We're in that quiet space between placements where I don't have much to write that's appropriate for this blog.
That doesn't mean life isn't going on, of course. Susan started middle school. That's brought us to a new building with a whole new set of staff, which means I have to rebuild the relationships that make an IEP team work. I'm thankful that the timing of S's return has allowed me to focus more time and energy on that right now and I've asked the agency not to call me about another placement until I have her well and truly settled into middle school.
But I had a conversation with a friend this week that led in a "foster care" direction and found myself articulating something I've never actually put into words before. My friend asked me if I felt good about the end result of our cases. Did I think the children were in the right place?
One of the biggest steps (for us) in becoming foster parents was learning to accept the fundamental truth that "best interest of the child" doesn't mean "best parents." We have to accept that there is value in a child remaining with blood relatives. A lot of value. Value that outweighs a lot of things. It is more important to place a child with a relative than to place them with a family that can offer them better parenting. It is more important to place a child with a relative than to place them with a family that can offer them a better standard of living. It is more important to place a child with a relative than to place them with a family that can offer them more time and energy on a daily basis. There is even more value if that relative is the mother or father of the child.
This sounds arrogant. But I really do believe that Mr D and I are better parents than the biological parents of any of the children that have been placed with us. I do believe that homes with 2 adults are better for children than homes with only one. (Let me explain that last one. It's not that I don't think single parents can be good parents. I know some excellent single parents. It's simply that I believe that being a parent by yourself is hard. It's hard not to be able to trade off with another parent when you're having a really bad day. It's hard not to have someone to talk to about your child who loves them and knows them just as well as you do. It's hard to have the entire financial burden of supporting a family fall on you all the time. It's hard to be the only adult in a household. And when so many things in your day-to-day life are that hard, it's hard to be the best parent you can be.) In spite of those beliefs, I don't think any of the children placed with us should have stayed forever -- it would not have been in their "best interests." All the benefits that would come with becoming a part of our family are completely outweighed by the negative impact of pulling them away from a birth family that was safe, that loved them and that was willing to try to be the best parents they could be.
I've said this before. I haven't yet had a placement where the children had been abused in their home. My cases have all been neglect cases, and none of them have been severe neglect. They've been the sort of neglect that happens when a young, single parent gets lost in trying to keep up with everything and the care of the children begins to slip through the cracks. Or the sort of neglect that happens when a parent has a substance abuse problem. Someday that will change. Someday, I will get the placement that comes with physical injuries inflicted by a family member. Or the placement that comes neglected out of callous disregard for the life of the child. Or the placement whose parent can't (or won't) get clean in order to get their kids back. And for those children, their "best interest" may not be to go home. But I haven't had one of those yet. All I've had so far is parents making really big mistakes. So I do the best I can to parent their children while they try to fix those mistakes and ensure they don't happen again. And then, in the "best interests of the child", I send those children home.