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

04/27/2016

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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.

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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?

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Preparing Your Home for Foster Parenthood

03/19/2015

I wrote a set of posts over on Dropping Anchors with some lists to help potential foster parents prepare their homes for their home study safety inspection as well as tips from experiences foster parents to make the transition of a new foster child easier. Check them out if you’re in that category!

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Gender Reveal Surprise Christmas Baby Shower

01/08/2015

That’s lot of words, huh? We had a Christmas baby-gender-reveal surprise baby shower. It was an unforgettable blessing organized by my friend Steph with a part of our foster mom support community from across the country. I had passed Steph the sealed envelope from the ultrasound tech because she offered to give us something more special than a piece of paper to open on Christmas day. (And she’s one of the most creative people I know!) She rallied the troops behind my back and they sent gifts to Steph to wrap and organize into a really unique gender reveal surprise for us. I am still so overwhelmed with gratitude that they would bless our family like this. Most of these women I’ve never even met in person, although we connect daily through social media to encourage, pray for, commiserate with and entertain each other.

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The first present to open was this ornament that Steph made. It will be such a special keepsake on our Christmas tree every year.

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(Please excuse my Christmas-morning-no-makeup-pajamas family.)

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The first baby boy outfit we opened…

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Ali got some special gifts, too.

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These little knee pads made me swoon.

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A teething necklace in one of my favorite colors.

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A fellow chicken mama sent this one!

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At some point while I was opening gifts and Jason was documenting it, Ali started taking photos with my DSLR.

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These are her photos…

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I am so thankful! What an amazing surprise for Christmas day, to find out we’re having a son and to be showered with so many thoughtful and adorable gifts for him.

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Meet the Mama

12/22/2014

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I was interviewed in a little getting-to-know-you post over on Dropping Anchors blog last week. Check it out if you’d like to know more about me, why I’m a foster mom and what my experience has been like for the past 3.5 years.

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Dropping Anchors

11/03/2014

 

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I’m excited and honored to be part of a new blog written by a group of foster moms (and hopefully some other perspectives, too) called Dropping Anchors. I wrote the first post which went live on Saturday, called These Weirdos Are My Tribe. Today there’s an excellent post written by my friend Kate which explains What It Means to Drop Anchors. I’d love for you to check it out and let me know what you think!

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Respite

10/27/2014

Last week we were asked if we could do a last minute respite placement for a 4-year-old boy. We agreed and then scrambled to get a bed ready for him. We’ve been in the process of moving furniture around in the past couple weeks (months?) and went from having a crib and twin bed in the foster kids room to crib and bed frame. Then two weekends ago we had a crib and no bed at all. This room is almost all the way put together and when it is, I’ll do a full post about it. But here’s the bed and night stand, ready less than 24 hours before our respite guy arrived.

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If I were to give his fella a blog nickname it would be Rhinoceros. He’s full of energy and stomps around like a large animal. He was full of noise and motion. He and Ali had a lot of fun. Jason and I were thankful it was just for two nights. Even though it was very tiring, I’m thankful we were able to help his foster family out with a restful break.

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A New Little Pumpkin to Love

10/15/2014

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“Whoever arrives next” beat Froggie to the punch and is now occupying our next kid’s room. His name—for social media purposes—is Pumpkin and he’s just as sweet as could be.

After two very busy weeks at work with three magazine deadlines and two short trips out of town, I’m way behind on blogging and have plenty to go back and share about. However, this news needs to be shared right away. We got back from our second trip on Sunday night. At work late on Monday afternoon, I was finishing up my last of three deadlines when my phone rang. DCS placement showed up on the screen and I wondered if this would be a good one. We’ve only had a couple calls since Firefly left on July 3 and none worked out with our availability. This call was for a 1-month-old boy. Our only reservations were that he’s too young for childcare for a couple more weeks and in the back of my mind I was doing the math for the age difference between him and baby Froggie… seven months. I’m trying not to think too much about that right now because in foster care a lot can change in six months. Pumpkin is our sixth foster child to parent. Of the previous five, four of them have been with us three months or less. Our Alianna, of course, is the exception. I know so little about Pumpkin’s case at this point that I have no way to predict how long he’ll be with us. I’ve been missing Firefly badly and maybe it’s partly the pregnancy hormones but I’m just so thrilled to have another little baby to snuggle. His short history is hard and angering, so it’s not all cuddles and new baby smell around here. We also have deal with the ugly reality of why he is in state custody.

The life interruption is real and difficult. Adding a new family member with just hours notice turns our worlds upside down for a little while. It was almost 3 hours between saying yes to the placement worker and Pumpkin arriving at our house. That’s 3x longer than we usually have to prepare. It was enough notice for me to finish up my work, tell my boss, pick up dinner on my drive home, sit down to eat as a family of three, scramble through the baby room pulling out boxes of bottles and infant boy clothes, and set up the diaper changing supplies. Somewhere in the rush I knelt down and explained to Ali that another little baby was coming to stay with us for a little while. She’s so sweet and understanding and she LOVES babies. As soon as he came through the door she was asking to hold him.

Once the papers were signed and the workers left to drive home through a monsoon, Daddy Jason called a family prayer meeting. Ali finally had her chance to hold him while Jason and I surrounded them and prayed over Pumpkin, his case and our family—especially big sister Ali—as we move forward. So far he has been mostly delightful. He’s been sleeping well and eating well. We’ve had some bouts of fussiness, but we’re all still getting to know each other. I’ve spent a good amount of time snuggling him just like the photo below and he sure loves to be held close. If you’re a prayer, please pray for his health (for complete restoration and detox), for his case (lots of meetings, hearings, decisions happening this week and next), and for all of us as we get to know each other and tread water through the waves of transition and mix of emotions.

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Where are all the adoptable toddlers?

09/15/2014

I recently read this blog post from Attempting Agape and said, yes, yes, yes. These are questions I was wondering about 4 years ago and the investigation is part of what lead me to foster parenting. (Also, it was seeds God had planted in my heart from my childhood and a timely comment from a fellow blogger who was a foster mom.) Often people who are interested in adopting domestically look through the waiting child lists that are posted by most states and also through the U.S. program AdoptUSkids.org. When I was doing that years ago I was curious why there weren’t any babies or young kids on the lists. In a nutshell, it’s because—if they come into care that young—they’re stuck in the limbo of the foster care system for several years before they end up on a waiting list. And most never make it to the waiting lists (thankfully!) because they’re adopted by their foster parents or a community member before that point. Jason and I realized that as foster parents we could be on the front lines of helping kids in need, rather than coming in right at the end of their exhausting, traumatic foster care journeys.

If you are are wondering what you can do to help even one child, consider becoming a concurrent foster placement for a child or sibling group.
Yes, its risky for your heart. Oh so risky. I understand, I do. I’ve done it. I’ve lived it. I’ve cried over kids returned to birth parents, I’ve ached. But, I also know that it is worth it. It is so worth it.
Read the whole post Why Can’t I Adopt a Young Child From Foster Care?? | Where are all the toddlers??.

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On Belly Babies and Adoption and Things of that Nature

09/09/2014

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If you read my last post, you know that we’re expecting a baby. This time, the baby is in my belly. What?! I’ve spent a lot of time in disbelief the past few weeks. Not that I didn’t think it was possible but I just hadn’t really gone there mentally. I just wanted to be a mother; whether it happened biologically or through adoption didn’t matter to me. Even just being a foster mom was so fulfilling to me. Once we adopted our sweet Alianna in 2012 my mom-heart was totally content. But in the back of my mind there was a small hope for a forever sibling for her—one that she could grow up in our home with and grow old with.

I’m super excited to have a baby, another child—and particularly one that will be a part of our family forever, one that won’t leave. In other words, I’d be just as excited if we were adopting again. There is no difference in my heart. But this time, we get 9 months to prepare! In the past we’ve only ever had hours to prepare for a new kid. We get to name this one, too—from scratch! That’s pretty special. I’m confident in caring for a child—I’ve had five, including a teeny preemie. However…

I’m pretty nervous about the whole reality of being pregnant and giving birth. I’m kind of a wimp. So far I haven’t been too uncomfortable. It’s been more like mild PMS symptoms that have lasted four weeks.I’m tired and I basically need to eat all day—at least every two hours—and then I feel pretty good. I’ve been hot a lot of the time—very unusual for me! I have to pee approximately 15 times a day. The idea of a little person living inside of my body is amazing and also freaking weird. It has always seemed like such an alien concept to me. Lord, help me to have peace about it before I start to feel our baby moving.

“You know that always happens. You adopt and then you get pregnant!” I burst out in laughter when Jason said that to me shortly after we high-fived and hugged and stared some more at the positive pregnancy test. “What are you going to say when people say that?” he asked, “Because you know they will.” I told him I’d probably laugh just like I did then. I laugh because it’s so far from reality. Our reality is that we were actively preventing pregnancy from before we adopted our daughter up until earlier this year. I hate those kind of comments because it’s heartbreaking for people who have struggled with infertility before pursing adoption then adopt and still don’t get pregnant. One is certainly no guarantee of the other. I know lots of those moms and they’re my sweet friends. My biggest problem with the above statement is that it implies that pregnancy is what we really wanted all along but we settled for adoption. That’s not our story. We actively pursued foster parenting. It was hard work. It wasn’t a back up plan. We chose to become foster parents as our first way of becoming parents. We fought hard to adopt Alianna. As I mentioned above, being her mother as well as being a foster mother—a mother to many—has filled all of my dreams for motherhood. I have no regrets or unfulfilled longings. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

That said, we really are excited about this belly baby. As much as I was in shock originally, this baby is totally and completely wanted and welcome. All three of us are very excited. Alianna was such a wonderful big sister to baby Firefly and I’m really excited that she’ll get to be a big sister again, this time for good.

[Quick note: Several people have asked how this will affect us foster parenting. We have no plans to quit foster parenting. We’re still on the list of available homes, waiting for a call that could come at any moment. We may consider taking a year off around the baby’s arrival and then reevaluating. But as of right now, nothing has changed.]

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Who are Foster Kids?

08/21/2014

It’s been 7 weeks since Firefly left and I’ve been enjoying the unofficial break from foster care. We’re still on the list but we only got one lonely call while we were on vacation. It’s never far from my mind, though, especially when my phone rings with a number I don’t recognize. I read this great post today called Dear Church, you are called to foster care.

Matthew 25:31-46 is the passage of Scripture that resonates most with me as a foster parent and this post echoes my heart. As foster parents we’ve had opportunities to interact with parents or children in all of these situations. And that’s just the five kids we’ve had the chance to love.

The children in foster care represent the addicted, the imprisoned, the trafficked, the abused and neglected.

They reflect divorce, immigration, single parent homes, and the unemployed.

They carry the stories of parents who are homeless, churchless, widowed and broken.

They are little ones who are weighed with special needs, illiteracy, and teenage pregnancy.

They are not invisible or far away.

Go read the rest of the post here.

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