A week ago we received a phone call for a placement. 3 pm on a Friday when we have gutted our kitchen and are in the process of putting it back together. We had no kitchen sink, no cook top, no stove. We were improvising. But that’s just how it always works!
Anyways… we got the phone call. An 11 year old girl. We said yes. She arrived about 5 pm. K is tall, slender, pretty, and scared. She is somewhat shy yet doesn’t have much “stranger danger”. We had a wonderful weekend. She joined right into our chaos, L loved having a girl to play with that was her age. She has been desperately missing M and the friendship… no, sisterhood… they had. We thoroughly enjoyed K. She started to get louder and louder and share her opinion more and more. She has a wonderful sarcasm about her, which fit right in.
We knew she had court Monday, since they always have court within the first business day of being in care. K wanted to go to court. It was a day off of school for our kids, so I arranged a last minute sitter for our crew and packed up and took K to court.
They were running behind. Really behind. As in an hour and forty-five minutes behind. But I had a choice of what to do for that hour and forty-five minutes.
When we got to court, got through security, K ran straight to her mom and embraced her in a 5 minute sobbing, crying, hug. Then proceeded to move through each and every family member that was there, giving them hugs and sitting on their laps. There were about 15 family members there so it took her a bit. I stood off to the side, slightly awkwardly.
The birth family. This is such a fragile relationship. As the foster mom, I never know what the birth family thinks of me. I rarely know if they’ve had experience with child welfare or not. I am often times the enemy. Even though I am not the one who took their child, I am currently the one who has their child so it is very easy to blame me. This first encounter with the birth family is so crucial.
As I stood there and watched sweet K work around the waiting room, my insecurities flare up like nobodies business. I could just stand here, I could just not make eye contact. I could just pretend like I’m doing something super important on my phone. I don’t know if they will like me. I don’t know if they will cuss me out, yell at me, or if they will hug me and embrace me.
“Okay Lord… what do you want me to do?”
“Shake each of their hands. Make eye contact. They matter.”
“Well alrighty then. Protect me because this is Your idea.”
By this time, K had worked her way around and was back to grandma and mom. I walked up and said “so, you want to introduce me to all these people?!” So she did. We walked around the room, K introducing me to each and every family member. Each one I reached my hand out, gave them a firm shake and made eye contact with a smile and said “Hi! I am Kelsey.” At the end of the line up there was a slight pause. This was the next crucial moment. So I go “Whew! Now just don’t give me a quiz!” laughter rang through the waiting area and I was in. I sat down with them and spent the next hour and forty-five minutes talking with the birth family. We laughed, we joked, we cried. They asked me many questions and I got to share advice from our experience fostering. Mom was pulled away from the pack for a few minutes by her attorney (who she literally just met). When she came back I got to share with her some info on just how awesome of an attorney she has. He is one of our other girls’ attorneys and I know him well. You could see this sense of peace and relief come over her when she said “Oh really? Ahhh.”. I got to talk with aunt about the church we attend and hear all about her church. There we sat, for an hour and forty-five minutes. Investing in each others lives for the sake of this precious girl, K. By the time they called us back for court, I walked in amongst the family. United. One front.
Court was great. The judge was amazing. She was thorough, didn’t sugar coat anything, held DHS to an appropriate standard, spoke direct and convicting words to mom. At the end of it, she ruled K could go home to mom and grandma with an appropriate safety plan in place. And I whole heartedly agreed. Yes, it would be tough to say goodbye to K, but this was absolutely right.
That is sometimes how it goes. Hello and goodbye all in the same breath. But I got to have an impact on this family. Who knows where it will go, but I made it. When we walked out of the courtroom, each and every family member shook my hand or gave me a hug and said “Thank you. Thank you so providing a safe and loving home for our girl” with tears in their eyes.
You are welcome. You are so, so very welcome.
That evening while we were waiting for her caseworker to pick her up, K said “well, I guess God heard all my prayers last night”. I perked up “Oh ya? You were praying?” “Yes, I prayed I would get to go home. And He listened!!” “That is wonderful, K! And you know what? He is ALWAYS there, always listening. Sometimes the answer is no, but sometimes it is yes. And you can always, always ask.”
This girl is one who wasn’t a fan of going to church Sunday… and now she is praying. Thank you Jesus.