Friday, January 20, 2012

Love is a task, or two, or three...

Love has been hard at work! In the last 11 days my family has made a lot of progress in the foster care licensing process. I am thankful that I have organizational skills and that the agency we are getting licensed through is very organized as well.

Below is a list of what we have accomplished in the last 11 days. You can use it for informational purposes if you are considering becoming a foster family. If you are getting licensed, you can use it as a supplemental checklist to what your agency is asking of you. Perhaps you have children or relatives in foster care, you can think about what is asked of the people who are caring for your children.

This seems like a long list, but it is just the beginning. I am taking little steps every day, working steadily on tasks as I can, and not allowing myself to get overwhelmed or frustrated. This is good practice in just rolling with it for the days to come!

I have
*attended 12 hours of PRIDE training (
*gotten my fingerprints submitted for one of several background checks
*scheduled my TB test
*requested six letters from my family's various medical providers
*talked to the local elementary school and pediatrician's office where foster children would attend if they have to leave their own school or pediatrician
*had daily discussions with my children and a few chats with other friends and family
*recruited substitute caregivers
*cleaned the garage :-)
*began childproofing the house
*started inviting friends to a work party to tackle all the changes and minor repairs needed in the home (see upcoming blog entry with before and after pictures)
*added some furniture
*taken Ben (17 year old son) to the Secretary of State's office to get a copy of our driving records
*filled out another 40 pages of short answer questions
*gathered copies of:
      all my monthly bills,
      mine and Ben's driver's licenses,
      copies of my home and auto insurance declaration pages,
      recent paystubs and last year's tax return,
      my marriage license (yes, even though I am no longer married),
      and my divorce decree and subsequent judgments related to child custody.
      If we had pets I would have had to provide paperwork on their license and vaccinations.
      If we had weapons I would have to copy the concealed weapons permit.
      Both would have required related safety plans.
*thought, and thought, and thought some more about the daily changes that will need to take place when we have some children in our home who have left their mom, dad, family, friends, schools, house, favorite cuddly, clothing, etc. behind. (See upcoming blog entry about how we hope to manage that.)
*thought about how I am going to take even better care of myself (See upcoming blog entry).

During the last 11 days I still worked full time, tended to my children, helped family and friends grieve through three deaths (yet another blog topic), and enjoyed some time relaxing.

Most importantly, I have made a concerted effort to tap into my source of strength and hope. If I am going to be a good foster parent, and a helpful person to the child's biological family in their time of crisis, I am going to need a daily surge of encouragement and positive energy. Over the years, I have found certain philosophies to be very powerful in shaping my love behaviors. Three have come to mind recently:

"Let your gentleness be evident to all." (New Women's Devotional Bible)

"Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that." (The Message)

"Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse." (The Message)

Some of the tasks above took longer than I thought they would and I know there are hours and hours of work ahead of me as we prepare our home for foster children. Some of the short answer questions brought up painful memories I would prefer not to revisit, and when I actually talk to our caseworker these memories will be revisited again.

I could curse this process, but I won't. I will take it on lovingly with a gentle spirit. I will do the extravagant work it takes to get licensed. I will focus on the truths in my life and be authentic in my answers. I will allow myself to be compelled by these challenges. Helping in the life of a family in crisis makes love work hard.

Monday, January 9, 2012

LOVE WORKS HARD... to clean?

Busy LIFE leaves little time to clean; LOVE WORKS HARD to get it clean! by

Yes, this is really one half of my garage. I thought it would help explain the title of my blog. See, it will take a lot of love to fix up things around my home before we have our social worker over to begin our Initial Foster Home Evaluation. But fix and clean it we will. If we want to become licensed foster parents, we must tap into our love for children and work it hard to get our house and property ready!

The love it takes to care for foster children isn't just the warm, fuzzy love that makes you want to bake cookies, help them with homework, or cuddle them up in footy pajamas and watch Toy Story. I am talking about LOVE that WORKS HARD. I am talking about the kind of love that happens when you put someone else's needs ahead of your own, or when you take the time to really listen and respond to a person who needs your help, or when you go the extra mile to make things easier for another human being, or when you give because it is the right thing to do and not because there is something in it for you, or when you forgive someone for being mean to you or someone you care about. That type of LOVE, WORKS HARD.

Life makes love work hard. That also has meaning to the children and parents who are separated by foster care. Life has been so rough on the parents and the children, that their ability to actively love with any endurance at all has shut down. And when love that works hard shuts down, often times no love at all makes it out of a person. Tell me if that makes sense to you, or restate what you think I mean by that. It is a really important concept to embrace when considering the needs of children in foster care.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A New Journey into Foster Care

(Look how happy we are, one year ago, New Year's Day 2011!)

I call this picture "Before" because this is before my family agreed to embark upon the journey of becoming a foster care family. We are ready now. I know life is going to change a lot in the next year, and I have no idea exactly what changes will come our way. What we do know is that we must share what we have with a child and his parents who are struggling.

Sometimes the first question I get from someone else about doing this is "How will you be able to give the child up once you have her/him in your home?" 

I do think about that, but we are really doing this to help a family in crisis. So hopefully, if the family is ready to be reunited, we will be happy to see the crisis managed and overcome. At the same time, it would be hard to have a child move on, especially if my family grew attached to the child. But missing them would also feel good because that would mean we have made a connection and we would know we served a purpose in helping a family through a tough time. The reality that my family will be challenged by doing this is not a good enough reason for us to shy away from becoming a foster care home.

Even though I am a new prospective foster parent, I have been working as a child welfare professional in foster care and adoption, both as a licensed social worker (since 1990) and as an attorney (since 2005). In this blog I plan to share my family's journey, answer people's questions, and offer some practical information about the foster care process and system.