Friday, June 20, 2008


Using that picture in the last post brought back a flood of memories about one of our placements. It was a sibling group of 4 young Hispanic children who had been abandoned by their mother at the local shelter.

They were the most adorable children and we took them on an emergency placement the same weekend we were doing respite for 2 other little boys so we had a total of about 11 children all told in the home that weekend. When the supervisor came out to do the placement paperwork on Saturday, since I got them late Friday, she didn't stay long, she couldn't take the chaos. I was in my element having a great time.

The four kids were 2,3, 5 and 6 years old. Only the oldest girl had much English, the two babies had none. Luckily my husband is bilingual. They came in with bruises and marks that had to be photographed and before they even got a chance to have dinner they had to be interviewed by the cops and the SW. It was a difficult time for them. They should have been terrified of the whole process and of us, but they were actually happy to be somewhere where they would have beds and they were ecstatic over the toys. The 2 year old, that I had gotten the referral saying she was like a feral animal scratching and biting, throwing tantrums at the shelter, was a sweet, loving baby, wanting to be held and carried.

Of course they had lice and only came with the clothes on their back. I was able to arrange the sleeping rooms so that the three girls shared a room and the little 3 year old guy slept in an adjoining "nursery" so that he could be close to them. Every night they went to bed in separate beds, every morning they were like a pile of puppies snuggled together in the oldest sister's bed.

We had a blast that summer, went to the pool, to the zoo, clothes shopping, played in the backyard. They loved bubbles and catching fireflies and taking walks and riding bikes. We had some interesting "cultural" experiences. It never occurred to me that these kids had not eaten take out in a car before, I mean it should have because they were strangers to car seats and seat belts, but as middle class suburban family there are just some things you take for granted as universal experiences. (Live and learn, I guess) So we stopped at the drive through on the way to the soccer field from another person's activity and I ordered them all kids meals with milk. Well before you could say boo, there were french fries spilled and milk on the seats, etc. They didn't have a clue how to balance all that food in and around their laps. Now that is a skill most of mine developed before they were out of diapers, I regret to say as it reflects poorly on my feeding choices :-) It was just an interesting eye opener. And it was a skill they quickly learned as they had numerous opportunities to practice, again I regret to say.

Before we were able to settle into any kind of routine the system broke for these kids. Despite the fact that the grandmother had some neglect charges stemming from her own teenage daughter and that she had a 2 bedroom apartment with a disabled husband and said teenager already living there, the judge saw fit to return the children to the grandmother.

Now I am all for reunification and keeping families together. Our most joyous and proud work is mentoring parents and families into healing. But it was so sad in this case as the older girls expressed a great deal of fear about going to Grandma's. They asked the SW not to send them, they begged to stay with me. They spoke of the physical discipline Grandma used, the fact that the teen daughter always had lice and Grandma's house was smelly and dirty. They cried. But the judge saw fit to put them with the grandmother.

As I was transporting them all back to the SW's office for the last time, we got the call while we were at a bowling alley, I had a truly disturbing conversation with the oldest sister. She kept asking me what she was going to do, she was truly worried about the safety and health of her younger siblings. With tears in my eyes I coached her on how to call 911 if needed, how to tell a teacher or an another adult if needed, to keep telling until someone listened. But I don't think she had any faith in any of that, after all here she was going back into her dysfunctional family, sent by the very system I was telling her to contact. My heart broke on that trip.

So many times the foster care system puts these kids back, gives the parents and families way too many chances, and it is the kids who are destroyed. It isn't any specific post of Cindy's that I am remembering but some of her references to how her sibling groups lived and survived in their birth environments and how often an older sibling tried desperately to parent and protect the younger siblings. It is heartbreaking to realize the responsibilities these young children must assume. As a foster parent we often face such tough experiences through our kids and it is in situations such as these we experience most fully our true total powerlessness within the decision making part of the system.

I still love and pray for you L, Nando, C and S.

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