Listening to: Buddy Holly
Reading: A giant binder the state gave us
Writing About: Foster Care, Faith, the State, Saying Yes and Saying No
The whole reason I wanted to write a blog was to tell our story about foster care. I started that in October with this Article about Foster Parenting. Then I discovered that I enjoy writing, so I kept on.
Anyway, if you didn’t read the first post, it started with the 18 year old idealistic version of me (who wanted to eventually adopt) and walked through the process my wife and I went through to find out how we were going to do what we felt called to do.
Spoiler alert: the answer is foster care.
Somewhere in the process, this post got really technical. I decided to keep it as is because that knowledge is helpful for understanding the rest of the story….also I am warning you, this one is going to be a little boring.
I don’t want to underestimate your intelligence, but for the sake of clarity I am going to talk a little bit about what foster care is. All of this is stuff I learned after I committed to doing it…which is to say, I don’t think it’s common knowledge.
The Foster Care System exists to provide care for children who have been removed from their family by the state. Kids in foster care are, ultimately, in the care of the state whose primary goal is always to reunify them with their birth parents or blood relatives. Foster parents provide love and stability for kids while their birth parents and the state do the morally complex, long, and often infuriating work of determining where the child should live. The state is responsible for balancing the fundamental right of parents to parent their children with the fundamental right of a child to have a safe home where their needs are being met. The state uses private agencies as contractors to provide care and case management to families in the process. This is a very broad and loose description, but I hope it helps provide some context.
Everything I learned about parenting I learned from my state approved liaison
Truth be told I don’t know how to proceed with the next part of the story.
I kind of want to write propaganda, a long-winded tract.
I want to convince you to do this.
But I am not good at that sort of writing.
So, I am going to try and tell the story as it was:
including the information I had at the time, excluding revisions based on lessons learned.
Maybe, in the future, I’ll write a “things I learned’ post that will fill in some gaps.
There are many ways to become involved in the foster care system. We probably googled it and took the top response. We found ourselves in the foster care parent training class (currently called PRIDE) through the agency who, it turns out, basically has a monopoly on case management in our area.
I don’t envy the ladies (and believe me, it is all ladies) who work with the agency. Their jobs exists to stand toe to toe with very difficult situations. Also, when people like my wife and I say we want to be foster parents, they are charged with screening, training, and overseeing us.
Les and I went to 30ish hours of classes that tried to teach us things like:
- How the system works
- Becoming aware of how trauma affects children
- Courtroom gibberish
- how to document and give medicines
- what the state approved temperature of my house’s hot water would be
The classes were helpful, I mean that.
But how could a classroom prepare you to raise someone else’s child,
for an undefined amount of time?
What knowledge will help you know how to bond with, love, and nurture a complete stranger?
Throughout the process we felt clear confirmation of our initial calling.
We knew that we were, in no way, guaranteed adoption…on any placement
We knew that we were accepting all sorts of unknown variables; and I am a planner, I hate those!
We knew that this would be complex and difficult.
And we knew that this was what we were supposed to do.
At some point we introduced the idea to Anna.. this probably deserves another post too…she was very receptive, but introducing the idea that we live in a world where sometimes your parents aren’t your parents is a scary thing. We shelter our kids like crazy, this idea would have been unimaginable to them.
So we fill out papers, get interviewed, go to classes, and eventually get licensed.
Licensing is when your status as foster parent “goes live”
Essentially that means when a kid gets removed from a home, if they fall into the realm of kids you have made yourself available for (or, often, if they don’t) a case worker will call you to see if you will take the placement.
Leslie and I took a lot of calls from social workers seeking homes before we said yes.
We said no to a lot of kids.
That was not easy.
Leslie’s magical intuition:
Here is the thing, we knew that we wanted to be in the system to adopt.
We also knew that we have limited space and resources.
Keep in mind I like to know the facts and make a plan,
I was worried that we would say yes to a kid, or group of kids
and they would somehow prohibit us from taking the call we were meant to take.
Also, I am like a pro at saying no to things.
It’s sometimes a virtue, sometimes a vice.
Leslie, on the other hand, has a crazy track record of good intuition.
I already explained that she was the one that got the clear and direct calling.
And she was right.
She was the one that connected the dots for our daughter’s health issues and found a diagnosis. Right again.
Her gut is made of something different that mine, and yours.
She has the red phone, she gets the messages.
So anyway, after saying no to tons of kids who need places to be.
Kids who need loving adults to provide for them, to keep them safe and happy.
We got a call in the middle of the night about a baby.
And We Said Yes.