Earlier this month, we had our administrative case review. We had virtually no idea what to expect because this is, in fact, our first rodeo. The ACR is designed so that an objective reviewer from DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) can assess the state of each foster care case. The case worker, the CASA (court appointed special advocate) volunteer, the foster parents, and the biological parents are all invited to be part of the review.
While we had a lot of anxiety over the unknown going into the review, the actual meeting was pretty banal and procedural. Everyone answered questions, and the meeting was over in about forty-five minutes. The only real surprise was that none of the biological family attended.
Competition for lap space (and everything else) is a new fun thing we're dealing with this month. Sisters!
We spent the majority of our time talking about how far the girls have come. We talked about F’s rapidly growing vocabulary and her impressive problem solving skills. We talked about E’s growth chart success and new teeth. We told the reviewer that we didn’t see any areas where they needed to be referred to additional therapies because they are both thriving, and we feel confident that we are equipped to handle their needs. We expressed our concerns about the unpredictability and quality of care they receive during some of their visits. The CASA volunteer and case worker also spoke to their observations about the girls.
(Sidenote: as a writer, I want to be a lot more specific, give you all kinds of sensory details, really weave a tale, but I am also constantly aware of the fact that I want to honor all parties involved here and refrain from turning any of these people into characters and not real life human beings with thoughts and feelings. If you want a juicier story, meet me for coffee, and I’ll be a little more colorful in my telling. Carry on.)
Leaving the meeting, we felt hopeful (?) and confused (?). I don’t know. It’s hard to name the emotions we feel right now because what does hopeful look like?
Plan A has always been reunification, so hopeful looks like bio parents working their plans. Plan B has become adoption, so hopeful looks like F and E becoming permanent members of our family. It’s all the worst kind of confusing because whatever the outcome, everyone involved will have to sift through elation and disappointment while finding peace with our anger. If foster care was a relationship status on Facebook, it would perpetually say, “It’s complicated.”
So, while we’ve hopped another stepping stone in the case, the path ahead is still full of more rocks, and the feelings are still the same—nothing feels stable, nothing feels sure, nothing feels normal.
The night that E came to us seven months ago, it happened in moments. I got a call at 3:15, and she was in our house at 4:20. At 6:30, my friend Megan was dropping off the remnants of her growing boys’ babyhood—a play mat, a bath tub, some burp cloths, some baby wipes. The next day, I ran out to get some basics—diapers, a few onesies, formula and more bottles.
Over the next few weeks, people sent us boxes of clothes and gift cards. When I announced F’s arrival, people asked what we needed, and a double stroller showed up on our porch two days later.
In stark contrast to the arrival of my two biological children, there were no baby showers. Their room was not decorated in a carefully chosen theme. I had not washed and dried any cute layettes or had blankets monogrammed with their initials.
Instead, we crossed every bridge as we came to it with the help of good neighbors and Amazon Prime.
When the boys were babies, I had their pictures taken around the same age with the same blue blanket. I wanted to have the pictures for comparison for years to come, and I was a mom with only two children, so I had the brain space and energy to think about doing these kinds of things.
A couple of months ago, I was sorting through the stuff I’d saved back from the boys, and I came across that blanket. It’s still lovely and soft, so I started letting E nap with it once she was old enough. She holds the corner and rubs it against her eyes while moaning herself to sleep. I thought one day while I watched her drift off that maybe I should order something pink or purple—something teal at the very least, something that could be hers and not a hand me down.
But the thought was fleeting.
Because when you’re throwing together a life, you use what you have and do what you can. Little girls use blue blankets because goodness gracious—who could possibly care what color a blanket is more than the fact that these babies are loved and warm and a part of a family?
Loving these babies has stripped away any pretense, any thoughts about what might be most important. The Right Now is what matters. Spending time thinking about the time before they came to us is futile and depressing. Looking too far ahead to the hypothetical leads me to a path riddled with sharp stones of anxiety.
So, we are here in the Right Now. Living this moment. And nothing more.
Seven months down.