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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