Dolls, Ankle Socks, and PJ’s: A Foster Mama’s Frustration

We are having a serious issue, and I don’t know how much longer we can keep our cool.  We consider ourselves to be reasonable people.  Respectful women.  Kind folks.  When we are asked to do something (within reason) we comply.  That’s just who we are.

For weeks (months really), we have been communicating with Mary’s case worker about the amount of gifts that Mary’s mom has been giving her.  We have also spoken to the Parenting Counselor and Mary’s individual therapist as well, and all three have touched base with mom about the incessant gift giving.  They have given her the reasons as to why this could be detrimental to her development. 1) She doesn’t learn to value and appreciate things 2) When we have a reward system in place, it is difficult to discipline her if she continues to receive weekly gifts from mom (every Tuesday) and twice biweekly (every other week she sees mom Tuesdays and Thursdays).  And 3) Our apartment simply isn’t big enough to have 52 two foot dolls (one for each week of the year and those ridiculously scary looking Disney princess dolls).  All of these conversations were simply not heeded and Mary has continuously received gift after stupid freaking gift.

Finally, we had it!  With Christmas quickly approaching, we wanted to make sure that the holiday season with out family was a special one.  We normally buy gifts for each other, wrap them and promptly put them under the tree.  Not this year though.  We are teaching Mary all about the true story of Christmas, as well as the story of Old St. Nick.  We have wrapped her gifts and placed them in our closets and won’t be putting them under the tree until she is fast asleep Christmas Eve.  We decided that since mom hasn’t been listening to the workers that maybe we would reach out to her via email.  So Callie wrote her a very  nice letter explaining to her all of the above reasons as to why she should refrain from purchasing gifts, with the added, “And it’s the holiday season, so to avoid duplicate gifts, as well as making Christmas extra special for her.”  We also sent her the pictures that we took of Mary in her Christmas outfit in case her mom wanted to get cards made to send out to friends and relatives.  This was approximately a week ago.  Added to that email was a list of things that Mary doesn’t need (sneakers, short ankle socks, toys/dolls, pajamas, hats, gloves, winter jackets, t-shirts, house slippers) and things that she does need, since mom has felt so inclined to buy her things (longer winter socks, thermals, sweat suits, and winter boots).  Not that we can’t purchase those things for her, but since mom is going to buy her things every week, we might as well give her some clues for the things that she’d be better off buying.

Yesterday, when Mary returned from her visit, she came home with a bag full of stuff.  What was in the bag, you ask?  Welllll, you guessed it! Everything on the “DO NOT BUY”.  Ankle socks (It’s f*cking winter lady!), hats and gloves (last week she bought her 3 sets), house slippers (because the other 4 light up pair that she bought her obviously weren’t enough), another freaking princess pajama (because the 2 drawers full of pajamas that we have accumulated in the past 8 months certainly aren’t enough!), and a freaking Baby Alive doll that pees and poops, which we got Mary as a gift from Santa to help her in being a big sister.  That was the gift that we were most excited about.  That is the gift that we waited on freaking line for, refreshing the screen for hours on cyber monday in order to make her Christmas extra special because she wanted it so bad.  Needless to say, we were freaking PISSED!  Our case worker texted me on my way home from work to let me know that Mary’s mom had bought her a doll.  We knew it would be more than that because otherwise she wouldn’t have texted us.  We did not anticipate a bag full of crap, again, for the 4th time this month!  I let the case worker have it! When are they going to step in and tell her mom that it’s inappropriate and disrespectful to not respect the wishes of the foster family.  Does she not know that we hold all of the cards in our hands right now?  We can cancel visits when we feel like it.  We can cease all phone calls (we let Mary call mom whenever mom cancels a visit for something ridiculous like rain!).  We don’t ever have to send her another picture of Mary in a school play, or catching her first fish, or bouncing at a bouncy castle, or showing her face of wonder when capturing her first firefly ever. We have been nothing but kind to this woman, and nothing but understanding of her situation.  We speak highly of her to her daughter and encourage Mary to share her stories about her mother with us.  We have Mary write her cards and I put DVD’ together of Mary at her school functions.  We are the ideal foster parents and get blatantly disrespected like this!?!?!  How is it that we can comply and work with her and all of the multitude of requests, but our simple one is not even considered?  I can assure you, from this point on, we will be changing.  We will not be so accommodating.  It’s unfortunate, because Mary is ultimately the one who will suffer, but how do we make it clear that this behavior from mom is unacceptable?  How do we get her to understand, that her selfish behavior (the need to assert herself as “mom”) is not in her daughters best interest?  How do we explain to her that this is a partnership and that we should all be working together to do what is best for Mary?

On Tuesday, despite Mary’s tears and tantrums, we will be sending all of the stuff back (with the exception of the doll, which she loves, and makes us sad because we wanted to give it her) to her mother with a note indicating why it was all being sent back.  We will speak to the case worker and the therapist, and unless there is a valid reason as to why we will be receiving any more gifts, they are not to send Mary home with any more uselses crap unless it is pre-approved by us.  Is it a bit extreme?  Perhaps.  But we have rules in our home, and we expect them to be followed.  If Mary’s mom wants to have things handed to her by her sugar daddies and her stripper friends, so be it, but we will not be the parents that hand things to our children so that they expect everything to be handed to them in life.  They will work hard and earn them.  They will do chores for allowance, and learn the value of a dollar.  They will take pride in their achievements.  Those are the children that we will raise.  This situation has gotten out of hand!

36 thoughts on “Dolls, Ankle Socks, and PJ’s: A Foster Mama’s Frustration

  1. I dealt with that kind of stuff when I had custody of my niece for a year. I get that her parents were trying to buy her love because they felt guilty or whatever, but it’s annoying for sure. Reasonable, good people don’t lose custody of their children, so I’m not surprised she reacted like that. Tightening up is probably the best idea, Mary probably will have issues around it but it’s for the greater good.

    • We explained to her why all the items are going back, and after 2 minutes of crying, she was over it. She doesnt even play with the damn toys! And we reached out to all the workers and told them that it’s our right to not allow any more items into our home…still haven’t heard back from anyone, since Thursday evening, so we’ll see how it goes!

  2. I completely agree with you and Callie’s parenting. If setting restrictions is what you have to do, so be it. Nothing in life is easy and teaching our kids to value what they have is important.

    • We’re usually not confrontational, and this is something that normally we would let go of, but it’s gotten to the point where it’s excessive! If it were one gift/week, or lets say every 2 weeks, then it would be fine..but 2 huge walmart bags worth of stuff every week sometimes twice a week is just too much! We still haven’t heard back from the workers about our situation, and we reached out to all of them thursday night and friday morning…something tells me this is going to get interesting..

  3. I’m really sorry you guys are having to deal with this issue, especially during such an otherwise stressful time! It sounds like you are wonderful foster parents and I know Mary is lucky to be with you. Glad you have this outlet to help deal with the frustration you’re experiencing!

  4. My guess is mom does this because it is the only thing she can do to feel like she’s mothering her daughter. Still – it is freaking OVERBOARD! Why doesn’t she use the money she’s spending on this excess stuff to save for Mary’s college education (or whatever she wants when she’s 18+)?

    I’m sorry you’re being so disrespected. I can imagine the troubles it causes. I really hope the letter & sending this week’s stuff back helps put a stop to this.

    • We reached out to all 3 workers on Thursday night and Friday morning. My guess is they are all conversing on how they are supposed to handle this situation because honestly, we are beyond pissed. It’s fine to recieve one small gift/week, like a My little pony or a little kids bracelet, but to send home so much crap every week is beyond! Hopefully this all gets sorted out, and quickly!

  5. I couldn’t agree more with the above, why can’t she use the money to save for college or a car? Sure, little gifts are ok but not to the extreme that she’s doing. Plus, she is is completely disrespecting you by ignoring you. You’re totally right by the fact that you’re holding all the cards and have been more than accommodating. I think sometime on the “naughty step” will do her some good.

    This post has really irked me, I know she’s the mom but she needs to understand that you guys run the show.

    Really sorry to hear you’re going through this – especially at Christmas. X

    • It’s just incredibly frustrating, and I think what’s even more frustrating is that none of the workers seem to think this is an issue. Well, i take that back, they know it’s an issue but claim that they cant do anything about it which i find hard to believe. If anyone holds all the cards, it’s them! We wrote all 3 workers our little notice about not taking any more gifts…lets see how this turns out!

  6. I am so impressed by your decision to prevent the overboard gift giving in an attempt to instil an appreciation for working and real gifts. I think long term you are absolutely making the best decision imaginable for Mary, and that’s what really matters.

  7. Okay, first I want to say that I adore your little family and think you and Callie are doing an amazing job. I want to offer some alternative perspectives but also say that these kinds of things are why I could not be a foster parent so I may be totally off base.
    So, it appears to me that Mary has a plan through your child welfare folks that is still open to her returning home to mom. If that is the case, and mom shows her affection by buying things, what will the lasting effect be on Mary for trying to squash that? I’m not saying it’s right or that you shouldn’t teach her there are other ways to show love but it seems that validating moms way would be helpful for her feeling loved if she goes home. Are there other lessons to be learned here? Can she pick out things to donate to kids who have less when mom sends her with more?
    Also, while it would be great for her mom to save money for college, that’s not her priority and her values are different from ours. I know Mary was removed from her mother for a very good reason. But her mother is still a mother. My guess is that she’s trying to hold onto her connection with her daughter however she can and while you and I may find the gift giving inappropriate she sees it as the only thing she can do. It’s only stuff.
    Again, never had a foster kid and never had a kid Mary’s age so feel free to tell me to shut up. But I can’t help but think of a mama who is hurting and trying to hold onto her daughter.

    • Mary will eventually end up back with her mom, although her case worker is pushing for adoption. Mom has been complying with her reunification plan, which we think is great, and we support and encourage her to keep on trucking! The truth is, that we don’t have a problem with Mary’s mom buying her gifts…that was never the issue at hand. We actually were really happy about it, initially, because so many birth families don’t actually do that stuff, so we were fortunate in that. The issue is in how incredibly excessive it is. No 6 year old needs new PJ’s every week (she has 37 pairs of PJ’s , we counted!), 6 sets of house slippers, 50 pairs of ankle socks (for the winter!). We tried the donating thing, especially now that the holidays are coming and we need to make room for more gifts from Santa, but it didn’t go over well, and she ended up picking toys that, lets say, weren’t in the best shape and needed to probably be thrown out anyway. We’re still working on it. And i agree with you about the college stuff. Ideally, that would be the best option, but obviously, these aren’t the type of people we are dealing with. And you are 100% right about her trying to hold onto her connection with Mary. I will say this. They have a really cute relationship. I have seen the both of them interact together and mom is both so attentive and loving to Mary when they are together. We know that they have a very strong bond, and that mom wasn’t a terrible mother, she just made some bad choices (some to which i attribute to her being very young). Ultimately, we just wish she were a little more receptive to what we are saying to her and not blatantly disregarding what we suggest. It is only stuff, that’s for sure, but it’s also stuff that is taking up a ton of space in an apartment that is already cramped (Callie is a baby hoarder remember!?) and one that is expecting the arrival of twins shortly! I just foresee this turning into a huge mess, where really, no one wins, but we have to put our foot down sometime!

      • I think you two are doing an amazing job and really do get where you’re coming from. I keep thinking “can’t you just tell her great you think she is doing and how much you appreciate it but….” But it sounds like you are doing that! Can you sneak out some older stuff when Mary is at school?

      • We spoke to the workers and told them that this tueday and the friday after Christmas which are her next visits, we are going to send home some of the older stuff that Mom has given mary and we are all in agreement that that is totally fair and a good choice. I can finally get rid of about 5 of the 27 Disney Princesses that she has gotten in the past 4 months (and that’s not including the 12 she came with!) The letter that we wrote her mom actally started with ” Thank you so much for all the wonderful clothing and toys that you have bought for Mary. She really loves them, and we appreciate everything you do for her, but…” so it’s not like we haven’t, she just doesn’t get it! Ehh…what are you gonna do right?

  8. Wow, that’s difficult. In life, people do not treat us as we treat them, but try not to let the lack of reciprocal respect weaken yours. Lord knows it’s tough, but think of it like this. Am I being nice and respectful for something in return, or just for the sake of doing the right thing, ya know? But anyway, yeah that’s tough. Especially because if you start taking gifts away, Mary will end up blaming you, and not her mother, which MAY be what she wants. But I definitely would not stop doing to other thighs like visitation or progress pictures and all that stuff in retaliation, that just would not be right. You are doing the right thing. I love you guys, hang in there!

  9. Marco is right, Mary will blame you for any changes with the gifts, and potandlid is right as well, giving things is how the mom shows her love. I don’t think you should get in a tit for tat situation with the mom, that’s not going to go well. in a few weeks you are going to have two infants at home with all of the stuff that comes with them, so I think cutting down on the stuff coming in to the house may be necessary. If her mom won’t stop with the presents, would Mary be ok with putting the new stuff up for later, when her current stuff breaks, or giving away the old to make room for the new?

  10. I don’t know the reasons why Mary was put into foster care so I might be making statements and suggestions that aren’t appropriate. If so, of course, disregard. That said, one of the ways in which I do fellowship is to work with women in recovery who are trying to get their kids back. I see the gift giving behavior all the time. Without fail, the therapists and counselors for these women work to curtail this. It’s not good for the child (as you point out) and also not good for the mother. Every dime spent is a dime not put towards a stable, safe home, healthy food, etc. I hope Mary’s mother is getting some life skills training to this effect. It’s a terrible posting for you and Callie to be in but I admire how you’re taking the harder road so Mary has a shot at a better future. Good luck and hang in there!

    • The workers have spoken to mom pretty often about this. It’s totally understandable that she would want to shower her daughter with gifts, but is that also a realistic portrayal of what life will be like when Mary goes back home with mom? NO, probably not. We appreciate the things that she buys for Mary because lots of times IT IS useful, but also in excess and that is where the problem comes in. We reached out to all 3 workers and let them know that we are putting our foot down in regards to so many items coming into our home…we’re so over it…hopefully that goes over well because we haven’t heard from anyone since we emailed and called Thurday evening…

  11. Does Mary go to mom’s house? Couldn’t she keep hats, gloves, toys there for her visits and return (if reunification is the goal)? I would react just like you are. Keep your feet on the ground and your head up.

    • She doesn’t. Mom hasn’t been approved for unsupervised or home visits yet. Hopefully, once she receives those items back tomorrow she will know that we aren’t kidding about all the crap that she sends home. I mean, how many boxes of crayons are you going to buy a kid in 3 months. (4! 4 boxes!)

  12. I don’t know how you put up with it! I agree with your choice to send them back. I don’t know the back story (why Mary is in foster care, etc) but I sounds like your reasons for doing things and the caring, thoughtful way you discipline is right on. Good luck!

    • Thanks! We do our best, and this is part of parenting…dealing with others even when they disagree with you. This situation is a little more delicate because she technically isn’t ours, but while she is in our house, she is living by our rules, whether mom likes it or not!

  13. First of all, my mom was a foster parent; when she got sick I moved back from another country, met with the case workers and learned how to help parent the kids in her care (first two, then one, then none). From the perspective that taught me and as a mother myself now, I really hear and empathize with your frustrations at a very immediate level. I hear the sadness in not being the ones to giver her the baby alive doll, too (Hugs!). Finally, I firmly believe in your and Callie’s decision to send (almost) everything back and draw a hard and fast line in the sand going forward. When parents refuse to have boundaries and you are raising their child, you really have no choice for the child’s best interest but to solidify your own (along with your resolve and endurance – I know you two won’t expect it to be smooth sailing after this). I wish you all the best with this, you two have 100% of my respect and support.

    • Thank you! It really isn’t easy to raise someone elses kids, and with so many restrictions and limitations, like having to ask permission from birth parents (who don’t have custody of their children by the way) to take them on a weekend vacation a state over. We HAVE to put our foot down on this. It’s WAY too much stuff for a kid her age to have and not have to work for. We’ll see how this all turns out, because we know this is bound to be some great debate soon enough…

  14. What an asshole. THIS is why you have her kid, and she doesn’t. Jeebus. You’re going to be such better parents for this. I’m so proud of the values you’re holding to, which will serve those amazing boys so well. Hugs to all of you. And a kick in the ass to that woman. (You’re way nicer than I am.)

  15. That’s a lot of dolls. If she wants to buy all that junk she should keep it at her place. Is it possible to make a rule that she can only bring 1 or 2 things home each visit vs bag loads? That way you two aren’t the “bad guys” for making her give up her stuff and the mom can still buy all she wants, but is faced with the consequence. If she doesn’t have the room for it all, she will adjust her behavior.

    • That is actually what we spoke to the workers about. For now, we are asking them to refrain from allowing anything home until after the holidays, but afterwards we would like to only see one gift every 1-2 weeks, and not every visit (as bi weekly she has 2 visits). I know this is going to be a battle, but we’re up for it, because we firmly believe that she should earn her priveleges by behaving well, doing her chores, and being a good person/student.

  16. Pingback: Better Late Than Never! | thechroniclesofanonbellymama

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