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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3rd Rep and 3 Weeks

Last week we had our first meeting with Licensing Rep #3. She works with the agency that we are switching to given the fact that our first agency was far from supportive throughout the licensing process. (See the last year’s worth of posts!) Apparently the third time’s a charm. She arrived at our house early (which was a refreshing change from our previous experiences.) It became obvious that she was very knowledgable about the licensing process and later shared that she has worked as a licensing rep for her agency for the last twenty years. That spoke volumes, not only for her expertise but for the credibility of the agency.

She was efficient, down to earth, and kept up with our sense of humor (What do you mean we can’t keep the children in a closet?) She got a quick tour of the house and explained that it would take three weeks to have the state reissue our license with the new agency’s name, then we are on the list as open for placements. Three weeks… it was the first time we had a definitive timeline for ANY step of this process. Three weeks also just happens to be my first day back at school. Of course.

She said that we could get a call right away or it could be six months before anything comes up. Either way, if we get a call in the next month I have to consider that it is the beginning of a new school year and I need to at least get a few weeks in with my new students before I take off. So much of the decision is situational, so we are going to take things as they come.

Overall, our meeting with Rep 3 was so positive. She will be the one calling us with potential placements and will be revisiting every six months to make sure our home is in compliance. Fingers crossed that our future caseworker is as knowledgable, prepared, and professional as she is!

Three weeks… cue the immediate nightmares. That night I tossed and turned with dreams of children showing up at our house and all we had to offer were two bare mattresses. Forget the fact that we really have NOTHING else in preparation, somehow the idea of not having bedding kept me up all night. Thank goodness for summer break, the next morning I headed out and filled my cart with sheets, pillows, and comforters. We have two fully-dressed beds, I can rest easy for now!

Curtains, beds, bedding, and stepstool (even with the stool I can't make the top bunk!) all from Ikea.

Curtains, beds, bedding, and stepstool (even with the stool I can’t make the top bunk!) all from Ikea.

As for everything else… We are open for children between 3-8 years old. To all my parent friends out there, what are your go-to kid supplies? Obviously, clothing, car seats, strollers, etc. will need to wait until we know the age/size of the children (be prepared for the frantic call for guidance when we do know the ages and gender!) but I’d love to hear from you about all the other good stuff you depend on! I feel like I have done a lot of homework about raising children that have experienced trauma but have no idea about the general everyday raising kids stuff. Any input is appreciated!

In preparation for “The Call” our PRIDE instructors gave us a great resource to use so we aren’t caught off guard when we do agree to a placement and we need know which questions to ask. Whether or not our Rep will have the answers is dependent on the situation but it’s a place to start. Here are the questions included on the form:

FOSTER PARENT ANSWER SHEET

Full Name of Child:

Nick Name:

Age/Sex:

Date Received:

Birthdate:

Do you have the Birth Certificate?

What is the Service Plan for this child?

Do you have the Medical Card?

Does the child have clothes/other possessions?

What is the legal state of the child?

Caseworker Name:

Caseworker Number:

Caseworker after-hours number:

Supervisor’s Name:

Supervisor Number:

Supervisor after-hours number:

What is the estimated length of time the child will be in our home?

Reason child was in the system:

Where is the child coming from? Own home? Another foster home?

Why did he/she have to leave?

What progress have the biological parents made toward reunification?

FAMILY VISITS

Where/Location?

What Day? Time? How often?

Can the time be changed if necessary?

Who will provide transportation?

Does the child have other siblings in the foster care system?

MEDICAL NEEDS

Date of most recent exam:

Does the child need medical care? If so, what kind?

 

So, we are quietly preparing and I’m bracing myself to take on this busy time of year!

 

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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Lessons from a Pencil Skirt

BusinessPeopleSilhouetteWomanA few weeks ago I had parent/teacher conferences at school. It was a nice break in our routine and a good time to regroup and plan goals for each of my students for the remainder of the year. Plus, it provided three days in which I got to wear big girl clothes. We have a relaxed building when it comes to dress code, which is much appreciated considering most days I am sitting on the floor with my second graders. (I don’t trust primary teachers that come to work everyday looking like they’d never get on the floor.) In addition to working at the students’ level, on an average day I put in over three miles of walking. Don’t get me wrong, I love a pair of killer heels as much as the next girl but walk a 5k in heels and talk to me about fashion then. Uncomfortable shoes make me want to sit at my desk, when I’m sitting at my desk I am not working alongside my kids. Again, I don’t trust primary teachers that wear heels every day.

With that said, three days of sitting in a grownup chair, wanting to appear professional, and with the furthest distance I needed to cover being from my table to the door, it was a nice change to be in big girl clothes. On the last of our three days I busted out my black pencil skirt. It was originally purchased a few years ago for a Halloween costume in which Mr. Something and I dressed as the leading couple from Top Gun. 388492_10150481954097792_1834694537_nIt was perhaps my smartest Halloween costume ever; pencil skirt, white button-down, black heels, all great additions to my wardrobe (minus the blond wig! Ack!) As I went through my day I realized that functioning in my pencil skirt was teaching me a few important lessons. Since we don’t meet often I took notice and decided to take the lessons to heart.

1. A pencil skirt will immediately make you feel like you know what you’re talking about.

I’ve been teaching for eight years and given that these were the second round of conferences for the school year, I had an idea of which ones would be a breeze and which ones for which I needed to brace myself. It is a lot of stress and a lot of work leading up to the three days of conferences but when in the throws of them, I really do enjoy being able to sit down with my students’ parents and just talk about their child and what I love to do. However, because of a new report card format I was thrown off my game this time around and needed a confidence boost as I tried explaining something to parents that I was still unsure about myself. In addition to the pencil skirt induced confidence, it was helpful that my students selected work, prepared self-reflections and goals, and presented at the conference themselves. It is always so interesting to see which students sit at the table with confidence, sharing their prepared materials and which will barely glance up above their eyelashes. Students that are outspoken and confident in class can suddenly refuse to read their latest writing when at the table or, in reverse, the quiet and reserved ones can rise to the occasion with giggles and jokes, beaming with pride.

This year’s spring conferences were shaded with a different color. As I slid the folder of work across the table and excitedly announced, “<insert child’s name here> is going to start us off today with some work that he/she chose to share!” I wasn’t just waiting to see what version of my student was going to emerge, but instead I honed in on the family dynamic that was was now sitting at my table. At first the observations are superficial… he has his father’s eyes and his mother’s smile. Then I became a privileged spectator to twenty-two different child/parent relationships. If both parents were present, the child often spoke more directly to one, not the other. Some parents quietly allowed their child to share and nodded with approval over their child’s work. Some were grinning from ear-to-ear and exclaimed and high fived their child over each work sample. Some parents corrected their child while they were sharing or asked them more questions about the projects. Others sat quietly. I did not judge from my side of the table. Even now, weeks later, I have not drawn any conclusions from my three days of this unofficial sociological study, just an awareness. I often wonder what I will be like on the parent side of the table. When asked by Rep 2 about handling IEP meetings for our potential children I just smiled and chuckled a little,”My kids’ teachers are going to hate me.” I’ll have to wear my pencil skirt to the meetings.

2. No matter how much you try to hurry, your top speed is now significantly slower than normal.

This could seem like a detriment but as I attempted to hurry through our school library to return to my first family of the day that arrived ten minutes early when I still needed to get reports to be mailed delivered to the front office, I caught myself doing a little short step half jog. Pencil skirt combined with a pair of pointy black heels meant that this speed was just not going to happen today. I paused, took a deep breath and resumed my trek which inevitably turned into a saunter given the fact that heels were also involved. At my new pace I had a moment to greet our librarian and caught up with the parents of a former student. It’s a shame that pencil skirts are business wear. The pace they force you to take is more more suited to leisure time. It’s as if it was saying, “Slow down! Take in the world around you! You are rocking this skirt and heels! Soak it up!”

It’s easy to rush, to hurry, to find ways to save time but then fill the saved time with more work, more stress, more pencil skirted business. I’m reminded over and over again as we approach our fully licensed foster care status, that life is going to get very busy and very full very soon. I need to appreciate the pace my life has now while I have it. We are so close to being licensed. There are fully built and mattressed bunk beds in our second bedroom, there are plastic covers on our outlets, a new nightlight in the hallway, and a certified second floor fire escape ladder stashed in the closet. We are so close that most days it feels like an ache in my chest. There are kids out there right now that need us, we are going to help them heal and grow, and together we are going to be a family.

We saw Rep 2 last week. The “quick” checklist she needed to go over took about an hour and a half. 75% of the list did not apply to our current situation because there aren’t actually children in our home yet. But, on the upside, it was the last step needed before submitting our paperwork to the state and, thank goodness, the state says that she has two weeks to submit it. Finally a timeline that is not dictated by Rep 2, who really has no idea what she is doing. She followed up with us a few days later and said she asked another Rep that has actually licensed people and found out that our license should be arriving within the next month or so. As soon as we are licensed we can open our home to placements, or find a new agency which is the plan at the moment.

After calling the new agency every day requesting information, I finally heard back from someone. The cell phone buzzing in my pocket in the middle of one of my conferences drove me mad. I knew it was them but I couldn’t answer. She left a message telling me to call her back and leave my name and address so she could send us an informational packet. That was three weeks ago. I’ve only called and left my info once a week so far. Maybe I should go back to my every day calling like before to show that, yes, WE. WANT. TO. HELP. CHILDREN.

“Slow down. Enjoy the view for now.” Says pencil skirt. Okay, okay, I’ll listen for now but it’s not easy to resist the temptation to kick off the heels, hike it up, and start to run.

3. You thought you knew how to get into a car.

Once upon a time, ladies knew the proper way to get into a car. Sit. Lift both feet. Swivel. These ladies were never trying to get into the car with a school bag, a lunch bag, a purse, a yoga bag, and a violin case (welcome to my Tuesdays.) One of our second grade vocabulary words is clamber. It is safe to say that on a regular day, I clamber into my car and count it a success if I don’t drop my phone, my keys, or dump my lunch bag upside down in the process. Pencil skirt, had other plans. Sit. Lift. Swivel. Suddenly the mundanely familiar became complicated, even awkward. The other night, Mr. Something said to me, “Our relationship is going to change when we have kids, isn’t it?” It was a rhetorical question because the answer is apparent to both of us. The routine of our relationship is going to take a new shape. We will be forced to take a step back and decide upon a new approach to every situation. What was once easy and comfortable will somehow not work in quite the same way. One can’t deny the grace of: Sit. Lift. Swivel. But it will take some getting used to.

Am I worried? Not actively. Mr. Something and I have been together for 13 years, other than puberty, we’ve tackled all major life changes together so far.

-Graduating different high schools two years apart

-Attending different colleges, meeting new people, living with roommates

-Graduating from our respective colleges and moving back home

-Starting first jobs

-Getting engaged

-Building a house together

-Getting married

We both wavered in our relationship early on and we both made the decision to come back. We both committed to making it work and we have for over a decade. Think about who you were in high school. We are still here, together, as vastly different (kind of) grown up people. Just like before, there will be adjustments. The familiar will become uncertain and wrought with emotion but pencil skirt says, “It’s what you’ve done every day but this time just: Sit. Lift. Swivel. And you’ll be on your way.”

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.

 

Pecking at a Trail of Breadcrumbs

We are on week six of trying to get ahold of our agency’s office supervisor to find out who our new licensing rep will be. I’ve left countless messages, each one getting decidedly less friendly and a bit more passive aggressive. It’s petty, I know, but all through our training we kept hearing about this shortage of foster parents. Here we are, practically begging to continue the licensing process and no one will return our call! We were cautioned by our instructors to not change agencies until we are officially licensed, at the risk of paperwork or proof of our class completion being lost in the shuffle. The PRIDE classes were important and enlightening, but I don’t need to take them for a second time just because someone forgot to transfer all of our info to a new agency.

I’m home from school today on account of high temperatures. It’s the summer equivalent of a snow day. It’s my first ever and it’s decidedly less magical than a snow day. Especially because it could be completely prevented by this wonderful new-fangled invention called air-conditioning. The first few weeks of school have been so interrupted and inconsistent with early releases (because of high temps), holidays (Labor Day, Rosh Hashanah), and students being absent (why not take a week’s vacation during the second week of school? I had 5 students absent on Friday!)  Am I complaining that I’ve had lots of days off? Yes! It’s the beginning of the year, we are trying to establish routines and expectations, parents are already calling to know how their children are doing in math and reading, I’d like a normal five day week to get settled.

Here’s a little inside tip from a teacher to any parents out there. Your child’s teacher won’t really know what kind of reader your child is until October. Don’t even ask before then. Think of the logistics. If I want to sit down and read with your child one-on-one, which is the ultimate goal, there are 20 other seven year olds in the room that have to be doing something 100% independently, quietly, and without interrupting what I’m doing with your child. It takes a lot of work and practice to get to that point. I’m READY to be at that point but the calendar and mother nature have different ideas. Okay, rant over. Let’s try this again…

I’m home from school today on account of high temperatures so I seized the opportunity to track down SOMEONE that could help us with this licensing rep situation. I tried my good friend, the supervisor, one more time for good measure. Voicemail. At this point I went back to the agency’s website and clicked on the “Interested in Foster Care?” link like I did a million years ago to start this whole process. I started calling the contact numbers at each of the agency’s offices. I didn’t care if they were hours and miles outside of my area. Someone was going to help me. When a real human being actually did answer the phone (three calls later) I almost forgot how to engage in a conversation. He was initially confused as to why I was calling his office since I live nowhere near it but was happy to give me the numbers of two people that might help me.

I called the first and he told me to call the second name I had been given. He told me that the second person was the licensing supervisor for the whole agency. I liked the sound of that.  The number he gave me was different than the one I had been given previously. He also gave me the name and number of the licensing supervisor’s supervisor. (Seriously? I work at a school. We have students, teachers, a principal, and a superintendent. That’s as complicated as it ever gets!) In the end after calling three more numbers, I left voicemails for both the supervisor and the supervisor’s supervisor. I don’t really know what to do if they don’t call me back. Even if we decided to switch agencies who would I even tell? Who has our file? Let’s hope the phone rings.

trail-of-breadcrumbs1