Cleaning up Other People’s Messes
Last week, our little guy came home from a visit and had explosive gastrointestinal distress (I will spare you the horrifying details) because his father fed him excessive amounts of fruit and juice. This is not the first time he drank so much juice during a visit that he had diarrhea, but it was the most intense reaction he’s had.
Unfortunately, I can only report to the caseworker what happened (again) and ask her to try and prevent it from happening again.
Our little guy’s father likes to give him juice and apparently wasn’t paying attention when the pediatrician said to limit his juice consumption and always water it down. Because of his father’s choices, the little guy is stuck suffering from diarrhea and a stomachache. I am stuck spending hours cleaning up a cranky little guy, the rug, and all of the items in the explosion radius. The most frustrating part is that there’s not a lot I can do to make sure this doesn’t continue to happen. I have to rely on other people to encourage the father to make better choices.
In some ways, this incident is a metaphor for foster care as a whole. Parents make bad decisions and abuse or neglect their children. The children are left suffering from a mess of trauma and emotions that are too much for them to handle. As foster parents, we have the duty and the privilege of coming alongside these kids to help them clean up the mess that someone else made in their lives.
Sadly, there’s also little we can do to prevent our kids from being traumatized again. We have to rely on the system to help their parents make better choices or, when they do not, to terminate their rights so that they cannot harm their children again.
For our little guy, the gastrointestinal distress is just a physical picture of what’s been happening emotionally since visits started again. Though he was too young to remember the trauma he experienced, it is clear that he is still having an instinctual trauma response.
Yesterday, he came home from a visit and threw himself on the floor and cried for an extended period of time. My happy, cuddly guy who has never been clingy did not want me to hold him, but freaked out if I was more than a few inches away. I’ve always told people that our little guy is the happiest child I have ever met, but on visit days, that is not true and it breaks my heart. Unfortunately, since he doesn’t react until he gets home, the people making the reports do not see the negative impact the visits are having.
Tomorrow, we have court and his father will either surrender his rights, or the termination of parental rights (TPR) trial will begin. In general, I support reunification with family and continued involvement of birth family if a child is adopted. Unfortunately, some people are not safe and our little guy’s father is one of those people. The fact that even has a chance of getting the little guy back makes me incredibly anxious.
Knowing the father’s extensive history and seeing our little guy’s reaction to visits convinces me that reunification is not in our little guy’s best interest. In the end, I have no say in what will happen in the long run. I can only share what is going on with the appropriate people and hope that the judge will do the right thing.