These are more thoughts I had as I was forming my first post in response to Cindy over at Recipe For a Family.
Sometimes, we need a bit of reality about fostering. Unfortunately, the reality isn’t just the awesome parts of parenting children. I wish it were. Can you imagine getting to experience first steps, first words, progress in speech or physical therapy, the funny things kids say and do, etc all the time? And if you have a special age group you especially love, you can do it 20 or 60 times! Seriously, if it was about loving, playing with, parenting children, fostering would be absolutely awesome a lot of the time (the other side of that coin may be another post because I do think it is important also).
However, not only is there the good (and bad) of parenting all these children, there is the system itself.
Since I just started my blog, there isn’t a ton on there about my Sweet Little M (there was more on the other blog). Basically, we had her for 11½ months, being her fourth home. She had attachment and developmental concerns when we got her as an infant! We worked with her and still had some concerns, but she had progressed SO far. M was the first child who we felt was OURS when the state had different plans. For 14 months, fictive kin (that can mean friends of the family, family by a marriage or two, etc) wanted to get her. They weren’t very proactive and the cps worker made some mistake that cost everyone months. Well, so once this toddler was bonded to us, developmentally on target with supports in place, etc, the state moved her to these people on the other side of the country. This despite her needs being known, her doctor writing in her behalf, etc. Fact is that the agency’s quotas, state’s statistics, and money were more important than the best interest of this little girl, my little girl. And I couldn’t protect her.
Case ridiculousness – Two little kids, a baby and a toddler. Mom put the children in danger by refusing to stay away from their father during exchanges of custody. Honestly, I’m not sure that warranted the children being taken when you consider how damaging removing a child from his mother is (remember, I read the case information. Obviously, in some cases, it would most certainly be warranted). So these beautiful children went to a foster home. A couple days later, they were moved to another foster home, mine. Mom worked her plan as quickly as she could. She never missed a visit. I sent short letters and pictures to her which she greatly appreciated. She wrote back the nicest notes. CPS said she worked her plan too quickly. SAY WHAT!?!?! They made her wait and wait again. The next time, the supervisor told me they were going to make her wait one more month. Seriously? They wanted to move the children to the aunt for the final month. I thought that was a *really* bad idea. You’re gonna move the kids just to give them back to their mother a month later? The only good part of that would have been that the mother could have seen them more. I offered to supervise a 2nd visit each month which we did gladly. That was the best thing ever in such a dumb situation. I was amazed at how the children were for her. There was a special bond between them. I’m so happy I got to experience that last month with their whole little family. The day the judge granted her getting her kids back, I set it up for her to pick the kids up at our home. Mama L came back to the house after strapping the children in the car to thank me yet again and hug me.
One major issue is children bounced around the system. This is pretty normal actually. The children above….
- Sweet Little M has now been in FIVE homes in less than 21 months. Those first two years are soooo important for a child to learn to attach. It would be better for a child to have one strong healthy attachment and have it broken than to have multiple short attachments, learning instead that adults are unpredictable and won’t be there tomorrow or next month. Sweet Little M left eight days ago. She thought she would be gone a couple hours just like she did to go to visits to see her biological parents. Instead, she has not heard our voices, seen us, been held or comforted by us, had our family rituals, etc in eight days. At 21 months old, she has lost FOUR sets of adults, including a family she loved and who adored her for 11½ months. My heart aches for her.
- The infant and toddler? They were given to one couple. A few days later, these people decided they couldn’t handle them; so we got them. Now, there is no way for the system to know how long a parent is going to take to get their children back so I understand looking for kin. This is probably best a lot of the time. It certainly saves the state money and allows the child to have a family culture more similar to their own. Many times, it also allows a parent to see the children more often (which can be good though it isn’t always). Once the kids were with us for a few months, moving them when the plan was to move them home soon didn’t make as much sense. Thankfully, CPS agreed with me and the family and mom did also. Otherwise, these children, who went home at 9 and 20 months would have had three placements during their short stint in care, a recipe for issues with children so young!
- And my third example are my children. My children came to me at almost 3, almost 4, and 5 years old. We were their ninth home (we thought it was eighth until we learned of another placement). Their parents were given way too many chances and each time they left the home, they went to another family. There was six weeks between the final time they were taken and when we finally got them. I guess it wouldn’t surprise anyone that they have attachment issues, huh?
Unfortunately, I could continue on about foster parents rights being stomped upon (even those that keep us from advocating for the kids in our care), by the threats to keep us in line (yes, actually spoken ones), things like caseworkers not visiting the way they are supposed to, etc. What about child in a foster home for 15months, the case going to adoption, family having been ruled out, then the child being given to another adoptive couple? What about corruption in a system of quotas, statistics, and $?
So why should we consider continuing to foster? Why do I still suggest it to other people? Because the system is so incredibly broken and so actively hurting children, there is a need for good people who can love the children, help them gain skills they need for a lifetime, to celebrate their progress and development, to be parents on a daily basis. What we do counteracts all the baloney, maybe not perfectly, but a lot better than they could without all we give to them.
Well, and let’s be honest, there may be a few benefits for us too (but that can be another post – though there were a few hints in the first paragraph).