Don’t call us, we’ll call you

November 6, 2016

Foster parenting, Day 9

Filed under: Family, foster parenting, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 8:57 pm

13 September

Don’t ever wait in the lobby while your foster child visits with his parents.

That’s the piece of advice I wish I’d gotten. That’s the piece of advice that I’ll always give to new foster parents I encounter. It was our first day of visitation and I didn’t know what to expect. As the court supervisor came out to get baby B and his mom, I asked, “Am I supposed to wait here? Should I give her this diaper bag? Should I give her food to take back?” To all of the above, she just said that I could if I wanted to, and she would call me if they needed me. I felt in limbo, unsure what was expected of me. Nobody offered further explanation. (Now that we’re on Day 61, it’s obvious that limbo is the norm, and explanations are hard to come by.)

Baby B was okay with mom holding him as long as Neal or I were in sight, but as they started to inch further through the solid, locking door, he began to cry. And as the door slowly closed, and his vision of me got smaller and smaller, he became frantic. I wished it was a sound-proof door because I could still hear his screaming for what was probably 45 seconds, but felt like 15 minutes. Neal went to pick up wipes, puffs, and baby food. And I sat and stared at the gray door.

I brought my computer to work (focus on what I can control, I said that all the time in those first days and weeks), but I kept hearing the baby’s cries in my mind. And it’s both hard and a bit dangerous to type important emails through tears. It turns out I mentioned where I was and my current emotional state in about 75% of my emails that day (thank goodness I have colleagues that are also friends . . . and even therapists 😉 ).

The court supervisor called me about 45 minutes into the scheduled two hours. She told me he finally stopped crying after 20-30 minutes, but mom thought he was really hungry and she wanted to know if he’d eaten. The thought of him crying for the first quarter of the visit brought fresh tears.

Every time I managed to turn my attention back to work, a new foster parent came in to drop off a child. I saw an adorable little girl skip in holding her foster mother’s hand, her dark brown curls bouncing up and down. When the intake clerk commented on how cute she was, the foster mother said, “Oh she looks cute, but she’s horrible. She’s really mean.” Later a toddler was carried in. She was old enough to be walking, but a bright pink cast covered her entire lower body — from pelvis to ankle on each leg.

Then there were the kids coming back out from their supervised visits. They emerged and often ran toward their foster parents for hugs and greetings. But then there was the glance back to the bio parents. Watching their confused and conflicted faces, I could only imagine what was going through their minds. Did I seem too excited to see my “new” parents? Who do I belong with? Should I be happy with both? Or neither? One little boy, in particular, just broke me heart. They came out a few minutes late and the foster mom seemed anxious to get on their way. “Come on, ___, let’s go.” Bio mom, in the meantime, leaned down for a goodbye, “Give me a kiss.” He just stood there. Foster mom already had his hand to lead him to the door, but he’s frozen in place while bio mom’s face is just inches from his. “Give me a kiss.” I don’t think he wants to. Finally, bio mom swoops him up in her arms and gives him a kiss, hug, tries to be playful. He never smiles. Finally, the supervisor intervenes to say it’s time to go.

I cried a bit more loudly and visibly at that scene. He shouldn’t have to kiss her. He doesn’t owe her anything just because she brought him into the world. But at just 4 or 5 years old, he has no control and no voice. And as the courts seek to balance the rights of the bio parents, the children will inevitably be required to do many things with and for their bio parents as if they do owe them something. And this was just one visitation lobby, in one county, in one state, in one country in the world. This scene plays out millions of times in millions of places.

When baby B finally emerged, he was calm but withdrawn. Mom didn’t hand him back immediately and seemed about equally withdrawn. But when the court supervisor finally said, “If you’re ready, ___, you need to give him back,” she teared up, gave him one more squeeze, and held him out to me. I cried too; I don’t know if she saw.

I was just a hair above non-functional the rest of the day. I sat slumped on the couch for several hours, crying intermittently, but smiling and feigning excitement whenever baby B toddled over to me. I felt the same crushing weight I remembered from the night I wandered the streets of D.C., wringing my hands about my Oliver and all the Olivers in the world. So much pain and suffering in the world, and this HSP  was breaking apart after just nine days of foster parenting and two hours in the lobby.

Don’t ever wait in the lobby while your foster child visits with his parents.

Blog at WordPress.com.