Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Relicensing

Tomorrow our licensor is coming to do a walk-through inspection of our home as we have decided to renew our foster care license for another year.  It's funny because when we first started fostering we would cross our fingers to get placements where there was a high likelihood of us adopting them, but now, twelve years later, and with three permanent children to call our own in our home, our preferences have changed.  I think this is the first year where we've told our licensor and RFC that we are interested in fostering but not necessarily adopting.

The first obvious consideration in deciding whether to open up our home to more foster children or not is physical space.  Our family is growing and kids take up space-especially as they grow!  We currently have room for two more children in our home & cars but we're starting to feel a little cramped.

Another important consideration in taking a placement is what ages would work with the kids in your home.  At this point in time my husband and I both feel more comfortable with not disrupting the birth order of our children.  Because of that, we prefer children no younger than our youngest and no older than our oldest.  I miss caring for babies and toddlers even though they are a LOT of physical work.  However, one advantage of fostering babies and younger children is that cribs and toddler beds take up a lot less space in rooms than "big boy" or "big girl" regular beds.  I think I might actually cry when we get rid of the last spare toddler bed in our home. 

I have also recently learned that beginning next fall I will be working twice a week to get hours for my LCSW license.  This has necessitated arranging day care for our two youngest children when I'm not at home- something I've never had to do before as I've been able to stay at home during the day.

Because of this new development, I think it would be best to take foster children who are at least in 1st grade. Although it's not impossible to be a foster parent who works full-time I think it would be difficult to do so, especially with younger children, because foster parents have to foot the bill for their day care (at least in my state).  Besides that, the time needed to take kids to weekly visits with their bio family and court hearings and lots and lots of doctors appointments or other appointments if they have special needs or need therapy or early interventions.- can really add up. 

Case in point: I was going through some old papers and forms of Jack and Jill's (my two youngest children who were adopted from foster care after being in our home for over a year) and I calculated that in between the both of them I took them to 26 medical appointments- including early intervention/speech therapy- during the 16 months that they were in our care before being adopted- including at least one trip to the E.R. and a hospital stay at a children's hospital.  Those appointments did not include weekly visits with their birth family, team meetings, or court hearings.  It would be very difficult to arrange time off of one's work to attend all those appointments, visits, and meetings.  I was able to do it because I was a stay at home mom at the time.

Honestly, as I've remembered how time consuming weekly visits and regular check-ups are for children in foster care I start to get a little discouraged about taking any more placements.  Isn't our family busy enough with appointments of our own?!  

I know that for a lot of people the biggest fear they have about fostering is reunification and while that can be a very painful process, lately I've found myself having much more pragmatic concerns.  As we've debated whether or not to continue fostering I have found myself worrying more about the sheer physical time and energy it takes to transport a child to appointments and visits and court hearings.  We've already dealt with the pain of saying goodbye to foster placements before- some cases are much harder than others- but at this point any reluctance I have to taking any more foster children in our home is simply the devotion (time, energy, and love)  it takes to be a foster parent and to advocate for a child.

We got a call earlier this month about a little boy the same age as our little boy who needed to be placed.  The story of how he came into care is one that left me shaking my head and thinking, "Its just not fair what some kids have to deal with in life."  After getting more info on his case and realizing that his placement might be more of a temporary than permanent situation as kin were in the process of being tracked down, my children and I were allowed to visit this little boy at the temporary shelter he was staying at for the purpose of seeing if he would be a good fit with our kids and into our family.

Unfortunately, it became very evident at the visit that this little boy was overwhelmed and resistant to "coming home" with our family.  [Even though the transitional worker made it very clear to him that we weren't there to "take" him but just wanted to come and hang out for a bit].  Perhaps if I were by myself without my kids this little boy would have felt more comfortable- or maybe not.  Whatever his reasons, this innocent little child had already been passed around and suffered too much disruption since initially being placed into foster care a few short weeks ago.  Although we were willing to take him into our home, the team of case workers and other staff felt it would be best, given his response to meeting us, if he could go to a home where he could receive more individualized attention (perhaps less children in the home) as well as a home which would be open to adopting him in the case that a placement with kin didn't work out.

I hope that little boy gets placed in a home where he can get the care he so badly needs.  In the meantime, it inspired me to be a little more nurturing and attentive to my own children.