Open and Filled: The First 7 Days

Our home was opened by the state for foster care on Tuesday, September 29th! At 1:30pm to be exact. It was one of those moments where I, again, questioned our sanity. Yes, we spent months doing paperwork and home visits…and years discussing this moment. Yet the realization that someone could call at any moment and ask if we would like a child for an indefinite period of time is, indeed, a bit surreal. We had narrowed the field pretty sharply by limiting our availability to a 0-6 month old boy—or a sibling group in that general age range (twins, essentially)—so we weren’t sure how long it would be before we received a call.

That Friday morning, I picked up a car seat and some baby bottles at the YMCA consignment sale. Actually, I picked up bottles and then Parker sent me back for the car seat. I didn’t buy it the first time because I felt a bit silly buying gear for a baby that may not come.

We got the call from UH4C* just a few hours later—72 hours after our home was opened. There was a baby boy, born the day before, who needed a home. He was not quite ready to be discharged, but they wanted a foster family ready to pick him up.

It sounded like a perfect fit. So, heart pounding, I checked with Parker and called them back to accept. Within a couple hours, I met our UH4C case manager by phone and the DFCS case manager e-mailed placement paperwork and let us know there would be a court hearing that Monday. (I believe an initial hearing for the biological parents must be held within 72 hours of taking the child into state custody.)

I had tons of questions: “How big is he?” “What is his name” “Does he have health problems?” “When will he be released?” They did send the name, but that was about it.

I ran to the store for diapers and a preemie size outfit—since we had no idea how big the baby was. Target had one preemie outfit for a boy and the shirt read, “Daddy loves me.” I couldn’t buy that outfit. We knew nothing about his dad…or his mom. And we had no idea why neither parent was able to care for him. Parker would love him–but it seemed insensitive to his birth mom on that first day. So I left without an outfit.

At home, I printed the paperwork and stuck it in the “blue binder” (a simple three-ring binder that has become essential to function with a foster child!), installed that car seat (yes, the one that Parker made me go back and buy…), and started pulling baby gear out of bins. I was still a bit hesitant. They said he was coming home to us. However, many times a family member will come forward or something changes so the baby does not actually come into the prepared foster home. We know a family who received seven calls in the first week, accepted all of them, and did not end up with any of those children.

Then we waited for the phone to ring. Our children were so excited! “When is he coming, mommy?” I had no idea.

Baby C (as we came to call him) was taken to the NICU that night with some complications, so the call did not come till Monday. Our UH4C case manager met us at our home and we drove an hour to the hospital. After searching for the proper entrance and figuring out how to get into the NICU, we washed up, submitted ID and CPR cards, and received a copy of Baby C’s hospital record.

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Then we got to hold a sweet, healthy six and a half pound boy! We fed and changed him and were escorted out.

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We, then, drove a few blocks to the courthouse for the biological mom’s first hearing. As we stepped into the hallway to wait, my eyes met those of another woman. She had papers in her hand that said something about a birth mom. Parker introduced himself and asked if she was there for a foster care hearing. After a moment of confusion, she blurted out her baby’s name and leapt up from her chair. “Do you have him? I thought he was still in the hospital!” I glanced at our case manager, who nodded, so I quickly unbuckled Baby C and handed him to his mother.

As this woman sobbed over her 4-day-old son and begged us to take good care of him, we began to understand more of what foster care is about. It is about sin and grace and second chances—for parents and children. It’s about moms and dads who sometimes love deeply, but not well. It is walking with these moms and dads and pointing them to the cross. Believing God for them even when you can’t believe them. And it is doing these things regardless of the anticipated outcome. Because it is God’s heart for His people. Whether the parent turns or not, we are called to love freely and selflessly.

“We are for you,” Parker said. “We are not trying to take your baby from you.” Baby C’s mom hugged us and thanked us. Perhaps this sounds like a common reaction from a woman whose child has been removed toward the family assigned to care for her child. It is not.

*UH4C: Uniting Hope 4 Children is a faith-based child-placing agency. They are amazing! Check out their website at UH4C.org.

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