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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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.

 

The Beginning

I am Mrs. Something, almost thirty and married to my college sweetheart for almost three years. Barely a day goes by that someone doesn’t drop the “baby” hint my way. Close friends, family, colleagues… It amazes me how presumptuous people have become about the topic. The very first morning of our honeymoon, the woman serving us breakfast left us with a, “Come back next year with your babies!”  No matter where it comes from I always laugh it off with a comment about my house being full enough with two cats and a dog or the standard, “We’re in no hurry.” Then follow it with rant to anyone that will listen about the rudeness, in my opinion, about the questions and comments. “What if we were trying and couldn’t get pregnant? What if I had just miscarried? What if we don’t plan on having children?” After being on the receiving end of it I now hold asking someone about future children in the same light as asking a woman, that you don’t know, when she’s due. You don’t go there because you just don’t know.

The truth of the matter is that the idea of having a baby has never taken root within me. I’ve always seen children in my future but I could never picture myself pregnant. I don’t gush over pregnant women and insist on rubbing their bellies and when the newborns arrive I’ve never jumped up to get in line to cuddle them and exclaim over their tiny fingers and toes. Babies don’t do it for me. With thirty approaching, of course, I’ve been thinking about the whole mess of it. When I have shared my misgivings about getting pregnant I’ve gotten one extreme answer to another. “No one is ever really ready, you just have to go for it!” to “You shouldn’t get pregnant until your body is ready to nurture and mother. It’s not fair to bring a child into the world if you don’t already feel that maternal instinct calling.” I have tended to side with the latter of the two opinions, but that’s also the opinion that keeps my world safely the same and doesn’t involve everything that comes with babies. Besides if someone was looking for advice about marrying someone, people wouldn’t say, “It’s okay if you don’t really want to marry him, you just have to go for it!” Why is that okay when talking about bringing another human being into the world?

Conflicted. Waiting to hear a clock ticking or a gush of baby fever at the sight of a newborn. Nothing.

I often shared this sentiment with my husband. He is amazing with children but once upon a time when he was in high school and we started dating he didn’t want kids. He later joined me on the “kids someday” boat but someday wasn’t getting any closer for either of us. In the same way we would have conversations about just spending our life traveling the world as DINKs (double income no kids) I tossed out the idea of adopting a baby instead of having one of our own. Maybe a baby from another country (oh how trendy) the idea of bringing another culture into our family was intriguing to me. It was thrown on the maybe someday pile along with having children of our own and we’d go on with our lives. That is until about a week ago.

I am a self-professed internet junkie. You could throw out my TV and I might not notice for days but if the internet goes down I’m a lost puppy. I enjoy “putzing” through blogs and websites. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Realtor.com, PetFinder… the list goes on and on. A little over a week ago I once again found myself on a website about international adoption, scanning lists of countries and imagining all the maybe somedays. Something made me adjust my search to domestic adoption, another maybe someday, why not? But I soon found myself browsing page after page of smiling couples asking to be chosen as adoptive parents of newborns. Stories of innumerable miscarriages and infertility accompanied by smiling hopeful photos of happy couples with their arms around each other and I felt like a complete jackass. Mr. Something and I have never tried to get pregnant so I am only left to assume that we are two fertile people. If that is the case, who am I to swoop in and post my picture next to these couples that are willing to do anything to get a baby. The domestic infant adoption maybe someday quickly got removed from the pile, but I was okay with that, babies don’t thrill me anyway, remember?

Feeling like a greedy baby-snatcher I steered my internet search to a different type of domestic adoption, older children and, surprisingly, a new maybe someday blossomed. There were photo listings of thousands of children in the foster care system in need of families. They ranged from three years old to eighteen. Many had severe special needs, all had emotional trauma (well understood, children are generally taken from their birth parents for various reasons and put into foster care.) Their profiles said things like “…hopes to go camping someday…” “…would love to have a family with a dog…” My heart swelled and before I knew it I was swooning. Swooning like those women I always watched from afar as they cooed over each other’s babies and talked of their ache for another. Why couldn’t we be the forever family that keeps that five year old from becoming an eighteen year old in the system? I was captivated. Here was a maybe someday that didn’t feel so maybe, was it a definitely someday?

I sat on the idea for two days before bringing it up to Mr. Something. Even then I had barely thought of anything else and was giddy about the idea. It was over dinner on St. Patrick’s Day with a glass of sangria and a margarita between us (the wait was shorter at the Mexican restaurant.) I tossed it out casually to test the waters but it quickly evolved into discussion, serious discussion, and excitement, serious excitement. Determined not to get my hopes up I let it simmer for a day but the discussion came up again and again.

He was on board. It felt right. More right than any other maybe someday ever had. For the first time it was a crystal clear future and we were making a plan. I was given full permission to research the process to my heart’s content and we set a goal… one year. One year to think on it, one year to replace an old car and take care of career goals. One year before the next move. Classes, homestudies, approval, all of these steps that I am just now learning about can be taken without committing to the idea. We have time, we’ve always had time but now we have a definitely someday. 

I have always been a private person and knew that I’d never be one to advertise “My husband and I are trying” or “I found out I was pregnant today!” Because anything can happen and why would I possibly want to drag my circumstances, good or bad, across everyone else’s filter. I didn’t want to advertise this idea quite yet. It has only been a week and day, but since it has come up on a daily basis my husband has deemed it the Tiny Human Project or THP. There’s something comfortable about saying, “So I was thinking about THP and…” or when we shared a particularly touching moment with a friend’s four year old we secretly high-fived to THP, taking each good moment as another checkmark in the “pro” list.

I am Mrs. Something, for now, quietly reaching out into the endless sources of information on adopting children from the foster care system. I am hoping this blog will help to connect me with others considering this choice and those that have pursued this path. 357 days left to know for sure but tonight, on day 8, maybe has been kicked to the curb and there’s a beautiful someday on the horizon.