On saying no to a second foster child

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Emily’s son’s nursery. Photo by Emily McCombs.
Emily (Executive Editor of xoJane), has been a foster parent for six months, and was recently asked to foster another child. Despite the fact that she and her partner each work full-time and don’t technically have enough time and/or space for another child, she still wanted to say yes — but ultimately had to say no:

I live in a two-bedroom apartment — in one room, my fiance and I sleep, the other is our former guest room now converted to a nursery. Because we have only this one extra bedroom, we are licensed for one foster child. Because there are so many children in need, however, foster agencies will often pressure you to take more — to cram an extra bed in a corner, to stack large sibling groups up in bunk beds.

But our current child’s room is already small — those familiar with NYC real esate might even call our apartment a 1 1/2 bedroom. Additionally we’d been foster parents for barely six months now, and to a much younger child than we anticipated. We both work full time and I already feel both stretched to capacity and barely able to figure out what I’m doing most of the time. I knew there was no way we could take another child at this point. I wanted to say yes immediately.

For weeks now, I’ve been feeling this slow and steady ache growing — the feeling that I am not doing enough, can never do enough. I know, rationally that most of us only have the time and resources to do a very little bit. But the idea that there are 16,000 foster children in NYC alone, each as unique and precious as my foster son, each needing stable, loving homes both temporary and permanent, actually hurts me when I think about it, makes it hard to breathe. I can do so, so little.

You can read more at xoJane.

Comments on On saying no to a second foster child

  1. timely.

    we are currently wrestling with the idea of a third foster kid. it’s surreal, because we hadn’t even wanted two (suckers). but now that we have them, we are beginning to feel that there is little reason not to take in a third (a sibling). it feels so unreasonable, three kids, but i can’t find any actual reasons not to. except for that lingering worry that says they are only better off together if their caretakers don’t go insane.

    • I think if its a sibling its something that makes a bit more sense to consider- but if they just want to have another extra kid that’s not related to the first one I’m not sure why they would pressure a family like that.

      • they’re desperate. which doesn’t make it good, but it does make sense. there are (in my place) twice as many foster kids as foster homes and the average case worker has 30+ cases…frankly i don’t know what other options they have than to be pushy. which is tragic.

  2. I got the call yesterday that OCS was looking to place an infant. It was so hard to say no. When we started the foster care process, my husband said something so great “We want to be part of the solution, not the problem.” To me, that means if we aren’t able to be completely stable and consistent, if there is even tiny foreseeable possibility that we wouldn’t be able to parent a child for the duration that they are in foster care, we say no. That said, it is so hard! Especially in the case of siblings.

  3. While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.

    As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.

    He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

    The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

    The old man smiled, and said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”

    To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

    Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

    The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”

  4. “After [both of my parents died of cancer within two years], I felt that I couldn’t cry because I had to be strong for my younger brother,” wept the tiny, fragile teenage girl.

    And, because our job as students and practitioners of psychiatry is to absorb her pain, and not to add to it, we, through monumental effort, kept the tears from spilling out of our eyes.

    Later, in the elevator, heading away from the child psych ward, the medical students and residents crowded the attending physician. “How do you do it?” we pleaded, our voices heavy with tears. “How do you face all that pain every weekday?”

    “Well,” he said, his voice sure and steady, “when I am with the patient, I am totally with the patient. And when I go home, I leave it all behind.”

    You can’t serve others if you don’t take care of yourself. You can’t open yourself up to all the gaping needs of the world 24/7 without breaking and becoming useless to everyone. That precious child in your care is worthy of all your care, all by him- or herself. If you decide that you have the capacity be open to other children’s needs that’s good, but if you don’t…that child in your care is worth it. As are you.

  5. Become an advocate for fostering in your community. I don’t mean sit at a booth and talk to people, but do mention it and positively to people you know and even strangers.

    Fostering and adoption need to become normalized in our culture. The answer is to become a little like AMWAY. We will be fostering but only when my son is older and my brother moves out.

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