Room for One More
After Janet has her baby and before Lea moves in, I decide we need more bedrooms. I am sure Lea will join us after the 1st of the year and Ivy needs her own bedroom. I have come to realize the birth child can be a target for troubled kids, and integrating foster children and birth children can be tricky. Ivy has done very well, there have been no problems in school,she has good friends, and is fond of her foster sisters. The line I will not cross is the line that sacrifices one child for another. I have no problem confronting Ivy’s protests and insisting that I will continue being a mother to other girls, but she needs her own bedroom. Until my nephew came to live with us, she was an only child and did not even share me with another parent. We will get another home with four bedrooms as opposed to three. I find a four bedroom in the same school district. It is a step down from the home we live in now, but it is next to the elementary school and I am able to keep my seat on the local school board.
Almost immediately following my decision to move, I get a call from our agency asking if I can take a 16 year old girl. This child has run away from her foster home. Her name is “Billy.” It does not concern me that she is a runaway. I want to meet her. Before I meet Billy, I am her mom. Before any child is brought to my home, I am prepared to be her mother. If, for some reason, they do not come, I am devastated. Every placement becomes mine before she arrives. Billy is exceptional. I do not know before I meet Billy, that of all my children, she has suffered the most abuse. Each of my children has a compelling story, but Billy's is the most horrific.
Billy sparkles; she loves home cooking, dogs, and elderly people. Billy needs her things. She ran away from her previous home and only has her book bag. We drive to her previous home and Billy hides behind the seat while I get her belongings. I do not judge this situation. Sometimes, a foster home is just not a fit and I do not know the details. I return to the car carrying boxes and the other foster mom helps me. If the other mom knows Billy is in the car, she does not let on. We leave with Billy’s possessions. Billy and Janet seem to get along just fine but Billy will stay in Ivy’s room. I reassure Ivy that it will only be for six more weeks until we move into our new home. Janet will have her own room for now; I do not trust her.
Lea visits for her weekend visits. I speak with her current foster parents. The reason Lea is leaving their home as they tell it, is because they wanted to adopt Lea and move to Australia. Lea refuses to go to Australia with them so the adoption process has stopped. I notice that Lea wears clothes that are suited to very young girls and Lea really needs more adult clothing. As Lea and I get to know one another, she volunteers that she wants her hair smooth, like other African girls, not “puffy”. I ask a friend of mine who is African American what I could do to help Lea fit in better with her peers. She recommends a chemical straightener and a type of hair grease. I cannot chemically straighten Lea’s hair yet because I am not her foster mom, so I buy some grease. I pick dark brown grease because Lea’s hair is dark brown. When the weekend is over and Lea goes home to her foster parents; they are furious. Lea’s pillowcases are brown with the grease I put on her hair. The other foster mom calls me and tells me that she just got Lea to stop wearing her hair like a “Christmas tree.” That made me mad.
Lea, Ivy, and Billy have a wonderful time together, they play, laugh and talk constantly. It is a delight to listen to their happy vibrant voices. I learn that Billy’s previous home only had girls sixteen and older and I realize Billy needs a little more time to be twelve years old. The only objection Ivy and Lea have is that Billy smokes cigarettes. I allow cigarettes outside, even though she is too young, she is hooked. Lea and Ivy give her a hard time about the cigarettes.
Ivy is angry with what Billy has done to their room. Billy has taken all of the bedding off of her bed and put the bedding on the closet floor. All of the shoes that were in the closet are now in a pile in the corner of the room. Billy sleeps on a pile of bedding in the closet.