December 6

I know, I said I’d keep this up so you could follow along. And then I just left it hanging. The thing is, when you have a newborn and a 3 year old it’s hard to write. And then we got thrown a few curve-ball, as it goes with Foster Care. I’ll get to what’s happened and what I’ve learned about the whole process and system, eventually. But let’s go back to December 6 – the day we prepped for a newborn baby to join our family in less than 4 hours.

Even though we were open for placement at end of June, we didn’t get a placement until December. We had been told that once it happened, it would probably happen fast, and fast is really an understatement. This really took such a long time because our age range was smaller and we were Foster-to-Adopt, instead of straight Foster.

At first, every time my phone rang I would jump. Eventually, we just went on life as normal. But on December 6th, I was coming out a meeting at work and got a call from Depelchin. I ducked into a room and took it – there was a newborn baby girl who was being discharged that day and needed somewhere to go.

The way it works is that we were given a few minutes to “discuss” it and then call back with whether or not we were interested*. Of course we were – we had been waiting for months! From there, our file got submitted to the court and we waited to see if we would be chosen.

So while I waited I just went back to work. I luckily work with a great group of women, so we were all just talking about how exciting it was and going through what I might need. Since we were open from 0-2 I had general things like a crib but no formula, bottles, clothes, etc.

At just before 3PM I got a phone call that we had been chosen – could we be at the hospital around 5:30 to pick the baby up? The answer was of course and then everything was a whirlwind. Gabe went to pick up O from daycare, and I went home. We sent out the batsignal and my Mother In Law was on her way to our house, and my sister would head to Target to pick up some things for the baby before coming over.

Once I got home I ran around trying to figure out what things I might need – I got the bassinet out of the attic, and got a car seat ready. At a certain point I remember looking around and realizing there really wasn’t much else to get ready, because I didn’t have much. I got a call around 4:30 that said CPS actually wanted to bring the baby to our house, so they could look around and take some photos.

In a way, this was good because we had slightly more time to get things ready. But then we also wanted to clean and make sure everything would be up to CPS standards. My Sister In Law also graciously sent us a couple of pizzas. This, by the way, is a great idea for Foster families with a new placement (or anyone going home with a baby, tbh).

Eventually a car pulled up and there was a huge flurry of activity. It was an Amazon Prime 4 hour delivery. My coworkers had sent us a delivery of formula and bottle and PJs. I think we sort of freaked the delivery driver out, but we needed those essentials and ended up using them that night! It also really put into perspective what babies need.

Around 7:30 the CPS worker got there with Baby Girl A. She brought this beautiful, tiny, baby inside, had us sign a lot of paperwork**, took some pictures of the house and then she left.

Somehow the ~4 hours we had to prepare seemed like both the shortest time ever and also the longest few hours. In the days that followed we had so many friends and neighbors bring gifts, hand-me-down clothes or baby items, food and caffeine. We feel so lucky to have that village to help us out. And seriously, thank goodness for 4 hour Amazon Delivery.

 

*Some people have asked about why someone might need to discuss it. For Foster to Adopt homes you may want to assess the level of “risk”, or you may want to make sure the child sounds like the right fit. Of course, some people may not really need that time at all. It really is only a few minutes to decide. If you wait too long, the court will work to place them somewhere else
**The paper work includes the official paperwork saying we are her foster home, medical consentor paperwork, visitation paperwork, any follow up appointments, and medical release paperwork.
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How To Help Kids In Foster Care

Since we’ve started our journey, I know a lot of people have expressed interest in either Fostering or straight Adoption. And while they all mean well, what I really want to say is – you can help! You might not be ready to take the full dive, but there are plenty of ways to help.

 

Volunteer 

There are actually a ton of ways you can volunteer that could help. You could become a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or most organizations that help find foster families have volunteer opportunities.  The state can also help connect you with a way to volunteer.

Donate

There a few things you could do if you have a group of people who want to help. Donate to or volunteer with a Rainbow Room.

A Rainbow Room is an emergency resource center available to CPS caseworkers to help them meet the critical needs of abused and neglected children.  It consists of a store-like setting that allows Child Protective Services workers to go “shopping” for the children and families on their caseloads.

They accept only new items, so this might be a good option if you want to do a group effort – host a drive for formula, diapers, school supplies or toys. Find your local Rainbow Room contact info here. A church near you might also have something called a “Moses Closet” which is similar in vein but geared toward Foster Parents.

You could also work on a project from Together We Rise like personalizing duffel bags or creating birthday care packages or pull together a school supply drive. You can also donate duffel bags or suitcases.

Advocate Politically 

Politics might seem like an unlikely item on the list, but realistically a lot of the time political policies affect every day life for people. This really directly impact children in foster care and families who are involved because technically they are wards of the state. The Texas Legislature only meets for 6 months every 2 years and here’s a list of all the bills that would have some affect on foster care or CPS.

So, if you want to help without leaving your house, look into what bills are being looked at. Advocate for positive change. And contact your state Senator or Representative and let them know that it’s so important these kids have the resources they need – then ask how they are helping.

Respite Care

There are qualifications to being able to watch a child in Foster Care, particularly overnight. So, if the parents want (or need!) to go out of town for a weekend without the kids, someone needs to watch them. You can go through the steps and be able to provide a much needed care when you are able.

Become A Foster Parent

I know, I tricked you because this list was supposed to be about all the other ways, but really – do it. At least go to an orientation. If you think you could do it “one day” or have “thought about” take it to the next step. There are likely a lot of misconceptions that you heard, and there are probably things that you didn’t realize were resources to help.

Other resources:

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Home Study : Approved

We got word yesterday that our Home Study has been approved, which means that we’re now ready to be open for placement! In a way this update is the last big thing we need to do in terms of set up, but really means the first step is done which is actually a little crazy since we’ve been at this since February.

Really, beyond that there is no update now. But I thought I would talk a little more about the Home Study. I tried to keep it really high level, partially because I want potential foster or adoptive parents to be able to read without being caught in my mess, but also partially because it’s just a little weird to talk about the real reason I was so worried about the Home Study.

But, a couple of weeks ago a friend shared a post she wrote about her relationship with her father, and how he refused to go to her wedding. I am not nearly as good with words, but I admired her being open and honest about it and appreciated hearing her story so much, because it resonated with me. So, for the sake of authenticity I want to talk more about something that I mentioned in this post as barely a line item – my mother.

Early on in our classes when they mentioned Home Study would talk about your family relationships, I panicked. I talked to our instructor briefly and he assured me though that they aren’t looking for perfect – in fact, perfect makes it hard to relate to kids who have felt abandonment. So when the time finally came, when I was sitting across from a Case Worker in the front room of our house, I had a lot of questions I had to answer.

I haven’t spoken to my mother in probably over 4 years now. But there was no clear break – I didn’t even have to tell her we were done, she knew. It came on a wave of my sister getting divorced. And honestly, there was no part about it that surprised me. We haven’t had a good relationship for literally the entire time I can remember. So I as answered questions about how she spoke to me when I was a child and how I knew what she was doing was wrong, I was reminded again by how much more peaceful my life is without her.

At the end of our interview, the Case Worker asked me what one thing I could change about my childhood. The answer was in my mind immediately, but I sat in silence for several minutes wondering if I was truthful if it work against me. But eventually I said it anyway – I wish she would have left me a lot sooner.

Even though letting go of the relationship was a welcome move, I have had moments when I’ve had to come to terms with things (Mother’s Day, when people ask me if my mom helps with the baby, etc) and this felt like one last big time. I don’t have to feel bad for someone else’s actions, and it’s absolutely okay to say my life is better without such an intense negative force in it.

Home Study: Part 2

We completed our second Home Study Saturday! It was the same case worker who did the first one. This time, she talked to us both as a couple and we went over things like

  • How we met and when we started dating
  • What we like about each other and what our strengths as a family are
  • Parenting – discipline methods, what our hopes for Oliver are, how we would manage two kids
  • How we planned to apply some of the things we learned in our classes – trauma informed care, preventing sexual assault, etc
  • Family Rules (we don’t have a lot of hard rules, but we did talk about teaching him to listen and not hit)
  • Religion
    • Even though we aren’t religious, they do ask if we are open to including religion in the child’s life if it’s important for them. This really is more for older children, but we did talk about it.
  • How we feel about ourselves as parents

We also went over what we’re open to in terms of a child but also as a licensed foster home. So this included what age, race, and abilities/disabilities we would be open to. Since we’re open to any race, we also talked about how we would make sure a child of another race might feel in our family. I’m glad they ask these questions, it is important to think about. The full list of what topics are included in a Home Study in Texas is on the DFPS website here.

We also have the crib and some other things set up in the nursery, so we were able to show that. It might not look like the most Pinterest- worthy nursery just yet, but it has a crib and a rocking chair and even some decorations on the walls.

From here, our Home Study will get typed up and reviewed by a committee. This could take 2-3 weeks, but once the committee approves us we should be licensed in a couple of days. Shortly after that, we will meet with the placement specialist at Depelchin to go over what would be a good match.

 

ALEX (4)

Home Study Recap: Part 1

We had our first Home Study this past Saturday. We will go through at least 2 Home Studies, and should only need another one if we need to clarify anything from those. Our second one is actually set for this coming Saturday, so we don’t have to wait for too long. This one was already almost a month after we were actually approved to go to Home Study.

This time around we each talked to the Case Worker separately, and then took her on a “tour” of the house and backyard. While Gabe and I each ended talking about more or less topics here’s what was covered:

  • Our entire life story. Basically, you start at childhood and talk about how you got to today.
  • Any childhood traumas. For me, this included a lot of questions about my parents divorce, what that was like, and how it was handled.
  • The names/location/occupation/personalities of each member of your immediate family.
  • Where we went to High School, College, etc.
  • All of the jobs we’ve held and how we feel about our current job.
  • Our physical/mental/emotional health (this actually was literally just the question “how is your emotional health?” so was easier than it sounds).
  • How our families handled talking about sex and how that impacts our parenting.
  • How close we are to our immediate family (how often do we see/talk to them).

While it was really in-depth, our Case Worker was very nice and so this felt a lot more like a conversation than an interrogation which was good. I’ve been really worried about this – since I’m estranged from my mother, I was worried this would be a red flag that I would struggle to explain but it turned out okay.

I actually found a guidelines for what the Home Study covers here. We went over some of it the night before, and it was helpful to have some idea of what to expect.

Next weeks Home Study will include interviewing us both together, and going over our budget. We also will take another look at the new baby’s room since we didn’t totally have the bed set up last time.

After that, our Home Study notes will all get typed up (this could take up to two weeks, it is our entire life story after all) and then sent to committee. The committee meets every Tuesday, and will either clear us for placement or come back with any questions.

Since we’re moving in to the final stretch (of the process to be placed, anyway) here’s a picture of Oliver and his Big Brother shirt.

Oliver Announcement