Last week, I called a local non-profit agency and told the young man who answered the phone that my husband and I had been considering fostering and possibly adopting for a while and had decided to move forward with it. (In Michigan, foster care is done both by the state Department of Human Services and by various non-profit agencies that contract with the state. There are four different agencies that we could have chosen to work with besides DHS.) He scheduled a time to come to our house for an initial interview/orientation—he’s coming a week from today, on Monday, May 18th.
He e-mailed me two questionnaires to fill out and send back to him, one for me and one for Don. One is 46 pages long and the other is 26 pages. (I’m doing the longer one since I have more discretionary time.) Both have personal questions; the longer one also has info about our home and community. They are the kinds of questions we discussed with our social worker during multiple home study visits the last time we did this. It seems a little strange to me that they would send them to us before even meeting us (though I got the impression that he sent them because we had already made the decision to do it and he wouldn’t have sent them to someone who was just interested in getting more information). It’s weird to write out the answers instead of discussing it (though I assume our answers will be discussed in future meetings); it almost feels like they’re asking us to write our own home study.
I dug up our PRIDE training certificates and our old home study to copy for him (it was a challenge—I knew exactly where they were in our old house, but not where they ended up after we moved). We completed 27 hours of pre-service training in Ontario, whereas Michigan only requires 12. When I was researching agencies, the supervisor at this agency had told me they should be able to count our Ontario PRIDE training hours. Flipping through our old home study, it was amazing to realize how much has changed in our lives in the past five years. We’ve moved twice, Don has graduated and found a job, I am no longer working, D was placed with us and then left, Simon was born, we started homeschooling and then stopped, I left the Catholic church and rejoined the Lutheran church…
It took a year after D left us before I was able to consider adopting again, and longer for Don. After what we had been through, it just seemed too risky. However, even just after D left, I thought that foster care might be a good fit for us. The fact that we accepted D’s placement with the intention to adopt him and then decided not to adopt him is the reason that experience feels so much like a failure. If we had only been a foster family, without the expectation for adoption, our experience with him would feel like a great success. We helped him grieve the loss of his birth family after he moved into our home, helped him maintain a relationship with his grandmother (which whom he had been living), helped him grow and develop in many ways, and helped him transition to his forever family. Now that Don has made it through his first school year in his new job, Simon is three and somewhat more independent, and Peter is in school instead of homeschooled, we feel that we have the time and energy to support a child placed with our family. Although we may decide to adopt eventually, we aren’t seeking a placement with the intention of adopting. Foster care seems less risky to us and it’s still a way to have a positive impact on the life of a child.
Taking our first steps on this new venture calls to mind one of my favorite prayers, which comes from the morning prayer service in the Lutheran Book of Worship:
Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.