One of the goals of reunification of families post foster care is the avoidance of reentering the foster care system.
That's a great goal.
But without parental change, family counseling, and a whole menu of different choices, how can this happen?
The link below shares a statement that says clearly that foster care placement re-entry happens most often with older kids or kids with behavioral issues.
I don't want to be cynical. But raising kids is hard. Amiright? Real hard.
The children you grow inside your body begin separating from you the second they are born. Heck, they claw and crawl out of your mama body. Then your body becomes theirs, they expect you to meet all of their needs and loudly get that across to you. At around 18 months to 2 years and beyond they begin to demand with tantrums and screamed "No!!!!!'s and MINE!!!!'s" All in an an attempt to become their own people. Then the later elementary and teen years make it clear to both parent and child that life long under one roof isn't necessarily what the goal should be.
This process is normal and healthy. A parent who parents for the child's best interest sets boundaries and communicates clearly those boundaries. They set limits and lay out expectations and follow through with earned consequences.
But the kids in foster care are there because of some sort of breakdown where the state needs to get involved. Either the child is out of control for whatever reason, or there are substances involved, or some sort of tragedy.
So, in my experience, kids feel and they process and it's not always pretty. Have you ever experienced the wrath of a child? Or inconsolable grief? Imagine dealing with either while you are doing your best to get through the day without that drink or without that meth, or when you have no coping skills except what you recently were given on a typed 8 1/2 x 11.
Where did the kids with the behavioral issues develop their issues? Do visits with the biological family stir up the acting out, the shutting down or the issues? If that's the case, is the biological family the best choice for the child? In an older child, have they begun the process of hating their biological family for things like the sacrifice of child security on the altar of adult addiction? That would make me real angry. Or has a biological mother chosen one dirt bag boyfriend too many and she's showing evidence that she's real lonely and thinking about going fishing in the same old cesspool for a new man? That seems like a scenario where acting out could save a life.
In this study of just one year, in one state the rates were 9% and up to 26% of former foster care children who were successfully reunified with a biological family member needing to be re-placed in the foster care system. Basically 1 up to 2 and 1/2 out of 10 kids.
If you were going to consider living in a neighborhood where you were given 25% likelihood you'd be robbed or your house would burn down or you'd develop lung cancer would you be willing to hope that you'd be in the 75% who made it out alive/intact?
If your child was to go to a summer camp where she or he had a 1 in 4 chance of breaking a bone, getting lyme disease or suffering a bear attack, would you send her/him?
I look at my personal situation. A biological mom who has lost 3 older kids. Her one year old was lethargic, uninterested in life, sat in a car seat with no curiosity, only wanted to eat easy things like white bread and cookies, was grayish in color, her hair dull and lifeless. After 1 month in a foster care home filled with love she was eating vegetables and fruits, smiling and laughing, walking and dancing. At 6 months in she was speaking, running, posing, hugging her dogs, loving her siblings. Her hair and complexion were bright, her eyes shined and snapped with personality.
Her mom goes into rehab for the second time. Because it is a rehab center where mothers need to have a child present, the little one is removed from the foster care setting and placed back with the biological mom in a rehab facility. This little one's chances are about 25% that she will be returned to foster care because of parent failure. And I venture a guess that there is about 100% chance that there will be emotional scars and damage done in this experiment. I don't think a 1 in 4 roll of the dice is acceptable with a child's life.
Change. I've learned to embrace it, ride it out til the end. Sometimes I'm kicking and screaming, other times weeping with my eyes clinched tight. Once in awhile I ride like a dog in a car, head out the window snorting what life has to offer. Mother to young adult children, a marriage of thirty years, and a desert to mountain to valley waltz with God have shaped me into someone I never imagined I'd be. Life is short and I want to live it. Tears, sighs, laughter and change. Every morsel granted to me. Scrambled, shaken or stirred.