The foster care system is such that when a kiddo comes into care, relatives are given preference in providing foster care. Some workers and people in the community grump and moan about this.
There’s a lot that goes into the debate about relative care. Right now, it’s the law. So I’m going along with it, obviously. But, it’s generally a lot easy to put kids into a traditional foster home that’s gone through training and extensive background checks. It’s harder to run the necessary checks and get approval for a relative. Some, though not all, are unemployed, receive public assistance, and have criminal records. I’ve heard co-workers comment that certain relatives live in the ghetto.
I got to visit the ghetto last week.
Jennifer lives in a neighborhood where kids seem to spill out of the front doors of homes. When I come to her house, her blinds are drawn, and she yells out to ask who’s there and disables the alarm system before opening the door. It’s been this way every time. I can tell she’s scared to live in her own neighborhood, and I don’t blame her.
Her house is spotless. And while she and the two little relatives she’s caring for are almost always in their pajamas (I don’t blame them!), they’re always clean and happy.
I’m here to have her review and sign the adoptive home study addendum I’ve written for her pending adoption of the boy. She adopted the little girl last year, and though she initially told us she didn’t feel she could adopt the boy, she’s changed her mind.
My home study was harder to write than most. Jennifer committed a violent crime against another person about 10 years ago (though it was done in self defense). She’s unemployed, she has only a GED, she has some major health issues, and she receives a lot of public assistance.
But she is absolutely fit to adopt and parent her cousin’s children. Having already raised two daughters, she stepped up when other family members didn’t. She’s tackled potty training with all her might, and she always has WordWorld on for the kids when I’m over. The kids respect and obey her better than most I’ve seen.
She’s searching for the best preschool in their area, and she’s making plans to move to a safer neighborhood. She plans to go back to college soon to expand her employment opportunities. And unlike many foster parents, she’ll be able to provide a lifelong connection back to these kids’ grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles and cousins and mom.
So, what started out as a trip to the ghetto turned into a whole lot of respect for Miss Jennifer.
[I’ll be changing names + slight details whenever I tell work stories]