This week, it has been three years since Mancub, our first foster placement, reunified with his birth family. So naturally, he is on my mind. And forever in my mind, he is two. In my mind, he still pushes his dump truck around and colors with me at the teeny tiny table in the living room of our old house. But in reality, he is five. A Kindergartener now! People, this is hard to wrap my brain around!
We have not had a lot of placements in our foster parenting tenure thus far. Much of this has to do with the timing of our Little Bean’s arrival, and his quick path to permanency in our family. So, I know that plenty of people have opened their home to more children than we have in the same amount of time (or less). However, in this time, Mr. Bean and I have grown a ton. As parents, and as a couple. That being said, this has not been a perfect path.
We Have Made Mistakes
Today I’m going to share a big one.
About two months into Mancub’s placement, we got a curveball we weren’t prepared for. The court granted his mom overnight visits super early in the case.
Overnight visits typically happen toward the end of a child’s foster care period, as reunification with the birth family is getting close. Overnights are intended to be part of a gradual transition for the child back to their home. I’ve been told that overnight visits usually last a couple of weeks. However, …
Mancub had overnight visits for three months.
Since much of my readership is made up of foster families, I know you will understand the impact of this. Overnight visits with the birth family can be tough on a child. (And by default, … the foster parents.)
So Mancub’s mom was granted two nights a week. Which means he was with us for 5 days each of these weeks, and with his birth family for the other 2. For 48 hours, he spent the nights (and days) in the comfort and familiarity of his own home, with his mom and older siblings. Then he came back to us. Usually, he was exhausted. And always, he missed his family.
I remember him being so mad at us as we put him back in his carseat after visits. (Which was entirely out of character, because Mancub was a such an easy kid to parent!) But after those visits, we saw how the confusion of foster care impacted him. He was angry, and would tell us in no uncertain terms to, “go away.” Kicking, hitting, and generally surly.
So the first night back was rough. And the next day would still be a little “off,” but better. Fortunately, because Mancub is a such a resilient kid, he’d usually be back to normal by the second full day back with us.
Each week, we had a couple of good days, … and then the cycle started again.
He Was Easier to Parent for 7 Days Than for 5!
This is no exaggeration.
And to further complicate matters during this period, he got the stomach flu. For ONE WEEK. And literally the day he got better, … I got the stomach flu. For ONE WEEK. I was sicker than I’d been in many years.
At this point, if I had seen a light at the end of the tunnel, I might have pulled myself up by my bootstraps. But between the overnights continuing without direction from the courts, my exhaustion, being so sick, and being emotionally worn out also, … I was not thinking clearly. Tired to the bone. Or, “plum wore out,” as Grandma Bean used to say. So, then … I’m not proud of this, but …
I Told Our Worker I Couldn’t Do It Anymore
Yup. At the height of frustration after another rough pickup from an overnight visit, I sent her an email saying that I needed to know how long this would continue, because I couldn’t handle it anymore. And that I was ready to throw in the towel.
And although the three-years-later-me still understands that level of exhaustion and frustration (not to mention that we were still foster parenting rookies, and much less able to take things in our stride), …
I still wish I hadn’t done that.
We were fortunate in this situation. REALLY fortunate, actually. Our agency worker, who is also a foster-adopt mama, called me on a Sunday afternoon. And talked me down from the ledge. She validated my feelings about the difficulty of the situation. Also, she reminded me that because I’d been sick, I was emotionally vulnerable. She extended me a ton of grace. She didn’t have to do any of that. (Especially on her day off.)
You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Be a Good Foster Parent
Foster parents, and prospective foster parents, please embrace this truth. I so wish that I wouldn’t have let my emotions rule me on that Saturday in 2014. At the same time, I am so glad that I took the wise counsel of my wise case worker, and stayed the course for Mancub.
Was it easy?
NOPE. The overnights continued until reunification.
Was it worth following through?
A MILLION times over. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Except this time, I would not try to weasel out when it got so difficult. Because the end was in sight. I just didn’t know that yet. And I am so glad that we did finish strong.
So, I just finished reading Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly. <affiliate link, ONLY BECAUSE I FREAKING LOVE IT> It is on my Resource page because I feel that it is SO valuable for foster families! In this book, which deals with vulnerability and shame, she says, “The willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time.” I could not agree more.
Whether you are a foster parent, or involved with something else that involves daring greatly, I wish you the strength and courage to see it through, even when it is hard. And to know that you don’t have to nail everything to still do a good job.
Peace, love and blessings to you!
~ Mrs. Bean <3