The Case That Broke Me (Foster Siblings Leaving)

A previous version of this story was published in The Foster Care Survival Guide by Dr. John DeGarmo. I revised the story to share with you here. If you have read it before, I hope you will read this to get a fuller sense of the story.

The world of foster care can never be fully comprehended outside of diving headfirst into it. Nevertheless, my parents did their best to give me an understanding of what becoming a foster family would be like. They had often talked about people in need, including children in foster care. My tween siblings and I were fascinated with the idea of foster care.

Nothing could prepare me for the reality of two little sisters who arrived at our door. The toddler had eyes of wonder and confusion. Though she was wary of my parents, she warmed up to my siblings and me as we brought her toys and played with her.

That worked out well because my parents were busy with her infant sister. The baby was suffering the effects of drug withdrawals. She would tremor, break out into sweats, squirm, scream, and bat away her pacifier. We tried literally dozens of different pacifiers to help comfort her. It took weeks and weeks for her to finally overcome the withdrawals and gain a healthy weight.

Though my parents did not share all of the details of the girls’ case, they would try to prepare us for the changes that might happen. As the girls began more visits with their parents, my parents told me that the girls might be reunited with their parents soon. If the girls were returning from a difficult visit, my parents would remind my siblings and me that the girls might act out because of the tough stuff they had to deal with.

As time passed, different people dropped out of the girls’ lives. It was a messy situation. After a particularly rocky month, the county asked if our family would be willing to adopt the girls.

Although my parents prefaced this new revelation with caution and “this is only an option and not for sure,” my heart was dancing with the possibility. These girls, my sisters forever? Yes, please!

The more I looked at it, the more I thought it was perfect. We knew the girls’ likes, dislikes, and unique personalities better than anyone it seemed. They had been living with us for over a year. They seemed to fit into our family completely.

Then one evening, we got a call. With only hours of warning, my family had to pack up all the girls’ belongings. A social worker arrived in the morning and took them to live with a relative. I haven’t seen them since.

After all of that love, with one call, my sisters were gone.

It was hard. The grief was lonely. Not many people understood what we were going through. Even within our family, each of us coped differently.

Then another call came.

My parents sat our family down and explained that there was another set of siblings that needed somewhere to stay. These new children needed a temporary family just as much as the shy toddler and screaming infant had. Just like the girls, these children could not control how long they would stay with us, but they needed a family in that moment who would love them even if it hurt in the end.

So we loved them too.
Even when they were set to move home, we loved them.
And even when it seemed they would move to relatives, we loved them.

Though I was broken by what had happened before, I learned something as I moved forward. When you choose to love again, you are truly thinking beyond yourself and beyond your own pain to meet the needs of someone else. That is love. And love, even when it costs us, is exactly what children in foster care need. When we love children, despite the costs, we are showing them that they are worth the cost of love.

Next time you think “I would get too attached” or “I would be devastated when they leave;” ask yourself also:

“Do I believe children in foster care are worth the cost of love?”

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The Role of Social Workers

March is National Social Work Month in the United States. In honor of this, here is a brief look at the role of a social worker in child welfare.

Caseworker, adoption worker, case manager, licensing agent— social workers in the field of child welfare have various titles. Though the focuses of their jobs might be different, the role of the social worker remains the same: to “protect vulnerable children and help families in need of assistance” (Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Labor, n.d.).

2 Women meeting and planning, social worker

Continue reading “The Role of Social Workers”

Top 5 ways to show love to foster families (according to foster parents)

Ah, Valentine’s day. When mushy sentiments and puppy love fill the air. The time of year middle schoolers think they have found their one true love…and have to post about it all over social media…multiple times a day…for weeks…

But seriously, Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love and relationships of all kinds. The day is a reminder that relationships don’t just happen; they require thought and effort and time. Love shows itself in tangible ways, whether it be a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers. It is a reminder that you have to intentionally put something into a relationship and love doesn’t just sit around doing nothing.

Foster families know this all too well.

Continue reading “Top 5 ways to show love to foster families (according to foster parents)”

Touching Lives with Birthday Cake

“Mommy! Mommy! It’s my birthday!”

The little girl hopped out of her foster mother’s van and ran to her biological mom, curls bouncing behind her. Her mom embraced her and gave her a kiss.

“I know baby girl. Happy birthday!” The little girl squirmed out of her arms and marched inside to her dad.

“It’s my birthday! It’s my birthday! I’m going to get presents! I’m going to get cake!” she sang.

“Oh…I don’t think we have cake today,” her mom trailed off. “But you do have presents!”

The little girl stopped marching. She planted her fists on her hips and rolled her eyes.

Continue reading “Touching Lives with Birthday Cake”

National Foster Care Month and Kinship Care

What would you do if your niece needed a place to stay for a couple weeks? What if your daughter could no longer take care of her child? What if a child in your classroom was being placed in foster care?

For those providing kinship care, these questions are no longer “what if”s.

Continue reading “National Foster Care Month and Kinship Care”

Books Recommended by Foster Parents (and Children)

Last week I went searching for children’s books about foster care. I asked a couple groups of people involved in foster care and got great recommendations from them. Foster parents listed many books that children in their care have enjoyed and benefited from. Some books were recommended multiple, multiple times!

One book in particular was so highly recommended that my family immediately ordered it. That book was:

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Maybe Days: A Book for Children in Foster Care

By Jennifer Wilgocki and Marcia Kahn Wright

Illustrated by Allissa Imre Geis

Maybe Days is a great introduction to the foster care system for children ages 4-10. The book depicts the often complex world of foster care in simple, clear, and realistic terms.

It acknowledges how frustrating it can be to only have questions answered with “maybe” and not know what will happen next in life. Each child’s journey in the foster care system is unique, which the book respects as well. A note to foster parents is included in the back, with tips from the authors, a therapist and a clinical psychologist who both work with children and families.

Overall, the book manages to balance the unknowns and vagueness of each child’s experience of foster care with reassuring children that no matter what, they can still be themselves and enjoy being a kid.

 

Other books about foster care that foster parents recommended were:

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Murphy’s Three Homes: A Story for Children in Foster Care

By Jan Levinson Gilman

Illustrated by Kathy O’Malley

A story about a puppy who goes through a couple different homes but wants one to call his own.

 

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Kids Need to Be Safe: A Book for Children in Foster Care

(Kids Are Important Series)

By Julie Nelson

Illustrated by Mary C

“’Kids are important… They need safe places to live, and safe places to play.’ For some kids, this means living with foster parents. In simple words and full-color illustrations, this book explains why some kids move to foster homes, what foster parents do, and ways kids might feel during foster care.” (Summary from Amazon.)

 

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Families Change: A Book for Children Experiencing Termination of Parental Rights

(Kids Are Important Series)

By Julie Nelson

Illustrated by Mary Gallagher

“All families change over time. Sometimes a baby is born, or a grown-up gets married. And sometimes a child gets a new foster parent or a new adopted mom or dad. Children need to know that when this happens, it’s not their fault. They need to understand that they can remember and value their birth family and love their new family, too. Straightforward words and full-color illustrations offer hope and support for children facing or experiencing change. Includes resources and information for birth parents, foster parents, social workers, counselors, and teachers.” (Summary from Amazon.)

 

Foster parents also shared some books that are not specifically about foster care, but have still helped their foster children. These included:

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Home for a Bunny

By Margret Wise Brown

A bunny searches for a home. Foster parents said their children identified with the bunny and like the book.

 

 

 

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Here in the Garden

By Briony Stewart

A book about loss and grief, but not necessarily death. Helpful for children in foster care, especially if their parent/parents are no longer a part of their life. Foster and adoptive parents said this book helped children in their homes.

 

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A Terrible Thing Happened

By Margret M. Holmes

Illustrated by Cary Pillo

A book about a personified raccoon who saw a bad thing happen, but feels better after talking to someone.

 

 

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The Invisible String

By Patrice Karst

Illustrated by Geoff Stevenson

A book about a mom telling her children that they are connected by an invisible string- a string made of love, that binds their hearts together. Helps children deal with feelings of separation from loved ones. Foster parents noted that their foster children love this book.

 

Many suggestions were also for books that talked about differences in families, including:

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The Family Book

By Todd Parr

 

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The Great Big Book of Families

By Mary Hoffman

Illustrated by Ros Asquith

 

 

 

Hopefully these book suggestions are helpful for you and the children in your life.

I have not personally read them all, and do not necessarily endorse any of the books listed here. These are NOT affiliate links. I simply wanted to pass on some recommendations from foster parents and children.

What books would you recommend?