That’s not to say there are not amazing people working in family services, because there are. Over the decade that we served as foster parents, we encountered some true beacons of light. Most recently was a case manager named Wendy. While she had a job to do, we genuinely felt like she cared for us.
A few years into the long process to adopt our youngest son, Sam, we had worked with a string of terrible case managers until Alexis showed up. She was efficient, caring, in-touch, and dialed in to not only birth parents, but us. I told her how amazing she was over and over because Lord knows, she needed to hear that. I don’t know where she is now but I pray she’s still plugging away and making a difference in family services.
And I cannot forget about Jeri, Francis and Megan who all helped bring our family together with professionalism and care.
These are the exceptions, not the rule. Not to scare any prospects away, but worldwide, the foster care system is an enormously dysfunctional system. The judges are often unconcerned and uncaring, case managers are over-worked and underpaid, policies and procedures are stated but not upheld, and decisions are prolonged for years..literally, years!
It can really feel like you have no one (and I mean NO one) in your corner at times. No one advocating for you as the one sticking your neck out for children. No one sticking up for you. No one…well…paying any attention!
So, who then IS on your side when all hell is breaking lose (which happens nearly every week)?
It’s you and that other person! That’s right…you…and that other person. Confused? Let me say this in a better way- It’s you and that other foster parent who’s in the trenches of this system with you. It’s you and that loving woman who has been a care-giver for 25 years sitting across from you in a stuffy, crowded courthouse waiting room. It’s you and that young couple with big hearts who decided to make a difference by signing up for foster care. It’s all of you standing side-by-side, heart-to-heart, back-to-back!
The only way we made it for as long as we did, was our support system. The only way we could cope with the ups and downs of foster care was to find a group of people, a community if you will, who understood. Folks just like us who had the same hurts, the same wounds, and the same fears as we did.
By all means, if your case manager is a rockstar (and there are a few out there) hang on to them. Build a friendship with them. Appreciate and love them. But find your community. Community is one of the strongest forces we have in the foster care journey. If you are feeling like you cannot do this alone, you’re right. You can’t! You need a family. You need to connect to people who will roll up their sleeves and show you the same wounds on their arms as you have on yours.
The community I’m talking about is one that listens, cares, empathizes and understands you when you sit down exhausted and just want to cry…or scream…or cuss…or binge drink, because of the nightmare that foster care can be sometimes.
Fellow foster parents. Fellow adoptive parents.
We found ours after years of searching. We found it in the most unlikely place. We found it through an understanding nod of the head. And, it’s helping us every single day, even though we are no longer foster parents. The biggest thing our community of supporters has brought to our lives is focus. Focus on the most important thing- our children!
CHANGING THE SYSTEM.
You just can’t, so stop wishing and hoping that you can! By all means, speak up to the case manager that promised paperwork or test results in a few days but hasn’t been heard from in a month. It’s your right to do so. But, don’t try to change something you can’t physically change. Instead, find your outlet. Find your community. Find your voice.
Find people who share the same wounds as you. Find the family that has the same loving heart as you. If you want to make it on this journey, this is a must! While you can’t change the foster care system, you can determine what you will do (or not do). You can decide to seek others who are in this same battle. You can decide to stand back-to-back with someone else.
Do you have a support system? How have they impacted your life?