This blog started as a way to connect with friends and family about the Foster Care that we were doing. Andrew and I do Emergency Foster Care, that is, we take children in while the next steps for them are determined . . . some have gone on to group homes, some to foster homes, and some have been returned to their families. These experiences have deepened us and enriched our lives. It was my goal to write about one memory from each experience so that I could hold these children in my heart always. You can see some of my reflections here.
One year ago we did a bit of a different placement. We were at such a happy place with a one and a half year old Cole and lots of rhythm and routine. We took a long-term placement, thinking it would be a good time for her to join our family for a season.
I have never written about that experienced. Close friends and family still hear me process through it, because that placement, honestly was never really resolved for me.
One year ago, after weeks of being stuck with just us, Susan was preparing for her first day in a new school, and it happened to be on Valentine’s Day. Here is what our home looked like . . .
I knew at that time that every emotion ran under the joy. I knew Susan was scared and angry and lonely and aching. And we did talk about these things too . . . but I was never able to take away the pain . . .
Our long-term placement with Susan ended early. The police were called and she left us for a group home.
We did have good closure that day. Susan was amazing and we were honest and hugged and I think she knew we cared about her.
But Susan coming to us was a tremendous cross-cultural failure. We never made it through the stages to get to a place . . . Team Building Stages are often referred to as “Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing” (by Bruce Tuckman). And I felt helpless as we cycled through Forming and Storming, we caught glimpses of Norming, but we were never integrated. It was always the Sharps and Susan.
And I do understand that that is the way it was meant to be in lots of ways. Susan was only visiting for a while, the real goal is reunification with a healthy family.
My one regret is that while Susan was with us, I longed for her to feel held and safe, at home and comfortable. And I think my longing only propelled her more to assert that this would never be place where she would be comfortable. Susan was thirteen. I work with teens, and I understand this push back of independence, but it stung and it was hard for everyone for a long time.
On this Valentine’s Day. It is my hope that Susan is safe and healthy and oh how I pray that she is happy. I caught glimpses of her joy and she deserves to feel it daily.
If she sat across from me at breakfast today here is what I would remind her:
1. Susan, you stepped into a tremendously difficult situation and you did great. Everything was new and different and you stepped up and did what was asked of you every day. You were brave and bold and you did a good job.
2. You are beautiful. You have a heart that struggled to sort through other people’s stories, but at its center it knew the truth and you are a beautiful, loving person.
3. You will always be a part of our lives, and we are grateful for that. You changed us, deepened us and challenged us. And we thank you.
But perhaps as much as Susan would need to hear those things (and she may very well tell you that she doesn’t need them at all). I am admitting that I need to look back and assure myself from one year ago . . .
1. Liza you did the best you could and you did great. You tried everything you knew to love Susan well, and that is all you could have done.
2. Liza, you are beautiful. You did love this girl when she clearly did not love you. Your heart was for her. And you do not need to carry sadness or guilt.
3. Liza, you just may be a part of Susan’s life. There may have been some moment or something that she will carry with her, and because it came from a truly loving place, she can hold on to a little bit of love.
I am letting that experience go now, it trying to process and make it different.
It was a hard journey and that is ok.
I am holding the lessons and the good.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Susan.
Happy Valentine’s Day.