Foster Care Part 4 – Visits Again
I don’t think I can move past visits without discussing them more because in reality, they play a significant role in the reunification process and take time out of your week as a foster parent.
Our visits were every Tuesday and Thursday, started out at 1 hour and then move to 2 hours each time. So from 4:00-6:00 every Tuesday and Thursday our kids spent that time with their parents. Visits started out at the DHS office but moved to a public place, more exciting for kids, pretty quickly. When parents show up consistently they don’t keep visits at the DHS office.
Our kids were 2 and almost 1. 2 hour visits during the week, when we both worked full time and they went to daycare full time were pretty exhausting. In the beginning they would be emotional roller coasters after visits. They were exhausted and exhausted toddlers are on a completely different emotional level. Add in the confusion of being dropped off at daycare by the people you live with, picked up by a DHS worker (that you don’t know in the beginning), taken to the people you used to live with, and then the lady that you do live with (who you call mommy) comes to pick you up. Not confusing at all…
Those days were hard and what’s crazy is we knew it was hard in the moment, but we did it. It was like we put our heads down and made it work. Looking back, I DO NOT KNOW HOW we did it.
Let’s talk about visits from a foster parent’s perspective. I would show up at least 10 minutes early to allow myself time in the car trying to rid myself of the anxiety I had. The anxiety that would rise like a volcano about to erupt in my chest. I had to prepare myself to walk up to the parents with their/my kids and make small talk while walking their children back to my car. I will never forget those feelings. I will never forget giving myself a pep talk every single time. I will never forget repeating over and over “be humble, be humble, be humble”. It was not easy. It was not easy when they would let the 1 year old fall asleep during the visit which in turn ruined bedtime. It was not easy when they fed him chocolate chip cookies at 9 months old and he got sick after. It was not easy trying to keep them awake in the car on the drive home (since I drove out of my way for visits to make it easier on the parents to make it without a vehicle). It was not easy. Those are the parts of foster care that people who haven’t done it don’t understand. You can’t explain it. You can’t word it in a way to help them experience those feelings with you.
The visits are what made fostering real to me. They started before our first court date (which is an entirely different mountain we had to climb) and they were week in and week out with not an actual end date in sight. It was like our weeks would consist of Tues/Thurs visits forever.
Then they decided to toss in a Sunday night phone call. Technically the kids should have moved to 3 visits a week but with shortage in workers, bio parents both working and foster parents both working, it was impossible so we ended up making it a phone call. Not a face time but an actual phone call. We would call the bio parents from our phone and put it on speaker. They would talk to them for a little while and then read a book with them (we had one copy, they had another of the same book). You can probably imagine how that went. All of the emotions would come out from the 2 year old, she would end up crying, and trying to get 2 toddlers to stay somewhere around the phone was a nightmare. But we did it. Every Sunday.
My husband and I went to see Instant Family this weekend and it brought back all of the memories and emotions from our first kids. There is a part in the movie (sorry if you haven’t seen it…) where the kids go to visit their bio mom for the first time. It’s awkward, it’s hard to watch, and it’s pretty accurate. It’s accurate from the bio mom’s perspective and it’s accurate from the foster parents’ perspective. Bio parents are normal people and foster parents didn’t take their kids from them. Those are the 2 things they said that stuck with me the most because I felt both of those. Visits were hard. It’s not easy to remind yourself on those days that your kids, aren’t your kids. They’re their kids. Those parents are working really hard to get them back. Granted, not every parent works hard, or at all, to get their kids back (I know this, we adopted kids out of foster care) but some do. Some make mistakes and fix them. Some REALLY want their kids back because they truly want to be their parents.
This was true for our bio parents. They really wanted them back. They didn’t miss a visit. They were kind to me each time they saw me (even though I know they didn’t plan on having a relationship after or probably didn’t even really like me at the time); but they knew their kids were loved and that’s what mattered.
See, in foster care, you have to take your selfishness and toss it out the window. All of the things you think you know or you know would be better, toss them. Realize that you have ZERO control over what happens to those kids in court, at visits, and even down the road. But what you do have control over is how much they are loved while they’re with you, being there at the end of every visit with a smile and kindness toward their parents, and doing whatever you can to make their lives better, even if that’s supporting their parents getting them back. And in the end, you never know what will happen after your time with them is over.