I'm wondering why you don't see each child all the way through to real adulthood? Is it that you can't afford to support them w/o [the agency], or are there other reasons? This is not criticism, only inquiry.
I ask myself that too. I've been thinking a lot about what we have done and haven't done and whether we can/should do more to support these kids. In fact I have been working on this post on and off since I read your question yesterday. I don't, by the way, take offense at the question. It is something that I have been asking myself so it seems worth trying to write about.
Allowing them to live with us past the point where the agency would reimburse us for room and board would be a challenge, but I cannot say that it would be impossible. Our budget would be tighter, but we could do that.
The thing is, we thought we were seeing them into adulthood. The agency for which we work has what appears to be a really good transition program. With our birth kids we are on our own. We have been assuming that expecting the foster boys to take advantage of the benefits the agency offers while offering them love and support was the best thing we could do for them.
In other words, we thought of ourselves as part of a team and thought that the kids were being offered everything they needed, just not from a single source. I still think that is true, but I also think that having the support divided up like that is anxiety-producing for the kids.
There are only two boys (so far) where this was/is a "live" question: Carl and Evan. So, I am trying to think this through.
I keep realizing that without the emails much of Carl's story did not get told. At the beginning of Carl's senior year I would have told you that the next year he would be in college and that he would come home for all the holidays, and probably the next summer too. I did not expect that I would receive room and board money for him during those times. I had visions of sending him care packages, buying him small luxuries he could not afford. I thought I would do all the things that parents do -- except pay the big bills.
And then Carl's plans never materialized. He did not do what he needed to to go to college and he did not come up with an alternative plan. Hubby and I were ready to support any plan that he came up with. We were not ready to support him lying around the house doing nothing.
I did not know what to do. We discussed various options through the summer, but nothing took. The social worker came up with the idea of enrolling him in Job Corps. He was not thrilled, but, again, he did not come up with an alternative. So I took him out there -- five months after he graduated. I drove out to pick him up and bring him home every other weekend. I bought him small things that he could not afford. We brought him home for the winter break. The social worker called and said she could only give me room and board money for Christmas Eve through January 2. I told her that I was willing to accept any room and board money that they wanted to give me, but that Carl was welcome to come home for the entire vacation if he wanted. He did.
While he was there I talked a lot with him about his plans for after Job Corps. He always had a new idea. Again, we were prepared to support him. I imagined him coming home after he was done with Job Corps and while he was applying for jobs.
Then he showed up with this crazy idea to follow Tori Amos around the country. That was when I started the "tough love baby" thing. I felt like everyone was trying to help him and he was sabotaging every possible plan. I committed to loving him and giving him emotional support only. I said I would not rescue him, but I wired him $50 to get home when he was stranded. We let him suffer through being homeless, but we stored his belongings, checked up on him and were prepared to bring him home if he got sick.
I guess what I am saying is that at each step we thought we were doing what was best to support him becoming an adult. It is only looking back that I wonder whether I should have offered him more time, before, after, or instead of, Job Corps to live at home and work part time jobs and pull his life together. Hubby is convinced that we would have ended up in the tough love place anyway. He thinks it would have been worse because we would only have got there after getting frustrated and angry. I really don't know.
And now we are going through it all over again. Evan worked out a plan with his social worker to go to the technical program. I did tell him that if he didn't want to move out right away he could stay here for at least the first term. He could either take the commuter bus into The City or attend classes at the remote campus 5 miles away. His response was something like, "You have got to be kidding." Actually I think he said, "My people are in The City."
I told him that he could come home for breaks. He asked about the summer and I told him that if the bedroom was empty he could certainly have it. If it wasn't, he could have the futon in the rec room until he figured out what he needed. He did not like the idea of the futon (who would) and we talked about what his options would be: living with his grandmother; having the agency find him a room he could rent for three months; finding a summer job that came with housing.
Again, I assumed that I would continue to be the "auntie" that he could call on for many small things, but that the major financial support would come from somewhere else.
So if you have been reading at all recently you know that he ditched the tech college plan and is going to Scotland. I think it is higher risk, he feels safer with it.
I think about the differences between what the foster kids and bio kids will get going out in the world. With the agency for which I work, the foster kids have the opportunity to get more financial help than my biokids will. No one is going to tell my kids, "If you work hard we guarantee you will get through college with no student loans." (That may sound resentful, but it isn't. I am thrilled that the agency works that way and I think my kids have nothing to complain about).
We will give all of them emotional support, care packages, a place to stay during holidays, and a place to go when they are sick.
There are two big differences:
First, the foster kids' support is divided up among different people. I am realizing now how much anxiety that produces. My birth kids know that if they have any problems they can turn to me and I will guide them. My answer might be, "You have to take out a loan" but they have one place to go for for advice. When they face emancipation they will think, "If anything happens, I can always call Mom."
The foster kids are being assured that if anything happens there will be people there to help them. They ask me what I will do and my answer has been, "Well, first you should check into the agency and see what services they can hook you up with. Then we will talk and see what we can do. Don't worry honey. Whatever the problem is, we will figure out how to handle it when it comes up." That just doesn't feel safe.
The other big difference is the bedroom. Again, when we started doing care we thought it was only going to be Carl. If he had gone to a traditional college we would have kept his bedroom available for him for the following summer, and for as many summers as he needed it. When he went to Job Corps he was supposed to be able to live there until he was finished. Suddenly the futon in the rec room looked like all the bedroom he was going to need.
Now we are committed to accepting new kids who fit our family. Evan moves out and his bedroom will eventually be given away to someone else.
That won't happen to Andrew. Though I have warned him that when he does leave for college he should pack up his valuables because I will use it as a respite room or a place for any of our wandering boys to crash for a few weeks if they need to, it will be his when summer rolls around. Andrew of course is afraid we won't keep that promise.
But I confess that difference bothers me. I find myself wishing that I had a small studio over the garage, or a room that did not qualify as a legal room for foster care that emancipated kids knew they could use if they needed. (I do have one, but Brian is in it).
So I have been writing so long about this because I really have been mulling it over. I have been trying to figure out what I can do or say to these kids that will make them feel safer, be safer, but that will still allow me to say yes to the next kid.