It’s Not Glamorous Or Easier

A trauma informed therapist says “let me tell you that some of my 2-5 year old kids who have experienced trauma have more behavioral “issues” than my teens. She shares this story –

One of my best friends is starting the process to foster. She has a 16-month old biological daughter and is due in July with her second. We were talking on the phone last night and she said her and her husband are doing an orientation and are wanting to get licensed to become foster parents. When I asked her, what ages? Without missing a beat, she said, “0-5. I know it will be harder to get kids in that age group. But kids who are older have been passed around so much and have gone through so much. I just don’t wanna deal with all that!”

When I brought up childcare (her and her husband work full time), she said that the government pays for daycare for foster kids. Babies/toddlers who are in foster care have just as much trauma as older kids. They just can’t express it. They likely have struggled to form attachments and ideally, I don’t think foster babies should just be put in daycare full time.

In looking for an image to illustrate this blog, I encountered another perspective that is in this same realm. “Fostering Offers Flexibility in Age and Gender Preference (But I Don’t Foster Babies Because They Are Cute and Easy).”

The decision to become a foster family is never easy. The idea can seem overwhelming when you hear about aspects of providing care that will be out of your control as a foster parent. However, foster parents have total control in terms of selecting what children come into our homes. Foster parents are able to choose a preferred age range, select gender preference if desired, and say “yes” or “no” to each child needing placement.

My husband and I chose to foster babies and toddlers for the life-long impact we believe we can make on these children and their families. There were other reasons as well; for example, we want to welcome children who are significantly younger than our 11-year-old biological twins. We may decide to raise our age preference for fostering as our own children continue to age, but that’s not a decision we need to make right now.

In an article related to fostering The Developing Child found at harvard.edu, “Toxic stress weakens the architecture of the developing brain, which can lead to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.” This is the type of information that led us to foster children ages three and under, which is a critical time that we feel we can make the greatest long-term impact. (Offering full disclosure, I also want to offer my best self, which tolerates toddler tantrums much better than I handle tween tantrums.)

During our original licensing process, I sought counsel from a friend who used to work in adoption placement and currently works with traumatized children as a therapist. She helped prepare me for the atrocities I would face as a foster parent. She explained that for babies and toddlers to be identified, it takes a serious injury that requires medical attention, and hospital workers often file the report of suspected abuse or neglect for young children.

Why ?

Today’s story – I Never Wanted Boys

Husband’s first cousin and his girlfriend have, actually had – 5 children – 3 girls, 2 boys. They have custody of the 3 girls but both boys were placed for adoption because in her words “I never wanted boys”. We didn’t think she meant it, but she did.

She placed the first boy with a friend of hers and the other with my husband and I. She has no relationship with her first son but for the first 4 years of our son’s life, she and his sisters would see my adopted son, a few times a year at family functions. She would always tell him “Hello” and give him a hug, but that was the extent of her interaction with him.

When he turned 4, the couple, parents of these 5 children split up. That was now 2½ years ago. She doesn’t come to family functions anymore and turned down my suggestions, more than once, before blocking me completely for asking her to maintain some sort of relationship with the son that is in my care. He has always known she is his mother, and from birth until he was the age of 4, he was able to have some sort of relationship with his sisters. I’ve explained to her the importance of the children having a sibling relationship and bond. She does not agree with me that this is necessary.

My adopted son is now 6½ years old. His questions have started to be – “Why?” I don’t know what to say to him. The truth to me is harsh and I’ve always struggled with the thought that the day might come when I would have to tell him what her reasons were. Before all of this happened, I was for 100% transparency and truth as regards his adoption. But do I really tell him this?? Surely not this young!!? When he’s older? EVER?? I don’t want to add to his trauma.

One answer that came, really tore at my heart.

99% of the time I am for telling a 100% of the truth all the time – except for this situation. My brother and I are adopted. We have different genetic/biological families. Our story comes quite close to this one. My brother is an adult now. But at the age of 9, my adoptive mom told him – his mom treated him the way she did because he was a boy. Now that he is an adult, his original mother has admitted that is true. But being told this when he was 9, well, my brother was so confused and hurt that he self mutilated himself trying to become a girl. The best advice I can give in this situation is to seek an adoption trauma therapist to help you navigate the years ahead. I know such a rejection definitely messed with my brother’s self identity.

Misperceptions

I don’t know where these people get ideas like this.  Here’s today’s story –

“So when I talked to the foster care recruiter she basically said I can’t license you for the age group you want (0-3).  You will have to do 0-18. I don’t want to do older kids because I’m only 25 and all my kids are 7 and under. She said we would only be allowed 1 child because we are going to have another baby soon.  We would have 5 biological children (though one is stepchild, who is only with us weekends).  Our state limits the number of children in a fostering home to 6 total. OK, I’ll be honest, I was really hoping to adopt a little girl since all of our children are boys.  Well the foster care recruiter basically dashed my hopes. Based on the rules, it looks like we won’t be able to foster kids until we’re old and our kids are grown.  This makes me sad. We have the room in both our hearts and our home for lots of foster children but because of the limit on how many kids we can have in our house, we are just stuck with the kids we already have.  I am brokenhearted because I really wanted to be a ‘girl mom’.  Even thought I know the goal of foster care is family reunification, what I really want is to foster to adopt.”

This is a real person.

One woman suggested – “become a Big Sister or volunteer with the Girl Scouts with that ‘room in your heart’.”

Another woman shared this – “I was raised in a church where people were expected to have big families… The first thing it does is make the oldest kids grow up way too fast. They usually end up half raising the youngest ones.  The other thing it does is divide up the parent’s attention waaaaay too much. My friends from huge families often felt like their parents didn’t know them well.  So yeah, I’m glad they are limiting this person and not allowing them to pack some really young kids in there.”

Another woman noted – “If this woman could have her way, her boys would grow up to resent the little girl, because they would know that they’re second best to the girl their mother so desperately wanted.  Nothing entitles a person to take another mother’s baby and that should certainly be true when a couple already has five wonderful children of their own.  How selfish and ungrateful can one person be ?!?”

One woman admitted – “My grandmother had two sons and then adopted a daughter.  She favored all her granddaughters over her grandsons too, which really impacted my cousins who lived near her.  The daughters of her daughter were the most prized.”

One replied directly to the woman who’s story leads this blog with this – “Do IVF and a designer baby. Sounds like you’re super fertile anyway, so maybe easier than you think. Talk to a fertility specialist.” And then added this reality check, “It’s gonna break your heart more if it isn’t forever when you have that infant in your arms and then the baby is returned to her rightful family . . . because honestly, reunification is the goal, as it should be, as long as it is safe for the child to be returned.”

And this, “I taught classes for prospective adopters and for a long time the #1 reason for picking China was the virtual guarantee if a girl, a ‘china doll’ (usually named Lily or the like. ) It is so incredibly harmful to a child to be adopted for their gender. It puts that child in a gender straight jacket. Same for sex selection sperm treatments and sex selection IVF etc. But especially for adoptees. This kind of perspective is heartbreaking.”