Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Foster Parenting

Many of you know that Justin and I had been going through the process to become foster parents. All in all it took us about 17 months. We could have moved through the process a little more quickly on our end, but there were definitely hang ups with the state as well. Lost paperwork, incompetence with some of the medical personnel doing our check ups and tests, and incomplete paperwork for our background check for Pennsylvania, to name a few. We had to take over 35 hours of training classes including CPR and first aid. Luckily we both have worked in the healthcare field so didn't have to re-do the HIV and bloodborne pathogens class. We had 3 separate visits from our licensor to complete our homestudy. This was a time for the licensor to go over each of our 20+ page autobiographies we had written, get to know us and our values, philosophies, and to also do the home safety check.

We were getting licensed for 0-18 so had to have rooms set up for all ages as well as safety precautions for all ages. That meant a crib, fire extinguishers, a fire escape plan, fire ladder, turning down the temperature on our water heater, no loop cords on blinds, all medicines locked up, and child safety locks on cabinets and plug covers. There was a 4 page list of all the things she would check off but these are a few of the big ones I remember. We have 2 dogs so also had to have all their health records and vaccinations up to date. We are on a septic system so had to have documentation of the last time it was pumped and then the paperwork for our well water inspection. Luckily we had these things from when we first moved in and they were still current enough so we didn't have to do them again.  It was a pretty lengthy and involved process, but, we passed. We were notified our license was approved on February 27th, 2013.

We actually got a call the day it was opened for a potential placement. I had a surprise trip to Ohio planned to celebrate by stepfather's 80th birthday so we knew we didn't want to take a placement until I  returned, which was going to be March 18th. It was a weird feeling though, getting a call for some kids who needed a home and already wanting to say yes, not knowing a thing about them except we could provide them a safe and loving home. But we said no and waited those few weeks until I would be home.

We were blessed in so many ways by our family, friends, and church community. A couple of our friends threw us a Celebration Shower the week after we were licensed. They put it together very quickly and it was perfect. Very thoughtful and kind, a brunch with family and friends. It was like a baby shower but people were encouraged to give classic or traditional toys and books, gift cards for various stores where we could get toys, clothes, gear, etc... for different ages and genders and any hand me down toys or clothes. We didn't know what ages or genders would come through our doors so were just trying to start getting an inventory. We were also extremely blessed when we actually got our placements. Most didn't come with anything, except maybe a pair of pjs and a toothbrush from the social work office. All I had to do was send out a text or message on Facebook and we had what we needed within 24 hours. Clothes, infant toys, car seats, a baby monitor, whatever.

Over the next 2 months we had 4 very short placements, ranging from 2 days to a week. Each placement was a sibling pair and ages ranged from 8 months to 7 years. We would often hear of the children in the afternoon and they would show up on our doorstep later that evening. Talk about turning your life upside down. Not being parents otherwise and then to have complete strangers come to live at your house. Little strangers who were scared. Little strangers who had witnessed domestic violence or suffered from various forms of neglect and abuse. And if you have been to our house, you know its kind of out there. And evenings in the winter are dark. We kept imagining how terrified these kids were. Being taken from their family and then driven out into the middle of nowhere to stay with people they didn't know? Very scary. Each time a new placement arrived, everything turned upside down. Schedules were rearranged and we all had to get used to each other. The dogs did very well, each time taking a little less time to get used to the kids. We had always known parenting was a hard job, but then to get it thrown at you, with troubled and scared kids, it was so challenging!! Despite taking 4 pairs of siblings, we kept feeling we would do better with a single child. But that just doesn't happen very often. There are usually several kids in a family and not a lot of foster homes take multiples. But after the last two kids, a 2 and 3 year old brother pair, we took a break. We just knew a single child would be better for us and so we waited.

About a month later we got information on a group of 3 children needing placement. There was a 3 year old boy and then his 2 and 1 year old sisters. They were staying with a relative but she couldn't maintain that arrangement. The goal is to keep siblings together, so as to not have even another relationship disrupted. We emailed the placement coordinator to say if they couldn't find placement for all 3, we would be interested in the boy. After a couple of weeks of looking, no placement was found for all 3 so we agreed to take the boy.

He has now been with us for almost 2 months. Somedays it feels like so much longer, but other days its seems like no time has passed. He is a sweet, happy boy who loves trucks, trains, and cars. We are working on his communication, basic learning concepts (colors, shapes, numbers, letters), and potty training. He has yet to be formally tested for any developmental delays but that is on our list of things to do, and I will be surprised if nothing is identified. He had some extensive dental neglect so a week after we took him into care, he had to go under anesthesia to have 8 teeth silver capped. This upset him for about a day but then he was back to his normal self. Since he has been with us, I think he is exhibiting less and less tantrums and is slowly but surely learning everyday simple things most 3 year olds know.

Having a child in the home has definitely challenged and strengthened us as a couple. Justin and I have different parenting styles when it comes to certain things, but it works for us. Our patience has been pushed to the limit with C and with each other, but at the end of the day, we take a deep breath and recognize we have survived and will do it all again tomorrow. By the grace of God :) I have fallen more in love with Justin as I watch him take on that father/caregiver role. Showing C how to swing a golf club or throw him around in the air tickling him.  And I think C is really benefitting from having a strong, male role model in his life, for however long it will be.

Many people have said they don't think they could do foster care, it would be too hard to say goodbye. To be honest, that isn't always the case. I don't think we had any of the first 8 kids long enough to really attach or feel bonded. I don't think that happens in 2 days. So it wasn't painful or difficult for them to move on. But I would be kidding myself if I didn't think it would be hard to say goodbye to C. Sure, there are days when I get so frustrated and annoyed with things he has done, but in the end, I recognize life hasn't been easy for this little boy, and he has a long and rough road ahead of him. He has reasons for acting the way he does and my job is to love and accept him for who he is. To show him what is right and wrong, how to treat people, how to make mistakes and learn from them. We are called to love people as Christ did and its important to me that C understands that we won't stop caring for him and loving him for something he did or didn't do. We want to parent with grace and teach this to him.

I have never been a writer and I feel what I have shared is only the tip of the iceberg on how this journey has changed me as well as my thoughts and feelings on foster care and adoption. I am happy to talk about this with anyone interested, or would love to listen to your stories.

San Diego

I am about a year late posting this. Last summer we went to San Diego to visit Justin's grandpa. I was excited to meet him since I hadn't before. We were able to travel with Justin's dad and step mom and had a nice little vacation. Grandpa Jay was as sweet as could be. It was nice to spend some time and get to know him a little bit.  He was living in a nursing home and really looked forward to visitors. With limited mobility and function for activities, he really thrived with company. We were fortunate to go when we did as he has since passed away. I am glad for the time we had with him, albeit short.

We did several fun, tourist activities during our trip. We took the Old Town Trolley on a Hop On Hop Off Day Trip. There were 10 or 11 stops and you could get off and spend as much time as you wanted at a particular stop and then get back on and head out to the next stop. The Seaport Village stop had the SEAL Tour which is like Ride the Ducks but with seals.  Its basically a boat with wheels that drives through the streets of San Diego with a narrator and then hits the harbor to cruise around. We saw some maritime training with dolphins and seals as well as a dock full of seals. We also stopped at Balboa Park which has a lot of history, museums and beautiful gardens.

Here we are at Coronado Beach.

Visiting with Grandpa Jay.

The San Diego Zoo

All in all a fun trip.