The most common question I am asked when seeing someone I know whether at the grocery store, post office, or church is no longer, “How are you doing?” but rather, “So do you get to keep her?” In fact, its only a little past noon and I have already been asked “the question” three times today. This question is usually accompanied by their voice being full of excitement and hope, as well as a huge smile on their face; but they don’t understand.
They don’t understand the flood of emotions my husband and I have each time we are asked “the question.” They don’t understand the 101 thoughts that all of a sudden start invading our minds. They don’t understand that immediately following this question, my palms get sweaty and my heart begins to race. They don’t understand that even though their question is simple and innocent enough, the answer is not. It’s difficult. It’s heartbreaking. It’s awkward. It’s complex.
They don’t understand that the three-year old cutie patootie, whom I often refer to as Goldilocks, came to us through the Safe Families for Children program; a program where my husband and I volunteered to temporarily be her safe family due to her mother being in a crisis and the child needing a safe place to call home for at least 30 days, 90 at the most.
They don’t understand that the program is not a foster care program and we were not licensed foster parents, but rather “host parents.” They don’t understand that when we welcomed this beautiful child into our home, raising her until she is 18 years old was never even in the front or back of our minds because this is not a program in which adoption is an option. In fact, adoption is never an option as reunification must and always be the goal.
They don’t understand that due to an unfortunate chain of events that has occurred over the past nine months since we first welcomed her with warm chocolate chip cookies and milk, the Department of Children and Family Services is now involved and we have been thrust into the role of becoming licensed foster parents and she has now been forced to wear the badge of a “foster child.”
They don’t understand that because of this major turn of events, my husband and I are in a tough position as we not only live our lives in a sea of uncertainty, but we have also had to quickly and without warning switch from the previous mindset that she will with 100 percent certainty go home, to the mindset that she might not. It has been tough and I’ll be honest when I say that I’m not sure we have been able to completely change our previous mindset–make that switch.
It hasn’t sunk in yet that if her mother or father doesn’t prove themselves to be a fit parents to the case worker, child advocates, states attorney, and judge within the next twelve months, then we will be asked to become her ‘forever family.’ It hasn’t sunk in yet that I could be privileged with the opportunity to be the one dropping her off on her first day of Kindergarten, packing her bags for her first slumber party, or taking her dress shopping for her first prom. It hasn’t sunk in yet because it’s been difficult for me to see that far ahead when there is so much hope and time left for her parents to make the necessary changes needed in order to ensure Goldilocks has a better life than before.
So to answer their question, maybe it’s even been your question, “So do you get to keep her?“, the only response I can offer you is, “For now.”
For now the goal is still reunification with her parents and it will be that way for a minimum of twelve more months…
For now we, along with social services, are advocating for them to make the necessary changes in order to not only give their children a better life, but also themselves a better life…
For now we are doing everything possible to make sure Goldilocks has a fun, happy and safe place to call home…
For now we are taking it one day at a time, one month at a time, and one court date at a time…
For now, we get to keep her.
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