Not so fast.
We had our home study visit with our case worker on Thursday to reopen our home for foster care. We went through our piles of paper work to make sure everything was there. A quick scramble to reprint the form Ali had torn the corner off of, print our her adoption decree (and explain that no, we still don’t have a birth certificate for her even though her adoption was finalized 7 months ago…), and print out our 14 pages of 2011 tax returns to attempt to prove that Jason, who does not get pay stubs because he’s self-employed, does indeed make money.
Then we moved on to the home tour and inspection. Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has been in the news a lot lately and it hasn’t been good news… That seemed like a valid excuse for our case worker to open every drawer and cabinet in our kitchen to make sure there was nothing potentially harmful within reach of a small child. The child lock on our knife drawer failed. When she yanked on it, it popped right open. So we spent a good 10 minutes talking about the danger of knives, potential scenarios and possible solutions. Jason insists on fixing the lock. Her suggestion was to put the knives up high, which to me, means they’re still accessible to a determined child AND I’m more likely to drop one on my head while I’m cooking dinner.
We also need doors or a more invasive metal screen on our fireplace. I thought this might be the case. Ours has a metal mesh screen and since the safety checklist said “fireplace screens or guards are in place” I thought it was worth a try. Glass doors for our extra wide fireplace cost $1500-3000 so…yeah. I’m hoping that a big ugly metal screen will get the job done.
Honestly, I was surprised by the things that were meticulously inspected while other things (that seemed important in our first home approval 2 years ago) were just glanced at or discussed this time around. We were also surprised to find out that Jason has a black mark on his criminal record from a speeding ticket in Virginia 7 years ago.
But nothing was more surprising than to find out that some people at the DCS office are still upset about how things went down 18 months ago which led up to a judge taking Ali out of state care and giving us custody so we could adopt her. It seems there’s been a game of telephone going on around the office and the story has, in Jason’s words, turned us into the Giant Purple People Eater. (In other words, the story has been twisted over time.) We got slapped on the hand and warned “don’t do that again, or else…” I have to admit, I’m kind of proud of the fact that we still have a reputation around the office after all this time. Jason asked if the person who approves our home study knows about everything that happened and her response was “EVERYBODY knows.”
Let the records show: We never broke any of their policies; we passionately questioned a policy that was broad and obscure because it didn’t seem to be in the best interest of the child in our care. I would not hesitate to do that again. We take it seriously when they tell us to advocate for the child and we’ll do that, even if it’s messy. Clearly we were not the only ones who felt their policy was in conflict with Ali’s best interest and ultimately it was the magistrate who made the call. We had not even asked for custody (we didn’t know we had the right). So as far as the accusation that we “went over their heads” … no, we just prayed, spoke our hearts and God went WAY OVER your heads! Also, we did NOT hire an attorney to represent us until after we were given custody and had to peruse private adoption at our own expense. Thankyouverymuch.
It was a little angering, not at our case worker who is sweet but was instructed to give us a warning, but at the system as a whole. Welcome back into our lives DCS drama! More than anything though, it was motivating. It reminded us of why we’re doing this: we are in it for the kids. We will parent, love, protect, nurture and advocate for them for as long as they’re living in our home. We’re not at odds with the system…unless it’s at odds with the child’s best interest. Then you better believe we’re going to do what we’ve been asked to do.
So, I’m pretty confident they’re going to approve our home. As long as a knife drawer, fireplace screen and criminal record for a speeding violation 7 years ago can be resolved. We’ll find out soon enough. The main reason I’m not at all worried about it is that we feel called by God to do this. It’s not fun.* It’s not easy. I’m perfectly content as Ali’s mom and if we simply wanted to have more kids, we’d pop ’em out of my body (assuming it all works down there). We’re in it for the kids because we feel called to care for the fatherless, defend the weak, clothe the naked, house the homeless, feed the hungry, heal the sick. If this doesn’t work out with DCS, I know God will use us in another way. This was His idea first, after all.
*Parenting is fun. Dealing with the child welfare system is not. The kids are worth it.
Tomorrow we’re going to get fingerprinted for the third time in the last two years. We assumed that our prints would never change but apparently the government wants to make sure they’re still the same as they were in May 2011 and January 2012.
I’ll keep you posted if/when we’re approved to start receiving placement calls.