Monday, January 20, 2014

a phone call changes everything {supporting the "surprise" in adoption and foster care}

Some friends of friends of ours received a crazy phone call the other day. 

It went a little something like this:

"Hi, we have two foster children for you. One is 3 weeks old and the other is 11 months. We need to know if you will care for them. Please let us know within 30 minutes."

And just like that, everything changed. 

Within 30 minutes, that couple met for the first time TWO brand new (to them) babies. They didn't get even an ounce of the planning, preparation, celebration or nesting that most new parents experience.


Can you imagine what that was like? They were probably headed home from a long day of work or headed out to eat. They might have been resting at home in PJs or stressing over the multiple date-night options (last time either one of those are going to happen for a while!).

But all of a sudden WHAM! Life changed. None of that was important anymore.

They may love these children for a short amount of time and then, while continuing to love them, see them reunited with their birth family. Or they may be able to adopt them if birth family struggles are not worked out. But right now, they are family, and those are their children to love and protect.

I don't know exactly what ran through their minds when they received the call, but when we got our crazy phone call almost three years ago, it was stressful, exhilarating, heartbreaking and mind-blowing all at the same time.


Here are some things that may have run through their heads. Keep this in mind if you know someone who gets a crazy phone call and says "YES!" to foster care or adoption.

You may need to help them answer the following questions:

1. We do not have a crib, infant carrier, car seat, formula or diapers! Oh yeah, and baby clothes!

--- This means YOU, as their friend, community group member or church, should help provide them with these things. One of my friends is arranging a collection of used baby items to be used especially for foster care situations when a phone call changes everything. This is a GREAT idea for churches. Why not allow an adoption ministry to designate an area of your church storage to helping foster and adoptive parents deal with the stress that comes with a crazy phone call? These people didn't get a baby shower; they got showered with babies!

2. How and when do people with kids eat?

--- Adjusting to kids--let alone two kids under 1 year of age--when you've been living the married and free life is quite an adjustment. Eating while standing, eating while holding a baby, cooking while feeding a baby...all others are situations that must be negotiated. Why not make some meals that can be easily transported, frozen and baked by the adoptive or foster parents? People do this when parents are expecting a baby. Doesn't it make sense to do this when they are not expecting?

3. What is sleep training? What is a typical feeding schedule? Why is this kid's poo green?

-- This particular list of questions can go on and on and on. These crazy parents haven't had nine months to prepare by reading every piece of child-rearing advice they can get their hands on. Therefore, you must be a friend and supporter. Tell them how many times you experienced a "bad mom" moment or had to bum a diaper off someone in public. Tell them about the time you almost forgot a kid at home. This isn't easy stuff, and they will need some support, in addition to some good laughs. Support them, love them, give them advice if they ask, and offer to help while they adjust. (And be advised that they may not be able to allow you to babysit or help with the kids in particular, due to bonding and attachment necessities or court orders for care being provided by particular people. The situations can get crazy and difficult to explain, so don't be offended if they don't accept your offers to help.) 

4. What is our role in this situation?

-- This can be a particularly hard question to answer in foster care, when kids sometimes go back  birth families after a period of "fixing" the family's problems (which is a good thing) or when kids stay with the foster family to be adopted. PRAY for this family. PRAY for those kids and the situation from which they came and to which they might return. Their hearts are involved. It can be scary. It IS heart-wrenching. The only one who knows the plan is THE Father of all, so pray on their behalf that he would work in their family and in their hearts for His good and for the good of the kids. And while you're at it, pray that the family can get at least two hours of sleep at night, which is a good goal for this sort of situation.

Praise God for phone calls that change everything (but pray for those sweet kids whose worlds have just been rearranged, too). 

If you are an adoptive or foster parent, what questions am I missing? Please share so others will know how to help.