Summer 2011: I don't remember when exactly, but at some point we decided to actually pursue foster care, and we called our agency and asked for an application. They mailed us the application, and then we very quickly did nothing at all.September 2011: We finally decided to get around to completing that dang application. It was one of those things that we put off forever thinking it was going to be a huge deal, and then when we actually started it it turned out it wasn't all that big of a deal at all. A few weeks later our agency called and invited us to come in for an interview. We scheduled the interview for a few weeks later.
October 2011: The agency called the day before the interview to reschedule for a week or two later - the dates are fuzzy at this point. I do remember that once we actually submitted the application we were really excited to move forward, so it was a real bummer to have the interview postponed. When we did finally go in for the interview, we sat down with the director of the agency's foster care division. She asked us a few general questions about why we wanted to do foster are and what our expectations were, and then we got to ask her any and all questions we had. This really helped clarify things for us, and we learned a ton. I now recommend to other families that they go in and interview agencies BEFORE beginning the application process, so that they can choose the right agency for their family. Luckily we like our agency, so we continued on with them. At the end of the interview, the director said someone else in the office would contact us soon to schedule us for the training sessions. We went home and waited for that call. And waited. And waited.
November 2011: I finally sent what I hoped would come off as a friendly and low-key email to the director following-up on our interview and asking when we could expect to hear about scheduling the training session. Low and behold they called us the next day to schedule our training. By this point the next training session wasn't starting until January, so we signed up for that one.
January 2012: Our nine weekly training sessions began, and soon after our first class our agency contacted us to schedule their first home-visit. Over the course of our training we had one more home-visit, and then scheduled our final home-visit for a few days after our last training session. That would be the visit where everything would be finalized, and we'd become licensed!
March 2012: We finished our training! A day or two before our final home visit the agency called the reschedule. The next available appointment was three weeks later. This was crushing! We knew we could expect a placement of kids any time after that final home visit, so we had everything set-up and ready to go by this point. We very patiently waited out the three weeks. Then, another call the day before the appointment. We'd have to reschedule again, for in another three weeks.
April 2012: When that appointment didn't happen either, I sent another email that probably didn't come off quite as friendly and low-key as the one previously mentioned. A few days later I got a call from a new worker who'd be handling our licensing at this point. She was able to fit us in the next week.
April 26, 2012: The licensing worker from the agency actually came to the scheduled appointment (Hallelujah)! She gave us the final sign-off, and said to expect it to take up to a month to get our license from the state. I followed-up with her once or twice over the next week to make sure she had everything she needed from us (and to make sure she remembered us and that our file hadn't fallen between the seat cracks of her car or something).
May 3, 2012: One week after our home visit the licensing worker called to let me know she'd finished her paperwork and was sending it in to the state.
May 17, 2012: We got our license in the mail!
May 31, 2012: We got our first call asking if we'd be willing to take a placement! It was a Thursday afternoon. We said yes, and the agency said they'd be bringing the kids out the next day. The kids were going to be staying at a shelter until then. We immediately cancelled anything and everything that we had scheduled in the coming weeks. Then we moved all the bedroom furniture around to accommodate the kids that we were expecting. This included taking apart both a daybed and a crib, moving the pieces to different bedrooms, and then reassembling them. We thought we had our bedrooms all set-up, but it's really hard to know which rooms need which furniture until you know exactly what ages and genders are coming.
June 1, 2012: After getting absolutely no sleep we waited and waited and waited for the agency to call and tell us when they'd be bringing the kids. Finally I gave in at noon and called the worker. She said she was just about to call me (was she?), and that now they were looking into placing the kids with some of their relatives. Luckily we'd done enough foster care research and networking ahead of time to know all along that this was a possibility. But it was still disappointing for us. We got off the phone feeling like they were leaning towards the family placement, but not knowing for sure, so we were left to wait it out. A few hours later they called again to say that they'd decided to move the kids with us for the time being, but we should know that they may end up being moved with the relatives. By now it was late-afternoon on Friday, and the agency said they couldn't bring the kids out until Monday. I offered to pick the kids up from the shelter myself - I was excited to meet them, but mostly I felt bad that they'd have to spend a whole weekend in a shelter. Unfortunately the shelter will apparently only release kids to the caseworker, so I was told it wasn't a viable option for me to pick them up.
June 4, 2012: After a very crazy weekend of trying to do everything and anything we could think of to get ready, the kids finally arrived at around 2 in the afternoon!
So if you count from when we actually submitted our application, it was nine months until we actually had kids in our home. Like I said, there are lots of factors at play in all of this: there are condensed training sessions that finish in four weeks instead of nine. Our license could have been completed much more quickly had our original worker been able to keep her appointment back in March. But the biggest unknown is how long you'll wait for a call after you have your license. We only waited two weeks, but we were willing to take a sibling group of three kids with a wide age range. Some people wait months or even years for a placement, depending on where they live, and how restrictive they are in terms of ages, special needs, genders, and number of children they're willing to accept.
The waiting is really, really hard. But completely worth it in the end!