Thursday, September 13, 2007

Frankie's Mom

Email from me to social worker: "Do you know if Frankie's mom was given our phone number? It is still okay with me, although maybe (with Frankie's permission) we should give her his cell phone number."

Email from social worker to me 30 minutes later: "I just gave 'Emily' both of Frankie's numbers. How is he doing in school?"


And so why do I feel like crying? It occurs to me that I might be angry that the social worker gave Frankie's cell phone number without asking his permission, but I know that he would have agreed without hesitation. I cannot work up anger over that.

I know that I wish I had said that I would rather she had not given the house number, if it wasn't too late. I'm afraid. Not that she will do something mean or dangerous. I am just afraid of dealing with her. I had fantasy that she would only have Frankie's number. She would only talk to him and she would never be quite real for me. If she upset him, I could change Frankie's cell number. I would have the power of drawing a curtain around us.

But I have been assured, and I do believe the assurance, that she is no danger to him or to us. The worst things she may do is promise to visit or call and then not show up. I don't want to measure how bad that would be to Frankie, but it is clear that it is not something that is dangerous to me.

I read Dawn's article about meeting Jessica, and like Baggage today, I am jealous of their relationship. I want to be chosen by my children's mothers.

Sometimes I think it is ethically easier for those of use who care for children from foster care. We can tell ourselves that the children are better off. The children we love were once physically abused, neglected, abandoned. They were traumatized. Now they are safe and nurtured. Surely we foster parents are angels of mercy.

But talk to Frankie and ask him what was the worst day of his life, and he will tell you it was the day when the police, the people from the government he had been taught to fear, came and bodily took him from his father. He will tell you about how he struggled and fought, about how many people it took to carry him off, about how his father cursed and cried and struggled with even more police officers.

And if you ask him if he wasn't better off afterwards, he will look at you like you are crazy. He went to live with people he did not know. People who told him he was safe and then told him he was a pervert when he shared that he really wanted to be a girl. He was forbidden to be alone with other children. He was forced to attend school. He was sent to a high-security group home.

He was angry and afraid and with every expression of that anger he went some place with tighter security.

If you ask, he will say that he likes our house. He likes that he can eat when he wants, that we purchase rye bread that no one likes but him. He likes that we accept that he wants to be a girl. And he is increasingly frustrated and confused by all the people who say they support him and then tell him that he can't see a doctor to get hormonal treatment.

And if you ask about his parents, he will tell you about all the marvelous things his father taught him. He will smile about how frustrating it can be to live with someone who, it must be confessed, was crazy, but it was a whole lot more fun than the places the governtment put him. Yes, his father hit him sometimes, but he was not as mean and controlling as the people at the institution.

And his mother? He is proud of his mother. He will tell you of her accomplishments, though he will acknowledge that it was difficult to move around so much. And do you want to see pictures of his sisters? He doesn't have recent ones, not good ones, but do you want to see them? He misses his sisters.

And me? I am not the heroine of his story. I'm the best thing to happen to him since he was kidnapped.

No, there is no ethical high ground in foster care. Whether it was the first family or the state or both who traumatized these children, we are privileged to parent these kids only because someone else hurt them.

But for me it was easier with the others. The decisions that resulted in Carl, David, and Evan being separated from their mothers had been made, and not by me. Perhaps they were unjust. Perhaps they were the best decisions that could be made given the injustices of the world. But in any case they were in the past. I was presented with a child who had no home to go to. Would I open mine?

But things with Frankie are so much more difficult.

And I did not sign up for this. I never tell anyone, including myself, that they should not talk about how difficult it is because "after all, they signed up for it." Signing up for it doesn't mean ... well it doesn't mean much of anything.

But not signing up for it ... I find myself thinking it. Wanting to tell people.

I did not sign up for this!

I did not ask for a child who might be taken away and given to his real, natural, true mother. I can believe with my whole heart that if his mother can parent him then she should. I can believe that it is best for him.

But I cannot want it.

I cannot love this child and hope he leaves.

I cannot.

I am afraid of his mother. I am afraid of how she will speak to me. Is there any chance that she will see me as a benevolent figure who offered security to her child while she fought to get him back? Or will she see me as part of the forces who work to separate her from the child she gave birth to, sang to sleep at night, whose accomplishments she celebrated and over whose agonies she wept?

I believe that if she is able to parent, she should. I believe that Frankie will be better off reunited with a mother who never stopped loving him, who fought the state to get him back. I can believe that the right thing was for me to have just a few months to show him possibilities that are waiting for him.

I believe Emily should know where her son is. She should be able to call him on the phone.

And I gave permission for her to have our phone number.

And now she has it.

And I want to cry.


  1. This post is exactly how I am feeling lately. For me, it comes down to being imperfect, and while my imperfect isn't as imperfect as Mom's was and will be, my imperfect is acceptable because no one is perfect. With my own kids, I'm okay with not being perfect, but with someone else's children it just isn't right.

    What is going on with the TPR on Frankie? Something doesn't add up.

  2. Seems like it's going around... i'm lucky that the kids i take are young enough that they can't really talk with their parents so i don't get too many calls.

    and the moms i've worked with have all just been young and immature, not really dangerous or anything.

  3. "I can believe with my whole heart that if his mother can parent him then she should. I can believe that it is best for him.

    But I cannot want it.

    I cannot love this child and hope he leaves.

    I cannot."

    This is making me cry my eyes out. I love it. Exactly how I feel.

  4. I feel very fortunate that "Danielle's" mother has been out of the picture from day one. Although we never met "Ana's" mother, what I heard about her terrified me, as she had an extensive criminal history. I met "Belinda's" mother, and have nothing nice to say about her.

    Our county does not force contact between foster and biological families, and I'm glad for that. I don't think I could stand it.

    And my heart goes out to you for having to worry about it. It would be so much nicer if kids weren't placed in homes until all the decisions were permanently made. But I guess that's what foster care is -- we give the children a safe place to stay until the ubiquitous "they" figure it all out.

    Feel a hug, my friend.

  5. This is the hardest thing when caring for another person's child.

    Very very few people understood that we could not wish that Baby R's mother would fail her program, disappear, etc... How could I wish that. My heart was torn in two pieces. The part that wanted her to succeed and be reunited with this wonderful child. The other part that was so much in love with these big brown eyes and that wide grin.

    My heart goes out to you. I understand what it means to be so split and yet mean both those things.


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