Struggling with the System

kelly largeBeing a foster family was both a rewarding and frustrating experience.

My husband and I heard about babies being placed in overcrowded, unsafe shelters and wanted to help. We were ready to love and take care of these infants, and provide them a safe, stable home. But we had no idea about the struggles that we would encounter. Just getting the most basic care for our new family members was trying.

Most of the babies we picked up from our local shelter needed medical care that the state failed to provide. They suffered from ailments like scabies, lice and dehydration. Twenty three of the 27 babies we cared for required medical attention in the first 24 hours in our home.

In order for the children’s medical care to be covered, we had to provide doctors with their state-issued medical numbers. But it was very hard to get this information from the state. I made many calls in an attempt to gain it, but my efforts frequently went nowhere. I knew the babies needed treatment, so I often ended up paying for expensive medicine that would have been covered by the state.

I tried to make sure the babies received everything they needed to help them have a better life. Sometimes, what they needed was to see siblings or parents, but my efforts to advocate for these visits were often blocked. The visits were set up and supervised by state social workers, so when the social workers dropped the ball, there was nothing I could do to help. Even my calls to their supervisors would go unanswered.

My heart broke every time we had a baby for a month or more who had no visits, then was removed from our home. These little ones did not have any memory of their parents and got comfortable with us, only to be ripped from our family and placed in another home. And some of them continued to move from home to home after they left our house.

It was tough. The worst part was that I didn’t feel like the state did what was best for the child all of the time. I heard one little boy was in the shelter and four different homes within his first week of foster care. He left our home because he had autistic tendencies that I was not told about or trained to care for. Another time, the state had me hand over a little boy without filling out any paper work. For weeks I received inquiries from doctors and lawyers who didn’t know where he was. I was scared for his well-being.

But for one little sweetie who was placed with us, it all worked out exactly the way it should have. Her transition home happened with the least trauma possible. The child had been abused by her father, but she had a good mom who fought to get her back. I bonded with her mom, and we were able to have visits and slowly transition the baby back into her care. It was a beautiful thing to work together as a team for this baby. This kiddo thrived. It just saddened me to know that out the 27 kids we cared for, she was the only one who transitioned to a permanent, loving home the way she was supposed to.

Another child who touched my heart came to us after being shaken. The little boy had pretty severe traumatic injuries – he was very stiff and his eyesight was poor. But while he was with us, his body loosened up, and he was able to make out shapes and expressions. He also began to laugh and giggle. He even started to roll over at our house. It was amazing to me how much he changed.

Because our life circumstances changed, my husband and I are no longer fostering, but nothing can take away the sweet memories I have with each little baby I had a chance to love. I got to celebrate big milestones in their development and the progression of healing in their bodies. There are so many tender moments to treasure. I would never change any moment I had with the adorable little ones. I hope I changed their lives for the better. I know they changed mine.

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