Friday, July 17, 2009

Discussion & Comments

I am going to be monitoring comments for a while, but I want to talk about why. There have been some harsh comments left here. They have not been directed at me, but rather at someone for whom I have been sympathetic.


Well, one comment directed to me was perhaps harsh, but also entirely fair. I expressed sympathy for foster parents who had to let a child go and did not express any sympathy for the child who was about to lose yet another family. That commenter was correct, and I offer no defense. I wish I had given expression to my feelings and thought for not only the foster parents but the also for the child, whose welfare is the point of what we do, and for the child's parent who, from what I have read, loves his son and is struggling to be the parent again.

Comments left here regarding the other foster parents I think have been too harsh, and I am sorry that I brought negative attention to them.

I think that as foster parents we have to be able to take that sort of negative attention. We are the only members of this system who chose to play a part. The children and their parents certainly did not chose this. Parents were told that they were not good enough to take care of their kids, that those kids would go somewhere safe, to someone who could and would take care of them. That someone who was supposed to do a better job was us.

When parents are told that we are better caretakers for their children than they are, and then we disrupt a placement for whatever reasons, those children's parents are not unreasonable in their fury. How was this better than being with them?

Of course, I cannot say that it is.

There are so many cases, and it is easy for all of us, natural parents, foster parents, and adoptive parents to see all cases as similar to ours. I have given care to boys whose parents were in jail, dead, or, in Gary's case, have refused to take them home. I have no doubt that they love their children fiercely, but providing them with care is not something they could do, at least not at the time. It is fairly easy for me to see the complexity of the decisions that the parents of my children have had to make. I have sympathy for them. I know their emotions towards me are complex. The children we both love have it the hardest.

I think I understand Gary's father's pain, and the pain of the foster parents who have asked for removal, because I too have been in the position of concluding that the only way to keep one child safe was for another child to move.

Gary's biological, real, natural father had to make that decision. He and his wife decided that the safety of her daughters required Gary's removal. I believe that Gary could now safely live with his siblings, but it is not my call to make. His father, who has also sent his biological daughter away to live with extended family, has chosen his wife, her daughters and the younger kids they have together. I understand that at the same time I know it hurts Gary.

I asked for both Ann and Frankie to be moved. Both of them had wanted to leave. Ann wanted to go back to her previous foster home (where she had lived for 7 years) and Frankie knew the only way to get out of the school he hated was to move. Neither of them knew at the time that one of the reasons they were getting what they told the social worker they wanted was that I was concerned about the effect they were having on the other children. Even so, those failures on my part, my inability to give those kids what they needed, are still the most painful periods of my history of doing care.

And yeah, poor, pitiful me. Though I know other foster parents who have gone through that will understand and sympathize with me, I don't expect foster alumni or parents who have had their children remove by protective services to have any sympathy for me at all. Why would they? I chose this. I was supposed to be able to do it. Children and their parents were told that they would be placed with me, and people like me, because we were better able to care for those children than their natural parents. I feel bad because I could not live up to my ideal of myself as a rescuer of children? Well, boo hoo.

Of all the people caught up in this system who hurt, my pain is the least.

Of course that is why we foster parents offer support to each other. We should not expect the world to view our pain as the most important. When it does, when the tragedy or our lives is portrayed as more important than the pain of the children we care for, something is out of whack.

So all of this is to say that I understand the comments that have been left here. I disagree that the foster parents for whom I have sympathy are bad people. I think think they are good people, and I think they have tried hard to keep all the children in their home safe. I believe them when they say that are doing what they must. I know their pain is real, and I want to offer them comfort.

And at the same time, I do not expect that parents of children in foster care or children in foster care will have sympathy for that pain.

Anyway, I am going to be leaving in a few days and I am nervous that the blog could be hijacked by people on both sides. For the next few days, feel free to discuss the issue here. Feel free to express your feelings. As long as you show respect for others, your comment will be published. Starting Monday no comments will be published for about two weeks.

I have more I want to say about all this, but it will have to wait.

12 comments:

  1. It strikes me as odd, sometimes, the SWs put so much effort into driving it into prospective parents' skulls that "love is all you need" isn't the reality of the foster care situation. But the kids - and the commenters - don't ever get that message. You'd think that a person could read your posts about Frankie and Ann, or the other post about having to give up Radish, and see someone writing: "this was done, but not without regret" without imagining that the author was making a pity play.

    I can understand the actual kid not being able to get past the hurt of being rejected to understand that what's being expressed is that the kid is worthwhile and is missed and that the author is offering the story of his or her own failure to parent, but it's pathetic that strangers feel the need to weigh in and insist that a kid they don't know, with behaviors they can't imagine, with just a little love (or, in the case of Torina's commenter, a dish of ice cream - wtf is that about? I mean, I like to say that B&J's Chocolate Therapy is so good my insurance ought to cover it, but at least I know I'm joking) might completely turn around. And it's absolutely incomprehensible that they are blind to the rights of other children in the household to have a safe, secure environment, but they seem determined to prove their own short-sightedness.

    Yondalla, you looked at this situation where there's only person who doesn't get a pass for not measuring up to an ideal, and you volunteered to be that person. And then you volunteered to write about the experience. It's a support for other people taking on that joyful burden, it's an inspiration for those of us who are also in process, and it's a shame that the people who are taking their own issues out on you and on other foster parents don't realize that they're doing more harm than good. Because when people like me see them coming after you, we have to ask: "why should I volunteer to be villainized?"

    The answer, of course, is that the kids deserve better than to languish in institutions. All your kids, including Frankie and Ann, were lucky that you were willing to step up and do something for them. Something beyond, of course, trolling the web like a /b/tard, looking for wounds to poke.

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  2. I disagree with you that the biological parents of kids in care don't choose to be part of the system. By failing to care for their kids, by abusing them, by neglecting them, or by abandoning them, they choose intervention from a third party.

    Everybody in this world knows that CWS will get involved in you fail to properly care for your children. Parents who fail are making a choice.

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  3. FosterAbba,

    Well, we seem to disagree on a couple of things. I think you are conflating consequences of actions with choices. I also think you are over-simplifying what happens to families, and showing a surprising confidence (particularly given your own experience) regarding the ability social services never to get it wrong.

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  4. I don't know where you get your information that CPS only removes children from unsafe homes but if you truly believe that, you're about as naive as a newborn. It's a proven fact that children are much more likely to be abused and neglected in foster homes than in the homes of their parents. I have talked to hundreds of families where their children were taken for bullshit reasons and placed in homes where every time they have visitation with them, they have unexplained bruises, bumps and scratches, they're often dirty and are outwardly depressed. They cling to their real parents, asking (no begging) them to take them home. Now does that sound like these babies were abused? Grow up and face facts. CPS is corrupt. They fail children, natural parents and foster care givers on every level.

    As far as foster care givers (I will NOT call them parents cos they are NOT mothers and fathers to these children -- they have parents) being the ones who choose this, well, that's cos of the money. They are the most selfish people I've met. I'm on a foster parent support group that they submit vouchers for reimbursement for money as low as $3 that they had to pay out of pocket. OMG, if they're not willing to part with a few of their own dollars and expect reimbursement, what does that really say about this "wonderful, altruistic" people?

    Go right ahead and moderate my comments. Don't publish them, I don't care cos I'll just put them on my blog. I think people who can't stand a little criticism are exactly the type of fosters that I despise. They do these blogs for great bit accolades and pats on the back. See how wonderful I am!!! I can always tell when their halos need dusting off, they post another boo hoo hoo post.

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  5. So much to say. I want to respond to your post, rather than Brenda's comment, but since I fear that I am going to veer in that direction, let me just get it out of the way.

    Brenda, I think we all agree that 1. CPS sometimes makes mistakes. I would never want that job ever; the stakes are unbelievably high in the event of an error in judgment. I think we also all agree that 2. not all foster care givers (I will use your terminology) are good/effective/harmless care givers. I haven't yet had any foster kids in my home but am totally scared that I won't be a good care giver.

    But where we disagree are in the following:
    1. Foster care givers are not to blame for CPS errors. If all of a sudden no one in the entire country wanted to be a foster parent, kids would still be removed from their homes.
    2. Not all foster care givers are evil or abusive. I have to hope that you agree with this, but my interpretation of your comments leaves me to feel that you might not.
    3. A quick point about being in it "for the money." Look, not everyone is a model citizen, and there might be (probably are) some foster care givers out there who are in it for the money. That's deplorable. But I want to share my own experience, even though I know it will not change your mind. I have known since I was in college that I wanted to be a foster care giver. I didn't even know at that time that there were payments that went along with it. I wasn't able to do it at the time (you know, living in a dorm and all) but if I had lived in an apartment, sure I would have thought about being licensed. And without knowledge of payment.

    Now, Yondalla, sorry for that lengthy diversion. I didn't realize it would be so long when I started typing. And I realize that my words to you, for you, are much shorter. Perhaps I should move them back up top, but I don't edit my own writing. Simply, I commend you for writing this. Your second paragraph points out an issue inherent to blogging--it is quick, not always edited (see two sentences ago), not intended to be a full and comprehensive study of each post's subject. Ideally, perhaps, that wouldn't be the case. But neglecting to include an expression of sympathy for the child or youth who is being subjected to a disruption--even though we ARE doing this for the kids and we DO know that disrupting a placement causes harm--in a single blog post should not be justification for being vilified.

    Anyway, that's all I have to say for now :-) Keep up the good work; I'll miss your writing while you're away!

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  6. Brenda,

    I read the first couple of posts on your blog. I know that there is nothing I can say to make the pain of losing your daughters any less. You and they have my prayers.

    Yondalla

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  7. Jenniebee & Foster Ima,

    Thank you.

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  8. Thank you. I am sorry. Thank you for reaching out and, without reservation or judgement, recognizing the complexities of our personal decision to give our 10 day notice to Radish. I appreciate your willingness to offer support, and admire your strength in taking a whole lot of heat on a very hot topic. I am sorry this has gotten out of hand and some folks are making our decision all about them.

    Radish's SW told him about the 10 day notice and he is actually doing OK and is relieved to move closer to Dad's. He just wants to be with his Dad. His parents and I have talked extensively on the phone and at the rehab program. We are all OK with this complex personal decision and recognize it will impact each of us differently. We are all practicing Acceptance. Radish's little sister is sleeping over this weekend and will travel with us to Vermont. Why? Their parents know we care about thier children and that their children care about us. They also understand we care enough to set a limit on the craziness. As addicts in recovery they know what happens when you can't set limits on the craziness. They know the danger when you go off thinking you can manage it all. I know enough to say enough.

    We are all working on healing. I am not throwing away their son and they know that. I am also not allowing his behaviors to destroy my family or ruin his own chance to be reunified. Another psychiatric hospitalization would prevent him from reunifying with bio family at the rehab program. The Division of Families had already consolidated the case and transferred the paperwork to the other side of the state. The Service Plan Goal was changed this winter from Adoption to Reunification with Dad. Radish will now move closer to Dad where they can engage in family therapy, there is ALATEEN, ALANON, AA and NA meetings, and he can see his sister.

    This is the right thing to do for us...just us...not the rest of the blogging world. We are at peace with our decision. I will post most of this on my blog, but wanted to personally thank you for your very kind words and gentle heart.

    With Gratitude,

    The Mamas

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  9. I hope you feel better now, Brenda. I have to say, I have no idea what you're trying to achieve, since you clear have no intention of actually taking in anyone else's point of view here - but I hope you find some piece of mind soon...

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  10. Oh, so much to say, and such a little text box...

    First- I am PROUD to be a foster parent. PROUD. I love knowing that I can provide a service to families in crisis. I can provide love, nurturing, nutrition, care, hugs, instruction, and everything that a parent should provide, when the biological family cannot or will not.

    I am the first to say that DHS isn't perfect. Most SW's will tell you that. But they do the best they can with the info they have. We have sat in court and heard testimony of things that make you want to vomit. We have also sat in court and heard things that surprised us- like the ex bf who called DHS on his ex gf because she wouldn't give him any money. He deliberately offered to babysit while she was at work, then left the children home alone & called 911 to "teach the gf a lesson".

    Out of my experience, the majority of the FP's are good people. I would welcome anyone to come see my home, day or night. Take a look in my foster kiddos' closets- put a video camera in here and see how we treat them. Our fostero's get the same benefits that our other kiddo's get- private school, private music lessons, sports teams, eating out, name brand new clothing, you name it.

    But the system doesn't always work. We are blessed to be part of a private agency that actually tries to match personality, ethnicity/language, age, etc between the kids and the FP's. They don't force us to take anything we aren't able to handle. Lots of support and training and help if you want it.

    The system is badly broken and until FP's and SW's decide to work together and force society to change it, we will continue to have misery.

    If "Match.com" is so effective, why don't we use something similar to place foster kids? Match parenting styles with kids personaltiies and disabilities. Work toward longterm goals instead of just finding a place to stick a kid...and don't be afraid to tell some potential FP's that they just aren't cut out to handle what they think they want to handle.

    THe debate about whether or not bio parents deliberately put their kids in foster care is unnecessary. Some do, some don't. The debate about whether or not every single SW is doing the right thing all of the time is unnecessary. Some do, some don't. All for a variety of reasons.

    What remains is what is important- there has to be a better way of caring for kids in crisis, kids with major issues, than what's happening now.

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  11. I'm guessing the person or people who posted nasty comments were the same ones who troll the internet looking for foster parent blogs to harass in order to make themselves feel better or more redeemed about having lost their own kids. Or at least that's the people who seem to like leaving nasty comments on my blog. It's as if all their anger and hatred and resentment towards CPS is being taken out on those foster parents who choose to blog. Sorry it happened to you.

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  12. Three days away from blogging and look at what I missed!

    I think that part of the problem is that some foster parents don't understand or empathize witht he bio parents. They can't comprehend the how or why they got themselves and their children in this situation. We must always try to step into other people's shoes and try to understand where they are coming from before we try to judge them so harshly. That's why I posted this:

    http://nottheusualtickingclock.blogspot.com/2009/07/meth.html

    And the same goes with foster parents that make the decision to have a child removed. All of us have our limits. What the foster family can handle in regards to behaviors from foster children will vary greatly from one home to the next. But the common thread in all of this is what is best for the child/children. If you are unable to handle their behavior in a way that is in their best interest or if you know that their behavior is negatively affecting the other children in your care and you are not able to protect the other children properly, a removal is justified in my eyes.

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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.