Family Planning with Foster Care

As of Thursday we will be officially done with our foster care classes, 30 hours of discussion on discipline, loss, grief, strength, and needs. We have filled out every piece of paper known to man, and when finished with that stack of paper, we were handed new stacks to fill out. We filled out profiles of our family, discussing how we live our lives and who makes our decisions. Do we have any communicable diseases or a jail history? Our marriage license, my divorce papers, social security cards, driver’s license, health forms, FBI checks, and insurance forms have been turned in. However, as time consuming as the classes have been, the hard part is just beginning.

Sometime in the not-so-distant future, a social worker will come to our house to interview us and make sure our house is a safe and healthy environment. They will make sure that our smoke detectors work and check to make sure that medication is under lock and key. We will sit down to talk and I will inwardly fret that we have framed horror movie posters in our living room. While we have pleasant conversation, I will fight the desire to blurt out, “Please know that I don’t approve of murder and the wearing of a mask made from human skin. We just really like Rob Zombie.” On my fireplace is a painting done by Selena that says, “There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife.” I will quickly explain that it is the opening line from a book that I found to be beautiful and I am not a knife enthusiast. Still, the home visit isn’t the hardest part.

Once our paperwork is stamped with a big red approved, we wait for a phone call. At some point a child will need a family and they will call us to see if we should be that family. On what I can only assume is the worst day of that child’s life, we will meet. They may be scared, angry, or confused, and it will be our jobs to put them at ease. To give them structure and support. Hopefully we will bond and make a difference in a child’s life. Perhaps the child will need a forever family and we can be that for them. But in the here and now, all we can do is wait.

Carvell and I talk about our “faux baby” sometimes. We wonder if it will be a boy or a girl. After a lifetime of female children we have a difficult time imagining life with a boy. We wonder if they will be a different race than us and make plans to be mindful of cultural differences. We talk about football season and how different it will be with me trying to care for another person in the stands. That may seem like a silly thing to wonder about, but football consumes us from August to December. We eagerly anticipate adding to our family while also fearing other aspects of foster care. How do you parent another person’s child while also absorbing them into your family? We know there will be visits with the birth parents and then the emotional fallout from those visits. We are mindful of court dates that may not go in the way that we think is best for the child. We are unable to plan for our life with a new child because we know nothing about them, not their sex, age, interest, motivations, needs, or wants. Our “faux baby” is a concept that is waiting to become a reality. When you are expecting a child through pregnancy you have nine or so months to plan and dream, but when you want to adopt through foster care you can only wait until the moment you receive your first phone call. Still, I don’t believe this will be the hardest part.

My concern is I don’t know what will be the hardest part. Will it be the dealing with a system that is heavy with problems? Will it be the time, energy, and changes to our family structure? Will it be the emotional and physical issues that can come from abuse or neglect? There are more questions than answers and I am someone who likes answers. I can worry an issue until it is a twisted knot, loops turning in on each other until it is a maze that cannot be undone. While I struggle and worry about what happens next there are also things that I know for sure: In Kentucky there are approximately 6,800 children in the foster care system and my family can help at least one of those children.

 

 

The Rocket Ship Slide

I remember it to be impossibly tall, metal, and of course red, white, and blue. The metal bars were painted blue but the glint of the metal always showed though where weather and children had taken their toll on the paint’s luster. The rocket ship slide at the local park was a thing of beauty and glory, and climbing into the ship and ascending the levels was scary, exhilarating, and suffocating. While basically open air, the top was still cramped and hot, and if two people were on the top plateau then your bodies were wedged together and contorted like child performers in Cirque du Soleil. I remember the sensation of running my fingers over the grooves of carved initials, JT + KB 4-ever, Kiss, ZZ-Top, and hearts etched into the metal, a permanent reminder of summer hood adolescence.

At the park you developed flash friendships: a girl of approximately the same age, dressed in brightly colored shorts and a pair of pink jellies that you coveted. As you climbed one behind each other up the endless staircase to the top of the rocket you swore that you would be friends forever and you told each other secrets, some true and some lies, to impress one another.

“What is your phone number?”

“555-6789”

“555-6789,” repeated over and over so you wouldn’t forget.

“We’ll call each other every night.”

Of course within moments of your new best friend leaving the phone number would leave, as did her name and the memory of her face.

The top of the rocket smelled of sweat, grass, and summer. It wasn’t at all comfortable to be there, but the top landing was much desired, and no amount of begging from the other children would make you give up your spot. There was a hierarchy to who was allowed up, and when you were on top you were queen of the playground. From your vantage point you could see the swings, monkey bars, and the water pipe that ran through the park. In the distance you could hear the carrousel music and the occasional screams from someone on the tilt-a-whirl.  That part of the park cost money and was for more special occasions. At the rocket ship playground we played for free, and hours could be spent pretending to be a tightrope walker on the water pipe.

If or when the decision was made to leave your post at the top of the slide, there was two ways down. You could back out and climb down the stairs, retracing your steps and taking that last little leap to solid dirt. Or you could take the slide, silver and the same temperature as the sun. Choosing to slide was an act of bravery. As you went down the steep slide you had to remember to keep your thighs up as to not burn and scrape off layers of skin. With your hands on the side of the slide you would descend and, depending on your rate of speed, your hands would burn from the friction. You jelly shoes would hit the dirt with an audible thunk and a small dust storm would appear. Your feet were left with dirty hash marks and grit caked in between your toes.

It was summer, youth, simple, and beautiful. I miss that slide and the memories it held.