I want to spend some time talking about visitations. If you are new to foster care, or even if your own family is going through a separation or divorce, you may be getting introduced and familiarized with the idea of visitations. You might also find yourself experiencing and getting familiarized with emotions and behaviors surrounding visitations. Behaviors both from the kiddos, and the adults involved. I wrote this post with the hope to encourage you during these potentially difficult times. Hopefully, through this post, and others to follow, I can provide some insight on why the children and adults in your life act the way they do, why visits are important, and how to prepare yourself and your family for visits, and be as successful as possible.Continue reading “Foster Care Visitation (Pt. 1)”
Emergency Foster Care Placements
This post is the first in a series of 6, that discusses what Foster Care Emergency Placements are, how and why we decided to open our home to Emergency Foster Care Placements, and our experience as an Emergency Placement Home.
We Have An Emergency
When Ariel left our home for her potential forever home, we needed time to process the change in our family, and reflect on our journey. When a child leaves your home, even in the best of circumstances, it is a painful experience. However, as we slowly processed the change in our home and came to terms with our new “normal”, we quickly remembered the State of the System in Oregon, and the crisis that we are in. Some people process loss and grief by carrying on with life, by returning to work, maintaining routines, and pushing forward. In the few short weeks after Ariel moved from our home, it became apparent that this is how our family processes change, copes, and continues on in this crazy world of foster care.
After much thought, reflection, and conversation, coupled with the knowledge that in Oregon, children in the foster care system spend nights, weeks, or even months in hotels due to a lack of available foster care providers and beds, we decided to open our home to emergency foster care placements. We agreed that with only one child in the home, we did not want to sit by with a perfectly good empty bedroom in our home, while children, through no fault of their own, spent nights with strangers (DHS employees) in hotel rooms.
This was not a decision we made on our own though, we knew that just like the decision to become foster parents, the decision to take new placements needed to be a decision that the entire family agreed with. When we broached the conversation with Trevor*, about opening our home to “emergency” placements, to our surprise, he was fully on board. It was amazing to see his understanding of the struggle of other kids in foster care, and his desire to share his home and his family with them. We let him know that for every child DHS called us about, we would check with him first to make sure he was alright with them living with us.
And so, we began opening our home to “emergency” placements. We became emergency foster parents much the same way that we became foster parents. We had the resources, and there was a need.
We are very excited to share a guest post from Emergency Mamas. It is wonderful to find like minded Foster Parents who also share honest glimpses into their world and the hard work we do as foster parents. Although we are on the same journey, it is very interesting and informative for us read the experiences and perspectives of others, and see the similarities and differences. We hope you enjoy their post and blog as much as we do!
How Would You Rate Your Pain?
You know when you go to the doctor and they ask you to rate your pain, using some numbers and smiling/frowning faces on a little chart?
Typically, people rank much higher than they actually are feeling because the vast majority of us only know moderate pain. If you can sit up, talk to the doctor, and you drove yourself to the office…your pain is not an 8. It might be a 5. Continue reading “How Would You Rate Your Pain?”
Our first call for an emergency placement was for Brit. She was 16, and the Placement Desk could not give us a lot of initial information about who she is or what the circumstances were for her needing a placement immediately, but stated that it does not sound like their were any behaviors or major issues that would make it a difficult placement. It was a Friday, we were off for the weekend, and we felt that we could swing it. We asked Trevor what he thought about having a 16-year old girl live with us for a few days, and before we could finish asking, he said “say yes”. We did. Then the Placement Desk called back to see what our final decision was, and provide some additional information about Brit and her circumstances.
According to DHS, Brit was a run away who had run from numerous placements, has been homeless for the past few months, smokes cigarettes and uses marijuana. The Placement Desk seemed shocked about the cigarettes and marijuana use, and gave us every opportunity to back out. Those “behaviors” were not what we were worried about… we were petrified about her tendency to run away. What would we do if she bolted during the night? They suggested “let her run and call the police”. Not exactly a comforting response. We said yes, for the weekend.
After Brit left, DHS quickly realized that our home was open to all children, not just infants and babies. The older you are, the harder it is for DHS to find a placement for your, long term or short term. So after Brit left, we very quickly received a call about an 8-year old boy who needed a home, after being removed from his parents and spending the weekend in a hotel. We talked to Trevor, and he was more than eager to have a boy the same age as him over for a night or seven.
Carlton came to us confused. In his eyes, his parents were perfect. They loved him and he loved them. He missed them dearly. From what we gleaned from the the news, his story, and DHS, his parents fell into the grips of addiction and made some very poor choices. In his mind, his parent were being framed. In the eyes of the law, his dad may have been robbing banks and convenience stores, and the apartment they lived in might have had needles and drug paraphernalia laying around. Whatever the truth is, we know we had a child in our home who was scared, confused, and worried.
Once you start your journey into Foster Care, some people become very anxious. When will I get “the call” for my first placement? Who will it be? Am I prepared enough? Am I ready for this journey? How do I set up my foster care bedroom?!
Many people try to channel these anxious thoughts, along with all of the other crazy emotions that come with being an expectant parent, into doing something. They feel the need to prepare, to nest, and to get your foster care bedroom set up ahead of time. It is ok to be prepared! In the cover photo for this post, you can see what our guest room/office looked like before we began fostering. This is what it looked like when we got called for our first placement, weeks ahead of when we were officially certified, with Four Hours notice of our first placement. If you are feeling antsy, we encourage you to make a list of things you need, plan ahead, have a game plan, and get ready to be flexible! We thought our first placement would be a school-age kiddo, but DHS called us with a 11-month old for our first kiddo.
Prior to our first placement, we thought we were prepared for a kiddo being placed in our home. Now, after 12 placements, and a 13th coming at the end of the month, ranging in age from 11-months to 16-years (no, we do not have 13 kids, that is how many we have cared for in our home), we feel like we are actually prepared. Many people have asked us to write a post with tips for preparing a room for a placement. Given the popularity of our Foster Care Wishlist post, and the request for a room specific post, we decided to make it happen. Here are some steps to go through so that you are more prepared than we were! Also its a great way to keep your hands busy while you wait for the call.
We got a call during work, asking if we had room to care for a two year old boy for the night. He and his two other siblings had been removed from their previous foster home, most likely a family friend or relative, because they failed to become emergency certified in the allowable time. We have no idea the circumstances surrounding the kiddo being in care, or why their initial placement failed to become certified, we just know that DHS called us frantically trying to find a home for one of the three siblings, and asked if we would be able to care for Ryan.
We were relaxing one Sunday morning, just the two of us, Trevor was at respite. The morning was amazing! We slept in until around 8:30 or so, woke up, sipped coffee, and cleaned the house. That is what respite allows for us, and it is great. Then, because our life is so predictable, our moment of respite was interrupted by a call from the emergency placement desk. A boy, who they thought was seven or eight years old, was found wandering the streets in the early morning during a rain storm. When they called us, DHS was not sure of the boys name. They were pretty certain he was 8-years old, did not speak english, but was from African descent. The police who picked him up brought him to DHS, since the boy was not able to tell them where he lived. The agency then began simultaneously trying to find a placement for him while also trying to find his family to figure out what happened.
When they called us, we didn’t have the opportunity to ask Trevor if it was alright, since he was at respite. Our gut told us that this would truly be short term. Maybe the boy just wandered off while his parents were sleeping and once they find his family he can be returned home with a safety plan. We said he could stay with us for at least the day, and the night if necessary, while they work on locating his family. Continue reading “We Have An(other) Emergency – Pt. 5”
Charles/Alyssa, 8, 2
This is where our status as an “emergency placement” home takes a hiatus. We received a call in the late evening, letting us know that there was a sibling set of three that were just removed and needed an immediate placement. We were in no position to take three children, and we let DHS know that. They asked if we could at least take two kiddos. We asked what ages, and they said whichever ages you would like, “we have 8, 4 and 2”. In the moment, it was hard to concentrate and make an informed decision, so we left it up to DHS. They said they were on their way to our house, and would most likely be bringing the 8-year old and 2-year old. At this point, we asked “what gender?” and were met with silence. Eventually, the placement worker said “not sure… I assumed girls, but I am just guessing”. It was clear that the situation was chaotic.
About 20-minutes later, unmarked state vehicles were parked in front of our house, and two children, an 8-year old boy, and a 2-year old girl were walking up our front steps. To this day, it is heart breaking to reminisce on their appearance and condition when they arrived. The best word to describe their appearance is “filthy”, and we do not use that word lightly. They were both covered in dirt and grime, so much so that their skin color changed after the second bath each of them had. The 8-year old boy had dreads in his hair from tangles, and shoes that were too small his toes had ripped through the front. The 2-year old girl was very scared, and was wearing rain boots, no pants, no diaper, and a t-shirt. We were told that they were removed from under a bridge, the family was suffering from houselessness, and that the police found them due to a domestic violence incident.
What about the 4-year old you ask? Well she was actually 13-months old, and placed in another foster home. Continue reading “We Have An(other) Emergency – Pt. 6”
It was never going to be forever. When we started the journey of becoming foster parents, it was not with the hope or goal of adoption. We became foster parents because we wanted to help children in need, and support families during tough times. DHS knew this, we knew this, the bio-parents of the children who have been in our home knew this. Even the kids coming in to our home knew this, as over time we therapeutically explained our role to them. No matter how much you remind yourself of this, and talk to those around you about your role, and tell DHS your boundaries, it doesn’t make a kiddo transitioning away from your home any easier.
When people learn that we are foster parents, they often say nice things to us, like “what you guys are doing is so amazing”, or “I am so glad there are people like you in the world”, then follow it up with some awkward statements, and finally end with the following: