Friday, May 14, 2010

Openness in Foster Care: Part 4

I do not want to paint things with warm tones and romantic hues so that those reading think this was an easy journey.  There were some very, very hard moments. 

I already mentioned the parent getting arrested during a visit I was supervising, right? 

And then there was that whole "come home from our family vacation to a destination 2000 kilometers away EARLY because a parent "had to have" a visit on their birthday".  That they confirmed every day for the three days we travelled home.  That they cancelled, after we were home.   

Then there was the family camping trip we drove home from in the middle of so that the girls could make their planned visit that the parents cancelled at the last moment because "they were too busy".  And then we passed them on the highway hitchhiking to a party. 

Or the birthday party they HAD TO attend so we rescheduled and reorganized and then they didn't even call. 

And there was that time they showed up to a visit in our home and something DEFINITELY wasn't right.  Or sober.  Or happy.

And those times our paths unexpectedly crossed and a parent was covered in cuts and bruises from a horrible beating.  And was drunk.

There were cancelled visits.  Visits that ended early.  Visits where inappropriate things were said.  Visits where inappropriate people showed up. And stayed.  Some times there were requests for rides and meals and gifts.  Some times I could say yes, and some times I didn't know how to say no.

There were some scary times, some times that made me very, very frustrated and some times I was fearful.  But of course it wasn't just hard for me.

Because there was also that time mom asked Taya to "come to mommy" and she stood between the two of us and cried because she didn't know which way to go. 

Or the time we saw mom at the mall and she tried to pick up Jayde, who screamed in terror and reached for me. 

And that time at the end of a visit when mom told Taya that "mommy's leaving now" and Taya panicked thinking I was going and refused to leave my arms for the rest of mom's stay. 

There was that time the baby was sick and mom didn't know what to do, and when she tried what she knew, the baby screamed uncontrollably and then threw up all over her. 

Our relationship grew past those uncomfortable times, those awkward moments, those painful experiences because we were both committed to having a relationship for the sake of the girls.  I was willing to speak up and address the pain from their perspective.  I was willing to forgive and forget, over and over again, and keep hoping for the best next time.  And I was willing to accept that better time next time might not ever come. 

When permanence became imminent I took a risk.   The professionals around us advised us to simply let things happen.  Let the court order permanence.  Let mom and dad have it forced upon them if necessary.  But I wanted a relationship and I wanted honesty.  I wanted to make them promises I would keep, and give them boundaries that I could live with.  I wanted to build the foundation of our relationship that would be strong, for the sake of the babies in the middle.

I emailed.  I facebooked.  I asked and questioned.  I thought and wrote and then re-wrote a contact agreement.  And then I emailed it to mom and gave it to dad and waited.  Would our expectations meet their expectations?  Would my being honest about the boundaries I could live with cost me the chance to parent the girls?

For a very long while it looked like it might.

6 comments: said...

this story contunues to amaze me, you are a brave and committed mom.

Dawn said...

Jen this is an amazing story. Just amazing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jen for sharing such intimate and emotional details of this journey all of you travelled. For those of us who have not had Foster experience it is a scary, exciting, incredible read. I am in awe of your strength (I am not sure I could have done what you have) and in your determination to try and make this a partnership to an extent with the girls birth family. I really feel blessed just to be able to read this.

little things said...

We're with you... for all except 1 of our 12, we have sole guardianship or adoption with similar informal agreements. We are at the 10 year mark w/2 of the continues sporadically...the same problems that brought the kids into care continue in their families. Overall , I believe openess is positive...but boundaries are very neccesary & it certainly isn't trouble free. it still feels like the right thing to do.

familyofthree said...

I'm anxiously reading each new installment of your story. I've been starting to feel a "stirring" in my heart, but I'm still very unsure as to how it will all play out. Anyway, I am just really, really enjoying reading, just taking it all in. Your girls are precious!

BTW, this is "Wrigley's Mommy" from the BBs, since you probably didn't know who I am! :)

Unknown said...

Thanks you guys :)

Tomorrow we have our first "post agreement" visit.