When we were in the homestretch of our foster parent classes we kept hearing one familiar thing from a slew of people, whether they were instructors, other foster parents, or leaders of foster parent support groups. The thing we heard time & time again was, “Nobody else is going to understand your new life. No one is going to understand it because they can’t understand it. The only people who are going to understand what you’re going through are other foster parents.”
And we’ve discovered that to be absolutely true.
At the time, I thought nah, most of my friends are social workers, &/or empathetic people, they’ll get it….with the exception of a very, very few (maybe 2), WRONG!
We’ve had some bad luck starting off. Our first placement had some developmental concerns. We worried we didn’t know how to care for him adequately and whether or not he was getting the help he needed. He was quickly approaching TPR, which we were told would most likely would result in an adoption. So we bowed out. For the little guy & for ourselves.
The second set of kids we’ve done respite for over the past 3 weeks to see whether or not they were a good fit also hasn’t panned out. We were informed early on the oldest had a lot of behavioral issues & use to hit people & throw things a lot BUT was doing better recently. His younger brother, 6 months, had no concerns or special needs that needed met. The first week, as most foster parents know, is typical the honeymoon phase. It’s the sweet spot where behaviors are at their best. We were there for two days & then some behaviors started to come out. I made a behavior chart, created a prize box, & did some timeouts with kiddo. He seemed to be doing well with them until visit days, which is totally normal. For him, however, the breakdown from visit days never seemed to completely go away…instead it jumped him up to level 20 & he’d come back down to a level 10…& then there would be another visit day & he’d shoot up to a level 30 that would come back down to a 20. You get my drift. We shared our concerns about these visits to no avail. Despite it all, they had no plans of ending them.
& then it happened….he started harming our animals. Initially, he would lightly hit our Rottweiler Tyson & threw a thin plastic toy at him once. I corrected him & he did a timeout. He hit him a few other times & I did the same. This week, for whatever reason, his aggression toward them skyrocketed. He started taking it out on Sophie, our oldest & most fragile fur baby that’s a 7 pound Yorkie. He squeezed her head & her body. Again, we talked with him & did timeouts.
At that point, we knew the boys wouldn’t be a good fit for our family as this has always been the one thing we said we wouldn’t take (a child that hurts animals). The social workers were very understanding about this. We even told them we’d be willing to give it another week to see if it’s something we can work further with him on but were told they wanted to get them moved ASAP as current foster mom is at the end of her rope. They told us oldest kiddo did have some special needs in placement in reference to his behaviors & the cabinet was exhausting all resources. .
Throughout this whole ordeal, none of the decisions we made for the boys were taken lightly & they sure were not done easily. Even though we know, for the safety of our pets, we cannot take them as a placement we still feel horrible for them, more specifically the oldest. We know he is a child with a lot of trauma that has witnessed a whole lot in his short life. We know the reasons for his behaviors…but we cannot in good conscious overlook him harming our animals.
When talking about this to people, we’ve received a lot of criticism & judgement. We’ve been asked, “are you sure you want to be a foster parent?” & then, “educated,” about kids in the system. To which I say…absolutely. Not all foster children are violent by any means. And not all foster children harm animals. It was even one of the things suggested in class while we were doing an exercise of behaviors we did not feel we could work with. It was our number one & still is.
While we felt this was understandable, although very sad at the same time, the only people (excluding 2 friends & my sister) seemed to get that. The social workers at the cabinet did. Other foster parents did…..but no on else in our lives seemed to have got it. And then I thought back to those final days of classes……
“Nobody else is going to understand your new life. No one is going to understand it because they can’t understand it. The only people who are going to understand what you’re going through are other foster parents.”