Being a foster parent is like being in the Wizard of Oz

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It may be because our first foster child arrived like the tornado that blew through Kansas and swept Dorothy to Oz. It may even be because I have felt a bit like the Wicked Witch of the West sending out flying monkeys to get things done. The reality is being a foster parent can feel like you have landed in Oz, and are searching for the wizard to grant you courage, heart and brains. When you are officially a foster parent you have these dreams and ideas of what will arrive on your doorstep along with a few fears. You know there could be bad, but when you open your door to a child standing before you, or the social worker hands off an infant, you fall in love with the adorableness of the munchkin you opened your door to see.

You're not in Kansas anymore

The Technicolor experience draws you in, and that happy moment is one you will hold onto as tight as Dorothy held onto the ruby slippers. But as fast as the house landed on the Wicked Witch of the East, your world may be shaken. It could be the Wicked Witch coming for revenge, or a tantrum of epic proportions. It might be a social worker coming to reunify a child to a home after the 72-hour hearing. The Wicked Witch of the West in your home may even be you as you fight against your friends, family and schools to do what is right in your heart for the child you have agreed to parent, love and fight for. Those are the tough moments.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Along the way you will meet some characters as Dorothy did on the yellow brick road. Some you will take with you as you journey. They like the Scarecrow, are searching for brains. As he learned at the end of the movie, he had them all along, guiding Dorothy on her quest, as your lawyers, the department lawyers, even some social workers will be guiding you. Some days you wonder if their heads are full of straw, but at the end you realize they, too, had brains after all.

As you continue toward your Emerald City, which in most cases is permanency through adoption, you will then come across your Tin Woodsman, who is searching for a heart. In reality your Tin Man could be like ours, the Court Appointed Special Advocate. These volunteers work with the families and the courts to be a voice that mediates and supports without judgment. Your Tin Man could also be therapists, yours, or your child's. The therapists help teach your child how to accept feelings they had never experienced, like happiness, and joy. As well as learn to handle the hard feelings of fear, loss, and disappointment. There may even be a school counselor, teacher, or principal who shows heart.

Dorothy had the Cowardly Lion looking for courage, you will have your support team. Your friends, family and anyone who is brave enough to allow the Dept. of Children and Families to dig into their background, give their fingerprints, and have their house inspected just to do what most families take for granted. When you have these brave souls open their lives for the department to take your child for an afternoon or a blessed overnight giving you a break from the stress and strain, they will face as many fears as Dorothy and her friends did in the Haunted Forest. You will just be grateful for a few minutes of peace with your spouse. Be careful though, you may end up fast asleep as Dorothy did in the poppy field.

There is no place like home

Once you reach your Emerald City, you will find that adoption may be as big of an illusion as the Great and Powerful Oz himself. What lies behind the curtain may be permanency with a family member that you never knew about. Sometimes it is with the birth parents because they have turned their life around, and sometimes it is an open agreement that brings in biological family members into your life in a way you never expected. You might not have to throw water on any evil Witches to have an audience with the Wizard, but once you have found yourself in Oz, you will realize that Glinda was right, you had the power all along. You made it though all the obstacles on the yellow brick road, and came out at the end with friends, a team to support you, and more brains, courage, and heart than you ever knew before.
You and your child will be able to click your heels and know that there is no place like home. Just as Glinda said, you and your child will know home wherever they land, because they have learned more about themselves. They have learned courage, heart and what it means to have brains. The most important thing they will learn is that they have you to trust and care for them.

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