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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