The System

Listen. I’m not going to set up camp here. Build a house. Plant a garden. But today I am just gonna sit for a minute, in the uck. In the grumps.

I’m feeling it, a little bit. We’re almost to the year-and-a-half mark from when we thought we’d be taking in new littles. We’re hopefully? Possibly? Conceivably? close to licensing again. I’ve always been somewhat hesitant to talk in any concrete timelines, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t still calculating likelihoods and minimums and maximums and “general ideas.” I’m kind of… over that now. I hope that’s not glum and Eeyore. I just find that it’s kind of wasted energy.

So we wait.

We had a thing come up, a possible placement, over Christmas break that was kind of exciting, although it was either a good chance or a super slim unlikely chance, which are indistinguishable in this business. Still, one of those things that you can’t not pursue.

You know, that’s really what this is. You throw every line in the water, you take every possible road, because so many of them will dead end that you can’t let any go by unacknowledged. You submit for every placement and you make yourself available for every possibility, hoping that out of dozens or hundreds one will stick.

Our first placement was also our first call. Our son was our second placement. I remember sitting at my desk at work during the several weeks that we were open for placements, before he came. (I only worked two days a week, but somehow EVERY CPS call came on a Thursday, a work day.) Every time I got a call I’d grab any scratch paper that was handy and scribble a few things down, as fast as I could. “Male, 2 years old, biracial, some occupational therapy in previous foster home but basic level of care, 3 half-siblings that live in Oklahoma with a family member” or “Male, somewhere around 6 months old, at the hospital, bio mom is unconscious so that’s all we know.” “Male, 4 days old, premature, and they want to know if there’s any possibility y’all have any Native American heritage?”*

It was a weird thing because I’d want to hang onto each paper and try and grab onto the phone call, holding it loosely but taking a little mental snapshot, thinking any of these COULD be a future Daniels, although they probably wouldn’t, but I’d want a sense of the first time I heard details about our permanent child.

Most of those we never even heard back from to say “no,” they just sort of faded. Although we could wait weeks and still not know if we had been eliminated or if they’d gone to another home.

And so we’d wait.

It’s all about leaving these trailing strands of hope floating out there, not hanging on too tightly to them, but not quite letting go either.

It hasn’t been that hard for me, honestly. It’s the name of the game. People talk about how they would love to help the kids, but the system is so broken. Well, there are a lot of heads on this particular monster, the one that’s keeping these kids busted and broken and isolated. Part of it is the abuse, the neglect, the substance addiction, whatever patterns the bio family may be in. Part of it is systemic problems of poverty, racial injustice, discrimination. Part of it is the stigmas they may or may not face for the rest of their lives. Part of it is the biological and neurological disadvantages they start with, that could manifest (or not) in any one of infinite ways. But part of it IS The System.

There are allies within The System, and a lot of people doing the very best they can to accomplish an impossible task. Overworked, overloaded employees who may be driven by compassion, or maybe they started out that way, and to varying degrees have sort of buckled under it. Some of them are gritty, tough warriors daily facing situations you and I can’t even dream of, and to us they seem callous or uncaring, but their prickly armor is the only thing that keeps them in the game, and we need it.

But also, I never have and never could count on The System to work perfectly (or even well) to help me do my part of the work of the gospel in introducing little souls to redemption, acceptance, and unconditional love.

That possibility? That I mentioned earlier? Well, the system failed him yesterday. It failed pretty spectacularly, and other players within The System are fighting that, and a reasonably, relatively un-crappy outcome is still possible, I suppose. I can’t say I’m surprised, and I hope that doesn’t sound like apathy or defeat.

So we wait.

But the thing is, my hope isn’t in The System, or this job would be unsustainable. I wish it could be, sometimes, in weaker moments, because The System has…… a system. Full of holes and squeaky joints, rusting and overloaded though it may be, it has a certain logic, sometimes, and you can point to reasons something did or didn’t work — there are people to blame.

In some ways it’s harder to put hope in the sovereignty of God, because there’s no system. Within that, there is just trust, and obedience, and patience. It’s not comprehensible, sometimes, but on the other hand, it literally never fails.

So I’m not sure, ‘how long’ this, or ‘how likely’ that. I don’t know. I’ll stop trying to guess or play probabilities.

Today I’ll wait.

Today I’ll trust, although just for today it might be a little grudging. I know all of the arguments, I know some people have it worse, and I know I have so many blessings, and I know it’s what we signed up for, and I know there’s a plan and a purpose, I know I know I know, but today I’m going to let myself feel disappointed, and not explain or rationalize it away.

It’s hard not to see the people left and right that the Great Stork decides to favor whether they even want it or not. It’s hard not to look back on how long it seems like we’ve waited, and the seemingly arbitrary things that have held us up. It’s especially hard not to look at the “need” and the “crisis” and to look at my empty beds and think about babies that don’t have one. And it’s frustrating. It just is.

When I think about the tightrope, the one between “ignorance” and “the paralysis of despair”; the tightrope between ignoring or shutting out, entertaining/distracting/avoiding — and becoming bitter, hopeless, angry… I always end up thinking of Jesus himself. Here’s what he’d do, I think:

He’d hope AND he’d mourn. He wouldn’t quit and he wouldn’t try to bash through, caring less and less about each kid because of the possible pain. He’d keep caring, and he’d allow himself and other people to hurt for things, and he’d push on, because that’s the real bravery. That’s the real strength. And he’d rely on his father for that strength, for the real and only object of hope, because otherwise it’s absolutely, utterly, literally unsustainable. But with that source of strength, it’s a sure victory.


*FUN FACT: We have only ever gotten ONE single call for a female child, the one that I wrote about here. I have no idea why this is.

Posted in Fostering
One comment on “The System
  1. jonnameidal says:

    This post came at SUCH an amazing time in my foster care journey. We have been licensed for MONTHS, and still… placement. I have thought these same things you described in your post — the empty beds, the millions of kids needing them — and then, of course, wondering whether I’m cut out for this when I’m already hurting and I haven’t even had to say goodbye yet. Surrender is a difficult thing…So thank you for your openness and for your sharing your journey. It helps a lot!

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