Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Our Journey to Fostering

Wow!  It has been 6 weeks since my last post.  That might have been the longest stretch of time I've gone between posts.  To say things have been crazy around here would be an understatement.

Around this time 5 years ago I met a little boy while working at a childcare center in Denver who was in foster care.  I shared a little of his story and my thoughts here.  Ever since then Hans and I have discussed becoming foster parents.  But about a month after this I found out I was pregnant again.  And then we moved to Illinois just 2 months after I gave birth to Anders.  Then we just spent the next couple of years getting settled.  Settled in a new state, settled in the congregation, settled in a new house, and settled as a family of 5.  We have an unbelievably amazing support system here.  Add that to our wonderfully supportive family and Hans and I started thinking about fostering again.  Then, when our good friends from Denver told us they were going through the process to become foster parents we just had to follow through.

I have learned many things going through this process.  In some ways I feel as though I have lived a lifetime in just a year.  The process to become a foster parent can be exhausting and not for the faint of heart.  One year after calling the Department of Child and Family Services of Illinois (DCFS) and inquiring about the program we received our license in the mail.  This is not typical.  So I'm told.  If you look at the DCFS website, it tells you the licensing process can take anywhere from 3-8 months. When I asked as to why the big range in time the licensing worker told me that they (state workers) do everything they can to push this through, but that the prospective foster parents can make the process longer by not getting their stuff done such as the classes, health exams, and application forms.  Well that was not going to be me.  I am efficient.  Okay, to be honest my blogging hasn't been getting done in a timely manner, but in this part of my life I am super efficient.  Once the agency we were sent to finally called us back and told us what they needed I had the application, fingerprinting, driving records, and all physicals, including the dog, done within 1 week.  The only thing left we had to do was the 27 hours of training and our home study.  I opted to get the training done as quickly as possible, so instead of one class every week for 9 weeks, I signed us up for an accelerated class that met twice a week for 5 weeks.  DURING ADVENT!  That's right people, I was determined.

We sat down and talked to our boys before we even started the classes.  We wanted to make sure they understood what was going on.  Two out of the three were very excited about idea of having more kids in our house.  Can you guess which one wasn't thrilled?   I knew he would come around. Gus just isn't a big fan of change.

Hans and I finished our classes before Christmas.  Then the waiting began.  Every day John would ask us when we were going to get kids.  He was anxious, we were all anxious.  We waited and waited and waited some more.  After several messages and emails left for our licensing worker we found out in May that the agency had lost all of our paperwork.  We were going to have to start over.  Needless to say, Hans and I were devastated.  We opted to go with another agency.  After submitting our application again and doing another home study we FINALLY got our license in the mail on Sept 6th.  The funny thing is that we already had a kid placed in our home two days prior!

Since getting our license we've had two kids placed with us, a 5 year old boy and then a 3 year old girl.  Neither one of them are with us anymore.  One moved on to another home, and one actually got to go home!  I have learned an enormous amount about DCFS and the system in the last 4 months.  I've worked with doctors, teachers and various school officials, lawyers, case workers, investigators, guardian ad litems, judges, and parents.  At the end of the day I'm still not sure how I feel about this whole program.  I've questioned whether we are part of the problem or part of the solution by fostering kids.  The system is, without a doubt, dysfunctional.  I do not know everything and I don't have all the answers.  For now, Hans and I will continue to foster because at the end of the day scared children are being pulled from their homes.  From everything they know and love.  Whether the reasons for being removed are just or unjust, there is still a child who needs a safe, loving place to go, just as that child needs a person outspoken enough to stand up with, or in some cases against, the doctors, school officials, lawyers, case workers and judges.  My three boys have taught me how to deal with irrational people very well.

All three boys are now on board with the whole fostering thing.  And now, as we wait for another call, all three ask me every day when we will get another kid. 

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