An Insider View Of How The Child Foster Care System Works

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The foster care adoption discussion is important. Many people don't know how the child foster system works. The people who do are often on the inside.

stacey conner foster care mom

For many of us the foster care adoption discussion is unchartered territory. People who know how the child foster care system works tend to know it intimately and from the inside. On VProud there's a beneath-the-surface conversation about what it's like to be a foster mom. VProud founder and CEO Karen Cahn sat down with comedian and foster mom Eileen Kelly to listen to Eileen's thoughtful discussion about how the foster care system worked for her and for her family. Karen modeled what those of us who are not on the inside of this discussion should always do, which is listen. Mother, writer, and adoptive and foster mom Stacey Conner reflects on the video in this incredibly personal and revealing essay, written from the inside. We're all bettered when we listen to each other's stories and experiences with the sole purpose of learning; reading this essay is no exception. Take a look at Stacey's story. You won't regret it, we promise.

—The VProud Team

child foster care system

The First Phone Call

By Stacey Conner For VProud

We got the first call at 10:00 a.m. the day after we received our foster license.  I was all alone at the kitchen table, my husband at work and my four kids already at school.  I thought we were ready - we'd spent three months taking classes, meeting state safety requirements in our house, and talking with our kids about the baby who would need a home and might arrive without much warning.  Four hours after the call, a stranger - an emergency social worker - placed a sleeping two month old baby boy in my arms.

I was prepared to take care of a baby.  I had the crib, the bouncy seat, and the sweet snuggly sleepers. I had my husband's support (so long as he didn't have to get up in the middle of the night).  I wasn't prepared for him to be so sick he gasped for air.  His pediatrician held my hand when I rushed him in for a visit.  "You can do it," she said, "nebulizer treatments every two hours.  If he gets any worse or his breaths get any quicker go straight to the E.R."  Unsafe situations sometimes develop very quickly and homefinders' social workers don't always know the full story on a baby's health or history.  

I understand (and I nodded like crazy when Eileen talked about this) that the State's number one goal is reunification.  I believe in that goal 100 percent.  Babies belong with their families whenever possible.  I wasn't prepared, over the course of six months of visitation, to fall in love with this tiny baby's struggling young mother.  I wasn't prepared to root for her and hope for her sobriety and will her to show up for visits.  I wasn't prepared to witness her love for her son and still watch her fail.

I knew from the first moment he couldn't stay with us and I still wasn't prepared to watch my whole family fall in love with a baby who would not stay in our home.  I have never seen my husband cry the way he cried the day they came to take that first sweet baby boy to his adoptive placement.

I read about fetal alcohol syndrome, but I wasn't prepared for the utter exhaustion I felt after caring for three-year-old and eighteen-month-old brothers with FAS for a respite week.  I felt such compassion for their mother and overwhelming respect for their foster mom.   That kind of patience is a gift.

I was prepared to care for a baby, but I wasn't prepared for my Kindergartner to explain simply and sweetly to his entire class how we were a foster family and that meant we were loving a baby boy while his momma learned to take care of babies better.

Next month, if all goes well, we will make our foster son, our fifth placement who has been living with us for over a year, a permanent part of our family.  Nothing prepares you for that.

stacey conner vproud
About the author: Stacey Conner lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, five children, and a Great Dane named Hampton Noodle.  She co-produces Listen To Your Mother Spokane and writes, when the mood strikes her, at Is There Anymommy Out There? Join Stacey's honest conversations on VProud.

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"We've got a baby and we're coming over now." Could you answer the midnight call and become a foster parent?

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