Foster Parenting

Why do we assume the worst?

I belong to several Foster Parent facebook groups and I’ve noticed a really disturbing tendency (sometimes in myself, as well) among foster parents. I don’t know if it’s because the system has made us cynical enough to default to suspicion and mistrust, or what exactly, but I really don’t like the tendency and I hope that y’all will work with me to change it.

A sample ‘conversation’ in one of my groups (names & details have been changed to protect me from people who didn’t give me permission to tell their story).
Teresa: Just need to vent. We had a team meeting for our teen girl and as usual she had to try to create drama. She starts going on about how we won’t buy her shoes. I explained that she has to EARN those shoes. Her therapist backed us up and the rest of the team followed the therapist’s lead. I just hate those meetings. I wish she would quit thinking she can play us against each other.

Now, my 1st thought was yay for the therapist for having some faith in the foster mom’s judgement. And that’s what I commented. Something along the lines of “sorry you had to deal with that, glad the team backed you up.”

Then I started reading the other comments and came across the following:

Magdelina: You are a horrible person. You are world’s worst foster parent and you should be ashamed of yourself. We are paid and responsible to provide basic needs to our foster children and shoes are a basic need. These kids deserve to be treated with respect and have their needs met without having to “earn” our love…. You need go out immediately and buy this child new shoes!! It is not my intention to offend, but you have to view things from her position you heartless, horrible person!

Okay, so that may not be exactly what Madelina wrote, but it is pretty much exactly what I read. And I went ballistic. I laid into her about not supporting other foster parents and jumping to the worst possible conclusion about people when they are just looking for support.

I ranted about how foster parents have so many obstacles and people who want to find fault, we have an obligation to be supportive and loving to each other. And right then I decided to write a blog post about the awful, horrible foster parents who are ugly and unsupportive to other foster parents. I was in HIGH DUNGEON.

Then I got a notification that Teresa had responded to the post. I went back to facebook, patting myself on the back, looking forward to the comment from Teresa thanking me for standing up for her.

Teresa: I didn’t take offense to what you said Magdelina. I appreciate you offering a different veiwpoint. She actually got new sneakers this month, she just wants really expensive ones and had tried telling me that her “team” would force me to buy her the ones she wanted. I should have been more clear in my original post. I see now how it seemed and I’ve edited it for clarity.

Wait. What?!? And then Teresa‘s husband (Nelson) chimed in:

Nelson: Magdelina, yes, thank you for your response. I really appreciate when someone can give constructive criticism. Yes, this girl has been with us for a while and can be very manipulative. My wife is a former shoe designer, so she makes sure that our FD has everything she NEEDS. She doesn’t always get everything she WANTS.

I went back and read Magdelina’s comment again. It still came across to me as very judgmental and critical, but I was clearly the only person to take it that way. After I thought about it, I decided that (^maybe^) I had been the one to assume the worst and jump to conclusions. And I probably owed Magdelina an apology. So I headed back to facebook and saw:

Magdelina: Teresa and Nelson – I think my original comment came off as much more critical than I intended. I thought about just deleting it, but I wanted to stand up and apologize. I did not mean to attack you in any way. I was trying to offer a different perspective and I should have waited until I had more information before commenting.

Well. I guess we’re all being very grown up about this, aren’t we? I went on to apologize myself.

Me: Magdelina, I owe you an apology. I reacted without starting from an assumption that you truly meant well & were genuinely trying to help. I think we ALL (obviously myself included) need a reminder to be gentle and not assume the worst.

I then asked for (and received) permission from Teresa, Nelson and Magdelina to use this little exercise in a post – to hopefully stand as a reminder for all us to be more gentle with each other.  * I had already written the bit about names and details being changed & I liked it, so I kept it. 🙂 *

I am going to leave you with the last thing Magdelina had to say in the conversation:
… We are all on the same team. I think sometimes we battle so much opposition in other ways (insurance, licensing, therapies, agencies, unknowing strangers and friends) that we are often left standing with our boxing gloves on…..

 

 

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Hint: It has recently come to my attention that not all of my readers can easily tell when I’m being sarcastic. That is truly unfortunate, so finding a solution was imperative. ^Obviously, the easiest answer is to assume that if something can be read with sarcasm, it should be;^; but that’s not really workable, I guess. After reviewing several options for a “sarcasm font”, I’ve come up up with my own system. Whenever you see italics inside carrots (^snark^), that is my “sarcasm font”.

#BestResponse Project: Phase 2

In my ongoing quest to vanquish the plethora of “Don’t Ever Say This” posts, I’m on a mission from God to craft some stock responses to the questions and comments that foster and adoptive parents hear all too often.

Last week, I asked you, my brilliant readers, to let me know what questions/comments you get often enough that you’d like to have a snappy retort in your back pocket. And boy did y’all deliver!! My facebook page hasn’t seen that much action since…

well….

since ever, honestly.

Phase 2 is for y’all to vote on which ones you want us to work on first. You can vote for as many as you want, but you can only vote once. You can also add any other comments/questions you want us to work on.


I’ve think I already know which one I want to work on first – but I need y’all to pick the next one.

And since you’re here anyway, scroll on down and click to banner to vote for me. 🙂

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Hint:
It has recently come to my attention that not all of my readers can easily tell when I’m being sarcastic. That is truly unfortunate, so finding a solution was imperative. ^Obviously, the easiest answer is to assume that if something can be read with sarcasm, it should be;^; but that’s not really workable, I guess. After reviewing several options for a “sarcasm font”, I’ve come up up with my own system. Whenever you see italics inside carrots (^snark^), that is my “sarcasm font”.

♥♥ ♫♫We have a project♫♫ ♥♥

I’ve been thinking recently about all the comments we all get all the time – and how I wish I just had a standard response in my back pocket.

I guess I need two standard responses ~~ one sarcastic (because, duh), and one positive and graceful in case I feel open to discussing my family and the commenter seems to be coming from a positive place.

And I realized that I have brilliant readers who get THE.SAME.COMMENTS. So we’re going to do this together (I hope).

First, let’s come up with a list of the comments we get and for which we’d like to have a good response.

Once we have a good list, we’ll tackle them one at a time:
  1. I’ll do something witty/sarcastic to let you know which question we’re working on.
  2. You come up with responses to the question ~ either witty/sarcastic or positive and grace-filled, or both. 🙂
  3. I’ll figure out a way to make a contest out of it ~ with prizes and everything!!
So I think the best way to do this is for everyone to post their responses on facebook ~ that way other readers can “Like” which comments they agree with ~ this will tell me which one we should tackle first (it will also be the basis for the contest). 😉
 
So head over to the facebook post to give me your suggestions for comments/questions that you wish you had an automatic standard response in your back pocket. (Don’t be shy, there will be prizes involved!)
 
To be clear ~ I am only looking for the comments/questions themselves right now – save your responses for later.

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Hint:
It has recently come to my attention that not all of my readers can easily tell when I’m being sarcastic. That is truly unfortunate, so finding a solution was imperative. ^Obviously, the easiest answer is to assume that if something can be read with sarcasm, it should be;^; but that’s not really workable, I guess. After reviewing several options for a “sarcasm font”, I’ve come up up with my own system. Whenever you see italics inside carrots (^snark^), that is my “sarcasm font”.

The first steps in fixing the foster care system

  1. Treat good foster parents better
  2. Provide better training, resources and support to good foster parents

It seems that every time I turn on the news, there is another scandal about a child being mistreated – or ignored – in a foster home.

Or a family that was investigated, but the children were not removed from relatives who ultimately hurt them.
Both of these very real issues in the child welfare system can be addressed by recruiting and ***retaining*** quality foster families. Inferior foster homes are frequently allowed to keep their licenses – even when their agencies don’t consider them good placement options – because even counting the bad homes, there still aren’t enough foster beds – even with the people that are in it for the money, or for easy access to children – there are still children in group homes that shouldn’t be.

 

Disclaimer: Some children SHOULD be in group homes or residential facilities. Some children have been so traumatized that a family setting is not the best place for them. I’m not not talking about those kids. I’m talking about the ones who would likely thrive in a family environment if given the chance. The kids who don’t get that chance because there are no beds available in family settings.

I imagine that it’s very hard to justify closing a foster home when there is already an extreme shortage of beds.

The best way to eliminate the “bad” foster homes is to recruit and retain enough “good” homes so that closing a bad one won’t send kids to a shelter or group home.

Imagine being a child welfare investigator and having to make the decision between leaving a child in a questionable situation or sending them to a group home – possibly with kids who’ve already abused other children. 
 
Consider having to choose whether a child will be better off with an alcoholic, drug-addicted mother who forgets to feed them – or with the only open foster home in the area, where the father may or may not have behaved inappropriately with a previous foster child. How do you make that call? And if you really care about kids (which you do or you wouldn’t be in this field), how do you live with having to make that decision over and over?It’s fairly common knowledge within fostering circles – quality foster parents get soured on being abused by the system, great case workers and protective investigators get burnt out from being overloaded and having to choose between two evils day-in and day-out.I just read another article from a former foster child about how much harder it should be to become and remain a foster parent. Many states continue to increase the hoops foster parents have to jump through and most child welfare systems continue to treat foster parents as glorified babysitters, at best, and as self-centered-money-hungry-baby-snatchers, at worst.

Since I started blogging, I’ve come into contact with foster parents all over the country. I’m really glad that’s happened, because it has made me see just how good I have it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some bad experiences – a case manager that didn’t think I needed to know when she ^randomlypicked up my son at daycare for visits; a case manager who lied in court and coordinated with bio-mom’s attorney to accuse me of medical neglect (twice), two GALs who are incapable of looking at their calendars and repeatedly realize 3 days before court that they MUST see the child NO LATER THAN TOMORROW (^does 2pm today or 3:15pm tomorrow work better for me^) and forget that both SuperDad and I work full-time. 
 
My grandfather was an epic jackass. Seriously. The guy was the biggest jerk you’ll ever meet.
 
But that doesn’t mean he was always wrong. He always told me to find a way be part of the solution, rather than one of the masses just complaining about the problem. I won’t promise to stop being negative or snarky (^have you met me?^). But I do want to be part of the solution. (^hell, maybe I’ll even manage to convince the old asshat that I am worth something^) 
 
My CBC is on the forefront of changing the way foster care works. I know some of it (maybe all of it?) is based on the Quality Parenting Initiative, but I’m certain that the success with which it has been implemented, is due to the dedicated social workers and administrators who truly are committed to improving the lives of foster children and their families (both biological AND foster families!)
 
I’m going to be talking more about how we do things around here – in the hopes that maybe you’ll be able to take some of our processes to your agencies and work to improve foster care from the inside out.
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Hint:
It has recently come to my attention that not all of my readers can easily tell when I’m being sarcastic. That is truly unfortunate, so finding a solution was imperative. ^Obviously, the easiest answer is to assume that if something can be read with sarcasm, it should be;^; but that’s not really workable, I guess. After reviewing several options for a “sarcasm font”, I’ve come up up with my own system. Whenever you see italics inside carrots (^snark^), that is my “sarcasm font”.

The Starfish Story revisited

The Starfish Story speaks to the heart of why I’m a foster parent.

Edward, a long-time foster dad has a slightly different take on the story:

There’s an old story… you’ve probably heard a version of it, but it bears repeating.
 
An old man sees a young boy walking down the beach. The boy picks up a starfish from the huge number that had been washed ashore, looks at it, and throws it into the ocean. The man watches as the boy does this a number of times. Finally, the man approaches the boy and asks why the boy is doing this. “If I don’t, the starfish will die,” the boy responds. The man asks the boy, “Considering the number of starfish on the beach, do you really think it matters?” The boy looks at the old man, picks up a starfish, tosses into the ocean and says, “It matters to that one.”

The story usually ends there, but I often wonder what happens next. Does the man walk away shaking his head at the naivete of the child, or does he recognize the wisdom of the young child and start helping? Do they clear the beach of starfish, or just a few more?


There is more to the end of this story that we don’t know. That starfish that the child threw back into the ocean…. Did it get eaten? Did it get washed ashore a few hours later, just to die after all? Did it find a better purchase and live a long, healthy starfish life, giving rise to a whole new generation of starfish? We can’t know. The boy will never know.

What we DO know is that at a very specific point in time in that starfish’s life, when all seemed lost amongst the dead and dying peers, someone came along and saved its life. For whatever reason, probably because it was in the right place at the right time; IT was picked out of all those others to be helped. The boy didn’t take it home and add to his collection of starfish. The boy didn’t try to tag it, to be followed later. The boy just helped because it seemed to be the right thing to do at the time.

 

Foster parents are a lot like this. I’ve heard them ask, “I wonder if the child will remember me?” “I wonder what happened to that child.” The fact is, though, that most children WON’T remember and most foster parents will never know what became of their foster children. What we DO know, and what THEY know, is that at a very specific point in time in that child’s life, when all seemed lost, someone came along and gave him/her security, health, and love. For whatever reason, that child was picked out of all of the horror stories in our society, to be helped. Most often, the children are returned home, and the foster parent never finds out what happens next. Unlike the starfish, that is simply gazed upon as an interesting object and then tossed into the sea, these children are loved by their foster parents, fought with and advocated for – for months or years, and the parting can be very painful – very much like giving up your own child.

It may be a little selfish to want to be remembered. It may be a little voyeuristic to want to watch what happens next. Mostly, though, I think it is the greatest gift an adult can give a child – love, security, and safety at a time when the child is most in need (and maybe even a little resentful) – just because it seemed to be the right thing to do at the time.

If you think you have what it takes to love a child, battle the child, advocate for the child against a system that isn’t always understanding, and then let that child enter back into the world without you there… I encourage you to contact your local Foster Parent office.

If you don’t think you can do those things, but you think you can advocate for a child in court, check into Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) or Guardian ad Litem (GAL).
At the very least, notice when a child needs help, and get involved… call someone.

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Edward and his wife, Renee, have been foster parents for over 10 years, and volunteer as Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian ad Litem (CASA/GAL).
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