On October 2, 2010 we were anxious and excited to begin our PATH classes. We gathered together with about 20 other people — both singles and couples– to receive training to become foster parents.
We soon learned that the process of adoption through the State of Tennessee was really only through foster care, and that foster parents were given first priority in adopting a child who was already in their home if the birth parents’ rights were terminated. “Children are best raised by their birth parents,” was the mantra of Youth Villages, which I found curious, since we were there to pursue adoption.
In the first class, the social worker asked if there were any particular children we were interested in adopting. Again, we mentioned the lovely young lady on the Youth Villages website. “I’m not sure if she’s still available,” she answered. “I sit in on placement team meeting and we’ve not discussed her in a long time. Is there anyone else you’re interested in?”
Actually, there was. On the website there was an elementary aged sibling pair — with freckled noses, strawberry blonde hair, and crystal blue eyes, they looked like they could be ours! They were no longer available either.
Eventually, we realized that by the time the children were placed on the website, they likely already had placements, and that was okay but I should stop feeling attached to pictures on a website.
By the middle of the first session, the social worker recommended that we go ahead and prepare our homes for incoming children because there would be some of us who would have children in our homes before class even ended in mid-November!
We took the list of requirements for becoming a Youth Villages home with us, and went to work on it. New fire extinguishers, moving flammable materials outside, putting all medications under double locks, rules posted in every room, a fire escape plan on the refrigerator. We bought bunk beds and two sets of gender-neutral bedding. We planned on turning our TV room into another bedroom if we got two children of opposite gender, or having them share a room if they were the same and within 3 years of age of each other. Then we worked on paperwork: essays about why we wanted to adopt, our childhood memories, budget worksheets, photographs of ourselves and our home, references, and on and on and on.
One of the toughest things we had to decide was what kinds of children we did not feel like we could best parent. Our social worker recommended that we be as open as possible. So we were. Out of the pages and pages of potential disabilities, criminal activities, and behavioral problems listed, we selected just a few that we felt would be not a good fit: a smoker (because of my asthma), and a child who had themselves molested other children. One of our greatest desires, though, was to help a child go to college, and since my tuition remission benefit at work is so unique, we added severe mental disability. Our social worker told us that because we were so open, she was sure that we would have children in our home by Christmas, but of course it could not be guaranteed.
We laughed and learned through the PATH classes and made some wonderful friends. Youth Villages did a great job of preparing us for some very frightening circumstances. There were many times during the class that Ken and I wondered if we could indeed make it as foster parents. Were we experienced enough? Were we too naive? We decided that we sincerely wanted to try, knowing that God would give us strength and wisdom as we needed it.
By the day before Thanksgiving, we were the first couple in our PATH class to have our homestudy complete and be certified as foster parents. We were ready for the parenting to begin!