Friday, January 20, 2012

24 Hours of Foster Care

The last 24 hours have been a crazy whirlwind of activity. In that time, we got our first foster child and then saw her reunited with her mother. We've heard the advice from veteran foster parents that we need to be flexible and open to sudden change of plans. Now we definitely see what they mean. Here's a timeline of the past day:

Thursday morning:
10:00am: I get a call (while I'm in the middle of baking cookies with my boys) about a two day old baby girl, about to be discharged from the hospital, who needs a foster home. Amidst a flurry of phone calls, I make all the arrangements to pick her up. At this point, we know very little about the baby's situation, but we do get the idea that this will be a short-term stay. We figure sometime later next week she might be reunited with her mom.

2:00pm: I head to Target to pick up last-minute things I'll need for a baby girl. Important things like pink pajamas. And some diapers, bottles and formula.

4:00pm: We pick her up at the hospital.

5:00pm: Baby comes home. The boys are totally in love with her. Tommy, in particular, keeps trying to find ways to help out with the baby by bringing me her little hat, a stuffed animal, and asking to hold her. For the next several hours, she eats, sleeps, and poops. She repeats the cycle several times. She has a normal newborn night, waking up a few times and pooping a few times.

Friday 9:30am: I follow foster parent protocol by scheduling a doctor appointment for baby and contacting her social worker.

10:30am: I get a phone call from baby's social worker that she is going to be reunited with her mom later in the day, and could I perhaps bring her to the social services building right after her doctor appointment? I say "Of course", but my mind is totally reeling from the sudden change of plans. After another flurry of phone calls, a load of laundry, and some frantic running around the house to gather baby items, baby is packed up and ready to go.

2:30pm: Baby has her doctor appointment.

4:00pm: Baby is reunited with her mama. I drive home in the pouring rain and traffic trying to gather my wits about me and come to terms with the newest change of plans.

I'm sad that this experience is over so quickly. It was fun to take care of a newborn baby girl, despite the several wake-ups at night. But ultimately, I'm happy that the baby was reunited with her mom. 

I wasn't prepared for the complex emotions of it all. When we picked up the baby at the hospital, I was near tears most of the time. Driving up to the hospital all I thought about was the fun and excitement of caring for a brand new baby girl. But when I got there it really hit me that there was another mother on the other side things who was going home without her baby girl. I could imagine the pain she must have.

Foster care is not about finding ourselves a baby to keep; it is about helping children and their parents become well enough to stay together. 

We are so thankful for all the support and love from the people who read our blog and facebook. However, something that caught us by surprise was the comments of hopefulness that we will keep our new foster child, or comments of sadness when the child was reunited.  

It is easy to understand these reactions, since most people know of our history with miscarriage and infertility. We know that our friends are hoping for the best for us. However, that is not what this is about. We are not doing foster care to facilitate a longed-for adoption. We are open to adoption. If it happens, that would be great. But that is not the purpose we are working towards. 

When a child is reunited with his family, that is the best outcome that can happen. A broken family is made whole. The loss we feel when we let the child go is temporary. The purpose of foster care is to serve, not to keep.

Someday we may care for a child who ends up staying with us forever. But when that happens, it will be bittersweet because it means that another family failed to stay together.

Tommy multitasking: feeding the baby and doing his reading lesson. He was begging to hold her practically the whole time she was with us. It was really sweet to see him act so lovingly. 


  1. You DID have quite the whirlwind experience and the picture is adorable! I can feel your emotions through all of your posts. I'll say it again. You guys are the real deal and the foster care system is lucky to have you!

  2. What an incredible experience it has been - sort of "express introduction" to the joys and sorrows of foster parenting. I hope this baby's family will be loving her as much as you did in 24 hours she's been with you.

  3. What a moving story. Thank you for sharing it with us. The photo of Tommy with the little baby is priceless.