Quick Update

Sharon August 18th, 2011

Just to keep you all updated, we learned yesterday that the children’s social worker has decided to separate the children, and place them in three homes.  Two will stay with the current foster mother, one with one home, and they are seeking a home for one child and the newborn – since we will take larger groups than two and there are very few homes that do so, they don’t want us to take those two, saving us for a larger group.  I admit, I’m relieved not to have to make a decision about taking these kids – it isn’t the numbers, so much as the ages – I realized about myself that while I would happily take a baby, we really would prefer to work mostly with a slightly older group.  That said, it would have been very hard for us to say no if we were their only chance at staying together, and otherwise were a good fit.

As much as I’m relieved that my gut intuition that this wasn’t the group for us didn’t come up against any actual decisions (and as much as I’m grateful that it isn’t my job to make decisions that hard about small children!), I’m terribly sad for the kids who are losing each other.  Unfortunately, of course, that kind of sad happens all the time, but it doesn’t make it better.  The only consolation is that at some point some other larger group that would have been separated will be able to stay together.  But oh, how sad for them.

This was a really good experience for us, in a lot of ways.  It revealed several things we hadn’t actually figured out before – when faced up with the decision, it was useful to know them.  First, we found out how much both of us really secretly want a daughter or two out of this.  When we first talked about it, Eric and I both said that we were wholly contented with our boys, and that in some ways, it would be easier to take a sibling group that was male.  We even talked about submitting our homestudy for a legally-free group of three boys available downstate, although our homestudy wasn’t done before they were placed.

Despite all that,  most larger groups are mixed gender.   We expressed no gender preference in our homestudy, but we did sort of have in our head that once we got up to three or four, there probably would be a girl.  One of the possible scenarios we were being asked to consider had us taking three of the kids, and not the only girl – and we both had to admit that while three more boys would be entirely wonderful once we got our head around it, we both sort of wished that there was a girl included.  I don’t think either of us had realized (although I probably should have gotten a clue when I went to goodwill and bought a range cheap girl clothes in a large range of sizes so that I’d have some if we got an emergency placement – some girls are fine with wearing boy clothes, some mind, and I didn’t want to have nothing pretty for a girl who needed something new – but I’m not sure I needed quite so many things ;-) ) that we’d allowed ourselves to dream about a daughter.  I don’t think that means that we wouldn’t accept an all boy group, and with enthusiasm, but it was good to talk about the images we have in our heads.

It is funny, because for years I wasn’t aware of any desire for a daughter – I love my boys, I love having a big group of sons and in many ways, I think I’m a really good boy Mom.  I was never disappointed when I learned I was having boys (actually I was sure from the beginning with everyone).  Eric initially wanted a little girl, but by the third boy had gotten over it, and was happy to have more boys.  The big revelation of this isn’t “we’d only take a group with girls in it” but “sometimes you have dreams that you aren’t even fully aware of.”

The other thing that was useful was that this was a good reminder of one of my own worst failings – intellectualizing things I don’t especially want to do and talking myself into them.  Sometimes this is a good quality, when there’s a strong moral case to be made for doing the thing you don’t enjoy – and this may have even been one of those times.   But over the years, I’ve periodically made major, and inevitably mistaken life decisions because they made rational sense, even if at a gut level, they didn’t seem right.  Many years ago, we almost bought a house that in retrospect, we all would have hated, because it seemed to have so many rational good qualities.  Fortunately, the friend we were purchasing with (this is many, many years ago) backed out – again, to my sudden relief.

In the end, we’re probably only going to take one sibling group (hopefully, but at least one at a time) – that is, we’re not going to be able to save all the kids in the world, and we know that intellectually.  That means that we might as well trust our instincts – historically speaking, whenever I talk myself into things, I usually am making a mistake – but I suspect  I will know when a match feels right.  I would like to go into this with more enthusiasm and energy than I could have gone into this particular arrangement.

It is hard to say that those things are necessary – thousands of kinship placements begin in ambivalence “I thought I was done with children…but they are my grandkids.”  Most foster placements begin too little knowledge for enthusiasm – “Sure, three kids, you think they are all boys but haven’t checked the little one’s diapers, yes it is 1 am, ok, c’mon over…”   I don’t have to have those feelings to take children – and I know that you can grow to love children you don’t start out loving.  Unlike those who at the moment of birth felt instant adoration, I remember looking at Eli after my long labor with a “Ok, he’s pretty interesting, but I don’t adore him or anything yet.”  Love came along somewhere later in the process.

In this scenario, however, it was necessary –  I could have imagined my pushing harder, telling the social worker not “I would need X and Y more information, and then may we would consider it” but “I really want these kids, and would like you to think about placing them together with us, because they sound right.”  In that case, they might have kept them together (or not).  This time that didn’t happen – but I suspect I will know when it is right. I just have to listen, and pray for happy homes for those children I didn’t know but who might have been.

I know I owe y’all some content, and you’ll be getting it, but not today ;-) .. In other news, I’ve agreed to push up the deadline for _Making Home_ my adapting-in-place book to this fall (since I’ve got all this free time now ;-) ), and the book will be available next spring!  So there’s some good news!


9 Responses to “Quick Update”

  1. Guest says:

    FWIW, you should know that is MUCH harder to place boys than girls in foster or foster-to-adopt families. Ditto for overseas adoption of younger children. About 80% of prospective parents specifically want girls, the other 20% mostly have no preference. Almost no one specifically wants boys.

    According to an adoption social worker, “Families that already have girls say they want more girls because it’s what they know. Families that already have boys say they want girls for balance.”

    Being open to either is great, especially if you’re angling for sibling groups.

  2. Sharon says:

    It is much harder to place boys (and has been for a long, long time), which I think is sad. It should be obvious that as the mother of a whole heap of boys I actually really like boys a lot. That said, I wouldn’t mind a girl, and I don’t feel particularly troubled by that. The reality is that the kids we take will almost certainly be determined not by gender but by practicality – the first matching group that comes into care will end up in our home, boys, girls or mixed. But again, I’m not going to apologize for desiring to parent a girl too.


  3. Guest says:

    Boys ARE awesome (says the mom of a boy). I hope you find a sibling group that’s a perfect match–with a brood of hard-to-place boys and their lovely sister!

  4. Oh my, Sharon, you could have been writing about me:

    But over the years, I’ve periodically made major, and inevitably mistaken life decisions because they made rational sense, even if at a gut level, they didn’t seem right.

    The worst mistakes of my life have made perfectly good sense to me … they’ve just been really, really wrong – and the kicker was, I knew it. I was just afraid to trust my instincts.

    Quakers spend a lot of time in silence, and make decisions very, very slowly, and even then, only after consultation with others and lots of “sitting with the thought”. It’s a totally different process than the Kepner-Tregoe needs/wants chart type logical decision making – you just … sit. And listen. And if you don’t know, then you listen some more. The saying is that we should “proceed as Way opens”. This means that when it is time to proceed, the Way will open … and also that if the Way is not open, then it is clearly not time to proceed. This is totally different than the “just work harder, put more energy into the problem and you can solve it” approach that I grew up with. I can justify either side of most arguments, given enough time and energy, so that’s not really helpful when faced with a tough decision. You have to find out where you are *supposed to be* – and that’s got very little to do with logic, in my experience.

    It’s uncomfortable to take such a … hmm, passive isn’t the right word, but it comes close … approach to problem solving. It’s not problem solving – it’s waiting to hear the answer. It’s an interesting approach. I have no idea if there is any kind of Jewish ritual that might be similar, I’ve never heard of one – but if you know any Quakers, I’m sure they’d be happy to help you test your Leadings. :)

    I am glad that this particular situation sorted itself out before you could analyze it into submission. When the time comes to decide, you will *know*. Go with what you know is right, even if you can’t explain it. It’ll be the right thing.

  5. EngineerChic says:

    AJC: I had not heard of the Quaker approach, but I like it. I know you struggled with what to call it, maybe instead of passive another word would be quiet, it seems like a physically, mentally, and emotionally quiet experience.

    Sharon: I don’t have any experience with selecting foster children, but it seems like the perfect time when you have to go with your instincts. I can’t think of another situation that would require that kind of logic more than this. That small voice we all have can be SO much smarter than all the loud, “educated” voices in our heads.

  6. Guest says:

    I was a foster parent, hoped to adopt, but the mom of the girls didn’t lose rights right away as the social worker said she would. They also had lots of bio family, but the social worker wasn’t pushing to get them places with the relatives. Super frustrating. If I were to do it again, I wouldn’t take in kids who were not legally free–unless I just wanted to be a straight-up foster parent instead of a foster-to-adopt parent.

    It’s funny, too, how you can imagine the situation in your mind before it happens and how differently it plays out. I always pictured adopting a 10 year old boy, long before I knew that older boys were super hard to place. Indeed, we found an 11-year-old boy who would’ve been a great fit for our family–even the quirks that frustrated his social worker and his foster family were quirks my husband and I shared! But we didn’t get chosen to be the parents for this little guy (in fact, we never even got to meet him), yet years later I still wonder what happened to him. And we ended up with two girls, temporarily, which was never what we’d planned.

    It is an emotional roller coaster ride, one that few other people can even begin to grasp. I wish you the best of luck.

  7. Nicole says:

    I TOTALLY get the part about rationalizing yourself into the wrong decisions! In my hyper-logical brain, nothing gets decided unless it also makes rational sense. Mostly, it works for me. Sometimes… not so much!

    About 15 years ago I deliberately embarked down a logical path I didn’t enjoy, but was the right decision then, and I still think so now even though there were some tough times. Something funny happened in the past few years: I started wanting what I had, even if it wasn’t what I had dreamed of. If I had gone with my what I “wanted” back then, who knows where I’d be? Maybe happier, maybe not. I’m happy with now, and I no longer covet things I don’t have. (Except maybe world peace, a healthy environment and other wistful longings.)

    You shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting a girl, especially since your heart is open to whatever comes. You are already in line to take a hard-to-place group. I hope you get 3 boys who already know how to herd goats and that little girl you both have a longing for.

    Although I have never wanted children, I agree with Guest’s comment above. If I were to picture any child suddenly coming in to my life, if would be about a 10 year old boy. I wouldn’t have a clue how to relate to little girl — I scarcely realized *I* was a girl when I was one! :)

  8. Chatroulette says:

    Thank You admin.. Quick Update !

  9. Sharon says:

    Nicole, I admit, I’m kind of nervous about the idea of a “girly” girl (or boy, for that matter” who likes to shop and do hair – I’m terrible at that stuff. I love 10 year old boys – I’m about to have one again, and it is such a wonderful age! They are so interesting and engaged.

    You know one of the really neat things about taking my MAPP class (foster parent training) was that you really do get a sense of the range of different parenting styles, and what people want and care about and understand. The majority of our class wanted young children, as is typical, either because they had children themselves who they wanted kids to be younger than or because they had never had kids and wanted to start with a little person, but we had a older couple in their late 50s who, having raised two daughters to adulthood, one of whom is a lesbian, wanted to take in gay teenagers (huge need for that!!!!!), a single woman who wants to take 8-14 year old boys, and a couple with teenage kids who love babies and who feel comfortably taking medically fragile infants. Add in a couple of us who wanted larger sibling groups (we’ll go to four, and now I guess five, and another couple would take 3) and it did feel like it was fascinating to see the range of ways different people feel the desire for different children.

    I’m not in a place in my life to take teens (even though that’s the biggest need, my kids are too young – maybe someday, when I’m older), and while I like babies, medically fragile ones wouldn’t be my first choice, but I’m so glad different people want to meet different parts of the need for homes.


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