With our ethnically diverse life confirmed by the cup game (thanks, Ru!), class took a serious turn as the questions began to intensify and while we were certainly prepared to handle just about anything by this point (including that feces-throwing, masturbating child), we were also coming to terms with the realities of what we might actually be faced with – and even more importantly, what we were capable of dealing with.
The questions regarding the child we saw ourselves with started out simple enough: What age range (for us, 6-12), sex (male) and race (non-Asian/non-White) but quickly wound their way to such subjects as how do you feel about a child who has been sexually abused? (OMG) or how comfortable are you dealing with a child who is sexually exposing himself at school? (WTF)
These questions revealed the sad realities in many of these children’s lives. All that concerned us now was the need for us to stay on track and continue being completely honest with each other and ourselves, because these facts of life were a phone call away from walking through our front door.
Other questions included:
The questions are geared to set the wheels in motion for when you actually have to make these kinds of decisions but thankfully now was not that time (that’s what the home study is for).
The instructors forced us to become familiar with other realities that soon might make themselves present in our lives - reunification with birth parent(s) being number one. This is the ultimate goal of foster care after all: to supply support while the system determines what’s in the best of interest of the child. Sometimes reunification happens, other times it does not – but through it all, you’re asked to be there in your supporting role, biting your tongue more often than not.
We moved on to the basics of visitation, another possible complex reality on our horizon. The instructors shared what could and would be required of us as well as an assortment of circumstances that might occur: parents might show up to the visits and things are great. Or they could show up in the beginning and then disappear. Or they could simply not show from day one and as "foster parents", we would be expected to support the visits, the hope, the disappointment, the loss and the grief. This is where the whole “everything you thought you knew about foster-adopt is wrong” statement comes in...
Suddenly we began to understand that we would come last on this journey: our voice would remain minimal; our thoughts not all that important; our opinions, wishes, hopes and desires secondary to the rest of the team. This is the child’s journey after all, and our house, until proven permanent, would be just a temporary stop on this complicated journey. Things can happen. Things can go wonderfully right or horribly wrong. People can pop up, disappear, toy with emotions, make life difficult or simply not be there. The worst of the worst can happen and through all of it, we needed to be comfortable with our job to love and support. But of course, the best of the best can happen too, and that's why we were all there in the first place.
To read Jason P's next article in the series, click here.