Pre-service is like trauma therapy

I don’t really keep track of who is following me so I don’t know if anyone from my real life is still reading or if my audience is mainly people I’ve met online through this blog, or its predecessor. If you do know me, don’t tell my parents you read this.

On Feb 18th we attended our first pre-service training to become adoptive parents. We chose the intensive 7 hour Saturday class rather than 2 shorter classes on weeknights. In attendance were 2 other young couples, early 20s, who did not speak with us at all. There were 3 grandparents who have custody of grandchildren, 1 woman who has custody of 3 of her nephews, and 4 individuals who will walk this road alone. We spoke mainly with the singles in the class.

First order of business was watching a video about when children are removed from their home. You can watch the video here on YouTube. (Part two can be viewed here, I just watched it on my own.) If you watched those videos, I’m sure they pulled at your heart strings. Watching the first video in a room with strangers was rough. At the lunch break C and I were both reflecting on the video and other things we’d been discussing up until that point. For me, watching that mom chase after her man was heartbreaking. When I was 11-12 years old my stepfather was arrested for hitting my 14yr old sister in the head. When the police came, my mother was concerned with him. She’s screaming “don’t take him” and “why” and other dramatics. I remember being very confused about how quick things went. Meanwhile my sister was at the neighbors house and my mom never checked on her. I ended up moving to my grandfather’s while my mom and stepdad were investigated for child abuse. Having your parent not care about your needs/feelings is the WORST FEELING EVER! I feel so sad for the girl in the videos and for all the children who are pushed aside while parents do their grown up thing.

For C, he really struggled with one component of the class where they talk about parents trying so hard to be better than their parents but still not being effective. His own dad was an alcoholic and not very emotional, didn’t give praise or affection at all. His grandfather was a drunk who was abusive and left the family. So C’s dad felt he was doing great just because he stuck it out with the family. C wants to do better. I think he’ll be an amazing parent, 100x better that his dad’s version of “better.”

We have talked so much about what we see ourselves doing as parents, who we want to be. Coming from homes with alcoholics, we know how awful that is. We know the feeling of explosive anger that you didn’t see coming and being disappointed in your parents time and again. No one is perfect, and I’m sure we’ll be disappointing sometimes, but I strive to be an open-minded parent who doesn’t rush to judgment. I’m naturally a sensitive and logical person and I have more than enough empathy for others. I think this will help me be a good parent. I have worked with adults who have been foster children or who were never in the system but should have been. I know those adult feelings of despair and how the child needed love and support to learn love, responsibility and effective coping mechanisms. I think that we can provide that. We didn’t  expect these classes to force us to reflect on who we are and what our childhood traumas were. It’s hard to think about my future child experiencing some of the things that I did. It breaks my heart. I know we will offer a safe place with love and access to all the supports our child(ren) might need.

This weekend we do another 7 hour class and then we are done with pre-service. Theoretically then we will be assigned a social worker and begin the actual work of becoming foster-to-adopt parents!