Foster Care – Our First Placement Story
Well, it’s been quite a while since I posted about our foster care journey, partially because literally nothing was happening, and partly because I wanted to take the first few weeks of our first placement for us as a family before writing about it to the online community. But we’ve had MC for a little over 3 weeks now, and all the things they say are true. You need about a month to fall in love, and we’re on our way there. So, without further ado, here’s our Placement Story – kinda like a birth story except not at all.
The movie Instant Family is totally right. Foster care is such a surreal experience. You get a call one day about taking a child, then suddenly that child appears and your family is one bigger. I guess it’s similar to pregnancy in that it actually does take about 9 months to get through the home study process to get certified (yeah, not kidding there), but it really is sudden.
Our license came through sometime in the middle of March. It was fairly non-dramatic, and we did not get a call in the first 24 hours, or in the first week, or in the second week. And, in typical fashion, I also got reassigned at work to a much more demanding and time consuming job about a week later and had to go to DC. I remember joking with my husband that we’d get that first call the Monday I was gone because that’s just how life works. Well, we did.
Here are a few details about DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) and the inner-workings of the agency that you may or may not know. When you’re going through your home study, you have a home study caseworker. This is the person that certifies your home for suitability, makes sure all your (incredibly extensive and invasive) paperwork is in order, and gets you and your home licensed for foster care. Once that license comes through, your case is transferred to ‘ongoing case management.’ That means you get a NEW caseworker with the title of resource manager, and this is your person, and I mean that in the Meredith Grey/Cristina Yang ‘my person’ definition.
Your resource manager is the person who puts your family, your house, your LIFE up for placements. They represent foster families to the social workers with the impossible job of finding great homes for children whose parents can’t provide the care they need, and while the system’s priority is always reunification, they always have to factor in permanency when they place a child too (to the best of their ability). Resource managers serve as the foster parent resource, they visit your home monthly when you have a placement, they answer your questions, they provide your forms, they tell you what to do for things like enrolling in WIC, getting mileage reimbursement, getting daycare vouchers, moving (because yeah, that’s happening, more on that later), and just in general represent YOU in this crazy world that is foster care. Your resource manager is your lifeline, so you kinda need a good one. We were assigned a good one, and for that I am very, very grateful. Our home study worker was also quite stellar, so our experience so far with DCFS has been very positive.
So, predictably, on the first Monday of April, I was sitting in a nondescript cubicle at my client’s global headquarters, getting familiar with a new enterprise data architecture (because my day job is NOT running this website, yo), and I got a call from an unknown 216 number. I answer it, and it’s our resource manager. She introduces herself, apologizes for not calling sooner (she had been on vacation), and asks me if I want a 4 month old Caucasian male. There’s a problem with his current foster home and he needs to be moved, she says. He’s healthy. I say sure, but I’m in DC and we can’t take placement until Saturday at the earliest. She says that’s probably fine but she’ll call me back to confirm.
20 minutes later I got a one-line email confirmation that we’d be getting a baby boy the following Monday. And I didn’t believe it. But I called my husband and our daycare to let them know, because that’s what you do, right?
That Friday, I was out to dinner with my best friend and her husband and I got another call from an unknown 216 number. This time it was the baby’s case worker, and she filled me in on more of the details on this baby boy. Suddenly he went from an ephemeral being to a real baby with a name, a birthday, a formula, and a clothing size. Oh, and he was almost 6 months old, not 4 months old, and his birthday was the same as my best friend who I HAPPENED TO BE AT DINNER WITH IN DC. I started thinking that this kid might be real.
I drove home from DC on Saturday. We spent Sunday unpacking baby clothing, shopping at Target for baby stuff that we didn’t have on-hand, and freaking out like all normal humans would.
On Monday afternoon three weeks ago, right on schedule, MC and his wonderful social worker entered our lives. He’s small for his age and birth weight, we are pretty sure the race description we got for him isn’t accurate, he’s got some stiffness issues that we need to have evaluated, and he’s a little behind developmentally, but wow is he a joy. This baby re-defines ‘easy baby.’ He is a happy, cheerful baby who engages actively with his environment, sleeps like a champ (11-13 hours/night – STRAIGHT), RARELY cries, and is constantly smiling. He knows how to self-soothe, he is utterly fascinated by our completely untrained and rambunctious dogs, adores other children, and he sympathy cries when our kids cry. He’s a true joy, and we’re so thrilled to have him.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge just how unusual everything about this placement has been. First, we had a full week of advanced notice. That alone is practically unprecedented, and it worked out for us only because MC was in another foster home at the time where he was safe and loved and not in immediate danger. Second, his case worker is sincerely awesome and very invested. She really went above and beyond for this child where I think a lot of case workers may not have. Third, he’s healthy. We know enough of his history to know his mom had proper prenatal care, that he was born full term, and that he was not drug exposed in utero. Finally, he’s HAPPY. This kid is a truly joyful child, and he’s really come alive in the three weeks we’ve had him. He smiles constantly, cries rarely (but consistently when people leave the room), loves being held, LOVES having brothers around, and he’s adorable to boot. His first foster home clearly loved him, and so will we. Whether he’s ours for now or ours forever we have no idea, but we’ll love him for as long as we have him.
Until next time …
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