Foster Parenting

I kind of surprised myself tonight. I started responding to a post on a friend’s page about being a foster parent. Admittedly, I was a little miffed with the person making a lot of argumentative comments because I felt like she was attacking foster parents, and homie don’t play that. As foster parents, we get enough shit flung at us all the time. This was an emotional response. As I typed, I felt it coming up from the deepest part of my heart and spewing out onto the keys. I didn’t mean to hijack my friend’s post…but I kind of did. Sorry, Sharla. I guess I’m surprised by the feeling and the clarity that I shared here, but I’m not sure why. It went a little something like this…

It sounds like you have been victimized by a lot of awful circumstance during your adolescent years, which can be so traumatic at a young age and extremely triggering in adulthood. I respect your position as coming from a child broken by the system and as an adult to see the injustice that can happen to people who can’t protect themselves. Shame on the people who knowingly commit wrong-doing to families. It is truly heartbreaking to see a family disbanded and I’m sorry that happened to you.

However, with all of that said, I believe you are taking an opinion on this matter that has gone deeper than just the message of this article. “I’m saying that total removal from any knowledge or presence of an addicted parent is an unhealthy move…” Am I confused about what this statement means? Are you saying it is better to leave the kids in care of an addict? If yes, what makes a person support showing children what a life of addiction is like?

As a foster mom, I have heard time and time again about the struggles of the system, what it does to individuals, families, and the state of our community. Foster care is always a last resort. The State of Washington doesn’t remove children from the home as easily as it sounds like you have experienced. I’m not saying you’re not being truthful, but we know a different system.

If I am understanding things from your perspective, you believe the family unit should stay together come what may. For the most part, I support this, but not when it endangers the life and future of the child. Breaking up a family is not ideal, in fact, it’s the worst nightmare of many. The heartache of being separated without control, without understanding, and with great sadness are all emotions that kids and parents endure, and it’s not fair.

But what also isn’t fair is when a child isn’t given the same opportunities as the next one. What’s not fair is when a parent retains custody of a child they don’t want. What’s not fair is to completely overwhelm state workers to the point that they cannot give focused attention on their caseload, and therefore, apply the least bit of time and attention to ensure everyone’s needs will be met once reunification happens. Not just for the child, but for the parents, too. Setting the entire family up for success rather than failure should be the logical thing to do, yet I am in the middle of fighting my state workers right now. I am imploring them, please, merge this family back together. Please, don’t throw them all in the dryer together at the same time and watch them collide and tumble only to see what shakes out.

For as many bad bio parents that are out there, there’s just as many bad foster homes. That is an unarguable truth, but some of us, people like my husband and I, we fight. Hard. Not just for the girls, but for the family unit because we believe that if we love the girls the best we can and do whatever is necessary to support their mom, and fight for the reunification process to go how it should and not how the state would like for it to, (which is to throw them all in at once – an awful idea for reasons I can clarify later, if necessary) they’ll all be better off. And not just for a few months, but for the rest of their lives. We love our girls so much that we have jumped in with both feet to be supportive when we didn’t and perhaps shouldn’t have, but we did it because we knew that all of our efforts to advocate for the girls would carry into advocacy for the betterment of the family.

Foster parenting gives a lot of people a bad taste in their mouth. The system is broken, the families are broken, hearts are broken. This isn’t just happening to the bio family, this is also happening to the foster family. We chose not to just open our door, we chose to open our hearts. We chose to be advocates instead of sitting back and watching more injustice for this family. We chose to do more than necessary because we know that going the extra mile will only strength relationships. And at the end of the day, when all is said and done, they will leave our house and our family (temporary or not) will be broken. Our hearts will be broken. Our system will still be broken. And then the phone will ring and another family will need our help to watch over their children while they try to make arrangements for a better life. Once again, we will open not just our door, but our hearts as well and I hope that you can appreciate that our side of things experiences just as much heartache as yours might.

I know Washington CPS has a program that does in-home services for families that are struggling through a variety of situations such as drugs, DV, etc., so I’m grateful that this is the case, because, honestly, there are just too many kids in foster care, not enough beds, and not enough people being held responsible. In the last 7 months of our lives, we have learned far too much about how this system is broken. We have been angered by the difference in treatment their mom gets versus what their dad gets. It seems like whomever has the better attorney gets the better judgement. It’s wrong. The better attorney doesn’t prove the better parent. We need to be closely examining the family unit, what the parent did to lose custody, and what can be done to make sure that reunification is healthy for everyone. Yet, we watch so many families fall by the wayside. When I think about it, my heart emotionally cannot take it. To think of it now just makes me cry.

I’m watching our system want to rush the family back together right now because it has been open for too long and they want to close it out. It’s not just. Mitch and I got into foster care for a variety of reasons, but one of them was because we truly wanted to help families. We come from limited means, so we are not able to financially support families, charities, etc. in the ways that our hearts want to, but we do what we can and this is the best we can do right now.

It’s tough to parent someone else’s children. For as much as the bio parents are scrutinized and under the microscope, judged, blamed, insulted, and not taken seriously, the same thing happens to the foster parents. It sucks, but this is a choice. We choose to do this because we believe that we should. We won’t get rich in coin but rich in love and after it has been 10, 20, 30+ years of dragging our heels in the mud, kicking and screaming for families to have the treatment they deserve, then I will say, “We have done all we can. Time to move onto something else.”

By far, this has been the most emotional, difficult, sad, angry, beautiful, loving, hilarious 7 months of my life, so far. When I look at those babies asleep in their beds at night, I am so deeply aware of how great my love for them is and I am reminded every day that they are not mine. That they belong at home, with their mom and sister, so they can be a family again. For them to stay with us permanently would mean that their bio family fell apart and as difficult as it is to grasp and imagine our lives without these littles, it is far more difficult to accept any responsibility for breaking up a family. So we will keep them for the short term but we will love them forever.

And that, my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg.

xo,

a

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