It Has Been 6 Months

6 months ago, I answered the phone and my entire life changed.

We said yes.

It seemed crazy. It still does.

But we said yes.

 

Back then, my ear pressed against the phone, I wasn’t sure I could say yes. I wasn’t sure I could do it.

“6 months” they said.

6 months I told myself. I can do that. We can do that.

Well.

Here we are.

6 months.

 

…………………………………………

Summing up what we have learned in the past 6 months would be almost impossible to do in words.

We have all learned, we have all grown.

Our girl, our Heavenly- she is thriving. While it has been a very steep learning curve for her, I could not be more proud of her and what she contributes to our family. From the first days of total unknowns, to coming out of her shell and charming one and all with her vivacious personality. On Sunday she declared that she was so thankful she gets to live with us.

The first months were hard (gosh darn it they are still hard)- we struggled with food, with sleep, with TV and with creative brain engagement. We struggled with bonding and dealing with BIG emotions and handling trauma and learning how to respect elders and how to wash dishes and how to get an allowance. We have been through all of that together.

Theo and I- we are still adjusting to parenting a pre-teen that isn’t ours. So many conversations, so many eye rolls, so many tears. So many prayers. We have butted heads more over parenting Heavenly than our other two children combined. It can certainly take a toll on a marriage, but we have decided to band together, work through our differences and I can say that we are better for these past six months than ever before.

Tera is pretty sure that God has given her the best big sister in the whole world and she wants to be Heavenly when she grows up. What Heavenly does, Tera does. What Heavenly says, Tera says. It’s adorable and comical and melts my heart.

Kiah is still indifferent- as in, he knows no difference. Heavenly has been a part of his last six months and therefore she has always been a part of his life. It’s one of my favorite things to see them play together- the dark skin and the white skin, the coarse curly hair smushed up right against the wispy blonde hair. Oh, my heart.

…………………………..

Those original six months that they spoke of? Yeah, not happening. We have been given an additional 6 months (at least) with our girl 🙂

Several weeks ago we had a big meeting and it turns out that even though six months have passed, we are still at square one. It’s as if no time has passed and we are no closer to having a resolution to the case.

Honestly, Theo and I are struggling with this- it’s a large burden to bear. I can’t go into any detail on the blog, but there are some big prayers needed in this situation. I weep as I write this because the situation is all so heart-breaking and I have come to deeply love and care for the one whose heart is most broken. Sin is so ugly, guys. It’s so harmful.

So in conclusion? We are fairly well adjusted. We still have our moments. Usually once or twice a day…but better than the hourly moments we were having at the beginning. We are burdened and struggling a bit with the details of the situation, and we would really appreciate prayers for the whole situation.

 

 

 

A Marathon with No Finish

 

On May 14th, our precious daughter came to live with us.

At first, the case seemed simple and the quoted 3-6 months seemed completely doable.

We put our feet to the pavement and began 100% supporting reunification.

For those of you who don’t know, reunification is when the child eventually gets to return to their biological parents.

Many people who are not familiar with foster care assume that children are removed because the parents are absolutely useless humans who have abused, neglected or otherwise harmed their children. Unfortunately, this DOES happen, but very rarely. More frequently, the parent is stuck in the throes of addiction and is not able to parent at the moment. The entire goal of foster care is to remove those children for the time being and place them in a safe home while the parent works a case plan that puts them back on track in the world for parenting.

Some parents need well over a year to work this case plan due to the severe addictions they struggle with, or due to how deeply life has hurt them. Some parents don’t need too much time and are able to find the community resources and get themselves back on their feet. Although the timeline varies, CPS usually gives parents a year to make progress on their case plan. Depending on the situation and how much progress is made, there is often a 6 month extension. This is why so many kids stay in foster care for so long. Breaking the chains of addiction does not happen overnight…it can take years. So many of these birth parents are fighting with all that they have. The fight is long and hard and painful, but they sure do love their kids. Addiction is tough, guys. And I’m not just talking about addiction to hard drugs like meth and cocaine. I’m talking about addiction to self, addiction to being needed by an abusive spouse, addiction to drugs, addiction to medications, addiction to despair. It is a broken world and we are finding ourselves in the midst of a broken system, just hoping that we can bring hope to someone along the way.

Heavenly has now been with us for four months and we have made no progress on the case plan. A plan that should have been easily conquered is left untouched, and we are discouraged.

Would we adopt Heavenly? Absolutely, if she wanted to. If the case ever came to that.

But that is not the cry of my heart. The cry of my heart (and everyone involved in this case) is that Heavenly goes back to live with her Mom. We are fighting for it. We are FIGHTING for it. I am working to build a relationship with her Mom, one that will endure longer than just the time that Heavenly is in our home. We are doing the best that we can with the time that we have with her in our home, training her and teaching her and trying to give her all the love in the world while she faces this incredibly difficult time. We are giving our all. All of it.

It’s not that we don’t love Heavenly or want her around. I don’t want her to reunify so that she will leave my home. When she does leave, it will be a time of broken hearts around here. But the brokenness of foster care is that she doesn’t belong in our home. She belongs in her own home. So we FIGHT for reunification.

And yet, it feels one-sided. Here we treasure and cherish and sacrifice and love on this girl. And it’s not without it’s own rewards. But at the end of the day I have to fight the negative thoughts about how one-sided this feels. Why does it feel like I am doing all the work? All the mothering? All the parenting challenges and joys? I have to fight the frustration and anger and bitterness and discouragement on a daily basis.

So here we are, 4 months in to the quoted “3-6” months. There is absolutely no end in sight. This is not a rarity in foster care, but even as I met with the case worker, she said this is the case that she expected to actually go through to reunification in no time at all.

And yet here we are.

I feel like I’m running a marathon. I’ve trained and I have water stations and porta pots and friends cheering me along the way. But the only difference is that this marathon has no finish. I’m stumbling along at mile 15, exhausted and worn out, discouraged and losing hope. And I tell myself that I only have 11 more miles (2 months) to go. But then I realize…there is no stated finish to this marathon. If the 6 month mark is mile 26.2, it’s looking like our marathon will just continue on past that mark. I don’t know where the finish line is, and I want to drop from the exhaustion of that thought.

So, friends…will you pray? Will you pray for Heavenly’s birth Mom that she will able to face her case plan and have the strength to complete it? Will you pray that I will not shy away from a relationship built with her? Will you pray that the gospel will be heard far and wide in this case? Will you pray a bold prayer that that reunification will happen- and soon? Will you pray for the many parents whose children are in care, that they would hear the gospel and be able to fight through the chains of addiction?

And will you pray for us, the foster parents? We are running this marathon and feels like there is no finish line. It is exhausting and wearying and it takes its toll. Will you pray that we will have endurance? Will you pray that we will love without abandon and put aside bitterness and frustration? Will you pray that we will be willing to build relationships with the birth parents and encourage them through this difficult time in their lives? And will you please pray that we will face each day with the strength that comes not from us, but from the author and finisher of our faith?

 

#Write31Days: Day 8 The Goal is Reunification

write-31-days-8

One of the most common misconceptions I have come across during our foster care journey is this that the children all need rescuing from their horrible pasts.

We have only had one placement thus far, but I have found that statement to be very far from the truth.

Here is how foster care works:

A parent is seen as unfit to care for the child at that point in time. This does not mean that the parent(s) are horrible people and that they should never have rights to children again. In some cases, this is true. But not in all.

The goal in foster care is reunification.

Let me say that again: the goal in foster care is reunification.

I went into foster care with a hero complex: I was going to rescue these children and give them the love that they weren’t getting at home.

As we grew alongside Little Miss, we realized how incredibly broken the system is. To us, it actually doesn’t seem helpful to take the children away from the parents and tell them to “get it together”. Often, no resources are provided or the bare minimum is done because of funding, rehab wait lists or unbroken cycles of addiction.

As we neared the end of Little Miss’ time with us, it dawned on us: this model of helping these families is not working.

We take the children away from the parents, then tell the parents to get it together, then insist that the goal is reunification.

Theo and I went into fostering Little Miss with the mindset that she needed to be kept safe and if her Mama could just get it together…that would be great.

By the end of our time with Little Miss, we have a completely different vision of what foster care and reunification should like it. In our hearts, it looks like helping the whole family. It looks like taking in not just Little Miss, but her Mama, too. It looks like helping her Mama learn how to do Mama things, instead of me doing 110% of the work, and all of us holding our breath and crossing our fingers that Mama doesn’t fall down the rabbit hole tonight with Mr. Boyfriend #7. It would look like setting boundaries and rules for Mama, and it would like a non-existent wait list for rehab. Because what are those Mamas (and Dads) doing while they wait? They are doing exactly what they are waiting to fight against.

The goal is foster care is not to hope that Mama and Dad will “get it together”. No, the goal in foster care should be to help the entire family be able to function as family. Maybe there are chains of addiction that need to be broken. That needs to be our goal as foster parents. Maybe there is an abusive relationship that needs to be done with. That needs to be our goal as foster parents. Maybe there is homelessness that needs to be tackled. That needs to be our goal as foster parents.

When we take in a foster child, my hope is that we don’t just advocate for the child and for a future reunification with their family. My hope that is while I keep that child in my care, I am doing everything to fight for them to be back in the family that they were born into. My hope is that I am not only an example of what motherhood could look like, but that I am also an advocate for that Mama to succeed as a mother. My hope is that we have a huge role in redeeming not just the trauma that the child has been through, but the things that the family has been through as well.

I know that this isn’t ideal, and I’m not naïve enough to realize that there are many families who simply should not get their children back. I know that the system is made up of broken people doing the best job they can while burnt out and barely scraping by.

But I just wanted to write Theo and I’s heart on this matter: we might have gone into foster care for the children, but God has led our hearts to see the needs of the whole family. I hope and pray that the Lord will continue to guide us as He sees fit to help these children AND the families that they have been taken from.

 

Questions?

If you have any questions at all about foster care or adoption from foster care as I go through this series, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can leave a comment or send an email. At the end of the series, I will have a Q&A day and will be answering any questions I receive throughout the month.

Previous posts:

Day 1: Introduction

Day 2: Meet the Hines

Day 3: Shop Feature: Karla Storey

Day 4: Why We Chose to Foster

Day 5: The Process

Day 6: The Cast of Characters

Day 7: The Paperwork

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#Write31Days

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