Foster Care – Our Final Chapter

11 06 2018

Even after the dynamics of our second placement, we knew we weren’t finished with this foster care journey. We got two girls out of a group home in August of 2011. They were amazing young ladies who were about 26 months apart in age. They started going to the same school where my wife worked. The next year we enrolled them in the local elementary school as my wife was changing schools and we thought it would be good for them to go to school with other kids in the neighborhood.

It was about this time we were asked if we would be willing to adopt the two girls. We had already raised four kids through the teenage years and did we really want to do that again? Did I really want to go through the teenage years again with two more girls?We prayed about it and realized that God wanted us to take that step. So we said yes and then received a court order to become certified to adopt them as soon as the severance process was completed.

Though we didn’t talk to the girls about adopting them, having been with us for over a years, the girls started asking about where they would go to school for Junior High and High school. We emotionally got way ahead of the process. On the day that was supposed to be the start of the severance trial, literally an hour before the proceeding was supposed to start, the relatively new DCS worker told me they were going to be sending the girls back home with mom in 10 days. I think this DCS case worker had been on the case for a month or so when this happened.

For those of you who have read all my posts about foster care, the organization formerly known as Child Protective Services (CPS) was reorganized into the Department for Child Safety (DCS).

Anyway, to say the least I was devastated at this change of events. There was no hint that things had changed or that the plan had changed from severance to reunification. There was no consultation with us about when would be a good time to transition the girls from our care back to their mother. The date that was chosen was one week before fall break. Not that I ever wanted them to leave, but leaving school at fall break and starting a new school at the end of fall break would have been a better transition for the girls. Nothing short of the judge changing the order would be good for us but we were at least aware things like this could happen.

There was no way that I could break this news to the girls in a detached manner and I didn’t want to make this any harder on them then I thought it would be. I asked their DCS worker to give them the news. They knew something was up by the way we acted but it wasn’t until a few days later that their DCS case worked called and asked if they wanted to go home with mom. The youngest immediately said yes while the older was definitely more conflicted between her feelings for us and her feelings for her mom.

We told them that we still loved them deeply and after consulting with their mother did give them our contact information. It was one of the toughest things I have ever done to have their case worker pick them up from our home knowing they would never return and trying all the time to put on a brave front to not make it any harder on them.

We were deeply hurt and consulted a good friend who is a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). She said the best thing to do was to contact the DCS ombudsman and file a complaint. She did tell us that complaining as hurt foster parents would likely be ignored. Instead she suggested reporting that DCS didn’t follow their own rules or allow us as foster parents to do what they trained us to do. That is to help the kids with transitions.

I filed the complaint online and a ew days later got a call from the ombudsman’s office. I told them that we are required to perform 30 hours of training on how to help kids transition. I also told them that we were not asked about timing for the transition. When they asked what they could do for me, I told them nothing unless they could reverse the court order, which I knew they couldn’t do. I told them they could give the other foster parents of the siblings of the girls we had time to help the kids transition like they trained us to do.

This complete reversal, and in my opinion abuse, by DCS caused us to take a few months off to recover. In that time we prayed and sensed that our journey with foster care was over. Little did I know that God was making space in our lives for another family issue.

While the girls never contracted us, we have seen the girls since they left. With their mom’s permission, we were able to take them for an afternoon and spend some time with them. They treated us and interacted with us as if nothing had happened. We hope and pray that they do well with their mother in the future.

Until next time…

The Second Foster Placement

9 06 2018

Our first placements included one who was medically fragile and that brought a whole new level of care that while we weren’t trained for, with prayer and help from lots of folks we completed.

Our second placement we requested out of a group home. She was good for a few weeks and then the defiance started. Having raised 4 kids we knew a little something about defiance but this young lady took it to levels we were not prepared for. Some of that I think was due to influences from her mother who was very vocal about her rights. I am all for peoples rights but for me that isn’t the first argument or comeback when things aren’t as they should be. The other thing that made this somewhat difficult is that this placement had court ordered phone calls with her grandparents that we had to supervise. The last thing I really wanted to do was listen in on another conversation that had nothing to do with me.

We had to fight to get her services. Removing her from a group home where there were lots of other kids to our home where she was effectively and only child was not a good move for her. We ended up asking to have her moved out of our home. Part of this was the fact that she was defiant beyond what we could handle and our support team didn’t have any suggestions that worked. Part of this was failure on both sides in regards to our licensing agency. Only when we were at the point of disruption did they mention services that they had for us. Because this was having a very negative effect on my wife and myself, though to a lesser degree, we ended up disrupting.

Thankfully our licensing agency was able to find another home within their agency to place her and she did much better there with other kids. She finally ended up be reunited with her mother.

Until next time…

Our First Foster Placements

6 06 2018

I realized when I read my previous blog posts that I stopped blogging before we got our first placements. Shortly, like within a few days if I remember correctly, my wife got a call about 10:30pm for an emergency placement of a 10yr old. Her parents had taken her to the doctor for a distended abdomen and the test results indicated she was pregnant. We talked for a few minutes and agreed we would take her. Then CPS asked if we could also take her 8 year old sister. We said yes and after we got off the phone with CPS immediately texted our licensing worker. Amazingly he was still awake and called. We told him what we knew and prayed for the girls and the situation.

About 1:30am the next morning, two scared little girls with the clothes on their back and little else arrived at our home. We didn’t run to Wal-Mart then but we were there later in the morning to get them some clothes.

We took the 10 year old for some tests and they determined that she had an ectopic pregnancy. With her father’s permission, she was scheduled to remove the mass of cells. It was during this procedure that she wasn’t actually pregnant but had a large cancerous tumor. The scheduled another procedure to remove the tumor and start treatment. This meant that every day we were driving to Phoenix Children’s Hospital to visit her as by court order her parents were not allowed to see her yet.

I am so thankful for my “bio” daughters who treated the both, but especially the younger one, as sisters and helped immensely with care while we visited with helped the older of the two with what she was going through.

The older girl was not eating enough so they decided to put in a feeding tube. It was during this time I was able to see just God had been bringing all the necessary people into our lives. It “just so happens”, I believe it was by God’s plan and design, that one of the folks in our bible study group was a pediatric nurse at Phoenix Children’s hospital. When the older girl coughed up the feeding tube, we were able to call on our nurse friend who knew exactly how to put the feeding tube back in.

These two were with us for several months and then were moved to a friend of their mother’s. There mom had passed away a few years before. My wife still saw them at school the next year so we were able to kind of keep track and know the court had still not come to resolution on the reason why they were removed from their home in the first place.

I am so thankful for all the prayers and people God put in our lives for just a time as this. Our foster care support group, or amazing licensing worker and our friend the pediatric nurse were all people God knew we would need to help us with our first placements.

Until next time…

Foster Care….the saga continues

6 04 2013

It has been awhile since I posted an update on our Foster Care journey. You may want to read Part 1 and Part 2 first to get the whole story.

We have reached the point where all the paperwork has been filled out, back ground checks done, certifications acquired and training completed. The bundle of information about my family has been turned in to the Office of Licensing, Certification & Renewal (OLCR). We were told it was taking 3-6 weeks to be certified. We are almost at three weeks. We were also told that there is a new supervisor at OLCR who is very meticulous about paperwork. With this new supervisor, we were told to not be surprised at all if there was some additional information that needed to be provided or more forms to fill out. I am hoping that we haven’t heard anything yet is a good sign. I would hate to think that they haven’t even looked at our paperwork yet.

This waiting is definitely developing patience in me. Actually the whole process has been a patience growing endeavor. However, I sincerely hope we are at the end of providing information and will soon be able to be a temporary safe place for kids who need that. I realize that once we have been certified, will mean the start of a new set of challenges that will only strengthen my walk with The Lord. I know He has brought my wife and I this far. There have been numerous hurdles that God has helped is over so far.

I have never dealt with bureaucracy well. I get frustrated by the sheer number of forms and apparently redundant information that has to be provided again and again. That and they don’t do things the way I think they should, which of course is the right way (no control issues here 🙂 ). Having a foster child, or children, is going to mean having to learn how to work with CPS, lawyers and the courts. I also realize that I am going to have to work within their schedules to a large extent. I have served on jury duty once so at least the court system is not completely foreign.

My wife and I will be holding on to the promise that God will bring us through anything He has called us to. I am thankful that we have developed a support network at church with other families who are foster parents. They will be a great resource of information and support when we need it.

Until next time….

Our Foster Care Adventure (Part 2)

30 10 2012

If you haven’t read part 1 yet, you might want to start there.

I mentioned in my previous post that there are training classes we needed to attend. Going down the path of becoming licensed foster parents meant that we had to complete 30 hours of training. This came in the form of 10 3-hour classes on Monday nights. We missed one class of the 10 due to travel so we did the make-up class a few days before the surgery on my foot. We also had to complete CPR and First Aid training.

We expected that with my foot surgery the whole process would slow down and it did. During this time we came under what I can only describe as a spiritual attack. We had an invasion of ants, we discovered we had termites, we had to replace our water heater and garbage disposal, we had to replace the batteries in two vehicles and repair a tire. We also have had to deal with folks trying to convince us that this is a bad decision. “Why do you want all these problems?” “Your kids are almost out of the house now you should be taking it easy.” One person even asked if we were doing this for the money. Fortunately this only brought us closer to God and we prayed to see how God was going to work in this situation.

At this point we needed bedroom furniture, fire extinguishers and escape ladders, locks for medicines and harmful chemicals and we still had to pay for the CPR/First Aid classes. As a result of these attacks, the money we had put aside for initial foster care expenses was almost gone and our emergency funds have been hit pretty hard. We also asked for friends to pray for us.

Since we prayed to God, and asked others to join us, we have seen miracles happen. A friend “just happened” to need to get rid of 2 twin mattresses and a dresser. It turns out that the termites were caught early so there is no structural, or any visible, damage to repair. We found a place to get our CPR/First Aid training for $15. Just FYI the Red Cross charges $110 for the same course! Our initial home inspection is scheduled on November 5th and all our paperwork, that we know needs to be completed, is done.

I don’t mean to make this sound like it has been one battle after another. It hasn’t. There have been some spots where our commitment to following God has been tested. We have also been blessed by a majority of our friends being VERY supportive. Since finding out that we are pursuing becoming foster parents, I have had several friends share that they were foster kids. I have been blessed to be able to answer questions for another family considering adoption. We even have some friends that are even more excited about us becoming foster parents than I think we are at this point.

The training classes made it abundantly clear that being a foster parent is not a “cake-walk”. At times it is likely going to be very difficult. However, we know that going in so it won’t be a shock or surprise. We also view this as our ministry field. We may very well be the first Jesus’ ambassadors that the parents or kids have ever seen! We have also started to get to know others who are currently foster parents so we have folks to ask about situations as they come up. We have discovered that apparently late night trips to Wal-Mart are a normal event when kids get placed in your home.

Until next time …

Our Foster Care Adventure (Part 1)

28 10 2012

We are getting closer to being licensed Foster parents.  It has been an adventure so far and I imagine that the real adventure is just getting ready to happen.

So how did we get started on the path to foster care?  Well back in March of 2012, the Pastor, Mark Connelly, at our church, Mission Community Church, did a mini-series on the biblical basis of a new initiative the church was embarking on.  The initiative is called Esther’s Hope and it represents our efforts to help drain the foster care system in Arizona of children needing homes.

During the mini-series, I became convicted that God was asking my family to take some role in this effort.  I didn’t know what we were supposed to do but I was convinced that we needed to do something.  I didn’t say anything to my wife because, honestly,  I was afraid of her reaction.  There was an orientation meeting scheduled and I finally decided to talk with my wife about what I felt God was calling us to do.  I told her that I didn’t know what we were supposed to do as part of Esther’s Hope but that I was certain God was asking us to do something.  It turns out that she was feeling the same way and was waiting for me to say something about it as confirmation of her feelings.  That was confirmation for me that it really was God asking us to be involved.

We went to the orientation meeting and were astounded, as were the folks doing the orientation, at the turn out for the orientation meeting.  The orientation meeting was held in a room that holds 450 or so and it was standing room only!  After getting information about the foster care system in Arizona and how Christian Family Care was participating as a licensing agency, the group was divided in to two smaller groups.  One group was those that were interested in becoming licensed foster parents or adopting.  The other group were the folks that were interested in supporting foster families.

This was our first decision about what our next step was going to be.  We decided to stay with the group interested in becoming foster families or adopting.  I still wasn’t sure whether we wanted to adopt or foster.  Honestly I was leaning towards adoption because it sounded easier.  Being a foster parent means you are on the front lines so to speak.  When CPS determines that a child needs to be removed from a home, foster parents are the first to help the child deal with this traumatic experience after they have been processed into the system.  The goal for foster kids is reunification with their biological parent(s).  That means that after weeks/months of loving on and becoming attached to a child, assuming the parent(s) got their act together, the child is taken away from the foster parents and returned to their biological parent(s).  While being with their parents is really best for the child, it is still going to be heartbreaking to have them leave.  After the presentation was over, we talked and decided we  were going to go down the path of becoming licensed foster parents.

With the decision having been made to follow where God was leading to become licensed foster parents,  this was going to mean some major changes in our lives.  We had training classes to attend, a bunch of paperwork to fill out and reviews of our home and our lives by state agencies.  Not to mention a level 1 federal background check!  Did I mention that there was lots of paperwork to fill out?  We are clinging to the promise that God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.

Obviously there is more to this story we are several months beyond the orientation meeting as of this blog post.  I didn’t want to make this too long so I am going to break this up into several posts.

Until next time….

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