By Martha Nord
(Before ACT’s web site became active, Martha Nord answered our ACT phone line. Her comments stem from that experience.)
Today I want to share some stories from foster parents who are not in a position to adopt but who are vital partners in the effort to secure permanence for foster children. If you are in this situation, my informants agree, you need to assess your own situation honestly and communicate with your case manager. “I told my case manager,” said my first informant, “I’m not planning to adopt, and I’m good at working with birth parents. Give me children where the likelihood of reunification is high.”
My first birth mom was very young and not ready to be a mother, and she was smart enough to recognize this fact. She voluntarily terminated her rights and put her child up for adoption. Later she got her life together and met a fine young man. Now they have a terrific daughter. They are good parents, and I am still in contact with her. We frequently keep the child for a day or an overnight. Sometimes she wants to talk about the child she gave up for adoption. Knowing her past, I am someone she can talk to about this experience. Now I feel I am her friend rather than her mentor.
My second informant told me about a young man who has become a fine father. A child was born to very young parents, both of whom had problems with drugs and alcohol. The child has severe developmental delays. For two years the child received hit-or-miss care from both parents. Then dad, knowing the child was not receiving adequate care, made a choice. He put the child in foster care and himself in treatment. This is where we came in.
For the past year dad has been drug and alcohol free. He is a faithful member of AA. Coming from an environment of drugs and alcohol, he is learning for the first time to live life responsibly. Now dad has custody and mom has visitation. We care for the child when dad goes to AA. Dad told me his goals are 1) to stay sober; 2) to be a good father; 3) eventually to become a drug and alcohol counselor. He has come so far. I think he’ll make it.
When birth parents, foster parents and case managers work together, great things can happen, and children are served.