One Week

In order to foster with the local Children’s Aid I needed a landline. The idea is so archaic, I decided to kick it completely old school – a corded phone and answering machine. Thursday, August 15 my handy pad of phonepaper was finally filled with details of a child. At first she was 11 – then suddenly almost 14 (the social worker’s math is clearly as bad as mine since she was determining age based on year of birth). A one week respite placement. The child came into care a week ago. Her foster parents had already booked this week off. Nearly 14 with some history of drug use and a tendency to sneak out. Maybe not a problem at my house since she’d be far from friends. It was my first call. I took the risk.

Carlin* arrived Sunday afternoon. Her foster mom was guardedly positive when we spoke on the phone the day before. “I have two 16yr old foster girls and they love her – want her to stay.” The other girls were off to camp. Carlin ended up with me because it was too late to register her for camp.

Sloane* and Elise* welcomed her with exuberance. After lunch we made play dough. Carlin was quietly helpful. Copying my actions, she kneaded the dough. For a while she played – cutting out pink hearts. She remained eerily quiet. This, no doubt, was exaggerated by the fact that I’m unaccustomed to quiet people. Her foster mom said she was quiet and just wanted to text all the time. That evening I left Carlin on her own.

The next day, with Sloane & Elise at daycare, we went to Starbucks. Somehow this always ends up being the first place I take kids. I didn’t get any pictures of Carlin, but do have one of Sloane. I bought Carlin a Caramel Macchiato. She’d never been to Starbucks and was overwhelmed by the adjoining Chapters. “There’s so much stuff,” she whispered.

1st outing with Sloane

1st outing with Sloane

Later that evening, with the little ones in bed, I suggested we watch a movie together. Carlin agreed, informing me “I don’t really watch movies.” I wanted to make an effort. It’s not like we could sit around talking. Conversation didn’t go anywhere. She was quiet and guarded. I’m no good at small talk. My questioning pulled out a disjointed family history. Carlin’s mom had only been 14yrs old when she had her. Later she married, someone other than Carlin’s father, and had the two little ones. Their paternal grandparents rescued them from foster care that day. But no one came forward for Carlin. She had to be sad. Normally people share with me quite freely. “I’ve never told this to anyone” is a phrase I commonly hear followed by a number of revelations from childhood abuse to secret dreams and desires. I was getting nothing from Carlin. She answered my questions with facts, no feelings.

It was a week of first for Carlin. After her mom didn’t show up for a visit we went to Fabricland (memories of my sister demanding candy for accompanying me fabric shopping flooded my mind). Then we went out for Vietnamese. “Thank you,” Carlin said as we left the restaurant. “That was really good.” Her manners were impeccable. She seemed sincerely grateful for my meager offerings.

Later in the week, it was Ikea. “It’s big,” was all she had to say at the end of it. The silence is something I never got used to.

On our final evening, I introduced her to Wes Anderson – whom I love. We watched Moonrise Kingdom. “It’s weird. But I like it,” she said. “When you’re older, you must watch the other films,” I implored.

By the end of the week she was humming along to Jon Thurlow as we drove around.  IHOP Kansas City was playing continually in the background at home. I resisted the urge to launch into prayer counselling. But I did bless her spirit using Arthur Burk’s book at night while she slept.(If you’d like a copy, let me know. I just got a shipment in.) Sloane tried to convince Carlin to stay with us. Even when her foster mom came to get her, Sloane pleaded her case.

Shortly after she left, Carlin text me. “Thank u for having me!!!”

“It was my pleasure. Feel free to stay in touch if you want. Praying all goes well for you!” was my response.

“okay I will and thanks 😀  u cook really good food too I never ate like that before”

I can’t recall most of what I made – teriyaki chicken with rice, apple cinnamon bread for breakfast one day, peach pie that turned out below par.

“I’m sure she means it,” a fellow foster parent assured me. “She didn’t have to text you. She’d already said goodbye.”

Goodbye –that’s the hard part. Some kids you’re happy to see go. Others burrow deep into your heart. I doubt Carlin will ever return to my home. But, for now, she remains on my heart. I’m still praying for God to break in on her situation. I’m blessing her, via Arthur Burk’s exceptional prayers, to move past the pain and into the Father’s love. But, sadly, this is where the story ends.

*name changed