Category Archives: Fostering

Becoming a foster parent isn’t actually that hard. You take some classes, fill out some paperwork and, if you’re a relatively decent human being “BAM!” Now you’re a foster parent.

However, once you have a foster kiddo and you’re “in the system”, there are a lot of situations to navigate.

I am a first-time foster mom and I’m blogging about my experiences. I write about everything from how much school foster kids miss to getting doctor’s appointments scheduled.

Honestly, it’s a little risky. The reason it’s hard to get “real” information, is because everything here can be used in court. Often, words get twisted.

However, when people know the truth, steps can be taken to improve the system.

So many of the “resources” out there don’t fully prepare people for what it takes. I’m trying to change that, with one blog post at a time.

It may just change your mind about fostering altogether.

 

What to Expect When You Change Your Child’s Routine

We finally got a routine down with H. It took 8.5 months and then all of a sudden, 2 weeks ago, everything started to click into place.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t completely smooth sailing, but we were doing reasonably well, all things considered.

But alas, peace in our home is clearly not meant to be. Because this week, Pre-k started assigning homework.

Now don’t get me wrong. Education is awesome. The bees knees. Quite possibly the one thing that can break the cycle…

But the addition of “the homework routine” is quite unwelcome.

In the orientation, the teacher said “oh the kids just LOVE doing homework. They get so excited to show you what they are learning in school.”

I guess coloring pictures of ducks just doesn’t do it for our four year old.

He’s more of a Transformers guy. Or maybe Avengers – the way he Hulked those homework sheets across the table when (after an hour of coaxing), in complete exasperation, I told him that he was stuck doing homework the next 13 to 17 years.

But I told him not to worry. The time would fly by and then he’d be done with homework and would just get to work every day for the rest of his life instead.

He screamed “BUT I JUST WANT TO PLAY!”

He may be angry about the homework, but I must say the honesty is honestly quite refreshing.

And for the record, H, I feel the same.

#playallday

P.S. I’m excited to share that I just learned in a foster parenting re-licensing class, that you CAN share pictures of kids on social media, so I’ll be posting some of my favorites on my personal Facebook page later this afternoon. I will not be putting any on my website or on Instagram, however. So, you’ll only be able to see the photos of this adorable kiddo if we’re Facebook friends.

One Year in the Foster Care System

This month marks H’s one year anniversary in the Florida Foster Care system. Child Protective Services removed H on August 8, 2018. Since then, he lived with a family in Panama City for a month. After that, he moved to Tallahassee, where he lived with a new family for 3 months. Then he came to us, where he has been for 8 months.

One year. 3 families. 2 new schools. 100 different rules.

The most frustrating — no, INFURIATING, part about this is, H has grandparents in Georgia who want him. From the day they found out he was in foster care, they started the process to become primary caregivers for their grandson. H knows them both. He’s been up for visits from the time he was a baby.

But the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) has a million hoops they must jump through first…

They started this “process” in October 2018. They submitted their paperwork in December 2018. It got “lost”. For 3 months. To this day, no one will own up to the mistake. I talked to his grandmother on Friday. They’re still waiting on approval.

If only H’s grandparents lived in south Florida instead of north Georgia. The ICPC paperwork wouldn’t be required. So much of the trauma he’s experienced could have been avoided. No strange families. No new schools. The same consistent set of rules from day one.

Trauma in the Foster Care System

There’s a lot of talk about reducing trauma in the foster care system. In our foster parenting classes, teachers devoted hours to discussing the sexual assault and abuse that 90% of kids in foster care deal with. What is NOT discussed is the additional trauma that these kids endure because of the structure of the system.

Even the words they use downplay it. Behavioral issues. Self-harm tendencies. Aggression.

You take a dog to behavioral classes. There’s a whole movement out there that classifies tattoos as a form of self harm. And aggression? That’s a word my dad uses to PROUDLY describe my actions on the soccer field.

It wasn’t until I started specifically detailing the exact behaviors taking place that people finally got serious about getting H help. He’s hitting himself. He’s biting. He’s pulling out his hair. For 5 months, the “behavioral issues” went ignored, despite my requests for a behavioral therapist.

In other words, that’s 5 months of trauma that could have been avoided, had we got the help we needed when we first asked.

Then there’s visits. Every week, he, along with hundreds of other kids across the state, get carted 3, 4 & 5 hours away for a visit with their parent. At the end of the visit, they are literally ripped out of their parents arms and put, crying, into a mini-van with ONE adult driver, to go back to their foster families.

I guess they just process that trauma every week, on their own, in their carseats?

The Blame Game

But it’s not my fault” everyone is quick to point out. The reason the ICPC paperwork is held up is because of Georgia. The reason H can’t get medical services is because of funding. The reason case management can’t respond to an email is because they’re in court all day.

Every single person has an excuse on why they can’t do their job. And they aren’t wrong. Yet everyone continues to operate in a system that is clearly broken.

My husband and I became foster parents to do good. To help these kids. But to be honest, every day we continue to work within the confines of this broken organization, we hurt thousands of children. Every time we follow a ludicrous rule we are in effect saying “it’s ok to operate in this manner”.

And it’s not ok.

None of this is ok. I keep thinking, we need a movement. People need to rise up. March on Washington. Storm the capitol. Change must happen. But how do you unite 443,000 oppressed minors*? How do case managers, who barely make enough to survive, strike for better wages? How can this broken system get lobbyists as good as the NRA?

I don’t have these answers. So instead my alarm goes off. We wake up. And we teach H how to brush his teeth. And how to pronounce the letter “P” and we tell him he only has one brain, and he must protect it. And we live to fight another day.

*

*On any given day, there are nearly 443,000 children in foster care in the United States. In 2017, more than 690,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care.

There are about 19,000 children in foster care in Florida. About 600 children waiting for permanent placement are without identified families. There are about 340 foster children in the Tallahassee area.

Teaching Love to a Foster Child

How do you define love? It’s honestly not something I’ve given much thought until this moment. I never really had to, I suppose. Growing up in the church, I remember hearing “God is love” a lot. But I never had to think about it, because I’ve always had it. Because I am privileged.

How To Define Love

If you actually look up the definition, it’s “an intense feeling of deep affection”. 

It’s a feeling; an abstract concept. It’s not a physical, tangible, “let’s show it off to the neighbors” kind of thing. So how do you explain it to a child?

I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t. Not accurately or effectively, anyway. Because love is taught through actions and by building trust with another person. A strong bond forms, that eventually turns into love.

But what if there’s no trust? 

What if the actions of others around you are erratic?

What if you’re 4 years old, and you can’t read, and you certainly cannot break down abstract concepts and you can barely color inside the lines of the heart shapes in your coloring book? 

Then what is Love to you? It’s “mommy is gonna buy me a blue transformer next week.” 

Tangible goods.

In other words, money CAN buy love. 

How Do You Teach Love?

So how do I explain that “your mommy loves you but…love is spending time with each other. Love is being kind to each other. Love is consistency. Love is keeping you safe. Love is teaching you how to function within society. Love is teaching you that there are rules. And establishing consequences when those rules are broken.”

Love is everything that you didn’t have.

So we try to teach (cram) 4 years worth of life lessons into the short time he is with us. Kindness, consistency, self-worth, laughter, truthfulness. We are trying to teach him all of these things, yet I am filled with such anger. 

Every inch of me rages. From the moment I wake up in the morning to the second I fall asleep at night, there is a dark cloud of hate that churns inside me. Every core of my being wants to fight: the system and the lawyers and the case managers and the therapists and the parents and judges and the politicians… because it’s all broken. And we are all failing. 

I want to help. I want to “be the change I want to see in the world”. I want to make a difference. 

But how do you teach a child love, when you’re so filled with hate?

Can he sense it? When he hugs me, does he feel my heart race? Am I just one more “do as I say, not as I do” example in his life? 

I hope not. Because as much as I hate this system, I love this little boy… even if I can’t define it.