There was no visit this weekend. Samara didn’t respond to texts or calls and then when she did it was with a promise to call later. It was a text I sent saying that I know visits are stressful and hard time-wise and that we’re willing to wait until the rest of the family is ready that prompted her promise to call, so I think that message got through.
Things are extra complicated here because we believe Samara exaggerated some of Mara’s problems because she wanted to have Mara removed from her home but didn’t want the state to also take Mara’s little sibling, whom she’s been raising since birth. I’ve seen foster families on blogs I read go through these kind of contortions and I know it’s complicated and difficult. I wouldn’t be surprised if she feels guilt about this and this is one of the things standing in the way of reunion. From our perspective, we’re willing to take the generous view that she was doing whatever she could to get Mara the help she needed and while that involved twisting the truth a bit, Mara was exhibiting some problematic behaviors and that clearly wasn’t the right long-term placement for her, so the end goal was the right one. I can’t blame someone who’s dealing with child protective services (and who isn’t able to get permanent guardianship of the child in her care since they aren’t blood relatives, which is a whole other post) to be hesitant about involvement with child protective services. So there’s that piece.
And on Friday Lee got a call from the main social work office asking if we could take the youngest two kids of a large sibling group. Lee’s inclination was no because she’s scared of taking kids who are just coming into care, where we don’t know what their needs are or what their case goals will be. I was inclined to say yes because they needed a home and we have room, though we don’t have beds set up and the logistics would be challenging. I would have been willing to skip our vacation, which Lee was not willing to do. We went back and forth a bit before agreeing that this was just the wrong time to be having this discussion. So I sat at my desk and cried a bit because I know the last time there were black siblings, absolutely no one would accept them and they had to go into private foster care and I didn’t want that to happen to this sibling group too. Apparently Lee was the only person on the list of foster families asked who did call back, so we get a gold star for that. The social worker trying to find a placement also agreed that our reasons (particularly travel) were good ones and was able to let us know that they’d found someone who would take the whole large sibling group, which is of course ideal. So that was a relief, but also a reminder of what we need to be ready to deal with soon. It’s made me think more and I don’t think having three kids in the below-school-age category is in any way ideal for us, so I’ll talk more to Lee and maybe we can have a sort of flow chart of preferences so we’re ready next time we get a call.
Lee thought about it and came back Saturday saying that in the future she would be open to a placement like that, that she would be willing to just do foster care. We’ve also decided that other than Rowan because of the promise we’ve made to him, we’re not interested in being a resource for teen boys right now. One of the reasons Mara didn’t do well in Samara’s house is that having teen boys around triggered some of her fear of adult men. She’s made huge progress with that and hasn’t had any problematic interactions in a long, long time, but we really want to make sure she’s healthy and secure on that front when we’re looking at family-building. It’s sort of in the teen boy job description to be surly and emotionally volatile, and those are things that might make Mara scared and uncomfortable in ways we really don’t want to deal with now. So even though most of the adoptive placements we were offered were for teen boys, that’s off the table unless we can be reassured that it’s really a perfect fit.
There’s also the visit piece of things, where Lee got bitter about how Samara hadn’t responded and said, “Well, this is the last time I put up with that! If she’s not responsible enough to do visits, I’m not even going to bother!” I didn’t bother telling Lee that the visits are not, in fact, all about her. I know that this is partly her own history talking, where visits with her birthdad Richie invariably meant waiting around for him to show up, which he’d only sometimes do and then when he did would leave her disappointed in other ways. (I can’t find a YouTube link to the scene from Arrested Development where the son waits for his dad to come take him fishing every year only to have the dad blow him off to spend time with a different girlfriend each time, but that basically hit home.) Dealing with disappointment is going to be a big difficulty for Lee in managing Mara’s visits, I know, and we saw some of that this weekend. I think that means I’ll keep being the one in contact with Samara, even though I think Lee would benefit from direct contact that would humanize Samara and reassure Lee about her intentions. Oh well.
Mara didn’t seem too upset about missing the visit, since I’d been very clear to say that maybe she’d get to see her beloved little sibling. We did some extra cuddling and coddling, I’m sure, but mostly it was just a normal family weekend. She’s very excited about seeing my extended family at the beach, so we’re focusing on that and keeping talk about her family exactly where it has been, part of our daily life but not something we’re drawing special attention to either. She still wants to hug and kiss her little sibling. I still tell her every time that I love that she’s so loving and I hope she’ll get to do that soon. I really, really do.