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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Love Should be Multiplied Not Divided

So when I can put down some cohesive thoughts I'll go into my theories about why this all happened. Regardless of the why - we now have all FOUR siblings in this sibling set. My foster kid's older sisters came to live with us last night. With 4 hours notice. I saw all the pieces come together - the bunk beds we had purchased the day before. The constant discussion about what if the girls needed to move? The capacity of 6 people for our hotel room for our trip to Disney. (Which was originally for my sister in law and her boyfriend's kids but they broke up.)(AND YES WE ARE STILL GOING)And so when at 3 pm yesterday the kids case worker called and told me their current foster parents gave notice that they wanted them moved by that night we were able to come to a decision.

I'll admit - I'm terrified. We as rookie parents, are now outnumbered 2 to 1. We went from a family of 2 to a family of 6 in a matter of 4 months. And as much as I'm sure that this is the right thing for these kids that I'm committed to - I worry we won't be enough for them to heal. All I know is my Mama Bear instinct kicked in and they were coming to live with us. I know we will pay for this decision in behaviors and tears and hard work. But I also know we will be rewarded in laughter and fun and love.

And of course it scared my little guy in a big way. He cried as he brushed his teeth last night that he missed his sisters (who were downstairs) and I knew that he was scared they would be gone in the morning. Because how is an almost 4 year old supposed to understand why his sisters are here but not his "really, real Mom"? And as I kissed the oldest goodnight I could see the fear in her eyes as well. Fear that she would be moved again. Fear that her siblings would be split again. Fear that we won't love her. And I looked her in the eyes and begged her silently to hear my heart and told her that everything was going to be O.K. That this was the right thing for them. And as tears welled in her eyes she nodded and then I saw her whole body relax.

And that was enough for me. I'm sure very few people save other foster parents understand this decision but at this point I. DONT. CARE. So do us all a favor and don't tell me you think I'm crazy because I now have four kids and did not get even that many hours of sleep last night and you don't want to set me off :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Meeting My Kids Mother

So the past few weeks we've been preparing for the Permanency Hearing in June. In our state there are quarterly hearings and then 2 Permanency Hearings in 12 months. In June my kids and their sisters will have been in DCFS care for 1 year. We met with their case worker, the Guardian Ad Lietum (the kids attorney), and my licensing worker came out. My husband was teaching a Junior Achievement Class at the same time as the court hearing so I went alone. The other foster parents didn't feel they belonged at the hearing if the kids weren't supposed to be there so they did not go. To each their own I guess.

I was nervous. I was waiting to hear back on a salary counter offer for a new job I was accepting. I didn't know where I was going when I got to the court building (in fact the Sheriffs sent me to the wrong floor and I missed the beginning of the hearing). And I wasn't sure what was going to happen. I didn't know if it was in English or Spanish. So I packed my trusty pocket Spanish-English dictionary along with the clothes he came home in last week from his Mom's. I had washed them and intended to give them to her in hopes she would get the message and send back the jeans and brand new t-shirt he had been wearing last week.

Once I got to the right court room the bailiff informed me the case had already begun and wanted to know in a somewhat mean tone why I was late. Umm because your comrades down the end of the hall apparently are too busy chit chatting to listen to people when they ask a question? But after I told him I was a foster parent who was sent to the wrong floor he let me in.

If a court room could be described as cozy this one was. It was on the smaller side and a very nice looking woman was presiding. I slid in the bench behind the attorney tables as the judge and the State's Attorney were discussing that Mom had completed her parenting classes. They were also going over the status of the children who were having some behavior problems but were stabilized and doing quite well. Then she asked me to state my name and purpose. Jelly Bean and Mr. Mohawk's Foster Parent. To which she told me I had gone above and beyond facilitating additional contact between the kids. Stated for the record that I should be commended for the way I've approached the situation. Some more information about granting DCFS discretion in allowing additional visitation and starting family therapy and some unsupervised time was discussed and then I realized I was sitting directly behind their Mother who was in between her attorney and the translator.

I thought I would feel angry being that close to her. But mostly I was curious. I couldn't see her face and the only picture I had seen was her mug shot that I found in the newspaper. Despite the fact that the kids come home filthy from their visits I felt better knowing she had completed and passed a parenting class. Now I don't know how long they are but I bit back the urge (well at least until later in the day) to wonder why it had taken her 9 months to complete it. Then the judge dismissed us and we were asked to leave the court room. She went to stand in the vestibule and I had no choice to follow. So I walked out stuck out my hand and introduced myself. And there was this woman smiling. I took out the clothes and she said I have yours at home. And suddenly I relaxed a bit.

We went to sit on the couch in the hall to wait for the caseworker and I made every effort to try and break the ice. She didn't ask me many questions but I tried to tell her what was going on with her kids. I tried to treat her how I would want to be treated if I had somehow ended up on that side of the couch. I showed her a picture of all four at the Waterpark on my phone and she asked if I could send it. And while this may be a moment of kindness I later regret I did send it. And she seemed very happy about it. So much so that Jelly Bean asked me how her Mom got it when she came home from her visit later that night. In my heart I felt sad for her. In just that short hour I learned that this was a woman who really did seem to care about her kids but just didn't have the tools:the knowledge, the money, the support. It didn't make me better than her as I sometimes want to think. I'm sure it was hard to sit across from me. I get to know what is going on in her kid's world. I get to kiss them goodnight. I get the everyday pictures. They call me Mom too. She gets 2 hours a week with a stranger watching.

Now I'm not saying that she shouldn't have only 2 hours with a supervisor as she did beat the snot out of her kids and made very bad decision where her life is concerned but in that time period I reached a different level of understanding. And I guess a new level of comfort. I don't think she is one of the people that just likes to beat on others. She was way overwhelmed. And knowing the kids and seeing her circumstances I could see how someone might get to that place. My fear though is how much is going to change that she won't be right back in that same place. Especially since now these kids have had even more trauma and anger than before.

The caseworker had already asked us if we could help facilitate a long transition home and this is a women I will be seeing again. She is also the one who will ultimately make the decision to allow me to see these children that I love so much once they do return home. So beyond the "Golden Rule" attitude there was some selfish motivation which seemed to take away the emotions I thought I would feel and replace them with this confidence and peace I wasn't expecting. Ok and maybe a small piece of me was hoping she would see how much we love the kids and how good they are doing and just say "if you let me see them you can have them". But of course that is fantasy and selfish but the thought creeps in every once in a while.

We chatted for a little longer and then walked out with the caseworker. She shared some concerns about the kid's sisters and their current placement and there is a possibility that we will respite for them during their spring break. They will be getting some more supports but if that doesn't work they may disrupt. In which case as crazy as it would be we would take them too. Because the other piece to this case is that these kids need to learn how to get along and stop fighting as much as their mother needs to learn how to not hit them. And if they don't do that before they move back I feel their chances of coming back into the system are much higher.