Updated: Mar 23, 2020
Disrupting a placement.
Putting in your 30 day notice.
There's a lot of ways to describe the scenario where a foster or adoptive parent decides they are no longer willing to care for the child they committed to, but no matter how you phrase it, it is what it is: total bullshit.
I've seen a disturbing trend lately in the adoption community, and even more so in the foster care community: Parents are no longer committing to the children in their care. Parents are viewing their choice to accept a chid into their family as a temporary choice, one that they can back out on if that chid is not what they expected, if their needs are greater than the parent had planned for, if the bond doesn't grow as quickly as the parent expected. When the going gets tough, some foster and adoptive parents get going. And it's so, so damaging. Here's why:
Safety concerns should lead to more vigilant parenting, not abandonment. Look, I've parented kids who were a danger to other kids in the home. I've parented kids who were a danger to themselves. I've even parented kids who were physically aggressive towards me. Our family is lucky beyond measure to not be in that season right now, but when we were facing those challenges, it never occurred to me to give up on the child who was struggling. We combated those seasons with psychiatric care, medication, in-home therapy, increased babysitting/mother's helper supports, and most importantly, therapeutic parenting. And we got through it, as a team. As a family.
Choosing to be a parent is a forever choice, no matter what. If you wouldn't "disrupt" a biological child's place in the family, why is it okay to do that to a child you're fostering or have adopted? Foster parenting is not "only as long as I feel like it" parenting. Adoption does not mean "for as long as it feels manageable and enjoyable for me" parenting. The choice to be a parent is a sacred and permanent choice. Even as a foster parent, you are committing to that child for as long as they need you, not for as long as you feel like parenting them. I know that's not how most Children's services departments see it, and I don't care, that's how it is. Just because something is accepted does not mean it is right.
It is not your child's job to make you happy or mentally healthy. If their struggles are disrupting your mental health, that is your problem, not their problem. Kids are kids. They are working to become a whole person, and they don't have time to be responsible for an adult's emotions and mental well-being. If you have a child who is struggling, it is your job to find a way to maintain your own inner calm during that struggle. It is your job to manage your own self care needs. If you allow the behaviors of a child struggling with trauma to derail you, that is a you issue. This part is hard, I get that. For me, this is a personal struggle. I am totally guilty of having thoughts where I'm blaming my kids for my own negative emotions. I struggle with not allowing my children's negative days to cast clouds over my day. HOWEVER, I am the adult, and I have found that if I relentlessly pursue my own inner peace and joy, and take preemptive steps to ensure that I feel regulated and good inside, then my kids' struggles no longer have that unhealthy power over me.
When you choose to foster or adopt, you need to be prepared for ANYTHING. This is parenting bootcamp, people. It's not okay to decide that because a child's needs are beyond the imaginary lines you drew prior to meeting them that all of a sudden they aren't going to be your child anymore. It doesn't work that way when a baby is born, and it shouldn't work that way with foster care and adoption either. You get what you get and you don't throw a fit!
When foster or adoptive parents disrupt their kids, it affects my kid. This is the thing that makes me the most incensed about disruption. One of my sons has a pervasive fear of being given up on, of not having my unconditional love, of being kicked out. He has a classmate whose foster parent put a 30 day notice in on her, kicking her out of their home. He hears the same stories we all do on the internet about kids who were adopted being sent away from their families. Because of parents who disrupt on their kids, my kid is scared, unable to fully trust that his own parents would never make that choice. When you choose to be a non-committal parent and abandon your foster or adopted child, it creates a harmful ripple effect in the entire foster care and adoption community. It makes kids like mine feel afraid to trust. Worse, it makes new foster or adoptive parents who are tired, beaten down, and barely holding on feel like they can't fight for their child, for their family. Normalizing disruption means normalizing giving up on our kids. And I'm not okay with that.
Let's create some new norms in foster care and adoption. Let's normalize unconditional love. Let's normalize the fierce belief that with love, commitment, and education, any parent can become an effective, therapeutic parent for their struggling child. Let's normalize the idea that foster or adoptive parenthood is the most sacred commitment a person can make to a child. Let's make that commitment a forever thing.