Sunday, November 23, 2008

Reservations of Partners

Anonymous asks, "How would you recommend dealing with "partnered with someone who doesn't want to do it." That is my biggest stumbling block."

You can't do foster care.

It really isn't different than if you want to have a baby and your partner doesn't. It is such a big thing that you really both have to be ready and committed for it to work.

Having said that, there were certainly times when Roland was less interested in continuing than I was. When Carl needed a home, he was fully on board. After that he was less interested in continuing. He agreed to do respite though any maybe if there was a particular kid who was right for us, he might change his mind, but he really didn't think he would. He agreed to take Ann because he was attached to her. When that ended he didn't want to get any calls for at least a while. After a couple of months we met David, and Roland was won over. He really liked him. For Roland making the move to a particular kid required knowing him. He needs an emotional connection to a kid. For a long time I needed to be sneaky and set up "chance" meetings between Roland and potential new kids so that he could make that connection.

So, though your partner doesn't want to do it now doesn't mean that he or she will never decide otherwise. They have to move there sincerely though, and whether that can happen will depend on why they don't want to do it. Maybe it is something that can be addressed. And even if they don't change their mind, it doesn't mean that you can't get involved with kids who need help though. You can volunteer for Big Sisters/Big Brothers. Contact your local foster parent association and see if there are any volunteer activities you can participate in. Try to form relationships with foster parents and see what you can do on your own.

Foster kids can be hard on a relationship. The kids will often try to triangulate -- get between you and your partner. There are many things that you can do that don't require the commitment of a partner. Adopting a pet is a major commitment, but even that can be done by one person in a relationship. You can feed, walk, exercise, and train the dog and keep it out of your relationship with your partner, if you are willing to work that hard. You just can't do that with a child. Both of you have to be committed to doing it and working as a team.

And if you are not there yet, then you are just not there yet.

13 comments:

  1. Anonymous2:22 PM

    What advice would you have for someone who realized this after committing to a foster child?

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  2. I wish I could help you anonymous, but this is too complex for advice. There are too many details that could fill this out in too many different ways.

    How could someone commit to a child without being certain their partner is on board? Would anyone buy a house or accept a job without talking to their partner first? If they did, what does that say about the relationship? Is a child well-served by living with someone who does this?

    Or did the partner back out, saying he or she was willing until it became a reality?

    I'm even confused about how it is that such a commitment could be made. If someone is partnered they shouldn't be able to be licensed without the other being interviewed and background checked, at the very least. So what sort of commitment was it?

    I imagine me impulsively telling Carl that we would become his new family and THEN talking to Roland. If Roland had said no I would have had to apologize to Carl. I had made a promise I had no right to make and couldn't keep. Carl would have coped. Most kids in care are accustomed to disappointment.

    But I am just spinning stories here trying to make the question make sense. I could easily have the details wrong.

    In another scenario-- if my sister's kids had been taken into foster care and I told my sister I would take them and my husband said no to that, well, I would have to seriously consider whether my commitment to my husband or my nieces and nephew was more important to me.

    I have no advice for this hypothetical person.

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  3. Yondalla, I read the question differently. I thought Anonymous meant that both partners originally wanted to do foster care, but that after they had met and committed to a child one of them changed their minds and wanted to back out. Not that one of them was opposed from the beginning.

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  4. Yeah, I can see that. It is an odd question, so many ways it could be filled out.

    I still don't know exactly what to say. It is still the sort of thing that two people can't do unless they are both committed.

    I know I would be deeply hurt and frustrated if I had gone through the training process and then Roland changed his mind. Still, I don't have advice to give in that situation either.

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  5. Anonymous6:17 PM

    Hi, I'm anonymous #1 (who asked the first question), not the 2nd anonymous (that was somebody else). I have to say that I am very moved (and not surprised) by your thoughtful and honest answer. I agree. So I am kind of in a grieving process, and investigating other avenues. I am thinking of training to be a CASA. What's your thoughts on that? Or else a big sister kinda thing.

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  6. I think that CASA is a wonderful thing. Have you read "Three Little Words"? A CASA volunteer can make a huge difference in a child's life.

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  7. Big Sisters can be great. I haven't done it, but when IO was a kid, my aunt and uncle did. They stayed with the same two kids until they graduated high school. And probably beyond--at least 10 years. My brother and I were often included on outings when we visited my grandparents. I always thought their relationship was awesome. A friend now is also a Big Sister. She does so much with S (and once again, I"m often included LOL, mainly because R and I do stuff together and sometimes I bring my daughter now that she's getting older). R loves doing it--she has always loved having nieces and nephews, but they don't live near her. She does stuff with S about once a week--from going places to hanging out. Camping with her Girl Scout troop, going to the parade, baking and cooking, doing chores like grocery shopping.

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  8. I think it needs to be brought up, so here it is- WHY does the other partner not want to do fostering? That makes a huge difference.

    For instance, I grew up with foster and adopted family members. It was as natural and normal for me as people getting pregnant and giving birth. Hubby did not, and knew very very few (less than 3) kids inthat situation. So fear of the unknown came into play.

    Add to that the horror stories of psycho kids and birth parents portrayed in the media- another level of concern.

    Then the horrible reputation of DHS, false allegations, unexplained moves just as you were getting attached, etc, also portrayed in the media.

    It came down to fear- worry about the effects it would have on our family, worries about our ability to come through it stronger rather than torn apart.

    So at that point, it became about education- giving hubby a chance to meet and know people who fostered/adopted successfully. Patience. Love. Support. Compassion and Understanding. Knowing that he wanted what was best for our family as it existed at that time, not that he didn't want to expand it or disliked "other people's kids".

    Others worry about whether they'll be able to love another person's child, especially one with baggage. A very normal fear, I might add, especially for those who grew up looking like their parents and finding great sense of self-worth in being a "chip off the ole block".

    Ultimately, though, those unsubstantiated fears can be overcome with education. A lot of other things cannot.

    For instance, a partner who had a sparse or very extravagant lifestyle growing up may want to spoil their bio kids. THey recognize that resources only go so far, and that adding other children, even temporary ones, will cause those resources to be divided into smaller portions, causing the bio kids to not receive as much as they would have before. Some parents do not want to cause their bio kids to sacrifice. let's face it- fostering is not profitable. Chances are, the monthly reimbursement will not cover your expenses for a child that destroys/loses clothing/items, etc.

    Some people truly believe they cnanot love a child not born to them. Whether or not they actually could is irrelevant- if they believe they can't, then they won't. This is shown countless times everyday, in stepparent relationships (not ALL, just some), boyfriend/girlfriend of bio parent relationships, etc. Even teachers, social workers, everyon admits that not every child is easy to love, and some people are naturally drawn more to one child more than another.

    REsentment that the partner who wants to foster will be closer to the foster child than the one who doesn't is also something to be considered. the unsupportive partner may know that his/her family won't accept the foster children and simply wants to spare them the pain of rejection.

    There's also the possibility that the other partner doesn't feel the relationship is strong enough to handle special needs kids (and let's face it, 90% of foster kids have some type of special need- be it behavioral/emotional/learning/physical/medical, at least when compared to bio kids). Maybe the relationship is too new, too fresh, and the other partner wants more time to bond and enjoy each other before committing to that.

    There are tons of valid reasons NOT to do foster care. I wish more people recognized it and accepted it. Some people aren't cut out to be parents at all, some can parent average needs children, but not special needs. Some can parent adopted but not foster, some can parent any child. We all have different gifts and callings.

    I'm glad you're (Anonymous )getting involved in helping kids. I'm sorry your partner isn't into foster care.
    I hope it works out for you.

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  9. My partner and I are both very much on board for adoption since she's not open to foster care, but even so it's meant a lot of conversation to make sure we're on the same page and we absolutely understand each other's interest and commitment. I really like the advice in this post.

    We did start mentoring through a local program like BB/BS to "practice" a year before applying to become adoptive parents. While it wasn't a total success (my partner didn't bond with the girls we were assigned at all, though she now takes their brothers out and I mentor both girls) it let us really see each other in action and evaluate each other and ourselves, which helped a lot. Plus, you know, helping at-risk kids is good! The older girl will be taking the test to get into a good high school in a few weeks and I'm thrilled to have been a part of her success.

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  10. This is an important issue that isn't addressed much. My husband and I are in the same place. No more. Our resources are stretched so thin caring for a child with disabilities, we can't imagine taking on any more. It is way easier when you are both in the same place, and I say that from experience.

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  11. Anonymous5:51 PM

    Thank you for this discussion. My partner and I have been trying to get on the same page for years. Not there yet, but still talking about how/if to bring kids into our lives.
    So thanks.

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  12. Anonymous11:15 PM

    To answer the question of "why" my partner doesn't want to foster: we have two biokids, one in college and the other in high school. He says he feels old and tired. He is wanting to cut back on work and semi retire, and I think he is thinking the same thing regarding parenting. It is easier with one in the house than two, and he likes going in that direction (less, not more parenting). He wants to REST.

    He is ten years older than me. I am not feeling all that ready to retire from parenting yet. I am particularly wanting to foster or adopt teens, and especially sibling sets (of two).

    We were going to initially adopt when we first had our kids - but then I got pregnant accidentally (there were no fertility issues). We were going to be "preferential" adopters. But our biokids kept showing up. (ha)

    Anyway, I don't know if that sheds any light on the situation but that's what it is. Also, my mother lives with us (she is 86) and she says she doesn't want this, and I just can't have two adults in the house (other than me) who don't want more kids. So I am exploring CASA and Big Sister situations, things I can do on my own.

    Thanks for this really helpful thread.

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  13. Um...this is rather mean, in a sense, but here goes:

    Could it be that your husband is sick adn tired- of having your mom live with you? An 86 yr old woman is often very similar to a child, except not easily pacified/distracted, opionionated and carrying a loaded suitcase of guilt to dump on her offspring at any given chance...

    so many the solution is to move granny out to an assisted living facility or to another sibling's home, and let you and hubby enjoy living again, then considering more kids.

    I know from experience that having a parent living with you is almost like being married to 2 people rather than one. It rarely works. And maybe that's why your hubby doesn't want more people in the house taking up your time and energy. Maybe he's just resentful (I wold be) of her living there and actually getting to vote/have an opinion of whether or not you need more kids in your family.

    I remember being SOOOOO Pissed when we decided to foster/adopt, and my dad got upset and didn't want us to. He wanted us to ask our other kids if they "would mind" having strangers' kids in the house or if they "would mind" having younger sibs.

    I remember telling him that nobody asked me if I "Minded" having ayounger brother, etc. Biology does not equate with preferential treatment. I know No-One who asks their bio kids if they're ready for more bio sibs, yet foster/adopt is apparently a discussion issue. Id on't get it.

    With that said, I go back to my original statement- perhaps hubby doesn't feel the relationship is stable enough right now to bring on board more commitments. Having a m-i-l in the picture who has significant input into the household really can affect family dynamics.

    Good luck.

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