Less of Paige

Monday, September 18, 2006

Children are not puppies

I'm taking a break from my regular programming to talk about something near and dear to my heart.

My job has been tough lately. Not just for me, either, but for everyone in my program. We've had alot of disruptions lately- kids who were or were not settled in their foster homes have, for various reasons, had to move.

Our kids, they come with a host of... baggage. Unless you know the kids I've been working with my entire career, it's hard to understand their baggage. Hard to comprehend the effects that abuse and neglect actually have on children. Hard to have a full grasp on the lives these children actually lead.

We tell our foster parents time and again what to expect and what not to expect. Over and over and over- they will act out. This is no reflection on you or these kids feelings for you. We tell them that these kids? Are not going to be grateful. They're mostly not at a point in thier lives where they can be grateful for the circumstances that have led them to live in your home. May they be grateful at some point? Yes, possibly. However, please don't expect them to be grateful. Then you won't be disappointed. Please expect them to destroy your property, disrespect you, be angry, be depressed, etc etc.

It is one thing to hear these things in a training and quite another to live them. I'm well aware of that. I don't live the life of a foster parent, yet. But do I know my kids? I do.

It always breaks my heart when our foster parents let our kids down yet again, and then turn it around onto the kids. When they tell a 12 year old boy they'll stick with him until he's independent, and then 9 months later decide he's just too much. Because their parenting skills just were not strong enough. When they tell an 8 year old boy that they can't keep him anymore. Because they're just tired of his neediness. When a nine year old boy has to leave because, well, he's aggressive, and his parents are scary.

Do I understand the foster parents decisions? Most of the times, yes. Does it still break my heart? All of the time, yes. I also understand that the parents hearts are often broken as well. That they often feel like they have failed. My heart hurts for them as well. I don't want people to look at this as an indictment on foster parents. I adore foster parents, they do a very difficult and very necessary job. They are some of the best people on earth. I greatly value them. I'm just expressing my frustrations. Because I'm one of the people who helps try to pick up the pieces after another disappointment.

But the children? They are not puppies. They are not a breed that didn't work well. They are not new clothing, that you want to return because you're tired of it, or because it doesn't fit anymore. Love is not enough for them. They require a commitment and alot of hard work, emotionally and otherwise. Be ready for them. Please. The love they require is unconditional, a love that most of them have never known.


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