Picture It

Sloane arrived with one photograph – her and her sister in front of the Christmas tree at the last foster home. Sloane’s sister remains there, but she was too difficult for the family to manage which landed her at my house (the agency I work for exists for these cases). Day one I put the picture in a frame and sat it on her dresser.

It’s been confusing for her to understand the different mommies in her life. There’s her birth-mom, Becky, the lesbian couple she was with (“my two mommies” she calls them), and now me. To bring some degree of clarity, I prefer to have her call me by my first name. Recently the social worker asked Sloane her birth-mom’s name. The woman was surprised and frustrated that Sloane didn’t know. So, I’ve been working on the idea with her. It took a while – because “mommy’s name is mommy” – but she’s got it. Should birth-mom surface at any point, she likely won’t be happy that Sloane now refers to her as Becky. However, it will make things easier with the social worker.

Today Sloane asked a visiting child to write Becky’s name on the chalkboard. Again and again it was written and erased. Next Sloane asked her playmate to draw a picture of Becky on the chalkboard. Despite her best tries, the seven year old artist couldn’t get her commission quite right. “Becky is big!” Sloane kept shouting, “Make her big!”

I asked for details. Apparently Becky’s hair is short and pink. She has the same eyes as Sloane. It’s been four months since she’s seen her mom and six months since she was taken from her. At this point Becky’s not making any effort to come back into the picture. In fact she’s left the country. The social worker is having a difficult time reaching her to arrange court dates let alone visits. Sloane needs a picture. But it’s beyond my reach.

She’s not alone. Another foster child I know came into care at 2yrs. She’s not seen either of her parents since – by their own choice, not the agency’s. Now, at the age of 11, should she pass them on the street she’d never know. There isn’t even a picture for her to hold on to.

It’s an unusual request, but how about taking a picture of the parent(s) when a child is apprehended. It could be done without seeming like a mug shot. Even in temporary cases it would be of benefit, because, as in the 11yr old’s case, temporary sometimes becomes permanent. And in Sloane’s case six months is a long time without seeing your mother’s face. And chalkboard replicas just don’t cut it.

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