Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Squeak is 4! And, how to talk to current and potential foster parents?

So I just saw the comment on an old entry asking if anyone was still around to update.

Unbelievably, our little guy is four now.
He's doing great.
He's brilliant and sweet and creative. He says mind-blowing things on a regular basis. He's still kinda clingy but he's doing well socially with his peers too. He's obsessed with Toy Story. And our kiddo does obsession well! It gets boring fast. Ah well...

I came back and took a peak at this blog after a long time away because a member of my community is in the process of getting licensed through the county we worked with. I wanted to share some of my perspective, so she could be as prepared as possible for the terrible realities of the system. And possibly choose not to take her family down that road.

Another community member posted on FaceBook a few days ago a link to an article claiming (like a recent commenter did here) that counties are stealing kids for foster care because it brings money in. And then in the discussion that spurned, another article by a social worker in the foster care system who knows the iffiness of what she does for her job but thinks "better me than someone else."

The morality of being involved in the foster system in any voluntary way (meaning case workers and foster parents, rather than birth parents or children) is such a fuzzy grey area thing. I can't make heads or tails of it. And I can't judge others for which side of the line they land on, as long as they're seeing the line with their eyes open.

However, there's another whole level of ethical concern to consider when there are already children in the home. I would never foster through the county again now that I have a kid. The mismanagement and meanness is too risky to my family's health. Would I do it through a more competent private agency, which would still be subject to some of the limitations that the county has as far as getting a decent outcome for the children in its charge? Maybe... But it'd take a LOT for me to trust any agency again as far as they need to be trusted to become that deeply enmeshed in my family's life.

I have struggled so much with thinking the existing system should be shut down and that no reform is good enough, yet really wanting to see SOME competence within the system since it doesn't seem to be going anywhere any time soon. If there were good case-workers, more good foster parents would stick around (I personally know MANY who have been burned too many times by the incompetence and will never go back). And the kids would be so much better served. I would still think it was an unethical and wrong-headed approach to dealing with child abuse, but maybe it could stop causing quite as much harm.

So does it make sense to encourage ethical people who are good parents to be involved in foster care? Or to discourage people you value from getting themselves trampled by the foster care monster?

Not that it matters, entirely. People will make their own decisions. But I'm struggling with this right now.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

I forgot the golden rule...

The Golden Rule of foster care is: Never Assume.

We haven't seen Niblet in over 2 years. Last we heard, she was living with family members who we had met and liked. The assumption was that they would end up adopting her and that would be that.

I ran into Niblet's birthfather today as I was on my way home from work. I was very friendly, he was very friendly, like two old friends. When, really, I'd like to rip his head off just for the things I *know* about that he's done or allowed to be done to Niblet.

I asked if she is in pre-K or K, and he said pre-K (she turned 5 last month). I asked where she was, meaning which school (yes, I was fishing, but whatever), and he thought I meant where was she living and he said "With Mary on Main St." (names and locations changed to protect...someone...). Main St is the street we live off of. It's not very long. Which means that Niblet, my baby girl, is living right near me and probably at the public school we walk past all the time.

I don't even know what to do with this information. Except that now I desperately want to find this "Mary". And I'm trying very, very hard not to think about why she isn't living with her family and why she's in foster care again.

The father said he was scheduled to see Niblet next week and would tell her he ran into me. I wonder if he will, and I am really, really curious if she remembers me/us. I don't even know what I would do if I saw her again.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Survey Results

Responses keep coming in. It's interesting to know that this is floating around out there on the internet still, from over a year ago when I first posted it.

There's no one clear answer (shocking, right) but there's some interesting tidbits to report, as I approach 100 respondents.

First, almost all of the respondents were current or former foster parents, with 8 foster care professionals and 1 former foster child.

60% say that foster care slightly or significantly reduces the liklihood of physical harm to the child.

56% say it slightly or significantly increases the liklihood of emotional harm to the child (18% netural, only 26% say it reduces liklihood of emotional harm).

Divided across the board on whether it increases or decreases the stability of the child's life or of child's healthy attachments.


The two biggest weaknesses of the system were reported to be:
Good flow of information among birth parents, case workers, and foster parents
Retention of good case workers

The two biggest strengths were reported as:
Children receive necessary therapeutic services while in foster care
Birth parents treated with respect

Of the items listed as possible weaknesses or strengths within a given foster system, five were clearly rated as weaknesses and two as successes (others were ties).


When asked how they would change the foster system, here's how the options given are ranked after all the current votes:
1- Clearly defined standards for birth families to meet in order for child to be returned
2 - Enforcement of Federal ASFA (Adoption and Safe Families Act) rules for permanency
3 - Increased communication between case workers and foster parents
4 - Follow-up supervision and services for families after reunification
5 - Law Guardians/Guardians Ad Litem fulfill their duties as child's advocate
6 - All case workers in the foster care system required to receive MAPP training
7 - Family Court judges required to receive MAPP training
8 - Better pay for foster care professionals

The most common suggestion under "other" was to increase/improve services offered to families to prevent removal in the first place.
(I should've thought of that! :)


So, dear readers, if any of you do remain on this neglected little blog, what do you think I should do with these stats and the comments people have left?
Should I try to do more publicity and get more responses?
Should I try to get a more public venue to report this?

There are about 25 people willing to talk about their experiences publicly, too.

I was just reading a bit on Pound Pup Legacy which I had never encountered before, and there's a desire there to get better media coverage for the disaster that is the Child Welfare System. Which is my goal as well, in the hopes that media coverage leads to improvements (though with such beaurocratic agencies, it's far from a sure thing).

I am reminded of this because Dawn's blog (This Woman's Work is up for a contest for "Best Adoption Blog" and it really IS one of the best. Talks about adoption without hiding from reality and making things pretty, with deep analysis and willingness to learn. And is written well. So I was poking around there, though I don't keep current with it. And was reminded of the ridiculousness that is the foster system and my desire to do "something" about it, though I don't know what that something is.

I do have a friend who's a statistician and would probably rip holes in my methods of surveying, but could also help me figure out the best way to present my results.

Ok... what do you think? Interesting results at all? Are you surprised by them? Do you have any additional burning questions for future potential survey takers? Would you re-post the survey link on your blog or facebook or whatever if you have a community of foster parents/case-workers/kids/etc who read it? Should I just let it go?

Hope things are going as well as they can in all your corners of the universe.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Will Mother's Day always be bittersweet?

The first Mother's Day that we had Squeak, we had Niblet visiting with us, as well. The 4 of us galavanted around town and had a great time. It's a time I think about when I imagine what it would have been like if she'd come back to us.

Niblet's 4th birthday was recently. I can't imagine what she must be like now. I hope she's talking up a storm. We never really heard her talk. She had a few words by the time she left us at 18 months old, and a couple more a year later, but we never heard her say sentences or really express any feelings or anything. Although she was a wonderful little person, we lost contact with her before she came into her personhood. I hope she has it now. As far as we know, she's still with her good family members and I hope they've TPRed her parents by now. She could be adopted and have a mother, father and 2 older, doting, brothers. That would be great.

But still, I mourn. She is my daughter. As much as her birthmother (even more, some would argue), I am her mother. I don't know if I wish for her to remember us, or for her family to tell her about her time in foster care, but even if she never knows, I know we are a part of who she is and I will always miss her with each passing year.

A while ago, I happened to catch sight of Niblet's birthparents waiting for a bus. Her mother was, as far as I could tell from my drive-by view, very pregnant. I have no idea if I was right, or what happened to that baby. It drove home how much is still uncertain for Niblet and how many children there are out there who are in danger or living in horrible situations. At the time I didn't know whether to hope that the baby was born addicted and taken away then, or to hope that the parents were getting help and managing to keep things together for the little one. This time. That second option doesn't stick with me very long. Because the thing about good parenting is that you have to do it forever. And I don't trust those people with a child. At. All. I'm left with the hope that the kid will get hurt like Niblet did - enough for a removal, but not enough to cause permanent damage (whatever that means).

I guess my thoughts are just all over the place. Even though we're not doing fostercare anymore, and at this point we're considering not even adopting again at all, (since Squeak is awesome enough!), I wanted to reach out there and let you guys that, at least at Chez FosterMoms, fostering is still taking a toll.

I just hope that my little girl is enjoying life to the fullest and that Mother's Day and her birthday fill her only with feelings of love and joy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Take my survey?

FosterMommy and I were recently asked by some friends to talk to other friends of theirs who were going through a similar foster care hell to what we experienced with Niblet. We did, and we hit it off great and we wish them tons of healing and strength as they go through the worst of losing their little boy. I also talked a bit with the mom about foster care reform and activism.

Foster care is such a broken system. My personal strong opinion is that it should be abolished completely, 100%, and all the money and resources that go toward CPS type services should instead go toward poverty-alleviation measures. I'm 1000% sure that it would keep kids safer, and it would obviously keep families together, and help adults and communities as well.

Anyway, that's not about to happen. But, I'm not going to spend all my energy pushing for foster care reform. Still, I'd like to do something.

As a foster parent, I wished for a national organization for foster parents. Mutual support, referrals for local lawyers, a blog roll, ASFA information, whatever. I'd like to try to create this, starting with a piece aimed at foster care system improvements. Since foster care is regulated at federal, state and local levels, and done differently in every area, it's complicated. But I made this simple short survey focusing on foster care reform and I'd like to use it to get an idea if what I think are the general big problems are the same things others see, and if not then what are.

If you're a foster parent who thinks the system needs to change, would you take it? And send your own blog readers over here to take it, too?

Click Here to take survey

Thanks all!!

Sorry for the crappy sentence structure here - I'm tired.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Family Court is good for something afterall!

Squeak's adoption is final!

For some families, this is a big event, but we weren't all that excited by it. We feel that Squeak has been ours since the 30-day-wait was over, last April. Since then, there has been no doubt who he is and who we are to him.

The weird part was going into the Family Court. The same court we've been to with Niblet. The same court that screwed her over numerous times. The same court that, hopefully, will make it as right as can be and leave her with her aunt and uncle and cousins. I imagined, eons ago, that we'd be in that court some day finalizing Niblet's adoption.

Fortunately, we were in front of the 3rd judge, the one we've never met, so it was easy to focus on the present. We met our lawyer there (for the first time) and she gave told us what to expect, and then all 4 of us went into the courtroom. There was nobody else there, just us and the judge and the court reporter. I think I expected a county representative, for some reason! The judge asked verified that we all were who we said we were, said hi to Squeak, and then "made it so". It took about 62 seconds. No biggie. We hadn't brought a camera (because we didn't really care about memorializing the day), but the lawyer apparently did, so we posed with the judge for a picture.

The exciting part came after we left the courtroom. The lawyer was packing up and said the new birth certificate should arrive between 6 week and 6 months and to let her know if it didn't. fostermama asked if, by any chance, there was a way to get a copy of his original (real!) birth certificate. She said "well, if I have it, I'll give you a copy" and then realized that she probably had it on her, if she had it at all. After shuffling through our file, she pulled out an official birth certificate, told us to wait a minute, and went to make a copy.

And that was that. The paper that we aren't supposed to have, the paper that is no longer official (because, officially, fostermama and I "gave birth" to Squeak - um, there are so many levels on which that's impossible), is now in our possession, laminated and ready to go in our safe deposit box.

Although we knew Squeak's birth name and his mom's name, we now have his time of birth (estimated, I'm guessing, as he was born at home and then transported to the hospital), and his mom's address at the time of his birth.

We still send pictures, etc., through the agency, and his mom didn't want any contact with us, but it's still interesting to have her address. It might come in handy when Squeak is older. At the very least, we can visit the address and show him the neighborhood where he was born.

Anyway, we already received the adoption certificate in the mail, and we're planning on keeping copies of it with us, in case we ever need to prove to someone that we are a family. But anyone who sees us can tell. Just one look at Squeak's little face when he's running towards us is enough for most people.

Friday, May 09, 2008

"How long? How long must we sing this song?"

I can't imagine why I have this U2 song stuck in my head...

Niblet's birthday is coming up. She is going to be 3 years old and she still doesn't have a permanent home. Never has. It makes me so angry and so very sad. The county had a choice. They could have kept her where she was, with us, where she had been for as long as she could remember and where she was safe and loved. Instead, chose limbo. To send her to her very old father who maybe-kinda-sorta-might be able to handle an energetic 18 month old and, ya know, see how that goes. Well, it didn't go very well. And now she's with a family who loves her and cares for her and keeps her safe...and they're still allowing the father to "work his plan" and try and get her back. As far as we know.

I thought I might run into Niblet's father today, because I do occasionally. fostermama and Squeak and I went to the store this morning and got her a birthday card, slipped our phone number in it, and a picture for her family from her 1st birthday. I was hoping to give it to him and ask him to pass it along to her. No guarantee that he'd do it, but if he did, then at least they'd have our phone number. Not that I really think they'd use it, but whatever. I want them to know how much we miss her, but it's impossible to convey. Why should they care, even if they did understand? As far as I know, they could be in the process of losing her back to her father. We're not their family or their friends. All we are is a reminder that the system sucks and that they could lose her. Would I want to be in contact with us if I were them? I don't know. I'd do it for Niblet's sake, but as far as we know, the caseworkers have actively told them not to talk to us.

As I read Baggage's description of the Federal laws and how her county follows them pretty well, I became overwhelmed with sadness for the thousands of kids who live in counties, like ours, that don't give a crap. If Niblet had simply been born in a different county, she would very likely have a permanent family and not be in need of multiple therapies each week. It makes me afraid to continue living in this city that, otherwise, I love. It boggles my mind.

I hope we can find a way to keep up on Niblet's case. We made a promise to do something if her father manages to get her back, and I need to be able to make good on that promise.

This Mother's Day, send a little mothering energy Niblet's way. She needs a permanent, safe, loving mother to raise her into the wonderful, vivacious woman I know she will be. In exchange, I'll send you a little bit of that Niblet Hug I'm keeping in my heart.