I’m sure it’s this way with traditional parenting, but one thing I have noticed is that with foster parenting, it’s easy to become even more fearful of accidents or missteps. Little Girl took a spill yesterday that left a scratch below her eye. Little Guy had a scratch on his arm from the playground last week. Which one did I stress more over? Little Girl, of course, because she is our foster child, and Little Guy is our adopted child. Adopted child = no more incident reports, or social workers raising an eyebrow. No visits where the kid shows up with a mark on them, causing bio parents to make accusations.
Little Girl has entered quite a rough-and-tumble toddler phase. We joke that she’s going to grow up to be a cage fighter, but honestly….I’m not sure how much of that is a joke and how much of that is actually truth. There’s comedy in the fact that she is fearless enough to hurl her tiny body at my husband when they are playing tag, and the fact that she’s a climber lets us know that she’s learning independence, but with all that, of course, comes bumps and bruises. It’s natural. Should we be fearful of reporting this to our agency when it happens? They tell us no, but of course, in the back of your mind, it’s always there: they’ll think I wasn’t supervising well enough / they’ll think I’m negligent / they’ll think, they’ll think, they’ll think……
In reality, they DO “think” because they, too, have to cover themselves and investigate when necessary. Chances are, and my logical side understands this, isolated incidents are a bigger worry for us as the parents than them as the agency, but you can’t help but to feel like you FAILED somehow. For me, I think I feel the need to be such a role model parent, that I take it personally when an accident happens.
The same goes for negative behaviors that kids develop while in your care. Our son came to us as a quiet, passive two-year-old and as he got more comfortable with us and with his routine, began to show out in a big way: yell, scream, kick walls during punishments…. It was difficult to grasp that WE weren’t causing this, and only after some discussions with other parents and a knowledge-filled child therapist was I able to understand that my husband and I weren’t doing wrong by him and that these behaviors weren’t a result of our bad parenting, and that we should instead help him through this transition and behavior experimentation by enforcing different coping mechanisms. A perfect parent would never get frustrated and glide through this phase, but guess what? None of us are perfect parents. I can think of a handful of times at LEAST where I responded with a short fuse, frustration, or a harsh criticism during these moments, and promptly felt like crap afterwards. At the end of the day, does that make me unfit to parent my son? No, it makes me human. We have to forgive ourselves for our parenting mistakes sometimes. Did I tell his therapist about these missteps of mine? No. Of course not. I couldn’t admit that I was anything other than the perfect foster parent for him. Looking back, I wish I would have spoken up. I’m sure I’d have learned a whole lot more had I done so.
I don’t have answers for the overall fear that occurs when having to report life’s little accidents to our respective agencies, but I’d love to hear how others have dealt with the guilt that comes with it.