Tag Archive: good/bad/ugly

The Realities of Adopting Through Foster Care

I’ve seen troubling messages about adopting through foster care. I’m not talking about the standard messages about adopting waiting children – kids who are free for adoption, but because of their age, significant medical or behavioral issues, or sibling group size, are in limbo in the foster care system. No, I’m talking about the Facebook pictures and blog posts that promote a very rose-colored outlook on adopting infants and very young children through the foster care system.

While it is probably not possible to overstate the need for more foster homes, I have a real problem with this trend of making adoption through foster care seem much easier than it is. Yes, there are children in the foster care system who NEED to be adopted – but they are not healthy babies. Yes, there are healthy babies in the foster care system, but they aren’t available for adoption – and most of them WON’T be freed for adoption.

The realities of adopting through foster careThere are so many wonderfully rewarding aspects of foster parenting – but instead of focusing on those to encourage potential foster parents, the trend seems to be to highlight the RARE cases where a foster parent picks up a newborn from the hospital and then ultimately adopts that child. Yes, it happens, but it’s NOT THE NORM! And when it does happen, it takes A LONG TIME!

When we talk to would-be adoptive parents, and minimize the emotional dangers of foster care, we’re not encouraging or recruiting FOSTER parents – and we’re not doing anyone any favors.

PLEASE do not get into foster care because you think that is an easy, inexpensive way to adopt a baby or young child!!!!!!

It is absolutely possible to get a newborn placement and ultimately adopt that child. But let me tell you what happens between that first call and the “Forever Day” pictures.

  1. You get the phone call: “We have a 2-day-old baby girl that needs to be picked up at the hospital. She tested positive and the shelter order’s already approved. Can you pick her up tonight?”
  2. You gleefully say yes and run to tell hubby as soon as you hang up the phone. While you wait for the call with further instructions, hubby gets the infant car seat out of the garage and gets it installed. You go through your “stash” for baby girl bedding and newborn baby girl clothing and begin to make up the nursery.
  3. The phone rings again. “Never mind. The mom realized we were sheltering and ran with the baby. We have no idea where they are, but the state is looking. We’ll let you know if they are found.”
  4. You had the tiny baby to your prayer list, but never hear anything further about the baby girl.
  5. A couple of weeks go by and you get an 11 pm call, “we have an 11-week-old Caucasian boy coming into care tonight. His mom already has several kids in care and we don’t know who the father is. The mom’s family was already disqualified for placement of the previous kids, and the people that have the siblings don’t want a baby. He’ll be a quick TPR and then available. I know you want to adopt a baby, so you were my first call. Do you want him?”
  6. See #2. Substitute boy for girl.
  7. Adorable baby boy shows up at 1 am. Instant captivation ensues. Pictures go out to extended family, everyone is overjoyed.
  8. A few weeks go by and the CM calls with an update – some guy has stepped forward claiming that he could be the father, so we need to take the baby for a cheek swab. There is no way this guy is the dad, so don’t worry about it.
  9. This guy is the dad. He has no criminal record, wants the baby and has the ability to care for the baby. The paperwork is a formality, so you begin to pack up his things and prepare to say good-bye.
  10. Paperwork goes through, baby boy goes to dad. You take some time to adjust to his absence and prepare for the next call.


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That’s not how any of this works

I recently posted about things you SHOULD say to foster parents, and I definitely don’t want to fall into the “you’d better never say this” trend, but I feel like a PSA is necessary to clarify something.

It’s not uncommon for foster parents to be told “I could never foster.” It’s actually a fairly popular refrain. Most foster parents have a few pat responses just because we’ve heard it so many times.

Depending on who’s saying it, when they say it, and the kind of day the foster parent is having, responses can vary from grace-filled to aggressively sarcastic (^I bet you can guess where my responses usually fall in that range^)

But what I really want to talk about is a sentiment that occasionally follows that comment – sometimes immediately, sometimes days, months or even years later – and frequently from people who should know better.

If Susie “comes up for adoption”, I’d like to adopt her.


Just. No. 

That’s not how it works. 

That’s not how any of this works!!

First of all, let’s just strike the phrase “up for adoption” from our vocabularies, okay? I’m not going to get into it, but just trust me when I say the phrase is offensive and should NEVER be applied to children.
Secondly, this is MY CHILD you are so cavalierly offering to take off my hands. For whatever reason, you’ve decided that foster parenting isn’t for you – you couldn’t let them go or you don’t want to deal with the system or whatever. Fine. But after I have risked the heartbreak and endured the torment that is the foster care system, please don’t presume that MY CHILD needs someone to just swoop in and rescue them from certain orphan-hood.

Just. No. 

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”.

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Case Updates: Squirm & Lil Bit

I just realized that I have NEVER told y’all about Lil Bit – like, at all! That’s terrible!! So I’ll get to him in a minute – but the update on Squirm will be much quicker, so I’ll start there:

NOTHING.IS.HAPPENING. As you already know, Previous Foster Mom (PFM) appealed our selection as his adoptive family. She also made some other legal maneuvers that can’t be fully addressed until her appeal is heard and ruled on. The appeal hearing was scheduled for next Tuesday. Yesterday I was told that her attorney requested a continuance…

We don’t have a new date yet, but I was told today it will probably be in August. In case you forgot – Squirm became available for adoption on 1.16.14. So we will have his post-termination Permanency Hearing before this appeal is heard – and AFTER THAT, we have to deal with the other junk….

So, yeah. My child has been a legal orphan for 5 months, and there doesn’t seem to be any urgency to remedy that situation. The one upshot is that he doesn’t know that. He’s 2, so none of this makes any difference to him. That’s what I’m holding onto….

Lil Bit is just awesome. He is such a happy baby and he has the greatest smile. His laugh is completely delightful. In fact, my only complaint about Lil Bit is that he won’t laugh for me. 🙁 SuperDad can get him to laugh, and he will laugh HYSTERICALLY for Squish. But I can’t get so much as a chuckle. However, he talks to me. Lil Bit and I have looooong conversations. And he sings to me. He occasionally will coo a little at SuperDad, but I’m the only one he sings to. And I’m the only one he has conversations with (and not just because I’m the only person that will have long conversations with a 6-month-old).

He was born with torticollis, which basically means that his neck, jaw and shoulder muscles were really tight and he constantly looked to his right. Which led to a serious flat part on the back of his head. Which led to the need for a cranial band (more commonly known as a helmet). He got fitted last week, and let me just tell you, he is TOTALLY rocking that helmet! We found a company called Bling Your Band that designs decals for cranial bands. We ordered a custom kit that will make his helmet look like a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey helmet. As soon as everything comes in, I’ll post pictures of the application process and a review of the company (spoiler alert: I’ve already been really impressed with the company). Lil Bit has also had physical therapy 3 days a week for the last couple of months to resolve the torticollis. He has shown MASSIVE improvement, and we’re expecting the PT to be discontinued in the next few weeks.

His Case: Meh. The case plan is expedited TPR. But…. nothing’s ever easy, right? We can’t actually move forward until the birth father is identified…. I feel like I’m on an episode of Groundhog Day meets The Maury Povich Show – YOU are not the father… YOU are not the father…. I asked in court today how long this is going to be drawn out – why can’t we test all the possibilities right away instead of testing one, learning he’s not the father, going to court, asking for the next name, test the next guy, see if he’s the father before locating the next guy….. Supposedly they’re now going to try to track down all the potentials and get them tested before we go back to court in August (!), so hopefully we’ll move forward at that point. (I hope you’ll understand if I don’t hold my breath….)

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”.

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Building Your Foster Parenting Sisterhood

It may take a village to raise a child. Some days it takes a sisterhood to keep a foster mom sane.
But we’re not born with foster parenting sisterhoods – we have to build our own. I actually live several states away from both my family and my in-laws (not entirely by accident), so I didn’t really have a built-in village the way most new moms do. But I still expected to be able to call my mom or sister when the baby wouldn’t stop crying in the middle of the night, or I couldn’t figure out how to get gum out of the toddler’s hair.
But it turned out that the most urgent questions I had couldn’t have been answered by my mom or sister anyway. Here are some actual questions with which I called my mentor in my first 3 months of fostering:
Foster mom dilemmas that a phone call to YOUR mom won’t resolve:
1.   “So I went to pick up Johnny at day care, and he wasn’t there! The case manager had picked him up for a visit and didn’t think I needed to know ahead of time.”
(this happened three times)
2.   “Susie fell off the couch onto her head. There’s no bruise and she barely cried, but do I have to go to the emergency room?”
3.   “Jasmine has a fever and is really miserable. Should I cancel the visit? Do I have that authority?”
4.   “Should I go to court Tuesday? The case manager said I can, but that I don’t have to. How does it work? Do I have to say anything? How should I introduce myself?”
5.   “Do you know anything about Sally Casemanager? She seemed nice but a little flighty. And some of the stuff she said was kind of confusing.”


Foster mentor responses:
1.   “Let me call the Foster Care Liaison. That’s not okay.” (the third time) “Here, let me introduce you to her supervisor’s supervisor. That’s not okay.”
2.   “Would you take your biological child? Then, no. You’re the mommy, trust your instincts.”
3.   “Would you let your biological child go? Then cancel it. You’re the mommy, trust your instincts.”
4.   “Yes. You go up and stand next to the G.A.L. You probably won’t have to say anything, but you will need to introduce yourself. Which judge do you have? Here’s what she’s like… Do you need me to go with you?”
5.   “Yes, I had her once before (or so-and-so had her before). Here is my experience with her….”
That’s not to say I haven’t called my sister in the middle of the night to get her advice on a child that won’t stay asleep when you get out of the rocking chair, but I cannot stress enough the value of my foster parenting sisterhood!
As much as my sister loves me and cares about my foster kids, she just doesn’t understand when I’m excited for a baby that’s being reunified, but sad for me because he’s leaving. But my foster mom sisterhood gets it. Not only do they understand that sometimes I just need to vent about how horribly, heart-breakingly volatile foster parenting is; they’ve been where I am and they feel the same pull that I do to keep doing it.
That is perhaps the most crucial element of my friendships with veteran foster moms: they’ve been where I am. They don’t always know the right thing to say – sometimes there IS no right thing to say – but I know that they’re coming from a place of understanding and support, because they’ve been where I am.
I’m sure I don’t tell them enough, but I couldn’t do this without my foster mom sisterhood.
And to my sisterhood (you know who you are): Thank you!

FAFQs: What’s the worst part of foster parenting?

Google “questions about foster parenting” and you’ll get lots of official pages from child welfare agencies, state governments and foster/adopt charities (and even a quiz about whether you’re ready to be a foster or adoptive parent), but I haven’t found any “FAQs” that answer the questions that people ask foster parents everyday.

So I started my own!  (Yay!) And I’d love your help!!!

FAFQs: Frequently Asked Fostering Questions 

QWhat’s the worst part of foster parenting?

I think most people think they already know the answer to this question. I find it interesting that they ask anyway.

Honestly, for me, it’s a moving target. I think you could probably ask 20 foster parents and get 50 different answers. Here’s my shortlist (in no order what-so-ever):
  • Knowing the trauma that my Ducklings have endured
  • Fearing that that I am inadequate to help them heal
  • Navigating a system that prioritizes many things ahead of the child’s best interest
  • Being lied to/dismissed/belittled by Case Managers
  • Having my parenting constantly criticized by the birth parents who traumatized my Ducklings.
  • Dreading that a well-meaning stranger/neighbor/teacher/friend/family member will inadvertently re-traumatize a Duckling
This last one is a very real risk that most people don’t think about – particularly when I run into a someone *usually with the best of intentions*, who thinks that their particular experience with kids (whatever it might be) trumps what I know about MY Ducklings. It doesn’t
Let me be very clear: You DON’T know more about my kid than I do. You DON’T have some special insight that gives you license to veto whatever parameters I’ve set. You don’t have to like my rules. You don’t have to understand them. But you do have to follow them if you want to have a relationship with my Duckling.
Unless your experience involves foster children, RAD, FAS, ODD and infants or children with PTSD and anxiety disorders, your experience is going to be largely irrelevant to parenting and healing my Duckling. (Hint:If you just had to google all those initials, please don’t give me foster-parenting advice.)
That’s not a judgement on your experience or education or intelligence. Just because you’ve changed your own oil doesn’t mean you can rebuild a HEMI. 
If I ask you to do something that you don’t understand, and/or I don’t change it because you disagree, that doesn’t mean I’m questioning your expertise in your field, or minimizing your experience. I’m sure that if I had to do whatever it is that you do, I’d be out of my element. 
I was actually told, “I only know how to be one kind of grandma. If you won’t let me be the only kind of grandma I can be, I just won’t be grandma at all.” Well, okay, then. If your one kind of grandma doesn’t include allowing me to set whatever rules *I* deem necessary for my Ducklings, I guess you just won’t be grandma.

So… this post was kind of inspired by Ann over at Journey to Chaos, and I had planned to quote her Letter to Teachers, but I (surprise) got off on a tangent. But still go read her Letter. Because, yeah. It’s that good.

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