Friday, December 22, 2006

They didn't ask to be in foster care

I signed up to be a foster parent. I asked for it. I went to classes, and filled out forms, I installed more smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.

I wanted to do this.

The kids who are placed here permanently have a choice about whether they will live with me. They don't have a choice about being in care, but they do have a choice about living here. They have a few meetings with us, spend a day, a weekend, a week. I keep reminding them that they have a choice. Do they really want to live in Our Small Town? There are other families who actually live in the City.

But most foster kids don't even get that. They get placed somewhere.

Can you imagine it? I mean really. What if someone just found you a new home, dropped you off with strange people who made demands on you, and then expected you to be grateful? Take a minute and think about what things make you you. What are your bad habits? What are your favorite things? What if you were 10, 13, 15 and someone just put you in a family where everything was different?

I don't make my bed most mornings. I like to nibble -- I wander into the kitchen and make myself a cup of tea and make a piece of toast at all hours. I love dark chocolate. I buy Dove chocolates by the bag. They are more expensive than most chocolates, but I only have one a day. Every evening after dinner I get my one piece of delicious dark chocolate. I have been known to wear the same shirt two days in a row. If I don't go to work I have even been known to switch my jeans for pj pants, and then back to jeans, which means I have sometimes worn the same shirt for 36 or 48 hours straight. I bathe every other day. I prefer baths, which I know take more water and I don't get dirty or move enough to sweat, so why should I take one every day? Oh...and I like to take them in the evening. My favorite TV show, perhaps of all time, is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

So I imagine being put into a home where they were determined to reform me. They expected me to eat only at meal times. Knowing I love chocolate they bought me a bag of generic milk chocolates (yuck). They made me make my bed, shower every morning, and change my clothes every day. Oh...and Buffy the Vampire Slayer is demonic and they are a nice Christian home so I can watch Seventh Heaven if I want, AND they are very disturbed that no one ever got me involved in sports. This family plays touch football every evening, and no I cannot just sit on the side and read my book. I need to join in.

I'm in hell. Oh, the changing of clothes and making my bed I can take. Not being able to have a cup of tea in the middle of the afternoon is really, really difficult. I try to be polite about the crappy chocolate, but Seventh Heaven and family sports? Oh dear G-d, someone save me.

I call my social worker and ask her to help me. She has put me with pod people. Please, please, can I live somewhere NORMAL? She tells me they are a nice family; they like me; I should try harder.

But I don't want to try harder. I don't want to try at all.

I want a cup of tea, a good chocolate, and a long hot bath. I want to be left alone in evenings. I want to watch my demonic television show and I want to read and I don't want to play touch football.

One of the other kids tells me that my attitude really sucks. Everyone is trying to be nice to me and make me feel welcome and all I do is complain. I should be grateful.

Grateful? WTF???

Did anyone ask me if I wanted to live in Stepford? I don't think so. Did anyone ask me if I wanted to get physically fit? No. They think this is bad attitude? I've been trying. I'll show them bad attitude. I tell them that their chocolate sucks. I flatly refuse to play touch football. I lock myself in my room with a book. I get up in the middle of the night and take a bath.

They tell me they don't like my attitude. I tell them I don't give a flip. I didn't ask to be here and I don't care what they think. Why should I try? Why should I try to be the person that they think I should be?

So how does this story end?

In one version somehow or other the foster parents convince me that they DO like the real me. This probably means letting me read instead of playing football. I start feeling that is okay to be me and I also try to meet some of their expectations. They agree to let me make a cup of tea in the afternoon and I stop complaining about everything. It is not easy. Their life is still more difficult for me than they realize. Sometimes I feel like I am trying really hard and they think I am not making an effort at all. Sometimes I get really frustrated and act out, but we keep getting through these moments. For all our problems, at some level we know that we all like each other and we are trying.

In another version the foster parents never understand that they are asking me to be someone I am not. They continue to be angry that I don't conform. I get more and more angry and finally do whatever it takes to get myself moved.

In the third version, the foster parents really do try. They understand what I am going through. They try to find the balance where they both accept me and insist that I follow house rules. However perfect they are though I am not having it. I am Carl on his first placement -- I want to go home to my mother and getting along with this family feels like betraying her. I am Miss E and have experienced too much rejection. There is no way in h*ll I am going to join the pod people.

It's hard to be a foster parent -- everyone knows that. That is why we have blogs and support groups and trainings. What we do isn't easy.

It also is not easy to be a foster child.

At least we're doing it voluntarily.

1 comment:

  1. process7:09 AM

    You get it!!! Sometimes when I think about the kids in care, I think about what it would have been like for me to be in care when I was a kid. How would I have survived? My home was quiet and CLEAN, we read all the time and rarely watched tv, I had my own room and spent a lot of time there, I had a dog I loved...what if they moved me to a home that was loud and messy and SMELLED (something I can't stand), where the tv played constantly (another thing I can't tolerate), and I had to share a room?! What would happen to my dog? And food--my family ate a combination of all-American, Italian, and health food, and it was love and comfort to me. What if I had to eat stuff I didn't like??? What if there was no pasta, no desserts?

    In my area, Anglo kids get placed all the time in Latino homes, and it's really hard for them. Whatever bad was going on at home, it was HOME.

    Thank you for getting it.

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