Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - Worst Thing About Fostering

This is going to double as a Foster Parent Friday post, but since I already have two written and scheduled to appear over the next two weeks, I figured I'd do double duty and write this here under Tuesday's Tears.  Honestly, I don't feel like finding another topic for Tuesday's Tears.  I'm all "teared-out" and ready for more joy.  This will be an easy topic to get through.

Question: What is the worst thing about being foster parents?

This is a question that probably has a different answer for every set of foster parents.  As with most of my FPF posts, the answer is - it depends.  So, obviously this answer is us specific, though I'd imagine it's something other foster parents struggle with too.  That or we're crazy and if that's the case please don't tell me I'd like to stay in my blissfully unaware world.

Common answers to this question (not our own) might be:
  • Seeing the sad things the kids go through
  • All of the visits/scrutiny/rules
  • When the kids leave
  • Not being able to help more kids
  • The various struggles the kids have (RAD, ODD, other attachment disorders, etc.)
  • Birthparents who just don't care
  • Birthparents who care but can't get over their hangups
  • False allegations
  • Family/friends who are not supportive of the choice to be foster parents
(Did I miss any obvious ones?  Leave me a comment and let me know if I missed something from that list).

Honestly, I haven't asked my husband what his worst would be, so I'm going to call this my worst....the things I hate most. Maybe it's because I'm a mom and I want to protect my family. Maybe it's because we have a biological child and want to protect him. Maybe it's because we struggle with infertility. Maybe it's because I'm a control freak.

The worst thing to me about being foster parents is that the foster family is the last one considered when decisions are being made about cases, if they are considered at all.  This means that caseworkers  often don't communicate in a timely manner and when they do they often have no regard about how what they are telling you will affect your life.  There appears to be a sentiment among the state caseworkers/DFPS, that would say "if you don't like it, then don't be a foster parent.  We'll just find someone else."

This is ridiculously hard for me to handle.  We give and give and give for foster care.  I'm not saying that for a pat on the back - we love what we do - but to give and give and give, to not be able to plan well for your future because you don't know how cases will turn out, to not know how to help the kids most because you don't know if they will be reuniting with their parents or heading toward termination and then to be callously given pieces of information that highly affect your life without any care or, worse yet, to not be told of a decision that will highly affect your life only to callously find out way later, its just plain hard and feels like a kick in the teeth.

A few examples - with our little girl that we are moving toward adoption with, here is the content of a few emails that I've gotten.  These are the entire content of the emails below, each numbered as a separate email - I haven't edited them or cut out material - this is it.
  1. "Little Miss" will be moving to be with her grandmother by the end of the week or Monday next week if they pass a drug test.
  2. Mom and dad are pregnant and would like you to adopt both of them.  Think about it.
  3. I don't think mom is going to go through with giving you the baby.  She's looking at an adoption agency (name of agency).
  4. I've been told to tell you to get an attorney and give your contact information to the parents so they can call you when the baby is born.  That's all I can say and I've probably said too much.
  5. The only thing I can think of is to tell mom to abandon her baby at the hospital with a note that says for it to come to you through CPS.
No joke folks - these were sent in emails, most of which had no subject, and all of which had no other context around them.  No phone call.  No "I know this is surprising", no "I'm sorry this is dragging you all around".  Nothing.  And when I questioned this all once I got "Well, you could just not go through with the adoption".  Whatever happened to doing the best for the child?

At least with those notes I was being told what's going on to some degree (though I'd argue that with the decisions on some of these pieces I was the last to know weeks after the decisions were already put into play.) I've had several cases where we've been contacted briefly with something like "I have a 2 yo and 3 yo that need adoption - are you interested?" and then never hearing anything else. Or, then there's the situation with all of our kids who've returned to care (#1 & #2, #3) where we've been asked to take them back and we respond and don't hear anything else.  Now you're talking about kids we know who were/are a part of our family who now we know are out there somewhere and we may get them back (which will change our life) or we may not and then we're left wondering what happened to them. 

In the most recent example of #1 and #2 and getting the call email about possibly adopting them, we exchanged emails twice that said "we will take them in August if that's ok with you".  The first time we received a response that said (paraphrased) there is no timeframe - we want to find their forever home as quickly as possible if there is one available.  We responded again that said we'd be happy to take them in August and let us know if that won't work.

In the meantime, we're sitting back wondering what will happen to our life over the next few months (and, in the case of adoption....) years.  We figured out daycare will work, how carseat arrangements would work, how bedroom arrangements would work.  We agonized over whether we'd have one set of kids with us or the other.  What would happen if we took all of them?  What would happen if one went to another house, how would they do.  How would our bio & soon-to-be adopted kiddo handle either scenario?  For weeks we thought and prayed and wondered what will be, with it in mind that we were still heading toward August, because that was what was said in the last piece of communication. 

Then we initiated a follow-up email to check on the status, because by now we know better.  The response was essentially.  "Oh yes - after talking with my supervisor we decided to place them somewhere else so you don't have to send the other kids home".  Which, by the way is crazy because the plan is for the other kids to go somewhere else anyway.  So what we're being told is we can't have any of them, but she did go on to tell us how we're doing such a great job.  Why thank you...we're such great parents to all of these kids but we can't continue to be good parents to them.  And not because they are going home for reunification - just because someone made the call that it would be easier for us this way.  It was clear this decision had been made at least some time prior and it was an oversight to not tell us, and not an oversight in the way of "oops I should have told you but I forgot"...just an oversight.  No acknowledgement that we should have been told.

It's hard enough to be not in control of almost everything that happens to your family.  The only control we have is to decide not to do it anymore - which isn't what we want as a family but is the only choice we have.  We've been given the "choice" to adopt several times only to not actually be given that choice - our decisions don't matter.  That's what it comes down to - our desires just don't matter.  We don't matter.  Not to the caseworkers anyway.  All we are is a home and someone to take care of the kids, which should be a big deal but it isn't.  We aren't the G family.  We're just another expendable foster home.
That is the hardest thing for me to deal with. We're good foster parents. We're great parents in general. We already are "second-best" in the parenting world because we aren't their "real" parents. We're second-best to the kids because we're not their "real" parents. We're last or not even considered when it comes to planning for the kids in our home (we have a say in their plans, but how that affects OUR lives doesn't matter).  That is hard folks - at least that's the hardest thing for mie.

But of course, we get our check from the state so that is their "thank you".  No wonder people end up doing it for the money...

Is this pretty negative?  Sorry folks - you know I don't like to live in the negative.  This is real though - the honest yuckiness of being foster parents because it isn't all rosy.  The best thing I can figure to be a solution is to try and see the big picture - that despite all of that, all of the individual pieces of our foster-parenting lives and the mini-details that fill each case that may not be mindful of us and our feelings - the best thing is to focus on what God is doing.  That is the solution.  We may not be in control.  It may feel like everyone is in control but us. 

But the truth is - God is in control and no one else.  When we focus on trusting His plan it becomes much easier to get through the daily craziness.  Stop focusing on us - focus on Him. 

That's the plan.  I'm not great at it, but I'm trying - and that's why this blog is all about Letting Go of Mie.

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