Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Venting . . . And Some Encouragement

 A few thoughts for anyone out there who is doing foster care but needs some extra encouragement.

But first, a little venting about some of my own reasons for needing encouragement as a foster parent. To me, some of the most frustrating or heartbreaking things about “the system” and foster care in general are:

1) Having to say goodbye to a foster child. What a Loss. It can be absolutely heartbreaking. At this point in time my husband and I aren’t concerned with our own feelings, but with the feelings of our daughter who will have had to say goodbye to two foster brothers in two years.

If you don’t think the bond between children and their foster siblings is as strong as the bond between “regular” siblings, tell that to my three year old every time she cried for “her baby” after our last placement left our home.

After taking the kids for a visit to Grandma’s house last week, my mom got a sad look on her face and shook her head as she said, “He’s going to have a hard time going back.” She was referring specifically to all of the giggles and squeals as the children played together. Maybe he’ll miss our house a little and perhaps he’ll miss my husband and I, but after six more months of bonding he’s going to miss his foster sister A LOT.

2) Seeing a child go back to an environment which is not “ideal”. Yes, the parents may have made progress, but especially in the cases of clients who have had a previous history with the Division of Child and Family Services and there is a strong chance for recidivism, how long will any changes really last? Are plans for permanency really going to be permanent? Molly made it a full year before coming back into care, for example.

3) Seeing the rights of birth parents take precedence over the rights and best interest of their children. Yes, it’s good that families are given another chance to stay together, but is it really fair to the child to go back to an environment only to be taken into custody a second or third time? How many chances do parents get at the cost of their children’s stability and well-being?

4) Seeing blood relatives of a foster child suddenly come out of the woodwork for a kinship placement despite the fact that they’ve never even met the child or had any previous interest in having a relationship with the child’s family. It seems to me this also usually happens AFTER the child has been in a securely attached foster placement for some time. Whether this is because it takes that long to track relatives down or because the background check they must pass takes so long, I don’t know.

5) The irony of having to prove yourself “worthy” to care for someone else’s child on a temporary basis when the child’s family gets a legal slap on the wrist for the reason the child was brought into care in the first place. For example, I could get my foster care license taken away if I don’t lock up my household cleaning products or have the right-sized fire extinguisher in my home and I must document every scratch and scrape or injury my foster child has ever had lest allegations of abuse or, worst case-scenario, a full-blown investigation is launched against me and my family.  Contrast that with the following hypothetical but highly likely scenarios: my foster child’s parents get short of a warning for having or selling drugs in their home and/or the only reason their child can be removed from them in the first place is if they come close to killing them.

6) Having to do the “dirty work” and mundane tasks of parenting a child when you never get to see the fruits of your labors. By “dirty work” I mean changing diapers, potty training, wiping runny noses, cleaning up spit-up or throw up, or waking in the middle of the night to comfort a crying or sick child while the parents don’t have to change any diapers and can sleep through the night uninterrupted. Sure, that’s part of being a parent but I would venture to guess that in most cases parents can look back on those things and experience some sort of pay-off once their child is grown: “Remember when you used to wet the bed? And now look at you . . . you just graduated from college with honors!” It must be rewarding to see how much a child can grow and progress. But most of the time once a foster child has left their foster home, the foster family has no idea how they’re doing. The state certainly can’t give out specific information because of confidentiality.

Okay, I’ll stop my list at six. Anything else other foster parents would add to the list?

Numbers five and six have been on my mind a lot lately- perhaps because our yearly home safety inspection is coming up and also because a couple of weeks ago I was the one who had to clean up our car and wash George’s new coat and his car seat after he threw up all of the chocolate milk his parents gave him during their visit. So yesterday after I wiped George’s runny nose for the umpteenth time and smelled yet another poopy diaper of his to be changed I felt like cursing the heavens and asking God, “Now WHY am I supposed to take this placement?” “What’s the purpose in all of this?” Why do I have to change his diapers and get up with him in the middle of the night when his parents, who get to spend the rest of their lives with him, don’t even have to change a single diaper and can get a night of uninterrupted sleep? I’ll admit it- I was a little bitter, but I sincerely wanted to know so I did ask God. I shared with him my frustrations and I asked him why I am supposed to be taking care of a child who is not my own. I didn’t get any earth-shattering answers right away but the general feeling I was left with was the one we’ve had all along- that we’re “supposed” to do this.

Later, I did, however, come across an account in a magazine that served as a gentle chastisement to me. The title of the article was “Unto the Least of These” and as soon as I saw it I knew it was something I was supposed to read. I set the magazine aside until later and when I read it my feelings of guilt for my selfish attitude were amplified but I was simultaneously filled with an inner peace and inspiration. (For the full article click here.) Here’s the part I read that had the biggest impact on me as I applied it to my current frustrations as a foster parent:

To paraphrase, one day a woman who had been caring for a neighboring poor family by bringing food to their home daily and helping care for their children, including a newborn baby,

“returned home especially tired and weary. She slept in her chair. She dreamed she was bathing a baby which she discovered was the Christ Child. She thought, Oh, what a great honor to thus serve the very Christ. As she held the baby in her lap, she was all but overcome. … Unspeakable joy filled her whole being. … Her joy was so great it awakened her. As she awoke, these words were spoken to her, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’
I also recently talked to another foster mother who is struggling with a couple of the items on the list (namely numbers 1 and 4) and all I could offer up for comfort to her was this statement by a wise man who promised,
“The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude."
In the same address, Joseph B. Wirthlin said,
“Learning to endure times of disappointment, suffering, and sorrow is part of our on-the-job training. These experiences, while often difficult to bear at the time, are precisely the kinds of experiences that stretch our understanding, build our character, and increase our compassion for others.

Because Jesus Christ suffered greatly, He understands our suffering. He understands our grief. We experience hard things so that we too may have increased compassion and understanding for others."
So, for any foster families out there who are in need of a little encouragement, just remember, you are serving “the least of these”. Your experiences are stretching your understanding, building your character, and certainly increasing your compassion for others. Even when it seems that nobody is aware of the frustrations and heartaches you are going through, your Heavenly Father is aware.  Even if you sometimes feel like you are invisible, God sees what you do.

Update on George

-George’s hoarding issues have pretty much disappeared. In fact, a couple of times at the dinner table he’s actually left some food on his plate which made me wonder “Is this the same little boy from six weeks ago who would have a tantrum after each meal when we cleared the table?”

-He’s doing much better with bedtime and sleeping at night and usually only wakes up once during the night if it all. And to think that I thought I wouldn’t have to get up in the middle of the night with this placement just because we weren’t taking a baby!

-My relationship with his parents at weekly visits is good- we all get along fine because we respect the roles we have in George’s life. As for the two mommies issue, his parents refer to me as “Mommy Mary” at visits. After they give him goodbye hugs and kisses they say, “It’s time to go home with Mommy Mary.”

-George turns two this week! At his last visit with his parents they brought him some balloons and a present and had their own little party.  We haven't quite decided how to celebrate his birthday this weekend- Chuck E. Cheese perhaps?  One thing is certain, he certainly won't be lacking for presents this month with his birthday and Christmas so close together. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Legal Aspects of George's Case

George has been in our home for over a month now and the two most frequent questions family members and friends ask us regarding his case are:
1)   How long will he be with you?
2) Is there any chance you could adopt him?  

Up until now I haven’t been able to give any definitive answers to anyone because I haven’t had any definite answers given to me, either.  The information I’ve been seeking is always dependent on court dates or meetings and sometimes meetings get postponed or rulings in court are inconclusive or conditional upon further hearings.  But this week I talked with George’s caseworker who was able to give me the latest information on where his case is headed in regards to reunification or adoption.  It’s nice to finally know- one way or the other- what the future holds for him . . . and for us.

BUT FIRST, before giving an update, let me back up and give a little background about how foster placements “typically” work.  (Of course I do realize that using the word “typical” to describe a foster placement is pretty much an oxymoron since nothing is predictable in foster care!)  But here goes . . .  

In “typical” cases after children are removed from their parent’s or legal guardian’s care the parents/guardians are offered “services” such as counseling, parenting classes, on-going random drug-testing, job training, etc. through the Division of Child and Family Services in what is outlined in a Service Plan.  If, after a court-mandated amount of time, the child’s parents comply with the requirements of the Service Plan, then a judge can order the child returned back into the parent’s custody.  If however, the parents don’t do everything required of them in the Service Plan (and I’ve found that even if they don’t there can always be extensions granted) there is always the possibility of parental rights being terminated (TPR), thus leaving the child legally free for adoption. 

George’s case and family situation are a little different than our previous foster placements have been because his “parents” aren’t legally his parents- (hence the quotation marks around the word parents.)  This begs the question: What makes someone a parent?  In my opinion, a parent is the primary caregiver (or caregivers, if they’re lucky enough to have two) to a child.  That definition, however, doesn’t hold up in a court of law.  I actually did the research and grabbed my husband’s copy of Black’s Law Dictionary (albeit an older edition) from his den and looked up the legal definition of parent.  There were five different definitions by statute and I’ll paraphrase each:  (1) the natural father or mother of a child born of their valid marriage (2) the adoptive father or adoptive mother of a child (3) the natural mother of an illegitimate child (4) a child’s putative blood parent who has expressly acknowledged paternity and contributed to the child’s support and (5) any individual or agency whose status as guardian of the child has been established by judicial decree.

George’s “parents” don’t fit any of these definitions, but I refer to them as his parents anyway since that’s the role they’ve played in his life.  George’s birthmother unofficially “gave” George to some friends of hers when he was less than a month old and those friends of hers have been raising him until he was recently removed from their home.  These caregivers are not related to George by blood nor do they have legal custody of him which is very important because blood relatives ALWAYS take precedence over non-relatives or anyone else when deciding where a child is placed.  (Lesson #2 from this post)

George’s parents did actually try to petition the court for guardianship the last time George’s birthmother was arrested, but because of pending issues and because they’ve had a previous history with the Division of Child and Family Services before George ever came into custody, their petition for guardianship was not honored.  The judge, however, is sympathetic to their case since they have been the ones caring for George most of his life and that is why he granted visitation rights and legal standing to this couple.  Judges have the final say in every decision, regardless of anybody else’s opinions.

This is where the case gets interesting: DCFS did not initially agree with the judge’s decision that it’s in the best interest of George to have ongoing visits with his caregivers- primarily because their goals for George are safety and permanency.  Whether children in foster care end up with a relative, back with their parents, in a group home, or being adopted by their foster family the ultimate goal is to “provide each child with a safe, nurturing, and permanent home” a statement which is taken directly from our region’s vision statement.

Do George’s caregivers/parents love him?  Of course!  But sometimes loving a child and simply being attached to a child are not good enough reasons to have a child returned to one’s care.  Other variables such as a safe home environment, employment, the ability to pass a background check, and a previous history with DCFS should most definitely be taken into consideration for the child’s well-being.

The Division’s job is ultimately to look out for the best interests of the child in state custody.  However, they are also there to help the child’s parents which, to me, can present a conflict of interest.  So the big moral/legal dilemma at the heart of George’s particular case and the question on our minds the past couple of weeks has been: Should parental rights and a service plan be granted to “parents” who have no legal rights to a child in the first place?  OR does DCFS pursue kinship options (Legally they must, but so far nothing has panned out which is why George is with us right now).  OR, is it in George’s best interest to be placed in an adoptive home?  

After a staff meeting this week and in accordance with the judge’s ruling, it was decided that despite X, Y, and Z reasons (I won’t go into specifics but all I can tell you is that all of the reasons by themselves are substantial enough not to place a child back with his caregivers into the home environment he came from) DCFS has no choice but to go along with the judge’s ruling and they must give George’s parents full legal standing in the case- meaning, they’re basically being treated as his legal parents- and a Service Plan will be drafted for them so that they can work on getting him back into their care.

In answer to everyone’s inquiries: We will most likely have George in our care for seven more months, the time allotted in the Service Plan,  and then he’ll be placed back with his parents (on the condition that they don’t go to jail during that time or have any further criminal charges against them.)

What are my personal feelings on the matter?  Well . . . I’m grateful to George’s parents for loving him, and I know that they must be going through an extremely difficult time right now, BUT quite frankly, I’m more concerned with George’s well-being than I am with theirs.  He’s the one who is where he is today through no fault of his own.  His birthmother and his parents, on the other hand, are adults who must be accountable for the choices they’ve made- just like the rest of us.  Yet it seems that their “rights” are taking a priority over his “rights” and his best interest.  So regarding the judge’s decision I’m kind of left thinking, “Are you freakin’ kidding me?”  

All I can say is, no matter what side of the issue you’re on- whether foster parent, parent whose children have been removed, caseworker, judge, etc. the most important question shouldn’t be “What are the birthparent’s rights?” or if you are a birthparent or foster parent “How will this decision impact me and my family?”  but rather  “What is in the best interest of the child?”.

Yesterday I called my husband to tell him the latest news about George’s case.  After giving him the update the other end of the line grew quiet.  “Are you alright? . . . What do you think about all of this?” I asked.

“I’m okay” he explained.  “I’m just worried about him.” 

That is precisely where the concern should be- with the child.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Visits & Two Mommies

Today marks 15 days (I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago) that George has been in our home. In this short time we’ve had home visits from the CPS worker, our Resource Family Consultant, the ongoing caseworker (twice), and George’s Guardian Ad Liteum, (his personal attorney). I was particularly surprised that his GAL not only called us, but actually wanted to come to our home and meet us in person and see how George was doing. When she called me on the phone and explained who she was I was so surprised that I told her “Wow- in four foster placements you’re the first GAL to actually contact us!” She laughed. Of course, in an ideal world wouldn’t a professional want to meet the client they’re representing, especially when that client happens to be a child and it’s their job to advocate for what is in the child’s best interest? Anyway, it was definitely a first for us as foster parents.

George has also had four supervised visits with his caregivers since being in our care. He had to wait a week for his first visit but in the last couple of weeks the judge over his case ordered that visits be twice a week for one hour each rather than the usual one-hour once a week visit.

Visits with parents are interesting- especially the first visit. I am always a little nervous with what to initially expect but I think it goes both ways: George’s parents were polite and they appeared to be more intimidated to meet me than I was of meeting them. They even asked my permission before giving him a sucker. [Which is nice considering the fact that there are vending machines full of pop and candy in the DCFS lobby and whenever I would take our first foster placement to see his parents each week they would fill him up with so much pop and candy that he wouldn’t want to eat dinner when we got home.]

Anyway, the thing I was dreading most about the first visit was George’s reaction to having to leave his parents and come “home” with me. Based on his night-time separation anxiety I was expecting the worst possible scenario on his part- kicking and screaming and howling for his parents. Instead, after the visit was over he calmly looked in my direction and pointed towards me. When I picked him up he didn’t protest but just came to me like it was the most natural thing in the world.

“You’re kidding me!” I thought. No tears? No tantrums? I was extremely relieved. I think the caseworker was expecting to see tears and protests on George’s part, too, because she later commented on how nice it was to see him go to me so easily. At each subsequent visit George has been happy to see his parents, but he doesn’t seem to mind saying goodbye to them either.

At the first couple of visits his parents, and his mother in particular, were misty-eyed when it was time to say goodbye. Sometimes his mom will have a look on her face like she’s about to burst out into tears but she’s trying hard to maintain her composure. I think of times in my life when I’ve felt the same way and I feel bad for her.

A couple of weeks ago the inevitable awkward moment happened when George called me “mommy” in front of his parents for the very first time. I hated to see the look of pain in his mother’s eyes as he said it, but at the same time the smile he had on his face as he said it filled me with a sense of pride. I felt justified for all of the times I’ve spent the last couple of weeks tucking him in bed, wiping his nose, changing his poohey diapers, bathing him, feeding him, reading to him, etc. Even so, I still felt a little guilty when I caught a glimpse of resignation and defeat on his mother’s face because, after all, she’s the “real” mom, right? And I’m just the foster mom. (Technically neither one of us count as his “real” mom if you consider that neither of us are his biological mother).

Anyway, I was filled with a sense of mixed feelings and wondered, “How should I be feeling in this situation? Guilty? Prideful? Relieved?” All I know is that I didn’t like seeing the expression on his mother’s face and I felt a sudden and urgent need to say something . . . ANYTHING . . . to break the awkward silence looming in the air. So I gave out a very forced, nervous laugh and I blurted out, “I guess he has two mommies!”

Further silence. “I’m an idiot- did I really just say that?”

Rather than breaking the ice, my sudden announcement about two mommies seemed to amplify the awkwardness in the air. But what could I have done about it, really? George has been calling us “mommy” and daddy” since a couple of days after he was placed with us. Oh well, it could have been worse- I could have snorted when I laughed.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

National Adoption Month Celebration & Giveaway

I wrote about the children's book Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born here.

If you would like to win a copy of this heart-warming book and/or celebrate adoption visit this blog and answer the question,

"Who are YOU celebrating this month?"


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fostering through the State versus a Private Agency

I received an e-mail from a woman in Texas who asked the following question:

   What are the pro's and con's of fostering through the state vs. a private agency?

I am fostering through my state so I'm not the best candidate to answer that question.  But I'm sure one of YOU somewhere out there might have the experience of fostering through a private agency.  In that case, please share your knowledge with the rest of us by LEAVING A COMMENT.  Thanks. 

On a related note, I don't have a formspring, but if anyone out there has any other burning questions that you're dying to ask, please don't hesitate!  

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Home is Where You Eat and Sleep

Last week I watched a sign language DVD with my daughter.  "Home is where you eat and sleep" the host explained as she demonstrated how to make the sign for "home".  Although I would like to think that one's home is a little more than just a place to eat or lay your head, she was basically right about two of the most fundamental purposes of a home.  Appropriately enough, those two things- eating and sleeping- are the two areas where George is having the hardest adjustment to his new environment.

This little boy eats like a HORSE!  At dinner the first night after we picked him up he ate more than everyone at the table- including my husband.  When the food was gone he immediately started crying for more.  He spotted some bananas on our counter and exclaimed "nanas!" and desperately began pointing in their direction.  "This poor kid must be starving!" I thought.  I figured it wouldn't hurt to give him a banana even though dinner was over.  He quickly gobbled it up and then started whining for another one.  I gave in but I learned my lesson the next day when he threw up.  As I started cleaning up the mess (thankfully most of it was just milk) I started worrying that he had a bug or something.  But then I realized, "DUH!  Of course he threw up- he's been gorging food and his little stomach just isn't big enough to handle it all." 

Although we're feeding him plenty (he could eat bananas and cheese sticks all day long if we let him) we've learned to limit his food intake no matter how long and hard he cries after mealtimes and no matter how many times a day he points to the fridge or pantry.  It's also not uncommon for him to pull out a chair from the kitchen table and announce "eat" even if the last meal we had was half an hour earlier.  

I'm guessing that the only thing that's keeping George from taking and hiding food is that he can't actually open the fridge or pantry door himself.  At least that's what we learned to expect in our training as it was explained to us that hoarding behaviors are very common among children who come from backgounds of poverty or neglect.  I've heard other foster parents share similar stories. 

The night we picked up George from DCFS, his CPS Worker passed on some information to us from his caregivers about his eating habits: they said he was a picky eater and that his favorite foods were french fries and Captain Crunch- the staples in life, right?  I haven't found him to be particularly picky about what he eats, but rather how he eats.  The first time I gave him cereal he ignored the actual cereal and went straight for the milk- picking up his bowl and slurping it down.  He also doesn't quite seem to understand the concept of using utensils either but we're working on it. 

When George discovered our Lazy Susan he immediately started scavenging through the food.  When he got to the cans of soup and tuna fish he set them aside when he realized he couldn't open them.  But when he came across a package of Ramen noodles (another one of life's staples) he looked like he hit the jackpot and started chewing right through the package without seeming to mind the plastic wrapper.  

He did the same thing when I took the kids to my husband's Halloween work party: I dressed them up in their Hallowen costumes for trick-or-treating amongst co-worker's offices.  As soon as George spotted someone's candy he's excitedly said, "Num-Num!" and grabbed for it and then proceeded to chew right through the wrappers.  Fortunately, most of my husband's co-workers seemed very understanding, especially when they learned of his special circumstances.  I was a little worried that some might have an attidute of  "What terrible manners!  Don't these parents know how to control their children?" but that didn't seem to be the case.  If you think it's hard to control your own kids try "controlling" somebody else's child!"

Although George's hoarding tendencies will take some getting used to I hope he eventually realizes that there will always be food in this house and he won't ever have to go hungry.  As one friend said to me, "How do you explain to a toddler that there will always be food in the house?"  Exactly.  He's just acting out of survivial.  I must admit though it's been quite amusing to watch a child get so excited about eating vegetables.  The night I made Stir-Fry George happilly gobbled down green beans and broccoli like they were candy!


Sleep is the other hard adjustment for George.  The CPS Worker also passed on some information to us about his sleeping habits- namely, that George has never slept in his own crib or bed, but has always slept with his caregivers in their bed.  "Great." I thought. 

It's hard enough for me, as an adult, to adjust sleeping in a bed other than my own-even if it's for a seemingly trivial reason.  Take, for example, whenever I go camping or I'm on vacation and I wake up in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning and get that disoriented feeling and look around and think, "Wait a minute- this isn't my bedroom . . . Where am I?"  Even if the confusion only lasts for thirty seconds before I can reorient myself and realize that I'm in a tent or at a hotel it's still a somewhat disturbing feeling.  So when I thought of the prospect of George having to sleep not only in a totally new environment but all by himself when he's used to sharing a bed I felt bad for him.  

Nights and even naptimes have been particularly hard for George.  At times I feel like a prison warden sending him to his "jail cell" when I announce that it's naptime or time for bed because it's such a traumatic experience for him.  The first three or four nights he was so upset and confused that he would look at me between sobs and wails as if to say, "Can I go home now?  Where's my mom and dad?"  All I could do was pat his back and try to comfort him while he cried out for his "mommy" and "da-da."  The worst part was that I couldn't honestly tell him, "It's going to be all right- you'll go back to your mommy and dada soon" because I don't know where he will end up for sure.

It was absolutely HEARTBREAKING and although I was left feeling very sad for him I was also surprised at how upset I was, too- towards the whole sad situation and in particular towards his caregivers.  A lot of angry feelings started creeping up inside me and as I talked it over with my husband the next day he wisely pointed out that his caregivers must be going through torture being separated from him, too (which is not exactly what I was in the mood to hear, but he's absolutely right).

I thought about why I was so angry and here's my explanation:  When I hear about children who become separated from their families or become orphans due to a natural disaster, like a typhoon,for example, I am filled with pity and compassion not only towards the children who are victims of the disaster but to their parents and relatives who have become casualties of the disaster as well.  I think most people feel pretty much the same way because nobody likes to see children suffer- that's a given.  But there is one huge difference between children who are orphaned because of natural disasters or extreme poverty and children who are separated from their families or "orphaned" due to addictions or abuse or neglect and one word that sums up the difference between those two scenarios is PREVENTION.  Natural disasters cannot be prevented- nobody has a choice when it comes to suffering from that kind of tragedy, but people do have a choice in how they treat their children and wether they use drugs or take their first drink when they are aware that alcoholism runs rampant in their family. 

I'm aware, as my husband pointed out, that George's caregivers must be suffering greatly as a result of their choices, but when I'm the one who has to listen to a little boy wail for his parents at night and I'm the one who has to wipe away his tears and change his pillowcase because it's covered with puddles of tears and snot as a result of his heartbreak I do not exactly become a font of overflowing compassion for the very people who could have prevented the whole situation in the first place.  

Back to George's sleeping/separation anxiety:  My biggest dilemna as a foster parent is trying to find the balance between nurturing and discipline.  Do I totally "baby" him and rock him to sleep each night or do I take a tough-love approach?  I usually take a moderate approach but I tend to err on the side of too much nurturing.  For example, the first couple of nights I stayed in his bedroom till he fell asleep and then I would quietly sneak out and go back to my own bedroom . . . until he noticed I wasn't there and then the crying would begin afresh.  I even considered bringing an air mattress into his room and just camping out, but I thought "No, if I do that he'll just expect it every night."  I've already made the mistake before of letting my daughter sleep in our bed "just for one night".  One night inevitably turns into more than one night. 

One thing is for certain: The times I've  rock-a-byed him and held him have been the greatest tools for bonding- not just for him bonding and attaching to me, but me attaching and bonding to him.  


Last weekend I attended a 5k Adoption Walk to kick off National Adoption Month. If any of you happened to be there you couldn’t miss all of the ORANGE everyone was wearing. I wasn’t certain if orange was the “official” color for adoption awareness or not so I consulted the ultimate source on answers to all of life’s serious questions . . . Wikipedia. I discovered that WHITE is actually the official color for adoption awareness.

More specifically,

WHITE is the color for those who were adopted,

PINK is the color for birth parents, and 

YELLOW is the color for adoptive parents.

Incidentally, orange is also the awareness color for leukemia, hunger, cultural diversity, humane treatment of animals, and self-injury awareness.  Who knew! 

I had to scratch my head and wonder “Why Orange?” Is it because orange fits in with the fall colors of November or because topaz is the traditional birthstone for November? Or is it simply because as nice a color as white is orange is just much more bright and noticeable?

I found the answer in this blog written by the woman who is responsible for starting the Annual 5K Adoption Walk. To quote Alison Lowe:
“Orange is cheery, uplifting and boisterous. It is also made from mixing two primary colors together...red and yellow. Hmmm . . . kind of like adoption!

Why orange? Well that is easy! "Orange' you glad for adoption"! I know I am. Orange is a strong, bright colour which helps me keep a light alive for adoption.”
If anyone asks my humble opinion on which color I will be using to celebrate National Adoption Month- orange or white- the answer is quite simple: BOTH.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

National Adoption Month 2010

So I'm feeling like a bit of a slacker considering we're already into the second week of National Adoption Month and I haven't posted ONCE!  To appease my guilt, I did contribute (err. . . copy and paste that is) this item and this item from Adoption.com and Adoptive Families Magazine to celebrate and advocate for adoption.  And my family walked in our local Annual Adoption Walk With Me 5k over the weekend- very inspiring!  

I'm looking forward to catching up on my blog reading [eventually] and checking out all of the great guest posts, giveaways, and spotlights some of you adoption advocate bloggin' overachievers (you know who you are) have posted this month.  I have actually started a couple of posts of my own, but most of my time and energy has been spent focusing on George and making as smooth a transition as possible for him.  Which, come to think of it, seems like a very appropriate thing to do considering the history and intent of National Adoption Month was to raise awareness of the need for loving and permanent homes for children.  The "loving" aspect I can control but as a foster parent the "permanent" part of the equation is totally out of my hands!
Stay tuned . . . more posts to come.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Our Fourth Placement

Our RFC* called shortly after Christian left our care three months ago to check up on us and ask how soon we wanted to take another placement. I told her it would be nice to wait a couple of months- at least until the end of the summer- so that we could have some time to “take a breather” and even grieve, if that makes sense. I know there are other foster families out there who constantly have their homes open to foster placements, one immediately after the other, and while I find that admirable, I don’t consider myself a “career” foster parent. For my own sanity and for the sake of my family I think it’s good to take a short breather and recover a bit from the drama and loss of saying goodbye to a foster child before diving into taking any new placements.

Anyway, I’ve been getting those feelings once again that it’s time to take another placement and eight days ago our RFC called with some information about a 22 month old boy who would most likely be removed from his home that day, depending on the results of a court hearing. I got as much information from her as was available and got a hold of my husband, who happened to leave that morning on a business trip. (Which is exactly what happened when we got the call for our very first placement- Murphy’s Law!) After talking things over and praying to know if it was just “my feelings” telling me we should take the placement or if it was God’s will for us (or both) I talked to our RFC again a couple of hours later to tell her we were interested and I expected to have him in our home that night.

Our RFC had some additional information for me about the case during the second phone call, including the fact that the court hearing was going to be put off for another week due to the fact that the removal was needful, but not necessarily an immediate risk type situation and the caregivers of the little boy (not his parents but some family friends who have been raising him his whole life) wanted to obtain legal counsel in their defense.  That gave us a week to prepare for the placement and let things sink in.

As for details, I obviously won’t be giving them, but I will share a statistic: Of our four foster placements, 75% have been drug-related and there may not be weekly visits (at least with his birthmother) because she will most likely be in jail. 

Also, when the caseworker told me the first name of this little boy I thought it was ironic that he shares the same first name as our last placement, and “Christian” didn’t have a particularly common name.

FAST FORWARD TO LAST NIGHT:  One week after we got the phone call from our RFC this little boy was taken into state custody immediately following the court hearing.  We picked him up last night at the DCFS Office and I'm surprised at how well-cared for and seemingly well-adjusted he is considering some of the circumstances he came from. 

After watching him, I've decided to refer to him on this blog as "George" because like most 2 year-old boys, he is active and very curious.  In fact, I considered getting him a monkey costume for Halloween but we found a Tiger outfit that fits him perfectly.

More about "George" in the near future as his case unfolds and we get more information.  In the meantime, I'm going to have my hands full with a toddler and a pre-schooler which is why I'll have to save my blogging for the wee hours of the night! 

[*]   Three or four months ago I was really disappointed to get a letter informing us that we were getting a new Resource Family Consultant (the caseworker who works with foster parents and calls us about potential placements).  I was bummed because we have a really good working relationship with our old RFC.  She was always very respectful and attentive and considerate to any concerns we might have as foster parents, which, in my experiences at least, isn’t always the case in the system as foster parents seem to be at the bottom of the totem pole in importance.  

Anyway, due to ever-present budget cuts the state has had to cut back on some of the casework positions and is the case with most cut-backs or lay-offs, the employees with the most experience are the ones that are able to retain their jobs, so our former RFC is going back to doing “regular” casework with foster children and their parents since that is where the bulk of her experience lies. The good news is that it’s a blessing for the families she gets to work with, because good caseworkers are VITAL to the child welfare system. The bad news is that I hate to see her go. But more good news is that our new RFC seems just as easy to work with as our former RFC was.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear

Today in church two young missionaries full of the Spirit and enthusiasm spoke, appropriately enough, about sharing the gospel and serving others. More specifically, they mentioned what keeps people from doing so when they know it’s the right thing to do. One of the young men noted that there are three main reasons why people are motivated to do things (or not do things): Reward, Love, or Fear.

I immediately thought of another reason to add to the list of motivating factors: Guilt. Perhaps guilt is not as noble a reason to do something as love, but when I feel compelled to exercise or eat better, for example, it’s not necessarily because I’m thinking of the rewards of better health, or because I love getting on my treadmill or because I’m afraid of having a heart attack, but simply out of guilt.

I also thought about the reasons why I fail to do things and I can definitely see how fear plays a role. In fact, if I could summarize in one word the number one reason why my husband and I didn’t become foster parents sooner I would definitely say FEAR.

So why did we end up fostering when we were so fearful and hesitant at first? I think it has to do with those nagging feelings that kept creeping up and just wouldn’t go away. I refer to them as “nagging” feelings when I didn’t want to listen, but when I was more faith-filled than fear-filled I guess I would actually call them inspiration. Whatever you want to call those feelings- nagging, promptings, intuition, inspiration, I’ve noticed that many other foster families share a similar theme in their stories and reasons for fostering- it’s almost a “calling” they feel they’ve been given or duty assigned to them.

Two other main reasons people choose to become foster parents are

1) Pure altruism: simply wanting to help children out of a sense of love, and
2) Wanting to adopt a child.

Of course, oftentimes things aren’t so black and white and people could choose to foster for a combination of reasons. In our case, we did so primarily because of those feelings that we were “supposed to”, so it wouldn’t be completely honest to say I did so completely out of altruism or without any thought of “reward” because it would, in fact, be very nice to be able to do foster care as a means to the end of another child joining our family. In fact, I often get jealous of families who end up being able to adopt their very first placement. “Not fair!” I think to myself. “They don’t have to go through any of the heartache.” Then again, I wouldn’t trade the opportunity I’ve had to be able to interact with the parents of our foster children- even though it hasn’t always been easy. There is much to learn from “sharing” a child with someone. It is truly a humbling and refining experience. Speaking of which . . . we’re looking forward to meeting Christian and his dad in the near future for the first time since reunification. His dad has full-time custody now.

Back to the topic of fear and it’s antidote, FAITH and it’s sister attribute, LOVE: I wish I could say that once we made the choice to become foster parents that all of our fears were put at ease, but it’s more realistic to say that with each and every call we get for a placement the fears creep back up and it’s a constant battle of faith. With our most recent call for a placement, I was particularly confused about distinguishing my own feelings and desires from the Holy Spirit. I think my biggest concern was that overall I felt that taking the placement was a good thing, regardless of if it ends up in reunification or adoption, but I just had so many “What Ifs” about the child: What if they have attachment issues? What if they are a holy terror? What if my daughter gets her heart broken again when it’s time to say goodbye?  What if the birthparents hate us for having their child and try to track us down and stalk us?

I took some time to pray and consulted the scriptures because I can always use some extra help from someone much wiser than I. As I was browsing through the pages I had one of those experiences (when I actually take the time to do so, that is- I’m far from perfect) where the verses I came across seemed to speak just to me and my unique situation. I was so comforted that the verses I came across had to do with doubting not and fearing not and giving cheerfully and being obedient. I also read some verses about sowing what you reap and remembering what it feels like to receive inspiration.
Fear nor to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward.
Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” -Doctrine and Covenants 6:36
“He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
Every man as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”  -2 Corinthians 9:7

“Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth.”
Did I not speak peace unto your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?”   -Doctrine and Covenants 6:15, 23
Other than the written words which served as a confirmation to me, I got a feeling that I should “JUST DO IT” even if it is hard and presents some challenges. Just because we’re told to do something doesn’t necessarily guarantee it’s going to be easy and this placement may very well be a difficult one, but whether it’s easy or not isn’t the important thing, it’s obeying that’s important. A story comes to mind of a man who was commanded to push against a large rock. He did again and again with all his night and the boulder never budged. He thought he was a failure because he couldn’t get it to move but the Lord reminded him that he wasn't necesarilly supposed to move the rock, he was just supposed to obey and push against it.

BOTTOM LINE: When we have more FAITH than fear we will be filled with HOPE and LOVE and one of the scriptures that one of the missionaries shared in church was “There is no fear in LOVE; but PERFECT LOVE CASTETH OUT FEAR” -1 John 4: 18

What a great reminder of the best motivation to keep foremost in our hearts and minds.

I’ve rambled on enough, tell me your thoughts on the subject:

Those out there who have a desire to foster but have not yet done so (perhaps you’re one of those who has a “nagging” feeling in the back of your mind):

What is it that keeps you from doing so? (I won’t judge you . . . I’m just curious)

What are your motivations for wanting to foster?


What is your motivation(s) for fostering?

How do you subdue your fears about fostering (if you have them) and keep your faith and love revitalized?

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Ultimate Director

Alternate Title:  Why Pee-Wee Herman Was Never Cast as Darth Vader

A couple of years ago when I was with my mom she introduced me to a woman we ran into. My mom and this woman briefly chatted about their families and what was new in their lives and then the friendly exchange was over. My mom turned to me after the woman was out of earshot and quietly told me “She used to date dad when they were in college . . . before he met me.”

WHAT? The thought of my dad dating somebody other than my mom totally weirded me out. Then I got to thinking, What if my dad had married this woman instead of my mom? Would I even exist if that were the case? I suddenly felt strangely resentful towards this virtual stranger. Don’t get me wrong, this woman was nice and lovely and actually had quite an impressive resume- Harvard educated, college professor with numerous publications, etc. but she just wasn’t . . . well, she just wasn’t MY MOM.

This week I came across three different blog posts which resonated with me because they all share a common theme that happens to stir up a lot of thoughts and feelings inside of me, similar to what I described when I met my dad’s former girlfriend. I’ve come to call this theme (or debate, if you will) “agency versus destiny” and I’ve written about it at least once before, in this post. The blog posts I read which got me back on the “agency versus destiny” train of thought are these:

Blog Post #1- A certain birthmother shared the experience of meeting up with two of the adoptive couples whom she considered placing her baby with. The keyword here is “considered”; she didn’t actually end up placing with either of the couples although they were both fantastic families and would have made great parents. Instead, she placed her baby with the family she felt was right.

Blog Post #2- I came across a clip on a friend’s blog who happens to be a big fan of both Michael J. Fox and Eric Stolz of Stolz playing the role of Marty McFly in Back to the Future, before the role was offered to Michael J. Fox. As I watched the footage I kept thinking- “It just doesn’t feel right.” The directors were spot on when they said that it’s not necessarily that Eric Stolz is a poor actor (I happen to love his touching performance in MASK) but rather that Marty McFly just wasn’t the right role for him- it was a role much better suited for Michael J. Fox.

Blog Post #3- Adoptive Momma wrote about finding the “right” child for your family- even if that means saying “no” to other possibilities . . . and not feeling guilty for doing so. I couldn’t help but make the comparison of what people go through when they search for a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend and try to find Mr. of Mrs. Right. Just because somebody wants to get married, for example, doesn’t mean they should go out and marry the first person that comes along. On the other extreme, they shouldn’t have any unrealistic expectations of perfection, either, because they’re obviously not going to find it. The best solution, in my humble opinion, is to search for someone who they are compatible with and then fully commit themselves to that person.

The same thing goes for adoption: Just because a family is trying to adopt, doesn’t mean they should adopt just any child- but rather their child. In other words, a child or children whom they are compatible with- even if (and this is the hardest part) it means HAVING TO WAIT FOR THE RIGHT TIMING AND THE RIGHT CHILD.

The frustrating part about going through the adoption process (domestically speaking, at least) is that now days a child’s birthparents are the ones who choose which family to place their child with, and rightly so. In other words, my family’s future is totally in the hands of someone other than myself. It’s a very out of control feeling to know that my desire for a child is solely dependent upon another person’s agency.

Why don’t you just adopt an orphan from another country or a child whom is legally free for adoption from the foster care system? Yes, I can hear some of your thoughts through the computer screen. Impressive, eh? As for adopting internationally, cost is the biggest factor and as for adopting a legally free child I have actually searched through photo listings- numerous times- but as of yet I have never found “my” child.

There are so many orphans and children in the foster care system and a few (relatively speaking) women out there with unplanned pregnancies who are looking for a family for their child and there are so many couples and families who are waiting to adopt. It seems so unfair.

It is unfair, but I’ve thought of a solution to both problems. HERE IT IS: Get a really, really big hat and put all of the names of all of the orphans and children in the world that need to be adopted into it. Then get another really big hat and put all the names of the families who would like to adopt in it. Someone randomly draws names out of both hats and Voila! A child is matched with a family! Heck, the same thing could be done for marriages. Everyone who wants to be married would be guaranteed a marriage partner. Genius, right?
As pragmatic as my solution may be I, for one, know that I wouldn’t want my destiny left to random chance. And I certainly wouldn’t want anybody to choose a spouse for me, except for, well . . . ME!

AGENCY is the key factor at play. But besides agency, there can also be another really big factor at play when it comes to something as major as creating families or deciding whom to marry. That factor- IF we choose- is the hand of God.

But what about disrupted adoptions and failed placements- do those situations arise from “destiny” or the will of God? Because those seem like awfully cruel things for everyone involved to go through. I don’t claim to know the answer to that question, but I can tell you this: Birthparents have the right to change their minds just as adoptive couples have the right to choose how, when and whom to adopt.

The big question I have in all of this remains: Will our next child come into our family because God has a hand in things or will the next child to join our family do so as a direct result of someone’s agency- either from a birthmother choosing to place with us or, in the case of foster care, as the result of a parent’s tragic choices which results in having their child taken away?

Am I the only prospective adoptive/foster parent out there who wonders things like that or am I just way too over-analytical?

Whatever the case, this is what I believe (using the Eric Stolz as Marty McFly example I shared at the beginning of this lengthy post):

I think that God is the Ultimate Director. He knows which roles are best suited for which actors. However, I also believe that actors can choose which roles to accept or reject, just as birthparents can choose to place or parent and decide whom to place with and adoptive families can decide which children to adopt.

Pee Wee Herman could have been cast as Darth Vader instead of James Earl Jones, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what George Lucas had in mind and the history of Star Wars would have been drastically altered by such a decision. Perhaps someone other than Julie Andrews could have played the role of Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music, but really, can you imagine another actress who fits the role as well as she did? And Michael J. Fox didn’t have to say yes to playing the role of Marty McFly, but I’m glad he did because it just seems “right”.

I’m putting our next adoption and my trust in the hands of the Ultimate Director.

After all, He did a great job orchestrating our first miracle.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I've had my eyes on a certain Etsy Shop for a while now, but I've never actually bought any of their items because I just couldn't decide which one I liked best . . . or I wanted to wait for a special occasion . . . or I would rationalize that I don't usually wear a lot of jewelry anyway. However, the jewelry that I do wear is very likely to have sentimental value or a deep meaning behind it. So last week as I was browsing, a particular necklace jumped out at me more than the rest and seemed to "call" to me- (seriously, it was almost supernatural!)

I am IN LOVE with this necklace:

And . . .  I splurged and bought it! 

What's the occasion? My husband and I will soon be approaching our third year of waiting to adopt and this necklace and the message behind it will literally give me something to hold on to while we continue to wait and hope and pray for our "eventually".

I can just imagine me fidgeting with it at the next baby shower I attend or the next time I hear that someone's pregnant (again)- not out of nervousness or jealousy, but out of hope and a sense of solace and comfort.

Eventually . . . it's a good reminder.

For similar sterling silver gifts of hope click here.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Questions for "The Call"

When we went through the training to become foster parents we were given a list of questions to keep near the phone when our Resource Family Consultant (RFC) called us about a placement.

These questions were compiled to help foster parents get as much information as possible about foster children before deciding if a placement sounds like a good fit for their family. We were also given some great advice by our trainer: “When you get the call for a placement, be sure that the more logical/rational spouse asks the questions rather than the more emotional spouse.”  I’m definitely the more emotional one in our marriage who is more likely to act on impulse or intuition and use my feelings as my guide.  Although my intentions may be good, they are not always as carefully thought out as my extremely pragmatic husband who carefully considers all possibilities before coming to a decision.  Fortunately, we balance each other out pretty well.

I’m really glad I have that list from training because having a foster child in your home is a HUGE deal- it’s not just like watching a neighbor’s pet for a couple of days while they’re on vacation. This is another person joining your family- albeit temporarily- and the dynamics of your family and routines of your home suddenly change overnight. It’s best to arm yourself with as much information as possible in order to adjust to the change and deal with the uncertainty that fostering brings.

Have I mentioned that my husband and I much prefer predictability and stability to uncertainty? How ironic that we got involved in foster care in the first place and have built our family through adoption since the only certain thing in both cases is UNCERTAINTY!

Anyway, here is the list of questions we got in training and I thought I’d share them. I’ve bolded the ones which I’ve found particularly important and I’ve shared my thoughts on some of them (in italics).

Questions to ask the Caseworker about the Child . . .

1. The child’s full name, age, and birth date.

Some foster parents aren't picky in their preferences of age, gender, or race, but age of the foster child is definitely one of the biggest factors for my husband and I when deciding if a placement is the right fit for our family.  We also have a rule that all decisions regarding foster children must be unanimous; therefore, we've decided that we're willing to take placements as long as they are younger than our daughter.  [I know, I know . . . there's so many older foster children out there who need homes and it makes me feel a little guilty, but this is just my family's personal decision.]

2. Why the child is in foster care and what is the legal status of the case?

3. Are kinship options being pursued?

The last part of #2 and #3 go together and are super important to ask regardless of a foster parent's reasons for fostering.  For example, some foster parents are interested in fostering but don't necessarily want to adopt; if a child is legally free for adoption and foster parents aren't interested in adopting, it's better for the child's sake to have him placed in a fost-adopt home (one that is willing to adopt foster children if they become legally free for adoption) so that the child doesn't have to get attached to a family only to be moved to another family.  On the other hand, if there is a good chance for reunification a foster family that isn't necessarily interested in adopting would be a great fit. 

Some foster parents do foster care with the sole purpose of adopting.  If that's the case, it's crucial for the foster family to know if a child is legally free for adoption.  Even if a child is available for adoption, it's imperative to keep in mind that blood relatives always take precedence over foster parents for placement (that's my LESSON #2). 

I know that I've said this before, but foster care is NOT an adoption agency.  At least not in my state where legislation is very pro-reunification.  The purpose of foster care is to provide temporary homes for children while their families work things out.  In other words, it's about fulfilling the needs of children, not getting your own personal desires met.  Therefore, if you are fostering only because you want to adopt and each time you get a phone call for a placement you decline because the child is not legally free- well . . . chances are you won't be getting too many calls because it just doesn't work that way.

HOWEVER, if you are interested in adopting a child from the U.S. foster care system who is already legally free for adoption refer to these resources: Bethany Christian Services, The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Heart Galleries By State.

4. The child’s medical history including immunizations, special medical problems, medication, etc. When will a medical card be received?

All foster children are covered by Medicaid.

5. Last school attended and grade the child is in.

6. Does the child have any special needs such as clothing, food, or supervision? Are there any behavioral problems? What type of extent of abuse has occurred?

7. The caseworker’s name and phone number

8. Who should the resource parent call if the caseworker cannot be reached?

Just in case you have a caseworker who doesn't return your calls, (whether intentionally or because they're swamped with a huge caseload) it's always good to have the name of their supervisor handy.

9. What is the name and phone number of the Health Care Team nurse assigned to the case?

10. What is expected regarding visits with the family?

Generally, supervised visits take place once a week for about an hour at the local DCFS Office.  If children are younger or their parents are making significant progress, visits will be longer and/or moved to unsupervised visits.

11. Is this a basic or specialized placement? Is there an initial clothing allowance?

12. Does the child present a threat to other children, animals, or self?

I have to admit- this was one of those questions that really freaked me out and when I heard it and I thought, "Do I really want to be a foster parent?"

13. What is the child’s previous placement history?

I think another question just as important is the history of the child's parents:  Do they have a criminal history?  Is this their first removal (the first time they've had children removed from their home?)

14. Are there any cultural or religious practices of which we need to be aware?

15. Does the child have siblings, relatives, or previous caregivers who may wish to visit the child?

16. Does the child have possessions from home that may be important such as scrapbook, pictures of family members, or favorite toys?

17. Do you know of any special routines that will help the child feel more comfortable?

#16 and #17 are GREAT questions to ask, but not necessarily to the caseworker.  The best person to ask those questions are the parents of the foster child  at the first visits.  (Of course, if the parents are in jail or don't show up for visits then you're out of luck.)  If the foster child is coming from another foster home most definitely talk to the previous foster parents to get a feel for what routines or schedule the child is used to.

Even if the parents don't necessarily have any regular or specific meal, bedtime, or nap time routines (which is pretty likely if they are battling an addiction that gets in the way of parenting; hence the reason for their children being removed from the home in the first place) most parents have a blanket, toy, or stuffed animal that they will voluntarily give you so their child can remember home and lessen the trauma and confusion of being removed and placed in a foreign environment.  "Transitional object" is the technical term for such objects. 

Of course, if foster children have come from a meth house or a house which is dangerously unhygienic, use caution. 

18. Is there any other family information that would be helpful?

19. Has the child been involved in counseling or special education? What additional services would this child need?

20. When will the Child and Family Team Meeting take place at which the Child and Family Plan will be established?

21. Are there any other Child and Family Team Meetings scheduled?

#20 and #21 are ideal rather than real- don't count on it unless you have a stellar caseworker; however, in the case that there are Team Meetings scheduled (and the caseworker actually notifies you of it) most definitely go- YOU are a crucial part of your foster child's "team"!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Continuing Contact with Christian

I almost always erase text messages within a few days of receiving them in order to keep my inbox from becoming too cluttered. But for the past two months I’ve had a text message saved on my phone: It’s from Christian’s father and he sent it the day my husband dropped Christian off to him for the last time.  It reads:

Thank u so much for everything you all have done, and if you ever want to see (Christian) please let me know.

It’s always nice when parents of our foster children are appreciative of us rather than resentful! Although I’ve been tempted to take Christian’s dad up on his offer of seeing Christian again right away we talked it over and decided that it’s best for Christian’s sake if we hold off on seeing him until he has a chance to become more used to his father as his primary caregiver- they need their own time together to bond and become reacquainted with each other. Plus, we would hate to confuse Christian by showing up and then leaving.

Christian's age is another big factor in deciding how much contact to maintain, too.  We kept in regular contact with our three year old foster son for a bit at his parent's invitation after he was returned to their care because he knew the difference between his parents and his foster parents and he was aware of what was going on, but babies are a bit different than older children in terms of fully comprehending the situation.

I must also admit that it’s not just for Christian’s sake that we’ve decided to wait till we see him again- My little girl has been heartbroken to have to see her foster baby brother and ever-present playmate gone. Although we’ve continued to explain that we were just babysitting and now he is living with his daddy, she still refers to Christian as “my baby”. “But I want my baby to come back!” she pleads with tears running down her face on the hard days.  It makes me feel terribly guilty inside.

Seeing Christian again only to have to say goodbye again would just add to her trauma. To her this loss is like losing a sibling. After all, Christian is the only sibling she’s ever known. I’ve had my hard days, too, but to me the loss of saying goodbye to Christian isn’t nearly as devastating as it’s been for my daughter. Painful- yes, but I’ve been through this twice before and to me it’s more like the loss of breaking up with someone rather than losing a loved one to death. In that regard, not seeing our former foster child right away makes it a little easier for my husband and I to “move on” in the grieving process. 

Saying goodbye to a foster child and deciding how much contact to have with them in the future (if that’s what their parents want) does feel a lot like breaking up with someone: On the one hand, it’s impossible to forget about that person because you’ve spent so much time together so you’ll see something or hear something that reminds you of them and you just can’t get them out of your mind and the memories come flooding back. But on the other hand, you almost want to forget about them as soon as possible because it’s either too painful (or annoying, depending on the relationship) to think about them. Using the “breaking up” analogy, even if one of the parties in the relationship says, “We can still be friends” it’s just awkward and almost like you’d prefer to never see them again just to make it easier because how do you go back to being “just friends” after being more than just friends?

Similarly, it’s hard to go from being a substitute parent to a child 24/7 for several months to having them disappear from your life. (Then again, I’d be lying if I said I miss changing poopy diapers and waking in the middle of the night for feedings) So when Christian’s father says, “You can still see Christian” it’s like hearing “We can still be friends” after a break-up and it feels me with mixed emotions: Of course we’d love to see him again and we’re extremely grateful for the chance . . . but then again, maybe we just need to move on and make it less painful and confusing for everyone involved.

Last week I got another text from Christian’s dad inviting us to Christian’s 1st Birthday Party the next day. I can’t believe he’s already turning one! We couldn’t make it because we had a previous commitment. I texted back and thanked him for the invitation and said we would love to come visit him at Christmastime and bring him a present.

His reply:

Anytime, you took care of my baby and met his needs and I appreciate it so much and in two weeks I’m getting custody. Things are going great.

Another text message I’ll definitely be saving.