Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Hurry up...and wait...

Waiting is my least favorite thing to do. I know it comes as no surprise that patience is not a virtue I was blessed with in abundance. I am not an expert at waiting, but I know in that I'm not alone. Waiting isn't fun; waiting is hard. But waiting in foster care is especially rough, and complicated and gives life to the cliché expression "all the feels". 

I expected the waiting in the beginning. I knew it would take a while to go to all the classes, fill out all the paperwork, get all our clearances etc. etc. etc. etc. But once we were finally certified I thought the wait was more or less over. All through our training we heard about the number of kids in the system, the shortage of foster parents, the great and immediate need. We've heard of people getting certified and getting kids the same day. We've heard of middle of the night calls, and emergency pick-ups. 

And yet, nearly two months after being certified, we have no kids. 

We have received calls. In fact, in the last month (we officially opened our home up to receive placements after our vacation in mid-July) we've received nine referral calls. Two of these were for respite care (like babysitting for foster parents where they get a break for a couple days) that we said yes to. Two calls ended up being canceled- they didn't have a need after all, or it was settled before we got details. Four calls we had to say no to. And two calls we accepted but were not chosen. 
Since becoming certified, we've gotten at least two calls a week, with our longest stretch between them being eight days. 

So some of it is outright waiting; periods of silence where we wonder if there's anything going on. And some of it is back-and-forth waiting; saying yes, saying no, waiting for details to be coordinated. 

In some ways waiting for a placement is just like waiting for a baby. After all, we got into this because we wanted to care for more kids. We wanted another little one (or two) to join our family- even if for a short time. So we're excited, and anxious, and ready for that little love to show up. It's like the last stages of pregnancy, when you've done everything you can to prepare and are now just looking forward to that hazy finish line, wondering when you'll finally arrive...

But on the other hand I hesitate to be too eager about it all, because in order for someone to join our family, it means another family is being ripped apart. Every time that agency number shows up on my caller ID, it means there's a kid somewhere in crisis. 

So for me, the waiting encompasses two different sides of a very messy story. I want a baby, a son, daughter, a child. I want to be useful, I want to help. And I also don't. I want to live in a world where foster care isn't necessary. Where moms and dads are equipped and supported to take care of their families well. Where there is no brokenness. Where trauma and abuse don't exist. Where my phone never rings, because there is no need. 

But I know that's not the reality. So we sit in limbo. We get up every morning thinking "maybe today's the day. Maybe today's the day where everything changes". It's a constant state of "anything can happen". We say yes to plans and commitments, with the thought of "unless we have a placement" running through the back of our heads. We have daycare on standby, knowing we might have to snatch up one of their open spots. We have a room prepared, bins of different supplies and clothes at the ready. 

When people ask us about our journey through foster care the conversation always includes the phrase "not yet..." and typically leads to me explaining how the system works. How it's not as simple as just taking in a kid who needs a home. It involves multiple agencies, the county, matching up profiles, available beds, certification specifics...all with the goal of providing the most appropriate care for specific kids, and the particular situation. 

I thought saying no would break my heart. But so far it's been mercifully clear whether we were able to take each placement. We've talked extensively about the circumstances that we're prepared to deal with, and when things fall outside of our comfort zone (an extremely open and relative term, as none of this is actually in anyone's comfort zone) we consider the situation and decide if it's something we feel will be able to do well. When we say no, I don't feel like I'm letting anyone down. I feel like I'm making way for somebody else's better yes. It's actually our yeses that have been a little harder. With both of the referrals we accepted, I felt nervous but confident in how we should respond. When we found out that they would be going to other homes, I was disappointed, and hit with how much I really wanted it to be us. But again, I trust that those kids ended up exactly where they needed to be right now. I hope and pray that the families that take them in are the best fit for what they need. 

So… We continue to wait. I have my phone nearby constantly checking the screen for the "bat signal"... the sign that someone's in trouble. My cue to swoop in. The call that will end the waiting and transform all of this maybe, all of the someday, into a reality. 

I'm ready for our "yes and…" But I'm also trying to soak up the lessons to be found in the "yes...and wait." 

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