Sunday, November 27, 2016

Brokenhearted, crushed in spirit

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those who are crushed in spirit."  Psalm 34:18 

I am very slowly working on memorizing Psalm 34, but this particular verse has been one I have loved since my teen years.  I am often brokenhearted because my personality and imagination bring the pain of others into my own heart.  I am often crushed in spirit because my longing to help hurting people means I surround myself with hurting people in my work, my church, my children's school, my daily news.  I can't help but do it, and yet it weighs on me.  I am one of those tenderhearted people that but by the grace of God and His strong call for obedience would say, "There's no way I could do foster care.  It would hurt too much to give them back."

So, I cling to having the Lord close to me, this brokenhearted and crushed one.  But I also call on this promise as my heart hurts for the others I see hurting.  The promise that God is close to them and is saving them.

A child asks hopefully about the next visit.  There won't be a next visit, at least not for a long time.

A mother has another child with new hope.  Months pass, and the baby enters foster care like the other children.

The Lord is close.

A mother sees families together at Thanksgiving, Christmas.  She thinks of the children she has lost.  She wonders if she will ever be able to be a mother again.  She misses them like a piece of herself.

A child punches another child at school and scares everyone with violent thoughts spoken aloud.  Then the child says she misses her mother.

To the brokenhearted.

A father relinquishes his parental rights.  He says he regrets what he has done to so many people in this courtroom.  He says, "it went wrong."

A child waits on the photo listings for adoption and waits in a residential facility.  Another video is recorded.  She knows the last ones didn't work either.  She knows she is hard to adopt.  She talks about her hope for celebrating holidays with a big family, but she can barely remember the last time she was with a family.

He saves.

A child talks on and on about the sleepover at a sibling's house.  We have pictures, special items about the siblings, but it's not enough.

A desperate mother lashes out before court and during court.  A compassionate judge does not throw her out and just tries to get things over with.  She stops fighting and cries silently, while others file out of the courtroom.

Those who are crushed in spirit.

You have come to us, Lord Jesus.  Emmanuel.  I speak these things softly from my broken and crushed place.  Faint words of hope.  Hear them and turn them into something greater.

Romans 5:5  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Special people

I sing a little song around the house with the names of the kids.  I admit I bring it out often when I'm about to lose it and I need something to get me back to being kind and positive.  We have a few versions:
"I love Dinosaur, I love Rhinoceros, I love Crocodile, I love Daddy B."
"I love Dinosaur, I love Rhinoceros, I love Crocodile, I love Pterodactyl-and-Beetle-and-Caterpillar-and-Cricket-and-Tadpole."
"I love Crocodile, I love his mama, I love his Benny*, I love his sisters."

Lately he's started to request particular versions.  You would think it would always be the mama-Benny-sisters version, but sometimes he requests the one that names foster kids he never met.  Every time he asks, the look he gives me just melts me.  He know they're our "special people" songs.

Whenever my heart aches with emotion when he brings up his mama, his Benny, or his sisters, I sometimes search for words, but at some point I came up with a go-to response that helps me respond right away and helps comfort right away.  "Your _____ is/are so special to you."  Then of course he starts to echo it, and daily he's talking about how each one is so special.

Crocodile was playing with three cars on a track.  "That one has my mama and my Benny and my sisters.  That one has Mommy C and Daddy B.  That one is just me by myself."

Your family may change, little one, and special people may say goodbye, but you won't be just you by yourself.  I won't let that happen.

*His mom's boyfriend, not his real name

Friday, November 18, 2016

Acronym of the Day: FTM

I really enjoy hearing the differences among fostering experiences, so I'm going to keep going with acronyms that I know may not be universal, but the ideas at the root of them may be, which makes it a good way to get us talking about foster care.  And I hope the discussions give those who are not fostering something to think about.

Today I bring you FTM: family team meeting.

I chose this one in part because B always gets it wrong.  He always says "full team meeting," which is the same idea.  Basically, it's a meeting that is intended to bring together all parties involved in a case.  At the very least, it would include the child's parents, foster parents, and caseworker, but can include many more people.  In my experience, I have also seen relatives, parenting mentors, significant other of a parent, caseworker supervisors, and adoption caseworkers.  I have also heard of therapists, GALs and CASAs attending.  We have only fostered young children who are not a part of the meeting, but older children may be.  Plus, foster parents can include many people, as often siblings of one case are in separate homes and each have their own foster parent(s).  Sometimes foster parents are not included or caseworkers just don't think to include them.  It's good to ask your agency what the standard should be and then advocate that you would be involved in them unless there's a specific reason you shouldn't be.

What are family team meetings for?  Looking at the documents from my state, the words "collaborative" and "strengths-based" kept coming out, and that has been my experience.  It's a chance for everyone to hear the same things from in the same room.  Transitions can be decided and concerns voiced for everyone to hear.  For strengths-based, in my experience the meeting always involves talking about the strengths of the child or children and the strengths within relationships.

When do family team meetings happen?  Each location will have its own guidelines and agencies may have different guidelines.  I'm honestly still not sure of ours, but I know they usually revolve around placement changes and changes in goals for the case.  For example, if a child is moving from a foster home to a relative home or a different foster home, family team meetings are common to discuss and plan the transition.  For a goal changing from reunification to adoption, there should be a family team meeting.  But there can also be a requested family team meeting for other reasons, including by the parents of the child.  I have also experienced transitions that had no family team meeting, and I know now that I'd want to request them every time in the future.

In the best meetings I've been a part of, I have seen a different side of parents and understood more from their own mouths where they're coming from.  I've been able to help plan a thoughtful transition for a child.  In the least helpful meetings, there were too many missing people to make it effective.  And then there were the meetings I was not invited or not made aware.  I couldn't learn and I couldn't have a voice.  Certainly the most frustrating.

We have one coming up that looks like it will be a room packed full of people.  I'm glad so many are committed to Crocodile and his sisters.  I pray we will be on the same page and be able to help them heal, help them have the best plan for them to grow and flourish.

What meetings do you have in your fostering experience that are similar?