Last week, we had two big court dates for our girls. These court dates, no matter how big or how small, nearly kill me every time.
I do a lot to prepare for court.
And by prepare, I mean wear my lucky black dress with the little white flowers on it (it’s a size medium and therefore makes me feel VERY skinny), park on the right floor of the parking garage (4th, right by the elevator, if that’s taken, keep going up until you are directly across from elevator, that still counts, God please let it still count!), drink my entire giant water bottle in line before entering the court, bring heavy Tony Robbins book in my bag (even though it hurts my back) and read at least one sentence from it, eat nothing (only time in my life this occurs), don’t go to the bathroom in case you miss something (no matter how much water you drank in line), double check the judge’s name on plaque, sign in with the bailiff, sit directly across from court doors and wait (sometimes up to seven hours) for your case to be called. Then, and only then, will I be free to know that I have done all that I can.
Because at the end of the day I have no power over what happens to my girls.
It took about a second to set in that these hearings are not about us and in a way not really even about our foster daughters, although I know things are slowly changing. They are about whether or not their biological parents are “fit” to parent.
The courts, as they are right now, view foster parents as babysitters who could turn into something more down the line. It’s not a matter of who’s a better parent, and I understand that now. It’s about the biological parents and their journey.
Okay, so I’m just a babysitter. I did it when I was fifteen. I watched rowdy kids while their parents were gone, and ate everything in the house without making it obvious, and I’m doing it now. Only this time I have to pay for the food.
But I can’t just be a babysitter, can I?
No! I have literally thrown my life away to parent these girls. Why would I do that if I am some sort of temporary housing facility?
Because these girls deserve to know what it feels like for someone to sacrifice it all for them and not need anything in return. Not even the honor of legally calling them, “my” children. To give them truly unconditional love. That love will be the foundation that will live with them forever, even if it is temporary.
One time I met a little girl at court who was there with her father, she was probably around ten years old. She had a hearing because her mother and grandmother had done something “very bad” according to her. She also told me that when she was little she had another lady who took care of her. When I asked her about the lady, she said she didn’t remember her, she was too little. This is my biggest fear, thank you ten-year-old.
I have conversations like this all the time in court. Mainly with kids, so desperate for parental connection, so used to going place to place, that they will literally talk to anyone. The need for attention and love is almost palpable.
I’ve talked to parents on both sides of the divide too. I talked to a woman who had eleven children. She was twenty-seven. She didn’t have custody of the other ten but there she was holding number eleven. When she talked about her life and what had happened to her, I felt deep empathy for her, while at the same time wondering why she was holding this baby.
And I do talk to bio family members of the girls, or the bio parents if they come to court. One time, after a particularly stressful hearing I drove Sunshine’s mama to Burger King and then to the train station.
What I really want to do when I leave court is get in my car is cry, good or bad, because sometimes it all feels like too much. And that’s exactly what I did this week, in the middle of the parking lot, with my husband, who tried his best not to cry but couldn’t help himself. After witnessing the insanity I put myself through he offered to go to the next court date without me. I would do the visitation and he would do the hearing. And despite everything in me, I agreed.
I think I do all those “special things” on court days to try to make myself believe that I have power, that I can help my babies and make sure they are safe.
And I can do that, but just for today.
Today I can try to be a good mom and get the girls every resource they need, teach them about the world and make sure they are loved beyond measure. Today. And that’s all any of us have anyway. That’s what’s even harder to recognize. Anything can happen. We could lose the people we love at any moment.
Foster care is a true test of your faith, whatever that looks like. A true test of doing everything in your power, and leaving the rest up to whatever forces may be.
As far as our cases are concerned we have stayed exactly where we are with the girls, nothing has changed in the eyes of the court and both cases are to-be-continued. And while my IBS has suffered greatly, we have survived.Until then I will pray for the safety and wellbeing of my children.
That’s all I can do.
If you are curious to see if adopting through foster care is right for you: IFavela@5acres.org (Mention this blog.)