A harsh reality of Foster Care is terror.
You will be terrorized.
And not only by the children.
By the stories you hear from extended friends and family the longer you visit them and the more you stick around. By forcing yourself to not believe everything you hear without evidence. By behaviors that crop up in the children that support these stories – or at least a part of them. By doctors explaining why certain behaviors aren’t normal and what it could potentially mean. By putting the pieces together in your overly dramatic mind. By your mind and heart doing battle daily trying to be protective because of the things you know, and the things you don’t, while still being friendly will all parties. By the fact, that you have no power to protect them – not when it really comes down to it.
The day my Foster daughter has an unsupervised visit with her biological father, will be a day I don’t know I’ll get through.
I’ve pushed through a lot. But I don’t think I could push through this.
With evidence of sexual abuse piling up, with friends and family coming forward with reasons why they “know he is unsafe to be around children”, with doctors observations, with my own observations.
How can she feel like mine but be his?
How can she feel like mine, and yet, I am not her mom and have no rights to her. I still have to love her just the same. Its the only way she’ll heal. It’s the only way she’ll break the cycle of generational abuse and actually be somebody someday.
How do I love her perfectly, when I’m so afraid to?
How do I not love her perfectly – this sweet, innocent, adorable child who loves being loved more than anything in this world. Who took 4 months of consistency, security, and normalcy to bond with me. Who eats bananas like they’re candy, and shivers when she first wakes up and has to be snuggled into my warm arms.
I live in a state of terror because of how much I love this child.
I live in a state of terror because of the realities that the state pursues reunification almost at any cost, and as a Foster parent, I signed a contract to be support of that reunification and to encourage biological parents to be safe for their children. Its a contract I want to break everyday. As I’m asking friends and family to talk to the Social Worker about the stories they told me they witnessed that were inappropriate, am I breaking the contract? Am I doing enough or too much?
Will the parents find out I’m doing this and suddenly turn on me?
Will the friends and family I’m asking suddenly stop talking to me and break of that relationship because they are afraid of what I’m asking?
Will the Social Worker someday think I’m only trying to discredit the parent so that I can adopt her and keep her safe?
Will this lose me my kid in the end?
How to keep kids safe and still support reunification? Sometimes those concepts are mutually exclusive. A lot of times those concepts are mutually exclusive. Most of the time….
And yet. And yet. And yet (it’s become my least favorite phrase).
To keep my kids I have to at least pretend I’m a fan of reunification. To keep my kids I have to be unbiased despite knowing the truth otherwise the Judge won’t let me talk in court – because I have no right to without his expressed invitation. To keep my kids I have to play by the rules of the system that favors the criminal over the victim.
I try not to break down.
I try to love the bio parents.
I try to be supportive of my social worker
I try to give the kids in my care what they need.
Four concepts. Mutually exclusive. All of them.
I’m fighting a fight just to fight. I don’t know if I’ll win. The odds are stacked against me, against them. But still I fight. It’s gotten so dark I’m not sure what I’m swinging at, only that I have a picture in my mind of a bruised and battered little girl who needs me and that’s why I keep punching.
Foster parents travel through the dark in the hopes of bringing light to the children in their care. Lights are blocked by so many forces in this system it is like fighting a losing battle. And yet.
And yet, the battle rages for these children if I don’t step in the ring and take the punches for them.
I supervise visits so I can make sure she’s safe.
I calmly, rationally, and kindly respond to all correspondence with family members because being friends with them is so much easier than being their enemy, and it increases my chances of keeping the kids if I can prove to the judge I’ll remain in good contact with family members.
I try not to overwhelm or overburden the Social Worker with my fears until I have evidence to back them up so she’ll believe in my ability to be unbiased and keep inviting me to court dates.
I explain the facts, not my feelings, not my fears, not what my instincts as a mother are screaming at me, because then the Judge will keep inviting me to speak.
I speak without saying the words I want to.
But at least I’m talking.
The day I stop, will be the day she loses.
I’m terrified of stopping.
I’m terrified of still punching.