The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Working As a Team
I was lucky my daughter had good foster parents and caseworkers
Albert Shepherd
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During my first visit with my baby daughter, I felt like a father again. Her eyes lit up and I felt she remembered me. I held her in my arms and swung her around, listening to her giggle and laugh. The visit lasted an hour but felt like five minutes. I had not seen my daughter in more than a year, because I had been locked up.

After the visit, I had a meeting with my caseworker, who explained that I needed to attend different programs—parenting skills classes and a domestic violence batterer program—before I could get more visits or get custody of my daughter. I agreed to do whatever it took to get my daughter back.

Visits at the Foster Home

Soon I met my daughter’s foster mother, Mary, and was pleased to see she was a realistic and mature woman who cared about children. I grew up in foster care myself, and I knew that not all foster parents care about the children. Seeing the way she cared for my daughter made me feel relieved and comforted. After visiting my daughter at the agency for some time, I was allowed to visit at Mary’s house. That was beautiful for us. Mary and I developed a relationship over time like a grandson and grandmother.

Then Mary complained to the agency that my daughter’s stepsisters, who also lived with her, were always fighting and breaking furniture. Mary asked for them to be removed from her home. A month later, the agency decided to instead remove my daughter from Mary’s home even though, at 2 1/2, she’d been living there for two years.

Connected Again

My daughter then moved to a new home for the next several years. We had to visit at the agency again, with social workers watching my every move. I thought to myself, “My daughter and I already have a relationship. Why are they concerned about how I spend time with her in a crowded playroom filled with screaming children and broken toys?”

I was also unhappy when I met my daughter’s new foster mother. She seemed a little too ghetto. But I found out that we both grew up in the same neighborhoods and I warmed up to her a little. Once again, I requested unsupervised visits, which were granted. But the time I got to spend with my daughter was still very short. So I asked to visit her in the foster home one day each weekend. The new foster mother granted my request.

During visits, my daughter and I played with toys and I taught her numbers and letters. I loved watching her learn new things. I felt blessed that my daughter had been with two foster parents who made it easier for me to stay connected to my daughter.

image by YC-Art Dept

Home for Good

Soon I graduated to overnights with my daughter on the weekends. Before I knew it, the workers agreed that we had a strong bond and that she was ready to come home. A month later, I went to court with my heart in my throat. The agency told the judge to release my daughter to me. I felt like I’d won the lottery.

I thought the transition would be easy. But it’s an understatement to say that I found it rough living with my daughter full time. Through all of our visits, my daughter never had temper tantrums or showed stubbornness. Suddenly, whenever my daughter didn’t get her way, she would start by putting on a disappointed face and then, hours later, explode.

When my daughter had tantrums, she would either sit with her arms crossed and a frown on her face or cry extremely loudly but with no tears on her face. I didn’t know what to do. I loved my daughter dearly and didn’t want to see her crying and unhappy. But I wasn’t going to give into a 5-year-old’s demand to have everything her way.

I tried sending her to her room when she threw one of her fits, but she would break things. Eventually I removed everything from her room but her bed and dresser. I was at my wit’s end when I walked into her room one day and saw she that she’d written on her white dresser with a marker. I had to leave the room before I lost control. I didn’t want to hit my daughter.

Helping Her Adjust

Finally, I told the agency worker about my daughter’s behavior. I asked, “Is she too used to getting her way?” I wondered what my daughter had learned in her foster home. “It’s good you’re setting rules and limits but you should explain the reasons for your rules to your daughter,” she suggested. “She’s getting used to a new parent and new rules and needs help to adjust.”

After that, rather than tell her a simple, “No,” I’d say, “No, because…” or, “Not now…” and then the reason. As time passed, my daughter and I learned to not only respect one another but to love each other even more.

During our visits, I wasn’t able to learn everything I needed to know about taking care of my daughter, but I’m glad we spent so much time together. Because my daughter’s foster parents cared about her and had a good relationship with me, we built a strong bond of love. I needed those good times as reminders that we could make it through the rough months after she came home.

Reprinted with permission from Rise, a magazine by parents affected by the child welfare system: risemagazine.org

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