The End of An Era: Closing Our Home to Foster Care

04/27/2016

dscn1085

For the past five years I’ve been a foster mom. We started our classes in early 2011, were approved and took our first placement in July 2011. For five years, a significant part of my identity has been wrapped in the label of foster mom. It feels strange to peel that label off.

Our goal with foster care was to love kids in need, to be their parents for as long as we were needed to fill that gap, and perhaps to adopt someday. Our journey has been a success. If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you probably know all about our experience but five years is a long time to keep track of so here’s a brief run down:

July 2011 – First placement 16-month-old “Ladybug” was with us for 5 weeks and then exited custody to an extended family member. Whirlwind first parenting experience!

September 2011 – Second placement was 2-month-old Alianna. Found out a few days later she would be an adoptive placement. A month or two later DCS decided to move her to a friend of the adoptive mom of two of her four half-siblings. We fought it. Hard. And won, by a miracle! We were given custody by a judge in order to pursue private adoption.

February 2012 – Put our home on hold to new placements while we prepared to sell our house, move in with my parents temporarily and build a new home.

August 2012 – Finalized Alianna’s adoption just after her 1st birthday.

February 2013 – Once settled into our new home, we took our home off hold status so we could start fostering again.

May 2013 – Third placement was 2.5-year-old Termain. He lived with us for 3 months, through the summer of 2013 and then was reunited with his mom. Through our experience his mom became a dear friend and I’m so thankful they are still in our lives.

November 2013 – Fourth placement was 6-month-old “Bee.” Technically placed with us for 3 months, although she spent 30 days in the middle of that period doing an extended family visit with relatives in another state. In February 2014, her ICPC passed and she was transferred to another state as a kinship placement with extended family.

June 2014 – Fifth placement was teenie preemie “Firefly.” He was 3 weeks old, brought to our home straight from the NICU. He was less than 5 lbs. and still several weeks before his due date. He was with us for four weeks before his case was dismissed and he was returned to his parents. The following month, I found out that I was pregnant with Isaiah.

October 2014 – Sixth and final placement was 1-month-old Noah (who now has a new name). He was with us only 3 days but his sweetness anchored deep in my hormonal-pregnant-mama-heart. He left custody to an adoptive placement who has since reached out and reconnected with us. We’ve had the privilege of keeping in touch and getting together with them.

April 2015 – Put our home back on hold status as we prepared for Isaiah’s birth. We planned to reopen within a year.

fostercare-collage

Which brings us to today…

April 2016 – We had planned to be on hold just for 9-12 months and then start taking placements but I got pregnant again pretty quickly after Isaiah’s birth. Going from two kids to three in short period is one thing. I’m finally starting to feel comfortable with the idea of three. But four kids still seems really hard to imagine. Our agency will only allow us to be on hold for 2 years. In April 2017 Ali will be 5, Isaiah will be turning 2 and Josephine will be 10 months old… I don’t think we’ll be ready to start fostering by then either, so we decided it was time to close up officially. It’s a bittersweet decision.

Bitter because it’s a cause we are passionate about. The need is great. It’s hard to walk away knowing there are still so many kids that need safe homes to go to in our city, right at this moment. And, honestly, it’s hard to step out of the label, the role, the identity of foster mom that I’ve worn proudly for the past five years.

Sweet because I’m so honored that we’ve had the opportunity to bless six children who needed safe mama- and daddy-arms to hold them through a really traumatic time in their lives. I am blessed by the friendships we’ve made through fostering…with biological family of the kids, with other adoptive parents, with other foster parents. The biggest blessing from our experience, of course, is our forever daughter Alianna.

Closing our home brings a wave of relief. For five years our lives have been in a state of temporary. It was hard to plan ahead more than a few months, never knowing how many family members we would have and what ages of kids we would be parenting at any given time. We’ve had bedrooms with gender neutral flexible set ups. Now, we can finally feel settled with some permanency in our family and our home. I can say with confidence that later this year we will have three kids, no more and no less. I know what their ages will be and that they will all share our last name. We will be allowed to leave the state without asking for permission. We won’t have regular home visits with a case worker anymore. We won’t have classes and credit hours to keep up with annually. We can even get rid of our home phone that we never used for anything anyway. It’s a new kind of freedom.

Foster parenting will forever have a special place in my heart and I wouldn’t doubt if we do it again in another season of our lives. In the meantime, we can stay involved in other ways. We are signed up to be mentors to new foster parents in our county. I plan to continue supporting and encouraging the many friends I’ve made through #fostercare on Instagram, many of whom are still in the trenches as foster moms. I’m considering becoming a CASA or a member of our county’s foster care review board someday.

I’ve gotten away from blogging over the past year but my heart is aching to write again. I’m looking at my life from a different angle now. For a while it seemed that foster care was the only exciting topic in my life to write about but I’ve realized there is a lot more going on besides that. This blog originally started out with a focus on mid-century-modern style, furniture, homes, living, etc. with an emphasis on home projects. As we because foster parents, my focus shifted. I’m planning to return to more blogging about home projects, modern/mid-century-modern furnishing/architecture/homes, interior design mixed in with parenting, adoption, graphic design, craft projects and one of our newest endeavors: homeschooling.

How does that sound? (Is there anyone still out there, reading this blog and this super-long post? Chirp. Chirp.) What do you prefer to see posts about here?

signature


2015 – 5 Biggest Moments

12/31/2015

So much change has happened for our little family this year! Here is a recap of the top five most significant events of this year.

1. Isaiah’s birth. At the start of 2015, I was 23 weeks pregnant. We had just found out on Christmas that he was a he and were starting to prepare his place in our home. April 25 was a leisurely family Saturday, four days past my due date. Ali and I had a picnic lunch and went to the playground while Jason visited a friend. Then we all went window shopping and stopped by Chick Fil A to satisfy one of my cravings: frozen lemonade and waffle fries. We went back home, visited with some neighbors, and then went for a long, vigorous walk at Shelby Park. My labor started while we were there. We timed contractions while waiting to pick up a late dinner at Jet’s Pizza. After we ate and put Ali to bed we realized we needed to call the grandparents to come get her. After a sleepless night we were officially admitted to the hospital around 5:00 am on April 26. Isaiah was born at 8:07 pm. One of the most amazing moments of my life was when they placed him on my chest and I could finally look at the little face I had been imagining for many months. Jason and I cried as he stared back at my face like he had been wondering what I looked like, too. The next morning Ali met her baby brother and so maturely climbed up next to me in the bed and gently held him and touched his face. I’ve loved watching her blossom as a big sister. She is so kind and loving to him.

IMG_0633 IMG_0673

2. Jason became a realtor. At the start of the year Jason was looking for ways to increase his income. He auditioned for a new touring gig with country artist Easton Corbin. When he initially didn’t get the job, he started classes to get his real estate license. Then he got a call back to become the acoustic guitarist for Easton. He managed to finish his online classes, much of it from his bunk in the tour bus while his bandmates partied around him. When he passed his licensing exams it was a cause for celebration!

IMG_2712

3. & 4. Jason quitting EC / Ali’s 4th birthday. Jason’s new tour schedule was rigorous. His income indeed increased and he had many amazing opportunities. Lifelong dreams were fulfilled. Huge crowds. Free gear. National television shows. But the time apart was hard on all of us, especially after Isaiah’s birth. Jason felt like he was missing out on so many of those first little milestones. And our sweet little Ali was starting to have a really hard time saying goodbye so frequently to her daddy. Home for a day and gone for four…home for 12 hours and gone for 6 days… It wasn’t working for us. When Jason made the decision to quit, it was a sigh of relief for all of us. It was a growing season and it was provision for a period when we really needed it. He came home from his last gig the day before Ali’s birthday which was a special gift for her. We spent her birthday all together as a family of four. She had a mermaid-themed pool party at my parents’ house. Perfectly appropriate for our water-loving girl. Jason returned to his previous touring gig with Guy Penrod (and a much lighter schedule) and hit the real estate market running. He had three closings in his first several months of working as a realtor.

IMG_5420 IMG_5429

5. Pregnant again?! “Are you sure you’re not pregnant? Your belly looks…different,” Jason said. I think it’s just all those Nutter Butters I’ve been eating… Two days later, positive pregnancy test. We were surprised but not totally surprised because we weren’t preventing it and knew it was quite possible. It just happened a little faster than last time. But we’re all thrilled. Well, Isaiah has no clue what’s coming. But Ali is super excited and kisses my belly regularly. (She’s really hoping for a little sister this time.) I’m starting 2016 12 weeks pregnant with our third child. Foster parenting is currently on hold status, though we’re keeping our license open. We’re hoping to do some short term respite for other foster parents and we’re about to start mentoring new foster parents through a new program at DCS.

IMG_0712

Looking forward to in 2016: Family trip to Florida. Weekend getaway/”Babymoon” to San Francisco. Finding out Nutter Butter’s gender. Isaiah’s first birthday. Leaving my full time job after 9 years. Welcoming our new baby. Beginning homeschool kindergarten with Ali. Pursuing some big, exciting real estate ventures with Jason. It’s already fixin’ to be a great year!


About that “health situation…”

11/24/2015

In my last blog post I mentioned a “health situation that has slowed me down a bit” (and someone kindly commented that she hopes I get over it quickly…thank you. But I guess I was a little too vague. It isn’t something I want to get over!) A few weeks ago we discovered that Isaiah is going to be a big brother! That makes Ali a “double big sister” according to her. We’re all thrilled to welcome a new addition coming in July.

5boots  IMG_0155

IMG_0142

Interesting facts:

I’m pregnant for the second time this year.

I’m gonna miss the hot tub again this winter. 

I’m going to enjoy eating all.of.the.things at Thanksgiving and Christmas again this winter. 

Zay will be approx 15 months old when he’s officially a big brother.

Ali is super excited to be a “double big sister.”

Jason and I are about to be outnumbered.

It was not an accident, nor was it meticulously planned (by us…God knows exactly what He is doing. We left it up to Him.)

Three weeks ago Jason looked at my belly and said “Are you sure you’re not pregnant?” And I said, “I think it’s all the Nutter Butters I’ve been eating.”

Our little Nutter Butter is a welcome addition.


Phone Photo Friday

08/28/2015

2015-08-28

 

signature


Phone Photo Friday

08/14/2015

 

2015-08-14

 

 

I really needed these words in that moment.

signature


So Many Changes

08/13/2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 1.39.35 PM

Once upon a time, I wrote blog posts several times a week. I hardly missed a day. Not always deep thoughts but I’ve enjoyed this as a place to journal and keep records of our lives the past six years (even more if I count my previous blogs). I sometimes wonder if there’s any value in sharing all of this but then I get an email from a fellow foster mom looking for support, a potential adoptive parent thanking us for telling our story or a casual reader just checking in to say hello since this space has been so quiet. Two months ago I thought I was back to blogging and then the weeks quickly slipped by and I haven’t blogged much since then. I’m not sure how to restart without doing a general update post. Our family has gone through so much change in the past 6 months.

It started back at the end of winter as I was entering my third trimester. We were looking toward an unpaid maternity leave and what life would look like with two forever kids. An unexpected door opened as we prayed for provision. Jason auditioned for a new gig with a busier tour schedule that would translate to better income. He didn’t get it and we wondered why. It sounded like it was going to the perfect answer to our prayers. When he didn’t get the job, he started taking classes to get his real estate license. Then he got a call back; he got the gig after all. The timing was perfect for our finances. He entered a busy season of touring just a couple weeks before Isaiah was born and my unpaid time off work began. From his bunk in the tour bus he continued working hard on his online classes, studying and taking tests for his real estate license. It was a lot to juggle but once he’s got his mind on a goal there is no stopping him. He missed one weekend of shows—two concerts in Texas—for Isaiah’s birth and then he was back on the road two days after we got home from the hospital. His tour schedule was lighter in May, thankfully, because my recovery was much harder than I anticipated. But in June things picked up again. I started back to work full time, working mostly from home now—a huge answer to prayer! And also a new juggling challenge. Jason had 6 full days off/home in June and managed to fit his real estate licensing exam in there. He passed! He’s now a fully licensed real estate agent. His schedule for July was even fuller than June and it was taking it’s toll on all of us. Half way through the month he had a hard conversation with the band leader about needing to step away to focus on his growing family and his new real estate venture. He was willing to stick it out for a few weeks to help their transition but God made a way for him to be home within days of that conversation without putting anyone out or severing any relationships. He returned to his previous gig with a much lighter touring schedule and started full steam into his real estate business. And that’s just the big stuff. There were also soccer games, visits from out-of-town family, and so many doctors appointments for check ups, dentists, PT, OB, dermatology, radiology. Phew!

All the transitions have sent our finances on some roller coaster loopy-loops and been exhausting in other ways, too. But God is good. These changes are good and I can see His hand on us through every change. It has not been easy or painless but the blessings have outweighed the struggles:

We have two beautiful children. I was able to keep my full-time graphic design job of 8+ years and be home with my kids 6 days a week. Jason was able to add a realtor hat next to the professional musician one—both flexible jobs that allow him to spend a lot of time at home. I trust that life will feel less tiring soon, and in the meantime I have a newfound love of coffee.

The photo at the top, taken by our friend Beth Rose, basically sums up the past several months. But here are some other memorable moments, too:

collage

signature


Phone Photo Friday

06/19/2015

We celebrated 12 years hitched this week.

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 3.33.49 PM

P.S. Today is my birthday. I celebrated my 19th birthday on our honeymoon with a Krispy Kreme donut with a tea light candle in the middle.

signature


Phone Photo Friday

06/12/2015

2015-06-12

signature


Phone Photo Friday

04/24/2015

2015-4-24

signature


40 Week Froggie Update

04/23/2015

8-12-16-20-24-28-32-36-40 40weeks

40 weeks. I was hoping I wouldn’t make it to this last photo in the series before Isaiah made his appearance but alas, here we are. On my due date I was a little bummed, despite words of encouragement and funny quips from many friends. (My favorite is the friend who said, “The over ripe ones are the sweetest!”) We ended my due date with amazing Indian food for dinner, hoping I could heat him out. Didn’t work but it sure was delicious. I woke up today and did my usual morning ritual. I read my Bible and Jesus Calling while I ate breakfast. Then I prayed blessings over Zay and his delivery while I drank my tea.

IMG_0589

On my drive to work I had a realization that it was absurd for me to be disappointed that he wasn’t born when I expected. What about this entire process—from his conception to today—has been within the grasp of my control? I had some more thoughts about this as I was taking a walk on my lunch break and I shared them on my Instagram (@mrsallbright) with the photo below:

I’m taking a walk today because it’s gorgeous outside and I get tired of sitting on my butt in a cubicle all day, not because I’m trying to induce labor. Yesterday I was feeling a bit disappointed that my due date came and went and I didn’t get what I expected. Today I asked God to forgive me for wanting to control something that’s so far beyond my human ability. I should have learned this lesson already. Nothing about becoming a parent went as I originally planned or expected and it has turned out so much better this way. God waited until a point when I was completely content in my motherhood to our precious Alianna and as a foster mama to five other beautiful babies, and was truly content to not ever experience pregnancy to surprise us with this sweet little blessing growing in my belly. Jason and I always knew it was possible and we purposefully decided we’d stop preventing it OR pursuing it and just leave it up to the Creator. Surprises are way more fun! There is so much peace when we can fully let go in trust and go on with life.

IMG_0593

I had my 40 week check-up yesterday. Everything looked great, as usual, except that my belly was measuring smaller than the previous week’s appointment. My doctor requested that I get an ultrasound just to make sure fluid levels were still good. So Jason, Ali and I got to go to an unexpected ultrasound. It was hard to get a good look at him because he’s so tight in there and he moves a lot. We did get a quick glimpse of half of his face. Everything is measuring just fine with Zay, my amniotic fluid, etc. Thank you, God! He’s average size and in position to come out without any problems. We are ready and we are content. As another friend joked, “They always seem to come on their birthdays.” He’ll be here soon!

signature