When I saw photos of Baby AJ the other day I just melted into a puddle of goo. There's exciting news to accompany those photos...Designing Mom Liberty is going to be a foster mom! I couldn't help but ask if Liberty could chronicle her "story" of becoming a foster parent with all of us and she has graciously agreed. I know we can all get overwhelmed with our hectic life as mom and creatives but hopefully you can take some time today to let Libby and her family's inspirational journey rejuvenate you with all that's good in the world.
by Designing Mom Liberty
I'm not sure that 10 years ago (or maybe even 4 years ago) that I would have imagined "foster mom" as one of my titles. The 2 words together tend to bring up a lot of negative feelings, fears and connotations for so many people. 4 years ago I was pregnant with my 2nd child - who was 18months younger than my first. The next season was tough. Two kids really close together nearly did me in! I've always been the person that would be described as: "CREATIVE, SPONTANEOUS, FREE-SPIRITED... just a feeding schedule alone was so far beyond the type of structure (i.e. none) that I was used to for my days. Even in my corporate life as a textile designer I got to work thousands of miles from my bosses, make my own time, work from home or the office and generally make my own decisions. Having not one, but two demanding little bosses who were highly regimented, needed life to be scheduled, and screamed at me when they didn't like my efforts was really a stretch for me. And yet, deep down in my heart, I didn't think we were done having kids yet. I'd always wanted to adopt, I've cried at every foster or adopt commercial that came on tv - I would secretly steal glances at obviously adoptive families with the longing to be them.... the longing to do something about the fact that thousands of kids in the world need good parents.
It wasn't until about a year ago that my husband and I started putting the words into action. We were really starting to imagine that once our younger (a challenging toddler - he's stretched the Terrible Twos out over 2.5 years) child was about 3.5 - maybe we could do this? A friend of mine started to talk about adopting through the foster care system. This seemed so frightening to me... I'm not sure what scared me.... probably a LOT of things.
My friend, Becky - had a son biologically and couldn't conceive again... Well, she and her husband started attending some orientation classes to work at getting a child through the foster care system. They were IMMEDIATELY contacted about a little boy who had a sister on the way. Would they take him and wait for her? YES!!!! So we all waited with bated breath and then, there he was! Perfect, lovely, 2.5 years old. He and his new big brother were fast friends and this family was rushed through the process so they could receive baby girl a few months later. A few years later now, Becky has 4 children and her joy and excitement over this process, the agency they used and their new children set me over the edge. "Okay, let's get this ball rolling!"
This year in February, we attended our first orientation with Koinonia Foster Homes. We decided to not rush the process, nor rush our son out of the proverbial cradle - dragging out our process for the past 10 months, knowing that he needed to be the baby for a while and that the right timing would show itself. (A point to note, though: The process HAD to take less than a year or we'd have to start repeating classes for certification) I'm not sure what I expected, but the more classes I went to, the more excited I got about it. I would look around a room of 50 couples all there with the same goals and be amazed at the heart for children. There were families of all walks of life, all races, all mixes, all ages and occupations - but our agency seems to attract people that are simply put - awesome. It didn't feel so weird when we looked around a room and felt like a lot of these people were worth getting to know... we now have a number of foster families that we are getting close to that we are walking this through together (I've heard this is not common at other agencies).
About a month ago we realized we were REALLY close to getting finished with this process. One evening in a parenting class (which was, incidentally, really fun and great to use on our bio kids!), a social worker that we knew interrupted the class to ask our teacher a question. She held up a paper with a few lines, not many, of text on them and asked, "is this really all the families that we have that can accept kids now? I've just got a call and I need to find a placement immediately!" An audible gasp in the room...wow...(just a quick fact... THOUSANDS of children every month are processed into foster care every month in Los Angeles alone. Many of these are adoptable. Most kids who live their lives as system foster kids have a low success rate in life). That night was really intense for me... to see this huge need and a social worker upset that there simply aren't enough homes to take them.
At this point, I need to describe what we've signed up for. My husband and I have enrolled ourselves as what is called a "concurrent planning family" - which essentially means that we are willing to do foster care as a road to adopting. We enter into this understanding that there is the chance that a suitable family member for this child may be found to take care of them and that placing a child with flesh and blood (if it's a suitable and loving home) is always better than giving the baby to complete strangers. We were able to give the social worker a number on a scale as to how much risk we thought we could handle, as well as the ages we thought we could do. At this point, they know that we really WANT to adopt, but are willing to take the risk to love a baby that may end up with family between now and adoption - which can take between 12-24 months on the average.
Fast forward: This week, we had our home study and inspection which were not nearly as scary as I'd built them up to be. We secured all dangerous items in our house in a set of high school lockers that we painted red and stuck into the laundry room... the questions asked of us were personal and pertinent, handled delicately by a great interviewer. As our social worker (I'll call her Jane) hit save on the final draft of our home study, our inspection complete, she closed her laptop and said, "I've been asked to talk to you about a 2 month old baby boy" WOAH. My husband looked at me. We both shook in shock. Are you serious? This fast? Jane began to describe how we still needed to get all our paperwork approved by the final people who give the official STAMP that says we're good to go, she mentioned that we should go meet this baby who was staying with another family from within our agency who does temporary foster care.
So this week, we met baby AJ. He is 3.5 months old. He's calm, beautiful, temperate and sweet. He gave a smile to my husband within 2 minutes of seeing him. We called the agency while we were still at the temporary foster mom's house. "YES PLEASE!" we said. They asked us to visit him as often as possible over the next few days so that as our paperwork gets finalized and they can switch him to our home, that we will be familiar people to him. (this should hopefully happen this week) Today I watched him all day long. I took him to my niece's birthday party, where my family fell in love with him too. This week, we hope to learn that AJ is ours for the time being and that we get to bring him home into our lives.
We have so much joy and excitement in our hearts, it's simply inexplicable to look at this little beautiful human being and to imagine - "he might be ours! we get to know and love him and give him a chance at a full life as long as he is with us!"
Our journey has only just begun, but we are thrilled to share it with AJ and thrilled to share it with you.