Placement Three: Foster Parents Make Tough Decisions

It’s been a while since I posted anything here, but there has been plenty to write about. Much of my attention has been given to an eight year old who entered into our lives in early January. His recent exit from our home was not particularly graceful, but I rest easy knowing that my wife and I have done our very best to take care of him during his time of need.

I feel bad admitting that I have no idea where he is sleeping or what he might have had for dinner tonight. I don’t know who the adults are in his life right now to make sure that he gets to school on Monday or that understand his loathing for salad greens. I am typing this entry less than 50 feet away from an empty bed which he slept in less than a week ago. He is no longer welcome here in our home because he made choices along the way to stand in opposition to us, his foster parents. Whether that was his fault, though, is another matter completely.

I’m sure that my wife would agree that with each child that we take in, we reveal more about our character and learn more about the amazing amount of good that can happen if you trust in your own God-given ability to love one another. We poured our hearts in to our third foster child, gave him as much as we could for as long as we could. We tried to set him up for success and we made him smile along the way. But the problems that he inherited from an unknown period of neglect and mistrust of adults even prior to his entering the foster care system were bigger than we initially understood. If there is any good to come from his very uneasy two month placement in our home, it is to finally be able to get people to understand that this child has problems, and that he needs more serious help than he is currently being given.

My wife and I had to make a very hard decision to admit that our foster child’s problems were more than we were prepared to handle. Once we made that decision, however, two important things happened.

The first is the easiest to understand: Our marriage and our love for one another has never been stronger. We knew that we had been beaten by the will of an eight year old, and we knew when we were completely unprepared to give of ourselves any further. In the end, our resources were tapped, and we knew that it was time to throw in the towel. The saying goes that displacing a child from your home sets him or her back 6 months to a year developmentally. And while that may be true, there are times when it is necessary to step back a few feet in order to march confidently in the direction of one’s dreams. Our foster child was stuck in the mud, unable to move forward at all. The best we could offer was to pick him up, clean the muck off, try to better equip him for future challenges and let him advance as God intended.

A hard decision made even harder by the fact that upon his departure, our foster child showed no signs of having even been attached to us at all. He wanted his stuff, he wanted McDonald’s and he was ready to wait in the car for his next adventure. So long Ryans.

We are still processing the fall out from our second lesson which is this: we got to experience on a much deeper level how broken the CPS agency of Arizona really is. When we needed their help the most, we were met with the ultimate in avoidance of responsibility. Several weeks of unanswered phone calls, ignored requests for help. Too many gaps in the continuity of his care. (Seriously, who fails to notice that a second grader can’t read?) Too many observations of angry, troubled behavior explained away by jaded and apathetic responses from those around him. It was apathy and neglect that was partially to blame for the necessity to remove him from his bio-family. But never in a million years would I have expected that CPS would treat him with the same apathy, or that the same apathy would extend to us, his caretakers.

In the end, we served as advocates for an advanced level of care and a full psychological evaluation to better understand what specific challenges that he is facing. We connected him with an IEP so that his academic challenges are at least well documented. And we pray for him. I hope that it is enough.