Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Disruption

With grief and after much, much thought and prayer, we have had to disrupt our foster daughter’s placement with us. She moved out on Friday.

Friday morning Erin and I packed up all of her belongings in boxes. Then that afternoon, her case worker came to the house and we loaded her things into the trunk of the car. We then drove to the school, where we called our own kids out of class to say good-bye, and went to her classroom to pick her up.

The six of us walked out to the parking lot. Then we gave her hugs and told her that we loved her and we would miss her. She got in the back of her worker’s car and we waved good-bye as they drove off.

We were all upset, and there were a few tears. After a few minutes and a few hugs, we walked the kids back into school where they returned to their classes and Erin and I drove home.

We made this decision because her anger had grown to a level we could not handle any more. Her fits of rage were daily, and sometimes multiple per day. Our kids had begun spending more and more time in their rooms, just to be away from her. She had brought them to tears with her hateful words several times. She had begun to hit Erin, threatened to bite, and at one time picked up a pair of scissors in the midst of her fit. She had broken things and done damage to walls and doors and furniture.

In between these fits, she was a very sincere, funny, sometimes even sweet little girl. She had absolutely no trouble at school or church. Her teacher really loved her. People at church are very surprised that we had to have the placement disrupted. She was making great improvements in reading and math, and liked doing homework a lot. She liked to paint and draw, and her favorite subject was big valentine hearts, which she drew on almost everything. Seeing other kids play piano, she liked to sit down and try to pick out tunes for herself sometimes.

But we had started to think of these periods as just time in between tantrums. And we were living in dread of what might trigger her next fit – being told it was bedtime, or that she couldn’t have a third doughnut, or that it wasn’t her turn on computer, or that she had to finish her vegetable before she could have dessert. It could have been just about anything.

It was clear to us that she needed much more care than we could offer.

And so this is better. It is better for us already, and the four of us are kind of coming out of our shell-shocked-ness a little bit these last few days. And we hope it is better for her, too. We hope she is in a place where her anger can be channeled, and where an environment that is a bit more controlled may provide structure that we were unable to give.

But maybe not. Maybe she is going to have an adolescence where she fights everyone she ever meets. Maybe she is going to decide never to let anyone ever love her. Ever. Maybe her life is going to be horrible.

Or maybe there was a seed planted in these last three months. Maybe there was a seed of “this-is-how-a-functional-family-lives” planted in her eight years of dysfunction, anger, and neglect. Who knows?

We feel pretty rotten about this whole deal, to tell you the truth. We feel like we failed. We feel angry at her parents for being really, really crappy parents. We feel relieved that she is gone from our household, and immediately feel guilty for feeling relieved. So we’re pretty mixed up right now, as you can imagine.

We are open to new foster placements, though. In fact, we got a call on the very day before she left, when we knew it was coming but it hadn’t happened yet. That placement ended well when they found a family member that could take the two sisters and our services were not required. We don’t hope for a placement, of course, because that would mean that a kid or kids have been taken out of their home, and that’s never a good thing. Rather, we are open to one, should one come up.

That is the latest in our foster family world. It is a difficult time, but we’ll be okay. We’d love your prayers of support and good thoughts. And if you would, keep all of our foster kids in your prayers, too. We love them all, and we always will.

14 comments:

Elizabeth said...

You will be in my prayers - that's a really tough situation and I can imagine why you are feeling all those gamut of emotions.

Mike W. said...

Hey Andy! I am sorry things did not work out with your foster daughter. You are such a giving person and family! It sounds like you did everything you possibly could to make things work. You are in my thoughts and prayers. May you and your foster daughter feel God's grace and love surround you during this time of transition and healing.

Nancy said...

Thinking of you all...

Anonymous said...

Andy,

You didn't just plant seeds, you gave her memories. Some day she will be able to make sense of it all and remember the times that she felt joy, love, contentment and pride. You didn't just show her a different way to live, you gave her the opportunity to experience it. That is a wonderful gift.

As I read this chapter in your lives of Foster Care, I felt pain with you. I hope that soon memories of her Valentine Hearts, her appreciation for the music, and her humor are what fills your soul. You are all in my prayers.

Diana

Kansas Bob said...

This touched me deeply Andy. Thank you for posting such a transparent and gut wrenching post. I thought that this was very insightful:

"It was clear to us that she needed much more care than we could offer."

Often in life we learn as we go. Thank you Andy (and family) for opening your hearts and home to a hurting child.. I suspect you influenced her in ways that you didn't see.

sparklesax said...

Thank goodness there are people in this world with hearts as big and as wise as the heart your family creates and then opens up to the world.
Every time you open it up by let others in to dance around on it (including stomping on it) it gets bigger and able to hold even more.
Amazing.
Thank you for showing us how to grow our hearts too.

karen said...

Hi, Andy. I saw this at KB's. I understand. We aren't "foster" parents, but took in one child and he has done well.
However, there is another I'd like to take in, but his behavior mimics the child you just fostered.
We do what we can, but we have to protect our family as well.

willdeuel said...

In my work as a substance abuse counselor in a residential treatment facility, very early in my career, we had a group of very young guys in the center who did not take their treatment seriously at all. We counselors invested an awful lot of time, work and emotion in them.

They betrayed our trust by sneaking off the grounds to drink, and even smuggling alcohol into the facility. We felt like we had failed, and they were released from treatment back into the court system.

Some years later I ran into one of those young men. My wife and his girlfriend were having babies at the same time and he spotted me in the hallway. He thanked me for all that we had taught him, and he told me that he got out and did some stupid stuff, but he later remembered the things we taught him and that we really did help him a lot.

Sometimes we are just called to plant a few seeds and walk away, leaving the rest in God's hands.

Lynne said...

KB alerted me to this and i really wanted to comment. It's a subject I know a little bit about, because my social worker daughter works for the statutory authority here in NSW dealing with child protection and removal. The stories she tells of awful parents are heartbreaking. Here they divide foster care placements into "normal" ones for kids without special problems, and others, I forget what she calls them, that have all sorts of extra support systems for kids with extra needs. Simply, this little girl neede a different kind of placement. But she has experienced your love, she will continue to experience your prayers, and the same God who multiplied loaves and fishes can do much with that

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

Andy, often the best thing is the most difficult. You made this decision because its the best one for your family. I believe this little girl's life will be better because of the months she was with you. Try not to be too hard on yourself. (came over from Bob's)

jrchaard said...

With 5 kids myself, your post puts one in the position of questioning what they would do themselves. First you ask, if it was your own child, removal wouldn't be an option. But then you say that if it was your own child, it likely wouldn't be to this point. Then you have to weigh the impact the placement has on your family versus the benefit to the child. It was so hard for you. I think I would have made the exact same decision.

Tracy Crowe Jones said...

My heart goes out to all of you...

bridger said...

Thank you for being willing to be a link in the chain of loving families that God is using to help this little girl. How generous your family is to say "Yes" when God brings someone to your door and how courageous to say "Ok" when He is ready to move them along, out of your influence. Continue to say "Yes" and "Ok" in obedience to the Lord and any pain and regrets you feel will one day be replaced by "well done." I'll be praying for you all.

Carrie said...

You guys are in my prayers. That's got to be so difficult. We are dreading those situations when they will arise in our fostering experience - because I'm sure they will.