Took My Breath Away (The End)

Some of you already know what happened.  Others may have guessed.  The final loss in the “year of losses” was the abrupt exit of our two beautiful foster daughters.  You realize this is a distinct possibility when you take in foster children.  In fact, in most cases, it is the desired outcome.  It is usually the goal of the state, county, and foster care system to improve the home situation of these children so that they can be returned to their biological families.  We understood that role and were fine with it.  We were naive.

First of all, I never expected our very first placement to last over 15 months.  I figured we’d take someone in for a few months, keep them fed and happy, comfort them and play some games, and send them home when things were better.  We had specifically asked for an elementary school-aged child, one child (boy or girl–although all the guys in this house said they would PREFER a boy–so I fully expected to get a boy), with no major abuse in their history.  (Yes, I know they’re all there for a reason–but you probably know what I mean).  I wanted someone old enough that I could converse and interact with, but who would not be big enough or scarred enough to kill me (and I’m just being honest here).  I figured the child care situation would be easier during the two months I work if the child was in elementary school with our after-school programs.  I definitely did not want an infant because to me, that is just endless busy work with very little personal connection.  I really didn’t think there would be that much of a personality to work with in a pre-school aged child, and I thought a slightly older child would be easier.   Life is full of surprises!

I fell in love with Bonus Baby the moment I laid eyes on her teeny-tiny pint-sized body with her big brown eyes and coke-bottle glasses.  She came as an extra bonus along with her eldest sister.  She was “almost three”, as the caseworker stated, trying to convince me to take them, but she was the size of an 18-month old, still in diapers, and busier than a tornado.  And she was loaded with personality.  At first, okay, even later, she was a lot of work.  Physical work–changing diapers, potty training, keeping everything out of her reach, trying to meet her constant demands for food and entertainment.   When these kids came, they were very needy–for time and attention.  They never just chilled for even 5 minutes to pause and watch TV or sit still and play.  It took a lot of energy.  It was a great exercise plan 😀  (I lost a good 10 lbs. those first 2 months)!

Bonus Child was a big help to me from the very first day she came.  She was very much used to being in charge since she was the eldest of five surviving children.  She came with me to the supermarket to help me figure out what size diapers to get Bonus Baby since she’d arrived without a spare and I had no idea how much the darling weighed. Bonus Child knew exactly which package to get, and also accurately informed me what kinds of food to buy.  She also showed me how to fix Bonus Baby’s hair properly.  Raising three boys, I was pretty much all thumbs at making little braids and pony tails.  As a not-too-girly mom who thought I’d dodged a huge bullet by having boys, I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed buying clothes and hairbands for the girls!

Before you knew it, these little strangers were a part of our family.  Surprisingly, all the expectations were topsy-turvy.  The younger one was the easier one, in so many ways.  She made the astute observation one afternoon on the way home from preschool that “I have two mommies.  And two daddies”.  And that was just the way it was.  No problems.  No issues.  She loved all of us and she loved life.

I learned that it’s harder for the older kids to accept their situations.  Sometimes they feel they are being disloyal if they’re having too much fun.  Often they’re afraid of bonding to new people because they never know when they’ll be leaving.  They are stressed and angry about events in their young lives and sometimes act out without knowing why.  You learn a lot when you’re a foster parent–by reading, researching, observing, and talking to other foster parents.  No matter what, though, by the end of the second summer we were a family.  Bonus Child had finally turned the corner and had firmly bonded with me and seemed to genuinely want to be here.  I felt this bond would help get us through any little bumps in the road.

But that was not to be.  The unfortunate “perfect storm” of events occurred.  The kids were once again “in between” case workers at the overworked understaffed county.  The agency we worked with had just assigned us a new case worker.  My eldest son’s wedding in California was coming up and of course since we’d never even dreamed we would still have the kids in September when we had to make travel plans in the spring (although the case worker at the time had assured us that we could get respite care for the children during the trip if we DID still have them) I kept checking to see if arrangements had been made.  You can’t just leave foster kids with anyone; they must be watched only by an adult with clearances.  Since my entire family was going to the wedding, and even my neighbor, who is a CASA volunteer and has clearances, was going to be out of state that weekend visiting her son, I had to rely on the agency.  And they couldn’t come through unless the kids went to another county and Bonus Child would miss 4 days of school.  And that just didn’t sit well with the supervisor-acting-as-interim-caseworker at the county.

I spent the weekend before my son’s wedding packing up over 15 months worth of toys, clothes, books, school supplies, etc. for two little girls who had a lot of things!  I still didn’t even know for sure what I was going to wear to the wedding and for the rest of the time we would be in California and hadn’t started packing my own stuff.  I was grieving for them while I packed up boxes and backpacks to send with them to the foster mom who had expressed that she wanted to adopt all 5 of the kids to keep them together, trying so hard not to let the girls see me cry so I could put the positive spin on it that they would get to be with their brother and sisters who they really loved and missed.  The supervisor from our agency picked up the girls the day before we had to fly to California to take them and most of their belongings to the county, and Bonus Child made me promise to write and call as soon as I got back from California.  I sent a note with her to give to their new foster mom promising to get the rest of the kids’ stuff to them and thanking her for keeping all these precious children together in one home.  I included our phone number and address so the kids could keep in touch.   It was during this frantic week in my life that I found it impossible to take a full complete breath.  I’m still struggling.

13 Responses to “Took My Breath Away (The End)”

  1. 1 John and Perla February 2, 2012 at 3:43 am

    I didn’t know all of that was going on. Having worked at the orphanage, I have seen the attachment-detachment issues played out over and over. We’ll be praying for you, Big Daddy and all….

  2. 3 lynette February 2, 2012 at 6:37 am

    dear les, i don’t even have the words to tell you how much i feel your grief and your loss with your words. you have been a wonderful foster mom — a wonderful foster family — for those two little girls. i hope they remember you well and stay in touch. you achieved what you set out to do, which was to make a difference in a child’s life, and you did, and much more.

    i guess it is hard to anticipate the falling-in-love part.

    my heart goes out to you, and i hope fervently that the girls’ home will give them the safety and love that yours did.


    • 4 les@mamaneeds2rant February 3, 2012 at 10:01 am

      Thanks, Lynette. As difficult as some of these moments were, I would do it all over again. I’m thinking that to fully experience the highs in life, we may have to allow for some lows. I can’t tell you how many times those kids had us laughing so hard I thought my sides would split. And the hugs were awesome!!

  3. 5 Cyndi February 2, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Oh no! The poor girls and poor you too! I hope they are happy and healthy and loved with their new family. It is good that they’re with their other siblings but still…. very sad. 😦

  4. 8 Cindy Alden February 2, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    I didn’t realize that all this was going on while you were planning the wedding trip.
    Were you actually being “punished” for going to your son’s wedding,or would it have played out this way anyway?
    Personally,I don’t think they would have made any moves had it not been for the wedding,since the foster care mother who volunteered to take all of them wasn’t really prepared for all of them.
    Not a very nice way to thank you for all of your time and commitment to these children.
    So what transpired at your last meeting?

  5. 9 les@mamaneeds2rant February 3, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Yes Cindy. The week before the wedding (which should have been one of the most exciting times in my life) was one of the most stressful weeks of my life. I’m sure we would still have the kids had we not had the stresses and uncertainties associated with them trying to find respite for the kids. There is no other way we could have played this–I would never have missed the wedding of one of my kids.

  6. 10 Cindy Alden February 3, 2012 at 10:28 am

    How about some group prayer for those kids?Everyone on this site can intercede for them.It doesn’t seem as if anything is permanent with them,so anything could change at any moment.
    I would hate to see them all age out of the system without a stable home life.Not a good foundation to deal with everything else that goes on in this crazy world.
    Will be sending prayers up tonight…join me.xoxoxo

  7. 11 CharlesWray February 7, 2012 at 9:51 am

    I found your blog while surfing for info about Marilyn Gibbs. I gave her a ride in 2008 and have been curious about her ever since. As you probably know, there is another blog that tracked her itinerary until July, 2010, the last “sighting” recorded. Do you happen to know what became of her? I’m 73, in a creative nonfiction class at our local university, and thinking of writing a piece, which of course would be titled, “Where in the World is Marilyn Gibbs?” This necessitates an attempt to answer my own question, hence this query. By the way, I couldn’t quit reading your blog once I got started. We had foster kids when we were younger, and now my youngest daughter has three. This, despite the fact that she is fighting MS. Anyway, I feel your pain. Blessings on you for having done what you did. You’ve changed eternity. By the way, you should be getting paid for your very gifted literary skills–but of course that would take the fun out of it. If you know anything about Marilyn, please respond. Thanks. Charles

    • 12 les@mamaneeds2rant February 7, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      Thank you, sir. I appreciate your kind words. I sometimes get updates on Marilyn due to my blog post. I’ll try to dig up the latest info I have on her and send it to you. Good luck with your writing endeavors.

  1. 1 Two Years « Mamaneeds2rant's Weblog Trackback on June 10, 2012 at 1:50 am

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February 2012

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