On my way home from another court date, I realized that times have changed. At the beginning of the fostering process, friends and family waited with baited breath to know how court went. Now that our case is in the adoption department, they don’t generally ask how things are going, and because things really are going okay, I don’t talk about it much. . . but I still trek to court every few months, we still have two or three workers stop by our house each month, we still shuffle papers, plan medical appointments so we can get forms filled out, and take continuing education classes. . . Sometimes it feels like no big deal. We are coasting towards an adoption date. But sometimes, I am just in awe about how long the process takes. All for the pleasure of having someone wake me at five every morning and throw tantrums when his shorts don’t have pockets. I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, it would be nice if things went quicker, but our stinker makes it all worthwhile.
If I’ve learned anything in my three years as a foster parent, it’s that foster care looks different at every house. . . depending on which state you live in, which region within the state. . . even in the same region, it depends on who your caseworker is, who your judge is, and who your home development worker is. When I received an e-mail recently, informing me that I needed to schedule my tri-annual fingerprinting, I mentioned to a friend and fellow foster parent that I am pretty sure that DCFS staff make this stuff up as they go along. I’d never heard that I would need to do my fingerprints again – and seriously, they don’t change. Why can’t they just resubmit the scans from three years ago if they need an updated record? You know what? That friend (who lives in my area and is working out of the same office) hit the three year mark a few months ago and no one has asked her to do tri-annual fingerprinting. Sigh.
Since we’re introducing ourselves this time around for the linkup, let me tell you what foster parenting looks like in our house.
Foster parenting looks like a blog with no pictures because all of the pictures that I take these days have my little stinker in them. It also means a pretty much non-existent blog because the whole point of my blog, originally, was to post fun pictures that I’ve taken. It means ordering dresses off of Modcloth because I don’t have time to sew. And it means more Happy Meals than I’m okay with because shopping and cooking with a toddler running around after a day at work is still apparently beyond my skill set. In our house, foster parenting meant two very brief stints with some wonderful kids (each lasting less than a week) and then a hopefully never ending stretch with our little guy. By hopefully never ending I don’t mean to imply that I hope that he lives with us forever. I do hope that ONE DAY he gets a job and moves out on his own. He was practically a newborn when he moved in with us and is just about to celebrate his second birthday! Fortunately, in our house, foster parenting does not mean a lack of movement in his case. Things have progressed through TPR, and adoption is going to happen one day.
We are so fortunate to be past the bulk of the stress and sleepless nights. . . but foster care did mean LOTS of nighttime feedings, wondering if we were doing the hard part only for him to leave us the next week or the next month or the month after that. It meant distracting ourselves with visits to friends and loved ones before court dates. It meant early birthday parties because a court date was coming up, and what if reunification happened, and he didn’t get a first birthday party at all? It meant loving a child without reserve and wondering how we would cope if he went back to his other family, and feeling guilty because we are supposed to support reunification. Now it means sending texts to his other family, coordinating visits on our own because an open adoption is important to us.
When we first started thinking about fostering, I scoured the internet looking for blogs written by real people who were doing it, hoping that I could come to some understanding of what we were getting into. It’s easy to see now how very different the process is for everyone, but it is nice to connect to others who have some concept of what it means to foster or adopt. . . other people who might cringe and yell at the TV when Aunt Becky and Uncle Jesse so easily managed to adopt an adorable chubby baby on Fuller House. Sigh.
So, that’s our story. If you want to connect with others who are part of the adoption triad, and read their stories, the Adoption Talk Link Up is a great place to do that.
When you decide to become a foster parent, your life changes. That’s about the most blunt way to phrase it. . . There are some obvious ways that you expect it to change. . . you expect to have kids in and out of your house, you expect upheaval. . . during the application process, you come to understand that you will lose pretty much all sense of privacy. Seriously, one of the application questions involved listing all past romantic relationships and explaining why they ended. So, there’s an expectation of a loss of privacy. You know that you will have caseworkers and, hopefully, a CASA volunteer visiting your house on a regular basis. Sometimes there are other therapists traipsing in and out. What I didn’t realize when we started was exactly HOW much I would wish that I could see, just once, what the inside of our caseworker’s house looks like. She visits every month, and has been for the past year and a half. We don’t go insane cleaning every time, like we did at the beginning. But as she left this month, I looked around and wondered if she had a pile of clutter on her kitchen counter. . . or a mountainous stack of clean dishes in the drainboard. I’m not ashamed of how our house looks. I mean, we live there. When you only get a few hours notice, and you have to work all day, there’s not much that you could do anyway. . . but if I saw the piles of laundry on the floor near her washing machine or the leftover breakfast dishes in the sink, just once, I wouldn’t be nearly as self conscious about our clutter.