System is Unfair to Parents

Okay, generally, I think that parental rights over the children’s needs is a huge problem in the child welfare system.  However, I recently had an experience that showed me how unfair it is to parents also.

We often hear about how parents are delusional, not taking responsibility, unable to comprehend what they’d done, etc.  However, it may be that the system has fed into that a good deal!  Here is an example of when this happened to two parents.

Meeting with approximately 23 people, parents included. Caseworker, lawyers, D.A., kinship workers, CASA, supervisors, foster parents, etc are also there. Children have been in care a couple months when this meeting took place. It is not believed these parents will ever get things together enough or keep it together in order to be able to parent.  Wording below is not exact.  Specific circumstances will be generalized.

Facilitator:  What is the date the children were taken into care?  Is that the date permanency is based upon?

Caseworker: Date in question.  Yes.

Facilitator:  What were the circumstances that led the children to be removed from the home?

Caseworker outlines domestic violence, extreme neglect and filth, concerns of specific abuses.

Facilitator: any previous cases with this family?

Caseworker: Yes.  There have been X cases including ____.  Caseworker outlines number of times children have been in care, kinship, have had home-based services as well as the reasons for these cases.

Facilitator: Have the parents been offered a caseplan?

Caseworker: yes (it is about this time that I wonder why the caseworker pauses three full seconds before answering each time).

Facilitator: Mom, what services have you completed.

Mom lists numerous things she’s taken care of (imo, impressive considering how short children have been in care).  Most things have not been finished, but basics have been started.  For example, she’s half-way through parenting classes and has gone back to counseling and for medication management.

Facilitator: Is there any services mom is not compliant with?

Caseworker states that she has addressed each item on the caseplan though she states a clarification to one item that seems to me probably doesn’t matter and can’t be held against Mom.

Facilitator asks dad the same question.

Dad is not nearly as concise as mom was, goes off a little in left field, is chastised by mother, does that for each caseplan area.

Facilitator again asks caseworker about compliance and Caseworker confirms he has addressed each thing.

Facilitator asks what the goal is.

Caseworker: Reunification with parents

Facilitator: Concurrent?

Caseworker: Adoption by a non-relative

Facilitator: Kinship?

Caseworker briefly discusses the failed kinship placement as well as that grandmother is involved but unable to take the children. Mention is made of DNA testing, a named father for one of the children, no other known possible family members at this time.

Facilitator: any known reasons why RU (reunification) will not occur?

Caseworker: not at this time

Facilitator asks foster parents about each child, basically wanting to know that all are up-t0-date on medical, dental, and immunizations as well as any special needs are being addressed.

Facilitator: When is the next court date?

Caseworker answers.

And that was that.  Discussion afterward among the parties is about how useless the meeting was.  They also discuss how that meeting makes it sound like there is no reason the children wouldn’t be returned shortly.  No wonder Mom thought it was possible before the end of the year!  She was redirected to think no sooner than Spring, but still!  I mean, if a parent thinks, “a case plan is a list of the things I must do adequately in order to have my children returned to me,” there is no wonder the parents may think they are getting their kids back sooner than possible!

Why would there not be things on their caseplan that detail what else they will be judged upon so they can try to address those things as well as have a more realistic view of why the children are not being returned at any given time (possibly ever).

I have had several cases that this has happened with now, including my children’s.  CPS had NO intention on working with the parents another time after the history.  They didn’t meet the requirements not to receive a caseplan. The caseplan included the basics they had done several times and didn’t include anything else the parents needed to prove. In their case, what really happened was that family quit enabling them and they were incapable of following through with the caseplan on their own in part due to poor choices.  But what if they had done it all (with or without help)?

I absolutely think parents should be given a chance or two.  It is best for children to be raised by their parents when possible.  However, multiple chances, case plans that aren’t realistic, etc seems like it just sets kids up to not have permanency year after year.  My kids had nine homes, eight cases, over five years before TPR (termination of parental rights).  Most kids I’ve had who have had TPR or headed that direction have either had extreme circumstances which suggested strongly that the parents would not be able to do enough or keep it up or multiple cases which backs that idea up.  And yet each has had a basic caseplan and official goal of RU.

Again, I just think it is unfair for the children to be in limbo and with the issues that come with it.  And I think it is unfair to the parents to have it suggested they just need to do XYZ to get their kids back when that obviously isn’t (and can’t be!) the case.   I also think that the options available to the department as well as the parents should be covered with the family occasionally.  But again, I think they need to have a fair case plan in the first place so they can more accurately see what is going on in the case in order to evaluate the options.

Just weird and in my opinion, wrong.

 

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.

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.

Strike that :) A call to change things up

Okay, strike that last post.  Not completely, but….

Friday at 3pm, Ace, Champ, and The Baby went to fictive kin (a neighbor of the paternal aunt).

THEN, at 8:32, I get a phone call.  It was a number from out of the area, so I didn’t answer it.  So then at 8:33, I get a text from the number.  “This is K*******, I have a sibling group of 3 for you if you’re interested.”  I call her back.  3yo boy, 2yo girl, and 3month old girl.  The only information was that the baby had medication for reflux.  Because the children were from a little bit away AND would have longer visits because of the baby, I asked about transportation responsibilities.  That information wasn’t available.  K******* asked me what I could do in regards to that so that she could respond to Central Processing that I would accept the children under the condition that I could transport for visitation no more often that X times per month.  I hate to do that, but I do have five other children (though two are adults).  I have to do what I have to do.

About 10 minutes later, I got an email from our old program direction, J (now in some other supervisory position in relation to licensing us, but I’m not sure what all she does).  She sends me the short apps on each child.  Again, looks fine.  I said, “yes.”

A few minutes later, I get a call that Central Processing accepted us, just waiting on the caseworker.  She gets back shortly and they said they’d be here between 11 and 11:30 (it was almost midnight).

So we have:

Professor, the 3yo boy who is smart as a whip and really a neat kid.  He seems five in many ways.  He isn’t as fearless as his sister but he won’t be shown up by her either.

Doc (as in McStuffins) is the 2yo girl.  Again, super smart and cool kid, also seeming older than she is, actually, older than her brother.  She is fearless!

Lastly we have Turtle, the 3month old.  She’s such a good sweet baby.  She sleeps way too much, but when she is awake, she’s all smiles.

Would it surprise any foster parent out there that we didn’t get all of the known information?  For example, it was known that the baby had a cleft lip.  You can’t look at her and not notice that.  So why wasn’t it shared?  She also has another condition.  Now, CPS may not have known what that condition was, but they certainly knew how it presented, as well as that it would scare a caregiver something awful.  Add a feeding issue (not related to the lip), reflux, failure to thrive including hospitalizations.  Then certain aspects of why the children were removed to consider should have been disclosed also.  Because of their ages, I probably would have still taken them; but two of the issues are those I would have preferred to have had the choice about taking.

THEN, I take the baby to the doctor and find out something REALLY scary, like, “ummm, I’m not sure I can handle this, or WANT to” scary, like, “What if she dies on my watch?”  It really is a tempered fear and one with warning signs, but STILL!

So again, a situation where more information was not disclosed in order to get the placement.

The investigator was actually told they wouldn’t be able to place the children together.  So maybe that was part of the reason for down playing the issues a little.  However, the children were coming from two days in a kinship placement.  And what if I didn’t feel like I could deal with the issues (on top of normal foster kiddo and individual stuff)?  That would really stink if the kids had THREE placements in less than a week in care!

But we sure will be busy!  Really busy!

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 🙂

Mental Torment

This post is going to tell you what I do to myself as a foster-adoptive mother.  And then you’ll know why I’m crazy.  Please know that I tell myself to “chill” constantly, to stop worrying what other people think, to accept my best, that perfection is not attainable at this time, etc.  But in the end, I am constantly WORRIED despite Jesus’ admonition to stop it already!

Okay, so I was going to start this another way, but I saw this post and thought, “Oh, YES!!!!”

But, quite honestly, the worst part has been the mental torment of second-guessing every move I make, every standard, every moment of discipline, because for some reason I feel like I have forgotten how to be a parent. The plethora of attachment training sessions, adoption books and doctors who seem to know more about my child than I do all feel like dozens of fingers pointing at me in condemnation.

That was written by Sara over here —> http://saraescamilla.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/quick-esca-update/

Sometimes I have this “yes!” or “yee-haw!” moment that I’m doing just fine, thank you very much.  One of my children will  show they’ve internalized the discipline (teaching/guiding, includes correction, of course), for example.  Or there is some other progress made.  The other day, Ace knocked his sister, the 9 month old(!), down.  He ran and my son grabbed up the baby.  I went and fussed at Ace in a “what on earth, have you lost your mind?” then “you better not ever do that again” manner.  And then I threw a party. Why?  Because Ace made eye contact with me the entire time I fussed at him!  My other kids do that pretty naturally, only looking away if it is another behavior in their case.  They could look at you no matter what you were saying, doing, or how.  But Ace?  Ace TRUSTED me enough to look at me.  We’re bonded enough that he could do so.  So obviously my fussing at him pretty strongly a few times (well, and I left him in his room too!) hasn’t caused any issue with our attachment.  Or maybe it has even helped.  He knows I’m not going to kill him no matter how upset I am with him.  It is safe to make eye contact with me.  It hasn’t always been safe to look ANYONE in the eyes EVER, but…

Anyway, but seriously, I’m sitting here wondering if I should really post that story.  I mean, we all know that you’re not supposed to use a raised voice or even use “that” tone with foster children, especially those traumatized by abuse, lacking attachment, etc.  And then there is the leaving him in his room for a few minutes.  How dare I?  Even though I know that Ace and I are just fine (thank you very much), I know there could be a lot of judgment.

But on a day to day basis, probably the worst judge of myself, is myself.  I wish I could do everything perfectly.  Of course, what *is* perfectly?

And really, my kids are BEAUTIFULLY behaved.  Sometimes I think we’re just way too hyper about things.  And then I think, well, they are so beautifully behaved *because* we’re very firm with high standards.  If we relaxed (like I so often think we need to), would they be so far along?  That is another thing I worry about being judged about also.

(Note:  I’m aware that no one else is nearly as interested as they seem in my head.  They have their own lives, too busy to worry about jugdging me!  They probably aren’t *really* thinking any of the things I attribute to them.)

But any time I get onto my kids, whether a look or a quick phrase or sending them to the corner or whatever, I worry what someone else thinks.  They don’t “see” the Mommy-shopping, just a charming, cute kid.  They think “oh their just kids.”  They may think I seem too easily irritated or wanting perfection.

And then….it goes ALL the way the other way:

PLEASE please please quit praising me regarding how well my children behave and how well I do with them!  I’m a fraud!

Yes, the children are usually *very* well-behaved.  This past weekend, we had the District Convention.  Three full days sitting in very uncomfy seats at the convention center.  I had five kids with me (the baby was at respite) plus bigs.  We sat in two rows so I could be within arms length of all of them, helping them with songbooks, Bibles, “looks,” giving them crayons, whatever.  The kids were AWESOMELY FANTASTIC!  I took ONE kid out ONE time to fuss at him (and it was a pretty major situation that no one would have NOT addressed).  In Three days, one kid, one time!  *I* was amazed and so incredibly thankful.

But though some of it is that I work hard with them, some of it is just that they are pretty good kids and for my three, they’ve had almost 2½ years to learn.  And then they are so much better behaved in public.  It is part of being charming and cute for other people.

But mostly, I just mess up SO much of the time!  Sure, I do some things very well with them.  I could list some great things about my relationship with them and my parenting.  But I make SO many mistakes every day.  I really don’t see how these kids are doing so well with ME as a mother!  So when people praise me, not just them, I feel like a fraud.

See, I really am nuts.  I worry about this stuff ALL THE TIME.  I want to do well by my kids and make so many mistakes.  I worry about what my mistakes say about me.  I worry about being judged.  I judge myself something awful.  And I feel like a fraud.  And every day, I hope I do a little better than the day before.  I keep hoping I can be half the mom my kids really deserve!

Hodge Podge

Wow, I’m really slacking!

Just busy busy.  To be honest, almost overwhelmed kind of busy.

I get online here and there, but that isn’t the same as composing a blog post.

But here are some pics 🙂

20130619_083614-1 20130619_104056 20130619_120612 20130620_171349 20130620_171352-1

 

20130608_170834-1 1373075928_picsay-1373075928

 

20130704_105702 20130704_110249 20130704_110333-1-1

 

1373075675_picsay-1373075675 1373075487_picsay-1373075487 IMG_1843-1

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.

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.

20130518_093133

This is my crew.

20130518_101024-1

A local “family” I thought were cute:

20130518_103753-1

We weren’t the biggest family there!

20130518_104111-1

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. 🙂

Everything They Do is WRONG!

So on a message board, a few people were talking about how everything a foster child does, when they go into a new home, is wrong.  They want the wrong things, say the wrong things, do the wrong things, think the wrong things, wear the wrong things, etc.  This really hit home for me because I really do feel like I’m correcting kids all the time at first.  And I know some of those things are just family preferences, not “the end of the world.”

  • speech, grammar – “Will I have some more? instead of “May I”?  being unintelligible to some degree or another
  • manners – please, thank you, yes/no instead of yeah/uh-uh
  • social skills (sharing, talking with others, etc)
  • aggression – verbal (name calling, cursing, etc) and physical (hitting, biting, pinching)
  • at the table – using utensils, sitting up straight, eating speed, eating real food
  • hair and dress – unkempt, inappropriate sayings, etc
  • LOUD, very LOUD, making noises CONSTANTLY, yelling, not even knowing HOW to whisper
  • self-care – pottying, dressing, bathing, etc.
  • bed – bedtime, sleeping through night, etc
  • cultural differences to navigate (not necessarily change)
  • defiance – blatant, hidden, passive, just hollering no over and over

Obviously I have young children.  I can imagine there would be other issues with older kids.  The amount of time on screens, inappropriate clothing, wanting to do things that kids shouldn’t at all (like drugs, be with an adult boyfriend, etc) or can’t in foster care, etc.

We have new children.  Ace is 4½, Champ is almost 3, and The Baby is 6mo this week.  These kids have fewer of these “wanna change them” things than most.  I am not worrying about how loud Ace is, for example, as I figure that is my issue right now.  And I kinda find Champ’s mouthiness cute (though I won’t let him know that!).  I do have to address Ace’s social issues as we have a lot of kids.  And we are gently working on both boys’ self-care skills.

Mostly, I want kids to know they are safe here.  Sometimes that heads off certain issues but causes others temporarily.

Anyway, I think the main takeaway is that even if I would like many things to change, that it is important the CHILDREN don’t feel like I want to change everything about them.  Can you imagine thinking that everything you say, do, think, want, wear, etc is wrong?  Can you imagine feeling nothing is ever good enough? Some things will need to be addressed in time.  Very few things need to be addressed the first week, be addressed in a punitive manner, etc.   In time, you’ll find that some things don’t need to be addressed at all as that is just how it is or will work out itself. But regardless, it is probably wise to be mindful of how much you’re trying to change “overnight.”

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 🙂

Little M Update

Well, I finally got a decent update about Sweet Little M.  4 weeks ago, Little M was taken across the country by fictive kin she only knew as I encouraged skyping while awaiting legal proceedings, their foster care classes, etc.  Little M had her longest and healthiest bond with our entire family broken unnecessarily.  I simply cannot make sense of this.  It obviously wasn’t in her best interest to be with them rather than us.  So why do it?  Well, of course, I now know about things like kickbacks, statistics, the state saving money.  Forget the kid, right?  

Anyway, so I’m definitely grieving.  I admit that.  It hurts terribly to lose a child you were led to believe you may be able to keep (even though there was other information to the contrary also).  I’m bitter.  I’m angry.  I’m sad.  I’m scared for my baby now and for her future.  I miss her so incredibly much.  It hurts so much to see my hubby cry over her, to hear my children ordering the state she is in to put her on a plane back to us, etc.  

Over the past four weeks, I have received almost no information and only three pictures.  No smiles.  No anecdotes.  No videos.  No skyping.  No details or stories.  Just a vague, “she’s adjusting well” with a few bits of information that suggested otherwise.  

But I have news.  K wrote a semi-detailed email of a decent length.  It gave a little bit of information about how things have gone over the past month, how she was adjusting, how she is doing now, etc.  There were details that helped.  

I came to two conclusions when I read the email.  First, the chances that these people are disrupting placement are pretty darn slim.  Second, Little M is at least making some progress for now.  I hope pictures are forthcoming, maybe at least a couple that include a smile to show she ever does?  But I could believe one particular story.  It was so her.  And that made me feel a little better.  

I will worry about Sweet Little M forever more (and I do know that as I still worry about another child from 16 years ago).  I really hope that she can overcome this situation and live a happy, healthy, productive life.  No matter what, she has a family of seven in Texas who loves here dearly and always will.  

I know the above still sounds a bit “crazed” with sadness, anger, fear.  I do have a good bit of that still.  But….but something is different.  Maybe some acceptance of what I cannot change?