Separating Selves

SW column topper

When the phone rang last week, my heart sped up when I saw it was my agency calling. I answered and it was the placement coordinator asking if I would take placement of two children – ages 5 and 1 years old. My mind swirled with excitement and a little bit of terror. But I focused enough to ask an important question, “Boys or Girls?”

I had to wait an agonizing three whole minutes for him to find out and call me back – “One of each”. With disappointment, I had to turn the placement down. The rules that different gendered siblings can only share a room if they are under 5 years old. And I only have one spare bedroom right now.

I was bummed but shook it off quickly. It was a good sign that I had gotten a call right?

Then a week later my phone rang again! This time it was my licensing worker, who knows me well and has been promising me that she is trying to find a placement for me the last few months. I was surprised when she told me she had a sibling group that sounded very familiar. When I reminded her about my one room and the rules about siblings – she double checked the paperwork and informed me that the older child was not quite 5 years old and the baby was not quite 1 yet. So, I would have a full year until they couldn’t share a room and that even then a waiver could be written if needed.

So now I really had to make a decision.

I had some time to decide since this wasn’t a new intake and they wanted to do a slow transition over the next month or so. So, I got the benefit of asking lots of questions of my licensing worker and the children’s caseworker. I also got to talk to my close family and friends, measure rooms, google bunk beds, and look into schools for potential kindergarten in 9 months. Every single thing that I did for 6 days was done while considering how I would do it with a baby and a preschooler in tow. My excitement built even as I debated my decision – I even bought a Christmas tree and couldn’t resist a few extra holiday decorations, just in case.

And then I turned the placement down.

So many things went into the decision that can’t be described here without violating confidentiality. But when it came down to it, I realized I was thinking like a social worker and not a prospective parent. As a social worker I have always gone for the hardest cases and the riskiest outcomes. I like a challenge and can keep my emotional distance enough to live with the ambiguity that is inherant in foster care. But this isn’t work – this is my life. This is my attempt to create a family. And it wasn’t until I started looking at things as a parent that I realized that this placement was not a good match for me.

Sorting out what parts of me need to remain as part of my “social worker” persona and which parts can make me a good foster/adoptive parent is an ongoing process. And while I wish that I could have accepted this placement with confidence, I am grateful that I will go into my next potential placement with the knowledge I gained with this one.

Ring phone, ring!

About the author:
Socialwrkr247 has worked in child welfare for the past 10 years and recently became licensed as a foster parent. She hopes to explore the topic of “openness” from both perspectives as a social worker and foster parent.

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