Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Review: Voices From the Inside

I was recently contacted by author and foster parent, Maranda Russell, about reviewing her e-book From Both Sides: A Look into the World of Foster Care from Those who Know it Best.

The only thing I knew about this book before reading it was that 1) it is about foster care and 2) It is divided up into two sections: the first part is from the perspective of children in foster care and the second part is the perspective of foster parents.  

I think the idea of offering up two different perspectives to any issue or story- hence the title From Both Sides- adds a very beneficial aspect and oft-overlooked balance and I was especially eager to read case studies and interviews of children in foster care sharing their voices when they seldom have much of a say in their situation.  What I was not expecting as I started reading, however, was the genre of this book- it is made up entirely of prose poetry.  Needless to say, this is most definitely a book you can finish in one sitting.  What this short book (42 pages long) lacks in length it makes up for in emotional depth.

Russell is not afraid to confront truth as she straight-forwardly offers up this sobering statistic about children in foster care in "PTSD":

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Did you know
that according to statistics,
foster kids
are diagnosed with
at twice the rate
of returning war

something to think about . . .
isn't it?
I would caution that Maranda has no problem telling things like they are and because of this at times I was left feeling very uncomfortable or even downright depressed after reading a few of the poems, such as "Gift Receipt":

Gift Receipt

I should come
with a gift receipt.

I was given first
to Mom and Dad,
but they gave me back.

Then I was given
to multiple foster families
who found that I clashed
with their home decor.

Finally I was adopted
and given a forever home . . .
that turned out
to be a very short

I'm like fruitcake,
the gift that no one
really wants.

However, isn't the purpose of writing [and poetry in particular] not just to express oneself but to stir up feelings in others?  In this aspect, Maranda Russell has done her job and done it well.   If these poems don't leave you feeling uncomfortable, moved to compassion, or even angered then you may want to feel if you have a pulse!

Common themes in many of the poems in the Being a Foster Kid section were frustration about the uncertainty and constant change of their situation, a sense of being in limbo or not belonging, or ambiguous feelings and divided loyalties between the child's foster family and their bio family as illustrated in "Guilt":


Sometimes I hate myself
for loving my foster family.
On my darker days
I admit to myself
that I might even
love my foster family
more than my real family.

What's worse
is when I go home
for visits
and sit in silence
because I have
nothing in common
with my own
flesh and blood

Because of some of the issues Voices From the Inside address I think this book would be a great therapeutic resource for children (particularly adolescents and pre-teens) in the foster care system who want to give a voice to their feelings of being caught in a complex system with so many different people to deal with.

 I also think Voices From the Inside would be of particular interest for those who have experience fostering, but I'll admit that if I would have read this book over ten years ago (pre-fostering)  it may have scared me off from fostering- especially the poems "Things Our Foster Children Have Broken or Ruined . . . " and "Things My Foster Kids Have Stolen" which describe some of the occupational hazards of fostering.   Keep in mind, however, that Russell and her husband foster primarily pre-teens and teens, and the interviews and inspiration for this book were from former foster youth or children currently in foster care at least nine years old and older.

On a personal note, after I read "Things Our Foster Children Have Broken or Ruined . . ." I felt a sense of relief that the worst damages to our home have been a torn wallpaper border and a cracked window which pale in comparison to the litany of things Russell listed in her poem.

I may have also been a little freaked out reading "Alphabet Soup" ten or even five years ago, but I actually found it quite humorous and clever.

Alphabet Soup

Some good old-fashioned RAD,
a touch of PTSD,
just a hint of OCD,
a generous helping of ADHD
and a pinch of ODD
to taste.

Add it all together
and what do you get?

Alphabet Soup . . .

and a kid
made entirely of labels.
Russell's collection of poems in From Both Sides is an honest look into fostering with no sugar-coating involved.  These poems will definitely make you feel something- even if it's not always sunshine and rainbows.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Choosing Adoption: A Birthmother's Story

I first heard Tamra speak at an Adoption Conference a couple of years ago and was amazed at her maturity and articulation about such a complex matter as placing a child for adoption.

I saw this video today and was once again touched as she shared her story.

My favorite lines-

On the TRUTH about Adoption:
"The biggest fallacy about adoption is that birthparents don't want their children."

About LOSS:
"My loss has been more than compensated for. . . the sweetness always swallows up the bitter."

On Birthparents and Adoptive Parents:
"We both sacrificed and we both put something on the altar and we answered each other's prayers."


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Family: A Proclamation to the World

I have a framed copy of The Family: A Proclamation to the World hanging in the front room of our home.
Because seriously, what is more important in life than FAMILY?
When I reflect about the things I've learned in my life or studied about home and family but especially from my experiences with foster care, the warning in the second to last paragraph of the proclamation echoes loudly in my mind:
"WE WARN that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God."
How much suffering could be avoided in life and how vastly different would our world be if everyone came from a loving, righteous family?  
No family is perfect and all families have different dynamics, but whether you're single, married, divorced, widowed, have a house full of children or have no children one thing is for certain:
"Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities."
I also feel very strongly about the CALL TO ACTION in the very last paragraph of the Proclamation:
"WE CALL UPON responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society."
Whether you are focusing your efforts on building your family, helping to preserve someone else's family (because it really does take a village to raise a child!)  or overcoming the effects of being raised in a less than ideal family environment, there is hope for our world when there is hope in our families.
To read The Family: A Proclamation to the World click here.
To download a free copy of The Family courtesy lollyjane.com (like the one pictured below) click here.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Foster Care with Relatives

The purpose of foster care is family preservation so it shouldn’t be too surprising that half of the children we’ve fostered have been transferred from our care to the temporary or permanent care of their relatives.  This was the case with our last placement.

Supposedly there is a 90 day timeframe from the time a child comes into protective custody for relatives to come forward and express an interest in having the child placed in their home.  I’ve learned to look at the 90 day timeframe not so much as a statute, but as a suggestion; In other words, say a child has spent almost a year in their foster home and appears to safe, loved, and happily adjusted, but Uncle Bob- who lives ten states away and who’s never even met the child- comes out of the woodwork and decides he’d like the child placed with his family.  Who gets preference for placement of the child – the foster family or Uncle Bob?  In foster care, sometimes blood is thicker than what is in the child’s best interest so by law Uncle Bob as a relative gets preference over a non-related caregiver for placement of the child.   However, as I mentioned in my last update, just because a relative is willing to take a child doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be approved by the state to do so.
Sometimes we feel good about where our foster children have ended up and other times- not so much.  Fortunately, after meeting the relatives who would become Ty and Ian’s new kinship placement last week, I felt a sense of relief rather than worry.   I feel like these relatives aren’t just taking the boys out of obligation, but because they have a deep concern for their welfare.  In fact, these relatives had to make significant sacrifices on their part to take the boys which is why the approval process took so long.
I’m glad that the boys will have a mother figure and a father figure (or in this case a grandmother and grandfather figure) in their lives and although technically these grandparents are only grandparents to one of the boys [since they’re half-brothers] they are not strangers to either boys and they treat both boys as if they were their grandsons. 
When Ian’s grandfather saw me for the first time last week he walked up to me with tears in his eyes, embraced me, and said, “Thank You.” over and over. I wasn’t expecting that.  The grandma explained that they had not seen the boys in over six months and were obviously quite worried about their well-being.  I was surprised when they asked me how long the boys had been in my care, but then again, their son has been the one parent in this case who hasn’t even bothered to set up visits with his son, so maybe keeping his parents updated on their grandchild’s well-being isn’t at the top of his priority list.  
I imagine that the trickiest part about kinship placements is that as with all foster placements, the main concern is the children’s safety, but how can keeping the children out of contact with their parents when they’re living with relatives realistically be enforced?  I see this as the biggest problem with this particular kinship placement.  Although the boy’s caseworker could technically stop by their new  foster home anytime she wanted to, there is no way that she has the time to constantly “check up” like that.  The caseworker is aware of this as are the relatives.   

When I try to see things from the kinship placement’s point of view it must be difficult to have to say to one’s son (or brother or sister or cousin-whatever the case may be), “You can’t come near your kids except for your weekly court-ordered supervised visit- otherwise we both could get into trouble.” And by “trouble” I mean being charged with failure to protect the children in care and risk having the children moved to another home.  Certainly issues of divided loyalties and contentions would arise.
Aside from the fact that I feel confident the boys will be safe and cared for, the other good news is that the relatives, who live in a neighboring town, have invited us to keep in contact with the boys. I expressed my sincerest appreciation for allowing us to keep in contact, but I also explained, as I’ve had to before, that it would probably be best for the boy’s sake to wait a couple of months till they settle into their new environment before doing so. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fool's Fake Pregnancy Jokes

Please be sensitive . . .

And if this kind of a "joke" has ever caused you heartbreak, know that you are not alone.

Thank you, Ashley for posting this picture yesterday.