Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sorry! You're too tall for us to help you... Saying "No" to a placement.

It has been almost a week since our boys went home so our house has been VERY quiet and kind of lonely. I have the matchers phone number programmed in my phone with the Hallelujah chorus as their ringtone. Today while I was deliberating wiping down my counter again or online shopping for stuff I don't need, my phone cried, "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" I screamed for Brandon to come up from reorganizing the basement (have I mentioned that we're really bored without kids?) and answered. Here's the conversation:

Me: Hi matcher!
Matcher: Good morning Teresa. I have something for you guys to think about. Have I already called you about a seven yr old boy, *Steven?
Me: No, is he just coming into care?
Matcher: He is already placed in a home with his younger siblings, but he is displaying some aggression with the little ones. The foster family is asking that he be moved. He has diagnosed ADHD and ODD, and is being medicated. He needs strict structure and a strong male figure. I'll be honest, I'm having a hard time finding a family who will take him.

The conversation went on for about 5min where I explained that I am willing to stretch for an older child, but I would still like the option to take little ones. If he is aggressive, we would have to say no to adding new children to our home. Since Brandon works evenings and Steven goes to school- they would never see each other, which negates having a strong father in the home. We left it with us saying no, and the matcher asking that I call her if I change my mind.

This is the second time I've had a phone call like that this week.We have said "no" twice as much as we have said "yes" to calls from the matchers in the past 2yrs. The reasons have all been different, but the common theme is the children we haven't taken have been older than 5yrs. I feel like a hypocrite when I preach the necessity of Christians doing foster care and loving like Jesus then I say no to a child who needs a Mom. I feel like an all around terrible human being for saying no to a child when I'm sitting at home depressed about not having kids. I made myself nauseated when I realized that we love kids, and we love foster care, and we love caring for the fatherless- as long as you're under 35" tall.

I'm really not fishing for validation with this post, but I do want to work out the reasons we say no to school-aged children:
1) I stay home with our kids. This is very useful when trying to build attachment and working on behaviors with a new child, but isn't as effective when the child is in school all day and I'm chilling at home attaching to nobody.
2) We are 24 and 26, and the older the children are, the younger we look. Most of our friends are either childless or have children under 3yrs. Bringing Steven into our lives and social circle would have guaranteed he would be the only or oldest child most of the time.
3)Shared parenting might also be more difficult with older parents (I'm assuming school aged children have parents who are over 25yrs old). An older parent might not take us seriously when we give advice about the child or trust our judgement concerning the child's care. As we take older children, we also need be aware that they will realize we are younger than their parents, which could mean they won't see us as authority figures
4)We have more experience with kids under 5. My education is in Early Childhood Develpment, and I taught 3yr old preschool for 4yrs before foster care. We could learn how to teach, nurture, and discipline a school aged child, but it's very natural for us to do those things with a younger child and grow into school-age with them.

There are homes who take older children. There are even homes who specifically do not take children under 5yrs. Families like ours and the foster care system as a whole lean heavily on these families to do the hard stuff- to jump into parenting a child who is already set in their ways, already knows a bunch of swear words, and is big enough to leave a mark during a melt down. I tip my hat to these parents. They are champions of our story and I hope one of them takes Steven home today.

Even though I'm currently feeling bad about saying no to a child, I know it is wise to be realistic about our family's strengths and abilities. The WORST thing that can happen for everyone in the triad is for a child to be moved from one foster home to another because the foster family can/will not properly parent a child they accepted. My choice to say no to a placement that I'm not sure of will hopefully prevent ever having to disrupt a placement and cause unnecessary loss and trauma to the child. I want the children who come into my home to never leave unless it's by court order to their biofamiliy. Just like I think the homes who only take older children shouldn't be pressured to take a newborn if they aren't sure about midnight feedings.

Saying no broke my heart today, but it was the right choice for Steven and my family.

*Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality of kids in care


  1. Hi, Teresa. I was in MAPP Class 9 that you and Brandon spoke at last week. (I'm not sure if your blog is confidential, because I started at the beginning and haven't gotten to anything about that yet, but if it is, don't worry! I won't mention it!) My husband and I are waiting for our final home inspection next week, and are planning to take the same age group, birth to five. We have had so many conversations about what we'd do if we got a call about an eight-year-old, but we feel in our hearts that we aren't the best home for a kid that age. This post is so clear at explaining your reasons! I can't wait to get through more of your blog and see how you are all doing.

  2. Rachael- I'm so glad you found us! A quick blog-stalk just revealed that I think you are going to be an awesome foster parent!

    I actually have a post in the works about you- not you specifically, that would be creepy- but about all the stuff I forgot to say at mtg 9.

    As far as confidentiality- I try to post within the confines of our agency rules/ confidentiality agreement, and leave out identifying info about the kids. I don't know how they would feel about the blog, so we're still "in the closet" so to speak. Thanks for keeping it under wraps :) I also don't specify our county/agency on here.

    I can't wait to hear how your story unfolds!! Thanks for reading!