I’m slowly learning to let go when my foster daughter is fed fast food during her family visits. It’s common knowledge that fast food is the focus of family visits. New case workers and foster parents usually freak-out and then eventually understand it as par for the course. It took me longer than average to get to a place of acceptance.
I saw the mom of my 1st foster baby feed him a french fry when he was only a few weeks old. Born at 25 weeks gestation, in my mind he was actually negative a few weeks old if you catch my drift. I tried to gently discourage his mom, but she looked at me like I was crazy. I talked to the case worker and ditto. Soon afterward, he was given back to his mom so they could enter a program together.
Another one of my foster children was fed so many chicken nuggets, fries, burgers, and candy bars (usually 4 or 5 per visit) that she would vomit when she got back to my apartment. She was 18 months old. I spoke to everyone at the foster agency. The head nurse spoke to my foster daughter’s mom about it, but the response was, “I can feed my kid whatever I want.” Turns out, she’s pretty much right. I appealed to my foster daughter’s pediatrician to do something, write something, anything–but he too said that even with the vomiting there’s no real safety issue.
Now that I have spent more time fostering, I see the domino effect that not bringing fast food to a family visit has on the parents. Even if I were successful in blocking my foster child’s family from feeding them fast food, there will be a family sitting right next to them with a yummy smelling pile of freshly fried food. Do you know what’s worse than bringing unhealthy food to your child? Try not bringing it and having them spend all of their time begging, swiping and circling another family for theirs.
I’ve witnessed families fall into competitions over who brings the most desirable food to a 2-year-old. Sweets are used to keep rambucious toddlers interacting with parents and not other kids. Fast food has significant and complex meaning to families. It can be perceived as financial proof that they can afford it every week (even if they can’t). It bears multitudes of woven messages of love. It’s used as a reward and sometimes a bribe for certain behaviors, as social status, belongingness, and even as currency among other foster parents. One of the signs of progress for parents at the foster agency is when they are is able to take their child out to a local fast food restaurant without supervision.
Now that I understand some of the deeper meanings that drive the fast food frenzy during family visits, I’ve learned to let go although I continue to struggle. I recieved my current foster daughter straight from the hospital after she was born. I’ve gone to great measures to follow the feeding recommendations of the American Association of Peditrician recommendations (AAP). They, along with her pediatrician, strongly suggest no solid foods before 6 months. They also recommend never putting baby cereal in a bottle. Nonetheless, she’s fed ice cream and cake during visits. Somehow, I’ve been able to seperate the feelings of being undermined this time around. I’ll continue to make my own baby food at home, send it to visits, and then let go of whatever else my foster daughter is fed. I don’t have any control over what she’s fed during family visits, but I’m going to strive to feed her in a way I see is best during the hours of the week that she’s with me.
Also from Rebecca this month: 10 Steps I Take to Avoid Co-sleeping With My Baby
You can also follow Rebecca on her personal blog here.
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