Let the Training Begin

The phone rang at 7:56 a.m. Monday morning.  Pretty early for the morning after Daylight Savings Time began, but I wasn’t upset;  I was glad that DHS was up and eager to get the week off to a good start.  It was Trisha with DHS calling to inform me that the PRIDE (Foster parent training) Class would be meeting at the Juvenile Detention Center that evening.  I know… kind of ironic.

Each prospective foster parent must go through twelve hours of PRIDE training before licensing will be approved.  Matt and I signed up for the March classes.  When the day of the first class arrived, I was a little was nervous.  I’d never been to the Juvenile Detention Center.   I didn’t know what to expect from the classes. I called my sister who has walked this path before me.  She gave me a quick rundown on how things would go.

 We got to the meeting a few minutes before the 6 o’clock start time. We had to be buzzed in the front door, walk through a metal detector, be buzzed into the hallway, and then cameto a conference room that was very full of people.  Apparently there had been a scheduling snafu which led to our being in a much smaller room than usual. 

 There were three young women from the Lutheran Social Services standing at the far end of the room.  They helped everyone find seats, handed out binders, and introduced themselves.  As with Foster Orientation the first thing they did was ask everyone to introduce themselves and say why they were there.  Being closest to the front, we were asked to go first.  This type of situation is always awkward.  How do you sum up a three year period of soul searching and praying, which culminated in God’s leading us on this path, into just a few sentences?  Having been designated (by Matt) as our representative speaker while at the training, I said our names, that we had five kids, love kids and would like to care for a few more.  This was met with much astonishment and exclamations of, “Five Kids!”

The people next to us introduced themselves and said that they were there for their grandkids.  The next lady was there for a niece, and so on.  All in all there were two couples and one individual, besides ourselves, there to foster whomever was sent our way and around twelve couples or individuals there for family members.  The law changed in 2008 to basically say that family members caring for children removed by CPS (Child Protective Services) can have the children come to them, but need to complete the licensing process as quickly as possible.  After everyone was finished introducing themselves they came back to us to be further astonished by our large family.  They wanted to know our kids genders and ages and if they got along.  I was surprised that this had raised such interest.  I do know so many larger families than ours that I forget that only 5% of Americans are having 5 or more children these days.

 After the introductions we were shown a docudrama of the world’s most perfect foster family, nurturing and caring for two damaged kids.  The Foster mom had a rich soothing voice and knew just what to say to the hurting children.  After the video we were to have a discussion.  This took me back to high school, where the teacher would ask a question and everyone just sat there even though we all knew the answer. 

 The questioning was interrupted by attendees with questions of their own.  A set of grandparents wanted to know why the things they were being shown were so different from what they were personally experiencing with the system.  A young woman spoke of her distress over not being able to see siblings who had already been adopted as she sought to foster another sibling.  Both tales were heartbreaking.  There were no easy answers to these people’s questions, but the workers did an excellent job hearing them out and showing compassion.

 After these interludes, there wasn’t a lot of time left for discussion.  We moved into the larger room where the attempts at engaging us all in discussion continued.  We were shown another  video of foster families working together with birth families.  That was the extent of the training.  They let us out at 8:50.  Ten minutes early, to my vast relief as I was starving and there were no snacks to be had.  One session down, three to go.

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