20 Mar Boom!
Not very long ago, our dog had a medical crisis severe enough for me to ask the vet what a reasonable lifespan might be for a dog of her breed. The look on the vet’s face told me: We’re pretty much there. I had been dreading the idea that the final day was coming soon, but testsultimately revealed the least fear-inducing medical issue possible for a dog her age. Ten days of medication and she should be clear… until the next crisis.
More recently than that vet visit, I heard an almighty BOOM not very far from our home. I walked outside just in time to see the last of a handful of helium-filled Mylar balloons come in contact with the power lines and ignite. Power was interrupted only momentarily, but the sound of the explosions and the sight of flaming debris falling to the ground was quite dramatic. Utility workers and a cherry-picker appeared a few hours later to clear the lines of any remaining fire risk.
These two incidents are a lot like foster care– and this is why.
Whenever the fate of a child in foster care is being decided, anyone who approaches the court to ask for placement– that is, “Let *me* take care of LAD, Your Honor!”– must satisfy certain requirements in order to demonstrate their eligibility. Everybody’s to do list is a little different. Foster parents, for example, have already been pre-screened for temporary placement, but regular reports must be made as to the child’s progress while in care, your foster license has to be maintained, continuing ed hours achieved, and there are extra hoops to jump through to become an adoptive home. Bio-parents generally have to prove that whatever prompted the child(ren)’s removal is no longer the case. Bio-kin (and/or friends of the family) have to be screened for obvious red flags like a criminal record or a history of domestic violence, and so forth. Everybody has a list, some more onerous than others, and there are lots and lots of hearings to determine how everyone is progressing with the various items on their list.
One such hearing happened this week. BOOM!
Bio-Mom has been progressing nicely with her list and earning more and more visitation time as a result. This is good because it means her hard work is being rewarded and her motivation is kept at a high level. It is also good because I personally prefer to live in a world where effort is recognized, mistakes redeemed, and broken people healed. Imagine if it didn’t matter what Bio-Mom did she was never getting LAD back. What possible motivation could she have to become a safe person for LAD to be around ever again? But it begs the question: How soon will the end come? How long before LAD is no longer with us?
The call we got this week suggests that reunification could be happening VERY soon. Kind of painfully soon. As in, we’re pretty much there.
I’m simultaneously horrified and non-plussed by the idea. After all, just like a soldier facing deployment, this is exactly what we signed up for and we knew it when we started. But it’s too soon! How do you know it’s too soon? Because I feel it intuitively! Who asked you? Nobody!Right.
I am still discomfited, so I tell myself that the courts will make the decision for reunification based on the overwhelming evidence of Bio-Mom’s progress. And I have to admit that as long as the pattern holds, even I see no reason to keep mom and baby separated. Particularly given that Bio-Mom has already said she is happy to let us be part of LAD’s life, that’s adouble win!
In our minds, the purpose of foster care is to be sure that the child gets all the love and support s/he needs for as long as s/he is in care, but the home run of foster care is when the whole family is transformed into a more functional and productive unit.
But there’s this niggling worm of doubt squirming around and making me uneasy. I want Bio-Mom to succeed, but given where we are in the process I wonder whether success ought to be measured in terms of reunification. Would sooner really be better? I mean, sure, at some point, Bio-Mom has to sink or swim. How else can her parental skills and abilities be tested except by real life? And yet, if we hand LAD over too soon, he could end up right back in care again. And if prolonging, or repeating LAD’s stay in foster care becomes demotivating to Bio-Mom– so much so that she decides to stop improving– then we’ve lost the benefit to society and LAD.
Any way you slice it, I wonder: who’s gonna cherry-pick the pieces left behind?