Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Openness in Foster Care - Part 1

I stood in the lobby of our local government office holding a child I had only known for 4 days.  My husband stood beside me holding her sister.   I watched through the glass doors as their parents approached the building.  They paused on the grass outside the doors for one last cigarette before the scheduled two hours they would be inside the small room with their children.  It was their first visit with the babies apprehended by social workers a few weeks before. 

I absorbed my first impression as I looked at them and honestly wondered why it was I was holding their babies.  The father was clean cut and well dressed.  Their mother still had a belly swollen from carrying the infant my husband cradled in his arms.  Her clean hair was pulled back into a neat pony tail.  I couldn't begin to fathom what they were feeling as they finally turned to walk into the building.  I suddenly realized that we were about to be sized up in the same way.

The white, unknown foster parents of their babies.

Suddenly I was uncomfortably aware that my husband was wearing the "World's Best Dad" shirt he had received as a Father's Day gift the year before.  I cringed and hoped they didn't notice and consider it an insult.  I pasted a large smile over what I am sure was a nervous grin and greeted them as they walked through the doors.  

"Look sweetie, it's your mommy"  I said.    Her mother approached with a smile as introductions were made by the hovering social worker.  The stunned and grieving baby solemnly stared at her mother as I handed her over and then turned and stared at me from her mother's arms.  Jayde slept through it all, still cradled in Shel's arms until at the last moment as they entered the restricted visiting area, Shel passed her, still asleep,  to her father.

We returned early,  1 hour and 45 minutes later and were greeted by an anxious visit supervisor waiting for our arrival.  "They are ready to go" she said and the parents hurried down the hall towards us.  An exhausted and cranky baby was handed to me as the newborn continued to nap. 

I left, sickened by the sterility of the process.  I wondered what they thought of us.  If they were consumed by worry for their children in the home of strangers.  I had been in the tiny visit room with the broken and dirty toys and worried about the babies in that environment.  I considered the attachment concerns that I was aware of with both babies and questioned the wisdom of simply passing the children back and forth with no opportunity for the girls to see us together.  I worried.  I fretted.  I stressed and I prayed.

The next day I called the social worker and asked if we could do anything different for visits.  She called the parents and asked them if they were interested in meeting outside of the office.  They desperately wanted out of that office as well.

Two days later I nervously packed up the babies and headed to our local town park.  I was now the Foster Mom and the Visit Supervisor.

It was an adventure that I felt woefully unprepared for.  Little did I know what would happen next.

6 comments:

cocokrispybeans said...

Dear Jen -

I love your heart.

Angie said...

Have you ever considered writing a book? You are an amazing writer!!!

Anonymous said...

Jen,

I love your blog. I started reading when you took your oldest son to visit with his birth family. Now this! You ought to be required reading for people involved in the foster care system. Keep it up!

Wendy from Iowa

dinnae said...

dear jen, just want you to know that i can only handle reading your blog about every two weeks because i BAWL every time i do. you amaze me - you, shel, the boys, and your "new" girls. thanks for the inspiration. <3

Snippy said...

I just found you today, have spent an embarrassing amount of time reading through, and this entry has me sitting on edge. As an adoptive mother of two children through the system, I can FEEL the anxiety of the situation.

I look forward to reading more. I'm just now getting around to starting to tell our story. Whether or not to share it with the world was a huge question for a long time. . . until I realized how proud I always am when I read other women's accounts.

Jensboys said...

Ahhh thanks you guys for reading :0 Snippy ... start at the beginning. It really was a fun start!