Sunday, May 30, 2010

Promises Promises

I have found myself promising to write good motivating blog posts often lately and not seeming to get them done. I always have some idea brewing, but never the time to sit down and do it on paper.

Last night's trip to the lake was fun. Mike and Kari did most of the work, and Bart and I sat a lot, and the kids had fun. Sounds like a good time to me. ;-) I'll post some of my 145 pictures later. See? More promises.

I am going to be writing an article within the next couple weeks for a national magazine directed at foster parent's about how adoption IS a different commitment than foster care and promising kids "you can stay here as long as you like." I'm wanting it to be edgy but not overwhelmingly so. I realize there may be some situations where not adopting a teenager in foster care is a best, but I am a believer that kids who want an adoptive family should have one and that foster parents who are saying "we won't adopt but we'll keep you here and love you" is not very fair on the part of foster parents.

What are your thoughts? You can disagree with me and I promise to be kinda fairly open minded. Maybe. :-) jk, as my kids would say.


Rose Adoption Journey said...

I agree. I think that all kids long for permanency and whether they can express it or is still a desire.

I have problems when foster parents tell me they know what it is like to be a parent(those who have no other permanent children). Pardon the rudeness, but no you don't. "Parents" commit to a lifetime with that kid of joy and heartache and investment. You make them yours symbolically by adopting them and telling them that they have all the legal and emotional rights of a bio child! You put your stamp on them!

My role as a foster parent is different than my role as an adoptive parent. As a foster parent, I am committing to bringing that child in my home and providing love and care with the understanding that this is not permanent.

Until we for sure knew we were going to adopt our boys, we never told them that they are "ours". I think that gives kids false hopes.

BOTH of my boys came from foster homes where that was told to them....then when the going got rough..they were released from that home. It left them with disappointment and MORE lack of trust. We have been cleaning up that mess with one of ours for 2 years.

We have to be very careful what we tell our foster kids. They already have trust does not help to give them false hope or pretend commitment when there really wont be any.

Id better shut up now. This is a soap box that I really better not get on today! said...

As foster parents we try to do the best we can for the kids that are placed with us. I have one that would like to be adopted but I won't adopt her. The liability is way to high. She can continue to stay here for her next 12 months until she turns 18 and I'm trying to do everything I can to see that she has as much Independent Living Skills as possible. I would never adopt her with the issues she has and there isn't anyone in our area that WOULD adopt a DD child who wants to get pregnant and has rage issues for the same liability reasons.
I don't think it should be judged as a 'fair' issue. I'm not an adoptive home. I'm a foster home. It's a different need that I'm trying to fill in the world.
My 2 cents :)

FosterAbba said...

I think there are cases where it is better to say, "we won't adopt but we'll keep you here and love you."

I think our daughter is one of those cases. Her loyalties are very strong to her birth family, and given a choice of bouncing around the foster care or being adopted, she chose adoption and has been very angry and unhappy since.

If we'd been able to keep her in our home without the risk of her being moved on the whim of a social worker, it would likely have been best. It would have also been better because there are a whole lot of programs (tutoring, counseling, job assistance, etc.) that were open to her as a foster child that are not available to her now.

Although I do understand why so many adoption professionals think that adoption is always the better choice, I'm not convinced that it is.

GB's Mom said...

We became permanent legal guardians, as opposed to adopting D(18) because he wanted to be eligible for all the grant money available for college. He made this decision when he was 16 and still seems happy with it.

J. said...

when we started this journey we were going to foster, long term but foster and then they came to us with the boys and asked us to adopt them. They needed to know that this was the end of the road, that they were never leaving again and I think that for our children it has made all the difference in the world. They were 7 and 8 when we adopted them and old enough to get it, there older sister is 12 not adopted and in foster care, she has asked to be adopted by us and the system will not allow it, I think that they have done her a great disservice, I think all kids should have the chance at forever.

TTBoot said...

I am currently fostering older teens and by older teens I mean that my boys were 17 years 9 months and 16 years 5 months when they came to live with me. By this stage they both have serious trust issues and quite frankly the only reason they really wanted to live with me was because they did not want to live in a group home. If the only way they could get out of the group home was to be adopted they would have agreed to that BUT they did not really want to be adopted. They just wanted to live in a less restrictive environment. If you don't have the teens buy in for adoption or even permanency, the relationship will not be successsful. Adoption may be a higher level of committment then fostering for older teens, but the act of adopting them is not enough for them. They have heard it all before. They would just be playing the game so they could live in a less restrictive environment until they turn 18. Because the only person they can trust is themselves. Strangers have taken them in and said they loved them and then got rid them when things got tough and adopting them does not prevent that from happening, it only makes it more difficult. My oldest foster son is a victim of a disrupted adoption so to him the act of adoption without proof is meaningless.

I was and am committed to my foster sons, but until I get their buy in, adopting them would be an excerise in futility. Without their buy in, they would be gone once they turn 18. My oldest foster son who is now 19 is now ready to consider adoption, but this is only because he now knows he can trust me. I did not ask him to leave when he turned 18. I stuck with him though some difficult times (police, court and jail were involved) and I did not give his room away when he went to college. HE now believes my words and actions are real and I'm in it for more than just the check. The youngest was just started talking about living here past his 18 birthday so slowly he is beginning to believe.

I believe the fact that I did not initially approach either boy with adoption actually helped in the strenghtening of our relationship. Because I was not forcing them into my idea of a family (which more than likely would not be the same as their idea of a family setting up conflict) allow us to create an idea of family that works for all of us. In other words the lack of pressure to fit gave them the space and confidence to fit in. Both boys say that the best part of living with me is that I let them be theirselves and explore who and what they want to become without judgement (or at least not much).

Just my 0.02 cents worth

Kat said...

I think TTBoot's response makes a lot of sense. I think with some of my adult adopteds, the same kind of logic applies. I think for a lot of kids it may be AFTER they are adults that they are really able to appreciate and want a permanent family. Even "normal" teens don't necessarily appreciate their parents' wisdom and restrictions when they are teens living at home - how much more so our kids with attachment and trust issues. But when they are older and want a connection with family tradition, something to do on holidays that are normally family oriented, someone to ask for advice, and especially someone to connect with when they become parents themselves.

I'd love to see a program that matched up teens about to age out of the system with compatible families (i.e., similar interests and activities) in a strictly voluntary alliance, that would give them an adult advisor and a place to go for holidays, w/o the threatening aspect of expected or wanted deep attachment, or rules and authority.

We have a relationship like that with a young man who we first met when he was an international student. Obviously, he doesn't have the baggage that kids with a trauma background do, but he has had the same need for a local connection and family bonds - when his friends were going "home" from school for the weekend, he wanted a local place to call home, too - couldn't get to his own country more than once a year, and some summers not even that. If a normal kid with a safe and attached family needs that - well, even more so for kids in danger of aging out of foster care.

Anonymous said...

"Parents never did me any good." Is what my Older Kid said and still says with regard to adoption. We said, "it's just a piece of paper to us. It doesn't change your place in this family." And then we proved it. By sticking with him as he tested that commitment.

My Older Kid had a chance last year to return to his bio family--to leave us for his past. And it was so evident that day that he was ours. He is part of our family now and nothing a Judge signs or does not sign is going to change that.

Permanency is providing a family for a child. Forever. Not "you can stay till you're 18"--that doesn't equal permanency in my mind. Permanency is when a 20 year old you have no legal relationship with demands that the doctors call his "mom" and you answer the phone. Or when your 3 year old princess cries herself to sleep because her brother just moved out at the age of 20

It is the commitment that mattered to Older Kid, but it had to be the same 'lifetime" commitment that Rose talked about in her comment.

In theory, adoption is better. But for some kids--like my Older Kid--it just wasn't the best path to success.

I am proud to be the mother of two boys--I just don't have any legal ties to one of them. Because that is the way he needs it to be.

Anonymous said...

I like what TTBoot is saying (not just because I'm a big fan of hers!) and I do think there's a middle road where it's not just foster parents who don't want to commit and kids who want permanency. I always think about our Rowan, whom I love and care about even though he doesn't want to be adopted and doesn't even want to live in a foster family setting. Given what his life has been like, I think it's important for him to have the opportunity to make choices for himself. He was being pressured heavily into consenting to adoption and I don't think that was the right move for him given how little freedom he'd had in his life before. He deserves to make decisions about his future (even though they may not be ideal ones from other perspectives) and I think pressuring him into an adoption he didn't want would have been worse for him than going back to the RTC and staying in contact with us. I am not his parent and I will probably never get to be his parent, but I do still care about him and do expect to remain a part of his life in a way that's not as threatening or triggering for him as being part of a family would be. And if he's ever willing to work through those issues and try for family life, he knows there's a bed here for him and a cat who loves to sit on his lap. I do still think this kind of open-ended supportive scenario is the right decision for all of us.

FerJeniB said...

We are in the process of adopting our 12 year old foster son. He has a 17 year old brother who is in another foster home. Many people have complained that the boys are not placed together BUT in this case the 17 year old had been the primary caretaker of the younger bro for many years and this arrangement worked best for the boys. They have learned to be brothers and older bro has gotten to be a teenager instead of a father. Our houses are 5 block apart and we do stuff all together quite often. Older bro calls his foster dad "Dad" and calls on me for Mom stuff. He made the decision himself not to be adopted or ask for guardianship after listing out the pros and cons of his options. He has more resources available if he does long term foster care. The four of us (my hubby, me, older bro and his Dad) did sign a commitment pact amongst ourselves.

Rose Adoption Journey said...

Jen..that sounds like an excellent arrangement for your family.

Let me be clear too that I am a foster as well as adoptive parent. I love being both. I have seen getting really disappointed when they think they are going to be there forever and were never told otherwise. I think as many have said here, we need to watch how and what we communicate to our foster kids who are not permanent members.