Sunday, May 6, 2012

Rose's Trial Home Placement

When our foster children leave our home to be reunified with their families [four have been returned to the care of their parents, while two were placed in either short-term or long-term care of relatives rather than being placed back with their parents] I think my response to their permanency can be categorized into three different categories:

A)  Their parents have worked really hard and they definitely have some ongoing challenges ahead, but despite this, with the right support systems in place, I think things will work out.

This was true for Justin's case and Christian's case.

B)  One (or both) parent has made token efforts to get DCFS off of their back, and I have serious concerns about the future of this child.  In other words, Is the judge SERIOUSLY going to send this child  back to that situation? 

Thankfully, scenario "B" has only happened once and, as we predicted, our foster daughter, Molly, came back into state custody a year after leaving our home.  I wish I could say that she was placed with us the second time she came into custody, but one of the first things I learned about foster care policy is that placement with blood relatives almost always take precedent over foster families- even if the foster family has previously had the child in their care for months. Thus, Molly (and her baby brother) were placed with relatives the second time she came into care.

C)  The parents have worked hard and have some challenges ahead.  I want things to work out for this family, but I have some concerns that this child will come back into care.

This is true for Rose's case. 

And the thing that makes me saddest is not just Rose's welfare, but that I don't want to see her parents fail.  They have challenges ahead, but compared to where they were when Rose was brought into custody, they've made great progress.

Because I've had specific concerns the past couple of months about Rose's parents being ready to care for her full-time I addressed them with her caseworker.  In fact, instead of just telling our RFC "we're just fine" when he called to check up on us one day, I even brought up the concerns with him.  Fortunately, Rose's caseworker not only listens to me but values my opinion as well, and because of the concerns I brought up with her, which were valid concerns to her as well, Rose's caseworker requested a 90- Day Trial Home Placement for Rose rather than moving straight to Reunification at last week's Permanency Hearing.  The judge agreed which means that although Rose is still technically in state custody she can now live with her parents rather than in a foster home.  Then, after 90 days, if things go well they will have the actual Permanency Hearing to see if she can return to their custody without any DCFS involvement.

That's where we're at right now.  Rose has been gone for three days now.  We miss her.  I feel an emptiness every time I walk past our vacant nursery. 

As for continuing contact with Rose and her birthparents, I have very ambivalent feelings- especially since I've come to learn that foster care isn't just about helping your foster children, but about supporting their parents as well.  It's complicated and I won't go into details, suffice it to say that her parents have not only developed a lot of trust in us over the past couple of months and thanked us for caring for their daughter, but they've relied on me heavily in caring for their daughter, so much so that the caseworker had to kindly remind them that during this Trial Home Placement it's not my responsibility to care for Rose anymore nor can they rely on me as much as they have been the past couple of months (For example, supplying formula when they run out during a weekend visit or transporting Rose between her mom's house and her dad's house four times a week for transitional visits since they not only live in different households, but in different cities as well). 

I guess if I had to sum up my biggest challenge with Rose's parents in one word it would be:  boundaries.  They know they can text us in case of an emergency and that we would like to see Rose in say, two or three months, AFTER she has bonded with her parents and recognizes THEM as her primary caregivers, but we don't want Rose to be confused and we know that right now it's her parent's turn and responsibility to care for their daughter, which means in large part, that the best (and yet hardest) thing we can do right now is to let go.  We want them to succeed, but I also have my doubts and worries. 


Marianne N Doug said...

Thank you for sharing your stories. You give me better insight into foster care but also in life in general. Life is about finding that balance every day. I try to remember that each new day. Sending hugs to your family.

Unknown said...

As a fellow foster mom I know first hand the pain and loss that comes when a child that you've learned to love leaves your home. It sounds like you have great boundaries and I hope and pray that things will work out for Rose and her mom. It's great that you can still be a part of her life.

Shine said...

The picture explains so much not only about foster care, but adoption also... and life in general. We've been learning about boundaries and letting go vs. holding on quite a bit recently. I wish I could give you a hug big enough to help fill the emptiness!

Becky said...

As a previous child protection social worker, I so appreciate foster parents who take that extra step to also support children's biological families. It's such a hard thing to do and I so respect you for doing it.