Tag Archives: foster care

I Know Myself, Honestly

Published / by Kim

One of the things that drives me crazy is having family members whose interactions with me haven’t evolved from the time I was 13 years old. That was 25 years ago. I think I’ve grown just a little in that time.

And one way in which I’ve grown is that I’m fairly self-aware. I know my own mind and I know what I can handle emotionally and for my stress level. So if I say, for example, that I know I couldn’t handle the stress of being a foster parent while dealing with IVF cycling, you can really trust that I’m saying it because I know myself. If you press it and act as if you know better and keep insisting that I should just take a few days to think about it, you’re not only not helping me, but you’re harming our relationship. I’ll be less likely to discuss my feelings with you in the future and much more likely to shut down when you try to start talking about anything meaningful to me.

I know there are people out there who aren’t self-aware and don’t know their own strengths and/or limitations, but I’m not one of them. I spend plenty of time inside my own head and inside my own heart, examining my feelings and understanding myself. Do I have a perfect understanding? Of course not. Few people do, I imagine. But when it comes to this infertility stuff and things related to children and knowing what I can and can’t handle? Yeah, I’d say I have a pretty good handle on that. That’s not to say that what I can or can’t handle won’t change over time – 5 years ago, I said I’d never try IVF, for example – but those changes take place over years, not after a few days thought.

One thing that should make it apparent to people that Kim-at-38 and Kim-at-13 have little in common is that Kim-at-13 would have thrown a fit when confronted with someone telling her, in kinder words, that she didn’t know her own mind. Kim-at-38 resisted for a few minutes and then gave up. Instead of turning it into an argument, I just said, “Fine. I’ll think about it for a few days.”

I’ve written about this before, about how my family interacts with me expecting me to behave as I did when I was a kid. I just don’t get how they don’t see that my behavior has changed while their expectations have remained the same.

That link, by the way, may be a little intense reading. It’s not really the same as this one, but it’s kind of about the same topic, in a not about the same topic kind of way.

This rambling, all over the place, completely incoherent post brought to you by the letter F.

Birth Parents and Foster Parents Working Together

Published / by Kim / 1 Comment on Birth Parents and Foster Parents Working Together

For years, Scott and I have tossed around the idea of doing foster care. There are a lot of kids in NYC who need someone to care for them, and not enough foster families for all of them. One of the stumbling blocks for me, and I believe for Scott as well, has been that I wouldn’t want to give the kids back. In traditional foster care arrangements, birth parents are demonized and all the foster parents know about them is what caused them to lose their children. Imagine having a child in your care, knowing that the kid is with you because her mother beat her, and having to give her back to that mother. I’d want to snatch the kid and run.

In NYC, however, it seems that our foster care system has a new and revolutionary way of doing things. The foster family and birth parents work together. Visitation by the birth parents is encouraged, and they remain involved in the most intimate details of their kids lives, such as food choices, clothing, and discipline. The foster family and birth parents develop a relationship, which serves many purposes. One is that birth parents who are struggling build good parenting skills, which prepares them for the day they get their kids back. At the same time, foster parents get to know who the birth parents are, and realize that they’re not evil monsters who should never see their kids again.

Ms. Blount, for example, lost Kristal and her three younger children to foster care in 1999, when Kristal came to school with golf-ball-size welts on her arms and shoulders. Ms. Blount had been beating her with a belt. Then an unemployed single mother of four at age 31, Ms. Blount says that she just lost control and needed help. Still, she was furious when the city decided to take her children into care instead of giving her support in her home.

Her volatile anger at the city and at her children creates just the type of circumstance that often leads parents to refuse to comply with court orders, alienate child-care workers and lose their children to foster care for additional years. But under the family-to-family system, Ms. Blount met with caseworkers and with the foster family to discuss the future of her children and what would have to happen before they could return home.

At such conferences, the birth mother can exchange information with the foster mother in a controlled setting, explaining that her child sleeps with a nightlight and hates pizza or peanut butter. The mother can express preferences for church attendance or hair styles. It is also a time for her to build a connection to her child’s new caregiver, and vice versa.

“I met Mama J.,” Ms. Blount said of this first encounter with Ms. Stevens, “and the first thing she said was, ‘I don’t want your children to live with me forever, so you figure out how to get them back.’ It made me laugh, and it was such a relief, you know, that she did not want to take them from me.”

These family team conferences are the official structure by which families meet, but within the discretion of the agency and foster parent, an informal relationship is also encouraged. Ms. Stevens gave Ms. Blount her phone number and address. During the year and a half that Ms. Stevens kept Kristal and her younger sister, Desirae (two younger boys stayed with Ms. Blount’s mother), she and the two girls talked to Ms. Blount almost daily by phone.

And before Ms. Blount received visitation rights at her home, she traveled from the South Bronx to Ms. Stevens’s apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn, to cook chicken dinners, braid her children’s hair and just hang out.

I think this is an amazing program, and I’m really proud of my city for implementing it. If Scott and I do become foster parents, this is the program I want to enter.