Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How Do I Know When I'm Ready...?

...to try again?

I'm feeling worn down, and I'm not really managing everything as well as I should be.

But, I'm enjoying my interactions with the teens I work with on a daily basis.

So, are we ready for a new placement?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Boy, did I ever need a break!

I haven't even been able to read or write on the topic.

I think part of it is that there's not much I can say that I'm allowed to say and the issues are extreme enough that I fear my anonymity would be lost were I to share actual details.

But, there's also an odd cycle of guilt and anger.

I do not think that we did anything wrong.
I do not think she could have survived long-term in our family regardless of when we'd learned what we learned.
I do think that we did everything we possibly could.
I do think that we have the ability to be successful foster parents.


we did not reach her. And nobody else is likely to try again.

It's a sad way to begin this journey.

We've been thinking about when we'll be ready for another placement and what we're feeling ready to accept and there are some ideas that younger might be easier. But, I also think that we do have something to offer to a teen who is the right fit that won't necessarily be found elsewhere.

I'm wishing that my emotions could catch up to my logic.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Response -- Who am I?

If you don't mind, I had a few questions. How old are you? What do you do for a living? You said you worked with teens, but in what capacity? You say "we" — are you married?

Crayon -- I don't mind you asking questions, but, my answers may not be too satisfactory.

Although I enjoy interacting with people online and have had friends in my life whom I've initially met in the strangest places (on a Subway platform in a large city, on a bus in a foreign country, etc.), I can be very reserved about the sharing of specific details.

So, I am old enough that I could have had my own 15 yr old and young enough that I still dream of possibly succeeding in my quest for bio-kids.

I am married and we said to each other numerous times this weekend that we didn't know how single parents could survive. There were two of us and we involved outside emergency personnel as well but we're still absolutely exhausted. I am thankful for my partner on a daily basis -- I'd just about given up on love when I finally found it right in front of me.

I work with teens in a variety of contexts. I've gathered significant work experience with kids aged grade 6 - 12 and limited experience with kids in grades 1 - 5 and undergraduates. Right now I work predominantly with (about 100) 11-17 year olds.

Thank You

I appreciate the sentiments. We do seem to be getting the same message from everyone we talk to. So, logically, I believe that I did everything I could. But, it's still emotionally very challenging. I get it...a 15 yr old who doesn't want to be somewhere can really do a lot of damage and cannot really be forced to stay.

I was surprised by how calm I managed to be within the midst of it all -- I would have expected myself to react more. But, somehow I just kept saying, "I will not be the next person to reject this hurt child." Sadly, in the end, not being rejected was something she couldn't handle.

Thank you for the additional support.

Working with teens is always hard, but, fostering them is apparently going to require a new level of expertise. Hopefully, our next placement will go better.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Did I Fail?

I have so much to say and so little I probably can say in this forum.

The crux is that A asked to leave after discovering that she couldn't convince us to kick her out with escalating behaviour.

So, on the one hand, I feel like I did well because I passed the tests and didn't reject her despite some pretty extreme attempts to force us to. On the other hand, I feel like I failed because she's gone and it appears that the behavioural escalation wasn't really a test, but, rather an illogical approach to getting what she wanted.

I also can't help but feel that it was a tip of the iceberg scream for help and I don't know if she's going to get that help now that she's gone back to a place where they invest less direct energy into caring specifically for her.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Oh God!

So many things to say and so lacking in a way to say them.

In short:
- I totally get why people like to start with infants and why it's hard to find foster homes for teens.
- I feel rather lied to about A's history and completely not supported by the system that told us we were getting into a shared parenting experience.
- We've said (many, many times) that we will NOT kick her out, but, she can choose to ask to leave. But, my goodness it's challenging to keep saying the same thing and just keep absorbing more and more problematic behaviours.
- So many bad decisions in such a short period of time and such extreme behaviour that I'm completely out of my depth.
- Exhausted because we decided that we couldn't allow ourselves to both be asleep at the same time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Feeling Better Today

I think there are still issues and I don't really feel like we've solved anything. But, I'm feeling better and more confident today.

I hate confrontation and getting started with it all felt really hard. But, the reality is that we are expressing concern, telling her we care, etc.

She responded to things by doing more homework last night than I'd seen in a week. Let's hope my confidence lasts through the next issue/test.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Longer than a comment should have been...became a post

Thanks for the response.

Sadly, in our jurisdiction, truancy is now ENTIRELY the parents' problem. The schools are required to have a certain number of teaching hours, but, the students are not required to attend. However, if they don't attend, they don't pass and the parents have failed to fulfill their responsibility of getting them there. (I.e. I can't pass it back to the school and truancy officers.) I can email the social worker (whom I believe wouldn't appreciate a skip-day) and try to make her get involved. There are also supposed to be people she can refer us to...in fact we were told that the referral had been made, but, we haven't heard from anyone.

I do agree with you about the control issue, though. We've tried very hard to give her lots of control over things, but, she's having a hard time seeing it. I think if I were to do it all again (which I'm sure I will someday) I'd start with more rules so that it would be easier to relax them. Instead, I feel like we have to pull them in...after all, when we said that she could be in control of things we qualified that she had to make sure school happened.

I do like the idea of thinking of chores as something to earn though.

And, I think that the planned skip day (perhaps with my DW since my work would not appreciate it) would likely scare her into wanting to go to school. (She's not such a big fan of spending time with us -- she'd like to ignore our presence.)

She says she likes the cat, but, she's been ignoring him tonight too.

Info In

Two missed classes -- an entire afternoon skipped.

Me: Why weren't you in school?
Me: Where were you?
A: Around.

I said more while she avoided looking at me and tried to ignore that I was talking.

Is anybody reading? What do I do? How do I make someone (who says that they like school) go to school?

How much can we hope to accomplish at a time?

She skipped at least one class today -- waiting to find out about others.

She didn't get up in time to eat breakfast, make lunch, etc.

She's not cleaning up after herself, leaving lights on, etc.

She's not doing any chores.

I kind of get it. Nobody's ever really pushed her on these issues before AND they are clearly good ways to push us to prove that we're willing to keep at it. BUT, can we really try to make it all happen at once, or, is that just piling on the "punishment". (I don't really think it's punishment to be expected to eat breakfast and lunch, but, she thinks it is.)

I also don't get how to deal with the dichotomy between "I like school" and regular skipping. Why does she skip if she likes it? Is it a test for us...how long will you keep caring; will you really consequence me if I fail? Or, is it a test for the teacher...do you care enough about me to follow up on a skip? Or, is it a test for the social worker...will you send me back to a group home if I screw up in the foster home? Or, is it just that she's coming apart at the seams and needs someone to catch her as she falls. (Or, is she just a teenager making stupid decisions?) So many possibilities!

How do I know what to do?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sometimes School Assignments are Thoughtless

Why would you tell teens that they are likely to have a job similar to that of their parents? I mean, I've worked with enough kids who felt like they'd be failures if they didn't become doctors/lawyers like their parents -- I'm talking here about kids who I knew would never get there -- but, it's suddenly even worse when you're looking at a smart kid who comes from a family with issues.

We need to do a better job of thinking about where our kids may be coming from!

Getting There

A actually asked for a lift today and is willing to be picked up. It still seems a bit like we're taking her somewhere I'm not convinced is a perfect "hang-out" place, but, at least we're being allowed to know where it is without it being told it's a crazy request.

I have my moments where I think we're going to be able to do this well and she'll ultimately be truly part of our family (as in she'll consider us family as well) and other moments where I think we'll continue to be foster parents and to take teens and pressure them in ways they don't like, but, they'll still move out as soon as the social workers let them.

We did talk about the fact that she's allowed to stay in care until she's 22 and that the fact she CAN walk away at 16 doesn't mean that she should. Ah well!!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Feeling a bit better now....

We ended up having a good day -- except of course for the point when she said that she was walking out the moment she turns 16 (which is the day she no longer HAS to do what the social workers want). So, at some point in the next few months I'm really going to have to hope we bond enough to be able to convince her that it's worthwhile to be in a family that cares about you. (It makes me wonder what our society was thinking when they decided that 16 year olds are mature enough to be on their own.) But, I probably can't worry about that issue yet.
A-15 moved in last week. She's balking a LOT at the fact that we want to spend time with her and want to know what's going on in her life.

We're trying hard to pull back and not ask much and to give her lots of space. But, we're just not okay with the idea of her "going out" and us not knowing where, with whom, etc.

On the one hand, I completely get that this isn't what she's used to and she has no reason to want to spend time with us. On the other hand, I'm not willing to be the kind of parent that she was removed from and isn't allowed to live with. It's a tough balance!

I'm spending a lot of time wondering why I WANTED to do this. I take a lot of deep breaths and remind myself that I CAN do this, but, why did I WANT to?

I know how to choose to treat someone with love regardless of how they respond to me and I don't expect her to suddenly like me. But, she wanted a family over a group home and we told her what that meant to us and now she seems shocked by it all. I really hope it's just adjusting and that things will improve. (If this is a "honeymoon" then I'm worried about the crash.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Can I do this?

A-15 joined our family a couple of days ago. On the one hand, she seems like a pretty good kid and like a really good fit for us. On the other hand, she's lying to us about things and seems to think we're not able to figure it out.

I deal with this kind of thing all the time with teens during my work hours and I know what I'd do about it there. But, we're trying to build relationship here and engender trust. So, I want her to believe that I trust her and I want her to choose honesty herself.

The thing is, her lies are all about making herself look good. She's been given a pretty clear message that she needs to make this family work or she'll have to go to a group home. So, she's trying to make herself look better than she actually is. I know it's asking a lot for someone to trust me with their true self, but, pretty soon I'm going to have to tell her that I know the truth about some of these things--teacher interviews are in a week.

I can do this, right?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hurry Up and Wait

Well...something might be happening....

We got a call that said they needed a long-term placement for someone and they needed it right away. We said 'yes' and now haven't heard from them for a week.

This system confuses me!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nothing to Say -- Still Waiting

Part of me wants to complain about the wait, and part of me wants to say that the fact we haven't been needed yet is a good thing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Don't Like Waiting

It's a strange feeling to be waiting for a placement.

On the one hand, I jump every time the phone rings, wondering if this might be it. On the other hand, I would like to believe that the delay means there aren't kids who need a safe home.

It just seems wrong to be hoping for a fostering placement call since that feels like hoping for someone to be living in a bad environment and/or to have tragedy strike. But, I guess I'm rather pessimistic about society, because I find that I can't believe those things aren't actually true. So, the delay while waiting for a call makes me fear that a child is simply not getting rescued.

But, mostly, I just don't like waiting -- under any circumstance.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I'm scared

We'll be active tomorrow and I've hit the fear point. Can I really do this?

Some moments I think I'll be great and I have all the confidence in the world, but, most of the time these days I just dwell on all the things I could mess up and all the reasons the kids (and their families) might hate me even if I do everything right.

How do you get the strength and courage to get started?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I think we're very close to being active and so I've started worrying about what our first placement will look like.

Will we get teens? (We're expecting teens because I know they have a serious shortage of homes for teens.) Or, will we end up with younger kids simply because we have space for siblings? Will placement decisions actually have anything to do with these issues, or, will it be that we simply get whomever is next to enter the system once we're active?

I don't like waiting and I don't like situations where I don't have knowledge. I think working with the system is going to take some getting used to.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Nothing to Say?

So, now that I've created this place to talk, I don't seem to have anything to say.

We've finished our training, we've finished our homestudy, we've figured out after-school care, etc. So, we're waiting on a criminal record check.

Apparently, this means that I have lots of time to stew about whether or not we can do this. When we were putting everything together and were busy all the time, I was sure I could do it. I mean, I've worked with kids of just about every age at some point and I have a strong belief in community families, so, I should be able to do it. But, how do you prepare to become a sudden parent to a child of any age? I expect that we will probably get teens because there aren't many homes that will take teens. So, I'm mostly focused on preparing for teens. But, what if we get an 8 year old?

I don't think I like waiting!

Monday, June 15, 2009

More Delays?

I found out today that my request for a criminal record check may be delayed by several months. So, we've been feeling just about ready to go and now we may have to wait quite awhile longer despite having everything else ready. Argh!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

What makes a family?

Most of my life I have found myself in places and communities where this question comes up. In fact, I've so often been in environments with different definitions of family that I get startled by the people who believe that "family" means "mother, father, 2.4 kids, and matching biological extended family members."

I grew up in a single parent family long before divorce became common. I gained and lost siblings through re-marriage and a 2nd divorce, I was excluded from the family formed by another remarriage, I found my "family" in my friends, I "ran away" as a young adult and spent close to a decade living abroad. In the last decade, I've returned to "sort-of" home, come to terms with how to deal with my legal/biological family and continued to grow family in other ways. Ironically, in the midst of all this I got married to a person with a very stable and "normal" family. It's interesting to see the differences in how we approach things, yet, we both come to a place of defining family in terms of intention and love, rather than nuclear and biological.

I really hope that we will be able to extend this belief in family to others as foster parents. But, I also don't want to pressure a child who isn't ready. It's likely to be a challenging balance.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I don't always get along with others...

A few weeks ago at a training session one of the other prospective foster parents said, "those people who apply for adoption aren't interested in fostering--they've all experienced infertility and after that why would you want to raise someone else's child."

I was very taken aback and really wanted to comment on it, but, it was orthogonal to the discussion at the time and I let it go. But, it's still bugging me!

First, how does she know that they've all experienced infertility? I know several people who've adopted because it seemed like a way to make a real difference in the life of a child and others who've adopted because they see it as a service to society. Some of these people have bio-kids as well and have never experienced infertility.

Second, I've experienced infertility. It was oddly hurtful to have someone assume that I would change my view of fostering because of that. In our county, foster-to-adopt is not an option because they had trouble with people who really wanted to adopt struggling with the primary motivation of fostering. I do get how this can be a problem. If you live in an area where the only way to adopt from foster care is to become a foster-to-adopt family and then hope that parental rights get terminated, you may go ahead and begin fostering, but, you didn't necessarily choose to foster. Fostering should have a goal of helping a family get itself together again to be a healthy place for the child you are fostering to return to. But, if you're fostering because you want to adopt and it is a hurdle you must jump through, then, you are likely to have a tough time with the goal of reunification. On the other hand, I think that some people can legitimately do both. But, people who make sweeping generalizations about "all people who X..." are the reason others of us can't offer that we can work toward reunification and still move to adoption if there is a good fit and reunification fails.

Third, why is she applying to be a foster parent if she thinks that people who've experienced infertility can't parent other people's children? She doesn't have her own kids yet, so, she might be infertile. What would she do when she figured that out? Return the foster kids?

I'd love for there to be a perfect world where nobody needed foster families because all families were functional and whenever anyone got sick or died young there was extended family ready, willing and able to provide a loving home. But, I live in the real world, and, in the real world, things aren't perfect. If I am able to be there to support a child and/or a family in a time of need, it seems like an important thing to do. Choosing to be a foster parent has nothing to do with fertility! (At least not for me.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

How did we get here?

Well, I always meant to foster...I just thought I'd do it after having my own kids.

Hmmn...I left this draft awhile ago. It's no doubt still a useful thing for me to write about. I'll try to do that soon.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Worried About Fit

What are the questions we should ask when we get the call?

Will we seem too worried about getting a good fit if we ask too many questions, or, will we seem aware of the potential challenges?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Can I make a confession?

Every time I get caught up to real time on someone's blog I get disappointed that they aren't posting as often anymore. Of course, it's really just that I read 2-5 years worth of posts in the preceding month or two. But, it feels like they've stopped posting!

I need to find a new one to get wrapped up in.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Original Plan

Our original plan was to have 1-3 biokids, 1-2 adopted kids and then foster. Overall, I think we were thinking that we would foster 1 at a time with the possibility of taking a sibling pair.

That plan is gone and we're working on figuring out the new one. For now, we're hoping to foster siblings who need a home that can take them all.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Growing up, I knew a family that always had 3-5 teens around and yet people would say that the couple had only one daughter. It confused me, I didn't understand what I was missing. Eventually I got old enough to have friends who were growing up in foster care and I figured it out.

I had always respected those foster parents, even before I understood that that was what they were. So, I had a desire to "be like them" in the way that children decide things.

As a teen, I had 2 classmates in long term foster care. In one case, her mother was just unable to care for her and in the other her entire family died in an accident which she survived. The experience cemented my desire to someday be able to provide the family that they had so desperately needed.

As an adult, I've discovered that a surprising number of the people around me spent some time in foster care. It seems to be a taboo subject and something that people are ashamed of mentioning--it's like a hidden part of their history. But, when you mention that you are thinking of fostering the information is suddenly there.

The combination of emotions that they describe run the gamut and few are terribly happy about the families they gained during their fostering experiences. But, most seem to be aware (in retrospect) that there was some new degree of safety at the beginnings of their experiences as foster kids.

So, as an adult now, I come to the spot where I plan to foster. We're talking about taking teens--which is apparently rare--and we're hoping we're not too naive to be successful.

Monday, May 18, 2009


When the blogging revolution began I didn't understand the attraction at all. In the last year though I've relied on fostering and adoption blogs as a source of information to get me thinking and send me to resources.

We've spent time traveling a lot of the paths that others describe and we've spent a lot of time thinking about how our society defines a family and how our ideal differs.

I always (since I was a teenager) meant to foster someday. That day appears to be imminent. And, I'm thinking that all the blogs I read create a sounding board and venting space that is safely anonymous. So, maybe I want to give it a try.

But, then again, what if someone in my real life learns about it and starts reading, or, what if I pick up trolls? So, maybe I want to revert to an old fashioned journal instead even though it doesn't have the ability to respond.

Basically, I'm thinking that I may test this out in a very general fashion and may try posting a few comments in some of the blogs I've been following and see how it goes. Anyone have advice on why you'd choose to think online versus in private?