OYM Day 14: Hamburgers, Weddings in Jamaica, and Jesus
The exercises in class were something. And just when I thought this training couldn’t use a complete overhaul fast enough, I’d be completely floored by one of my classmates remarks.
In one class activity, we were given 10 pieces of paper. We had to write down the 10 most important things in our lives and write one on each slip. I think I wrote things like my free-will, my family, and bedroom fan. Then, we were told to get rid of one slip of paper after the other until you were left with the most important thing in your life. Then, everyone went around and said what was written on their last piece of paper. Every person in the class was holding a piece of paper that said “family”. Well, except for 2 people. One woman said her dog. The other said her faith.
The teacher asked why faith over family and the woman responded “He’s the only relationship I need”. I imagined hearing that as a foster child. God leaves some big shoes to fill. Hard to compete, no?! To this day I wonder why they didn’t question the lady about her dog.
In another class activity, we were given profiles of fictional foster children that could potentially be put in our care. Each profile gave specifics like age, gender, and ethnicity. It also gave you a background on why they were removed from their homes and what traumas they may be coping with. This was the first activity we had that actually made me want to throw a chair at another human being. In my case, the potential foster placement was removed from his home due to parental drug use and domestic abuse. To cope, the child was aggressive and had a habit of skipping school. The correct, although arguable, answer our teachers were looking for was “I would ask him to share his feelings with me and seek therapy in our community”. My classmate Cheryl, on the other hand, seemed to have her own way of helping kids deal with trauma. Cheryl’s placement was a 13 year old girl, removed from her home due to neglect and sexual abuse. To cope, she became promiscuous and had developed an eating disorder. The teacher asked Cheryl how she would help her foster placement. Cheryl was a short white woman with black hair, hastily cut into a blunt bob. Her husband was a few inches shorter than her and extremely sweaty. Cheryl was about 350lbs and had permanently furrowed brows. Cheryl was also a piece of shit.
“Easy. I’d tape her legs together and shove some cheeseburgers down her throat”.
She laughed hard and turned to her husband for approval. He laughed, too, along with about half of my class. Just then I imagined Cheryl choking on a cheeseburger. Her face turning redder than it usually is, sweat pooling in the giant shelf of her eyebrows. Her husband unable to wrap his arms around her for the heimlich. She and her husband ended up dropping from class 3 weeks in. For the love of God I hope it was because of that comment. But deep down I know it was probably because Cheryl would never pass a physical.
Then, there were Crystal and Ron. They were always fighting in the parking lot before class. From what I could gather, they were going to have to miss 2 weeks of class and make them up later, because they were set to be married on a cruise in Jamaica. Ron did not want to wear a turquoise cummerbund. Crystal was not okay with a bachelor party at home AND on the cruise ship. Ron did not want to write his own vows. Crystal said she would write them for him. Ron had a shaved head. Crystal wore jewelry that made a lot of noise. When they came back to class looking sunburnt and bloated, I expected to hear details of the beautiful nuptials. Instead, Crystal kept saying things like “don’t you talk to me” and “Oh really? Really, Ron?!”. They stopped coming to class after that.
One woman asked if she had to vaccinate her foster placements. One asked how much yard work was too much yard work, when we covered fair discipline. One man called another classmate oriental. A woman asked what types of placements pay the most money.
When all was said and done, our class of nearly 40 was whittled down to 5. I want to be thankful, but then I know that just means less homes for kids in need. But I would never want a child, or my kid, to end up with any of those psychos.
Our caseworkers always told us we were outliers. We weren’t doing this for the money, or to fill a void that desperately needed filled. We weren’t doing this to serve a higher power. We just wanted to help. We wanted to be the best type of helpful you can be. I wanted to make kids feel special like my grandparents did.
I wish I could get everyone to foster. The department of child services asked if I would host a gathering at my home to try and recruit foster parents. But I know that none of my friends would go for it. And I don’t blame them. It’s scary to put your heart on the line and it’s in our DNA to avoid unsettling feelings. But you guys would be great at it. I just know it.