Redoing The Room

I can’t bring myself to redecorate The Room.

I said I wouldn’t. I said and promised my husband I would. not. touch. it. until Future Child(ren) came and made her decisions because I once decorated a Future Children’s room four times before Future Children actually came into existence. So I swore I wouldn’t redecorate this room, even though the closets are wonky and the paint colors are terrible.

But then She came in and made the decisions and things started progressing and got done and the beginnings got decorated and then She isn’t coming back here. She decided on lots of white with a little bit of gray and I was going to surprise her with twinkly lights suspended from the ceiling.

I can’t walk past that room without seeing the comforter and sheets we picked out for her in the doorway, so we keep the door closed. I can’t go in there without seeing things She tacked to the wall, so the husband finally took them down. I can’t see that room without seeing her so now I need to redecorate it, even though I promised and I swore that I wouldn’t.

But I have to redo it and strip it of it’s character so i don’t keep seeing her. It’s what must be done.

Dear Foster Momma

by Guest Writer Erin

Dear Foster Momma,

I know you’re not who you thought you’d be.

I know how you nodded your head in the foster care classes, agreeing with DCS and their system. I know how you put trust in caseworkers to do what’s best for your kids. While you knew that your babies were one case out of 30 they had to carry, you felt confident. But then the contact with their family case manager dwindled. And all of a sudden things didn’t seem to be in the best interest of the children. And you know it’s your job to support the system, but it’s becoming difficult. When surprises continue to arise, you grow weary. Very quickly you see the flaws of the system and you wonder how you could be so naive.

I know that while you waited to become licensed you read and read and read on how to advocate for birth families. You educated your family and your friends. You prepared your heart. You reached out and asked how you could help. You pleaded with the Lord to change hearts and situations. But then all of the trauma that the children in your care begins to surface. You begin to feel anger about circumstances beyond your control. It becomes harder and harder to see the good.

I know how you anxiously awaited your first placement. I know how you believed that you would love with all you had and yet hold on loosely. I know you said that while it would be hard, you would be able to say goodbye- that goodbye would be a good thing. But then you brought home a baby from the hospital and you didn’t sleep for 3 months. Those sleepless nights bonded you together. Your heart grew in ways you never imagined. All of a sudden ‘goodbye’ seems unbearable. The thought of not hearing their first words or watching them walk is unfathomable.

I know how you wonder if all of this is worth it. I know how desperate you are to change the system. I know that this is harder than you thought it would be.

I also know that you are doing the best you can. I know that you’re a good momma. I know that what you’re doing matters.

 

Homeschooling and Foster Care

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by Guest Writer Lauren

My oldest was a newly fledged five year old. It was the year that we had to enroll him in a Kindergarten. We had been, for lack of a better word, “homeschooling” for preschool and loving it. What I didn't want, going forward, was to isolate ourselves from our community. I was worried that if we kept going, if we kept homeschooling, it would be for all the wrong reasons. I was also worried that if we sent him to public school, if we changed things because the financial burden was suddenly minimal, that it would be for more wrong reasons. I was worried we were going to be sending him off on some save the world mission. Something not fair of us to ask.

Basically, any way you looked at it I was worried.

We seemingly had two choices. To enroll him in the local school, the one that tipped above the poverty line, or to keep him home, in our nice little bubble. I couldn't decide. I'll never forget the day we sat in the car after touring a homeschool enrichment program. After more lengthy conversation, I told my husband I couldn't decide. I asked him, point blank, to tell me what to do.

As a wannabe feminist, it was terrifying. He said, “Let's homeschool. If it sucks we'll just send him to school later.”

So, we did. We continued to talk and work our way through what we were hoping and wanting.

We decided (together, I should add) that our goals as a family and our vision for his childhood included him staying at home with me. We would later figure out the curriculum and ideology but for now we just wanted more time at home. And time we had.

I'm increasingly grateful for it as the years go on. Our hearts have always had an inkling of aching for more and a little after this life decision we made another. Little by little, email by email, orientation after orientation, in what felt like eternity but now seems like a blink, we were certified Foster Parents. The dichotomy never really occurred to us. Taking our kids out of the system while at the same time opening our homes to the kids incredibly deep in a different one. It seemed to fit all those initial worries going into the educational system. About isolation and community and vision. It was too much to ask my five year old to save the world on his own but it was not too much of us to do it together.

I laugh at myself now. I never really quite realized the impact foster care would have on our schedule. Vision or no vision. The family visits and doctor appointments and home visits and therapy (both in and out of the home). The behavior curve and emotional needs of everyone. How changing any one thing can alter your rhythm incredibly. How important rhythm is for a homeschool.

I know you are curious as to how it works for us. We've been in the thick of it for three years now. Somedays I'm curious too. Especially on bad days.

Usually after an initial placement we tuck into our little home. Cancel classes and events. We work slowly through our books while we coordinate with the county. We do all the things any foster family does. We just do it together. You see, for us education is our life. It's not the math textbook or the penmanship. It's not history or civics. It's our life as a whole. And that life includes, on a daily basis, kids that need a home that loves them.

We have a saying in our home: “the baby is the lesson.” And that applies to our foster care commitments too. “The system is the lesson.” A lesson in patience. In hospitality. In sharing space and time and materials. It is a lesson in community. In homelessness. In the effects of drug use. In the prison system. It is a lesson in a family unit. A lesson in the pain that comes from a broken one.

A lesson in Grace. Overwhelming Grace. A lot of lessons for all of us.

While, at times, foster care feels more disruptive to our homeschool than conducive. It works for us because we've chosen, very intentionally, to do it as a unit. That means driving to visits together. That means the kids are home during home visits. Sometimes that means meetings in public with homeless bio parents. It means therapy waiting rooms together. It means making beds and laying out stuffies and showing the house to a new friend, together. It means tears on the stoop, together. It means welcoming their little brother home, in the middle of the week day, together.

The end of it is, the day to day is the simple stuff. Anyone can pick up a curriculum and give their kids an adequate education. Math will get done. Writing will happen. Books will be read. History will be memorized. The hard stuff is the life stuff. The overwhelming and confusing stuff. For that I'm beyond grateful that we get to do it all together, as a family, with bountiful time and curious hearts and open arms.

The Mom and the Foster Mom

 by  Guest Writer Amber

I park my vehicle in front of the courthouse, turn off the engine, and lean my head back to take a deep breath. It doesn’t matter how many times I do this, it doesn’t get easier. Or more predictable. Or less heartbreaking.

See, today is the first time I will meet my seven year old foster daughter’s parents. I will walk a sterile courthouse hallway hand-in-hand with their little girl and introduce myself as the person who has had sole care and custody of their daughter for four months now. I will be the third home she has been in since coming into care over a year and a half ago but I will also be the first foster parent they will meet.

Once inside, my foster daughter recognizes her parents sitting in chairs lined down the hallway and immediately runs to them. Hugs, kisses, the normal conversation of a separated parent and child all run together. Slowly they realize that there is a short redhead who is standing suspiciously nearby and they make eye contact with me. I brace myself for this moment because in the 20+ children I have cared for, meeting the parents is a wild card event. Do they hate me on sight because their kids are thriving with me? Do they love me because I am the sole reason that their supervised visits with their kids was restarted? Do they see me as another player in a game stacked against them? What will they say to me in front of everyone sitting here?

I immediately put a smile on my face and reach my hand out to the woman I recognize from the pictures “Hi, I’m the foster mom!” I chirp as I try to set everyone at ease with some friendliness and good cheer. “You must be the mom, it’s so good to meet you.” I say this to acknowledge immediately to this woman that I recognize her position in my daughter’s life. She is The Mom. I am Foster Mom. We don’t get to switch and we both have to deal with the reality of where those names put us. She has her daughter’s history and is supposed to fight for her future. I get the present. Somewhere out in the world there could be a third mom. A woman who doesn’t even know the name of the girl who will one day be her adopted daughter.

Just a few seconds go by as this woman in patterned leggings, blue hair, and a ripped tank top eyes me and has only a moment to decide how to react to my presence. She gets up and shakes my hand. More introductions pass as I meet the dad, the dad’s girlfriend, and the mom’s boyfriend. I go and sit a few chairs away to give them some semblance of separation so that neither of us has to endure finding a safe common topic and to keep our daughter from having to choose between us.

After a few minutes the mom comes up to me and asks how The Girl (lets just call her that) is doing. I fill her in on dentist visits, how the new school year is going, that a few weeks ago The Girl learned to ride a bike without training wheels, and the accomplishment of finally getting The Girl off all (unnecessary) medication. We both continue sharing details, she gets to tell me bits and pieces of childhood tales, I get to share all the growing and changing that has happened this summer. The Girl is happily sitting on her daddy’s lap and telling him all about her life.

This is how it should be. The Mom and Foster Mom coming together and putting aside anything else but how much they love The Girl. And for those 15 minutes before the court hearing begins, we are able to do just that.

I wish I could end here. Draw the curtain over a happy ending. That wouldn't be honest though, or even fair to cover up the ugly reality that is so prevalent in foster care. What happened in the court room is typical but heartbreaking. The story of drugs, neglect, poverty, abuse, and addictions is a common one in the foster care world but to hear it in black and white, almost dragging the truth into the light, is bound to stir up dark reactions. For parents to be told they are coming up on their last shot. That instead of a lifetime with their children they are facing weeks before a judge will hand down a decision that would legally separate them forever. It is a harsh reality that when the parents are faced with it- their instinct is to strike out. To avoid. To justify.

My daughter left that courthouse in tears as her mom stormed down the hallway, unable to control herself long enough to give her daughter a hug goodbye or any reassurance at all. I was reduced to a villain in the parents eyes and the few moments of camaraderie we shared in the hallway was long gone. I was left to console a seven year old girl whose questions had no answers that I could share with her other than I loved her, that I understood her sadness, that I wanted everything that is right for her. 

In the end, you do your best. You fight. You pray. You overcome. What you can't do is control who hurts your kids. All you can do is be there to pick up the pieces and help put them back in place as best you can.

Psalm 127

PHOTO BY SHELBY

PHOTO BY SHELBY

by Guest Writer Tabitha

As a mother, few scriptures offer as much peace, specific to the calling, as Psalm 127.

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; 
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

The only way to effectively make a home, protect a family, or conquer that to-do list is to rest in the King.  This is good news to tired and weary mothers! Though nights may be long and dreamless, souls find rest when they come to the gentle Christ.  He exchanges heavy burdens for an easy yoke (Matthew 11:28-30).  Duties, many as they may be, have the ability to overwhelm or bring joy to a mom, depending on the source of the strength used to accomplish the tasks.  When it is the work of the Lord, one delights in it (Psalm 111); when it is human effort, it is vanity.  It is only by the Lord's strength that a woman can maintain responsibilities of Proverbs 31 proportion and not end up irritated and exhausted, but rather satiated and renewed.  A mother who submits her control and chooses submissive service to the Lord as he puts together, grows, and cares for her family is sure to find home, a place of rest.  This rest is not one of inactivity but of engagement and dwelling with Creator.  A mom, so clinging to Jesus finds strength that does not cower, weary, or faint (Isaiah 40:31).  In light of these truths, work that accompanies children no longer seems daunting.  Mamas who love God with their all can go about freely teaching their children about that love (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), trusting not in their own attempts, but the perfect work and promises of the Lord.  

Imagine how God might use a mother who were to submit her entire household to the Lord's reign and forfeit stress, hurry, and discontentment.  What a true warrior such a woman would be, fully covered in God's armor, ready for the good fight.  It would seem that such a battle-ready soldier would carry straight and sharp arrows, indeed.  Arrows, children, who are ready to serve the same King.  And what more does a mother, an adopted daughter of God, want for her own daughters and sons than the same costly soul rest with which she has been so freely graced?