Thursday, February 16, 2012

Six Days

Baby P napping through a (rather loud) baby shower

Our latest foster care experience lasted six days. We got "Baby P" on Thursday afternoon and she returned to her mom the following Tuesday afternoon. 

We are getting a lot of short-term, short-notice, newborns since we are an Emergency Shelter Home. When a child is taken from the birth parents, it is usually a sudden, unplanned event. The children we get, as an ESH, have little warning, and often are far more likely to leave our care in a matter of days once the situation is figured out by the social worker. If the child ends up staying in foster care and/or adoption, we would be high on the list so the kid does not have to move again. 

Anyways, this is a random list of things I've learned from our latest three placements.

1. It has been so important to have a clear idea of why we are doing foster care, and set it in the forefront of our minds. Our main intention for doing foster care has been to bring children into our home to show them love and care for however long they need. Adoption is secondary. There came a time last week when we had to make a very quick, and very difficult decision. Because we knew that our objective basically boiled down to helping kids now, we were able to make a good decision. 

If our objective was to find a child to keep, it would affect so many of our decisions. Do we take a placement we know would be very temporary? Do we do our best to accommodate birth parents and push for reunification? Do we bond and love a child whose future with us is likely short-lived, and will never remember us?  Those are critical questions that have different answers depending on your motives. You can't hide your true motives when the hard and painful choices come.

2. The first few days of bringing a baby home (even a healthy, happy baby) will be very difficult. The baby is in a foreign environment with new smells, sounds, and sights and they plain just miss their mama. With our last placement, the baby was fussy, didn't like to be put down, didn't sleep during the day, and woke up four times a night - for the first two days. On the third day, she was like a brand-new kid! She smiled when I picked her up and talked to her, she started sleeping through the night for 7-hour stretches and started napping during the day like a normal three-month old. 

3. We should trust very little that we are told about the case we're dealing with, even from authoritative sources, like the case worker. We've realized that there are so many people involved in the process of removing a child from its parents and placing it in a foster care home. Each person sees a different slice of the picture and relays only that information to us. Often, the information is incomplete or incorrect. Core facts in the story are constantly changing as more is revealed, investigated and clarified over time. Which leads to....

4. Learning to be flexible. This concept is still being pounded into us, and we're slowly getting better at it. We are planners by nature. We are not obsessive, but we take comfort in organization.  And now, so many decisions are made by other people which have a great impact on our lives and schedule. To some degree, in becoming a foster parent you agree to hand over control of some of your life to government workers. We have been eating out a LOT lately, out of necessity.  
- What, there's another visitation tomorrow that you JUST told me about, and it's during my kids' nap time? 
- Oh, now instead of just a visitation, the baby is actually being returned to her mom in an hour? Gather her things and say goodbye quickly!
You paid a non-refundable fee in advance for a Women's Retreat? Sorry, you have a new placement to pick up a few days before and won't be able to go.
- You gave your Women's Retreat ticket away, thinking you were not going? Well, the child is not coming home, so you can go again, and you need to buy another ticket because you just gave the other one away. (Actually it all worked out in the end and we didn't have to buy an extra ticket, but it was close!)
- We just showed up at 3 PM to pick up a new placement, but we need to wait at the assessment center, with our kids, for 2 hours since the doctor ordered some last minute tests just as we were about to walk out the door. No time to make dinner. Time to eat out again. 

5. I need to start letting go of the idea of having a clean house. It is really difficult to get anything done with a baby in the house, beyond keeping us all fed and in clean clothes (and barely even then). However, I am also seeing that having a solid routine helps tremendously when adding another child to the mix. Baby P fit right into our schedule, after some tweaking.

6. Try not to cancel any plans. We tried to keep life as normal as possible, even if that meant that things got a little crazy for a few days. We can't continually make plans and cancel them whenever we get a new placement. During the few days we had Baby P, I had a few play-dates with friends, ran my usual errands with three kids in tow, had friends over for dinner, helped throw a baby shower, and helped set up for my mom's group. Which goes back to #4: learning to be flexible (and relaxed)!

Now we're back on the call list at the children's shelter, so we could get another placement any day. Luckily I got a full night's rest and managed to pick up the shambles that was my house before we get any more calls!


  1. Another awesome post!! So glad you got some smiles out of baby P! :)

  2. I admire you. I cannot imagine living with so much uncertainty and change, but it's all about attitude. I hope baby P will have as much love with her family as she had with yours.