Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Not all are created alike

This is a post about how information flows in the fostering world. I want to maintain a positive attitude towards things. But if I'm going to be honest about what fostering really looks like - I'm going to have to include nuggets like this.

We're doing respite for another foster family starting this weekend. Their plans seem a little haphazard right now. They didn't know if they were leaving on Friday or Saturday. They weren't even sure when they would be back. They said they needed respite for a week. The foster mom said she had nine kids and homes were found for all of them except this little boy. (I have no idea how many of those nine are foster kids and how many are bio or adopted.)

I checked with Mr. Amazing and we agreed it'd be OK. We're pretty flexible.

That's all well within the realm of normal I guess.

They were kind enough to the little guy to bring him by yesterday to meet us. He got to stay for a whole 5 minutes I think. My kids asked him how old he is. He said four. (Maybe foster mom forgot? Maybe he just had a birthday and is really five? I dunno.)

The foster dad said things might be changing with his family visits. He was going to have to check and let me know. He seemed to think that they'd bring him over after the visit Saturday afternoon. I asked when they planned on picking him back up. That was met with some uncertainty. He decided that they'd pick him up on Monday the 28th. (I did the math. That's longer than a week. Oh well. I'm still flexible enough.)

Foster mom just called me to confirm that if it's OK with me, we'll pick him up from his visit on Saturday at 5:00PM. I said that's not a problem at all. And yes, we'll probably have to bring him to his visit the following Saturday from 1:00 to 5:00PM at a local McDonalds. (Forgive me as I climb on a different soap box... Accckkk?! McDonalds is where this kid gets to go to spend four hours with his mom and four other siblings?! Oh there are some broken things in the system for sure. Forget about Happy Meal toys being a poor influence on children. Let's take an institution that is supposed to help parents become better at parenting and use McDonalds as the meeting place for family reunification. What a crock!)

Through the limited amount of conversation we had up to this point I had found out that this little guy has been with them since September and is one of five kids. This particular foster family has three of the siblings and another foster family has the other two. All they keep telling me is that the boy is very good. He's any easy one. They aren't giving me any of their behavior problem kids.

I asked the foster mom why he had been removed in the first place.

She. didn't. know.

She ended up mumbling something about it being abuse and neglect. But she did say that she didn't know for sure.

I want to believe that this is a terrific foster family. I want to believe that they are looking out for the best interests of all the children in their care. But how could you not know why the child you've been caring for since September lives with you?! This information is so important to me. Am I strange because of that? For me, it helps explain behaviors. Children respond to different settings in different ways based on their life experiences. Will he be scared if he's left in a room to sleep alone because he's been horribly neglected? Or has there been sexual abuse and I need to make sure he doesn't sleep in the same room as one of my children?

I know we'll be OK. I can roll with these kinds of punches. I met the little boy. All I saw was a deep wound of sadness tucked in the back of his gaze as he looked at me. Sadness and confusion mixed with a bit of "hey, this looks like a fun house with lots of toys and two other boys to play with". I'm not worried about this turning into some kind of a psycho mess. Besides, I've got the on-call worker plugged into speed dial and I'm not afraid to call for back-up. I highly doubt the week will be anything out of the ordinary.

It's just a reminder that we are all radically different.

1 comment:

jendoop said...

It could be that the foster mom is unsure of how much to share because of HIPA?

With 9 kids to take care of and coordinate schedules I'm not surprised that their plans are "fluid".

I think some long time foster parents stop caring about the details of children's cases because it's painful to know and in the long run it can make foster parenting a more complicated experience. At some point they quit fighting the little battles and maybe even the big ones, throwing up their hands in frustration over the crazy system.

That said, I don't think that is what is best for a child. The foster parent needs to know as much as possible because it effects what the child needs (from food to discipline techniques). And the child needs an advocate that knows them and their history like it was their own.