Foster & Adoption in the USA

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Warning: This is not a happy post

Disclaimer: I am INCREDIBLY biased. I am a former foster parent. I am also what is known as a “mandatory reporter” in my role as a nurse. I have at least weekly contact with Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child and Family Services.

I wish I could write freely about what I see. Every. Single. Day. I cannot. There is federal laws against it. I can voice my opinion, though. I wish I could cite facts for you.

It starts with the parents: There is a baby born to one of our patient’s at least twice a week. Sometimes more often. I can count on one hand the number of those babies who were born to a mother not on Subutex. For those that don’t know Subutex is a prescribed medication used to treat opiate dependence. I will offend with this comment: If you are addicted to opiates you should not get pregnant. I know some of them have a valid reason for winding up in this predictament (and I entirely empathize with those souls) but roughly 75% get pregnant by having frequent unprotected intercourse while not on birth control. I’m sorry, but that is not an accidental or unplanned pregnancy. That is biology working the way it was supposed to. And no, we will not prescribe vicoden for your back pain or migraines in your third trimester…you are on Subutex for this reason. Stop Asking.
Also, they don’t work. It would make sense if some of them didn’t work. We are in a recession after all, but I can again count on one hand the number of them that have any sort of employment at all. It seems statistically impossible, and yet, it’s true! How do I know? Because when I call at 10:30 AM they just got out of bed. I see them wandering about this small city while texting away on a really expensive-looking smartphone while I drive home at 5 and when I get to work the next morning I get the report that they were in the ER at 1AM for things I again cannot mention here.
They leave your children unsupervised (I’m talking about the read about it in the papers unsupervised, not the “I need 5 minutes to pee while you play on the other side of the door”) They don’t bring them to their checkups, they scream at them so horribly that they embarass all those within earshot. They berate them. And some of them are…worse.

That’s when I’m required by law to step in. And I do. I care. I’m one of those people that thinks about these kids at home on Friday nights (i.e. now). I’m one of those people that couldn’t live with myself if God-forbid the unthinkable happened and I stood by and did nothing. Or said nothing.

But even when I do what I’m required by law to do. What I call and warn about. It still happens. These children are neglected. They are abused. And yes, in my short career some have nearly died. It’s unbearable. I try to help, I try to intervene and nothing get done. I want to shake someone (or multiple someones) at DHHS and scream “What the Hell were you Thinking? I told you this would happen and now…LOOK!”

Now I’m sure that these people care to. I have to believe that people are inheriently good or I’ll never survive in our society. But they too are bound by laws. Laws that are designed to keep at-risk children with these parents.

I couldn’t help at all on the prevention end. So I became a foster parent. I thought I could do some good on the other end. Once, despite all obstacles…these children escaped these lives and had a chance to live in comparative peace.

What I encountered was far worse. The children were never the problem. Sure, they had problems but everything they had had a root cause in the adults around them. It was the Adults. The parents. The system, and yes…even myself.

A system designed to bring the the parent and child back together needs to address the issues why the child cannot be cared for by the parent in the first place. And I’m not talking about the “band-aid” fixes that I saw. Find the homeless a very temporary apartment. Provide rides to doctor’s appointments if no transportation, provide food stamps if no food. Let me ask this…why is there no house/car/food to begin with. Again here comes my opinion. It’s dark. If you hate me now you are gonna hate me more.

The real problem comes down to what being a parent is supposed to be about. A parent is supposed to put their child’s needs above their own. In the hundreds of cases that I’ve seen that fit this general profile the parent puts their own needs above those of the child. If you can’t reverse this mindset then I feel that children deserve to be in the care of someone who will. I also think that if you cannot pull off this swift reversal in selfish thinking quickly. Game Over. There are no re-dos in life. If you aren’t willing to work hard (and I mean really Fucking hard) to provide a life for your child, then you have no business being a parent.

As a foster parent I played into this. I modelled the parenting skills. I taught organizational skills. I was flexible. And I thought that if all of the issues could be addressed, then maybe the problem would be solved and life would be a fairytale. I worked hard to be a good role model to struggling birthparents. I worked hard to provide peace, stability, and a life for my foster daughters. I still work hard for my at-risk pediatric patients. I still play into it. Every Day. Even though I know deep down that if you can’t change the thinking of the parent…it is all for naught. It is doomed.

Child Protection Services and the system NEVER addresses the parent’s mindset. No, in fact the needs of the child in foster care come secondary to the needs of the parent. If the parent cannot make it to a morning visit then the visit is scheduled during the afternoon, during the child’s usual naptime. The child is always subject to the whim of DHHS and the biological parent (yes, even while in foster care). To fix Child Protection. THE NEEDS OF THE CHILD MUST COME FIRST. It must superceed law. It must eclipse the parents needs. It has to be paramount.

Adoption in Foster Care follows the same suit. It is a last resort. But why? Why is it a last resort? Why do we delay and drag feet to accomodate a parent? When it takes 2 years or more to make a foster parent the legal parent the child does not benefit. 2 years of life. Gone. There are no re-dos, remember?

Why didn’t I adopt from foster care. I tried. Believe me I did. I tried harder for foster children than I did to have my own biological children. I tried and (I feel) failed to make any sort of lasting difference in the life of a child. All my foster children returned to their parents. Based on what I see everyday in similar children I hold out very little hope that it was “Happily Ever After”

The post is a rant. It goes nowhere. It is written because I cannot tolerate the opinions of those who clearly have never walked where I have. Seen what I see. And live with the ongoing frustrations that I do. Day after day after day after day after day after day.

I also couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try to continue to help. I am a nurse…we are martyrs by nature. We have to be crazy to do what we do. Like (in my mind) any good parent. I want the opportunity to put someone else’s needs above my own (again). Do I want to save a child? Yes. I want to save them from everything I’ve just described and perhaps from something worse not yet witnessed. What do I gain from adopting children? I get…children. I get to get up in the middle of the night when they are sick. I get to read Dr. Suess a trillion times. I get the opportunity to recite the entire script of “Finding Nemo” by heart. I get the chance to fret and worry and feel like the worst mother in the world. I hope to get smiles, and maybe one day hugs. I hope to be called “Mom.” That will be my reward. I will have won the lottery.

But the answer to the ultimate WHY? Because I’m sombody-somewhere’s parent. And that’s what parents are supposed to do.

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One response »

  1. Thank you.

    This is a gutsy post. And, I think you “hit the nail on the head” when you ask: Why do such parents not have a home, a car, a job? In many instances, it’s not a “rough patch,” it’s how they live their life.

    Also, they don’t put the needs of their children ahead of their need for a man, drugs or whatever. I know because I have cousins like this. We — my sisters and I — help them out; but, I have begun to feel used as nothing changes.

    I’m also beginning the adoption process. I’m looking to adopt from foster care or to do an independent adoption or to adopt from Bulgaria. So, I appreciate the information presented in your blog.

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