Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Foster Care Sucks: A Success Story.

About six months ago I had one of the most genuine moments with an adolescent client.  With angry tears in her eyes she looked at me and screamed “You don’t understand Miss Molly! You don’t know what it’s like. Foster Care sucks!” We were in my car as I shuttled her from one appointment or another and explained to her yet again that she wasn’t able to return home yet. This was oddly one of my favorite moments of my career.  Why you might ask? Because this child finally said what she was feeling and wanted me to know that her situation sucked and she had no control over it.  And guess what y’all, it’s true. Foster care sucks.

Children in care have no control over their lives. They are in foster care because their families were unable to take care of them. They have been removed from the only family they’ve ever known and thrown into the lives and homes of strangers. And not just one set of strangers.  Because being removed from your family is traumatizing and children typically don’t possess the emotional intelligence, coping skills, or vocabulary to tell you how they’re feeling and address it appropriately.  So that trauma rears its ugly head in the form of ugly behaviors and they move again. And again. And again.  Each new home is a new set of people, a new set of rules, possibly a new school, a new neighborhood and generally a new disappointment and ultimately a new rejection.

I’m painting a lovely picture, I know.  It sounds bleak and awful and why should anyone even try to help or foster if it’s never going to get better?

Six months ago this client was in danger of failing the 7th grade.  She was regularly getting in fights, bullying other students, being bullied by other students, and having suicidal ideations.  A situation in her foster home required that I move her in the middle of the night to yet another home.  She told me that everyone treated her like a “foster kid” and no one treated her like a “normal kid.”  She yelled at me. She cried. She almost gave up.  

Then something happened.  She was placed in the right home. She was matched with a foster parent who could meet her where she was at and accept her for who she was.  She met a foster parent who understood that this bright, engaging, loving child had infinite potential waiting to be unlocked if someone was patient enough to find the right combination. She met a parent who treated her like her own child.

Six months later and this client has not gotten into a single fight at school the entire quarter.  Instead of getting calls and emails threatening suspension I began getting emails from her teacher telling me how great she was doing.  She got the “Most Improved GPA” award at the end of the year. She tells me how much she likes her friends and boyfriend at school.  She is happy in her home and says she’s treated like a “regular kid” for the first time in two years.

Her situation is not perfect.  She is not able to return to her parents yet.  She still has bad days. But when she has those bad days she has someone at home to help her through it. And more importantly she trusts that someone to be there for her.

Foster care sucks. But the children in foster care rock!