Friday, November 17, 2006

Are we supposed to be parents or "Sort of" parents?

Since becoming a "foster-to-adopt" parent and receiving my first placement, I have come to realize that foster parents are in an interesting situation. We are supposed to love the children that are placed with us, we are supposed to "treat them like our own" (whatever that means) but somehow, we're supposed to stop just short of loving them so much that we don't want them to leave. We're supposed to "sort of" be parents. I'm not sure it's possible for PB and I to do that.

This situation seems to be most highlighted for me when I come into contact with people who "strictly foster" without intending to adopt. There is some tension there. Not nastiness or ugliness, just what seems to me, some latent judgment about how people who are fostering-to-adopt approach the situation. We are often reminded that reunification is the goal and we shouldn't be hoping that children become adoptable, as if rationally we aren't aware of that. We're also reminded the children we are caring for were "never really ours to begin with." Because you know, I didn't realize that before.

The thing that troubles me most though, is the implication that if we foster parents would just realize that they weren't "ours" and if we really understood that reunification was the goal, losing them should somehow be less traumatic.

I don't think it can be. Or maybe I should say I don't think it can be for me. I think if you really put your heart into it, which is what good parents (note the deliberate omission of foster in that statement) do, it will hurt no matter what. The idea that it's selfish to feel badly when a child leaves is a hard one for me to swallow.

Don't get me wrong, this doesn't just come from other foster parents. Well intentioned friends and relatives like to keep reminding me that I "knew what I was getting into". And I did.

But that doesn't mean it's not OK to mourn when one of them leaves. I don't think I could be human and not feel that way. The question is whether I can keep mourning each little person who comes into my life and not drive myself entirely crazy.

Stay tuned.


FosterMommy said...


I think I've said it before, but a great quote I've heard and repeated often is:
"The gift we give to foster children is our broken heart when they leave."

Meaning that we love them with all our heart. They are *our* babies. Just because we got into it with our eyes open, and knew they weren't staying, or whatever, doesn't mean we shouldn't love them fully and be sad for our loss when they move on.

Yes, it's your loss. Feel it. People who blow it off seem to think that everything in life has to be happy, happy or why would you do it? That's kind of like saying, why would you play a sport if you could lose? Faulty logic, really.

My experience says that you can try, as much as you're able, to explain the reality to someone. But then if they don't get it, then that's not a person to lean on. Or really listen to when you're grieving the loss of a FC.
Find the people you can lean on. the people who *get it* and just keep on keepin' on.

Renee said...

You know, I *am* one of those who got into fostering to foster. But you know what? You never know how you will feel until you have that child in your home. With our first two(short term 30days) we knew they would be short term and just ate them up while they where here, but where prepared for them to go. Now that weve had T and A for the past 3 months we are begining to realize that it wont be so simple if these two leave. We desperatly want to adopt both of them. When placed it looked like T was most likely to leave(as she was to be adopted by an aunt out of state) and A had a great shot of staying. Now it looks like T will stay(from what we have been told aunt isnt doing what she needs to do to get her) and today I found out paternity results for A(lets just say they arent what I was hoping to hear) I know I know--Im supposed to support reunification, I knew what I was getting into, he isnt my child--all of that. I dare anyone to say it to me. Ive cried so hard since the day I took him home from the hospital, he IS MY baby and if I *DO* lose him I am not sure HOW the heck I will go on. Yes the logical part of my brain knows that I will, but my heart cant for a second even try to comprehend it---

Anonymous said...

I'm a foster parent with no intention of adoption. If I do adopt it would only be when one or the other of the kids are adults.

I have one in the process of emancipating right now. It is heartbreaking, even if it is good and natural. You can't love them without it hurting when they leave.

Amanda said...

Well, at least I'm not the only one, huh? I keep hoping this will get easier, but I'm not sure it will.

Renee, you captured my thoughts exactly, of course I know I will make it through this, but I honestly can't envision how, yet.

Anonymous said...

I think if you don't mourn them, you didn't really put you're heart into them. I was happy Scooter had a good home to go to,but also a little sad because I knew I would miss him. I also realized it wasn't as hard as I thought, because in this case, I felt at peace that his dad could care for him.

I get sick of people assuming I should feel nothing when my kids leave, and they are my kids until the judge says otherwise. You can be happy and sad at the same time and other times you can be heartbroken if you know the children are likely to come back into care.

I treat my foster kids like I would my own and all the love that goes with it.

Amanda said...

Well said, dream mommy.