Thursday, March 29, 2012

Things I am Tired of Saying . . . again

  • "But I want to" is not a good enough reason.
  • Use your inside voice.
  • I can't talk about their case.
  • I'm sorry. I don't know when you'll get to go home....or anywhere else.
  • Mommy loves you. She just isn't finished with the things she needs to do before you can live with her again.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Reunification isn't Always Pretty


I love L and O's caseworker. I really do. I think she truly has their best interests in mind and I can see that it's frustrating her that there is no "great" choice for where they should go. Mom has a long way to go on her case plan and they've been here nearly a year. CW is getting pressure to go ahead and move them to a relative who could become a permanent placement if Mom doesn't make it. She doesn't want to move them there, because that relative is on Dad's side and she doesn't trust that they will support reunification with Mom. Mom has burned all the bridges with her own side of the family, so there are no placement options there and no hope of ongoing support from them once the kids are returned home.

Dad has been denied as a placement. He's been given a case plan to work, though, and making progress on it could cause the court to reconsider. He won't do it. He keeps telling CW that it's too hard, too expensive, not fair. (He doesn't give her details, though, just that it will cost him $10,000 to take his court-ordered parenting classes. Which are actually offered for free in several places near him. Hmmm.)

She came to our house yesterday and said she was required to ask L two questions and document her answers. I could tell by the way she phrased it that she didn't like it.

Question 1: If you could choose right now to go to Mommy or Daddy, which would you pick?

Question 2: While Mom is finishing up the work she needs to do, would you rather stay here or go to Paternal Aunt? 

What kills me (and also, I think, kills CW) is that it didn't really matter what she said. Regardless of her answer, they are probably going to transition to Paternal Aunt with weekend visits during the last few months of the school year, with an eye to moving them there as soon as school's out for the summer. So....we're asking for her input, but it will be ignored? I know she's only 8, but this seems like a really awful thing to do to her. What if she said she wanted to go to Daddy and stay here until then? It's not going to happen. Neither of those is going to happen. Why are we presenting her with choices that she doesn't actually have?!

L couldn't answer question 1. She wants to be with both of them. I think she knows as well as we do that whichever one she goes to will probably cut off all contact with the other. Way to make your child take sides, folks! Dad has convinced her that he's ready for them and just waiting for "the paperwork", so she wants to go there til Mom is ready. Mom needs her help, though, so she wants to go back there as soon as she can.

I guess we got lucky with question 2. She'd love to go to Paternal Aunt! Paternal Aunt is her best friend! Can she go today? O doesn't have a clue who Paternal Aunt even is, by the way, and I've never heard L mention her name (even when she was going through the nightly litany of all the people she missed during her first month or so here).

CW and I are both still afraid that Paternal Aunt will not maintain the relationship with Mom. She lives even further from Mom than I do (and the visits are an hour from my house), so maintaining contact is going to be very difficult. Why would she put in that kind of effort so that her brother can lose all contact with his kids?

It's all so very, very sad and frustrating. I want to yell at Mom and Dad and Paternal Aunt; I want to tell all of them to grow up and stop using these children as pawns to hurt each other. But I'm not fighting the move because I have no grounds to do so, other than feeling like it's all just going to be awful. It is going to be awful, they're going to lose contact with some bio family, but they aren't going to be in danger. They will be safe and loved by Paternal Aunt and her family, so I can't argue with the move. It's no different than all the kids out of the system whose parents go through a nasty divorce. I just think it sucks.

Monday, March 19, 2012

What's in a Name?

When we first started fostering, we weren't sure what to ask the theoretical kids who came to our home to call us.

We didn't want to ask them to call us Mom and Dad because we knew they would have parents that they associated with those names. Whether those associations were good or bad, we wanted them to be able to leave that with those people and have us be a "fresh slate."

We didn't want to ask them to call us Mr and Mrs LastName, because that seemed overly formal for the parental role we expected to be filling.

We didn't want to ask them to call us by our first names, because that seemed a little too familiar. (Keep in mind, we're talking about children ages 0-6. If we were expecting teenagers, this might have been a different conversation.)

What does that leave?

Thankfully for us, we live in the south, which means that many children around here are used to sometimes addressing adults as Mr or Ms FirstName. My bio children called most of their preschool teachers this; most of the adults they interact with at church use this format; the children in the choir I direct call me this as well. I didn't love it as a plan, because I felt like it didn't go far enough to establishing the strength of the relationship. Foster children in my home are more closely linked to me than a child I happened to teach to sing This Little Light of Mine. We assuaged that guilt by reminding ourselves that we would be open to "special" names if the children wanted them, but that those could develop naturally.

So, we were introduced to our first placement, R and A, as Mr FirstName and Ms FirstName. They were only with us for the length of the day. R was a whirlwind, into everything, trying everything, and mostly played with Mr D. I don't remember what he actually called us if anything. Within a few hours, A was following me around the house and calling me Mommy. I think we quickly would have been Mommy and Daddy to both of them, but they were gone before the first night had passed.

L and O came from a very different family situation. We have been Mr FirstName and Ms FirstName the whole time they've been here (over 8 months now!). They see Mommy every week; they talk to both Mommy and Daddy regularly on the phone. Mommy and Daddy are real people to them, people who are important in their lives, people they expect to go back to. Whenever O has slipped up and accidentally called me Mom or Mommy (because my biokids all call me Mom, after all!), L has been quick to correct him. Which has been fine. I've always responded to her correction -- usually a snapped, she's not your mom! -- by speaking to him with a smile and saying, "I'm your Ms. FirstName!"

A few weeks ago, L announced out of nowhere that maybe she could call us Mom and Dad because she calls her parents Mommy and Daddy, so it "wouldn't be confusing because it's different names." I felt she was just testing for a reaction, so I just calmly told her that would be fine if she wanted to do that or she could keep calling me Ms FirstName; I'd answer to either one. She dropped it, and continued to call me Ms FirstName.

Yesterday, she came home from a respite night. She'd had a great time with this family, which has daughters both older and younger than L, at least one of whom is a different ethnicity than the rest of the family. I'm not sure if that triggered something or not, but last night she announced that she was going to start calling me Mama, and kept correcting herself when she started to say Ms FirstName. We'll see how long it lasts.

I don't know what it means that she's changing my name. I don't know if it means anything. I would have been content to be Ms FirstName for them throughout their stay, although I'm not going to reject her desire to call me something else. This is not a placement that is ever likely to turn into an adoption--I expect them to go back to Mommy at some point, although I don't know when. I do hope that we're successfully giving her a model of what a functional marriage should look like. (Her parents are divorced, and there was domestic violence in the home prior to their split. Mommy appears to be true of the stereotype that abused women often end up in other abusive relationships, so L has seen a lot of that even after the divorce.) Maybe someday, she'll be reminded that she wants what "mama" had from her boyfriend/husband (respect, affection, trust), rather than what "mommy" had (verbal and physical abuse).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How are YOU called?

I've been struggling with how to write this post about the need for more people to step up and do "little things" so that foster parents don't burn out so fast.

I wanted to write about how not everyone is called to take a child into their home and parent them, but that I believe we are all called to help in that effort.

And then I ran across this.

It's on old post on that blog, but it says everything I wanted to say and more.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Things I can't say (but want to) . . .

  • For the love of God, SHUT UP!!
  • I'm sure Mommy does let you do that; maybe that's why you're here.
  • I don't care what you did at Daddy's house.
  • That is not true. You do not have 3 dogs/a Wii/a shirt like that one/whatever at Mommy's house because Mommy does not have a house.
  • Stop bringing your child junky little gifts to every visit. Spend your money on the things you need to do to get them OUT of foster care. You're training them to think they should get a present every time they see you.

  • I know you've never had to sleep alone, but I can't let you sleep with me or your sister because it would be illegal.
  • I know you're not deaf because I've had your hearing checked. Are you not listening or are you an idiot?