This would have been the week or weekend Colton would have moved in with us, though we’d known for quite a while that either the timeline would shift or he wouldn’t be coming to us at all. That didn’t really have much impact on me emotionally, but I thought of it last night. One quarter of the school year in our local district ends this week and we’ve been childless that entire time.
I believe Lee is still having our file sent out through Adopt America Network, though she hasn’t spoken to me about any particular children lately. We’re looking at other options, too. On Monday, our social worker put us back on the list of open foster homes. On Tuesday afternoon, she called me about a 13-year-old boy who’s currently in a respite home in another part of the state and needs to get moved back to our area and enrolled in school.
Obviously he didn’t need a home last night or I wouldn’t be telling the story this way, but he does need to move quickly. And, you know, with a new school quarter starting next week, this would be a good time for him to start here. So despite saying on Monday night that I didn’t think I was emotionally ready for another placement, when we were actually asked I didn’t feel any need to decline on those grounds. I did, though, want more information on a couple of things to make sure (as much as I can, at least!) we can keep him safe and keep ourselves safe if he is in fact placed with us.
Our worker was going to call his worker first thing in the morning and then get back to us, and she totally understood and was on board with the clarifications I wanted. All our previous calls for teen boys have happened when we were out of town, so this time we actually got to deal with the real thing in a way that might be practical. Since we haven’t heard any more from her, that could mean that she hasn’t been able to get through to his worker thanks to the shortened hours all state workers have been forced to navigate or it could mean they’ve found a home for him.
Lee and I talked about how at this point we’re going to treat fostering the same way we treated adoption at first — that when we’re offered a child in a situation that’s not an emergency or short-term or respite context, our default is to think “no” and look for reasons to say yes rather than to think “yes” unless there are reasons to say no. We are different from a lot of other foster homes in our area not just because we’re a same-sex interracial couple but because we have no other children in the home, because we both work, because of our particular interests. It’s worth making ourselves a resource for a kid who will benefit from those specifics, I think. This outlook may change over time, but for now it’s what we’re looking at.
So for this particular child, it would be good to get him back to the region he’s from. On the other hand, we live at the north end of the region and his family is at the far south end, 45 minutes away. That would make visits more of a (minor) hardship for us than if they could get him into a family nearer to his hometown, especially since the plan is for him to move back home once things are stabilized. He’s also white and a teenager, so it does sort of matter how he feels about being in a multiracial home and having lesbian foster parents. And while in his case it would be a real bonus to get him in a spot where he could be the only child and get all the attention, we also need to believe we can handle his known behaviors, because he’s going to be dealing with a lot of loss and anger and frustration. So if there’s a family like us in some ways but not like us in others, they might be better. We’d be better than where he is now. These are the kinds of things the workers are trying to balance and we can only balance a tiny part of it ourselves.
As I was finishing that last paragraph, our worker called with the information we’d asked for. I asked what his other options were in terms of homes and what the timing is. Apparently we’re the only family that had been asked, but there’s one other home that specializes in teen boys (two are there now) and is closer to his hometown than we are. I talked to Lee and we were very much in agreement (though also in some ways very muddled) and I just called the worker back with our decision.
Right now we’re sort of saying no. We think we could handle this boy and his difficulties, but we’re also still reeling emotionally. We’d like it if they could call the other family and ask them if they think he’d be a good fit there. However, if they’re not able or willing to fit him into their mix now, we’d like them to come back to us and we’ll say yes. The alternatives would be to take him into a private agency or to move him to another part of the state, and we know the social workers would rather find a home for him here and we’re cool with that. I don’t know what our worker will think of this plan or whether they’re allowed to do a no-for-now thing, but Lee and I both feel very comfortable with that answer despite not having felt fully comfortable just saying yes.
Our worker has made it clear that we’re supposed to make the decisions that feel right for us and that she’ll support us in that. Now, it’s always possible that we’ll get blackballed for not being more helpful, though I don’t totally see that happening since we’re on the call list for teen boys and not a lot of other people are. We’re only able to do any good if we’re stable and able to do so ourselves, though, so it’s very important to us that we make good decisions. Each child we’ve dealt with has helped us push our boundaries a bit, understand more clearly what we can handle, and yet in the scheme of things we don’t have a ton of practice and we do want to be careful and underestimate what we can handle rather than get in way over our heads and risk underserving a child or needing to have a child leave our home, which of course adds trauma to an already traumatic situation.
So that’s where we are right now, still not entirely sure what’s going on and yet going. That sounds about like what we’re used to!