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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Unfair

Wednesday I recieved what I would consider two major blows. The first was a phone call from the District Attorney's office. The Victim Advocate called to set up a meeting with Little Mama to prep her for a pretrial hearing in the case agianst the Monster that hurt JB in foster care. I'm sorry did I hear you right - LM has to testify? When is the hearing? 2 weeks? And I'm just finding this out now? Do you know she was abused also? And that guy is sitting in jail? And its a major issue with my kids as he was the father of another one of the kids? Luckily this was in time for her trauma therapist to prep her before the DA. To say I was caught off guard was an understatement. And man am I worried about the trigger this might be. After a year in therapy she still hasn't disclosed ANY of the details of her abuse to her therapist. This may just be the log that breaks the dam.

Then Case Worker came over for our monthly visit. We had emailed with some major concerns about visits. We were right they aren't going well. Why aren't they going well? According to their Mom its because the kids are in a non-Spanish speaking home. There is a law in Illinois that states that Spanish speaking parents are entitled to have the right to say whether or not their children can be in English speaking homes. They must sign a waiver if it is ok for this to happen. Our foster kid's mother did not sign it. And after all of the Spanish speaking placements for her 4 children disrupted they were placed in our home together after 9 months of being seperated.

According to everyone in the case they are doing wonderfully here. They are excelling at school, begining to heal in therapy, finally stabalized after 9 months of moves (5 other houses between them). And because of this their service providers and case worker are finding out more and more of the poor choices and abuse that these kids have suffered through. And as their visit time has increased so has their Mom's inability to handle the 4 kids that she has. 1) because there are 4 of them 2) because they don't trust her 3)they are acting out big time because they know she can't hit them 4) one of them is 4 and a boy 5) one of them has ADHD 6) she doesn't have a support system 7) she hasn't taken responsibility for her actions 8) she has had a therapist for a year that was a total idiot. (He's the reason family therapy stopped.)

And because she can't take responsibility and blames everyone else it is now OUR fault that her children are refusing to speak Spanish around her. And she wants them moved to a Spanish speaking home. And she has the power to do so even though it was her actions that caused them to be removed in the first place. Not caring that this will absoluetly traumatize them further. Not caring that finally her 7 year old is able to hug a father figure without fear. Not caring that her children can now read and are doing well in school. Not realizing that maybe if she stopped shoving Mexico down their throat they might stop rebelling. Or if she stopped telling them they will be moving to Mexico or that she will be moving to Mexico with or without them they might be willing to embrace their heritage. Not realizing that instead of ignoring her children at visits because their Spanish isn't where she wants it she could use the time to interact with them and teach them or speak to them in the English she does know so they weren't so darn frustrated and acting out. And perhaps learning English would help her land a better paying job so she wasn't so stressed about finances or dependent on boyfriends to take care of her AND her four children.

Now before I get flamed on my blog about my insensitivity to their Mom or what sounds like non-support of the reunification goal let me give you some background on our family. My husband is hispanic. 100%. My Mother-in-Law speaks fluent Spanish as does my husband's Step Father, and best friend. We support and encourage the kids to use their Spanish. They flat out refuse. And while I understand listening to music or forcing them to watch tv and movies in Spanish or conversing with our friends and family who do speak Spanish is a lousy 2nd to living with people who speak fluent Spanish it isn't like we are trying to take it away from them. Additionally, our support of their eduction, mental health, and other needs has been above and beyond as all of their service providers have told us. I'm not one to toot my own horn but when their bilingual trauma therapist looks be dead in the eye and tells me she rarely gives compliments but believes we are one of the best foster parents she's ever worked with and in her professional opinion thinks we are the best possible home for them I have to believe her. She also believes this problem with Spanish started way before they got put in DCFS care and this is evidenced by the fact that the youngest was given an evaluation in Spanish but answered everything in English. Why? because his older sister who was learning English in school was taking care of him.

But none of that matters. Because as hard as I try to help these kids heal their Mother is making more work for them.And the law gives her that power. And I understand there is a serious and real concern that the youngest won't be able to understand her when he returns home. And I take that seriously, I really do. So in order to prevent ANOTHER move we have to enroll them in Spanish classes. So between school, and three therapists, weekly visits, and perhaps family therapy starting they will have Spanish class. And to top all that off we may be required to speak to their Mom, in Spanish. This part is still fuzzy.

But as their therapist relayed this requirement to me it just seemed incredibly unfair. Because on top of caring for 4 children, working full time, and trying to keep my sanity I will now have to jump through several hoops when their Mother has not had to jump through a single one. And I cried in her office. With my foster children on the other side of the wall. Angry that their Mother doesn't understand that their well being and her issues go well beyond them speaking Spanish. Or how incredibly fragile her children are. And that to me there was no other option than trying to comply with these requests to protect HER kids. And knowing that at the end of this she is supposed to get them back and has the right to take them out of our lives forever. And because my husband did not not grow up speaking Spanish and actually didn't do very well taking it in High School I will now have to brush up on mine. So it rides on my shoulders. Luckily I took Spanish from 7th grade up through college. But its rusty. And I never thought I was very good. But I will do it because thats whats best for these kids. And when they complain and ask me why they have to go to ANOTHER appointment none of their friends have to go to I will lie and say because the judge made it a rule because that is also for their best interest.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

True in my Heart

I couldn't help but cry. After a long day and missing dinner with the kids I came home to find them busy qt work on their scrapbook from Disney World. They are very creative and love paper craft stuff and their therapists suggested it as an outlet for working together and to raise their self esteem. Little Mama can even be on a scrapbook club at middle school next year.

So I turned a table in our kitchen to a scrapbook zone. Since I gave up my workspace when the kids came I no longer had all my supplies in the same area. My husband hates where it is but for now it's good for them. And there they were all three girls working quietly when I arrived home. They were struggling with how to make the pages come alive and asked for my help but they made a really good first stab at it!

They had a picture of me with Belle my favorite princess and they wanted me to write this in cursive on the page "Mom with her favorite princess.". I paused. I struggled to find the right way to say it without hurting their feelings.

"I will write whatever you decide but I want you to take a few minutes to think about how you might feel down the road 5 years when you are living with your Mom and this book calls me Mom. Are you sure you don't want to put my name because either way would be ok with me."

Little Mama sitting next to me is shaking her head no. JB is looking at me like I'm nuts and Gabby, my sensitive little Gabby says "it will still be true in our hearts. You are our Mom and you were during this trip and so that's what I want to put." then she started to cry.

To which of course I started to cry. Somehow I managed to pull out something about how'd I get so lucky to have such sweet kids to love back. To make them think they were happy tears. But I was crying for all the reasons I cried yesterday. Their potential, their struggle to heal, their dreams, their fears and the fact that no one can tell us what will happen. My fear that they will leave and i will never see them agian and i will spend the rest of my life wondering if they were ok. And deep deep down in my heart I had to beat back the hope that the album we were working on would never leave this house. That it would be the first of many family vacation albums. All with pictures of me labeled Mom and them labeled my kids. Because if that hope surfaces and then gets crushed I'm not sure how I will survive it. Or how our family and friends will. And no matter how much I preface and prepare them for reunification their hope is the same and I never realize that I could be responsible for more heartbreak to be heaped on my family.

Are you sure she's not mine?

Sometimes it's hard for me to ignore the similarities of the kids' personalities to our own. I may have written about this previously but we had one such instance last night. It could also fall under the category "I could never be a child therapist because I wouldn't be able to keep a straight face".

Tuesday is home therapy day. Jelly Bean's therapist Jelly N. (they have the same name so we use name plus initial since big Jelly Bean and little Jelly Bean may have been offensive). Anyway at their last visit their Mom made a comment when Jelly Bean was acting up to the effect of "yeah and your foster mom said to the judge Jelly Beans a perfect angel".

So the kids come home and accuse me of this and since we've had issues with them hearing things that were not actually said or true I wanted to address right away. As is her nature to feel loyal to her Mom Gabby didn't want to have any part ofthis conversation until I explained that I'd rather her not be mad at me for no reason because that usually lands her in trouble for misbehaving.

So we discussed it and for Gabby (JB was not present for the conversation) it had her relieved when I told her I've never said that or spoken in court other than to give my name. But I had their therapist (Leena) address to make sure. So in talking about the exchange Gabby responds in the following manner:

L: So you felt better when your fm said she never said that?
G: (eye roll) YEAH! Have you MET Jelly Bean? (hear the incredulous sarcasm dripping with this statement)
L:Yes.
G: hand gesture that means: um hello? Shes a mess no need to illustrate my point with words.
L: Really no one is perfect, you aren't I'm not.
G:Well she's REALLy not perfect.

And I said when I heard this Wow she really is my daughter.
And when I relayed the story to my Mom- after she stopped laughing she said "Wow she really is your daughter!"

Now if only the kid liked tomatos I might be totally convinced she was stolen from me when I gave birth without knowing it.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pictures @ Disney

Jelly Bean on the Monorail. Mad at everyone for being in her
presence.



Mr. Mohawk and I at Epcot watching Illuminations.




Jelly Bean's toe. Because apparently this was more interesting than Disney Hollywood Studios.



Mr. Mohawk trying to find out where the bus was taking us.



Little Mama and Mr. Mohawk talking to Cinderella. Jelly Bean is hidden to the left.



Gabby with Pooh.

If I'm being perfectly honest....

I would grade myself as a D for Mommy today. I yelled. I was annoyed. I was tired. At one point I tried to hide in my room (which for anyone with kids probably knows is damn near impossible). I really wanted out of this commitment and this life I got us in to. And then I felt guilty for feeling all these things. I really just want to curl into a ball and cry my heart out. Have one of those long ugly cries with snot everyway and my face scrunched and then just fall to sleep from sheer exhaustion.

The thing is I know WHY some of today was the way it was. We had a day to do nothing and I didn't realize before my kids don't do "nothing" well. We had no structure in our weekend and while I was looking so forward to that I didn't remember they don't handle that well and this is really the first time in 2 months we haven't had a bunch of places to be on a weekend. We were also supposed to visit with Little Mama and Gabby's first Foster Mom this afternoon. This created all kinds of misbehaving from them that we don't normally see and I know they were keyed up.

And thus lays this slippery slope that we find ourself on in Foster Care. We are supposed to do the BEST we can for the kids and keep them in contact with loved ones but we get PUNISHED every step of the way. But we can't stop visits with these people because of the backlash we have to do it in spite of the backlash because its supposed to be the best thing for them in the long run. We must support reunification even if we know it means that these children will likely be robbed of a million opportunities due to circumstance or lack of support.

I know it will benefit the girls to see that this woman who had them moved from her home because of her biological son (and her disinterest in forming a safety plan with him regarding the girls) and still misses them and cares deeply. I try not to be angry for the hurt she caused and be grateful that she took this action because if she hadn't they wouldn't be here in my life. But it sucked big time today when I was playing referee ALL DAY. Wiping away tears and doling out time outs. And it sucked even more when I got a voicemail saying that her family had an emergency and she wasn't going to be coming. Watching these kids be let down (even though I was dreading the reactions and after math of her departure) was even worse.

In my heart I know we are doing good things. I know I wouldn't change it if given the chance but today I wished their Mom could get her act together and take her kids. I know I love them. I know also that they frustrated the Hell out of me today. What frustrated me more was my inability to control my own temper. And the guilt at all of the above. I had a gut check moment where I asked myself if I knew they would stay with us forever if I would feel the same way and the answer was no. If I knew that today was for healing and that it meant in 10 years we would be a family - not a foster family I probably would not have felt so overwhelmed. And by contrast I felt awful for questioning whether I would be feeling the same things if I knew they were for sure going home. I feel hopeless and helpless. And yet I know that no matter I much I feel these things these 4 amazing kids feel it worse and I know that means I have to pull myself out of this pity party and be better.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Crickets

I don't know how quite to set the scene for you so you understand how out of LEFT FIELD this statement came. Jelly Bean is my difficult kids. She has ADHD. She seeks out negative attention like a missle. She is loud. She is defiant and can turn tears on like a faucet. She has no concept of keeping her hands to herself. She wets the bed. She has serious flakey moments. And at the same time she can be giggly and girly and lovey and helpful. She can be funny and cute but these moods change like the wind.

Saturday she got in trouble. First for kicking her brother. Then for going up to their bedroom while writing the sentence "I will not kick my brother" 200 times and ounching her sister. For which more sentences were assigned and then some more for talking back and generally pill like behavior. She didn't get them done Saturday by the time we had company over so she spent Sunday until we left for a party writing and then wrote in the car and then wrote some more at the party in order to participate in the bounce house, wading pool, and Pinata. I had grounded all the kids from backyard tent camping with my Aunt and God daughter until my Aunt called and told me she had finished setting up the tent not receiving my message that we wouldn't be coming. Since the kids were being good and I felt bad that my Aunt set up the tent I ruled that they had earned the camping back and off we went.

As we were settling into the tent and the kids plus my 9 year old God daughter were settling down each of them was saying good night.

Goodnight Mommy. I love you.

Goodnight Jelly Bean. Love you too.

I wish you were my REAL MOMMY.

(Sound of crickets)
Oh Honey thats really sweet. But I'm your Mommy just for now.

Well its true. You should tell the judge.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Piece of Cake

Fridays are never fun in our house. Friday from 4-7 our kids have supervised visits with their Mom. They get picked up from daycare by the supervisor and then brought home. Friday mornings are usually pretty rough. Usually we have tears and purposeful disobedience like we did this morning when Jelly Bean was told by Dad to put on gym shoes and did so until he left and Mom came down to find she had put her sock covered feet in flip flops are was trying to sneak out of the house this way.

Friday evenings when the kids come home are a crap shoot. Depending on what happens their behavior can escalate or I can be dealing with tears. And I'm just going to put it out there. I. AM. TIRED. Of them coming home in different clothes, covered in candy/frosting/soda, with stained clothes, and hungry. Tonight Mr. Mohawk came home with blue and red stains on his face and pajama pants on. Apparently family tradition is to smash each others faces in cake (which of course he doesn't know because he was 2 last time he was there for his birthday) which Little Mama was happy to do. So he cried and then of course wet his pants. Why? Because he's scared and confused and afraid he's going to get beat. So she gave him pajama pants but didn't have underwear for him so she left him in wet underwear.

Our number one rule is keep your hands to yourself. This is something the kids struggle with as their first reaction is to ball up a fist and hit the other person. I think this should especially be enforced at a visit. And if it wasn't then she could have at least cleaned him up. Did I mention he also managed to pour himself a bowl of cereal without anyone noticing? And in our house he is to ask before having food because he sneaks it.

And so begins this cycle of getting back to normal and then unravelling it again. It was finally (and thankfully) decided this week by the therapists and case supervisor that family therapy with Mom's therapist was not going to work (like we said at the beginning) and that more harm was being done to the kids. So a neutral therapist is going to be found and hopefully they can wade through this mess and see that Mom cannot and has not taken responsibility for her actions and the abuse she inflicted on these kids. This week she told Gabby that she remembered hanging someone up by the hands in the closet as punishment but she didn't remember that it was Gabby who she did it to. To which Gabby explained it that it was so long ago (2 years) that of course her Mom forgot.

We'll see how they take this news as they know family therapy is key to them going home.