Trust – Easy to Break, Hard to Recover

Today’s Story –

We have kinship placement for our nephews. Their previous foster caregiver is court ordered (at her request to the social worker) that she receive a visit once a month and weekend visits are okay. The judge agreed to her request. I didn’t argue simply because they did live with her for 18 months, while the parents were trying to to complete their case plan for reunification. That did not happen and the case is in the midst of a termination of parental rights process.

We are now only in the third month after the placement. She texted me her 3 available weekends. After our monthly team meeting, I message her back that the second option would work best for us. She counters back that the fourth would work better for her, which coincidentally or not is also Thanksgiving weekend. Her reason is that this is the weekend her daughter comes home and I quote, she’d “really like to see them”.

I take some time to think about it. Although I sympathize, I say no. Then I’m met with hostility – like I’m being unreasonable. Not that she has said this directly. It is just my own feeling but regardless. My own reason is that I believe she wanted to keep the kids from us. I also believe that she lied to our faces about it. There is definitely mistrust between us.

I’m trying to be reasonable but frankly I’m over it. She isn’t family, we are. Her feelings of entitlement are boiling my blood. I’m considering filing to remove her weekend visit allowance. Do I have to wait until the termination of parental rights are final ? I have written an email to the social worker but have not sent it. I am struggling because although this current issue has been resolved and she agreed to my second option, I am concerned about her general behavior.

Comment from a foster parent – I would NEVER get a court order for visitation. That is up TO THEIR MOM. No one ripped the kids away from the foster family. They were placed with RELATIVES. Where they belong, if they can not be with their mom and dad.

Some questions – So she’s not family ? How is she still getting court ordered visits ? I’ve never heard of that. I sometimes see a transitional period, but never continued visits. If it was me, I would email the caseworker and just ask, how long will the visits continue ? If the plan is for them to end soon, I wouldn’t rock the boat. If they are going to continue long term, definitely hire an attorney.

In a similar case – The mom got her child back and the court gave the foster parent visits. Mind blowing. Like wtf is the point ? The children are back home. If the mom wants to keep the foster parent in the child’s life, then by all means, the mom can make that happen. But for this to be court ordered ? And for the foster parent to be demanding visits ?

Someone else complemented her restraint – I think you handled it well. I think something needs to be done, but I would be careful how you approach it. For whatever reason they still have some power in the situation and until tpr or reunification happens, they could retaliate. 

Not Every Situation Works Out

It can be heartbreaking. Case in point –

We were matched with an expectant mother 2.5 years ago who chose to parent. We understood and gave her all the things we had for the baby. We checked in on her legitimately a few times to offer help, but she blocked us – which I also understood. This was not a $50,000 agency adoption. She found us on social media. During the time we got to know her, we also got to know her sister who we have remained Facebook friends with. The sister recently reached out to ask how we were doing. In that conversation she shared that soon after her niece was born, her sister got into a bad relationship and started using drugs. Her child was taken by Child Protective Services, the Termination of her Parental Rights by court order occurred and the foster parents adopted the child. The sister was complaining that at first the foster family let them have visits, but they were super uncomfortable, seemed sketchy, and have since blocked contact with the child’s biological family.

I do advocate for moms to keeping and raising their babies. The woman above asked, “but what about situations like this?” and goes on to make a point that there are some moms that do not do well parenting or maybe their circumstances change. That maybe she wasn’t as able to parent though she thought she was.

A really good response to this story acknowledged that the woman telling this story was really trying to learn and wrap their head around breaking out of the whole “rainbow and butterfly” narrative (what adoptees often refer to as the societal adoption myth). I believe you are mature enough to understand that there is always going to be a “not“ situation that falls into a gap. I have a sibling who could perhaps fall into that not all situation… (and in fact this blog author does too.) To answer your question… Yes, there are probably situations involving parents who don’t want to raise their children. Some parents believe the narrative that giving a baby for adoption is better than having an abortion. Some parents, maybe in this particular situation, decided to parent the child because they honestly feel that’s what is in the best interest of their child and it was. Here’s the reality – being in an abusive relationship can change the victim’s mentality. A person trapped in such a relationship can literally become someone you would no longer recognize and someone they never intended to be. So again… Had this child remained with the mother and had she received the kind of support and assistance she needed when she need it including how to get away from her abusive partner, this story would have had a good outcome. There are so many women in situations that really could use help. There are a bunch of places where the system fails to help. And in her case, those failures resulted in the termination of her parental rights. I immediately wonder why this woman’s sister wasn’t contacted to foster this child who is her kin. Why was this sister not encouraged to adopt this child? It’s too late for answers to these questions. I’m just saying there were so many ways in which this one child was failed by a seriously flawed system. The trauma will be huge over the child and her mother’s lifetimes.

Unbelievable But Sadly True

“I am a believer in ripping the bandage off the wound. This is why I believe the biological family should have 6 month maximum to get their act together or move immediately to adoption and have those children in a permanent home by 12 months.” ~ Foster Care Parent

Hummmm, if people were band-aids…. sure. But people aren’t band-aids. We have memories and psychological effects from everything, from smells to interactions. We are a little bit more complex then band-aids.

These types of thoughts are based on the information the general public hears. They also come from “stories” shared about kids languishing in the foster care system, until they are too old and considered unwanted.

The truth is that in some states biological parents are only given 3 to 6 months to “get their act together” before their children are allowed to be adopted by strangers.

Each foster care case begins with the goal of reunification. The parents will be given a case plan with things that they need to do in order to have their children returned home. Children are removed when the situation they are in is deemed unsafe. The case plan is intended to remedy any issues that are considered unsafe, and help the home become one that is more stable and safe.

Some examples of what a case plan may include an alcohol or other drug abuse assessment, counseling, periodic drug testing, therapy, parenting classes, mental health assessments, home visits, even a change in residence if that is deemed necessary, the parent must secure a job or prove dependable income, etc.

How long would it take you to get your act together – if you were dealing with addiction or alcoholism, lacked the privileges a lot of people take for granted, had generational poverty, heck generational experiences with foster care placement ? What if you had lost EVERYTHING, your home, every penny you ever possessed ?

There are former foster youth who are now parents. Some are third generation foster kids. There are generations of a family line that have all spent time in foster care. It’s sad. Trauma is so hard to heal, especially with no support.

Thankfully, reunification does happen. It could take a mom almost two years to completely turn her life around. She might have to face up to some pretty difficult stuff. Some of these successful efforts will go on to help other parents make it through the requirements to reunification with their children, just like the successful person did.

Languishing isn’t the right term for most cases. There are kids who languish in foster care but it’s the older kids and teens with no real permanency goal in their case plans. They will eventually “age out.” A baby being with a foster parent for six months isn’t languishing.

People who say what the foster care parent at the beginning of this essay said are ignorant. Many hopeful adoptive parents turn to foster care with an intention to be able to adopt a baby. Many foster parents can’t even get their own situations together when a placement comes into their home in six months or a year’s time. There shouldn’t be a time frame for the biological parents. People who want to adopt should get the hell out of foster care.

And consider what happens to the older kids the foster parents don’t want to adopt ? Do they believe only babies come into foster care ? What about the 12 year old ? Are they going to adopt the 12 year old ? Most likely – no. They only want the babies.

And it has been shared that some states actually do a better job in supporting family reunification after a disruption like this. In ARKANSAS, the state gives biological parents 12 months. If need be/ if the parents are “progressing”, an extension can be granted. Many parents take as long as 12 to 15 months to complete everything the state requires of them to become compliant in every way.

It is said that ARIZONA or TEXAS are not good states to find yourself in this predicament. Termination of Parental Rights and subsequent adoptions are having to be reversed because the department in charge of protecting children is not doing their jobs properly.

Case in point, this case in ARIZONA. It ended in lawsuits that undid the adoptions. The state had to pay the family $25,000 x 2 kids. Yet, the parents did not get the help they needed. Sadly, 2 years later, the kids were back in foster care. The grandma now has permanent guardianship of her grandkids. These children were adopted, then un-adopted, got to go home to their parents, then ended up back in foster care. The state basically forced permanent guardianship on the grandmother – it all happened very fast (though not adoption). Then, thankfully, the state stepped back out of it again.

This is our foster care system at work or not working.

The Goal Is Reunification

Think Foster Care is your avenue to an infant adoption ? Better revise that thinking because the goal of foster care is the reunification of the original family members.  Here’s what one hopeful adoptive mother (using foster care to achieve her goal) wrote –

“Just out of curiosity how many of you have had baby placements and have either adopted or planned to adopt them? We have lost hope that we will ever get a baby, plus our region has pretty much said there are no babies that get adopted here. Can you also post what region you’re from, I’m try to see if maybe certain regions have better luck”.

Sure, it can be hard on the foster family to say goodbye to a child they loved.

Children are removed when the situation they are in is one that is unsafe. Each foster care case begins with the goal of reunification. Parents are given goals to meet in a timely manner to be reunited with their children. Most children are able to return home to their families. There are instances in which the parent has their parental rights terminated, and then the child is placed for adoption. Reunification is the goal and must be pursued when possible and safe for the child.

There is no guaranteed time frame for how long a child will remain in foster care. Some cases are short-term cases and can result in reunification after a few weeks, while other cases can go on for years. When the time frame turns to years, the case plan may become one of reunification with the concurrent plan of adoption. In that situation, the state is acknowledging that the case plan is taking a significant amount of time and that the parents may not be able to complete all the tasks. At that time, the child is considered at legal risk and may be placed into a pre-adoptive foster home. A pre-adoptive foster home is one in which the foster family has expressed interest in pursuing adoption, and is home studied and ready to do so. While each case is different, a general rule of thumb is that if a child has spent 15 months in foster care, it is time to reassess and decide how to proceed, and if adoption ought to be added as a potential goal.

While parents are working on the reunification of a child, they will also (as safety allows) participate in visits with their child during this time. Visitation may be supervised or unsupervised, depending on the reason for the removal of the child from the home. In more extreme cases, where a child’s safety is in question, there may be a court order that prevents visits until the court can be assured that visits will be safe for the child. In these cases, parents may need to complete certain steps before being allowed contact with their children. The most important thing is to be sure the child is safe.

Because being removed from their parents is a traumatic event, social workers are required to try to find a kinship placement for children. Kinship placement is any home where the caregiver has a relationship with the child and is not a stranger. Typically, kinship care refers to placing the child with a relative. However, teachers, family friends, and others who the child may be familiar with can be considered. A child will be more comfortable if they are familiar with their caregiver, and far less stressed. Kinship care is not always possible, however, and that is why there is a need for licensed foster homes.

So, going back to the beginning, it appears that another woman was sympathetic and wrote – “We ALL know that some of the kids we have will reunify and we all should know that reunification is not a reality for some babies and kids and they will need adoptive families. If anything most babies shouldn’t be reunited. Obviously MANY families here are praying that they can adopt! I feel like some of you are going out of your way to squash their dreams! They know what the journey can hold! We should be building them up and encouraging them. NOT every case ends in reunification. Actually the national statistic of reunification is only 49% percent there’s a ton of children needing homes! Our county has a lot of drug babies and junkie parents because of the opioid crises. Many foster parents can adopt a baby.”

So there is that.

She goes on to suggest – “We were upfront and told the caseworker we only wanted cases that had a chance of moving from Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) to adoption. Both of my babies are miracles and our first placement. We went into foster care TO ADOPT. There’s nothing wrong with adopting. Reunification shouldn’t be the goal. The goal should be about whatever is in the child’s best interests. Stop ruining people’s dreams of adopting. Many babies cannot go home. I have another baby right now who is heading towards TPR. Reunification isn’t an option. No need to remind us that reunification is the goal. We ALL know that.”

Maybe, but clearly – reunification is NOT the goal for some foster parents – adopting a baby is their goal.