Baggage

06/27/2013

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

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Buzz (not real name), our foster son, rarely has his hands free. I noticed the first day he was with us that he was always carrying at least one toy in his hand, if not 5 toys like in the photo above. He’s very clingy to his stuff. “By!” is how he stakes his claim over whatever is in his hands or pockets (which translates to mine), and it doesn’t matter if it’s really his or not.

The poor kid  had almost everything that belonged to him stripped away, so I can understand his deep rooted desire to claim, hold, own things around our house. I’m thankful that his mom brought us a lot of his favorite toys, pillow, and clothes so that he does have a lot of familiar objects here. We have issues over sharing everyday. Ali has been forced to share just about everything that she believed to be hers alone (toys, home, parents, attention) so we expect Buzz to share what he believes belongs to him as well.

The bigger issue is that all of that baggage is weighing him down. It’s hard to actually play with a toy when he has 4 other toys in his arms, afraid to set them down, to release his claim. One day in the pool he had the three cars (in his left hand in the above picture) and all 4 of our diving sticks in his arms…and he was trying to swim! Dude! Put the toys down so you can use your arms!

I’m hoping as he continues to feel more secure here that he’ll be more comfortable letting go.

We had a foster care review board meeting on Tuesday that he was required to go to (although he’s 2 and didn’t say a word!) so I had to take him. It was quite interesting. We were told at the start of his placement that Buzz’s parents had the simplest plan to reunification but yet it seems there are still hiccups and snags coming up along the way. Even though everyone on the board (mostly older white ladies) commented on how cute he is, and he was well behaved and played quietly with toys while the grown-ups discussed his family and his future, I could tell the stress was affecting him—his bodily functions, his behavior when we left, the visible sadness on his face as we were driving away.

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.


Loving, Losing and (Not) Letting Go

11/07/2011

After we let Ladybug go, it took three weeks before we felt like our hearts were ready to love another child. Then we accepted the placement call for Precious. Loving again was easy. I was ready to love again. But I’m not ready to lose a child again. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready. We knew when we became foster parents that loving the kids wouldn’t be the hard part, it would be letting them go that would be difficult. And it has been. It hurts like hell. What I was not at all prepared for was the tangled mess of policies and players (case workers, CASA workers, guardians ad litem, placement specialists, adoption specialists, judges, birth family, kin, etc.)

We’re in a very difficult situation right now. How can I explain this without giving away too much information… Let’s say Precious has several older siblings. Two of them, BoBo and LaLa (not their real names, of course) were adopted by a foster mother named Sue (not real name). Sue was called to be a kinship placement for Precious when she came into state custody but she declined. Sue is not related to Precious but would be considered kinship because the kids are biologically related. No other family or kinship (friends, godparents, church members, etc.) were identified so Precious ended up with us: random foster parents. Now, 6+ weeks later, the department has identified a woman named Patty (not real name) who wants her and hopes to adopt her since that’s where Precious’ case is leading. Patty is good friends with Sue so she spends a lot of time around BoBo and LaLa and is considered their godmother. Patty has never met Precious but has crossed paths with her birth mother a few times when Sue initiated some visits between her and BoBo and LaLa on holidays and birthdays. The department is now considering Patty to be kinship under their “broad definition of kin.” Although really the policy says to be considered kinship, the adult should have an existing relationship with the child or at the very least an actual relationship with the birth parent. The department says they made a mistake by overlooking Patty initially and now they’re trying to fix their mistake. Precious and her siblings have never met her so there is no existing bond or relationship. We have expressed that we would also be willing to allow Precious to stay in touch with BoBo and LaLa if we can adopt her.

So let me make this really simple: they want to move Precious out of the home she’s in now with two foster parents who have been loving and adoring her for half of her life and are completely attached to her (and she seems pretty fond of; see picture above) into the home of a woman she has no relationship with, who is not family, where she will not be living with her siblings, because this foster mother is friends with the adoptive mother of her siblings. Does that seem like it’s in the best interest of the child? We think not. Some of the players think not. The decision making ones think so. So we’re fighting it.

As foster parents we are asked to love the children as if they are our own, to consider them fully a part of our family as long as they’re with us and to be an advocate for them. Especially in the case of a child who is too young to communicate, we have to stand up for what we believe is best for her. It’s not that we want to keep her just out of selfish desires and avoiding a painful loss, we believe it’s our great love for her that propels us to fight for what is best for her. What is best for her is to be in a home with people who love her and already have a relationship and attachment to her, and vice-versa. Staying in touch with biological siblings is important and we’re not disregarding that, but because there is no currently existing sibling relationship, it doesn’t seem like that should trump the parental relationship that currently exists between her and us.

I’m sharing this for several reasons… to be honest about the struggle we’re in right now and how much it’s tearing at our hearts, to be open about the kind of policy mess that can surround each child welfare case, to shed light on what we believe to be an unjust situation and more than anything to ask for your prayers as all this is being figured out. The department has essentially made their decision but there are a few things we can do to challenge their position.

It ain’t over yet…