OB: Fear = Freeze

The following post was from a little over two years ago.  A post on a group reminded me of it.  That and I’ve been going NUTS with this child’s “staring” rather than answering when I speak to him. I really wish I was as empathetic as I used to be.  I’m working on it.  I saw a few other posts when looking for this one.  Maybe I can get back to being more gracious.

A week ago, we had a situation come up that really helped me see how solidly T-lo is operating in a state of fear rather than actually being *here* sometimes.  All the other kids had gotten down from the table. T-lo was playing with his second piece of broccoli.  He had eaten the top off the first piece.  It had been 20-30 minutes.  This is something we struggle with not stressing about due to his growth issues.

I turned his chair to help him down (we have one of those bar height tables AND he has a booster seat).  I picked him up and told him “I love you. No matter what happens I love you. I. Love. You.”   He looked terrified.  I asked him what I had said sure he couldn’t have heard me or he would seem so scared.  He said, “get down from the table.” I tried again and he replied, “eat.” I tried one more time and he went back to his first answer. The child was so terrified when I picked him up, that he could only guess what I had said.

I hugged him tightly and a few moments later repeated what I had really said. This time he heard me. “I love you too, Mama.”

So that was quite an education.  A lot of times he seems to blank out, zone out, just not be there when we say something to him.  Or he’ll start crying though what is being said or done is not cry worthy (sometimes, quite the opposite).  It’s like he’s responding to something else.

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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.

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.

 

 

OB: House Rules

Originally posted on Old Blog on February 10, 2011

Okay, so one of the forms we have to fill out, for each child, is one that outlines the rules as well as positive and negative consequences associated with those rules.  It is my opinion that rules should be general and that everything falls under one of a handful of rules. Actually, they probably all fall under, in some way or another, the first one, but…  And of course, I completely get that littles will need plenty of time and exposure to understand what these big words and concepts mean. We obviously did pretty well teaching the first two so I’m pretty confident with the next set 🙂 So here are the rules and consequences for our home:

Be Respectful

  • of yourself,
  • of your parents,
  • of others, and
  • of property

Take Responsibility

  • for your chores,
  • for your education,
  • for your choices, and
  • for your behavior

Be Safe and Helpful, including

  • follow directions
  • use walking feet inside
  • When in doubt, ask an adult!

Positive Consequences:

  • Appreciation
  • Praise
  • Recognition
  • Encouragement
  • Additional opportunities

Guidance-based Consequences:

  • Problem-solving, Solution-finding
  • Making amends
  • Practice helps us remember
  • Tighter boundaries

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 🙂

If he’s not, he can’t!

Okay, plain and simple truth:

A person does as well as he can do in the situation.  If he isn’t doing better, it is because he can’t do better.  When he can do better, he will do better.

The same is true of Mamas also.  The difference is that we have a world of resources at our fingertips.  We can see a psychologist.  We can find a specialist.  We can read another book.  We can read a couple more blogs.  We can ask on message boards.  We can join support groups.  We can go to another training.  We can practice alternative options we hear about.

It isn’t easy being the mom of a hurt child.

Today, on more than one occasion, I told myself, “it’s not about me.”  I can have my feelings, thoughts, fears.  But I have to rise above them (not deny them!) in order to find ways to do better and better every day with my children, all of them.

Family Trees

Do you have any good idea about your family tree?  Have you worked on it?  Have you been to familysearch.org or ancestry.com?  Do you have 40 birth certificates, 20 death certificates, a dozen draft cards, pictures in black and white?

We do.  We also have a MESS and a half!

The Tree of Me – a tree that recognizes biological roots and the adoptive family tree

See, we found out when doing our family tree that we’re not the only adoption-minded people.  In fact, we’re not the only ones who have taken in non-related family (sans adoption) either.  We’re not the only ones who know about abandonment.  We’re not the only ones who have done things a little differently.

Okay, so let’s try this. Here are a few stories.

First, you probably have read a few things about my children.  Tumbler is 7. Swimmer is 6.  T-lo is 5.  They came to us through fostercare.  We never had heard of them before.  We didn’t know their family.  I had never even heard of their town or county.  So they were complete strangers who have become our daughter and sons.

Second, my hubby was adopted.  Did you know that?  His stepfather adopted him and all of his siblings when he was little.  His biological father died when my husband was only six weeks old (there is a story there.  Well, possibly two.  Or three? The world may never know what REALLY happened).

#3 – OKay, here is an interesting story though.  My husband’s biological grandfather…He was born in 1901 to a young mom named Lena.  His father died that year (weird, coincidence).  Anyway, his mother couldn’t care for him at first so he was in a children’s home for a short time.  Later, she got him back and married another man.  This man took my hubby’s grandfather as his own.  What is weird is that I can’t find anything about his(the grandfather’s) biological father and family.  Anyway, but that isn’t where the story ends.  As you learn more about Lena, you find out that she took in other people also.  Sometimes she took in whole families.  Other times, she just had a couple extra children.  Interesting, huh?

Wait wait…so that is hubby’s side, right?

My father was adopted.  Now, we have limited information about it as there seems to have been some “interesting” legal stuff going on and the lawyer who handled it died between the time my father was 14 and wanted to know and 18 when the lawyer said he’d tell him.  At some point, my mother got the idea that it was a kinship adoption.  BTW, my aunt was also adopted.  Both had the same biological and adoptive parents.

So biologically, I have nothing further on my dad’s side.

Cabin Class Bedroom on RMS QM

Cabin Class Bedroom on RMS Queen Mary

I was able to get enough information to start following my father’s adoptive father’s family for a little while.  It wasn’t a lot, but something.  For his mother, I get cut short pretty quickly also.  I managed to get my grandmother’s birth certificate which helped with her parent’s names.  I got some neat pics of the ship she came over on also. But I have her mom’s name then NOTHING.  I found where her husband’s belongings were sent care of her mother’s last name and that is it.

Earl Johnson

E. Johnson

Now my mother’s father’s side of the family is fairly normal as families come.  I’m sure there are some stories, of course.  But it seems more straight forward.  But her mother’s side of the family is less so.  Her mother’s age is in question.  It seems she has multiple birth dates due to fudging it to join the military with her brother during WWII.

Anyway, I have never been able to find out anything about my grandmother’s father or his family.  Unfortunately, the children (my grandmother and her brother) were 3 and 5 by the time of the 1930 census and my great grandmother was living with her mother, father, and siblings. A family member doesn’t mention him at all though there is a paper family tree that names the father of the children.

So I have some lines that go very far though they may not be biological and some that don’t go very far at all, especially if we only use biological lines.

Okay, so I’ve mentioned I have an open adoption with my children’s biological family.  So I have slowly used what I could figure out from facebook and other things to put together a beginning of a family tree biologically for my children.  I actually have done pretty decently considering!  So I forgot to ask MeMe about it when she was here for the adoption party.  I texted her, asking some basic questions.  She tried to fill me in.  Well, last night, when we were talking, she said she was getting the information off the genealogical report for the tribe!  WHAT?!?!  I immediately thought about how I was glad that hadn’t come out before the adoption.  Honestly, had we been told during the placement call, that would have been a deal breaker.  Unfortunately, we have heard too many stories of native children not being able to get permanency or ripped from the only home they’ve ever known for no reason other than tribe affiliation.  Well, as I researched the information, it probably wouldn’t have mattered.  They are from a subsection of Cherokee that is not yet recognized by the BIA.  However, the children’s great grandfather and grandmother’s sister are “card carrying” members so it might be nice to look into it.

Anyway, just found some interesting things and I’m glad to be able to provide a biological family tree as well as our family tree for them.  They are welcome to fill it in more in time.  I’ll also do what I can with MeMe as we go along.

May I get on a small soapbox briefly?  I think people doing genealogical research need to be mindful that there are PEOPLE involved.  It is neat to find skeletons, noble stories, etc.  However, especially in our complicated world, it is wise to simply accept the information as it is known sometimes.  There is a young person in our family tree whose family members were bullied by a genealogy-studying extended family member because she thought she remembered some juicy fact about this young person’s biological ties or lack thereof.  She was very firmly told that the record available states XYZ.  She decided to list this child differently on her family tree.  What is odd is that she accepted the adopted child of the family.  So say there were three children.  She listed the one biological child and the one adopted child the same, but listed this third child differently.  How RUDE!

I really enjoy doing our family tree.  I can’t dedicate much time to it; but here and there, I try.

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!

Busy Bees of the H fam

So as you can imagine, we’re extremely busy.  Here is a little update:

  • First, this past weekend we had a special three day convention we attended.  It was absolutely wonderful.  I took my two big kids (18 and 20) and five of the littles.  I left the baby with another foster family (respite).  The children behaved beautifully all three days despite how uncomfy the seating was at the convention center!  My son was baptized.  My littles paid attention at times.  It was great!  I will probably share a little more in later days because we learned so much.  Awesome!
  • Monday, we had our area’s Not Back to School Party.  It was HUGE!  It was nice seeing so many other homeschoolers in the area.  So part of what we do is take a huge group picture.  So we got all the kids together for that.  Well, someone was sneaky and smart and took a picture of all the moms taking pictures!  No way they would have gotten all of us to stand together, ya know!
  • Last night, I found out that my three little ones are transitioning to fictive kin.  In their case, it is a neighbor of a relative.  We have been asked and asked and asked about adopting from placement through earlier this week and it has taken two months from the first “meet you” visit to talking about transitioning.  We really thought maybe these were our children.  But I feel a real peace about them going to these people.  I wish them all the very best.
  • Homeschooling with six children seven years old and under takes a LOT more time than you’d think.  We are constantly going off on rabbit trails, being distracted by a diaper change or what have you.  It is fun, but takes a LOT longer than it would with fewer children.  Of course, maybe it is just preparing us for when they are older and it will take more time for the actual work.
  • The six month mark passed regarding Sweet Little M being taken halfway across the country to strangers, to her fifth home where she is now in need of professional help to deal with the trauma of what has happened to her because the state and her “new parents” had other interests, not her best interests, in mind. I am still angry, bitter, sad, scared, worried, fearful, disgusted; but actually, all of these have died down a great deal.  Now I simply love my little girl from afar and believe more than ever that our Heavenly Father is more than capable of helping her for now and forever.

Hopefully, I can keep up with my blog a little better in the weeks to come. I do know I have a review I’ll put up this weekend.  I would also like to share a couple pictures and thoughts from the convention.  We have all sorts of pictures of our school days also.  And the children have made amazing progress.  Tons of stuff to post if I can just find time to post them.

Preschool of some sort

Okay, so part of the psych report for the boys says that preschool is highly suggested.  As a homeschooler, everyone seems to think I’d be against preschool.  However, as a prior preschool teacher, I certainly am not.

As with all things, there are benefits of a child being home with mom as well as benefits to going to preschool.  My final thought comes down to the fact that with a good part time preschool program, a child can have the best of both.  At the same time, I don’t think preschool is necessary for most children.

But Ace and Champ are not most people.  They have some needs that suggest that the psychologist is right.  These kids may actually have hindered development if they do not attend preschool part time.

First, they have the common issue of foster kids to be so intermeshed in each other’s life, as each other’s main support, to practically believe they are two sides of the same person.  Siblings have a close bond with pretty meshed lives anyway so trauma, abuse, and neglect seems to weld them together.  I’ve only seen one sibling set more welded together than Ace and Champ. Preschool will allow them to become individuals (they won’t be in the same classroom).

Second, Ace and Champ both are followers.  This is good in some ways as they have some special needs.  Copying others will help them in the long run.  However, copying each other will not.  And copying only one or two other people may be an issue, especially if those people have some issues also.  Having the boys in a few settings, including preschool, will allow them to copy a wider variety of people.

Having a wide range of people around will give them a variety of experiences, opportunities and exposures.  Some people worry about this, especially for their young children.  However, a good preschool doesn’t have any real number of highly dysfunctional children to worry about.  And part time preschool gives them the opportunity while allowing them plenty of redirection at home as necessary also.  But in terms of speech patterns, social skills, sharing, following the direction of other adults, etc, preschool gives a great varied experience.

It is my experience that preschoolers who attend a program outside of the family truly are better at socializing.  Generally, good socialization is learned within a healthy and safe family and practiced in the community.  I do believe that too much time with peers and less time with family can cause negative social skills to prevail.  Obviously, all children and families are individuals also though.  But I do believe there may be a benefit to part time preschool allowing children to learn, practice, and use social skills.

Along those lines, some children, including Ace and Champ in the opinion of myself and the psychologist, have a greater need to be in a greater number of settings in order to learn, practice, and use a variety of skills (social and language primarily in Ace and Champ’s case).   Now, most kids *get* a variety of settings naturally in living life; but some kids need those situations to be more intentional and planned due to their individual needs.  Ace and Champ need more time in each of many settings in order to figure out the “rules” of language and socialization the way other children may do less formally.  Preschool will allow them many hours per week in a well-chosen setting to give them those opportunities.

Of course, all this is assuming the boys (and their baby sister) are staying.  I should have more information by the end of the week.

That is it!

Okay, this is not the post for today because I have too many I want to write this week; so this is a bonus from yesterday rather than a new one for today.  Okay?

And you may get further if you read yesterday’s first.

Okay, a woman just wrote that she had lost a baby years ago and that she worried something awful about her.  And that now she feels peace, that the child has just what she needs with the family she is now with six years later.

And it hit me that this is exactly why I do not have peace!   I simply do not trust the people who have my baby to do what is right by her.  How could I?  They already have proven they won’t put her needs ahead of all else!

BTW, this is just the opposite of what happened with my three.  The aunt and grandmother for my three could have fought for the children.  They likely would have won as the “concerns” were not legally significant.  But they saw how much they were loved and cared for.  They saw that they were getting their developmental needs met.  They saw that they were getting the opportunity to live life.  They saw that we were willing to do WHATEVER to help them emotionally, mentally, socially.  They saw that we valued education. They saw they looked healthier.  They were happy they were doing so well.

So they backed out and let us be a family.  It was so incredibly hard for them.  But we had already given the children so much and could give them forever.  And they put the children’s needs rather than some idea of “blood” and “they’re mine” and selfish desires in the forefront of their thinking.

These people were much further removed than my three’s aunt and grandmother.  They also had never met her before, much less had a relationship with her.  They didn’t even have a relationship with her biomom.  And when they heard what all we had done, nothing.  When they saw how much we adored her, nothing.  When they knew how much it would hurt her, nothing.  Nothing was going to deter them from getting this freebie daughter no matter what it did to HER in the process.

On top of that, they are doing things known to exasperate attachment issues though they were warned ahead of time that those things were problematic.  Though they were asked to learn more about attachment.  Though they went through classes that at least touched on attachment issues.  Though they had spoken with the bio-grandmother who had raised Sweet Little M’s mom who had attachment disorder (adopted as an older child).  But they still just do whatever they want to do rather than what is best for M.

So how am I supposed to trust them?  They’ve proven over and over and over for the last year that none of this is about M.

I will say that I do have the slightest amount of hope through all my fears (and there are even more than listed on my blog so far).  I know that their love for her grew over the 14 months they waited to get her in their home.  And no doubt, some of that has grown even more in the 5 months they’ve had her with them. Also, they DO seem like good people in general from everything I can tell.  I even LIKED them as we were texting, skyping, visiting, etc.  So my hope is that their love outweighs their imperfection at some point and they really DO help my sweet baby heal and thrive.

But based on their track record, I cannot trust them to do it so I get no peace about it now.

Oh, except one thing.  As I struggle with all this, I have my faith in God.  I don’t believe like so many others want to that God is controlling and perpetrating all these bad things on people.  However, I do believe that he can work with and fix anything we mere humans throw at him!