E, this is a list of the ways in which I let you down. Sorry doesn't cut it, I know that now. If I had known better I would have done better. I'm so glad you succeeded in spite of my failures. Know that I love you and your children so much, and that I celebrate your healing every day.
You inspire me girl. I hope this post helps even one foster parent do better than I did.
1) I didn't regularly facilitate contact between you and the kids. I put it all on you, the struggling parent, to do that. How many times did I initiate a FaceTime with Grammy (my own mom)? So many times. Yet I never once did that for you. I would always wait for you to call, wait for you to reach out. Yes you had my number and I always answered your calls and texts, but it's not the same as doing my best to create those moments for you. I would send lots of cute pictures of the kids to my sister or my bestie but very rarely did I send them to you Mama, even though you treasured the ones I did (sometimes, infrequently) send. How easy it would've been to snap and send a picture of them every day! How comforting that would have been for you! We could've at least TRIED to FaceTime you once a day. Instead I waited for you, already so busy with the uphill battle of your case plan, to call. I was the one with the resources and extra time, I could've built more of that bridge for you, closed the distance between you and your babies with photos and texts and calls. But I didn't, not like I could have. SHOULD have.
2) I reported petty things to the caseworker, things that did not need to be reported, behind your back. How did you ever even have a conversation with me, a real honest conversation, when I was such a tattle tale? I distinctly remember you reaching out for help during the last few months of the case. You weren't able to get food stamps until the kids were home for good, and money was super tight. You asked for my help with getting food for them for their weekends at your house. I was getting like eighteen hundred dollars a month for their care.I had a good stable job, plenty of money for a weekend's worth of groceries. More than enough. Instead of giving you a grocery store gift card so that you could buy the ingredients for the traditional cultural dishes you liked to make them, I would instead send the weird healthy hippy foods that I liked to feed them. I only ever sent enough meals to cover the kids for the weekend, barely enough extra for you. I was so stingy! Why, what good did it do? I believed the caseworkers' bullshit about how providing food was "enabling" you. And then I turned around and "reported" to the caseworker that you didn't have food in the house for them. You were doing the best that you could, and instead of helping you problem solve, I turned on you when you were down. How could I have done that to you?
3) I didn't make you a regular part of our daily lives. You were approved after the first year for community outings with us. Those kids and I lived an active life, we were always doing shit. I could've visited the library or park within walking distance to where you were staying and offered for you to join us, it would've been so easy, and so fun for them, and for you. You could've had extra time with them at least twice a week with no extra effort from me. I would go out of my way to arrange playdates with little friends of theirs, or with my own friends, but not with you, their MOTHER. How is that fair?
4) Too often, I let you be out of sight and out of mind for them. It was hard for me, dude. It's no excuse but it was. I love your kids. I love them so much, and God help me, it was easier. It was easier to not mention you, to steer conversations away from the topic of you, and pretend that the cozy little life that I had with those beautiful children was going to go on forever. I let time and distance get between you and your kids, and I did nothing to stop it. I didn't mention you in small positive ways throughout the day, and I didn't leave a lot of space for them to talk about you either. In small, sneaky ways, almost imperceptibly, I erased you from our day to day. Because I was selfish. Because I wanted to pretend that I would get to keep them close forever, at your expense. Because I loved them, but not enough to recognize the ways in which I was hurting them by distancing them from you.
5) This is the hard one, the deepest regret, the most evil thing that's so hard for me to admit even to myself....I prayed for you to fail. I did. Verbally I spoke out in favor of your healing, your success, and inwardly I prayed for you to keep stumbling, for barriers to keep growing. I TRIED not to, but I didn't try hard enough. I prayed for them not to grant the extension, then not to grant the second extension. As months turned into years and my desperation grew, I prayed for you to fail, for the clock to run out, for the story to end in adoption. How could I have done that? In my heart of hearts I betrayed you, and in doing so I betrayed the children that I loved most in the world. It's something that I could have chosen not to share, and no one would have ever known, but I knew. I know. Even many years later, that's the thing I can't forgive of myself.
The thing is, outwardly I was the model "supportive foster parent". Caseworkers praised my efforts, and you did too. Everyone thought that I was doing everything in my power to support you, but I wasn't. And I should have. I should have. There's no excuse.
I couldn't have known what I know now. I couldn't see the future, you and your babies together, their hearts overflowing with peace at being reunited with you, forever saved from the lifetime of grief and loss that adoption brings. In loving those children I want to possess them, to control their lives and their futures and in doing so protect them. I didn't want them to go home to you. I didn't want to take the risk.
I know now that I was wrong, so wrong. I'm so glad that my small-minded, fearful hearted efforts to sabotage rather than support didn't work. I know better now. I'll do better now.
But that doesn't make up for the ways in which I failed you, and for that I am forever sorry.
If ever I could not care for my children, it would be my deepest wish for the person who did to support me, not just with their words and actions, but also within the private chamber of their thoughts.
Because thoughts become words and actions...or inaction.
This picture is from four years ago. They were 6 and 10 years old and now they're 10 and nearly 14 and about to start 5th and 9th grade. Like, where does the time go?!