I hail from the “Overdose Capital of the World.” The drug addiction epidemic has cast a dark shadow over our beautiful and adventure-filled state.
Last year, a West Virginian died every 10 hours from a drug overdose. Nine of the 10 foster children that have lived in our home were born addicted to drugs. It’s almost a sure thing in our area that when a newborn enters foster care they were weaned from methadone. Our NICUs are overflowing, and our homes are filling up as fast as they open.
Here are a few hard truths that I have learned from fostering children whose parents are addicted to drugs:
While your opinion matters, your judgment doesn’t.
It was hard for me to realize that on a daily basis I was 100% in charge of the four day old baby I was fostering, but 0% in charge of his future. Drugs had wrecked his family before he was even born. I was angry when I watched him shake uncontrollably. I would cry when his dirty diapers would burn his bottom. The emotion that I felt was real and understandable, but when given the opportunity to meet his parents, I quickly realized that my judgement of them was unproductive. My responsibility was to care for the baby and not to sentence them for the crime I decided they were guilty of. Good social workers will listen to your concerns and hear your requests, but judgment is left to the court judge. When you consider that, it should free you up to focus on what’s important, the health and well being of the child.
Foster parenting is hard, but so is drug addiction.
A few years back, I met a girl in a hospital bed about to deliver her third child. After 30 minutes of talking with me she opened up about her abuse as a child. She was 8 when she lost her innocence, and at 14 she was pregnant after being sold for drugs. As I closed the door to her room, I tried to imagine how a 14-year-old child, who has no family, navigates the world on her own. Her child was taken by CPS because she couldn’t care for him, and she would self medicate with drugs. I said all of that to say this: I’ve never heard a little girl say “I hope I grow up, get abused, and use heroin.” Foster parenting is tough. I mean it, it’s the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, but a lot of times our children’s parents should’ve been in our care when they were kids. That, to me, is the real tragedy.
To most parents drug addiction is a life sentence.
My four day old I told you about, he became my son, legally. His mother served her life sentence addicted and passed away suddenly. My daughter that we are adopting, her mother is spending her sentence in jail. While I have seen success in reunification, if you talk to those recovering, they will tell you they are serving a life sentence from addiction. Most will tell you that they think of the drug often, and that it’s a day to day fight!
After my son’s mother passed away, I was thankful for the opportunity to say that I had prayed for her. It may have been through tear-filled eyes and a tight grip around him, but four years later, I can’t look at him and not think about her.
Make sure that you treat your children’s parents with respect. Just in case you may have to stand and tell them your child his or her first mom passed away, is in jail, won’t be home, or can’t come see them, your child will know you truly cared about the things that matter most.