In my blog post during National Foster Care Month, I wrote about our journey to foster care and experience through the initial pre-service training. Our family worked many hours throughout the summer to complete the necessary paperwork and interviews, and I am pleased to say, we were officially licensed in the beginning of August. That notice came with mixed emotions – excitement for the journey ahead, worry about what we were really getting ourselves into and wonder for how it all might play out. I cried when I shared the good news with our kiddos. They both expected we would take our first placement right away, but it doesn’t quite happen like that!
Within the first few days of being licensed, we took our first respite placement. Another foster family needed care for their foster son, and we opened our heart and home to him for a week. It was a great way to dip our toe in the waters of foster care, and we had lots of support from dear friends who had walked this path before us. We were fortunate enough to do respite for the same little boy over the Labor Day holiday, and we were granted permission to take him on our mini vacation to northern Michigan. He had never been on a car ride that long or far. My kids have been so blessed to travel many places in their short 11 and seven years, we take it for granted. It was neat for our family to experience so many firsts with him as he took in all the sights, sounds and feels of the sand dunes and Lake Michigan. I forgot what it was like to vacation with a two-year-old and his schedule forced us to slow down, in a good way, to truly rest and relax as we bid summer farewell. He was a great traveler, and we really enjoyed those few days with him.
Our crib didn’t remain empty long, and the week following our Michigan trip, we welcomed another two-year-old boy into our home for respite care. His placement was initially planned for two weeks, but because of a hurricane and other plans, his foster family returned early. He was a busy bee, and our home felt very quiet when he left.
If you’re keeping track like I was, several weeks had passed since our licensure, and we had yet to take our own foster placement. We kept getting calls, but we were not matched. Each time the phone would ring, my hopes would rise, only to fall again. Being matched with a placement is an interesting process. When a child comes into care through the county children’s services program, a referral is made to all private foster agencies. Every agency then looks at their families with open beds who may meet the requirements of the child or children and then contacts the family to see if they are interested in possible placement. The agency submits the family’s name to the county on their behalf, and the county ultimately chooses a foster family to place the child with, based on the best interest of the child. For some children, the county may have 20 homes to choose from. I felt like I was tied to my phone, and like we may never get a placement. My friends kept encouraging me our call would come, and it would be the perfect time and the perfect child or children.
Friday, September 29 I went to bed pretty late, but my ringer was on, like the many previous nights. At 1:30 a.m., the phone rang and woke me from a deep sleep. It was our agency, and the placement coordinator asked if we could obtain a second crib. There was a pair of sisters, both under the age of two, who needed to be placed immediately. We had access to another crib, but because it was the middle of the night, I wouldn’t be able to get it until the sun came up. A few minutes later, the phone rang again. She told me the county would approve a pack-and-play for the night if we could pick up the girls soon. We were finally getting our placement of not one, but two children!
I hopped out of bed, attempting to shake off the sleepies, and quickly got dressed, waking my husband to help me load the car seats into the car. By 2:30 a.m., I was on my way home from children’s services with the girls, and shortly after, they were tucked safely into bed. When my bio kids woke up Saturday morning, and I shared the news our family had doubled in kiddos overnight, no one could quite believe it. By late afternoon Saturday, we had all the essentials we needed for baby girl, thanks to an amazing community of friends. We spent the weekend adjusting and trying to establish a new routine.
However, by Tuesday evening, the girls were reunified with their mom, and while that’s always the goal of foster care, it felt like quite the whirlwind. Even though our first official placement was very short, as we wrapped our head and hearts around those few days, we knew we learned key lessons we’ll carry for future placements. Those first 48 hours are crucial in developing relationships, and as it goes with foster care, you have to be flexible, because the plans often change. Those girls will forever hold a special place in our hearts, and we pray for their family every day.
As my husband said as we left children’s services after the reunification, “Onto the next adventure!”
*We are not allowed to share a foster child’s name or face online.