We will be discussing the red tape and challenges of adopting a child from foster care in KINDRED, our film, and with the Kindred project. One of the topics I feel gets completely overlooked and unappreciated is what it takes to provide this exceptional care from day to day.
I know I may open a can of worms here, but it ALL depends on where a child I placed.
Before we delve in, a disclaimer of sorts. Yes, there are some amazing, awesome, wonderful, nurturing superheroes out there living as foster parents. I have the honor to know quite a few. These are the folks who welcome children calmly and lovingly at 2 am, when these kids are at their most scared and vulnerable. They get children who have just been removed from a dangerous living arrangement or are in transit. Sadly, usually no one has a clear picture of the type of trauma or abuse the child has faced. It’s often the foster parent who has to figure this out.
These gladiators will leave work in the middle of a hectic day to take the children to a visitation with a biological parent, who may or may not show. They deal with the children‘s broken hearts after a no show or hard visit with their family. They chase away nightmares, clean food hordes as children deprived of meals will often do and check for self-injuries. They have to record every bump, bruise, altercation and medication. They can voice opinions about children’s medication regimes but cannot choose a doctor or therapist without a team decision, which takes too long to be of service to the child. They must medicate whether or not they see it as a detriment to the child. They are still a home for the kids when they turn 18, 19, 20 or whenever the subsidy checks stop.
They provide love selflessly and often are overrun and burnt out because they are “the good parents”. With so many kids needing placement, they become a round robin of placements; a revolving door of devastation. They deal with sadness when a placement doesn’t work or they bond with a child they will ultimately lose.
If you ever meet these folks, hug them tightly and know they do heart work on a level so many of us, including myself, could not do well.
That said, there are not enough of these type of rocking care homes for children in the US. So the second tier emerges. This is what we turn a blind eye to. A safe bed is sometimes not enough. We have too many children in care lost, abused or with traumas from being in overcrowded, poorly run foster placements.
My son was abused as a toddler in a foster placement. There are so many stories of children, dirty and underfed, being treated as different. Often they are treated as though they did something to deserve this. My son came to us from nice enough folks but with only one full trash bag of clothes that did not fit or honestly, I would not use as rags to wipe down the car.
Yes, the payment allotted for a child in foster care is nowhere comparative to raising a child (Mikes care payment was about 900 per month), but it is often improperly handled. We see time and time again, kids in care on hot dogs and ramen noodles, cheap, processed food, free lunch at school they hate that is garbage and crappy ill-fitting clothes.
Good foster parents usually are in a negative bank balance because what they provide the child is huge compared to the small amount reimbursed for.
We need to get children out of foster care faster and placed with forever families when it becomes evident that re-unification will not work. Siblings need to stay together unless it is a safety risk. In order to do that, we need to have safe homes that are supported not just by programs but by the community. We all cannot be foster parents but we should all but supporting programs that identify and nurture great foster homes.
A bed and a meal is not enough! If it is not good enough for your child, why is it acceptable for a foster child? It should be a concern for all of us as this issue has massive ripple effects on our global community. We must stand up for all for children placed in sub par homes. At the same time, become aware of how to support those we burn out who strive to protect these kiddos from day to day. The ones actually doing God’s work whom we should be respecting and celebrating.