My foster care posts thus far have ranged from emotional to informational. Throughout them all, I’ve tried to keep a positive tone, and that hasn’t been disingenuous. For the most part, I’m able to keep a positive outlook about the girls’ situation, but the last couple of weeks have been rough.
When we started this process, Scott and I both envisioned fostering many children over the years for whom we would care until they could be reunified with their parents. As with all things, expectations can be terrible traveling companions when journeying through foster care.
Our case is officially considered a concurrently planned case at this point. What that means is that Plan A is to reunify these girls if their parents can complete their service plans. Plan B is that we would adopt them if parental rights are severed or terminated.
The purpose of concurrent planning is to avoid having children floating around the system without a sense of place. The state of IL is actually last in the nation for permanency timing—our state takes the longest to get kids settled through reunification or adoption. By agreeing to adopt them given the chance, we have ensured that everyone involved (the case workers, the judge, the biological parents) knows that if reunification doesn’t happen, we have a back up plan for the girls. Unfortunately, many cases in foster care “end” with surrender or termination without people willing to adopt. This is why we talk about so many kids living in group homes and/or “aging out” of the system, which creates a whole new set of psychological and sociological challenges for foster kids.
So, that’s where our case is right now. We’ll have a case review in June and a court date in July. Our goal is to have some sort of decision reached by December when the girls will have been in care for a full year. We have no control over what happens—that is left up to the case worker and the judge.
Until about six weeks ago, I would have characterized the girls’ parental involvement as limping toward success, and then everything started heading downhill. We continue to have an immense amount of empathy for the girls’ mom, as she is first a young girl who is a product of her environment. It’s easy to judge her for the choices she’s making if we don’t take into account the fact that no one has ever shown her what real love looks like. No one has protected her. No one has taught her right from wrong. In fact, all the people in her life who should have taught her how to be human have actively worked against her for her entire life.
It’s heartbreaking and infuriating.
I want more than anything to believe that she can do what she needs to do, but whatever success she has enjoyed has been trampled by the people in her life who want to see her fail. There may be a day when I can tell more of the story publicly in a respectful way, but for now, I’ll just say this: about a month into this process, she asked the case assistant if we could adopt her. As in, could we adopt a twenty-year-old mother of four?
People often say things to me along the lines of “I don’t know how you do it” and “That’s so hard—I could never do it.” Yeah, it is, but not in the ways you think.
I’ve heard sermons in which people have compared our lives to beautiful tapestries. The thing about weaving tapestries is that a weaver creates from the back, so the image she sees for a long time looks like a jumbled mess. I almost pride myself on being someone who can see the beauty in the ordinary most of the time, but this journey feels much messier than anything else I’ve tried to create with my life.
The other night when I should have been sleeping, I watched a YouTube video about weaving tapestries because I couldn’t get this notion out of my head, and I learned something pretty stunning.
Tapestries are woven horizontally across a loom of taut vertical lines. In a massive undertaking called “warping,” the loom is created by looping yarn over and over again. Once the bundle is large enough, the weaver starts warping another long thread. That’s what each week feels like right now. We all feel a little warped as we loop around and around and around the same drama, same concerns, same feelings. And then we feel weary when we have to start again.
Each warp loop is then braided and stretched across the metal beams, meticulously and evenly spread. It’s a process that requires attention to detail and time, much like the amount of effort and time I spend every day keeping track of paperwork and making phone calls and trying to ensure that we always have our ducks in a row.
Once the warp is on the beams, the next step is to apply tension through stretching. OOF. Yeah.
Only after the warping and stretching can the weaver begin creating her artwork. Here’s the part I found most fascinating—as the weaver moves the yarn through the vertical lines, she gazes through to a mirror. The mirror reflects her artwork in reverse. The challenge of fostering is like this—I’m constantly looking in the mirror trying to figure out if I’m doing it right, and I can see what I’m doing, but it often feels backwards.
Nothing about this feels natural.
I am mothering someone else’s children. I love someone else’s children. It’s a sea of emotions difficult to navigate. If I keep my head down like the weaver, all I can see is a jumble of threads, but if I look in the reflection in the mirror, I see some semblance of beauty even if it isn’t the exact version of beauty I’m aiming for.
Five months down.