Friday, December 19, 2008

The Foster Care System

Today is my last day of driving bus until the new year and I'm finding that I desperately need the break. I am worn out physically, I've been sick off and on for a couple of months (right now my ears have been plugged for EIGHT days and I'm sick of everything sounding muffled), and I'm also worn out emotionally.

As I've said before, I believe I'm where I should be, but it doesn't comes without a cost. I'm emotionally worn out because I've seen so many troubling situations. I suspect that four of the kids I pick up from the same family are in a desperate straits. I know that dad is not in the picture. They miss more school that any of the other kids - on BOTH bus routes. The older two, a boy and a girl in grades six and eight, stayed home this week "to stop the person at the door from getting any money", according to the youngest. As I said, I'm troubled.

This morning I found out that Chase, the boy I had to expel from the bus for one week, is no longer at that foster home and no longer at my school. It came as a surprise when the other five got on the bus this morning without him, and when I asked if he was coming, they said, nonchalantly, that "Chase moved last night to another foster home and is going to a different school". When I asked where he moved or what school he was going to, NONE of the other kids knew. And again, I was troubled. That Chase could move out without anyone caring is heartwrenching.

I realize that for self-preservation sake, these kids have to disconnect. And that is the biggest problem with the foster care system, in my opinion. The kids are moved around from home to home and have learned to cope the only way they know how, by shutting down emotionally. And this cripples them as adults.

I know there is no simple answer for this. There are far too many kids in need of care and far too few people who care. I believe there are some excellent foster parents, but the vast majority are not doing it for the right reasons.

The woman who hired me to drive bus is a foster parent. She told me her story a couple of months ago, and the two of us sat in her office and cried. She said that she was given charge over an autistic boy (I think he was 9 or 10) who was taken away from his parents because he ate, slept and went to the bathroom in front of the TV in the living room. He only ate junk food and because of this, he was 50 pounds overweight and severely malnourished. The parents had no clue how to deal with this child and the child's health was in danger.

Within one week she had him going to the bathroom IN the bathroom. Within six months, after completely changing his diet and going on daily walks, he had lost ALL of his excess weight. Needless to say, he still lives with her today as a teenager and the parents have never been able to get him back. She took on a second foster child in a similar situation with similar results, and he is living with her as well. She is so successful as a foster parent in helping troubled children, that the province is buying her a duplex, she and her family are living on one side, and the most severely troubled, suicidal kids are living on the other side with round-the-clock supervision. She would be their full-time mentor, friend and help. This is her passion.

I asked her what she thought of the foster care system versus orphanages and she said that in her opinion, if an orphanage was run by someone like herself (and she was speaking modestly), she believed that kids would be better off than in the present foster care system. And I must say that I agree.

We all know that the best doctors, teachers, etc., are passionate and compassionate. They have a "calling" to do what they do. So should the same be for foster parents. Nothing less than this should be good enough for those kids. Think about this: If the foster parents were as passionate as my boss, how many would need to get moved from home to home? Never truly connecting with people? Causing enormous problems in society as adults?

I know this is all idealistic and I don't have all the answers. But, I would much rather have several smaller "orphanage-style" homes run by men and women "called" to be a foster parent than have the system that is in place today.

By the way, I found out that those three children (my adorable kindergartners) that I just posted about are, in fact, in a foster home and that *Marion is their foster-mom.

And that is why I am so burdened. I really have much to pray about.


rrgoff06 said...

Welcome to my world... Hard to explain; it's one of those things you just have to experience.

It's a horrible world we live in that even needs foster families in the first place.... The first night of our foster classes, one of the couples said they were doing it for the money. I have never figured out why, 'cause (down here anyway) there's no money in it unless you take the severely handicapped children, emotionally and/or physically. And those kinds of kids definitely don't need to be with those kinds of foster parents!!!!

We personally have taken children that were taken from their parents, then taken from the foster home they were placed in. Sad thing was, I worked at the same daycare as the foster mom did, and I heard the way she talked about the kids she had (not the ones we ended up with). I refused to work with her because of the things she said. It was horrible...

What does it say for this world when you can't even trust the foster parents??? A child never asks to be born into this world. I understand there are circumstances when the children cannot stay with the biological parents, but, for heaven's sake, people, if you're a foster parent, step up to the plate and do it right!!!!!!!

Sorry, Darla. Another soap box, and this one happens to be bigger than my others. It breaks my heart to think of children that are unloved and uncared for. I've overheard a child asking his parents if he was loved. What's up with that?????

Again, I apologize. I'm getting off now.....

I tell my kids as often as I can that I love them.... And if you know of any kids that need it, I have plenty to go around!!!

Rachel Goff

Darla said...

You can get on the soapbox any old time, Rachel. Believe it or not, I think of you often when I see these kids, and sometimes I even ask myself (you'll probably laugh at this) if "Rachel would have just approved of how I handled this". Like the situation with Chase when I had to kick him off the bus for a week. Because he is a foster child, it was WAY HARDER to do, and I couldn't help but wonder how you would have handled it.

I consider you and Douglas to be one of the "called" to foster parent - I've seen the results of your beautiful girls and met them personally. I now find myself in the situation of seeing these kids and caring for them in a way I never expected. Having said that, I would never be a foster parent unless I felt called to be one. These kids are far too precious for anything less.

I'll get off the soapbox now, too.

By the way, it's about time you updated your own blog and told us about your life, don't you think?

Love you.

Carmine said...

Holly Schlaack does a great job of training reader in her book Invisible Kids ( without them even knowing it. I was so engrossed in the stories of foster children that I didn't recognize I was learning important information about the lifelong affect of abuse and neglect on children as the rest of society.