Up, Down, Up, Down – A Foster Care Placement Roller Coaster

We’ve been open for a long-term foster care placement since this spring. During the summer, it was dead silent, but over the past six we’ve been called quite a few times.  We keep getting our hopes up, but then being let down.

up-down-angry-dog

The County asked us to take a young teen who was being sexually abused by a relative.  We said yes, but she ended up not coming into care as her friend’s family decided to let her stay with them.  The next call was regarding a teenaged girl and her newborn, and we quickly said yes, but a family friend ended up agreeing to care for her.  We came very, very close to having an elementary-aged boy, but when the County went to pick him up and bring him to our house, he was no longer living at that address.  Around 1:00 a.m. one night we received an emergency call to place a boy, but we said no as his behaviors might be risky for our children.  We said yes to two toddlers, but the County found a foster home closer to their neighborhood.  We said no to a 9-year old girl as we felt we would need to devote at least 20 hours a week to help her address her significant needs, and our work schedules wouldn’t allow that.  And last week, we said yes to 10 and 12-year-old siblings, but a foster family who had a pre-existing relationship with the brother changed their minds and welcomed the siblings.

We received a huge shock when the County asked us to adopt a sibling group that we know.  After a whole lot of deliberation, we said no, which just about tore me apart. These are great kids and I’d highly recommend them to prospective parents, but they just weren’t a good match for us.  Even writing this makes me want to cry, though I know these kids deserve a family that better fits their personalities, likes, and needs.

So, our house remains empty for now. And my hand remains wrapped around my iPhone waiting for the next call.

Changing Your Foster Kid’s School

Your social worker asks you to drive your foster children to their before-foster-care school.  It’s 30 minutes away!  That’s a whole lot of time wasted in the car, right?  First, check out how to make the most out of foster care drive time in Should You Drive Your Foster Kid?.

And then check out how much foster kids lose for every time they have to change schools.  Data is for California, but can be extrapolated to foster care in general.

Source:  Attorney General’s 2014 Report on California’s Elementary School Truancy and Absenteeism Crisis.

When you’re thinking of changing your foster kiddo’s school, ask yourself if it’s worth your child falling half a year behind their peers.  What if this is your child’s second or third move?  What are the odds that your foster child will need to change schools in the future?

Sometimes the answer is yes, a move makes sense.  But sometimes, the time you spend behind the wheel driving your kid back and forth is time truly well spent.

Should you drive your foster kid?

Kids in foster care spend a whole lot of time in cars being driven from one place to another.  They are driven from foster homes to visits with their parents, therapists, psychiatrists, doctors, social workers, tutors, dentists, physical therapy, court appointments, etc.  You may be tempted to use the county-provided transportation.  But think about the beautiful opportunity all that time in the car together presents.

 

1)  Talk Time

Car time is an excellent time to connect and chat, especially for those kids who have a hard time making eye contact.  The kids don’t need to look at you when speaking, so it may feel safer to engage.

2)  Talk Time – Part 2

Kids often bottle up their emotions at school or at appointments.  They are bursting to let it out.  If you are present, waiting in the car to pick them up, they will often spill the beans about what’s going on in their lives and how they feel about it.  Wait until several hours later and the feelings are not as strong/buried/have been vented otherwise.  Be there when they are primed to talk.

3)  Sing It With Me Baby

Going to see your parents or the doctor can be stressful.  You can help your kids deal with the stress by singing loudly in the car.  Singing is actually a form of aerobic exercise.  The extra oxygen will help flush the stress hormones out of your children’s system.  And it is just plain ol’ fun.

4)  Practice Time

You can use that car time to work with your kids on home work or life skills.  Practice the multiplication tables, talk to them about what they are reading to help them fully understand the plot, or quiz kiddos on upcoming tests. You can also play a “what if” game that helps develop life skills.  (Pose silly or not so silly questions to each other.  Example – What if a herd of donkeys attacked you? Discuss ways to stay safe, ways to handle conflict, reasons why such a thing may have happened, etc.)

5)  Soothing Riled Up Emotions

Big feelings can erupt after visits with parents, such as memories, fears about the future, feelings of abandonment, etc.  Similarly, kiddos can feel like doctor visits are a loss of control over their bodies.  Simply be there to comfort them.

Think of all you’d be missing out on and all your kids would be missing out on if some stranger is driving. So let’s stop thinking of driving our kids as a waste of our time and start thinking of it as a wonderful opportunity to draw closer to our children.

For a former foster kid’s thoughts on how horrible being driven by stranger was, check out I Was A Foster Kid’s post Foster kids don’t belong in f*ing glorified taxis.