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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Foster Kids Rule the World

Odd title, isn’t it? But it has been on my mind (and in my face) for about a year now, and in sticking with my promise to be honest about all the facets of fostering/adopting, I thought I ought to share.

When kids are taken into custody by the county (though the removal has to be done by a police officer), they are suddenly and acutely aware of a whole different dimension that exists in our society. It is the dimension where adults take everything a kid says as gospel truth. It is, in a way, a necessity, because you can’t really expect parents to be forthcoming about what has gone on in their home when you have just taken away their kids- especially if they face charges as a result. Still, the initial placement into care and the subsequent physical examination, psychological evaluation, and general ‘kid-glove’ approach of the whole foster care team send a very loud silent message about who is running the show when it comes to foster care. Everyone shows such pity for the kids, often giving them a ‘free pass’ on their behaviors. The kids pick up on this very quickly.

To complicate matters, the people caring for foster kids (i.e. foster parents) have a very limited scope of authority over them. They must get approval from a casework supervisor before having the kids treated at an emergency room (even if it is just for strep throat), are required to follow the county’s determination on education for the child, and cannot discipline the kids unless the disciplinary action is within the county guidelines. As I mentioned before, it is important to maintain the role of birth parents as the authority, because the goal is to send the kids home. It does create, however, an environment where no one is truly in full authority over the kids. The birth parents have say on haircuts and school activities, but can’t even take their kids home at the end of the day. The caseworker sets the visitation schedule and oversees the foster parents, but does not have daily interaction with the kids. The foster parents do the leg work of daily care, but are scrutinized on a constant basis. It gives the kids ultimate control, because all they have to do is play the authority figures against one another.

I have yet to meet a foster kid who did not take advantage of this situation. That is not, however, an indication of the depravity in which they were raised, because not all kids are being abused or neglected. Foster care comes about for many different reasons, and even kids whom you might classify as having a ‘normal’ family life will play the system. The Word says that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, and it is so true. Give that foolishness fuel, and it will manifest in even the best of kids. Sadly, adopting those foster kids does not really change anything. The names on the birth certificate change, and the caseworker is no longer a regular visitor, but the kids have not forgotten the way you as foster parents were under the thumb of the system. They will continue to try and test the boundaries, knowing they have the fall-back of crying wolf to get them out of it if they push too far.

Here is an example: You adopt a child who was the center of attention at home. I mean seriously the center of attention- to lengths I will not disclose here. The child is removed from that home and sent to you along with her siblings. You, not understanding the unspoken rules of the home they lived in, give equal attention to all the children. The golden child becomes enraged and decides to use your lowly status against you. She begins to refuse to eat in an attempt to get attention that is being misdirected to other children. You ignore the behavior, knowing that to engage her is to start down a road you cannot come back from. She continues to refuse to eat, testing to see if you will give in eventually. You hold your ground, knowing that to give in to her now is to set up a life-long meme in her mind of using threat to get what she wants (the threat is getting you in trouble and having all the kids removed from you, and they know this well because every time they see the caseworker she asks if they are happy in your home and if they feel safe). Just when she is about to give up on this method of terrorism, the doctor notices that she is not even registering on the growth chart for her age, and gives you instructions to feed her whatever she will eat. Because you now have the threat of being in trouble with the doctor who can make a call to child services and turn you in for ‘abuse’, you have been put under the heel of a child. Life becomes a living nightmare as you take the child grocery shopping, watching her fill the cart with donuts and chips and cookies, and you scramble to not only pay for a whole different set of food, but to try and keep the other kids in your house from mutiny over the fact that their sister gets to pick and choose and you are making them eat squash and salad and baked potatoes. She is getting that special attention she felt belonged to her after all.

But I haven’t even told you the worst part, yet. There is a double-edged sword when it comes to society and the ‘it takes a village’ mentality. When that child becomes sick from lack of vitamins and fiber, and starts to gain weight to the point of being fat, you are responsible for that as well. Parents in general are walking a tightrope anymore, but it is especially true for foster/adoptive parents whose kids have no loyalty to them and who will manipulate any situation for personal gain. Parents have had their children removed because they are too small and have no muscle tone, and parents have had kids removed for being overweight and unfit. And everyone involved knows that if they come to take the neglected child (because that’s what they classify underweight/overweight kids as) they take ALL of your kids and ask questions later. I’ve had the kids say to me at times ‘if you get in trouble for _____, they’ll take Maggie and Chloë too’. It is a taunt. Sadly, it is very true.

Then you have the time when kids get older and begin to think of themselves as adults. I do not believe in teenage rebellion as a physical phase of life but rather a cultural phenomenon. Too many kids in other countries go through the teenage years without rebellion for it to be a biological change. Instead, we have made kids rulers of their own world when they are not ready to make adult decisions, and the result is a constant struggle between them and the parents who cannot control them yet are still liable for them. This cultural disease we have created is ten times worse in foster/adopted kids because they have nothing to lose. They are fully aware of the fact that you cannot physically make them do anything, and they exploit it. Here’s another example:

Your 13 year old daughter does not want to do anything. I mean literally anything. She says she intended to spend her summer in bed reading. You say no, because not only is that not fair to anyone else, but it is not healthy to stay indoors all the time doing nothing. You try your best ‘member-of-the-family, we need teamwork’ speech, and assign a list of chores for each kid. Because she is the oldest, you have given her the task of mowing the lawn. She doesn’t want to mow the lawn, so she sabotages the job- mowing down your sapling trees, missing large strips of grass, and finally running over a rock which breaks the mower and gets her out of the job completely. So you assign her the job of weeding the garden because, after all, she does eat. Well, you should have known better, because she feigns stupidity and pulls up the plants. OK, fine. Maybe letting her work inside will be better. You ask her to sort the laundry and put it in rooms (we let everyone fold their own, so there wasn’t even folding involved). She puts things in the wrong places on purpose and when you come in to check, there is still a pile of clothes in the living room but she is in bed reading. You are about to blow like Krakatoa at this point, but try diplomacy. You ask her what it is that she would like to do, besides reading, since she is a member of the family and needs to contribute. She says cooking. Well, you can’t just turn her loose in the kitchen because she has no experience, so you leave the outside work to come in and make lunch together. The menu says Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes, so you ask her to start peeling the potatoes. She is clearly miffed, and cuts so much off that the potatoes look like water chestnuts. When you ask, you are informed that she just wanted to stand at the stove and stir. By this point, you’ve had it and inform her that she is not going to tell you what she will and will not do. She starts to throw a tantrum, which scares the baby because why would someone as big as that be acting that way? So you say ‘go throw your fit in the barn where you won’t scare the baby’.

So off she goes to the barn. She is gone all day and doesn’t come back, but you figure she is letting off steam the way she does when she ‘needs to be alone’. Dark falls, and you can see her in the haymow from the yard, but she still will not come home. It’s a stand-off, and again, your common sense says that if you give in, you will be setting her up for a lifetime of believing the way to handle a situation is through threat (that, and your husband demands that you not go get her because she has, in effect, run away from home and has to come back on her own). Lucky for you, your neighbor happens to have just finished her degree in social work and finds your child hanging out the barn window wailing like a baby. Long story short, you get a call that your daughter does not want to come home and that neighbor spends the night debating about whether or not to report you to child services. So guess who has gotten her way as far as lying in bed and reading all summer? Because of the same threat that if we get in trouble, everyone will be taken away. YET, come fall when she has a vitamin D deficiency and we take her to the hospital with a violent flu, we will be responsible.

Foster kids rule the world.

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy.” 2 Timothy 3:1-2

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient, Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents.” Romans 1:28-30

“And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.” Matthew 10:21

12 comments:

Saved Sinner said...

That must be very hard and frustrating. I wonder how common it is for children to take it to such an extreme?

NeeCee said...

AMEN!!! I walk that tightrope. Shane just lost 1/2 a pound since his last doctor's vist last month and they asked me about it. 1/2 a pound!! Good grief, he's a boy, he's swimming and playing and its hot, he lost 1/2 a pound, big deal. Because he's adopted, its a big deal. ::sigh::

~Bren~ said...

Oh H*LL NO!! I would get nanny cams all over the house. That is YOUR house and you are in charge. Somehow they think they have the upper hand. She has beaten you down...I have felt beaten down before. I think cause I am older I get back up and fight harder. What makes you think they will take them all? Who told you that? Our states may be different, but I would let those kids know that they can not rule your home.I would be thelling them "You are dead wrong...they will not take anyone form this house cause we are doing nothing wrong"...That girl needs some formal discipline!!!!! Oh and get those nanny cams set up...she will hate that!!!

runningtothecross said...

Hi Amy!

This post really tore at my heart. Please email me with anything I can pray for!

Miss talking to you, will email soon if I don't hear from you!

Blessings!
Heather

laurie said...

I wish I could say something encouraging or comforting but the system really does seem set up to be a no-win situation and continues o teac these children dependence and victemization rather than maturity andself reliance. I am so sorry.

motherofmany said...

Bren,

It was at our own agency's trainings that we first heard of the idea of removing all the kids while investigating. Then we also had placements who were classified 'dependant', which meant that there was no evidence of abuse toward them, but they were removed for safety because of abuse to a sibling or another child in the house.

I did find it interesting that the moms who have 'regular' kids were sympathetic, and the moms with adopted kids were mad!!!!! It's something that binds us together that we could never explain.

I used to feel very secure because the caseworkers knew our kids and their history and how hard they would have been to place if we had not taken them, but they have all since moved on and none of the caseworkers there now know us. I had a go-round with one who called to let me know we had an appointment for the baby that needed changed. She didn't know me or the fact that we adopted that baby nearly 2 years ago but since they haven't changed her name in their computer yet, she still shows up as a county child and they are listed as responsible party! She was trying to tell me to make sure I let the caseworker for the kids know about the appointment change.

NeeCee,

You are totally right- it is all about being adopted. People say they want to make the world a better place for these kids by giving them a chance at a good family life, but then they sabbotage the heck out of that arrangement and the kids generally end up no different than they would have at home. So sad.

Ace said...

Amy,

I have to say that I would GLADLY hand over that trouble maker and let her get a taste of being out of such a loving and caring home. Let the state take her. I would protect my marriage and my home and my other children, not to mention my sanity from her and put her in God's hands.

I would NOT for one minute do any of this other crap that gives her victory. No, I do not have Foster kids...but I am WELL versed in rebellious and toxic people. She is NOT beyond saving, but I would not take the chance that she took the whole ship down with her.

I would sit her down, tell her all this, pray for her and turn her over....like NOW! Before she decides that she enjoys making up tales of sexual abuse...

God Bless you for all you do.

Many Blessings :)
Ace

motherofmany said...

Ace,

You are very correct and very astute at perceiving the possible dangers- these are conversations we have had many a time. Unfortunately, they won't take her back into care without cause. She does not feel that she is in danger and cannot give any incident of asube or neglect, and they won't put her into an over-crowded, under-funded system just because she doesn't want to do anything. Our only recourse is to have her admitted to Bellfair for a psych elvaluation, which is not an option because first off, that gives her the leverage of someone having authority over. We had a foster daughter admitted there once by order of the caseworker, and we had to go to daily parenting sessions and counseling (2 and a half hours away), and she wasn't even our kid! She was here 3 weeks, then after Bellfair was moved to a different home, but regardless, we had to go through all kinds of training on how to handle her fragile ego and what not to do. Secondly, I am 100% against secular counseling. Not only do they follow the humanistic teachings of such atheists as Freud and Jung, but they also feel they have the power to instruct parents in raising their kids, and if you don't 'obey', they can turn you in as well. We dealt with that before we adopted these kids, when counseling was mandatory. The counselor almost wouldn't sign off on our adoption because I admitted my intentions to homeschool.

One thing that we can control (and have already done) is take them back out of public school. We had them in for the second half of last year because they were saying the reason they were acting out and unhappy was a result of having to be with us all the time. But we found out that wasn't true as the behaviors and attitudes got MUCH, MUCH worse by sending them to school. This is also where they had access to things we wouldn't allow, like drugs, pornography, and witchcraft. I now have my evidence that they do not improve when given 'breathing room' as well as documentation of their scholastic abilities, and plan to never send them there again. It was almost a necessry evil to send them to school, because we now have our evidence if anyone tries to use those excuses against us.

Mike Pearl from No Greater Joy ministries had an article about why families shouldn't take in foster kids, and I always disagreed with him, but now I understand why he wrote it. And his advice to a family that had similar issue to ours was to send the kid back before he took the whole family down with him. But how do you do that? We've tried to get our son in every possible program, and they either won't take him because he hasn't been arrested yet, or they are private and cost a fortune!!!!! That's another system that is so over-crowded and under-funded that they don't have room for you until you hurt someone else.

It's all very sad.

Lisa W said...

You're in a tough spot. The two we had couldn't stay because of the same basic behavior and that was just before the eve of the final adoption. It had gotten to the point where we either turned out 5 good kids who still liked us or 7 rotten ones and never saw any of them once they moved out. And we had to send the boy away with the girl. It was one of the hardest things we've ever done and some days I really struggle with whether or not we did the right thing. The kids had been so damaged and twisted from such a young age, and even though we weren't in the foster care system, they still felt that they ruled the world.
And you have our situation but magnified in number and in time - you didn't give up like we did. I can only imagine what life is like for you on those bad days and on those good days as well. You're often in my prayers. I admire your dedication. May HaShem bless you all abundantly.
And if it were me, I'd consider moving to a state that would allow me to turn them over without abuse, injury, or whatnot. It sounds extreme but I know that there are states that simply allow you to turn over 'unwanted' kids. And it's not that they're unwanted, they're very wanted! They need some of the rules to change...

Ace said...

GOODNESS! I don't know, but I will pray for you!

Thank you for being honest and truthful about all this.

Many Blessings :)
Ace

Fruitful Vine2 said...

That sounds rough. I had no idea foster parents went through so much. I prayed for you when I read this. May God's grace continue to keep you my friend.

~Bren~ said...

Gosh, it took me a while to get back here....
I still say "Nanny Cams". It will show the truth and if you have her attitudes and behaviors on tape, she has no power. I took Charlotte to secular therapy for one reason. DOCUMENTATION. It is well documented through a therapist (or 11) that this child is capable of making up stories of abuse and neglect. When a child has suffered something, they can say it happened again years later, even if it did not because they have details of the experience. You are in a situation that requires defensive measures....nanny cam!!! In your main living area and hidden in her bedroom. Do not tell her they are there. It will eventually come out and even then she will not be able to control her behaviors all the time. It will show her being offered food and turning it down. I would NOT get whatever she wants at the grocery store. If she refuses to eat and becomes sick then she is "a danger to herself" with an eating disorder. Nanny cam! It will save your sanity as you will have proof of your innocence, whether you ever need to prove it or not, it will give you peace of mind.
About the threats to remove ALL the kids....when the womb was pregnant with Zach they told us if we did not take him, they would remove Charlotte. Our lawyer told us that was not true. If they were to come and TRY to take her we were to tell them NO (yes, she was still a foster child) and contact our attorney. Of course they never did. Zach was getting ready to be adopted by the bridge home parents when we decided to take him. Just letting you know they "talk a big game" to intimidate you. I am praying....again....Nanny Cam.