Thursday, March 1, 2012

broken families, broken hearts

There are some days where I wish that caring for the ‘orphan’ wasn’t so overwhelmingly difficult. Days like today where I’ve spent most of the day in tears. Where we finally get a placement call after many fervent prayers, but it’s not at all the placement call we wanted. It’s the one where they know we have to say no, but they want to ask anyway: would we take back a previous placement?

I can’t even explain the sadness that grips my heart tonight. These children that we loved, that we were family with for three whole months…they’re yet again let down by their parents, left to the system to be cared for safely and appropriately. We can’t take them. We don’t have the space. Not in the wealthy American sense, but in the absolute literal sense. We’re only licensed for one more child, and although we know they would push the limits if we were willing, we literally do not have the bed space for two more elementary age children.  This took the decision out of our hands, which was probably for the best. Even if we had the space, we should still have said no. It wouldn’t be best for our family, and as a result, it wouldn’t be best for these two children either. Even knowing all that doesn’t make it easier or take away the guilt. We still hurt deeply for them. We still feel righteous anger towards their parents for their inability to make lasting change, towards the systems that can’t offer the right kind or right amount of assistance, towards the entire culture of our city that makes it virtually impossible for anyone to break the cycle of neglect, abuse, addiction, and poverty.

This whole situation definitely highlights a deficiency in the system. No matter how much of ourselves we pour into these children, they still return to their family system of origin. Most of the parental supports that are in place while the children are in foster care (by necessity) decrease dramatically once the children are returned home. Someone needs to be on that end of it. Supporting families, helping them succeed long-term. I would love to someday be a part of changing a family rather than just caring for the children.

There are a few programs out there that work a little more holistically than your average DJFS is able to. Safe Families is one of them. They allow parents to make positive choices on behalf of their children, keeping them out of the system. Their children are safe and cared for, and the parents are offered assistance to get their stuff in line. Unlike with traditional foster care, families often become the extended family and support that the original families need to stabilize. This program has, as far as I know, not yet come to our state, and I am hopeful it will soon. I’d love to see the effects it may have on the system here. Check it out:

 

Katie Couric Safe Families for Children Follow-up Report from John Norton on Vimeo.