This is not to say "the thing that is next to or second to the best thing, the lesser-good thing." This is to mean "the thing that is next for us, which is the best thing."
I decided to save the biggest news of the month for the last blog of the month, now that -hopefully- I have more readers.
Several months ago, nine months to be exact, God planted a seed in my heart. My emotions were boiling at the latest story of child neglect and abuse. All I wanted to do was go rescue those children and get them away from crazy parents who could not grasp what a precious gift they are. I yelled at the TV, "Don't put your baby in the microwave or throw it off a bridge, just give it to me!"
I felt a nudge that maybe I could actually do something to help, googled foster care in my county and made a phone call. Turns out they were having an information meeting that very night. John was all in. We ditched our dinner plans with some very understanding friends and made our way over to the Fairfax County Gov't Center, where, with about 40 other prospective foster and adoptive parents, we heard enough to make us sign up for the training.
In January and February, we attended 27 hours of training, then started on all the paperwork necessary for the county to do our home study and approve us for foster care and adoption. In our county, it's the same process, which makes alot of sense and saves the county and parents time and money. We've had alot going on this year, so it took us longer than it should have to get everything turned in, but we finally did.
Last Monday, we went in and signed papers making us officially ready to accept a placement.
Here are the most common questions we have received so far:
Q: What ages did you ask for?
A: We said we were open to infant to 7 years old. The age ranges they're seeing the most of right now are 0-4 and 12-16.
Q: When are you going to get a placement?
A: We don't know. They initially said it could be several months until a child that matched our abilities/openness would need placement. They also said there are alot of medically fragile babies in the system right now who need a stay-at-home parent, which I am - mostly.
Q: Will you get the chance to adopt the children placed with you?
A: Maybe. The county's first priority for any child in the system is permanence, and they look to place them with immediate or extended family before placing them into foster care. If they do need to be in foster care, the county will try to rehabilitate the birth family in order to place the child back in a stable, nurturing environment. They ask to the foster families to help with that by facilitating visitations and even mentoring the birth parents. If that isn't possible, again, the county looks to immediate or extended family to adopt.
Finally, when all options have been exhausted, they place the child up for adoption. For the foster/prospective adoptive family, this can be a long, roller-coaster process. Parental rights have to be terminated, and when the birth parents don't do this willingly and are unresponsive to rehab, the county has to go to court and have a judge terminate their rights. They can fight it through several different appeals. So, it's not an easy process even if one of our foster children becomes available for adoption.
But, since we are approved for both, we might get a placement that looks headed for adoption, since the county wants to move the child as few times as possible.
Q: How long will you have a foster child with you?
A: That depends entirely on the birth family and the county. Could be anywhere from an overnight to several years. We can opt out at any time if we aren't able to provide for the needs of the child, but the best thing for everyone is that we consider the costs as much as we can before accepting the placement.
I don't want to overload one blog with everything we learned about the process over these last several months. I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities to write about our experiences as we have them. Overall, we have been so impressed with the Dep't of Family Services in our county and all the social workers we've gotten to know. We have stacks and stacks of support materials and long lists of numbers to call for just about anything we can think of. We even have a parenting consultant!
We got a call last Thursday that almost changed our lives. They had a healthy baby boy born Wednesday, whose birth mother had mental health issues and maternal grandma and great aunt said they did not want him. He would be released from the hospital Friday and, if we accepted, would've come home with us then. Woah!
We were both excited and scared. Are we ready for this? What in our lives would we have to cancel or adjust? For me, a job and missions trip were on the line. We both have separate overseas trips planned in the next two months, so each of us would be here alone with him. We don't have any baby stuff - car seat, bassinet, bottles, nothing. They would provide some clothes, formula and diapers to get us started, but we'd need to do some massive shopping!
In the few hours we had to talk it over and make some plans, the baby's situation had improved. His mom had been stabilized after delivery and was able to make some lucid decisions. Her mom hadn't wanted to take the baby when her daughter wasn't aware of it, but together they were able to sign him over to Grandma's care. They didn't need us after all, but it was a great drill for us.
We are going to hold off on being available for a placement till mid-November, when we are both back from our travels and have job stuff more stabilized. Again, there's no telling when another child will need a place, but by then we'll be more ready to go.
I'd love to answer any questions you have about the foster care system or our experience so far. We are so excited to be able to give out of what God has given us and help restore families in our area, and maybe, just maybe, get a little family of our own.