Life as Lou

Classes And Home Studies And Judgement Oh My.

  • August 1, 2012 1:49 am

The journey of becoming eligible to be a foster or adoptive parent is a long one.  There’s the initial paperwork, then a quick home study to make sure you aren’t living in a dumpster. Those are followed by ten weeks of three hour classes on topics like abuse and neglect, attachment and discipline.  You cannot miss any of the classes for any reason. Then there is a boatload of more paperwork exploring your entire life, finger printing, FBI background checks, written details on how you spend your money and your time and more.  Then there will be five more home studies where a social worker spends hours digging into the finer details of how you and every member of your household function, plus the minor inquiries about things like how hot your water heater is set and if you have childproofed all of the outlets. It is all necessary- you can’t give the precious gift of a child, especially a child who has already seen enough trauma in her life, to just anyone.  These parents must be strong and gentle. Firm but kind. Mellow but determined. Positive but pragmatic. And most of all, they must be safe.

So, no pressure. Ha.

Our classes are held every Thursday evening. Every Thursday night, no matter how enjoyable or informative the class was, no matter how kind the people are, I go home and proceed to have stress dreams the entire night. They aren’t horrific nightmares, just a never ending cycle of dreams in which I am incompetent no matter how hard I am trying.  I will have misplaced my homework, my keys, my child.  I will try to play an instrument in a concert and realize I have no idea how. People I admire and respect walk into my home and comment on every failure, magnify every mistake, and walk out disappointed in me. I spend the entire night in a fit of being repeatedly measured and found wanting, anxiously doing my best and failing, excelling only at humiliation.

I don’t like being judged. I am acutely aware of my shortcomings without people throwing them into the spotlight. The most challenging and most important thing I have ever done is be a mother, and to have people look hard and close at my ability to succeed at that is downright terrifying.  I am probably a pretty normal mother. I laugh, I play, I fix hair and dinners, I sign off on homework and change diapers. I take them to church on Sunday and remind them to mind their manners every day.  My children are happy and growing into really great people. I am also very normal because sometimes I am so tired I cry myself to sleep. I’m normal because I’ve hidden in a closet so I could eat a cookie in peace.  I’m normal because I’ve yelled, and I’ve snapped and I’ve apologized for yelling and snapping. I’ve begged for the opportunity to move my bowels in peace JUST ONCE while living with a toddler, called my own mother in total desperation more often than I would like to admit, and spent hours on my knees pleading for the wisdom to help a child and out of total frustration, throwing my hands up at my Father in Heaven, saying, “he’s your child too- YOU fix him!”  All normal.

The classes are interesting, not just because of the content, but because you start out with a room full of people, and each week there might be a few less.  In one way this is great because if you make it to the end you can get to know some people and form a support system.  It is also unnerving because at any given week, you might get pulled aside by the social worker in charge and told that you didn’t qualify.  There are lots of reasons to be disqualified, some stemming from an ugly past and many from sheer logistics and things just not fitting. Finances, your home, family strain, temperaments not being right, schedules being too busy and plates being too full- there are a lot of red flags that can disqualify you, and you might be a perfectly decent person, just not a good fit “at this time”.  The good thing is that they tell you right away as soon as they see an issue, rather than make you jump all five million hoops and then kick you out.

Through all of this, many people will simply opt not to come back. I don’t blame them. The ten week course could be called “Informed Consent”. The topics covered are hard to hear about.  Most kids don’t get into foster care without some pretty extreme strain; beyond the abuse or neglect that brought him there, the sheer emotional turmoil of being removed from his home and everything he’s ever known can cause significant issues- and those issues are hard to handle. Add special needs, extreme abuse situations and a myriad of things that can happen to a person and that information can scare a lot of people off. It is ten weeks and this in-depth not just as preparation, but so you know as close to exactly as is possible about what you are getting yourself into, so you can run the opposite direction as fast as you can if you need to.  It’s fair. It’s need to know.  Reality can be scary, and the wonderful vision most people have of helping someone who really needs it and making a difference in this way often glosses over the ugly details.

There is a lot of unknown and that can be hard to handle.  Chris and I just know that whatever the outcome is, this is the road we are supposed to be walking down, and good will come of it one way or another.  We assume we will be fostering first, and hoping that we eventually (I admit I’m hoping for sooner rather than later, ever patient am I) get matched up with some kiddo/s who don’t have the option of going back home because God meant them for our family.

It takes a lot of faith, which is something I’m trying hard to have. I’ve needed more than my fair share lately.



  1. Kim Giovannini says:

    Leah, you and your husband are going to be great. I’m an adopted daughter. Came from S. Korea in 1976 from Holt Inter. I can tell you have lots of love to give for your own family and kids so *when* you’re given the a-okay to adopt, the little person who is perfect for you will become a Killian easily and with lots of <3!! Be yourself and that will be so much more than the child has known. You and your family will make them be what they didn't know they could be. :)

  2. Stacey says:

    Leah it is hard and stressful. I remember every class like it was yesterday. I remember not knowing so much and filled with anxiety. Six years later I still remember it well. It is hard but it is worth it.

  3. andrea says:

    we are going through the same process right now. it’s incredibly overwhelming! i’ll be praying for you.

  4. msdramateacherlady says:

    I am wishing you so much luck in this process. It’s a terrible one, at least it is in California. Our biggest roadblock, the straw that caused us to close our file, was something we could not control, but were expected to by the system. If you have any questions please feel free to ask. I am interested in learning the differences between your state and California.

  5. Sherri says:

    Faith, grace, patience, love, wisdom, humility, perseverance…all things I’ve seen you exhibit through knowing you over the past several years. You have what it take Leah. God knows what you desire, and cares deeply about the longings of your heart. He will continue to walk alongside you, and will see this part of your journey through until completion. Hugs my friend!

  6. Lauralee Hensley says:

    I know that feeling of putting hands up in prayer and saying to God “He’s your child too.” I think you’ll be great foster then adoptive parents.

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