I will share them as MY personal opinions and hope that no one gets pissed.
1. It seems to be the opinion of those we work with that we have been hired to care for children 24 hours a day and that’s all. My husband describes us as a “child parking lot”. Our role is not one that has a voice or an opinion. We are the babysitters. Sit still and be quite. (oh and document it)
2. Social workers and case workers don’t like the hired help much. They would prefer that we be like the children, rarely seen and not heard. They would prefer that you not make any work for them. So don’t. They also don’t want you to have an agenda or an opinion. It is very inconvenient for them.
3. It should be hard to care for a child and not CARE for a child. The system doesn’t seem set up to deal with this – this caring and involvement by foster parents. It is instead set up to work well with people who don’t care – and that is the fatal flaw of this system.
4. The system is completely messy. Ugly messy. It is designed to be bad for the kids. Reunification is the goal. Always. And this means that good kids sit in bad “parking lots” for at least a year while their parent or parents try (or don’t try) to get their act together. Ugly. To a child, a year is forever.
5. Parking lot attendants are not good child caregivers. I have heard more foster care horror stories than I would care to share. And it seems to me that the way the foster parents are treated steers itself toward this. Parking lot attendants who make pennies for a 24 hour a day committment probably have another reason for taking in kids. At best it’s because they are trying to make a difference. At worst it is because they would like to sell the cars off for parts.
6. Because International adoption laws have changed there are more families doing what my husband and I are doing. I am hopeful that this might mean a change in some of this. There are parents out there looking to love some of these kids. forever. They are not parking lot attendants. They are foster PARENTS.
7. No one looks out for the foster parent. Not only do we not have a voice, we don’t have an advocate to speak for us. This is particularly important in our case, because we made our intentions clear from the start. But I think it also means that foster parents who care about what happens will lose sight of this when their opinion is continually ignored.
8. Foster parents deserve a voice in this process. They deserve a right to say what they feel about the future of these children – and have it mean something. I understand that this might mean that some bad people out there who will do bad things with their voice but unless things change there will never be better people in these roles.
Because as child parking lots we have to sit and watch as mom shows up high for her visits. We flinch as dad claims he wants the children and then talks about tax deductions and monthly payments in the same breath. We answer the cry at 2am when the child has a bad dream. We make sure they are fed, clothed and, dare I say it, happy. We know what scares them. What makes them laugh. We take them to the doctor, to the park, to school. We make them part of our life.
But in order for us to feel invested in the future of these children, we have to actually BE invested in the future of these children.
I will now step down off my soap box. Thanks for your ear.
Oh, and if you have the chance and the resources PLEASE ignore all this and consider being a foster parent.
It’s the tough and heart wrenching and disheartening and SO SO worth it.