April 30, 2016

When the End . . . is Not the End

I never could understand why foster children move through so many different foster homes.  Why foster parents don’t just try harder.  Why they don’t stay committed to the child they welcomed into their home.  Why they call the social worker and ask him or her to find another placement.  I always wondered what makes them admit that the story is over.  

Until it happened to me.

It all starts, innocently enough, with a flight reservation.  My husband’s job requires that he frequently travel, often times to faraway places like China and The Netherlands and Brazil.  So this time, when he is invited to speak at a conference in Dublin, a city in the enchanting country of Ireland, I jump at the opportunity to tag along.

Because of the difficulty in finding respite care for our foster children and the detailed planning that requires many hours of my time, I don’t often travel with my husband on his trips – either business trips or vacations.  In fact, it’s been more than three years since we traveled together, usually resorting to our familiar role as a Relay Team.  So now, I am filled with anticipation at the prospect of sitting on the same airplane, staying in the same hotel room, and exploring the same beautiful country together with the man I love!

I had (sort of) forgotten how stressful the preparations are, but I am quickly reminded that getting a foster child ready to be placed in another home, even for a week, is not as easy as it sounds.  Documenting his daily routine and medical care requirements.  Copying his insurance card and custody letters.  Listing all of the legal and medical contacts in case of emergency.  Making sure all of his medications are refilled so they don’t run out while we are away.  And trying to fit these added tasks in between therapy appointments, visits with his mother, and the normal frantic busyness of a household full of young children who require constant attention.

But first, I will need to find a suitable foster home where he might stay while we are gone.  Therein lies the biggest hurdle of all.  I ask every licensed foster parent I know, hoping and praying that he will be able to stay with someone familiar.  He has already experienced such turmoil and upheaval in his short life, that I want to spare him the unnecessary anxiety of staying with strangers. 

However, despite my most diligent attempts, not one foster parent I know is able to care for him, even temporarily.  Some families do not have a parent who can stay home with him, and because of his medical needs, he cannot go to daycare. One family is currently caring for other foster children and do not have any more space.  Another is in the process of moving to a new home.  One is having health problems, one has a lapse in their relicensing, one will be out of town that same week, and one doesn’t feel comfortable caring for a child with special needs.  I do get a glimmer of hope when a friend graciously agrees to care for him, but she is licensed with a different agency, and the lack of communication and collaboration between my agency, her agency, and my foster child’s county makes this option all but impossible.

Maybe I should just give up on my travel plans.  Cancel the plane reservations and just forget about the whole thing.  It would mean losing a considerable amount of money that I had paid for my non-refundable ticket, but that would be a small sacrifice compared to these constant roadblocks and continual frustrations!