Friday, July 24, 2015

Foster Update

I have plenty to say, many thoughts to share, advice to give, but at the end of the day, there's so much going on I don't have the time to write it down. I used to journal daily and I love going back and reading my thoughts. So here I am, summer breaking, and I thought I'd give it a go again.

John and I have plenty of things going on in our lives! We were officially certified as foster parents in November and we got our first placement call right after my birthday weekend.  Our social worker called us about a 6 year old boy that I will lovingly call Kid 1. Kid 1 was the youngest of 3 boys pulled from their home in the LA area. He was with us for 6 weeks. And, MAN, were those 6 weeks tough! He was dealing with his world being flipped turned upside, major anger issues, missing his mom and brothers, and he didn't know how to handle it. We loved him, set boundaries, created very specific house rules, gave him obtainable goals (with rewards), strict consequences, and tried to be as consistent as possible. He, like many other foster kids dealing with trauma, constantly peed his pants. Every. Single. Day And night. Sometimes, several times a day. Our entire house smelled of urine and it was driving us crazy! So we busted out the sticker chart and tried to re-potty train him. But surprisingly, if you were to meet him, you'd never think he had potty issues. You'd think "Man, this kid talks and walks like he's a grown man." He grew up too quickly with 2 teenage brothers and was so confident, outgoing, and street smart. But with us, he wanted to just watch cartoons, cuddle (with me), read Pete the Cat, and was terrified by the tiniest things! Especially Chuck E. Cheese. Man, he hated that mouse. He taught us so much about grace, patience, and loving unconditionally. And I don't think I've ever prayed that hard in my life! I was so emotionally drained, and his behavior so unpredictable, John and I just prayed that we would survive one day at a time. Looking back on that time now I can confidently say that that was the hardest 6 weeks of my life. After he left, I decided that we shouldn't take another placement for a while. I thought we needed several months to recuperate, but that changed a few weeks later.

In January, we got a call for Kid 2. A sweet 4 year old that was removed from her home where she lived with her mother, and mother's boyfriend. She, like Kid 1, was dropped off at night, and walked right into our house like she owned the placed. She was curious, opinionated, very verbal, and super sassy! Surprisingly, she attached to me pretty quickly so everyday was filled with hugs, kisses, and tons of snuggle sessions. Like Kid 1, the trauma of being put in a stranger's home may have been too much to handle.  Kid 2 peed and pooped in her pants almost everyday. Potty training all over again! But with her, she was very embarrassed and apologetic. She would always ask us, "Are you mad at me when I pee my pants?" In my head I'm screaming "YES! WE RAN THE WASH A GAZILLION TIMES." -  but then I'd realize that's what we signed up for. We signed up to lovingly serve these kids and point to Christ in everything we do.  Washing clothes several times a day isn't the end of the world. We loved her and served her the best we could and 4 weeks after moving in with us, she went to live with her aunt.  The night before she left, she cried because she was going to miss us. She sobbed in her bed and asked us again and again why she had to move. The following day, I made sure not to cry in front of her, but as she drove off I sobbed like a baby. It was so hard saying goodbye to her I told John, "I can't do this anymore!" We told our social worker we weren't ready for another placement and took time to grieve.

We didn't agree to another placement for 2 months or so. In May, we got a call for 2 girls, sisters ages 7 and 3. Kid 3 and Kid 4. Their youngest sister was placed in a different home. These 2 girls were the sweetest, most well behaved girls! Having these two girls was easier than one Kid 1 or one Kid 2! They bickered like sisters do, but they also loved like sisters do! Like Kid 2, they attached to me pretty quickly and wanted to cuddle all the time. They missed their mommy but they knew that John and I were here to take care of them for a while. I was told that these girls would maybe with us for longer than our other placements, maybe even up to a year. So I mentally began to prepare myself for a year with 2 girls. Well, if I learned anything in the past few months, is that you have to be flexible because everything is so unpredictable when fostering kids. John's favorite thing to say is, "The only thing that is predictable about the foster care system, is that it is unpredictable." Three weeks into their stay, Kid 3 went for what I thought was just a routine court hearing. Court transportation usually calls around drop off time to confirm drop off location, but oddly I never received a call for drop off that day. After placing a few calls, I find out that their cousin was granted custody that very day, and Kid 3 was released straight from court to her family members. By this time I'm crying tears of frustration, trying to explain to Johnny that we have to pick up Kid 4 from preschool, pack up all their belongings, and meet the family in a parking lot to say bye. At that moment I felt so unappreciated by the courts. We loved these girls. We fed them, bathed them, hugged them, prayed with them, held them as they cried for their mom. Yet, you don't even allow us a chance to pack up their personal belongings together or have time to say a proper good bye? I cried so much that day, and as usual told John, "I can't do this anymore!"

Well, here we are in July and we have our 4th placement.  But this placement is super special! We have Kid 2 back in our home! Her aunt was unable to care for her for 2 months while mom gets her life together, so she's back with us. She has matured so much over the past 5 months and we aren't dealing with some of the behaviors and potty issues we had the first time around. She is still super sassy and opinionated, but tries her best to be obedient. We are hoping and praying that at the August court day she will be reunified with mom!

So that's it! That is our foster story up to now. In the future, I hope to write about our experiences and  some advice for soon to be foster parents on topics like what to expect on the first night, or how to handle visitations with bio family, or how we handle meal time. Hopefully it can help soon to be foster families or inspire someone to become a foster parent!

Speaking of which, if you are interested in becoming a foster parent, you can go straight through LA county. Or use an agency like us! We work with Koinonia Family Services, and they have branches all over California.

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