Friday, May 18, 2012

"Foster Friday" Panel - The Waiting Game

The world of foster care is full of twists, turns, and changes.  It is an emotional roller coaster that leaves you both breathless and anxious.  In the world of foster care, "time" has a new definition.  "Time" is defined in terms of waiting.

Dani - Waiting.  Waiting sucks, that's about all I can say.  It's now been over ten and a half months since we turned in our paperwork and just over eight months since we were told we'd be certified.  I never thought a year ago that we wouldn't have some wonderful additions to be thankful for at Thanksgiving or see the excitement of Christmas through the eyes of a child.  My new wish is that we will have a house full over the summer.

I try to keep myself busy now doing things I know will be harder with kids around.  It doesn't really make it any easier for me, but at least the house is super clean, the garden is planted, and the dogs are well trained.  I've finished those books I've been wanting to read, and we're getting fat and sassy from all of the goodies I've baked.  I also made close to a dozen blankets, so that when we do get kids, they can pick out a blankie of their very own to keep as long as they wish.

I hope this wait ends soon!

Andrea ("Live with Laughter") -  Waiting.  It's called "The Waiting Game," what a crock.  A game with no rules and no insight to what the outcome could be.  No scoreboards and no referees.  If it's a game, it's the worst one ever.  A game when there is sometimes no one on our side, no one cheering for our team to win.  Other times our sides of the bleachers are overflowing with standing room only.  Everyone cheering.

We, as foster parents, wait.  It's all part of the choice we made.  We wait for the classes to end, wait for the homestudy to be completed, wait for the phone to ring, wait for the child to arrive, wait for court hearings, wait to see how the "professionals" will change our lives, wait for our children to return from their first visitation, we wait for adoption decrees, and sometimes we wait until we have to say goodbye to our kids.

In between all these BIG waits are the little waits.  We wait for the social worker to return our calls.  We wait for the clothing voucher to arrive.  We wait for our monthly check.  We wait for the doctor referrals.  We wait for Medicaid to get their act together and treat our children.  We wait in doctors offices for endless hours.  We wait up in the middle of the night praying they will be comforted and sleep.

We wait.  We wait for change in development, change in behavior, and change in health.  We wait for smiles, first teeth, and first steps.  We wait for the day they look into our eyes and know that they are safe.  We wait for the day they know they are loved.

Heather ("Us") - Right now we are waiting to finalize {adoption}!  We got our official date the first of March for the first of June.  This wait has been our longest, and time seems to be going at the pace of a sleeping snail.  This has also been the hardest wait.  I am so afraid that at any time the rug will be pulled out from under our feet.  Everything seems too good to be true.  I have just started to realize that these kids will be sticking around forever, and sometimes that is horrifying to process.  I mean we will be in complete control of what happens with these kids and their futures and all that "fun" stuff.  I have never had to process kids staying.  They would usually be leaving around this time!

I never expected to have a hard time processing kids staying.  I am so excited for it to be final and know that these kids are finally "stuck" forever and won't just be leaving at a minute's notice.  So right now, I am waiting to see what a life with forever kids seems like.  And the wait is driving me more crazy...

Debbie ("Always and Forever Family") - Waiting on court was torturous for us.  We knew what was right, that our foster girls of two months should be given to their biological grandfather, but given the history of misinformation we knew it would take a miracle for that to happen.  We have a good relationship with their bio grandfather and walked the case with them.  As we waited, the feeling of someone else having our future in their hands was amazing.  I'd never really experienced the hopelessness before.  Not being able to do a thing about what we all (even social workers) knew was right.  It gave me a glimpse of what biological families that are working their plans must go through. The hopelessness and faith we all had to place in the state.  Doing what they ask and hoping we did it right.

Grandfather was denied at that court hearing and our worlds stopped.  We were crushed, and didn't know what to do.  They appealed and got a hearing date for three weeks later.  The results were not given until five weeks after that!  Those weeks of waiting were the worst.  Every day that passed felt like another denial...  Felt like the girls were going to be stuck in foster care when they shouldn't be.  They had already lost so much.  They needed to be with their family.  Thankfully, our waiting ended in joy, Grandfather was approved, and the girls have been living with their Grandfather for 2 1/2 months now.

Marie (aka. Mie) ("Letting Go of Mie") - Right now we're waiting.

In foster care you're always waiting for something - a call, a visit, a court-date, a decision - you get used to waiting.

We're waiting to know what is going to happen in this case.  As soon as you say yes to a foster placement, you begin waiting to see what happens in the case.  The initial plan is almost always reunification so the initial plan is never a good indicator or what will actually happen.

So you begin the wait, which follows the wait for the call and precedes the wait for a permanency.

I just got word that our next court-date will be moved up from the end of June to the beginning of June.  This should be the last court date before the case is scheduled to end.  Of course this doesn't mean it will end, just that it should end according to the rule that the kids should be moving toward permanency in 12 months.  You get an additional 6 months of waiting if your case is one of the lucky many that get extended beyond the original dismissal date.  I think that will happen with this case, but I have no idea.

It's funny how each case is so dramatically different.  Sure, all the same roles are there (birth parents, caseworkers, attorneys, judges) and the same steps generally occur (placement, permanency conferences, hearings, permanency) but the details of each case and how each case is handled are vastly different from case to case and so as you become a more skilled foster parent, you become less confident in your abilities to predict what will happen in each case.

This case is our 6th.  I'm better at knowing I have no idea what will happen.  I know that talk continues to be of reunification.  That is the current plan.  There is no family that has been identified as a valid placement.  If things change from reunification the kiddos will likely not be adopted by kin.  The judge says that despite some progress neither parent is successfully meeting the requirements of their service plan.  This is very clear with one parent - the other is trying.  I'm told this other parent's actions may be enough to get their kids back, but it really is the bare minimum and there is "a lot more that needs to be done."  I'm told their case is scheduled to end in August and then I'm told the kids will not go home before then "if ever."  I'm asked to let them talk to their mom on Mother's Day, and then when I ask whether they will get more frequent communication with her, I'm told they don't see that happening, that it's not a good idea.  I'm led to believe that reunification will happen.  I'm led to believe that TPR is probable.  By the same people.

Based on recent "activity" in the case - and by that I mean the stuff going on in the background, the various questions people are asking mie, that something will happen at this next court date which is only a few weeks away.  I was directly told they will not be going home on that date.  I know better than to trust that absolutely, but I doubt they will actually send the kiddos home then.  So now I'm waiting to see what happens at the next court date, expecting a change in the plans and yet knowing it will likely be "uneventful" like most hearings.

So I'm waiting for the hearing because I'm waiting to know what will happen in August because I'm waiting to know if these kids will be going back to their birth parents or whether they will ask us to adopt them.

In August I will either be waiting for an extended date, waiting for their return-to-monitor date, or waiting through the appeals process.  And then I'll be waiting for another call or I'll be waiting for finalization.  And then I'll be waiting for another call.

I've been told by so many non-foster families that they can't imagine how we handle the ever-changing nature of our lives.  In reality - our lives are full of waiting.  Things aren't ever-changing because nothing is ever set in stone.  But that is fine by mie.  Stone is inflexible and breakable.  I'm okay being shaped.  I'd rather not be broken.

And so we wait.

Casey ("A Single Foster Mom's Diary") - As parents, adoptive or foster, we accept that waiting is a guaranteed part of parenting.  We wait for a child to arrive to our home, we wait for the child to acclimate to our family, we wait for emotional/behavioral patterns to change, we wait in court, we wait in meetings, we wait for visits, and we wait for calls, emails, and so on.  We as trained providers, the Moms or Dads, the grownups who are adept at waiting, can be easily challenged emotionally and sometimes physically, just by waiting.  We can become frustrated by having to wait for a need to be met, whether it is our need or the need of someone we're responsible for.  We may have legitimate expectations of how long we should wait, some expectations are met and some not.  We can experience waiting patiently or impatiently.  As responsible adults that have a cognitive social competence, we understand that sometimes, despite any sense of urgency or importance of issue, we just have to wait.

With all our experience and life skills, we still can be extremely challenged with the simple task of waiting.  In terms of a foster child, I have to wonder, as difficult as it can be for me to wait, regardless of what I'm waiting for, how is it then for a foster child to wait?  They certainly don't have the cognitive ability that I have, the social skills to handle the disappointment of having to wait, or the complex understanding that even though they wait, they still might not receive what they've been waiting for.

I think back to the days of my foster son waiting for his visitation with bio Mom and Dad.  I remember the excitement in him on those days that he knew to be the visitation day.  I specifically remember the emotions he would go through while having to wait.  Fortunately, his waiting would usually (but not always) pay off with a visit at the state office.  Some days though, the waiting would become overwhelming and he would tantrum.  It was clearly evident that for him, waiting was a painful process regardless of the payoff or lack thereof.

As much as we think we are always the ones always waiting, our little foster kiddos are truly the people affected by the waiting game.  I'm certain although we waited in anticipation of their arrival to our homes and lives that the arrival of these kiddos, mean for them the beginning of their wait.  How overwhelming the feeling of waiting has to be for these kids; such as the wait to see their Mom again, and soon.  How about the wait to hear Dad's voice on the phone, or think about the biggest wait of all, the wait to go home.  These kids wait for unimaginable things, like the wait to see if they get to eat, waiting to see if there's abuse or neglect "waiting" around every corner.  They wait to let their guard down and hope to fit in; they are always waiting to feel loved and safe...  Considering the trauma these kids have been through before they arrived in our home, we have to anticipate the emotions they must have which inevitably include waiting.

Perspective is amazing.

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