Friday, November 23, 2007

Ann's Story

At one point there were about 50 posts on this blog about Ann. I created them from emails I had written to a friend and so social workers. They told the story of her short placement with us. I moved them to the private blog at a time when it seemed wise to do so. At this point I would have no trouble with moving them back, but I know of know easy way to do it, so I shan't.

But I mention her often, and I decided to write a post giving the whole story.

Ann came into care at age five. She had a rough time of it and was finally taken by my friend Mandy (who became my friend only at the end of the story I am telling you) when Ann was seven. After a couple of years they tried to adopt her and her reactivity became genuinely frightening. She did things that could have resulted in serious injury to her, Mandy and the others who lived in the home.

So in 2000, when Ann was ten, she was brought into the permanency program. Mandy and her husband and worked for them before but had to come back for the new training. That's how we met, in our foster parent trainings. I think everyone in that class had some experience. We were not even far enough along to be naive. I did not think that we would bring Carl into our home and fix him with love. I didn't think he needed fixing. I just liked him and knew he needed a place to live. But I digress.

I don't know when I first started doing respite care for Ann, but it was soon and pretty regular. Mandy and her husband are in a therapeutic program and take girls who are chronic runaways or just out of rehab, or otherwise extremely difficult to place. Their program offers 4 days of respite a month, and most of the parents I know who work in the program take it. They need to. The girls are only supposed to be there for 6 months or less, but some stay for years.

In any case, after Carl left we knew that things were getting tough for Ann at home. She was fighting with the other girls more. At this point we had worked up to the point where we could be naive. She was always good at our house, and so I concluded that the problem was Mandy's house. We talked to the social workers and told them that if Ann needed a place, we wanted to provide it.

We got a call in December of 2002 telling us that Ann had got into a "bad" fight and could she come over now. We said yes.

That was just supposed to be an emergency respite but it turned into three months. There was talk of her being placed with us, but more talk about the possibility that we would set up a "circle of families" for Ann. Mandy and I would share her. Mandy and I both thought it might work and we still both agree that it should have been tried. It wasn't. During that time Mandy told Ann every time she saw her that she was fighting to get her back, which I understood. My position with Ann though was increasingly difficult. Ann had attachment problems anyway, but any affection or happiness she felt with us made her feel disloyal to Mandy. Ann started insisting that she be sent back.

Everything at home just kept getting worse. Andrew told us how difficult it was for him. Brian's teacher and the mother of his best friend expressed concern for how Brian was withdrawing. I called the social worker and said I would keep working on it, but they should have a back-up plan. That was, I think, on a Thursday.

The next Monday, Hubby took her in for an appointment at the agency. She laid into him, in front of the social workers so loudly and with such venom that Carl called us the next day from Job Corps to see if we were okay. There had been another youth from Job Corps in the building and the story he heard about it frightened him.

Of course what the social workers saw was a girl who was demonstrating her willingness to do whatever she had to do to be moved. Tuesday they called to say she would be moving as soon as possible. Wednesday they told me to take her back to Mandy.

She was able to stick it out there until the beginning of the next school year, and then she was sent to a residential treatment facility. While she was gone Mandy and her husband were convinced that the best thing for her was to let her go and perhaps be adopted by someone else. I was able to remain in contact with Ann for a while, even when Mandy wasn't. It was clear to everyone, including me and Ann, that Ann was never going to live with us. So it was thought not to be confusing for her.

She went through multiple placements. She was never adopted.

In the past few years I have gone through times when I hear from her regularly and stetches where I do not hear from her at all. She will be 18 in June.


  1. On Foster Club there is this thing called a Permanency Pact for kids aging out of foster care... where if they have a special adult in their life, they can make a pact that that person will always be in their lives and help them if they need it... not like being adopted, exactly, but like having a relative or close friend who is willing to talk, show how to do laundry, help find a job, etc. Maybe if more older kids could have a permanency pact with someone, growing up without ever being adopted wouldn't be so bad... because they wouldn't be alone in the world.

  2. Yondalla, I've been slowly reading back through your blog, and my respect and admiration for you and your family has grown with each post. I've wondered about Ann, and expected that at some point I would come across her story. I hadn't yet, so thank you for this synopsis. You have all been through some really intense relationships and situations, and these words may be empty from an internet stranger, but I am floored by your ability to heal enough each time to keep putting one foot ahead of the other. There is a "wise vulnerability" in your posts, and I'm really into it.

    I'm almost 25, and have been obsessed with adoption and foster-care most of my life. I'm the oldest of 12 bio kids, and when I was 4, there was a little girl who almost came to live with us in an informal-to-be-made formal foster placement. She was 7, and troubled, but I worshiped her. Things didn't work out, some distant bio relatives came and took her away, but I have never forgotten her. Later things got rough on and off in my family and we had limited dealings with CPS et al and I lived in fear of us being taken away and split up. In time, while still living at home, I think I became a sort of foster parent to the younger kids within my birth family. Whether these experiences are the origin of my interest, I don't know, but I've been reading adoption and fostercare blogs (international adoption was my gateway drug) for several years now. I started with Baggage and have slowly been reading my way across the internet. I am very glad I found your blog. If my own life ever stabilizes enough, I plan to become a foster parent. In the meantime I am doing that extended-young-adult thing and trying to figure out what to do with my life. I'm working on some pre-med courses but my mind often wanders back to the idea of going into social work. Everyone I know screams bloody murder that it's the worst idea they've ever heard of, but the more I read in the blogs the more I feel that there's as much of a need for sane caseworkers as there is for sane foster families.

    Do you know of any SW who have blogs? I imagine it would be hard with the whole confidentiality thing, but I really have no way of finding out what life as a social worker is really like. I know it's demanding, draining, difficult, bogged down with bureaucracy and paperwork and a completely f'd up system--these things people are more than happy to tell me. But it must be doable on some level. People do it. Can you do it and stay human, or do you have to grow some kind of horrible exoskeleton to be able to keep on? Reading about the foster parents who keep on and keep human in the face of terrible things gives me hope that a SW could do it, too.

    Anyway, this delurking comment is way too long and mostly about me, but I wanted to say hi, and thanks most of all.

  3. Amanda,
    Process has a blog -- I have a fairly long blog roll and she is in the bottom section of "alumni and social workers." She is actually the only SW there right now.

    Thank you for your kind words. I do appreciate them.

    I wanted to email you privately, but your profile is set to hide your email. Feel free to send an email if you want to chat further.

    I will tell you here that your story has a familiar ring to it.


Comments will be open for a little while, then I will be shutting them off. The blog will stay, but I do not want either to moderate comments or leave the blog available to spammers.