Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The homes, the homes, the homes to which it goes

Yesterday, as we were initiating in earnest the complex process of accepting a foster child placement, everything screeched to a halt. Wife and I were about to attend a staffing meeting during which everyone involved in the case was going to sit around a table and discuss the child and plot the smoothest possible transition. Just beforehand, however, two people who are very closely involved threw a large wrench into the works. Their action was so unexpected and of such an unusual nature (sorry for the necessary vagueness!) that we have no idea whether it means merely a temporary setback or that the whole placement will be canceled. We’ll be learning more over the next few days. For now, we’re holding our breath and remaining calm. This obstacle has nothing to do with us, so all we can do is wait and see how the agencies sort it out.

Three things come to mind:

First, I was looking forward not just to getting going on the placement, but to the meeting itself. Staffing meetings are state-mandated procedural affairs, but I find them oddly comforting. On the one hand, any such meeting is founded on heartbreak--it wouldn’t be taking place at all if a kid hadn’t suffered some scale-tipping degree of abuse, neglect, or loss in his or her short life. On the other hand, that very heartbreak set in motion a mechanism that brought together a roomful of energetic, resourceful people committed to the single goal of solving this little person’s big problems with a minimum of further disruption. It’s kind of like all the unfairness has switched sides and now the odds are stacked in the kid’s favor rather than against. It’s good to be part of that.

Second, I’m glad we haven’t met this child yet, and that he hasn’t heard anything about us. That was supposed to happen yesterday. If we were already into the transition it would be much more difficult, especially for him, to have it stopped unexpectedly, with no obvious resolution in the offing.

Third, I’m surprised at how much less volatile our emotions have been this time compared to the first placement we had. In that case, we also roller-coastered through a couple of weeks of uncertainty. First, we heard about the girl, and got more excited the more we learned about her and the more it looked like she would fit well into our household. Then the agency (for legitimate reasons) made some conditions we couldn’t meet, and it looked almost definite that she wouldn’t be coming to live with us. I won’t use the word “devastated,” but I vividly remember how despondent I was. It probably isn’t surprising. Getting to the point of committing to bring a troubled child into your home requires a fair amount of adrenaline-fueled emotional support, so the letdown was precipitous. Then, it all came together and we learned that she was coming after all. We were elated once again.

That experience was a little too much of a wild ride, so I will admit that I’m appreciating the relative calm we feel now. We feel a little wiser than we were then, a little better equipped to handle the uncertainties. After all, you’d never get into fostering in the first place if you were looking for neatness and predictability. It’s messy by definition, and almost anything can happen, so you have to be braced for the sudden turns. We understand that better now. Also, there’s no doubt that we’re a little more emotionally guarded than before, now that we’ve experienced the full spectrum of feelings associated with a finite foster child placement.

We’re eager to meet this boy, but for now none of the decisions lie with us. We just have to wait patiently, hope for the best, and try to stay calm.


Blogger mrs.holmes said...

It sounds like the boy will be lucky to have people like you and your family. I wish him luck.

3/16/2005 12:58 AM  

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