27 January 2015

Foster Care: Becoming Foster Parents

We're foster parents. Have I said that on our blog yet? We've always wanted to be foster parents, always planned to be foster parents, but thought we would do it later on and just foster teens. We started the process by meeting with a recruiter in January 2013. Then we were chosen for our "failed placement" and put our licensing on hold for 6 months. After that situation we each completed our 32 hours of training in August 2013. We had just finished all our required training when we were chosen to adopt Noah and our licensing was put on hold again.

In February of 2014, one week after Noah left we received a letter from the licensing office saying we needed to contact them and continue our licensing or our file would be closed. I pulled our massive pile of foster care forms, folders and manuals from the bottom of our desk drawer and collected the documents they still needed to continue our licensing. Going through licensing was a frustrating experience and felt like it took forever.

We almost weren't even licensed because of the size of the bedrooms in our home. Aurelia's is too small (according to licensing) to have one child in there, and the second bedroom (our room) is too small to have Aurelia and a foster child share. This meant IF they would license us we could only have one child at a time and that child would have to be under 2 years old and stay with us in the master bedroom.

The licensor said there was no point to license us. Any child would have to be moved out of our home when reaching the age of 2 (turned out not to be entirely true) and kids that young are almost never placed in a foster home without siblings. We pushed and insisted that we knew all of that but that we wanted the license and then if they could use us great, if not then great. We would rather be licensed, available and not used than not licensed at all. Also, it would be much easier to simply renew an unused license than start the whole process over again.

Our license was complete sometime in the beginning of July but it wasn't transferred over to DCFS until the end of August (frustrating, but the timing worked out). Within a few days of DCFS having our license in hand we had an appointment to meet our Resource Family Consultant (RFC) in our home. She came to our home on Labor Day 2014.

We told her all about ourselves, all about our experience with children, and everything that had happened with Noah. We told her we knew it was extremely unlikely that we would have a child placed with us since we were only licensed for one and under the age of two. We told her we hoped there would be a case where our skill set could help but if not then that was good news too because it meant there wasn't a need. We let her know we'd be happy to help with respite (temporary care) for other foster families. We told her we were excited to help families and children. We told her we would love to adopt if it was an option but that we fully supported DCFS's main goal of helping parents and kids reunite in a healthy home. We were excited to be a fully licensed, ready to go foster family, even with the expectation that we likely wouldn't have a placement until we moved to a different home.

We asked to be put on the list of homes willing to take a "Crisis Placement". Those are the placements where the caseworker calls you and says "I have a child in my car right now and we'll be on your doorstep in 15 minutes". Those are the ones where the children first land in "the system", the first home they experience after being removed from their parents and everything familiar to them. Being on the crisis list is no casual commitment.

About 10 days after meeting with our RFC I got a feeling in my bones that we were going to be called. I kept my phone next to me with volume on day and night. I tried to brush the feeling off but I "knew" a call was coming. About two weeks after meeting our RFC my phone rang with an unknown number in the middle of the day. I knew it.

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