Friday, April 24, 2015

Processing the Guilt of Displacing a Foster Child

"Because as much as you love your kids, 
they are God's children, 
and the battle for their hearts, their minds, 
and their lives is HIS."  -Kathi Lipp

      It's been several weeks since I last posted. After first getting our placement, I was so busy helping the kids adjust and get into a routine that I had no desire to take time away from them to post. Later, we discovered that there really is a "Honeymoon Phase" with foster kids... which happens to be something they neglected to teach us about in our MAPP training. They warned us about all the worst case scenarios, but they didn't tell us we needed to be prepared for the sudden swing from manageable behaviors to the completely out of control, off the rails child. This was when I had a very strong desire to post, but literally did not have the time because the kids suddenly required 24/7 line of sight supervision, and Dear Husband and I were swapping shifts back and forth so we could each squeeze in a few hours of sleep, whenever possible.

     We had a sibling group of three that we were absolutely committed to keeping together, as we were told we were the only foster home in our county currently able to do so. We had a lot of edges to smooth out on our kids, but that's to be expected when they come from the environment they did. They adjusted relatively easily, with lots of unconditional love and patience, but we were blissfully unaware of the true damage underneath all the layers of their little hearts and personalities. The oldest of the siblings turned out to be a special case, requiring more attention than we could give her with three other kids in the house. I truly wish our experience could have gone differently.

     We did end up having to displace the oldest, meaning we asked that she be removed from our home and placed with another family where she could be an only child and receive the extra attention she needs. However, we did manage to part ways on good terms, despite the circumstances. It was hard to know what to expect from her, and as a result, I ended up with quite a few bruises and battle scars, physically and emotionally. We tried everything to make it work, but we couldn't correct the purposefully destructive behaviors and maintain 24/7 line of sight supervision (long-term) on three kids in two to three separate rooms at all times (plus Red, a teenager in the thick of those classic teen years). We could feel our hearts pulling towards displacement, not wanting it, but knowing it was best for our family. Our heads fought for another few weeks, until we reached our tipping point, where our heads and hearts were suddenly in alignment. I put in the request to meet with the children's case worker in person to give her the news. We kept her well informed on the issues we were facing throughout, so she only had one question for me. "Do you need me to move her today?" I almost took her up on the offer, but I knew that we needed some closure and I tend to be a stickler for the rules, so I told her no, we were just giving our two weeks notice the state requires. It took well over a month for a home to be found.

     A few days before the move, we found out I was pregnant and had an infection in my already "resting" kidneys (not failing, just taking a little break). I was sick, trying to wrap my head around the reality of being pregnant, preparing for our foster daughters departure, and someone told our foster daughter about her pending displacement, something she wasn't supposed to know about until we were in the therapists office at the end of the week, something this person knew full well. I felt so much guilt for needing to move her before, and watching her struggle through the fall out was absolutely gut wrenching. Luckily, the next day, she was able to calm down and we were able to let her help pack her things, which gave her some much needed closure. As frustrated as I was in the moment, the Lord knew she needed the extra time to adjust to the move, instead of being whisked from our home to another without notice as the agency had originally intended.

     Not even 12 hours after the move, several things happened that dissolved my internal struggle and guilt about the situation almost immediately. Even though I can't really expand on what those differences are, I can say that our home is a completely different place now. Turns out we were all feeling the stress, but didn't notice how toxic an environment our house had become until it suddenly wasn't anymore.

     It's hard to not kick myself for holding on and trying to make it work for so long. I've learned that, if you let it, the guilt will consume you. That's not something I'm willing to let happen to me. I make it a conscious effort to move forward each day, literally taking it one day at a time. There's no other way to do it. When you know the plan is reunification, and we're never guaranteed to have these kids or a chance to do better tomorrow, we have to do the best we can today. Guilt comes with the territory because we always want to be able to do more, but we are often bound by rules, regulations, court orders, social workers' busy schedules, bio family's actions/attitudes/religious preferences, etc. We have to be able to accept that our best is enough, and that the Lord will handle the rest.

     When we notified the agency I am expecting, they asked how soon we want the other kids moved, and were taken back when I informed them we're keeping the kids. We plan to continue fostering and there's no need to move the kids, unless they or the bio family have an issue with us continuing to foster these particular children. So far, no complaints from either the agency or bios, so we are moving along, staying busy, and doing what we can to prepare for all the chaos that will be headed our way over the next few months. We lead a very messy, but uniquely beautiful life. All of the rough patches make the good that much sweeter, and for that I am truly beyond blessed and grateful.