Four weeks ago, we were talking with social services and trying to get our home study updated. After fighting through a lot of red tape (the state won't allow our private agency to place foster children) we finally had to except that we needed to find a new agency. But by this point we only had about 1.5 weeks until my oldest daughter's wedding. We had to put adoption stuff on hold while we frantically finished our final preparations for K4's wedding. She was a beautiful bride and in the end, I think we pulled off a beautiful wedding...but I would not have been able to focus on the sibling set had they been placed with us.
Since it had been so long since the social worker had contacted us, we actually assumed the other family had been chosen for the sibling set. In some ways, we just had to let go and move on. We allowed our thoughts to be consumed with the wedding so we didn't have to feel disappointment at not being chosen. But then the strangest thing happened. We received a phone call a couple days before the wedding (literally just after I had completed all the florals, the baking etc...) and the social worker stated that they still had not decided but that they wanted BOTH families to meet the children. Those of you that have worked with social services will recognize immediately what a bizarre request this is! We set a date for July 17 and returned to our wedding plans.
On the morning of our planned visit (4 days after the wedding), I was filled with so many strange thoughts. In the past when we have met a child, we already knew that they were matched with us and would be our child. For Robert and I, that means that we are 100% emotionally committed to the child before we meet. We have spoken with all the care providers, have read the history, have been given "full disclosure" by the social workers and have decided to love the child and accept them as a member of our family. Thus, our first visit is often full of adrenalin and nervous anticipation. This visit was different. We haven't been identified as the parents, and have to accept that the other family may be chosen over us. As I said earlier, that morning I was filled with a lot of thoughts, but actually very little emotion. I think I simply didn't know WHAT to feel.
As we walked up to foster mom's front door, I watched several cars drive by and an elderly gentleman slowly make his way up the street. Robert and I were clearly the minorities in this neighborhood, but it wasn't uncomfortable by any means. The home was a modest single family home that was tidy but clearly filled with children. Comfortable is the way I can best describe it. As we walked to the back of the house, I saw the children sitting on their own blanket or "island" as the foster mother referred to them. As Robert and I sat on the floor, the little girl picked up her doll and said something I couldn't understand. The social worker translated that her doll was her best friend. The girl then picked up a hairbrush and said her doll's hair was "nappy" which made me smile. I understood THAT one. About that time the little boy started to get a little wound up and started jumping across the room. He was all boy and reminded me so much of K7 - the protective wall around my heart started chipping. The social worker than suggested that the kids show us their rooms. The girl grabbed my hand and the boy grabbed Robert's hand and we were off to the races. They had much pride in their own beds and toys. When we returned to the living room, the girl wanted to play "hair" and was very busy arranging my hair in a more pleasing configuration while I tried to engage the little boy with his dinosaurs.
The children were darling and I know I could love them. When the little boy started rolling around on the floor, I reached out and quickly tickled his belly and he responded with instant and delightful giggles. But I couldn't understand what he said. I was saddened by the extreme speech delays due to their neglect. I was only able to understand about 30% and that was ONLY if the context was known. It is clear that they will need continued speech therapy and PT and OT but that is not a huge surprise. I felt that cognitive thought processes were age appropriate but that communication was difficult due to speech delays. It was a shock to see children at age 4 & 5 wearing diapers due to lack of toilet training. Foster mom has had them for a year now and has made much progress in this area, but there is clearly much more work to be done.
Socially, they clearly struggled as well. They clearly wanted and needed attention and desperately tried to play together. If I was focused on the dolls with the little girl, the little boy would join us. If I turned my attention to the little boy and his dinosaurs, the little girl would want to play dinosaurs. They were not trying to be the "center of attention" but rather just wanted to be a PART of the attention. When they played together, there was much "tattle tale." More so than what would be normal for children. They literally were constantly reporting to foster mom what each other was doing wrong but then asking for reassurance that THEY were being good. Suddenly the need for each child to have a blanket "island" became clear. Again, foster mom has made much progress with them, but there is much more progress that needs to occur.
Sadly, our assigned time slipped by quickly - too quickly, and it was time for us to leave. I wanted so desperately to gather these children in my arms...but it wouldn't have been appropriate. The girl moved to the corner of the room and was clearly upset. She refused to walk with us to the door at first. I laid on the floor next to her and in a soft voice thanked her for combing my hair. She smiled, stood up and followed us to the door. She just needed reassurance that we cared. She and her brother stated that they didn't want us to leave...but it also appeared that they say that to everybody...otherwise known as indiscriminate affection. They desperately need a loving, safe and permanent family in order to learn true attachment and bonding.
They aren't my kids and I have to keep a small wall around my heart to protect it. But somehow, I left a piece of my heart in that living room. The social worker has stated that the other family has not returned phone calls...is it wrong of me to hope that the other family has changed their minds and WON'T return phone calls?