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Sunday, March 31, 2013

It's still sad....

Don't get me wrong. While I am 100% certain we have made the right decision about helping the kids return home, it's still very sad. I found the decal stickers we bought in Disney World for the minivan when we thought the kids were likely to stay forever.

We didn't put them in the car in case it would upset their Mom. I had put them away and found them tonight. I asked Hubby if he wanted to try to return them in a few weeks when we go.

He suggested we give the kids their and they can do with them what they wish. Then he asked if I wanted to put ours and the dog on my van. That seemed pretty pathetic to me. A minivan with only a dog on it?

Then I was crying and he was crying and the dog kind of had his head hung low. I think he's going to be lost without the kids too.

And can I just say I have no idea how to start packing them up....

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Notice

So of course we got no action from our email. So I sent another. In it, I officially gave our notice. I knew that would get the reaction I wanted. The kids would be moved home. No one wants to see them go to another foster home. The judge will have almost no choice but to return custody. We hit our limit of what we were willing to accept and being the doormat was no longer the option.

I also tried to get it across to the caseworker that had she included us in the decision making, especially the decisions that directly affected our lives, we would have been willing participants. So because they went back to the original plan, we were going back to the original plan. But of course this week and next major players in the case are on vacation. Which led a very panicked CASA worker to call Wednesday. Because the date we gave is before we'll be able to get back into court. She assured me the caseworker was doing her job- and better than most to accommodate our request. Then she asked us to consider a different date.

LISTEN UP PEOPLE: This was not a request.


You didn't take me seriously when I said we weren't going to be treated like the hired help. This is our life. We get a choice. And while I have done everything to get you to understand our perspective, while also doing what was right for the kids, you didn't listen and didn't understand that I wasn't kidding.

So then the caseworker called (after I told CASA that I appreciated her concern the issue was DCFS and they should have called, seriously maybe 20 minutes later I got the call). Again she started with the request non-sense. And I just talked right over her. Reminded her that we've had this conversation over and over in the past two years and I was done.

I know not dragging the kids back and forth is the right thing for the kids. I feel peaceful about it and even more resolved in forcing the case in a direction. A text from Gabby on Thursday confirmed that they are just fine. They need to keep going. Do I believe long term they will be just fine? No. But only time can give us that answer.
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We'll give them one more week. Then take a break to work on us.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Am I Supposed to Fall Apart?

So we sent the email. Late Friday Caseworker let me know that the department doesn't have the ability to return custody- the judge didn't grant it.

I knew that. So I responded that I looked forwarded to learning what date the motion hearing was granted for. I'll call Mom's attorney if I have to. I'm determined like that. :)

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Everyone keeps asking how I'm doing. How I'm holding up.

Honestly, I'm fine. I didn't cry. I believe that I've done everything I could have. I gave them my all and I can let go knowing that. That gives me peace.

While I am sure I will grieve. I'm sure that I am now... The world will not stop around me. I have a choice. I can set the goal at 1) doing what I set out to do: keep them safe, fight for their permanency, build a family or 2) this being my forever family.

I accomplished Goal 1. I have no say in Goal 2.

Do I miss them? Of course! They are everywhere. Stories at dinner. Songs in the radio. I'm taking a trip to Iowa for a family wedding. We got the call for Jelly Bean and MM on the way to the bride's father's funeral. This has truly come full circle. Beginning and End. The lesson- life goes on. I find beauty in that.

I have long subscribed to "what is meant to be, will be". Perhaps it's a lifetime of setting out in one direction and ending up in a different forest. Perhaps it is the experience of being chronically ill and learning to find a "new normal". Maybe it was the entire foster parenting escapade. Thrust into motherhood (and not just motherhood but trauma mamahood!) and learning to figure it out. Not being Mom to these 4 kids everyday will be more of the same - figuring it out.

And also perhaps because I believe I received the sign I was looking for. I can't remember if I mentioned in my blog my reading with a medium on New Years' Eve.

Believer/ Non-Believer- To each their own, I believe. If I believe in God and Angels why wouldn't I believe in people who can connect me to Heaven?

Anyway, this lady discussed the case with me. She gave great advice- prepare for life without them, rejoice when they come back to you. But she cautioned that my life would be radically different. After discussing that my guardian angel was talking about protecting a little girl - the medium said, I see you with a little girl.

On the very night I prayed for guidance about all of this- I received a call at 2:30AM about an emergency placement; a 14 month old baby girl. Of course the call was made in error But I'm viewing it as a sign that there are other kids that need my help and perhaps the reminder about what the medium said.

No doubt this will get harder, but right now I'm good. Good. I slept we'll. I'm curled up in the back seat of my parents car reminiscing about the countless road trips we took to see family. Thankful for the time to reflect. Thankful that both my parents are here to share this. Thankful that in a few hours I will see and hear my grandma in her sisters and perhaps. And since its my Italian side - get as many hugs as I want!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Always the Advocate

So Hubby and I discussed. We slept on it and ultimately we landed on the decision that if they can make it 11 days, they should keep going.

After I took them to see the Judge and their GAL today I sent the following email:

After much discussion and consideration, We would like to advocate for the kids to transition to Mom's home on the original move date of April 6th. We feel strongly that if they can handle the 11 days of Spring Break they should be ok. They shouldn’t be teased with effectively moving into her home, and then taken away again. This also isn’t fair for Mom. We imagine this would feel like losing them a 2nd time. If they have the momentum of settling into a routine they should be given the opportunity to keep it going.

We know that there was concern about finishing out the school year. While we agree that this would be ideal, we have received emails from the kids teachers discussing that they have been unfocused and not on task. If this looming move is creating too much anxiety for them to gain anything out of school, then we feel it would be more beneficial to them to get adjusted to their new school, get the supports in place for next year, and perhaps make some friends so that they have kids to play with over the summer. We know from experience that all of the kids do better in school when their home life is stable and having 1 foot in each home will not allow that to happen. This will continue to create behavior issues which just stress the kids (and us) out. From our point of view, school isn’t a good enough reason to continue to cause the kids emotional distress. In addition, they will then be able to know what school will be like when they start in August which is typically a huge trigger for them. This will also allow Mom to adjust with helping with homework and such while she has the extra supports in place.

We understand that this suggestion may seem like a radical change from the past few weeks. Listening in the meetings gave us some perspective. We have always prioritized our role as permanency advocates for the kids and we believe that this really is the best course of action for them. They have been talking about wanting to be done with foster care forever. We would like a successful transition for them as well and so we propose that perhaps a “reverse visitation” take place. Maybe every other weekend the come to us on Friday night and stay through Saturday afternoon. This will give Mom a little break and time to run errands but also ease the kid’s fears that we will disappear from their lives. This will also give us a chance to gradually move their things so it doesn’t seem like they are being forced out. Our hope would also be that we could build some trust with Mom so she can view us as an advocate for her family. We would also suggest, that the family receive extra support – perhaps twice a week therapy or an in-home therapist to help support the daily triggers which would allow Family Therapist to continue to work on the trauma triggers.

We see this as an everyone wins situation. We hope you will too.

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So the Judge was not aware of the 10 night visit being planned. They kids felt better after meeting her and the GAL shared our suggestions. It seems that they are concerned about such a long visit but its sink or swim time.

My job is to advocate for them, no matter how sad it makes me. But this also allows us to move on and takes us out of the behavioral battle that will take place with two homes.

Only time will tell.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Thank You

Thank you to everyone for the support and affirmations. They mean a great deal to me. We found out tonight, via email, that the kids are going to their Mom's for Spring break. They leave this Friday and won't come back for 10 days. They were fairly upset.

We've returned to the original plan but nothing has been said about moving before the end of school. I don't see the point of them coming back and only spending the week with us if they were able to go 10 days with their Mom. Seems like more heartache.

Maybe someone will update us via email.

2 AM

So at 2 AM I get a phone call from DCFS. I have to say for 2 AM the lady was pretty cheerful. They had an emergency placement of a 14 month old baby girl. Could we take her?

The crib in storage flashed in my head.

And then she goes, "Oh, I see you are full. I'm sorry my mistake!"

Somewhere in my memory bank I remember hearing that a call could come in at any time. And over the past two years we've only gotten a few calls. One for a boy shortly after Jelly Bean and MM moved in and I said no because of Gabby and LM being out there. And then a few messages that clearly the person didn't see we were full.

So after I hung up I laid there thinking about the potential for calls like this. Was this a reminder to me that there are other kids out there? And my mind wandered to what could have happened that this baby needed a placement in the middle of the night? Car accident? Police arrest? And what kind of sound decision could I make at 2 AM in the future?

I prayed for that little girl and woke up thinking about her. You know, because DCFS doesn't occupy enough of my time.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Drained

So all that lovely relaxation and time at the spa- right down the drain pretty much the moment we got in the car.

Made the mistake of sharing my very real feelings with Hubby. He is in protective/defensive mode. It did not go so well for me. He didn't hear what I said in the way I meant it. We are not in a great place. What I said hurt him. And in turn he is trying to hurt me.

Then the kids came home and were totally out of sorts. And still are out of sorts. And I'm over here exhausted. Just drained. Watching it all go down the drain.

And then there is my Mom who's watching me feel helpless. Trying to be supportive but also trying to find a way to hold into the hope I've let go of. And she's angry at the system and the kids (for flip flopping and not being truthful) and she's like well why don't you just have them follow the original date. Why let them finish the school year?

And I'm like because I made a promise. Because that's not their fault. Because you taught me not to quit. Because I don't know if I could forgive myself. And maybe because there is a teeny bit of hope there.

This process sucks. I hate this. I want to be done but I'm not ready to let go yet.

Time to look for the therapist for me and for Hubby.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Court

So the judge ruled that overnights were to be reinstated. She agreed that the idea of sending the kids to respite was ridiculous. And at one point looked at the room and said, "someone has to give." So because I can't watch them be torn in half, we gave.

I went on record and said I didn't think they were ready to restart visits and complained loudly about the lack of communication. The judge ordered that addressed by the department. The States attorney stood up for us and the judge tearfully asked us to stick with it through the transition. It's a good thing too because Hubby had an email drafted to send giving our notice.

Judges don't generally get teary-eyed. The also don't generally tell you you are exceptional. Generally, foster parents tearfully pleading for a break isn't tolerated.

Bio Mom was admonished for her mistakes but the judge feels them fixable. I spent the better part of the day crying. Getting back to the grieving place and the place of letting go.

Hope was dashed again. But that's ok.

This time without the kids allowed Hubby and I to get away. To stay at an incredible resort with an amazing room and sleep with a glowing fireplace.

I spent the morning in a bathtub watching cheesy movies. Then this afternoon we went to the spa and got pedicures. I then spent the rest of the day in a fluffy white robe reading a pointless magazine in a meditation room overlooking an infinity pool and a pine forest covered in snow.

I had no idea how much I needed that. I swam in the heated pool next to snow piles and I felt invigorated. For a few moments I was totally alone, floating, weightless. No trauma. No worries. No one needing me. No one in the whole place knew my name. Or my story. And I released the worry and doubt into the cold air.

Maybe they will stay there. Maybe they won't but for one afternoon I was free of it. And I desperately needed it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Crash and Burn

So Mom's attorney participated in the family meeting. So of course the letters the kids wrote talking about being scared she used to say that I was influencing the kids feelings. Basically, nothing got accomplished except Hubby and I came to the realization that the feelings the kids share with us don't count and the "professionals" don't care.

Hubby is done. And I am too. Well see what the judge says today but I'm afraid if she agrees with DCFS then we will need to extricate ourselves from the case. For two years we've fought for their voice to be heard and it seems it is falling on deaf ears.

Three days in a row I've woken up in a panic attack. I can't do this anymore.

Monday, March 11, 2013

It's Petty

I know its petty. I know it. But with the amount of tears I've wiped from their faces over the last two years I felt giddy in the knowledge that the cake their mom got for Gabby's birthday they hated and the cake I got they loved.

Sometimes while the state, the system, the kids, are reminding me I'm not their "real" Mom, moments like that vindicate me. I AM their Mom. I know the million little things about their daily lives that make up their childhood. Which kid likes bare feet. Which kid would crawl through glass to get a slice of watermelon. Which kid hates olives. And what kind of cake they prefer.

This is a hard road at times. I have to take a moment and be grateful for the things that no one can take away. Like the moment that Gabby raved about the simple cake I got her. Or when she hugged me after reading the purple and gold card I picked out. Or the kiss Jelly Bean have me after we finished her science project.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Keep Your Arms Inside the Ride

The stupidity and lack of sense about what is more harmful to the kids reached an all time high this week. Ok not AS stupid as wanting overnight visits to start the day before Christmas Eve but just about.

We were told we could not take the kids out of town because it would show we have more money than their Mom. Seriously. The solution? An unknown respite or reinstate overnight visits for the 2 nights we had planned to be gone.

Did I mention that the oldest had been clinging to me like a toddler at day care for the first time as of late?

Over my dead body will either of those situations happen. Oh and we are to decide Thursday afternoon at the family meeting.

I notified the GAL and State about my concerns about lack of judgement happening. They were not aware overnights had stopped.

Lord knows who I'll piss off this time but I'm done watching no one are about the safety and well being of these kids.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Overnights Officially Stopped

For the time being overnight visits are officially stopped. More discussions with the service providers need to be had but it didn't sound like they were going to reinstate them any time soon. (I hear "if at all" in the back of my mind.)

I pushed for additional information about a goal change. No such luck. There is a huge concern about the kids safety. And we know that they will not use the emergency phone. They proved that.

In addition to just plain violating the rules, bio Mom took the opportunity to share with the kids that: 1) Grandma wasn't speaking to her 2) said that she guessed the kids don't want a grandma and therefor they won't have one (clearly grandma is blaming them too) 3) grandma is allegedly in a mental health hospital because she was so distraught about not seeing them again. Not only did Mom share this, she purposefully sat them down to discuss with them.

And there is the root. You can see that the environment that Bio Mom is in is unhealthy. Look at how her mother reacted to being told she couldn't come to the visits because of a court order while her daughter is trying to get her kids back. Grandma made it all about her when it has NOTHING to do with her. In fact, if Mom hadn't let her in they would be moving home in a few weeks and she could come over whenever she wanted.

And Mom chose to keep this very unhealthy person in her life and count her as a support. She tried to gain sympathy from her children about how her mother was choosing to react. Made them feel guilty and responsible for "telling" when she shouldn't have broke the rules in the first place. And she doesn't get that you don't share adult problems with children. In reality, her emotional age is not of an adult. And how could it be? She grew up with an unsafe parent herself.

With all the services, therapy and classes she's had she is still saying to the kids, "What do I have to say to make you believe I've changed? Do I have to beg you?". Which further proves she doesn't get that actions speak louder than words and that her kids don't trust her.

What else can they do for this family? If 2 years 9 months of services isn't enough what could 6 more months possibly give them? But then do they have enough to rule no progress to move for termination? My guess is no.

Strangely, I don't feel angry. I feel peaceful. Maybe because I don't have to say goodbye. Maybe because we were right. Maybe because they are taking their safety seriously. Maybe I'm just out of negative emotions. Perhaps I'm numb. Maybe I just don't want to go up and down with it and so I'm choosing not to. It could also be that even in the few weeks that they reduce their visitation I've seen improvement in their behavior. I've seen the well behaved, regulated kids that have worked hard on healing. The hard to manage not listening kids have disappeared.

Hopefully, this is the crazy train coming to a stop.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

All My Tomorrows

I said to Hubby this evening can't we just stay in this moment forever? We were hanging out as a family. Watching the travel channel while the kids played a board game waiting for pizza. Everyone was giggling. No one was fighting. There were no trauma intrusions or any sign that we weren't original to each other.

Tomorrow, that can change. Like many posts I've written over the last two years, a decision someone makes tomorrow may solidify my hopes or shatter my dreams. And all I can do is wait. And pray. But for a few hours this weekend I didn't think about it. I just cherished my family.