The orientation had more people than I expected (probably about 30), and was hosted by two ladies who both worked for different agencies. They gave us a presentation for what we could expect as foster parents, highlighting just the basics, and said we would get into much more detailed info if we chose to follow through and take the PS-MAPP classes. After orientation, Rich seemed slightly more warmed up to the idea and agreed to move forward with selecting an agency and taking classes.
We were given a rather long list of agencies to choose from, each of which had their own special parameters; some were Christian organizations, others dealt exclusively with infants and toddlers, some were targeted for the black community, and many were just very general with slight variations. I spent some time going over them, and with the input of some of my Social Worker friends, selected an agency. I called, got scheduled for classes and got busy.
The classes were kind of a 'fast track' schedule, so rather than twelve weeks of evening classes, we chose six weeks of Saturday classes. There was a lot of homework, various other paperwork, house preparation, and much self reflection / discussion. Some of the paper work was family history type stuff, like how we were disciplined as kids, who we grew up with, etc. Some was to establish specifics about the kids we would be taking in, including age range (we chose 6-12), if we had a gender/race preference, what kind of disabilities or 'labels' we would be willing to work with (i.e. 'fire starter' or 'history of violence toward other kids'). Our class was a mixture of community foster and kinship. Community foster means you take in kids from the general population who were displaced from their parents, often due to neglect. Kinship foster is for relatives of the kids in foster care, most of which were grandparents. Working with a mixture of community/kinship was interesting because the kinship folks already have the kids in their home, and we got to hear about their experience working with 'the system,' like court dates, case workers, and bio-parents. The classes were incredibly interesting, and I felt we bonded really well as a class. We did some role playing, worked in groups, had deep discussions, and overall learned a lot. We also met some really great people.
Once the classes were complete, we had a meeting with our newly assigned Licensing Worker, who came to our house and listened to and recorded, essentially, our life stories. She then submitted a 30 page report to the state about her findings. A few weeks later we got an email saying that we are now officially licensed to be foster parents. I know it's what we signed up for, but when the time arrived, we definitely had a "holy crap, this is real, and it's happening right now" moment. We had some bumps along the road, lots of looking at ourselves and considering what we want, and many 'ah ha' moments, which are always startling. We have decided to move forward and starting in August, we will begin taking placements. We are both excited, nervous, and so looking forward to what happens next.