You're Not My Mommy - Lessons in Foster Adoption
In 2002 my husband and I made the decision to become foster parents. Over the next 9 years we, along with our three children, would welcome 21 children into our home. If there was one decision that greatly altered my life, it was this. Hindsight has turned this into the most frustrating game of “Would you rather…?” Would I rather have the strength and insight that I currently do or would I rather go back to my quiet nuclear family without the growth? We began with doing respite for a sibling group of three. Great kids, but turns out their foster parents were shopping for a new placement for them. They came, they went, they came, they went.
Second, was another sibling group of three. They were teenagers removed from their home for the first time. Two of the three ran away constantly. It was annoying, but to be expected. I’ll always remember them fondly when I go to Chuck E. Cheese. Having cops show up and page you to come grab your kid out of the back of a cop car is always fun.
Over the years we took in kids of all ages who were sexually abused; we spent a lot of money on lice treatment; we got a reputation with 911; and we became quite familiar with the children’s psychiatric hospital.
We became excellent parents, trial by fire. We were even finalists for foster parents of the year in Texas in 2004.
And then there was "Jack."
Jack was placed with us at the age of 18 months. He was joining his infant twin siblings who had been placed with us six months earlier. What we weren’t told at the time is that we were his seventh home, that he was probably drug affected, and that he would scream constantly for the next three years.
Had there been one big red flag, we probably would have noticed it. There were 1,000 little flags, but we figured with time and attention they would go away. By the time we accepted that we were unable to do this, we had adopted Jack and his siblings.
We had spent so much time focused on Jack and his problems, we didn’t realize that we had piled up too much junk in our marriage to save it. I had PTSD, depression, and a whole host of health issues. My husband, who was not the target of a madman child, asked me to leave, and I gladly accepted. At this point, Jack turned his rage to his siblings and his dad.
For two years, I healed myself through diet, exercise, lots of therapy, and lots of self care--while my family continued to live in chaos. Until my husband finally called and said, “Jack can’t live here anymore.”
While living with dad, Jack would wake up in the middle of the night and beat his younger brother. I am talking full on beatings. We are very cautious about letting the two of them spend time together, even to this day.
Since he has been here, I have spent a lot of time locked in my bedroom. Jack has a detailed murder plan for me, and at 12 years old, he is bigger than me.
He has caused thousands of dollars of damage to my house and belongings. He has taken a knife to school, which he stole from somewhere, as all of our knives are locked up at home. He gets into fights in the bathroom at school, and has threatened to rape a girl. He has recently started running away in the middle of the night.
I have sought help from post adoptive services, which has no funding. And insurance will not approve any treatment in a more restrictive environment because we have a contract with post adoptive services to provide such treatment.
My family is still fractured, but my ex husband and I are a united front when it comes to the kids. Our conversations always revolve around keeping me “safe and sane.” If Jack destroys the rest of my house, we will deal with it.
So, what have I learned from foster adoption?
I have learned that sometimes you can’t help everyone. We had twenty wonderful, albeit very difficult, experiences with the other children that came through our home. It was not easy and I would not wish for anyone to have to be exposed to the trauma that we were exposed to through the kids we helped.
I have learned that there are other parents out there going through the same thing. I have learned that when you are open and honest about your situation, it draws people to you. My very best friends are trauma mamas with whom I can share my true feelings without judgment.
This may have been the fatal blow to my marriage, but it was not without problems. Would I have rather it died a slow death of neglect, or the burn to the ground in the firestorm that it did?
Writing this has been difficult for me; I am very much in love with this broken, hurting child. I am also conflicted with the part of me that resents his presence in my life. I get through the best I can, day by day. I have put a high priority on self care, and regularly therapy.
Finally, I have learned that YOU HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF YOU! Yes, your children should be a priority. Yes, you do have to sacrifice your needs and wants to care for them. You should not accept abuse from anyone, even a child.
During my healing process I became a health coach. I am very passionate about teaching women to take care of themselves. As women we take care of those we love, and often forget that we should be one of those people we love.
If you would like some help learning to care for yourself, please head on over to my Facebook page, where you will get some great, and super easy, tips on how to take the best care of yourself as possible. If you are a trauma mama, please get in touch with me, I completely understand.
This is a guest post by Annie Anderson. Annie is a mom to six; a mixture of babies born of the body, and adopted from foster care. Annie is a health and wellness coach that focuses on changing habits and routines, because who wants to eat less and move more? You can learn more about here at "Becoming Awesomer."