Co-Parenting with the Foster Care System
Publication Year: 2007
One night after midnight social workers brought a baby girl to the author's home, and her life as a foster mother began. A social worker herself, Gerstenzang discovered that raising Cecilia, deespite all the personal joys, would be a complex and frustrating process of "co-parenting" with the foster care system in New York City. Foster parents are in great demand, but they are not necessarily treated well. We follow the author through the home visits, the Early Intervention evaluation, the WIC program that (with much bureaucratic hassle) provides free formula and cereal, and the mandatory parenting training sessions. She comments, "When Michael and I became foster parents, we learned how stigmatizing, demoralizing, and just plain inconvenient and time-consuming being part of the 'unentitled' population can be. With the exception of Early Intervention, we often felt that the programs were more concerned with regulating our behavior than with providing services."
Regular meetings with the birth family were also part of the process. Not only were they awkward for all concerned, but each visit involved a commute of several hours. One social worker admitted that she preferred a foster parent who didn't work because that person could more easily comply with the time-consuming regulations. Sarah and her husband Michael also agonize over complying with special regulations about hiring babysitters or traveling ("anytime we left New York State we needed to ask the agency's permission, which in turn had to get the signed consent from the birth mother").
Central to Another Mother is the issue of transracial placement. Sarah remembers, "That first day the contrast between my pale skin and Cecilia's brown skin seemed glaring. Not only did I feel that I had someone else's child, I felt that I had a child from another culture. Would I owe someone an explanation?" (Gerstenzang is recalling the 1972 opposition of the National Association of Black Social Workers.) Her account is full of anecdotes and reflections about race: acceptance and prejudice from others; the feelings of her two children about having a sibling of a different race; and culture keeping, beginning with skin and hair care.
Published by: Vanderbilt University Press
Table of Contents
1. "Become a Foster Parent: Help a Child"
It was midnight, February 28, 2000, a Monday on the verge of a Tuesday. I lay in bed, shivering from anxiety. Although I had wondered if I should stay dressed for the visitors I was expecting, I had decided to change into my pajamas to help myself relax. My two children—Peter, nine, and Martha, six and ...
2. And Baby Makes Five?
Tuesday morning, I had to take the older kids to school, something Michael normally did that fell to me when he was traveling. The school is only about a ten- minute walk away—a pleasant walk, really. But that day, feeling a mixture of sleep deprivation and elation, I would have preferred ...
3. Help, American-Style
When Michael and I became foster parents, we learned how stigmatizing, demoralizing, and just plain inconvenient and time consuming being part of the “unentitled” population can be. With the exception of Early Intervention, we often felt that the programs were more concerned with regulating our behavior than with providing services....
4. I'm Vanilla, You're Chocolate
I was walking down the steps of our brownstone with Cecilia in my arms, taking her a few houses away to a babysitter while I went on an errand. It was a beautiful day and on my neighbor’s steps sat Junior, a Jamaican American who had been doing some work next door for several weeks and with whom I had a nodding acquaintance. I often saw him on the steps reading ...
5. Attachment: Meeting the Eyes of Love
The development of an attachment is like watching a living thing grow—it is almost impossible to see the growth, but a day or a month later, the evidence is there. The format of this chapter reflects the nature of attachment, which happens in immediate present-tense encounters. The idea of attachment and
6. Eye of the Storm
After a long and busy summer, Martha and Peter returned to school. The first week of September is also Michael’s birthday and this year I had planned a dinner party for him. Although I had ordered Indian food and was making only the desserts, it ended up being a lot of work. On the day ...
Michael and I were euphoric for several weeks after our decision to adopt Cecilia. It was exciting to think about her being a permanent member of our family and emotionally we charged ahead, ignoring the fact that we were not yet her legal parents and would not be for some time. I daydreamed ...
8. The End of the Beginning
The court had terminated the rights of Ella’s birth parents. She was now a “legal orphan.” However, we couldn’t move on just yet. The final step would be adoption. Over the next months, I was still obligated to bring Ella to the agency for visits as I had been doing for the past two years. Ella was ...
Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2007
OCLC Number: 727949886
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