My phone will ring, and when I answer I’ll hear something like: “Can you take a child, two actually … I’m in the car on the way… if you say no then I’ll look for someone else… one of them has allergies, I have the meds and directions with me… you’re the house on left past the Subway, right?”
That is a call I expect to get within the next few months. My wife and I finished our first round of foster care classes and are now in phase two of certification. After we finish jumping through the dozens of hoops and miles of red tape, we will officially be foster parent certified. And then have our first foster child delivered to our house.
My job is to stay calm although I will most likely be nervous, scared, and confused when the first child arrives. The foster child will be having his/her worst day ever… and will be feeling nervous, scared, and confused. And then, after that initial moment of internal panic, I am supposed to become a parent. It is my job to provide stability for the kid.
Biological parents generally have nine months of warning before they become parents… and they have 14 years of warning before they need to deal with a teenager. I will have an hour or so of warning. My wife and I will be taking classes to be certified for infants, but by the end of the year with an over-strapped foster care system, who really knows who we will end up with? A twelve-year-old boy? Twin infants going through drug withdrawal? Our warning is going to be a phone call saying a kid(or kids) are on the way… possibly in the middle of the night.
I meant for this post to be about all the good parenting tips I have learned during foster care classes… but as I write it, it feels more like push-button good parenting. Because at the push of the social workers’ speed dial button, my wife and I will become foster parents for a day, a couple weeks, maybe two years. We may have one child in our home for two years. We may have ten children at different times in our home over one year. Depending on the day we may have a child with PTSD, or a child with depression, aggression, maybe a child with allergies. Parenting a two-year-old is different from parenting a teenager, which is different from parenting a five-year-old… which is different from parenting an infant. In each instance we will modify our lives to parent whatever child we get… we will become what is needed for that day, or week… or two years.
I’ve learned a lot about parenting teenagers, infants, and toddlers… but I have never actually done ANY of that. Book learning will become on the job learning… all at the push of a button.