Awakened…by the foster care system

It’s almost 7 am on a Saturday morning.  Six-year-old Micah has already been appeased by Netflix on my cell phone and it’s a dark rainy morning so I’m loving the chance to drift back to sleep.  Suddenly, though, I open my eyes to see my sister standing over me, “Lynne, there’s a case worker here to pick up Seth for a visit.”  I’m awake.

And I’m mad.

It’s Saturday morning and apparently they decided to schedule a visit for an 18-month-old boy with his birth mother whom he’s never actually seen, who is in the county jail, and who has no chance of ever being his parent because of her repetitive mistakes.  He doesn’t need to see her.

If this isn’t infuriating enough to me – the fact that no one ever told me that they scheduled the visit has definitely pushed me over the edge!

I throw a sweatshirt over my jammies and grab Seth and a change of clothes for him.  While I change him, Kathy is packing up a diaper bag (her foster boys have gone on visits before – she knows exactly what to put in it).  I rush him out to the case aid at her car in the alley and inform her that “heads are going to roll” come Monday morning (or Tuesday, since Monday’s a holiday).

She’s empathetic.  She just does the driving.  She had no idea that I didn’t know.  She also has no idea how to buckle a baby into a car seat….nor how to install the car seat in her car….and yet she’s paid by the county to transport young children daily! (ahem, get down off that soap box too, Lynne!)  Seth is crying in her arms as I try to buckle in her seat.  I take him back and say “give me 5 minutes to get dressed and I’ll follow you down there.”

Twenty minutes later, I’m feeding quarters into the meters outside the Allegheny County Jail.  I’m shaking my head that for poor people coming to visit a relative in jail, getting 5

The jail entrance…where we sat for 20 minutes.

minutes on the meter per quarter seems sickening.  We walk inside.  The case aid finds a locker to put all the stuff – “Including the diaper bag?” I ask.  Yes.  I sit in the cold lobby with Seth on my lap and start to feed him some breakfast as we had to be there an hour early anyway.  He’s making a mess — spilling Kix all over the floor and bench. I’m cowered over him in a most protective way.  People are putting all their items, including any “hoodies,” into lockers and going through the metal detector.  The case aid enters through the detector to check in and wait for me inside.

We finish the yogurt and the aid comes back out.  “Well,” she says, “I’m glad you came down with me.  There’s no visit.  They didn’t put mom’s name on the list.”  I’m reminding myself to take deep breaths now…and yet letting a few out with relief.  One error after another has spared this tiny little boy from a very traumatic morning.  And yet, some judge, somewhere in his cozy house with a cup of coffee this morning, without ever a clue as to the disruption and pain he “court-orders,” has deemed it appropriate for a woman sitting in jail to spend one hour with a boy she birthed but can’t parent.

Yet, who is advocating for the child?  And who is advocating for the foster parents who step forward to care for unwanted children, yet whose lives are turned upside down over and over again?

Some day, I’ll look for answers. But today, I gave Seth some mighty tight hugs, strapped him into the car safely, and brought him home to his family.  Please, Lord, let’s not go through this again next month.

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