Foster Care/Adoption · Life · parenting

Foster Placements: When “Yes” Turns Into “No”

20-1-20

I’ve been pretty quiet about foster care lately.  We have actually had several phone calls from caseworkers lately that were cases we could say “yes!” to, and we did.  Which honestly felt great to actually be saying “yes,” to something because for awhile it felt like every case we received a phone call about were cases we had to say “no” to.

Only problem is, when you say “yes” in foster care it still doesn’t mean a child is going to show up at your house that afternoon.  It just means you are saying “yes, we are willing to take this child in,” but what you don’t understand when you aren’t walking the road of foster care, is that many other agencies are all reaching out to their own foster families who could be a match for this particular child at the same time our agency was calling us.  So it really becomes a race against the clock….whichever agency finds a family that matches this child’s description, and gets that family to say “yes” wins.  Well….not really wins, but from my seat as a spectator that is what it often times feels like.

The first few times we said “yes,” my heart was beating faster.  I was waiting in anticipation to hear back from our caseworker.  I was envisioning what our supper table would look like that night with one extra face sitting around it.  I was wondering how hard the first few weeks might be.  How much sleep will I lose?  Juggling around schedules in my head of how we would make this next season work, and right about the time when I was coming to a place of peace with it all, I would get a phone call back from our caseworker saying “The county chose another family.”

It kind of feels like a big punch to the gut.

So I would mentally shut the door in my brain to knowing that child was no longer a possibility for being a part of our family, and would pray for trust in God’s timing for the child He had chosen for us.

Until the next call…then I did it all over again.

Two weeks ago our caseworker reached out about a child we will call “L” (for privacy purposes), whose parents rights had been terminated so she was legally free for adoption.  I started sobbing when I received the email with information about “L.”  The ups and downs of foster care are no joke, and a huge part of the hardness in it all are ALL the unknowns that as a foster parents we have absolutely no control over.  One day the county rules for increased visitations for a child that has been placed with you, and you know how hard the shorter visits have been for this child, let alone increasing the length of time and frequency, but you are at the mercy of the county to have to follow the rules, and do what they say even if your instinct as a parent would choose something completely different for them.  To know that “L’s” parental rights had been terminated meant that it would be a much shorter road to get from point A to point Z to actually adopt her.  That’s one of the reasons why I was sobbing….the thought of potentially not having to go through all of that was relieving.  The other reason why was because this time I had a picture of her, and a name….often times when you receive phone calls for placements you don’t even get a name before you say “yes.”  They tell you age, gender, and pertinent information, but very few details before they are placed with you.  I saw her sweet face, and now not only did I envision another person around our dinner table, and in a bed in our home, but she had a name, and I knew what she looked like!

We said “yes” to submitting our profile to “L’s” caseworker, and even though I knew better by this point, I got my hopes up, only to find out within hours that her caseworker didn’t think our family would be a good fit due to our biological children being so young, and the attention she would probably need.  I literally had just told a few of my closest friends, and then worked up the guts to tell the girls in my bible study, only to find out minutes afterward that our answer had come quickly….

“L” would not be joining our family.

That time it felt like a much larger punch to the gut.

You see, my heart breaks a little bit each time our “yes” turns into a “no.”  Knowing that more often than not, the “no” is probably coming, makes it really hard to want to tell anyone.  When I was talking with one of my foster friends about this she empathized and said she knew how much it hurt, but she encouraged me to still share, even though it’s hard, because it helps people on the outside looking in understand more the emotional roller coaster that this can sometimes feel like.  It helps me lean on others for strength when I don’t have it, and helps them know how to more specifically pray for us in this process.

Last Thursday when I was traveling to Chicago, I received an email from our caseworker about another little girl whom we will call “R.”  Her current foster family is unable to adopt her, and they are looking for a family to permanently place her with before terminating parental rights.   So though “R’s” case is not as far along as “L’s,” the situation is very similar.  There would still be hard things if she was placed with us, but not as long and drawn out as a placement can be when they are placed with us from day 1.  We said “yes” to “R,” and have not heard anything yet.  It could be days, or months before we do.

I’m much more guarded this time, after realizing that even saying “yes” to these types of cases, doesn’t mean anything until the county says it does.

Through all the waiting, though it can be tiresome, and emotionally exhausting, each time what makes me pick myself back up is thinking of these poor, sweet faces, and all that they have lost, and all that is broken in their families in a way that God never intended them to broken, and I’m over here with 2 healthy, biological children who get to grow up in a stable, Christ centered home, and I’m sad that “our family doesn’t feel complete yet.”

My gain will be because of their loss.

Our family’s wholeness will be because of their family’s brokenness.

Perspective.

And I know it’s ok for me to be sad.  It’s ok to wrestle with God on these feelings of control, and timing.  I don’t have to numb myself to that.  It’s ok to mourn that, however it’s not good to stay there forever.  My hope is, and always will be in the wholeness that Jesus brings to each of our lives, not in my biological children, or future children.  Only in Jesus.

You see, before Jesus died on the cross, He had a moment with God where He asked Him to “Take this cup from me,” but then went on to say “Yet not what I will, but what you will” Mark 14:36.  Jesus knew how excruciating the next days of His life would be, but He trusted His Father despite the hard that was to come.

Whether God places a child with us who has had parental rights terminated and is nearing adoption, or if we will get a placement who is just starting their foster journey….we trust that our God is good, and has a bigger plan than we can see despite the pain that it takes to get there.

Take a listen- this a great reminder of where our hope really lies: Cornerstone- Hillsong

 

Blessings,

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Life

Family: The Making of Us

Since moving here 3 years ago, God has provided for us in more ways than I can count.  We left behind both sides of our family which was incredibly difficult, but we also trusted God’s plan and knew that He was asking us to step out in faith and move here.  We had no idea what He had for us here other than a job for Dave.

Moving across town is a pain in the butt, moving across the country is in an entire league of its own.  Transferring licenses, transporting cars, flights, negotiating on houses almost 1000 miles away, finding new doctors, dentists, pediatricians, hairdressers, registering kids for school…it can be overwhelming.  At times I let myself grow anxious in the process, and other times I found myself just submitting to the inevitable that these things had to be done, so why make it harder by being scared of these changes.

At the very top of my list upon arrival here was finding a church home.  I knew if we could make it here and plug in somewhere immediately that we would be ok.  The very same weekend Dave, and I flew out here to find a home, we also visited a church at the top of our list, Faith Church.  I had done a lot of research online, and narrowed my list of churches down to my top 2 or 3. Our #1 choice was where we visited that weekend.  We just didn’t want to move here, and drag the kids from church to church, new transition upon new transition, and bring even more chaos into their lives than they were already experiencing.

We laugh now because after we left church that day, I asked Dave as we were walking through the parking lot “well, what did you think?”  His response “good enough for me!”  And so technically it was in that now hilarious moment that we decided this church would be home, however, a little tip for anyone looking for a church home, I wouldn’t recommend choosing one solely based on how you feel after 1 visit.  Please understand there was a lot of prayer, and research of the churches values, belief system, etc going on prior to this moment that ultimately led us to make that decision 🙂

Our first goal after finding our church home, was to find friends so that we could start to build our own family here.  We immediately started plugging ourselves in.  We attended Sunday school which ultimately led to finding a small group, and I regularly attended MOPS and bible study during the week.  I met many lovely women this way.  I chose to be vulnerable even when I didn’t feel like it, because I knew building up walls wouldn’t build authentic friendships.

After I started developing close friendships, I started focusing on another desire of my heart….grandparents.  I grew up close to one set of grandparents whom I honestly saw almost daily.  My grandpa and my dad farmed together so my grandpa was at our house pretty much every day, and they were frequent fliers at our school programs, and we attended the same church so they were at all of our church events too.  A small part of me always hoped that my kids would have that same presence in their lives…that their grandparents would be around to watch baseball games, and band concerts.  That dream honestly started dying the moment we moved away from central IL to the Chicago suburbs though, before we ever moved here.  Even living 2 hours away makes it harder to spend time together than living down the street like we used to.  It was something I had to mourn, and if I am honest, still makes me sad, but I also know without a doubt in my mind, that this is where we are supposed to be so I can wallow in my own self-pity, or we can choose to make the most of our circumstances and make new kinds of memories, and squeeze every ounce of quality time out of the moments we do get with our parents.

That being said, let me get back to my point….moving here meant no more regular contact with the kids grandparents.  I so deeply wanted others to love and cheer on our kids like we do.  It’s hard to do that when you aren’t blood relatives.  Our friendships here have become deep friendships, but our friends also have young families so I know they would bend over backwards for us, but I also know they have immediate needs to take care of with their own children too.  I began praying almost from the moment we moved here for some sort of grandparent like relationship to develop.  I had no idea what that might look like, and I knew it might never happen, but I decided to ask God anyway, and I trusted Him even if the prayer was never answered.  In my mind I imagined this being maybe a person who was already a grandparent in the opposite situation as us, where their adult children lived far away and thus their grandkids were far away, and they rarely got to see them like our parents now with our kids.  As I got to know more women, and mentor moms at MOPS, I started asking all of them not just to consider being in that role in our lives, but more so if they knew anyone who might fit that role in our lives.  I started asking in the Fall of 2015…..nothing came from that.  No one could really think of anyone to connect us too, but I also wasn’t discouraged either.

Fast forward 2 years, to the Fall of 2017.  I was still praying, but not discouraged, just waiting on God to see if anything would turn into a deeper role with our kids.  Our church did a sermon series that fall on Adoption.  Within the series they revealed a plan to help support families in foster care and adoption, as well as how we as a church can serve in a role to adopt our town and fill needs there, and adopt a people group that we can focus our resources on making a bigger difference.  I came away from that series so encouraged that something God had already called us too, and a fear of ours as to how we were going to be supported in that process was literally being answered before our eyes….when we moved here a friend of mine who has adopted encouraged us find a church with an adoption program because she knew it was on our hearts.  Our church didn’t have one, but we felt peace that this is where we needed to be.  So again, in faith, we trusted God, and chose this as our church home.  So seeing all of this come to light….was like a huge hug from God saying “I’ve got you!  I know your EVERY need, and I know EVERY detail!  Trust me!”

Only about a month later, right before Christmas 2017 I was approached by our Kids Ministry Director and she said “I have kind of an odd question for you?”  I approached her kind of warily.  I had no idea what she wanted to talk to me about.  She went onto say “Someone told me that you have been looking for someone to serve as adopted grandparents to your kids?”  Of course  I said “yes” and she went onto tell me that a couple from the church had approached some of the leadership about having this desire on their hearts to be adoptive grandparents.  She asked if we would be open to meeting them.  Of course a million thoughts ran through my mind….do they have their clearances? (Yes actually they work at the church and all staff are required to have clearances).  What if we don’t hit it off? (every friendship I have ever had has been genuine, not a setup blind date!)  So I agreed to set up a time for Dave, the kids, and I to meet them during church hours in a commonplace.  It was January/February 2018 when we met them.  We instantly hit it off with them, and set up a time to do dinner with them at our house (the entire church staff which I trust a lot knew them well so we knew it was safe.  We had a great time with them that night!

We all stepped into this new relationship with uncertainty, but complete transparency of expectations, fears, etc.  As we got to know them more they shared their story with us.  Their story is one of much heartache and pain.  After years of struggling with infertility, and a miscarriage, they finally got pregnant with their daughter Emily only to have her contract viral cardiomyopathy when she was 3.5 months old which required a heart transplant.  Then when Emily was just 17 she was diagnosed with cancer and died when she was 18.  They told us that the day they lost Emily they lost so much more than just their one and only child.  They lost all of their hopes and dreams of ever having a son in law, and grandchildren, and all the joys that come with having those things in your life.

So here was a couple without any grandchildren or a chance of ever having grandchildren at all, showing up, and saying “we will be your kids grandparents.”  Are you serious God?  How in the world our God can take something so broken, and make it beautiful, I am just in awe of.  His goodness continues to amaze me.

Though my heart did deeply desire adopted grandparents for the kids, I knew that prayer may never get answered, but the fact that it did….I am so humbled by.  Our God is so good to know the deepest needs and desires of all of His children.  He honestly hit it out of the park, and gave me more than I even asked for or expected.  They come to birthday parties, soccer games, watch kids for me when I need to work, etc.  AND they live in our neighborhood!!!  I can literally walk to their house!  Seriously…only God can work out and piece together all the details like that!

Here is a picture of all of us together between Easter Services at church this past spring:

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We have worked hard as a group to find a balance to respect the relationship our kids have with their blood grandparents, and now these grandparents.  We chose to have them call them (once they were comfortable with it) different grandparent names to preserve and respect the importance of the relationships they already have with my parents and Dave’s parents.  So they kids call them, Oma and Opa which means Grandma and Grandpa in German.  Initially, I think all of us were in a dazed and confused “is this really real state?”  We were waiting for the blessing to be taken away, and now they feel like family.  They have proven themselves trustworthy, and safe, and they are a huge part of our lives here.

They have been a part of our church for a long time.  The people who connected us knew their story, and walked with them through Emily’s death, and the darkest parts of their lives, and so to see them receive such a ridiculous blessing after so much darkness…was just a true joy for people to be a part of.  Many have described to me what it’s been like watching them since they have gotten to know us, and they say “it’s like a huge cloud has been lifted, and they have found joy once again.”

Not only are they good to our kids, but they are so good to us.  In true parent fashion, they have stepped in even to help parent us when our own parents are so far away….showing up with tools we need, helping with a house project, always having a full table of food when we come over, taking the kids so we can have a date night, and so many more.  I tear up now just thinking about it….you truly don’t realize how much you take for granted until your family isn’t down the street anymore.  Our family can never be replaced, but it’s so nice to have a hug from someone when your own mom and dad are 850 miles away.

Just this morning I was reading in the book of John, and in Chapter 1 vs 4 and 5 it says this:

“His life brought light to everyone.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness can NEVER extinguish it.”

I love that so much!  He. Is. Light!  And He shines despite the darkness!!

I pray that this is an encouragement to you today.  That you would never give up hope despite your circumstances.  Oma and Opa (or as Dave and I call them, Rick and Cindy 🙂 have walked through one of my worst nightmares, and to see light continue to shine, hope in God still present, and God providing for each of us…..no matter what we face today, we don’t ever have to give up hope because we have Him!

 

Blessings,

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P.S. If you don’t know who Ellie Holcomb is, I love this song by her called “We’ve Got This Hope.”  Take a listen!

 

 

Life

How to Teach Your Kids to Love Books

Now I’m obviously not an expert, but we are 7.5 years into this parenting thing, and I would like to think we have done something right in regards to teaching our kids to love books, because they seriously both really love books!

I remember when Abigail was a baby, and we had mounds upon mounds of board books, and I used to force myself to read them to her while she literally stared at the wall or the ceiling fan, and at the time it felt useless.  Why in the world should I read to a baby?  The American Academy of Pediatrics shares that an “important part of brain development occurs within a child’s first three years of life, and that reading to children enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills.”  So despite the wall and ceiling fan stares I pressed on.  No, I did not read for hours and hours a day, but books were always readily available in our home.  We read often to her, and one of her favorite activities soon became reading.

When Alex came along, he was very different than Abbie.  She was an early talker.  I can remember her jabbering audible sentences by around 18 months.  Alex turned two and was barely saying much.  I was just beginning to worry about his langugage skills, when all of the sudden one day something clicked, and he honestly talks more than his sister now!  He didn’t seem as interested in books, but with time, and using some of the tips I am going to share with you today, he too has become an avid book lover!

Now there are about a million different types of lists like”books you should read to your child by kindergarten,” but honestly those types of lists make my head spin.  I don’t need more rules.  I don’t need more “to-dos.”  We can easily overcomplicate so many things in our lives, by over-analyzing, and over googling because we as parents don’t want to screw it up, but let me encourage you….stop googling how to teach your child to love reading, and just read.  It’s really that simple.  I used to live in fear of not following the “rules” of all of the to do lists that seem to exist as a new parent, and about 30 seconds in told myself “forget that!” I just need to try to be the best me I can be.  So if you are looking for a simple, uncomplicated way to make reading a priority in your home then please read on…

#1  Give your children access and time for books.  Make a space for books in your home. It can be a shelf, or a cute basket…or make them fit into the decor of your home, but make them easily accessible to your children.  There are even age appropriate board books for younger children that aren’t so easily torn.  The second part of this one is allowing your children time.  It feels like parenting in today’s world is so much busier than I remember being as a child.  We seem to all be going 100 miles an hour from one activity to the next.  We do our best to keep life simple, but nevertheless despite my husband and I’s best introverted efforts we cannot always be hermits 🙂 and we do need to some social things.  So analyze your life, and activities and make sure your family is involved in what you want/need to be involved in, and don’t let your activities dictate your priorities.  YOU get to decide what your priorities are.  We almost always have books in the car, or in a tote bag to take to a meeting, etc so that the kids can choose a book to read wherever we are whether at home or on the go.

#2 Model a love (or at least an interest) of reading.  Now as adults it is hard to find time to read, and many of us don’t love to read, but reading is still a huge part of our lives.  Make time to model that for and with your kids.  I find it’s so easy to turn on the TV to distract the kids so I can have some quiet time, but it amazes me when I force non TV time, what the kids come up with to do.  Today I caught them gathering almost every pillow from the house, and turning our Family Room into one huge nest where they snuggled up together to read.  I took a few minutes to read them a few books, and then joined the nest with my own book to read next to them:

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I typically spend a few minutes each morning in my devotion time, reading my bible, or a bible study book, and often times my kids will wake up and come snuggle up next to me.  It doesn’t have to be a huge part of your life, but when kids see their parents model reading, it makes it a lot easier for that love/interest to develop in them as well.

#3 Utilize your local library.  We used to be frequent fliers at the library, but you really don’t have to be to encourage a love for books.  When Abigail was younger we went almost once a week, but when Alex was born, everything was just harder.  Harder to get out the door, a harder baby, harder toddler, harder ….well you get the idea.  His behavior made me not even want to go anywhere anymore so our trips to the library became less frequent, but we still get to utilize this free resource.  When we go we get lots of books….seriously, we check out like 20-30 books at a time.  We each pick out some, and then I renew them for the maximum time which I think is 3 weeks each time, and you can renew that for 2 more times which means I can keep these books for 9 weeks.  That means I really only get to the library probably 5 or 6 times a year, but for younger kids it works out well anyway because by the time I return those books, Alex has them memorized which is such a great learning tool for him to work on comprehension, repetition, recognizing letters, and sounds, etc.

#4 Let them choose their own books.  This one is HUGE!  Those book lists of award-winning books to make your child a scholar by age 5 that I mentioned earlier….this is where I threw that out the window.  I can almost guarantee you that no 3 year old boy is going to be interested in a book about a pink pony named Muffin who had adventures with a dog named Bear.  Do you know what 3-year-old boys think about?  Dirt, sand, dump trucks, diggers, trains, planes….you get the idea.  So let your kids be themselves.  Allow them to express themselves through their choices in literature by getting to choose what to read.  This doesn’t mean that we should allow our kids to read whatever trash that they come across, but when you are parenting young children, this really isn’t much of an issue in my experience with young children’s picture books.  It becomes an issue on quality and content with more mature readers as you start to monitor what they may have access to (random side note Abigail did bring home a few Barbie picture books once, and quite honestly the way they talk to each other made me feel stupider just reading them so I encouraged her to pick something else next time, but she still had a vast array of books to choose from that were of interest to her.  I gently nudged her away from books that I didn’t really feel were appropriate, but still allowed her many other books to choose from).

So here are a few favorites that my kiddos are loving right now:

Alexander’s Recommendations:

He absolutely loves the series of books on all different types of transportation by the McMullans.  They are very interactive, and honestly entertaining as an adult to read as well!  Here are a few of his favorites:

I Stink

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https://amzn.to/2O02Sej

I’m Brave

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https://amzn.to/2Li0HnT

I’m Dirty

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https://amzn.to/2Loxrw8

I’m Fast

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https://amzn.to/2ut5lWu

 

Abigail’s Recommendations:

The Magic Animal Series by Sue Bentley- Magic Pony, Magic Puppy, Magic Kitten, etc (you name an animal she probably has a book on it!)  No matter what animal it is Abigail loves them!  She is reading well above grade level, and what I’m finding is hardest for her is to find age appropriate books for her (going into 2nd grade) but that are at an appropriate level with not too much mature content.  We tend to stick to the books with amimal characters which helps a lot with staying away from books with content that is too mature.

Magic Puppy

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https://amzn.to/2uwcV2R

Magic Kitten

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https://amzn.to/2NreiHh

Magic Pony

9780448462059

https://amzn.to/2NWEnPn

Magic Bunny

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https://amzn.to/2mrJFG8

I hope these tips are helpful as you find ways to encourage your own kids to read, and figure out what methods work best for your family.

Happy Reading!!

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(Note: The links in this post are affiliate links, and we will be compensated when you make a purchase by clicking through our links, however the opinions stated in this article are fully my own.  I was not compensated for giving my true, honest opinion.)