Life in the foster care world these days feels a little bit like we’re riding a molasses covered sloth. Sticky and slow. Everything else feels like we’re on one of those amusement park rides where you spin so fast that you stick to the walls. If that feels like too much metaphor for one post, please know that it feels like too much to be living.
First some good news: as of Tuesday of this week, E’s case is moving forward as expected. Her permanency goal has been changed from return home to substitute care pending termination. We have a termination date this summer. At that hearing, parental rights will be terminated, and she will be transferred to an adoption worker. Them’s the facts, as they say—and right now, I’m not in a place to talk about the feelings because I’m stuck to the wall of this ride.
I’ve alluded to our current Air Force situation over the last few months, but in recent conversations, I’ve realized that people don’t actually understand what’s happening. Let me clarify. Scott is taking command in WA at the end of this year. He has orders to report at the end of August. The rest of us are not moving with him because F’s case is not going to be in a place that allows her to leave the state.
Before Scott reports to WA, he trains for the entire summer in OK. We will join him in OK for the second half of the summer before saying goodbye for an unknown amount of time. We are at peace with this decision—we know it’s the right one. But we also understand that the next ::fill in the blank with an amount of time:: is going to be hard for everyone involved.
I’ve been an Air Force spouse through seven deployments and countless TDYs and extended trips, so parenting without spousal support is not new to me. While it may seem counterintuitive to most, parenting four children seems less daunting than parenting two did in the past—I’m a better mom now, and I’ve got two older kids who are absolute rockstars when it comes to helping me. I also have the support of my parents down the street, which wasn’t the case in the past.
Scott on the other hand is stepping into a command position—something that comes with an immense amount of pressure and outside expectations. Ideally, squadron command involves the support of the command spouse (me). When I look back on Scott’s career, I can tell you that any success I’ve had at being a good military spouse is because I had awesome examples who went before me. At this stage of his career, I happily accept the honor and responsibility of pouring into the lives of other military spouses. That’s going to be really difficult from 2,000+ miles away. We are still having conversations about what this is going to look like.
Aside from the demands of his job, we are hyper aware of what this geographical separation has the potential to do to our marriage and to his relationship with our children. Hyper aware. Again, stating facts in place of feelings because I can’t right now.
The bad news: the reason we cannot move with Scott is because F’s case is still open and not moving any particular direction. Clearly the fact that things move slowly “in the system” is disheartening, but let me tell you what is devastating about this—when we approached the powers that be to talk about our current situation, the advice we were given was to move her to another foster home, so we could move as a family. This response was given without pause. The fact that people within the system believe that a child who has lived with us for sixteen months, a child who calls us mommy and daddy, a child who knows nothing but the good life we’ve given her is disposable points to the corroded nature of the system.
Being met with that response fortified our resolve to see her case to the end because if we are not advocating for her best interest, who is? Our biggest frustration from start to finish with the fostering experience has been this consistent, gnawing feeling that the needs of the children always come last. When I have expressed this to people who work within the system, I have been told by people connected to our case and people objectively unrelated to the case that it’s true, but it’s how the system works.
So, we stay. Because she deserves it. And because we love her. And because it’s the right thing to do. Living in the tension is maddening and exhausting, and these days when people say “I don’t know how you do it,” I mostly want to say “I don’t know either.”
But I do know how—it is by constantly reminding myself to control what’s in my power to control and to let the rest be. Author Joseph Campbell, famous for his writing on the hero’s journey, said, “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” The risk is worth the reward.
527 days down.