About a week ago, we had visit with a member of the kids’ first family, one that they hadn’t seen in years. The kids experienced some anxiety about it, both before and after our visit. Afterwards, we had a debrief about expectations and how things aren’t always exactly as we remember them. The kids are still too young to really express their feelings, but I believe that overall, the visit was beneficial. There are certain members of their family that I want to maintain contact with, because I think the kids need to know people they are biologically related to. They need to understand that both of their families can co-exist peacefully. I’m not sure what our relationship with this family member will look like going forward, but I do know that we’ll continue to explore the possibilities.
The visit was difficult for me too, but in different ways of course. During our debrief, I imagined the conversation that we’ll have when the kids are adults and they’ve found their first parents. The experience of expectations clashing with fact and memories differing widely from reality will undoubtedly be there. Maybe the experience will be more intense because it will involve their parents. Or maybe it will be easier to talk through, because as adults, they’ll be better able to express their feelings. It’s hard to imagine how it will all play out.
Apparently, several people at our visit commented that BC looks just like his father. Lately, I’ve been tricked into forgetting that my kids actually would look like their parents. This is because I’m fortunate to hear often that my kids really do look like me. I almost forgot that they really would look like their parents, more than they resemble me. It’s hard for me to admit it (and I certainly never would to the kids), but I have mixed emotions about their parents. On one hand, I respect them for being my children’s parents and I sympathize with them for making mistakes – after all, who doesn’t? But, it’s hard to forget that their mistakes hurt our kids, and other people as well.
As an adult, I rarely get Christmas gifts anymore – it’s mostly about the kids now. But the last couple years, I’ve received two simple gifts that I’ll keep forever (which is saying a lot, because there are very few things that I keep at all). Aunt S usually gives us a card at Christmas that is scrapbook worthy (if I had one). Her personal messages are very heartfelt and it means a lot to me that we have the approval of a member of our kids’ first family. I feel very confident knowing that Aunt S has confidence in us. And, of course, it’s obvious that I value her just as much. At the risk of being cliché, I really do believe that the best gifts are the relationships that we’re blessed with, even the unexpected ones.
Card from Aunt S
Here’s a new update to Michigan’s ongoing quest to improve the state’s foster care system. As Michigan Radio recently reported, the state is piloting a new program designed to keep young children with their families and out of foster care. According to the report, DHS Director Maura Corrigan said: “Research confirms what most people instinctively know: All things being equal, the best place for children is in their own home with their own family. Under this federal waiver, the department will use funding to wrap around at-risk families with vital services- keeping children both at home and safe.”
I definitely think that children are better off with their first families, but it’s true that our family would not be what it is if this program had been in place in our county a few years ago. Our kids were both under five when they were placed in foster care, the exact age that this program targets. Naturally, I love my children and can’t imagine our life without them now. But would they be better off with their first family? It’s hard to know how things would be different and I try never to entertain “what if” scenarios because the fact is, things are the way they are and we can’t go back and change them.
At least other Michigan kids will have another chance with their first families in the future.