December finally arrived. My husband and I had decided to take the classes all day long on two consecutive Saturdays rather than for two hours a week for several weeks. So we had to travel a couple of hours in order to accommodate our work schedules. During the drive my husband clearly defined his limits one more time. Just to be clear, he doesn’t want to stand up in front of the class and have to talk. We compromised. It was agreed that if we had to stand up and talk, that we’d just leave.
It was nice to have an afternoon away from the usual routine of the farm. Although I love the farm and the country is a great place for the kids. I grew up in the city and I miss it sometimes. Today’s class is in the city. As we made our way through traffic to the community college campus my excitement built. I tried not to show just how excited I was because I knew my husband was uncertain about this adventure. We parked the car and located the building the classes were to be held in. Walking down the hallways the closer we got to the classroom, there were other couples headed in the same direction. I was smiling from ear to ear as we entered into the classroom.
At the entrance there was the usual long table with various class materials sorted into piles. And of course the sign in sheet. As I was signing us in, my husband walked toward the blackboard. He just stood there. I walked up behind him.
“I just knew it” He muttered.
I looked up at the blackboard. And read:
EACH COUPLE WILL STAND AND INTRODUCE THEMSELVES AND SHARE WHY YOU WANT TO BE FOSTER PARENTS.
Well, I had compromised. I looked at my husband and said,
“Let’s just go.”
He responded immediately, “We’ll wait a little bit.”
He made his way to the third row table and sat down. I was stunned, but in a pleasing way and I took my seat next to him.
The teacher came into the room and the other couples found their seats. She counted the number of couples seated in the room and realized there were still four people not there yet. But she began on time. She moved to the center of the blackboard, turned toward the group and explained the directions she had written on the board. One at a time, the men introduced themselves and their partners, the women answered the second part of the question. My husband stood up at our table and introduced us. He sat down and I shared why we wanted to be foster parents. It was compromise in action. We made it through the first class with flying colors.
The second class was in two weeks, but not all of the couples returned. I guess they found that foster care wasn’t what they expected it would be. I had worked on an adolescent psych unit for a few years. I had a clinical psychology background and now I’m working as a counselor with abuse victims. I knew what to expect. The teacher however knew that most of the people sitting in class had little idea what kinds of problems they might be up against. So as a group we all shared what our concerns were. The list on the blackboard grew and grew. Things like lying, stealing, running away, suicidal kids, violent outbursts, smoking, drinking and drug use, and pregnancy made the list. Then the teacher added self-mutilation, destructiveness, and liability.
After the lunch break another couple didn’t return. The rest of us broke up into groups, the couples were separated for this project. We had to make ‘life books’ so that each child in our care would have a record or history of their time in our home.. a picture album of memories that they would take with them. Afterwards we remained in the groups and discussion began about how doing foster care would affect our marriages/partnerships. An aspect that most people don’t consider. Foster care does affect your relationships. These children are very needy. Often angry, always scared. They need and deserve a great deal of focus. If you don’t hae a very strong relationship, foster care will take you apart.
The last part of the class, the teacher explained the home requirements, home visits and licensing. Finishing class was just the beginning. Armed with a folder full of information, class was dismissed. We would wait for a call from our local human services department social worker. They would schedule the home visit and do interviews of each family member. Anyone over age 16 in the home would be criminal record checked. We would have to provide references, a floor plan, escape plans in case of emergencies, proof of car insurance, vet records for all pets, and well water certification because we lived in the country. There wasn’t anything that they missed. The next phase of waiting began.