The Email

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Andrew and I received a phone call on a Friday afternoon about a little boy in need of a home, and on Monday we chose to step forward and say yes, that this little boy should come join our family.

We didn’t say yes right away.  We took time to think about it, the impact, the fit.

This little boy was sick, he was a premie, he had not had good prenatal care.  There would be doctors visits, possible surgery.

This little boy would not be “ours,” may never be “ours.”  Someone could come forward.

There was a lot of risk.  A great deal would be required of us.

But there was a baby in need of a home . . .

I do want to note here that in foster care Andrew and I have said “no” at least as many times as we have said yes.  We have always taken the time to talk through the scenario, talk through the impact and the fit, and we recognize very clearly that there are times and circumstances that do not line up and we were very clear that this may be one of them.

But on Monday, with all of the risks, with all of the impact, with all that it meant, we said yes.

On Tuesday we learned that Friday would be the day he was coming to be with us and we started preparing.

 

On Thursday we got the email.

Twenty-four hours before we were set to pick up baby boy we learned of an additional possible medical issue.  And for us the need of care exceeded what we felt prepared to give.  It was heartbreaking and we needed to re-evaluate and make a clear headed best decision for the baby and for us.

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I headed to Halibut Point.  Halibut is my piece of nature where I can feel my head clear and where I re-center.  I just made time and space to get there.  And I walked and I prayed.  I got quiet and I felt open.  I was open to the yes, and I was open to no.

And as I gazed out over the ocean this singular boat made its way slowly before me . . .

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And I was very clear.

Before us was an opportunity.

I do not get to set the full course.  I do not get to choose the destination.

But we have been invited to enjoy the sail.

 

So we said yes.

And on Friday, we picked up baby boy.

 

 

The Phone Call

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Our time in Prince Edward Island was grey.  The drive back was rainy.  We had decided to head home early.

Two hours from the border I looked at my phone.  I had turned off all calling features since we were out of the country . . . but there was a little circle letting me know that I had a voicemail.

The voicemail was from a particular city, and we both knew what that meant.

Andrew and I have been doing foster care since 2007.  That is six years now.  We primarily do short-term placements.  It is a good fit for us.  A few months ago we decided to say that we were open to adoption again. We did the switch in paperwork quietly and without fanfare. And we chose to walk forward with open hands, our motto.

This particular city that the phone call was from probably meant it was a call about fostering short-term . . . but we both knew that it could mean an adoption placement.  I did not say that outloud,  Andrew either.  We decided to just wait until we crossed back into Maine and were able to check the voicemail.

The time ticked by slowly and it rained.

When we did finally arrive at the border, the line of cars was long and there was a second voicemail, same number.

“You can check it and we can pay the extra dollar or whatever,” Andrew said watching me look at my phone.

“I can wait . . .”

As soon as we crossed into the states I started to call and Andrew made a wrong turn and  . . . we were all turned around.  I waited until we were cruising down 95 south.

It was our caseworker.  There was a baby.  An eight week old baby boy.  There were some medical issues.  They wanted to place him in a pre-adoptive home.  We were the first choice. Were we interested?  Should they look at other families?

At 3:00 on a Friday afternoon the phone-tag began and finally we just pulled over, put on the speakerphone and allowed the reality of the moment to sink in, if only for a few minutes.

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Our family had an opportunity to grow . . .

. . . but there were medical issues

. . . but there would be a concurrent plan of reunification

He was eight weeks old.  He had spent the first part of his life in two hospitals and then had been living as a foster child with a nurse.

 . . . we had not been preparing for nine months, were we ready to shift everything for an infant?

. . . how would Cole react?

Our thoughts raced.

We recognized that phone call on the side of the road had the potential to change our lives.

And we chose to step forward into the unknown.

Adventures in Foster Care: Preparing for Michael

We have a new foster child arriving tonight.  His name is Michael.  He is nine years old and in second grade.

We have been slow to step back into foster care, and the placements themselves have slowed.  Many more children are being placed in kindred placements, able to live with aunts and uncles or grandparents, and we think that is a great thing.

Michael will only be with us for a week.  He is with us while his foster parents travel on a trip they had planned out west before his arrival three weeks ago.

We know that is a lot of change for Michael.

So as we prepare, and he probably feels a sense of dread, please think of the Sharpteam today as we add one to our adventures.

Adventures in Foster Care: A Reflection

This blog started as a way to connect with friends and family about the Foster Care that we were doing.  Andrew and I do Emergency Foster Care, that is, we take children in while the next steps for them are determined . . . some have gone on to group homes, some to foster homes, and some have been returned to their families.  These experiences have deepened us and enriched our lives.  It was my goal to write about one memory from each experience so that I could hold these children in my heart always. You can see some of my reflections here.

One year ago we did a bit of a different placement.  We were at such a happy place with a one and a half year old Cole and lots of rhythm and routine.  We took a long-term placement, thinking it would be a good time for her to join our family for a season.

I have never written about that experienced.  Close friends and family still hear me process through it, because that placement, honestly was never really resolved for me.

One year ago, after weeks of being stuck with just us, Susan was preparing for her first day in a new school, and it happened to be on Valentine’s Day.  Here is what our home looked like . . .

 

I knew at that time that every emotion ran under the joy.  I knew Susan was scared and angry and lonely and aching.  And we did talk about these things too . . . but I was never able to take away the pain . . .

 

Our long-term placement with Susan ended early.  The police were called and she left us for a group home.

We did have good closure that day.  Susan was amazing and we were honest and hugged and I think she knew we cared about her.

But Susan coming to us was a tremendous cross-cultural failure.  We never made it through the stages to get to a place . . . Team Building Stages are often referred to as “Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing” (by Bruce Tuckman).  And I felt helpless as we cycled through Forming and Storming, we caught glimpses of Norming, but we were never integrated.  It was always the Sharps and Susan.

And I do understand that that is the way it was meant to be in lots of ways.  Susan was only visiting for a while, the real goal is reunification with a healthy family.

My one regret is that while Susan was with us, I longed for her to feel held and safe, at home and comfortable.  And I think my longing only propelled her more to assert that this would never be place where she would be comfortable.  Susan was thirteen.  I work with teens, and I understand this push back of independence, but it stung and it was hard for everyone for a long time.

On this Valentine’s Day.  It is my hope that Susan is safe and healthy and oh how I pray that she is happy.  I caught glimpses of her joy and she deserves to feel it daily.

If she sat across from me at breakfast today here is what I would remind her:

1.  Susan, you stepped into a tremendously difficult situation and you did great.  Everything was new and different and you stepped up and did what was asked of you every day.  You were brave and bold and you did a good job.

2.  You are beautiful.  You have a heart that struggled to sort through other people’s stories, but at its center it knew the truth and you are a beautiful, loving person.

3.  You will always be a part of our lives, and we are grateful for that.  You changed us, deepened us and challenged us.  And we thank you.

But perhaps as much as Susan would need to hear those things (and she may very well tell you that she doesn’t need them at all).  I am admitting that I need to look back and assure myself from one year ago . . .

1.  Liza you did the best you could and you did great.  You tried everything you knew to love Susan well, and that is all you could have done.

2.  Liza, you are beautiful.  You did love this girl when she clearly did not love you.  Your heart was for her.  And you do not need to carry sadness or guilt.

3.  Liza, you just may be a part of Susan’s life.  There may have been some moment or something that she will carry with her, and because it came from a truly loving place, she can hold on to a little bit of love.

I am letting that experience go now, it trying to process and make it different.

It was a hard journey and that is ok.

I am holding the lessons and the good.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Susan.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Baby L Update

We got word today… baby L will be heading home tomorrow to his grandfather’s house.

The Sharpteam is always in support of kids going to family in cases like this.

While sad not to get to love on a little one like others did for our Colton, we know baby L will be loved well.

Thank you for your prayers for him and for us.

Update on Baby L

Baby L is a little guy who has been in the hospital for a month.

He was born addicted to drugs and has been detoxing for the first month of his life.

He is ready to head home… but his mother is not yet ready to receive him.

The Department of Children and Families has asked us to consider fostering Baby L.

We are waiting to hear more about his medical situation and to hear how court proceedings went today.

It is the hospital’s hope that he would have a home by the end of this week.

It is out desire as well, whether that be with us, another foster family or his relatives.

All prayers appreciated.

Susan's Response to Her New School

 

“Today was a great first day of school.  I met new people and had lots of fun.  I am mostly caught up with my work.  The school is a great school.  The kids are nice.  Not one person is mean, and the staff is an astounding staff.  Their lunch was ok, but not great.  Overall I like that school very much and look forward to going back tomorrow.”  ~ Susan on her first day of school