foster care

Visitation

Anyone will tell you the primary goal in foster care is always reunification. Part of supporting that plan, is improving the child parent relationship. Courts set up visitation schedules to allow that. Our boys originally had two visits weekly for an hour and a half each or three hours a week. Visits can be supervised or unsupervised. Generally, parents start out with supervised visits and work their way to unsupervised, overnight and eventually reunification. Our kids were picked up from daycare, brought to either the “office” or playground and the transporter supervised the visits. When it was time to leave, the parents would get all worked up and it would usually take another thirty minutes to get the kids into the car and on their way home. The parents would give the kids sugary drinks, candy and general junk food. Parents are expected to be able to feed and care for the kids at the visits but just in case, I always sent a bottle with formula, extra diapers, etc.

Visits are also set up for siblings because it’s important the siblings who are split up due to foster care (very common) have the ability to maintain their relationships. The parents missed a number of visits and the caseworker and transporter determined the siblings should have visits once a week. So one day it was held near where Fiona lived and the following week it was at our house (due to weather). We got to see the kids play together, made a dinner out of appetizers and had a really good time.

We started setting up our own visits. It started out meeting Fiona and foster mom at a park. A few weeks later we picked Fiona up and spent a few hours at the water park. Then we did a few hours each weekend. Then overnights every other weekend until she was at our house every Saturday night. Our transporter got another job and the weekday sibling visits transformed into our responsibility.

I think we had daily discussions about whether or not we could handle Fiona or handle three kids period.

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foster care

Bio-parents, the system, judgement and guilt

So you want to be a foster parent?

Do you want someone in your house, twenty four seven, judging your every move?

Great!

Being a foster parent, per websites, others opinions and of course, the fun filled Facebook groups:

They are not your children. Okay, they are your children but they are not your children. But they are your children. They should call you Mommy and Daddy.  They should never call you Mommy and Daddy. They should call you what ever they are most comfortable with. You should recognize them as your children. You should recognize that they are their biological parents’ children. You shouldn’t change their identity. You should give them a fresh start. Reunification should always be the goal. Reunification should not be the goal if it’s not safe. You should give the bio parents every chance. You shouldn’t give the bio parents a chance if they don’t put their kids first. The foster system is broken. The foster system in definitely broken.

As a new foster parent, I was afraid. I was afraid of forgetting a rule, not having the right paperwork, angering the bio parents, being judged by the caseworker, etc etc etc. I felt like my family was Joe, Mason, Lucas, the state, the caseworker, the bio-parents, daycare and the transporter. And the GAL (guardian ad litem.) Luckily the GAL is completely awesome and a lifesaver.

Bio parents complained constantly about the condition of the baby. He never ate enough, he was too fussy, and pointed out every scratch. I started documenting everything and sending it to Aaron, our transporter. I was constantly on the defensive. Of course, the kids (and I) were constantly sick over the first few months. We had colds, ear infections, skin infections and even a case of MRSA!

On the same note, can you imagine not knowing your infant/newborn child and only seeing him for two hours twice a week? Of course, you’d judge the caretaker unfairly. I can’t imagine the pain those two are in.

And we were told, we are not Mommy and Daddy. We are Joe and Kate. But a two year old can’t understand that. At that point, women were Mommys and men were Daddys.

These were our days for a few months. They’d be picked up from daycare, brought to a park or visitation room and then dropped off at 7 pm. That’s when Joe and I really started to meet the older sister. She was a bright and happy five year old that mumbled quite a bit. She’d run inside to use the bathroom before being driven another hour to her foster mother’s home. After using the bathroom, she’d have to be cajoled back into the car, because she’d rather play with Mason’s toys in our living room. We’d whisk Mason into the bathtub and then straight to bed.

Aaron, our transporter, would tell us how they did with the parents, that the bio parents were planning on going to detox, that they were getting it together, etc. He was so hopeful back then. The transport worker is the closest to both the bio parents and the kids. They get to see the interactions and the relationships. They meet the foster parents and talk with them. They are the go-betweens when they should be the caseworkers!

So we continued, visit, daycare, doctor, sick day, visit, caseworker, visit, doctor, daycare.