Hello. I’m a Foster Mom.

As a foster mom, I often feel hidden away in the shadows. You don’t know my name, where I live, or what I look like. I remain mysterious so that I can speak (relatively) freely about foster parenting while protecting my kiddos’ privacy. Too bad it’s not because I am a superhero, a spy, a rich recluse or something cool like that.

Anyway, it’s kinda weird to write a piece for #AdoptionTalk Link Up with the theme “Getting to Know You.”

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Our Pre-Foster Care Family

Let me pull back the curtains a little and reveal a bit more about our family. Sassy was the first child in our family, born to Hubby and I in 2001. We adopted Silent One from foster care in 2004. He was the most adorable six-year-old boy back then. (No foster-adopt, just straight adoption.) Hubby and I earned our parenting stripes and dealt with a wide variety of parenting issues over the next dozen plus years. Sassy had significant medical issues and Silent One suffered from PTSD and attachment issues. Both had education needs. By 2013, Sassy and Silent One were well-adjusted teenagers (well, as well adjusted as teenagers ever are. 🙂 ).

We were riding in the car when Silent One launched into a talk. “We need to adopt,” he said, and he and Sassy began listing all of the things they would be willing to do as a big sister and big brother. They would share rooms, they would help with housework, they would babysit. What amazing hearts they had!!! Hubby and I had long been thinking of fostering, so we countered with becoming a foster family. Initially, the kids were hesitant. Mainly they were worried about really liking someone only to have them return to their original homes. But after much discussion as a family, we decided to go for it.

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The Road to Becoming Licensed…And Actual Foster Parents

We signed up for foster care training at the end of 2013, but there was a waiting list. Strange how there was more demand for training than there were classes. The County gives preference to relatives who want to take in their grandkids or other kin. The County also aims for diversity – racial, cultural, religious, sexual orientation, etc. – so seats in the class room are given to people who meet whatever shortages exist in the current foster home pool. The County looks for foster parents who meet other existing needs – such as homes for medically fragile children, teenagers, or siblings. We specifically wanted siblings, so we were placed in the middle of the waitlist.

In early 2014, we graduated from PRIDE, the foster care training program. Then we moved on to the home study, which took until late 2014. Next, we had to wait for the social worker’s boss to sign off on the home study and sign the certificate that would open our home for foster care. That took quite a few more months due to the sheer amount of backlog.

In the spring of 2015, we began receiving our first referrals. It was so heart breaking to turn down the first few that weren’t a match for us. We turned down a referral for a sibling group of boys, because our home has a lot stairs that wouldn’t be good for one of the kiddos. We also turned down a sibling group of girls, as we didn’t feel prepared to parent a child with a significant mental disablility. We turned down a boy, due solely to timing – I was sick in hospital. We accepted a referral for three boys under the age of three – but the boys ended up not coming into foster care (yay for them!).

Finally, in April 2015, we accepted a referral for a 10-year-old girl – Joyful – and her then 8-year-old brother – Watchful. We had planned on taking in their 4-year-old brother Jumping Jack, but the social workers determined it would be best if the siblings were in different homes due to birth family dynamics. Jumping Jack has stayed with us for respite and we get together occasionally with his foster family.

2016

The Latest Happenings

Where we live, the County gives birth families one year to fix what needs to be fixed, and be reunited. At the one year mark, the County must go to court for a permanency hearing, in order to avoid kids being in care too long. If the problems are fixed, kids go home. If the adults are working hard on fixing the problems but need more time, the County will ask for a six month extension. If the County determines that the problems are not likely to be fixed anytime soon, the case goal changes to termination of parental rights (TPR).

Joyful and Watchful’s case has had concurrent goals of reunification and relative placement for nearly a year. In the next few months, we should know if the kids will return home to dad. There are no relatives who have qualified to adopt. So… if the kids don’t return to dad, then the County will formally ask us if we want to adopt. They’ve asked us informally many months ago if we would be willing. However, dad has done some things right, so we really don’t know which way this will go.

So, now you know our story. What about you? What’s your story?

Share it and read others through AdoptionTalk Link Up.

No Bohns About It

Should I Believe in Reuniting Foster Kids with Their Parent?

Here is what I believe in.  Reunifying parents with their kids who are in foster care.  Helping families who are going through hard times get past their troubles .  So why do I catch myself hoping for quick termination of parental rights?

Today, 4-year-old Jumping Jack came to visit our 8-year-old foster son Watchful and 10-year-old foster daughter Joyful.  Jumping Jack is their biological brother who is placed with another foster family.  Jumping Jack’s foster mom and I took a quick break to have an adult conversation out on the patio, and she confessed to the same feeling.  She had gotten into foster care to help families heal and reunite, but she is doubting the wisdom of reunification in this case.

As I mentioned in Too Early for the Adoption Word, our social worker and guardian ad litem think there’s a good chance the case will move to termination of parental rights.  At court yesterday, it was made clear that the county will definitely be seeking to terminate mom’s rights later this year.  They are giving dad his chance to fix things, but they are not optimistic that he will be able to turn things around.

Dad diligently shows up for every visit, but then ignores Watchful and Joyful.  He expresses concern about the children’s eating habits, but denies that the trauma has negatively impacted the kids.  He’s says he’s interested in reunification, but chooses not to call the children.  He says he would protect the kids, but blames the children for the abuse and blames the school system for not teaching children how to defend themselves.

This is the kids second time in foster care, and dad received a year’s worth of training back then.  Counseling and parenting classes didn’t fix the problem last time, though. Why would counseling and parenting classes work this time?

And so, I am left in a quandary.  When I see dad make efforts to turn things around, I want to cheer him on.  Yet, when I am reminded of the horrible trauma that happened under his watch and observe some of his current poor choices, I want to help the children move on to a life without him so they can lead safe, healthy, and eventually happy lives.

Every time I have the fleeting thought that maybe Joyful and Watchful would be better off if adoption becomes the plan, a little part of me dies.  Those very thoughts violate one of my most deeply held beliefs.  But apparently, I have a belief that is stronger than my belief that families should stay together.  My most powerful belief, apparently, is that children deserve safety and  love above all else.