Monday, March 11, 2013

Get Your Awareness On

It's time to talk about Foster Care again.

Yeah, I know, you're bored of it.  So skip this episode.  It's part of our life over here and it's my blog, so I get to write what I like.

Apparently March is Social Worker month.

According to the most reliable source in the Internet world, Wikipedia, March is also awareness month for: Irish-American Heritage, Music in our Schools, National Brain Injury Awareness,  National Celery Month, National Craft Month, National Essential Tremor Awareness, National Frozen Food Month, National Middle Level Education Month, National Nutrition Month, National Peanut Month, National Women's History Month and Red Cross Month.

Yes, that was said with sarcasm and yes, I'm aware that there are awareness issues I've skipped or are unaware of.  You should laugh a little now, that was funny.

In my years of being a Foster Parent I've observed some things about people and about the Foster Care system.

  • It's a complex system that is far from perfect.  It's complicated because each case is complicated.  Each case is unique and believe it or not, made up of people.
  • The best interest of the child is a phrase that is open to interpretation.  It is not common for all people involved to agree on what specifically is the best for the child.
  • It is not easy to be a Foster Parent.  It involves being patient, calm and quiet, a lot.  There are times to speak up, but those are times to be wise and kind.  
  • Grace is required.  Every.  Minute.
  • A person always needs to see the other side or mentally place themselves in the other persons shoes.  It is frustrating to see kids go somewhere we think they shouldn't or see the system take longer than we think it should or give one chance more than we think is right, but if a mistake was made and my children were removed from me for any suspected reason, I would really love to have every available chance to get them back, especially knowing that getting them back sounds easier on paper than it is in real life.  Remember, this whole system works or doesn't work on people doing their best to be wise.
  • Birth Parents love their children.  Period.  I don't care what they've done to them, they still love them and their kids love them back.  We should never try to deny, destroy or take that from either of them.
  • No single person or party involved in a case knows everything.  No one has all the details. To believe otherwise is silly.
  • Foster Care is something the majority thinks it understands, but doesn't.
  • Foster Care is something easy to sensationalize.  
  • There are no enemies in Foster Care.  The judge, the D.A, the GAL, the Social Worker, the Birth Parent, the Therapist, etc. are not the bad guys.  Yeah, there are a few that suck and do their jobs poorly, just like any other profession or aspect of life, but over all, they aren't really bad guys.  

I think it takes a lot of things to survive being a Foster Parent or a Foster Family.  It takes Teflon skin. All the things that threaten to rile you up, have to slide off.  It's a marathon, not a sprint.  Even though it feels like years of precious time is being wasted while we wait for the system to figure things out or get services started, there is still more than enough time and kids are so much more resilient than we believe them to be.  Despite horrific situations and experiences, the children are way less broken and damaged than we believe them to be and they are much, much better than we think they are.  Being flexible is critical.  Scheduled things will fall apart without notice.  Unscheduled things will happen without notice. Family life will not happen on a rigidly set schedule, ever, while involved in Foster Care.  Schedules are good for comfort and routine but Foster Care isn't the place for a family that needs theirs to be solid every day.  Foster Parents need a certain twisted optimistic sense of humor about life and people and themselves.  They need to be people that aren't flustered by anything or thrown for a loop by any weird situation, because there will be many.  Foster Parents need to have hearts so large that they burst and break for these children and then grow bigger to love even more.

Alright, you've endured enough about Foster Care today.  It's on the tip of my brain this week as we head to court to wait and watch what happens next.  Trial is always interesting and heart wrenching, no matter the outcomes.