Story from 2012
When I got licensed to provide foster care back in 1991, my license said I could foster one girl between 2 and 4 years old. That was what I requested. In reality, when social workers look at availability for the kids they have to place, they are mostly concerned with how many beds you have.
My first child was Alice and she, indeed, fit into the license I had received. She was a sweet little 4-year-old girl. However, I learned over time that when you re-license (every 3 years), you can change your request if you want and if you have space (the beds). OR, when social workers have children to place, they can create “a waiver” to your license. This means that they can ask you to take children outside your licensing framework.
When I was asked to take Eli and his 3 brothers (4 boys at once) in 2012, I was licensed for one child between 2 and 18 years old. I already had Beatrice and Clara and David in my home. When I said, “Yes, I will consider taking 4 boys,” (
Eli came to live with us in March that year, but over the course of the next couple of months, his brothers were placed with extended family members.
However, I came to find out that that waiver for 4 beds was still in place in May when I received a call from Eli’s social worker at 4:00
So I said, “Yes.”
Then we scrambled. While we truly had three extra beds that we had prepared for the brothers, this sibling set included only one boy and two girls. In foster care, different genders cannot share the same bedroom. We had 2 hours to get things switched around. It didn’t have to be perfect, but the beds were what mattered. Since there is such a shortage of foster parents, it is almost always the beds that matter. The needs of the foster children take second place on a night to night basis in many cases. Reality! A bed is a bed.
We switched around bunk beds and twin beds and ended up with two girls in each of two of the bedrooms (Beatrice and Clara + 2 new girls) and the 3 boys (David and Eli + 1 new boy) in the other. We also tried to clean up the rooms a bit…. kid stuff everywhere. The added kids were only to be here for a couple of days, so we didn’t do much else.
By 6:30 pm, we welcomed three beautiful children, Freda, Gabriella, and Holden. They were all in tears, clinging to each other, with bags of McDonald’s food in one hand and a bag of clothing/belongings clutched in the other hand (moving with only a garbage bag for your stuff is a real thing in the world of foster care). Freda was 12, Gabriella was 8 and Holden was 6 years old.
The stories would come out much, much later, in bits and pieces, but while all three had already lived a
Well….. a couple of days turned into a couple of weeks. We made sure that Freda made it to her 6th-grade graduation. We did some shopping to spruce up wardrobes. We did a better job
When they have lost everything else, they at least have each other with
By the time the weeks had turned into a couple of months, the kids had settled into feeling a full range of emotions and started to have summer fun with us. I had many overnight conversations with the 12-year-old. She wasn’t sleeping well, so I’d wake up at 1am or so and make a pot of mac and cheese and we’d talk and talk. Mostly she talked and I listened. The 6-year-old had much anxiety and many panic attacks over the smallest things and the 8-year-old would stand guard between him and me, legs firmly planted and hands on her hips to protect him from me. They were so used to having him get into trouble for causing such a ruckus. We slowly worked at what safety and comfort looked like and felt like for all three kids.
And we spent that whole summer having a lot of fun,
- We spent a lot of time at various beaches, a soothing place with lots of play and imagination for everyone.
- We celebrated several summer birthdays and the arrival of Alice’s second baby, Isabelle. Alice was married by then, but we were together all the time while her husband worked.
- We found a couple of summer camps for the kids.
- We found water play at various fountains, wading pools and spray parks around the city, as well as at several swimming pools.
- We had several events already planned within our Native community and, since all three were also of Native descent, they were included, of course.
- We had plenty of fun at home, too, from water play to trampoline to bikes to
By the end of that summer, when Freda and Gabriella and Holden had been with me for about 4 months, we needed to start thinking about school. Their auntie and uncle were still trying to get the kids back and so far, that’s what the kids wanted (they had still not felt safe enough to “betray” auntie and uncle). But one night, during one of our talks, Freda asked me what would happen if she said she didn’t want to go back to her relative’s home. She asked me if she’d have to go to foster care. I smiled and told her that she was already in foster care. She said, “No, I mean a REAL foster home.” I kind of chuckled and told her this foster home was as real as it gets. Believe me, a single parent with 7 kids gets pretty real!
At that point, she started sharing a little bit about what had gone on and why they were so scared of foster care (they were told some really horrible things… and I get it, foster care stinks and some homes are not stellar). I told her flat out that night that she could stay as long as she wanted to.
And everything changed. She planned to stay. She told her little brother and sister what she had learned and they started to ask me questions, too. So we planned for
I had decided that my beds were filled and would stay that way as long as was needed. Two years later, I was blessed to adopt all three.
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