Greetings from a COLD North Carolina Winter. We just had almost 9″ of snow over the weekend and it’s a frigid single digits for the lows over the past couple of nights!
We have enjoyed a few snow days, sledding, snow cream. ya know standard Southern snow fun. But now we are in the “kids aren’t going back to school for several days and we might go crazy inside” phase, so prayers for Amy.
Anyway, we pray that all is well for you all. I’m afforded the opportunity to be drinking some seriously strong coffee to try and stay awake to watch this National Championship game (Eastern Standard time is hard) and write about the waiting.
Last we were with you guys, we gave a brief update on what’s next. And what’s next was ADOPTION. At that point, we were beginning our classes to become licensed Foster or more specifically Foster with the intent of adoption parents.
Where we’re at in the process: Now after classes every Monday / Thursday for 3 hours a night for 3 months (seriously back in college much?!?), we have completed our training. Our application is being compiled and should be sent off for review / approval any day now.
What’s next: The wait time for application approval is up to 12 weeks, although it can be sooner. So we wait for our application to be approved and in the meantime, we prepare. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically.
How we are preparing:
- All of our kids are in (1) room. Our kids have chosen to share (1) room. That’s three kids in one room. They have done this because they wanted to provide Amy the opportunity to update / improve and decorate the room we have designated for the foster children…yes I said children. More on that later.
- Stuff Acquisition – Amy has done a great job of doing some collecting of special things to welcome children into our home: Water Bottles, Lovies (blankets, stuffed animals), toiletries for a variety of types of hair care, coloring books and crayons, special snacks, and outfits (at least a couple)
- Prayer – we are praying the mess out of this process. Our community is praying. Our church is praying. Our family is praying. You are praying (more on how a little further down). We are bathing this whole thing in prayer.
- Practicing – Our family had some practice. Even though we aren’t approved to be “foster parents” [YET], we are approved to provide respite care for Foster children whose parents needed a little bit of a break. Over Christmas our family provided respite for 2 foster children (a 5 year old girl and a 16 month old boy). Man oh man was it a great experience! We LOVED almost everything about it! Both kids were with us from right when the kids got out of school for Christmas break until New Years. They got to have their Christmas with us and us with them. It was an amazing opportunity to shower them with and tell them about the Never-stopping, never-giving up, unbreaking, always and forever of Love of Jesus as we went through our family Christmas Traditions!
What we have learned:
- We did a first day activity in class, where we itemized out the first 24 hours. That first day activity that we did in class- SUPER IMPORTANT. Amy and I realized that we had routines for our home / house and that dropping two kids into the middle of that (they arrived at 2pm) was a change and challenge. The first few days were really awkward. So we should be prepared. Over-loving, etc. was not working well.
- You’ll screw up – When putting the girl to bed, we have our kids sleep with the lights off and doors closed. She (the girl), said night time is when bad people come or bad things happened to me. I was crushed for her but we didn’t do a good enough job of explaining to her that she was in a safe place and nothing ever bad was going to happen….explicitly. We must State the obvious.
- What are the boundaries – One of the rules in our house is that you can’t play with mommy and daddy’s phone. The girl when she came wanted to watch a Justin Timberlake video on my phone and hold it. This was about 5 minutes in so I had to decide and share with her that we don’t allow the kids in this house to do that (go over rules) and that we weren’t comfortable with watching JT videos for our kids.
- Hair Care … PREPARE – I know we can’t all prepare for all situations. But the girl came with her fixed. She wanted to have it down and for Amy to do it. We knew this so we had prepared. But when she took it down, we realized that even the Foster mom was not well informed in how to care for that type of hair. Amy went out to a store and learned biracial hair and made it a special date with the girl. Then every night before bed and in the morning Amy would style her hair. We are familiarizing ourselves with the shops near us or resources around us and have them on call.
- Know your family – the boy was a toddler (16 months). And the sweetest most awesome Toddler ever. I, Josh, had forgotten all the challenges with a Toddler and how it impacts how our kids play. It absolutely altered how our kids play. We loved the boy and we loved toddlers but to have that age in our house…would be a challenge. So we prayerfully and critically thought about what may disrupt our family and not be the best fit. We remember some of the families telling us it’s ok to say no. I brushed that off. Now I understand. It’s ok to say no.
- Know the distances – We had to transport the boy to his parent visit, the girl to her parent visit and the girl to her therapy. They had one more visit but that one didn’t happen. Each week the kids have 4 total visits. These visits are in Guilford County, which is about a 45 minute drive (or at least DSS is there) from our house. We must make sure we know what transportation resources are available (Often DSS may drive the child one way for the visit, sometimes two ways) before we accept a placement way far from us. Also, since we are open to a sibling group, we must think through same parents / different parents and if different parents then how does that impact visitation and the schedule impact to our family.
- GO SLOW – We did not do this well. The children arrived on Dec 22. We had Christmas activities Dec 23 (2 activities), 24 (2 activities), 25 (2 activities). It wasn’t until after Christmas and the kids really got to play together that we started to see a lot of the personalities come through. If we can we really must start the time by going slow. Have meals in the freezer, have friends on call to pick up stuff from the grocery store if we need it. I’m not saying live in a bunker but I am saying, some initial stability and a lot of bonding time with those that are most important in our family life will do wonders to help meet needs and establish trust.
- Social Settings – What they need – We went to our church staff Christmas party and there were several kids that Madeline is good friends with (even a biracial girl) and I had instructed Madeline to make sure the girl that was with us was included and had fun. It didn’t go as planned. The girl was frightened with so many new people and wouldn’t leave my side, sitting down with the adults in our chairs when we were eating. She didn’t know all this new and all these people so the default was to be with us. This improved greatly when we had bible study over at our house about 5 days later but we must be aware of adjusting the social situation for children in social situations, babies my cry with new people, older children may tantrum etc.
- That the world of foster care / social work / dss / gov’t is interesting – I took the girl to meet her bio father on an unsupervised visit at Hanes Mall. It was great but mildly terrifying when I just sent her off on her visit with him in the mall….Eeks. She even asked me as she help my pant leg, can you go with us? Crush my heart!! I, Josh, conspiracy theorized the whole thing and made sure I could draw a sketch of him if things went south (crazy i know) But it was great and he was delightful. He was so appreciative and we chatted about what we did at Christmas time and how they were doing and playing. Amy and I are very excited about shared parenting and creating permanency whatever that looks like in children’s lives.
- Also we learned it takes a team of people to do what’s best for the children. I enjoyed going to DSS in Guilford County and to the therapist. We really understand the need and importance of the monthly meetings and sharing and planning together for the best interests of the child / children.
- We learned that support group is important. We love our Bible Study. It is our family / community and amazing. But we will also need people who are “in this with us” (That’s our classmates that we went through the licensing process with). It was heart-breaking to hear some things that the girl said and our community was sad with us but did not know what to say to respond in a way that meets needs and builds trust. Another example the boy bit all the time. Everyone. We tried to give him teething toys, tried to tell him no forcefully, and eventually the kids stopped wanting to be around him because he was biting. With our bio kids, we had a different parenting strategy that wouldn’t work in foster care in regards to biting. So we were frustrated with how to respond in correction and love. Support group would be a great place to brainstorm about that.
- We learned our community is love. Our community / church and our family LOVED LOVED LOVED those children. It was so encouraging to see.
- That our kids are really really really ready for this. Our kids BLEW US AWAY. Ours were BEYOND amazing. We had a lot of talks about how the kids in our house might be sad when they are here because they are away from their family, before the kids came and we allowed our kids to come up with answers on how to respond. This prepared them mentally and emotionally to navigate situations where the children were sad. One night the girl was crying in the room when they were going to bed and Madeline went over to her sat on her bed and told her it would be ok and was praying for her. Melt my heart. Jojo and her really bonded as she did with all the others. Madeline and Elijah were over the moon for the boy toddler. It was really precious!
- Like the Grinch our heart grew and grew– When we had Madeline, I thought to myself I can never love anyone as much as I love this little girl. When we were pregnant with Jojo, I thought I don’t know how my heart can divide this love between two. The thing was it didn’t divide. God just gave me more love. God has given us more love, to love the children that will come into our home. This happened with Bella, Christopher, and Star in Belize. It happened with these two children that were here over Christmas. We will love them like (people will say this) they are our own because they are. Our heart will grow and that provides opportunity to be hurt. But the rewards, at least for us, the love that we were able to share even just briefly with those two children far outweigh the heavy hurt when they left and even now as I am finishing this.
How to pray for us:
- Speed – We are praying or more specifically Madeline is praying for kids to be in our home before her birthday – April 6th. We would LOVE for GOD to smash this and have kids here way before then. But it will probably take a miracle, so please pray.
- Wisdom – We are likely to get a call for children that may or may not fall within what we have designated as right for our family . Our “right for our family” is a sibling group ages Madeline’s age to Elijah’s age, (1) of them must be a girl. Pray that the Lord provides just that. Pray that we have the wisdom field these referrals with all the wisdom that comes only from the Father.
- The kids – Pray that they are safe. Pray that they feel love, even if their situation is hard right now. Pray that they know Him and if they don’t pray that our family can be the place where they discover the Father’s love. Pray for their salvation!
- Patience – You all know we are not the most patient people on earth. Pray the Lord refines us through this waiting. Pray for our patience and trust that everything is His timing. It is we know. But we lack patience at times. Pray that we are faithful in the waiting.
We are so excited to be on this journey with our new friends from our licensing classes and to have such an amazing church / community group family, supported family, and all of you partnering with us. God is up to something and we can’t wait to continue to share this journey with each of you.
With all our love (from our growing family to yours)!