Foster Care Part 2
I’m not really sure why this one has taken me so long to start. Sometimes going back and reliving those first few days, weeks and even month is hard. There was a lot we were not prepared for and we literally jumped headfirst into it.
As we stood at the guest room window watching a DHS worker unload a tiny blonde toddler and a brunette baby boy we were frozen. It was almost one of those situations where you wonder if it’s real and if you are actually capable of going to open the front door. You took the classes, did ALL of the paperwork, had multiple home visits, said yes on the phone, planned out the drop off time, and still, in that moment, you aren’t sure that it’s real. Those kids are about to come into your home and they will be there for an unknown amount of time. You become parents to kids who already had parents. You become a home to kids who already had a home. How do you make that transition smooth for them when you’re not sure how to make it smooth for yourself?
But there they were. We waited for the doorbell to ring (because obviously we didn’t want her to know we were watching her every move from the front window…) and then went to answer the door. In ran the tiniest little blur of blonde hair. She blurted “hi mommy” as she ran and jumped on our couch. I’m still not sure how she even got her little body up there so quickly. The DHS worker asked if I wanted to hold the baby. Um, maybe? But naturally I said yes and she handed him over. All of a sudden an 8 month old baby boy, who was sucking his thumb at the time, was in my arms and looking up at me like his life depended on me. Because it did. I wasn’t the woman he had looked up to for the previous 8 months of his life but something in that moment happened and he knew I was the woman who was responsible for him.
She had us sign a couple of pieces of paper and then she left (with the papers which showed that we were the guardians in charge of the 2 kids but in her rush to get out she left with them). The DHS worker was in our house for no longer than 5 minutes and then she was gone.
Then it was just me, Matt and 2 kids we met 5 minutes ago who now relied on us to keep them alive. No pressure. Especially for people who were not parents prior to those last 5 minutes.
We quickly realized that C would probably adjust pretty well. We found a cartoon she seemed to like and we had every single toy out in the living room. She spoke to us like she had known us her whole life. I later realized that she did this because she was often around people and left with people she didn’t know. Her little mind had learned to trust any adult she was left with. She continued to call me “mommy” and even called my sister that when she arrived at our house later that afternoon (because naturally I called my sister bawling when I had 2 kids all of a sudden and zero clue what I was doing). She was dirty, her hair was a mess, but she was one of the happiest toddlers I’d ever seen. Her laugh was contagious and I fell for her that first day. My tiny blonde best friend. Her brother, well he was a different story.
J was 8 months old when he was brought to us. He sucked his thumb, played/pulled out his own hair, and HATED being put down on the ground, or in a jumper, or in a walker, etc. etc. He was hard. In the early afternoon I tried to put him down for a nap (because he was a baby and I knew that’s something he needed) but it was not possible. He would not let me put him down. He fell asleep in my arms and I cried in his hair while I sat on the floor of his bedroom feeling like there was no way I could do this. There was no way I could be a mom to a needy baby and all sorts of thoughts started to creep into my mind. I bawled. And then I pulled myself together realizing that this tiny child needed me, even if he was going to be tough. He needed me to love him, care for him, and do everything I could do make his life the best it could be in the time I was allotted. He was a tough baby but he was a loving baby. He had the biggest brown eyes and when he looked at you he REALLY looked at you. He grew on me but that first day, I thought there was no way. And I cried a few more times before the day was over.
Luckily it was a Sunday morning so we had that day to try and figure out what we would do next. We both worked so we had already taken Monday off (in preparation for these kids who we will refer to as C & J) to figure out a daycare situation and at least give them a couple of days before they were dropped off at another place with other people they did not know.
That was one of the difficult parts about those first few days. Being a foster parent in a home where both parents work full time is tough. We wanted to make sure the kids were acclimated to us but we literally had to drop them off somewhere else within 2 days. It wasn’t ideal but it’s all we could do.
Thankfully we had already researched some daycares and had a couple of options. However, daycares can’t take holds on foster kids. They can’t hold a spot for a kid we don’t know the exact age of or even if we will 100% get that kid in our home. So Monday morning we loaded up our kids and drove to daycares so we could fill out paperwork (for kids we didn’t know…it’s not easy) in hopes that one would have not one but two openings. One of the daycares had an opening for J (the baby) but not for C (the toddler) for over a week. For that first week we had to drop C off at a drop in daycare and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I did not want to drop off this tiny little child in a place she didn’t know, with people she wouldn’t see again, and hope that they would not break her in this fragile state she was in. But she made it and that next week we had them both in the same daycare adjusting pretty well.
Within the first 10 days of a child being in your care you have to take them to a doctor appointment. That was another tough part. Not only did we both work full time but now we had to figure out how to get kids to the doctor and make sure we were doing everything we had to do within a certain amount of time. Once we made it past the first couple of weeks it felt like we were on the downhill side (even though we knew we had literally climbed the tiniest hill on this foster journey we started). What felt like the downside of the hill was exactly that; except we didn’t see that it was just a tiny valley before Mt Everest in front of us. It felt like once we got adjusted to something, another something would need to happen. That’s what happened after we adjusted them to our home, daycare, and our lives. We started visits.