by Travis Naughton
Just over a year ago, our family took in two young children who were in need of a safe and loving home. For legal reasons, I cannot tell you about the circumstances that lead them to us, but I can tell you that we, as their relatives, saw an opportunity to give them a stable and secure place to live until a permanent arrangement could be made. Unfortunately, we fell short of that goal. Knowing that it will be many more months until their fate is ultimately decided in court, Bethany and I had to reluctantly admit to ourselves, and to the state of Missouri, that we do not possess the emotional strength to keep the girls any longer. With a heavy heart, (and a sigh of relief if I’m being perfectly honest), I must reveal that as of today we are no longer kinship care providers (KCPs).The girls who call us “Aunt B” and “Uncle T” are now living with a close relative, someone who will take great care of them until they find their forever home.
Being a KCP or foster parent is, beyond any doubt, one of the most difficult jobs in the world. I have several friends who are foster parents and I respect them now more than ever. Foster parents are tasked with feeding, clothing, bathing, diapering, disciplining, and loving someone else’s children as they would their own—knowing that one day they will have to let them go. Raising our three kids, (two adopted), prepared us somewhat for the challenges we were facing when we decided to add two more children to our household, as did the training we received in order to become state-licensed KCPs. Yet nothing could really prepare us for the stress and mental turmoil involved with raising an emotionally traumatized six year-old girl and her little sister who could be the poster child for the affliction known as the “Terrible Twos.”
Several kind people have told us that Bethany and I are “saints” or “angels” for agreeing to care for the girls while raising our own three kids. Nothing could be further from the truth. (Well, Bethany is an angel for putting up with me, there’s no denying that.) In these twelve months, I have learned that I am not a very patient man. I’ve learned that I never want to change another diaper as long as I live. I’ve learned that a young child’s temper tantrums can elevate my blood pressure to the point where I feel physically ill. I’ve learned that I am ill-equipped to deal with a family-wide custody battle, court-ordered parental visits, frequent inquiries from concerned relatives, calls from daycare, meetings with lawyers and juvenile officers and social workers and therapists, and visits to the hospital. I’ve learned that I can’t handle watching my kids suffer as a result of the girls’ behavioral issues and constant need for attention. I’ve learned that when I hear my exhausted and exasperated wife sobbing uncontrollably on the phone, having finally reached the end of her rope, it’s time to say “enough.” It has been a year. We. Are. Done.
In a way, we both feel like we failed the girls, as we were unable to stay the course and see them off to their forever home. We know that we did some good for them over the last year, but because their future is still uncertain, we worry that we did not do enough to help them. Maybe when their situation is finally resolved we will be able to cut ourselves some slack. Only time will tell. It hasn’t been all bad of course. It has been very rewarding to see the girls grow as individuals and reach developmental milestones. There have been lots of hugs and kisses and at least as many laughs as tears since last May. But there is no mistaking the fact that those girls, like many other kids in the foster care system, have a challenging road ahead of them. However, I am confident that they will be placed in a loving and permanent home and go on to have happy and fulfilling lives.
No matter where their journey takes them, I hope they always know that they are loved and missed by their Aunt B and Uncle T. Bon voyage, girls.