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Monday, June 25, 2012

Hard on mom?

I have to say Rebecca’s comment really stuck with me over the weekend. When you put yourself out there you take the risk that someone is going to judge you as wrong and that’s what happened here. I questioned why the comment stuck with me. Was it because I was being hard on Mom or was it because I felt misunderstood? The answer I landed on was a little bit of both. The questions in the comments that Rebecca left lead me to believe that she isn’t a regular reader of my blog or that she has only recently read some of my posts. And she had no information on her profile so I’m not sure how or if she fits into the triad of biological, foster, and adoptive parents. This is a point that NewishFosterMom raised when coming to my defense. I appreciate that someone cared enough about me (at 5:45 in the morning!) to take the time to point out that perhaps the comment pointing out I was being too hard on someone might also have been “being too hard on someone”. So ladies thank you for reading and caring that I’m doing my job right. I appreciate both points of view and I'm thankful I have readers!

This blog is a safe place for me to vent my frustration. We parent 4 traumatized kids. We work with 3 individual therapists for the kids, a psychologist, case worker, her supervisor, a family therapist, and we’ve had 2 clinical people overseeing the case as well. I also work full time. My girlfriends all have babies and I can only vent so much to my family due to confidentiality and not wanting to further strain already strained relationships. So I do say a lot of things here so I can let them go and not continue to carry them with me. Plus, I want others to know that they are not alone. That there are other people out there attempting to keep their sanity while on board the crazy train that is foster care. And this case is CRAZY. Seriously, have you ever heard of a trauma therapist having to participate in a family session with a Mom she’s only met in person twice because the Mom perceives that she’s been intimidating and mean? The word ridiculous has come out of my mouth more times in the last 18 months than it did in the previous twenty some years combined.

Sure it’s unreasonable to expect Mom to plan her visits around children being grounded – especially if she didn’t know they were grounded. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t irritate me. The rest of the family missed out on a movie because that child was grounded and here she goes to one anyway. It’s annoying. It’s like being divorced and sending the kids to Dad’s for the weekend where all rules are abandoned and the kids come home with gifts and sugar. I spend a gigantic amount of time each week trying to get this child going in a direction where she acts appropriately and does not disrupt everyone around her and then the message gets reinforced a few times each week that those rules don’t apply because my real Mom doesn’t follow them and the goal is return home.

Had I know that the plan was to take her to the movies I would have informed her Mom what she did that got her grounded and let her Mom make a choice. If she chose to take her to the movie anyway then this would be something we could discuss when we start our family therapy sessions on co-parenting. But the fact that a child was grounded and got to go to the movies wasn’t really the point I was trying to get across.

The commenter stated that a movie sounded safe. Yes. A movie is a safe activity on the surface. But when you dig in deeper and you learn that after 2 years Mom’s parenting skills are seriously lacking and that is exactly what she is supposed to be learning with these visits in order for the kids to have a safe environment to return home to, a movie is not a good choice. Mom did have visits in the home. She was up to 5 hours (supervised) with all 4 children weekly and 1 individual 2 hour (supervised) visit with each child a month. At these visits she would feed them, put on a movie, and paint nails. When we introduced homework it wasn’t accomplished and when the children began testing Mom’s ability to handle conflict we had an incident that led to visits being suspended and a court order separating the children into pairs with visits having to be out in the community because the (5th) home she is living in is not suitable for them. Mom is supposed to be working on having these four children full time, as a single parent. She is choosing a movie because it is the easy choice. The appealing choice. The choice that she is sure that she can handle because it requires no interaction. And making this choice is not safe in the long run. After 2 years we should be working on the long run.

This frustrates me for many reasons. The first is that it leaves these kids in limbo. We have no return home date in sight. Imagine for 3 years you weren’t sure who your parents were going to be or if you were going to get moved tomorrow or if your Mom was going to move to Mexico and never see you again. That is the reality of these kids’ life. We are headed into 3 years of foster care. ½ of Mr. Mohawk’s life. ¼ of Little Mama’s. This type of stress leaves lifelong marks on children and the more time they are left in flux the harder it will be for them to heal. The 2nd is that she has promised the kids that she is fighting to get them back. I see no fight and neither do they. I see some effort and I will give her that she has done more than a lot of biological Mom’s in her situation have done but I see no fighting. The only fighting she is doing is with the trauma therapist and since she has a tendency to file complaints everyone is afraid to push her or give it to her straight because they don’t want the hassle or give her the opportunity for an appeal.

The 3rd reason is that it leaves me in limbo. My life is tied to her choices and I have NO say in it. She goes against the advice of the team and it is me picking up the pieces that she leaves her children in. It is me scraping the stool sample into the vials to prove to her Mom’s attorney that her diarrhea is from anxiety surrounding her Mom and not some misdiagnosed virus. It is me listening to hour long tantrums from an 8 year old every day for 3 weeks because she feels unsafe. It is me making the trip to the emergency room to stop the allergic reaction to the make-up, and me answering questions on why birthdays were ignored. I’m not complaining that I am doing these things for the kids but rather I’m doing them because of someone else’s choices.

Yes. I am being hard on her here because everywhere else I have to tread carefully and rise above. And that exhausts me at times. I have to listen to a team of people who have never met these kids that I love so deeply suggest that they should have a mother that is “good enough”. And then sit silently as they explain to her that her children “care” for me but will always love her. I have to watch as she alienates her children in a span of 1 hour but put a smile on my face and act as if this was just a peachy afternoon despite the fact that the fallout from it will last the better part of a week. I have to find a way to nicely respond when she tells me she wants to do it again next weekend when all I want to say is “You are out of your ever loving mind if you think today is going to happen any time soon lady.” Because despite my frustration and anger at the situation I really do want a good relationship with her. It’s important to me. It’s important to the kids. I want her to find happiness in life and I would love her to prove me wrong in my assessments of her choices and the motivation for them. But two years in that’s not a likely scenario and my preference would be for us to all be able to move forward and heal before more damage is done that isn’t fixable.

This post is probably coming across as defensive. I mean it as more explanatory. It's good for me to be reminded that sometimes my standards are above what she is capable of but that doesn't always mean that my feelings change because of it. But perhaps someone else read the post and felt the same way and so thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain further. And for giving me the opportunity to see a reader come to my defense and feel as if someone else really gets it!

6 comments:

  1. I was gone over the weekend (and I'm in the midst of my own batch of crazy) so I didn't get a chance to defend you. But defend you I do!!
    We foster parents are in over our heads with System demands, bio parent demands, and all it takes to care for these children from the hurt places. I'm to a place where I believe that if you haven't fostered, you have NO IDEA what this feels like.
    Blogging is my only form of therapy right now. And that means that sometimes I might say things that others don't fully understand. These stories are incredibly complex. A blog can only convey so much.
    For what it's worth - I agree - this bio mom taking her children to the movies is a cop out! I haven't read all your archives and I haven't been reading for long...but this bio mom doesn't seem like she has the skills to parent her four children without a lot of LONG TERM support from (most likely) a team of people. And the damage that does to the kids, who are languishing in this limbo land of foster care, is horrific. It doesn't matter how wonderful of a foster home R provides, these kids still don't have permanency! That that complicates things more than anyone (other than a foster parent) can understand!!
    Keep on doing a great job Foster Mom R. You rock!! And vent away. You deserve it!!

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. Rebecca - I had subscribed by email to future comments. I saw what you said to Foster Mom R. I'm sorry you felt the need to remove it from this post. You had some good things to contribute.

    Personally, I LOVE to hear the perspectives from others involved in "The System". In my experiences, I find it fascinating to watch the reactions of all the different people involved in the cases I've been a part of. And since I get so little face time with lawyers, I find your perspective very important. You have to factor in all the legal aspects of what we can and cannot do without "really" knowing the children. Your job is incredibly important.

    In my opinion, if you're reading foster parent blogs, you are trying to understand the full picture. I think that's awesome.

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  4. Ha! I am on the east coast so it wasn't as early as it might seem.

    Of course you have readers (just seems to be not a lot who post)- you are on my daily weekday morning to-do list as I drink coffee. Cherub Mamma is too (praying this is over for your family in the blink of an eye).

    I normally don't post comments because my iPhone isn't really friends with blogger and time after time my comments are erased before they can even post. But this morning I just had to make sure you knew that Rebecca's comments were not representative of your (regular) followers.

    I, too, am disappointed that she deleted her post on this thread, especially seeing that she seems to be an attorney with experience in the system. I will say, that when one talks about the difference between the legal minimum to parent and parenting well, the gaps are huge. That is some of the frustration of foster parenting- we want the best for kids we care for and love (even if they do not legally 'belong' to us), and the courts have set minimum standards for biological parents to meet.

    Most parents are upset when their kids get subpar schooling,, food, etc. Imagine sending your kids to subpar parents! That's a concern many foster parents experience when working a concurrent plan without checks in place by professionals to prevent that from happening.

    Blogger R (you need a cutsie blog name for us to refer to you!), I think you explained beautifully why this case is so tough. I hereby grant you the 'I deserve to vent' award. You have earned it!!

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  5. I just spent all of my free time in the last two days reading your entire blog. There is so much I want to say. I have a two year old bio son, a four year old second parent adopted from my female partner son, a nine year old foster son who has been with me for six months and have had four previous foster children. I love fostering and it is something I have ways known I would do, but I get incredibly frustrated by children's behavior and the behavior of their parents. My son's father is also working towards reunification but doesn't seem to have a job, a place to live or consistency in parenting. He also took his son to a movie during a three hour therapeutic visit and I too questioned the quality of that time spent together.

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  6. I have never leagaly fostered but I help mothers who know they are in trouble to get straightened out before it ever gets that far. The ones who are smart enough to see something is wrong and do not need someone else to tell them. That makes it much easier I am sure cause they are already aware as it seems most of the foster kids moms felt they were doing just fine until athorities told them otherwise. I am sure they have issues with authorities too so that makes your job harder cause they want to play the system the kids and you to their benifit. I totally get all the work you do being erased by one visit and the acting out that happens after the kids see the Other parent. for me its the other parent for some fosters is the other parents as the case might be. Just know that after 16 years with my daughter and feeling like everything I had worked so hard for was wiped out in one weekend stay . And having the worst year ever last year it is all Soooooooooooooo worth it as I sit here today. She was learning all the stuff I worked on. Do not give up ever and the reward will always be worth the effort.

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