Friday, October 19, 2012

Knowing When To Let Go: Part 2: Getting the Child Ready.

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by John and Diane. 

Moving on also means new chances.

After I go through all the steps in part 1. Knowing When To Let Go: When Giving Up isGiving a New Chance, it’s time to start to get the child ready for the move and the other children in the house for the change. 
In my case that means lots of meeting with caseworkers and setting the timeline for the move. 
 If you’re like me, you have been thinking about this for weeks.  “What if I can’t handle him?” “Where is he going to go?”  This is the time you start getting your ducks in a row.   You need to be calm and sure of yourself and what you want or you may be talked out of doing the best thing for yourself, your family and even the child. 
 I have been there. I have had such a hard time trying to make up my mind and then tell a case worker what I decided to do, just to have them to tell me I was wrong and I don’t know what I am saying.  Even if that caseworker hardly ever spent any time with the child! They tell me I can’t give up on him, while at the same time tell me he cant go in any other foster homes because he not safe?  I love that one, he’s not safe anywhere else, but they will have me endanger the kids in my home? 
Yes, that happens too many times.  They try to talk you into something you know you should not do.  I have lots of stories like that. I am sure the social workers have pressures as well, and finding placements can’t be easy, but as a foster parent, and from MY viewpoint, your home and the well being of ALL your kids are your concern…not just the immediate needs of the one child. 
So have notes on why this has to be done, where the child needs to go, and what kind of facility would work best for him. You are the one who knows the child the best; so make sure the others understand that you thought it through. 
Now, don’t tell the child about the move until all the details are figured out. Here are some other things to think about and do. 
1.     Get a date in mind and make sure everyone understands that is when the foster child is going to leave no matter what. Trust me, if you don’t it could take months and the social workers will hope you will give in.   

2.     Find out what is available for him and if location and distance are important, then this would be the time to think about it.  Are you going to be visiting him or not?   Are you going to try to totally end the relationship with the child for safety reasons?

3.     Confirm the New Placement.  Make sure the new placement will really take him. Sometimes they may want to talk to the child or even Skype with him. I don’t recommend that unless they have committed to taking him and giving you a date and time.  

4.     Start to talk to the child about what he is doing currently in your home and how it is making it hard for the home to be happy.   Hopefully you have been keeping notes of his bad behavior, you’ll be using them later. Be specific about negative incidences, occurrences of breaking house rules and about the opportunities you have given him to change his behavior. Tell him, if you did not already, that he might have to leave if it does not get better.  Trust me, if he is at this point for you, he will not change overnight or even in a week or so.  He may be good for a short time but they always go back to the negative behavior and that is the times you always point it out to them.  

Now I had been dealing with dangerous and growing behavior for the last 2or 3 years in my case, that’s is how long I will put up with something, but at the point I had to make the decision the child was getting too big and I didn’t feel safe anymore.   Now would also be the time to bring up options if he has to leave.    This allows you to let the child get use to the idea that he may have to leave your home.

5.     Talk to the rest of the family. Start finding out what the others in the home think about what is going on.  Get them to talk about it.  Go over some of the reasons the child is being asked to leave and why you may have to do this. It is good for the other children to know that the tension in the home may be coming to an end. If other kids in the home are exhibiting similar behavior to the child that is leaving, they may decide this is a good time to start making better choices as well. 

6.     Make the decision clear to the child. When it is time for you to tell them why you cannot keep them, bring out your notes on their bad behavior and you can give them specific examples of how they were unable to change. It will be clear to them that you have tried hard to keep them but they just could not do what it would take to stay. If you can get them to understand why they are leaving, they can accept it.
7.     Lower the bar.  If you have to wait for placement, play it like the child has just come to your home. Lower the bar so he won’t have problems with you or the family members. You may have to share with some members that the child may be leaving and that are why he is not being asked to keep his room clean or to help out around the home. It all depends on how bad the child is.   You would always want to have them leave on a good terms. This will help him to try to come back to your home at some point or even for him to remember what it was like at your home in the good times. This may help him later to understand what went wrong and how he had a part in it.  If he is mad at you or others in the home he won’t take time to think about what went wrong. He is just mad, so he closes off this part of his life and starts over, making all the same mistakes he made when he first came into your home. So make him think about what he did by allowing him to leave on good terms.
8.     Give the child appropriate notice. I would not give a child more than a week notices on when he is leaving. Maybe only even a day. It is all about safety. What is safe for you and your home?  It is hard for a child to deal with change. They really don’t want to leave, so the faster, the better.  Familiarize the child with where he might be going, so his new placement won’t be totally foreign and frightening for him without upsetting him or creating a run-away or dangerous situation for the child. Since you have been talking about him possibly leaving, have been talking about potential placements and have been discussing behaviors, a shorter notice and his leaving the house will not be an abrupt departure. 

9.     Answer Questions. Make sure you can answer questions at the time the child is told. Have a counselor with you if you can to help you break the news and make it a good thing.  Tell them that they will be getting help for their problems because you could not help them. You take the blame for not being able to help them, or even not able to keep the other children safe anymore around the child. “Fall back” for the child who is leaving you. Let them know you can’t help them anymore and list the things you were working on with them and you could not teach them.  Yes, I know it sounds like your letting the child off the hook, but he is the one leaving, you’re not. He will be the one thinking of all the things you tried to do to keep him with you when he is some where else, and if you do it right, he may even say he was sorry for not working harder and for being so hard on you. 

10.  Make the last day’s together fun. Make them fun for the whole family so everyone under stands it will be sad when they leave.  Even if at this point the child does not know he is leaving the home, make sure that the family, as a whole understands why he may have to go and answer their questions. This is the time to show them the difference between them and the child who is leaving and the things that may be the same that they may have to work on.

I try to have a “New Changes” or “New Chance” party on the last day to celebrate the child’s chance to start over and show us how good he can be so he may come back to us soon.

Stay tuned for the next installment in this series: Effects on the house after the child leaves

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