Friday, October 21, 2011

Unrelated Children

When we first got certified for foster care, we wanted a sibling group. I knew we could parent more than one child, but I was afraid that I wasn't ready to deal with 2 caseworkers, 2 judges, 2 visitation schedules, 2 Biofamilies, etc. I made it clear that while open to multiple children, we only wanted one family/case at a time.

After having 3 cases and many respites, we felt we had enough experience to handle two families at once and we asked for Baby 5. So far being involved in 2 cases has worked out, although having experienced parenting 2 related children then 2 unrelated children, I can tell you unrelated is a lot more work. Balancing each child's separate schedule is tricky because no one involved in one case cares about what's going on in the other case. Example: Baby 4 has a service plan review coming up next month. It falls at the exact time as Baby 5's visit is ending (read: I need to be picking him up). I asked about it being moved and the CW gave me another option which was at the same time as 5's service plan review. If they had been related children, that wouldn't have been an issue. As much as the logistics side of unrelated children is tricky- it can be navigated with a trusty dayplanner and a babysitter on stand by.

The stuff I've really been struggling with since bringing home 5 is the emotional part of it. How to delicately prepare these little souls and their big feelings for the way we live. Both of our boys could go home in November and both of our boys could stay here forever- we just don't know yet. Either way, when we decided to take unrelated children we were really signing each of them up for additional roles in foster care. They will now have to balance attachment and saying Goodbye the way we do. They will now have to be aware of foster care outside their own situation. When they go home, they're not just being ripped away from us, but also the sibling they love.

I'm trying to emotionally secure the children's place in our family. Baby 4 calls 5 "My baby". I tell them I will always love them- no matter what they do or where they are. How do I keep that security if one child goes home? How do I explain one going home and one staying? It's bad enough now that Baby 5 has two visits/week when 4 just has one- what happens when the baby starts weekend overnight visits and the preschooler is still doing his 1hr supervised visit? Will he know he's loved and protected if 5 goes home and we get that call for Baby 6? Keeping open dialogue is going to be very important. There can't just be a day when Baby's not here anymore- going home has to be normalized while staying with us has to be OK as well.

Our preschool version of foster care that we talk about at least weekly, but sometimes several times/day is: Kids need to live in a home that is safe so they don't get really sick or hurt. If a Mommy or Daddy doesn't know how to keep their kids safe, the kids live in another house while their parents learn to take great care of them. Kids can go home when their parents can keep them safe. Baby 4 knows that his family is learning how to keep him safe and that Baby 5's parents are doing the same. He asks why I know how to keep him safe, but other Mommies don't know how. I tell him that not all parents can keep kids safe. It's a very hard job, but they are trying to do better. I hope this idea will help us get through having siblings that may be separated.

What I can't control is how the sibling that moves away will handle the loss. Will the family allow them to talk about their missing brother? Will they show them the sibling pictures from their time with us? What if Baby 4 leaves and 5 stays? Will he think I wanted the baby more than him?

This topic is really too big to tackle in one post, but I'm processing it slowly and surely. I wonder if this is something that other foster parents worry about, or if it is yet another example of me overthinking. Either way, it does complicate the little lives of my children- who already have too many complications. Preparation is the key for making our family's transitions as minimally traumatic as possible. Unfortunately, there is not much time to prepare for anything in foster care.

Ultimately, I have to lean on my world view and beliefs. Our story has been written by a God who has good intentions for us and our children. The children who are placed in our home have been equipped with the personalities and abilities to ride this roller coaster in the same way that Brandon and I have been. The children who become part of our family will be taking part of our calling, and I hope they will see it as their calling as well. Our legacy becomes their legacy, their burdens become ours- we share love, joy, and loss. I have to believe that they are made to keep up with our changing dynamics and that being a foster family will make them strong and sensitive, quick to love and unafraid of change. The kids that we call our own are special and they'll be protected throughout our story.

 I've been reading a blog written by the biodaughter of a foster/adoptive family. She shares her experiences as a foster-sibling and how it has changed her perspective and faith. I am so appreciative to her for journalingLearning To Abandon


  1. I like your "pre-school version" of foster care. Just today I was trying to satisfy my 4 year old's questions about why we're "babysitting" again and can't keep the baby. At one point I was afraid I would have to explain drug addiction to her because she was so incessant in wanting to know more. I think "keeping kids safe" is a sufficient and age appropriate explanation.

    Precious picture!

  2. It is difficult to manage all the appointments anyway. We've had 2 unrelated kids most of the time and only one set of sisters that were with us only a week.

  3. I've managed 2 cases a few times and the logistics has definitely been the hardest part. That's in part because my kids have been babies/toddlers and a bit less understanding of sibling relationships. With the recent older one, he was the second placed and wanted to go back home, so though we told him otherwise to him the first placement was "ours" and he was going home with his mommy. It worked out, but I can see the dilemma with slightly older children.

  4. My husband and I are about to start our journey into foster parenting. This blog has been awesome to read. My biggest fear is the letting go part. We have been trying to have a bio-baby for a while and it just hasn't happened yet. We want to me "Mommy and "Daddy" and the thought of being parents one day and not the next is terrifying. THank you for sharing your struggles and triumphs.