“I know he will be loved, safe, and happy with you.”
Those were the words that my cousin said to me when I received the phone call that changed my life. That day we had just attended our first class to become licensed foster parents and had no clue that this “idea” we had was about to thrust us into this world quicker than we were ready.
Going into our first class we were excited, nervous, and anxious. I can honestly say that the first class and none of the subsequent classes prepared us for this complicated, emotional roller-coaster we call Kinship Foster Placement or the barriers and assumptions that come along with it.
The first barrier we encountered was figuring out who to call. We were contacted by both the biological mother and biological father days after DCS became involved. The contact information they were provided they gave to us and we began to do our due diligence to contact the case manager. We were fortunate enough to have already started our licensing courses and we had been briefed on how to go up the chain and what an appropriate amount of time to wait for a return call was.
Having a familial connection seemed to make the process a bit more complex in how to navigate everyone’s thoughts and feelings. Almost immediately we were inundated with extended family members asking us for updates. I remember the first awkward conversation I had with my cousin’s mother whom I had neither spoken to nor seen in about 20 years. She demanded to know why her grandson had not yet been moved to our home. Unfortunately, this exact topic was another misconception that I was about to learn about.
For the most part, the transition from community foster homes to kinship homes happens as quickly as possible. In our case it took 3 and a half months. After almost 3 months of asking for a visit or a picture we were finally given an email address to contact his foster mom. We had been given the ok to set up a visit as long as the foster mom felt comfortable supervising it. To say we were thrilled is an understatement. We went to that first visit and as soon as I saw her walk in with that sweet little boy I hadn’t ever met, I instantly fell in love and cried. After speaking with her we learned that she hadn’t been told early on that we had been requesting to be placement and she was thrilled to find out that this beautiful boy had family who was so desperately wanting him.
Then the day we had been waiting for finally came and our hearts were bursting with excitement. Afterwards, we once again had to navigate the who, the when, and the how. Who did we feel comfortable having in his life? When would it be appropriate? And how were we going to do this? The answers to those questions are still changing. With each passing year it has gotten easier. Some of that extended family has gone quiet. I don’t know if they will eventually come around again. The when has started to change as well since he is now old enough to have a better understanding of how he came to be my son. And lastly the how has remained the same. I look at his beautiful brown eyes that remind me of his mother when she was a kid, back before any of life’s bad choices had taken place, and I smile and know this is exactly how.
Photo credit: Tabetha Garcia with Photography by Tabetha