BECOMING FOSTER PARENTS
April 2010: We decide to begin the process towards becoming foster parents. Whenever people ask us how we decided this, I can’t really give a good answer. I had been thinking about it for about four years, but Greg wasn’t interested. Suddenly when I brought it up again this April, he says he’s up for it. Ultimately, I think God just took His time getting us on to the same page.
May 2010: Fill out the initial interest form with a reputable Foster Family Agency (FFA) in the area.
June 2010: Our first interview with the FFA and we are “pre-certified” which means we can continue on in the process of becoming foster parents.
June-October 2010: Classes, paperwork, in depth interviews, trainings. We are not interested in long-term foster care or fost-adopt, and we don’t even take the adoption portion of the training classes. We decide to start by being an Emergency Shelter Home (ESH home) for 1-2 kids ages 0-5 for 2-30 day placements.
OUR TWO BOYS (AND THEIR GIRL)
October 26, 2010: We get the call that we are officially certified foster parents. One hour later, another call and we are driving to pick up our first two boys for an ESH Home placement.
October-November 2010: We have our two boys, Athlete and Baby Billy Goat, ages 10 months and 2.5 years. They come from a lot of trauma and with our own boys, then ages 4 and 6, it is a circus. And not a good kind of circus. Just before Thanksgiving they move to their long term foster home where they and their big sister can stay.
December 2010-July 2012: For two years, we keep contact with our boys, and develop a close relationship with their big sister, too. We have them in our home for respite and playdates multiple times during those two years, from day trips to overnights to weekends, to 10 day stays. I feel called to be open to adopting them if they don’t reunify, but Greg does not. In the meantime, we love on those three like we love on our own, and they become our “children” no matter where they ultimately live.
July 2012: The three kiddos’ case moves from foster to adoption, and they are placed with a wonderful adoptive family in a nearby county. (Not without three different attempts to place them elsewhere…relatives popping up after years in care, one adoptive placement that fell through.) We plan to stay involved with their lives over the years.
IN THE MEANTIME
November-December 2012: We re-consider what kind of placements we want. It doesn’t seem healthy to bounce kids out of our home after a month and after they’ve become adjusted. But starting from square one every several months with new children doesn’t interest us either, especially after seeing how our own boys were affected. We decide to pursue a fost-adopt concurrent planning placement.
OUR LITTLE GIRL
December 2010: We get called about Midge, a 7 month old girl who seems to be a good fost/adopt match. Private details about her parents indicate that they won’t be very aggressive about reunifying with her. We will be required to monitor two 2 hour visits a week, and Midge will be transported to and monitored by the county for two more 2 hour visits a week. We think we can handle this and accept her placement.
January 2011: Right away, I see that while Midge is not at all attached to her bio dad and he doesn’t seem to know how to relate to a baby or show interest in her, her bio mom will probably be more invested than they thought. During that month, all of their relatives are ruled out for placement, meaning we will have her for long term foster care and concurrent planning (placement in a home where a child can be adopted if they don’t reunify).
February 2011: Bio mom has moved to a neighboring county, and our county recommends moving the case there. While claiming that she is fighting it, bio mom is secretly trying to get Midge moved to a foster home in that county, although she is already attached to us and bio dad lives in our county. She fails and the county leaves Midge in our care as the case transfers counties.
March 2011: With the transfer of counties, bio dad’s visits are no longer taken care of by the county and we are now on the hook for transporting and monitoring for all eight hours of visitations a week. We meet our new social worker and she is wonderful.
August 2011: It has been nine months since Midge came into foster care. The social worker doesn’t see any circumstances that would convince her that either bio parent could provide a safe environment for Midge. If they continue on their current course for the next few months, chances are good that she will stay with us and be adopted.
November 2011: Neither parent has been working much on their case plan. There is yet another incident between them proving to the county that the circumstances forcing Midge’s removal are ongoing.
December 2011: At the twelve month hearing, the judge sets a date for January to terminate reunification services. After a long year, it looks like the road is almost over and we will begin adoption steps.
January 2012: The same judge rules that services will not be terminated after all. Bio mom sees the writing on the wall and requests a transfer back to the first county’s system. Request granted. Bio parents are given four more months of time to work on their case plans. We are devastated and our social worker is confused and upset. We are granted “de facto parent” status, which means we can be party to all court documents and be present to advocate for Midge at hearings.
March 2012: I meet our new social worker in the new county. At our first meeting she brags to me that her reunification rate is 92% (meaning that she returns 92% of the kids that come on to her case load to their parents.) She tells me that she has lots of families that need two years to get their lives together but with her pushing them they do great. We are worried. But are encouraged that infant cases (where the child is removed before 12 months) are supposed to be closed within 12 months because of the attachment of the baby to the caregivers. Since it’s already been 16 months and the case plans are nowhere near completion, this social worker shouldn’t be able to do much damage to the adoption process.
May 2012: The eighteen month hearing. Now they are really supposed to be closing this case down. Bio parents are still not even close to finishing their case plans. The trial is set for the same day to decide whether to terminate services or not. Bio dad’s attorney pulls some tricky moves and steps down as his counsel right as the trial is supposed to begin. It is delayed for six weeks while they find him a new attorney.
July 2012: The eighteen month hearing, again. This time, social worker (and her beloved 92% reunification rate) calls in sick, later making it clear to us that she’s told everyone at court that she “doesn’t work Mondays.” Another one month delay.
August 2012: This time the judge and Midge’s attorney are both absent on court day and they don’t have substitutes to do the trial? Another month delay. By now, ignoring all history and the previous social worker’s recommendations, the new social worker is pushing for bio mom to begin unmonitored visits, and will begin overnights as soon as she can. She grants bio dad two eight hour unmonitored visits because his sister is in town from out of the country, and although Midge isn’t even comfortable with him enough to go to him for comfort at visits (she’d rather go to the monitor, even if it’s a stranger) the social worker thinks this is a good idea. Midge reacts terribly to these visits, regressing totally in potty training and crying for nights on end, unable to soothe herself.
September 2012: Bio mom still hasn’t provided the necessary paperwork to begin unmonitored visits. The trial date comes again, and bio dad’s attorney requests and is granted another month for bio dad to finish his case plan (because the original 12 months plus the past 9 months of delays wasn’t enough). A sudden change in bio mom’s situation, and social worker decides that bio dad is the one she should be pushing to reunify Midge with, despite Midge’s lack of attachment to him and comfort level with him. We find out later that she has failed to report any of our documented concerns about bio dad’s lack of relationship with Midge and how she responds. While one month before, she was only considering moving his visits from a secure facility into the community, but still supervised, she suddenly grants him totally unmonitored visits for double his hours twice weekly.
October 2012: Bio moms visits continue, supervised. Bio dad’s visits continue and increase, unsupervised. Our reports about her subsequent reactions to the visits are heard and explained as “normal for a child going through such changes”. Again there is a court date that is supposed to terminate reunification services and it is again postponed for a month because the court calendar is too busy to move forward with the trial. (Then why did you set this date for the trial?)
November 2012: After almost two years, most of which bio dad was nominally or not at all involved and wasn’t even considered for unification bcause of Midge’s lack of attachment to him, bio dad finishes his case plan. We are told that the road is over. Now that his plan is finished and because it has been more than six months since he has had a reported incident, reunification (or I guess I should call it unification, since Midge was never connected to him before) will go forward as quickly as possible. It doesn’t matter that the timeline wasn’t properly followed and that other things should have happened and that Midge will be the one who suffers. Unmonitored visits are increased, overnights begin, and a date is set for Midge to move in with him in December.
December 2012: One year and fifty weeks after she came to us, Midge moves in to her bio dad’s house. Our entire family, Midge included, is broken hearted. We hope to keep in touch with her in the future.
January 2013- August 2013: We are lucky that Midge’s bio dad allows us to continue to be a part of her life. At times we get to see her weekly, at other times we go a month of heart-breaking time without seeing her. We even get a few overnights with her!
Fall 2013: Eight months after reunifying with her bio dad, Midge is removed from him again and returns to us temporarily in foster care. She is with us for two months, reunifies for one week, then is removed again and is with us for two weeks, then reunifies again just before Thanksgiving.
2014: Midge stays with her bio dad and in June, the case closes. We continue to see her, with her bio dad allowing us to have her on weekends or for vacations. We are lucky we can still have her in our family and our lives.
OUR TWO NEW LITTLE CUTIES
March 2013: We feel like God is calling us to put our names back on the list with our fostering agency. We prefer a sibling pair of any gender combination and racial make-up, in the age range of 2-8 years.
April 2013: We are matched with a sibling pair. E, a girl, age 5, and A, a boy, age 4 have been in foster care for two years living with an aunt who cannot adopt them. We meet them in mid-April.
May 2013: E and A move in and the rollercoaster begins again.
July 2013: Services for E and A’s parents are terminated and a hearing is set to terminate their parental rights in November. Meanwhile, social services is (yet again, I’m sure) evaluating the paternal grandparents as potential guardians. We don’t hear anything about that for quite a while.
December 2013: E and A’s parents’ rights are terminated on December 9, 2013. After being with us seven months, we are beginning the adoption homestudy process to make them part of our forever family.
2014: No parental visits, but plenty of social worker visits where they analyze and criticize our parenting decisions, and psychologists and evaluations and paperwork to go through the adoption process which is, of course, delayed for months at a time.
October 2014: Adoption of E & A is finalized after 18 months in our home.
OCTOBER 2014: OUR FOSTERING LICENSE EXPIRES AFTER 4 YEARS OF FOSTERING
We are out of the system completely now, moving forward with the five kids in our lives.