Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sick and Tired

Not in the metaphorical, fed up and can't take it anymore sick and tired.

In the literal, virus attacking my body and exhausted sense of the phrase.

It's just a cold, but by Panaceia and Hygia (I know you've heard that cleanliness is next to godliness, but did you know that Hygia was a goddess?), I wish I could crawl back into bed.

I will still be driving Miss E after she moves. Some part of my brain knows that that is good news, that I would miss seeing her daily if I were not. Another part is pouting because the new house is 10, not 7 minutes away and it is another 10, not 5 minutes away from the school. Leaving the house 8 minutes earlier seems like it will be a great hardship indeed, but I know that is mostly the cold talking.

I may not write much for a while. My brain is tired.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Miss E may move in two days!

She told me this morning that she is moving on Thursday.

I asked if she knew if she still needed me to drive her to school. She said she didn't know. I said I would call her social worker, she said that her social worker was out of town.

I've emailed the social worker, the social worker's supervisor and the family developer. That was a couple of hours ago and I have heard nothing back. Soon I will be emailing the deputy director. Naw, I'll just start calling people.

I am annoyed. I asked her social worker a week ago if she was really going to move to this new home and if so would I still drive her. The answer was, "She is moving." I figured she needed to talk to the family about whether they could drive her and would get back to me. She didn't.

There is a part of me that thinks that I probably should have more sympathy for Miss E -- moving again. This is her third home for this school year. At the moment though I just don't have a lot of sympathy for Miss E. She is moving because she wants to. She is the way she is because of the abuse she suffered, but right now she is making her choices. It occured to me that maybe I was being a little too self-centered here. A girl who has suffered repeated trauma is moving again. That is a bad thing. Doesn't it deserve a moment of respectful sadness?

Yeah. I'm sure it does.

But my boundaries are firmly in place and I am worried about MY issues, do you hear?

Come Friday, do I have to get up before 6:00 or do I get to sleep until 7:00?

If everyone is assuming I am going to keep driving her, could someone please give me their freaking address? And if I am not going to drive her, could someone please have the courtesy of informing me? You know, I would even be happy with a short email that said, "Oops...sorry we forgot to check with the parents about this. We will call you back after we have had a chance to talk to them.

I'm torn about what I want them to say. On one hand they pay me almost as much to drive her to school as they do for 24 hours of respite care. (Yeah, I drive for the money -- what's it to you?) I also would sincerely miss seeing her every day. (Imagine that -- I care about her even though I get paid for this service!) On the other hand, this is an hour's worth of sleep we are talking about. That comes to five hours a week! Five precious hours in which I could be asleep.

Another day I may write about how terrible it is that this girl has been this deeply damaged. Another day I may write about what sort of care I think we might need to care for kids with this much damage. Another day sympathetic, analytical Yondalla may be back.

Today however I am tired and cranky.

Talking to her about the move

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Ugly Word "Foster"

Someone objected on FosterAbba's blog about her use of the word "foster" as in "foster parent" or "foster child." The commenter said that it was belittling to call the foster children "foster children."

The commenter is right about the use of the word in every day life.

I don't know for certain about FosterAbba, because I don't spend time in real life with her, but I know that I rarely use the word "foster" off the blog. I NEVER introduce children as my foster kids. I only tell people that I am the foster mom when they need to know -- as in when I have to explain to the people at the medical facility why I cannot sign the consent form even though I have been calling myself the mother. That is yet another reason why I like being their "aunt." No one expects me to have legal rights I don't have.

When I have kids here on respite I introduce them as friends of the family, or kids of a friend of mine. When I had to take one of them to an emergency clinic I told the nurse that I couldn't sign anything. "I'm just the nice lady who gave them a ride."

I have made a conscious decision to use the word more on this blog though. The commenter on FosterAbba's blog seemed to think that she was tooting her horn, expecting praise because she was a foster mother. I don't think she is. I suspect that FosterAbba, like me, uses the word on her blog for a different reason.

When I started the blog I just needed to write. It did not matter to me whether anyone read ( did not matter a lot). What started to happen was that I connected up with more and more parents who are raising kids who have experienced trauma. It has been so helpful to have that connection.

The kids have it so much worse than we do. There is no comparison.

But trying to care of children with such complex and difficult problems is not easy. Sometimes we get it all wrong. By sharing honestly on the blog I have often received very helpful feedback, sometimes from foster care alumni. I will be tearing my hair out about something and someone will say, "He does it because..." And suddenly it makes sense, and I realize it is not about me. I calm down and have a better idea of how to face the situation.

Using the word here makes it easier for people who are traveling the same journey to find me, and I want them to find me because they are so helpful to me.

It is one of the things it can be difficult to remember about blogs. We write in our blogs what we cannot and will not say in our lives. We write it in our blogs to make it easier not to say it. Our blogs, therefore, can give a very distorted picture of who we really are.

The Journey and the Pain

Last night, as I was drifting off to sleep, it hit me that the pain I wrote about last evening and that I am feeling right now is not entirely different from the pain the kids we care for deal with.

Trust, betrayal, trusting again, hurt again.

The differences are significant, of course. Huge.

But there is something there that is the same.

And I am finding it difficult to trust again. I have made a decision to work on that -- to go back and work with people, risk getting hurt again. I have made that decision not because I feel that I have to, or that some cosmic force will punish me for doing it, but because I want to be there. For various reasons, not all easy to explain, I need to be there.

Again and again I am struck how experiences that are in some small way simliar to what our kids have experienced are SO hard for me. Betrayal and abandonment of someone one or thing that you have trusted hurts so deeply.

No wonder Miss E, for instance, has so completely shut down. How does a baby or toddler deal with these feelings? I find them overwhelming, and I have other parts of my life that are more secure. I have sources of strength and security to help me.

How foolish we are to ever think that we can win these kids over within months. How naive we all were when we thought that we would love them and that would be enough.

Healing takes time. Trust takes time.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Faith Journey

Get a cup of coffee or tea -- this is a long one.

There was a point in my life in which I attempted to walk away from my faith tradition. I considered converting to another. I didn't though. It isn't that I decided that my particular tradition was true and others were false, it is just that it was who I was. I felt that in various ways my tradition had been part of what formed me.

It's like my citizenship. It is not that I just happen to live in America, I am an American. There is a lot, really a lot, that I don't like about America, but it is my country. I feel that I have a right and the responsibility to speak up when I think it is going the wrong way. I feel I can say with a sort of authority what part of it is ridiculous and what is important and worth preserving. I feel the same way about my faith tradition. I feel comfortable moving from one sub-group to another, but I thought that I would never feel quite authentic if I completely jumped ship.

I stopped attending church when I found that I could not say that I believed any of the things that I had been taught. I came back because I missed the experience of communal worship and individual prayer so much it hurt. Every now and then someone will ask me why I go to church. I often tell them, "Because they let me sing." That is not the whole story, but it is part of it.

We moved to Our Small Town 15 years ago. It was about 13 years ago that I decided to go back. Hubby had never stopped going, and he always took Andrew. Andrew was in a program during a service and I went. I stood there, sang songs and looked at the candles and knew I wanted to come back. I told the pastor, "I want to practice my faith and, at least for a while, not worry about whether I believe anything." I was fortunate that he was one who could understand and accept that. Many Christians find practicing without really believing to be hypocritical. For them, the whole point is to make that leap of faith and believe.

Over the years I have become more and more comfortable in church. Every now and then someone will ask me what I believe and I often tell them I don't know. I don't know what I believe. I just live here.

It is a painful, complicated story, but we resigned from a congregation about four years ago. I never thought I would resign. Drift off and stop attending or transfer my membership to a different congregation, sure, but resign? Who does that?

Parents of a gay son do it -- when the church council has just voted that a gay man may not serve communion.

The president of the congregation asked me not to resign. I asked her if Carl wanted to come back to church, if he wanted to serve communion, would he be allowed? She was silent, and I handed her the resignation letter. Not coincidentally, the Sunday that I handed in my letter of resignation was the same day the Pastor resigned. She was the first woman pastor I had ever had. Unlike me, she was not resigning as an act of protest. She had already protested, and now she was being run off. I had told her a month before that I would stay and support her as long as she was staying, but that if she decided to go, I would appreciate being told. Three families resigned that Sunday.

As we looked for a new congregation, all I cared about was that they were open and affirming. I never wanted to go through that battle again. Various congregations would be recommended to us -- this one had a lesbian who was on the council, taught adult Sunday school another had several gay members who felt very comfortable. Only one though had officially gone through a process resulting in a congregational commitment to be open and affirming.

It turned out that our first visit was also the first Sunday for the woman who would be their new pastor. After the service people asked her questions and then they voted to confirm her call. We left when she did, just before the vote. We talked to her briefly in the narthex, explaining that as first time visitors we did not feel that we should vote. We knew that it was an open and affirming church, but we really had no idea what that meant. It turned out that it meant that the congregation was full of people who had grown up in different Christian traditions, who probably disagreed on many theological points, but were there for very similar reasons that we were.

We had been there a month when we saw two men sitting next to each other. One put his arm around the other and Hubby and I both were overwhelmed. Hubby found them afterwards and thanked them. That one gesture, the casualness of it, did more than anything else to make us know that we and our children were safe.

And so life went on. About a year ago we started hearing more people complaining about the pastor. It was different from the rumblings of years past, and yet the same. We pulled back. I found that I just could not get involved in another congregational quarrel. I could not go through it again. Mostly the people were more civilized about it. A professional mediation group was brought in to help congregational members and the pastor resolve their differences. It didn't seem to be working particularly well, but everyone seemed to be trying to be adult about it. Still, it was uncomfortable. Last summer, while many people, including us, were gone on vacation the pastor was offered a year's sabbatical if she would resign. She did. We came back and she was gone. Guest pastors preached about the pain the congregation had gone through and how we needed to forgive each other. We were not the only ones who were upset and hurt, but it was done. After a while I stopped going to church.

I went back today. It was so difficult to be there. I find I am so angry, and yet I don't even know who I am angry at. I'm afraid I cried a good bit throughout the service. I wanted to stand up and yell at them all. Someone here was responsible for making my pastor go away and not giving me even with a chance to say goodbye. Afterwards I spoke with one of the older couples of the church, a man and woman whom I respect very much. They are also angry. He recommended that I write a letter to the church council, that I was not the only one who was still dealing with this and that even if the people who are (now) on the council were not the ones who made the decision, they are the ones who are responsible for finding a way for all of us to deal with it. He was clearly as angry as I am. He said the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice" was his new theme song. Another friend of mine, someone that I happen to know did not like the previous pastor at all, came to hug me, knowing only that I was upset. I told her. I pretended that I did not know where she stood on the issue and I told her how I felt. Whatever problems she had with the previous pastor, I doubt she was part of what happened. She is also a friend and she understands how upsetting it was for me to come back from vacation to find that my pastor was just gone. It was helpful to talk to her.

And it is helpful to write all this.

I am thinking about writing to the church council. I know that I want to find a way to reconcile with the congregation. I want to find a way to belong there again. I feel a real need to get into a better place, and I want very much to get there before they place a new kid with us. What happened this past summer shouldn't have happened. However, that congregation is still the most open and affirming congregation (save for the Unitarians) within a 100 miles, probably more. It is not important to me that the kids in our care are religious, but the church is a good place for them to meet gay and lesbian adults who are in steady relationships, and they have all desperately needed to see that.

Foster Care and Plato

Since my everybody's bad post, I have been trying to write something constructive about adoptiong and fostering, about the ethical issues involved. I haven't been able to get it out, but there's a post at Peter's Cross Station that says it very well.

Like Shannon, I find the issues that need to be addressed to be far larger than the solutions that are so often offered.

Months ago I read something, I think a blog post, in which someone asked the question, "Can poverty be a form of abuse?" My answer is, "Only if we allow it to be." We live in a society with many resources. If poor people in this country cannot afford to provide adequate care to their children, then we as a society have failed.

As a foster parent, I care for children who have been removed from dangerous situations.

I also know that the problems that face a community cannot be solved by removing the children. The problems are huge: racism; poverty; heterosexism; lack of jobs, health care, child care, housing. Many of the children I see in the system should never have been in care. By they time they were taken into care, they were unsafe and they had been abused and neglected. But they would not have been, at least most of them, if the world had been a better place for their mothers.

Plato (you were wondering how he was going to come into this) considered what would be necessary to create the perfect society. He thought that it couldn't be done unless all the children were removed and raised separately. He also knew that wasn't going to happen.

Sometimes I think that is what people want to do with foster care and adoption.

But it doesn't work. As a foster parent at an event I recently attended said, "We keep pulling kids out of the river, but we need to get upstream and figure out who's throwing them in!" By this he did not mean that there were social workers or any other person or persons throwing kids in. He meant that communities were in trouble. We have to go "up river" to solve the problem.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Remembering Andrew

Bacchus recently has been sharing stories about "Baby R."

So much of it brings back memories of when Andrew was a baby or toddler.

Opinions of strangers:
We went to my cousin's wedding and I dressed Andrew in a lovely velvet sailor suit. It was cold and I went out and bought him a warm pair of white tights to keep his legs warm. He looked adorable. Hubby was changing him and later reported that a woman in the nursery expressed shock at the tights. "He's wearing tights! But he's a boy!" I told him he should have told her that if he grew up to be gay at least we would know why.

Hubby said he could barely go out with Andrew when he was small without older women remarking on how wonderful he was, or expressing concern for where the baby's mother was, or offering to hold the baby while he wrote a check...

When Andrew was closer to two he loved, every afternoon, to ride his little wheeled toy. He would push hard with both legs until he was going fast. Then he would drag his toes to slow himself down and stop. He wore out two pair of shoes in a month. I took him to a fancy shoe store, where they guaranteed their shoes. I explained the issue and the man brought out a pair of old fashioned-looking red sneakers. They had rubber toes that were think and came back half-way up the top of the shoe. He said that these were one of the only guaranteed shoes that they never had to replace -- and they had great brake pads.

Yeah...he climbed everything, all the time. I have photos of him in the dryer. We bolted book cases to the wall.

Missing his father:
His dad was gone for a while before he could put sentences together. Still I would talk to his father on the phone and would call him over so he could "talk " to Daddy, which really meant listening and looking at the phone receiver with curiousity. One day he was having a bad day and walked over to the phone pointed and said, "Dada!" Fortunately I was able to get Hubby on the phone. He said hello to Andrew. Andrew listened for about 1o seconds and walked off.

First words:
Andrews first words were: Mama, Dada, and Baba. "Baba" meant bagel.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Suspicious Mind

It doesn't matter. It really doesn't. It is not really any of my business.


It makes no difference to my life whatsoever.

Still...I have such a suspicious mind. Bad, Yondall, bad!

Evan just came by to pick up his tax stuff. He says he is tired, but okay. He looked quite alert.

He's going to go get his hair cut, and then his going to pick up his sister. Tomorrow he is going to help his aunt clean out his cousin's bedroom which he will move into. He says everyone tells him he should sleep, but he gets so bored just lying in bed.

Huh...that's not how I remembered mono. When I had mono I could barely drag myself up to eat.

I know he has a history of only surviving about two months at a job, but mononucleosis would be an awful elaborate cover, don't you think? I mean, especially since it was a whole week of first telling me that he was sick, and then waiting for the test, and then saying he was going to try to talk his boss into letting recuperate there... No. It doesn't track as a lie. Too complex...too much set up...

Still he really doesn't seem nearly as sick as he claimed...

And he does have that history...

And it really is none of my d*mn business.


On a much more somber note, I wonder if Evan appreciates how difficult cleaning out his cousin's room for him maybe for his aunt. It is barely more than a year since his cousin died. Perhaps it will be healing for his aunt to have someone living there. Perhaps it will be good for her to have him there as she packs up all of her daughter's belongings. Evan survived that week by taking care of her.

Well...that and the codeine.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

He's home

I picked up Evan last night. His plane landed at 11:00pm. Poor boy, he had been traveling for at least 30 hours.

It was good to see him. He was in fairly good spirits, accepting that he was back. I got him to his grandmother's just before midnight.

I had a hard time winding down and falling asleep. When my alarm went off this morning at 5:45 I whimpered and asked Hubby if he could please, please take Miss E to school for me. He said he would. He is a wonderful man. I rolled back over and pulled covers over my head.

I woke up at 9:30. It was wonderful.

Good thing I don't have classes today.

The whole story

**This is a "rescued post." Something I wrote and for reasons which may be obvious in this case, did not publish. Composed 2/22/07. Published 5/6/07**

I referred to an incident in which I behaved badly back in November. I didn't go into details, but I think I will now. At the time when I mentioned to it I didn't know how I should have handled the situation. It took me about a week, but I did figure it out.

So this is the story as it happened (as best I remember it).

I woke up early and went to sit in the living room. It was November and it was cold outside. Actually it was cold inside. I sat in my favorite chair which happens to be next to the vent in between the living room and Evan's room. A freezing cold breeze was coming from it. The furnace was running and Evan's door was rattling. It was clear what had happened: Evan, who is always hot, had fallen asleep with his window open and hadn't, as I have asked him any number of times, covered the vent and shoved a towel under the door. I was cold, and he was running up my utility bill.

I sat in the chair feeling used, abused, and furious. Why couldn't he have just a little consideration for any one's needs? Why did he have to be so damn selfish? I knew I shouldn't confront him, in my current mood, but I should sit there freezing in my own house? I banged on his door.

"Shut your window!"
"It's 6 in the morning!"
"I know! Shut your window and block off the damn vent!"
"Why are you waking me up at 6:00 in the morning?"
Now I'm thinking, Why won't the brat listen to me? I'm tired of trying to explain and so I say, "Open this door!
"Evan, get you butt out of bed and open this door or I will get my key and let myself in."
"Damn it Evan! You're freezing out the house! Let me in now!"
"Hang on."
A minute later he opens the door. I push past him, crawl over his bed and check the windows. They're shut. (He's not stupid).
"I told you they were shut."
"They weren't a minute ago."
"Yes. They were."
"Evan you door was banging in the breeze. I could feel the cold air coming through the vent!"
"Well, I don't know that happened."
I was furious. I mean, really furious. Inconsiderate, lying little brat. I started picking up dirty clothes and piling them against is vent. "I know that you don't really think that anyone in this house has any needs accept you. But we actually do. Other people exist and it would not be out of line for you to occasionally remember that. If you are going to leave your vent open at the very least you must block the vent and the door. I have told you this! It cost money to run the furnace!" I stop and look at
him. He says, "Get out of my room."
"It's my room. GET OUT."
"It's my house and I am not leaving until you speak politely to me."
"No. Not until you figure out a way to speak to me appropriately."

I think he finally said something like, "PLEASE, get out" in a sarcastic tone of voice and I gathered what shreds of dignity I had left and walked out.

I told you I had behaved badly.

Now, at the time I knew that I had not handled that well, but it seemed to me for at least several days that my only other option would have been to be cold. I could have "let him get away with it". Ignoring his behavior would have meant allowing my needs to be ignored.

But there was another path. There was a path in which I could have respected my needs, enforced my rules, without things getting out of hand.

This is what should have happened:

I knock loudly on the door.
"Evan, I need you to shut your window and block the vent."
"It's 6:00 in the morning!"
"I know."
"Why are you waking me up at 6:00 in the morning?"
"Because your window is open and the living room is cold. I need you to shut the window and block the vent."
"I can't believe you are waking me up at 6:00!"
"Evan, I need you to shut the window. Will you do it, or should I come in and do it?" (This of course would have been said firmly, but not with fury.)
"I'll do it! There. The window's shut! Happy?"
"A little. Thanks."

Wouldn't it be nice if we could go back in time and do it right. You know, after we have had a week or month to figure out what we should have done?

Update (5/6/07): Evan and I told this to guests recently. He confessed that of course he closed the window before he let me in. "I'm not studid!" he said.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Measuring Success in Foster Care

Miss E is moving. It has been decided.

The agency has found another family in town who will take her. If I understand correctly, they had to stop doing foster care for a while because of a the needs of an older relative. Now they are back and though they have a toddler in the house, Miss E will be the only teenager. No one hopes that she will bond to this family. Everyone does hope that she will stay there until she emancipates. No one expects that she will stay anywhere past her 18th birthday.

I have met Miss E when her adoption was being terminated. I cared for her when she insisted on leaving Mandy. Hubby drove her to the teen shelter, and I have picked her up and taken her to school while she lived first in one foster home and then with Annabelle. Now she will move again. Her fifth address in less than two years.

It is not a cruel system that is heartlessly bouncing her around. Each of the foster parents who have let her go have been very experienced, tough women. They were willing to keep her. They worked hard. They did not get tired and kick her out. Miss E walked away. They held on for as long as they could, but Miss E always walks away.

This morning Claudia wrote an especially eloquent post about children with attachment disorder. She wonders about whether it makes a difference if we stick with them or not. She has stuck with her kids. She has stuck with one even though he, like Miss E, succeeded in getting a court to agree that he should be removed.

RAD kids will do that. They will sometimes do everything they can to separate themselves from the ones the love.

FosterAbba also responded to Claudia's post this morning, wondering again about the possibilities of seeing results from what we do.

I think it is a mistake for us to evaluate what we do based upon results.

Wait...hear me out...

I do think we need research to better understand what works. We need to know what sort of interventions produce higher graduation rates and lower disruption rates. If there are parenting or therapy techniques that do a good job of helping kids recover from trauma, then we need to know about them. In very many ways, we need to care very much about results.

But at another level we have to put those results and the possibilities of finding them completely out of our minds.

See, in order for human beings to change they need many things, and one of the is that they need to be ready and willing to do the work. We can't do it for them. No matter how good our practices, no matter how carefully studied our methods, we are still dealing with human beings who have free will and may choose to walk away.

Teaching, parenting, therapy are three examples in which someone is trying to make a difference in someone else's life. No matter how good you are at what you do, you cannot make the other person learn, or grow or heal. So it is frustrating. Parenting traumatized children is exhausting and sometimes it feels futile. We poor energy in and often we see no results.

So I think we need to stop focusing on getting results. If we measure success by results we will burn out.

What we forget, as we are working so hard and searching for signs that it is working, is that we are giving the youths tools, pictures, a map. Whatever metaphor you want to use, we are giving them something. When they live with us they see that it is possible to interact without violence. They see new ways to deal with anger and frustration. They see that it is possible to find joy in life. They see that trust is possible.

They may take that picture of how life can be and shove it into a back pocket and never look at it, but it is there. Someday they may take it out. Some day they may decide that they are ready to heal, and it will be more possible for them than it would have been otherwise, because they will know what a (somewhat!) healthy family looks like. They will know that trust and love and anger without injury are possible. And even if they don't decide to do the work, they still know that it is possible.

Like the proverbial horse, we can show them the water, but we cannot make them drink.

We tend to forget though that we did show them the water. Because of that, they know there is water. And that is important, whether they ever drink it or not.

Next in Miss E's Story:
Moving in two days

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Responding to Fostermama

Fostermama says reports that my last post leaves her lost.

I suppose that it did seem to come out of the blue.

Yesterday I read through an entire blog, Writing My Wrongs, written by a woman who was coerced into "placing" her child up for adoption. It is powerful, heartbreaking and well worth reading.

Today I found another blog by another woman who also was coerced. This author takes a position that is completely anti-adoption. It was so difficult to read. Things were said about the system and the people in it... I wanted to deny what I read.

And then I read comments at another blog, one of my favorites, which could be taken as confirmation of what the anti-adoption blogger had said. Maybe on a different day that would not have bothered me so, but today, after reading the other blog, it was overwhelming.

So many people so quick to condemn, unwilling to understand or forgive.

All people who have experienced great pain, and are speaking from that place. So certain that they can cast judgment on someone they do not know.

I still feel like curling up into a fetal position and crying. Perhaps I will.

Everyone's bad

It is amazing how little we need to know about some people in order to know that they suck.

If you tour around on the blogosphere for a while you will probably learn that:

1. Foster parents are motivated by money and likely to abuse children.

2. Adoptive parents are at best deluded people who are in fact participating in the destruction of a soul.

3. Parents who place their children for adoption are at best deluded but more likely coerced.

4. Parents whose children are in foster care SUCK.

5. Social workers are unqualified, irresponsible, and lazy.

I'm tired. I am so bloody tired of it.

Life is so much easier when we can believe in good guys and bad guys, especially if we get to be the good guys.

But what if the truth were a million times more complicated than that? And what if we all refrained from judging until we understood? What if we tried to live someone's life before we condemned them?

And as long as I am imagining a better world...what if we as a society actually cared about children?

No kids yet

I spoke yesterday with Evan's social worker, who is now the family developer. She is also on the committee that decides which kids go into the program. Though the program is private, the committee also has state workers on it.

After talking to her about Evan and assuring her that I would tell him to contact her about getting set up with a transitional services worker, I asked her if she had found a kid for me yet. I asked with something of a joking tone of voice, because I know very well that if they had found a kid for me they would have called. They are not going to forget about us.

She said that no, they hadn't identified anyone for us yet. There are 10 kids in the intake process, but as far as she knows, none of them is a match for us.

I reminded her that we the family had said that we would take kids who needed to be in a GLBT-safe home for any number of reasons.

She was a little vague, and I did not push, but I came away from the conversation with this impression: there is at least one kid in the program or in the intake process who they suspected is closeted. They are trying to figure out the best way to help all such kids. Though we might be a good place for them eventually, they don't think that it would be good to just plop them into the PFLAG house.

I get it. The kids have to travel their own journeys. Placing them with us is tantamount to "outing" them. Oh, they know that we would be accepting of a kid wherever he or she was in the journey. We would be cool caring for a straight youth who just happenned to ping people's gaydars. But still. We are the house that has taken three gay boys.

They are unlikely to give us a kid until they are certain that he or she is ready for us.


Oh...and before you ask...I know they are working on ways to communicate to the kids that it is safe to come out.

I just remembered that they asked me a month ago to send them some PFLAG brochures to leave in their lobby and I forgot.

Double D*mn.

I'll put them in the mail today.

Talked to his grandmother

I just got a call back from Evan's grandmother. I told her that I wanted to get him from the airport so that I would get to see him at least a little. I also told her that if she wanted or needed I could keep him a day or two.

She said that whatever he wanted was fine with her. He could come right over or he could stay with me. It was fine with her.

We're both so nice.

And in fact we are. She loves Evan very much. She met him when he was three, when her son married Evan's mother. She accepted that little boy into her family and there he stayed, even after the divorce. Shortly after Evan moved in here she dropped by to say hello and check us out. I believe I mentioned at some time in the past that Evan might have been placed with her, except that, not being a legal relative, the social worker did not know to ask, and Evan asked to be with us.

He knew of us because he knew David from the youth group. He did not know much about us, just that we were supportive of gay kids and were available. Oh...and we lived a few blocks away from his boyfriend. That was a plus too. The relationship didn't last, but by then Evan was firmly embedded in our family. He may also have had anxiety about living and going to high school in the extremely small town in which his grandmother, aunt, sister and ex-step father live.

So I have mixed feelings about him going out there. I am very happy that he has this extended family who loves him. I am both relieved and disappointed that he will not be here. I am pleased that he is determined to move forward on his life. I'm interested to know how well he will survive in a home with no Internet connection.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Truth

In my last post I recounted a series of phone calls I had with Miss E and her foster mother, Annabelle.* I spoke again with Miss E who said that if it is not too much trouble she would like me to pick her up in the morning. She decided not to work out tomorrow morning as Annabelle was being really grumpy about it. (She didn't actually say "grumpy", but I don't remember what word she did use.)

I imagine that Annabelle did have something of an attitude when she talked to Miss E about the whole working out plan. You know, seeing as how neither of us ever believed that Miss E had any intention of working out.

I'm wondering though about this whole series of phone calls, and about the truth.

Miss E has told me a consistent story. She left out of course that she was AWOL, but everything she said could have been true. It is possible that she had always intended to come home before 10:00pm, get up at 5:30am and work out before school. It is possible that she changed her mind because Annabelle was giving her attitude.

Of course I don't believe that.

I like Miss E. I like her a lot, but I don't believe her.

I am remembering back to the first few times Carl lied to me -- at least the first times that I caught him. The very first one was when I was still just his Sunday School teacher. I forget exactly what it was, except that he made up something to avoid simply telling me that he couldn't do something.

I was so angry with him. I was angry because, from my perspective, it would have been easy to say that he wasn't going to do whatever it was that I had asked him to do. He could have just told me so. I would have also understood if he had given me an ordinary lie, if he had said that he had too much homework to do, for instance.

Instead though he had told me a big lie.

I remember that I was angry because he had made me feel sympathetic about whatever it was that was going on. It wasn't that he couldn't do some simple but inconvienent task because he had a lot to do. No, he couldn't do it because there was some horrible tragedy occuring. I had felt badly for him. I had assured him that I did not need him that much. I had worried about him.

But it was a lie.

I no longer get sucked in to their drama, or at least I don't do so so easily. Every time any of the kids tells me something I wonder how far off from the truth it is.

Like Evan coming home because he has Mono. It occurs to me that it is possible that he is fired and that he is making up the entire story about being sick as an elaborate cover. That would explain why he does not want to stay at my house and why he is not sure he can get the documentation that he needs to file a claim with his trip insurance.

Five years ago I would have wanted to know the truth. It would have been important to me. I would have felt somehow that if I was not being told the truth, I was being used. I would have wanted to know so that I could provide him with the right amount of sympathy. I would not want to be heartless nor would I have wanted to fall for a con.

I would have been the center of my own little drama.

Now I hear Miss E tell me that she won't need a ride because she is going to work out at 5:30am even though she can barely get herself out to my care at 6:45am and I just re-set my alarm clock.

Now Evan tells me he has to come home, and various scenarios run through my head. I suspect in his case that he is telling me the truth. There may be things he is not telling me, but I doubt he is lying about having mono.

But even if he were, I would not be furious like I would have been before.

See, it is not about me.

These kids are trying to figure out how to be adults.

They don't know how to protect their privacy without lying. They don't know how to establish boundaries without building walls.

They are not trying to piss me off. They are not even trying to manipulate me (well sometimes they are, but not mostly). Most of the time they are just trying to keep me out of their business so that they can make their own decisions. They are struggling to become adults.

So now, not always, but sometimes, when I suspect that they are lying to me, I feel somewhat bemused and certainly sad for them. There is so much they don't know. They are trying so hard to figure it out.

*Just as a reminder, all names in this blog are pseudonyms.

Miss E will move again

Cool as a cucumber (update)

Annabelle (Miss E's foster mom) called me, "I wanted to tell you that I'm not sure Miss E will be here in the morning. She's out and I told her to come home, but it doesn't look like she is going to. I don't know whether to call her in as a runaway or what. She's being such a pill."

"How about if I call her about picking her up tomorrow and see what she says?"

"Would you? That would really help."


I called Miss E, who by the way was late on Friday. "Hey, Miss E, do you want me to call you before I leave tomorrow, just to make sure you're up?"

"Oh no. You know. I think I will try going to the gym before school. Annabelle could drop me off when she goes to work. Maybe then I will actually be awake for class!"

"So do you need a ride at all tomorrow?"

"No. The gym is right next to the school. I'll just walk."

"Okay. Should I call you tomorrow to talk about Wednesday morning?"

"Yeah. I doubt that I'll do it again though." She laughs, "You know how these things go. I want to try it, but I probably won't be able to make myself get up that early twice."

"Okay, I'll see you Wednesday."


I called Annabelle back. I don't know what she will do, except that she won't pace in the living room wondering if Miss E is coming back tonight or not.

Update: Annabelle called back. She called Miss E, told her that she had to come home and mentioned that I had said she was going to the gym. She reports that she will be too tired to go to the gym. I guess I will be seeing her in the morning.

Follow up on the phone callThe Truth

He's Coming Home (update)

He has confirmed flights as far as the east coast and he will call on Wednesday to let me know when he will be in town.

He has been trying to get in touch with his grandmother and expects to stay with her. She is not answering her phone though and I said I would keep trying to call for him.

I told him that I would pick him up from the airport if he needed and he could sleep here if he wants.

When I told Brian that Evan was coming back he said, "I'm surprisingly happy to hear that. I guess I missed him."

This trip is not going to be easy for a young man with mono. He has to take a train Tuesday evening, then a short flight to Manchester, then an over-nighter to Pittisburg. He has to do all this while dealing with the exhaustion of Mono.

At least he will be able to sleep on the planes.

I am very pleased that he has the relationship he does with his grandmother. I think though I will ask her if I can pick him up in any case. I would like to see him.

I guess I've missed him too.

Waiting for news

Today is the day that Evan is supposed to talk to his boss about his options, given that he definitely has Mono.

I appreciate your expressions of frustration for him. It is true. He worked hard to put this trip together and he is doing better than I had expected. It would be sad if he had to cut his trip short.

He is planning on trying to talk his boss into letting him stay there, without pay, while he gets better. If anyone can pull that off, it would be Evan. He may not argue as well as he thinks he does, but he can be insistent. He has the gentle gorilla thing going for him. He doesn't threaten physical violence, but he does just stand there, towering over you, refusing to budge.

I checked out the web site for the company from which he bought his trip insurance. Even in the most basic plan, there is not a 10-day rider as Evan reported. Everything indicates that if he has to come home for a documented medical reason, they will cover the expenses.

From my perspective it all seems quite simple, tragic perhaps, but simple. He is seriously ill. It is not life-threatening, but it can be a long time before he will be able to do what they expect him to do at the house. He needs to rest. He has insurance that will cover the expenses of coming home.

So he should come home. He should come back and let me or his aunt or his grandmother take care of him.

But I am not in charge. I would like to be, but I am not.

Evan is going to have to find his own way through this. I know that he is quite capable of doing so. He can figure out what he needs to do and he can do it.

So I am waiting.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Miss E settles

I reported before the Miss E's attitude improved. I am pleased to say say that it has continued to be better. She continues to complain of course, but she has stopped complaining about Annabelle and the other girl.

I'm beginning to hope.

Of course the last time I spoke to Annabelle she had basically given up, but I know that Annabelle would be willing to offer yet another chance.

I think it was good that I communicated to her that she could not move in here. I think she was holding onto a fantasy in which she moved out of Annabelle’s and into my house. She would have the cool bedroom, go to the same school, and keep her job. Of course I know that for all sorts of reasons she would not be any happier here than she has anywhere else. I doubt that she realized that.

But now I have taken that fantasy from her. So maybe she now believes her social worker that there is no where for her to go except to an extremely tiny town 45 minutes from anywhere.

Of course there is more than a little chance that the story is more complicated, and that my conversation had only a small roll to play. That doesn't matter to me. I just hope that what I am seeing is real.

I hope.

I hope she stays.

Cool As a Cucumber

Baggage: Notorious Internet Sc*m Artist

(NB: This post was written with Baggage's Permission)

I doubt there are any people who read this blog who don't read Baggage's, I mean, who doesn't read Baggage? If you don't, then get your tail over there are read about the week from hell. The short version: Baggage got three traumatized, very sick (as in puking) children who have nothing to wear. After enough people pestered her long enough someone finally convinced her to let us help. She set up an account at so that we could buy clothes for the kids if we want. (If you choose to do so, the gift registry is in the name of "Bug Baggage." The gift will go to someone whose name you have never heard. That 's not Baggage's real name, it is someone who was willing to put her name on the list who will delivery everything to our Baggage.)

As you may have guessed I bought the kids something -- just a little something, but I figured that plenty of other people would do something small and it would all add up to something significant.

And I was right.

In fact I was so right that I got a call from W*lmart. A very nice woman, clearly concerned, wanted to confirm that I made the purchase. She then wanted to know if actually knew anyone named "Bug Baggage."

I laughed and explained. It took several minutes for the woman to be confident that I really knew this person. It does strike me as funny though, and after her first shocked reaction, I think it struck Baggage as funny too. What sort of scam artist swindles people out of toddler clothes?

I mean, I know there are people who tell tales of woe about sick children in order to get sympathetic people to send them money -- but don't they normally seek thousands of dollars to pay for non-existent cancer treatment?

Not our Baggage though. No...she's after a package of onesies, baby towels and 3T clothes.


After we laughed about it together, Baggage and I agreed that it was a good thing that people do watch out for fraud.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Positive for Glandular Fever

Evan got his test back. Definitely positive for what we here in the states call Infectious Mononucleosis. The doctor says his white blood cell count indicates that he has a bad case, that he must rest or he will get sicker and take longer to get better, and that he may not work with children.

I told him that he could recuperate here if he wanted to.

He does not like that idea because it means leaving Scotland and he does not want to leave Scotland. He says that he thinks the trip insurance he bought only covered him for the first 10 days, which, if true, is stupid. The point of buying it was so that he could come home anytime during the 7 months if he needed to -- you know, like if he got Glandular Fever.

He says he appreciates our offer to let him stay here, but that he does not think he will come because we have already done so much for him, it is not like he doesn't have anywhere to go, and he is trying to be an adult.

Of course I do not accept any of those as reasons for him not coming -- especially the last one. Not only do adults sometimes need help, a 19-year-old is far from too old to go home because he is sick. My college students at 20 and 22 go home to mommy and daddy when they are sick. They have no sense that they are somehow too old to for that.

Of course if his plan is that he will stay with his aunt or grandmother should he actually have to come back, that is a different story.

But he's a tough guy. He will work out what he needs. Maybe he will even be able to just stay in the staff quarters and sleep there. I know he doesn't want to leave.

Maerlow Responds!!!!

Maerlow of Spotted Dog Turn left the following comment:

I'm here! I'm okay, we're okay. I've been... overexposed and overextended lately, but will be back shortly. Don't worry. And, ah, I'll go check that email account now I guess :)

And now all of us worry-wart types may relax.

She left a short post on her blog, so you may leave your happy messages over there!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

News of Maerlowe?

Has anyone heard from Maerlow of Spotted Dog Turn?

She hasn't published for a month and the email I have for her bounced.

My email address is in my profile if someone has news but doesn't want to leave it in a comment.


Months ago I complained about the not knowing when the agency would call. I was fine with having a break, but would like to know how long that break would be.

I said in fact that I would like it if someone could call and say, "We will be calling you on February 15 about a new kid."

I actually said February 15, which as you know is today.

So I have this childish, superstitious feeling about today. Wouldn't it be weird if they called today?

I also went back and looked to see how long I typically have between the end of a placement and the first phone call for another. The answer is 10 weeks; which it will be this weekend.

I'm restless. I feel left out. I feel like I should be getting back to work.

Then I think it is probably good that we still have time off. We haven't really settled into Brian's new routine yet. Though it appears to be working well, he recently developed a might case of bronchitis and is missing school again.

The puppy is beginning to look like he might actually get housetrained. He has made it through a couple of days with no accidents at all, and has actually started indicating to people that he would like to go out. Of course he has also started getting into the litter box and figuring out how to keep a 10 pound Shih Tzu puppy out of a litter box while allow an 18 pound matronly, fussy cat and a 6 pound disabled kitten in, is no easy task.

And Evan is ill and may have Mono. If he does he will probably need to come home for a one or two months.

So it is probably a good thing they haven't called yet.

But then I think, "It is weeks between the call and the placement. First I have to read the file and talk to Hubby about it. Then we start the series of visits. Next week is a break week for me. That would be a very good time to go read the file. They should call now."

This whole thing where I don't have total control over my life is annoying.

And then I feel guilty about wishing they would call. If they call, that means something bad has happened, and wouldn't it be better if they didn't need us at all?

Dealing with loss

If you read any of the foster care or foster-to-adopt blogs you probably have already been sent to give Dream Mommy your condolences. Her foster baby died.

I don't think that anyone who has had a child has not dealt with the fear of their child dying. They are such small, fragile creatures. When Andrew was a baby I would wake in the night and go to check to see if he was still breathing.

People who adopt babies, know that the birth mother may change her mind. That is her right and even if we completely accept it, we know it will hurt.

Those of us who do foster care know that children may be reunited with their birth family, or may be placed somewhere else.

When I talk to adults who were fostering children, grief and loss seems to be the worst part for them. If you ask them what was the most difficult they will tell you something like, "when the kids mistreated my parents." However when you talk to them eventually they tell you about the child they became close to and whom they lost, and that is when they will struggle not to cry.

Many of us agree that that is the worst part: loving a child and then completely losing them. It is painful not knowing where they are, if they are okay.

Of course we rarely consider the possibility that they may die in our care.

For the most part, our training tells us how to deal with the children while they are with us. There is little to prepare us for the ways the placements may end.

And it is difficult. It is painful, no matter how it happens.

Dream Mommy is now dealing with that other part of the reality of being the foster mother. We are asked to take children into our homes and our hearts, and we do. But we are not legal parents. We have little to no rights. When children leave our homes, however they leave, our involvement and our ability to stay in contact is decided by the system. We have little recourse.

Though they are not making it easy for her, Dream Mommy is going to be allowed to be involved in the funeral arrangements for the baby girl she loved.

I wish there was something that I could say that would make it easier.

But there is nothing that can make the death of a child easy.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"Foster Aunt" not "Foster Mom"

It worked out really well for me to be Evan's aunt, not mother. It helped him in changing schools. It meant that he was able to answer questions about why he was there in a natural way. He could give just a little, true information about himself and then give more as he got to know people. Telling people that he was living with his aunt and uncle because he was not getting along with his mother or because his mother's boyfriend was a jerk was true. As people got to know him better he could tell them more. He never found himself in an awkward situation where he had to explain why the mother of one story was not the mother in another story.

Of course when he did tell people that he was in foster care they invariably thought he was lucky to have an aunt who worked in the system so that he did not have to go live with strangers. He was always fine with that.

It did help also with his mother's acceptance of where he was and of me. Knowing that I was claiming the position of "aunt" meant that I was not replacing her. She was still the mother. She thanked me more than once for taking care of him for her, and I don't know that she would have been able to do that if she thought that I was trying to take her place.

Increasingly I am becoming uncomfortable with the general practice of identifying foster carers (to use a neutral term) as parents.

Mothers and fathers are supposed to be forever. Of course the children in our care have already had that promise broken once, but does that excuse us doing it again? As long as we are not in the position to promise these children that we will be there forever, should we be telling them that we are their parents?

Some of us will be adopting the children in our care, but even those of us who are on the foster-to-adopt track will care for children whom we do not keep. Do we confuse these children when we call ourselves their parents, and then later say goodbye to them? Do we get in the way of trusting that their adoptive parents, should they be adopted, really are forever parents?

How does a five-year-old conceptualize "I will be your mother for a while"?

The more I think about it, the less comfortable I am with the general practice of foster carers being called "mom" or "dad." There are undoubtedly good reasons for doing it in some particular case or other, but should it be the default position?

I'm not really certain about this, just wondering.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Thoughts and feelings

So...I've been asked a couple of times about what I think about the possibility that Evan would move back in.

First, I am trying to hold off on thinking or feeling much of anything, because I don't know for certain whether he will need to leave Scotland ahead of schedule. The original plan was, as you know, that he would move in with his grandmother or aunt (who live close together) in July. He then had two incompatible plans: work at the computer hardware plant where is aunt does or go to the tech program at the university.

If he does have to come home early he may want to stay with me for a while. He feels that his grandmother and aunt cannot afford to support him and he would not want to live there if he was too sick to work. My prediction is that he would want to recuperate with me and then move in with one of them, which is fine with me. Like I said, I am trying not to think too much about it, but I am failing miserably at that. These are the thoughts and feelings that push their way into my consciousness before I bat them away again.

"It would be good to see him for a while and I have always said that any of the boys can come back when they are sick or when they need a place to be during transitions. I have warned them that I am not likely to be able to support them for extended periods of time, but they are welcome."

"I guess it is a good thing we never got Brian's old stuff out of his room. Evan won't be able to go back into his old room. He will have to stay in Brian's old one. It is smaller and currently a horrible mess. He can rest while surrounded with toys and children's books and junk. AND Brian is now home every day at 11:00am. Nope. Evan won't have a large room and an empty house to himself. He will probably be motivated to get well and move on. That's good."

"Dear lord, Brian and Evan would be home every afternoon together. How miserable will they make each other? How miserable with they make me?"

"I wonder if he is telling me the whole truth. I predicted at one point that he would only make it two or three months. He has never managed to get along with supervisors and co-workers. He is probably not lying about being sick, but the sickness could be a good excuse for him and his supervisor to put things to an end."

"Or maybe he is not sick. Maybe he is using again. Mono makes you sleepy. Codeine makes you sleepy. He did not say that he has mono, only that the meds the doctor gave him did not cure him and now they are going to test for Mono. Or maybe it is the alcohol. He says he has been drinking. He has been bragging about how much he has been drinking. Maybe that is really the problem. Should I let him come back? If I do, should I insist on a UA? A visit to the rehab counselor? Can I trust him alone in the house?"

"Maybe I should go to a meeting and call my sponsor."

Evan's not well

Evan wrote to tell me he has been sick for a while. The doctor told him that he might have "Glandular Fever" for turns out to be Brit for "Infection Mononucleosis."

The woman who runs the place says if he has it he can't work with the kids, which I think means that he can stay there.

That makes sense to me. She really can't risk everyone else getting sick.

He is waiting for the blood test to come back.

I reminded him that this is why he bought trip insurance.

I don't know if he is going to want to come back to my house (probably) or if he will move in with his grandmother or aunt.

We will see.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A thought experiment

Another rescued draft. Originally written 1/4/07


What if heterosexuals were not easy to identify?

Imagine if everyone was closeted. A man and a woman live next door to me and there are children there too, but I am too polite to assume anything. What they do, or don't do, in their bed(s) is none of my business. Everyone is a little vague about their private lives; people talk a little about their "partner" but they are careful not to let any pronouns slip. We all somehow manage to live this way. People from far away tells us that our lives seems strange, but we tell them that we are not sure we like the way they live in their country. People's private lives are their own business.

Got it?

Now there are a lot of things we could do with this imaginary country, but today I want to do just one thing. Let's be researchers wanting to know more about heterosexuals. What are they like? How do they live? What issues do they face?

The problem is, of course, that we have to FIND them first. It possible that they are all around us, but it is not like they wear signs on their foreheads.

It is clear that we have to go where the heterosexuals go. Where, we ask each other do heterosexuals congregate? Someone suggests Home Depot and we all laugh, but agree that is a stereotype. We need to find a place where heterosexuals are comfortable "flaunting" their sexuality. Some place where you can tell. We need a place that is defined by heterosexual activity. where do heterosexuals go to meet other heterosexuals? We pack up and head off to singles bars and any other place that is intended to meet the needs of heterosexuals as heterosexuals. We go to places where heterosexuals get their sexual needs met, because those are the only places where we are confident that we will find heterosexuals.

Of course, what we find is a more than a little disturbing. They seemed very concerned about sex, for instance. They don't seem to have complete lives. We find a few couples, but most people seem to be alone looking perhaps for a long-term partner, or maybe just for a sex partner. They don't seem to be very successful in relationships. Very few of the people we interview have been in a steady relationship for more than five years.

What sad, lonely, desperate lives they lead.

And so we ask ourselves, "Are these really the people we want teaching and raising children?"


Okay, so I'm not certain that is what it would really look like, but I am sure of one thing. The more closeted a group of people are forced to be, the more difficult it will be to get an accurate understanding of how diverse they are. What we probably won't see are the people who are at home, trying to keep up with the laundry and helping the kids with their homework.

And if we forget that, if we forget the factors that affected how we choose our sample to begin with, we will come to some very wrong conclusions.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

"It took me years to figure out what a foster child was"

My agency sent me to a meeting the other day. It was long, and interesting. Being the studious person I am, I found the main parts really interesting and was bored and frustrated by the "fun" things they put in between the serious parts to keep us awake and entertained, but that is not the point.

There were foster parents, foster alum, and one birth mother who had a child she had successfully got back from foster care a couple of years ago. There were supposed to be two birth parents, but that did not work out.

We talked about plans the agency had and gave them some feedback. It was interesting.

I surprised myself by bursting out into tears when they talked about the goals of helping kids to finish high school and get post secondary education and training. I was thinking about Miss E, about how she plans to walk away on her 18th birthday this summer, about how she thinks she will be able to finish high school and go to college with just the transitional services the agency will offer. I blubbered out, "But what is the use of all the services we offer them if they just walk away? What can we offer them that they will take?"

Though I learned many interesting things, I got a perspective from the alumni that I had never thought about before.

See, I deal with teenagers. In my agency the kids are presented with a document that describes their rights and responsibilities. When they come into the agency there is a meeting where everything is explained to them: what this agency is all about; what is expected of them; what services they will get; who all the people are who work there. They aren't officially admitted into the program until they sign a documents detailing the rights and responsibilities of the workers, the youth, and the parents. They sometimes get confused about what they can expect and what they can't, but by the time I get them, they are pretty savvy about the system in general and this agency in particular.

But the alumni at the meeting explained that when they were little no one told them that they were foster children. They figured it out by listening to the adults talk to each other. They experimented a little with telling people that they were foster kids, trying it out to see what people said and how they reacted. Invariably they were asked why they were in foster care. They did not know.

They did not know what they had to do so that they could go home again, and it was obvious to them that there must be something they were supposed to do. If they could just figure what it was that all these adults who suddenly appeared and had so much power over them wanted from them, they might be able to do it and go back home. But nobody every explained it to them. Nobody every told them what foster care was, how it worked, or what might happen to them.

So they made up their answers, and of course came up with nightmare versions.

I know that foster parents often neglect to tell their birth kids why kids are in foster care and how the system works, but it had not occurred to me that there was no place in the process during which the foster kids were told what was going on.

Of course these were women in their late twenties.

Maybe it is better now?

Does anyone know?

Do we explain anything to kids?

I want to hope that it is so...but FosterAbba's experience with Danielle does not encourage.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

My family demographic

A while back I got questions/comments from two different readers.

One asked why my boys were predominantly white. Another why I didn't take girls.

The short answer is that these are the kids that I get asked to take. I get asked to take them because (1) they come out and (2) their current families have trouble with their sexuality.

I know there are girls who come out, but from what I can tell, the families who typically take teenage girls around here cope fairly well with that. They are prehaps not as welcoming as we are, but their main reaction seems to be, "At least they won't get pregnant."

At least two (I have been told "several") girls in my agency have come out as lesbians and then later "ended up" in relationships with men. The social workers have therefore expressed hesitancy about the idea of placing any teenage girls with us -- seeing as we have a straight-identified teenage boy in the house. The trust Andrew, but there are certain situations they just don't want to set up. Certainly they would insist that Brian move his room back down stairs and any girl would have to be upstairs with us.

That two of my three boys are white is probably misleading. Twice we were asked to take Mexican American gay boys who ended up not getting into the program after all. One was sent back to his mother and the other I never got the story on, but I think he ran away.

I think though that part of what is going on is reflective of whatever factors affect the GLBT community in general. Questions whose answers I can only guess at:

Why do girls generally come out just a little later than boys?

Why, even though I live in a community that is nearly half Mexican American, do I almost never seen anyone who is not white at GLBT/PFLAG community events?

I don't know the answers to these questions.

What may you ask your parents for?

I invite you to ask yourself that question. When you were fifteen, what was it okay to ask for? How about when you were twenty? Or forty?

I'm in my early forties. Without going discussing all of the family history and reasons why these things are so. These are the rules.

I don't ask my mother for money at all period. Not even when I was in college. I can however send her a box of fabric and she will send me back a box of blouses. I can also send her all the pieces for a quilt that I cut out not quite right and she will do her magic thing and make it all work and send me back a quilt. When my boys were small, they wore very little that she did not make. I can also turn to her for emotional support no matter what. In short, my mother will give me anything other than money.

If I ask my father to pay for something, he will. I cannot count on him for anything else.

My husband's parents were willing to help us out when we were both in graduate school. They bought us glasses, and an infant car seat for example. There was never any emotional baggage associated with it. Even now I call Hubby's dad if I have any questions about anything that has to do with money.

Now this post is not really about my family. It is about the fact that Hubby and I know, before we ask, whether our parents will say yes to our requests. We know what they are comfortable being asked and how often we can do it.

We know what the rules are.

Foster kids, older adopted kids, don't know what the rules are. They don't know how much money you normally spend on birthday presents. As young adults they don't know what they may ask you for and what they may not. And of course they don't want to be told no.

We just had along, awkward conversation with Carl. He told us how difficult life has been for him recently. He has not had any ID and though he has taken steps to get it, it has not come through and he is really struggling. He was clearly presenting us with his problems and waiting to see what we would offer to do. It was awkward for both of us.

Hubby and I are not in a position to pay his bills. Years ago he asked us to co-sign a lease and we said no. We said no because there was no way that we could afford that liability. I am fairly certain that if I had offered to send him $500 he would have accepted. That however is not something that I can afford to do. And I think he knew that we would not, could not, do that, but he did not know how to figure out what he could ask for.

He didn't know what the rules are.

So we had an awkward conversation.

We offered to bring him home so that he could more easily replace his ID, but he really didn't want that. He loves us, and would like to visit us sometime, he really doesn't want to come home.

He said that he was considering moving to another city, and I told him that I could buy him a bus ticket to that city, but he did not want that either.

I told him that I thought he did want something from me, but that I needed him to tell me what.
He said that he was just feeling lousy and wanted some moral support. So I told him honestly how proud I was of him, how courageous I thought he had been, how wonderful it was that he had been doing so much, working so hard at taking care of himself. We talked about the things he wanted to do with his life and I expressed confidence in him. I reminded him he was not too old to apply for to the foster care agency for financial help with his educational goals. He began to feel better.

I know he appreciated hearing all of that, and though he said that was what he wanted, I suspected he had been hoping for more.

And then I told him the rules. The rules that my parents and Hubby's parents did not have to tell us because we grew up with them.

"Carl, I want you to know that I am not comfortable giving you money to pay your monthly bills. It is not something that I can really afford to do at a level that would make a difference for you. I need you to be able to do that yourself. I can always help bring you home for a while, but I can't pay your bills where you are."

"Oh I know. It's not like you are made of money!"

"But I also want you to know, that if there are particular things you need, it is okay to ask. I might not be able to help, but I might. I can do things like buy bus tickets. If you have one-time expenses for things you need, I want you to ask."

After a pause he finally said, "You know, there is something. I really need new glasses."

I told him to find an economical place where he could get a quality pair of glasses and then give me their information. I would call them and tell them to bill me. We both understood that if I sent him cash it would not get spent on glasses. He was pleased. That was actually a couple of weeks ago, and he has not contacted me about glasses, although he may in the future. The point was not really the glasses, it was finally getting the rules straight. It made him feel good to know in advance what he can count on from us and what he can't.

It's something that I have to remind myself of over and over again. Families have unspoken rules about a thousands of things.

Is it okay to ask to make oneself a sandwich instead of eating what someone has made for dinner?

May you eat in the living room?

Is not flushing the toilet in the middle of the night gross, or is flushing it rude because it wakes up the light sleeper in the room next to the bathroom?

One family treats fast food as junk which is sometimes indulged in with a sort of guilty pleasure. Rather like eating ice cream for dinner. Another regards fast food restaurants as an ordinary part of life.

These things fall into the back ground of our lives. We forget that other families have different rules.

And we forget that when we have older adopted or fostered children we need to actually TELL them what the rules are.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Unexpected advantages to PFLAG status

So imagine that you have been married for a long time (21 years) to a man whom you completely and totally trust. Imagine though that he is mentoring a new colleague who seems really needy. She calls him at home to ask questions about the paper work almost every day. They have long conversations. Knowing how secure and trusting you are, he has no qualms about telling you all about her: how good she is at what she does; how funny she is.

And you are not jealous or worried because you are not that kind of person. Of course the idea that someone else would worry does occur to you. And then your husband decides to tell her about his and your involvement in PFLAG, and then she decides he is safe and introduces the two of you to her girlfriend.

Now aren't you glad you were the sort of person she felt safe coming out to in this conservative town?

Not that you were ever worried, of course.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Owed to A Spell Checker

You may have seen this before:

Owed to A Spell Checker

Eye halve a spell checker
It came with my pea sea.
It plainly Marx four my revue
Miss steaks Eye kin knot sea.
Eye strikes a key and type a word
and weight four it two say
Weather eye is wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrongs.
Eye has run this poem threw it
Eye am shore your pleased too no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My checker tolled me sew.

The parents we planned on being

Another rescued draft. I don't know what prompted me to write this. Had there been some particular thing going on? Was that why I did not publish it, because it felt incomplete without the confession of whatever I had done?

Oh well, if there was a particular something, I no longer know what it was. So here you are:

I may have already shared this, but when Andrew was a baby there was a game that I and the other young mothers would play. It wasn't an organized game; it was something like telling fishing stories.

Instead of starting with "The bigggest fish I ever..." our stories started with, "The thing I said I would never do was..."

Perhaps the best entry was the woman who said that she would never do three things: yell at her children; use TV as a babysitter; or give them chocolate. Of course just the day before her small son had been underfoot while she was cooking and she found herself handing him a chocolate cookie and yelling, "Take this and go watch the TV until dinner is ready!"

All three in one swoop.

Yep. Before we have children, however we get them, we read the books. We also watch other parents and judge them. How many times did you say, "When I am a parent I will never do that..."

My big one was that I was never going to drive a child around just to make them fall asleep. Then came the day when I was at my end and Andrew, then a toddler, was screaming and exhausted and wouldn't sleep, and I knew he would fall asleep in two minutes in the car. I picked him up and went for a short drive. (Fortunately for my health and the environment, the only thing that would make Brian fall asleep when he was a baby who could not sleep was being rocked or pushed around in the stroller.)

So, like us all, I am not the parent I planned on being.

I had planned on being so much more patient, and creative. I think I even hoped that I would stop enjoying quiet solo activities like quilting and reading (and blogging) and suddenly take joy out of going on bike rides with my kids. No, I probably knew I wasn't going to change that. But I was always going to say the right thing. I was never going to snap at them. I was never going to do any of the things other parents did that were so wrong.

But my vision was built with incomplete data.

With nearly every other job in the world you get time off. I did not realize how exhausted I would get.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Miss E plans to move

This morning Miss E told me that Annabelle to her that she would be moving soon and she should keep her things organized and prepared.

I sighed and said, "That's what you have been demanding for a while, isn't it?"

Miss E claimed to be surprised. She said that she didn't think that they were going to move her as they kept telling her that they liked Annabelle and she should be able to work things out with her.

"If you want to keep trying, I'm sure your social worker will help you talk to Annabelle about it. I think that Annabelle's is the best place for you. I would like to see it work."

But no, Annabelle and she never did get along. Annabelle doesn't understand her. She knows she could talk to her more, but the other girl talks to her and Annabelle doesn't understand her either; she just listens.

This is why I doubt I could be a social worker. I suppose there are joys and rewards too, but seeing kids self-destruct like this on a regular basis is difficult. I only see one or two a year. Imagine having to deal with it all the time.

Miss E has done this to everyone. She has verbally abused every person she has lived with. She has told everyone who will listen that they are not fit to raise a dog. She has demanded that she be moved. She has made the lives of the other children miserable. And then the adults have said, "Okay, we will move you." An exhausted, hurt foster or even adoptive mother has cried and let go.

And then Miss E says, "She never did understand me. She never tried. I knew she didn't like me from the beginning."

And my heart breaks to watch it happening.


I want to cry out, "Why? Why does this happen?"

But I know why. The kids are traumatized. They are afraid to let people close. If they trust, open up, they risk being hurt again. So they push people away. They push with everything they have.

And they wear us out. We try to just keep going, but sometimes we can't. For many of us the line is the other children. You can make me miserable; you just have to be respectful of the other children.

And so we give up. We say, "Okay. You can go. I will let you leave."

And the child says, "See. I knew you would give up on me. Everyone has."

Miss E settles

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Call re: Miss E

On Thursday (or was it Wednesday?) I decided I would tell Miss E that she was welcome to spend weekends with us. I told her that I was not certain that she would like living with the puppy, but that I would be happy to have her for weekends.

I did not add, "but I can't take you as a permanent placement." I was hoping for more conversation, but she was feeling sick and did not want to talk about anything.

On Friday Miss E was so much better with me. She was her old self again. She laughed while she told me that her boss was looking for someone who could be tough and everyone pointed at her. Somehow that moved us into a story about someone how she had to stop someone at work from doing something stupid. I told her that if she wanted to spend the weekend sometime she should give me some advance warning because I would have to get Brian's old room ready as he had moved to Evan's old room.

Miss E expressed her preference for Evan's old room, which I agreed was nicer.

I wrote to the social worker to tell her that Miss E was more cheerful than she had been in a while.

Tonight I got a call from Annabelle. She spoke with the other girl in the house and has told her not to wake up Miss E or even knock on her door to tell her that I am there. If she doesn't come out I can call her on her cell phone. If she doesn't answer I may knock on the door and talk to her myself, but the other girl is not to interact with her.

I'm not so certain about the whole getting out of the car and going into talk to her. I'm more inclined to just wait a certain amount of time and drive away. I mean I don't want to fight with her either.

Though Friday I was more hopeful that Miss E's attitude was improving, I am feeling more discouraged after listening to Annabelle.

She's wore out. She is tired of Miss E's constant verbal abuse or her and the other girl. She is tired of Miss E's princess attitude, her refusal to contribute to the household, her insistence that everyone else is stupid, lazy, and inconsiderate while she has not faults whatsoever.

Annabelle is just waiting for the social worker to find Miss E a new home.

It is so sad.

There is a theoretical possibility that Miss E will be convinced that her only options are to move to the middle of nowhere or start getting along with the people she lives with, and then will choose the second option.

But what are the chances? I mean really.

And there is nothing that I can do except try to be sympathetic with Miss E and watch it happen.

Miss E plans to move

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The need is still there

So just when I begin to doubt if we really need to be reserving our room for GLBT kids I go read another article over at Republic of T.

Getting the word out on us

Dcholer writes:

Does the agency have any language in their materials for the kids that
indicates that there are families [note the optimistic plural, here] who
specifically take LGBT youth? I am thinking about the scared and/or closeted
kids who might take a step towards you if they didn't think that they were
stepping off a ledge without a net. You are a net - do they know that you are
there?I seem to be floundering in a sea of cliche, so I shall stop.

There is nothing so specific, and there would be problems for there to be such a comment.

There are posters that announce that GLBT kids have the right to be safe. Many social workers have some sort of "safe zone" poster in their offices. It is mentioned more than once in brochures and literature.

The emphasis however is, rightly, on the assertion that kids have the right to be safe in all families. Diversity education is required of all the families and issues of sexuality are discussed, even emphasized. They work hard to make families understand that they can no more condemn a gay kid for being gay than a black kid for being black. If they refuse to keep a child based upon the kid's sexual orientation, they risk losing their license.

The solution for GLBT kids should not be to move them, yet again, to another home. If the system works they way it should, we should have to wait for a very long time before we get another kid. We should have to wait until one of the kids who need to be moved for other reasons just happens also to be gay.

So let's take the boy on the photo listings. It says that he has become close to his foster mother and she describes him as having a sensitive heart. If he is admitted to the permanency program his current foster parents will be invited to get licensed in the program so that they can keep him. There are many families who prefer not to work with this program. People who work with the private agency that takes kids with more severe behavioral problems sometimes find it very difficult to work with both at the same time. Some state families don't want the extra required training.

But if they don't have a specific reason to object to coming into the program, they will. And whatever his sexual orientation, he will not be told of us, or I of him.

And that is as it should be. The emphasis of the agency is and should be on making all families safe for all kids.

So I wonder whether and when a family with a commitment like ours will be unnecessary or even inconvenient. At what point would it be so much better if we would just accept whatever kid fit into our family, regardless of sexual orientation?

The Education of Brian, IV: settling in

We are beginning to slip into a pattern.

So far Brian has been much better. He has been happy and co-operative. He does have to be reminded to do his work, but he'll do it.

Yesterday he did not get much school work finished as we spent several hours seeing the doctor about his injured arm. It had been splinted for a week and hurt him mightily. He was convinced there had to be a break and that no one was believing him. X-rays offered no evidence. The emergency room doctor had said that injuries to growth plates do not show up on X-rays. Our ever-so-patient family doctor took time to to explain pain from joints that had stiffened from eight days in a splint, what the absence of bruising and swelling implied. Brian however was indignant. His wrist and elbow hurt and no one would do anything.

I took him home and, tired of listening to him complain, I let him retreat to the game room far from me and his school work. A couple hours later he came upstairs elated to tell me that his arm felt fine. He had forced himself to move it and worked the stiffness out of it and it didn't hurt! He seemed amazed to realize that the doctor had been right.

I told him that I was glad he was feeling better and sent him to work on his on-line science class. He did work the work I assigned him, finishing the first unit with a respectable grade. I let him quit then, but he did his social science (geography) homework and daily writing first thing this morning.

It has just been one week, but so far it has been going well.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Eight weeks

That's how long it has been since Evan left: eight weeks.

There has been no phone call. The other day the family developer sent me an email asking if I had heard from Evan. She was chatty and in my return email I even asked if there were prospects. She never responded.

That's good right? That means that the gay kids are all safe, right?

Or does it mean they are closeted and afraid?

Or does her not responding mean that there is a possibility, but not one that she can tell me about yet? Or does it mean, like it very well could, that there is no prospect yet and, having no answer, she just didn't bother to email me back?

Actually I knew it was going to be months. I think that I said that I wanted them to not call until the middle of Feburary, but that I wanted to know that is when they were going to call. It is probably better if they don't call until after we all settle into the new routine with Brian. We also have not cleaned out his room. Brian, because of the puppy, moved to Evan's old room next to ours, and Brian's old room, next to Andrew's will be the new kid's room. It is still chock full of old toys and books that Brian claims he does not want. We need to sort, toss, sell, give away, and find new places for what we can't let go of. (Maybe we should call that show where they help you to do it in two days?)

Hubby wants to take care of the room during his Spring Break, which is mid-March, so he is fine with no calls for a while.

I look at the photo listings. Not the way most people do. I look at them and hope they find adoptive homes. Even the ones I am most drawn to I hope I will never see. But some of them I know I will. They may not come to my home, but they will go to permanent foster care.

There is one boy who is sixteen and a half. I look at his profile and think I'll be seeing him at the end of summer picnic the agency has every year. Who adopts sixteen-and-a-half year-old boys? He is probably going through the process to be admitted to the permancy program right now, unless he lives in another part of the state, of course.

And I have a confession. I keep wondering whether to post this. In his profile he says he is not much into sports. He likes art and theatre. Whoever wrote the other part of the profile used the word, "sensitive" twice. I think to myself, if you are, come out! Tell your worker!

Then I slap my hand for stereotyping.

More blogs to read

Jo from Tangled Me tagged me a while ago.* I think I'm supposed to write about my five favorite blogs. I'm not going to do that. I have about 50 blogs on my blog reader and there are about half a dozen that I MUST read when they show up. There are others that I really enjoy and can put off reading until lunch time. There are a few that I haven't quite connected with. They pop up and I wonder, now...which blog was that? What age children do they have?

But I hate hurting anyone's feelings, and so I am not going to tell you who my absolute fav's are.

Instead I am going to tell you about the blogs that I have recently found which I have decided to add to the blog roll. It's more than five.

Oh...and I am not going to tell you a thing about them. I'd rather send you to 'em all. Let's make those traffic counters roll! Everyone of them is fostering or trying to adopt from foster care.

New(ish) to the blogosphere:
My Life in a Foster Care Space Warp
Celebrating All Families
Two Moms Adopting
Adoption Blog

I should have found them months ago:
You Could Always Adopt
Thoughts Preserved
A Foster Mom's Journey
Adopting through Foster Care
Maybe I'm Psychic

Now Jo tells me that I have to leave comments on all these blogs telling them they're tagged. I'm not going to do that. I'm too lazy. It was tough enough putting them here and now I have to go add them all to the blog roll which means that I have to go back and figure out whether they have little kids or big kids or no kids (yet), or change the way I organize my blog roll.

Sigh...don't you just feel so sorry for me?

Also...I'm kinda interested in whether any of them read here. Of course some of you leave comments (thank you). The rest of you though...please let me know if you read this.

AND...please let me know about any more foster or adopting from foster care blog that I don't have on the blogroll.