Tag Archives: Foster families

Ask Hope, vol.3

Do you talk about being adopted much with your friends? Do you notice that you gravitate towards peers that have been adopted?

I have only really talked about it to my friends if a question regarding where I’m from comes up.

I have a few friends that are adopted, but that’s something that I usually don’t find out about until we’ve already been friends for some time; so I would say, no, I don’t gravitate towards others who have been adopted. I’ve known the same little group of people since I’ve been here, and that is who I stay with unless I meet someone new that I click with.

Do you think you would have accepted being adopted if you were older, like 15/16?

I’m not really sure about that, it was never something that I have ever really thought about.

While I was in the system the one thought that came to me many times was that I would just age out and move into my own apartment with some support. I think that if I was an older teen and an opportunity for adoption came up, I think that I would definitely be ok with it, I’d actually be glad and probably happy about it. Although at that point, I may have become discouraged because of how long it took for me to be noticed, but I don’t think that I would ever turn down such an opportunity.

I think that the possibility of me declining would depend on a lot, such as how far the adopter is (location) or just how I feel about moving at that time. If I were to be adopted at that at age, I would be starting or in the middle of high school.

What do you think would make the foster care system better? What advice would you give to kids first coming into foster care and what would you say to the foster parents as well?

Well, in my opinion, the foster care system needs a lot of work. It’s not the best although I know that sometimes they are just working with what they are given. I think that the system needs to be more thoughtful when choosing who is eligible to foster because some people do it just because they can get some cash for housing the kid. Sometimes it’s not even the foster parents themselves [who are the problem], but their own biological children, if they have any. I know everyone has a different experience in the system, but I can say from my own experience that it wasn’t all that fantastic but not every home was bad.

Another thing that I think would be a great improvement for the foster system is that the social workers are checked as well because some of them don’t fulfill their duties and just skim through the process, even though they are supposed to be one person the child is able to look to for help.

As for advice, I don’t know if I really have much advice to give since there isn’t much on the child’s part to do once they are placed in a home. One thing I definitely would say is to not let the foster parents you are placed with treat you any kind of way, tell your social worker. Don’t run away from your foster home, that’ll probably make it more difficult for them to try and get you adopted, and it will put you in a bad spot. It would be easier to just ask the social worker to move houses if the situation is really not working or if they are just nasty people with a bad attitude.

For the foster parents, if you have biological children and are fostering as well, please treat them like you would your own children. They are probably already having a difficult time or have had a difficult time. The mistreatment can stick with them and affect them later on, which makes it hard to really trust or believe in any other adults.  Pay attention to them and don’t tell them every 5 seconds what they may or may not be doing wrong. Foster kids need encouragement and positivity to get through it all. Don’t assume you know what they are going through or know what they feel like, regardless of how long you have been fostering. You aren’t them, so just listen to them.

If she were able to chat with kids still waiting for their very own Adoptive Black Mom, how would she coach them up, i.e., help them understand what to expect and how to emotionally prepare for life with a Forever Family?

Well, for everyone it’s different and the environment that they go to will be different for everyone. One thing that I would tell them is that they should really be serious and think when they are asked about their parental preferences and the kind of environment that they want to live in. When they do finally meet the family for them, both parts [prospective parents and kids] have to work together in order for it work out. If you can, tell your parent about things that help you and about things that upset you. Letting them know some things can really help with them in helping you and understanding your actions/behaviors. Don’t expect something super perfect; parents are people just like you are and they go through things the same as you. If you are having a hard time, let them know.

What is the best response an adoptive parent could give to a kid who is saying something to the effect of, I hate you, you are the worst parents ever.

I don’t really know. I’m sure at some point all kids biological or adopted have said something like “I hate you, you are the worst parents ever.” That’s just how kids are and I’m sure at some point everyone has said or thought the same thing about their own kid or about their own parents. #itsnormal

In terms of what the response should be, I don’t really know, but I do know that an aggressive approach may not be the best choice. Everyone probably just needs time to cool down. I do think that as the parent you shouldn’t just let it go, but I also wouldn’t recommend making a humongous deal about it. Lastly, I think that this is more likely to happen during the adjustment period and is probably just a part of the cycle.

 

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Help is a Dirty Word

Hope has been my daughter for going on 3 years. It’s amazing how time flies.

This summer, we have spent quite a bit of time working on attachment and academic help. I’ve realized that Hope really has blossomed in some ways this summer.

We have some pretty amazing talks these days. She is really opening up. She has been pretty compliant when it comes to going to tutoring. Her compliance in doing chores has improved a lot as well.

Recently, she dropped something on me that really stunned me into silence though.

We were sitting in the car talking. It was kind of heated. I was trying to understand why asking for help was so difficult for her. Why did she also always refuse help? Didn’t she realize I was killing myself trying to help her be successful, to be her personal best, not for me, but for her. Why on earth was it difficult to just say yes sometimes. Why was it hard to just say, “Hey mom, can you help me?”

We’ve had this conversation before.

We’ve had this conversation several times. Her response is always the same: nothing, silence.

The affect was flat; the emotional walls went up and I would eventually just drop it.

Until one day recently, she responded to my inquiry and I was silenced by the disclosure.

In a nutshell, Hope had been in the foster care system so long and been through so many families that even after two years in a forever home, she loathed even having conversations about needing to be helped and being helped. In Hope’s experience so many people in her life have wanted to help her and their “help” resulted in:

  • Experiencing emergency removals and placements.
  • Portraying her parents as horrible people.
  • Long term foster care.
  • Moving her stuff in trash bags to a new foster home that would be in a better position to “help her.”
  • Being made to take Tae Kwan Do because it would “help” her manage her anger even though she hated it.
  • Being medicated.
  • Being told her math skills were bad enough to qualify for a special math program that made her feel dumb.
  • Having to go to daily private tutoring all this summer.

And the list goes on.

Asking for, receiving or being forced to accept help has never made her feel good about herself, never. Why would she ask for help when her self-esteem was already so low? Why would she trust anyone, even me, to help her and that it actually would result in a better quality of life?

In her mind, help was and is associated with the breakup of her family, being shuttled around and not wanted, having no voice in her life and having her low self-esteem validated.

Help is a dirty trigger word for her.

That was a serious lesson for me to learn. It never, ever occurred to me that she would have such negative association with the concept of help. It silenced me. It broke my heart and just underscored how deeply hurt my daughter has been over her life. Efforts to keep her safe and to rebuild her life remain threatening to her.

We didn’t talk about it for a few days. I mean, what could I say to her at first?

We eventually sat in the car one evening and had a good talk about what help is supposed to be; what the potential for “help” could be in her life and how “help” is designed to make Hope the best Hope she can be—not for me, but for her.

I think this is turning point for us.

I am hopeful that her disclosure means she is feeling safer and willing to work with me to take advantage of all the opportunities in her life [note the word I DIDN’T use!].

So, for now, help is a dirty word in our house. It will come back into our vocabulary at some point, but using different language with Hope is an easy fix if it means increasing the likelihood that she will accept the things she needs to improve her life.

 


Twas the Day after Christmas

On Christmas evening I hopped my way across the US back to Seattle to see Hope.  Thanks to Hotwire I didn’t break the bank and got a decent package deal; the only downside was discovering at 10pm PST that my hotel was a flippin’ 30 miles away.    Oh, that of course would be 30 miles further away from where I needed to drive the next morning.  Oh yes, going to see Hope after traveling 3,000 miles was going to require an additional 55 miles.

Ain’t life grand?

So after crashing in my hotel, I got up, hit the free breakfast, googled the nearest Starbucks, picked up a venti-iced and hit the road.  Got a call from Foster Mom that my girl was is a pissy mood that morning.

Super awesome!  I did manage to guess correctly that Hope was a pill with her fosters because I was in route.   I know that she cares for them greatly, but it was an interesting discovery that somehow my arrival was important enough to give me some primacy in Hope’s rankings.  I don’t like the fact that she treated them poorly, but I would be lying if I said that my ability to figure out her behavior and its trigger as my own reassurance that I *get* this kid.

Hugs greeted me and along with a urgent need for me to open my Christmas gift!  Yeah, Hope also *gets* me.

winestopper

I wondered to myself after opening her gift, “Did she really see me drink much wine during our visit?  I was dry until she went to bed, and I rushed to dispose of the bottles!!!”   Then I shrugged, knowing I’d done well on my visit, giggled and gave Hope a hug for her thoughtful observation of my imbibing habits.

Hope was delighted with her new sparkly sneakers (though they were “off-brand” #girlbye with your no job having self! LOL), Bieber perfume and gift cards, but mostly with the perfume.  Grammy gave us both diamond cross necklaces.   She seemed to forget about the absence of electronics for the moment.

After the gift exchange we ventured off for some time at the mall that quickly turned into boy watching, tween crap buying, and friend peeping.  Things I learned:

1) Bless her heart, Grammy really needn’t have spent money on real diamonds; Hope hasn’t a gem discerning bone in her body.  At some point I’ll have to take her with me to a real jeweler for a crash course on gem stones.  For the record, silver tone bracelets with giant rhinestones that spell out BOSS from Wet Seal are in no way real.  For a child that is going through that phase where she swears that wearing “fake stuff” will make her limbs fall off, she’s should be a limbless, jolly, green girl by the time she gets back to the east coast.  Again, #girlbye!

2) Light skinned brothas are, in fact, back in style.  Sigh…I think every brown girl goes through this phase of sweating the fair skinned fellas with the curly hair and if you’re really lucky, dimples.  It’s such a cliché of epic proportions.   It’s ok to be attracted to whomever you’re attracted to, but her colorism issues are real right now, including her belief that she’s not really worthy of the fair skinned fellas because she’s dark.

No, just no.  Sigh.  I have so much work to do with her.

Aside from the fair toned dudes that we peeped for hours on end, I also realized I’m going to have to watch my girl like a hawk and forcibly put her in every activity I can think of and afford.  Her boy craze is so serious; I know she is particularly vulnerable to the lackluster charms of any dude who might look at her with modest interest.  She’s desperate for the attention with a side of twisted validation of her beauty and worthiness.   It’s so sad.  I hope to help build her self-esteem while cloistering her a bit until she’s healthy enough for a decent teenaged crush.   Pray for me!

As an aside, can we get just one Black boy band group? I mean, I dig One Direction and whatever that other little group is, but dang, can ABM get her sweat on to some brown bubble gum pop?  I mean I grew up with New Edition and Boyz II Men!  Can I get some diversity in these new age boy bands, please??

3) Hurt can easily equal painful anger.  Hope had a flash of anger while we were at an arcade that resulted in her banging a pinball machine so hard she bruised her hand.  Game winning is another way that Hope pursues some sense of self-worth; losing can easily result in a meltdown.  I discovered this during our Thanksgiving visit, but I saw it all over again during this short visit.  She mentioned that she has issues with anger, but I know that it’s really about hurt under the surface.  This is definitely something we will have to work on in therapy.  Life’s game has lots of losses; she’s going to have to learn to cope with that without getting so angry.   I’m cognizant of the fact that one day she’s really going to blow and rage with me; I’ve got to be ready to deal with that in a constructive way.  It’s going to happen.

4) I have achieved hottie status in my head.  Ok, not really, well maybe, kinda.  Hope ran into a few of her friends at the mall—including the one who actually smokes weed, SMH (another post for another day).   I politely stood to the side while she chatted, giggled, pointed out boys and acted crazy when she thought a boy looked remotely in her direction.  She never introduced me to her friends.  Yeah, I felt some kind of way about that, but oh well.  After the little kitty-klatch ended and we walked away, she told me she told me that she told her friends that I was her mom (that still makes me smile) and they said, cool, I was pretty.

Hot damn, the tweens think I’m pretty.   It was an unexpected ego snack.  I’ll take it.  Don’t judge me.

5) Hope’s ready to move.  She’s still a bit anxious about what life will be like here, but her general anger and angst about the imminent move has subsided.  It makes things easier to know she’s coming to terms with this major change.  My life is about to change dramatically, but I know she’s giving up a lot moving so far from everything she’s ever known with worries that I’ll reject her.  I got clued in that she was increasingly resigned to the move and coming to terms with it when she did not flip out when I denied her purchase of a CD and a game with adult ratings.

Maybe this seems like a stretch, but I laid out some rules/expectations during her visit here.   Hope’s been exposed to so much that it is like trying to put Pandora back in the box, but I’m committed to reigning her exposure to crap in dramatically.  It annoys her but she’s come to respect it.  She understands that there are things she has to earn—like the tablet, the cell phone and whatever other little thing she manages to come up with each week.  And she will still test the limits but there isn’t a meltdown when the limits hold.  Hope respects my authority, my position, my final word.  This is as much a power choice as calling me mom was.  She’s ready to move, even if she does hope she gets to go on the field trip next week and the band concert later in the month.

So, in all it was a lovely visit, even if it cost me about a $100 for every hour I spent with her (ouch when you put it like that).   I’m feeling good about us.  I love her so much.  I read often that love takes a long time to grow with adoptive parents.  I am no fool; I know there are times when I really will not like her very much.  But I do love Hope, of that I’m sure.   I am also proud of myself for taking time to sort through what I’m learning about myself and Hope as we transition.  It helps me know that it’s not going to always be an easy path, but if I pay attention and take a breath I can see the street signs and take heed.

In other news, I submitted chapter 4 of 6 to my dissertation director tonight for comment.  On to the next one!

collageChristmas


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