She was quoted in this article as saying:
It was wonderful, probably the most intellectually rewarding time of my life.
The article went on to quote her as saying:
We are so thankful that we did. We were at least able to be part of the solution.
The madness has got to stop.
The biggest disservice that the foster care system does to everyone involved is to continue the myth that becoming a licensed foster parent is always one of the best, most rewarding, and fulfilling experiences one can enjoy.
It's a myth.
It's not fulfilling to watch a raging teen destroy her bedroom. It's not intellectually rewarding to take your child from appointment to appointment, only to see her emotional state deteriorate and her problem behaviors increase. There is no joy in being blamed for your child's problems, no matter how much you advocate for her or try your best to do the right thing. There is no reward in doing your best, watching your child implode (or explode) again and again and again, when you know there's not a damn thing you can do about it.
Corey's comment to my post Secondarily Traumatized has stuck with me for the past few days:
And what's more, there is NOTHING we can do about it, and we all KNOW it. We cannot stop the trauma. We cannot heal our children. We cannot get them into residential facilities. We cannot depend on mental health professionals, hospitals, school systems, police, social services, doctors, courts, churches/clergy, family, or friends.. NO ONE.. and we KNOW we can't, because we have all been totally, completely, utterly FAILED by these people. And in many cases, not only FAILED by them, but BLAMED for our children's behaviors and our inability to "fix" them, to protect our other children, and to cope with them ourselves. It is completely unfathomable what we live with, and no one understands except other parents of kids like ours.
So to improve the foster care system, we need to get real about what parents should expect. When we went through PRIDE training back in the Spring of 2006, our trainers didn't really discuss the heavy-duty problems we should expect as foster or potential adoptive parents. Sure, they mentioned the possibility that some of the foster kids in the system could have problems like FASD or Reactive Attachment Disorder, but they led parents to believe that these problems were relatively rare. One training video we saw, showed a cute-as-a-bug African American boy saying that he "hated" his foster parents. The parents responded in a loving way, and the next thing you knew the little boy was snuggling in for hugs. It was the perfect ending to what was a pretty mild behavioral incident.
They don't tell you the truth is that this cute-as-a-bug boy might smear feces on your wall, or this innocent little girl might steal your socks, use them as menstrual pads, and then throw them behind your dresser to find weeks later. They don't explain that your sweet new child might rage for hours, causing injury to himself, household pets, or others.
The ubiquitous "they" make it somewhat difficult to become licensed as foster parents, so that only the determined survive, but not so hard that the majority quit. People are led down a garden path, thinking that they are doing the right thing and will be "helping" children and their families.
I often feel as if I am unable to help my child very much at all.
Now in fairness, in some respects she is much better off than she was five years ago. She's no longer living in a place where she's routinely neglected or abused. She's being sent to school on a regular basis, and she's learned to read and write. She's living with people who, despite everything she's done to them, still care and want what's best for her.
So in those respects, she's better off. If she had stayed where she was, the abuse and neglect would have continued, she probably would never have learned to read, and she would likely have become pregnant long before her 18th birthday.
But I also recognize what she has lost. She has lost her birth family members, whom she loves beyond measure. No caregiver, no matter how much she might grow to love them, can ever compare to the the now-embellished memories of all the good times she had with them. She has forgotten, as we all do, many parts of her painful past, and she remembers only the beautiful parts of her birth family that she wants to remember.
And those memories cause her considerable pain.
I also recognize that in many ways we have failed to help her. We have failed, despite numerous parenting classes, visits to numerous therapists, and pleading with social workers, to find any meaningful, lasting help for her emotional problems. Yes, sending her to boot camp put an end, at least for the time being, to her violence against us, but it didn't solve any of the underlying psychological problems that fueled the violence. Four therapists, a behavioral aide, a psychiatrist, and at least two school psychologists have failed to make a lasting dent in her emotional and psychological problems.
Had we known what was ahead of us, we might have left this very daunting job to someone else. We very well might have said, "this isn't the life for us," and we would have spared ourselves, and possibly even our child, a certain amount of pain.
If our foster parent trainers had been really honest, we might have been scared off, which might have been better for everyone.
I know I have said this before, but I feel the need to say it again. We need to be a lot more honest in the way we train and prepare foster parents. Sure, it might reduce the available supply of gullible families willing to take in troubled children, but I think it would benefit those kids in the long run to have families who really know what they are getting into and are prepared to deal with it.