Thursday, March 22, 2012
SLICE #22- GETTING TO GOTCHA
The boys were taken to the Crisis Center, a kind of holding tank, for kids in the foster care system. That weekend, I talked to my boss and dear friend, Deb, who also does foster care (who is the closest person to Mother Teresa/sainthood that I know). I told her I was thinking about bringing the boys home. She didn't say I should, or I shouldn't. She just said, "Well you know I will be there if you decide to do it."
I talked to my mom. She was, to put it mildly, a little surprised. You are thinking about adopting? Two boys? Two African American boys? From the foster care system? "Well, you know I will be here if you decide to do it."
I talked to a circle of my closest friends, the women who now refer to themselves as "the Book Club Aunties." More surprises. But again, "Well you know we will be here if you decide to do it."
By that Monday, I had decided. If the boys were available, I was going to do it. On Monday morning, I called the social worker to find out whether the boys had been returned to their previous foster home. They hadn't. What was going to happen to them? Uncertain. Parental rights had been terminated. They would go to another foster home, but they were having trouble finding a dual placement. They were considering splitting the boys up and placing them separately. I got a huge lump in my throat. Every single snapshot I could bring to mind involved both boys. Not one. They were always, and I mean always, together. All they had was each other.
"I'll take them," I said to the social worker. "They can come home with me. Both of them. Together."
Because I had occasionally taken care of Deb's foster son, I was licensed as a respite home. That meant the boys could immediately come home for weekends. Before we could make it a permanent deal, I needed some additional training-- Foster Care 101, First Aid/CPR. I needed a home visit. And I needed to fill out a daunting, inch-thick stack of paperwork, which involved using a million other pieces of paper- everything from tax returns to my college transcripts, to my dogs' licensing papers. That alone shook this disorganizational goddess to the core of her very being.
I called Human Services on Monday. On Tuesday evening, the first of several home visits occurred. The social worker, a single mom with two kids of her own, grilled me mercilessly, for almost two hours . Where I had grown up? What was my nuclear family like? Had I ever been married? Had my parents ever hit me? Was I in a serious relationship? How did I feel about corporal punishment? Could I support the boys financially? What would I do if the boys got sick and had to stay home from school? Where would the boys sleep? Were my dogs friendly? Had they ever bitten anyone? Was I really serious about taking the boys permanently? Did I understand the commitment involved? Many of the questions had to do with race-- how was I, a single white woman, prepared to raise two African American boys? By the time the social worker left, I was exhausted. But aside from needing to drain the hot tub in the backyard (foster homes are not allowed to have trampolines or hot tubs) and put up a hand rail on the stairs to the unfinished basement, I had been approved.
I set to draining the hot tub and dissembling my study. I lived in a relatively small two bedroom, one bathroom bungalow. The tiny second bedroom had always been my study/tv room. Now it needed to become a bedroom for the boys. Over the course of that week, friends helped me move the furniture out of the study. The television and bookcase went into an already full living room. The sleeper couch went to the garage. My sister and her partner went with me to buy a set of l-shaped bunk beds and dressers. I bought two navy and red plaid comforters, thick and warm. New towels for the bathroom. Friends gave me books and legos and balls and puzzles.
Within five days, the bedroom was ready. It was time for my boys to come home…