In order to become foster/adoptive parents in Ohio, one must sit through 36 hours of training or "pre-service". Typically, these hours will be divided into about 12-3 hour evenings over the course of a couple months. These classes are designed to give you insight into the types of children that come through the system and also test your ability to handle new and often times difficult situations, whether physical, environmental, or emotional.
Walking in to our first class we found 6 other couples along with a few single individuals. In my awful mind, I immediately started to size everyone up. I tried to figure them all out and wondered what their motives were. Terrible, I know. But by our last class, I was sad that I wasn't going to see them every week anymore.
The first session was a Saturday. A seven hour class broken up by a one hour break in the middle. During the first three hours, we were introduced to our classmates, the agency staff, and did some paperwork and heard an introduction from our trainer, Rhonna, a nurse and mother of five, two of whom were adopted from foster care.
The second half of the class got into a little more. We had a break mid day and when we came back we watched a video about a boy in Canada's foster care system. The movie began with a picture of the boy hanging from a fence after taking his own life. The boy was a teenager and he had left a note, explaining that the reason for his death was that no one loved him, no one had ever loved him, and if someday they did, he wasn't sure if he would even know what it felt like. This video set the tone for not only the rest of that session, but the classes that were to come.
We were all given paper and we were told to write why we were there. There was a range of answers from "to help kids that have no one else" to "because I want a baby". We were challenged to understand that this was a huge undertaking because most of the kids in the system were not only older but they were very broken. I think everyone left that first class questioning whether this was right for them. By the time our next class came, three people had apparently decided it wasn't.