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!

 

Passion and Weakness

question-marks2On Tuesday I received an email from the supervisor of foster care and adoptions at the agency we applied to. She thanked us for our application and shared that our assigned licensing representative would be getting in touch with us sometime within the next two to three weeks. As a courtesy she also included, “If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to contact me.”I was just thinking how amusing it would be to really contact her with ALL of the questions we have right now. The questions that we will eventually find answers to (What type of financial assistance comes with fostering?) along with the others that only life can answer (Can we handle this?) She may regret ever offering.

I am a teacher and this week I had to go to bat for one of my students. Some pretty big decisions were being made about this student’s education and whether or not the child belongs in the general education classroom. The special ed team was divided and quite a few were on the fence ready to be tipped one way or another. The weight of the decision pulled me down for days. Knowing that absolute failure or success could be possible with either decision, and only time would tell, was a terribly helpless feeling. The truth of the matter was that no one knew for sure what the “best” decision was. Yes, there were assessments and data but, as educators, we all knew that behind the numbers there is a child, a child with an educational future balanced in our hands.

In the final meeting, at the height of the debate, I simply lost it. I couldn’t hold back the tears. I am generally a pretty closed-off person emotionally, they are far from being stitched on my sleeve, however, when things get intense, if I get angry or frustrated, or simply feel completely helpless, as I did at that meeting, there’s no holding back the tears.  I was embarrassed. All I wanted to do was stand tall and make a poignant and confident case for what I believed in but all I could do was sit there and try to not let my tears turn into an ugly cry as my colleagues looked on.  Instant tears have always plagued me and ruined many moments of would-be triumph in situations that have tested me.  After what totalled up to be about two hours of conversations around this student, a compromise was eventually reached and we are bringing it to the parent on Monday. What her final say on the matter will be is yet to be determined.

Fighting so fiercely for this student, for needs that might not be far off from the needs of my someday children, rocked me. I want to be a strong and confident parent that can go to bat for their child when needed. I want to be able to stand up in a courtroom, a conference room, or a classroom and fight for what I think is right for their wellbeing without being reduced to tears and choked sobs. If I am so moved by this passion and determination for a student that is mine for only a school year, how is it going to compare to the ferocity with which I will want to fight for my someday children? Mr. Something may need to lead that charge. I’ll be sure to write notes for him. 🙂

*Sniff* All Grown Up…

It has been a while since I have posted. I originally thought that I have just been busier in recent weeks but I knew that it was more than that. Our Tiny Human Project has settled into a cozy corner of my brain. I am no less excited or hopeful about it but it has worn a comfortable groove into my thoughts and has not surprised me with torn or controversial thoughts as of late. We are still far from decided but it’s not feeling as radical as before. We have continued to work our way through Dr. Ray Guarendi’s Adoption: Choosing it, Living it, Loving it book. The question/answer format has been perfect for a few minutes of reading together here and there. Mr. Something agreed that he’s answering all of the right questions for our stage of “Educate Yourself.”

I spied a cute pregnant woman at the store today. She was totally rocking the belly with another little already in her cart. I wasn’t leering but I looked at that baby bump silhouette and the little boy with sandy blonde hair that matched her own and I asked myself, “Would I miss that? Would I feel like I missed out on that?” At the same moment I spied my own reflection in the store window and didn’t miss a beat when I told that reflection of myself, “No.”  Every girl, whether a baby swooner or an on-the-fencer or even the hell no’s, have all looked down at themselves at some point and imagined that bump. It hasn’t and still doesn’t stir anything within me. Reading lots of adoption blogs I often find the phrase, “We were called to do it.” Now, a post about religious beliefs is a whole different blog post for another night but I am comfortable with thinking, “Maybe we were meant to do this.”

Mr. Something told me that he wants to see the photo listings. I was surprised given his previous feelings about seeing the faces of so many children in need. We have yet to cozy up on the couch together and explore the listings but moments like this are taking us inches forward to a decision.

I finally told a real life friend about THP. It was thrilling to speak of it, bring it to life in the “real world” outside of the Something home. My dear friend that listened was nothing but supportive, not that I expected anything less. She asked all the right questions and let me flex my newly acquired knowledge. I hadn’t realized how much I have researched and absorbed about the whole process and my feelings about it until it came spewing out in a face-to-face conversation. There are days that I can barely contain myself and I want to tell everyone. There are other days that I am so scared to put such a personal decision out there.

I, admittedly, do my best to not care what others think but tend to personalize things anyway. Especially when it comes to children, I am shamefully quick to judge. Screaming child in the grocery store? Take them home and come back later. I then slap myself, what if there is no later for that parent? What if there is no other parent to take that child home to?
 There are other less drastic situations like the child jumping up and down in the booth at the restaurant. I was raised in a house when jumping on furniture of any kind was not allowed, not to mention jumping on furniture in a public place! Teach your child manners! I shamefully judge and I am afraid of being shamefully judged. I take pride in my home, and how we welcome people into our home. I want to take pride in my parenting abilities as well. Taking on THP might mean a child that has no idea that jumping on a booth in a restaurant is rude behavior. (If only that could be the least of possible issues!) Teachable moments, yes, but I know I am going to have to work on letting go of the worries about what other people think of me as a parent. This may be one of my biggest personal challenges with this situation. I won’t get to start parenting from scratch. Self-confessed control freak here! How on earth am I considering bringing a child or children into my home with years of experiences, both good and bad, that I have absolutely no control over?

I am realizing more and more that this is not just an “Educate Yourself” stage about adopting from the foster care system but an “Educate Yourself About Yourself” stage. I’ve got some growing up to do and, for the first time, I’m willing to let go of that control, examine myself with brutal honesty, and pursue change.

Strong Enough?

Mr. Something read through my posts yesterday and when I asked him if he had anything thoughts on my musings his one comment was, “I guess I just didn’t realize how decided you were.” I was a bit surprised by this because I don’t feel decided at all but I do know that every time I have come up with a point for the “con” list I immediately come back with a “pro.”

Today’s thoughts are all about age. When we originally talked about the idea of foster care adoption we both loved the idea of a child between four and nine years old. This goes back to my original feelings of not ever feeling compelled to have a baby in my life. Since this idea has been on the table my kid radar has definitely been turned up. Every interaction I have with a child I find myself thinking, “What if this child was the one that was available for adoption? How would I feel about it then?” Mr. Something says that I’m shopping for children but I’ve never given children younger than my own elementary students much notice. What I see it as is careful data collection.

Maybe I’m getting scared of the challenge of a child with eight or nine years of life with another family (or families.) The trauma of being taken away from their families and homes is unimaginable to me. Children don’t understand that a different placement could be “for the better.” When you are a child you think that everyone’s home and family is like your own, they don’t understand abuse or neglect because in many cases they don’t know life any differently. Am I strong enough to take on these challenges?

Family Stick Figure

I told Mr. Something that I’m starting to think of younger children (two through four years old) and he was a bit taken aback. His taken aback-ness was great though, he feels strongly about helping an older child and his conviction was affirming. I immediately felt myself leaning back toward our original THP idea. Although, I’m not closing any possibilities, I just know that I have a lot more self-exploration to do. I would love feedback from anyone that has experience with opening their home to an “older” foster child (five and up?) Looking for guidance!