Should ALL foster parents be willing to adopt?? ——– a reader asks.

April 9, 2011 at 9:48 pm 30 comments

A reader named Kelltic asked me in a comment recently whether ALL foster homes should be willing to adopt, because moving from a foster home to an adoptive home might be damaging to the foster child, particularly with regards to attachment issues?

I thought it was an interesting question and after thinking about it, my response turned out longer than expected, because I have two separate thoughts.. one from a practical point of view and one from an emotional, child point of view.  Unfortunately, they are different points of view, so I am not sure the issue is resolved….

A.  From an emotional, child’s point of view…

The IDEAL answer would be “YES.”

When I was taken into foster care, my first placement was a temporary placement because I was injured and was medically special needs.  I stayed with a nurse, named Ms. Liz..    I was told  straight out that I would only be staying with her until I was better. Even though I was little, I understood that I was just there to “get better.”  Once I was moved from that temp home, I stayed in a placement that would have been perfect (Sara and Bill HERE)… but they did not adopt me.   I was never told anything about how long  I would stay.  I was just “going to my new foster family.” After that I moved and moved and moved.  And in most cases, I was never told how long I would be staying or given the faintest idea of whether it would be days,  a week, a month, a year or ?????

.

How can you learn to attach and trust if you have no idea when “your time is up?” You see, you live your life waiting … and waiting… to move or to stay?  How can you focus in school when you are wondering if you will be there for the test next week?  How can you make friends, because you might move tomorrow?  How can you trust anything because there is no stability?

.

Everytime I moved, even if it had nothing to do with me, I felt like it was “my fault” – “no-one wanted me again” –  I was “unwanted, bad, gross.”  You keep thinking “what did I do,”  “what is wrong with ME,” “why doesn’t anyone want ME”  … and those questions fester and grow.  It is even worse if there are multiple foster children in a home and you are the only one removed. Every move takes a piece of your soul and throws it in the trash and at some point, you begin to be cold and dead inside.  You give up believing in life.

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And then…at some point, you don’t bother trying to attach or to care because you just know you are going to get movedSo you try to purposely fuck it up, so the FPs get rid of you. You act out worse or you act in more.  You curse them out and never listen.  You do everything they tell you not to do.  You run away.  You fight.  You destroy stuff.  You hurt yourself.  You … don’t CONSCIOUSLY know you are doing it.  You are a kid and you are surviving because the pain of being dumped again is horrible.  You want to control itAnd you do, because guess what — eventually the FPs get rid of you…and it proves your point… no-one wants you because you are bad.

I have written numerous times that FPs need to THINK really hard before disrupting the placement and moving a child. Because even if we act like it doesn’t matter to us or we act like we hate you, the truth is it matters immensely when you “dump us.” Imagine your self-esteem after lots of “families” getting rid of you?  Imagine what you would feel like?  Your bioparents did not want you and no foster parents do either…UNWANTED and you don’t belong anywhere.

So, YES, foster children should be placed in homes that want to adopt; especially if it is highly likely that TPR is going to occur. Of course, this would take more work on the “system’s” part to try and match kids in homes where they might be adopted.  But I am all for better matching anyway…

Kids whose parent’s have had their rights terminated, need more detail about their placements.  I think that for the child, the best thing that could occur would be an HONEST assessment of the foster placement.  For example:  “LT, these are long-term foster parents who have kept children for long periods in the past.  Hopefully that will be true for you.”  OR  “LT, these foster parents will probably be short-term because they have never kept long term kids.  You will stay here UNTIL we can find a long-term family for you.”  Give us some idea of the length of time about the placement, so we can anticipate.

Yes, the problem is that “shit happens in life” and there is NO TRUE STABILITY unless a child is adopted.  Most of my experiences around being moved I believe to have been because of the following reasons: “dumped for my behaviors, dumped for FPs moving, dumped for FPs having their own family, and dumped for FPs being abusive.” Some of these “life things” aren’t known, such as a family moving, but I believe if FPs are planning on trying to have “their own family” they should not be considered long-term foster parents.  They should only take children who *will be going home in a short amount of time.*  Part of me even feels that they should not be FPs while waiting to get pregnant, because it REALLY sucks when you are dumped because a baby replaces you and you are “not their family”…. You are just the “foster kid.”

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B.  From a practical point of view…

I would answer “NO.”

Follow me here…

1)      While many people reading my blog are “good” foster parents, the reality is there are alot of “bad” ones out there.   There are many that simply don’t care about the child, use the child, abuse the child, ignore the child… and sit around collecting money for supposedly “caring for” the child.  And before you write and tell me no way, please look at  THIS POST where cases of neglect and abuse in foster homes went on for years.  These people passed everything and if they were permitted to foster…imagine giving them the right to raise a child forever.  

2) We all know that workers lie about kids or at times don’t know the truth about the kids in care.  Thus, foster parents may wind up with children that they are NOT equipped or willing to “handle” or work with. My blog is filled with examples of techniques that “good” foster parents used to work/deal with my behaviors and issues.  But, many other foster parents I had were not prepared to handle me and at best were ignoring and at worst abusive.  Many times the true world of a foster child is not revealed until the child feels safe… and this could be awhile.  Once that is revealed, it is really NOT fair to keep a child in a home that does not want to or can not deal with the behaviors and issues that present…

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3)      Even now there are simply not enough foster homes to take children.  Foster youth are living in motels, in shelters, packed in homes, etc.  because people are not willing to be foster parents.

Read HERE and HERE and  HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE (you get my point)

I believe that if you add the condition that adoption is “a must,” the number will decrease dramatically…especially when it comes to older children and teens. Nobody wants them for good.  Remember, if you foster, you can dump a child… if you adopt, it is *slightly* harder to get rid of a child.

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4) There are many people who foster and would not be able to support the child without the “check.”  It is NOT that they are fostering for the money, but the reality is that taking another child costs money and the extra money that comes with a foster child is needed.  So, thus not everyone could afford to raise the child if required to adopt.  I believe that some states continue payment of an older adopted child, but not all do.

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5)  Some people want to foster children after having had their own family or instead of having their own family.  They want to foster to simply help a child in need.  But they don’t want to become a legal parent. There is nothing wrong with that.   But foster kids should know that up front, so their expectations of a family are not shattered.

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C.  What it comes down to….

What it comes down to in my mind is that every child deserves a safe and loving and stable home. It is FUCKED UP that kids like myself age-out of foster care with no connection and no family.  It is FUCKED UP that the foster care system allows this to happen.  But forcing people who want to be foster parents into adopting does not solve the problemWe need to find people who want to adopt children from US Foster Care, not force adoption.So many people don’t understand foster care or realize children can be adopted.  So many people think the worst of children in foster care.  We need to improve advertising so the TRUTH about children in foster care is understood; instead of rumors and myths that most people believe (foster kids will burn your house down, kill your dog, and rape your infants).  We need to ensure that the foster care system provides the services that are needed; especially PROPER mental health treatment.  We need to make sure that abused and neglected children in foster care get the services they need, even after adoption; so that they can continue to grow and heal.  We need to find foster children mentors, so that  if they never get a family, they have someone that they can call in time of need.

It’s not an easy question… and after thinking about it, there is not an easy answer.  But we can do better about finding children families…

We need to do better…

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fuck you and you and you and … me… being an aged-out foster kid sucks

30 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ann  |  April 9, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    I think this post shows just how strong and thoughtful you are. There is always more than one side to an issue. Breaking it down into the two sides and showing each of them in a clear logical (and emotional) fraction is great.

    You should remember these posts when you are worried about being normal or good enough. Answering questions the way you just did shows you are both.

    Anyway – thanks for the information and the 2-sides of the perspective. :-D

    Reply
    • 2. Jen  |  April 9, 2011 at 10:49 pm

      I totally agree with Ann here.

      Also, this is pretty strong evidence of how smart you are, because it’s so organized and logical and effectively references other sources (other news articles and blog entries). Sure, there may be some facts and trivia that no one ever taught you because of missed school time, and you may have some technical reading issues, but in terms of more ‘pure intelligence’ (reasoning ability) let me say, as someone who’s marked a lot of papers written by college students, that you’re pretty bright sometimes.

      Reply
      • 3. bethanylest  |  April 9, 2011 at 11:07 pm

        I agree. Your writing is excellent. There is help for reading problems. Have you asked Dr. Val?

        Reply
  • 4. Laura  |  April 9, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Wow. Impressive. I like the summary best, because that is really the bottom line. All children deserve a safe family. I am sorry you never got one LT.

    Reply
  • 5. Sunday  |  April 9, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    this is what my comment was suposed to say:

    LT I know it is not popular but I believe that with the shortage of “good” foster parents the damage that moving children does to their education, relationships and ability to trust the world around them a lot of kids say, over 9 would be better off in small, well run, family style group homes with a small stable staff. It may not be perfect but, there is safety in numbers, kids in those situations can form bonds to each other and a stable staff and it would be far less disruptive to their education to stay in one place. I think it would take some work to make a model that really worked well, but moving kids to hither and yon is definitely NOT working for the best interest of most kids in care.

    I am still friends with 2 of my BFF, from my placement when I was 12, we have raised our kids together, I am still in contact, and have friendships with several of my staff, teachers and workers from almost 30 years ago.

    i choped off 1/2 of my comment and i dont know how to delete the first one.

    Reply
    • 6. LooneyTunes  |  April 9, 2011 at 10:37 pm

      Actually Sunday, I have suggested a similar idea. The home has 4-6 children, stable “home parents”,” and services (tutoring, therapy, etc) that come to the home. Thus the kids grow up in the same place, with the same rules, same school system, same friends, the same foster children (“siblings”) and the same “home parents.” Better than bouncing around 12 or more times…

      Reply
      • 7. Fi  |  April 9, 2011 at 11:07 pm

        I agree with you both. Stability is the most important thing, whether that comes from a family or ‘family’ in these situations you talk about.

        Constancy matters most. That all people are surrounded by love and respect, that matters. Family is not the only place that that can exist.

        I think that some kids may only be able to respond to ‘professional’ parents. I read so many blogs that confuse obedience with belonging, conformity with attachment. It’s really sad. I also read situations where there is just too many kids! Too many situations and relationships to adjust to at once. Many placement breakdowns would occur because parents not coping because they are stretched too thin.

        I think courses in therapuetic parenting should be mandatory for all prospective foster and adoptive parents (indeed parents in general could benefit from this as well), and tougher decisions made about who passes!

        Pollyanna in me also wishes that those who care therapuetically and genuinely were valued financially. I suppose they would be in small group homes, but I mean in your own home.

        Reply
        • 8. Sunday  |  April 9, 2011 at 11:25 pm

          Yes, the only thing that bouncing kids around insures is that they don’t have ANYONE, and hurt kids are really tough for some people to deal with, people how need lots of positive feedback themselves. Lets face it if you are collecting kids because you think it will be good for your ego, you are bound to be disappointed, whether they be, foster, adopted, of born from your womb. ALL children are takers, ALL of them.
          Hurt kids can bond/attach with plenty of time, patience, realistic expectations and stability. In some ways I think that being institutionalized (in group homes and a good RTC) has its advantages in that department. There is only so mad you are going to get at a kid who doesn’t want to be in a group home, it is understandable. Whereas some parents foster or adoptive really can’t wrap their minds around a kid not being happy to be rescued. It causes all kinds of problems, and gets in the way of the kid moving forward.

          And most importantly stability and relationships are far more important than having a “traditional” family structure. Family is who you can depend on. Who can a kid who has moved 12 times depend

          Reply
  • 9. Tracey DiRocco  |  April 9, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Have you ever considered doing any type of volunteer work to help kids in care? Maybe a big sister or even a CASA or GAL? You have so many solid, valid points and such a unique and valuable perspective… Even volunteering at a battered women’s shelter or homeless shelter or somewhere. I guarantee they’d be thrilled to have you, and I truly believe you could be a wonderful resource for folks who need it. Just a thought. Your strength and resilience is amazing. You can be an inspiration to so many people.

    Reply
  • 10. The Sleeper  |  April 9, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Thanks for this insight. Please don’t call yourself stupid anymore, because you write amazingly and you are able to form thoughts and organize them.

    I know foster homes are declining. Some of the decline has to do with reimbursement rates not increasing for years. But another issue is that there are more kids going into foster care, and ALOT of it is due to drug abuse (prescription drug use). In Florida, 25% of children are in foster care because of drugs. Isn’t there a better way to deal with this than putting children in foster care? There must be….

    Good thoughts, LT.

    Reply
  • 11. Jen  |  April 9, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    “But I am all for better matching anyway”. This might be one of the easier policies to get CPS to change because it doesn’t cost them anything. It would actually save them money. Making better matches early on would reduce the number of times kids get transferred. As well as that being way easier on the child, it also means less social worker hours would be spent finding new placements, which means lots of savings in social worker wages. And the monthly payment per child is the same whether that child is in the same home for a long time or switching homes.

    Reply
    • 12. Sandra  |  April 10, 2011 at 12:40 pm

      Yes. The major expenditure and effort would be up front. But CPS could develop some algorithm for matching and computerize it. Nothing is 100%, but it might cut down on constant moves.

      Reply
  • 13. bethanylest  |  April 9, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Interesting question and good response.

    A good point that was mentioned is the need for better advertising for adoption from foster care. First of all, that the kids are great and available. Second that the cost is low or free. We spent less than $1,000 to adopt our daughter from care. Many people travel all over the world to adopt the same aged children that are available in US foster care because they do not realize adoption is an option. People think foster care is “temporary.”

    LT, every child deserves a home and a family. You deserved one and I pray that one day you will find one.

    Reply
  • 14. Broken  |  April 9, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    LT – Your post cut to the very truth of the matter, on all fronts. You are a very smart young lady. Keep taking care of yourself.

    I follow your blog. Your insights are amazing, and I wish that all I have learned could have helped our foster son. I am hoping to find a way to remain an advocate and help kids in this crazy system in some way.

    Right now, I am that “everybody-loves-to-hate-them” and “I kinda hate myself” foster parent who had to move a 12 year old foster son back to the system. We simply *didn’t know what we didn’t know* when we began…did not know about the depth of his issues, did not know the limits of our ability to hang in there with the behavior 24/7 with no breaks, did not know about the roadblocks we would get from social workers who didn’t “get it” about our home life & his needs, did not know how little abilities the rest of the family would have to understand and deal with his issues, and – the biggie – did not know how devastating his anger and sabotage could be on our other teenagers. Do I sell them out to live in daily hell so that maybe see some marginal improvement in his functioning? We wanted him placed in residential care near us, but the system got in the way. Sad, sad, sad for all. Sucky choice. Mostly for him.

    I would have fought the world FOR him, but in the end I could not hang in there with HIM fighting us 24/7.

    By the way, I agree with you about truth and being honest. Workers gave this little guy very little real information and just let him fill in his own fictional version of his life. We were honest with him every day. We are still writing to him and just hoping the letters are delivered.

    We are that family who could just not see a way to continue. Unfortunately the system gives NO ability to keep ties and connection for good people who just cannot meet the child’s needs. He may never know how much we care, because the social workers stopped talking to us the day he left our home. No de-brief about his needs or meds; no asking what we had learned; no offers for a plan to keep him connected with the only consistent people in his life. In an effort to punish us for giving up – he is losing more than he needs to.

    I can punish myself just fine. Every day.

    LT, you are truly a beautiful force of nature. What you are doing makes a TON of difference to all of us out here!

    Reply
  • 15. Another Voice  |  April 9, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    I have a question that I’d love your perspective on……

    What would you think about younger foster parents adopting teenagers even if the adoptive parents would not really be old enough to be the bioparent?

    The reason I am asking is because I have fostered kids that are more like younger siblings due to age so I never thought I’d adopt. It makes me sad that I can’t do more for those kids. If I’d adopt, would the teenager be happy to have a family or is it more important to have a family that is more realistic?

    Reply
  • 16. Meghan Jafferty  |  April 10, 2011 at 12:03 am

    I think you are right LT, that there is not a simple answer to this question. My husband and I are willing to adopt, but I am not sure we are willing to adopt every child that is placed in our home. We may not be the best match for children with many special needs or those that have severe attachment disorders. Why? Well, both of us work and that would need to be considered if we were adopting. A child with RAD would probably need more than we could give. But I believe it is better that we are honest about are limitations for us and the child.

    You put yourself down alot, but you are very thoughtful and introspective. You spent time to respond to a reader from both the perspective of a child and a more mature perspective. Great reading. Thank you.

    Reply
  • 17. Rose  |  April 10, 2011 at 12:41 am

    I think the better matching idea is great. The problem is so many times workers do not know the whole history of the child, especially the level of abuse. As you said, children don’t open up until they feel safe.

    Perhaps if there was more training so that all foster parents were capable of dealing with the majority of issue. I know you have written about training before. And Fi mentioned therapeutic classes for everyone. Would this help?

    Reply
  • 18. Ashley  |  April 10, 2011 at 1:11 am

    I was at a Youth In Care conference once (I’m in Canada) and I heard a good idea very similar to your idea of “home parents.” The idea was to buy kids who were in foster care houses, and then if the foster parents were unsuitable it would be the foster parents who would be “fired”, never the kids.

    Reply
    • 19. Sunday  |  April 10, 2011 at 1:14 am

      I like it! ; )

      Reply
    • 20. Jen  |  April 10, 2011 at 12:43 pm

      Brilliant!

      Reply
  • 21. DK  |  April 10, 2011 at 9:11 am

    AMEN to that sista, all of it!

    Reply
  • 22. hazy55  |  April 10, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Good post LT. I agree that forced adoption won’t work from a practical view. How does the foster care system advertise? I see more advertisements on the TV and in the papers for animal adoption than for foster care adoption. Occasionally I see a “be a foster parent” advertisement, but nothing along the lines of “you can adopt from foster care too!” And I agree, most people have no clue what foster care really is.

    LT, I enjoy you blog tremendously. I agree with Tracey about being a CASA or maybe someday going to college and then becoming a mover and shaker in the foster care system. They need people like you. So don’t give up, life is ahead of you!

    Reply
  • 23. Loreley  |  April 10, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Hi LT,
    thank you very much for this excellent post that shows the complexity of the problem. I hope, many CPS and foster parents will read it.

    Reply
  • 24. Dana Hardaway  |  April 10, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    I agree with the idea of group homes with “home parents” where the parents get fired or moved, but the kids don’t. In that situation, worst case scenario, the kids stay together in a familiar place, with familiar rules. There is actually a large group home here locally that just started doing this about four months ago. I think it is wonderful.

    I wanted to touch on another problem though. I realize what we’re discussing here are older children, but many times children enter care much younger and become the older children. Where I live, so much emphasis is put on not stepping on the parents’ rights that the best interest of the child is lost. My son was placed with me when he was 2 days old. His mom stopped visitation when he was 10 weeks, never did anything on her case plan, and disappeared. Yet, it took 2 1/2 years to get him adopted. Why? It was obvious to everyone that she couldn’t/didn’t want to parent. He should have had a permanent home in six months. There are also a huge number of children who are placed in foster care young, given back to the parents even though the CASA and case worker know they can’t care for the child. Then, the child is back in foster care in a matter of months with a new family and the cycle continues until the child is older, harder to place in an adoptive home, and is acting out from the abuse (because, lets face it, doing this to a child IS abuse). If TPR had occurred the first time when everyone knew it should have, the child would probably be adopted and living in a permanent home.

    We definitely need foster care reform from the ground up. The current system is broken. It is no wonder we have problems getting good families to be foster parents. It is heartbreaking and an emotional nightmare for people who truly care about the children when they have to try to navigate the broken foster care system.

    Reply
  • 25. michelle v  |  April 10, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    super thoughtful and well put post. as i writer, let me tell u your writing reads like a writer’s writing. this post and ones like it will make a difference. God bless!

    ♥ michelle

    Reply
  • 26. JoanP  |  April 10, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Dear LT,
    Once again, an excellent and well-thought-out post. You make me think and wrestle with ideas, as well as challenge me as to what “I” am going to do about what you say! Right now, we cannot foster; however, I am storing up what you say, saving it, because I do not know what the future holds. Yours is a very important voice. And your writing is excellent.

    Reply
  • 27. rene wallis  |  April 11, 2011 at 10:27 am

    People do want to foster kids and adopt them, but just like foster kids, foster parents are treated as though they are disposible.

    SW’s call up and say, “hey will you take an eleven year old girl with no behavior problems, she needs to move tonight”.

    And they act suprised when the foster parent wants more information, to meet the child, to ascertain long term, short term, adoption, etc. The kids may or may not “present” well or honestly when they meet you (the prospective home).

    The kid may move in the first day and get on the phone to her attorney (or whoever) and the attorney or the SW or the community worker or the menter starts to second guess you on the FIRST day.

    They move the child in and the goal is adoption, which you the foster parent are cool with but two months later the SW meets with the kid without you there and they decide the goal should be APLA.

    Or they assign you to a therapist, who you, the FP, believes is 100% wrong on everything they advise, and the therapist sends the judge an email that says you, the FP is noncompliant because you don’t agree that the kid should have a 9:30 bed time or not be allowed to spend the night at the neighbor’s or WHATEVER.

    And then the educational attorney is upset becuase you, the FP, thinks the school is crummy and the kid needs to be moved to a better school.

    then the kid gets arrested and you go to court and on one else is there. And so you agree to bring the kid home, no problem, cause that is what a parent would do, right, but hey, you are NOT THE PARENT, you are the foster parents, and you have no legal status with the kid, so basically, you just broke the law.

    and so it goes. And so you, the loving and serious foster parent, get ground down. And you say the hell with it, no one wants this kid to really make it.

    70% of foster parents leave because of the way they are treated. This is consistent in research across the United States, and, being a former foster parent, I am appalled at the way everyone is treated — foster kids, bio families, foster parents and professionals. It is the most brutal and cruel and stupid system.

    You are way way way smart.

    Unfortunately, LT, to harnass your smarts, you would have to go to SW school and get a degree, which costs thousands of dollars. Youl would need an MSW, which also requires you work free for a year.

    SWs are busy studying you and fixing you and the rest of the poor people. All that educaiton is in your best interest.

    Reply
  • 28. h  |  April 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Well said, LT!

    Reply
  • [...] Luckily, someone already posed the question to Ms. LT and she gave a thorough response. Check it out here. [...]

    Reply
  • 30. hazy55  |  April 10, 2011 at 11:18 am

    The majority of children are taken into care because of parent’s problems; abuse, neglect, drug addiction. A very small percentage of children are put into care because of their behaviors.

    Reply

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