Great post from our Guest Blogger Partners Tidewater Parent. Tidewater Parent is featuring a Guest Blogger Post from Autumn Schacht, a Hampton Roads military spouse sharing her story of foster care and adoption.
An Unexpected Journey: A Glimpse into the World of Foster Care
By Autumn Schacht
By Autumn Schacht
They say that there are thousands of children in the state of Virginia waiting for their forever homes. What they don’t say is that most of these children are older and have seen their fair share of the system over the years. Many of them tossed and turned moved from placement to placement, hoping to find someone who loves them unconditionally.
Our journey started with a hope and a dream to adopt. We researched agencies, joined adoption support groups, and waited. During that waiting our dream changed. Originally we saw our family bringing home a bouncing baby girl or boy straight from the hospital. A child who’s birth mother chose us. I dreamt about her searching through family profiles, none that quite fit the family she had imagined, when suddenly she flipped the page to our beautiful already made family just waiting to welcome her beloved child into our arms. She would call us up immediately and tell us we were the chosen family. That dream soon began to take a different turn. I would lie in bed at night thinking about all the children in foster care. Yes, I said it foster care. The word alone can send any sane parent into a panic attack. Do we dare? Did we really “need” a baby? What about all of the thousands of children in the system just waiting for their forever family, us?
Before we could even catch our breath we were making phone calls, having our first home study, safety proofing our home. Making sure all the screens worked on our windows, purchasing a fire extinguisher, making a fire escape plan and attending mandatory foster care training. We were becoming foster parents.
Just the word alone gave me an ill feeling in the pit of my stomach. Maybe it was where I grew up or that I had seen too many movies, but when I heard the word foster care I envisioned some frazzled woman with ten or twelve kids living in a rundown trailer park pocketing government money. I kept telling myself and others we were going to be different. We weren’t actually in this to do foster care. We were going to be a blessing to some small “waiting” child. We were going to explain to social services what kind of child would best fit our family, they would make a few phone calls and soon one of those waiting children would just show up on our door and we would live happily ever after. This idea and the idea of what foster care looked like would soon drastically change in the most wonderful way.
As we sat down and spoke with our newly assigned social worker our heads hung low when she explained to us that yes there are some waiting children in the system ready for their forever family but they are usually teenagers or about to age out of the system. Some have severe medical needs that need special training and attention. Most children in the system have not had their rights terminated yet. They are fresh into the system and their goals are still reunification with their parents. “You will be waiting a very long time if you are looking for a younger child whose goal is adoption.”
So that is what we did. We waited and waited. I have waited the nine months required for each of my pregnancies. Wondering what they will look like. Will they have their father’s eyes or my nose? That was the fun kind of waiting. You can pretty much narrow down hair color and features based on you and your spouse. As for their personalities, my first born takes after my husband so I had a pretty good guess that the next one would take after me. You create this image in your head of the child in your belly, rather true or not, it gives you something to go off of, someone to dream about at night. The waiting that you endure when you are waiting for your foster or adoptive child on the other hand is enough to make you go mad. You have nothing to go off of to even create a vision. You have no idea what they will look like. Their personalities are already set. Will they be the jock or the band geek? Will they like to snuggle or will they be independent? Will they like my cooking? Will they come from a back ground of abuse or neglect, maybe abandonment? Can we handle the affects of that? Will they have behavior problems? And the biggest one of all, will they hate me? Am I good enough? Will I be enough? What are we doing? These thoughts ran through my head on a daily basis. I needed an outlet. I found this by creating the cutesy family profiles with pictures of our birth children, our wedding photos, home and pets. I made 100 copies and mailed them to every foster care agency in a hundred mile radius and then I waited and waited.
Months later, still nothing. I needed another outlet. That outlet was respite care. Respite care is when you basically give other foster families a break so they can go on vacation or a night out. It is also used in emergency placements. When a child comes into care in the middle of the night and social services doesn’t have a placement for them yet. It can last for a night or two weeks. Respite helped keep us focused. We also got a taste of what it was going to be like when our permanent placement arrived. We loved all of our respite children. Every time one left I knew even more we were on the right track. I watched as our birth children interacted with our special visitors. My youngest son was in love with each and every little one that was placed in our home. He yearned to be a big brother. Some of our respites were longer, two weeks or so. Through those we all learned how to say goodbye while holding back tears. Once the door was shut we would let them flow. We cried because we grew attached. We cried because of their unknown future. We also cried because our child was out there somewhere waiting for us.
It is hard to describe what it feels like to relentlessly search for a child that is lost in the world. You have no idea what they look like. You don’t even know what their name is to call out for them. All you know is that they are yours. You become obsessed with this faceless child, can’t eat or sleep. You go to bed every night shedding tears over a child you have never even met. Where were they? Were they safe? Praying for God to watch over them and deliver them swiftly to your arms. No, there is no way to describe what it feels like to search for a faceless child except maybe gut wrenching.
Then the call came just like that. “Mrs. Schacht we have two little girls for your family if you are interested, a one year old and a two year old? We believe that they will be adoptable.” Yes, yes, yes. I don’t even have to think about it yes!” I started planning right away. Where will they sleep? We had already made one room up as a boy room in case we got a boy. It was dressed in cars and deep blues, the other as a girl room, pink accents with flowers and butterflies, way too many butterflies. As quickly as the images of matching dresses and car seats flashed through my head. It was over. A call came two days later, the foster mother who originally had the girls changed her mind. She was having a hard time taking care of what was almost like twins, the sleepless nights and many diaper changes were catching up with her. But over the past two days, when faced with the knowledge that they would really be leaving, it unexpectedly hit her hard. She wanted to give it another try. She changed her mind. Those words somehow came out of my mouth repeatedly over and over as some kind of chant as I lay there in my bed with my face in my pillow crying, no balling, like a baby. Yet again I was grieving faceless children.
The next day I awoke to a new mindset. God knows our children; He knows where they are and when they are coming. I need to trust in that and be joyful over the two little girls that just settled into their forever family. I need to find joy in that. I need to find meaning in that. As soon as that thought crossed my mind the phone rang, it had been nine months since we signed up for this journey, “We are so sorry about the girls,” said the woman on the other line. “But I think we have found the perfect placement for you if you are interested, a three year old boy and a five year old girl. I had their agency email you pictures this morning.” I quickly pulled up my email and opened the attachment. I smiled and gasped, holding back tears of joy. My children finally had a face.