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  • I went back to Social Services yesterday for a meeting. Quarterly routine - we maintain our foster parenting license after adopting a child placed with us 2 years ago. Our first fostering experience was just like having our own baby. The biggest difference was the ongoing uncertainty about the birth parents' ability to reunite with him. In real terms, it was our uncertainty of whether we could keep him...or not.

    The meeting room had a supply of toys our son played with while we went through our brief agenda. Our social worker hadn't seen him in a few months; she cheered his healthy growth, praised his new words. I sent up some gratitude for her role in our experience. She was the one who recommended his placement with us when he was just 6 weeks old. Two years later, I am his legal mother. She knows how often it doesn't go this way. Despite this, she helped our minds stay calm during months and months of legal drama in which we had no role at all. Our only legal role is to provide a temporary home for an abused or neglected child while the parents improve their parenting skills to the approval of the court. Or not. In our case the baby we were given was too young to know his birth mother. He cried piteously as if stolen by a rank stranger during their weekly visits at Social Services. His screams for his mommy (me) filled the building as I was required to let them visit without me.

    We heard cries like that just outside our meeting room yesterday. Terrified screams, calling "Mommy! Mommy!" over and over again. "I think we have an arrest out there," the social worker paused to tell me. My son had a worried look.
    "Sad." he said, pointing in the direction of the wails.
    "She is sad. She wants her mommy." was all I could think to say.
    "Crying." he said, rubbing fists to his eyes to demonstrate. Interesting how even young children can show compassion for their peers.

    "Well, I keep thinking," my social worker said as we finished our business,"being around all this trauma every day can't be good for my psyche," she paused with a calm smile and we headed for the door. I hugged her for all she had done for us, and continues to do for helpless children every day.

    My son's curiosity followed the screams, looking for the girl. Through an open door we saw a flailing 3 year old struggling to get free of a social worker's hold and run to her lost mommy. The mommy who had abused or neglected her, the only mommy she knows. Hoping to make it feel normal to my son I said, "She wants her mommy. Her mommy will be back soon." My barefaced lie hit the air just as another door opened in front of us. It was her hand-cuffed mommy being escorted by uniformed police. It will be a long time before she sees her mommy again. I wanted to think that was a good thing. Then our eyes met. The pain on her mommy face was unbearable.

    My toddler gave a wave and a "bye, bye" to all the people we passed as we hustled out of the building. I fixed my mind on his clarity, his innocence, and the sweet nature of his age, shining out from the safe and stable world he has always known.
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