I first started looking into foster care around the time we switched clinics for our 2nd round of IVF. Because of our “advanced” ages (still not easy to write) I didn’t want to wait to start the process because I’ve heard it can be lengthy. I also thought it might be good to give myself something else to focus on.
So, I did tons of research including foster care, private adoption, international adoption, agencies, going directly through the county, costs, etc. We decided at the time that private adoption was not feasible because it’s so expensive ($20,000-50,000) so I started looking into foster care and agencies in our area.
We went to a class at an agency and while we did get some good information, they also let us know that they don’t approve families who have undergone fertility treatments in the last 6 months. They said they want the parents to be emotionally ready to handle foster care. And I know anyone reading this who hasn’t gone through infertility (or even if you have) may think this is a great idea (and I am sure, in some cases, it is); however, I am an expert on myself and my emotions. I know what I can and can’t handle. Sure, I am grieving miscarriages or failed treatments but, trust me when I say those feelings of loss don’t magically go away in 6 months. But, rules are rules and so we left and decided to look elsewhere.
I went to an adoption support group to try to see if I could get some helpful information. Again, I brought up fertility treatments and the foster care process. I almost felt negatively judged for even asking if it was possible. On the flip side, I got the name of a Foster Family Agency (FFA) in the area. I always like to hear first hand accounts of good experiences.
Anyways, I emailed Stanford Youth Solutions (SYS) and started the process. I set up an appointment for Andrew and I to speak with Daniel, the Recruitment Specialist, to speak about foster care and the services SYS provides. He was amazingly patient and explained the process and asked us some preliminary questions. He explained he would be doing the home inspections and helping us get our home ready for approval. There would be a social worker (SW) assigned to complete our Home Study (the psychosocial assessment).
Even though we went into the meeting expecting to just to gather information, all of a sudden we are making appointments for the first home inspection. And I don’t mean to imply anything negative towards Daniel or the process. I think we just didn’t realize that’s where the meeting was going to go.
During the inspection, Daniel discussed all the adjustments that need to made:
- all knives and sharp objects need to be locked
- all medications need to be locked
- all electrical sockets need to be covered
- all chemicals need to be locked (dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, bleach, 409, etc.)
- there needs to be a smoke and carbon monoxide detector
- there needs to be a first aid kit with a thermometer
- there needs to be a fire extinguisher
- there needs to be a locked cabinet for the foster youths files
He drew out the layout of our house and made sure there were appropriate exits in case of a fire. We talked about having a landline because the foster youth has to always have access to a phone; however, since we were looking into babies/toddlers, fulfilling this criteria could wait.
Our SW assigned to do our Home Study was Erin. I have read that Home Studies can feel intrusive but are necessary to evaluate the stability of the foster parents. The first two sessions were fine. Were there some deeply personal questions asked? Yes, of course. But, we knew it was all part of the process and we have nothing to hide.
The third session was the only one that caught us by surprise. She had us separate and answer the same questions about ourselves and our partner. It was to see how much we knew about our partner and how truthful we were in our answers. Again, it’s all part of the process but this one felt the most intrusive.
Anyways, we passed our Home Study but we hit a snag. A family member lost his job and fell on hard times. We put foster care on hold and opened our home so he could get back on his feet. Because we were still in the middle of IVF treatments, we felt like we could use this time to take a breath.
Before we knew it, nine months passed us by. We wanted to restart the foster care process and, thankfully, our temporary roommate was able to find an apartment fairly quickly.
We let our FFA know we wanted to resume the approval process. We also started working on the house. We added the safety cabinet locks, inserted all the electrical outlet covers, and locked the chemicals and knives away. My favorite part was we put the nursery together.
We knew we wanted an ocean theme so we went to Home Depot and picked out our colors. I was so intent on painting the room how I had been imagining it that I didn’t think through the process: we should’ve picked out the bedding first and then got the paint to match. Unfortunately, finding bedding to match the paint was impossible. HOWEVER, I think the room came out way better than expected even though there is still no official bedding.
We pulled out the car seat and began to watch the YouTube videos on using it. We looked into strollers and purchased the Joovy Qool (which looking back on it now has been a very smart investment even though it was expensive). The funniest part was putting together the Pack N Play. You’d think with two fairly smart people, the assembly would have gone smoothly but, no. The manual and YouTube videos were failing us. We were about ready to call it when one of us (I honestly don’t remember who) pushed this little lever and bam – done. I just remembered laughing at how ridiculously frustrating it had been for something that we now know is unbelievably easy.
Our SW updated our home study documents (there wasn’t much to change) and Daniel came to the house to do the final inspection. The inspection went well and then we sat down to sign and update paperwork. Towards the end I asked when to expect to be approved. He smiled and said, “Today.” Up to this point, I think Andrew and I hid our anxieties about foster care pretty well. But when Daniel stated we were approved, I think our nervousness finally showed.
I remember Daniel saying something about he always waits for THE LOOK from prospective foster parents and that it’s rare for it not to happen at some point in the approval process. Well, it finally happened to us.
Daniel handed us the approval letter and we realized at any moment, we could get a call that would change our lives forever.