Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Birth Story of Sorts (Part 2)



Part two of our foster care story.  Go here for part one.

I listened to a podcast recently in which Phil Vischer (creator of Veggie Tales and What's in the Bible) interviewed Todd Komarnicki, who is a writer, director, and producer, and produced the familiar movie Elf, among other projects.  It's a longish podcast: enjoyable but sort of rambly (my kind of show!).  The last fifteen minutes, however, are pure gold, and Komarnicki's comments speak directly to this story that I'm telling:

If [your desire is] what God wants you to do, then go do it and you'll find out.  Just move in the direction of your prayer and your dreams.  It doesn't mean that it will work out, but it means if you're doing it then other things will work out. . .This is the key to everything, in my opinion.  You plant corn, you'll get wheat.  If you plant an apple tree in the front, you'll get a lemon tree in the back.  Nothing in my life has gone according to plan. . .  but every time I've farmed, every time I've planted, it's been rewarded.  Something else has grown up always.  Now, if I hadn't planted, I'd have two empty fields.  And I didn't get what I wanted, but hopefully, by living by grace and focusing on God's will, I got what he wanted.  And now, at 46, I don't want anything except what he wants.  I have no desire for anything outside of his will. . .and the process is beautiful.

As I shared in my previous post, I was certain God was leading our family to foster care, but could not see how it could happen.


Then, in August, my sister Monica (who does foster care and works closely in a treatment and supporting role with foster families in Oregon (and knew of my ongoing desire to foster)) mentioned that Allie, a teen who had been in her home as a foster child for about eighteen months a few years prior, was back in her home during a brief transition period.  She sent me a text message that said only, "By the way, Allie is only here while they try to find a California placement for her."  Chills.  Chills, people!  Everything clicked in to place in that moment, and I was sure that this child was supposed to be in our home.  There were a number of details about Allie's particular situation and goals for herself that made our home seem uniquely right for her.  The more we talked about it and worked toward it, the more everything seemed to line up.  God's hand was evident all over the situation.

Of course, it's never quite that simple.  Also. . . I should mention that I am not the most hardy of souls in slow-moving situations that are largely out of my hands.  (My mother is nodding vigorously, I'm sure.)  Once Grant and I agreed between the two of us that we wanted Allie to come live with us, and Allie said she wanted to come live with us, I was like, "ok people, let's move."  For so long, I'd felt this foster care thing burning a hole in my heart like a child with a dollar in their pocket, and now I finally, finally knew what I was supposed to do.  So let's just do it already!  33.85 years into my life, I still have the same total lack of patience I had as a child.  Lucky for me (sort of), God never tires of giving me opportunities to practice.

Since we knew Allie from her time with my sister (she knows all of our family, and even spent a Thanksgiving with us one year), the state was able to certify us as a "non-related extended family member placement," (NREFMP for you acronym people) which makes the process much faster and eliminates the extensive classes that were so impossible to fit into our schedule.  This means we are not certified for general foster care, but we can provide a home for this child until she has graduated or is ready to move out on her own.  During this interim, the plan was for Allie to stay with Monica.



A lovely side effect of this process has been getting to see my sister's social worker skills in action.  There were a number of professional communications in which I was able to observe her "at work," as well as hours of conversation between the two of us where she helped me (and continues to help me) process my questions and feel like I have more tools for the coming adventure.  I have already seen fruit from these conversations in my communications with social workers, and with Allie.  As the elder sister, I am humbled and proud at the same time, and it is wonderful.  

Everything was moving along when we received word that Allie's caseworker planned to move her from my sister's home to a temporary group shelter in southern California.  The reasons for this move were not entirely clear, but related to legal requirements. I don't think anyone involved thought this was a good thing for Allie.  I became much more serious in my prayers at this point.  I (digitally) gathered a few friends, and we prayed for her heart to remain soft and open, for the experience in the group home to be positive, for the attitudes of the social workers involved, for our family as we prepared for Allie.  It felt somewhat like laboring over a child. . .waiting and wondering and praying.  Even so, I had a great deal of peace about the situation.

In September, we were still working on our certification process, and a few details came out that started to make it seem like Allie might not be placed with us.  I was disheartened at first.  I had felt so sure this was what God had been preparing us for!  I trusted though, and God gently led my heart around to being ready to support and love Allie from a distance.  We could still be her family, I realized, even if she didn't ever live in our home full time.  Maybe she could visit and, once eighteen, she could certainly stay with us on school breaks or holidays or whatever.  Allie knows my parents, my kids, my siblings and their families, and we know her.  We could still pray for her, talk with her, and support her in meaningful ways, even if she spent the rest of her foster care days at a group home.  Toward the end of this time, I was given Allie's education rights, which meant I could participate in meetings about her academic activity and progress and make educational decisions for her.  This solidified my determination to care for Allie however I could.

Less than a week later, the case worker called to tell me our home was approved and that she intended to place Allie in our home as soon as possible.  That was last week.  Now Allie calls me every night, full of nerves and questions.  She wants to know how I feel about make up and iPods, can she get a job, and what are we going to do with all her Oregon Duck stuff (see Oregon State Beavers)?  I can hardly believe it.



I'm writing this before Allie arrives because I want the story of our path up to this point to stand on its own.   Who knows what it will really be like for us?  Maybe we will be a poor fit and we will struggle constantly for the next two years.  Maybe our timing will be perfect and we will each change each other's lives in amazing ways.  Maybe some of both.  The truth is that this journey has been Spirit-led every step of the way, and that remains true no matter what happens over the next few years and beyond.  This story is about hearing a whisper and responding by continually laying it before God, even (and especially) when it appears sort of impossible.

More posts in my Climb series:

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