Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Story of Joseph - Baptism By Fire

I remember the day that Jesse and I got our foster care license. The extra room in our apartment was all set up with a crib, a couple of baby toys and a bookshelf with board books. We had a stroller, a car seat and a high chair. All we needed now was the baby.

I called our case worker Carol* to let her know we were ready for our first placement. She gave me kind of a hard time when I said I only wanted kids who were under the age of two. She was really pushy and I think she thought she could bully me into taking on some more difficult cases. I stood firm though. Jesse had almost no experience with kids and I wasn't going to have him start out with a set of 5 year old twins who set fires (yes, that really was a case she wanted to give us.)

"Ok" Carol finally relented. "I think I might have a good placement here for you. Daniel** is six months old. He'll probably only need to be in care for about a month while his mother gets some stuff in orer. He's in the Children's Home so the sooner you can get him the better."

We went to pick up Daniel the very next day.

The place we had to pick Daniel up was in a really bad part of town. The social worker who met us at the door told me that I would have to bring Daniel there twice a week for visitation with his mother. She led us into a room and told us to wait while she let Angela*** (Daniel's mother) know we were there to get him. Then we were taken into the room where Angela was having her visit.

I don't know exactly what I was expecting to happen when we first met Daniel and Angela but I know it didn't go exactly as I had hoped it might. Sitting on the floor in the middle of the room was a thin woman with long hair. I could tell she had been crying. I could also smell the stale cigarette smell coming off of her from across the room. In her arms was the sweetest, plumpest little baby I had ever seen. His eyes were huge and brown and he had a wild little clump of curls on the top of his head. I gave Angela my best friendly smile. She shot me a look that made my heart skip a beat. It was clear that this woman hated me. It didn't matter that she didn't even know me. She hated me.

The social worker quickly hurried Jesse and I out of the room so that Angela could say goodbye to Daniel. The second he and I were out of the room Angela started to shout about how she didn't want us taking her kid. We didn't have any other kids, Daniel would be lonely, we were too young (why did everyone make such an issue out of that?!?!) we were just all wrong. Daniel's social worker (from here on known as Dippy****) just stood there and let her berate us. Finally someone from the visitation center calmed her down.

Dippy let Angela walk out to our car so that she could put Daniel in the car seat. We later found out this is a HUGE no-no and she should have not allowed it. This would not be her last mistake. Then Angela asked us to call her every night and morning. Dippy assured her that she would call to check in on Daniel and that she would three way her into the call. We finally got to leave. We drove off a little bit shell shocked but happy. Our very first foster child gurgled happily in the backseat.

Daniel came to us from an emergency shelter so he had NOTHING with him. Before we could even take him home we had to stop and get him diaper, formula and a couple of outfits. I loved that first shopping trip with Daniel. He fell asleep in my arms and drooled all over my shoulder. Everyone we passed looked at Daniel and smiled. Then they would look at Jesse and I with confusion. I'm sure they were wondering how it came to be that the two whitest people on the planet came to have this sweet caramel colored baby.

By the time we got home Daniel had started to cry. And fuss. And crab. And then cry some more. The only way I could get him to be quiet was to hold him and bounce him on my hip. (Luckily I have hips built for baby bouncing.) I tried changing and and feeding him even bathing him. Nothing made him happy. The bouncing kept him quiet but I could see that he was still unhappy.

None of us got any sleep that first night. Jesse and I spent the night passing Daniel back and forth and saying things like "What's wrong with him?" and "I don't know, what do you think is wrong with him?" and "I'm getting a bruise on my hip from all this bouncing!"

Morning came and Jesse headed to work. I envied him. And I bounced. Around noon I called my mom. "Mom!" I cried. "There's something wrong with this baby! I can't even put him down!"

She laughed. "That's how babies are, they need a lot of attention."

She was wrong though. I had cared for a lot of babies and I had never come across one like this. By the time Jesse got home from work that night the bouncing had stopped working and Daniels cries had turned to full on screams. At one point he fell asleep (I think it was from pure exhaustion) and he started to get a fever. When I took his temp it was nearly 104. We took off the the ER right away.

Not even two days into foster parenting and we were rushing our now lethargic foster child to the ER. As scary as it was Jesse and I laughed about how if we could handle this then we would be able to handle anything else foster care threw at us. If I had known the chain of events this ER visit would set off, I don't think I would have found it so funny.

*not her real name
** not his real name
*** do I even need to tell you that's not her real name?
**** not her real name but far, far kinder than the other things I would like to call her

I swear that all of this eventually leads up to Joseph. Stick with me. Unless this is boring you then don't. And drop me a line so that I know this is boring and I won't keep telling it.


kik said...

I find it very interesting. (and sad, I've always heard foster system is broken....)

I don't know you, but find your stories interesting.

Anonymous said...

I've been a silent reader of your blog for some time now... and NO! it's not boring! Cate

Anonymous said...

I have been reading you for a while but never commented. But, this is an amazing story, and I can't wait for the next installment! Please keep telling.

Beany said...

I know the story and ending and hearing you tell it, no it's not boring.

heathenmommy said...

This is like a good book. In fact, you should write one. I'm on the edge of my seat!

Sam said...

Don't stop! You're getting anon readers out of the woodwork-good job!

Jen said...

kik - Sadly, I think it is very broken and it's kids who really pay the price. Thank you for your kids words.

Cate - Silent reader! I didn't know I had silent readers. Woot!

anonymous - Why thank you. Gosh, all these comments are making me blush.

Beany - I have to admit, I keep wondering if you're going to call me and say that I said too much.

heathenmommy - Thank you, but I don't think I could write a book. I have the attention span of a gnat. Hey, what's that shiny thing over there?

sam - Thanks! I'm enjoying telling the story too so I guess I won't stop.

nell said...

This is so not boring, I love it! It's making me all glad that I'm so behind in my blog reading and I don't have to wait too long for more.