I guess it’s only fitting for me to write a blog post sharing why Scott and I have recently decided to stop being foster parents. Last year, I published two blog posts about why we decided to foster, in the first place. And, what eventually played out. Overall? Being a foster parent was a zillion times harder than I ever imagined. Never before has my human heart endured such pain, and such joy to the magnitude I have experienced. In a nutshell, I’m just not cut out for this rollercoaster ride, any longer.
Yesterday, Scott and I celebrated my 47th birthday, down the shore. (Avalon, New Jersey) I’m writing this today, as I sit here overlooking the same view I celebrated and lamented different seasons of our foster care journey. Three years ago, Scott and I brought Baby Banana (our first foster baby) here for a vacation with my family. It was undoubtedly one of the happiest times of my life. Banana, was and always will be my first baby. Even though she and I are denied the right to state the truth ~ She was our child, our responsibility, for her first two years of life.
Two years ago, was the saddest time of my life. Banana ended up leaving us on her second birthday. We never got to say goodbye. We never received a “Thank You” from her Bio Parents. It’s unlikely that she will ever know the truth about those first two years. The thought of seeing her in public, one day, haunts me. I doubt she’d recognize us, by now. (Which is actually better for her sake.) At four years old, I imagine she’s fully immersed (and happy) in her new life. I do believe she is loved and thriving. But, that’s the only thing that makes me happy with “what happened”.
I can finally tell you her name. It was Ana. (Pretty obvious, now. Isn’t it? LOL) She lit up my world like no human, had ever, before her. I still believe that she was my soul mate. My mini-me. Of course, I’d be crazy to say this because I wouldn’t want to upset her bio family! They may hold it against me and keep her from ever seeing us, again.
Oh, wait a minute… That’s already happened. So, there. I said it. Ana was my soul mate. The love we had for each other is indescribable. My love for her was unconditional. 100% about her and for her. I’d walk through fire for her.
Sometimes, I’m asked if I could… Would I have done things differently? How can I say yes to that?
For starters, if we had not lost ANA… We wouldn’t have found CHASE. It’s just a fact. When God said that He would work ALL THINGS TOGETHER FOR OUR GOOD… He meant it! Because (unlike ANA) Chase does NOT have Bio Parents that were able to care for him. Scott and I were chosen to be Ana’s parents for her first two years of life. We were chosen to be Chase’s forever parents.
Please don’t think for one minute that I don’t have the same amount of love for this boy. It’s just a different relationship. Parents with two or more children… You understand what I’m talking about.
I fought for Ana’s voice to be heard. Many people hated me for speaking up for her. Some people hated the fact that she was happy and thriving, before she left. That she had two parents who loved each other and her more than anything in the world. And, that she loved her foster mommy and daddy, in return.
It’s one thing to recognize that it’s really NOT about the child’s best interest. It’s another thing to recognize that you can be bullied and mistreated for speaking up for a child. It was 100% disgraceful how Scott and I were treated. We were made to feel like “the problem”. We were lied about. We were made out to be a threat to the bio family. And, this has ultimately affected our relationship with Ana and her bio family.
Today, I can finally say that THESE PEOPLE are the reason why Scott and I have decided not to foster children, any longer.
Last year, Scott and I met another foster mommy. It was about six months after losing Ana. I was grieving so badly. It took every amount of effort to attend a foster care group. I listened to foster mommies lamenting the loss of a foster child, after a few months, yet still had access to that child. But, I was carrying a burden that felt like death. Complete separation.
For the first time, I shared my story, in a small group. And, I met Tracy. This foster mom had two foster children, and three adopted children, under one roof. She told me that she and her husband were in no position to adopt the two young foster children, who happened to be siblings. (Ages 1.5 and 2.5) IMMEDIATELY, a light bulb went off, for both of us. Tracy and I exchanged numbers, as she assured me that she was interested in having the children come to a foster (potential adoptive) home.
I don’t know why or HOW… But, I trusted Tracy. I invited her and her family into my home. Scott and my parents met these two foster children. I nicknamed them BROWNIE & BEAN. It was extraordinary how quickly they became close to us. My heart wasn’t fully healed, but I offered it, once again.
Scott and I spent several weekends spending time with these two children. We met with their case worker (and our case worker). It was verbally stated that we were approved to begin spending time with them and anticipating a smooth transition to our home. Scott and I began decorating their bedroom. We purchased a mini-van.
We were just a few weeks away from this critical life change. There was one Friday in which Tracy was going away, for the night, with her husband. So, naturally Scott and I volunteered to have both toddlers spend the evening in our home.
I suggested Tracy leaving one of her adopted children with us. So that both Brownie and Bean would feel more comfortable. I was a little taken aback at this child’s disposition. At one point, when we sat at the dinner table, I suggested that we say grace. “I don’t know what that is,” she said. I was a little surprised, and in hindsight I should have seen this as a red flag.
Tracy claimed to be a Christian. How is it that her child did not know what “saying grace” was? Everyone knows what that is!
There were other red flags…
On two occasions during our overnight visit, Scott and I had to teach the older child (Brownie) about not touching the stove nor spitting on people nor throwing objects. These aren’t behaviors to ignore, so Scott and I implemented a 30 second time-out on the sofa after several warnings that were ignored. Tracy and her husband had mentioned that Brownie would spit at them, and I’m not sure it even phased them. But she assured me that she was in support of using time out since Brownie was at the age to begin learning appropriate behaviors.
He actually was showing great improvement after just two time-outs! And, we felt relieved that he and his baby sister would be safer without him throwing things, at the very least.
Later that evening, I created a bath in our large farm-house sink for both Brownie and Bean. Tracy once shared their bedtime routine which included a bath, together. Brownie loved it, but as soon as I undressed Bean she began screaming at the touch of the lukewarm water.
She had a pretty bad skin rash. Tracy mentioned us that she was planning to take her to a specialist. It was clear that rash cream wasn’t addressing the problem. This child obviously had eczema or something more severe. I told Scott that I would bring her in our master shower. (Keep in mind, our master shower is big enough to clean an entire family, at once.) I stood in there for safety reasons and gently washed her while using one of the shower hoses. She actually enjoyed the shower! I remember how she was splashing her feet and making happy sounds.
Bedtime came. Scott and I read to the children, separately, before settling them into their new room. Brownie had a toddler bed. Bean had a crib. And, Tracy’s adopted pre-teen daughter slept in a sleeping bag on the floor. Miraculously, bedtime went smoothly! Aside from them waking up when Tracy’s daughter went in, later, to go to bed… Everyone slept the night!
The next day, Scott and I took all three children to our town fair. We enjoyed bouncy houses, soft pretzels, touring firetrucks, etc. before meeting Tracy and handing over the children. Our last time together was spent discussing the plans for the following weekend visit. Little did I know then, but that was the last time Scott and I would see the children and Tracy.
A few days later, I received a call from the children’s case worker’s Supervisor. It was a conference call, with two other members from DCPP. I figured it was routine prior to the children officially transitioning to our home. I was asked how the visits were going. I shared that they were going so well. That the children were very happy spending time with us, and the overnight went better than planned.
“Walk us through the overnight”… was the next part of the conversation.
I shared every detail. As soon as I mentioned having “Bean” washed in the large shower I was asked, “You took the child in the shower with you?” I was stunned at the worker’s tone. “Yes. Why is that a problem?”
“You don’t find that inappropriate that you are in a shower with a foster child?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what you are eluding to, but the child was frantic and did now want to get a bath. I wanted to have her clean before bedtime. You do realize that I also dressed both children. I changed their diapers…”
Before I had the opportunity to put two and two together, and explain the size of my shower (I can wash my dog in there and not even get wet!) I was told… “We will need to get back to you. Don’t plan on the children coming there, this weekend.”
Now I was getting frustrated.
“Wait a minute. We just bought a mini van. Maybe we should have a meeting with Tracy.” (At this point I figured Tracy, who had close connections with this particular county office, would attest to our character. And, it would be resolved. Worst case scenario, I would get a warning of some sort so I knew not to do this again.)
“Who said you should get a mini-van?”
“Nobody said we should, but the children’s case worker knew that we were. She came to our home, and got permission from our county to receive the children in our care. How else are supposed to spend weekends with our foster child (Chase, at the time was still a “foster baby”) and two other children? We cannot fit three car seats in our sedan.”
“Well, you shouldn’t have done that. We have not authorized this, yet. Just know that they are not coming this weekend. You’ll hear back from us.”
I immediately called Tracy who acted somewhat surprised. Honestly? I thought this was something connected to the entire situation with Ana. I received a nasty comment on one of my blog posts, a few days before. (Scott and I believe it was written by her Bio Mom.) Regardless, I figured that Tracy would help sort things out. A day or two later, I got a call from Tracy. “Sorry, they don’t want you to have the children, anymore.”
Not only did we never see the children again. We never heard from Tracy after that! I was beyond shocked. We had spent several weeks having contact and seeing one another on the weekends. It was bizarre, to say the least.
Several few weeks later, our new case worker disclosed the “notes” that were left in our file regarding what went down with Brownie and Bean. Here are the “concerns” listed against us.
1.) I could not handle the children without having help from a babysitter. (I guess they were insinuating that my suggesting Tracy’s pre-teen daughter stay over was me asking for help.) Funny thing is, this child did nothing to help. The children had no interest in her. It was just an idea to have her as a buffer to ease the transition.
2.) I abused time-outs. I’m not sure if this meant that trying to turn on a gas stove, throwing objects at his baby sister, or spitting are behaviors that do not warrant a time-out. OR that we had him sit on a sofa for 30 seconds. (The rule of thumb is actually one minute per year. So 30 seconds was much less time than 2 minutes!)
3.) I had an 18-month old foster child in the shower with me.
Interesting, huh? I NEVER had an opportunity to explain myself. These “concerns” were never even brought to my attention from our county. So, I couldn’t even explain. To add insult to injury, Tracy (nor the county that made this report) NEVER CALLED US AGAIN.
I reached out to Tracy after learning these things. I told her what was said about us, and specifically mentioned that I was giving her the benefit of the doubt. I let her know that I was surprised and confused as to why she hadn’t called me, after that. She basically responded with a “I think we just need to let it go.” And, at that point, I did.
That was last April. I’ve been holding in this story for a long time. Nobody cares that after a scenario like this happens that there are OTHER LOVED ONES who need answers.
There are never answers in foster care.
This past April, Scott and I adopted Chase! Words cannot express the flood of emotion (and tears) that poured out upon hearing the words, “CHASE MATTHEW SCHEYER.” All of the pain from losing Ana, being mistreated by workers in the county, and everything we had gone through with Brownie & Bean… just came out in my tears.
Everything we had gone through, in those 4 years… In the end, I have to say it was worth it. We now have a beautiful (and I mean BEAUTIFUL) son. He is everything I would want a son to be. In spite of a very tumultuous experience, we have had an extraordinary ending.
We waited a few months after the adoption, to do what we needed to do. We closed our home as foster parents. Today, I celebrate our first family vacation as a REAL Bonafide FAMILY! No more phone calls. Nor more accusations or being treated with such disrespect. No more strangers walking in my house, at any time. No more feeling like we are NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
SO… In answer to why we decided to stop being foster parents?