Thursday, February 3, 2011

Let's start from the very beginning: How foster care found us.

This story starts in 1984, when Brandon was abandoned by his biomom and sent to live with his maternal grandmother. Her attempts to raise him as her own were noble, though not thoroughly effective. Having a legal guardian as opposed to a parent is confusing for a child. What happens if biomom comes back to get me? When will I see her? Are you my aunt or my sister? How do I explain my family to my friends? Compounding that confusion was the mystery of biodad. There was and still is a disturbing lack of info on him. Missing half of your heritage messes with the mind. Little did anyone know that this life experience is exactly what is needed to parent a child in care.

Teresa was raised by divorced parents that had their fair share of drama, but childhood was pretty typical of an only child living with a single parent- a lot of adult company, and early maturity. My favorite memories about being a kid center around my baby dolls. I literally played with nothing else. I remember feeling guilty if I didn't feed them or change their clothes. My mom tells me she cried when 5yr old me announced I'd be having a baby when I was 16yrs old. I had to be 6 or 7yrs old when I found "Taylor". She was by far my favorite doll, she was beautiful and she was black. Taylor was the start of my white baby doll strike. I only liked the black ones until I stopped playing with toys. No one realized how creepily prophetic that was until I became foster mom to 3 beautiful black children. Coincidence? Maybe, but it's still a great story.

Fast forward through the '90's to 2002. 15yr old Teresa catches the eye of 17yr old Brandon at our church's youth group. He asks her to be his girlfriend on her 16th birthday. We get hitched in 2005, on Teresa's 19th birthday. I felt so grown up back then, but to tell it now, we were just babies!

A couple of days into marriage, we made the reproductive choice to go off birth control and "just let it happen". 3cycles later, we started actively trying to get pregnant. A year and a half later, Teresa brings it up to her Dr. who informs her that the fertility clinic will not even see a patient that is under 25yrs old, but he is willing to run some tests and work with us. After some guess work, we think we have the right combo of drugs, and the Dr seems confident we'll be pregnant by cycle 3. Teresa quits her Preschool teacher position to start an in home daycare so she can keep the baby with her and still work.. We start the meds just as Brandon blows out his ACL (knee) and is recovering from surgery. So cycle 1 is a bust. Here comes cycle 2.... Teresa starts vomiting on Sunday morning. By afternoon she can hardly see, can't stay awake longer than 10 minutes, and isn't keeping down anything-not even water. A trip to the ER reveals viral meningitis. 8 days into her hospital stay, Teresa's kidneys begin to fail which isn't uncommon with the drugs used to treat meningitis. The recovery was long, and there was no trying to get pregnant with failing kidneys. Since no one wants their child in the home of someone with a communicable disease, the daycare flopped. New kids came in once she was well, but there was really no point in working from home if there wasn't going to be a baby anytime soon. Teresa closed up shop in Dec 2008 and started her job hunt.

The 1st suggestion about foster care came from our friend, Alyssa in Dec 2008. She had just watched the holiday special "A Home for the Holidays" which features children waiting in foster care to be adopted. She said, "You should totally get one". I said, "We're too young, no one will let us adopt. And it's so expensive. I would never want to get my hopes up for a child and have the parents take them back". That was the end of that, so I thought.

February 2, 2009- Teresa started her new job as a nanny to a family with 3 small children ages 6,4, 3yrs. The 6 and 4yr old are biosiblings who were adopted from foster care.The mother was walking Teresa through her first day and mentioned that the family was considering taking another child from foster care. This lead to a brief conversation about foster care. The very next day, Teresa took the kids to McDonald's for lunch. While they played on the indoor jungle gym, Teresa eavesdropped on a group of women at the table next to her. They were a support group of foster and adoptive mothers of children with special needs. I thought, "Interesting! I know a family who adopted from foster care". Literally the next day, I took the kids to the library for story time. There was a huge sign on the community bulletin board begging for people to come to an informational meeting about becoming a foster parent. I had been working 3 days and had been confronted with foster care 3 times. It was enough to make me take down the phone number for that meeting which was on February 22,2009.

I wanted to broach the subject of foster care gently with Brandon because I really wanted him to say yes. I asked him if we should go to the foster care meeting I heard about. It was said flippantly and in passing, but I will never forget Brandon's response. He knew my soul better than I did at that moment and very seriously told me we needed to pursue becoming foster parents. We brought Starbucks green tea in with us and made sure to smile and look very parental. A very experienced foster mother told us about her wonderful children and her own foster care journey from taking infants, to teens, to respite, to becoming an emergency home. She spared no gory details which included lice, poor hygiene, and smeared feces. Then they handed us an application. We got to the car, and I asked Brandon what he thought. He said, "I think we should go to dinner and fill out this application". We went to Applebees and the rest is history.

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