Friday, October 14, 2011


You guys are just SO smart that I have to pick your brains again. Seriously though, I guess it just makes me feel better to bounce ideas off of you whether you know the right answer or not because I have NO idea what the right answers are :)

Anyway, Lizzy's dad that she loves, her bio dad, is for the most part out of the picture. He still calls to check on her and stuff, but anytime she talks to him on the phone or sees him (she saw him probably about a month ago) she becomes very hard to deal with. She becomes mean to us, she acts like we are the bad guys taking her away from him all over again, she gets whinier and is a mess for a week or two after seeing him or talking to him on the phone.

He is not part of this case. He kinda was when he and mom were still together, but now that they are broken up he has nothing to do with this. No visits and basically has no right to any contact with her. Lizzy loves him, he loves her, but he gave up. He wants to stay in contact with her and would like it if after she is adopted I would let him see her once in a while. Considering how she treats us after she sees him, it is hard to want to make that happen anymore, but I do have respect for the relationship she had with him before she ever met me.

That being said, I think she needs some time to let go of the idea that she is ever going back to his house, because she isn't. No matter how this goes she will either stay here with us, be adopted by someone else, or go to her LEGAL dad-the one she doesn't like. There is no scenario in which she will be going to live with him.

The back story is...I am thinking about packing up everything he ever gave her and every picture of him and putting it away for when she is older. He hasn't bought her many things, but she does know exactly what he did buy her and also associates some of the things her mom got her with him as well (I would pack those up too). None of these things are her every day favorite things, she just sees them and it makes her think of him and maybe ask about him. Her mom also gave her pictures of him and she looks at those once in a while too.

She will never be living with him again. She will only see him or have any contact with him if she stays with us...which might or might not happen. I feel like she needs some time to let go of the idea of her going home to "mom and dad" because "mom and dad" don't even live in the same house anymore...the home she remembers doesn't exist any more and even the house that still stands there is not where the court will put her.

So, my question is, what do you think of me packing up her stuff from him? Would you do it, not do it...why or why not? I will be saving it for her for when she is older, but I will not be bringing it out anytime soon.


Natalie said...

I wouldn't pack it up. I know it makes things harder for you, but he IS her dad. She loves him and he loves her and no matter how conflicted that makes her little preschool emotions at the moment I don't think trying to make her "forget" about him is the right thing to do or that it will make things better. Those feelings will still be there, they'll just be repressed without the outlet of occasionally letting them out as she has cause to think about him. Anyway, that's just my thoughts. You know her better than anyone so I'm sure you'll make the best call for her.

Kelly said...

My answer will not be a popular one with many readers, probably, but I must agree with you. I have done the same thing with my kids things. They have very, very little but the couple of things they do have left (that they didn't break or loose) are out of sight. We do still have pictures of their bother and sister in their little picture books but nothing related to any other birth family member.

The most important relationship, at this point, is the one she has with you. She must bond to you and except that you are her forever family (or at least, know that he is not). Constant reminders of her loss, IMHO, are not helpful.

I would not let her see you pack the stuff up and I would gradually do it. Take a few things each day for a week or so. She might not even notice.

It is so hard to know the right thing to do for our hurt children, isn't it? So glad we have the support of each other.

Stacy said...

Ugggghhhh....I have NO idea about this! We are in the process of getting our foster parent license, (we have our first homevisit this week, yay), but back to you.... I think I would just encourage them to write letters or draw pictures instead of actual talking. My parents adopted my niece when she was about 10 and she is now 16. She went to live with my parents when she was in kindergarten. It took her a long time to realize, even after her adoption, that she would not be going back to live with her mom..... it was very tough on my parents though, because she would act out after her visits. The good news is that she is a GREAT kid now... especially for a teenager : )

Teresa said...

Whether Lizzy deals with these emotions now and acts them out with you at home, or deals with them as a teenager and acts them out in highschool is up to you. However, she will inevitably have to go through the grieving process at some point. I think it's sad that she will forget BioDad, then when she's older have to try to peice together who he is and what their story was from a box of toddler toys you take out of the attic. He gave her half her genes, her heritage, and at one point was seeing her. Especially since Mom is unpredictable, BioDad and memories of him can give her pride and selfworth concerning who she was born to.

I would try to normalize having a Dad that you never live with. I'd put the pictures of him in a book that also includes pictures of your family and Mom then I'd "read" it to her: This is Larry- he loves you. He lives far away. This is Mama Foster- I love you- I live with you. etc.

Although its not what I would do, I completely understand your reasons for wanting her to forget and wanting to avoid regression in her behavior. I don't think putting these items away will totally damage this little girl. You have her best interests at heart and you'll make the best choice for her.

Maggie said...

I tend to agree with Teresa.
I'm reminded of an exercise we do in MAPP class that displays that when we (foster and adoptive parents) try to cut out or forget the bond that a child has with bio parents, that in the end it only hurts their attachment to us.
Her bond and relationship with her father is part of her identity, and to try to erase it, to her, will feel like trying to erase part of who she is.
I know it is very difficult to deal with the behaviors following contact with him - one of the hardest things about fostering or adopting.
But she will try to cling to memories and contact with her bio parents, and if she is not able to do that now, she will be more likely to do it later.

This is such a hard place for you to be in - and her as well. I'll be praying for you all while you make such difficult decisions and transitions!

CherubMamma said...

Damned if you do damned if you don't.

I'd probably keep the things out and try to keep things as simple as possible.

At our house I become a broken record. I simply say "Mommy bye bye" over and over (and over and over and over). Then I'll say, "It's sad." You want to try and teach them the names of the emotions they are feeling. It sounds like she's taking this sadness and loss and morphing it into anger as she grieves.

For my little girl it's the underwear and shoes that she was wearing when she came. Every time she puts on that one pair of underwear she talks about her mommy. I have a vague understanding of what you're going through. Thankfully Dolly doesn't act out afterward. (Visits however are a completely different story.)

Putting the things away isn't a horrible thing to do. I'm not sure there is a right answer to your problem!! If the acting out is a real problem (which it sounds like it might be) it could be easier to put everything away. But I agree with Natalie, Lizzie is going to have to grieve sometime. Maybe if you just pare things down to one or two pictures. She'll still have a tangible way of remembering him but it won't constantly be in her face.

Justine said...

I'm not sure of the right answer, other than to pray and ask for guidance. I imagine the 'right' answer would be different for different kids and the Lord knows how Lizzy would respond.

However, having said that, I would (possibly) go the opposite route and actually bring it up more, talk about it, look at pictures, talk about how sad it is, how she won't ever be living with him again, but that he still loves her, etc. Make it a BIG thing and by doing that facilitate the grief which should then shrink after having been dealt with. It will be rough for a while, but then it has been gone through and not suppressed. Afterwards I would box the stuff up for safekeeping (maybe include notes so you can tell her all about it when she is older and keep out a picture or two). I took this option with my son who I adopted at age 9. He has Down syndrome, so maybe it would work differently with a child of normal cognition, but I also did something similar with my foster kids who were in a position that we thought they would never even see their bio dad again (they did end up getting to say goodbye after his rights were terminated, which was a good thing because he had actually been a relatively good dad to them and his rights were terminated for other reasons than how he treated them.) Both times there definitely was grief, but, at least with my adopted son, it waned after a bit. We would drag out the albums and memories periodically for at least 6 months, maybe a year. They were gradually replaced with more focus on our family albums. His old albums are now packed away, but we'll likely bring them out again sometime. Having been through deep grief myself and seeing others go through things, I definitely think that it is better to face the grief than ignore it, but then again mine came in adulthood and maybe it is different for children.

Good luck whichever option your chose. These kinds of things are so difficult.

Justine said...

Thought of one more thing. Kids will go through grief at their current cognitive stage and go through it again when they reach a higher thinking level. At least this is what I have read and what I have experienced personnally with my birth son. My husband died when our son was 2 1/2. My son grieved then for a few months and then every couple of years after would go through fresh grief (lasting only a week usually). It was tough because I had already processed it on an adult level and didn't want to go back, but it was important for him. It actually has been a few years since he has gone through it, but recently it has resurfaced yet again (he is 11 now). I think it is important to just go through it at every stage.

I'm sure you'll have specific wisdom for your situation.

the johnson crew said...

I would pack it up. give her a chance to get over him. protect her from the reminders of her pain and allow her to live free. when she is older you can give share these memories with her when she is ready. and i'm sure she will someday want you to tell her all you know about her bio parents.

Anonymous said...

I probably wouldn't take it away but if you decide to you should do what Teresa said and take it away piece by piece over time so she doesn't get shocked right away. Also, whatever you decide don't let her see you do it she will be resentful.

Anonymous said...

Well, at this point you are still the foster parent and he is still bio dad, whether the court chose to include or exclude him in the current case plan. She has an attachment to him. If bio dad wanted to get an attorney and fight for his rights, things could get really ugly really fast. I have seen this and stranger things happen. No foster parent has the right to deprive a foster child of any gift and or photos given to the child by a bio or legal parent. How would you explain their loss when she realizes her things are missing? How do you think she will feel? Unfortunately, nothing in these cases is simple or fair. I would discuss this with the child's attorney, advocate, and her case manager. She might benefit from therapy to deal with the aftermath of the visitations and all the losses she has suffered in her short life. If she already is in therapy, perhaps it's time for a new one.

Diane said...

It sounds like the actual contact (visit or phone) is what causes Lizzy to act out. Perhaps it is time to stop that for about a year, assuming she stays with you. You can talk with bio dad, but Lizzy doesn't need to and doesn't need to know you are. As for the things and pictures, if she is just reminded and asks questions, that is probably healthy. You say she doesn't go to them frequently; I would just leave (at least most of) them around. She will naturally outgrow them, and then you can pack them up. Don't take away the pictures. Trying to help her forget doesn't work; it just represses. At around 6-8 years old, it will all come out exponentially. The more she talks about it now, the better she will be later, assuming the toys and pictures aren't causing major behavioral issues. Time is on your side.

Anonymous said...

You should not pack up the stuff. That is not for you to do. Sad you even want to do that actually as she has that relationship regardless of her going back to him or not...

Pam H said...

I was just recently cleaning out some old boxes and came across a bunch of letters my son and his wife had written to their kids while they were "away." I'd moved a couple of times and thought I'd lost them, but was so surprised and glad to have found them. I showed them to my now 19-year-old daughter (their daughter/my granddaughter) and said, do you want to look through these? "Not really, not now. Maybe someday." She came to live with me at just a few weeks shy of five years old and has no memory of her life with them, nor does she remember at 14 months being put into foster care (before my son met her mother) from a very physically abusive situation. Back then I read every letter to them, but she has no recollection of that. She did keep a picture they sent her but ironically it was from my son and not her mother.

She suffers from anxiety which after years of therapy and several psychologists, are convinced it is from her earlier trauma as a baby. So even if they don't remember, I believe their subconscious always will.