Friday, May 18, 2007

Foster Thoughts

As one person has noted, I don't usually talk a lot about my day-to-day personal life on my blog. I tend to focus more on the news, and what's going on, and my opinions based on both research and personal experience growing up in the foster care system. And, I will continue to do so.

But for Foster Care Month, I am going to open the veil a little bit, and give you a glimpse of little girl that is still inside the grown-up me.

I watched the TV show 24 for a while, until they started basically killing off cast members like flies. And one thing that ran through my mind was that the foster care experience is not unlike being Jack Bauer. He has a wife, he's lost his wife. He has a daughter, he's lost his daughter. He has a girlfriend; he's lost his girlfriend.

I am 34 years old. I have a husband and two stepchildren. I live in a house that my husband and I designed together, that I just love.

And if I were placed in the witness protection program tomorrow, and lost my husband, children, house, job and everything familiar, I could adapt right away. I could make myself "forget" them. I could bury my love for them and my memories of them somewhere deep beneath the surface, and force myself to move on and get the job done (Which sounds just horrible).

It is not that I am cold-hearted. I love my husband and children. But this is how I would survive. It is what I learned, at an early age. Moreover, this is what the foster care system teaches each and every child, especially those that have more than one placement.

One day you have a brother, and then you don't.
One day you live here, and now you are living there.
One day, you are at this school with this circle of friends, and now you are somewhere else with strangers.

And you can make it. You are resilient. You can and will survive.

But one of the coping mechanisms that you learn is not to hold onto people too tightly. You can love them and invest in them, but a part of you is always ready to let them go.
A part of you might even be waiting for the other shoe to drop, and your new family might not want you anymore.

Why do we do that to small children?
At the very time that they most need to bond and imprint, to connect and to learn, the foster care system takes them through one placement after another.

What can we do to change this?


And I know this is true of the children I care for. Some more than others, but I have learned to accept that the there is only a certain degree of attachment that some children can ever provide. They care for me, and are capable of "moving on" in a heartbeat.

They do because they must.
My son, who will be coming home to me in less than a month, bounced from home to home to home with his birth mom. Then he had five foster placements. Then he was adopted, and it later disrupted. Then he went to one more foster home and now he's going to move home with me. He's only 10-years old.

I wish I had a solution. Because no kid should have to move and switch caregivers that many times before finding permanency.
Hi Lisa
I do life story work with every foster kid I work with. I work through attachment issues, offer a degree of reintuitive parenting and collect as much information about family of origin as I can. This appears to help the child reintegrate their painful disruptions and rejections.

My view is that foster carers need intensive support and adjustment assistance to stop placements breaking down.

Our foster daughter is moving to another country this week. I'm more nervous than she is!
Just found your blog, but glad I did. I think you will be able to help me understand what my 11 year old foster daughter is going through. She has had 11 placements in 5 years, and we are hoping to be her last placement.

I would like to reiterate what megan said though. It is imperative that foster parents be given access to better training and resources. I run into too many that think love will heal all, and so many of these people need to realize that it takes a whole lot more than love to heal some of our countries most hurting children.
Today I wrote a post about this. Like Yondalla, I know we can only expect a certain amount of attachment form our bigger kids. And I worry for their futures, because the ability to attach is so crucial.

you give me hope.

I just read your comment..thank you.

I actually haven't received my manual from CPS yet. So, I couldn't tell you what it is I'm going to teach...if I can share it (I'm not sure if CPS has a copyright or not)..I will.

I enjoyed reading your Amazing. I'm in private practice now..have been in this field for 17 yrs..and I'm still learning..I will never stop learning. My kiddos teach me more than I teach them.

Take Care,
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