right now? Time will tell.

Official

Our quiet little Tiny Human Project is about to get blown wide open! Last week we received our official foster care license from DCFS. There it was, nestled between our regular ol’ mail. Photo Apr 30, 8 03 57 PM I opened it right there on the street. It’s flimsy like one leaf of a carbon copy pad, entirely unremarkable, but something we have been waiting for for a long time. Photo Apr 30, 8 00 54 PMThe more immediate news is that we are now able to pursue a new agency. I went right to work on the application packet and found myself filling out copies of the exact same forms I filled out a year ago, to the day. Once again I stood in line with a thick manilla envelope and tried to push away the sense of deja vu. One step forward, two steps back, right?

Photo May 05, 5 00 03 PMThe new licensing agent I have been in touch with seems a little more on top of things than our current Rep 2. It was almost a week by the time I received an email from Rep 2. “I received your license from DCFS. Did you?” No congratulations or here’s the next step… So I replied with an answer as simple as her correspondence “Yes, we did.” As soon as we have word that the new agency is interested in working with us, we are outa there!

In honor of becoming officially licensed, Mr. Something and I had been planning on sending out a formal announcement. Our circle of friends and family reaches far and wide so we wanted to share our news in our own way and not have it spread as hearsay. A talented friend of ours did a photo shoot with us last fall and I designed a card on Shutterfly. Photo May 08, 9 22 11 PMI was definitely inspired by the beautiful announcements created by Laurie over at The Adventures of S & L. After a few hours of addressing envelopes they are ready to be sent on their way come morning. Hence our little blog suddenly becoming very public!

With that, I’d like to welcome our friends and family, and thank you in advance for stopping by, checking in, and coming along with us on this journey. The one request I have is that for over two years we have existed as “Mr. and Mrs. Something” on this very public space. With respect to our own privacy and the sensitive privacy of our future children, please help us to remain as “Mr. and Mrs. Something.” With that said, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with thoughts, concerns, and questions. Our strong network of family and friends is one of the reasons we decided to pursue foster care adoption in the first place! We appreciate every one of you and we can’t wait to share this adventure with you!

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This is Your Life!

Three weeks ago we had our second meeting with Licensing Rep No. 2. We didn’t know what to expect. We had set the date at our previous (and first) meeting with her where we were given a new stack of paperwork and gave her a tour of our house. We were prepared to hand over our newly completed forms but were at a loss for what else we might do.

Upon arriving, as laid back as ever, she announced, “Well, I figured we could start the home study questions.” Surprised, but ready to jump in, Mr. Something volunteered to go first. So, sitting around the end of our dining room table, lead by Rep 2’s questions, Mr. Something recounted his childhood. Who were the people that made up his immediate and extended family? How was he disciplined? How did he know he was loved? What were his parents views on education? What are his? What is his highest degree?  What was the demographic of his school? Did anyone in his family have substance abuse problems? Did he ever make reckless decisions?

blogger-therapy-gary-larsonWe joked that perhaps he should lie down on the couch or perhaps share a bottle of wine with Rep 2 to ease this seemingly one-sided first date conversation. We jested that it wasn’t quite fair that she was getting to the very core of who we are and, yet, we knew next to nothing about her. She tossed it right back at us saying that she actually wasn’t with the agency but just showed up at our door to learn about every tedious detail of our lives. Again, I was relieved that she shares our knack for sarcasm and relaxed nature.

After two hours she drew the evening to a close, with still uncompleted questions for Mr. Something and my own questions untouched. We set another date on the calendar to continue and our evening came to a close.

Rep 2 has shared with us that she has never licensed anyone before. She is predominately a caseworker for the agency and works with families and children after placement. She would make side comments about the questions she had to ask us, many became redundant or were just worded strangely. As tedious as it was, I was constantly aware that she was working to build a profile of us as individuals and as a family, a profile that would be the first impression of us that a caseworker would receive when deciding if we would be a good fit for a child or children in need of a home and care. Suddenly, poorly worded questions and jokes about this impromptu therapy session became very real and very heavy.

Our followup meeting got cancelled and rescheduled just once, so after a few weeks when she returned I knew it was my turn to share. Before she arrived we did a quick cleanup of the house. The weekend before we had hosted our annual Halloween Party for 31 of our closest friends and family. Halloween is a serious holiday in our circle of friends and we tend to go all out.

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This year I dressed as the woman in a painting that we have in our living room. Everyone always thinks that she is me so for one night I got to be her!Mr. Something went as the “genius billionaire playboy philanthropist” Tony Stark aka Ironman. (Nerdom runs rampant in my house and I love it!) 1457679_10151655107800044_1898175691_n

So, Wednesday night, as I pulled shot glasses out of the dishwasher and stowed bottles and bottles of alcohol back on the top of the fridge, I couldn’t help but be slightly amused. Our Halloween parties tend to be far from tame, not that we partake in anything illegal, but no less than five people ended up getting sick before the end of the night. Our final guests went home around 4am (that was old time, daylight savings turned it into 3am but my brain was still saying 4.) We had guests for over 9 hours, not counting the friend that spent the night, and just four days later we were preparing take another step toward proving that we are suitable for raising children with special needs.  The juxtaposition of these two sides of ourselves were amusing at the time, if nothing else. Mr. Something and I discussed before the party on Saturday that next year might look very different. There are so many unknowns about the children that may end up with us and the timing of it all that we must simply be prepared for things to be different and take it all as it comes.

Knowing that this meeting would be another lengthy evening, we included Rep 2 on our pizza order and planned to continue the home study over dinner. I set the table, leaving enough room for papers and notepads. We checked and double checked the plates and silverware for spots or food that somehow survived the dishwasher as if the completion of our licensing depended upon clean dishes. Some day she will be coming by to check up on our foster children and I know that spotty glasses will be the furthest thing from my mind.

She wanted to start my questions to get me caught up to Mr. Something and then we’d do the remainder of the questions together. Either she was abbreviating the questions or I am simply not as wordy as Mr. Something but mine went by much quicker. It was still interesting to walk through the halls of my past. Thinking about what did my parents do exactly to make me feel loved. How did I know the difference between right and wrong? And the million dollar question, “Who was the single most influential person in your life?” Talk about loaded! Even then I had to say, “Aren’t we all the product of everyone we have encountered in our lives?” I could easily answer it if you asked me, “Who is the single most influential person of your professional life? Or in terms of your educational career?” But when it comes down to the fabric of family, and your own parenting philosophies (which we had to define by the way) we are a tapestry of both of our parents, our friends’ parents, our grandparents, our aunts and uncles, and siblings. We have grown our ideals through watching peers enter into parenthood and endless discussions about, what would you do if that was your child, your situation? I was surprised by my final answer and not sure if it really answered the question but, no matter what, it gave her an additional window in who I am and that really is the ultimate goal of the home study.

After I caught up to Mr. Something the questions continued about our current relationship and parenting philosophies. At one point when answering a question about how we communicate or deal with conflict in our relationship, Rep 2 said, “That’s very insightful, you could be a therapist.”  I had to laugh, having a sister that is a mental health counselor for adults with developmental disabilities shows that perhaps insight runs in the family but it also proves that we really are a tapestry of everyone in our lives.

At this point we also got to exercise some of the knowledge we gained during our 27 hours of PRIDE class that we completed over the summer. There were questions about how we felt about maintaining contact with birthparents/families, how we would handle having a child that might require an IEP (Hah! As a teacher I live in the land of IEPs and have often battled to get students on them to get them what they need for the future. Cake and pie.) and what we would do to accommodate a child living with trauma and grief.

After three hours I was mentally exhausted and felt like I had relived the last 31 years of my life and then some! It reminded me of “This is Your Life” which, sadly, I don’t have the real-life connection to but the Sesame Street parody was a regular clip during my PBS watching days.

We went from laughing about childhood memories to waves of emotions recalling some of the more difficult lessons learned. Another checkmark on the list. Rep 2 left us with a bit of homework, charged with taking her pages and pages of hand scribbled notes and turning it into a veritable term paper on “The Somethings” All I can do is hope that we were honest and clear and that she was able to build a picture of us in order to match us with the children that are meant to be our forever children. So for now, we wait.

Opposites Attract

Black and White… Sweet and Sour… Yin and Yang… There’s an age old theory that opposites attract and it seems to be an ever growing theme in my life. You, my dear blog readers, are privy to a very personal part of my life, and I’m happy to report tonight that things are FINALLY moving in the right direction. However, my professional life, as an elementary school teacher, has turned tumultuous. My union is on the verge of striking. Putting all dollars and cents aside, the emotional toll it is taking on myself and my fellow teachers has been harder than I ever thought imaginable. I could start a whole different blog with my thoughts and feelings, facts and figures about the unrest clouding my district but this blog is my chance my focus on the positive. It is my chance to leave the war against us teachers until tomorrow and reflect upon our hopeful “someday” that is taking shape.

Even the story of our Tiny Human Project has a dark side and a light side this week. A few days ago, as I was heading up to bed I happened to glance out the sidelight windows next to the front door. A package caught my eye. My first thought was, “I didn’t order anything, I wonder if Mr. Something did.” But within a moment I recognized the pink flowered mailing envelope that I had lovingly packed and sent away over two months ago.  The package was intended for Mr. Something’s cousin, the daughter of his cousin whom we met on a trip to visit his family. A little peanut of a girl being reluctantly raised by her grandmother since her own parents had given up on her. She put a face to our mission and after meeting her I was desperate to do something… anything for her. I took an inappropriate amount of time picking out books to send to her. I found the perfect card covered in sparkles and butterflies. I read the message over a hundred times to make sure it was “just right” and I sent it all on it’s way two months ago.

We hadn’t heard anything from Mr. Something’s family, but that was usual so I was going on assumptions that the package had been delivered to his family’s P.O. box and had been picked up weeks ago. That was until I found it sitting dirty, battered, and worn on our welcome mat. “Unclaimed” was stamped across the address with an old timey finger pointing back to my return address. She never got it. There was never a smile and a squeal of delight as she was presented with the pretty pink package. There were no bedtime moments spent huddled around the books I picked out. Suddenly she felt like a ghost and every emotion I felt after meeting her dissipated into mist around me.

“Unclaimed” A one word clue that I am left to puzzle out. What happened? Didn’t they check their mail? Did they get a claim ticket and not know what it was for? With weeks unanswered phone calls to agencies and now an unclaimed gift on my porch I felt more than ever that my wheels were spinning and I was getting nowhere.

The sweet to my sour came the very next day. I was well on my way home from work when my cell phone rang. I recognized the city area code and knew in an instant that it was the call from the agency I had been waiting for. Hoping that I could handle the call while driving I pressed the answer button on my steering wheel and the cheerful voice of an agency intern filled my car. She was calling to share information about her agency’s orientation meetings that are held once a month. She confirmed that they could take us through the foster care licensing process and help with various types of adoptions. Exhilarated and frantic, I’m surprised that I didn’t drive off the road! I scrambled in my purse to find a pen and something to write on. Why is it that purses become bottomless pits the moment you need to find something in a hurry? Mary Poppins’s bag indeed! I pulled free a Target prescription bag and found my pen just as she was sharing the dates of the orientation. I wanted to capture every bit of information she had.  It was like sighting a fairy or a unicorn, you wouldn’t be sure that it was real so you’d do everything within your power to remember every detail of that moment and, for goodness sake, not do anything that might scare it away!

October 17th. When she told me the date I almost giggled out loud. The orientation was scheduled exactly seven months to the day that Mr. Something and I sat over Sangria and frozen margaritas and tried on our Tiny Human Project for the very first time. Once upon a time that former version of myself was convinced that we should wait six months before pursing the idea. It looks like we were true to that timeline whether we intended to be or not.

This orientation meeting marks a giant step for us. For one, we have been waiting until we were actually doing something before telling our families. We wanted to have something concrete to show for this choice of ours, not just a flighty idea that we’ve been reading about on the internet. After this meeting the light is green to bring the family on board. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. This meeting is also our first actual step toward the Tiny Human Project becoming a reality. Our excitement grows by the day and this shining light did much to diminish the darkness that seems to be following me lately. With light and dark there is balance and with balance one can find peace. Tonight I’m sailing on smooth waters, letting the stressors of my work environment slip beneath the surface as I focus on the beautiful horizon stretching before me.

Running Shoes

“Slow and steady wins the race.” How long have I known about the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? So long that I can’t even remember the first time I heard it. It has become such a part of my schema that it’s no longer a moment in my life but something that I have always known. To say that jumping into the world of foster care adoption has been a “slow and steady” race is almost correct. Slow… yes. Steady? Not so much. If  you’ve been following the blog you are familiar with my recent frustrations with getting in touch with someone… anyone… about the process. Well, I finally made contact and was told that I’d be getting something in the mail the following week. Two weeks of sprinting to the mailbox every evening when I got home from work and this finally arrived…

Now, it wasn’t quite what I was waiting for but it was something I could hold in my hands. Instead of hearing from the agency that we are hoping to work with, this came from the woman that DCFS had put me in contact with. It was an overview of our preferences, the name of the agency we are being recommended to, and the name and number of our contact person at the agency. It also said that our contact person would be calling us within three days. We are at day eight and my phone hasn’t rung yet but I’m beginning to realize that I need to multiply any timeline I’m given by three… maybe four…

Slow and steady… It’s a great moral to a charming story but sometimes you want to sprint! You are pumped full of adrenaline, toeing the line, with nothing but the finish line in your sight. You fly off the starting block and somewhere in the middle of it all you reach a runner’s high where you feel strong and powerful like you could run forever. Are your feet even touching the ground?

It’s like in Roald Dahl’s BFG when Sophie has been snatched out of her bed and is being carried off by the Big Friendly Giant. He’s taking her to giant country, which exists somewhere off the last page of the atlas…

“The giant ran on and on. But now a curious change took place in his way of running. He seemed suddenly to go into a higher gear. Faster and faster he went and soon he was travelling at such a speed that the landscape became blurred. The wind stung Sophie’s cheeks. It made her eyes water. It whipped her head back and whistled in her ears. She could no longer feel the giant’s feet touching the ground. She had a weird sensation they were flying. It was impossible to tell whether they were over land or sea. This giant had some sort of magic in his legs. The wind rushing against Sophie’s face became so strong that she had to duck down again into the blanket to prevent her head from being blown away.”

Okay, so that may be a bit of an exaggeration. I don’t exactly want to fly across the map. We aren’t that ready but my excitement matches the exhilaration found in that passage and it would be nice to have the chance to move a bit faster than tortoise pace.

We have teetered on the edge of telling more people about our Tiny Human Project but for some reason I am firmly planted in the idea that we need to be officially doing something before we starting advertising our choices to the world. It doesn’t even have to be the classes yet, even just an orientation meeting. I’d like something to happen to make it real, more real than a few phone calls and a form letter in the mail. I was told to wait until the woman at the agency contacts us but I’ve decided to leave the tortoise in the dust and reach out. For now it’s just more frustration knowing that this is just the beginning. The two months that I’ve been trying to reach out to get started are quite possibly two more months that my someday child had to live without safety and stability. Itching to go…

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!