My children were adults when I fostered so I didn't have children of my own impacted by the legal chaos like yours have been. I would be very interested in you posting about how your children have been affected by the entire process... from start to this horrific end. I know SOME foster situations work well. I believe in the concept of supporting biological parents being able to care appropriately for their children..... but the system has some HUGE flaws when it is common for children to not have permanency for 5-10 years. Please share...as you are able without increasing the pain to you and yours.I found it easy to write about Cherubs 1 and 3. Simply put though, I have avoided writing about TT's response to our fostering. This will be the most challenging post I've written in awhile. I can't seem to capture the complexity of it all in my mind - let alone on paper. But, I don't break promises and I've found already that I'm simply avoiding blogging because I feel like I should answer this question first. And now that we've got two new cherubs in the house...there is a TON of blogging material to write about! So, I'll try to explain how our fostering adventure has affected Cherub 2.
First, I'll give a refresher on TT. He was adopted through the foster care system when we did this back in Iowa many years ago. His story is VERY unique though!! He was not the subject of substance abuse, physical abuse or neglect. Instead, his biological mom AND dad made a unique adoption plan of sorts.
We don't have all the details. I was too young and naive to push for more. In retrospect, I wish I had asked (demanded) for an open adoption. What I'm stuck with now are bits and pieces that the social worker told me.
We believe that TT's first mom kept her pregnancy a secret. That in and of itself is traumatic for a growing baby. It is incredibly stressful to a person when they keep a secret of that magnitude. You can almost imagine that while TT was being formed inside his mom, he was swimming in a pool of cortisol - the stress hormone. That helped to shape his personality!
TT's first parents drove together across the border from Minnesota in to Iowa to give birth. I don't know how long they actually stayed in the hospital but I believe they were gone by the time I met TT less than 24 hours after he was born. While in the hospital though, they made it immediately clear that they were not going to parent this child. After discussing their options with the social worker, they decided to not take advantage of Iowa's Safe Haven law but to formally relinquish their rights. It was to be better for TT to do it this way.
ALL adoption starts with unfathomable loss. It is important to understand that TT sees everything we're doing through that lens. He identifies with the children that come in to our home in a way that the others simply cannot. However, because he didn't suffer abuse or neglect, his story is radically different. In a way, that makes it even more difficult for him. He's too young to fully understand why he feels the connection the way he does.
TT has a profound level of compassion. I'll take just a moment here to brag on my kids. :) Herman and Bart are very, very bright children. But TT, well...he is gifted. His moral compass is higher. The way he thinks is different. So many of our schools do not understand what a truly gifted child is. Google it if you want. It's not being smart. It's not doing well on tests. It is a different way of thinking. And TT is very gifted!!
When bio parents don't make their visits TT is personally crushed. He's angry on a different level from the others because he relates. He revisits his own feelings of loss and abandonment each and every time.
When children are in danger (ie: drug needles coming in to our house after a visit or just thinking about what brought Daisy into our home), TT wants to fight and protect in a deeper, stronger way than the others.
And every time a foster child in our home feels sad, TT relates. Emotionally it is crushing to me to watch a foster child struggle with what is happening to them. For TT though, it is even more profound. I know that I personally feel physical pain in my heart. (Literally. I ache sometimes.) I can only imagine that TT's reaction is bigger.
So fostering is VERY difficult for TT.
But then, there is the flip side.
TT wanted to watch the movie The Blind Side after the Super Bowl last year. The story of Michael Orr captivated him. TT is always intrigued to learn about adults that were adopted. And with two prominent men in the Super Bowl last year having their stories spilled out in the news, TT wanted to know more.
We discussed with him that the movie would be triggering. We told him it might not be easy to watch. He wanted to do it anyway. I made sure to stay by his side through it all. I held him when it got difficult and he cried. As the movie was ending, through his tears TT said, "There are more people that feel like me. I want to help more."
When Dude and Dolly left TT and I reacted the strongest. I encourage TT to let it out whenever possible. If he doesn't feel his big feelings, they always end up spilling out in an angry rage. When I can get him to feel AND express his sadness (or jealousy, or fatigue, or frustration, etc.) he seems to handle life much better. We do A LOT of discussion about feelings in our house. (Boys in general tend to funnel all their feelings into either happiness or anger. I've worked with ALL my kids since they could talk about the variety of feelings, their names, and healthy ways to manage them.)
Every phone call ripped TT to pieces. It was like pulling a scab off and revealing a raw wound every single time. It was difficult to heal; in no way could we console TT with the idea that Dude and Dolly were now happy and safe. (I will not lie to my children.) When Pumpkin left TT was happy for her. In fact, he often said, "It is good. She is with her family." That statement has a lot of weight for a kid that is adopted. TT tried to convince himself the same with with Dude and Dolly - but since that conflicted with reality, he never felt comforted.
Big feelings have abounded since Ricky and Daisy joined our family. Out of all of us, TT was the most reluctant to foster again. We sort of forced his hand and talked him into being "ok" with the idea of Daisy about a month ago when we first heard about her. When we got the call for Ricky he was all for it. That was an easy "yes" for him. I'm not sure why. Maybe because he wasn't as worried about competing with a teenager. However, because of the wrongs in each case, fostering is still VERY difficult for TT.
TT is right in the middle of things though, and he generally has a positive attitude. I wish I could share with y'all the pictures I've taken of TT holding Daisy. Every time she cries he's right there by her side. And as far as he's concerned, Ricky is simply to be worshiped.
I worry A LOT that we might be making TT's life more difficult for him than we should be. I worry A LOT that fostering is too hard on him. I worry A LOT!
I wish there was a better way. Simply put though, we are in a fallen world and until the end, children will be hurt and they will need families like ours. If we hadn't answered the call, we wouldn't be TT's family. He needed us then (and now) just like Ricky and Daisy do.