Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Halfway Trained Monkey

We had our first 4 foster classes this weekend, and they really gave us a lot to chew on. It was pretty heavy, to be honest.

I did my homework in advance. I talked to current and former foster parents and social workers. I read a lot of books and did hours of internet research. I heard about the stories and pictures and videos that would be shown in the classes. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I felt prepared.

I don’t think anything can really prepare you for that reality, though. Though the things covered weren't all that much more shocking than things we were taught in high school and college classes, I think the difference was that I was seeing them for the first time with the eyes of someone who would soon be entrusted with the care and healing of these little ones.

It was, I don’t know. Traumatic, I guess. Scary. Just a lot to process at once. The thing is, Fritz and I both walked out of there feeling like this is one of the toughest things we'll ever do, but it never entered either of our minds not to go ahead. If anything, I think we're more motivated.

Something that the social worker hadn't really mentioned when she visited us was the level of involvement we'd have with the birth parents. She told us about transporting to visits, but that doesn’t begin to cover our duties.

Every month the foster parents, birth parents, case worker, and "support team" (the family's neighbors, clergy, therapists, school teachers, etc) meet to discuss the progression of the case*, what sort of support the parents may need, and additional things they could do that might help them get to the place they need to be. We also discuss any issues that the child may be having. It's the foster parent's job to both advocate for the child and support the birth parents.

*When the children are first removed from the home, the birth parents are given a plan made out by the social worker of things they need to do in order to have the children returned. Most plans take about 15 months to complete.

Foster parents might also be asked to "peer parent," and even supervise visits with the birth parents.

It's definitely breaking me out of my comfort zone. In a strange way, it was a bit of a relief to hear. So far, everyone who's heard we're pursuing foster care has told me how good and selfless I am for doing it. And I felt really guilty about that, because I didn’t feel like I was doing it to be charitable, really. It just felt like something I wanted to do. I feel really lonely and purposeless without the kids, and foster care just felt right.

The involvement with the birth parents, though, that's going to be difficult for me. I typically avoid dealing with people I don’t know well. Phone calls send me into a cold sweat. I very seldom leave the house without Fritz. This is ensuring I will be doing all of these things on a very regular basis. But as much as these kids need help, some parents do as well.

Helping these parents better themselves for their children's sake is something I don’t have to do for my own fulfillment. There are a hundred different ways I could have children in my life without having to work with troubled adults in the process. So maybe this is the way that I can accept the kind comments on our doing this, and not feel so undeserving.

Am I making any sense? I don’t feel like I am.

Anyway, on a more superficial note, man were those classes long! Friday night was 6 hours with a half hour break for dinner. Saturday was another 6 hours with a one hour break for lunch. This after sitting for 3 ½ hours in the car to get there. Needless to say, the tush was sore.

Our hotel was an hour away from the class site, so we didn’t get a heck of a lot of sleep in between. (And of course, I stayed up longer than reasonable to fill out all of the paperwork we'd been given, because I'm a masochist.)

Our trainer is the most tiresome man on the planet. He seems to feel the need to speak at a pace of one word per millennia, and then repeats every sentence six different ways. Every time someone asks a question, he tells us either a) "That's going to be on a case-by-case basis, ask your case worker," or b) "I'll be getting to that in a minute." Which of course he never does.

I just took to writing down all of my questions to call someone who actually knows.

I also found a lot of conflicting information. For example, our social worker told us everything that says "keep out of reach of children" needs to be kept under lock and key. "Even soaps and shampoos?" I asked. "Even soaps and shampoos," she confirmed.

Then we were given a paper at training that repeated the "keep out of reach of children" rule, but said point blank "Soaps and shampoos don’t need to be locked."

So I'm going to try to call the licensing office, I guess.

If that is the case, does that mean I can keep my toothpaste out, too? What about dish soap? Is lotion similar enough to soap and shampoo to be left out?


I also find it a little silly that we're locking up white-out and hair gel, but it's totally ok to leave knives and scissors out. Seriously? A small child can do a lot more damage with a sharp instrument than they can drinking some Pantene. And it seems to me that an older child or teenager would be much more likely to go for a knife than a bottle of nail polish if wanting to be destructive to property or themselves.

Ah, well. We'll do what they’ve asked of us, and then just use our best judgement on any other matters.

So yeah, one more weekend's worth of classes, and we're done with the training. Yay!

So I joined the crowd and made a Face Your Manga me. What do you think?


belle's beast said...

I think you just took a picture of yourself there and posted it saying you "Manga"ed yourself... shame shame I know your name!

alyssababyyyy said...

that sounds like soo much fun for you & daniel !

lol at daniel's comment
that is totally you in cartoon form. freaky

a Laura Ingalls wannabe said...

Why thank you two! If only I had Manga me's flawless skin or shiny hair...

Alyssa, go make one! It's way fun.

alyssababyyyy said...

I made one when I saw you posted this. I wasn't happy with it so I didn't post it until I can tweek it. & when I made it I thought the same thing about the skin! haha. & the hair styles are very limited. I'm having trouble finding one that's me.