We are anxiously waiting for our court date. During the wait we have been blessed to receive several new pictures and even one video of the little ones in Ethiopia. As other parents from our agency go to Ethiopia to pick up their children they take pictures and send them when they get back.
Our little boy loves to have his picture taken. He is in many photos - sometimes straining to get in front of the camera. His sister on the other hand is not seeming to enjoy the attention. Of the almost 2 dozen pics we have seen of her, we have seen almost as many moods and most of them are not in the happy realm.
Our story continued . . .
God's plans included a long wait. During that waiting time we were made aware of a ministry called Safe Families. Lydia Home in Chicago started this as part of their ministry. The Safe Families ministry is designed to give short term care to children of parents who need time (time to find a job or a home, time for health issues, time for instruction on parenting, or time to right their lives). It is similar to foster care, but it is all voluntary. The parent voluntarily places the child in the program and the safe family is not paid anything to keep the child(ren). The state is not involved, unless for some reason DCFS is overseeing the case.
We decided that while we were waiting for the adoption process to move forward that we would open our home for this ministry. Because we already had a home study in place, the paper work was minimal. Within a very short amount of time after signing up we received a call for a Safe Families' placement - 2 little girls, 5 and 2, who needed to be cared for while their mom was giving birth to a baby brother. What an amazing growth experience that was. The girls and their mom were living in a shelter and had almost nothing. They were very cute girls. The oldest one talked a lot; the younger one barely spoke at all (except to our daughter, Caitlin). We had them with us for about 2 1/2 days and were very sad to say goodbye.
What was amazing was the way our children each took on a role in helping care for the girls. Our daughter really took the 2 year old under her wing, making her feel safe and even helping her smile. Our son, Caleb enjoyed playing with the 5 year old. Our younger son, Cam was looking for ways that he could meet a need or provide a toy for both girls. Because of their connection to these little girls, we were able to very naturally explore some big life issues - responsibility being a big one. Caitlin was righteously angry at the fathers' lack of care and support for these children. She was also angry that the 2 year old only had 1 onesie that was stained and had a hole in it. While she was upset even beyond the time the girls were with us, it clearly had a positive effect on her growth. Within the 2 days because of the generosity of our church friends and neighbors, we were able to collect enough donations to take 2 big bags of clothes back with the girls. What an experience.
This was the first of 5 placements that we had with Safe Families. The next was a 3 year old boy, who we were able to be with for 2 1/2 months. He was such a joy. He came to us right at the beginning of baseball/softball season. Lots of games. He was always a trooper - of course, usually with his shoes on the wrong feet. He truly became part of our family for that time. So did his mother. She was trying to get steady work and a home during this time. She had come out of a decade of hard living and had recently renewed her commitment to God. What a long, hard road she was starting to travel. We still are in touch with her and are praying that she will persevere.
After that we had 3 other placements. 2 sisters who were both under 3. Because of their intense needs, we were quite overwhelmed and were not able to keep them for the needed time. They were precious. Every time Val was in the kitchen they would both be at her legs saying eat, eat, eat, eat. After they realized that they would get food and plenty of it, they also made friends with our dog, "dropping" food off of their trays. He feasted well for the whole 2 weeks. A couple of months later we had another girl, about 4. She was with us for over a month. Again, became part of the family, participating in school and church activities. She did really well. Shortly after that we had our last placement with Safe Families. This was our most trying placement. She was 3 1/2 going on 20. She was a baby in so many ways, but had emotionally become her mother's support. We truly believe there was also some attachment problems. She was difficult in many ways. While we butted heads many times when she was with us, our hearts went out to her. This was a girl who was living in awful circumstances and we knew that the situation she was going back to was not going to improve, apart from God's intervention. While we were relieved to see her go, we were very sad to know what she was going back to.
Because of the difficulty of the last placement, we decided to take a break from Safe Families. Still, we are so glad we participated in the ways that we did. Whatever blessing we were to those families, we were blessed way more by being able to serve in that way. We grew in so many ways and are able to see now how God used that to soften our hearts even more to the orphan and their needs.
During this time we continued to search the websites and send out more homestudies. We also had our homestudy rewritten. In reviewing with our new social worker - same agency - we realized that things could be written better and more concisely.
After the revisions we did see a slight change in responses. We actually had 3 inquiries to our social worker. I think the first situation was a phone tag situation that never made contact. Another set up an interview time with our social worker and then proceeded to cancel it saying that they were postponing it for about 4 months. 4 months came and went - no communication and the children were still on the website. The third inquiry was the most promising. It was for a five year old boy in Maine. His social worker called to talk to our social worker and asked 3 questions. 1) Would we let him choose his own religion? 2) How would we feel if he was gay? 3) Would we put him in public school? We felt for our social worker. How do you answer these questions? Whose issues are these, the 5 year old boy's or the social worker's? However our social worker answered them clearly was not to the other social worker's liking. She said that the boy was too close in age to our youngest child (already should have known that from our home study) and it wouldn't work.
Huge disappointment and major confusion. What are these social workers looking for? Why is this process sooooo hard?
Even with the disappointment we kept on and still received nothing but silence. At this point I stopped looking. Val did keep looking. I discouraged her from spending too much time. The whole process had become such a drain on our family. We did continue to send our home study out, but more and more sparingly.
Then our newest social worker - same agency - had some suggestions.