Monday, July 17, 2017

from josh

This is Josh the other half of “Josh and Angie”. A lot has happened since our last update. Unfortunately, much of it we can’t share quite yet. I can, however, share what we’ve been up to. Angie and I have approached this entire situation with the mindset that we’re going moving forward until we find a door that is firmly closed. So far, each door that we thought might be closed, has just needed a little elbow grease. Much of that elbow grease has come from our support network.

One of the most daunting and significant challenges that we’ve been faced with is getting our Foster Care License. To get a license you can go through the state or through a private organization. We’ve chosen to go through a private organization because we’ve worked alongside Olive Crest in our current jobs. The process is lengthy and requires a lot of training, interviews, and time commitments. From what we’ve been told, the process typically takes couples between two to four months to complete. We started just under three weeks ago and are over half way done.

One thing that we could not be exempted from was the “Foster Parent Pre-Cert Boot Camp” which was a series of trainings in Riverside (about an hour away) this past weekend. On Saturday we were in training from 9am until 5pm and then on Sunday we were in training from 1pm to 5pm. Needless to say, it was a very long weekend after what was already a very long week. Fortunately, we got to meet a lot of other like-minded people who are interested in the doing similar things which was really good for us.


Early in one of the trainings we watched a short video called “ReMoved”. It’s one that I had not seen before but Angie had and it hit me like a freight train. If you have 12 or so minutes to spare please take the time  to watch it. After I had emotionally decompressed and had some time to think about why it hit me so hard I had a jarring realization that I was now a recipient of social services. I had to ask myself why that idea was so unsettling to me.  After all, Angie and I have worked in social services in some capacity for around eleven years. We started working at Salvation Army camps, YMCA day camps, in schools, and finally with Boys Town in their Family Home program. In total, we’ve had over 50 kids live and grow with us. Some went on to do great things. Others have had a difficult go of their lives. One is no longer with us. Most recently, we’ve worked in administration with Boys Town. We get social services. We get what it means to be a cog in “the system”. Why was it so strange to for me to picture myself as the recipient of social services?

Stigma.

Close your eyes and picture someone who receives social services. How old are they? What is their gender? What is their race/ethnicity? What is their socio-economic status? What was their childhood like? What were their adolescent years like? Did they graduate from high school? What about undergrad? Do they have a Master’s degree? If you’re like me you probably pictured a person from the film “ReMoved”. But you know what, we have an Olive Crest Case manager who is assigned to us. We have to work closely with a social worker not as a provider but now as a consumer. We are receiving social services and that’s a hard pill to swallow.

Three weeks ago I meet with the kids’ social worker and offered to become a placement for the family. Two days later I followed up with an email. A day later I was sent a reply that was not an overt “no” but  was certainly not a resounding “yes”. And then we waited. While we waited we took classes, interviewed for jobs, went house hunting, but most of all we hoped. Hope is a tricky thing. Hope can lead you to doing superhuman things, but it can also lead you to crushing defeat and despair. It’s impossible to plan your life around hope alone and even more difficult to hold your life in limbo for three weeks at a time when you have job offers that would take you out of the state. But that’s what we have done.

I’m not going to pretend to say that I understand the mindset of people who have been in the system for years. I’m not going to pretend that three weeks has given me deep insights into the way that people are chewed up and spit out of the system. I am, however, going to say that it has given me a profoundly different perspective than the one I had previously. For those of you who work outside of the field you should know that rarely, if ever, are there definite answers. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve told clients, “If you do x, y, or z you’ll be more likely to get a positive outcome”. Or heard parents told, “Take these classes, do your visits, and then provided that you find a home you can get your kids back”. Kids are often told, “If your parents do x, y, and you do what you have to do you’ll be able to go home”. On the surface, these seem like straight forward requests, but life happens. People get sick, cars break down, buses are missed, and classes are canceled. What then? You can’t plan your life on “ifs and maybes”.  So you hope. 

And that's the one thing keeping us going. But it’s not just our hope that has sustained us, it’s been the hope of our family, friends, and colleagues. When we felt like it was time to throw in the towel we were given encouragement. When we just needed someone to listen, people were there. When we fell down, we were picked up. If it were not for our support network we would have given up two weeks ago.

If you’ve watched the “ReMoved” film this will hopefully make some sense to you. (If you haven’t already, please take a minute to watch it so this next part makes sense.) I feel like if I were the mother in that video I probably would have given up too. 

There, I said it.

It has taken more strength that I have (or we have) to help sustain Angie and I through this process. And we've only just begun. 


Thursday, July 13, 2017

how to pack like a pro

I was reflecting this week about how much I've moved, which has been every two years (although often more frequently) for the last 15 years. Four of those moves were long-distance. And of course that doesn't factor in the major moves as a kid with my parents. Needless to say, I've become some what of a packing expert (just don't confuse "expertise" with "enjoyment"). Therefore, I only think it's fair to share my packing tips.

STEP ONE: Pick out a great movie to watch while you work. Even better- a movie series or TV show. Nothing will help you lose track of time and forget how long you've just been sitting around in a room full of boxes like a good movie! This week I'm going with Jane Austen. I've already made it through Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and two versions of Sense and Sensibility. So it probably goes without saying that I've been crying a lot, which brings me to my next point:

STEP TWO: Get the kleenax out. Chances are you're going to be stirring up a lot of dust (if you have two shedding animals like I do) and/or crying the whole time. Either way, you need a good supply of tissues near by. Just remember that even though it may seem like a good killing-two-birds-with-one-stone kind of idea at the time, used tissues do not make good packing materials.

STEP THREE: Think positive! Just keep telling yourself this is the last time you're going to move. (Although you've told yourself this so many times now it's hard to take yourself seriously, so make sure you keep all your empty boxes when you unpack).

STEP FOUR: Start with books. They're the easiest and least likely to be needed before your move date.

STEP FIVE: Clear a space in an out-of-the-way corner so you can start putting your packed boxes there.

STEP SIX: Repack your first box of books after realizing that the box was way too big and therefore way too heavy.

STEP SEVEN: Grab some Ben & Jerry's or a good beer. You deserve it after a hard day of work! After all, it isn't easy making such a mess.



Sunday, July 9, 2017

weekend coping

Who would have thought the weekends would become so long and stressful? It's hard to get answers and get things done after business hours so Josh and I end up sitting around, twiddling our thumbs, waiting for the week to start again. So in order to counteract my mind-at-rest going completely crazy, here's a list of the coping strategies I've used this weekend:

  • sitting on the porch and puppy cuddles
  • reading (although I always find it harder to focus when I'm stressed)
  • lots of kitty cuddles
  • making dinner with my love (one of our favorites: carne asada with homemade guacamole)
  • listening to music
  • .....which also means singing
  • watching movies (one of my favorites is "Something's Gotta Give" but I only watch it every year or two, when I'm really desperate for a good laugh)
  • fidget spinner (sent to me from some dear friends)
                                          
  • puzzles (until the cat gets jealous...)
  • cheering on my nephew Ryan from afar, while he competes (and wins!) for a spot at the National Jr. Olympics in track (so proud of him!)
  • coloring
  • painting my nails
  • messing up my nails and painting them again
  • making lists


Not pictured: the disastrous state of my home which I have no motivation to clean. 

So here's to a productive and problem-solving week!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

new mantra



Everything is in such flux, and plans/jobs/choices seem to be changing so rapidly it's actually hard to keep up with it all. Earlier this week we called my parents for some advice and my dad said, "Open all the doors you can and close as few as possible." It was just what I needed to hear- we don't need to have it all worked out just yet, we don't need to have all the answers. Which is good because we're kinda stuck right now. Stuck waiting. Stuck in the in-between.

For example: we still have several steps to complete for our foster care license, but the final step is the home study, which can't be completed until we are in a larger home. But we can't get out of our lease and find a new place until we know if the county will place the kids with us. But they won't agree to that until we have a license.....

So in the meantime, we will keep moving forward. We still have many unanswered questions and hopefully it will all become more clear over the next week and we can feel confident with our next step. We haven't closed any doors yet, and we won't until we have to.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

ambiguity

I'm a hold-backer. That's like a line-backer, but I don't have a cheering section or team colors. Despite my often all-or-nothing black-or-white attitude, I actually find myself holding back a lot, and I know I'm not alone in that. It's the idea that I'll try really hard, but leave juuuust enough behind that my internal voice says, "maybe you failed, but you didn't give 100% so that makes sense."

But I can tell you, unequivocally, that I have poured my heart into this project.... Endeavor.... Dream....Whatever you want to call it. And it's a scary place to be. Emotionally speaking, I have put myself out on the ledge, without a safety net. I know the heartache that sits right on the other side of the door. Not to mention that we've put ourselves out there professionally as this would definitely set us back in our careers. And of course personally- just opening ourselves up to all of you. This is uncharted territory for us and every time I worry that we're taking it too far I think about those kids and know that I will NEVER forgive myself if we don't put exactly this much energy into this.

Today has been a heavy day. We are still waiting for some more answers from the county and I thought we would get them this week. But today it's become pretty clear that we may never get any concrete answers. So where does that leave us? At what point do we just admit we can't make this work, no matter how much we want it? No matter how much we try. No matter how much people support us through it. We thought we knew what our deal-breakers were, but when something is ambiguous, how do you know?!? We just have to remember that it's about the kids, and if there's a way for them to stay together without us, that's great. And if they get to go home with their parents, that's even better. It's just hard when you can't see the future. This is going to take some serious thought and discussion but we're not quite ready to rule it out yet, because until we see this thing through to the very end, we may never sleep. Although if this works and we end up with four kids, we may never sleep again anyway.

The best news is that we don't have to make a decision today, we have time to see where the cards will land.