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Fosterhood
March 25, 2011 1:17 PM   Subscribe

In 2009, there were 423,773 children in foster care in the U.S., one of those children is "Jacket," who at age 20 months in December 2009 was placed into foster care with her foster mother Rebecca. Rebecca, single and in her early 30s, had already fostered a few young children and started blogging about it.

Fosterhood in NYC, her blog, documents the trials and tribulations of foster care including how visits with the birth family can suck, regularly being charged with abuse by birth family members,

But also good times like going for a walk, hugs, tumbling, joking...

And this weekend, Jacket is going to be given back to her birth mother.
posted by k8t (42 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
Love this blog. Sad to see Rebecca go through this hard time. Hopefully it will work out well for Jacket and this will be the end of her time in foster care. I know Rebecca has said she does not plan to foster again, but I hope she'll consider it again after a break, because she does seem so good at it and is such a great voice for the community.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:19 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


TPS, you introduced me to this blog and I really appreciate it. (Although I've been crying all afternoon.)
posted by k8t at 1:21 PM on March 25, 2011


.....Man. Talk about living your principles.

I wish I had the strength of this woman's convictions. Not to mention her patience.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 1:24 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


How does it work that so many people get abused and it's missed or ignored by the agencies, but if you want to harass someone it's easy as pie... argh @ world.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:25 PM on March 25, 2011


TPS, Rebecca had rented a pony and a park for Jacket's birthday party this weekend. She's invited readers to come enjoy the pony with her.
posted by k8t at 1:29 PM on March 25, 2011


I saw that she said she might do that, but I haven't seen her post an invitation. Should she invite people, I hope to go, but I'll understand if she decides to cancel the party and stay home.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:31 PM on March 25, 2011


Jacket? Was the birth father Michael Jackson or something?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:40 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]



I am going to go out on a limb here and state that Rebecca is not a right wing fundamentalist teabagger.
posted by notreally at 1:46 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know that she's ever talked about politics, so there's no way to know. Probably not.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:47 PM on March 25, 2011


Jacket? Was the birth father Michael Jackson or something?

"Jacket"
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 1:49 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Civil_Disobedient: As Terminal Verbosity suggests, I believe that "Jacket" is a pseudonym given by Rebecca. Anonymity in social services is a principle pretty much everyone involves subscribes to. Sometimes this is a challenge because it makes it harder for people to talk about how important some of this work is.

I know a couple of foster parents. I have amazing respect for them. Some of them may, in fact, be right wing fundamentalist teabaggers; several of them are certainly Evangelical Christians with Republican leanings. I don't question their motives or beliefs because someone's gotta take care of these kids, and they're doing amazing work, and they care at a level that I couldn't. If there's cognitive dissonance there, so be it.
posted by straw at 1:53 PM on March 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


She decided on calling her foster child "jacket" because the day she arrived, the baby refused to allow her jacket to be removed.
posted by LN at 1:54 PM on March 25, 2011


The post where Jacket appears says that she refused to take off her jacket when she brought her home, so, voila, pseudonym!
posted by little cow make small moo at 1:54 PM on March 25, 2011


I smart, I understand preview button
posted by little cow make small moo at 1:55 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


foster care- i end up answering this question differently every time… i grew-up around a lot of adopted and foster care kids and i always thought it was such an injustice that their families had 15+ children…i wished that more ‘normal’ families would adopt/foster just one or two. now, i’m a psychologist and i coordinate services with ACS. in nyc in particular, the only foster parents out there are incredibly impoverished and uneducated (or infertile and hoping to adopt which is its own disaster)- and they all have multiple children themselves. another issue is how children get bounced from foster home to foster home- i think the average is 18 homes per foster care child? i’m committed to always taking my kids back in order to provide some stability and only one ‘second home’.

She sounds like an amazing parent, and has made me think differently about the fostering system. Best of luck to her and (all the parts of) her family.
posted by hepta at 1:57 PM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I used to read this blog regularly but had missed this last series of events. I am so, so sad to read this. Reunification is the worthy goal of foster care, but that doesn't make it easy for anyone involved.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:59 PM on March 25, 2011


My parents fostered kids when I was in college. When I visited over breaks there were all kinds of weird rules. I couldn't let them in my bedroom at all. I shouldn't be in any room with a closed door, etc. My parents fostered at risk kids and kids with special problems, so sex abuse kids, kids with obvious external abuse, developmentally challenged (emotionally, mentally, and physically). These kids were all from parents that were on the final steps of having their parental rights revoked.

I could tell stories for days. It takes a special person to be able to foster. Sadly the ones that are real good at it tend to take themselves out of the pool through adoption or burnout. I could never do it.

My hat's off to those who can.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:04 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I believe that "Jacket" is a pseudonym given by Rebecca

Thanks, that makes a lot more sense. And also reaffirms my faith in humanity.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:06 PM on March 25, 2011


My aunt fostered a ton of kids during the "crack baby" epidemic of the 80s and 90s... There was one little guy in particular - R - who I still think of as my cousin. She wanted to adopt him, the agency wanted her to adopt him, but she had heart problems and had been fostering and running a day care for 20+ years. She would have been like, 75 by the time he graduated from high school.

She made the choice to let him be adopted by a young (infertile) couple. He's probably in college now, and every once in awhile I still think of the way he used to giggle and say, "Oh dear goodness" when he was three years old.

I fully intend to foster kids someday, I had a great example of how a child's life can be totally changed by a loving family environment.
posted by polly_dactyl at 2:34 PM on March 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


I have, as I've gotten older and more stereotypical sunk into this stereotypical notion of fosterers as people out to take the govt money while they further abuse and neglect the children. This was a great way to re-learn that these women and men genuinely love and care for the kids, so thanks for posting. This woman is breaking my heart.
posted by nevercalm at 2:50 PM on March 25, 2011


This one sentence just sent chills down my spine (referring to a birth mother now reunited with her kid, who was in foster care)

She’s back in a program where she dare not speak of surrendering as their funding (and her housing) is dependent upon keeping families together.

No matter if birth mom can't cope, kid is miserable, and whatever else is going on--the program needs its funding.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:54 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


And this? Wow:

The real question these aliens are asking though is “Isn’t it so incredibly painful when the children are reunited with their parents that you want to go walk out in front of a bus?” and I get the question, I really do, but not so much. Because doing nothing makes me feel like walking out in front of a bus. Maybe it was all of those damn Sally Struthers commercials growing-up.

Doing something is actually pretty fun most of the time. Like lying awake typing this post because starting at 3:02am that 22 month-old in my bedroom started singing a disturbing mashup of “Baa-Baa Black Sheep” and “Poker Face”. And she’s on like the 29th verse already and for all I know she thinks there are 43 more.

I can’t imagine feeling any more alive and happy.


Strength of convictions, indeed.
posted by nevercalm at 2:54 PM on March 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


I have read her blog from time to time, and it always breaks my heart a little. My partner fostered a child who had been severely abused for about 6 months, and he said it was the hardest thing he's ever done. I have nothing but respect for people like Rebecca.
posted by Zophi at 3:03 PM on March 25, 2011


This blog is heartbreaking and inspiring all at once.
posted by jeanmari at 3:30 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


The real question these aliens are asking though is “Isn’t it so incredibly painful when the children are reunited with their parents that you want to go walk out in front of a bus?” and I get the question, I really do, but not so much. Because doing nothing makes me feel like walking out in front of a bus. Maybe it was all of those damn Sally Struthers commercials growing-up.

We took a girl into our home when she was three months old, and she has now been with us for a year. We support unification efforts, although in our minds, the parents are not ready to take her back. They have not been pressed with due diligence by the county to make sure they can prove that they are ready. Yet we live repeatedly with the reality that the courts can decide either way on this issue, based on the parents' recent track record of "passable" behavior. The parents are not violating the terms of their probationary status. And yet, they are nowhere ready to take her back. As objectively as I can be, they do not know how to parent. They regularly do not reschedule missed visits, and do not make full use of the time available to them. Our girl comes home regularly from her visits with tell-tales of improper care. With an overworked county, it is difficult to press these issues effectively with those who supervise. And with the courts in our county regularly prioritizing the rights of the parents over the rights of children, children are often passed back and forth like sacks of flour rather than humans with psychological needs; so transitional concerns regarding the emotional well-being of the child are not often at the forefront of the reunification process. So we now worry as each court hearing approaches. For us, it's less than a month away. I'd lie if I said I didn't lose sleep.

If she goes back at this point, I'll want to step in front of a bus. Although I wholeheartedly agree that doing nothing for this little girl would have been far worse than being able to hold her and love her during her most formative year.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:33 PM on March 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


I've been so sad about this all day. I feel conflicted about this story because I understand the importance of reunification, but Jacket's mother seems completely unable to not only provide all of the material benefits that Rebecca has, but also give Jacket the emotional support that she needs.
posted by pecknpah at 5:07 PM on March 25, 2011


sniff
http://fosterhood.tumblr.com/post/4092407464/just-dropped-jacket-off-for-a-weekend-with-her
posted by k8t at 5:24 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


"in nyc in particular, the only foster parents out there are incredibly impoverished and uneducated (or infertile and hoping to adopt which is its own disaster)- and they all have multiple children themselves. another issue is how children get bounced from foster home to foster home- i think the average is 18 homes per foster care child? i’m committed to always taking my kids back in order to provide some stability and only one ‘second home’. "

A friend of mine fosters, educated professional woman, no biological kids (yet). She has only had two placements in four years (five years?) because they stay with her long-term and she's always willing to take them back.

Here's what I've learned: The world is full of A LOT OF DOUCHEBAGS. People who berate her in the supermarket for buying her son's prescription formula with his food benefit (WIC? food stamps? I can't recall) while also buying organic produce with her own money. (They don't actually use much of their food benefit because it's so limited and she's a very healthy eater and a good chef; not much of what she cooks is covered, but the formula he needs is ridiculously expensive.) People who follow her out to the parking lot and shout, "I see what kind of car you drive [it's a small sedan], you're scamming taxpayers out of foodstamps!"

People who come up to her at the mall and get in her face for bottlefeeding instead of breastfeeding "like a good mother." (Like they know that's not breast milk in the bottle!) People who ask her where the father is, accusingly, and people who (because she is not the same race as her children) just go right to the loud public racism.

People who don't want to let their kids be friends with her kids because "we don't know how long they'll be around and the transition would be too hard on little Suzy." Oh, yes, little SUZY is the one the transition will be hard on, not the foster kid sent back to an unstable home. People who insist foster kids aren't "real" kids and when she has "real" kids it will be different. People who wonder why she bothers buying them birthday presents when they're not "her" kids.

It is, on the one hand, one of the most inspiring, humane, wonderful things I've ever watched anyone do. And on the other hand, the thing that most often makes me want to scream, "COME ON, HUMANITY, SUCK LESS." (And that's before we get to the unstable birth families, which just make me want to cry.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:18 PM on March 25, 2011 [29 favorites]


People who berate her in the supermarket for buying her son's prescription formula with his food benefit (WIC? food stamps? I can't recall)

This has been a major eye-opener for us, as well. The stories that my wife has told me about how poorly people at the supermarket consistently treat her when she uses wic for our foster daughter make me embarrassed for those people. My wife is a sweet soul and simply blows it off most of the time, but she also champions social justice issues, so you shouldn't push her too hard when it comes to maligning someone who is disadvantaged. So one time my wife said, "Yes, this is for our foster daughter who is living with us because her mom did [this pretty bad thing that we normally don't talk about]. We are not buying this for ourselves." It was like flipping a switch, and everyone was sweet as honey after that.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:36 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


People really give other people shit for using food stamps at the super market? The hell?
posted by amethysts at 8:49 PM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


People really give other people shit for using food stamps at the super market?

I thinking it has to do with what Eyebrows McGee suggested above, that they've observed that people game the system to get food stamps illegitimately. I think that my wife doesn't fall easily into their particular stereotype that they would expect to need food stamps, and so they jump to conclusions and choose to shame my wife.

If I'm honest, what irritates me the most about it isn't that they are bothered by people who game the system, but that their way of viewing the world is so narrow that they cannot envision a possible scenario in which my wife would legitimately have a use for food stamps, and thereby give her the benefit of the doubt.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:55 PM on March 25, 2011


That is unimaginable to me. I'm using food stamps right now too, for myself, because I'm poor even though I don't "look" it, and I can't imagine someone actually observing my payment method and then saying something about it. I would look at them like they were from Mars and not bother justifying myself. What business is it of theirs? I would want to know what their problem was.
Sorry for the derail; I guess I'm used to hearing about child abuse and other high-level bad shit, but it's always the little stuff that surprises me the most.
posted by amethysts at 10:44 PM on March 25, 2011


Anyway it's a great thing you and Eyebrows McGee's friend and Rachel from the original post are doing. The world needs more people like this. Someday I hope I can do something this good.
posted by amethysts at 10:45 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


amethysts, it doesn't have to be a "someday". Breaking the cycle can be as simple as an hour or two of helping out at a homework club, or volunteering for a project afternoon or night at a local low-income housing development. There are lots of fun rewarding ways to put in an hour here or there and make a difference.

(Which is not at all to take away from the efforts of the great foster parents.)
posted by straw at 12:30 PM on March 26, 2011


How heartbreaking. I can see why reunification is the ultimate end goal, but ideally it should be with parents who have developed good parenting skills while their child was being fostered.

I used to live next door to a couple who had two biological children of their own and always had at least two foster children as well. They were two of the nicest, kindest, best parents I have ever met. I remember one time I came home and they were in the driveway, packing all the kids into the van and when I asked where they were off to, they told me that one of their former foster children had been placed in an unsafe situation somewhere else in the province, and they had been asked if they would take him back. They were going to make the 16-hour round trip drive to pick him up and take him back into their home. They had been sad when he left and the whole family was overjoyed to be getting him back in their lives.

They were amazing. I still think about that family.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:50 PM on March 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just read the entire blog over the last two days. Happiness and sadness.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:18 PM on March 26, 2011


I've been reading that blog for a while, and I feel so sad for Rebecca and Jacket. I'd like to foster someday, but probably not until I'm at least semi-retired. Until then, I'm in a Big Sisters-type program. Rebecca once wrote a thought that really stuck with me, though I can't find it right now. It was about how, while the child is in the bad situation at the birth home, the whole system is focused on getting them out, but that the moment they're removed, the system pivots on a dime and is suddenly intent on reunification. It must be one of the hardest things in the world to have nurtured a kid who really needed it, to have the ability and desire to continue really good nurturing, only to see her returned to a situation that really doesn't sound good, at least from the admittedly one-sided perspective I've read on Fosterhood.
posted by daisyace at 7:19 AM on March 27, 2011


Wow, this blog really moved me. I've thought about volunteering to provide foster care and I will need to think about it some more, because this sounds really hard. I understand that reunification is the ultimate goal where possible. In lots of cases, it seems like the foster parents might wind up being better, more responsible caretakers than the parents, maybe because the foster families actively chose to foster, and are in a better socioeconomic position. Still, I wonder if there are any studies that talk about the effect of being with biological folks instead of others; do you grow up wondering about your mom, thinking she didn't love you? I'm saying this because reading this blog makes me think it's so clear that jacket should stay with the foster mom, but maybe there is SCIENCE (!) out there suggesting otherwise.

I imagine it must be very hard for a mom with a kid in foster care to visit her child and find her doing well, treating the foster care mom like a mommy, and calling her mommy. It would just emphasize how you had screwed things up, how you were incompetent, etc. Yiud want your child to need and miss you, not seem better off without you. Maybe this is where some of the bio mom's tirades came from. Needs to get that under control, though.

Really moving and heartwrenching blog.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:36 PM on March 27, 2011


I also appreciate this link and have read the whole blog over the past couple of days. Although I still don't think parenting of any kind is for me, Rebecca both humanizes and de-sugarcoats the parenting side of her foster-parenting in a way that a lot of "mommy bloggers" do not.

That said, the foster-care system is even more fucked up than I always thought. The story that made me the saddest was the girl she calls Dakota, an 8 year old who was nearly sent home with her quite randomly one day while she was visiting one of the birth moms in rehab.
posted by hydropsyche at 12:48 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


In lots of cases, it seems like the foster parents might wind up being better, more responsible caretakers than the parents, maybe because the foster families actively chose to foster, and are in a better socioeconomic position. Still, I wonder if there are any studies that talk about the effect of being with biological folks instead of others; do you grow up wondering about your mom, thinking she didn't love you?

There is a lot of writing out there about the trauma of adoption. I read something somewhere, I wish I could find it, that talks about adoption as first and foremost a tragic situation- a child born into a family that ultimately cannot care for it. Some portrayals of adoption as a fairy-tale are not really accurate, because that situation is born out of a great loss, for all parties. I think this is where the focus on reunification comes from- the best case scenario is not adoption, it's keeping that original family together. I think Rebecca understands this, but it seems like some of her readers do not, and I find that a little concerning. It's not a contest where Rebecca is more deserving of having Jacket because she's healthier and smarter and richer. One thing they repeat all the time on the You Gotta Believe radio forum is that Adoption is not about finding a child for a family, but finding a family for a child. The child comes first. There's obviously going to be a bias in a foster parent's blog that focuses on her loss and her view on the child's loss, but I do think that beyond her pain, Rebecca understands the value of reunification.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:18 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


An old friend's parents used to do respite care, in which they basically do very short-term care when a child's parents need a break. Many of the kids were special needs (which explains why Mom & Dad needed that time off), but Mr. & Mrs. B. -- who had raised three very warm, smart kids of their own -- just opened their home to these kids without batting an eye.

God bless 'em, they were truly living values that I admire (and yet fall so short of).
posted by wenestvedt at 8:30 AM on March 28, 2011


Does anyone here actually know this woman? Following her blog now is so heartbreaking as she goes through withdrawal. I would really like to send her something, like maybe a gift card or some cookies or something, something from a store so she wouldn't find it too creepy. In would be happy to send it to you for you to give her, if you know her (I know on the blog she seems worried about the crazy having her address, and I don't want to cause her any stress that way.). If you know her please me mail me.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:50 AM on March 30, 2011


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