One of my more non-favorite parts of being a foster care provider is the dreaded requirement of Continuing Education. In Ohio, a foster/adoption home-study must be updated every two years, and in that time period parents must complete 40 hours of CE. Books and training videos can account for a portion of hours, but the majority must come from in-class training on various topics. It doesn't take long to figure out which presenters you like better, and which videos are always going to have cheesy acting. It comes with the territory.
I rarely look forward to attending the classes, because invariably they are scheduled when one or more of the kids are sick, the weather is gorgeous, or the snowy roads are hazardous. However, in addition to staying current on licensing requirements and gaining new knowledge, the friendships you build over the years are lasting and provide an extra source of encouragement. These are people who are walking the same road I am. They may have been on this journey for decades, or relatively new like we are. They might be our age and childless. They might be grandparents. They might be looking for a permanent addition to their family. They might be wanting to foster challenging teenagers with criminal histories. They might have been fostered or adopted themselves. Regardless of why or how they arrived at the decision to foster or adopt children, we have the same goal. We love kids, and we want to make a positive impact on the life of another human being.
It's such a joy to watch what's happening in other people's homes, and to see their dreams being fulfilled. It's wonderful to celebrate with them when they find out they've been selected to be the forever parents to a sibling group that's been living in separate foster homes. It's comforting to know that they're available to grieve with us if we get a diagnosis we weren't expecting, or have to watch "our" baby go back to the birth home. It's a small community where each situation is different, but we all "get it".
I spent this weekend playing catch-up on my hours, as our license is due for renewal in June. True to form, I was not gleefully anticipating this long session, despite the 9 credit hours, in part because of the chosen topic. Love and Logic was suggested to Tom and I several years ago as a training tool for our children. It was being offered at that point by a counselor we were seeing in regards to some challenges we faced with one of the kids. At the time, the professional basically handed me a thin workbook, mentioned a couple highlights, and said "Try this".
Glancing through the booklet, I nearly gagged. In addition to what I believed to be an insult to older parents, it looked like such a fat lot of hooey that I threw it aside and said "Choices?!? I'm supposed to give my kids choices?!? I'm the parent, they'll clean their room when I tell them to, by golly!" That was the end of MY experience with the Love and Logic curriculum.
But wait - now I need 40 hours of training. Love and Logic offers me 9. I can catch up with friends. I'll suffer through it.
This time, though, the concepts were being presented in an orderly manner by a seasoned speaker who travels across North America sharing these techniques with parents, teachers, military personnel, police officers, corporations, and numerous other groups of people. It was a completely different story this time. Now it made sense to me. Oh, there's parts of it that I could never in a million years visualize using in our own home, but much of it is just...well, - logical. We're already doing it, without calling it Love and Logic. Some of the techniques are obvious. Some are odd, but effective. I'm also trying to compare and, maybe, reconcile the concepts with a picture of Biblically-based grace. I can see how revisiting some of the material and fitting it into our family can be beneficial, but I'm certainly not planning to sell out to Love and Logic exclusively. The moral, perhaps, is that presentation can mean a world of difference.
But as mentioned, the fun part of the class is reconnecting with other foster and adoptive parents. One couple just started paperwork to adopt the baby girl they've had for fourteen months. One couple just met the two brothers they're going to be adopting. They're ten and five, and have been living in separate foster homes. The new mom and dad were heading to Menards following class, to pick up lumber to build a swing set. They weren't able to have birth children. Today was their 17th wedding anniversary and he had flowers delivered to his wife during our class. (What a smoooooooooth man...)
Then there was Joe and Nancy.
Sitting next to me, Joe and I talked extensively about our little boys. I assumed, because this couple looked older, that they had probably been foster parents for years. I was wrong. They've been foster parents for less than two years. Their first placement was a seven-month old little boy who shares our Mister D's name. Joe and Nancy are nearly seventy years old, and it is breaking their heart that they're "too old" to adopt him. They didn't feel right about being nearly ninety when their child graduates from high school, but they are oh-so-very happy with the adoptive parents who just this week got to take their baby home. They've cultivated a friendship with the new parents, and are now transitioning to becoming D's grandma and grandpa.
As the trainer was speaking, Joe made a comment to her about feeling like he's "done everything wrong for the last forty years!" When asked why, he replied with "I just wish I would have known these things back then!"
But I had been watching Joe, listening to him talk about his baby. Learning about birth children - he has four. His daughter is a school teacher who's birthed four children and adopted three. Seeing how Nancy turned to look at him and just smiled. I glanced at his legal pad where he'd been doodling the better part of the afternoon. In several different writing styles, he had written one word in lines down the paper...
Joe, you've not been doing it wrong.