Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Falling in Love With Foster Care

One of our foster daughters. Falling in love with her was easy.
Photo by Heather Matthews Photography.

I remember the exact moment that I first fell in love with foster care. It was the same day that I met a foster family for the very first time, so I suppose you could say it was love at first sight. I was nearing junior high school when the Bryan family moved to town. They pulled up in front of our church in a 15 passenger van and I couldn't help but stare. They had four biological children, four adopted children, and a slew of foster children. And I thought that their family was beautiful, all different ages, different colors, different backgrounds coming together to form one family. My heart changed that day, and it has never been the same since.

The Bryan's had a biological daughter who was my age and we became fast friends. It wasn't long before I was spending as much time as I could at their house, loving on babies, helping to feed and bathe as much as I was allowed. I remember two of their little foster kids in particular, Travis and Ashley Valentine. I remember feeling sad that they didn't have a mommy or daddy to take care of them or tuck them in at night. And while the Bryan house was safe, loving, and warm, it was also quite busy with lots of little children who needed loving, and I remember wanting to run away with the Valentine kids. I begged and begged my parents to go through the necessary training to become foster parents. I promised them that if only they would get the license, then I would love and raise the children! Ha! Funny, but my parents always turned that plan down. So I just spent as much time with the Bryan's as I could, watching them and learning from them as they opened their home to care for and love others.

Fast forward to when Boss and I were first married. We talked long (okay, I talked and Boss listened) about what we wanted our family to look like. We both agreed that we didn't want average or ordinary. We knew we wanted our family to be used by God to help and serve others, in whatever form that took, and for the past (almost) seven years we were able to accomplish that through house parenting/therapeutic foster parenting teenage girls. But now we have started on a new journey. A journey, a dream, that began in my heart so many years ago when I first fell in love with foster care and has grown by leaps and bounds every single day since. And I seriously CANNOT wait to hold that first little one in my arms!

Upon leaving the children's home last May, we opted to still work with their agency through their off campus foster care program, mainly because it would be easier. We already had good working relationships with the employees there. My caseworker was (is) my friend. We wouldn't have to switch any of our files, or lose previously earned training hours, or get new fingerprints. We had a comfortable relationship with that agency and we really wanted to make it work, while knowing that it would be a long shot, as that particular agency is known in our area for serving teens with tough behaviors. And we were now interested in serving little ones. But my boss thought that if we put it out there, letting the surrounding county's know that we had a crib/bed open for a young child/toddler/infant, that perhaps a call would come in even though it wasn't the norm. So we decided to go for it.

We spent this past summer getting our new house in order, organizing bedrooms, completing all the necessary inspections. And then we anxiously began waiting for the call. Our call. But so far, it hasn't come. In the beginning, I felt like a woman who was nine months pregnant, just waiting for the moment when labor would spontaneously begin. Knowing that it could happen at any given moment, but having no control whatsoever on when that moment would come. Wondering every single day upon waking if today was going to be the day. I stared at my phone like a mad woman the entire first week that we were listed, constantly checking to see if I had missed a call. But the call never came, and life went on. And today we are still waiting. And the waiting is getting harder with each passing day, knowing there are little ones out there that need a safe, loving place to rest their sweet heads, while our spare bed/crib sits here empty. So I'm feeling quite strongly that we need to do something, anything, and we are currently looking into other agencies.

I have connected with another private agency in our area that is very reputable and tells me that they get handfuls of referrals daily. I have also looked into switching our license over to our county agency, but so far Boss and I have not made any final decisions. While we have been in the adoption/foster care world for going on seven years now, all of this is new to us, and frankly, it all feels a bit overwhelming. I am told the process of switching a license takes four to six weeks, so if we do decide to switch, it now looks like it will be October (at the very earliest) before we could possibly be listed to receive a call once again. And while I am starting to feel anxious and frustrated, wanting desperately to serve and love kids as soon as possible, I am positive that when we do get our first foster child (and we will), it will undoubtedly be worth the wait. Most good things in life usually are. I completely believe that God began working on my heart all those years ago when the Bryan's first came into my life, creating in me a deep love for children in the foster care system, and I completely believe that He will see us through this entire process until we are serving fully in the foster care world.

If you have any experience with foster care I would love to hear from you. Do you prefer private agencies over county? Pros and con's of both? How long did you have to wait for your first call? And if you have no experience with foster care, we would still covet your prayers. Our family prays daily for the little ones that will come our way, and we are hopeful that one day soon we will finally be able to pray for them by name.

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