Four hours, that was the length of time we had to prepare for our first ever child. From the moment we told DHS that we would open our home up to care for the child, until the moment our daughter arrived at our doorstep, 240-minutes passed. This is just enough time to watch one of the Lord of the Rings movies.
From the moment we told DHS that we would open our home up to care for the child, until the moment our daughter arrived at our doorstep, 240-minutes passed.
During our initial interviews with our Certifier, we said we were open to fostering children of all ages, gender, race, religion, background, sexual orientation, etc., but that since we both work, it probably makes most sense for us to care for school age children. When we discussed the logistics, DHS agreed. In our free time during the certification process, we began to set up a bedroom in our house for our future kids. We furnished it with a twin bed equipped with a pull-out trundle (just in case), and a closet with a place to hang their clothes, a chair to lounge in, and a nightstand for their books. Everything we could think of that a child might need. We were ready for The Call.
As we mentioned in an earlier post, we were granted emergency approval for placements, following the completion of our certification interviews. We were told on Thursday morning that our emergency certification had been approved. At 4:50pm on that Thursday, we received a call. Since we were both at work, it went to voicemail. The voicemail was from our Certifier, she calmly said that they have a child that they need to place, and she wanted to know if we would be able to take them. We called back at 5:05pm, but only reached voicemail, because many people at DHS do not answer their phones outside of the 9-5 business hours. We let them know that we were interested in learning more about the child if there is still a need.
The next morning, Friday, Jewell did not have work, but I did. At about 10:15, I received a text from Jewell, “Can I call you?”. The Certifier had called her. They had placed the child from the night before in a temporary placement for Thursday night, but were still looking for a long term home for her. It was a girl! Although they knew it was a quick turnaround from certification to placement, DHS was wondering if we would be able to take her. Oh, and she was 1-year old.
Jewell and I talked about it. Our hearts and our guts said yes, but our brains knew that this would be a logistical nightmare for us. We decided to think about it independently and talk again in 15-minutes or so. I called my Dad. I just needed to ask someone who I knew would view the situation logically and give me a straight answer to the my question; “can we do this, or are we crazy?”. He acknowledged that it is crazy, but that we are not crazy, and we can do this. I called Jewell back. With conviction, she knew she wanted to do it, she just needed me to want to do it too. I did. We told each other “I love you”, and then Jewell called DHS.
Being so new to the system and the situation, we had no idea what was going on at DHS. This was a 1-year old child, we assumed everybody wanted a 1-year old child. Had they contacted other potential families? Had we taken too long to make our logical decision? Did we just experience all of this emotion just to call back and have DHS tell us that she has been placed with another family? Oh silly us. There is a foster care crisis in Oregon for a reason, and that reason is that there are not enough beds for the children that come into care. When we called back, our Certifier was ecstatic, and let us know that by 5pm, the Case Worker would be dropping our first child off on our front porch…kind of like the stork.
by 5pm, the Case Worker would be dropping our first child off on our front porch…kind of like the stork.
This was 11:00am, Jewell was at home, I was at work. The clock starts now. Remember how I said that we were planning on fostering school age children? Remember all of the thoughtful planning that went into setting up a bedroom for our future school age child? Well, we were just told that said future child is actually 1-year old (we would learn later that she was actually 11-months old, and was nearly 2-months premature). We needed to do some serious shopping before she arrived.
I raced home from work, picked up Jewell, and we headed directly to Target and Ikea. We must have looked crazy. We tried to think of anything that was necessary to care for a 1-year old. We grabbed bottles, a car seat, a crib, diapers of various sizes, wipes, bath supplies, random baby foods, a high chair, some toys, clothes (how big is she?), blankets, first aide kits, and who knows what else. We made record time, received some awkward looks, and even struck up an awkward conversation with the lady in front of us in line. Are we expecting? Going to a baby shower? Overly preparing for the distant future because of a good sale?
When we got home, we unloaded everything into the living room. It was 1:45pm. I voted to unpack everything and set it all up. Jewell voted to walk to the food carts and get some lunch before we set everything up. Jewell had the majority, and we picked up some burritos at the food cart (they were very satisfying and a good call). As we sat in our living room scarfing down our burritos, we received a text from DHS. Our child would be dropped off at our house between 3pm and 4pm. It was 2:20.
The first task was to put together the Ikea puzzles we had purchased. Although I am an engineer, I concede that my better half is the pro at understanding these Swedish Rubik’s Cubes. After that, we opened all of our new purchases and discarded all of the packaging littering our living room. Somehow we managed to do all of this in 40-minutes, just as a van with state license plates pulled halfway into our driveway, and parked blocking the sidewalk. We rushed outside.
The child’s caseworker stepped out of the car and came to greet us. She left the car running and left our brand new baby girl in the car while she talked to us about the specifics of the case. I hardly heard a word of what she was saying, I was busy trying to catch a glimpse of our new child through the tinted windows of the van. We were so excited to meet our new little bundle of joy, but it quickly became apparent how routine this all was to the caseworker. To DHS, we were not eager first time parents meeting our daughter for the first time, this was just another case number and routine drop off. The best we could, we used this opportunity to ask questions regarding the case, and specifics about the kiddo we hadn’t yet seen, but who was only 10-feet away from us.
To DHS, we were not eager first time parents meeting our daughter for the first time, this was just another case number and routine drop off.
When the caseworker finally opened up the van door, unbuckled Kiddo A from the car-seat, and handed her to us, it was the most amazing and terrifying moment. We were flooded with joy and love, but also nervous about being first time parents, wondering how difficult the task ahead was. She was a big, super cute, tired baby who desperately needed a bath and a change of clothes, but our bond to her was instant. This was the beautiful beginning to our journey.
Photo: Us and Family with Ava at her First Birthday Party, approximately 2-weeks after she entered our lives.
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