October 22, 2012

Some parts of fostering are weird and hard, and being open to mutually exclusive outcomes is definitely part of that. I hope that if Nia goes home, it will be because her mom is ready to be the parent Nia needs. I hope if she stays with us for good, it’s in a way that’s respectful of her history and that leaves room for her family on an ongoing basis.

I met her mom for the first time last week, and later that day she and Nia got to have their first conversation in almost 7 months. They’ll be starting supervised visits soon, too, but that really doesn’t mean that everything is ready and meeting her mom made it clear to me how much she loves Nia but also how many challenges she’ll have to getting all the things she needs to get done accomplished. I’m not going to talk about this in any specifics since it’s absolutely not my story, but I do wonder what I would have been like if the tables were turned. I could see in my case getting depressed and being sure I could make a call tomorrow or even that it would be easy for me to find a job once I had a car but then not work on getting a car…. I think that’s a normal response for parents who have their kids taken into foster care, and fighting the urge to bristle at every single bureaucratic hurdle must be hard. But it’s hard and scary to watch from the other side as someone is so sure she can do everything she’s supposed to do, that she shouldn’t even have to do everything she’s supposed to do because it’s really not applicable in her case, but then can spend this much time crossing the first hurdle that would let her talk to her child. (Part of that is caseworker error too, unfortunately.)

Anyway, they talked and Nia didn’t have any fallout from it. Then I reminded Nia last night that she’ll have a conversation again today because that’s when they’re scheduled, and she was really unhappy about having to do that. I mentioned that she’ll probably be starting visits and explained again how the structure will work, and she was very uncomfortable about that idea. But then when I said that we’d pick her up after and bring her home to our house, she was really annoyed because even though she knows of course that she can’t go home with her mom yet, she wants to go home.

As Mara was snuggling with me last night at bedtime, she said, “I wish Lulu Veronica [her name for her mom] had white skin.” Usually she’s wished I had brown skin and she’s said once or twice that she would rather have skin that was white like mine, but this is a new one. I didn’t push to find out whether she was saying this because it would have made her skin white or because it would make Veronica more like me (or vice versa) or what, but it’s really interesting to watch her process all of this. (An aside to that, the last time I took Mara to see Veronica, she was introducing me to friends and family and repeatedly used “ghetto” to describe me, meaning that I’m understanding and non-judgmental. I’m really hoping Mara won’t pick that one up.)

Since I’m speaking of terminology, Mara and Nia are absolutely clear that they want to be called “sisters” and will often say “My sister says….” to other people. Lee apparently told Nia not to call me “mommy” like Mara does at some point (per Nia) but not long after yesterday’s conversation about visitation asked if she could. And when I was talking to Nia’s mom, she asked about Mara’s name and when given it said, “Damn, they even sound like they should be sisters!” because the real versions have several sound adjacencies. So I guess all of us are in this foster care overlapping holding pattern of sort-of-sisters and mom jobs and visits and awkward conversations. What I didn’t say at first and should have is that I liked Nia’s mom a lot, can see where Nia gets a lot of her personality and spark. She liked me and seems to appreciate what we’ve been doing and that Nia is safe and looks happy in the photos I gave her. I hope we can build on that affection as we move into whatever comes next.


  1. I really didn’t expect how hard it would be for me to fully expect two totally opposing outcomes in our kid’s case. I really like how you phrased that. I wish that we could expect a positive relationship with our foster daughter’s family, but I really don’t know if it will be possible, because they have been so absent for so much of her case that the only times we’ve seen them have been at court, which feels like it’s setting up an us-versus-them scenario.

    • Mara never had any visits with her parents for 2 years and we’re now in very positive relationships with both of them. Not saying it would happen to you, but it’s possible to create something different.

      Nia’s mom asked me yesterday on the phone whether I thought Nia would go home, and I was really glad I’d written this out earlier in the day! I basically said, “I know you love her, but kids need more than love and I hope that you’ll be able to do [some specific things] to make sure you can be the best parent you can be before she’s returned, because it would be horrible for everyone to have her go home and then have things fall apart again and have her go back into foster care.” I have deep reservations, but I also want to have hope, y’know?

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