Having made the decision to look into foster care further, I called DHS (Department of Human Services) to inquire about orientation. They have orientation once a month on Wednesdays. It’s at two in the afternoon one month and at seven in the evening the next. You don’t have to sign up, you just show up. I spoke with Greg, the man in charge of licensing, and let him know that we’d be at the January 12th orientation.
On the day of orientation our babysitting fell through. Jenny’s kids were sick. We wanted ours to stay healthy. Finding replacement babysitters for five children at the last minute is no easy task, especially when said children have a reputation for being a bit of a handful. So, I prayed, “Lord, I’m trying to proceed according to Your will. If You want us at that meeting, please make someone available to babysit.” Then, I called my mom. My sister Amy answered the phone. She was not only willing to babysit. She’d make us dinner while she was at it. How’s that for answered prayer?
Matt and I were a bit nervous as we drove to the DHS building in Ypsilanti, not sure what to expect, anticipating where God might lead. DHS is deep downtown, near Value World. I was expecting a hole in the wall, run down sort of place with duct-taped chairs and peeling vinyl. It was actually quite nice. Well lit, plenty of signs. We parked under a street lamp and were careful to lock our car. Poor Ypsilanti doesn’t have the most savory reputation, and I guess you put the DHS building near the people who need it most.
There was a large sign directing us to Foster Orientation, then a small group of people waiting in a lobby area. One man introduced himself as Greg. He led us back to a large meeting room. It could have seated one hundred people easily. Greg had placed a pen at maybe half of the seats. He had a large stack of maybe fifty folders for prospective foster parents. There were five people there besides us. We sat in the front row.
Greg welcomed us. He had us introduce ourselves and say why we were there. A thirty-something mixed race couple went first. They were interested in fostering to adopt. Then, there was a mid-forties white single mom who had a friend whose children had just been put into care and thought that if she got licensed perhaps they could be placed with her. We went next. I spoke for us (none of the husbands spoke at all). I said that we had five kids but we still had room in our hearts and home for a few more. Finally, there was an older black couple whose children were grown. The wife said that she was hoping for older kids who would be companions for her while her husband was at work.
Then, Greg told us how there is a real shortage of foster parents. He said that just that week he’d needed to place a group of three siblings aged five to nine in a homeless shelter overnight. That stuck with me. I can’t imagine being taken from your home to the confusion of a homeless shelter with no one to explain what was happening. Wasn’t there anyone who could have taken them for just that one night?
Greg went on to read bits of the orientation packet to us. He talked about food hoarding and running away. He said that we could have a criminal record and become foster parents as long as we hadn’t done anything too rotten. He took a break to raffle off a few books. We won one called “A Child’s Journey through Placement.” I guess your odds of winning are pretty good when there are only three other people or couples who could win.
Greg went on to talk about the grief of parting with a foster child.As the meeting ended we were told that we could now apply to receive an application to apply to be foster parents. Typical government agency. No one else would think of an application to get an application. Matt and I looked at each other. I think we’d expected more time to make this decision. Did we want to apply? Were we ready to make this huge step? More than anything, I’d been praying that God would help us to be on the same page in this, if it was His will for us to move forward. So, it was another confirmation when we were able to look at each other and in that brief moment both say, “Yes, I think we should.” So, we filled out the application to get an application to become foster parents.
Then, we were given the actual application. Greg said that he’d walk us through what we needed to do from here. We left at around 8:30 with a purple folder full of everything from brochures on the importance of putting babies to sleep on their backs to papers telling us to whom we should complain if we felt that we were not being treated fairly. We got to keep the awesome pens which entreated us in large white letters to, “Become a Foster Parent!” There was also an assortment of letter openers, chip clips, and the like with the same message. I guess the idea is that one day you’ll get out your bag of Doritos, read the message and say, “Gee we should become foster parents!” Then, run out to apply for an application.
We were quiet on the way home. We both felt a bit awed at the step that we had taken, but also very much at peace with it. And still, I don’t know that God will ever send a foster child to us, but I do know that He is leading us to pursue this. Psalm 16 says, “You will show me the path of life, in Your presence is fullness of joy.” If this is the path God has for us, I want to be on it and experience the joy of His presence.