Dog is Approved
Nina became my foster child before she went through the official intake process. As a result, I am acutely aware of the pain and trauma suffered by children who are already in shock by whatever occurrence just placed them into foster care, and then suffer additional trauma by the intake process. Immediately following her emergency placement, we have a visit by two workers. These two workers have come to insure that Nina is currently in a safe place, and to verify injuries or neglect suffered at the hands of her caregivers. In Nina’s case, it is her birthmother and possibly her grandmother who caused her injury. The social workers examine her body, Nina tolerates this easily because she is still in diapers. The rash she suffered the night she came to me is evident, but almost completely healed. There are no more visible head lice,and of course, the cast on the arm tells the most significant part of this story. One of the workers tells me she will call soon because she wants to observe Nina and her birth mother and will be setting up a meeting. I will be present. At this time, it appears that no person wants to further traumatize Nina by separating us.
We meet at a McDonalds restaurant. Nina’s mother is waiting for us. Nina’s mother, to put it simply, is a tragic victim of how our society lets abused children fall through the cracks. Twenty-five years ago, a little girl was thrown across a room by her mother’s boyfriend, and as her family tells it, she has never recovered. She takes Dilantin for epileptic siezures and as a result, any remaining teeth are seriously decayed. Her hair is knotted and unkempt, her leggings and tee-shirt are stretched way too tight across her seriously overweight body. It is difficult to understand her words. Nina’s mother likes me, she treats me like a family member because I have been foster mother to her younger sister, Sheila. I get a hug.
Nina is very happy to see her mother. She sits next to her in the booth at McDonalds and leans into her. Soon, like any two year old, she moves around and drops french fries and crawls under the table to retrieve them. Her mother yells at her, a loud gutteral roar that startles us at the table and causes other diners to pause and look. Nina quickly gets back into the seat. Soon after this outburst, the social worker says its time to go and we all head back to the car. Nina’s mother carries her to my car and the social worker leaves me to deal with this leave-taking by myself. Nina gets buckled in to the car seat and her mother starts to cry. Nina is disturbed by this and starts to cry. I hug Nina’s mother and reassure her that we will see her again soon and I kiss her on the forehead. She sniffs and asks me for a ride. I tell her I would but I don’t want to get into trouble with the social worker and so I cannot give her a ride home.
Ivy, Lea and Mona are alarmed by the two new social workers visiting our home. Normally, we would have our weekly visit by our agency worker who is our friend, and occasionally, a visit from the worker who places a child with our agency. We have never had two workers at once physically examining anyone. Ivy surprises me and says: “Mom, you cannot let them take Nina! She will cry. Lea is standing next to her silently concurring. I am inspired by my daughters trust in me to protect, and at the same time, aware of how little control I actually have. The next visit from a social worker follows a few days later. I expect her to arrive an hour after the big girls leave for school. This is a county worker who is not verifying that Nina should be in foster care, but that Nina is in a good home. Normally, Nina and I would still be in our pajamas, reading, snuggling or playing. Today, I am hurrying to wash dishes and get us dressed. The doorbell rings and I answer the door and lead the worker to the kitchen where I left Nina. Nina and our dog are shoulder to shoulder on all fours drinking water from the dog bowl. I look at the social worker, mortified. “We know the dog is safe around children.” She laughs. I am asked a few questions and she leaves. We have one more visit regarding Nina from a county social worker. A very sweet and pleasant young woman is the last county worker we will see because this foster care placement will be managed by my agency. This worker has read all of the previous assessments and is collecting information to make recommendations regarding Nina’s permanent status. Her name is “Julaine.” Julaine asks me: “Are you interested in adopting Nina?” I am taken aback. I do not anticipate making this sort of lifelong promise this soon.