Lots of firsts
I learned how to enroll someone in school, schedule someone for dental surgery, work with a therapist, make three meals a day at regular times so that little people's blood sugars wouldn't drop, and many other fine skills most 22-year olds don't get the pleasure of experiencing.
We fell into a routine. School, homework, outdoor play, dinner, baths, books, brush teeth, prayers, and bed.
We dealt with the issues that arose. Neither child had ever slept in a bed alone. The oldest had serious loyalty to his parents, and had problems with feeling guilty every time he began to enjoy himself when separated from them. Neither child had ever brushed their teeth. Both were a little reckless and showed poor judgment when it came to dangers.
We attended more meetings and appointments than I ever had in my life. Court hearings, testifying, parental visitation, therapy, doctors, dentists, case worker visits. We probably have three extra meetings a week, in addition to the daily ones they're required to attend.
The hurricane touches down
After having the children for a month, their case worker approached us about also taking their 12-year old sister who had been staying at the crisis center. We were understandably hesitant. She's only 10 years younger than me, I was already pretty maxed out with just the two kids and their commitments and my pregnancy, and we didn't even have enough bedrooms.
We had settled on telling the case worker no, when she asked us if we'd consider just casually meeting the girl first at the next family visitation. We agreed. The day of the visitation, the case worker called to tell us that she had told the girl, "You'll be sure to win them over. You're so cute, they're going to want to take you home as soon as they meet you." What this woman could possibly have been thinking, I don't know. Our decision whether to take her or not had nothing to do with "winning us over" or how cute she was. Of course, after being told that, there's no way she wouldn't take it as a personal slam on her character if we turned her down.
So we begrudgingly agreed to take the girl, though it was against our better judgment of what we could handle and what was best for her. We just couldn't let her feel that this was a popularity contest.
Needless to say, it was difficult. The girl was sweet. But she'd definitely lived. We began to see her little brother and sister, who had previously been happy and obedient and carefree, start to manifest a lot of stress and confusion. They bickered constantly, disobeyed long-established rules, became secretive and shifty, and were just generally unsettled when she was around.
The girl herself displayed hoarding (taking things from around the house and stashing them in bags in her room) and destructive tendencies (ripping apart her sister's dress-up clothes and toys and hiding the wreckage in her room). She discussed inappropriate topics with her siblings (their parents' drug habits, etc) and incited them to break rules. We had no control over her behavior. One day she just plain didn't come home from school, and it took us hours to track her down.
We simply weren't capable of taking care of her at this point in our lives. On top of that, it wasn't healthy for her younger siblings to be around her (something their therapist agreed with me on). So we made the difficult decision to have her moved.
The day she left, everyone (adult and child) let out a sigh. The kids have been happy and emotionally healthy ever since.
We're committed to not get ourselves into a situation again that we don't feel comfortable with.