Are You Somebody?

Have you ever read one of those stories about the toddler who was critically dehydrated after being left alone in a crib for days, crying while her mother got high?  Or the one about the eight year old boy who was hospitalized after being beaten by his father with a baseball bat?  Did you think to yourself “somebody should do something about that?”

Did you find yourself outraged after reading a story about a child being taken from their family on trumped up charges?   Did you wonder why someone doesn’t help grown ups deal with addiction or mental illness so that their children could live safely with them?

What about that story about how the foster care system is filled with cold, uncaring social workers who lose track of where children are placed? Or about the greedy foster parents who spend the foster stipend money on themselves while feeding the kids just once a day? Did you think to yourself “somebody should do something about that?”

I read these stories.  I was outraged.  I thought somebody should do something.  Then, I realized that I am somebody.  I became a foster parent.  A good one (or least to the best of my ability).  I love the children, care for them, advocate for them at their schools or therapist’s office or in the courts.  I advocate for their biological parents, too, helping them get their voices heard, their needs met, and have a real chance at getting their children back.  I volunteer to help out the foster care agency and help train new foster parents.

You could do this, too.  All you have to do is Be Somebody.

If you want child abuse to end.  If you want families going through hard times to be given a fair chance.  If you want the “system” to work as well as it can.

All you have to do is Be Somebody, the somebody who steps forward to be a foster parent.

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This post is part of the Adoption Talk Link Up on the topic of foster care / adoption memes.  Check out the link for other great voices on foster care and adoption!

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.