Well, we have a new placement. That’s foster parenting lingo for a new child is living with us. This time not so much a child – she is a beautiful, as in model thin and tall with gorgeous skin and features, fifteen year old woman/child, I’ll call her Veronica or V.
Wednesday afternoon while doing my usual grant accounting stuff, I get a call from DFCS. I figured it was the case worker of the three kids that are coming to stay with us for a week starting Sunday for a respite placement. But no, it was one of the Resource Development (RD) workers calling to ask me if we would take an emergency placement for one night, a 15 year old girl that just needed a place to stay tonight. But here’s the thing, I have been feeling like God wanted us to take in a teenage girl for several weeks now. There has been article after article coming across my path about teenagers aging out of the system and teenagers needing to be adopted. Tim and I had talked about this desire that was growing in my heart to open our home to an older girl. Forgoing my usual, let me check with my husband delay tactic, I said yes and offered up a silent prayer reminding God that He’s in control of this and I’m trusting Him – okay, that was really for me to remind myself that I am following and God is leading.
I rushed home from work, changed the sheets on the guest bed and modified our dinner menu to accommodate another place at the table. Before dinner was done, V and her case worker showed up. Tim gave V the 10 cent tour of our home while I drained the pasta and flipped the chicken. Mrs. Shelly the case worker was actually the supervisor and she brought paperwork that usually comes with a permanent placement. Wait, this was just for one night, right? We have three little kids coming Sunday for weeklong stay, I don’t have room for all these kids. “Yeah, about that, we will know more tomorrow. Sign here.” And like that we have a teenager.
The event the next day was a court hearing. I figured it was the usual DFCS permanency plan kind of hearing and figure it must be a pretty good bet V was getting reunified with her mom. Wrong. It was a delinquency hearing for some trouble V had gotten into. Wait, what? Criminal stuff? Yep.
But let me tell you about our first night. V loved our house, loved her room, loved Erma and really, really loved BD. The two of them hit it off as only a teenage girl and a sweet happy baby can. It was really pretty cute. V told us some of her story, edited for television audiences I am sure. She plans to join the Navy after she graduates from high school next year and wants to be a lawyer. She is a smart girl with a beautiful smile. After I got BD to bed the three of us piled up and binge watched a show on Netflix that she’s into. It was really good. V said she liked our house and us since we didn’t just put her in a room and not talk to her like most foster parents. Really? The next morning I took V to DFCS as her case workers were taking her to court that afternoon. I found out that she also got suspended from school for two days for fighting. I had some concerns. Really, my protective mom radar was pinging like crazy. Here is a kid that has been living on the street for most of her 15 years, in an out of foster homes and group homes, but is also really well traveled having been to Haiti, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands. It makes for a pretty wise and mature 15 year old. Mrs. Shelly and I had a brief talk, she explained the court hearing coming up and the possibility that V would only need a place to stay for a while. I agreed that she could come back to our house if she didn’t get sentenced to YDC or returned to her mother.
V came back last evening. She was very upset and I wasn’t sure why since in my book, avoiding jail, even YDC jail is a good thing. After Mrs. Shelly left and we were eating dinner, V opened up a little about what happened. The delinquency hearing was no big deal but her mother petitioned the judge to allow V to make the decision about where she wanted to be since she isn’t in care for abuse. The judge agreed to schedule an emergency dependency hearing next week. If the judge rules in V’s favor, she will get to declare herself independent and decide for herself where she lives and with whom. She’s going to choose mom.
Then this morning as I was driving V to sign her back into her high school, she opened up about more of her history. I am not going to share it because it isn’t my story to share but just thinking about what this beautiful girl has been through makes me so sad. We talked about the #MeToo phenomenon on social media right now. I told her about how some people have used the pain of those events to write or create art. She said she had written a song about her experience. She likes to write poetry and lyrics. I shared with her some of my #MeToo story and we bonded over the shared trauma that being a women in our society just brings to so many women.
After I signed her in and headed into work, late as usual, I just couldn’t stop the tears. My heart is broken for V and I am so scared for her future. I want her to pick to stay in care and live with us but I know that as much as she may like our home and really, really like her bedroom, she wants to be with her family. Unfortunately that will mean a hard existence surrounded by gang violence and potential homelessness. The chances of her fulfilling her desire to serve in the Navy and then become a lawyer will become much slimmer. The likelihood that she will have a baby of her own and become one of the many, many former foster kids trying to keep their offspring out of care goes way up. But I know that I need to just be supportive and loving and let her chart her own course.
After talking with Mrs. Shelly yesterday morning, I had decided in my usual take charge kind of way that if V came back to stay with us, we were going to sit her down and explain the rules of our home and our expectations, because by God, she was not going to bring gang bangers into my home and she was not going to get angry and knock holes in the walls. Since I am practicing this letting God be in charge thing, I prayed all the way home yesterday for God to give me the words to say or bind my tongue if I was to say nothing. Clearly it was a tongue binding I needed. V was crying most of the evening. She doesn’t need more rules and expectations, I think at least last night, she just needed a normal loving family with a funny baby that toddled into her room and insisted that V put her up on the bed and play with her instead of silently crying by herself. BD is awesome that way.
Yeah, foster care hard. Sure “losing” the kids when they return home is hard; I won’t lie. It is soul crushing hard. But so is this. Seeing an almost grown but not quite child who has been so damaged and yet is still hopeful, who is wise beyond her years and loving when everything I have learned about her so far could turn her to a bitter, angry and hard woman is something that has just leveled me today. Hard. This is hard. And I am thankful. Thankful that I didn’t let the fear of the potential pain of “losing” kids by fostering stop me from following what God has called us to do. I would have missed meeting the amazing V and being inspired by her determination and grit. I tell people all the time, we get more out of this fostering thing than we give.
My prayer for V today is wholeness. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.