Second only to the “Why” question, I’m asked this all. the. time. To which I always say
“Yes. You’re supposed to. I think that’s why they’re looking for human beings to foster and not robots”.
But of course, people still look at me as if I’m a robot, so much so that I start to wonder if I’m heartless, cold and have boxy shoulders. But then I remember how hard it is to find blouses that are slender enough for my petite frame and I stare back at people like they are aliens. And while I think of aliens and robots as all being from the same film unifying in one great mission, I start to doubt that I can ever talk to these aliens again. Then I realize that if I make that decision I would have no one on the planet to be friends with and then I start to believe that I really MIGHT be a robot. And then up pops the memory that I spent part of my doctoral studies pursuing HCI (human-computer interaction). And now we have arrived to the place where I start to question myself and the designers at Anthropologie who have mastered the puffed sleeve for my robotic arms.
The real question these aliens are asking though is “Isn’t it so incredibly painful when the children are reunited with their parents that you want to go walk out in front of a bus?” and I get the question, I really do, but not so much. Because doing nothing makes me feel like walking out in front of a bus. Maybe it was all of those damn Sally Struthers commercials growing-up.
Doing something is actually pretty fun most of the time. Like lying awake typing this post because starting at 3:02am that 22 month-old in my bedroom started singing a disturbing mashup of “Baa-Baa Black Sheep” and “Poker Face”. And she’s on like the 29th verse already and for all I know she thinks there are 43 more.
I can’t imagine feeling any more alive and happy.
As noted in my ‘about me’ section, I did not go into foster care to get a cute accessory of a child. I wanted the unwanted, ugly, disabled ones. So why do I keep accepting the perfectly adorable little ones?
Aside from space issues in my apartment and only being approved for ages 0-3, my thoughts are that one if not all of these children will end up back in foster care. And one, if not all of them may not always be so sweet and charming at age 15. Because I have already formed a bond and commitment to these kids when they’re cute and tiny, I’m hoping it will make me all the more invested and caring as their foster parent when they are juvenile delinquents.
Here’s another answer to the “Why question”. As in, you sound fucking miserable Rebecca, why don’t you just pick-up your Ethiopian baby already?
Once I became a professor, I was astonished to realize that students have ALL THE POWER. Most of them don’t realize it, but the one or two that do and then take that power to the dean’s office… they can get the school painted purple if they want. And I wish I could go back in time and relive college life knowing that.
Same goes with most of my past jobs. No matter how clinical of a work place I’ve been in, there always seems to be someone who is the “customer” and far be it from you to disagree with that costumer. Say, I’m doing a psychiatric evaluation in an Emergency Room and I decide that a person does not meet criteria for the in-patient psych ward, yet the person’s cousin is insistent and wants to talk to the president of the hospital. Yep, my supervisor’s supervisor’s supervisor is ordering me to toss him upstairs. And does the public know this? Do the tax payers know? No. And if I leak, my job is in serious jeopardy. Strike that, my CAREER is in peril.
Now, as a foster parent, I can do things that my mental health colleagues only dream of doing and saying. I can advocate, I can question, I can probe and I can shake things up without affecting my job. All of that change that I went to school for so long to be able to make isn’t happening in the status quo of my professional career (although I do try here and there), instead- I’m able to use it on “the receiving end” of services.
Gab asked this question based on Marisa’s link and I decided that this conversation needed a special post all its own. Indeed, people (especially myself) outline all of the wrong reasons people become foster parents. But it seems that identifying the right kind of drive is more illusive?
I never heard back from the ACS worker; however, I consented to the early intervention eval to be a good sport. I’m guessing Jacket won’t qualify for the program, but if she does, there will be A LOT of meetings. Starting with a “city official”- what the hell does that mean?
Anyway, the program wanted to come this weekend, and I’m proud of myself for saying no. Snap, Jacket and an Evaluator. Guess who else will get an early intervention referral?
They have a 30-day deadline (funding related) and seeing as the referral was made when she came into care on Dec. 2 they are pushing to do the eval soon. I insisted that it be at my apartment after 6pm. He’s going to figure it out.
The coordinator fellow looked to be in his late 20s and he asked the why question. Actually, he said “So, you just take these kids?”. To which I replied, “Yes, I’m a foster parent.” Not an answer to his question but alas, I didn’t have the energy…
After the Mommy Meet-Up Disaster I decided to gracefully bow out of that particular cohort. The only problem was that I had already signed-up to provide a meal for a mother who recently gave birth (and didn’t attend the meet-up mentioned above). Fortunately, this is New York City where no one expects you to actually cook. Instead, you just order something from your favorite restaurant and have it delivered (My self-righteous-stay-at-home-mom is rolling over in her bible-belt grave by the way), no uncomfortable face-to-face time necessary. A few clicks of the mouse and one Sushi Combo Deluxe later, my responsibilities were done.
I was done. Except that the nice mother who received the food was all “Who are you? When are you due?”. I responded with a short and sweet two sentence line about occasionally having foster care kids. I thought that might be it, but who am I kidding. She wanted more, only if I was comfortable, but more if I had it - please tell her why. So I started blabbing. ‘Cause that’s what I do and while this blog is supposed to contain most of it, sometimes I leak.
“foster care- i end up answering this question differently every time… i grew-up around a lot of adopted and foster care kids and i always thought it was such an injustice that their families had 15+ children…i wished that more ‘normal’ families would adopt/foster just one or two. now, i’m a psychologist and i coordinate services with ACS. in nyc in particular, the only foster parents out there are incredibly impoverished and uneducated (or infertile and hoping to adopt which is its own disaster)- and they all have multiple children themselves. another issue is how children get bounced from foster home to foster home- i think the average is 18 homes per foster care child? i’m committed to always taking my kids back in order to provide some stability and only one ‘second home’.
in general i’m attracted to the marginalized. i’ve worked with orphans, the disabled, the mentally ill and all of the above in developing countries for a while. i assume i’ll have my own biological children at some point, but in the meantime i have a lot of resources to share.
i hope that didn’t come across as too do-goody do-gooder! but that’s my answer to the foster care question today. when i don’t feel particularly chatty, i reply ‘some people are vegetarians, i keep foster care babies’. to be honest, i’m not sure ___name of mommy meet-up____ is a good match for me. i’m pretty socially at-ease but i went to one event (the _______) and was pretty uncomfortable. …..
I’d love to learn more about you and your family as well. Hopefully we’ll cross paths, Rebecca”
“It’s all about the practice”.
I like what he had to say and I agree. Next step for me is to learn more about new initiative “Improved Outcomes for Children”.
According to my thought of the day, anyway.
I really like this article on hysterical parenting. It helps to articulate my mental shift from “I can’t afford/don’t have time to be a foster parent” to “holy shit, I have a lot to offer”. Here are some personal, hysterical down-grades I’ve made which enabled me to give foster parenting a go:
1. Scrapped the top-rated doctor’s offices (spread out around the city) in exchange for the full-service, public clinic a block away. I found the pediatricians there to be excellent.
2. Fed the second baby the WIC (government) formula she came with (and was used to) instead of organic.
3. Dropped all pimped-out nursery inklings. I have a 1-bedroom apartment and the crib is in my bedroom.
5. And horror of all horrors, I stopped boiling the bottles after the first 30 hours with Snap.
Last night Snap’s Newest ACS Worker, whose supervisor was the target of my pissy email, came and ‘cleared my home’. I’m not sure why my ACS foster care license wasn’t sufficient, but I saw it as a way for the crotchety, butch, hobo boss to save face.
Snap’s ACS worker was very friendly. He told me that he was off from work the day I sent the above mentioned email. He received a series of urgent voicemail messages from the commissioner’s office and he feared, and even assumed, one of the children on his case load had died. Fortunately, he finds this funny now. He said that he supports my hunch that I’m the first foster parent to have ever email ACS.
One would think that the now infamous email was pretty clear, albeit emotional and wordy. Nonetheless, the ACS worker began bombarding me with layman’s questions that sounded completely nonsensical coming from a foster care professional. “Don’t you get attached?”, “So why are you friends with Snap’s Mom?”, ”What do guys you date think?” and the daddy of all foster parent questions “Why?”.
I felt like a freak show in a circus. “Of course I get attached, we’re supposed to. Yes, it’s hard to give them back. I’m not exactly ‘friends’ with Snap’s Mom. The guys I date are usually the crunchy idealistic types.”
I regret not tossing the burden of proof back onto him by asking something like “Would it be better if I lost all interest once a child was out of my home?”. Instead, in my stunned insecurity, I played the adoption card. Urgh-gla-gla-gla-blech. I can’t begin to express how gross I feel when I use my adoption as a scapegoat- why do I need an excuse to be a foster parent other than having the resources to meet a need in the world?
Some people become vegetarians; I take care of foster kids. Soldiers go to war, nursing home attendants wipe asses all day, scientists spend lifetimes in dark labs trying to cure cancer— and I keep a foster kid sometimes. Really, am I somehow shattering his worldview here?
The adoption card works like magic, by the way. Just two simple words “I’m adopted” somehow causes the clouds in the sky to erroneously spell out “PREDESTINED”. All questions stop and people just grin a sort of pity-awe. But trust me, I know a lot of adoptees and they haven’t considered having foster kids anymore than Adopt-A-Manatee. I dislike that being an adoptee clears every one’s mind. No one should have to have an “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” story as a reason to be foster parent.
Snap’s ACS worker is going to case note my adoption, everyone is going to get teary and sentimental and the issue will finally be buried. So annoying.
I was on the phone with my foster care agency’s home finding director for over an hour last night. More of this baby’s story is as follows,
Mom has a good, pushy lawyer, ACS has a “spineless” lawyer and the child’s law guardian is “useless”. As a result the foster care agency is being bullied into moving the child to a different foster home. Mom’s accusing the current, Latino foster mother of causing the child’s craddle cap by not holding the child enough.
Two issues for me.
1. Mom’s accusations are part of the symptoms of her mental disorder. She will eventually have the same problems with me. Rewarding the mom with a “white woman who doesn’t have any other kids in the home” is disastrous.
2. The child is white. There, I said it. I don’t want a white child. Growing up as the only adopted child of an infertile mother, I begged my parents to adopt a brother or sister for me for years and years and years. I must have heard a thousand times how difficult it was to adopt a “SECOND white, healthy newborn”. My mother would have no problem saying to company in front of me “the only babies that are out there are black” and the response to my parents was always “Wow, you were so lucky to get Rebecca!”. The take-home message was that I was a fucking rock star because I had blue eyes and blond hair.
Fortunately, I attended a fantastically diverse public school system where my elementary school teachers, who happened to all be black (except 5th grade), were my idols. When I was twelve, my parents got their second “white, healthy newborn”. My brother is awesome nonetheless, and my parents paid up the ass for him.
This all said, if a white child needs a home, I want to provide it. But adoption culture hasn’t changed that much in 20 years and the wait lists for white babies are still long and stomach-turning. Until that changes, I’d really like for my emotional, educational, social and financial resources to go towards a non-white child.
(Regarding my use of “black” instead of “African-American”- in a nutshell, African-American doesn’t translate, or even make sense internationally. I know some people who are black who are actually insulted by the term. I always ask people directly how they categorize their ethnicity and then use their terminology. I’m on my own here so seeing as our President identifies himself as “black” and we have “Black History Month”, I’m going with that for now.)
1. Create a support team for each foster child. For example, in addition to the foster parents each child could have additional “team” members who were conveniently friends of their foster parents. People that are interested in contributing to the lives of foster children without being full-time parents. These friends could sign-up for supportive roles in the foster child’s life using their unique skill sets. Sort of like having your own board of directors. Positions could include school liason, legal advocate, medical coordinator, tutor, activity buddy (e.g. monthly outings), career counselor, etc. etc. The board could meet quarterly to assess the child’s needs and to drink. Emphasis on drinking. Per the birth parent’s consent, the “team” could continue to function throughout the child’s life. It could be sort of like Professional Big Brothers/Big Sisters - “forget the movies, we’re taking you to an SAT prep class”.
2. Planned Extended Foster Families. Given the current reality of large sibling sets being split up among multiple foster families, why not have the foster parents pre-coordinate which other foster parents they like and want to team up with to raise a sibling set. For example, Eaglet’s sister and brother are with a family who have no interest in meeting up with us. If her siblings were instead with foster parents I already had a relationship with, we would be able and more willing to coordinate more time for all of them together.