Thursday, September 20, 2012

Death in the {Foster} Family

My grandfather-in-law passed away yesterday.  He was an awesome guy, who lived a very full life and always had a great story to tell.  I knew him since I was 16, so in many ways it feels like the "in-law" part of his title should be removed.  His laugh, his love and his spirit will definitely be missed.

Upon hearing the news, I went into auto-pilot mode of figuring out plans to make the trip up to New Jersey for the funeral.  I let my boss know.  I called my parents to see if they could keep the dog.  I even remembered to call the social worker to get the paperwork so we could take the boys out of state.

Then I thought, how are we going to explain this to Artichoke?  We aren't sure if death has ever been explained to him.  And if it has, we have no clue what was said or how it was framed.  To further complicate things, he wasn't fortunate enough to ever meet "Pop Pop" so do we even need to explain this to him? 

Then we asked, should we even bring the boys with us?  If they don't come with us, then they would need to stay with a Licensed Foster Parent, since no one else (even the Approved Babysitters) can watch them overnight. *insert frustration with these rules*  So we call our good friends who are also Licensed Foster Parents to see if they are willing (aka crazy) to take our two boys in addition to their three kiddos.  They were willing but unable.  They have no way to transport 5 kids, who are all in some form of a carseat, which is a significant safety issue.  Can't argue with that!  *insert further frustration for not owning a 15 passenger van*

We also consulted some important players in the boys' case.  They agreed that we should not discuss this life moment with the boys to honor the bio family's belief system and role in their lives.  And they strongly encouraged us to utilize respite care.

*steps onto my soapbox*

Respite care has always rubbed us the wrong way.  These poor kids have had some form of trauma in their lives that resulted in them being placed into care.  Usually they are then placed with random strangers to take care of them.  This is not ideal, but there is often not another option.  So foster kids and foster parents make the best of it!  But then foster parents need a sanity break, like any other parents.  We are allowed to utilize our Approved Babysitters (which we are still accepting applicants in Raleigh) for breaks that do not include overnight visits.  But in situations when you need a legitimate break or when a family emergency comes up, then respite care is available.  This basically means that you call your social worker and ask for respite care.  They find a Licensed Foster Parent who has available beds and is willing to watch the kids and then (my favorite part) the kids are dropped off at another stranger's home. 

Really?  How is this good for the kids to be shuffled from one strange home to another and then back again?  I completely get how this is a good thing for foster parents since sanity is important.  But I can't stomach the thought of dropping Artichoke and Zucchini off at a new home.  How can we expect them to trust that we will be coming back?  I can't imagine the thoughts swirling around in their heads for those few days- definitely can't be ones that would include security and stability.  No thank you.  We will not be utilizing respite care.

*steps down*

So where does that leave us? 
  • Take the boys with us and try to shield them from crying family and any mention of a funeral.  Not possible.
  • If we can get a flight up and back in the same day (not likely), leave the boys with an Approved Babysitter.
  • Me stay home with the boys while the hubby heads to Jersey to be with his family.  Not ideal, but seems to be the most likely solution.
All in all, this sucks!  It is hard to wrap my head around a system where it is preferred to leave foster kids with complete strangers than with familiar people who are willing and capable to take care of them- like my parents.  I do understand the legality of needing people to go through proper checks before we leave foster kids in their care, but there should be something in between Approved Babysitters, who get a basic background check, and Licensed Foster Parents, who go through a year-long licensing process. 

Sorry, apparently I stepped back up on my soapbox.

Oh!  And Happy Birthday to my hubby!  Yeah, this birthday sucks!  I think he deserves a do-over!  Who wants to babysit?



  1. You have such a good heart! Sorry for the loss in your family. Love u guys & can't wait to see you in Vegas!!!

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words! Super excited to see you in Vegas!

  2. Sorry for your loss! Wish the system could be a little easier on you. When we had to use respite (our respite home is licensed too and close to our location), we took our kid to the respite home a few times before the actual date to let the kids meet them and were able to talk about what was going to happen (making sure they KNEW that we were coming back for them). It worked out great, we has awesome respite people. Hope it all works out. ~Angi

    1. I wish ours worked like that! But they just call available foster parents to see if they are willing to provide respite care. So you never know who or where they would be going until you request it. I would love to get to know more respite care providers. I guess that means I'll need to step up my foster parent networking. Thanks for sharing your successful respite story! That is always great to hear! -e