Appropriate Closure

As an adoptive/foster parent, I live in a world that is unlike most. All around there are well meaning individuals, best practices, protocol, and lingo.

Closure is a big word in foster care and adoption. It’s something that is supposed to be helpful and healing.

Two summers ago, my teenage foster child aged out of the system. Everything was arranged for her to move on to a lovely set up in a city that could better meet her needs. Sabrina* had been with me for five years. Raine and Athena hadn’t known life in our home without her. So as the move drew close, I sought out a therapist for Raine to see. Then, when Sabrina left, Raine’s anxiety level lessened dramatically. We still went to see the therapist. It was a grueling 50 minutes repeated three times. Raine, the most talkative child you will ever meet, didn’t speak at all during the sessions. The well intentioned therapist followed her around the room. As Raine bounced from the sand box to craft table, the lady was stressed beyond belief. She was deeply worried about the sand escaping from the table and too much glue being put on papers. It was very uncomfortable, made even more so by the eery silence.

Since our home life was becoming quite pleasant and Raine was not exhibiting any instability in Sabrina’s absence, I decided to end the sessions. The therapist responded to my email, insisting that we have a final visit “for closure, since Raine has experienced so many losses in her life.”

The problem with “closure” is that it doesn’t close the gaping wound left by an individual’s exit from your life. It isn’t a cure for the natural grief process. It doesn’t erase the pain.

I asked Raine if she wanted to see the therapist once more to say goodbye. She did not. So we didn’t. It wasn’t as if Raine had formed any attachment. In fact, she was completely detached from the woman which was very uncharacteristic for Raine.

Another opportunity for appropriate closure has passed us by recently. Our young friend, featured in my last post, was at a foster parent seminar I was supposed to go to. She was staying at another foster home within our agency, waiting for CAS to decide where she’d be residing. Being far from her school, the girl was not attending and would be accompanying the foster parent to our training session.

I was told she’d be helping in the children’s class which is where I’d be required to leave Raine for the day. And so, after a bit of thought, I decided not to go. The message I gave to my daughters after our dramatic ordeal, is that I can protect them and will keep them safe. Dropping Raine off to be cared for by someone who tried to harm her does not support that message.

Later when I explained to a case worker why I wasn’t there, she pointed out that I denied Raine the chance for appropriate closure. Yes, I suppose I did. These are the decisions that I make reluctantly, knowing I’m going against the grain of best practice. Social workers are educated and experienced in ways I am not. There must be something to this approach of closure – saying goodbye one last time. But I couldn’t find any benefit to my family or our friend. The context this appropriate closure was offered in made me uncomfortable. So I let the opportunity pass us by.

*name changed

Everything’s the Same

As mentioned yesterday, I’m still not over the call I got for four children – 3yr old twin girls, a 7yr old boy, and 8yr old girl. On the heels of that disappointment, I agreed to meet a 15yr old girl with intellectual delays. The child had been in care for some time but the past year had been spent in an institution which sounded top rate. There she’d finally received a formal diagnosis and started on medication that actually helped. Her time there is at an end so the social worker is touring her around to select a foster family to settle with. The goal is that she’ll remain with said family until she ages out of foster care in 2 1/2yrs. They left feeling quite happy. But I left dreading having her here. The hour she’d visited felt like forever. I couldn’t imagine having her here all the time. I tried very hard to figure out life with her but I kept failing. No amount of positives – like her being at her birth mom’s every weekend and being in school full-time – could alleviate the sense of dread that had settled on me the moment I saw her. And so, I had to say no to that placement. And, after the flurry of excitement, everything’s the same. Hopefully not for long.

Does it Really Have to be Just Right?

There’s a commercial on the radio station that’s always on in our home. I don’t recall the details but it says, in preparation for Christmas “everything has to be just right.” After hearing this for several days, Raine asked, “Does everything really have to be just right for Christmas?”

Perfectionism is not something I’ve ever fallen into. Nor is it a mindset I encourage. “No,” I answered, “Christmas doesn’t have to be just right.”

Still how easy it is to get caught up in the mindset of making everything glorious and wonderful. Today is Christmas Eve. It’s 9am and both of my kids have been in time out. Athena peeled paint off the bedrooms doors I recently repainted. Raine has lied about a few things and has a very bad attitude.

This is when the guilt creeps in. “I’m ruining Christmas for my kids!” a voice says. “They’ll be scarred for life! Christmas will always be remembered negatively!” Then the voice of reason sets in. Christmas Eve and Christmas day are two days in the midst of many that we have shared and will share as a family. Like any day, they’re made up of a series of moments and a variety of experiences. So far today there have been lows but there will also be highs. Hopefully, my kids will remember the consistency that brings stability to their lives. If they are destructive there is a consequences whether it’s Christmas Eve or any other ordinary day. If they lie and speak rudely to me the result is not a favourable one. That behaviour is not ok on Christmas any more than it is another day of the year.

making bagels for Christmas morning

making bagels for Christmas morning

In years past, I often gave in to that persistent pressure telling me everything needed to be just right. I wanted us, in our state of foster/adoptive family, to be perfectly happy. Year after year, that just didn’t happen. Holidays are hard for those grieving. Foster children and adoptive children live in various levels of grief. Christmas can be a glaring reminder that they are without the family they were born to. Often the hype of the holidays makes that loss more apparent than it is on other days. As a foster mom, I’m starting with several strikes against me as I try to conform to society’s view of this wonderful celebration.

This year, we don’t have any foster children residing with us. Still the increased consumption of sugary treats is making spirits less than bright in our house. Grief is likely also a factor. It’s hard to know because kids can’t always express what’s happening inside of them.

best picture out of about 15 takes

best picture out of about 15 takes

Let me warn you – today and tomorrow will not be picture perfect at every turn. Hopefully there will be some good times that I manage to capture for posterity. And hopefully what Raine and Athena remember is that I love them and that love compels me to parent them wholeheartedly regardless of the day.

Christmas really is a day like most others. It’s an opportunity to come together and choose to love in the midst of imperfections. It’s a time to appreciate the gift of family and friends who embrace us for who we are. In prophesying about Jesus’ arrival on earth, Isaiah declared Him to be the Prince of Peace. Today and tomorrow, I’ll be focusing on pushing away the pressure to have everything just right. I will be working to embrace peace. Perfection may be a goal you’re able to achieve. For me it’s too elusive. So I will enjoy the highs and make it through the lows. And we will celebrate Christmas honestly and without any lofty expectations. I’m ok with that.


I Like a Quiet House

A friend of mine is considering fostering. It’s a dream that’s been on her heart for a long time. As we discussed it in the presence of her son, his response made me think.

“I like a quiet house,” he gave as the reason he wasn’t fully on board.
“So do I,” was my response when I was done laughing.

As a quiet, contemplative person, I love a quiet house. It’s something I long for and032 work hard to get. Still, with two very loud children, it isn’t generally achieved.

Life as a foster mom is much louder than I ever imagined. I don’t really like that.

As my friend pointed out her son, it isn’t always what we want that’s important.

It’s a well known fact that I’m a foster/adoptive parent. My daughters are quick to explain to perfect strangers how they became mine. I’m continually surprised by the number of people who tell me, “I’ve always wanted to adopt,” or “I really feel like God’s calling me to foster.” My answer is always, “You should!” If it’s God calling, you definitely should.

In reality most of these people won’t adopt or foster. Most will choose the comfort of a quiet home, a predictable life, safe encounters where there’s little chance of heart break.

After encouraging people to pursue fostering/adopting most answer, “It would break my heart to have kids leave.” Yes, it really might. Even if it doesn’t – because sometimes kids going isn’t all that hard – you will be required to sacrifice. It may be a quiet home, a part of your heart, the lifestyle you enjoy, or any other number of luxuries.

I do like a quiet & tidy house. Without special/high needs kids I could have that. Instead I’ve chosen to dive deep into a world full of turmoil and pain. It isn’t always easy or fun. But, pushing against the concern for comfort that dominates our culture, I’ve decided to make the sacrifice. You could, too.

Small Graces

Yesterday I took Jake* for a hair cut. Just before dropping him off to me, Jake’s foster mom finally got permission to trim his hair. It’s been too long since he came into foster care but the go ahead from his birth mom was required. Finally getting it, Jake’s foster mom didn’t have time to complete the task before leaving for vacation.

“If you want to you can,” she said. It did seem wise, he was looking unkept and hair blocked his view. But it was frightening. I didn’t know how he would respond. Baths and showers bring on absolute panic. Jake kicks, pinches, and screams. I was anticipating something of the same with a haircut.

My plan was to put it off as long as possible. Then when I woke yesterday with an urgency, “We need to do this today.” So we set off, stopping at the park briefly. The local chain of discount hair cutters wasn’t too busy. We had to sit through the cut of one other customer. I brought ketchup chips, cheesies, and pretzels. Not ideal – they were pretty messy – but novel so it kept everyone occupied. My own kids don’t have much experience with hair dressers so I was expecting a million questions.

Then there’s Jake who is a handful in the best of moments. We all managed beautifully. The male hair dresser was kind and enthusiastic. His parents fostered when he was growing up. He understood and was willing to work with the situation. I held Jake trying to keep him still which never happened. The hair dresser did what he could any way he could.

Just before we began that balancing act, a lady from church arrived with her grown daughter who needed a haircut. The lady kindly occupied my own girls, answering their questions and carry on a lengthy conversation with Raine. That enabled me to completely focus on Jake without Raine & Athena feeling neglected. They were very happy to have someone else enjoying them.

The urge to go to this place at this time was a small one. It could have easily been ignored in favour of fear. I’m glad I listened. We got the right hair dresser and the Lord even provided someone to help with the other kids. These small graces remind me the Lord is mindful of my situation.

*name changed

new hair cut

Jake recovering at home on the floor after his hair cut


*name changed