We had another baby born in our community and apprehended at the hospital.
We have agonized over fostering this child so that baby can be in a home that has an open and welcoming attitude to the birthparents – basically so the parents can hang out over here with baby. Though we go back and forth on it still, we understand that it would likely be too much for us to manage both babies at once. A foster baby and, 3 or 4 months later, our newborn. But it is very hard to say no.
That kind of situation — where birth parents are welcome in the foster home — is extremely rare because so many foster parents are afraid of birth parents.
So often these birth parents were foster children themselves just a few years ago. I am constantly wondering at what age each parent crossed that invisible line – where society went from advocating for them/supporting them/trying to care for them to looking down on them as people who just can’t get their lives together. Is it 16? 19? 21? Is it when they look like an adult? Is it because they didn’t complete school? Don’t hold a job? Continue to use drugs and alcohol longer than our own teenagers do? Is it when they parent their children in the way that they themselves were parented?
I understand that children in danger must be moved into safe, loving, and healthy spaces. But we have to do better at finding, recruiting, and certifying kinship care homes, and customary care homes. And at coming up with creative case-by-case solutions. Removing children from parents, from extended families, and from whole communities doesn’t do much to prevent further cycles of trauma, addictions, abuse, and… child apprehensions.
Also, we got a call from our child welfare placement office asking if we would take a sibling set. It was actually the first time that the placement office has called us! Until now it has always been us hearing about a situation and then calling in to the child welfare office (asking if we can provide foster care, or support a mother navigating her file).
It was a very surprising call because we had been told so many times that we would not be called about a long-term placement until well after our baby is born. We were told that we are an exceptional case, being approved as foster parents while planning an adoption — normally they would not place children in a home undergoing a big life-change, so they would be starting us out very slow. They had been clear that we would only be offered short-term respite and relief care placements.
And Polar Bear kept shaking his head, “They say that now, but just wait until we’re certified. They’re going to call with placements.” And I had no idea what to think. And now here we are, (still awaiting our final certification fyi), and they called us with a (possibly long-term) sibling set placement.
Well, we went back and forth on the phone with our worker about it for a day, but we were only able to offer foster care to part of the group, and respite to the remaining siblings on some weekends. Ultimately a better solution was found for the children, so no placement at this time.
But again, my heart broke for mom, and for the kids I knew were about to be apprehended.
A Fostered Life, one of the best blogger/vlogger/foster care educators on the internet posted a brilliant video this week on the trauma of being apprehended and placed in a foster home. It’s a great kick in the pants for foster parents who expect their foster child to find safety, comfort, and happiness within the first days of a placement, and a great reminder that being brought into our home is not simply an escape from trauma but also a major trauma in itself.
I know it sounds dark. It is. But I highly recommend watching anyway, with an open heart. She really helps you think more clearly about 1) how to practically help children at the beginning of a placement 2) how important it is to acknowledge birth families in whatever way that’s possible, and 3) how to be patient, understanding, and kind in the face of massive meltdowns and angry outbursts. Check it out.