Sunday, October 5, 2014

Community Property

There is one aspect of foster care that tends to make me angry. Not just frustrated...but downright angry. And that is when casual people you meet treat foster kids like they are community property. There are lots of little ways people devalue foster kids. But the biggest one, the one that makes me angry, is when ANYONE says anything along the lines of, "Oh my, they're so cute. I just want to take them home with me."

Numerous strangers said things along those lines to me about Dude & Dolly. And yes, I even had people say it to me about Daisy. Now...once the foster kid is an almost grown man-child, people don't pipe up with wanting to get involved like that. But cute little foster kids - people think it's OK to offer up their home.

This is wrong.

Any child in foster care is living in a limbo from Hell! They know they don't have permanency even if they can't speak. Tiny infants (like my TT when I brought him home) know that they aren't with that woman they were inside for 9 months. The voices don't sound the same. The sounds of the home aren't the same. The smells aren't the same. The rhythm of the way the new mom walks isn't the same. They know!

And big kids know too.  Kids that hear "someone else wants them" worry that maybe they will have to move again. No kid needs to have that concern in their life. And don't get me started on what a phrase like "I wish they could come home with me" does to an attachment challenged child!

It's a hurtful phrase to the foster parents too. They are the ones that sacrificed their "normal" life to voluntarily let all sorts of decision makers in. They are constantly reminded that they, as parents, are less than. Quite often foster parents are barely treated better than babysitters by the decision makers in the case. We don't have much of a say in court and we are limited by a million rules to making real decisions in a child's life. The last thing we foster parents need to hear is that someone else would gladly take that child for us. Because the person volunteering their home has no clue what it takes to be a foster parent and in one fell swoop they just devalued all the extra sacrifice. Fostering is NOT so simple as to just take a kid in to your home.

The other place I notice foster kids almost instantly becoming community property is at the doctor's office. It's even worse at the hospital.

I'm not exactly sure how to spell out the exact ways I've seen it and felt it. Because sometimes it is just a feeling. It's like the doctors and nurses take a level of control over the child and honestly think that you, the foster parent, don't care because "they're just a foster child". I had nurses be so surprised that I stayed by both Pumpkin's and Daisy's said the entire time they were hospitalized. Granted, my agency requires it. But still - I could have had social workers from my agency fill in. I chose not to. I stayed by their side because it was important to me AND because it was important to them. My kids needed ME.

I also noticed that community property issue when the doctors offered up so little information about health of my child. It was almost like they had an attitude of, "We've got this under control. You're just the foster parent anyway. We don't have to tell you anything." I never did get to see a copy of Daisy's MRI despite asking the neurosurgeon and the neurologist.

I have a friend that is deep in the trenches right now with a very sick foster baby. Her little girl was born addicted to drugs in a bad way and also has a serious heart condition. She is one sick baby and the prognosis over her future is grim. It is unlikely that this baby will ever have a "normal" life. She is going to fight severe special needs forever.

My friend has two forever kids and one other foster child. The hospital she has to be at if she wants to be with her baby isn't right next door to her house. The hospital stay has been exhausting to her on so many levels. She is stretched thinner than thin.

But still, she got added to a mailing list (I assume from her church) asking her to sign up to make meals and provide childcare for someone's biological child that is ill. Almost NO ONE has stepped up to help her. In fact, when she worried about how she had to leave the hospital because no one was available to watch her other kids while dad was at work, she had someone tell her that it doesn't matter...the baby doesn't know the difference.

No one would tell a biological parent that their child doesn't need them when they are sick and hospitalized. No one.

Don't tell that to a foster parent either. If anything, our foster kids need us even more because absolutely everything in their lives is such a mess.

The other concern with this super sick foster baby is how the medical professionals are treating the baby. She was admitted because she had a cold. Since coming back to the hospital, she has been subjected to so many unnecessary tests and treatments. She is back on methadone despite having been completely weaned off of it for awhile. And the foster parents that are fighting so hard for this baby have had no say in any of her treatment. (Both parents have medical backgrounds too so they do know what they're fighting for.) To the foster mom in question, it has felt like the hospital took over fully and isn't involving the foster parents because that baby is community property.

Another friend drove over three hours across the state to the hospital to pick up her newborn foster daughter (a kinship placement even). The doctors in this case decided to keep the baby admitted a bit longer. CPS was there but the hospital social worker decided to trump everyone and not even let the new foster mom visit her brand new baby. Wouldn't even let the foster mom SEE the baby! And this foster mom is on track to adopt this baby (she has her older brother already).

Could you imagine being told by a hospital that you can't even see your baby? Especially since CPS, the legal guardian in the case, was there saying you most certainly could?! Still...the hospital won and my friend had to turn around and drive home.

Stories like this break my heart.

Those two babies I talked about above are currently in the hospital as I'm writing this. I am asking for prayers for these two sweet babies and their foster families that are fighting so hard to be treated properly. Health, healing and a quick transition home to where they are safe and loved is needed for these babies. Thank you for your prayers.


Annie said...

Being a church worker, my guess about the meal thing is that the mom in question has a key friend who is organizing the thing...or people who know the situation, and know they'd enjoy meals. It would be nice if churches could reach out to everyone, but honestly, we find that some people don't want that kind of help....and, at least in our parish, where such things are not done on an organizational level, but because someone sees the need - the recipient needs to either be connected with lots of "givers" or be connected to one person who has lots of friends in that category. I sincerely doubt that phenomenon is due to the foster status.

The way people speak - yes; I do recognize that phenomenon. I try to be understanding; these things are always said "off the cuff" without a lot of thought and I think the train of thought isn't as direct as all is probably more along the lines of, "Wow, they are cute; I'd do foster care myself if I could be sure to have kids like that and not some [whatever their fear is]."..but they can't say THAT out loud, so they alter it to what you hear.

The adoptive parent version of that is "Well, if you get tired of him, you can send him to my house." I don't think they mean to imply that kids are interchangeable, or that they expect my love is fleeting...but it sounds like it. I'm glad all of my kids have been old enough to recognize this as just an awkward excuse for a pleasantry.

On the other side of this is the foster child who for YEARS kept asking me to find him a "different family", when we expressed our intention of having him be ours forever. He really had come to feel that his whereabouts was at the whim of people he didn't know (and it was) and was optimistic enough to figure that with one of these spins of the wheel he could end up in a mini-mansion. Too bad for him. He's still with us.

G said...

Aw, I'm sorry.

I used to hear the "I could take them home" line about my bio kids when they were little, so I never really thought of it as a foster-related thing, even when I hear it now about M. I see why it's inappropriate -- especially if the child is old enough to understand it -- but suspect it's more a case of someone not realizing the under-currents.

I did have someone tell me not long after M came to let them know if "that one" ever became available for adoption. She's the 8th child that's been in our home and this person had met all of them. I was so stunned that I just stared at them.

I think your friend with the church issue needs to tell her staff how she felt about that or look for a new church. My church was a terrific fount of support when N had all his surgeries and also when M spent her weekend in the NICU. They brought dinner, offered to take the bio kids places, visited N and me in the hospital (M wasn't there long enough, since the NICU has limited visiting hours) and sent many, many encouraging texts and emails, reminding me that we were in their prayers. But I reached out to them first, emailing the staff and giving them a short synopsis of what was going on.