Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Phone Numbers.

Rachel, I love that you spoke up because what I have going on here IS NOT NORMAL. Basically, because I go through the agency I do, I have more contact with the bio parents than other people do.

For example, at minimum, I will see them before and after every visit when dropping the child off and waiting for the parents to arrive or waiting for the social worker to call mom or dad into the back so they can have their visit. The agency REQUIRES me to do this. Unless I was to walk into the waiting room and ignore everyone that was in there including the parents who are excited to see their child it is inevitable that I will end up talking to them.

The first time I ever exchanged phone numbers with a bio parent was when the court approved a two night visit over Christmas with the family and my first foster child all to be done while the agency was closed. We met in a parking lot and I felt it was in both of our best interests to have each other's phone numbers in case something happened and we needed to get ahold of each other. Fast forward a year and a half and because I ended up having a relationship with mom, going to her home, having her phone number, ect I just got to spend a whole day with my first foster child and I wouldn't trade ANYTHING for that. Not even less drama, which her mom was full of. Not as full of as Lizzy's mom, but still.

In Lizzy's case I was getting handed a child that made me VERY nervous. I could tell from the minute I met her she was going to be a hard child. I took the phone number of her previous care giver, her great aunt. I still have a good relationship with her.

Mom on the other hand got my phone number because one day after her visit Lizzy had a scheduled visit with her legal dad. When her mom and bio dad left so that legal dad could have his visit Lizzy was screaming out of control. She was terrified because she didn't want to go into the visit with legal dad and was crying in the most horrendous way. That night, after Lizzy was in bed I called her bio dad and left him a message telling him that she was ok. I couldn't get the look on his face out of my mind as he had to walk out of the building while his child was screaming like that. He was devastated.

In Lizzy's particular case, I have been very glad that mom, bio dad & I communicate or I would never know what was going on in this case because the last worker I had was a horrible woman and would hide things from me that she wasn't supposed to. She is gone now thank goodness.

Anyway, I have asked the supervisors in the agency if I am allowed to have their phone numbers and talk to them on the phone-and I am.

No one is allowed to give the bio parents my phone number, that is up to me. Also, they don't want you giving them any home numbers, only cell numbers.

I have noticed where I live SOME of the rules are not as strict. Some of it is in my favorite, some of it is not.

People ask me all the time, "Why do you talk to them on the phone?" and honestly, it is probably because I am nosey. I enjoy learning about my kids and their history. I like having a chance at seeing my kids again. And, even though it is very hard, I am glad I get to be kind to these people. Most of these people are from "the other side of the tracks" and aren't used to anyone being kind to them or just being the voice of reason.

Yes, the things that Lizzy's mom talks to me about are inappropriate, but it doesn't matter. If it at all benefits Lizzy to have me have a relationship with her mom that is what I am going to do.


Beck G. said...

I think I would be the same way. Workers leave the foster parents out of so much, when it is them that is the most effected. We care for these kids and have to deal with them everyday and yet no one tells us anything. Atleast being in contact with bio parents gives you a channel. So frustrating though!

Carol said...

Interesting discussion Rachel opened up. I am so with Rachel here. With a lot of these bio parents there is real danger in having direct contact. We had the caseworker for the new baby in our home today. We were working out the transportation for this week's parental visit. We are all on the same page in that bio mom is not to know anything about our family, never see any of us, never see any of our vehicles, have no method of communication with us. This bio mom is mentally ill and has spent time incarcerated for a violent crime.

That kind of scenario has been true for more than one case. In another case the mother and the man in the home were sentenced to 17 years for child abuse and with this sentence came a heavy reprimand for the unspeakable crimes that they had committed against children. (In that case there were no visits EVER) In another case the bio mom was a very angry violent teenager who was threatening. Many of these people are drug users and are not in full control of the good sense that God created them with. Whether from the effect of their past experiences or the damage done by the drugs that they have used.

We personally feel and the caseworkers agree with us that it may not be safe to take any of our children to our 2 closest Wal Marts.

This all brings up the discussion in one of your other recent posts. I agree that it is good to have compassion for the bio parents. And I do. They are to be pitied. I pray for them and pray that God will reach them through someone else and that they will be saved in the kingdom, but in this sinful drug infested mentally ill world, we will keep our distance for the safety of our kids both physically and emotionally.

Bio parents who are just down on their "luck" and need help getting back on their feet and putting their lives back together need and deserve all of the help that they can get. All parents do not fit in this classification. One of your commenters said that she can't imagine how these parents feel having their children removed. Of course she can't. She loves her children more than her own life. That is not true for a lot of these people. A big share of these parents are concerned more about themselves than their children. We currently have two kids whose mother said on the stand. I love my kids. I love cocaine, but I guess I love cocaine more than I love my kids.

The caseworker who was here today said that she has former bio parents and even teenagers that were on her case load who she tries to avoid.

I do think that all of these parents need as much help as they can get, but I feel that that help needs to come from someone other than the foster family that is caring for their children.

Have you ever thought what happens should parental rights be terminated and in the outside chance that you adopt Lizzy, you could be harassed and hounded. It has worked to your advantage once, but will it always?

There you now have my way more than 2 cents worth.

CherubMamma said...

I'm in the same position as Mama Foster where we are at. We are regularly put in a position to work with the bio parents.

It's little things like transport to and from all visits (so we see the parents in the waiting room). I also have to attend doctor visits with bio mom now. (Our little girl was removed partially due to medical neglect. Mom has to be involved in her medical care now in order to facilitate reunification.) Our CPS worker comes along to doctor appointments.

Parents have rights to attend school functions down here too. My agency doesn't "allow" me to monitor visits with bio parents and for that I am grateful. So any school events I require that a social worker or a CASA volunteer comes along.

Direct contact (in person) without a monitor could end up causing problems if it turned into a "he said/she said" kind of a conflict. I do always want a monitor of some sort around when I'm personally with the bio parent(s).

All of our kids are given a bill of rights when they come into care. Children that are old enough are allowed phone calls. I've never been in that situation but I assume I can give either a home phone or a cell. Either way -- I'm required to allow that contact if the children are old enough.

It's a fine line as we do this healing dance. I believe we can be the biggest support for the bio family. We know their children and we can counsel the parents on proper care. There are dangerous situations though that require distance. I guess I'm trusting that God will protect me as I try to always do the right thing...working that dance while maintaining my sanity and safety.

Anonymous said...

I have been a foster parent for 13 years, and over time I have been required to have more and more contact with the bios. I regularly have phone contact with all. The parents come to my house in many cases. I meet them at parks for transfers for visits. The list goes on. I have never had a bio parent misuse our relationship. The workers don't ask for a working relationship between foster parents and bio parents unless they have decided it's safe. That's my area's way of operating. I like the contact almost all of the time. Of course, there can be a problem occasionally.


Mama P said...

I have not had a child yet (out of five) that I have not had contact with the parents, or gladly given them my (cell) phone number. I do not want them to know where I live, and take steps to prevent that from happening, but aside from dealing with someone who is mentally ill or potentially violent, I am ok with it. I will say that in having contact with the parents, I have learned to judge less harshly, understand what type of parent ends up in the system like these have, find insight that helps GREATLY in dealing with my kiddos, and also eases the transition for reunification.

Of course not every situation is the same...and of course there are risks involved in sharing your cell phone number with a BioParent, but when you choose to enter into foster care you risk a lot period. If you are not strictly in it for adoption and only taking legal risk free children, then you are supposed to be gearing up towards reunification. How can you help a child make that transition if you know nothing about, have never seen, seemingly do not care about or show any willingness to help the BioParent?

I think it really is a decision that is between caseworkers and resource parents, and not a one-answer-fits-all type of thing, but I cannot possibly imagine NO contact whatsoever with the BioParents, since the only scenarios we have dealt with have been ones in which we were involved. I would not change a thing, especially because in being directly invoved with the BioParents I have been able to regularly keep up with two out of the three that have left our home.

This is a GREAT question to have brought up! We catch flack frequently for allowing our kiddos BioParents to text message us or call us once in a while.

Mie said...

In our state, bio parents have the right to meet the foster parents. Now, that can be under a controlled setting if you wish so that the cars aren't seen etc, but it is a requirement to be able to meet the foster parents. Which means it's a requirement to be willing to meet bio parents.

In our cases, I actually haven't seen anyone require us to meet bio parents. With our first case I was terrified to meet them and I didn't want them to see our car/license plate, etc., but through the situation it just happened. Those parents struggled with mental illness and a LONG felonious rap sheet. Nevertheless, I found that I was safe. Rather than use the phone, I have created an "anonymous" email address that they can use that goes straight to my phone so they have access to me if they want to fairly quickly. I agree with mamafoster - I like to have that relationship because I'm nosey. But I also have found that it works out REALLY well for the children.

I've allowed one bio parent to come to our home - that was the day the child was going home - and that situation was very, very unique - it probably won't happen very often if ever again. That being said that's the child who we've been asked to be his godparents and even though now has been permanently removed from birth parents we are still allowed contact because the extended family knows us through the case.

I think it's up to everyone's comfort level, really, but I encourage foster parents to at least consider the interaction.

Pipsylou said...

I have always wondered about this too but know everyone does things differently. Peronally, as Rachel said, it's dramatic enough for me to just deal with the day to day drama of being a foster parent. I am definitely a soft heart and if I gave them my phone number the calls would never stop. I can't go there, but again, that's me.

If it works for you, it works for you!

Linda said...

Honestly, I love the freedom to communicate with parents! While it wouldn't work in all cases, it does in ours, and I'm grateful. We text and talk on the phone regularly, and they've even had several visits in our home. Mom knows she can call anytime she needs a friend to talk to, and I have become her "go-to-person" when she is in a crisis. She knows I care about her, and she trusts me. She'll take advice from me now, though she resents it from the "professionals". I know far more about the family and children than their caseworker, GAL, or any of the workers, (they're usually the ones asking me for information), and knowing the parents as well as I do now goes a long way in understanding their children. I know this is an old post, but just in case anyone is reading it, I just wanted to let you know that it doesn't have to be a bad thing to have a relationship with the parents.