With every new placement comes the awkward moment where I have to meet our baby's bios. This causes so much anxiety for me- I don't know if that's one of my personal quirks, or if it just comes with the territory. No matter what circumstances surround this child coming into care, their parents are going to be part of my life as long as the child is, so we need to get along. For the most part, I've had a good working relationship with our bioparents. I was still so nervous though when Baby 5's first visit came up with his Mom. It was time to get that initial contact out of the way.
I feel the need to dress up like I'm going to a job interview when I meet biofamily. So I donned my button up black shirt and put on makeup as if my ability to apply mascara will convince a Mom that I'm taking good care of her child. Then I printed out pictures of Baby 5's first week with us. I placed them in a note book with a carefully worded note, "Your son is THE cutest baby I have ever seen! I can't imagine how difficult it is to have to trust me with him, but I promise to treat him like gold until he can come home to you." Then I write in the notebook when the next Dr appt is and write it a second time on a piece of loose paper that the parent can take with them.That notebook went into an expertly packed diaper bag: diapers and wipes to last days, 3 bottles with premeasured powdered formula, 3 of baby's cutest outfits that say something to the effect of "I love Mommy", bibs and burps cloths with the same sentiments, a light blanket, and a heavier blanket, diaper rash cream, Vaseline, and an extra binkie.
I bathe baby 5 right before we leave for the visit, slather him in lotion, and dress him in the cutest outfit I can find. In the car I pow-wow with Baby 4 about saying, "Hi" and that's all to Baby 5's Mom. The last thing I need is for him to call her Baby 5's "other" Mommy or ask her why she couldn't keep baby safe. Conversations that are normal at our house, are shocking to outsiders. For the first time I'm not worried about how a black family will accept a white woman caring for their children. I'm meeting a white family today. Suddenly I worry if they'll accept my son- they should, more than anyone, realize that kids don't come into care because they are bad, but because their home wasn't safe. Maybe I should have left 4 with a sitter. Too late now.
We walk into the visitation center, and the caseworker meets me in the lobby to take 5 to his Mom who's already waiting in the room. She says maybe we shouldn't meet until the formal icebreaker is scheduled. She'll bring 5 out to us in an hour. Did I really just get dressed up for nothing?
Baby 4 and I go get lunch and come back in an hour. The caseworker brings out 5 and we leave. As we make our way to the car I see Mom come out of the building and start talking to the caseworker. I wave at her from across the parking lot. She yells, "I'll see you tomorrow!", like we're girlfriends who need to catch up. I buckle the boys in and walk around to my seat as Mom and Grandpa pull up to me in their car. We talk for a few moments and they are more than pleasant. Mom is my age. She's beautiful, well dressed, and articulate in speech. Her Dad reminds me of my own. She thanks me for the pictures and says she wants to be friends. We exchange phone numbers right then and she calls me on the spot to make sure I gave her a real number. She assures me that the reasons 5 was taken are all lies. I tell her I'm sorry she's going through all this- I am, if not just for her then for Baby 5. I leave feeling pretty positive about the whole experience. I hope she noticed how professional my shoes looked with my shirt.
The next day, I go through the same preparation to bring 5 to his visit. Again, I don't see Mom until she comes to my car after the visit is over. She hugs me no less than 10 times and tells me her life story. I gather from her account that Baby 5 may be a short placement before returning to his Dad. She tells me that if she has other children and they get taken, she wants us to have them. She said it like she was giving us a gift. She asks about my husband and Baby 4 and seems really satisfied with my answers. I think she sees herself in me as much as I see myself in her. She's the first Mom I've ever worked with, and the first parent who is my age. Looking at each other is like looking at the "What could have been" if our choices had been different.
We spend the next couple of days texting. I tell her to check the baby's bag at the visit because we made her a footprint plaque. She says she excited and will call me after she gets it. That's the last communication I've had with her. Then she missed 3 visits and our icebreaker meeting. She never took the pictures or the plaque out of the bag.
I don't know what will happen next. She could show up next week like nothing ever happened and never miss another visit. Maybe we'll never speak again. Such is foster care.
I decided to post this because I think a lot of foster parents are apprehensive about meeting the parents. Bios just want to know you love their kids and that you know they are their kids. You could probably even wear jeans, although I don't recommend it :)