No one becomes a foster parent because they want to welcome a child into his or her home, earn enough trust to be called mom or dad, and then decide that the child can no longer stay. That decision is anguishing and cruel. You feel like a failure, even if everyone tells you that you aren’t. You know intellectually that you’re making the right decision even if your heart is railing against it.
As we worked towards becoming foster parents, we again and again discussed different “deal breakers.” We discussed where our bottom lines were in dealing with various challenging behaviors with kiddos. Can we deal with cussing? (Why the fuck not?) What about gangs? (Big fat nope!) Anger? (What kiddo wouldn’t be angry?) Even as we were willing to work with many difficult behaviors, including lying and theft, our number one deal breaker was always our pets: our pets had to be safe from harm. Their safety was our proverbial line in the sand that could not be crossed.
And then the kiddo hit them. We worked with her. And then she began scaring them. One cat took to hiding in various places around the house whenever she was home. We wrote down rules and hung them as posters. The kiddo would break them by chasing the cats and lunging into the dog’s face. We reminded. We cajoled. We instituted time outs. The cats scratched in self-defense, and she kicked them. The behavior wasn’t every day, but it culminated with my lovable wiggle butt of a puppy biting her after she had lunged at his face one too many times.
The animals didn’t feel safe, nor were they. Moreover, she wasn’t safe. We had reached a line in the sand. In fact, we had stepped all over it and practically erased it in trying to ensure permanence for the kiddo. We stared long and hard at that deal breaker before we acknowledged we had arrived at it.
We love her, and yet we have to let her go to another family (sans pets!) that will be better equipped to manage her behaviors. Our hearts are sick and our bodies exhausted. I am a knot of worry, too tangled to unravel, and we have no options except to “displace,” the formal process by which we inform an agency that a child can no longer stay with us.
I know it’s the right decision, but it sure doesn’t feel like it right now.