It’s Off

I got up when I felt like it today. Went to Legendary to grab a few donuts. Used up the last of my Starbucks gift card. Dropped a donut off to my mom and helped her with an app on her phone. Came home to Mitch and sat casually on the recliner while we chatted and started to watch Lockup on Netflix. He decided he was still tired, so he went back to bed. I scrolled through Facebook and texted with Stephanie, who has been home since Thursday but I just realized that TODAY. Felt like a shitty friend. Wondered what else I’ve been missing/not realizing/forgetting lately. Probably a lot. Sigh.

It’s off. This whole morning. I should have gotten up when I had to. Chased the kids around to get them ready for their visit with their dad. Tried six times to get their coats on. Told them to keep their shoes on at least 27 times. Put on Doc McStuffins or Goldie and Bear to let them have a little bit of TV time to distract them from the fact that we were putting their shoes on…yet again. Fed them *only* a banana because that’s all they want and their dad feeds them when they get to their visit. Saw them off to the visit transporter at 8:30 and then promptly began to rush around to spend hours cleaning the house so it could inevitably be a mess again before days end. I should be running around doing errands with urgency so I can be home by about 2:20 when they get home. Or taking a nap and setting my alarm to be awake when they get home.

Instead of doing all of that I had a casual morning. It’s off. For almost a year now we’ve had to establish a routine for the sake of everyone’s sanity. For almost a year now we’ve had to build our life around their six days a week visit schedules. It’s hard to believe we’re just three weeks out from all of that. Hard to believe it has been almost a year. Hard to believe we crammed so many memories in. I remember when they got here. We pulled them out of their car seats and they weren’t even a little bit reluctant to wrap their tiny arms around our necks and hug us. Strangers. A new face. Again. We were an instant family.

Nay Nay had just learned to walk, so she was still pretty wobbly. Sassie was still crawling. We taught one how to stabilize her new ability and taught one how to walk. Taught them how to use a fork and spoon. Taught them how to brush their teeth. Worked with them on their words so their speech could be on track for their age group. Nurtured their interest in the potty. Allowed them to wash themselves in the bath tub. We watched them go from needing us to do everything for them to watching them try to do everything for themselves. Watched them outgrow an outfit that fit them fine the week before. Put their own coats and socks on. Buckle themselves into their booster seats. Use the remote. Open doors. (YIKES!)

When I posted this profound article earlier this morning on my Facebook page, I said that, “Being a foster parent means you’re willing to put everything on the line knowing you could lose it all.” It’s true. And for those of you out there that do this repeatedly, I applaud you. It’s pretty brave of you to know you’re going to use up every ounce of energy and love you have to give only to have it questioned, accused, misunderstood, and to feel unappreciated. Of course, that’s not always the case. I’m sure there are situations where it’s not as volatile, not as much of a tug of war as it has been, and not so jagged at times.

Don’t get me wrong, we get to be thankful for the time we had with our littles. The things we taught them without even realizing we were contributing in some small way to their development and happiness, but they weren’t the only ones learning. They were our teachers, too. They taught us how to parent, how to budget, how to make the most of our time, how to stay up for too many hours (ha!), how to fight for something no matter how slim the chances of success are, how to be a child advocate, how to love others in ways we never understood, how to be adaptable, and it doesn’t stop there. The lessons they teach us every day will continue on after they are gone not here anymore back with their mom go home…well, you know. Having a hard time saying and hearing all of those.

I know you’re reading this and it’s probably hard to know what to say. Some of you have expressed love and comfort so willingly, others have stayed silent, some have sent a text or a Facebook message. Some of you have told me something along the lines of, “I have been following your story…I don’t know what to say…I’m sorry that…” Please don’t apologize. You checking in on us is perfect. Saying you love us and we have been great is perfect. Saying you don’t know what to say is perfect. Saying, “This is what you signed up for…” or something like that is not helpful. This roller coaster of emotions is super hard to navigate. It’s all new to us, just like being parents was new to us. It’s weird when they aren’t here. It’s weird I won’t see them until Monday night. I cried on my way to work Friday morning knowing I wouldn’t see their sweet faces for what seemed like forever. Maybe that sounds silly/stupid/dramatic and maybe it is.

If I have learned one thing in the last few times that they’ve gone on overnight visits with their mom, it’s that I believe having kids gives me a life that I love. It makes me feel like I have a purpose. Before them, we were so casual, and we liked it! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we don’t enjoy a quick and rare chance to have a date, watch a movie together at home after the kids go to bed, or sleep in, but it’s different when they’re gone for a long time. And it’s different when you have a family. I want to be the snack mom at their sporting events. I want to join the PTA and put my fundraising skills to use again. I want to be the reason they look back on their childhood and smile. I want to let them be a child during their years of childhood, something in which is robbed of far too many kids. 

How soon after the girls leave can we continue to contribute to the well-being of a child and their family? That remains to be seen, but I know we want to do it. We are scared. I know how much this hurts us right now and I know it’ll hurt even more come “the day” that they…go. I’ll be honest, I really don’t know how our hearts and energy will be replenished after all of this, but I know it’ll happen. When it does, we’ll welcome him, her, them just as we welcomed the twins. We will love them, provide for them, encourage them, and fight for them because if not us, then who?

xo,

a

P.S. On April 2nd, we are participating in a bowling fundraiser for foster children in our area. We are $50 short of our required minimum and we need your help. Please donate any amount here. Thank you!

Advertisements

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