Thursday, June 29, 2017

Ready for the ruckus...

On Monday we got a call that we've been waiting on for a long time...

We are certified foster parents!

We began this process back in September, taking classes and getting started on the (copious amount of) paperwork. We weren't able to get all the classes done in the first session (it was every Saturday for a few months) and there was a big break for the holidays, so the whole process dragged on a bit. We completed our homestudy back in March, completed our paperwork and from there we were told it was just a matter of the state approving it.

Well...we ran into some bureaucratic hiccups, that resulted in more paperwork, repeat fingerprints, some backup references, even more paperwork, and another interview to approve us as a "large family" (because our certification could enable us to have 5+ kids total).

So we jumped through the hoops- again, some more- somewhat impatiently, finally finishing everything up (we thought/hoped/prayed) last Friday. And then we waited...and were surprised to hear back from our agency the next (business) day- we were approved. We were certified. This whole thing is real, and finished...but also...about to start.
The clock. A visible metaphor...

This whole process is hard for about a million reasons (and we haven't even started the hard part) but the thing I struggle with most is that it doesn't feel real. During the training phase, it's all really theoretical. You know that at the end of this there is a kid (or kids, or a baby...or babies) but you don't know really anything else. There's no official timeline, there are no guarantees, there's no way to prep for a certain scenario because genuinely almost anything could happen. It's all very abstract. And for a planner/prepper like myself, that's tough. I can fill out forms all day, but printing multiple copies of my birth certificate doesn't exactly get me hyped. I wanted something to latch onto, to get excited about, to get ready for...

So, I planned a room.
I found the fun stuff, the stuff I can control, and poured my heart and energy there.

I joke that if having babies was all nursery-decorating and name choosing, I would have a MILLION babies. It's honestly just the most fun. I love to design a room, but with my kiddos it's about so much more than that. It's about making a space just for them. It's dreaming in 3 dimensions...imagining what they'll enjoy, what you'll do together, who they'll become...

So as we did the nitty-gritty work on the logistical side, and started wading into the heart-stretching work on the spiritual side, I got my hands dirty on the design side. (and, as always, made Dustin get his hands dirty too...we're in this together, after all, and mama needed some carpentry done!)

I won't bore you with every single detail of the room, buuuuuuuuuuuuuut...

I really do love how it turned out. There isn't really an exact theme, but it all has a bit of a mid-century vintage vibe, with a little bit of school-book stuff worked in there. Mix of primary colors + neutrals + gold. And really just anything I fall in love with.

One of my absolute favorite things is the very first thing I got for our future foster babe...An original poetry piece by my friend Amy Turn Sharp. Over two years ago...even before I had Miller...I saw one of her "basically it's like this" poems and knew I had to have it. The text says:

Basically it's like this
 I wish you would show up unannounced and cause a ruckus. 

That just spoke to me...Because that's what kids do. However planned, however anticipated, there is always a bit of wildness to their arrival, and they cause a ruckus in your heart, in the best and hardest ways. When I fell in love with those words, I didn't know that we would foster one day. And even now, I know I only barely grasp how true these words could prove to be as we open the literal and figurative door for our lives to be turned upside-down.

So as soon as we started down this wild path, I asked her to make a custom piece for me, using a page from an old Dick and Jane book. I've had it framed for months now...ready...waiting...just like we are...

(And in a funny little circular story...I bought the art from Amy to help fund her attendance at a creative conference, and Amy bought the queen bed we needed to sell to make room for the crib in this room. I love having tangible reminders and little hidden backstories worked into this space that remind me this whole thing is so much bigger than me...We're all inter-connected, and a part of a journey together). 

As much fun as redecorating if for me, I didn't want to (/couldn't) spend a ton of money on a bunch of new things, so we made it work almost entirely with pieces we already owned. (You'll recognize a lot from when this space was set up as a guest room, and a few things from Piper's nursery). The biggest purchase was a new (vintage) dresser, that I fell in love with online...and then fell in LOVE with after Dustin redid.

We were about two seconds away from painting it and I panicked, feeling like we owed it to the dresser to try refinishing it first. And I'm so thankful we did (ok...Dustin did all of it. But "we" were a part of the vision, which is basically 90% of any project). It's seriously stunning...and I haven't even gotten the thrill of filling it with teeny tiny clothes yet, so I know I'll fall even more in love with it.

He also made a desk to fill that awkward "nook", and created the prettiest striped-wood shelves to display my treasures. He's a good daddy (and husband, and woodworker, and human), that guy.

(One more quick backstory...we bought a "new" crib on craigslist...we already had one for the room, but we had to have two available in order to be certified for two kiddos. And when Dustin went to get it, he found out the people selling it were running a resale business to raise money for their adoption. I mean...does it get better than that?)

The rest of the room came together pretty easily, as we just rearranged, and swapped stuff, and swapped again, and rearranged again. Even after the main pieces were in place, I kept futzing...changing artwork, adding knick-knacks...But the foundation is there...ready for this "someday" to become "now"...

So speaking of now...what you're really here for, and wondering...

What now?

Well. We're certified. Which means we're legally allowed to take in foster placements. We get the same questions every time we talk about it, and they go a little something like this: 
How does it work? When will you get a kid? How old will they be? How many can you take? Where will they go during the day? Are you going to adopt them? What if you have to give them back? 
As you can imagine, the answers to some of these questions are simpler than others. But here's the gist: 

We're certified through a private agency. When the county (technically any county surrounding Central Ohio, but most likely will be Franklin) has to remove a child from a home, they call all the agencies in the area (there are many) and give the details they have to determine what homes might be available and a good fit. (depending on the circumstance they might know a lot about the child, or nearly nothing. They might have some advance notice that they're going to need a placement, or it can be a sudden emergency. The answer to most questions in foster care is: it varies.) Then each agency calls their families that have space, and meet the criteria for the particular case (open to that age/number of kids, particular need etc.). If they call us, we can accept or decline. If we accept, our agency goes back to the county with our do all of the other agencies. Then the county chooses what they believe to be the best match. 

So- to boil it down- for us to receive a placement- we'd have to be contacted, say yes, and then be chosen. 

And even then, it could fall through, if the situation changes, family members are located, etc. etc. Again...we're already learning that this whole thing is a little....fluid

As a part of our paperwork, we were asked hundreds (seriously) of questions about the types of children we felt equipped to care for. This covered everything from age, to race, to behavioral information, to legal circumstances. 

Legally, we are certified for 1-2 kids, ages 0-5. We went with 2 so that we could take in sibling sets if needed. So we could be called about a newborn, or a preschooler...we just don't know. The plan is for any of our future kiddos to attend the same daycare/school our current kids do. That's obviously a little tricky logistically, so that may be one of the biggest hurdles in this whole thing (besides, you know...just everything which still feels a little/lot daunting). So if/when we get a call we'll have to evaluate if it's a good fit for our family at that time...and make our decision from there. That may mean we get a placement immediately, we may say yes (repeatedly) and not get selected, and we may have to wait, for our own reasons, or for others.
It's a whole lot of...we'll see...

The goal of foster care is first and foremost family reunification. It is designed to hopefully allow families the opportunity for healing, learning and development to allow them to create a safe and healthy environment to have their kids back in their home.

So we are prepared to love these kids...and also let them go. That's the way the system is designed, even if I worry that my heart might not be. It's our goal (and our fervent prayer, because we're going to need that...) to be supportive of the reunification process whenever possible, loving not only the child, but the whole biological family in any way we're called to and able.

But of course reunification isn't always possible, and in those circumstances, the case would likely transition to adoption. Our certification is for foster-to-adopt, meaning that if we had a child placed with us who became available for adoption, then we would be able to pursue that if we chose (no guarantees that they'd stay with us, but it's at least an option/possibility).

There are a thousand other FAQs...either that we are asked, or that we are constantly asking...And most of those get a lot tougher. Those are the ones that start out like:
Can they...How will you...What about...But what if...
And that is the messier, heart wrenching part of all of it because the answer to almost all of those is some variation of "I don't know." And sometimes the answer is just, "No one knows."

This is where the "ruckus" comes in. We're stepping out into the unknown. We have more questions than answers, more fears than facts, more doubts than...well, anything else. I don't know what this is going to look like...I honestly still don't know if this is going to look like anything. But I desperately hope it does. I hope that someone shows up, unannounced, and changes everything for us. I hope for my heart to be expanded, I want my faith to be tested, I need my perspective to be upended.

I want that ruckus to shake up my safe and comfortable life, and teach me how to give more, pray more, love more...than I ever thought I could. And that is a terrifying thing to want...because what if it happens?

On Monday, we got a call that we were certified. And on Tuesday, we got a call to see if we could take a child over the weekend (to help out another foster family). They ended up figuring out a solve for that situation before we even needed to consider it, but that was a reminder for me. At any moment, while I'm doing...whatever I'm doing...there are kids all around this city- families all around this world- going through crisis. One phone call like that may change everything for us...and for them.

We're ready...

Vintage: Suitcases, rollerskates, clock, scarves, blocks, dresser
Goodwill: Flash cards (in frame), desk chair, painting
Handmade/gifts: Poetry art, shelves, desk, quilt, crib skirt
Urban Outfitters: Rug, white frames, crib sheet
Target: Lamp, grey felt bins, drawer pulls, whale dish
Michael's: Faux wood frames
Ikea: storage bench
Homegoods: Curtains

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1 comment :

  1. Courtney, I am so proud of you for stepping out in faith in such a BIG WAY with all your heart and am excited for you and what is to come!

    Mike and I are starting classes on July 10 through the Bair Foundation, which focuses on Christian foster parenting and fostering to adopt. We are strongly feeling called to share the amazing love we have for our girls and each other.

    Keep going! Many blessings to you on the journey ahead!

    Lisa Kirk