Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Surreal Life

No, not the reality TV show....

My life. For the past week anyways...

I feel like I've been keeping you all in the dark! I kept wanting to blog about it, seriously!

But at first it was so "new" and I didn't want to jump the gun.

Then it all started rolling so fast that my head was spinning.

Then I needed to make some serious decisions... still not totally sure of them yet.

Lastly, I couldn't decide WHERE to blog!

But I decided to start here because I know pretty much who reads this blog and I'm not too worried about you all judging me. So, here goes:

I have known about this program in my area for a while now - its very similar to Safe Families which you can read about on their website. Essentially, its like foster care - only the children are not in the system and the "foster parents" are all volunteer. Placements are very short term - no more than 90 days. The child's parents can choose to participate voluntarily and retain custody of their children at all times. The entire point of the program is to keep children out of foster care and families intact - which is something I can totally support.

I inquired about the program about a year ago when I first heard about it. But then I changed jobs and moved and life was all crazy. But then I felt pulled to look into it again recently. I've wanted to foster for a long time now, but the timing and my financial state just hasn't come together. (Aka - I can't afford a two bedroom apartment, which is required in my state. I'm jealous of Fosterhood and her state's less restrictive rules!) So, I sent in the inquiry form and received an email back asking to set up a time for a social worker to come to my apartment.

Surreal moment #1:

Last Wednesday I found myself frantically cleaning my house in preparation for a home visit.

Even though I KNOW that cleanliness is one of the last things that we actually care about, it just felt wrong not to do it!

So, the social worker came in - I'll call him Henry - and we talked for about an hour. This is where the world starting spinning. Essentially, because the program isn't part of DCFS, it isn't subject to their licensing standards. Which means that they have no problem with my one bedroom apartment being a "safe place" for kids. And, because I'm already finger printed, background checked, and trained (because of my job) Henry basically said I could be approved immediately.

I hadn't quite processed what that meant when Henry needed to head out. We wrapped things up and he said he'd be in touch soon. Which leads to...

Surreal moment #2:

At about 6pm last Wednesday I got a phone call from Henry - they had a 9 month old baby that needed placement and he wanted to know if I was interested.

I nearly had a panic attack. I had no supplies for a baby! I had work the next day - should I call in or work from home?! I had dinner plans that night - cancel or bring the baby?! I hadn't told a single person in my life about this - how would I suddenly explain a baby?!

But I told them I would do it if they couldn't find anyone else. Yes - SUCKER.

They found someone else for the baby that night. Thank goodness.

But in the last 5 days I have gotten THREE more calls for placement!

Friday - an 8 year old boy. I was at work when the call came in and by the time I returned it, they'd already found someone else.

Saturday - a teenage mom and baby, but once I explained my space issues they decided to keep calling around.

Today - a 17 year old boy, with the saddest story yet. I was pretty much their last resort - he's got some special circumstances that mean most homes couldn't have him placed. I was extremely hesitant - not for the same reason everyone else turned him down though. I'm just not sure how safe it would be for me - a single young woman - to have a teenage boy.

But in the end I said I'd be willing to talk about it further. Henry said they weren't even sure they could accept him into the program and he might end up in DCFS custody anyway.

I'm pretty much waiting by my phone at this point.

Meanwhile, I've been second guessing this whole thing... a lot. Not because I think I can't do it, and certainly not because I don't WANT to do it. But I work a lot right now - 2 jobs. My full time social work job is pretty flexible and the agency is willing to work with me concerning daycare for any kids placed with me. But my part time job is not very flexible and the hours are not conducive to single parenting (working until 10pm and weekends).

Mostly, I just expected more time to work out the details!

So, right now I'm trying to figure things out. I'm desperately trying to find a new job that would allow me to quit the second job - or find a second job that is more flexible. I have some friends that would probably be able to help with child care - but I haven't even told them that I was considering this idea yet! They know I've wanted to do foster care before - but this is going to be a little out of the blue anyways. But now I'm feeling a little anxious about telling anyone because I tried talking to my mother about it and she wasn't very supportive... at all. She understands my desire to do this kind of service - but she just doesn't think that I'm in the best place in my life to do it. I understand her rationale... but I still want to do it.

See what I mean? Surreality.


  1. wow!

    what is your second job?

    i've often thought about foster care, but the only way that i think i could do it is through the state- so i could get the stipend and use the money for a bigger apartment (we only have a 1 bedroom right now, too) so i'm impressed that you are doing this without financial support!

    good luck!!!

  2. Sarah - my second job is working at a fitness studio, answering phones, signing people up for classes, doing retail, etc.

    The financial piece worries me too - but because the placments are really short term, I think I can swing it if I'm careful. The kids still come with medical cards and any public aide they already recieve so that will help too. But mostly, its for a short time frame and I'm hoping a new job will relieve that burden as well.

  3. Exciting! I know our house rule is that we're only taking placements if there's some positive reason the child would be good in our home and not just that this is some abstract kid who needs a place to stay, though we'll be that place if it's needed. That makes it easy to say no (so far) because we're prioritizing in a child-centric way. I'm sure you'll find your own right way to do this. And it's exciting!!

  4. How exciting. Being a foster parent on top of working two jobs would be tough. But exciting none the less! Good luck with your decision.

  5. I'm glad I finally got the link--this is all very interesting!!

  6. You know that I'm so excited for you! I had a feeling something must be going on cause you've been conspicuous by your absence. :)

  7. Girl! I've been end of the month super busy so I just read this! WOW. YAY. So exciting. I voted. I'll email you later... right now... duty calls.