Dear Foster Momma of a Stranger’s Child

I feel so incredibly inadequate so much of the time.  And when kids like Monkey get hurt because I couldn’t save them from the system, I really wonder if it is worth what all we’ve tried to do.  I cried through the beginning of this post by another blogger:

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child.

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Discipline Reminders

So I used to be a great parent.  Really.  When I had two kids, I was.  One kid was probably THE easiest kid on the planet.  The other was pretty challenging naturally.  But we worked together, focused on relationship and them learning self-discipline and all was grand.  Really.  I didn’t think we had anything that anyone else couldn’t have.  It was a choice.  I put in a good bit of effort when they were little and reaped what I sowed.  I wasn’t living in some fantasy land, I simply had set us up for success.  We lived very peacefully.

And I tested this out!  I did some parent-coaching.  I worked in a childcare center.  I had a home daycare.  I took in kids to tutor and even teach full time for a period, often for behavioral reasons. Really, I felt I found THE answer.

So when we started fostering, I thought all I had to do was continue that trend.  Be firm, consistent, and use good strong positive discipline.  Between that being nurturing and meeting needs, I figured that a couple weeks into placements, we’d be successfully peaceful.

Reality is MUCH different.  My kids *are* great.  And in a short time, they DO know we love them, will meet their needs, and know we’ll be firm and consistent.  They know we won’t beat them.  They know we’ll help them figure out how to do better next time.

But where my big kids probably got punished once a year (really!), my littles have punishment included more often. So when I was looking through some old posts looking for something, I found the below and thought that the reminders were good for ME.  Maybe someone else will find them helpful also.  I know that when I’ve coupled empathy and these ideas, I’ve done the best with my kids.  And they’ve responded well.

Punishment – usually not related to situation, usually in order to deter that choice in the future or “pay back” for the current situation. It is often something that cannot work by itself. Includes: lecturing, time out, spanking, taking privileges, taking items, grounding, making them do chores, etc.

Natural Consequence – Something that happens naturally. You stand on the chair, you may fall. Some natural consequences are not appropriate (the natural consequence for jumping off a building is plunging to your death so we don’t allow children to jump off skyscrapers). But many natural consequences are very effective.  Many of us do dishes immediately after supper because it is easier to scrub wet mess rather than dried on food off plates.

Logical Consequence – related and reasonable.  These are things like having a child move to another toy area if he isn’t playing nicely in the original one. A child may well feel punished sometimes. Sometimes parents can turn a logical consequence into a punishment by overdoing it. For example, logically, you would require your child to get up from watching tv in order to finish the chore he was supposed to do an hour ago. Logically, he now misses the end of the show. Taking TV for the rest of the week because of it is punishment.

Built-in Logical Consequence – Thing you build in to teach a value, life lesson, etc. “You may X after you Y” is often a built-in logical consequence. Work before play would be one.

Someone asked: If a kid breaks a rule, what do you do to encourage him not to break it again? Especially if it’s a rule that he has repeatedly broken and doesn’t seem to respect at all?

We all probably get into this thinking especially if it is a behavior we want to disappear NOW or at least SOON. Generally though, we don’t get to control people to that degree. We can try. But…but then:

  • we are sweet and want our home to be more peaceful and not include bullying
  • it is hard to control people all the time, so
  • we get inconsistent, use threats (like, “if you do that again….”), etc

The idea with training kids is not really to get them not to break rules. That should be, in time, a side effect, IMO. Instead, discipline means to teach and guide. It means to give them values, morals, life skills, tools, opportunities to learn and practice self-control, reasoning and problem solving skills, etc. That means, sometimes, we’re going to have mistakes. But the mistakes are opportunities also. See the difference in thinking? One is to get kids to do or not do certain things. The other is to get kids to the point where they can figure out what to do and not do as well as why and how.

In my experience (direct as well as what I see), it is a lot more work at first to discipline children with the long term in mind. However, that work with young children or new children to the family is worth it when your 8, 10, 14, and 19yos are making good choices with little (often asked for) direction.

Key things I do?

First, focus on relationship. I live on the floor with my littles (and I have a lot of littles!). We read, play, build, tickle, pet, rock, hug, kiss, do educational things, etc ALL DAY LONG.

Mommy Magic, Uh-oh, and Choices are covered in this blog post: http://hfamcourse.wo…/05/discipline/

Give kids skills and tools by modeling, formally, whatever you need to do. One book to help systematically is Raising a Thinking Child by Myrna Shure. Remember you’re modeling. Sometimes I hear my littles talk like me also. I can be proud when they ask someone nicely. Sadly, I, too, have heard things in play that make me sad I’ve taught that.

I have found it *much* harder to use *only* positive discipline with my littles. Traumatized children *are* much different.  There is a lot more at play than when raising your bio children. Before, I used to say if someone is using punishment semi-regularly, they probably need to look into beefing up the good strong discipline. I still agree that is the case. I’m just the one working on it these days. My big kids were punished probably about once a year and even those times probably were not necessary or best. I wish I could get down to once a month at this point <sigh>.

So, the above is a reminder for me.

Rooting for the Kids!

“It is so kind and generous for you to share these pictures with the parents.”

I really don’t think I’m any different than most people in a lot of ways.  In the end, it is all about the kids for me.  And I truly believe that supporting the parents, even when it looks unlikely they will be able to have their children returned, even if they’ve already lost parental rights, is the right thing to do.

As readers may remember, I got three children about six weeks ago.  Professor is three.  Doc is two, and Little Lamb is four months.  There is a bunch of weirdness with this case.  Mostly, when everyone is looking long term, based on what has been seen so far (and this isn’t the family’s first case), it looks as if the parents aren’t able to function well enough and what they can do, they can’t continue long term.  Obviously, that isn’t the best situation for the children.  It isn’t that the parents don’t care or are unwilling to do right; they simply seem incapable.  It is expected that the children will need a forever home and people involved are making sure the children are in a pre-adoptive home so they won’t need another move down the line (hopefully).

It is a really weird feeling sometimes when we are helping and supporting the family while hoping these may be our forever children, finishing out our family.  if they can do this, it would be the BEST thing for the children.  Sure, we may be able to give the children more in terms of education and opportunity and a nice home.  And we’d adore them.  But children really do better with biological family IF at all possible.  And yet, if they simply are not capable of parenting, we would love to be best for them!

So by looking at photos with the kids and providing photos/updates for the parents, we are encouraging their bond.  By sharing photos, they see the children happy in a variety of activities.  The current photo album includes various dressed up shots, from a haircut (nails done too!), from at the park, rough-housing with my oldest son, from the sport I put them in, before/after surgery one had, etc.  On top of hopefully giving the parents peace about how their children are doing, it establishes a relationship between the parents and us.  We aren’t adversaries, but part of a team to make sure the right situation happens for the children.  And lastly, should they not be able to parent full-time, we have opened the door for an ongoing relationship as long as it is safe and healthy to do so.  We have shown that we are respectful of their relationship with the children.  They know the children are happy and healthy and safe with us.  They see that we are willing to give updates and photos (at least).

Again, it is just a weird situation.  I have found myself defending parents, pointing out strengths, hoping the best for them.  I have found myself extremely empathetic of what they have been through and are going through.  And yet, sometimes I get so angry at what they’ve done to their children, what their children are going through now (confusion, for example), etc.  And I doubt whether certain issues are things people can overcome.

Tug-o-war.  But regardless of who is “winning” moment to moment, I am rooting for the children.

In the end, my hope is that the children gain permanency.  I want them to get to where they will be FOREVER.  I want them to feel safe, secure, confident.  I want them to be happy and healthy.

 

 

I don’t want to….

“I don’t want to get beat.”

“I don’t want to get killed.”

That is what my little Professor told me when he knew I was angry.  I had tried to hide it.

“Professor, if you are going to poop on yourself, you’re going to have to clean it up.  Stand in the tub til you are clean.”  I handed him wipes and a Wal-Mart bag.  I walked out.  He cleaned up pretty well.  Of course, there was poo in a few places despite my trying to contain it.

“{Adult Daughter’s name}….argh.”

That is when he looked up at me, in the hallway, and said it.  It was so matter-of-fact.

ETA:  I thought maybe I should finish this story when I told hubby about it.  It might not surprise you that not long after all this, Professor pooped himself again (how come kids who don’t poop over-much generally can poop so much when they need it to say something?).  I put him him the tub with wipes and a Wal-Mart bag.  He “cleaned up.”  He had poop ALL over him.  I put him back in the bathroom and told him to clean up, giving him more wipes.  He comes back out clean-ish. I walk back to the bathroom to put him through a quick shower and saw it.  Poop smears all over the carpet.  Goodness.  My daughter steam cleaned the carpet.  I started him bathing.

Then we went to the park.

I had planned to write about something else today, but this made me cry.  I walked out the outside trash with his wipe bag and wondered if I can continue doing this.  How much more heartbreak for my kids can I handle?

How Busy Are We?

I lost  half of this post and now it has been three extra weeks so I’m going to try to write this another way. Hopefully it gives the information I want to give 🙂

So three weeks ago, we got new kiddos.   Their official blog/board names are Professor (the 3yo boy), Doc (the 2yo girl) and Little Lamb (who turns 4 months next week).  So what is it like at the beginning of a placement?

First, obviously you have the children.  These ones seem so young, but being advanced probably actually makes it harder for them.  Where preverbal trauma of being removed from mom and dad may be worse in some ways, especially long term, it seems that children like these struggle the most because they can understand some aspects, but not enough to make sense of it.  They tend to be more verbal about it, more questioning, more anxious.  Or maybe it just seems that way because they can verbalize it.  But behaviorally, these kids also tend to be a bit tougher.  At least that is my experience so far.  Obviously comforting the children, giving them what they need, helping them the best we can is duty number one.

But unfortunately, in the first days, there is a TON of work to be done.  Let me outline some of that.

First, I have to put together folders for each child for all their documentation.  I start with placement papers and medical consenters.  I got a few other documents with these kids.  Some kids come with a lot. For example, I had a whole folder worth with my (now adopted) children.  Some kids come with court papers.  Others come with nothing extra.

When children come with medication, that has to be dealt with also.  Medication logs are printed out and filled out with pertinent information.  All I have to do is initial and put the time for each date for each medication after the paperwork is set up.

Whether they come with any items or not, inventory needs to be taken.  Most of the time, that means going shopping in order to have the minimum requirements of things like socks and shirts and pajamas. When kids come with a bunch of mis-matched stuff that doesn’t fit, it makes it a little tougher because all that has to be documented but they still need the minimum requirements of what they *can* wear.  So right away, you’re trying to give them a wardrobe and document it.

We also have to have, posted, a schedule and home rules for each child.  Now, of course, we have general rules such as “respect property” and “respect others,” even more detailed such as “use polite words” or whatever.  But for each child, there has to be personalized rules.  Well, except you’ve known the kids 24 hours at this point.  How do I know whether we need to focus on polite words or keeping hands to self?

Then there are appointments:

  • Placement exams are scheduled as soon as possible.  In these children’s case, I needed in to see the doctor regarding the one immediately because I was worried she was eating and breathing well enough!  Turns out there was a lot regarding that but we did beautifully.  Also, one child needed a “sick child” exam right away.  
  • Dental exams are also scheduled as soon as possible.  The baby won’t get hers until 6 months old.  The 2yo will have one every 3 months.  The 3yo is on the regular every six month schedule.
  • The placement worker at the agency needs to come out immediately.
  • Our home’s agency worker needs to come out about day 7.
  • The CASA sets up an appointment to come out.
  • The children have a lawyer so needs to come out
  • ECI does evaluations for all children under 3 years old.
  • A psychologist does an evaluation for all children three years old and older.
  • Visits with parents start as soon as possible (investigators here are supposed to give the parents at least one visit and they often will do a second in order to make it easier for the regular worker after the 14 day hearing).
  • Any appointments that are child specific have to be taken care of.  This is where we got hit bad this time.  The baby already had a team of doctors and appointments set up.  Additionally, because the parents didn’t make their last visit, the surgical team set up a team meeting for us a few days into care so she would still be able to have surgery on time (next week).
  • We waited this time, but we ended up setting up play therapy also.  Oftentimes, I set up play therapy before the children even walk through the door though.

Add that we actually had 8 hours of training set up for the week the kids got here too.

I had to, also, do end of care documentation for the last set of kids since they left the same day these kids came.  For example, that meant I had SIX monthly reports to do (one for each of the three who had left and one for each of the new three).

Additionally, supervision and discipline is a little different at the beginning of a placement as kids have to learn how we do things, we have to learn how they do, etc.  These kids didn’t listen AT ALL at first. They still often need you to be ready to help them comply (or at least pay attention so they can comply).  The older two put a LOT of things in their mouths A LOT.  The 2yo also puts stuff in every other “hole.”  We also have never had two kids bicker as much as these two do.  And then they weren’t potty trained so we had to do that which went really well until visit last week when Professor started having issues with it.

And of course, don’t forget we have a life.  I have two young adult children. I have six children under the age of 7.  We have to play a lot.  We homeschool.  We enjoy the park a lot and gymnastics.  We still have to cook and clean like anyone else (well, actually, I guess it is really more than most families, huh?).

And on top of all this, I got sick the weekend the kids got here.  Now, ideally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but it has turned into one.  I am hoping that the doctor figures out what is wrong soon.  I actually do think I feel a little better this morning. I hope!  I did set up for Doc and Professor to go to another foster home for today.  I’m hoping that helps a little both during and after Little Lamb’s appointment. Maybe one more day of rest before I get on with our week will work well for me.

So I have a couple more partially written posts too.  Hopefully I’ll start getting them posted.

CPS Hurts Children (Do They Care?)

Less than two hours ago, I got an email from the children’s caseworker.  It basically said that it was determined to be in the childen’s best interest to move to fictive kin.  Uh, duh.  You already made that decision despite the ongoing concerns.  Anyway, it goes on to say that the children will leave for their visit tomorrow and just never come back.  Uh, wait.  Say what?

I actually suggested such a thing and the therapist agreed.  However, to give me less than 24 hours notice?  I’ve loved these children as my own for the past five months!  You don’t have therapies set up.  You don’t have daycare solidified.  The kids didn’t get the chance to have time to process that that is what was going to happen and understand it. NOTHING.

I called the emergency number for the agency.  Otherwise, our worker and the intake worker, neither, would have known until tomorrow morning at earliest.  I vented.  Part of the email from the caseworker was talking about how wonderful I am and how much I had done to help the children (who have gained at least double the months developmentally than they’ve even been here).  Yeah, blow smoke up someone else’s booty!  If you respected my family or me or my children (bio, adopted or foster) at all, you would have given us a proper notice!

So what I would have done had I been given the chance:

  • Let Ace pick out supper
  • Buy cake and ice cream for a going away party
  • Talked to the boys about going over there and that this time they wouldn’t come back
  • Had the boys help me pack their things
  • Done something fun with them before they left
  • Done their paperwork correctly
  • I would have let my children say goodbyes in their own ways (drawing pictures, talking to the therapist, buying gifts, whatever they wanted or needed to do).

I absolutely hate CPS.  Not one single thing they do after removing the children from their birth families has ANYTHING to do with their best interests.  It has been THREE MONTHS that fictive kin has been in the picture and you couldn’t give us even 24 hours notice?  Seriously?  RIDICULOUS!

And this on top of another email from the fictive kin who took Monkey.  Another email about how well she’s doing while outlining how hurt she is attachment wise and emotionally.  Never taking responsibility for that.  Now, I know that Monkey’s biological parents are what CAUSED the wheels of motion in her situation.  I know that meth didn’t help.  But that little girl had what amounted to a sprain when she was here.  Now she’s an amputee, why?  Because CPS is ridiculous and will not even consider the best interests of the child.  And because a selfish, prideful, and naive couple who wanted another child didn’t care how much they hurt the child to get her.  And who pays the consequence?  Monkey.  Great job CPS.

And thanks CPS for treating us like dog poop too.  We are just people taking “placements” huh?  We are just “beds,” huh?  Tough on us if we or our children get attached to the people we care for day in and day out, huh?  Tough on us if your plans don’t fit in with our needs or schedule.  Too bad you chose to be the dirt of this operation, foster home.  As long as you keep the soap and medication locked up and the potatoes off the pantry floor, we don’t give a hoot about you.  You’re nothing and you’ll deal with that fact or else.

I really don’t care as much about that though, at least in how it pertains to me.  I have a lot harder time when I hear the pain in my daughter’s voice or all my boys go nuts within seconds of hearing the news.  But what really gets me is how much the children are hurt by some short-sighted people in a system that doesn’t care at all about what would be helpful, much less best, for the children.  Young children at the mercy of a system that causes just as much, often worse, harm as the families they came from.

And then, what about me?  Am I just part of the problem by being part of the system?

Is what I give them on a day to day basis REALLY so much better for them than the abandonment they feel when CPS rips them away?  Do the children feel we’ve lied to them as we tell them we love them, that they are safe, that we’ll help them?  Does what we give them help them trust and grow or does being ripped away from what we give them cause them to never trust even the nicest, most helpful people?

What good am I as a mom when I cannot protect my children?

I talked to Ace tonight.  I told him about going to his “other mom and dad” (as he’s been calling them).  We talked about their children M and J.  We talked about their dogs, D and D.  We talked about his room and scooter.  We talked about his Aunt who lives closeby.  We talked about how we love him and will miss him and will pray for him each and every night.

I’ll try to talk to the kids a little more tomorrow.  And hope it is enough to counter CPS’s stupid plan.

ETA:  I do not disagree that these children may do well to go with this other family.  There are some real concerns; but I think it could be a good placement.  I have spent the last few weeks fully supporting this new family that is forming.  I have a problem with them changing the plan on a dime in a way that isn’t best for the children.

OB: Reality Check

The following post was written in the fall of 2011, about six months after we were licensed.  Much of it is still true though I don’t think I’m nearly as irritated or dysregulated or overwhelmed by it these days.  It just is.  

Okay, there are some things you simply do not think of when you go into fostering.

  • It is not the baby that keeps you up all night.  It is the 4 yr old, the 19month old, the 3yr old, and the 5yr old…rarely the 7month old.  I put these in order of who keeps me up, wakes me up, challenges me most at 4am.  As you can see, the 7month old who has slept through the night since the 3rd week she was here is not why I’m so tired.  It’s the rest of them (primarily the toddler and the 4yr old though).
  • Poop happens.  Really.  Of course, you expect it with the baby and toddler.  You may be less thrilled with it, but you expect it while potty training.  But potty “accidents” (quoted because they are rarely, if ever, not done on purpose) are not exactly rare.
  • Paperwork galore.  If you thought the 153 pages of paperwork you did during training and the homestudy process was a lot, don’t think you’re going to be done with it anytime soon.  Some paperwork you’ll deal with:
    • medication logs
    • weekly/monthly reports on each child (mine run 4 to 8 pages single spaced)
    • documentation of every doctor, dental, vision, psychology appointment
    • fire drills
    • training – it was 40 hours to get licensed and 30 per year to stay licensed. BTW, you do it the first year also so will have about 70 hours within the first 12 months.
    • court papers
    • school binders – each child gets a separate binder with their school related things such as report cards, attendance reports, ARDs, as well as things like their birth certificate, social security card, and immunization records.
    • incident reports (accidents, behavioral situations, etc)
    • emails to teachers, caseworkers, agency workers, licensing worker, doctors, therapists, etc
    • updated records (background checks, etc)
  • Behavior.  Seriously, there is a LOT of behavior from some of these kids.  I think I’ll stop there for today.  Please be ready to deal with what may be a lot of behavior.  Some will be serious. Some will be dangerous (or worse). Some will be annoying.  Some will be constant.  There is a LOT of behavior with some of these kids!
  • Visits galore.  You’ll have:
    • Visits with parents
    • Doctor visits (includes dental, vision, medical, specialist, etc)
    • parent-teacher conferences, probably more than the average parent
    • caseworker visits (and in our case, a visiting caseworker because the official caseworker lives so far away)
    • Therapy visits (speech, occupational, physical therapy as well as play therapy, behavioral therapy, etc)
    • agency visits (licensing, agency worker if you have one, etc)
  • People’s rude comments:
    • Are they all yours?
    • Do you run a daycare?
    • You asked for it.
    • Is it worth it?
    • They have such significant issues (this is usually not said this way.  It is usually said in regards to a specific situation or because you were dumb enough to vent to a family member or friend)
    • derogatory comments about doing it for the money
    • hurtful comments about the children’s parents

This post isn’t to complain.  I am sitting here at 6:30 in the morning having been up since 4 with children.  There has not be a ten minute break in those 2½ hours.  I guess I can be thankful for enough two and five minute ones to write this post.  Yesterday, I got  court papers that surprised me.  I had to send in approximately 20 pages of documentation yesterday and I’ll do at least 5 more pages this morning.  I did 3½ hours of training yesterday and will try to do similarly again this weekend.  No doubt there will be behavior (probably extra since they refuse to sleep). And I really want to get through these books and videos I believe will make a huge difference for the kids long term if I can implement it well.  I gotta keep trying!

I think I glorified what the days and weeks would look like before I started fostering.  I pictured parenting during the day and having from 8pm to 6am free for my time and sleep except for an occasional illness.  I pictured some hard work, but mostly happy fun-filled days.  I never dreamed of so much stress, lack of sleep, mountains of paperwork, or rudeness from others.

Is it worth it?  ABSOLUTELY.  I have five little people whose eyes I will gladly look into when the sun comes up who definitely make it worth it.  And then I’m hoping for a nap 🙂

OB: Do We Love Them?

Okay, the last (actually, originally it was the first) of the series.  My mom has gone home and a ton has happened.  I can’t wait to post pictures of the last couple days.  We also have some interesting stuff going on foster wise.  And I have another review to post this weekend.  Busy busy bees at the H-household 🙂  Again, this was from late March 2012, soon after Sweet Little M arrived here and while we were in the process of adopting our three.

 

The other blogger asked a series of questions in her blog post at http://looneytunes09.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/are-fosteradoptive-kids-loved-differently-than-biokids/.  I’d like to respond.

Do I love my foster daughter and soon to be adopted children like I love my biological children?  ABSOLUTELY.  Love is different between each person, of course.  How could it not be?  But it isn’t less or inferior with any child versus any other child.  I go through spurts of different feelings with each of them. That has been how it has been since I gave birth to the first one through now having accepted the foster placement of the most recent.

Do I have the same love for my foster children the minute I bring them in my family? Do I love them the same as the biological children I’ve had for 17 and 19 years?  Well, that is a bit unreasonable.  It would be unreasonable to say that I felt the same about my son the moment I realized I was carrying him as I did about my daughter whom I knew for almost two years by that time.  11 months later?  Yes, I love my soon-to-be-adopted children as much as I love my biological children.  That changed pretty quickly, but did I feel the same about them as I was filling out placement papers while they were playing in my living room?  Probably not.

But I definitely care about the children immediately.  For example, I got a call towards the end of February for a sibling group of three children.  I felt strongly about them.  I said yes immediately; and I called my agency back to ask what all they tell a caseworker.  I wanted to know if they tried to “sell” us a bit to the caseworker as I really wanted these children.  There was just something…. Anyway, we got the call saying that we were the chosen home.  Well, for two weeks, things kept being pushed back.  I asked about them, got more information, and worried about them.  Some stuff happened and I was truly concerned.  I asked on a message board for positive thoughts for them as I just wanted them to feel safe and secure in this time of things being so up in the air.  I cared before they walked in the door. They never did walk through that door.  I still care.  When would I feel the same love I feel for “the three” and “my bigs”?  I don’t know.  Probably in pretty short order though! My newest hasn’t been here two weeks and I’m smitten!

I know the blogger never thought she was loved.  That worries me especially as she has spoken fondly of a couple foster parents.  What *if* the caring I feel and show from moment one and the love I feel after the first few days doesn’t sound down into their hearts?  What if what I give them is *not* healing in the slightest, but actually another hurt?  Is it really possible that any, possibly all, of these children think we don’t love them in a parent-child way?  What can we do?  What should we do?  Is it possible for us to change it?

The blogger asked if claiming the child as yours makes a difference. I don’t know.  I generally claim children as mine pretty readily.  In fact, it is a big reason I quit doing childcare because it hurt to see parents do less than ideally (imo) with “my” children.  A foster child who walks in my door is *mine.*  But when you have to share them, it does cause you to have the slightest wall built up.  Honestly, my wall is awfully short and way too soft.  Every child has breached it in no time.  I am smitten with our newest though she’s been here such a short time AND is supposed to go with family eventually (months down the line as it is an out of state placement if those people pass the homestudy).

But I had noticed that there was a little remnant of the wall still there with the three.  It felt funny, for awhile, to say, “go give that to your brother” when I was saying it to the six year old telling her to give whatever it was to the almost 17 yr old.  Now it is natural.  “This is my son, {Swimmer},” is different now.  Thinking further than 6 weeks or 6 months into the future really does make a difference.  Did I love them before?  ABSOLUTELY.  But now the roots are digging deep and the branches can move up and out also.

Lastly, the blogger asks about how a child feels when she is unloved by her adoptive parents even a few years after the adoption.  I honestly can’t imagine.  I would gather that the adoptive parent must honestly care deeply for the child and show that in every way possible.   Because of my nature of attaching quickly and strongly, I can’t imagine being the parent in this situation. I have to wonder what they consider love because if they are behaving in a loving manner (love is an action, positive behavior comes from a place of love), it is very likely they DO love the child somewhere in them.  I wonder if maybe they don’t have up a wall that is blinding them somewhat in order not to get hurt?

But then we’re back to the blogger not FEELING loved. Can a parent show in everything they say and do how much they love them and a child not “get” it?  And is there anything I can do as a foster, adoptive, bio mother to let my children feel the love I feel for them and show to them in every way I can?

OB: Why These Children, part 1

The below post is from March 2012 (before the adoption of our three).

A post by  LT at http://looneytunes09.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/why-do-people-adopt-hurt-kids/ asked why THESE kids?

(as I’m typing, I can see this is going to be multi-part)

One motive is put forward: money.

It is cheaper to adopt from foster care.  This *is* a reason people go this route, at least at first and to some degree.  I recently inquired on a situation where a birth mother was asking for someone with very specific requirements.  Well, *extremely* few adoptive families meet her requirements; I do.  So I inquired.  I sent my reply to the agency as well as a “dear birthmom letter.”  The agency’s reply wasn’t about whether the birth mom would be interested in us or anything of the sort.  It was simply to let us know that the fees associated with this child would run about $36,000.  Seriously?  So what should this mother do?  She doesn’t feel she can raise the child and yet the handful of adoptive families who meet her requirements can’t afford to pay that sort of money before the child’s birth.

But with my three?  I won’t pay a dime towards their adoption.  The state will pay my attorney, the state’s attorney, the children’s attorney.  The state will pay for all the filing, paperwork, etc.  The state pays the adoption worker, her supervisor, the person who redacts the file, etc.  I don’t have a clue how much the actual costs are (though I’d guess a WHOLE lot less than $36K!), but my tax money and my neighbor’s tax money is paying for it.  And while they do?  I’m getting the foster care stipend that helps me take care of their needs whether their new suits and pretty dresses or their gymnastics and swim lesson or the new furniture and bikes.  They deserve the absolute best and I’m glad I had a year of a little more money to spend on them!  They came from so little.  The zoo, restaurants, fairs, pictures in the fields of wildflowers, homeschool programs, etc are so worth it.  They deserve anything and everything I can get them while the state is working out making them mine forever.

Okay, so the children come with an adoption subsidy also.  This is help after the adoption.  Some may call it a paycheck.  Well, maybe not.  Here, the adoption subsidy is a fraction of what the foster care stipend is. My kids’ needs aren’t changing any as we finalize their adoptions, but the amount of help we’ll get to care for those needs will cut down to less than half.

Subsidy also includes help with medical. THANKFULLY.  Seriously, a lot of these kids have additional medical issues as well as ongoing mental health concerns.  They deserve as much help as possible.  Having secondary medical coverage will help CONSIDERABLY in getting them the services that they need!

It isn’t all-inclusive though! For example, medicaid will pay for speech therapy for a child as long as they are under the 13th percentile (btw, in public school here, it is the 7th percentile).  A child’s speech has to be pretty rough to be so low!  For example, one of my children’s speech is at the 11th percentile.  He is 40% intelligible by strangers and 60% by people who know him.  Our agency worker speaks to him about 3 times per month and “can usually get the gist of what he’s saying” (her words).  Okay, so medicaid will pick up the difference between what our insurance will pay and what it costs to have our speech therapist out here until he gets over 13 percent.  Well, then? We either have to pay the difference (approx. $880 per month) or take him to a speech center where we can pay just a normal 10% co-pay.  Obviously, we’ll have to choose the latter despite the fact that that is very likely not best for him.

Subsidy also includes a number of post-adoption services.  We will get a small amount yearly towards summer camp (this amount changes yearly, but may be $100 or $300).  The children will be able to stay with their same therapist, a therapist who doesn’t take our insurance or the kind of Medicaid the state will give us.  The adoptive therapy/support group that costs $35 per session now will be free. Respite is offered.  Family therapy is offered.  Help finding information and services is offered.  I didn’t know all that was included in the subsidy, but I’m glad it is.

And then there is the Tax Credit.  Boy has this been something discussed a lot the last few years. See, the tax credit is an amount that would offset the amount of tax you were required to pay.  The amount varies yearly, but it is around $12-13K per kid.  Well, in order to get to offset $12,000 of tax liability, a married couple has to have a taxable income (adjusted gross income minus deductions and exemptions) over $79,000.  I don’t even know how to figure how much our income would have to be to take it for three kids in one year.  I don’t need to know as there is no way we’ll ever make that kind of money.  So the tax law allows people to take it over five years.  With seven exemptions plus the standard deduction, we simply will never use one child’s offset, much less three. Our tax liability was under $1000 for 2011. So over five years, we’re talking less than a couple thousand dollars of the $39,000 possible.

It may be worth considering who are the people adopting from foster care?  Are they wealthy people?  Or are they people like us who simply wanted to help children and families (fostering) while possibly building our own families (adopting)?  Are they more likely solidly middle class and working poor or people who are making $200,000 per year? It just seems the tax credit may not really be helping the people who need it the most who are adopting the children who have started out the furthest behind the eight ball.

Anyway, so that is the money side of it.  We aren’t getting rich by adopting from foster care.  We are struggling in lots of ways.  As I was filling out the adoption subsidy paperwork, I could see how poor we really are. That doesn’t make us a bad “placement.”  It means our love runs deeper than our wallets :)   I’m glad we’ll get a little help.  It makes it possible for people like us to provide a normal childhood as well as the care these kids need.

Really, money is really a very small consideration.  Yes, I can afford to adopt from foster care while I can’t pay $36,000 for a child.  Yes, I will get a subsidy.  But though those things may encourage people to look this direction, it doesn’t mean it is the reason for doing it.

OB: Why These Kids, Part 2

The below was posted originally in March 2012, prior to the adoption of our children.  It is, of course, still true about them as well as our foster kids (whose future is not yet determined by CPS. The current goal is reunification with parents.  They are also checking into family and some fictive kin).

More possible reasons why we would adopt these kids…a discussion jumping off of LT’s post at http://looneytunes09.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/why-do-people-adopt-hurt-kids .

1) We just didn’t know they would have issues?  Well, I seriously doubt that.  We do have to go through training.  And we watch movies too.  And we usually know a few foster kids.  In our classes, they were called “Baby B.”  Baby A got all the normal love and adoration all babies should get.  They were fed, kept warm, given medical care, kept in a clean environment, were safe, etc.  Baby B, on the other hand, often were given the short end of the stick one time after another.  Maybe they were born on drugs (cigarettes, alcohol, meth, cocaine, etc).  Maybe they were used as sex toys.  Maybe they were stuck in a playpen in their own excrement hours on end.  Maybe they weren’t fed.  Maybe they were hit.  Maybe they learned that crying didnt bring anything.  Maybe the TV was the only thing that talked to them.  Anyway, so it makes sense they have issues and may have issues for a long time to come.

2) Do we have a savior complex?  Honestly, I do think I thought I could help these kids faster and to a greater degree than really reasonable.  A good dose of love, a lot of discipline, some structure and predictability, safety and security.  Surely they’d come along in a few weeks.  At seven months, I was thinking, “what on earth?  It’s been seven months!!! What’s the deal?!?!”  After the TPR hearing, I came to realize seven months was NOTHING compared to what they’ve been through.  But sometimes, I still think, “it’s been almost a year.”  I have to remember that love and discipline and security from me isn’t a miracle cure.

However, throwing kids away simply is not an option.  And I don’t think these kids are ruining my life.  Will I think that occasionally?  Possibly.  But I will remember how great it has been also.  I hope they don’t have it too tough, of course, but I know that their life is theirs to make what they wish.  I’m hoping to give them every opportunity to choose healthy, even happy; but in the end, they will have to work through what they have been through.  I know it won’t always be easy.  But they won’t be thrown away.  We will be here forever for them whether they want it or not.

3) Because we “get” the hurt? Absolutely.  No one comes from perfection.  Some have closer than others.  I had some rough times.  I struggled with abandonment, mistreatment, poor choices, anxiety issues, etc.  It won’t come close to what my kids dealt with; but I have gained some understanding to a degree and feel able to pass on some good skills and tools they may be able to use.  Additionally, I get that people are all different, know the resources in our area, and know how to find more opportunities in time.  I’m dedicated to do so.  I’m not perfect, but I sure will be willing to try anything and everything to help them.  Will it work?  Well, I can’t promise that.

Why am I adopting my children?  I believe they deserve a good family.  I believe they deserve to be “kept.”  I chose to love them.  I feel love for them.  Honestly, I wanted to be a mom.  But I just didn’t need perfect kids.  Seriously, had I adopted newborns or birthed them myself, there was no guarantee of perfection.  Instead, I hope to be as good as possible a parent for the kids I actually have.   I’ll keep trying to do better and better with them and for them.  That is all I can do.  I have hope.  I hope to give them hope too.

OB: Even More “Why These Kids?”

This post was originally written March 2012, originally the third in a series of posts. 

(Still vaguely responding to LT’s post at http://looneytunes09.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/why-do-people-adopt-hurt-kids/).

I want to expound a little more.  These are probably more random thoughts than anything though.

First, I want to be honest that my primary reason for considering adoption originally was “selfish.”  I wanted to be a parent some more.  I wanted children.  I wanted to parent.  I want all the joys that come with parenting.  I was, of course, aware, that parenting isn’t all easy and wonderful and joyful all the time.  I also knew that kids aren’t perfect from the get-go and that they’ll have their own opinions, experience, fears, hurts, etc as they go on.  However, I also knew *I* wasn’t perfect.

When we went into fostering though unsure if we would adopt.  We waffled a lot.  First, it seemed we could help a lot more children if we just fostered.  Many kids would go home anyway and it’d be great that other people could adopt the kids we’ve gotten to enjoy temporarily.  However, though we entertained those thoughts, we really did still desire to grow our own family.  Fostering seemed like a way to do it.  We could, in essence, do both: help children and families who needed the help and build our family when it didn’t work out in birth families.

Well, the first two kids, we knew would go home.

The second set we knew weren’t going to parents, but we figured they would go to family members. But then that didn’t look too likely either. Then came some thinking.  We absolutely fell in love with them.  The thought of letting them go was miserable.  Add that we thought it the worst thing ever for them to have another disruption in their lives.  Is love enough?  Their issues seemed mighty tough.  They had been through a lot.  The had behaviors because of that.  We have had some moments of wondering if we were best for them.  We also went through moments of guessing what would happen if they left.

In time, the love won out.  Fact is, we are willing to keep trying and trying.  We may not be perfect, but we will try.  We’ll learn better and better.  We will make mistakes and that will probably be good for them also.  IF we aren’t perfect, they won’t have to be either.  ANd when people make  mistakes, they try to learn from them.  And if we made their lives absolutely perfect, they’d end up fragile.  So we’ll do the best we can, aim for even better, but appreciate our human-ness also.

And we’ll grow together, right?  I have already had to work through some things I thought I was past.  I get to work on my character traits.  I’ll get to practice the fruitage of the spirit.  I’ll gain all the qualities that go along with love (long-suffering, patience, kindness, etc).

So, realistically, we have some challenges now and in the future.  Will they be fixed?  I can’t say.  And sometimes, I think it is okay if some of them don’t or don’t for awhile.

So, it may be difficult to deal with a 3 or 5 or 7 year old who poops in his pants.  It certainly isn’t pleasant.  But what if it doesn’t stop until 9 or 11 or 15?  Will that ruin our lives?  I just don’t think so.  I don’t *want* any of them to wait so long.  I wish they all would stop yesterday; but I don’t think it is worthy of too much worry.  It is very unlikely they will be working at an assembly plant one day and their coworkers catch them with poopy pants.  It will stop eventually.  Or they’ll find a way to deal with it.  But in the mean time, maybe we would be a lot more successful helping them more significantly if we work to help them feel comfortable, confident, and capable.  We can try to learn more appropriate options.  And then the kids can make their own choices in their own timing as they heal.  If it takes 15 years, it does.

Certain behaviors are a bit more worrisome, usually because they are scary or the consequences so dire.  But again, would it ruin our lives?  Not most of them and we’ll do our best to prevent the ones that could really wreak havok.  It means we have stricter supervision.  I have heard people say and read people online that say they could never live “like that” with some of the measures we have in place.  I think they are wrong.  They *could* if they felt it necessary to help the ones they love.  It means we have to learn more ways to help our kids heal, to discipline, to show love for them for who they are regardless.

But I think people, when they think of foster kids, get hung up on these things.  Sure, they take up some time and effort, many times A LOT of time and effort.  I spend a good deal of time documenting these things as well as reading books, talking to other parents, working on therapies, etc.  I am determined to not hurt the children more by my responses.  I am determined to help them to the best of my ability (and keep reaching for the next ability level).

What people don’t think about are the opportunities.  So many times, I’ve looked back on old posts and though, “Oh goodness, she doesn’t do that anymore!”  Or I think back and remember that a year ago, he couldn’t do that.  I watch them grow, mature, heal.  Sometimes it is very slow progress.  Other times it is more significant.  It can be something more superficial or something more important. But I wish we could look at those things more.  Maybe it is the first real hug or being an inch taller.  Maybe it is accepting redirection or stopping thumb sucking.  Or maybe it is cooking a meal or getting an B in math.  Maybe it is the smile in the photo of her in the wildflowers or the first time he makes a goal.  Maybe it is not needing to cut himself or him being able to say, “I love you.”  Maybe it is the first school dance or the first Bible verse memorized.  Maybe it is the sweet thing she did for a sibling or the first time he doesn’t take the opportunity to hurt his brother.  Of course, this list can go on forever.  There are so many firsts I experienced with these children.  There are so many hurts we’ve cried over.  There are so many laughs we’ve had and will have.  It is truly a beautiful thing.

Again, beautiful, but maybe not always easy.  I think it is worth it.  Maybe it will get very tough down the line.  But I still think we’ll be able to look at the good stuff. If it proves to be challenging a couple years down the road, I’ll look at this post again.  I’ll look at these posts again.  I’ll look back at the weekly and monthly reports I make for them.  I’ll make a list of blessings.  I’ll make a list of progress.  I’ll make a list of positive attributes.  I’ll ask them for help if I have to.  But I will focus on the positive as much as possible through the years.

As I am writing this, a commercial came on.  It was showing some children being adopted out of foster care.  “Every child needs a family.”  Even the one neglected, starved, left in a carseat, deformed because of abuse, beaten severely, burned, sexually abused, drugged, sold out to strangers, scared beyond all belief, hurting himself, untrusting, and the list could go on unfortunately.

Children HAVE been hurt.  They are still hurting.  But they DO deserve families.  And families could choose to step up and care for them.  It may not always be easy.  But it is a choice.  And it is a choice that can bring great things to our (the children’s and parents’) lives.

Update on Sweet Little M

So this has been a particularly bad week for me.  I have been so worried and upset, downright depressed.  I miss my baby and fear for her being okay with every ounce of my being.

Raising kids with attachment issues, that isn’t going to go away.  I know how this works.  Plainly, my kids are beautiful and awesome and fun and wonderful; but not everything is as great as it can look when you’re posting about an accomplishment or a trip or whatever.  With one child these days, much of the day is absolutely awful; but I can still get a handful of good picture regularly also.  No doubt Sweet Little M’s grandparents have nice pictures of their daughter, M’s biomom, also, despite that she had and still has severe issues.

BUT, up until last night, I didn’t have a great picture of Sweet Little M in her new family.  The pictures were cute; but in none of them, did her personality show through.  None of them had HER smile.

Thankfully, last night, that changed.  Several pictures with her enjoying the activity she was doing were sent along with a very basic update.

I don’t know that anyone could understand what these mean to me.  Though I will always be angry and worried for Sweet Little M, I need to know that she is at least EVER okay.  I’m assuming that these people are sending me some of the best pictures they have of her.  Why would you not especially if you’re trying to convince someone that all is okay?  So by them sending pictures of her “just there” or whatever, I just worried so incredibly much.  So whether her smile is just because she was doing something cool or is because her personality is showing through much of the time, I may not know; but her being ABLE to smile big or make a silly face is very important, imo.

Never will I be okay with what the system or these people (who, again, I generally think are great people) did to her.  Sweet Little M has been through way too much in her little life; and THIS shouldn’t have happened to her even if it does work out okay for her.

But for today, I’m going to be thankful she has at least some good times.

Update

So, I am sorry I have delayed so many posts.  You should see all the posts swimming in my head.  It is just very difficult for me to get time to write some days.  I started off this placement with extreme grief about Monkey.  In no way were we really ready for more kids.  I thought we were, but….Or maybe we are ready as it has worked out fine, just had to get over a major road block to do it.

Anyway, it is working out.  The children are awesome and most days with them have been fine.

Ace is 4½ years old.  He has been quite a mystery to me.  He came with extreme delays and some interesting “symptoms” of *something.* He tested MR with hints of this mental issue or that.  I poo-poo’d that idea right away.  Someone mentioned, “maybe autism spectrum” with the reminder that milder forms may look different.  Hmmmm.  That suggestion made me wonder if it is all trauma as we’ve now seen several examples of PTSD that seem like autism in times of stress.  I would guess that coming into care would be a time of stress.  I still haven’t figured it out.  I know that some of his behaviors were learned (and unlearned).  I know that some behaviors (and lack of skills) were due to circumstances.  I know that he is an extremely quick learner if you can find what he needs for you to reach him.  Anyway, so he has been a mystery in terms of what is going on with him.  The psych report done at the children’s shelter is useless.  My agency agrees with my want of a full psychological/developmental assessment by a certain psychologist.  They aren’t so keen on me waiting til August to give the little guy a little more time to settle in, relax, etc.  It’ll also be easier to show the insurance why they should pay again if we wait.

So Ace started preschool last week.  He went only two days and he’ll have two days this week.  Next week, he’ll start Monday, Wednesday, Friday.  He has done well there, is playing with the other children.  We’ll see how it goes.  He likes the duplo blocks the best.  Of course, balls are great.  He was very capable on the playground so I was a bit surprised when he seemed so awkward on the balance bike.  I told him once he can do it “like Swimmer” (with example), I’ll buy him a bike.  He likes the idea of a bike of his own. He is testing a little, just little things, just a “what will happen if” thing.  What will happen if I look at you and push the button on this thing you told me not to touch? But considering how he was when he got here, that is nothing; so we’ll take it 🙂

Champ is a Mini-Ace.  It is really a weird relationship.  It is obvious they’ve relied on each other for protection, comfort, companionship. Of course, that would be normal for brothers close in age anyway; but this is to an extreme.  What we’ve found interesting is that it goes both ways.  In some ways, possibly because Champ is developmentally closer to typical, Champ seems like the big brother.  But then there is the toddler/preschool learning aspect where Champ is following his big brother’s lead.  In many ways, it is very similar to the unhealthy relationship my three had with one another, especially the part where they keep other people out.  One big positive is that they do recognize they are separate people.

Anyway, Champ has really taken to me and I to him.  Honestly, I think he is probably the reason I pushed through at very first.  He’s a beautiful child with the most endearing smile.  We had to work a little to get it at first, but now he regularly uses his cuteness to engage people.  He loves to mini-trampoline (it is a kids’ one with handles).  He mostly stays back and watches people.  He’ll take toys they hand him though.  He likes cars though and will regularly carry one around.  He doesn’t talk much but when he does, it is full understandable sentences.  I think he was honeymooning though as the last couple days, he’s had a lot more tears and behavior.

Then there is The Baby.  She is the sweetest baby ever.  Had I ever had a baby like this, I probably never would have said, “no more babies!”  Seriously.  She’s a good good baby.  She is always checking things out.  She seems wise beyond her years or something.  She draws you in, engages you in conversation and play.  It is really neat.  She does have some stress reactions.  For example, no one else sees how wonderful she is but us.  She goes “flat” for an audience.  For my son?  He’ll lean his head into her and she’ll tap his head with hers.  I was really surprised she learned to do that so young!  She is most attached to me, making it clear she’s not happy if I leave the room (“I’ll be right back.  I’m gonna go get…”).   Oh, and she is addicted to tv.  I have never seen a baby who watches tv! Monkey wouldn’t watch anything on tv except Sparkabilities at 20 months.

She really is delayed.  We have feeding therapy and the developmental specialist currently.  The Dev Spec comes for communication and mobility.  THis week the physical therapist is coming out for an evaluation.  The OT said she didn’t qualify when she was in the children’s shelter, but will come back out in June for another eval.  We also have a private speech and physical therapist coming for evaluations.  We’ll have to choose who does the services depending on availability.  Typically, I choose private because they give significantly more time to us.  However, I’ve been around the block a time or two so can work with her as we’re in this inbetween time.  This past week, I got her to do a “barely-assisted” roll one direction (she can’t do it the other for whatever reason).    Mostly, she is just a happy baby 🙂

So recently, we decided to take the kids fishing when a town not too far away had a fishing event for children.

This is the only thing caught.  It was caught by Ace.

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This is my crew.

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A local “family” I thought were cute:

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We weren’t the biggest family there!

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Actually, we weren’t the biggest family anyway though.  First off, my two big kids didn’t go.  Second, when I was registering my crew, the guy told me one lady registered nine children.  I only registered five (the baby didn’t count).

So hopefully I’ll get some of these posts from my head to the blog. I have exciting news about Heidi.  Homeschooling has taken a back burner on my blog but should get more press.  I have three reviews (two for Mosaic Reviews, one just being a product I’m glad I bought) to post soon.  Crossfit and diet have slipped, but…

Of course, blogs have periods of more and less activities as life goes on.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to document a little of it though!  I have rarely wished I didn’t post something.  I’ve often wished I would have recorded X when it happened, especially when it is about kids who then progress to Y.

OB: “Babying” Older Children

This is something I’m needing to focus on right now due to one of my children having significant trouble and having some newbie foster kiddos.  So it seemed like a good time to repost it 🙂

How we “baby” big kids (ages 3-8):

*I’m CONSTANTLY on the floor, making it easy for kids to come to me whether for a quick tickle or head rub or game of footsies or whatever.

*I rock them…a lot! When rocking, I pet them, run my fingers through their hair, tickle lightly, tell them what I would have done had I known them (or was their mommy) when they were a baby.

*We use dum-dum lollypops for a bottle for a few reasons.  The biggest was that I worried what the agency and caseworkers would think about using a real bottle.  But this has the benefit of being sweet also which is an attachment key.

*Softness, sweetness, warmth, closeness, etc are all good.

*BTW, my kids LOVE green smoothies. Goodness, a “milk shake” for breakfast? Mommy is the best! My three hadn’t even ever had watermelon. Again, healthy and anytime? AWESOME!

*My kids, especially one of them, have taken it further, such as: First words, first steps, first hop, baby sentences, etc. He does it even with mistakes. Like his first steps are wobbly and he falls down. I praise, encourage, help, fix (pretend) boo-boos, etc.

*We play lots of baby games (peekaboo, this little piggy, etc). A lot of finger 
plays and such are fun too. And reading is a very typical thing for parents to do with children. Our play therapist gave us other ideas like “close
your eyes” and then I lightly touch them with a cotton ball or we blow a cotton
ball back and forth (and you can even do that with more than one child). Just
sit close.

*Lotion and a “family scent” are good ideas also. I have multiple chemical sensitivities so I have to be careful, but….My kids started really responding to cinnamon. Well THAT is easy. I can put a small pot of boiling water with cinnamon in it on the stove. I can put cinnamon in muffins, waffles, pancakes, etc.

For me, having babies in the house has been SOOOOOOOO helpful! I’ve had my three since April 2011. I have had a baby/toddler in the house all but 4 months since I’ve gotten them. It helps me see all the fun, silly, touching, bonding, etc things I can do. We NATURALLY do those things with babies. It is a lot harder to remember with kindergarteners. Having those  reminders, I can turn around and do similarly with the big kids. Sometimes, it feels like I have septuplets rather than one baby and some bigger kids.

BTW, one other thing we do is MUCH greater than typical supervision. This was necessary due to behavior at one point; but even when it could be loosened, we didn’t go all the way to average. Having them close gives opportunity to for coaching, helping, guiding, etc. It also gives a lot of opportunity to touch,rub heads, tickle behind ears, quick kisses to the tops of heads, silly words, etc. 🙂

Awesome Blessing and The Call

Saturday night, after I had already gone to sleep, I received a series of texts from the biological grandmother of my three. MeMe sent a number of pictures.  One was of her late husband whose resemblance to my middle son is uncanny.  Several were of the children with their cousins.  A couple were from when they lived in another foster home.  About that last one, I texted and asked if she knew those people’s names.  She said yes, gave me the names and then gave me their email address!  WoW!

So the next day, I email PFM (previous foster mom).  After a brief introduction, I said, “the children have had so many homes.  I have just been trying to piece together a timeline, pics/stories of their past, etc.   If you have time, I’d love anything you can offer.” I ended it with, “Thank you so much for taking care of my children before I could.”

The next afternoon, when we were playing quietly, “resting” a bit, I got an email response.  The fostermom was incredibly happy to hear from me, would be happy to send some pictures and stories, etc.  She said I could call her.  Well, immediately, my email box starts receiving emails with 15-23 pictures each!  I opened them up showing the kids.  As far as I could tell, the children didn’t remember much. When I talked about them, I said their first names.  Swimmer did pop off with “Daddy PFD.”  I thought he was saying “daddy” and then correcting himself.  However, when I called the PFM, she said they called them “Mommy PFM” and “Daddy PFD”  Hmmmm.  So maybe he remembered?

Anyway, so I did call her almost immediately.  She was thrilled to hear from me.  I was thrilled to hear from her.  A few keypoints:

  • They had my kids from June 2009 through March 2010.
  • T-lo showed signs of attaching well at that time.
  • Swimmer cried A LOT, most of each day and night.  It was exhausting and they almost disrupted placement because it was so extreme (reminded me of a certain little girl I miss).
  • Tumbler had some significant issues and concerns (we saw the psych report from that time period so knew most of what she said).
  • The children were their first placement.
  • They had hoped to keep them forever.
  • They fought reunification blacklisting themselves from that county’s system forever; so when the kids came back into care, no one would even consider them.  This is something I have a HUGE issue with.  It wasn’t in the children’s best interest to be reunited.  No, we can’t fight RU as foster parents; but they were just trying to advocate for the children!  And when the kids came back into care, it most certainly would have had positives to go back to a family they knew well!  But again, CPS isn’t for the children past removal from the home. Sad.
  • Because of that, the family almost quit fostering.  Their hearts were broken.  They had also learned the truth about “the system.”

Anyway, so there were stories good and bad.  There was obvious love in her voice.  She was so happy they were now somewhere permanently, safe and doing well.  Also, they are a homeschool family also enjoying it for many of the same reasons we do 🙂

One more thing.  They didn’t quit fostering.  And last year, they welcomed two toddlers into their home forever.  They also had another  “tummy baby.”  Here are some pics she sent me of Tumbler, Swimmer, and T-lo:

102_0209 102_0208 102_0172 102_0149 102_0144 VEH Feb. 13, 2010 086 Feb. 13, 2010 042 102_0494 edited four 102_0136-1 102_0493

After I got off the phone, I thought about how I should have asked her how she got from her anger at the broken system and sadness of losing “her children” to continuing to foster anyway, eventually adopting.  How do you get back on that horse knowing full well that you may not be able to protect later children from what the system decides to do against the children’s best interests and that you’re going to hurt like crazy when that happens?

Fast forward about twenty-four hours, I’m sitting in the Starbucks parking lot as my son ran in to get coffees.  I read the email from the people Sweet Little M is with.  When I felt the overwhelming sense that she isn’t coming back and that she is doing better (I *knew* she was struggling!), I also thought, “so now we have to decide if we, like my children’s PFM and PFD, will continue on, giving children the best chance we can give them while they are here until we find our forever children.”  Hmmmm.

So get this.  We get home and as I’m talking to the speech therapist, I get a call that says our old agency worker’s name.  I ignore as I’m talking but I then listen to the message.  They are calling about a placement, a 4yo girl and a 2yo boy.  Please call back.

Wait!  Wait a minute!  Hey!!!!  Wait!

My head is spinning.  Hubby and I have talked about fostering more; but because we were unable to take any children in the last month, we hadn’t made a final decision.  As far as we knew, we still couldn’t take children due to this other situation so didn’t HAVE to make a final decision.  Well, and we’re grieving and can take as long as we want.  Little M is not replaceable and trying to “fill that hole” with another child is a BAD idea in many ways.  We have to take children with the understanding we are ready to move forward….if we are.

I call hubby.  He was much more sure than I was.  I try processing my feelings with him.  I might be there.

I call the agency. I first tell her that I’m not sure we’re able to take kids yet.  She says she’ll check.  She then tells me about the kids though it was an alternative app, not a full app, because they called our agency specifically. See, the kids had been in care about two years ago and in one of our agency’s homes.  In fact, as I learned in the follow up phone call, I had actually met these kids at the home of a foster parent who lives in our subdivision two years ago!  I asked several questions.  It seemed contrived.  I told her that my head was spinning as I didn’t think I *could* take kiddos AND that we’re still grieving so trying to process taking children yet.

Well, the kids aren’t coming.  Our agency worker emailed and asked what children we would like to consider and what we would not consider.  My reply:

  • Ultimately 0-7 girl, possibly with a younger sibling.
  • Better if 18m-4y girl, again, possibly with a younger sibling.
  • I would consider most combinations of infant, toddler, preschooler (for example, 15mo boy and 4mo girl was one we had in 2011)
  • One or two children, prefer not part of a larger sibling group.
  • No severe developmental or medical issues.
  • Out of region is cool (love our iseeyou worker).

So, I guess we’re back on the list.  I’m going to be extra careful.  Do I feel it?  I’m not hesitating saying no, even if I have to do it 1400 times.  When we are fully ready and it is right, we’ll say yes.  Regardless, the core members of this family, especially “the three” MUST come first.

But secretly?  I’m hoping.  I really think that the combination of the update about Sweet Little M and the conversation with my children’s PFM made all the difference in the world for me.  It may not be perfect, but it might help me move on, honoring Little M in healthier ways and with happier memories 🙂