(Be sure to start with Filling the Gap ~ Part 1 )
Now, a few things that go WITH this reality...
1. You will *feel* like a parent. Like a mom or dad with a new, vulnerable child(and they ARE vulnerable).
HOWEVER, you will be reminded, repeatedly, that this is NOT your child. And, you will experience a myriad of ways that you are of no consequence; you have no rights, no real voice(in most cases) you can't even say you think the doctor should wait to give some vaccinations, not pile them on so heavy...nothing. It is NOT your child.
~~~~~~~~~ another little side note to this; you dreamed of having a newborn (and you could) you just might care for a newborn baby that you picked up from the hospital. You may even be one of the ones to experience the miracle of that child staying. But, the *reality* is that for *at least* the first year of that child's life, you will be calling him/her by a name you may not like. You will be reporting EVERY move you make, every sneeze, every bump, bruise or rash. And, you will be dealing with notes coming home in the diaper bag from the birth parents after visits asking you to do/not do, X,Y,Z. And, one of the memories you may have to accept is the day you picked your precious little bundle up from the hospital, only to face a hostile nurse who just watched his mother leave crying and wants to make DARN sure you know this is NOT your child(and feels compelled to go on and on about how she *hates* foster parents who think this is a good way to get a baby.) This is NOT the first year of life that you will have been dreaming of, Ok? You need to understand that right now. If you need to grieve the loss of that part of the dream, go ahead and do so before you get started. It's a harsh reality. EVEN IF all goes beautifully, even *if* the child is one of many that the parents have willingly relinquished, and no relatives come forward to take this one(or previous foster parents who adopted older siblings, for that matter) even then...this is not going to be the dream you had in your heart. Oh, there will be moments. There will be glimpses of the dream. And, yes, you will cherish this child...you will rock him/her at 3am...you will hold them when they are inconsolable...(oh, yeah...that's the other thing, YOU get to care for them while they go through withdrawals...and then sit across the table in a team meeting from the parent who did it to them ~and who, maybe, decides to share the details of the last time they *did* drugs while pregnant~ and be reminded that you have no rights. In particular, you don't have the right to leap across the table and wrap your hands around the throat of the person who hurt *your* baby. Because, once again; they *feel* like yours...but, they are not. But I digress) Yes, you will have some of that and IF you have a case where the parents don't show up for visits, you may go long stretches where no one reminds you that this is not your child. But, eventually, you will be reminded...and usually, in a pretty rude way.
2. You will *feel* like your family should count, and that holidays and special times should be reason enough to miss/reschedule a visit for a parent who has skipped the last three visits. Especially when they have multiple visits a week.
HOWEVER, your caseworker will most likely not see it that way. At all. Ever. In fact, when it comes down to it you may even get to the point of being named the pre adoptive resource by some miracle, down the road, and still miss your little ones actual 1st birthday because the caseworker decided to schedule the parents *last ever* 5 hour long visit with the child, on that day; at the last minute(think night before, after you have made plans to have a birthday party and invited people) and expect *you* to be happy about it. Yes, really.
3. You will expect to be treated with common courtesy and flexibility. And, you will expect them to do exactly what they say they will do.
HOWEVER, the reality will be that people will push you to your absolute limits if you let them. They will change visitation times at the last minute, or ask you to transport a child when you can't and had no idea they were going to ask, OR even call you up asking *what* the child's schedule is and who is supposed to be handling it, because no one in their organization can tell them, and the worker who usually handles it is out of town(poor planning on their part) and, they will act as if it is *your* responsibility to make it happen. Now. No matter what you might have to cancel to do so. (Really think about this part...you may find yourself wanting so badly to please these people, to not make waves, that you will lie down and let them do this sort of thing. But, if you do, it will only get worse! Remember that, even if they start throwing around phrases like "contempt of court" the truth is, THEY will be in contempt if they don't meet their responsibilities. It is NOT your job to fix it for them if they screw up. You give them 15-20 minutes to pick the child up when they said they would, and if you have an appointment to make, when the time is up, you take the child with you and go to your appointment. Not your problem.)
4. You will expect answers, deadlines, framework, the ability to do some planning...
HOWEVER, you will live in a world of "We'll see...eventually...but not today!" for a very, very, very long time. For some families it lasts years. I heard a couple months ago of a family who had cared for a child since the day he left the hospital after birth. They had finally adopted him, and I believe he was 9 or 10 years old on adoption day. Yeah. Really.
5. You will believe that this system is about the "best interest of the child" and in fact, you will hear that, over and over.
HOWEVER, it's bull. Flat out, unadulterated bull. This system is about liability. It is about birth parents rights, and about building a case, in one direction or another. If visits are torment for the kids, great, it's fabulous evidence for the case against the parents. But, that isn't going to make anyone STOP visits. At least not until the parents rights have been terminated. Your "normal-common-sense" way of thinking will want to dispute that. Don't waste your time or energy. Just hold them when they come home from the visit. Tell the Court Appointed Special Advocate(CASA), report it to the caseworker as calmly and factually as you can, list it in your "Caregivers Report to the Court" using concrete terms for what is happening in and to the child due to these visits. And, let it go. No one is going to do ANYTHING in the 100% total best interest of the child until the judge declares the parents rights severed. And, even then, just know that relatives can still come first. Just depends on where you are and how it's done in your area.
#6. You will believe that *surely* if family were going to come forward, they would do it early on, and you would at least *know* the child was not staying before you got too attached.
HOWEVER, it's just not true...
First of all, I have heard with older kiddos, you don't always attach, at least not right away. It can be really hard, especially given some of the behaviors they exhibit. It is truly a matter of chemistry, If it's not a good fit for your family, don't beat yourself up.
But, with newborns you attach, pretty much immediately. They are totally helpless and they think YOU are the mommy and daddy. They have no reason to believe any different than any other newborn being born into their biological family. And, in the end, for various reasons (most of which I do not understand, or agree with) there are relatives who will wait until they *know* the parents are not going to "get it together" to step forward...I have heard that sometimes they think it is better to leave the kids in foster care so the parents will be motivated to do their case plan...sometimes they really don't want the kid, but darned if they are going to let "those people" keep em if it comes down to termination of parental rights. And still, other times they had not heard of the child being in the system. Or, as in one case I personally knew of...they had heard the child was born, but she was the 8th sibling to go into care and by then, there were four counties involved and it took them ages JUST to get a hold of someone who could point them in the right direction so they could jump through the hoops and take custody.
#7. You will believe that because this child came to your home as a newborn and knows no other parents that the system will not move him/her for some non related "fictive kin" who live across the country 16 months into things.
HOWEVER...you would be wrong. It happens. More often than I like to think about.
Ok, so I could keep going, but I think this is probably more than enough for one post. In short, just know that you are saying goodbye to the life you normally lead, and would naturally assume you could continue to lead, for a life of forms and reports and suspense(like you have never imagined) and cancelled vacations, kids who go sideways after every visitation, regress and act out. And, even when it gets to the point where you are named the pre adoptive parents, you will be living through a process that is fueled by people who do not have anywhere near the sense of urgency about the paperwork on their desks that you do.
Having said ALL of that, if you feel called...if you felt a calling before reading all of that, then go look at the photos of my kids and read the post titled Are You Out There? And just know that it IS TRULY all worth it...I just don't want you to get out there and feel like I (and so many others) did when I realized that nobody told me what this was really going to be like! Bottom line, I'd do it again. Even knowing what I would be getting myself into, I would do it again. It is a season(albeit a looong one in some cases) when the right kids come to stay forever...it is a blip on the screen compared to a lifetime with your children. And, especially in light of the chance to impact the lives of the children who come into your care.