Episode 68 – Jeremy, Former Foster Child

We sit down and interview Jeremy, a former foster child, about his experiences in the system and any wisdom he can pass on to foster parents. We also give a brief review of “The Miracle Worker” and highly recommend watching it. At least watch this scene and catch the pay off line at the end of this scene; “the room is a wreck but her napkin is folded”. We identify with it a lot.

11 thoughts on “Episode 68 – Jeremy, Former Foster Child

  1. You say near the end of this podcast that it’s important to note that “Foster care was not a family death sentence for Jeremy, his brother and his mom”. She was able to be redeemed and reunified – “it’s good to hear a positive story”.

    I think that foster parenting is great and commend you for being a part of it. However, in your own girls’ case, it did become a family death sentence. There was no substance abuse or physical abuse, yet you fought to put the family to death to create your own.

    This podcast is a great tool and is very informative, but it is only from your viewpoint. There is no birth parent experience viewpoint and this episode at least gave a few minutes of a former foster child’s view. My point is that there are three sides that experience a huge impact from the experience – the foster parents, the birth parents, and the children.

    As much as you go through and your children go through, you should also give some thought to how devastating it is for Linda and Andrea’s “birth” mother to unwillingly and unexpectedly be removed and excluded from her children’s lives. She cries every day and dreams about them every night. She cannot believe that her daughters were actually taken from her. She did no wrong to them and had no abuse problems; substance, physical, or otherwise. Carmen was very active at staying involved in her children’s lives while the “system” changed their circumstances. She maintained a very strong connection with them that still exists now. Many people go through rough times in their lives, but what reason do you believe that it was necessary to remove and permanently terminate the family that you were involved with?

  2. Hi Norman,

    You raise an excellent point that there is a third party of every foster parenting story which needs to be weighed. Perhaps we will try to find some one who can speak to that side of issue.

    We most certainly have considered Carmen’s point of view. She helps us hear it every time we communicate with her.

    That being said, I’d like to correct some of the things you said that ultimately might have distracted from your strongest idea.

    You said:
    yet you fought to put the family to death to create your own

    Many people go through rough times in their lives, but what reason do you believe that it was necessary to remove and permanently terminate the family that you were involved with?

    First off, let’s be very clear. We had very little to do with Carmen’s parental rights being terminated. We neither fought for nor advocated for the County to make that decision. That was going to happen with or without Tim and Wendy’s name attached to the story.

    Also, please note that there is a great deal of our children and Carmen’s story which we don’t share. To say there was no abuse or neglect is presumptuous (we have pages of court documents that say otherwise). Being left in the foster care system for 3 years is an abuse of its own which Carmen had her own level of control over. We absolutely think the dissolution of that family was tragic and heart breaking (we also think it was ultimately the right decision). While that family died, we stepped in to make sure that Andrea and Linda did not have their own “death sentence” as children without a family to be a part of.

    We have been a part of a family reunification and think it was a great experience. One of the highlights of being foster parents. We were proud to help a family going through a rough patch and would do it again.

  3. Hi Norman,

    First off, you wrote:

    “This podcast is a great tool and is very informative, but it is only from your viewpoint.There is no birth parent experience viewpoint…”

    Umm, the name of this podcast is “Foster Parenting”. Do I need to say anything further about that? Sorry for the sarcasm, but Tim and Wendy are just too nice to make that point, I guess.

    Second, Tim is right, They don’t have a say in the termination of the birth parents rights. It’s up the the courts/foster care system and all too often they fail. Just this year a poor little baby was thrown from a car because the court system failed to take him from a home that wasn’t stable. And it wasn’t the mother that was unstable, on drugs or physically abusive…It was because she made poor choices in life…as in boyfriends (which was who threw her baby from the car).

    And you are right, many people go through rough times in their lives, but a child’s life doesn’t go on hold while they try and get their life together. And who knows how long it will take for that to happen? If you step back and look at the big picture, what it all boils down to is we want what’s best for the child – now and the future adult they will grow up to be.

    Best case scenario is this, when Andrea and Linda grow up, they will have Tim and Wendy as the parents that raised them and gave them great guidance and a loving home. And they will also know Carmen as a birth mother that DID fight for them, and DOES love them and maybe she wasn’t able to raise them, but they will be able to have a loving adult relationship with her.

  4. Hi Norman,

    You are right about there being 3 parties iinvolved in a birth parent/foster/adoption situation. The “birth” family has a right to its own view, as do the other 2 parties (children and foster/adoptive parents).

    I would welcome the birth parent’s point view, just as I welcome Tim and Wendy’s…and Jeremy’s. I would guess that Tim and Wendy would be very open to birth parents sharing their thoughts on Foster Parenting, wouldn’t you Tim & Wendy?

    Tim and Wendy share their story openly and plainly. I commend them for this.

    “Death sentence”, “fought to put the family to death”…these are harsh words, words that invite defensiveness.

    My question to you Norman is are you willing to share your own story openly and without defensiveness? Even if your story comes from only 1 perspective, there is value in sharing it.

    Be well,
    Julie

  5. Norman IS correct in that foster care ended up being the death knell for the bio family in this case. But, of course, he is incorrect in specifying that T and W advocated for the bio mom to have parental rights terminated, as T and W definitely did not do that. It’s extremely important to separate the foster care system (faceless system) from the foster parents (specific people).

    Does Norman want to go all the way back tot he beginning of A and L’s entry into foster care and perhaps debate back at that point whether they should have entered the system? Maybe there could be some points to be argued there, although of course we listeners do not know all the details, perhaps there may have been shades of grey with this — and maybe what Norman really wants to debate is whether the kids should have entered care at all in the first place, what with the possibility of bias in the system– Who’s to say— maybe there was a chance that with a different caseworker, different police person on staff, decisions could have been made way differently. But of course, we don’t know that. And Norman cannot fault T and W for the kids going into the system, because of course T and W had literally nothing to do with the case as that stage.

    Do T and W end up with the great reward of a family, at the end of the girls’ foray into the foster system? Sure, they do. But they did not TAKE this reward (family of 2 girls) from the bio mom, nor did they have any sort of competition with bio mom, for the kids.

    T and W do come out as sort of the “victors” in a story of two families (more if you add the other foster homes) that is both tragic and wonderful. They’ve got their acts together, have a great home/work situation, they’ve shared their blessings with children in need, and they wind up with this beautiful prize– a prize that also means loss for someone else, although it’s not of T and W’s doing. It’s a powerful and multifaceted story that people have complicated reactions to. Maybe that is part of the reason Norman reacts the way he does and has responded in this way.

    (I know I have a complicated reaction to their story, overall, myself. I find myself jealous that their foster-adopt story went one way, while ours is going another. Also, earlier on in their podcast story I found myself feeling quite irritated that T and W were very often framing their foster parenting as Christian-oriented “work with orphans” — I kept thinking to myself, “But, these specific kids they are fostering are not orphans– they have a bio mom who wants them back”)

    I’m not saying I think Norman has it right– I’m saying that his reaction definitely comes from a place that I think I “get.”

  6. Hi Norman,

    The goal of foster care is ALWAYS reunification of the children with their birth family. To say that the birth mother had no choice in the matter is inaccurate. The birth parents are given and sign a written plan detailing how they may be reunified with their children. The plan is put together by the state workers. It is not a long list of unreasonable rules, but a plan to help them make changes in their lives that will enable them to successfully parent their children and keep them safe. It is a beautiful thing when birth parents are willing to do whatever it takes to be a family again. Unfortunately, most parents are not willing or able to do what is required to keep their children safe. Many parents will work portions of the plan for periods of time, but can not or will not complete what needs to be done to allow them to be a family again. The choice to work the plan and do what the state requires of them is that of the parents alone, not the case workers, not the foster parents, not the courts. The state offers many forms of assistance to parents who truly want to parent their children and is extremely patient with parents who make an effort. But, bottom line, the birth parents have to be the ones to choose to do what is right, no one else can make them.

    You are also inaccurate in your statement that the birth parent had not abused the girls in any way. Nearly all children in the foster care system are there due to abuse and or neglect. It is extremely rare that a child comes into care because there is not a family member who is willing or able to care for them. Children who are taken from the home, are taken from the home due to allegations of abuse or neglect. When the allegations are substantiated, the children become wards of the state. Abuse comes in more forms than physical and sexual. We currently have 3 children in our care for whom there is no known physical or sexual abuse by their birth mother. As in Andrea and Linda’s case, our little guys were repeatedly exposed to people they should not have been exposed to. For example, to expose children repeatedly to know drug offenders or convicted child molesters is neglectful to the safety of children. To chose to keep a relationship with a convicted child molester over having care of your children is very sad, but many birth parents make this choice. The decision is not made by the state or the foster parents or the courts, but the birth parents.

    I am sorry for whatever hurts you have experienced. Children who were removed from their homes frequently blame the people who cared for them and idealize the fantasy they have about their birth parents being innocent victims of a cruel system, but that just isn’t reality. It has to be more painful than I can even imagine to deal with feelings of rejection and not being loved enough to work to restore your family. Sometimes, as with our kiddos, it isn’t a lack of love; our kids birth mother simply isn’t capable of providing a safe environment for her kids. Sometimes it is the birth parents failure to choose their children. Whatever the situation, when families are broken, it is always sad. It breaks my heart, that is why I and people like Tim and Windy step in and do what we can to try and help heal our kiddos hurts and provide them with a safe home and as much love and nurturing as we can. We can never undo the cruelties the kids have suffered, but hopefully what we can offer is hope and a future.

  7. Dear Norman,

    Thank you for you honesty in your posting, It goes to the core of many FP issues. We find that there is a delicate balance between preserving the privacy of our baby’s story while sometimes feeling that we need to give out enough information to “justify” for others why our baby was removed from his birth home.

    To say that these cases are all shades of gray is an understatement. In our case, neglect of his siblings (not his own neglect) was the issue. I have no doubt, he was saved from harm through his preemptive removal. Still, his birth mom had a VERY short list of things to do to get him returned immediately, but 14 months later, few of the goals were even partially met.

    We podcast listeners know that Wendy’s girls have a baby sister with Carmen right now. If she is ever removed it will be due to Carmen’s choices… not Tim or Wendy’s. If the worst thing you can say about Tim and Wendy is that they provided too stable and loving of a home for the girls, I am sure that they can live with that.

    Groupie Laura

  8. Hi Norman,

    Thanks for your response to all those who responded to you. We decided to mark your comment as “unapproved” as we felt that it shared personal details of certain parties’ lives that we weren’t comfortable airing on our website. We will contact you shortly at the email address you provided to address your comment.

    Thanks also to everyone else who added their two cents. All comments were thoughtful and appreciated.

  9. What a disturbing film – remind me never to watch it. The way she treated that young girl with obviously so many special needs and so little understanding of the situation she was in was despicable. A what-not-to-do guide of working with special need kids.

  10. Nicole – you are right it is very disturbing and may be mean. However, if you know the history of Helen Keller (the little girl) then you will know that Anne Sullivan’s techniques (the mean lady) were highly successful.

  11. Listening to Jeremy was very enlightening and much appreciated. It gave me new insight into what to make sure and provide for the children, especially the part about consistent, calm peaceful routines.
    Thanks Jeremy for sharing your experience in foster care.

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