As I drove to the mandatory foster care meeting at the agency this evening, I thought to myself, “ah yes, I remember my foster care days. The visits. The appointments. Praying the bio parents wouldn’t wear sweats to court again. Hoping no one would notice that the baby scratched his face and file a complaint on me. Yep, those were different times alright…” Oh wait a minute! I’m still a foster parent, duh. But going to the agency reminds me of Moose because, well, Jo Jo has never had a visit. I’ve never worried about what to pack in her diaper bag, if her mom will approve of the clothes she’s wearing, if her parents will accuse me of sending her in wet diapers, or blame me for a rash, or a scratch… No awkward kid hand-offs, no conflicted emotions, no frustration at parents for not coming to visits or following their plan.
Every now and again the friendly case worker comes to my house, ooohs and aahhhs over Jo Jo’s cuteness, peers at her bassinet/crib/sleeping place, and that’s that. Yes, I can’t take her out of state without a judge’s signature, and can’t even consider driving a few hours over the border into Canada, but still, our day-to-day routine is vastly unaffected by The System. Nothing you will hear most foster parents say, believe me!
So sitting in this room full of my county’s foster parents, I started to feel upset. Why? Because I don’t feel like Jo Jo’s foster mom. I just feel like her mom. And what’s more, I felt angry, because I don’t want her to be in foster care, I don’t want to listen to hours of rules and policies that limit my parenting, that affect my child. I wanted to go into full-blast denial, plug my ears, and run from the building shouting, “la la la, can’t heeeaaar you.”
But I didn’t. Because I’m a foster mom. What that means is that this time, I have the constant black cloud of separation from my daughter hanging over my head. It means asking permission to take her places, to cut her hair, to change her doctor. It means special forms and rearranging my schedule for court dates. It means that every moment cannot be taken for granted, because even though she’s my baby right now, I have no rights, no say, and no claim to her.