Smithie I like you, I really do and a lot of the time your very gutsy, shoot from the hip style gets me thinking about things in a different way and I really appreciate that about you. But you don't know what you're talking about, in this case, and I hope it's not to your detriment that you go into fostering with this attitude (though I know your plan is really to adopt).
The reason I lurk this board, is because I would love to be a foster family, I straight up ACHE for it sometimes....but my family has been HEAVILY involved in adoption and foster care and respite care going back generations and I know too much and I can't go into it thinking it's going to turn out great because a lot of the time it doesn't. I mean, most of the time it's OK. Some of the time it's really bad...and every once in a while everything goes GREAT. But people who put too much emphasis on the GREAT and resign themselves to the OK and refuse to think about the really bad...are setting themselves up for a really wild ride and I don't think that's fair to their kids. I think people place too much importance on themselves as foster parents....they think that every kid coming in the door is going to be changed by them, really and truly impacted and that if the parents are really bad, they;ll lose their rights and that if the match really "clicks", foster kids and the foster family can be together forever through adoption. The reality is...it's not about you. You aren't there to save the day or be a hero, it's about the kid going back home. From day one, that's what it is all about...the kid coming and staying, so the parents can be straightened away or whatever and then, the kid going back home. If you don't realize that is where it's heading most times, you should not foster. A lot of the time, when a kid leaves your home, it's when things are just getting settled. You JUST start to feel like the kid is in a groove, like you are giving them some normalcy. You never get enough time to see a lot of progress through. You're not going to walk this child down the isle, throw your hat in the air at a high school graduation, or hold their kids after they're all grown up and have their own family. You don't get the normal payoffs of parenting a tough kid. These kids need you like CRAZY and then they leave. What's worse, seeing a troubled kid you didn't click with walking out the door to go back to a situation that's probably not going to heal him...OR...seeing a troubled kid you REALLY click with who has a strong shot of coming through his troubles just fine...walk out the door to go back to a situation that probably won't heal him? Because that's been our friends/families experience with fostering. Kids you can't reach going home and kids you love to pieces going home...and kids who no one else wants because they are so bad off with disabilities becoming your adopted kids because it makes you so disgusted to think of them not having real parents if their own. <-----My adopted Grandfather aside, this has been the case with every foster situation our family has had over the years. THe kids you know need more help to heal from trauma than you can give them go home to crap situations, the kids you LOVE who are going to be fine if they can jsut be in a normal situation for the rest of their childhood go home to crap situations and the kids who set your house on fire and who seem like they are doing well for a year and then regress back into self injury, stealing, running away and lashing out violently at the neighbor kids...yeah, nobody ever seemed to want them....which is why three of our family memebers are severely challenged individuals who will probably never be able to live outside of a group home or facility as adults...but who we love and who were adopted because they NEEDED a family.
A lot of the time when kids go back home, it's to a situation you would NEVER EVER want your own kids in. People seem to think that kids with "mild needs" aren't as tough as kids with higher needs and that anyone can do it. Man, it's easy to think that, until you get an up close and personal look at daily life with a kid who can't be touched or doesn't talk or won't eat or won't stop eating or hits your biokids or whatever. "Oh, it's no big deal, he just has some attachment issues" - "Oh, we're not signing up for hte hard cases, just kids with FAS and mild emotional problems" - those issues are no laughing matter, these kids need a LOT. Oh, and somebody else is always telling you how to do things with the child, what help they need/don't need, etc, because it's not your kid. It's really hard....and you don't get a prize in the end, either. Most people I know who say "I wis I never fostered" say that because of the intense emotional roller coaster of REALLY loving a kid, really desiring to give them all they can...and they do...they give and give and overcome so much..and then the kid is just *poof* GONE. Most people I know who got burn out, got burned out because of THAT. Well, that and being lied to, jerked around and otherwise crapped on by the system....coming "thiiiiis close" to adopting their dream kid, who is a perfect fit, having EVERYONE straight up telling the kid "this is your forever home" etc...and then last minute having everything change. Do you know how it feels to have to explain to your young kids that the foster kid who was "definitely their new brother/sister" is gone and they're never going to see that kid again? - This is not for the faint of heart, this crap is for REAL.
I know I don't have what it takes to be a good foster parent and it kills me, but I can't do it to my family because I just wouldn't be the best thing for a kid in that situation. People think that ANY home is better than whatever home these kids must have come from...but man, a bad fit with a foster kid is no joke. I am a great person, great parent, great wife, etc. I know I am. I think I have a lot to give and I know that in some other way I will come to impact the lives of kids with family situations that are unstable. But I don't have what it takes to be a foster parent.
I don't have what it takes to:
- Parent MY kids
- Parent MY kids in a foster situation
- Parent a foster kid with low to high special emotional/mental/physical needs
- Parent a foster kid with above mentioned needs in a foster situation
- Navigate married life in a foster situation
- Do all of the above with a foster system in my life that ranges from pretty okay to downright disgusting, depending upon where you live.
I can't do that. I don't have what it takes.
I feel like, a lot of the time, the problems that some of these kids come with, get kind of glossed over. Or people will say "oh, well most of them aren't "fire starters"'. But it really does happen. Oh, and if you work in FC long enough....some friend or family member of a foster kids biofamily WILL call DCYF on you at some point. It's just gonna happen. I don't know anyone who has been in foster care for longer than a couple/few years who hasn't had this happen. This doesn't mean that at the end of your life you don't look back and think "Wow, that really changed my life and was worth while and important to those kids" - but a lot of people I've known didn't feel like they were able to make a *true* impact with kids. I know some families who were really chewed up and spit out by the foster care system and in a couple of cases, the impact on the family/biokids/marriage was really lasting and negative.
I'm so glad for the family members I have who are foster/adopt kids. My whole family has a long and strong history with fostering/adopting. Some of the stories are REALLY hard with good endings...and some of the stories are REALLY hard with really bad endings. One of my grandmothers REALLY hard with a good ending stories involves her home being completely burned to the ground by a FS who ended up being adopted by her. One of our family's really hard with a horrible ending, involves my foster uncle, who was a very small child and nearly adopted and had very special needs, DYING on a trip to the mall of heart failure...he was doing so well, but then, because of his disabilities(as a result of being abused), he just had sudden heart failure and was dead.
I have a lot of really great stories, too. Growing up with foster kids all around me was, in some ways, really incredible...but only because the adults around knew how to approach things, knew how to talk to us other kids, knew how confusing and weird some things could be for us bio kids and weren't wearing blinders. Every kid is different and every kid brings a different package to the table. Every kid has good days, every kid leaves a special mark on your heart. But every kid comes with heartache of some kind, too. You can't breeze into fostering the way you breeze into birth..."Oh, I'll jsut breathe my way through the hard parts" - no. No it's not like that. Respite care work taught me more about fostering than I needed to know. It can be REALLY hard. Oh, and if you think little babies cant have attachment disorders and other problems because of neglect, etc, you're wrong and you need to educate yourself.
I bow down to those of you who can foster....you are truly amazing. You are SAINTS. I just can't. I know too many burned out exfoster families. I know too many kids I grew up with who feel resentful of their parents fostering(and some who wouldn't have traded it for the world, either). I know too many relatives and friends who are like, REALLY good and noble people, who in the end, were left feeling broken by the system. Who saw too much, who lost too much with their own kids, etc. Even if there is a chance that my story could end up one of the happy ones...like ladies here seem to have (which makes me so happy)...I just have seen first hand how bad it can go and how hard it is even when it's NOT going bad. I feel like I can't chance it. I've been there, picking through the rubble of a burned down house, looking for anything that might have survived the fire, set by the foster/adopt son, who, because of his emotional/mental problems can't stop bringing up the fire and rubbing in the fact that he set it and laughing about it....even though everyone knows that was his way of processing his guilt and fear over what he'd done...it SUCKED. Especially because he had been having a REALLY great year and he was improving by leaps and bounds when he did it.
I'm not saying "no one should foster" - but I am saying "proceed with caution". Don't foster parent because you want more babies and hope to find your "meant to be" through fost/adopt. If you want another baby, have one. Adopt through private adoption. Hire a surrogate, whatever. But don't go into foster to jsut to find another kid for your family. Foster because you want to FOSTER....find out what that IS, without ignoring things that don't fit your rosy image of "what it's gonna be like" and then make the decision to do it. It will impact your family, extended family, kids and marriage in ways you can't see from the beginning....so just be prepared for that. Foster parenting, in my family, has been a lot of guts and not a lot of glory.