Sometimes it is very difficult to represent something when you find yourself becoming more and more aware of just how faulty it is becoming. When ,my husband and I decided to become foster parents, it was not without a lot of thought , debating and even ironing out some disagreements. I know it has been very difficult for him and one would think since I am a social worker by profession, my knowing a lot more about many things that we deal with on a day-in and day-out basis , would make things easier for me. That is not the case whatsoever, because I am more aware of how things should be done and for me, that is the most frustrating things of all.
It is close to impossible to describe the emotional connections that come from some of the relationships that develop with these children. And I am convinced, if I were to retell the tales that are the lives of some of them, it would interrupt your sleep and break your heart. They become so routine, these horrific stories that follow these children, that at times, it almost seems like a ‘can you top this’ contest of which child’s story that is the worst. REALITY CHECK – it is not the stories that are so awful, it is the realization that these stories are realities that our kids have lived through; one whose legs show burn marks of where his mother’s boyfriend threw scalding hot water on him because he was ‘annoying’ his mother.
Another was the timid 10 year old, who couldn’t maintain himself at his ‘reunification visits’ with mom and ended up needing to be admitted to the children’s psychiatric hospital. This one’s mother was charged with neglect when he was 6. He was removed and although things looked really awful, his grandmother stood up and took him in. Still far from perfect, his life took on the most stability and consistency he had ever seen. Until the fire that burnt gram’s house to the ground and was the cause of her death forced him into foster care. He wakes up screaming every night and clings to a tattered security blanket even though all the other children at the hospital laughed at him and made fun of him.
The reason I have chosen to use my writing as a platform is not to tug at your heartstrings; which I am certain each one of these stories is more than capable of doing, but rather to give testimony to how these poor unfortunate souls who have been through hell and back before they come into the system, almost always are cast aside. I know in any profession, there are those who are good at what they do, and those who are not so great. It is just that when it comes to the lives of children, it is even more devastating. In almost each and every case, (and we have had more than 30 children who have shared our home with us) when the system fails them, it is not just a matter of having a bad day or not meeting a deadline and having to deal with a client that is rightfully upset. We are talking about poor decisions and improper actions that harm and destroy the child’s life.
When a child is removed from a foster home, because the caseworker was intimidated by the family dog – and absolutely no other reason – the domino effect of implications is tremendous. Despite the emotional loss for both the family and the child (yes, even if a child is placed with a family and stays there for 4 or 5 months, bonds occur and relationships develop and there is a loss when those bonds are shattered.)
Or when a 15 year old who has been diagnosed with mild mental retardation is placed in your home, but all the caseworkers from the county all the way through the private foster agency somehow never inform the host home parents that the child comes with 22 failed placements prior to this one. In other words, because they know the child is difficult to place, there is a wealth of information about the child’s past that is withheld from the home they are going to with the hope (I suppose) that the host home parents will take the child off the county’s hands for a while. The injustice here, is that the family that takes the boy in is entirely unprepared for the level of behaviors they are about to have to deal with. So even if they might accept the child and try and work with him for a short while, they will burn out and feel very much taken advantage of in no time and you can pretty much guarantee that this will soon become failed placement # 23.
If people have the right to know what deficiencies and problems their used cars come with, how can people not provide accurate and thorough information about children? We are dealing with people’s lives. While we can easily see how this is not the right way to treat foster parents who open their doors in an attempt to try and help and make a difference, the injustice to the child is just as bad if not worse – because many times the horrid behaviors these children exhibit are not easily controlled and moving into and out of 20+ homes with new people, towns and schools is something all experts will agree that exasperates the problems.
The stories can go on and on. Maybe one day, I’ll write a book about some of the real life experiences that we’ve had as we connect to this constantly increasing population of young people and those professionals who work with them in the miserably broken system of foster care that we have in this country.
But for now, I more or less needed to vent and for that, I thank you!