Thursday, February 16, 2006

The baby goes to foster care

The little complicated baby I wrote about in December has gone to foster care. How short and sweet that sentence looks on the page.

For the last week I have been awake in the still hours of early morning, long before my alarm. In the dark, in the solitude of my quiet house, surrounded by my sleeping family, I think about the baby. Is she frightened in her new place, with its new smells and noises and big new crib? Has she gotten used to her foster mom's voice and arms and can she find comfort when she is restless and little and missing the familiar sound of home?

The baby was removed because of concerns about parental ability to assure adequate medical care: missed appointments, poor decision making, refusing to answer the door when home health knocked. She was not removed because no one loved her. People surely loved her. In the midst of the chaos that defined her home, people held her and rocked her and kissed her little feet and hands.

That's not enough. Love is not enough.

It is very easy and entirely correct to enact laws making reporting suspected abuse and neglect mandatory for health-care providers. That I had a hand in the eventual removal of a loved baby from an incompetent parent is entirely within the realm of possibility for all such reporting. It goes with the territory. I don't make the decision to remove: that is the judge's responsibility. But I accept that my initial call set the decision in motion, that I have responsibility and believe me, it is weighing deeply on my soul. I understand that I did the right thing. I know I made the ethical decision, and acted in good faith and I have discussed this all with my coworkers and with the social workers.

And God.

The baby is safe and in a very good foster home. The foster mom will make all her appointments and keep a close eye on her weight and allow the home health team in to see her. She'll get her PT and her feeding therapies, and get to the cardiologist, and get enrolled in special ed preschool. And all those things on my checklist that need to get done, will get done.

And mom will attend her required parenting classes, and get court-ordered therapy, and get a job. And find a place to live. And clean up her act in general. Or that is my hope, anyway.

But out there right now, probably awake in her own bed in the still hours of early morning, a mom is not holding her baby. A baby she loved but could not care for-but nevertheless a baby who misses mom's arms as much as mom's arms miss that baby.

I ask God to let me start to feel what my head tells me: it was the right thing to do.



Blogger Keith, RN said...

It is always a painful decision that we must make as mandated reporters, something I have done twice: once for the neglect of children, the other for the neglect and financial abuse of an elder. These measures exist for the protection of the innocent and helpless, but being the instigator of such an event is never something we take lightly, is it?

10:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I have been in those shoes and know how hard it is to make the call. Not because I question the necessity, but because I know what turmoil that call will start.

My thoughts are with you, and I wish you peace with your choice. It was the right thing to do.

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was on the other side of the coin. I cared for a mom after her kiddle was taken. I'd listen to her rage at the pede who reported her & all the "stupid judges" & "stupid lawyers". She clearly loved her child & I think some of the health concerns initially raised could have had more than one etiology. But, the issue was the same as you brought up. Mom was not up to the task of caring for a severely impaired child.

At first, she had my sympathy. My firstborn was a mere trimester older than hers & his very existance was a heard-fought battle, initially. I loved my child with a passion & heard echos of the same in her. She ached with the loss of the child, and I ached for her.

But, as the years went by & she didn't change her behaviors, my feelings changed. She didn't attend to her own health concerns. Even my pointing out that no one would return a child to a mom who couldn't take proper care of herself, had no effect. I came to realize that the child was better off with the foster (ultimately adoptive) parents.

Mary, you did the right thing. The mom has a voice & a choice. The baby is defenceless and needs all the advocates she can get. Hold your head up. You did the right thing. Always trust your gut.


6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've done it too. It DID hurt, and social-workers knew it, and months later, they brought us pictures of the child, and told us of how well he was doing in his new and better home.

As painful and strange as it was at the time, the new life that child has now to relish and flourish in is a gift that we helped to give him.

6:23 PM  
Blogger mary said...

Thank you all for your comments. I had to leave some of the details out to prevent the possibility of identification, but it helps to know others understand that sometimes, doing the right thing is not painless. I appreciate it.


6:26 PM  
Blogger Zoe Brain said...

Mary, that's why they pay you the Big Bucks.

If you're asking for absolution, or support, or just reassurance, then you have it.

But whether you had it or not, even if everyone in the whole world said you were wrong, you'd still do it, for the child. It's your responsibility.

Please consider yourself given a good hug, and a "well done".

10:15 PM  

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