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Man…the kids are great people. So are the folks trying to help them.

Yes, I’m working on stuff. Intermittently. Not making much progress. Not writing about that today. Meanwhile, I’m venting here.

I keep being told, essentially, that I shouldn’t advocate for the kids. Even if this isn’t explicit (it’s very much not explicit), I have trouble coming up with another interpretation of what gets said to me. By well-meaning people, who are trying to help, and I’m not kidding about that–they want this to work. And yet I experience great dissonance in my cognition. I would be tempted to the dark side, if only I could find it. Yet all is mush.

The above apparently meaning that if there’s something I can’t do myself, I also shouldn’t ask for help from those who might or might not be able to help. As in, I ask one person…get told there’s nothing to be done. Another person asks me if there are outstanding issues with any of the kids. I say yes, because I’m supposed to communicate truthfully and in fact kids can get removed from our home if I don’t do that with this person. Who is required to ask me that sort of question, too. This gets me “in trouble.”

I mean, on the most recent issue I sent an email to one person. Got a verbal reply. Then answered a question, and did what the person asking the question told me to do (“go ask someone Person One talked to the first time and say I’ll get a paper in front of the judge if that will help”). This was apparently over-reaching, or something. At any rate I did it wrong and should have gone through only one person. How I would have done that more is not clear.

Which was I not supposed to do? Ask the first person? Answer the second person’s question? Do as the second person asked me to do? It’s a problem I have, I guess, that even after being chastised I have no clue.

Also I describe what’s going on in the house in regular updates, which I’m told are helpful. This is a problem, because of things. I don’t know what things, though. I’m not supposed to describe things others don’t see when they’re here, because that way these things are all unsubstantiated and whatnot. On the other hand if I don’t describe what’s going on and a situation develops further, how come I never said anything? Oh wait, I am supposed to send that information, but not to the people who say I should send it to them, because of coordination and not misunderstanding anything.

Plus when I send an email it may be that I was supposed to call a phone number, except that there was no crisis and no immediate help was needed, and the rules I’ve seen say notification within 24 hours is required. I did that. And on the evening in question I was busy dealing with the issue at hand, thus not free to make a call. Anyway, I’m wrong about that too. I either say too much or not enough, based on criteria I can’t see.

Also I go to court hearings. This is unusual. Perhaps it’s bad. Now, in the last hearing I got to hear the judge being told what a great job we were doing with this and that, and the judge suggested we should teach classes in the other thing. But, you know, going to hearings is probably not good, because other foster parents don’t. Never mind that the kids asked me to, because they would be in school but still wanted me to tell them what was going on. (Minus what gets caught in a filter for age-level reasons.) Also never mind that the kids’ lawyer wanted to talk to me that day. And everybody says it’s great that I go, as if I’m a puppy who needs that. But then it’s an example of how I’m difficult to deal with, too. Um. Sorry?

Also I start and end emails with things like “this is just an update; there’s no crisis” but am told that I shouldn’t include so much information, or at least not to the people who have explicitly asked me to keep them updated, who have the authority to remove the kids from our home if I don’t do as they ask. Because after all I’m not asking for anything, so email is wrong to send. See, the fact that I write email means…uh…that I must be demanding something, and I’m probably being rude about it. Somehow. Even if I say it’s just an update, and I don’t ask for anything, and in fact even if the email is about how a kid is doing better.

I also have to write about how kids react to specific events. Once, recently, I said “these kids are going to have a very tough week because of specific events of the sort for which I’m supposed to document their reactions, because everybody wants a piece of them and they’re not going to get a break for even a single day, plus they’re going to get a final version of some bad news (for most of them, with a strong minority opinion) that we’ve already told them but they don’t want to believe is true right now.” Then I documented that the kids had a tough week. Then I said “we’re now dealing with this and that, which I attribute to fallout from that rough week.”

Only, see, I did it wrong. I guess I was supposed to say it was a tough week only afterward, not to say it would be tough in advance, because saying it in advance is confrontational even if kind of obvious, and it was probably wrong of me to hope that somebody would change their schedule (multiple somebodies had the option, but perhaps I blamed only one even if I never said so or even implied it, because…I guess…it could be true…but for what it’s worth that actually didn’t even occur to me). And then (maybe?) I was supposed to give “antecedents” for problematic behavior, but not supposed to include recent stresses like, you know, anything that happened during that rough week. Because then people might think I was blaming them. Instead of, you know, saying it was a tough week and we were handling it but the kids were basically doing okay. Which is what I wrote.

Uh. All right then. New rule: the fact of the email means more than the content of the email. Second new rule: sending a message to people is an attack on those people, because clearly I want them to fix everything in sight even if I’m not asking for any kind of help, because after all I sent the email I was asked to send and who does that unless they want specific actions? So if I mention something they’re involved in, and I sent it to them among others, I’m mad at them. Because email is the same as anger. That’s all.

I miss talking to software developers sometimes. They’re a screwy bunch, but the idea of communicating information as information doesn’t generally upset them.

On another topic: I just deleted a specific example of something I once wrote about. Too sensitive for this venue. It was…harrowing. Seriously, I wake up at night and worry sometimes. But, you know, I was required to tell people, and did tell people, and then I was required to pretend it made sense when I was told that saying anything about it was uncalled for, because I’m not a therapist or otherwise a professional thingamajig. I’m just a person legally required to mention it, who could easily be stopped from being a foster parent if I didn’t mention it. So next time, what do I do instead? The same thing, as far as I can tell. And then I pretend the resulting scolding makes sense. Only I don’t do that second part very well.

This system? It seems to want foster parents to run kid-warehouses. Not to pay attention, not to try to help, not to describe how kids are actually responding to events…if, you know, kids act differently and speak differently around people they’ve come to trust more than other people, which of course is doubtful because who says it even happened? I wonder what kinds of foster parents tend to flourish in a system like that. I mean, if incentives matter. Good thing that’s just a myth. The incentive thing, I mean.

Document everything, but don’t write so much. Do as folks ask, but don’t do it when they might or might not have meant it, because miscommunication is bad. Report everything worth reporting, but not necessarily in the form that’s written down as a requirement, in case someone else has another idea in their head of how to handle any given situation, and of course I should know what that idea is and probably just do it right to begin with. Give only facts, not opinions. Bear in mind that anything I say about what I’ve seen is only an opinion…if anyone who saw it might feel there might be an obvious implication, anyway.

Because: it can’t be a fact if there are implications. If I report a fact that might cause concern, that’s the same as saying what people might be concerned about is true, and since I’m not a professional whatsit, that makes the fact itself an opinion. It’s actually kind of weird that I never noticed that rule before.

Even if I explicitly say I’m reporting what I saw but not forming or giving an opinion because I don’t know that it means anything, but I figure it’s worth mentioning just in case more develops. Then when a bit more develops, and I see it, and I keep people updated as they’ve requested, I should know I did that wrong too. Because reasons. Meanwhile I should form a connection with the kids, and build trust in both directions, but don’t tell anyone what I learn from doing so, but be sure to talk about kids’ progress and reactions, as long as I do that without giving opinions or writing too much or sending it to people who ask.

Sure. I can do that.

It goes like this: “Don’t make waves, even by accident, because if you do you’re doing it wrong. Bear in mind that the kids can be removed at any time. Please be fearful of that, and keep your head down, because you need us more than we need you.”

No problem. Incidentally, that last part is very true. I need to help these kids. I can’t do it unless people let me. And I’ve made commitments–even if it’s only implied, “I’ll stick around and see you through to the other side of this mess” isn’t one of those things on which I’d like to renege. They’ve been tossed around enough, says me. I don’t want to be another perpetrator.

The system’s horrifically broken, though. How do I know? Because I think every single one of the people I’ve dealt with in the system is doing his or her best to help the kids. Seriously. All of them are doing their best, within the system. I’m impressed by how many good people I’ve met. It’s uplifting–this isn’t sarcasm; it’s simple truth. And yet the system seems to come out on top.

Oh. Never mind. I just realized I got that completely wrong. The system’s pretty good, come to think of it.

It’s just not actually designed to help kids. It works for its own survival.

2 Comments


  1. // Reply

    Sounds pretty frustrating for you and the kids, and everyone else is just CYA.

    If something happens and you didn’t document it, you’re wrong. If you document something that…

    Never mind. I don’t get it. I’m just glad you try – and shudder that you’re trying to do it with kids who are half children/half adults at the best of times. Teens. Highschool kids (do I have that right?). Young people who will be released with practically nothing when they turn 18, never having had anything right. And become citizens. Because until they’re adults, they’re not really even people.

    Under the best of circumstances, those years are crucial.

    Glad you try, but it sounds as if it tears at you.


  2. // Reply

    A couple of the kids are teenagers, yes. We’re adopting the older one–or so I hope, since all depends on permission from folks whose decisions are not under my control. The rest of the kids have family situations potentially available, and the system is working toward sending ’em thataway at some point.

    I guess the real lesson I should learn is: don’t send email. Fill out required forms, only, on paper that’s picked up or mailed at designated intervals, and then stop talking. Because if people are going to be looking for reasons to feel offended, they can find ’em. I kind of don’t care about that, except that it’s leading to mention of kids being removed, which means…I need to stop communicating more than the bare minimum.

    It’s a shame, because the give-and-take has been helpful in the past. But some things are more important than some other things.

    If I keep my mouth shut, I won’t offend. This blog post being an example of not keeping my mouth shut, which is my nature, but what the heck. Nothing in it would justify kid-removal, so I don’t care if folks get upset. I’m not happy with them either.

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