I’ve been a bit cautious about getting into whats been going on with us related to foster care, mostly because we’ve been a bit unclear about what God was really wanting us to do. As many of you know, Rebecca and I have struggled over the years to conceive. As a result, we pursued international adoption from Ukraine a few years ago. The adoption fell through at the last minute and then something amazing happened…
Someone we love dearly found herself pregnant and too young to become a mother. One thing lead to another and we walked with her through her pregnancy and ultimately adopted Eli after he was born. God has used the Eli miracle to teach us more about the way God loves us and loves children than any other experience in our lives by far.
Rebecca and I want more kids, so naturally a couple years ago we began thinking about what that might look like. We began the process of adopting from Rwanda in 2010. As time moved on, we felt unsettled about it and ultimately decided to pull out. A month later, Rwanda closed for adoption.
Once we moved to CA in December, we began talking and praying again about how we should go about growing our family. Some friends invited us to their church in Feb and it just so happened to be the week they were highlighting the idea of foster parenting and adopting through foster care. The service compelled us to come back for a “foster parent 101” class they were hosting at the church. From there, we decided to attend the orientation class with our county. Still feeling like we were on the right track, we decided to sign up for the actual training classes so we could get licensed as a foster family in our county. Throughout May, we attended classes twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the evenings.
The classes were challenging to be honest. The material wasn’t complicated or difficult, it was just heavy. Coming into it, I felt like it was a good thing to adopt children that would otherwise be left inside the system. It made me feel good about myself to enjoy that Rebecca and I were planning to adopt “foster kids”.
As the curriculum started unfolding in the class, I was quickly convicted about my motivations. The reality is, we want more kids of our own. One approach would be for us to become an “adoption only” family, meaning we would only be open to take children whose parents had completely lost their parental rights so that there would be very little risk of the children being removed from our home after they came to be a part of our family. In the first inning, this seemed to me like the thing that was most consistent with our plans for our family. Instead of adopting internationally, or by marketing ourselves to pregnant women through adoption agencies, we could adopt these kids that were right in our midst that desperately needed new families to call their own.
The instructor explained both “adoption only” and also “concurrent planning” options for those of us in the class. I had never heard of concurrent planning before. Essentially, it means that we would have kids placed with us that may or may not be with us permanently, and we are charged with loving them as our own while at the same time, diligently and sincerely working with the system and the birth family to reunify the child with their family if that is the plan set fourth by the court. If the parents fail to step up to the plate and complete the things that the judge asks them to do, parental rights could be terminated and the child would need a permanent home and preferably an adoptive, permanent home. To participate earnestly as a concurrent planning parent, we would need to be ready to fill the needed gap, regardless of the likelihood of permanency. As foster parents, we do have the right to decline when social workers call with children that need placement but we are quickly finding that it’s much easier said than done. It’s easy to have preferences and opinions before you start getting the calls but it becomes very real when you are left to decide whether you will step up and be a critical part of the solution for a child…or not. The reality is, there are very few situations that a worker will call with that don’t include both risk, and pain…it’s just the nature of it. Another reality is, a worker will never call with a situation that doesn’t offer a guaranteed opportunity to do something with your life that will work to change the coarse of another human beings life…that’s the super duper great news in all of this! I had no idea what it would feel like to love people in this way. I think we all spend a fair amount of time daydreaming about doing “great” things with our lives. I’m not bragging, I’m simply stating the fact that we have been fortunate enough to find an environment that helps us do just that…live life on purpose.
I sincerely wish I would have written more as things have developed because there is so very much to share that is sure to encourage you and bless you.
There are about 4 different placement stories that have begun forming already, and we just got our license last Tuesday!
So we were made aware that our names were on the list as of last Tuesday afternoon. Friday morning Rebecca got a call from a placement worker to discuss a possible placement. A 21 month old boy was taken into CPS custody at midnight on Thursday and was at the assessment center waiting to be placed with a foster family. The worker told Rebecca that he seemed healthy and very kind. Her only concern was that he appeared to be at least somewhat deaf after performing some very basic tests. The worker also indicated that the grandma loved the boy very much and was on her way up from San Diego to work it out to bring him home with her. There is a process involved and it usually doesn’t move at light speed so it seemed like he would be with us for at least a few weeks, not to mention the possibility that grandma wouldn’t qualify as a suitable guardian for one reason or another.
Rebecca took good notes and then told the worker she needed to speak with me 1st and that she would call right back. The worker said she would have to call other foster families if Rebecca wasn’t able to make the decision then and there. Rebecca insisted that we are in this together and that we will always need to speak with one another before taking a placement. The worker calmed down and admitted that she wished more foster families did it as a team. She told Rebecca she was going to get a sandwich and that she had better have a message on her machine when she returned. Rebecca agreed and called me right away. She told me what she new and then there was pregnant pause. We were both waiting for the others gut reaction…
Finally I asked if she had any preliminary thoughts or anxieties. Her only minor anxiety resided in the fact that if we agreed to take one child, then our hope of getting a large sibling group would have to go on hold for an unknown amount of time. She asked me the same question and I knew exactly what my fear was…raising a deaf child. I don’t speak the language and frankly the idea of not being able to use actual words to communicate in light of my affinity for using words, scared me in a superficial, selfish sort of way. I blurted it out and Rebecca was gracious with my worry even though I could tell she didn’t think it was a good enough reason to pass on the placement. We talked it all the way through and finally decided that we were not going to set the precedent of passing, each time a situation didn’t fit “our” version of what things were supposed to look like.
Rebecca told the worker we were in and 3 hours later me and Rebecca and Eli walked into the assessment center to pick up the little boy.
Eli has been beside himself daydreaming about his new brothers and sisters:) We’ve got the 3rd bedroom all fixed up for two more kids and Eli is aware that we could even get three and he would “get” to share is room. Having the rooms ready for the past several weeks has been a good way for Rebecca and I to talk to Eli about what’s going on. He’s been amazing about it. Not a bone in his body is concerned about loosing face time with us, he’s ready to love kids in need as his own as well. I well up as I consider how much I love Eli and his kind heart. I didn’t know they made hearts like his…but they do, and I get to care for it and love it and guide it…lucky me:)
We walked in and they were waiting for us. Several people came towards us at once, the clerk, the nurse, a lady carrying the little boy, a clinician. It wasn’t at all what I expected. Everyone was extremely nice and obviously concerned for the boy. We greeted the little guy and then I introduced he and Eli. They were both a bit shy for a minute…one minute, then they found a common interest in a train table and the rest was history. The two of them played while Rebecca and I got the scoop from all of the stakeholders involved. The general consensus was that he was healthy and kind…and seemingly hearing impaired. He wasn’t responding to people and he had a dazed look in his eyes. The nurse told us that kids sometimes just shut down as a result of the trauma that comes from being removed from their home. She said it was very possible that he would come back around in short order but she wanted us to get him in for real testing asap. We finished up and left the center with the little guy about 20 minutes after arriving, I was amazed by the efficiency of the whole thing.
We buckled the kids into their seats, spent a moment praying for wisdom then headed home to start learning to love this awesome little person.
Workers where calling us left and right giving us information as it became available. Our worker told us that grandma was very worried and would like to call daily to see how he’s doing. We agreed and also got her number so we could reach out to her with updates to try and help ease her mind. We spoke with her the first time that very afternoon and she was warm and thankful. As I was speaking with her, I, for the first time began understanding more about the scope of this undertaking. We talked about it in the classes but for real, my heart absolutely broke as I spoke with this woman that loves the little guy more than anything else in the world as she tries to find peace in the fact that a couple strangers are going to be taking care of him for the next who knows how long. Rebecca and I quickly committed to working diligently to give grandma as much peace of mind as possible. I encouraged her daily by phone and email and also sent pictures of him doing happy things.
Little man made it clear very quickly that he could hear just fine. As soon as he and Eli got home and started farting around, he began relaxing and realizing that he was safe. For the next four days, our 3 year old loved little man like they were blood brothers.
On Tuesday morning, I went to a TDM (team decision meeting). It’s an environment where all the stakeholders come together and seek to build a plan that best serves the child. Around the table sat me, grandma, little man’s worker, the clinician, a court appointed worker, the parents worker, and a meeting facillitator. An hour later, we collectively and unanimously agreed that the best plan was to get little man heading home with Grandma asap.
The court worker was grumpy at first and it caused me to wonder who’s team she was actually on. What I later realized is that she wasn’t grumpy at all, she was simply stirring about how best to proceed. Grandma is truly a wonderful woman, both on paper and in person. In light of this, the court worker wanted to approach the Judge and ask that he “bend” a couple rules in order for her to take little man home immediately and let the system / paperwork catch up with the decision. Grandma was a Fremont Police officer for many years and also a child advocate volunteer with the county. The court worker presented these facts and the judge was gracious and allowed little man to go home with her that very afternoon. Rebecca and I where so encouraged to see the system act so swiftly with such a “human” response to what was best for little man. Grandma and I had a chance to grab lunch after the TDM. We shared with one another and talked about important things. Grandma is a friend of ours now…for real. We have shared an incredibly intimate situation together and from it came a certain “kinship”.
We are really thankful to have been able to care for little man and grandma in this way for our first placement. It taught us a valuable lessen early on about the scope of poster parenting. It’s truly about far more than loving children in need, it’s about loving entire families in need. It’s about leaving our own plans behind and seeking after the lives God really wants for us. It’s about living the very Gospel that has rescued us out for people that come into our lives.
This post is long and heavy but I hope it leaves you encouraged about the way God uses people in practical ways to love the world, even dorks like us!