The coming posts about foster care are both for you and me. I feel like there are so many questions and misconceptions about fostering, both good and bad. And I want to preserve these facts and memories of our first few days with our girl. So that when she is ours, we can look back and never forget how far we’ve come.
First, you get The Call. It’s the term we all use- us foster parents- for the day you have been prepping for. When the placement worker calls you about a potential placement where they tell you how many children are in the family, age, name, behavior issues and what they are being removed for. This placement went slightly different because I had already gotten a heads up text from Our Girl’s previous foster mom/my really good friend that Our Girl was finally being brought into care and that they would FINALLY be calling me. I received this text mid-client so I had a slight freak out on the inside and kept on foiling while waiting for the official Call from the placement worker.
My phone rang a few minutes later and praise Jesus it was the placement coordinator telling me she was coming into care and that this afternoon, after paperwork was complete, she would be coming home to us. I acted like I was surprised and excited. I was at least one of the two. 😉 Big prayer #1 was answered and how that happened is for the next post.
I hung up the phone and told my client why I had to answer that call while she was in my chair (I never look at my phone normally). She said, “Today?? She is coming today?” Me: “Yep! That’s how that goes.” She said, “Do you have everything you need for her?” Me: “Ha. Not one thing.” I have a house full of boys so not one shred of girl things was to be found. OK, there may have been a moment where I was sure God was going to give us a baby girl so I had bought some adorable baby clothes. But those would hardly fit the 3-year-old-who-i-have-no-idea-what-size-she-is that was coming!
After I was done working, and taking Anders to the doctor, and going to the consignment store for some clothes that she would hopefully fit in, I got another call from the case worker saying she would be at my house in 40 minutes. I went to pick up Graham from school and stopped by CVS for a lice kit.
Lice. Kit. Fortunately, we had prior intel that Our Girl had been coming to school with lice for the better part of 6 weeks. They would send her home, her caregiver would “treat” it, think it was gone and then it would be there again the next week. Thank God for this intel, because the caseworker didn’t even know! I found this out when I had to explain why had cut Our Girl’s hair without permission. Yes, before this recent law was passed, foster parents had to obtain permission from the birth parents about haircuts. Never mind that the birth parents give them drugs, let them fend for themselves and beat them. Don’t worry folks, the irony isn’t lost on me. Thank goodness the elected officials in Columbia recently decided that needed to be fixed so I can now cut her hair when I feel like it. 🙂 Big Win for this hairdresser!!
We got home and just in time for our girl to get there. Her teenage sister brought her in and proceeded to tell me all about Our Girl’s routine. How she doesn’t like going to bed and that she will probably cry (great) and who to call at her school to talk about her schedule and therapies. I was expecting our girl to be happy to be in our home- I mean, how could you not be? I had hoped she remembered us but she had just turned 2 the last time we saw her, so I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t. I also wasn’t expecting her to sob when she realized her sister had to leave. They hadn’t spent much of her life together so I was surprised that she seemed so attached to her. I was heartbroken when her sister goes on to tell me that she didn’t have a foster home and had to go to a group home now.
She said that she was sad to leave her other school but that she had been in this group home the last time she was in foster care so it was okay *she guessed*. Ya know, getting taken out of school at the end of April has got to be one of the saddest things to happen to a middle-school girl. I would assume that would fall right under your 1. step-dad beating you and your mom, 2. getting pulled out of a home that you thought was going to adopt you because your parents are a**-holes, and then 3. being separated from the only family you have left to go live with 24 other girls in the middle of nowhere. Yeah. Probably falls right under all that…
Our Girl’s sister leaves after many tears and assuring her that she would see her soon. (Rip your heart out, I mean really!) I pick Our Girl up to try to comfort her while also making a mad dash to the bath to strip her down, put her clothes in a sealed bag and break into the lice treatment. I guess I’m glad my sister had lice back in the day because I had an idea of what to do and wasn’t quite as panicked by the whole *gross* situation. I quickly learned our girl did NOT like bath time. This was alarming at first because you know, you hear stories. Or maybe you don’t, so if you haven’t we are just going with the fact that she really hated water in her face. After about the 5th bath she learned that I would be EXTRA careful and use the SMALL cup and take 10x longer but no water would enter her eyes. No judgement here! I just started putting my face directly into the shower stream last year so if she wants to small cup, by George she gets the small cup! Dave was a little more perturbed by the high maintenance routine but I understood her fear of water. 😉
My friend, Melissa, was wonderful and brought over pizza and some clothes and underwear for her<--- oops, underwear, I forgot about those. Ha! My Girl and I emerged from the bath with her wet hair to proceed with the combing out part of the treatment. Thank goodness she isn't tender headed because that would have been the icing on the cake after the bath incident. You have to be thankful for the little things, otherwise it gets really overwhelming. Getting a child in your home under the best of circumstances is like getting hit by a bus (I would think). A nice bus, but a bus none the less. You pretty much operate on adrenaline at first. It’s what gets you through the first day or two and then reality really hits! Ha! After that event, it was way time for bed, which proved to be just as her sister had described. She asked to sleep on the couch and when she realized that she had to sleep in the bed she started crying again. We compromised with leaving the bedroom door open and the light on in the hallway because she was scared of the dark and God knows what else. She made it through the night with little issue and the next morning we decided to conquer potty training. She was over 3.5 yrs old so it was way past time and thankfully she was very ready for it. Until her first session in timeout when she peed herself on purpose...because she was mad at me. That was a first for me and it wasn't going to be the last. Over the next few days, we went through multiple outfits a day. Which, in my mind, wasn't ALL bad because we got to try on all of our adorable girly clothes and their corresponding bows. We have since ditched the bows because they don't stay in and maybe she's getting too old for them? The first week went fairly well despite the potty training, bouts of vomiting and diarrhea (that we later learned was stress induced by the physical abuse), and the lice. We had to do another treatment for that, which I then decided to upgrade to a more serious treatment of, sleeping in olive oil and rinsing with vinegar and cutting her hair to her shoulders. I made the executive decision at 9 PM on a Monday to take matters into my own hands and deal with the parent's freak out, if needed. I also missed 2 weeks of work because of this *gross* situation. Sad times. The next blog will cover her behavior change over the next few weeks and how that affected her relationship with Dave and what we learned caused it all. We also learned the direction of the case and that DSS was not messing around this time and they were not looking to give the parents another chance. It's all up to the judges now. As a foster parent, or someone curious about it, there aren't many blogs that I have found with personal accounts and situations and the few I have found were so encouraging to me. Sometimes you feel like you are the only wading through these waters but thank goodness we aren't! I am so blessed to know fellow foster families who are so encouraging and can share similar stories with. -Andrea