I know this can be confusing. I know you did not receive the hours of training we did. I know there is no way for you to know unless we attempt to lovingly explain. So here is my attempt. I'm sorry if it sounds harsh, or mean, or insensitive, or anything other than me trying to help you better understand how to best help our kiddos.
I read a wonderful post a while back from a mom explaining a recent interaction with her own mother about her child. "Oh, I'm her Grandma, I can spoil her if I want" rang out the stereotypical Grandma as she handed the child a lollipop the mother already said "no" to. This scene is so cliche we all recognize it. "What harm can it cause?" is the argument, "A little sugar never hurt anyone". As this mother so articulately explained you just taught this child that mom does not always know best and you do not have to listen to her. There are some rules that adults say that can be broken.
As we prepare for our placements I've been trying to think through ways to help prepare our families. How certain scenarios play out in our unique situation, and this is where things get exponentially more complicated.
1. We entered into a contract with DHS/The State of Oklahoma to act on their behalf in caring for these children.
2. We have rules and guidelines to follow to fulfill that contract.
3. There are teams of experts that help make those rules and guidelines for the safety and confidentiality of the children.
4. For those reasons we are "privy" to information about the child as state contractors that we are not allowed to share with you, no matter how much we want to vent, talk, or help you understand the situation.
5. When we say a rule that may seem silly or strange to you, it may not be ours.
6. That rule may be there for a very specific reason that you are not allowed to know background about.
Example #1: Someone is taking care of the kids for us. We say "hey, don't worry if they keep the door open when they use the restroom, they just do that sometimes."
Now I just left you with a 14 year old, and that may be strange and awkward to you. You may think "this child needs to learn privacy and manners". You decide my "rule" is silly and decide to try to close the door for them. The child comes home and bursts into tears because they were beaten in a bathroom and do not yet feel safe without the door open.
Example #2: We have a 3 and a 5 year old. You come over to watch them for a few hours. "I don't let them have the TV louder than 34 because of the neighbors". You notice the lady downstairs leave and the 3 year old says they can't hear the TV. You decide to bend the rule, the lady did leave after all so it should be fine till they come back. You turn it up to 40. The 3 year old is watching something when it makes a loud crashing noise, he loves trucks! And you hear a scream from the 5 year old in the other room. You race in and they are hiding under the bed crying uncontrollably. You don't know what happened!? You can't get them to stop so you have to call us home. We have to simply tell you we'll take care of it, or make up a lie.
The 3 year old doesn't remember the gun shots. The 5 year old hears any loud noise and they are flooded with the violent memories of daddy threatening mommy. They know they are safe most of the time, but something irrational and reflexive takes over when they hear loud noises. It takes hours to calm them back down and for them to believe they are safe.
Example #3: I told the child "no" to eating a piece of candy. You think I'm being strict and slide one behind my back. "Shhhh, don't tell your mom" you say with a warm smile and a wink. You were completely innocent with the exchange, but that night they tell me they are scared of you. "People who tell me to keep secrets sometimes hurt me".
The child was told by a family member to keep a secret molestation from mom and dad. The child was threatened to keep that secret or they would be hurt.
These kids are coming from a very different background than you are used to. They have gone through trauma that surpasses what most of us can imagine. Trauma that makes up their life story, the story that they alone own, that they alone have the right to tell. They need specific boundaries and freedoms that very smart professionals have been studying for years. We have taken lengthy courses to learn those needs and we have been trained on how to handle certain situations.
Please, please, please. Please trust us when we ask something that may seem strange, or unexplainable. You may ask me why when the child is not present. I will try my best to give you a reason. I may only be able to say I can't, but at least you will know it was a thought out decision and it is probably in the best interest of the child whom you have grown to love.
Today we received a call about a 4 year old. We got the information we needed and said "yes". After phone tag for half the day while figuring out how to prepare, we were told they were looking for something closer to Tulsa for this particular case. So we are still empty. Continued thoughts that the right fit comes our way and we are able to help in the best way we can.
4 days and this has already been a roller coaster. The day after saying yes to potentially 3 kids, we got a call about two more. Boy and girl, 1 and 2, pre-adoptive. They currently are not in a home together. Some of the details concerned us, especially being in an apartment with a neighbor who already made a noise complaint against us. We would not be providing stability for any placement if we had to move because we were evicted.
We actually received the call on the way to a Foster Support Group meeting. Everyone there was very helpful and gave us some great questions to ask to better help us make this difficult decision. They gave great encouragement.
"This is your first placement, we need to be careful giving new foster parents something they are uncomfortable with, we need to stop burning out the newbies."
"There are too many kids in our system, we will find the perfect placements for you."
I believe we made the right decision by saying "no". But I was so nervous. I believe in taking care with these decisions, we want to ensure that we stay in this, and do the most good, but I've read a couple blogs that warned against saying no. Losing credibility and receiving fewer calls. I think the first call we got was a blessing, it showed we are willing to say yes. We were flexible, going above our age "limit", saying yes to a possible third child. And if we were so willing to be flexible with the first, and had so many doubts with the second, then surely our guts are working and we need to listen.
After telling our case worker she reassured us we should never be afraid to say no. That was relieving.
After sleeping on it, we also both were so surprised how nervous we were that they were pre-adoptive already. We went into this hoping for pre-adoptive and terrified about the thought of reunification. Throughout this process we have really grown. The training really opened our eyes to the need and beauty of foster care. Is it difficult? Without a doubt. But is there goodness out of pure fostering? Absolutely.
Our job is to provide for and love these kids. We get to help their parents learn how to better take care of their kids. Our privilege is to help this family heal. The gravity and beauty of that responsibility is really setting in.
Then if for whatever reason healing and reunification is no longer the goal, we are blessed with the honor to love them forever.
What a incredibly difficult, frustrating, beautiful, rewarding vocation.
3:19 PM we got our first call about a child in need. A 3 year old girl who had a sibling above our age "limit". She had another sibling, younger, that may need placement later. We asked all the questions we had researched and prepared.
3:49 PM Our caseworker called back with answers to all our questions. They had found family members closer to the kids home that would be a better match. They asked if we were willing to accept them if their family fell through.
We said yes, and waited...
4:12 PM Their family accepted.
That hour was long and nerve wracking. We are glad they found a place. We are glad they are able to stay closer to familiarity.
We are anxious to do our part.
As of 12:01 PM we are officially an open foster home! Just in time for Christmas. We can get a call at anytime about placements! We are so humbled by all the support by our friends and family. Please continue to keep us in your thoughts, especially with the added stress of the holidays.
These are our faces right after the news. :)
We just received the call! Our case worker said DHS officially accepted our application. Now they just have to put us into their system which should be by tomorrow and we are officially open. We could get a call as early as tomorrow!
We still have so much we should do, but I guess no one is ever 100% ready.
We are scared, and happy, and empathetic, and torn, and determined, and anxious, and excited.
But mostly we are so full of love.
Today we read over our entire case study. We read through our final contract. We read a few more things, we read some more, and then we did it. We signed our last piece of paper work we will sign as a childless couple. Our case worker will submit our case to DHS tomorrow and barring no questions she expects us to be approved and certified by Friday 12/11/15. Due to our final Christmas concerts we have decided to open our home Thursday 12/17/15. Our case worker said she believes it is highly likely we will receive a placement before Christmas.
This is it, less than two weeks.
Now the hard part begins.