Mickey and I first talked about foster parenting in 1996. We actually attended an open house at the agency that we later decided to be come licensed with. At that time, we had been married less than a year and had 3 young children. The agency discouraged us from fostering, saying we would be better suited when our biological kids were a little older. We were disappointed but agreed to shelve the idea. During the throws of parenting 5 children, we had our hands full but the topic did come up sporadically.
A few years ago, a good friend of ours decided to pursue adoption. She initially looked at adopting internationally, but ended up adopting a foster child who was a student in her first grade class that year (I will call the child Flik to make the story telling easier.) The little girl’s story was sad. She was placed in a foster family with her younger sister (I’ll call her Dot.). The family had decided to adopt Dot but felt that they did not have an attachment to Flik. The foster parents happened to mention this to my friend at a parent-teacher conference and to make a long story short, my friend adopted Flik against all odds (being a single parent and a breast cancer survivor).
Fast forward to 2010. My friend had kept in touch with Flik’s former foster family… after all, they still had Dot. One day while the two of them were talking, the former foster parent told my friend that she had been wrong about having an attachment to Dot. She said that Dot had Reactive Attachment Disorder and asked if my friend would like to adopt Dot since she had already adopted Dot’s sister, Flik. When my friend relayed the story to me, I was stunned. My friend took this “offer” to heart- she did a lot of soul searching and consulted with others that could help her decide if this would be a good choice for her daughter, Flik. Ultimately, she decided that it was not in Flik’s best interest to have Dot live with them. Due to some medical issues, she was dealing with a lot and Flik’s therapist felt that it was important that Flik remain “special” in her mother’s eyes because of the previous disruption that resulted in her sister being adopted.
The former foster parent had some brief talks with her state and learned that if she were to “give Dot back” that the state would consider taking her biological child as well. The state told her that returning an adoptive child was no different than giving up a biological child and she would likely be charged with neglect. Whether or not this is true in her state, I don’t know. I thought so at the time, but now I wonder if that was just a scare tactic to get her to keep the child she adopted.
One day during the summer while my friend and I were talking about the situation, we dared to dream… we wondered aloud if this woman would consider US to be Dot’s family. This would allow Dot and Flik to continue to have a close relationship while still remaining separate and able to be the center of each of our worlds. My friend worked hard over the next few months to build a closer relationship with this former foster mom. At the beginning of the next year, she even took Dot for a weekend visit and stopped here on her way back from their getaway. I remember it like it was yesterday. (We still have pictures from the visit hanging in our home!) Our biological kids were not only on board with the idea, but excited when they finally got to meet this beautiful little girl they hoped would become their younger sister.
Shortly after this visit, the former foster mom stopped returning my friend’s calls and the dream began to slowly fade away. We began to discuss the possibility that maybe there was another child out there who needed us. In fact, maybe there was even a sibling group who would benefit by being able to remain together in our care! We had seen first hand what had happened with Flik and Dot and didn’t want that to happen to any other children. We knew we couldn’t “save the world”, but believed we could handle a sibling group of 2-3 children and make a difference in their lives.
Just 5 months after the only visit we had with Dot, I made the call to the agency we had visited so many years ago and scheduled Mickey and myself for the very next open house- the first step to begin the foster adoption process!
As a follow up, at he beginning of the next year, my friend finally connected with the former foster mom who had stopped returning phone calls shortly after that weekend getaway. The former foster mom said that Dot was too upset when she would see her biological sister, Flik, and that she would cry for days after about missing her, so she had made the decision to sever their relationship permanently. My hearts breaks for both of these little girls. I wish there was more I could do. Dot lives with adoptive parents who do not have any attachment to her and who don’t want to keep her and now, through no fault of her own, she no longer has a relationship with her sister, either. It’s sad.
Living what we have over the past nine months has taught me not to judge another’s situation. I am trying my best to believe that the former foster mom is working diligently with Dot to establish an attachment and not keeping her (and emotionally neglecting her ) simply to be able to keep her biological children. I pray that the former foster mom really did have Dot’s best interest at heart when she decided to terminate the sibling visits. My gut tells me I am wrong, though, and that Dot will be forever damaged at the hand of her adoptive mother.
The irony of the fact we purposely sought a sibling group that ultimately ended in disruption for one of the siblings is not lost on me. It’s something that I struggle with almost every day. I believe in my heart, though, that this is in both Donald & Daffy’s best interest. Daffy deserves a home where she can be protected from her brother’s brutal attacks and Donald deserves a home where he can focus on healing himself from a life filled with abuse and trauma and where he can learn to have a safe and appropriate relationship with his sister. In a perfect world, we would be adopting both of these beautiful children…. but, then again, in a perfect world, they wouldn’t have been abused and neglected in the first place.