Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A family of six

As I wrote yesterday the seeds of our becoming foster parents were planted years ago, but in early March we finally got the call. I had a two-hour notice that our first placement of two little girls would be showing up on our doorstep at 5 p.m. 

I was overwhelmed with emotion. I didn’t have any little girl clothes. I didn’t have any girly sippy cups. What do they like to eat?  Will they like me? Will they like their room? Will they be scared? What do I say to them?

I raced down to our local Target and picked up the basics as quickly as I could. I returned home with a few diapers and pajamas so we could at least get through the night and I would tackle the morning when it came.

When I returned home, I sat on our couch peering out the front window. I had a million things running through my head on this rainy day while I waited for the car to arrive and unload these two precious little girls. The only thing I knew was their age and their names: Olivia, who is 4, and Claire, who is 2.

It was now 5:30 p.m. and nobody was here at our house and my anxiety grew because they were late.  To ease my nerves, I went and placed chocolate chip cookies and milk on the table for the girls thinking that for sure, they’d gobble this up.

At 6:30 p.m., the door bell rang. I was so scared; I didn’t know what to do. I bent down on my knees so I could be at their level and smiled so big to greet them. They came barreling in the house and they both ran straight up the stairs. They barely noticed me and almost knocked me down. This isn’t the first impression I imaged when we were taking our training courses. I started to think, is this a good thing?  From that point on, my placement agency coordinator and the CPS worker sat at the top of the steps to keep the girls corralled upstairs while we went through their files together and filled out their placement paperwork. To be honest, I was so overwhelmed, I really don’t know what I was signing and I don’t remember too much of the conversation. I was too busy trying to keep my eyes on these two little girls who were clearly overwhelmed by a new environment. The girls were very much overwhelmed too. They were running around so widely, I was honestly thinking to myself: am I gonna be able to keep up? There is no backing down now, these little girls need us more than ever.

When the CPS worker and my placement agency coordinator left, I was left alone with two little girls and four white garbage bags of their personal items that they came with. As my CPS worker told me, it’s really good that they came with something. Some children come with nothing.  At 11:45 p.m., my husband and I sat and sifted through these white garbage bags of possessions. Many were tattered, torn, too small, and dirty but it was all they had. To these little girls, it’s all they had. This was their identity before they were taken and placed into our home. This was a small part of their past and no matter how torn or dirty the items were, I handled them with care as I cleaned every item so when they awoke in the morning their familiar items would greet them to help ease the transition. As a mother of two boys, the emotions hit me hard while going through Olivia and Claire’s items. I could not imagine what it would be like to be placed into a stranger’s home and only have a few bags of items to call your own.

Everything we learned in training was now becoming a reality as my husband and I sat and stared at each other. Our little world which previously consisted of only four now grew to six overnight.  I often think of one my favorite songs by Christian singer, Matthew West, “My Own Little World.”  One of my favorite lyrics in this song is, “what if there's a greater purpose I could be living right now outside my own little world” When I have my “not so good” days as a mom to four little kiddies, I listen to his song and it puts me back in my line and keeps me focused that I need to live outside of my own little world.  It’s not about me; it’s about these two little girls who are victims of an unfortunate situation.

My husband and I realize that foster to adopt is risky and there is a high likelihood the girls could be returned or have a kinship placement, it was a risk we were willing to take. For the first month or two, I lived on the edge.  Instead of waiting on “the call” for our first placement, we are waiting on the call that might lead to us giving back the girls to a biological family member. Today, I just take each day and not worry about tomorrow or if my phone rings again. I have come to realize that worrying will solve nothing and only create more anxiety.  We feel that even if we have Olivia and Claire for 3 months or 3 years, at least we would have the chance to plant a small seed within the girls so they understand unconditional love, stability and safety that they could carry with them forever.

Christy Benson is director of Clinical Informatics Analysis & Measurement for Texas Health Resources and the Mom to four.

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