I’ve been licensed for almost one year now and have not had a placement yet. If you had told me when I started this process that it would take this long, I would have laughed at you. There are children all over my area in need of homes, right? Thousands in my county alone and I see them come through my agency every day! And who wouldn’t want to place with me given all my experience and willingness to work with the agency and biological parents??
But alas, here I am.
I’ve experienced a roller coaster of emotions in the past year that really surprised me. I have read blogs and known people struggling with infertility who develop tunnel vision in their pursuit of becoming a parent. I was sure I would never be that person! And for the first few months, I did great at keeping my head on my shoulders. I talked a good game, reminded excited friends and family about the importance of children being placed with relatives, and enjoyed what I was sure would be my last few weeks of sleeping through the night.
Then I got my first phone call, just two months after being licensed and on my birthday. The call was the “perfect” situation as far as I was concerned. I spent the night calling friends, cleaning my house and pulling out clothes that should fit. But the next day I learned that the child wasn’t coming to me. And I was surprised by the depth of my sadness and grief. It took a good amount of time for me to stop thinking about that child and wondering about where their journey was taking them.
Then, there came months of no phone calls.
There were dates that I had in my mind, events I was sure I’d have a child to bring along, and special occasions that I had clearly seen myself attending as a parent this year. As those dates and events passed with no calls, I found myself growing more desperate and more irritable that the phone wasn’t ringing. Most of my friends and family stopped asking whether I’d heard from my agency recently. And after a particularly sensitive week I told the rest that I didn’t want them to inquire anymore. It was just too hard to make excuses and pretend that I was okay with the waiting.
These feelings were compounded by the fact that I was placing children in foster homes on a regular basis at my job. Many were new intakes just coming into care and others were children being disrupted from their placements. The latter was especially hard to take and I found myself becoming resentful and self-righteous about their foster parents. How dare “those” people get placements, only to disrupt weeks or months later. Those people didn’t “deserve” placements! I suddenly had much more empathy for women trying to conceive who talk about how resentful they become of pregnant women who bemoan their stretch marks or new mothers who complain about sleepless nights.
Finally, I realized that I had completely lost sight of why I went into foster care and what I wanted my goals to be. I chose foster care with eyes wide open and knew that this waiting would be the easy part. If I couldn’t keep my perspective and handle this, how would I ever get through the years of parenting a child while waiting for the court system to decide their (and my) future?
Over the next few months, I dedicated myself to getting in a better place emotionally. I did some concrete things to be better prepared for an eventual placement. More importantly though, I did some real self reflection to remind myself of all the things that are NOT ABOUT ME in this process. I calmed down and decided that I had to let things happen organically. I couldn’t force this to happen any sooner than it was going to happen. I needed to reserve my emotional energy for a child somewhere out there who was going to need it someday!
Another call came about two months ago, and that child didn’t come to me either, but I could sense that I had turned a corner. I didn’t even get upset when they called to tell me it wasn’t going to happen. I just said a little prayer for that child and the home they ended up in. I have gained a little more perspective and have reminded myself that it is not about “having a placement” but it is about having the RIGHT placement.
But I do still hope that right placement comes soon!
About the author:
Socialwrkr247 has worked in child welfare for the past 10 years and recently became licensed as a foster parent. She hopes to explore the topic of “openness” from both perspectives as a social worker and foster parent.