Graduates!

We did it!  We have graduated!!!

The last time I could say that, I was walking across a stage at UNCW, my English/ Professional Writing degree in hand, ready to start a job in the publishing world the very next Monday.

There was no tossing of caps this past Tuesday night.  There was no diploma to frame, no commencement speaker, and, truth be told, I feel a little less sure of myself walking into the future this time around…

MAPP

Say hi to Mrs. A and Mrs. N!

But there was banana pudding.  And two awesome instructors who believe in us.

And that’s saying something.

In case you were wondering, Trey and I have spent two nights a week for the past five weeks attending foster-care adoption parenting classes called MAPP (Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting) at our county DSS.  The days were long on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a 3-hour class to attend after work.  The A/C went out at DSS halfway through the class and never quite recovered.  Sometimes we’d get a call for a showing of our condo the very next day that we’d have to clean up for after getting home late.  We continued attending our couples small group/Bible study that meets every Tuesday at 7am before work (making Tuesdays an EXTRA long day).  There were a few times we really thought we must be crazy for doing this.  MAPP is not required by our agency.  There was a LOT of work to be done outside of the 3-hour sessions after work twice a week.  And, at this point in time, we aren’t even pursuing foster care.

But I’ll tell you why it was absolutely worth it…

To give some context, MAPP is your first step toward foster-care licensure or foster-care adoption.  It is designed to equip and prepare you to work with children who have been abused or neglected, to partner with birth parents, to help you decide whether foster parenting is right for you, and to show you how to work as a team (in the best interest of the child) with everyone involved (social workers, judges, guardian ad litems, birth parents, etc.).  Foster families are so incredibly needed, and MAPP class is considered “boot camp” for licensure.  They want to make sure you know what you’re getting into…

loot

Ready to support our county DSS!

We learned about such topics as:

  • Strengths and needs, losses and gains
  • Neglect and abuse
  • Building and maintaining trust, and helping children form healthy attachments
  • Discipline vs. punishment, and helping children manage their behaviors
  • Identity, self-concept, and culture
  • Birth-family connections
  • Disruption and placement plans
  • and defining the family system

Some of the most memorable moments for me were:

  • The “imaginative journey” we took when we stepped into the shoes of someone removed from their family
  • The sticky-note game of defining our 5 most important connections
  • The video about foster care from a foster child’s perspective (“Do you REALLY expect me to be grateful, trusting, and easy to love?”)
  • The interactive game we played on the first night where we matched our strengths with needs
  • and the case study we role-played at the start of the class that was threaded throughout the rest of the sessions.

Our intent in taking the class was simply to learn more (all we can!) about adoption and parenting, and to position ourselves for the next call from God, wherever that might lead in the future.  At this time, upon our completion of MAPP, we are NOT moving forward with the next steps toward foster-care licensure through the state or pursuing an adoption placement through the state (because we are already working with a private agency).  But I can say this for sure: Our minds and hearts have truly been blown wide open to the needs and realities of foster parenting.

foster

I would encourage ANYONE who is interested in adoption to consider taking this class.  It is required if you plan to be licensed foster parents or foster-to-adopt, and it might not be if your plan is private-agency adoption.  But, either way, you are going to learn a ton about yourself in the process… possibly even to conclude that foster parenting INSTEAD of adoption is right for you — or vice versa.  The important thing to remember is keeping an open heart.  You might think yours will break in the process.  That it couldn’t possibly handle giving a child back that has been living in your home for any length of time.  But I would suggest to consider the hearts of these children who are removed so suddenly in the first place (for many different reasons)…

Currently there are 425,000+ children in foster care in America.  There are 9,500 children in foster care in North Carolina alone.  One of the social workers on the panel at graduation told us there are people whose job it is to go to our county DSS every day and receive calls — they literally get that many calls every day.  There are children who desperately need a safe place to live until they can be reunified with their biological family (which, keep in mind, is the first priority).  Sometimes foster care might lead to adoption, but becoming a foster parent means recognizing that fostering is temporary, and that adoption might only happen if it’s in God’s will.

Honestly, I don’t know much about being a parent.  But somewhere in all of this I have come to believe that ALL parents (whether you have biological children or adopted) are foster parents.  Our children belong to God; He has simply given us the gift and the privilege of parenting them while they’re here on earth.  The time we have with them might be cut tragically short, or it might be full and long, but we are fostering God’s children nonetheless…

We would be happy to answer any questions that we’re able to about MAPP or foster care (and please know: we’re nowhere near experts!!).  God is so amazing to have given us the opportunity to learn a little more in this area, and we would be honored and blessed to walk alongside of you in the start of your journey as well.

As Mrs. A would say, “You guys are awesome!!!”

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{Side note: I would also be so happy to have a conversation with any of you personally about the role of the local church in all of this.  This important subject has been consistently laid on my heart and in my path lately, and I would LOVE to discuss it — just didn’t feel as though this particular post was the best or right platform for that.}

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