We have been preparing for this since May, and now that we are within a few days of being licensed, I can hardly stand the wait. This summer involved 3 full Saturdays of classes, a TB test for Erik (done at Texas Med Clinic during one of the Spurs NBA championship games – a sure way to guarantee no crowds!), purchasing and tagging fire extinguishers, a fire inspection, a health inspection (which entailed a 3 hour wait for the health inspector who got waylaid at a home with six puppies and no vaccine records!), moving all of our medications to lock boxes, hours of on-line training (on the very familiar topics to me, not so familiar to my husband, of “reporting abuse and neglect”, “car seat safety training”, “psychotropic medications”), fingerprinting, printing off driver records, photocopying and scanning every official document you can think of (W2s, auto insurance, home insurance, driver’s licenses, social security cards, etc), and finally a PPD (TB test) for each of our children (um yeah, “hey kids, did I mention that that little shot you need to get actually goes in your anterior forearm?!” That never goes over well.). All of this has culminated in the creation of a 4 inch thick heavy, black binder loaded with documents and training certificates, in hopes that if/when the day comes that CPS knocks on our door unannounced I can wield it mightily to prove that we are qualified!
After the creation of the binder, we were ready for our home study. This required each of us to write an autobiography. Of course Erik’s was thorough and thoughtful and awesome, and mine, well, was more of a “check off the box” kind of piece. Needless to say, the night I read his, I got out of bed and stayed up until 2 am, with a guilty conscience, rewriting mine. Our home study went smoothly, 3 hours or so of Erik and I chatting about how we met, how we argue, how we deal with stress, how we discipine our children, etc. I would be remiss, however if I didn’t tell you about one of the more comical moments with our children. Remember that daughter we have who has been asking for “another child”, particularly an orphan, for years now (read “about us”)? I must admit that as she sat down for her interview I had visions of her wowing our home study writer with her exuberance for and in depth knowledge of fostering. Much to my surprise, she was quiet and shy and implied that we hadn’t talked much about fostering. The pinnacle moment was when she was asked to talk about some of the rules we have in our home. She pondered thoughtfully for a moment and then timidly responded, “I can’t think of any, I think maybe we don’t have any rules?”. All I could do was laugh at myself, yes, pride comes before the fall. You’ll be glad to know that, despite her intimation that our house runs as a lawless anarchy, we were still deemed qualified to move forward with fostering! It was actually our reluctant 6 year old who spoke extensively and confidently about a time that we had two Ugandan orphan girls stay with us for a week and how that experience made her excited to have a foster baby in our home?!
So now we have our big black binder loaded with training certificates, we have a thorough home study, and we have signed the necessary government contracts. We are now just days away from having our license and being entered into the CPS pool of foster families. But I’m left questioning, “Are we ready?”. Does all of that paperwork and training mean that we are ready? I can only compare this to the anticipation of giving birth, which by this point I would have certainly had an installed infant car seat in my van, newborn diapers, and baby clothes ready for wear. But this “pregnancy” (if you will) comes with the promise that the infant could be delivered at any age between 0-24 months! That could mean an infant car seat, a larger car seat, bottles, sippy cups, formula, no formula – who knows??? And yet, I imagine that the day we get the call, if we get the call, saying that a baby is waiting for us, the excitement and adrenaline rush will allow me to pull out boxes of stored clothing, start laundering and run to target for bottles, formula and diapers, all in about 15 minutes total time! That still doesn’t assuage my desire to have everything washed, in place and ready to go, now!
Despite the logistical preparedness that sits on my mind, what I most hope and pray for is that our hearts are ready. How do you prepare your heart, and the hearts of your four children, to welcome a complete stranger into your home? Presumably a helpless, small, crying stranger? We’ve done all that we know to do – we’ve talked about this, prayed about this, met families who have fostered. Now we can only hope that as the time draws near, God is fostering hearts of love into each of us, preparing us for what awaits.