Thursday, August 17, 2017

People Who Foster and Adopt for the $$$

We've all heard it before: "Why are those foster kids in daycare so long? Clearly that family only does it for the money."

It's true that there are news stories chalked full of grisly horrors enacted by individuals who were or who had been licensed to be foster parents, and who (while enacting crimes) collected checks from the state.  I've heard those stories.

Last May I sat in PS-MAPP.   There were times I found myself staring around the room and wondering about people's back stories.  Internally I evaluated what they thought of me, and what I thought of them, and what all of our lives might look like when the classes were over.  How well might we fair on the emotional journey?  I even raised my hand at one point to respond to a question during those 30 hours and said, "Well...maybe that's because some people are in this for the wrong reasons and do it 'for the money'."  Even now I wonder where that thought came from.  I've decided that particular idea was verbalized because the public eye and scrutiny on the system is palpable.  I can understand a small degree of the scrutiny as your tax dollars fund a broken system that limps along and scrapes to get by while trying to fulfill a feat much bigger than anyone understands.  However, too many scrutinize by stereotype and end there - the staring glare of judgement does more damage than good because their words cut down the very people who still want to believe in hope for the weary, and change for the weak.

Over a year later, I have come to know and understand what truly happens "in the system".  After 30 hours of training, I found that the first 30 hours and the subsequent days, weeks, months, and years of raising a child with trauma post family disruption was much harder, more deeply emotional, more taxing than any of the preparation classes could explain.

Many days I wonder - WHO in their right mind WOULD do this for the money?  COULD they do this FOR the MONEY?!?!?!?!

It sounds so extremely deplorable, doesn't it?  Maybe that's why the idea is entertained and maybe even romanticized into the only idea that is allowed to be heard.  This idea is proclaimed in "The Space Between Us" and enacted - a drunk and neglectful foster father collecting the check for himself.  Sure it's happened to real people, but why do outsiders looking in think this is the norm?

WOULD someone who needed cash sign up to foster the state's children if they knew it would take almost an entire year or more from start to finish just to get a license?  COULD they live for 10 months on negative income while waiting to get that paper?  A hungry belly can't quite make it that long.  Surely applying for a job, or even pan-handling would yield quicker results.  While desperately waiting for the funds could they drum up the money to get their house up to code, too?

WOULD someone stay in this for the income when they've been lied to time and again by case workers or professionals who hid large portions of the truth purposely in order to keep children "adoptable".  Even if they weren't purposely lied to, COULD someone stay in this life path for a lengthy amount of time while dealing with ignorance or incompetence from the inexperienced people who boss around the foster parents in the trenches?  WHAT IF people were told they were being given children with no special needs, but the the children really did have special needs...could the new parents handle that burden "for the money"?

WOULD YOU stay in it "for the money" if you lost life long friends (or family) who turned their backs on you or who took sides because they judged your intentions and didn't understand why you had to handle your situation the way you had to handle it?  What if they couldn't understand your new style of parenting and freely told you so?  Is that worth it?

COULD you stay in it for the money if your family couldn't immediately understand the WHY of this life choice you had taken to be a foster parent?

WHAT IF every where you turned, the therapists, your friends, strangers, family members alike, your spouse, and let's not forget YOURSELF all spoke to you with a loud voice of criticism and told you that you're handling the entire situation wrong?  What if they told you that what you're doing to your biological kids (by making them go without some of your immediate attention in order to take care of the secondary trauma crisis following a disruption of your newly adopted foster kids) is no better than what the original parents did to your children who were forced into care because of extreme and awful circumstances?  The bar of comparison won't even be close to true or fair, but you will be judged to the core and deeper on every move you make.  Could you stay in the fight for just $19.65/day?  Could you do this as a kinship emergency placement for a year or more on just $0.30/day?

If you were handed a child or two or three with screaming fits and PTSD, whose life experiences have rewired their brains, and you weren't ready to give up on the idea that healing is possible--if your mission to help them find a path of healing cost you uncounted hourly wages so that you could attend therapy after therapy, if you were to run out of gas money in the middle of the month because you couldn't afford all the medical miles of 12 appointments a week, would you stay in this for the money?

If your children with trauma ate more than multiple non-traumatized children on a daily basis....  If they cleared your cabinets, pantry and fridge faster than you could fill them because their first life experiences continue to tell them they don't have enough food....  If you HAD TO (not wanted to) turn to WIC or the United Food Bank or food stamps or any other program you could find just to get them what they need, even while participating in feeding therapy, could you actually do it "for the money"?

WHAT IF you had to let a child go because after all you could do, after all the tears you cried, and prayers you could pray weren't enough - is that heartbreak because you no longer needed the money?

WHAT IF your own emotional, mental, and physical health was affected along with every other member of your family?  Would it suddenly be worth $19.65 a day or $0.30/day?

WHAT if you had to pay almost $200 or more WEEKLY to take your foster kids to daycare, because even though the foster children get some help for those kinds of services, it's not covered 100% by the state, but you cannot stay home with them all day because you are legally required to prove that you can fund your personal bills on your own without foster care reimbursements, so then you have to continue working full time thru the trauma crisis, while also paying for daycare and/or respite with a qualified adult, but then you also have to take time off of work to make it to all of the medical and behavioral health appointments so your income including the state reimbursements starts taking a negative turn that isn't easily corrected, does that mean that your heart is only in this "game" because you "need the money"?  COULD you stay in it for the money if you get a month behind on bills?  What about 2?  What about 3?


There are so many more angles to the family and personal strain that is carried by these families, because every situation is different, but I think you get the point I'm trying to illustrate.  And let's not forget about private adoption families - we all know they pay up front to jump into the world of trauma - no one warns them how hard it will be.  Many lose homes, go bankrupt, have extreme marital stress.  Many of them are taken to a place where they need financial help to get them through the cross they have chosen to bear.  Did they do it all FOR THE MONEY?

Every foster and adoptive family's horror stories are different, and yet there are so many threads across all of them that are the same.

When it comes to these despicable people we've all heard about in news-stories and in movies, it makes me wonder where on earth these individuals really are.  I'm quite certain that if you know any foster or adoptive parents who chose to adopt domestically through the state, and who thereby collect a reimbursement to help their children navigate the rest of their childhood, the likelihood of you knowing one of the disgusting human beings we've all heard about is quite low - I have developed a relatively large network now of friends who live this crazy foster parent life, and let's just say, I haven't met a single person who is "in it for the money", yet.

What is more despicable than the idea of people fostering or adopting for the wrong reasons, is the truth that our collectively judge-mental perspective on the people in the trenches is unequivocally false.  Because our perspective lens is false it isolates and damages the people who are just trying to help and turns them into monsters.  What's actually true, however, is that across the board, foster and adoptive parents are just good people with big hearts who are trying to take on burdens that are far larger than they can imagine while hoping to make a small dent of change for one helpless child at a time.

If you're on the outside looking in like I used to be, it could potentially be high time for you to jump in and find out what fostering and adopting is all about.  The way this journey changes your life perspective, the way it teaches you to forget about everyone else's opinions and rely on God, and the way it helps you learn to love is worth far more than any dollar sign that exists in the entire world.

To my fellow fostering & adoption friends, many of whom are beaten down and have taken on far more than they feel they can bear, here is a quote a fellow trauma mama gave to me at a time that I really needed it.  Today this is for you:



 (Photo credit - quote shared thru facebook)


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Gotta Steal to Eat; Gotta Eat to LIVE

Did you ever watch Aladdin and wonder what it's like to be forced to steal food so you could live?

Most people would say, "I can't even imagine." 




{Photo Credit: https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search;_ylt=AwrTccF8DIxZ_9UAEbInnIlQ?p=aladdin+gotta+steal+to+eat&fr=yhs-mozilla-002&fr2=piv-web&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-002#id=10&iurl=https%3A%2F%2Fimages.rapgenius.com%2Fc427aa919c354443d5d45c308e2f9aca.1000x588x1.png&action=click}




Thanks to early trauma and neglect in her pre-adoption life, my 4 year old daughter knows what that's like.  Her brain has been hardwired to think she's going to die if she doesn't eat the second she is hungry.

Maybe that sounds like an exaggeration.

It's not.

She's now safe in a loving home and has been legally considered "safe" for almost 2 full years, but still her every day experience is ruled by her early trauma regarding FOOD.  If her tummy even THINKS it might need to grumble in the near future, she can't break out of the first step on "Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs" to save her life.  DEEP INSIDE HER MIND, finding food is what will save her life, and it's always been that way for her. 

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I have some cousins who adopted 7 children.  One of their kids has always LOVED food.  He loved it so much that for his birthday one year that was ALL HE WANTED.  Food is what they bought him - his own food - his favorite foods.  I remember liking their Facebook post with a picture of the special food bundle they got for him and I remember thinking it was cute.  I may have even ignorantly said, "That's hilarious!"

Now I have children from a similar background as my cousins' kiddo.  Let me tell you.  This kind of thing is NOT CUTE.  And it's NOT EVEN CLOSE TO FUNNY.

I will CLARIFY what Aladdin was alluding to since I currently have the time:

Early Trauma & Neglect can cause children to...

*Eat until their stomach is distended
*Say they're hungry (and seriously mean it) after eating everything off of a large plate
*Perform the Mother of all Meltdowns if they don't get a snack the second they want it
*Hoard food in their rooms, in their backpacks, in their closets, under their beds, etc.
*Spend any gift money they receive on food items instead of on clothes or toys
*Yell at the top of their lungs about anything and everything if dinner isn't ready by the usual time
*Continually play with food in the pantry
*Have most of their imaginary play centered around eating
*Avoid social activities with peers because they want to stay perpetually by the snacks
*Want food every time they are nervous or are in a new situation
*Dramatically increase your grocery shopping bill 
*Lose control or awareness of the internal sensor that let's them know they've eaten enough.

Those are just a FEW of the things that MIGHT happen. 

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Recently I attended "Meet the Teacher Night" with all of my children.  Big Sister got a pack of Goldfish crackers from her teacher.  Each child had a different teacher, though, so not all the children got goldfish.  Almost everyone else in the family was content to allow Big Sister to have the goldfish to herself.  She was actually willing to share them, but it wasn't the right time to eat them yet.  Little Sister couldn't handle the idea of delayed gratification even though she knew we would eat in 10 minutes when we got home.  She knew the goldfish belonged to Big Sister.  I put the cracker package in my pocket to save for Big Sister while we were going thru the classrooms for the kids. 

As for Little Sister - she could not get her mind off the crackers even though there were many other distractions and attention getters.  As for boundaries?  There's no such thing when she's hungry (AKA HANGRY).  It doesn't matter what Mom says; it doesn't matter who the food belongs to.   Her mind was screaming to her that she needed to eat in order to live, and so when she thought I wouldn't notice, she stole the Goldfish right out of my pocket.  When I stopped her hand with the package in it, she lied that she didn't do it.

At 4 years old.

As awful as stealing and lying to cover up is, the crazy part is that she wasn't trying to be bad.

She LITERALLY felt and believed that she needed to steal to eat, and that she needed to eat to live.  Her impulses were all about survival of the fittest. 

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One last memory - about a year and a half ago when Mitch & I were contemplating foster/adoption, I had a friend who was very close to a kind Christian family who had adopted 5 kids.  His girlfriend was a nanny for them, and he said, "They spend $500 a week on groceries." 

You know what I thought?  I thought $500 a week was absurd for that size of a family.  I had 4 kids at the time (so just one less) and our family was only spending $200 a week on groceries.  I figured they weren't shopping very wisely...they weren't getting deals.

Well, it just turns out that I knew nothing.

My 2 new children eat MORE food than the other children combined, and THAT is what Aladdin was talking about.