Baby Bird Time

fighting imposter syndrome one blog post at a time

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How To Survive The Foster Care Licensing Process

Spoiler alert: Nothing about it is any worse than the rest of adult life. It is paperwork and driving to places and going to classes. If you’re been out of the education world for some time and the thought of “going to classes” triggers anxiety, we can even call them “meetings.” We could call them sitting in a room eating free food if that is more appealing.*

Because it’s not that bad! And it’s not that difficult!

Except no one is saying these things to the point where I almost wonder… am I not supposed to say them? Am I breaking some unwritten code of foster or adoptive parenting? I don’t think so, because I have a stack of papers shoved** — I mean carefully filed — YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT TO BE A PERFECT PARENT! — in a kitchen cabinet and they have all kinds of confidentiality clauses but not one of them ever says also you have to act like licensing is terrible. And yet that’s the narrative that is out there.

Let me repeat: It isn’t. It isn’t. It isn’t. Nothing about it is terrible. It is moderately time consuming for a while… unlike parenting, which is super time consuming all the time.

The way the internet talks about it, you would think getting licensed as a foster parent was the equivalent of getting into Harvard. Guys. Guys. It’s not. It’s really, really not. It’s nerve-inducing because it is unknown, but so was driving and so are electronic voting machines and so all you need to know is push any button other than Trump, okay? Because that’s the one that ushers in the apocalypse.

(And if you just got angry and want to stop reading this blog now, I am going to assume I have just done the foster care world a favor. Because the licensing process is likely going to be a more neutral and less subjective screening process, like: are you a felon? Is your house built on a sinkhole? Do you think knives are fun toys for toddlers? But that’s not my thing. I have no proverbial dog in this fight).

Obviously the agency has guidelines in place for a reason and the licensing process took some time.  The majority of that time was due to my procrastination. It was not difficult. I don’t know how to emphasis that more than I already have. Learning to drive was way harder. Applying to college was way more stressful. Sitting on my couch talking about myself… not so much. I get that this will vary based on situation and personality, but when literally all of my adult life has been spent applying for one thing or another — jobs, apartments, houses, credit cards — this is not rocket science.

 

This is essentially a broad overview of how the licensing process went for me:

 

Me, sitting on my patio in the sun reading a book and drinking a smoothie: Look at all this free time, hahaha. Who needs this. I want to be a parent!

Agency: Okay cool. Do these things.

Me: *does them*

Agency: Okay cool. Parenting is now a thing that you can do!

And that is the shortest and most flippant summary of the most emotional few years of my life. Yet as vague and avoidant of all the real feelings as it may be, it is still kind of accurate. The difficult part came after this.

 

*Your experience may vary. Eating free food is not a licensing requirement. However, this was how it happened for me. In the interest of transparency.

**There are enough organized foster parent blogs out there in the world that I feel compelled to tip the balance the other way. My filing system = I know it’s in my house somewhere!

Stay tuned for next time when I reveal the secrets of “How To Survive Buying Your First Home! Tip #1, Cry, Tip #52, Cry” and “How to Survive Turning On The TV: Find The Remote Or Resign Yourself To Being Amish.”

A few thoughts on not reading children’s histories and adoption fauxspiration

Don’t. Don’t not read them to make a point.

Okay, that is one thought.

I follow a handful of pages on Facebook that share foster care stories, and many of them are lovely. Every now and then, I see one that is seemingly lovely, and may even hype up the inspirational side of things, but that leaves me with an awkward feeling at the end of it. Most recently, the story was about how the parents refused to read their children’s file until finalization, for fear they would back out.

To some extent, I get it. I really do. My children came to me from a previous placement and the things the previous placement told me about them proved to be untrue but they made me want to turn around and run the other way. These things were not even necessarily bad, but hit on a few areas that I did not think I could deal with, due to my situation and personality. The fear that came from their careless and ignorant words was enormous. And I acted on that fear and initially said no. Fortunately, I got another (multiple?) changes to say yes. By the time we reached adoption paperwork, there was nothing in the file that was really news to me.

My memories of the adoption process are blurry. It flew, absolutely flew, and was a flurry of documents signed and scanned back and forth. I skimmed the wording of some of them the other day, after that story bothered me. Hadn’t I legally stated that I had read their contents? It was a very brief skimming and all I found was that maybe I had only signed that the agency had provided me these things, in writing. To be honest, I didn’t care enough to go through them with a fine tooth comb to determine the legality of signing and not reading. The story shared was likely not even in my county.

Also, regardless of any legal language, and regardless of all the fuzzy feelings a story like this invokes, I’m not on board the fauxspirational train that thinks this is impressive. I don’t think ignorance is impressive or touching. By the time we approached legalization, there was nothing that would have deterred me. After two years together, the paperwork likely isn’t going to tell me anything new, and at that point, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Our situation was different. And I know every situation is different.

But I don’t think it shows dedication or commitment to ignore a case file until it’s “too late.” I don’t think it is commendable. In my mind, feels more commendable, though not as appealing or easy to tie up in religious language, to stare everything in the face and say yes.

Your children didn’t have the option of not reading it (they lived it). Your children didn’t have the option of choosing your family. This just feels so complicated and problematic, in a situation that is already that way. I’m trying to sort out all of the reasons it bothers me and I’m not sure I can’t. but I keep coming back to, if it wouldn’t have changed anything, why not?

I understand being afraid of fear. I get it. I have anxiety about my anxiety. But something about this just rings so false to me. I can’t like it. I can’t find it impressive. I’m not touched by the story. I find it unsettling.

I had to sign some paperwork that hit right up against things that aren’t true. I literally had to sign a paper that said, no, I cannot adopt without a subsidy. And while that may be financially true because that is the only way I’m affording childcare, nothing about that statement is accurate. Given no other choice, I absolutely would have adopted without a subsidy. We would live in a box. We would live with my parents. We would eat ramen noodles. But we would do it. The alternative would have been worse.

I could have made a point with that box. I could have checked yes, never mind, we’ll eat ramen noodles, who needs daycare?, it’s a leap of faith!… but my family is worth more than that. It was a greater leap of faith for me to trust the (often very broken) process and believe everyone who told me everything would still move forward and this way, I would afford daycare. That no one would sit in an office and shake their head at me and say, “never mind, we’ll find someone else who isn’t this greedy. NEXT.”

I don’t believe it is worth it to make a point.

Our story has enough inspiration and enough beauty without manipulating it to create more. I have actively fought against some of it because I see how these things are crafted and manipulated to have meaning and a sense of “meant to be.” I have refused to say those words. I have refused to say those words only to have other, more unlikely individuals say them. I have told factual accounts of “on this date, this thing happened!” with as little emotion and as much flippancy as I could muster because I do not want to be manipulating anybody into thinking this is some beautiful and epic Hallmark movie. And they’ve still gotten chills. It makes me super uncomfortable. I was not trying to invoke them.

So I guess this is what I am saying:

Don’t not read your children’s history. 

Let the thing be as beautiful and broken as it is, without artistic license, and trust that that is enough.

Somebody Else Step Up Please

I got a placement call last night. My first placement call in over two years. It came while I was signing a medical form for my daughter at urgent care, the first medical form I’ve been able to sign.

I felt my phone buzz and I interrupted my internal reverie on being a legal parent to see the name of the foster agency on the phone. I thought that was odd timing and didn’t answer. I listened to the voicemail later.

I said no to a handful of placements before my family ended up as it is today. They didn’t work out due to needs or timing. Heck, I said no to my own children once due to timing and somehow here we are today.

It was never easy, but I forgot how difficult it is. I didn’t even say no to this one, I just didn’t call back.

I don’t have the space. I don’t have the time. I don’t have the energy. We need to work on getting our little family secure and stable first. I need to go to work, as much as I hate the thought.

I thought it would be easier to say no from here, from this place of being a permanent and complete family. I thought it would feel more like, this is right for us and this is right for our family and these children have to be my priority now.

They do. But. This one was the age of my children when they were first taken into care. Suddenly I’m seeing it from the side of a parent and it’s not easier. It’s harder. It’s even more horrifying. What happens now? I know, in theory, what happens now. Someone else says yes. Someone else takes this little one. And hopefully that someone else is someone who will hold them and cuddle them. Hopefully that someone else will feel their fear and try to comfort them. Hopefully that someone else isn’t already as maxed out and as stressed as me. Hopefully that someone else isn’t one of the people that told me my son, who had missed months if not a full year of normal baby cuddling, had been “held too much.”

I’m angry. I’m angry because I can’t unsee any of this now. I can’t snuggle this one right now but I know a lot of people who could. And if my question to them was, “Want to hold a baby?” they would say yes. But when the question is “want to become a foster parent?” the answer is no.

The system is hell. We went through it. And there’s so much more than baby snuggling, but once you say yes to the baby snuggling the other parts fall into place (or something. Time has dulled the pain). So many people I know for whom this leap wouldn’t be as extreme as it would be for my family at this time. So many people who claimed they wanted to circle around us and support us and be a part of this, whatever this is, but who then fled the minute they learned it might take completing one actual errand.

This is wrong. All of this is wrong. Two years of foster care burned out my adrenal glands and broke my brain completely, and I thought it had used up all my emotions but apparently not, because suddenly, here they are again. Here’s something alive and on fire way deep down saying this is wrong. Someone must hold and love that baby.

I know it can’t be me. But could someone else step up? Maybe someone else that I know, one of the countless who like to fawn over my children and oh they’re so beautiful and oh they’re so precious and oh they’re so lucky (they aren’t), maybe one of you would like to try this now? Because they are all beautiful and they are all precious and they didn’t get lucky and neither did I. This is what it is, beautiful and precious children and it is hard but it is so much more than that.

I’m angry. I’m angry for this baby, and for the people that look at my children and pity them. My kids got out! There are kids who need your help and these are not them.  They are beautiful and precious and oh isn’t it terrible and oh isn’t it awful, and really, no, it’s not. We’re good here. My kids have a family. The parts where we need help, you can’t help us, so please, move on. Move on to one of the many kids that needs what my kids already have. Because there are more. Don’t try to jump on whatever beautiful, precious bandwagon we’re on. Go start your own. Please.

 

 

For those who have, thank you. Because I can’t unsee them as my children.

For those who want to but have legitimate barriers, you are doing exactly what you can right now. What is possible will shift and become what is real and soon you will be sitting on your couch, looking at your carpet, remembering how it used to be clean.

For everyone else, please step up. If you’re waiting for some sense of “calling,” it both does and doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist but if you need it to, here it is. This post was it.

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