Thursday, December 18, 2014

I got a call...

I just got back from vacation and have been crazy busy catching up with work from being out of the office... I'm also getting prepared for the holidays.  Around 10 yesterday morning I got a call from CK (my agency) asking me pretty much if I was ready.... Wait, what? 

She said we're doing a final review of your chart, checking off things and wanted to see when you'd be ready for your first kid!  I obviously start sweating and laughing immediately... Wait what?  She said they had a few things they were getting clarification on from the home study (still) but after that, would I be ready for a kid?  Still laughing I walk into the hallway and just say, "yeah I guess..." not sure that was the best response but it's just such an odd question.  I understand why they ask it, but it just seems like I've been doing nothing but paperwork and training for so long.  I'm ready, definitely, but wait what?  I probably said that 10 times on the phone with her... I just couldn't process all that she was saying as fast as she was saying it.  She's probably said this schpeel to people a million times so she had it down, but my brain could not keep up.  I mean, yes, I'm ready.  I cannot be more excited and if I get a placement before Christmas then yes, let's go.  But in between everything she's saying I'm thinking, I haven't cleaned the house.  I need to organize clothes that I recently got.  I need to put together a chair my parents bought me.  I need to get Bailey (my dog) to the groomer so she's ready.  It was so crazy, the biggest to-do list and some bizarre/unimportant things started popping into my head...

I got off the phone and just mentally crossed them all off.  Because they don't matter and the things that need to happen will happen.  I don't think i'll get a kiddo before the weekend (because she'd call to let me know my home study was completed and revisions were done).  That at least gives me the weekend to put stuff together, clean the house and just get some kid groceries.

I asked her for a realistic date and she said it could be by the end of the month... Eeek!

I haven't blogged in a bit but you haven't missed anything really... Just lots of freaking out (as of yesterday) and last minute planning, Christmas shopping, working and lots of laundry in between it all. 

Anyways, thanks for all the prayers thus far!  I'll update here as I know more!

Monday, December 8, 2014

My Heart for Her...

I read this on a blog and I feel in love with it.  I had it bookmarked and would re-read it every so often.  I wanted to share not only for this girl, but for all young women out there as a simple prayer...
My heart for her is that she will learn that her journey is where she will become strong
that her strength is from God not within herself
that she waits for a man that will love her heart, her mind and dream her dreams as well as his own
one that will respect her choice that true love waits, because he too is waiting
that she explores her God given dreams with no pressure to marry before her time
that she opens her heart to God’s invitation to be transformed by Him
that she stands when no one else does
that she speaks for those who cannot
that she be the light when everything else is dark
that she has the eyes to see the lovely in the unlovely, for that is so often where we see God
that she lives loved... because she knows the depth of which she is loved
that she hears His song over her each and everyday
that she is able to forgive because she knows the depth of her forgiveness
that family always matters and knows that it's worth fighting for
that she would keep God first, others second and herself third
that her trust is always safe with the One who is perfect and steadfast
that even if she had no one she is not ever alone because God is always with her
that she has a heavenly Father who gives good gifts to His children
that the gifts He has given her have been hand chosen for a purpose
that she is able to see her path before her clearly and will follow after it even if no one else sees it too
that she dreams big dreams and prays even bigger prayers
and that with each day she will love deeper, fight harder and pray with conviction

adapted from the original post here, The House of Belonging

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Umm... Hi, yes... Party of 2

For those questions about the timeline... As of now, my paperwork is done, unless there are more questions from the home study of course, (and there have already been additional questions).  Sigh...

My fire inspection is all that I have left and it's been hard to get ahold of the right people so its not scheduled yet but I'm hopeful that after thanksgiving it will be.

So, the date is Dec 16!!  That does not mean that a kiddo would be with me on that date, I'm just thinking that will be the date that I officially open my home, which just means it now becomes a possibility for a kid that meets my parameters.

Why Dec 16?  I get back from NY with my grandparents on Dec 15.  I could have opened sooner, however I couldn't have traveled with her to NY because tickets were already bought, plans made, etc.  If I did have her, she'd have to stay with a respite provider but due to all the changes and transitions already happening and the trauma that comes with getting placed into foster care at all, you can't use a respite provider within the first 30 days.  This is really just to help her adjust and for us to establish a routine and relationship before she's off being babysat by more people she doesn't know. 

Once I get back from NY, I have no plans to go anywhere.  Christmas I'll be local and if she's with me, we'll probably stay at my house, just to help her continue adjusting and keeping that routine, but going to my dad's house during the day to hangout.  After that, my cousins wedding will be at the end of January and she would just come with me... Crazy! 

On a side note, I currently have a car seat in my backseat.  Trippy.  I turn around often and just stare at it...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Her room

Her room is done!!  As promised, pictures for those of you who can't swing on by and take a look for yourself... Enjoy!

Those animals are the softest... Some of you might remember the cow I loved, it was soft once upon a time and had beads in it, so it was kinda heavy.  I loved it and think every kid needs something like that.  The lamb not only has beads, it's got aromatherapy scents... I'm not sure if the beads were soaked in it or what, but it smells amazing. 

This is the gallery wall, I have a few others I haven't hung yet and one that still needs to be filled. 

My favorite... Artwork by Anna Tovar

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Do you have a kid?

I have received some hilarious text messages, phone calls, and facebook messages these last 9 months.  Most of them though have come recently with the publication of social media posts.  Here are some examples:

1. You're pregnant?
2. Are you adopting?
3. Wait, so what was that shower for?
4. I don't understand, what's happening? What are you doing?
5. Do you have a kid?

That last one has been the most popular with random variations.  It can be fun to reply and mess with them for a little bit, but I do eventually get into the fact that I'm fostering, not adopting or actually having a child (haha).  So for those of you that are unclear on what fostering is, let me explain...

Kids are pulled out of their home by Child Protective Services for reasons that vary with each child, and because they are unsafe in their own home, they get placed in a temporary home until their parents meet their goals.  The goal with all foster placements is reconciliation.  The hope is that the child's parents (called bio parents in the CPS world) would meet their goals timely and want their kids back so that after they meet goals (get a job, stay sober for 6 months, have 3 clean drug tests, etc.) the kids can go back to their home and family that is now a safe environment.  The reason they say the normal length of stay for a foster child is 12-16 months is because typically, the court gives them a set of goals, some might be short term, but all have to be met by 12 months.  The judge can grant them one 6 month extension if parents are showing marked progress toward those goals (maybe they've been sober, but are having trouble finding a job) but are just having trouble with a certain part of their goals. After goals are met, kids would go home.  If goals are not met, CPS would begin the process of terminating parental rights.  This can vary on time as it depends on if the parents are ok with that and ready or if they fight it. 

So the question has also been asked on what kind of circumstances would a kid ever leave my home? 
1. If they went back home to their bio parents
2. If parental rights were terminated then they got adopted
3. If they aged out. 

On that last point, since my age is 5-8, I'll probably only get new kids in my home that are on the younger side of the scale so that their case is done before they turn 9.  I could get kids that are older if they are short term.  The 2 circumstances I'm taking short term are for respite care and emergency placements.  Respite means that another family needs a break, and the foster child would come live with me for up to 14 days.  Emergency placement is when the kid is taken out of the home unplanned, could be in the middle of the night and they need a home for them right away.  This usually happens when police get a call and show up and realize there is some situation that kids need to be removed right away.  After kids are removed from their home, CPS has 4 hours to have a designated home for that child.  Emergency placements last up to 30 days.  So if there is a sibling group taken out, ideally, they'd be all in the same foster home.  Since that might be hard to coordinate on short notice, kids get placed in homes that are open for emergency placements until they can figure out a more permanent home.  Even if all the siblings can't get together, maybe a few of them can and maybe they can get them all in the same area/neighborhood/school districts.  This also makes life for the foster parents easier as sibling visits have to take place once a month and it's good for them to continue those relationships for obvious reasons. 

Hope this helps answer some questions!  As you can see, there are a so many variables that go into all these decisions but hopefully once a kid is placed, they don't get moved until they go home or are adopted for permanent placement.  Lord willing though, until reconciliation happens, hopefully they can land in a home that is loving and willing to work with them as their young brains process all that is happening.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


We had a shower last week and I cannot tell you how grateful I felt to have such an incredible support system.  I wish my home study worker could have just been there to see how many people are there and ready to love and support myself and this child and I know she wouldn't have had any doubts.  I left with happy tears running down my cheeks because I felt so unworthy.  I have never had a shower before, I was nervous before talking to my cousin about being the center of attention (because I hate it) and she just kept telling me it would be fine and that people are here to love and bless me.  At the beginning I was a little nervous, but as soon as more and more people showed up I just wanted to stand high above everyone and take a picture of all the people talking.  I remember making a mental note that I want to remember this moment forever, the amount of love that was there was so tangible. 

I left and couldn't stop playing this song on repeat, Big Daddy Weave - Overwhelmed and the lyrics have stayed in my head as I unpacked and re-read all the sweet cards and notes from everyone.

On top of that, there were/are people that have reached out to me to give me support and encouragement that I don't even know or haven't seen in years, like over a decade.  Which is so crazy to me, so many people I have known from growing up but haven't seen since I was little.  I recognize their name and ask mom about them and she reminds me of who they are.  Here they are, after not talking to them in so long, and they are being so generous with a note and even a gift.  Somehow they get wind of what I'm doing and just give.  Just open their heart and say anything you need, the answer is yes. 

... and then again, the song continues to play in my head, like a banner over this entire process.

I have so many mixed emotions about all of this and all in all I'm overwhelmed by them all.  The song continues to play while I write this post and I just pray that this little one that comes here feels it too.  I've prayed in that room and over that room and each of the gifts and I just want her to know that she is so very loved.  As faulty as this world is, there are people that love her wholeheartedly. And even we are broken.  More than anything I want her to know Jesus because this world is so crappy at times and wont make sense and just flat out isn't fair.  I cant imagine being in her shoes as a young girl, it's not right.  I want to shake her parents for whatever has caused them to put her in system at all.  But then again, they aren't prefect and are likely just doing what they know, surviving the only way they know how.  So I'm praying for grace towards her parents because I'm already attached to this little girl and the thought of people hurting her breaks my heart.  I pray for her testimony, that she can come out of all this some day and look back and know that the Lord never left her side.

"And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death."
Revelation 12:11


Thursday, November 13, 2014

If God is Real...

If God is who he says he is, then what does that mean for me? If God is real, then what?  The whole purpose of this ministry is to get people asking questions and thinking bigger and deeper.  If all that we read in the bible and all that God promises is real and true, why aren't our prayers bigger? deeper? louder? Why aren't we doing more?

if:gathering is in Austin on Feb 6-7.  They also have if:local so you can do it in your own community using their tools and resources (plus Austin is now sold out).  It's what I was planning on doing if I didn't get registered for the Austin gathering.  Last year was their first year, and I found out about it too late so couldn't go.  I'm excited to see what's in store this year. 

They also have a bible study you can do each morning, if:equip that is a devotional or they have a blog that is really good too, plus some podcasts I think.  I'll admit, I've definitely browsed the two above resources, but haven't stayed as connected to them as I had planned.  One thing they do that I adore is if:table

The purpose of if:table is to bring a hodgepodge of women together to discuss the bible and to dig a little deeper with the conversation cards they give you.  It's designed to be a group of women in a variety of life phases.  It's only once a month so its not a major commitment, but its a great way to be intentional about community while having great gospel-centered conversation.  They give you a set of conversation cards and you can do all of them or only one of them.  It's also fun to share recipes and share a meal with people you might not normally be able to do something like this with.  I think it's perfect because you can really do it however works for your group and go at your own pace.  In a group of new believers or just new women friends, picking a few questions and just letting the conversation go.

"They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts."
Acts 2:46

Check it out, you won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Home Study, The Real Deal


The home study took 8.5 hours.  Eight hours and thirty minutes.  Yep, an entire day.  She showed up at 10am and didn't leave until 6:30pm.  I knew it was going to be long, but she said 3-4 hours when she arrived since I was a single girl and there was no one else in the house to interview... Wrong.  I was mentally prepared for 8 hours until she said that.  I wish she hadn't even said anything about it, but that's what made the last half so much more miserable.  Either way, I was definitely not prepared for over 8 hours.  I was losing my mind. 

We had 55 pages of questions to go through and at 12:30 I asked what page we were on and she said page 13... of 55. 

It was by far the worst part of this entire pre-licensing experience.  Its mentally draining because you're being asked such a variety of things, and things that are very personal.  Also, there is a lot of replication, questions asked a little differently but the same core question.  I'd imagine they do that to try and catch people in a lie, but I have no idea. 

Plus, she hand wrote everything!  Which seemed very inefficient, but she said she can be more thorough if she does it by hand, and then she goes back later to type it all up.  Anyways, just be prepared, if you ever have to do one of these.  Here are some sample questions from what I can remember:
  • Where were you born?
  • What's your mom's address?
  • What's your relationship like with each of your siblings?  How often do you see them? Where do they live?  Are yall close?
  • What would you do if she doesn't get along with pets?
  • What's your relationship like with you dog? (haha for real... I said, she's my pet...?)
  • Who does your lawn?
  • What's your mom's address?
  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • Her: Who will the guardian of the child be?  Me: What?...I'm not adopting, is this relevant if they are a ward of the state?  Her: Lets just answer as if you are adopting... Me: But I'm not, I'm single. I have no plans to have any kind of permanent placement... Her: Ok so who would be the guardian if you were adopting?  Me: My mom I guess... Her: Have you talked to her?  Me: No, because I'm not planning on adopting... Sigh. I need another cup of coffee, can I get you anything? (Maybe you want to see my taser?)
  • Who are your best friends?  First and last names, please.  Why are they your best friends? What do ya'll do for fun? Where do they live?  Will they be at the house?
  • How much do you drink during the week? During the weekends? When is the last time you got sick from drinking too much?
  • What's your mom's address? 
  • Give me 5 adjectives about each of your parents, step parents included.
  • When's the last time your lost your temper?  How did you handle that? 
  • Tell me about any past relationships? Any long term ones?  How did they end? How you handled that?  What are their names?  Yes, first and last, please.  And where do they live?
  • What do you do to relieve stress?
  • I need details of all your bank accounts, Roth IRA's, mutual funds, latest paystub (and first born child, if you ever have one).
  • How are you prepared to handle a child?
Really nothing is off limits... Nothing.  So many of these questions were just massive opened ended questions (see last one listed above).  I was getting pretty irritated at the end, mainly because I was just watching the clock thinking for the love, this can't go on much longer, but it did. and did. and did. And so many of the questions we had already talked about, she really did ask for my mom's physical address 3 different times.  I'm not sure what was confusing about the way I answered it the first time, but we finished with a promise of her to call if she had more questions... I'm crossing my fingers she comes back soon.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Buying & Registering

As I've been preparing for a little one to come into the home, there have been so many things that I needed to buy.  I started the registration process this week, and since I've never done one for a wedding or baby before, I wasn't really sure how much stuff there would be out there!  I mean I knew, of course because I've shopped, but how do you know the best item for something you've never used before?  Most stuff I have bought before I have some kind of experience buying (clothes, makeup, home stuff), but these brands are completely foreign to me.  I got pretty overwhelmed and then that same night, my mom was over helping me figure it out (thanks, mom!)

I personally like to buy cheap.  Not so cheap that I'll have to keep going back to repurchase, but I think there are a load of items you can buy middle of the line and be just as good (if not better) as some of the pricey items.  So that's what I registered for.  Some things caught my eye, and there were random things that I knew I wanted to buy to help specifically with a new kid in the home, Table Topics.  I feel like I'm good at asking questions, but not great.  And from years in the past of working with kids, I know not to ask questions that have a yes/no answer, but what about when I run out of things to talk about?  Anyways, table topics I stumbled upon in a store and thought they'd be perfect for dinner conversation to help us connect.  Things like the booster seat are required, which is fine but I'm mostly exacted to install it, I hear they are loads of fun! haha... kidding. 

Apparently baby monitors are amazing for all ages to just keep an extra eye on them and listen for anything that might not sound quite right.  Again never used one, so I just picked.  A lot of the things I registered for where just marked "best seller", if it was marked as such, reasonable price and good reviews, that's probably the one I went with. 

If you are wanting to help out and see that I've registered for something that you have and could donate, please let me know and I'll take if off my registry!  I don't need a new one of most of these things and would be glad to take something you no longer use off your hands so long as it still works! 

Also, do 4-8 year old kids still use bath toys?  I cannot remember for the life of me if that age still plays in the tub?

I registered at both Amazon and Target.  Mainly because they have so many items and most people have a target near them and obviously, Amazon is anywhere you have internet.  Below is the list I made as I went through training, talked with people and heard stories and knew I'd need.  On the registries I added some stuff I stumbled upon that I thought might be good. 
  • Rocking Chair 
  • Car Seat/Booster Seat 
  • Baby Monitor 
  • Comforter/Bed Spread 
  • OTC Drugs 
  • Kitchen Bowls/Plates/Silverware
  • Pictures, Décor
  • Table Topics
  • Shower Curtain
  • Bath Toys?
  • Organizing Baskets (bathroom)
  • Clothes/Shoes
    • Jacket
    • Shirts
    • Shorts/Pants
    • Shoes
    • Underwear
    • Socks
    • Nightgown/PJs
  • School Supplies
    • Backpack
    • Notebooks
    • Pens/Pencils
  • Entertainment: 
    • Kids books
    • Kids games
    • Kids movies
  • Outlet Safety Plugs 
  • Double Lock for Meds
  • Install Smoke Detector  
If there is anything you used for a young child, please let me know!! I'd love to have some wisdom of you parents out there and take any advice on what has or hasn't worked!

Open to suggestions!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Final Training: Invite Only

There is one training that you get invited to when you're near the end of the verification process, its by invite only and they give you a handbook + review all regulatory and compliance info.  I haven't been overwhelmed too much during this process.  Only random points here and there when they tell me something completely new and I then feel the need to go review and learn anything and everything I can on that topic.  Most training classes have been behavior type classes, therapeutic parenting, cultural trainings, medication trainings, CPR/First Aid training.  Most of that I've heard before and my degree if family studies/child development so it wasn't completely new info.  This last class was quite different. 

Some of the classes, the instructors say we'll give you all the details of this later in a handbook and that was this class.  Info overload.  I mainly got nervous because there are so many timelines.  And it can change based on each child. 

In general:
  • All kids have to be enrolled into school within the first 3 days of placement.  This doesn't sound too hard unless, like me, you've never enrolled a kid before... I plan to go talk to the school soon to get all the paperwork and review it before I get a placement. Also, if I get a child on Friday, they would have to be enrolled Monday so just the time crunch of that along with dealing with my work and the quick turnaround time for her to get into school.
  • Appointment with PCP within 30 days.  So hopefully the handful I've selected are taking new patients and they can get me in within 30 days. 
  • appointment with Dentist within 60 days.  Again, hopefully they can get us in but I would imagine most can work something out in that time.
  • Psych eval, just to gauge where the child is mentally and emotionally. This also plays into their level of care which determines quite a few things.
  • Family visits (parents + siblings) are usually weekly.
  • Sibling visits are monthly and the family visit above doesn't count.  Must be outside that time for siblings to meet and hangout.
  • Paperwork (mileage logs, parenting forms, child progress notes) have to be turned in by the 10th of each month.
  • Major events should be reported with 24 hours (ER visits, child gets sick/hurt, medical/dental appointments).
  • Any time we will not be staying at home overnight, case manager must know and approve
  • Any time we will be leaving the state, case manager, CPS worker, treatment team (all doctors seeing the child) must approve. 
  • Case managers will then be coming by once a month to check in and see how things are going. 
  • CPS will come by once a year, typically unannounced.

At this point, I'm trying not to get overwhelmed with all the dates/timelines and to take the to-do list day by day.  I plan to have a binder with all the info that each of these places would need so when the time comes, I've got it all together or at least know what each place will expect, but I only know what I've been told thus far.  I'm sure I'll have a new post down the road with stuff I wish I knew, but at this time, this is all I got.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Matching a Child with a Home

One of the questions I get a lot is, what kind of kid will I take?  It can be hard to figure out in a world full of children how to decide which child will fit well with which family.  Among other things, one of the things the agency uses is the below checklist.  It's called the Child Profile Checklist.  It's a 4 page document spanning different aspects of a child that you rank on ability to take in and handle certain things versus things you don't want to and/or need help with.  You rank everything on a scale of 1-4.  Then you go through each item which ranges from gender and number of kids all the way to behavior and characteristics of children.

Since I've got lots of questions, I decided this would be a good post.  I prayed over this list before I submitted it as some were easy choices however several were very difficult.  I struggled with thoughts of being in this as a ministry and wanting to help all kids and being wise in what I knew I could handle.

One thing to note, is that although this list is useful if CPS knows about an item on it and your willingness or lack there of for that item, there are a lot of kids that enter into foster care for the first time and until these things are noted in their chart, no one has record of them.  So some of the obvious like gender become apparent pretty quickly, the behavioral things can be quite a bit more tricky until they are discovered down the road.

Honestly, this list took me a while to go through, I read it over and over and tried to imagine each one of these things and how I could handle it.  What I would really struggle with and what I wouldn't.  Not only that but what do you do when you have a combination of all of these?  I think this is one of the points where the devil just got in my head and overwhelmed me.  After sleeping on it, I realized regardless of how bad of a parent I am, I'm here and I'm trying which is more than the bio parents (probably).  These kids are in foster care, something had to happen for them to get to this point, which means just by trying and doing what I can, I am giving them more than what they had. 
For those of you curious, I set my scope pretty narrow this first time... I'm open to 5-8 year old, girls only, all ethnicity's.  At this time I'm only willing to take 1 child, as I'm single and man to man defense seems like the best route this time around however, down the road I'd be open to more if they were a sibling group.  Being in that age range, I feel like some of the characteristics and behaviors aren't really going to be an issue (I hope) although I'm fully prepared for them to be.
Anyways, licensing wise, I'm willing to accept any kid under 8, after 8 I could do, I would just need a new home study as the requirements change (for example, alcohol has to be locked, not just out of reach).  For now, I want school age so they are in school while I work, but still young so hopefully little to no teenager attitude stuff.  Outside that, I'm licensed to take all behaviors except for medically fragile, there is a few extra classes you take for that and at this time, I know I don't have the bandwidth to take on those kiddos, but again, maybe one day.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Foster Prep: Meal Ideas

Growing up, mom had a list on the side of the fridge of some family favorite recipes to help make the decision of what was for dinner a little easier.  She used to let us pick anything as long as she didn't have to decide and now that I'm older I understand why.  There are so many options and at the same time no options.  Picking something that everyone will like isn't always an easy task so I did the same.  I made a list of some common things I like to eat and figured it would give us a starting point for when we needed help figuring out what was for supper.  Of course, I imagine this list changing quite a bit when a little one is judging them, however most of these are pretty basic and hopefully menu options that a little one could enjoy, I guess we'll see!

Baked Potato Bar
Baked Potato Soup
Bow Tie pasta with Chicken
Breakfast for Dinner (Cinnamon Rolls or Pancakes, Eggs, Bacon/Sausage)
Burrito Bowls
Chicken & Tomato Basil Soup
Chicken Crescent Rolls
Chicken Fingers
Chicken in Bread Crumbs
Chicken Salad
Green Pepper Steak
Grilled Salmon
Hamburgers & Hot Dogs
Hawaiian Chicken
Hawaiian Ham Roll Sliders
King Ranch Chicken
Mac and Cheese
Pizza (make your own or take-out)
Poppy Seed Chicken
Pot Roast
Pulled Pork Sandwiches (optional: BBQ)
Quiche (Ham/Cheese; Spinach/Mushroom)
Shrimp & Grits
Shrimp Scampi
Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas
Southwestern Stuffed Peppers
Soy Sauce Salmon
Taco Pockets
Taco Soup
Do you have any family favorites your kids like?  I'd love to have them to add to this list! 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Pros and Cons List

I made a Pros/Cons list back in March when this became a real prospect and I just visually needed to see everything laid out.  I have several journal entries similar to this so this is a combo of those.  As this is an ever evolving list some of these are no longer fears but I wanted to share the main things that I have thought and prayed through.

  1. I love children and the opportunity to ministry to these kids would be huge, because they need Jesus more than most kids their age.
  2. Time - I have all the time in the world.  The biggest thing that takes up time for me is work, outside work, I don't have a lot of commitments.  I go to church, hangout with friends, but I have so much time right now that I could devote to a child in a unique way that I won't later down the road.
  3. Support System - Since I grew up in Dallas and a lot of my friends/family live nearby, I have a wider range of support than most.  This blessing has propelled me into this decision because most of the people that support me love Jesus and understand my desire for this.  They have offered time, money, babysitting and respite breaks.  If I were in a city outside Dallas, it would be harder because I am single and don't have someone to share the responsibility day to day.  Their support means the world and I truly don't think I'd be doing this without them.
  4. I have a steady salary.  I don't make a ton, but I'm single.  Researching some of the demographics of people in Dallas there are so many people that are the sole provider for their household and make a lot less than I do and are supporting more people. 
  1. I'm single... I have no prospects.  This has by far been the single greatest thing causing me hesitation... I'll do an entire post on this later to explain further, but no constant in-home support does give me quite a bit of anxiety.
  2. I've never raised kids.  I don't have kids and never have so although I have an idea of what I think it's like, I probably have no idea and have so much to learn.  Being a single mom is one of the hardest jobs in the world, I think. Things that most parents already know, I have no clue of.  In addition to that, most of the kids need extra attention due to their background, so on top of never having done this before, the added stuff that comes with children in foster care.
  3. Financially being the sole provider.  Word on the street is that kids cost a lot of money.  I have a salary and I've been saving for this, but I just have no earthly idea what's about to happen to my bank account.
  4. Fear of the unknown.  Kind of going along with the point above, I don't know what I don't know.  So filling out paperwork and going to trainings I was hoping would help me ask better questions, giving me insight along the way if this was something I should do or not. 
  5. No more being selfish.  I've been on my own and been able to do things I want to do when I want to do them and however I see fit for a while now.  No more impromptu trips, no more just going out at 9 for a movie, little things like that.  Putting that to death is going to be no small task.  I understand this, but I think once the little one arrives, I will feel this in a very real and new way than I do now. 
  6. I'm scared I wont be able to juggle it all.  People do this all the time, and I'm prepared to make adjustments but like I said, for a while now it's been just me. 
  7. The CPS world/Paperwork/Legal requirements.  Even after the initial paperwork there is still A LOT of paperwork as she lives with me... another post on that later, but because this was one of my journal entries, I wanted to put it in here. I decided people do this and I can to, one step at a time.  I'm a planner so its nearly impossible for me not to look both short term and long term so I just had to give it to the lord and get organized :)
  8. What if we don't get along?  What if she hates me?  What if I'm a terrible foster mom? 
  9. Your Foster Child's background.  I've heard lots of stories and I do know its going to take more work than when it's your child.  Unlike a biological child, these kids come to you with a history I will most likely know nothing of.  CPS might not know it either because they only know what they get told.  The behavior issues that are potentially to come and the reactions to certain things are hard enough to handle but especially when you don't understand why or know what causes this child to react that way. 
In light of all these, I have a few things to say... Satan is real and he will put thoughts into your head, and he might even be right, but the Lord better.  Nothing that happens in the future will be a surprise to the Lord, but it will have already gone through his hands.  I know these fears won't just go away, but I know the Lord is a gracious and  gentle teacher.  He knows what I can handle I think that he knows my heart better than any other.  I think by entering into the fray of this broken world and not just sitting back waiting for others to do something that the Lord will honor that and help us overcome whatever trials we will inevitably face.  I know that I will certainly have a million lessons to learn and they might nearly break me, but I also know that Lord wouldn't place this dream on my heart then leave me stranded. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Paperwork + Trainings

When you walk into your first training session, they give you a 2 inch binder that is full of papers that contain checklists, forms to fill out, training notes, etc..  I was pretty overwhelmed but I think I had so much excitement of that first training I didn't care too much.  Since I was still praying through this whole decision at the time, I just saw it as a binder full of info that would either propel me into this journey or cause me to pump the breaks.  It also helped me to ask better questions and gave me a little more insight so I could ask informed questions... Anyways, if you're curious what all is on that to-do list, I've listed most of the items below. 

  1. Application Packet (18 pages)
  2. Auto Insurance
  3. Homeowners/Renters Insurance
  4. Company info including a pay stub
  5. Reference Letters submitted from 6 people
  6. Drivers License
  7. Birth Certificate
  8. Social Security Card
  9. Diploma or Transcripts
  10. Criminal History Background Check
  11. Authorization for Release of Information – Child Placing Agency + Professionals
  12. FBI Priors Form
  13. Fingerprinting Form
  14. TB Test Results
  15. Family Violence Form
  16. Foster/Adoptive Parent Physician’s Statement
  17. Supervised Childcare Experience Form
  18. Affidavit for Applicants Form
  19. Disaster Plan Questionnaire
  20. Medical and Dental Providers Form
  21. School Information Sheet
  22. Driving Record Statement
  23. Application for Driving Record, approval for your agency to pull your records
  24. Daily Schedules (Summer + School)
  25. Rules, Consequences, and Rewards
  26. Floor Plan (including Fire Escape Routes and Tornado Routes)
  27. Fire Evacuation Training
  28. Environmental Health Checklist
  29. Home Environment Check
  30. Infant/Toddler Checklist
  31. Child Profile Checklist
  32. Babysitter Worksheet
  33. Rabies Vaccinations for pets
  34. Pictures for your file
Trainings (total = approx. 34.5 hours):
  1. Intro + Orientation (3 hrs)
  2. Therapeutic Parenting Preparation Part 1 (3 hrs)
  3. Therapeutic Parenting Preparation Part 2 (3 hrs)
  4. Therapeutic Parenting Preparation Part 3 (8 hrs!)
  5. Cultural Competency Training (3 hrs)
  6. First Aid/CPR Training + Certification (3 hrs)
  7. Adoption Training (3 hrs)
  8. Psychotropic Medications (2.5 hrs)
  9. Administering Psychotropic Meds (2 hrs)
  10. Medical Consenter Training (2 hrs)
  11. Transportation Safety (2 hrs) 
**Keep in mind, there might be differences based on the agency requirements.

They tell you to just breathe (a lot) but from there I worked on them as I could.  Work on a few forms here and there and before you know it, they are all done.  It took me a lot of time to gather random things like official documents, draw my floor plans, create evacuation plans, and fill out the fire forms that are in prep of a home study to ensure I've got a fire extinguisher, smoke alarms, etc.  The actual forms aren't hard, its just a lot of work because it's so many details.  Just to give you an idea, I submitted my application packet in April (which I started in March) and finished at the end of September!  As you can see, its no small feat so I was definitely excited to turn in those last few items.

Of course, in addition to this, there has been an abundance of prayer, blog/book reading, talking to people, etc.  I'll do a separate post about resources for those of you that are considering this journey and/or are just curious.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Decision to Begin Fostering

After I graduated from college, I moved to Georgia to live with a wonderful family.  It was during that semester that I got to spend so much time with my friends from the JH Ranch where I had worked during a few summers in college.  I could do a whole post on the JH Ranch, however I'll save that for another time.  Long story short, that is when I feel like I first encountered the Lord in a real way and when I truly began having a personal relationship with Him.  Not just the religions side of going to church and doing what is right, but truly having real consistent dialogue with the Lord and learning how to have a relationship with him.

Occasionally, I would travel to Birmingham to visit some good friends that lived there and had the opportunity several times to visit David Platt's Church, Brook Hills.  I could go on and on about this man who has inspired me and taught me so much.  In one of the sermons I just happened to be there for, it was on the topic of adoption.  I've always thought about adopting, but it was always an idea for the future, not anytime soon.  The sermon was a call on the city of Birmingham to adopt.  He was pleading for our hearts, that if only the church could be the church, as the Lord intended.  He asked the question, how many things would be different?  Not just knowing scripture, but actually living it.  Not being afraid to be weird or different but simply because there is a need for so many lost souls to truly know the Lord.  He gave statistics about the number of kids in Birmingham that were in foster care and pleaded with the church to consider adopting.  He had gotten together with other pastors of churches in the B'ham area and together, if they all would do this, 1 of every 4 families would need to adopt in order to eradicate the number of kids that didn't have a place to call home.  I loved that Dr. Platt wasn't asking the church to do anything he wasn't willing to do himself, I cant remember for sure, but he and his family had either already adopted or were in the process of doing so.  It was in that moment that I knew for sure I wanted to adopt.  Sitting there in church I would have taken a child home if I could have.  From that point on, I really began to feel a weight on my heart of adopting.

I grew up in a blended family, all that really means is that it's not your typical nuclear family of a mom, dad and kids, but rather a hodgepodge of combinations including step-siblings, half-siblings, step-parents, biological parents, etc.  I wrote some thoughts a few years back, here.  That being said I get what it's like to switch houses.  I don't pretend to understand or have experienced to the extent of these foster kids, but I do have a tiny idea of what that might feel like.  And if nothing else, as hard as it was on me, I can only imagine how hard it is on them with all their circumstances.  Because the reality of it is, these kids are in foster care for a reason.  CPS doesn't remove kids from a home for no reason.  It breaks my heart to think of all the different situations out there or things that have come to pass for this action to be taken.

This desire has been on my heart, but I just keep thinking, not yet... Down the road.  Once I have a husband and family of my own, maybe then and just as quickly as the thought came, I had dismissed it. Well after moving back to Dallas and having a few fun years with friends, it slowly crept back up.  Thoughts that there has to be more than this, serving on Sundays is great, but I have all the time in the world to do something big.  Move somewhere and pour out my time serving others, stay here and love the people that God has placed in my life really well, I was seeking a plan but wasn't sure quite sure what to do.  I was beginning to feel restless and had this feeling that I'm ready.  I prayed, Lord send me, I will go.  Lord, open my eyes to a calling that I could spend my energy and resources on to glorify you... And it was back, that desire to adopt.  It was around that same time that I picked up David Platt's book, Radical and began reading.  Praying that if this truly was a desire from the Lord, that obstacles would be taken away and that doors would open.

At this point, I still hadn't told anyone about this.  Mainly because I thought the Lord was crazy.  Asking me to jump into one of the hardest jobs out there, being a single mom, was surely not what he was asking me, right?  I was constantly praying and asking the Lord if he was really sure about this.  I knew I'd be a great babysitter for foster kids, because I grew up in a house of all boys so I'm fairly tough, but to be a mom?  I've never been a mom to my own kids yet. A million other thoughts and questions came to mind and I decided to just keep praying.

Well, I'm in small group one Tuesday, and I hear this story from my old home group leader who had left with his wife to plant a church.  They come back to Dallas occasionally and usually come to small group to fill us in on what is going on with their church, needs, prayers and praises.  He told this story... A husband and wife had felt the Lord asking them to foster.  She was a stay at home mom and he was a pastor still in the process of raising support.  They prayed through this and felt like, yes it was a call from the Lord.  With so many unknowns, financially and otherwise, they decided if it was a desire from the Lord, He would open doors as doors needed to be opened.  Their kids were (I think) 2 young girls and so when they got their first kid who was quite a bit older, you can imagine how they had some needs.  The couple opened up to their home group about their needs and prayer requests and the church responded, proceeding to pour into them with clothes and things for a kid of that age since they didn't have any of that stuff.  It was just a beautiful illustration of the Lord using all different kinds of people to help this family be successful.  People want to serve, help a cause and even if they don't feel called to be a foster parent, they see the need and can help in a multitude of other ways.

And in that moment I wanted to laugh out loud at the Lord.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to just run, because when things get hard, my gut says to bail.  I wanted to just sit there and throw out reasons that this was still not a good idea for me, right now, for a million reasons.  And then he said, did you listen to that story?  Do you not trust that I will provide?  I'm not asking you to adopt (yet) but what about fostering?

And that's when I knew and saw all these pieces that had been placed by the Lord in my life the last few years to get me to this point.  I proceeded to pray about it and talk to people who I knew would join me in prayer on the subject.  I began to read books and blogs and anything I could get my hands on to help me understand the reality and gravity of this.  My plan was just to say ok, Lord, if this is what you want, I'm in... but I really hope you're sure about this.  I began the paperwork process hoping that as I did, it would open my eyes to what was to come and help me ask better questions.  I wasn't expecting that as I went through the process, my heart was turning only more towards these kids.  Hearing stories, going through training sessions woke me up from this bubble I have lived in where things don't really ever get that hard.  Yet, these problems and struggles are in my backyard.  Dallas has an abundance of children in foster care and how can I sit here and do nothing?  The sermon I had heard, the book I had read from Dr. Platt, just kept bouncing back to the forefront of my mind.  The Lord had slowly and gently turned my affection towards these kids and as soon as I realized that, there was no turning back.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Call

You know when you have that feeling?  That something big and scary is in the works.  When the Lord wants you to do something really big, and you're absolutely terrified?  It's that same feeling that happens at times when you're praying, truly desiring to be obedient for the Lord to send you somewhere or move your heart towards a cause and then he does.  In our mind, we have such a small desire in mind.  Then he says, no, no... I have something WAY bigger than that planned.  It's at that moment when you realize you are excited, anxious, nervous, and so many other feelings all at once.  It's terribly exciting. Truly to your core you think, no way... Surely not.  This cannot be what is he really saying, could it?  Let's just keep praying and journaling about this and then see what he says after a few more days... (no change)... Ok, lets try a week... (no change).... Ok, well at the end of the month if he says this is where he wants me then I'll go/do/be... (no changes)... End of the month comes around and you realize... this is what the Lord's next step is for me.

It's great.  There is something so perfect about being inside the will of the Lord.  Something so calming in the midst of all those terrifying feelings and as you consider all the changes that could possibly take place, its still perfect.  As your mind wanders and rolls through the what-if's, you have such a deep peace.  Because if the Lord is asking you to go down that path, he's going to prepare the way.  Since he's going to be there every step of the way, you know that whatever obstacles that come into play during that time, will have gone through his hands first.  You know that his plan is bigger than ours and even when we don't understand why he might be asking us to do certain things, reach out to certain people, go through harder times, he is doing it for a reason.  And truthfully, that is enough.  Obedience to him is the best place to be.  When it's hard, it's still good.  The key, however, is keeping that perspective while you go through those times.

I wrote the above 2 paragraphs about 6 months ago... I didn't publish it for a few reasons:
1. I was still absolutely terrified of what he was calling me to do, although excited as well, publishing this made it seem real.  No turning back and I wasn't sure I was quite ready to make that commitment.  It seems crazy.  I'm single.  I've got a wonderful support system full of friends and family willing to help out however they can, yet there is a difference of that help, then someone else physically in the house to help balance this huge undertaking.
2. There were SO many logistics that needed to be worked out, am I truly fit for this?
3. I know in my head all that I said above to be true, however it usually takes a lot longer for that truth to flow into my heart.  It was during that phase of praying and seeking the Lord that my heart caught up.

The people I consistently do life with have been nothing but fully on board.  I have an unbelievable support group (family, friends, small group, church, work) that have truly said they were in as I've decided to take this plunge.  That has been a driving factor that gives me a real tangible practical peace that I'm not really alone.  I do have an amazing group of family and friends that support 100% what I'm planning on doing.

All that being said, The Lord has placed on my heart a desire to be a foster mom.  There are so many unknowns about all this.  I cannot even begin to describe all the feelings that have taken place in my head and heart as I've prayed through this.  However, there it is.  Published.

This blog thus far has been a journey of life and travels (mainly for my family and friends) to stay up to date on life while I studied abroad in school and traveled for work.  I guess in the same way, this will now just be an entirely different type of journey that I cannot wait to see all the ways the Lord will work.

PS I'm going to make a discipline of blogging more.  If nothing else, it's how I process things.  It's also it's such a testimony of the Lord.  I document on here way better than in my journal because I'm explaining it to others which forces me to get into why I have certain feelings not just writing those things down.

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