After my difficult conversation with our placement worker, I wasn’t looking forward to my meeting with our licensing worker, Frances. My husband would be at work and Frances (like most people) prefers my husband over me. If we had realized the conversation would be difficult, we would have scheduled a time where he could be there as well. But that was over a month ago – before Marcus – and things were completely different then. Frances had just returned from a long trip oversees so we hadn’t spoken to her since we had Marcus.
“I read what happened with Marcus.” Frances didn’t waste time. “It was a good write-up.” I simply nodded. She asked how we were feeling. And I told her.
“If the placement worker is right,” I said, “If it is unreasonable to refuse to take emergency placement of severely violent, emotionally, or behaviorally disturbed children, then maybe this isn’t for us. Maybe we don’t have what it takes.”
Frances smiled. “You’re not unreasonable,” she said, “you are exactly what the system needs.”
I wasn’t expecting that.
“If they had placed those boys with you,” she said, “they would be here today removing them.” She waved her arm around towards our renovated kitchen, “this isn’t going to help them. They need the type of help that you can’t give.”
She paused and looked at me before continuing, “Placement workers are people. We get emotional. No one wants to see a kid in a psychiatric unit or a shelter on Thanksgiving. But they’re not always looking at the big picture. A weekend with strangers would make those boys worse not better.”
I nodded. I knew she was right. Every move; every new house; every abandonment by another adult is an additional trauma.
Frances looked at me across the table. “Being a good foster parent isn’t about the number of kids you have in your home. It’s about making the right decisions for children. Knowing your limitations and not inserting yourself into a child’s life when you know you can’t meet their needs is always the right decision.”
Years later, after foster parenting had fundamentally changed me, I would have cried. But that hadn’t happened yet. So I just took a deep breath and nodded.
Being a good foster parent isn’t about the number of kids you have in your home. It’s about making the right decisions for children. Knowing your limitations and not inserting yourself into a child’s life when you know you can’t meet their needs is always the right decision
Frances smiled. “You’re my favorite family on my caseload right now.”
I laughed, “I bet you say that to all the foster moms who are ready to quit.”
“Not the ones that should quit.”
I laughed harder.
Frances and I talked and came up with a game plan. We only wanted to take children that we would be willing to adopt if they were not able to reunite with their birth families. But that’s hard, if not impossible, to determine on an emergency placement phone call. We decided that we would reach out to shelters and group homes to try to identify a child or children who were ready for a home environment and who we could transition into our home on a non-emergency basis.
When my husband got home from work he told me that, like many people who do not initially care for me, Frances was probably growing to like me. I thought that, perhaps, because my husband wasn’t there, she simply wasn’t distracted by her overwhelming preference for him. Agree to disagree.
But Frances was definitely growing on me. And we were back in the game.