Foster parenting is not adoption. While the link between the two is evident–the pathway to adoption often beginning with foster care–the challenges faced by foster parents can be overwhelming at times. For instance there is this crazy linkage between the foster family and the one whose child you are caring for. Sometimes it feels as if the messy life of your foster child’s biological family has been dropped in your lap.

We have been privy to much of the ugliness regarding our foster son’s short life prior to his placement with us. His is a case study in the numerous social ills that plague our society. While I cannot imagine the life that his parents lead or the difficulties they face, it’s hard to be anything but angry at their failure to care for him and their total indifference to his waning condition prior to his removal from their home.

As the foster parents, our son’s social worker and others involved in his case have provided us with information regarding not only what he experienced prior to arriving in our home, but also what has transpired since he has been with us. What he has been exposed to; what he has experienced; how he was cared for or not: all have had some effect on this little boy and on the care that he requires. When court proceedings occur or when there is progress in his case, the information has a bearing on how long he may be with us. We have had very limited, direct contact with the biological family and in fact for the time being we prefer to maintain that buffer with the social workers acting as among other things, intermediaries between us. For one thing it is so early that having any kind of relationship with them would not make a lot of sense. They are still in an odd reactionary stage, stuck in denial and at times seemingly apathetic towards the crisis that is upon them. Then there is the little matter of their son being cared for by two gay men. There has been a certain level of ugliness associated with the case and we certainly don’t want to make things even more difficult with the introduction of this information.

It used to be that I would waffle in my desire to meet my son’s biological parents and hear what they had to say for themselves, and then not wanting to ever see them. The little contact I have had has made it easier to form opinions about them but I still vacillate somewhere between anger, pity and sadness. I think as I experience their child and come to understand the beautiful person that he is, it has been easier for the anger to surface. Especially after meeting them, there has been this little part of me that wonders–would they really want him back if they knew how much we loved their son and how well we are taking care of him. I know that sounds silly and is selfish of me, but if they couldn’t see fit to care for him before, is there some circumstance under which they would be willing to let him go now?

The one thing that has always kept me from spending too much time handling their baggage is the fact that all of this is about one person: their son/our foster son. I don’t pretend that this is not about me–because it is. I cannot imagine how my life/our life would be without him. But the reality is that our home was opened up for him. His social workers, the court, even the efforts of his family are ultimately for him, even if they too also see reunification as just about them getting their kid back. Ultimately the decisions that will be made–difficult, heart-wrenching, and even irrevocable–will all be made with him in mind, not us and not them. With the tenuousness of the situation there is real comfort in that thought. As crazy as it seems, we are looking to the system to do right by him. We have done our part–providing him love and a safe place to thrive, and documenting every aspect of his care. His social workers continue to exhibit a fierce protectiveness of him; they are happy to see the progress that he has made so far; and they appear to truly have his best interests at heart. As long as we continue to see that, we will do what seems crazy–trust the system. We will continue to be foster parents to this fabulous little boy until whatever happens, happens.