Last night I went running with a friend. I've been moody thanks to our recent experience with foster care. Hormones hasn't helped, nor has extra regular stress. I thought going for a run would be a good way to shake the blues, burn some stress, give myself a mental break, and get some much-needed exercise.
It was. I spent the whole run listening to a friend, making myself run just one.more.step, and thinking about my blog post today. I was thinking about telling you how life-changing foster care is. Many of us say that though we gripe about foster care and our experiences with the system we wouldn't trade our lives. The kids, the life-lessons, the unshakeable awareness of the world out there that we'd otherwise shield ourselves and our families from are all things that have made us grow as people.
I thought about our recent situation. We gave the county a little bit of time (2 weeks) to have the children moved from our home because we want them to go to a good place that can care for their specific needs, we didn't want to cause any more harm in the process, and we can keep them all safe in our home while a new home is found. We just don't want to take the life-long risk of further damage to our forever kids or living with this type of extensive safety plan if we don't have to, and we don't, and it will be better for them to live somewhere else. The county counter-offered by suggesting only one of the children are moved. This child needs to live in a place where no other children can be harmed. This would include the bio-sibling who lives in our home. So, as of now, the plan is to leave the bio-sibling in our home with us. We'll see how this goes.
What I wanted to tell you though is that it doesn't matter what happens with these children. Our lives are forever changed. Having one child leave changes our family. Having both leave changes our family. Having both stay changes our family. Every time we get a call, then bring a child into our home, then keep them for however long they stay, then participate in their forever plan (leave or stay), our family changes. This isn't always bad but the reality of it is that it cannot be reversed. I have had 21 children (1 bio, 1 adopted). They all have been my children. Knowing that 16 of them have left does not mean they have left our hearts or they are no longer our children. Sure they no longer live with us but they are still ours in our heart. They were still my children's siblings. We have pictures and memories. We were a family with each of them when they were here. They might physically leave when they move away but they never leave our family.
This makes our current situation interesting.
After my run last night I was cleaning up the house with the local news on in the background when I heard about a police shooting nearby. Unlike most events like this, they actually published the name of the person who had been shot. I heard it. I had to rewind to hear the story again, then again to show my husband.
Our lives are never the same. The children - the families of the children - who come into our lives through foster care are forever part of us.
This person on the news - the deceased person - is my age and I knew her well. She was the mother of one of my foster children. The one I wrote this email to. The one I wrote this about. She was the one who let this happen. I knew her, but of course because of the nature of the relationship (and I'm sure how long ago it was that we last talked), I didn't hear about her death from family or friends but instead on the news.
I'm so sad. The entire situation is sad. There are children who no longer have their mother, a fact being touted by the media and others against the police. The reality is that the kids haven't had their mother in a long-time - it wasn't this incident that took her from them - and yet while she was alive there was still hope that one day they would have some quality relationship with her. Now it's for sure - they won't have a relationship with her. Half of the media/public is condemning the officer involved - something I am vehemently against both in support of the police AND knowing her personally. Half of the media/public is condemning her for being a worthless "P.O.S" (I actually saw that) "druggie" "wanted felon" who deserved to die. Clearly, most of these people didn't know her or her family. They are people hearing a snippit of the situation and making judgments to make themselves feel better. The reality is there are two sets of families grieving - the police officers and hers. And ours, of course, though with the confidential nature of our cases we don't really have a place to grieve.
That, though, is not why I write. Even years after this child left our home, even years after we spoke to her last as she was looking to me as a mentor & friend to help her mother and stay clean before she took off again, we deeply grieve. We grieve her loss. We grieve what could have been for her. We grieve for our lost child whom we loved very, very much. We grieve the special role they asked us to play in his life forever that we were never able to assume after he left to live with relatives far away. We grieve for him, and his sister, who will not grow up knowing quality love from their birth mother. We grieve for our son who to this day asks about him and if he can come to visit - afterall, this woman and her then husband stood in our kitchen and promised him that he would be able to see their son again often.
Our lives will never be the same without him. Or her. Or any one of our other foster children no longer in our home. Or their families. It won't be better or worse. It just won't be the same.