Monday, June 22, 2015

Still in the game

I just want to say that our licensing social worker is awesome. There are only 2LSWs in our county, and they work so hard to make sure each foster parent has all the resources they need, and each child is placed into a loving home.

Today we completed the paperwork to renew our foster care license. (This means we've committed to keep our house open to placements for at least 2 more years.) I had gotten everything signed at the end of April, but was waiting for my CPR and first aid cards to come in the mail.

We had a nice discussion. She joked with the kids and asked about how we were dealing with the loss of baby girl. Im glad that I have counseling resources on hand, and even more glad that we havent needed to use them!

I think our LSW -really- didnt want to go back to her office, because she also spent 20 mins playing in the backyard with the kids. The best part was when she climbed into the treehouse and slid down the slide! I took a picture of her. Wish I could post it. Hilarious.

The little guy has been asking me when we will have another little boy come to stay with us. Soon, I hope. I had a message from God, that we will get another long term placement by the end of August. ok, that might sound a little crazy, but thats what I was told.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Judgement Day

Yesterday was judgement day - the day that a judge would make a final ruling about our foster child, and where they will spend the rest of their life.

We waited throughout the morning, but our case wasn't called. I prayed that we wouldn't be the last case of the day. Well, God answered my prayer, and He proved his ironic sense of humor yet again - we were the second to last case. Thanks.

It was really difficult to sit still in the courtroom. We heard some cases with happy endings - children being reunified with parents - and some cases with sad ones - one teenager was removed from their home because of the court's findings. It was also hard to sit still because of those hard wooden benches - think old-fashioned 100-year-old cracked, creaky church pew benches. My foot kept falling asleep, then I'd switch positions and the other foot would fall asleep. I couldn't get comfortable.

Finally, our case was called. The judged read reports and listened to arguments from 3 different lawyers, 2 public defense attorneys, a child advocate (called "GAL" in our state) and a social worker. The biological family sat on one side of a long, hard wooden bench and we (Mike and I) sat on the other. I was pretty certain what the verdict would be, but wasn't sure how it would come about. After about 15 minutes of testimony, the judge declared "I will adopt motion number 3." We didn't know what that meant. Us laypeople were confused. Judge continued with a few more details, giving us, the foster parents, a 2-week notice. That's when I understood it.

The final verdict: guardianship with relatives.
We've got less than 2 weeks until she's out of our house forever.

I am sad for us, because it will be a great loss for our family. However, I know without a doubt that this is what is meant to be for baby girl, to grow up and live with part of her biological family.

I couldn't speak face-to-face with the relatives. I was too emotional in that moment. We walked out of the courtroom and went our separate ways. However, after I got home, I sent a message saying I was happy for them, and that I know they'll raise her well.

I can only trust it to be true.

So now I am left with the task of telling my children, who think of her as their baby sister, that she'll be gone in a few days. How do you prepare for this? What do you do with this kind of grief? It's not quite anything we've had to go through before (unless you count when we said goodbye the first time, last May. But that wasn't so final.). We've known that we won't keep her forever, but the reality of that is much more harsh than the abstract idea. "Forever" is not a concept that my kids easily understand. Right now they can touch, hug, and play with her. Next week, they can't.

There are 3 things I'd like to ask of you, if you are reading this:
1. Pray for our family, and baby girl, during this time of transition. Give us the right words to say to our children, to help them understand. They will be hurting. They will be sad and grieving. Help us guide them through this difficult time.

2. Pray also for her relatives, who are overjoyed right now. Pray that they will raise her well and rise to the challenge of their new responsibilities.

3. Consider how you can be invested in someone else's life. Everyone goes through hard times at one point or another.  All it takes is one person to make a difference. We cannot all do everything, but everyone is called to do something. Whether that is being a respite provider for foster parents, helping hand-out groceries at a local food pantry, rescuing stray animals, doing yard work for a neighbor, lobbying for stronger laws regarding human trafficking, packing shoeboxes in November through Samaritan's Purse, or going on a mission trip to an orphanage in a third-world country... I don't know what it looks like for you, but you should find out.

(And if you're already doing whatever it is: Thank You. Keep it up.)

If you are able to pray for us during this time, please leave a message below to let me know that you are doing so. I am going to need all the encouragement I can get to make it through the coming days without collapsing into an unrecognizable mess.

Thanks.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Attachment

When people realize I am a foster parent, there are usually two general reactions:

1. "Oh, I could never do that. I wouldn't be able to give them back."

2. "Bless you. You're such an angel for taking care of those poor little (starved/delinquent/neglected/add your adjective) kids."

1. The first implies that it is easily to "give them back".

But in some cases, it's just the opposite. Who would want to put a child back into a living situation with a person that was previously deemed unsafe? It might be safe now... but people mess up. History repeats itself. The cycle continues.

However, it is amazing to see when a family rises above their circumstances and overcomes obstacles such as domestic violence, substance abuse, chronic homelessness, and/or mental health issues. The success stories are the ones that keep social workers and foster parents in the system, trying to do the most good, trying to help families stay together.

2. The second response is pity, which I am just not fond of. I am no angel. And it almost makes it sound as if the children are to blame for what is happening to them. But what needs to be made clear is that kids go into care through NO FAULT of their own. They didn't ask to be put in foster care. They didn't want their parents to be accused of abuse, to be put in a compromising situation or make poor life choices. They didn't want to witness terrible things or live through such huge loss and tragedy at a young age.  But unfortunately, they do. Then they are put into a flawed, overworked, government-run system that is supposed to take care of their needs... That's where foster parents come into the picture.

On Attachment: We've had a placement with us for over a year. We've all gotten very attached to each other. In foster parent training classes (and in child development classes, if you take those as well), we learn about how attachments help form healthy bonds, realistic expectations, and shape a child's relationships throughout their life. When you live with a child for an extended period of time, you can't help but attach, form bonds, meet expectations, provide consistency and security, make memories together. We love our foster child as if she was our own biological child. But she isn't really ours. And one day, she might leave us. Because that's what foster means: "for a little while."

However, the healthy relationships and strong attachments she has made with us during this formative time in her life will continue to serve her well as she grows and matures. BECAUSE we have given her a safe, stable, loving place to learn, grow, and explore, she will be able to attach in healthy ways, and even thrive, when she moves on to her forever home.

THAT is why we do what we do. For the children. Not for ourselves (because my heart will break when she leaves!), but for them. Because they deserve love. EVERY child deserves a family.


**Sometimes, kids who move around a lot or who don't have consistent people in their lives have attachment disorders. This is a very real and difficult disorder to live with. I don't have personal experience (yet), but I know some parents that do. To learn more, you can watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ypmGTGGN7A

Monday, April 20, 2015

sin and death

We were talking about a famous person in history who had died, and my 4year old busted out with "I know why people die, Momy. Its because we all sin."
Whoa, buddy. That is too deep for a Monday morning.

PS We can thank Awana Cubbies for instilling this concept into my preschooler. Nevertheless, it did tie in nicely with our family Bible devotional study, which was about Romans chapter 7.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

women's retreat

This weekend was a first for me:
I went away. On a women's retreat. Without any kids.
I'd never been away from the kids for more than one night.
And that was 3 or 4 years ago, so I don't even know if it counts.
Plus they were with Grandma that night, so they didn't really notice if I was gone.

Mike took an extra day off work, and I drove to Asheville with some other ladies from church. (I call them "OWLs": older, wiser ladies.) We stayed in cabins outfitted with rows of bunkbeds, reminding me of all those summers at camp when I was growing up. I didn't remember the mattress being so uncomfortably thin though. The mountain air seemed fresher. The hills didn't bother me at all. I've missed summers at camp. Ever year at the end of May I get a little nostalgic... Maybe when my kids are old enough to go away to summer camp, I can help out for a few days somewhere. I'd really like that.

Anyway, we had a great time, encouraging each other, doing trust activities, devotionals, writing stories, and basketweaving. Yes, I said basketweaving. The lady who taught us was certainly a character I won't soon forget. I also got some quiet time alone to hike around the property. It was nice to get some exercise, have quiet, and relax for a few dayss. I loved having someone else cook all the food. 

And the kids didn't seem to miss me at all. They had fun with their Dad. He does things with them that I don't do, like letting them buy candy in the grocery store check-out aisle. Or feeding them dessert after every meal. Or reading way more bedtime stories than I would have the patience for. I know that they were fed and dressed and happy, and mostly all clean, when I got back. The house wasn't clean, but at least the kids were smiling.

It's good to be home.