Friday, September 30, 2011


Earlier this week we got a call from DCFS about a two month old baby girl needing a home.  We said "yes" and a couple of hours later we were introduced to a beautiful, petite baby girl whom I will refer to as "Rose".  

It's been interesting to see the contrast of Rose's olive-colored skin next to our daughter's alabaster skin.  And she is an itty bitty thing- especially when I compare her teeny, tiny fingers to our daughter's "big" pre-school fingers (which, Thank Goodness, still have plenty of traces of kissable babyfat pudginess on them, desite the fact that she's growing up far too quickly)!

The good news/bad news about this placement is that like our last one, it will be more of an emergency placement [perhaps for a few weeks according to the caseworker's estimate when I pressed her to give us a timeframe] until Rose can be transferred to the care of some relatives who can pass their background checks and whose home passes inspection. 

Incidentally, this is our second placement where one or both of the birthparents are technically "homeless".  Living in a battered women's shelter is considered to be homeless by some judges, yet living in a homeless shelter is considered by other judges to be considered "adequate housing" for a child.  I mention this because I was at a training with other foster parents earlier this year and one of the foster parents shared their frustrations about foster children being returned to their birthparent's care despite the fact that the environment they are returning to is sub-standard and would never be able to pass the inspection, requirements, and scrutiny which a foster care provider's home is subject to.  The woman leading the training, who happens to be both a social worker who works with foster children as part of her career, as well as a former foster parent, reminded us all that what is legally required of birthparents is not quite at the same level of standards as what is required of us as foster parents.  She then related that in her work experience she once saw a foster child returned to their parent's care which happened to be in a homeless shelter.  Why?  Because it was, according to the judge, "adequate" she explained:  There was a roof overhead, a bed to sleep in, and meals were served on a regular basis.

It certainly begs the question:  What is considered "adequate" housing for a child?  I was surprised by that particular scenario of a foster child being returned to live in a homeless shelter, not necesariily because anything about the foster care system surprises me anymore, but mostly because of the fact that in most of my foster children's birthparent's Service Plans, the requirement set forth for their housing has almost always contained the word "permanent" or "stable" in front of the word "housing".  Thank goodness for homeless shelters and battered women's shelters-  I guess my point is that they are temporary housing and resources, but certainly not permanent . . . nobody is supposed to live in them forever.       
I'm hoping for Rose's sake, that her new home environment with her relatives is much MORE than just "adequate."


Katrina said...

On one of my many frustrating days of getting Nevaeh back from her birth mom's visits I complained to the social worker about some of the things I found to be inappropriate behavior. Things I would never do to my children (like only feed them a can of peas for lunch and then think they must be full because they don't eat the whole can)

The social worker was very nice about it but she did put me in my place. She told me that the county was not trying to decide which of us was the better parent but if this person was an adequate parent. She said there will always be someone who could be considered a better parent than someone else and that my standards for adequate child care where not what the county went off of.

It was sad to think of this sweet little toddler, age 19 months, only being feed peas for the 6 hours she was with her birth mom but it also made we realize that I would not want my children taken away because someone else was better at feeding them a well balanced meal and not the chicken nuggets and mac and cheese I sometimes do.

I tell people all the time that you know there are children out there living in poor conditions but it makes it so much harder when you know that child personally and they have lived in a "better" place with you for so long.

Carlene's soon to be momma :)

Mary said...

Katrina- Loved the chicken nuggets/mac & cheese example! It's far too easy to judge in these situations; with our first couple of placements some of my family members would ask, in essence "Can't the judge tell that YOUR home and family environment is so much more "stable" than the one that these kids are returning to?" I would have to remind them (and myself) as the social worker did with you, that it's not a contest between us or them.

MamaFoster said...

i totally get where everyone would come from by i just have to say, if i was in a homeless shelter because i had no other choice i sure would not want to loose my kids.

Mary said...

Somebody please correct me if I'm wrong, but to my knowledge parents don't lose custody of their children solely because they're homeless or poor (otherwise the foster system would be even more overrun); People lose their children due to addictions, mental illness, or abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, parents may happen to reside in a homeless shelter at the time but it's no crime to be poor.