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© Gail Underwood Parker

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Caring Heart: Why can't I live with my parents?

A different kind of Mother's Day meditation today.... one I suspect is familiar to all those who parent someone else's children.

Why can't I live with my real parents?

She asked the question today.  I knew it would come.  It always does.  Sooner or later, when they can't take thinking about it inside and the words finally spill out loud, it comes. Each one words it a bit differently, but the root is almost always the same. "Why can't I live with my parents?"It must be so difficult for her.  Everywhere she looks she sees "regular" families.  Even the friends whose parents are divorced still live with one of their parents.  Storybooks don't help.  Even when they do include foster children, the picture is usually so vague or so rosy that it is useless. Television goes the opposite route with its persistently negative portrayals.

Help me to answer her question without unhelpful judgment.  Help my answer validate her feelings and concerns, yet support her.  Help me to leave space in her thinking for them to have been good at something. No matter what else, they created this unique, individual girl.  Help me to emphasize that, while accepting they were not able to take care of her properly. If appropriate, help me remind her that sometimes people can change and grow and get better at things.  If not, help me teach her that sometimes no matter how much people want to be good at something they just can't be.  Give me the words that leave room for her to believe that she was loved, and to know that she was worth loving, that none of the failure rests on her. And Lord, please help me not to feel hurt, or rejected, but to understand that her dreaming and wishing is no reflection on me, but a reflection of what she has lost, and what she can only imagine. Please, dear God, let me help her understand that this is not her fault, and that she can grow up to be a wonderful, loving young woman.  Help me.  Help her. Help me to help her.

Excerpted from "The Caring Heart Speaks: Meditations for foster, kinship, and adoptive parents" by Gail Underwood Parker   Artwork by Anna Parker David from the book cover.


  1. My 5 year old adopted (from foster care) asked this today ... Why don't I live with Mommy ----?

    I told her the truth ... that her "birth mommy" made mistakes and did some things that she shouldn't have. My daughter kept asking, "did she have another chance after she did something bad?" I said yes .... I said that she had many chances (over 4 years - didn't say that part to my daughter). Told my daughter that her birth mom loves her too and we are so happy to have her. Out of all the kids in the world, we chose her.

    I most certainly don't have the answers to these difficult questions ... any ideas?

    1. Actually I do have an idea... Check out my post from Sept 28, 2010 in which I explain about the BEST answer/explanation I have ever found to that question. [You might also peek at the March 8, 2011 post for a bit of caution as well]. The 2010 post is one that I share at many workshops and have often heard back from participants how much it has helped both the foster parents and the kids to view things differently. Check it out and let me know what you think. If you can't find it for some reason or have other questions, let me know and I will try to help some more. Good luck! and thanks for commenting!!

  2. Thanks for the insight Gail. I've read the posts that you mentioned and will give it some thought. I will clarify the situation a little more. I have 2 daughters - we always use the word "adoption" because it is what the public understands. Technically it is a legal guardianship. The case is closed. Return home and reunification has been ruled out. The state ( including GAL, social workers, etc.) didn't want the girls returning home to their bio mom but either didn't have enough evidence to fully terminate or didn't want to spend the $ and resources. (From what I understand, guardianship is an option used more often now in my state). So right now, my girls visit (we supervise) with bio mom for one hour a month. My girls are preschool age - my oldest lived with bio mom for the first year of her life, my youngest never did. There was some other foster care before they were placed with us at 3 and 1. So I hesitate to say anything that would make them feel uncomfortable around bio mom - like that bio mom wasn't able to keep them safe or is not good at being a parent. Your post about the divided loyalties foster/adopt kids can feel is right on. Our oldest definitely has attachment issues that we deal with. Probably not a clinical diagnosis of RAD, but definitely RADish from time to time, especially around bio mom visit time. We feel like her attachment with us is good, but since she still sees bio mom, it messes her up. We are considering getting counseling for her.

    Any more insight on what to say when a child is permanetly removed or never lived with bios, but still has a limited relationship with them? I know that the girls are not done with these questions, they are just beginning and will get more complex in the years to come.