Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Should we ask the biokids about doing care?

Under the posts about reservations of our partners to doing care, Mrs. Butter B comments

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 a younger 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. I don't get it.

Now I am pondering this, because I am committed to talking to everyone in the home before taking in a another foster kid. It is the we work. I talk to them about how they feel, but they know the decision is mine and Roland's. This would include talking to current foster kids about whether to take a new kid. And we did in fact include Andrew in the discussion about having a second baby, but that may have been because he was campaigning for a younger sibling before we were seriously thinking about it.

Of course a lot of pregnancies are unplanned, even if they are greeted with joy. There just often is little discussion in advance for kids to participate in.

But we have always involved the kids in discussions about new kids. We haven't always done what they said they wanted. Andrew was clear that he did not want Ann to move in, but we did it anyway. Both Andrew and Brian really liked a boy we had for one weekend whom Roland and I decided we were just not up for. So it isn't really that they get a vote, but it is that they know we will listen to what they want to say and that will be a factor in our decision.

Now, I want to say that all current family members should have some say in whether new members foster kids are added, but I'm not sure I can defend that. I don't mean, by the way, that the whole family should be voting on or even given an opportunity to discuss particular kids. I do think though that foster care is so demanding in so many ways, that people already living in the house should have some say in whether to bring more in.

Now the counter argument is that if I were to find out that I was pregnant with a high-needs child and was considering whether to terminate the pregnancy, I wouldn't ask the kids. [Well...I realize now that I think about this from the perspective of being 45 and seeing how much care my mother needs and is going to need, that if I was carrying a baby with Down's my biggest worry would be whether I could guarantee that someone would take care of my kid when I no longer could. I would be worried that that would fall on my boys and that that might not be fair to them. I might talk to them about it, but it still wouldn't be their decision.] And of course, people don't always know that a child by birth is going to be high needs. It just happens.

And maybe that is part of the reason I am inclined to think that it is appropriate to include all current families in decisions about fostering. Fostering doesn't just happen. You don't have do something fun and find out a month later that your getting a foster child. It is a deliberative decision. So when you bring a foster kid into the house, the other kids know you made a decision that will affect them and probably in some major ways.

And just to be absolutely clear: I don't think that families should be asking things like, "Do you think Susie should live here?" But I am inclined to think families should be asking kids things like, "We're thinking about doing foster care/taking another long-term placement, and I want to know what you think about that."

What do you think? Do you or would you talk to current kids about taking new kids?


  1. We talked about it with Tara because of her major control issues. We turned it around to make her feel like she had some ownership in the process so she wouldn't sabotage it. It would be really hard on kids if the other kids didn't want them there...

  2. Anonymous12:08 PM

    I was going to mention something similar to Torina's point. I know Mrs. Butter B has a lot of experience parenting and I have none, but one of the things my partner and I have talked about is whether it's extra important for an already adopted or fostered child to have some kind of ownership over the decision to bring another child into the house.

    I know in your family, Yondalla, you have one non-bio child at a time plus occasional respite kids, but I think adding a child through the system brings about a lot of issues similar to the ones you mulled over when thinking about how guardianship for Gary might impact the older fostered boys. So maybe there's yet another distinction to be made about asking non-bio children to be on board.

  3. I hadn't thought about this until now, but I'm not sure the bio sibling comparison really works here. A foster child is likely to have higher needs than the average younger sib, and take more of the parents time. An older child comes into the house with a fully formed personality, expectations, history, etc that impacts everyone, in a different way than an infant (bio or not) that grows up in a family. I think Yondalla is right that the comparison to being pregnant with a known special needs kid is more appropriate, and in that case I do think I would consider the needs of my older kids. The difference is that in foster care, if you decide you can't do care there will hopefully be others who can. While I am strongly pro-choice, terminating a pregnancy (or carrying a SN kid and placing them for adoption at birth) is a much more complex ethical decision to me.

    I do think though that the way one would have such a discussion would look very different with a teenager than with a younger child, and that some of the biokids reaction, especially a younger biokid, would depend on how the question was phrased and explained to them. So I suppose I could imagine 'biasing' the kids by explaining it in a way that I thought would sound appealing to them.

  4. When I was thinking it through I tried to shift from "biokids" to "people already in the house." Though we have so far only had one non-bio at a time, that could theoretically change. If we did consider that, we would involve everyone in the discussion -- at least in the sense that we would want everyone to know that they had been heard and that we took what they had to say into consideration.

  5. I can see it when you have teenagers and are looking at bringing teenagers into the house. I have no intention of asking my 4 year old what she thinks of us doing foster care. And by the time she's old enough to understand the question, it will just be what life's like. And she's going to have to share her room [and her toys!] and/or change bedrooms completely. But that doesn't matter to me. It's not her choice and I don't actually care whether she wants siblings or not. She's getting them. Again, if she were a teenager when we started this, my answer would be different, probably.

  6. We talk with our 5 yr old bio daughter about placements in order to help prepare her. And when we've had foster kids and got a call for more foster kids, we've talked with everyone before saying yes to the placement. We all have to live together as a family and I think we should all be in on the decision together. But ultimately we, as parents, make the final decision.

  7. Sorry for the delay but thought I'd better clarify...

    at that point, we weren't fostering for older kids. It was a baby. A brand new, home from the hospital to us baby. With an unofficial expectation of potentially not returning home.

    Once our kids were on board with the concept of fostering (meaning potential and expected loss, behaviors, etc) we didn't consult them about each individual offer. Some decisions we made without them- 2 teen girls already meant no teen boys or teen girls similar in ages.

    But since both our girls wanted younger sibs, and understod the possible "side effects" those kids would have from being in care, we did not consult them about which one they wanted.

    I never wanted new kids to feel like we "shopped" for them the way we do toys/clothes- flipping through ads with pictures and descriptions and deciding which ones we like best based on that little synopsis or picture.

    Instead, we decided to trust that God would put the right kids here, and give us the stregnngth to deal with wahtever came.

    And He did.

  8. And something else---

    this wasn't related to "kids already in the house". Coming on board with foster care is a big decision- and you do need older children's cooperation and anticipation in order to do it well.

    This was about certain family members seeing BIO kids as more important- as though their feelings mattered more than the fact that over 500,000 kids are waiting for permanent homes just in north america. They really felt that the BIO kids shouldn't have to share the "wealth" so to speak of inheritances, toys, allowances, clothes, etc.

    Interestingly enough, my parents fostered and I loved it. So did my aunt & uncle that adopted and several other family members at various times, so I'm guessing someone (probably my oldest cousin or my bio bro) complained at some point and my dad felt it was relevant. It was intersting because he was always very supportive of our desire to adopt & foster with that one exception.

    I guess in our house, kids are kids and adults are adults. Keep in mind, we follow that "life isn't fair" philosphy, as opposed to other families that function equally well, just more like a democracy.

    Which brings us to the main point of fostering- every family is different, and there is no perfect foster family! (which is why more people should do it- there's room for everyone's personal styles)


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