It was 11:00pm. I had been trying to get MM to sleep for the last hour, and we were both somewhat cranky. I decided to get up and ask Chase to rock the baby to sleep, and get a head start on sleep while he took his MM shift. No sooner had I nestled under the covers and shut my eyes than the phone rang. A phone call that late at night could only mean a few things…either a medical emergency (either with my friends/family or with a furry patient) or a child that needs our help. This time, it was a child. She was 12 years old. She needed a place to stay that night. Too sleepy to make a decision, I handed the phone to Chase. After a few minutes of discussion, I heard him say “Sure. We will take her.” So we sat the (very awake, very playful) MM down under her mobile, and rushed to get the house prepared. Knives locked away, fire escape plan posted, Ruby’s dog medicine locked up with the other meds, dishes cleaned, and the Gary-barricades put away. Gary was clumsy so we barricaded him out of the common area so he didn’t step on or wake up the baby. This, however, made our house look like a maze of laundry baskets. Crazy-cleaning frenzy subsided; we sat down to think about what we just signed up for. No idea. Will she be afraid of the dogs? Will she be good with MM? Will she be too scared to sleep tonight? Is she injured? What is she like? Will she have any behaviors that will put MM at risk? Are we making the right decision? Chase felt strongly called to say yes to help this little one. We wondered what her story would be…
Within 20 minutes, a social worker arrived at our door with a shy, preteen girl trailing behind her. The young girl looked up nervously and smiled brightly at us. The social worker introduced us. “....this is Chase and Katie. They will be taking care of you until court on Monday.” I noticed the girl had a McDonald’s cup in one hand, but wasn’t carrying sack of clothing or cosmetics. I promptly introduced MM, who was wide-awake and smiling. “Oh! What a cute baby! And I’m not just saying that because she’s your baby. She’s really cute! I love those chubby cheeks! Oh! She’s smiling at me! I LOVE BABIES!! Oh you have a piano!! Will I be able to play on the piano? My brother taught me some songs, but I can’t read music!” She was full of excited energy, and seemingly happy to be with us. I decided to give “Elise” (for Fur Elise, a tune she immediately picked out on the piano) the tour of our house. She loved the chinchillas, loved the dogs, loved her bedroom “Who’s bedroom was this before me?” I explained that we keep it ready for any guests or children. She told me she wanted to be a veterinarian or something to do with small children. She was very excited to find out I was a veterinarian. I showed her the bathroom that will be her bathroom. “OH…I can’t take a shower…I only have this one outfit.” I told her we will buy her a set of clothes for her stay so she can wear clean clothing. “Oh I have TONS of outfits…just not with me. You don’t have to get me anything.” I explained if we can’t get her clothing from home, I really looked forward to taking her shopping! We told her she will at least need 1 extra outfit, pjs, underthings, and cosmetics. The case worker told us court was scheduled for the upcoming Monday, and things look promising she will go to a different family member following court. While I showed Elise around, the case worker filled Chase in on as much as she knew about this little one. Elise gave the case worker a huge hug, and told me “she’s like a good friend to me!”
This little family of 4 sat on the couch for a few minutes just talking and getting acquainted. Here’s what we learned (at least while I was awake)…
- She loved children and animals
- She loved old things – like Chase’s pottery shards
- She loved babies – especially MM. We let her hold MM for a few minutes. MM smiled and touched her face.
- She wanted to be a veterinarian
- She was a self-proclaimed nerd, because she’s good at math. Her nerd-dom is unintentional.
- No, she doesn’t want to watch Star Trek because that would make her even more nerdy.
- She says she's not a Christian, but believes Jesus is the savior and son of God.
MM started to fuss, so I took her to bed. I think Elise and Chase stayed up until 2 am talking. We don’t usually let children stay up that late, but we didn’t think it was reasonable to send this kiddo straight to bed without talking to her new foster parents. It’s hard enough being taken from your home and placed in a stranger’s home. Chase told me they talked about Revelations, religion, pottery, her family, and whatever else this cute little chatter box had to say. She was very curious to what religion we follow, and Chase shared a little of our beliefs. Chase also said she got a mini-guitar lesson last night.
I left for work bright and early Saturday morning. It’s my Saturday to take care of the sick animals and appointments until the afternoon. Elise had just woken up and was chattering to me about the morning news and how she was a morning person. I walked back to the nursery to say goodbye to Chase, and as I left Elise was standing in our doorway chattering at Chase. I say “at Chase” because he was still mostly still asleep. I’m not sure what the rest of today will bring, but I love this little child already. She reminds me of my sister-in-law when she was 12.
I’m hoping to take Elise shopping today. She arrived with only the clothes on her back. This is unfortunately how many foster children enter care. Alone, frightened…with very little of their own belongings.
What can you do?
If you want to help foster children, but don’t feel called to be foster parents…you can still help. One way to do this is to provide a bag to foster children. The Columbia Adoption project has put together “ibelong” backpacks to give to foster children. We didn’t actually get a backpack for this kiddo, but we will make sure she is prepared for the next part of her story. I plan on buying her 1 outfit, 1 set of PJs, whatever undergarments she needs, small thing of cosmetics, bible, and a journal. I'll let you know how our shopping trip went later :)
http://www.comoadoption.com/make-a-difference (link for the backpacks)
Peace and love, y'all. Hopefully someone out there will decide to help a foster child. They need your love...your kindness...your support.