Tag Archives: foster parents

Rules in the Foster Care System (and when to break them)

4 year old boy blowing bubbles in the backyard

Last Monday H went to Panama City Beach for a visit with his mom and siblings. 

Around noon I got a text from his mother saying she was working across town and there was an accident. She arrived 15 minutes late as a result. Apparently, the visitation center policy is: if you show up 15 minutes late, they cancel your visit. 

There are many reasons why visits could (or should) be canceled. If the parent isn’t progressing in their case plan, cancel visits. If a parent is habitually late, cancel visits. Obviously, if a parent shows up inebriated, cancel visits. 

I (a lover of rules) get that this is the rule. They are trying to teach negligent parents about responsibility and showing up on time. They also don’t want to waste their staff members’ time (visits require supervision by staff).

But imagine if the tables were turned. Imagine if I was supervising visits and we were meeting at the park. I wait 15 minutes and pack it in just as the parent pulls up. Can you IMAGINE the wrath I would get from the parent, the case manager, possibly even a judge if I just took the kid and left a FOUR HOUR VISIT because the parent was 15 minutes late?

There are Exceptions to Every Rule

As with everything in life, there are exceptions to the rule. And this should have been one of those times

Photo of our foster son playing in bubbles outside on Easter Sunday. We made an exception to our no candy rule, and let him eat some for lunch.
Throwback to Easter Sunday, when we made an exception and let H eat candy for lunch.

First, most foster kids get to see their parents twice a week (or more) but because H is 3 hours away, he only gets to see her once a week. 

Second, the mother was literally leaving a court mandated activity (a job) to go to another court mandated activity (a visitation). And while her previous actions (or inactions) may not have been satisfactory to the case manager, in this particular instance, she was doing her best. She was 15 minutes late, not an hour. She hadn’t been drinking. She wasn’t strung out. She simply got caught in traffic and was 15 minutes late, which has happened to us all, I’m sure. 

In fact, if one’s parenting ability was tied to timeliness, my husband would have been placed in care from the day he was born. I love my father-in-law, but I don’t think he’s ever arrived on time in his life. And my mom may have had some issues too…

Finally, who, once again, suffers from this policy? A 4 year old boy. That’s who. And a mother, who already distrusts the system, has even more incentive to hate it. 

In the eloquent words of my husband, after hearing my diatribe, “slow clap for the system. Way to suck at your job.”

A New Foster Care System Policy Proposal

And since I have a small obsession with solving problems, here’s how to handle tardiness for visits next time:

  1. Since the kid is already there, let the visit take place. 
  2. After the child has left, pull the parent aside and give them a verbal warning. 
  3. If it happens a second time, give them a written warning that they must sign in acknowledgement.
  4. If it happens a third time, reduce or cancel visitation SINCE (I would argue) A CANCELED VISIT IS MORE EMOTIONALLY DAMAGING TO A CHILD than no visits at all. 

When H got home that night, he walked over to the window where his dinosaur dream catcher hung. He painted it with his mom during their last visit. He reached up and touched it. Then he turned to me and said “I didn’t get to see my mommy today” and slid open the glass door and walked outside.

The Truth Stinks

Bedtime routines are hard. They're even harder when they stink.

Sometimes, the truth stinks. I know because I experienced it first hand.

Lately, H has been refining his stalling techniques. Basically, you tell him it’s time to do something he doesn’t really want to do, so he decides to come up with something else to do instead. But that something else is generally important and cannot be overlooked.

Our Normal Bedtime Routine

So, bedtime is super fun. It goes something like this:

Me: H, it’s time for bed

H: Ok (stands up) Owwww! My foot hurts!

Then, we must examine the foot to ensure it is not actually hurt before proceeding to bed.

When the Truth Really Stinks

But last night, he came up with a new one. We brushed teeth, went potty, read a book, went through our “who loves you?” list and then it was lights out.

5 minutes later, I hear the door open. I walk down the hall and he says “I have to go potty” which is a pretty great new stall tactic because I’m not gonna risk it.

Off to the potty he goes and into the toilet he pees.

We go back to his room, I tuck him in again and close the door.

5 minutes later, I hear the door open again. Now, I’m irritated.

“H, you’ve gone potty twice! It’s time for bed.”

“But I have to gooooooo.”

“I don’t think so. Back to bed, buddy.”

“No, I have to go potty again!”

“Ok, I think you aren’t telling the truth. I’m coming with you and I’m gonna watch you pee in the potty because I don’t think you have any pee left.”

We walk into the bathroom. We wait. Nothing.

I sigh.

“Ok, H, enough stalling, it’s time for bed now.”

And then BAM! He was not lying. The smell instantly engulfed the room.

I covered my nose with my shirt. He looked up and me, laughing and said “I told you! I had to go!”

The truth. Yep. Sometimes it stinks.

Mommy Wars Exist Even in Foster Parent Community

mommy wars exist even in foster parent community

The other day, I got my first hate comment on a post. Basically, the commenter wanted to know why I didn’t treat H like “a biological kid”.

So, I’m going to address her comment and I’m going to say something that may be unpopular.

I don’t treat H like my son because he’s not my son. 

Yes. I said it. 

I care about H. I love him. Every day I fight for him. I want him to be happy. I want him to be healthy. This is why I cook almost every night rather than drive through McDonald’s on the way home. Fast food would be much easier, and a much faster cleanup, for sure.

It’s also why my husband and I tag team taking off work to make sure he gets to speech classes and doctors appointments and dentist appointments and the like. It’s why I spend way too much at Target because I cannot resist his smile when he sees he got a new dinosaur t-shirt that says 1,2,3 ROAR! on it. 

But he’s not my son. 

H building a superhero castle.

The Difference Between Bio Kids & Foster Kids

If H was my biological kid, he wouldn’t have 8 cavities. If H was my biological kid, he wouldn’t engage in self-harm. If H was my biological kid, he would have insurance that covered his appointments in the city where he lived. 

You can love a foster kid as much as your biological kid, but you don’t and often can’t treat them the same. In some areas you may do a whole lot more, and in others you might do a whole lot less. 

Last Monday, the case manager picked H up and drove him 3 hours away to a city that took his dental insurance. He stayed overnight with a foster parent in that city so he could get his rotten teeth taken care of on Tuesday morning. He was driven back to Tallahassee that afternoon and my husband left work early to pick him up and I took off work on Wednesday morning since he needed to be at home to fully recover from the anesthesia. (By the way, his bio mom was at the surgery center with him). 

This is not ideal. It’s not what I would do for my biological child. 

If it was my biological child, I would have taken off of work on Monday, driven to the city where the surgery was, rented a hotel nearby so I could be at the facility the next morning at 6:00 am, and be there when my kid woke up from surgery. Then I would drive them back home. 

The Eternal Struggle All Parents Face

Some may say I should do that for H. I should do more. But as a parent, whether biological or a foster parent, you can always do more:

  • Every working mom should quit their job to spend more time at home raising their kids. 
  • Every stay-at-home mom should get a job to teach empowerment to their little girls.
  • You should postpone buying a new house to enroll your kids in private school so they get the best education.
  • You should enroll your kids in public school so they know how to work with people in the real world.

As a parent, you always struggle with what more you can do for your kids (like cheating on tests to get them into Ivy League schools). 

But there’s another perspective here. I could let H run around in ratty clothes. I could have thrown my hands in the air and said “they’re only baby teeth” and not brought him to the dentist at all. I could have taken a trip to Hawaii (sorry Sophie, maybe next year) instead of spending the money on baby gates and pool fences and fire extinguishers, all needed in order to get licensed as a foster parent.

No, I’m not H’s mom. He has a mom. And I don’t do everything a biological mom does. But in other areas, I also do a lot more. And that’s enough.