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Foster family adjusting to new roles
New foster parent Shannon Casas, right, unpacks clothing for the two children who have just come to live with her. Friend Ashley Wood helps.

Fostering first

Times Metro Editor Shannon Casas and her husband recently became foster parents. This is the third in an occassional series explores her experiences as a new parent in that special role. Read previous entries here: First story; second story.

About one month after getting approved as foster parents, my husband and I got our first placement.

Two women from FaithBridge Foster Care, along with a case worker from the Department of Family and Children Services, showed up at our house on a Friday afternoon with two little ones and a lot of stuff.

All that stuff isn’t typical for a foster placement. Many times, children will come with the clothes on their back and maybe something unwanted, like lice. But these two aren’t new to the system. They have bags of clothes and toys.

We talked for a bit about their situation while the kids played.

Then the adults were gone. It was just us and the little ones, who weren’t going anywhere soon.

We’d kept these two for two weekends already, providing respite care for their now former foster parents. So at first, it seemed like just another weekend.

Except for all that stuff. A friend joined me Sunday as I tried to figure out where to put it all.

When Monday rolled around, we were glad the placement had fallen just in time for a staycation.

We wanted to get in the routine, so the first thing we did Monday morning was call the day care. It had room and we could bring them that day. Thanks goodness, I thought.

The routine was important, but if I’m being honest, I was pretty ready to have a little break from them.

We dropped them off at day care with no problems. Little boy walked in and waved to the other children, while a nearby mom hugged her crying kids who just didn’t want to let go.

“That was so easy!” she said, watching us.

Well, sure, but some attachment is healthy. Of course she doesn’t know why it was so easy.

Unfortunately for kids in foster care, building attachments is hard. They’re not expected to get attached in a few days, but the hope is that they will eventually. Pulling them from their home, putting them in another home and then moving them again can’t be emotionally healthy. But it does beat the mistreatment they may have been getting before.

Time at day care gave my husband and I a chance to run errands and recover from the weekend. It was our anniversary and we thought we might go hiking. Watching TV on the couch seemed much more appealing that day, though. Children are exhausting.

When we picked them up that evening, little girl reached for me. At least she knew I’m someone familiar. Little boy was ready to go, walking hand in hand with my husband as we said bye to the children and day care workers.

So far so good.

Nights, though, were not as easy. We quickly figured out they wanted to be fed as soon as humanly possible after we picked them up from day care.

After that first week, we got into a routine where my husband made dinner so that when I picked them up on the way home from work, it would be ready when we arrived at the house. That helped.

And they slept through the night, at least at first.

A couple of weeks in, little boy began waking up crying in the middle of the night. He must have figured out in his little brain that he was stuck with us. He wasn’t going back to the home where he’d lived for four months. He probably missed those parents and their biological children.

My husband and I took turns trying to console him. Some nights just a few minutes of rubbing his back would work. Some nights, it was hours before he went back to sleep. He’d calm down but then lay staring at the ceiling wide awake.

I told myself this still beat a newborn’s many wakings in the middle of the night.

Mostly, it was what we expected. We all needed a little time to adjust.