In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in order to a foster child, you need a bed, a bedroom that is not shared with an adult, a dresser, and 50 square feet of space.
That’s practically nothing. Until you consider the number of people who don’t have even that much. And the number of people who let that much space sit empty. When i first moved to Boston, I shared a three-bedroom apartment with four other people. True, it was two couples and single person, but it had one bathroom, no dining room, and no counter space in the kitchen. While we lived there, I worked for a family in Brookline who had a housekeeper’s apartment on the third floor of their house which was the size of my apartment — and it sat empty for the entire year I worked there. Their house, in which three people lived, had seven bathrooms. How much space do you need? How much is too much? How much is too little? Who decides — and who gets the leftovers?
According to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, if you want to foster children, they decide.
We were living in a one-bedroom apartment when I got pregnant. Wait, I hate that phrasing. It makes it sound like pregnancy happened to me, that I blinked and suddenly! I get no agency in that sentence construction. Some outside force, almost certainly not Himself, decided that I should be pregnant and then made it happen. Which is just creepy. Okay.
We were living in a one-bedroom apartment when we achieved pregnancy. We planed to move sometime before the kidlet reached one year old, but were a little unclear about exactly when that move might happen. I miscarried just before three months (yes, agency for that part of it should certainly rest somewhere else!), but we were still thinking about that move. Among other things, we also wanted to do foster care, and as previously stated, this required more space.
About three months later, we lucked out and found a three-bedroom apartment only about a mile away. We moved in January, somewhat by accident picked up a long-term house guest, and tried to figure out when we wanted to talk to the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Not right away, sure. We wanted to unpack a lot, and make it look like we actually had plans and space for a kid. But then, when?
I finally called the main Boston office just to get some info. And called back two weeks later. And was about to call back again, when I got a call which started out with the woman on the phone wanting to make really sure I understood that there were no babies available for adopting through the foster care system.
I was surprised at the time, but it made more sense later. Think about it. How many calls must they get from people who want to adopt, but think that international is too hard, and private agencies are too expensive? Doesn’t the state have lots of kids available for adoption? Surely some of those are babies, and I can easily see some people thinking they had found the quick way to get the babies they so desperately want. As it happens, the state does have lots of kids available for adoption, but none of the are blank slates, and most of them are not babies. All things considered, it’s probably best that DCF warns people about this right away, so they don’t waste everyone’s time.
Since we really weren’t looking for babies to adopt, but kids to foster, the woman said she’d pass on my name. And then we went back to waiting. For another two weeks. And twiddling our thumbs. And waiting. I think it’s a result of the environment where I work, but if someone’s waiting to hear back from me, I try to at least give an update after a few days! Two weeks, then three, was a very long time.
But one morning at work, the phone rang! And DCF wanted to talk to me! And ask all the terribly intrusive questions you’d expect of a government agency contemplating giving you a real live child to care for. She apologized for asking about things like our plans for biological children (yes, I told her about the miscarriage), but really, again, if we were just trying to substitute foster kids for the biological kids we couldn’t have, then she wanted to know sooner rather than later and stop wasting everyone’s time. I get the feeling that the first few rounds of interviews eliminates a lot of people who think they want to be foster parents, but really have no idea what they are asking to get into.
Finally, after two reschedulings, the social worker showed up at our door to do the first in-person interview and initial inspection of the house. We had the space, we had the plan, now we just needed to convince DCF that we weren’t crazy.
But that story’s for another day.