Thursday, June 20, 2013

Judge not

When I chose to let the state place Lil Sis in my home, I knew that it would be surprising to people. I was a bit surprised, though, at how overtly and vocally judgmental that people have been.

  • One man told me that he couldn't understand why the state would even consider placing a child with a single mother who already has 4 kids.

  • I had a friend tell me that they were glad, because I should've taken her in as soon as I found out she was in care, rather than waiting to see how her placement was working out.

  • Several family members have said they understand why I would take her, but they make it clear that they think it should be a temporary situation. A few days ago, when discussing the after-school program that I have enrolled Lil Sis in for fall, I received a surprised "you think you'll still have her by then?!?" I answered honestly, "I don't know. There are no guarantees in foster care, but I have to be prepared..." To which I heard, "They need to just find her a good home to adopt her & get her outta there." "Ummm....ok...I really don't know how to respond to that."

  • I hear things like this all the time about my other kids, too, of course. Some people don't think it's right for me to have had another child after my divorce. Apparently, "half-siblings" (I hate that term & we don't use it in our house. In our tribe's kinship system, this sort of distinction isn't made) and blended families are a bad thing, in the eyes of some.

  • It will, surely, come as no shock to anyone that some people object to transracial adoption. So, I'm sure my little multi-racial family is offensive to them in some way.

I'm a firm believer that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Sometimes, though, I think we should have the wisdom to realize that something is simply none of our business.

Judgments can be a heavy burden to bear, especially to a person that's already struggling. I'm fortunate in the fact that I learned, long ago, not to care what other people think about my choices. I evaluate the facts and try to do what the best I can with what I have to work with. Other people, however, haven't gotten there yet. And that's ok.

What is not ok, is for us to add to their hardship with our insignificant opinions. I call them insignificant because they are only as valuable as they are helpful. Constructive questions, encouragement, and things of that nature can be helpful. Criticisms, like the ones I mentioned, are not. They are destructive, harshly judgment, and, quite frankly, mean spirited.

I see foster parents struggling under the weight of these added burdens all the time.

Some people think foster parents only do it for the money, which is laughable considering the fact that the payments are very little and some placements are not paid for some reason or another. Mine, for example, has been here for several months and I have not received any payments. Will I at some point in the future? Supposedly, but who knows.

Foster parents, especially those that plan to adopt, are often called baby-stealers. Contrary to what you might assume, it's not always just the families that have lost kids to the system that believe this.

The truth is, though, that foster parents, as a rule, are neither hero or villain. Most of us are simply parents. We take the children that are placed with us, just as they are, and do what we can to care for them and help them heal. We aren't perfect. Mistakes are made. Human fallibility is an ever present difficulty. The good one's, though, do their best for these kids.

My friend wrote:
"When you are handed a child, either a wee baby just snatched and pushed from your body, or a screaming toddler terrified of your strange face or a silent preschooler angry at their exploding world, a mother, a good mother, hands them their heart.  This little person holds your world, and they become yours.

There are the good times that poets and mothers often write about, and remember on Mother's Days or in impassioned essays on the wonders of motherhood.  There are horrible times that only are spoken about in hushed tones in a therapist's office or in the knowing, silent looks of other mother's of teenagers whose hearts are bruised and broken.

There is terror, and passion.  Anger, pride, adoration and again more fear.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of what failing your child means to their life.  Fear that every decision is the wrong decision and that any decision could break them, or break you."

I firmly believe that she is right. Good parents--those that care about their kids, whether biological, adoptive, foster, step, etc.--all go through struggles. Life is complicated & parenting is hard. But, let's be honest, it is harder when a parent is caring for a child that has been through hell. When a parent is trying to pick up the pieces of a shattered child and help them to heal, they are navigating treacherous waters with no way to predict the twists & turns that are ahead.

One thing that is certain, it makes every decision seem more important. Every success is more sweet. Every mistake more guilt-addled. At times it's can feel like even the small decisions can result in a failure that could derail their healing and their future. "Fear that every decision is the wrong decision and that any decision could break them, or break you."  It can be overwhelming.

Now, consider the fact that foster families do this for multiple children. I recently met a couple that have been fostering since the 1970s. Over those years, they have adopted 11 children and have fosters between 50-60 kids. They are actively involved with as many of those kids as they can be--and some parents in the cases of successful reunifications. They gave all of themselves to each one of those children. They loved them. And they had their hearts broken over & over again. It has all been worth it, they tell me, because they can see the difference they have made in the lives of the children that they have cared for, even if their parenting role was only temporary for most of them. That is what foster parents do.

So, next time you cross paths with a foster family. Maybe, just maybe, think about how you interact with them. I encourage you to do your best to make it positive. I'm not saying throw them a parade or anything like that. Just treat them with respect. Don't pass judgment on things that you haven't lived. Treat the kids just like any other kids, rather than "foster kids" (this is the one thing that has played a HUGE role in the people that I have interacted with lately & those that I haven't. I get tired of people looking at Lil Sis like she's somehow damaged goods, so I tend to avoid those people).

How's this for a revolutionary idea...just treat everyone like humans. Just be respectful & don't add to their burdens with your judgments or criticisms. It's really that simple.

1 comment:

  1. Okay in case you are wondering I missed a few posts and reading them from newest to oldest lol. I read this post and it describes my personal experiences since becoming a foster parent. We have been questions from the beginning about why we would want to be foster parent. Even the worker that we had to deal with to become a foster home asked. If I remember her question properly it was. Why do you want to be a foster parent, you already have 4 kids. To which we responded because we can help. There are so many kids in care that need a safe loving place to be.
    When a child is placed with us they become "my child". Yes they have bio parents, however there is no way in the world that I can give them the love, and care for they deserve if I do not see them as my child. If I were to sit around and look at each of these placements as a temporary child that I an "baby sitting" as some people view it and suggest. I would not be able to do the best I can to help them heal and have happy moments while with us. While I know that they are someone else's child, they are also my child. I tell my kids bio-parents that while they are their child, and always will be. It is my job to take care of them, love them and try to make them happy until the can go back home.