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Stuff. More Stuff

3 kids holding hands and walking

Published by Amanda Mueller Kitchens  · December 20, 2018  · 

The pages of Dominique’s story and mine intertwined while sitting around a table at a foster care support group. Like Dominique, my journey to this point started a little over seven years ago, when my husband and I became what is now known as a Resource Family. We began thinking we could and would tiptoe into the world of foster care. We would “try it on”…see how it felt…see how WE felt. Were we strong enough or good enough to do this? We knew we wanted to be parents, that we had big love to give, and we planned to love the hurt right out of any child we cared for in our home.

Those were the wide-eyed and idealistic days! It didn’t take us long to realize that love is NOT all you need in this walk (a post for another time). No, you actually need STUFF, and support, and more support. Did I mention that you need support?!? You find your village. It may look different than you thought it would, but you find it and embrace it.

It is beautiful and messy all at once.

We also discovered how quickly things can change, how fast (or slow) a placement call can happen, how little we knew, and just how unprepared we were with actual STUFF. From the time we said, “Let’s do this” to the day we got that first call about a baby boy, it was just under three months. Three months! We had been collecting items, but not specifically for a baby, and now we had less than 10 days to stock up for a baby. We scrambled. We borrowed. We bought. And still we needed more.

First came an intense rush of love, then a couple more kids, and then came a hard dose of reality. Mental health, chronic diseases and illness, attachment and processing disorders. We needed more than the typical STUFF. We needed sensory toys, occupational therapy tools, extra bed pads and overnight diapers for older kids (accidents are frequent with kids who have experienced trauma). We even needed more food because of the kids’ food insecurities and disorders!

Fast forward 7 years, 2 adoptions and a preschooler we are fostering. We decided in January of this year that we would make our home available for Emergency Fostering. A call came in mid-February about a baby needing a home for a short time. But we missed that call. “The next one will be your opportunity,” the worker reassured me! She must have heard the disappointment in my voice. The very next morning she called back. “Can you meet me at the hospital in a couple hours to pick up a newborn?” YES!

I hung up the phone and realized we had basically NO STUFF for a newborn: a few 3-6 month old outfits, some board books, a rattle and one glass bottle. Our infant car seat was expired. Within a couple hours, I had filled a shopping cart, installed a new infant car seat, reminded myself to breathe, called my husband to tell him not to check the bank account, and was eagerly waiting at the hospital. I walked into the NICU with the worker and knew 3-6 month old clothes would not fit this premature baby. Why was he so small??!! Okay, never mind that. But really…he was so small! We needed STUFF, and a lot of it. The REFPA blue bag gave us a start, and for that we were so grateful! After a few more shopping trips and generous visits from friends, we felt better equipped to care for this tiny baby. Still, that timeline was more than a week or two.

Whether you have 3 months, 10 days or 2 hours, gathering items in those chaotic first days adds tremendous stress to an already intense situation. That’s why Our Village Closet exists. We want to help alleviate the weight of that worry surrounding the STUFF needed with a revolving inventory to meet a range of needs.

This walk is hard. This work is messy. Being part of these kids’ stories is beautiful and humbling. I don’t think it will ever be easy, and certainly not typical. Yet I do think we can walk hand in hand, family to family. I know this community is generous. I know this village cares. This is a call to action, a call to empower. Our village has an opportunity to meet the physical needs of the kids we care for in this county, to support and help families provide a safe, nurturing home- so there is less worry about the STUFF, and more focus on the heart and the healing of this work. ~Amanda

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