Friday, May 24, 2013

Believer's Dilemma

I believe that children are supposed to be raised by their biological parents. I refuse to believe God places children in the womb of other women with the intention of sending them to a nice foster or adoptive family. I believe foster care and adoption exist because people make poor choices, not because some children are destined for this road.

I believe that in the event a child can not be raised by their biological parents, a relative or person close to the parents should be sought out. I believe that the children deserve some connection over no connection: Growing up with Grandma in the house where his Dad was raised. Seeing pictures of her Mom as child in her Aunt's scrapbooks. Hearing stories about his family from the best friend who his parents call "cousin".

I believe that the very act of placing a child in the home of a foster or adoptive family causes loss and trauma, so it should only be done when the child's family can or will not care for them safely. I believe this trauma (some would call it a wound ) happens regardless of the quality, preparation, or love of the fost/adopt family.

I believe that every service should be provided to a parent to help them regain custody of their child before and after removal. I believe that poverty is never a good reason to remove a child. I believe the only children who should be adopted are the ones where everything else has failed. I believe rehab, transportation, food/clothing assistance, housing, and medical care should be readily available to the families involved in the child welfare system. I believe in diligent efforts. I believe children from tough starts become the heroes of tomorrow. I believe giving children the world, but denying them their family does not save them.

I believe children should have every safe opportunity to see their family after removal. I believe those opportunities should extend past adoption and beyond just birthparents. I believe children have the right to all of their information, and to the unedited version of their story. I believe sheltering our children from the truth does not change what happened to them. I believe talking about it and facing their history head on with them is the only loving choice. I believe more contact is the solution to the child's questions and fears post-adoption, not a break from contact until they are older. I believe sharing the child with their biological family in no way diminishes the role of  foster and adoptive parents in their child's life. I believe pretending a biological parent is just "the woman who delivered her" (said by an adoptive Mother at a foster care class recently) only denies the child of a meaningful connection. I believe abuse and neglect do not sever familial bonds.

I believe foster care and adoption should give more to the child than it takes away.

I really do believe all that stuff. Really, Really.

But then you have this child in your house who is injured and screams in the middle of night- fearful that their Mother will find them. It gets a little harder to believe.

And you have a Grandma who was told to just come and the baby wouldn't be placed in foster care, but she never made it. Or the Uncle who waited 2 years to step forward as a relative resource. Or the sister who forgot to tell the caseworker about the boyfriend living in the house. It gets a little harder to believe.

You get to know the people who open their homes and hearts to children who need someone. They are kind, passionate, and knowledgeable. They don't dismiss the gravity of what these children face. You kind of wish they were your parents. You see them love these kids and you see the kids love them. You see how the foster parent grieves when a child goes home- the fear for that child's safety that keeps them awake at night. You know that child will yearn for them too. It gets a little harder to believe.

...and it gets really easy to be negative...

When you see the Dad who "lost" his monthly bus pass for the 5th time in a row and can't make it to court or a visit. Or Mom, who loses her welfare and food stamps because she failed to comply with the substance abuse recommendations. But then they walk in to CPS with more expensive sneakers than you can afford. Do you see the caseworker bringing Dad to his 4th orientation for the court ordered parenting classes? Because he goes to orientation, but misses the rest of meetings... And the reunified children you love more than your own life? They are wearing last year's shorts you bought them- that are too short now, and they are covered in flea bites. You know their diet consists mostly of yogurt tube pouches and hotdogs. Diligent efforts have been made for over half of your 8 year old's life. It gets harder to believe.

Sitting in the hallway, wondering if you're doing the right thing by not going into the bedroom as your 4yr old rages after a visit. Walking a 6 week old baby through the metal detectors at the county jail to see a parent. Having the transportation company driver tell you no one showed up for the visit that the kids made Valentines for Grandma. When Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, and Grandpa all mean members of your family more often than members of the child's family. It gets harder to believe.

Because explaining homelessness is harder than saying, "She couldn't have raised any child". As is explaining rape and incest harder than, "There is no Father listed your original birth certificate.". Because there is a difference between, "The judge told your Dad that it is not safe for you to live with him ever again.", and, "Your Mom signed an agreement stating that you will never live with her again, but she can write you 2 letters every year.". Don't forget, "I know Grandma said you are going to live with her, but when the caseworker sent her the papers, she never filled them out. The judge can not send a child to live in a house that hasn't been looked at by the caseworker. We need to know the house is safe.". It gets harder to believe.

I've been very blessed to be surrounded by awesome foster and adoptive parents both in real life and in online community. I recently have heard a lot of chatter about relatives coming to take kids, how the parents get all the rights, and asking for ideas to get visits reduced. I'm stuck in my dilemma because I still believe for these kids. I know there are all kinds of details and injustices that make everyone's situation the exception. I know what it's like to be devoted to a child and so fearful of what could be. So when someone who is really well meaning says they hope Baby 9's family never comes around and we get to keep her forever  I know they don't really mean they hope my daughter never gets answers about her biological connections. They aren't saying that an "easy" adoption story of abandonment is preferable over a "difficult" adoption story where everyone fought to the bitter end because this child is loved and wanted by her whole family.

I really mean it when I tell my friends that I hope they can adopt the child who was placed with them. More accurately, I hope they get a child placed with them who actually needs to be adopted. I feel their relief and joy when they come out of court with a surrender or a termination of parental rights after years of tears, and attachment, and second chances.

There is a lot of room to get self righteous educate on these topics. There have been a couple of people I really want to call out on their behavior. Equally so, I can't imagine being given the chance to fight for my biological child and having years go by without any movement. I don't think it does right by the child or the biological family to let reunification efforts linger for years and years. The system leaves a lot of room to become suspicious and defensive toward biological families and reunification. That's even before noting how damn hard it is to go love and let go.

I don't want to be bitter. I want to be a believer.


  1. Beautifully written, foster care is full of contradictions. It can become difficult to remain a believer through so many years.

  2. I believe in all those things too, but it's a lot easier to believe them in the abstract, isn't it?

    I've been lucky? blessed? enough to have a placement where my anger and disillusionment is mostly directed at a local CPS office with high turnover that has let things slip through the cracks...things that would probably have enabled the little girl currently in my care to have been home with her mother already.

  3. Teresa! This is so beautifully written and so, so true. I really think most of us (I hope) who became foster parents did so because we too believe these things. Yes, we think it's better for a child to have a connection to biological family. Yes, we hope that if M stays with us, her family will be a part of our lives too. But man, it does get so much more complicated when you start talking about a child you love so much, you'd jump through any hoop to make things better for the child, and you see how little the bio family is being asked to do, and they just can't do it.

    M's dad has SO LITTLE being asked of him to get custody that really, it's insane that he doesn't have her yet. But he's so incredibly inconsistent that they have never even increased his visits. And as much as we think it would be good for M to see her siblings and to know exactly who her dad is, we can't possibly hope for our daughter, who we've had for 16 of her 17 months, to leave us, ever.

    What a difficult and frustrating system we've all agreed to join. I love this post a whole lot, and I hope to see you soon!

  4. GREAT post, Teresa! I had to share this one.

  5. Wonderful post. I know we can all nod our heads "yes" at this. Such deep emotion in foster care. Good and bad. Amazing and hard. Happy and sad.

  6. Absolutely beautiful. As a child welfare worker myself, I have to say that one of my biggest frustrations is not the bio parents, but those foster parents that hope and pray that the parent fails so that they can claim their child. I believe all of the things you've written steadfastly, and you've represented the difficulty with believing these things so well. Thank you for your heart and sharing.

  7. Thank you for your post and blog. My husband and I have been foster parents for 2 months tomorrow and are feeling a little bit of everything in your post. Your words express the mixed feelings of foster parenting and the risks of opening our hearts and lives to children who may return to a home that is less than ideal. We pray every day that God would use us to improve the lives of the 4 children in our care whether it be short-term or forever. Right now, that is our calling. (P.S. I have shared this post with many family members to help them understand our dilemma and struggles. It has opened up conversation that would not have been opened otherwise.) THANK YOU!

  8. Wow. So powerful. Thank you for sharing your heart. My name is Jillian and I serve with The Forgotten Initiative, a ministry dedicated to bringing joy and purpose to the foster care community. Would you be willing to be a guest blogger for our TFI blog? We would love to have you join our team! Please email me at if you are interested!

  9. I am former foster kid. Never down a child because she misses her family. Try reading my blog and you will understand. My blog is called Every Storm Runs Outta Rain

    1. I'm sorry. What makes you believe I would ever "down a child" for anything?

      If you have read any part of my blog, you would know I am a huge advocate for keeping children connected to their families. I regularly encourage my children to talk about and openly miss their family.

      Really. I would like to know where you get the gall to accuse me of doing something so damaging to a child?

  10. I'm a first time foster mom and found your blog in a low moment when I must be feeling completely crazy for accepting our first long awaited call just 2 days after finding out I'm pregnant. The first 2 weeks was perfect honeymoon bliss. Seeing her neglect and wounds were enough to pull out all the mama bear rages to keep me motivated at figuring out how to love this child. I felt like the honeymoon stage was gone as soon as I got the email that she would be attending a center to have therapy 3x a week with the mom as she goes through parenting classes. Now, I'm just completely struggling through it all! I want to be on the mom's side. I want God to work through us for His Kingdom, but sometimes now I just feel so detached from this sweet baby girl in my home, because I feel like the writing is on the wall for her to go home. Some days, when I am sick and tired and feeling SO pregnant, I just wish she could go home right away, and other days I can't imagine losing her. It's the weirdest twist of emotion ever and I'm so frustrated at myself for wishing her away at times when I prayed so hard and long! Well, to be honest, it was more prayers for a child we could adopt, but still! How can I not let the fact that I may not keep her forever affect me bonding with her!? Will I feel differently with more time with her!? I so want to have my honeymoon feelings back and love her deep, like I love our bio son! Please tell me I am not crazy! Thanks! Vanessa

    1. Oh Friend! You are indeed crazy. The good news is that you are in good company. Foster Care requires a specific kind of crazy from us Mamas.

      I do not have biobabies, but I have imagined several times that my love for a bio would be quite different from foster care. I love my daughter with a comfortable ease that doesn't come with knowing my son could return home. However, I love him with a fiery protective spirit that my daughter doesn't need. Again, not from experience, but I imagine pregnancy hormones aren't helping you through any of this- and it's OK to blame your unborn child for stuff since you're carrying him in your body and all.

      I'm assuming your emotional block is probably self preservation You are feeling she may reunite, so you are trying not to get attached. My best advice is to make the choice not to be afraid of getting hurt. The, "If they're going home- might as well go now." feelings are familiar to me, and they never stay too long. Your son will be OK, and you will survive even if she has to leave. Start by claiming her. No matter what happens- you are who she needs right now. You are the only one who can sing the bedtime songs and kiss the boo boos. She is yours- right now. Your honeymoon is not coming back, but now you have the chance to build something real. I've never regretted for a single second all the love I gave the kids who went home.

      Also, for what it's worth, attending parenting classes 3x's/ week with Mom doesn't make me very nervous about reunification. You'll get a better feel for that when Mom really shows up for all 3 classes every week. Foster care always reminds me that signing up for classes/treatment is very different from completing classes/treatment.

      Keep Going Vanessa!! It's not always going to feel this way- sometimes it'll get worse, but sometimes it gets so good that right now becomes worth it. Find support. I love reading foster blogs and have "liked" several foster care related facebook pages so I see positive reminders on my newsfeed. Knowing I'm not alone gets me through. You are not alone. ((((Hugs)))