In a post a few months ago I tried to speculate on what would happen when we got that first call from the placement office at Baltimore City Department of Social Services (BCDSS):
What happens for example, after we become certified as a foster-adoption resource family, if BCDSS presents us with an 18-month old boy. Would we then respond by saying, “Oh, I’m sorry, he isn’t young enough. You got any younger babies?
That is what I wrote back in July. The post was in response to the discussions that my partner and I were having regarding the child that we would bring into our home. It amazes me how my tongue-in-cheek comment has become reality–well almost reality.
I spent a good part of yesterday morning contacting social workers in various areas within BCDSS trying to find out more about the placement process and making sure that we were actually listed somewhere–available–waiting–here we are–ready to take a child–hello–hello is anyone there? I was on the phone relating some of the good and bad of those conversations to my partner when I received another call that looked like a BCDSS phone number. That conversation went like this:
Sir, this is BCDSS. Do you still have a bed available?
We have an African-American boy, 20 months old who was removed from his home yesterday and needs a foster placement. He does not show any signs of abuse and does not present with any medical conditions. However, I don’t know much more since we don’t get a lot of information in this office and this case is so new.
I understand–and how long would this placement be?
I can’t say. The first court date won’t be for a month or two. He will stay with you until such time as the court decides he should return home or an alternate plan is pursued. Would you be willing to take him?
Can I get back to you in an hour?
That would be fine. Goodbye.
Darrow and I spent the next two hours over the phone riding a roller coaster–climbing the track with our desire to have a child, rising higher and higher until the ride reached its emotionally charged peak before it–we began falling down the steep slope, descending swiftly, rushing back down to the earth as rationality and logic took hold. Then the ride took a couple of curves and then started another climb and then another fall. The problem was further compounded since we didn’t seem to be riding the same ride. I was climbing while he was falling and vice versa. What a huge decision to make in such a short time. Should we take a child with so little known about his future? He may only be with us a short time or he could ultimately become our son? Are we abandoning our desire to have an infant? Maybe we can take this child and still adopt an infant later. How will this work with the dogs–how quickly will they adapt to a mobile toddler? By taking this child what other opportunities might we forego in having younger children placed in our home? We know nothing of him, his family, his history, his anything.
It was a difficult process–trying to keep to our plan but also having some flexibility since we were being presented with a kid who needs a home, even if it ends up only being temporary. While we were on the phone together we were able to work through the biggest issues and rearrange or compromise some of our plans without giving up on them. We said yes. We decided that even if we had to postpone having an infant, even if we had no idea how long this boy might be with us, even though we knew nothing about him, we were able to serve in the role of his foster parents.
As I was walking back to my office there was a level of excitement–this is it. Not exactly as we had planned, but it felt like a huge step forward. When I called the BCDSS placement office, I apologized to the man that I had spoken to earlier for taking so long to get back to him. It took about two hours for my partner and I to find the answer together. Before I could tell him that we would take the placement, he said, “it turns out a relative has come forward to take the child.” Relief, funny relief. You take this ride and think that your life will change and suddenly the ride stops and its time to get off.
As difficult as the experience was, both of us were happy to have gone through it. We were able to cover a lot of ground in a very short time. I think we stretched in ways we didn’t think we would or could. What might have taken us weeks or months to figure out, we were forced to do in two hours. We have determined that we are willing to take an older child, at least older than an infant maybe up to two years old. We might also be willing to take on a significant amount of risk. Though it is not our first choice, we are more willing to be true foster parents until such time as the child in our home becomes available for adoption. We have learned a lot about ourselves and what we want–and don’t want:
We are more prepared.
We are content that someone in BCDSS knows we exist.
We have grown a little bit closer in passing through this experience together.
One thing we know is that the absence of information regarding the circumstances around which the child was removed from his home or any information about medical, emotional or behavioral issues was unacceptable. We will push next time for more information up front. They are asking something of us, it is only right that they should be able to provide us more information with which to make this decision which for us might be a life-long one.