Friday, May 8, 2009

Foster Care Giver Tizzies

I periodically get mail from foster care givers. They have their own groups online and every now and then one of them will find my letter to foster children on my web site and go into various iterations of tizzies. They'll tell all their foster friends on the groups and they will all contact me to tell me of their outrage, secure that they know more than I know about these children. Like the most recent email eruption I've been receiving from foster care givers. Like Laurel Haper here:
I have read the letter you wrote here . Are you saying that every foster child is in a bad foster care environment, and that every foster child is better off with their family of origin? Are you also saying that every foster child is able to reason through their situation and make the best decision? I am just wondering; I have worked with foster children, and have learned some important things about them.
Laurel Harper
Dear Laurel
I am saying that no matter how good the foster home is, the stranger foster care environment is bad for a child.
     Let me ask you, when these children come into your home, do you make that home environment conform to what that child is comfortable and familiar with, or do you make that traumatized child conform to your rules, your culture, your religion, your eating habits, your schedule, your scent, your parenting style?
     In any objective analysis of this child, is it fair to say that this child must deny his own identity, his culture, his persona, his needs, his schedule, his expressions of his love for his parents, his needs and wants to make your job as a parent-for-pay easier for you? Or do you make wholesale changes in your household to accommodate this child's comfort level? If you are honest, you make this traumatized child adapt to your household.
     I am saying the law says every foster child is better off with their family of origin. Studies have consistently proven that it is better for the child that the family is provided with appropriate services and supervision while the child remains in the family home. However, I do acknowledge that warehousing children in stranger's homes is much less labor intensive for the case worker than providing appropriate services and supervision in the family home.
     I am saying that every foster child is emotionally attached to their parents, and despite what any well-intentioned meddler-in-denial thinks is best for that child, interfering with that attachment is the primary cause of "troubled children," "acting out," and reactive attachment disorder.
     And from Mickey, whose apparent intellectual and grammatical limitations obviously reduce her occupational options to performing janitorial services or being a parent-for-pay:
Hi Suzanne,
to be completely honest I take great offense to the letter on your web site. As a foster parent we have had many troubled children in our lives, to this date I don't think there has been one that the parents didn't deserve to have their children removed from the home. Children are a gift from God and should be treated as such. To tell them that all foster parents, case workers, judges, etc are terrible peoples trying to keep them from their mom and dad is an utter [sic] lie. It appears you had a rough time of it when you were a child and I am very sorry you had to suffer through that. No child deserves to be mistreated. I'll close this out now but before I go, I will say that we have adopted two of our little darlings, one full blown meth baby and the other an alcohol and marijuana baby, they are almost 3 years old now and we love them with all our heart. Instead of telling the kids how awful the system is, we tell them of the great love of our savior Jesus
Christ. It is truly amazing how sharing Jesus with these children lifts them up.

Dear Mickey
Actually, I didn't have it rough in my foster home. It was one of the better ones. Despite that, I consider my placement in stranger foster care one of the most traumatic events in my childhood.
     What you don't understand is that foster children must be chameleons in order to feel safe. They conform. Of course sharing Jesus with them lifts them up, because if it didn't, you would disapprove. They already know you disapprove of their tears, of their missing their parents. You disapprove of their parents. You disapprove of everything important in their entire world. You have no idea how stressful that is to a child in a strange place, deprived of the only things he loves and knows.
     You are the authority figure, and you have turned their world upside down when you tell them their parents aren't worthy of their love. I'm sure you never used those words, but that's what they hear when you say, "Your parents love you but they aren't good parents and can't keep you safe like we can."
     You don't see the real child. You see the facade that the foster children wear in self-defense. They can only take so much conflict, and since their entire existence is now in conflict with their understanding of their world, their family and their identity, they do what they can to minimize it. They conform by submerging who they are. This can never be healthy for a child.
     No wonder every parent who is reunited with their children says they aren't the same children they were before they were taken. No wonder, years after reunification with their families, former foster children run screaming to hide in a closet when someone knocks at the door.
     Mickey, removing a child is not supposed to punish parents for being imperfect, so asserting that they "deserve" to have their children removed is inconsistent with the intent of the law. And whether the parents "deserve" it or not, do the children deserve what they get?