This week’s DPchallenge asks us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes in order to tell a story. When training perspective foster/adoptive parents I encourage my students to do the same. How do they think the birth parents are feeling? What might the birth parents’ side of the story be? Here’s one story from the perspective of a birth mother (names are of course changed):
“You know, Gizah, I was sitting in court wondering what the hell had happened. One minute we’re having fun and the next my baby is being ripped away from my arms. Where did we go so wrong?” I had asked the social worker this question more than once during our foster care experience. I knew the answer of course. Chris and I fell in love, like really in love, several years ago. I mean we haven’t been together forever, but we do love each other. And we love our little Toby very much. He’s such a bright little guy. I guess it all started a couple of years ago.
We had some friends who liked to party. At the time I was pregnant and didn’t do any of the drugs and I didn’t drink either. I was so excited to be having a baby! After Toby was born I still didn’t do the drugs. Sometimes I drank though. Chris liked to drink and snort cocaine sometimes. After about a year I started doing cocaine too. I mean, we all smoked pot, but that’s just pot. Who the hell cares about pot, right? Wrong. The state cares about pot. Anyway, one day Chris came home with a new drug, something neither of us had done. It was called bath salts. I heard nasty stuff about it. I told Chris that we shouldn’t do it. I heard it was worse than meth. But, Chris didn’t listen. He did the bath salts. I’ve never seen anyone freak out like that before.
A few days later the neighbors got upset with us over something. Their kids had been in foster care for several months already and I don’t know. Maybe they were mad because they knew we sometimes did drugs but still had Toby. The thing is, we took care of Toby. He was just two years old and almost potty trained! He could walk and talk better than any baby I’d known. The neighbors though? They’re hoarders and she prostitutes herself. They wouldn’t feed the kids. The baby was always crying. They were always filthy. Half the time the oldest kid didn’t go to school. Or if he did he never had a jacket on. Their two year old was a handful, too. Always causing problems. Those kids were obviously not taken care of. And then one night an ambulance came and took the two year old away because he’d been beat so bad he almost died.
I’m not that kind of mother. My baby is my world. After the neighbor’s kids got taken Chris and I didn’t do much partying. Then Chris brought those bath salts home. That’s when CPS showed up. Chris was having a fit at the time, thought there were bugs crawling around the couch and on him. There weren’t though. I keep my house clean. We don’t have roaches or anything. I think the neighbor called us in.
I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. My Toby was gone. I didn’t know where he was. I didn’t know if he was crying. I didn’t know if he was safe! I called and called and called my state worker to figure out when I could see Toby. A week after he was taken we got a visit. We’d taken drug tests and had a meeting with our lawyers and the state worker. We knew this wasn’t going to be an overnight fix, but we were ready to fight for our Toby. We’d do anything for him.
When I saw Toby at that first visit I just held him close. Chris and me and Toby just held each other. The visit was only an hour long. I didn’t think that was fair. But I wasn’t going to cause a scene. I just wanted to do everything to get him home.
The next week we had a meeting with everyone involved with our case. I got to meet the foster parents. They seem really nice. They said that we could call Toby at night to say goodnight to him. That made me tear up. Everything seemed to make me want to cry. The foster parents had a lot of questions like if he was allergic to anything or if there were any discipline techniques that we’d like them to use. I thought foster parents just did what they wanted so they could get a paycheck. I didn’t know they were so involved and wanted so much of our input. That made me feel a little better. I mean I was jealous that they got to be Toby’s parents for a while and not me, but I could tell they were good people.
Each week we got visits. After a while the visits got longer and more frequent. Chris and I went through drug treatment and counseling. We also took parenting classes. The foster parents were wonderful. They’d send pictures of Toby to the visits and also pictures he had drawn for us.
Night time was hardest. Not being able to sing him songs or read books to him.
After the longest six months of our lives we finally got to bring Toby home. I was so happy! I thanked my social worker, Gizah, because without her I wouldn’t have gotten my baby home as soon as I had. She fought for us. That’s her job though I guess.
So, where did everything go wrong? Drugs. Don’t do drugs. Keep a clean nose, do your bit to help those around you, too. Love your family and do everything you can to cherish each other. I know one thing for sure. I will never lose Toby like that ever again.