Guest post by Denise Beeman Sasiain, foster mother to Summer, 17, who will stay with her foster family as she enters adulthood; Isabella Hope, 3, who they’ve had since birth and adopted last year; Xavier (aka X-man), 2, who they are in the process of adopting; and Daniella Joy, 1, who they’ve also had from birth and recently adopted.
Many firsts are inconsequential, but others serve as memorable stepping stones: A first day of school, a first speech or a first love. Tonight something spectacular, a first, will happen in the life of our daughter. It might be considered the norm for many, but for Summer, our 17-year-old foster daughter, it is a significant FIRST.
Tonight, while Pierre and I are here at the Child Protection Summit, she will be staying overnight at her best friend’s house. This first sleepover, for Summer, is symbolic because it heralds in one more way in which she is living a typical teenager’s life. It has been so much fun to see her excitement and hear her express the joy she feels: “I can’t believe I finally get to stay overnight with my best friend.”
Often when children come from a history of abuse and all the control and secrecy that surrounds it, it is not uncommon for parents to keep their children on a tight leash. For abusive parents, not allowing sleepovers, or even play dates with friends comes not from a posture of keeping kids safe, but from one of keeping secrets in.
But in the system of care, we know that historically not allowing sleepovers stems from our desire to protect children. But to foster children, the end result is the same. To them, it signifies one more way in which their life is not the same.
As a foster parent, I am grateful for the recent changes in the law, championed by Gov. Scott and Sen. Nancy Detert, allowing me more discretion in my parenting to determine what activities are appropriate and beneficial for the children in my care.
Summer’s best friend, Karly, who knows nothing of normalcy or the recent Let Kids be Kids Law, summarized this event succinctly, “Oh, so you can be a normal kid now.”
Here’s what Summer said: “To the average teenager, getting to spend the night at a friend’s house may be something they’re able to do on a regular basis. However, for me it is a privilege I’ve never had. By law children were only allowed to spend the night IF the other parents were finger-printed and licensed as back-ups. Now, because of new laws in place many children and teens will hopefully get a chance to just hang out and be kids! I know I will enjoy spending the night at my best friend’s house! As she put it, ‘’I’m glad you can finally be normal!’’
On another note, my husband, Pierre and I are ecstatic to be attending our first Summit. We feel like we are a part of history, in which a palatable change has ignited in Florida’s system of care. Laws like Let Kids be Kids, Independent Living and initiatives like the Quality Parent Initiative all serve as a strong foundation to usher in a new era of enhanced care.