Court.

Court is such a normal thing in our family and in all other foster families. It’s so normal now that I forget that when I say “I’m going to court” that it isn’t a normal thing to say. I forget that not everyone makes an appearance every couple months in front of a judge.

In foster care, there is a required hearing within 24 hours of children being removed from their parent(s) custody. Then there is another hearing within 60 days of the day they are removed from their home. After that, court is typically either every 45 days, 90 days or 6 months, just depending on the case and the permanency plan. We go to them all. That’s a lot of “your honor”s, fancy clothes and court verbiage you start to understand after a bit.

Going to court is just one way that we advocate for our kids. It is also the best way to get straight information about a case. I learn so, so much about our kids’ cases just by sitting in and listening to the case worker, the judge and the attorney(s).

In general (and this is just because I get asked about court often), the case worker will present the case to the judge, the judge may ask some questions, then the child’s attorney and the parents attorney (if applicable) will present, the judge may ask some questions, then the judge will ask the foster parent(s) to stand and share how the child is doing and anything else we would like to add. It is our chance to brag about how great our kids are! Then the judge will ask more questions of the worker and/or attorney, have the CASA (if present) present, they will determine what needs to be done by the next hearing, when the next hearing will be, and anything else that needs to be on record. We will then adjourn and be done.

Totally normal, right?

Baptism.

Sunday, February 7th, was one of those days that will be engrained in my head forever. It was the day we got to watch our 9 year old get baptized. But beyond just watching, I got to get in the water with her, pray for her and actually dunk her! It was a moment I will never forget.

This is why we do this. This is why we go through the heartbreak. This is why we fight so hard for these kids. This is why we keep saying “yes”. This is why we invest tears and emotions and love and our everything into these kids. This is why we do what we do. Changed lives.

This girl came to us knowing next to nothing about the Lord. All she knew was that mom would say brother was demon possessed and sometimes she would pray for him. That’s it. Yet over the last 6 months she has watched, she has learned, she has asked questions, she has read stories, she has seen how we do life. She has seen Jesus in the people around us. And she wanted in. She wanted to have what everyone around her has. So she got it! She gave her life to Jesus and she publicly expressed it. Her life is forever changed by this simple yet profound decision.

And mom was supposed to be there. She told her the night before that she would be there. We saved her two spots. We called multiple times, leaving several messages that morning. We prayed and prayed that she would get there. And she didn’t. This is so how these precious lives go… an incredible thing (getting baptized) hand in hand with such a tough, gut wrenching, sad thing (false promises, disappointment, failure). It just breaks my heart. I wanted nothing more than for her mom to share in this amazing joy. Yet she didn’t.

This girl though… she is resilient. She was sad, of course, but she moved on. And we celebrated with our close friends who are more like family. Community is a beautiful thing and our girls saw that this weekend. They notice and they comment on it. And they love it.

Changes.

One thing I still can’t get used to with fostering is all the instant changes. Literally, in an instant, your life can, and will change. Granted, the changes we go through are typically nothing compared to what the kiddos go through, but they are still life changing.

Every time the phone rings with the 503-646-XXXX number, my heart races. It’s DHS. Do they have another placement? Has something changed in our girls’ cases? Did I miss an appointment? I mean there are about 2,304 appointments all the time, so it’d be understandable if I did. We do get lots of normal calls from DHS though. Our beloved case worker of our oldest girls’ case is amazing, and she is GREAT with communication.

But still… Every phone call is an adventure.

Today’s phone call made our lives turn in a way that was completely unexpected.

We’ve had our 9 year old since July. She is amazing. She is the definition of joy. She is always, always smiling. She is loud, caring, and enjoys and THRIVES being in our family. She has made incredible growth being with us. In fact, her therapist is pushing to “graduate” her from counseling because she’s doing so well. AND she is getting baptized this Sunday!! We (us and our co-parent, DHS) have a long term plan for her where she will transition to a distant relative that is dedicated to being a long-term placement for her and her brother. But the plan was she would transition after her brother transitions and works through anything he needs to with his transition (he has major behavioral issues). We all were thinking it would be about 6 months, realistically.

Then the phone rang.

And now we have 20 days.

Her case worker read through policy and found that because it’s an out of state placement, and because we have the involvement of ICPC (because it’s an out of state placement), both kids must be placed in the home within 20 days. And her brother is starting his transition now.

So now things are different. Now we have to speed everything WAY up.

Now we have to disrupt this little girls life in a way she is NOT expecting.

Now we have to get on our knees and pray and pray and pray for this little life. That she is spared trauma. That she is welcomed with open arms. That her brothers transition is smooth. That she gets excited. That she continues thriving.

Now we have to let go.

And this is always, ALWAYS the hardest part.

 

 

Home.

1.21.16

 “Well, we finally got the official word. She isn’t going home.” Our beloved case workers’ voice trying to be upbeat while delivering a message we all knew was coming, but doesn’t hurt any less.

 

“Home” is such a relative term for foster kiddos. For some, it means anywhere they are with their bio parents. For some it is a particular house or apartment or shelter. For some it is mom’s car. For some it is grandparents’ house. For some it is the foster family they have been with for the past few years. For our kiddo, home is a tough one. She is legally free; her parents gave up their rights to be her parents long ago (as in many years ago). She has been in state care for 7 years. Can you imagine that? She hasn’t known where her home is for SEVEN YEARS. That is way more than the majority of her life. I sure can’t imagine that. But despite her life time in foster care proving she doesn’t have a home, she has been able to identify with her “parents” (the foster parents she’s been with for a couple years) as home. Then she was removed from that home. Then those “parents” moved to a new house in a new city. She’s never been to that “home” and now, she never will.

Grieving is an understatement. I hurt for her. I ache for her. I cry for her. She is smart, she knows this decision was coming. But the finality of it will hurt. The place, or rather the people, she knows as home are officially no longer home. She gets forced back into the waiting game, then wondering game, the “will anyone accept me forever” game. And I grieve for this little life. This life that has known nothing but foster care. This life that is SO resilient yet so, so fragile. This life that just wants to be accepted… forever. This life that deserves the best. This life that needs someone to come around her and tell her they are in it for the long haul, that they won’t be calling up DHS to have her leave their home when things get tough. This little life needs this and so much more.

So we will continue to provide as much of that as we can while we get to have her. We will help teach her what a family is. We will love her help with setting up our home together. We will accept her for who she is. We will grieve with her when we go on that walk with her caseworker tomorrow afternoon that will change her life forever. We will be here for her when she needs to cry about it. We will try to answer her questions as best as we can. Because we care. Because she deserves it and SO much more. Because we are committed to this. And Lord, you’d better hold our hand through this… You’re the one who got us into this after all.