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Monday, October 28, 2013

Dear Kids

Dear Kids,

I missed you today. I though of all the fun things we did on our trips to Disney World. I pictured your reactions to the new things we tried and brainstormed a way to afford for us to do them all again. This time with your Mom included. 

I took a step towards healing today. I realized that I no longer refer to you as my kids. You are now Maria's kids or The Kids. I spent a good amount of time wondering what the next kids will think when they join our family and if they will enjoy our trips as much as you did.

There is a place in my heart that still longs for you. But mostly it hopes that you are alright. While I am confident that you are where you should be I still worry that you are ok. That your Mom is ok. I wonder if that will ever really go away. I had no idea how deeply I could love. I no longer worry that I don't have enough to go around.

Love,

Foster Mom R

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sadness

This was a rough weekend for me emotionally. I found out my friend passed just as I was sitting down to lunch with one of the Fab Four's former therapists. 

It's awkward to cry in the middle of a Cheesecake Factory. 

My friend was an amazing person who shaped the lives of many many people through her musical gifts. She's one of the people who influenced the Mom I became. My heart hurts when I think about her son and her husband. 

I also struggled with some jealousy regarding those around us who are expecting. I try so hard to push those thoughts away but I'm really having a hard time with it this weekend.

Patience is not my virtue today. And all I really wanted to do was curl up and cry. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Busy Week

Two months ago we got a call about a sibling set of four that have the same caseworker as the Fab Four. (She really needs a blog name.) I got an email last week from the licensing worker and asked if we'd heard from the CW. Apparently the Spanish speaking foster home that was going to take all four (they have been separated two different homes for 6 months) fell through. 

So the email was circulating that the CW was looking for a place that would take all four. So our liscensing worker got in touch. And we had another discussion about taking the case.

The goal is return home. However, this is the Mom's third go round with the system. And has lost custody to at least one other child. (There is a 2 year old with a friend that isn't in the system.) that's a total of 6 kids. And a failed reunification and failed in tact services.

One of the current foster moms got in touch with me and gave me the scoop from her perspective. When the two move out of her house the other sibling of another group of kids she has will move in. And once again I bang my head against the wall. Moving two kids to a family that has said yes twice means two different groups of siblings get to be together and you are worried about finding a bi-lingual home for kids who speak English? Just makes no sense to me. (And reinforces my idea of an exchange of sorts where foster parents plan placements.) the main goal is reunification. Sibling sets need to live together in order to return home to bio parents. If Maria had had the behaviors I had when all four of the Fab Four moved in she would not have made it. 

AND in our state prior to petitioning for termination, the kids have to be in a preadoptive home. 

We will see what happens. They talked of winter break being the time to move them but the CW supervisor said something about exhausting reunification efforts prior to placing with us. My response was that we are ready to take a traditional foster placement.

In other news, I saw my Sarcoidosis specialist today. Her first words to me when she saw me were- you were in my dream a few weeks ago. Not often do you have a doctor who knows her stuff but also openly shares her faith. She recently moved to a less prestigious medical institution with a lower class population of patients and she couldn't be happier. She likened it to her "foster care work". In that, these patients really need her expertise. And here she was making a big deal about me being a foster parent when she's the person who made it possible because she worked towards getting me healthy and recognized when I needed more help.

We talked about the infertility and pregnancy risks for me. It really gave some things to think about and of course - I have a ton of testing to do. 

We leave Tuesday for Disney World and I can't wait! I so need a break and I think this trip really will be relaxing. When we went the week after the kids left, I was too numb. And while we had fun, I never really relaxed. I cried into the t-shirt I picked for Gabby in the middle of the store. It was bad.

And if you have a moment- I have a special prayer request. My friend who was a second Mom to me, is in the ICU in a coma. Please pray that she wakes up on her own this weekend. She makes the world a better place. Thank you.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Losing Isaiah

It's been a long time since I've seen the movie "Losing Isaiah". I remembered that it was a movie about a black child being raised in a white foster home. 

Since I became a foster parent movies like this are seen through a different lens. I have a different perspective of the characters, the children, the circumstances. I was reminded of this when I caught the last 15 minutes of Losing Isaiah tonight.

WARNING SPOILER ALERT:

The scene I caught was the birth Mom taking the baby home. Then the foster parents are shown in their home. The foster dad tries to put a toy away and the foster mom tells him to leave it. He wants to move on, she wants to stay stuck in a world where she doesn't have to move.

And it felt like someone had stabbed my heart. I had lived several moments just like the one on the tv. The emotional reaction to the scene was immediate.

Hubby wanted to move out all the kids' stuff and I wanted to hang on to it. Deep down my hope was that they would come back. And we had a heated moment that ended with me crumpled on the floor in grief just like in the movie. The foster mom crying out she didn't know it would hurt so much to lose him. Words I uttered more than once.

I'm still crying 20 minutes later. Grief bottled up, spilling back out. This time I'm crying because of what will never be. The kids aren't coming back, although, they have not disappeared as I feared. In fact, we will be seeing them tomorrow. But my dreams for them, for us as a family are gone. And the fear of the unknown hanging over me. 

A few months ago I was ready for sweeping change, now I'm craving stability. Or a plan. I'd settle for a plan. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Reach Out, I'll Be There

I got a phone call from Maria this evening. She asked to talk to me in person because she is having some issues with the kids. 

It was a little hard to understand her because it was on the cell phone and her English,when talking about emotions and relating events, is hard to understand at times. Just like I use the wrong tense in Spanish, she uses the wrong tense in English. 

For instance she will say "the child say me" instead of "the child told me" or "she said to me". 

For the beginning part of the conversation which started with her telling me she had to call the police on Monday because the child wouldn't go to therapy, I thought she was talking about Jelly Bean. Then I picked up some details and I realized she was talking about Little Mama. 

Recently, LM told my Mom that she wanted to come live with me. That being at her Mom's house was hard. I think she had some unrealistic thinking about the way things were going to be when she returned home.

Then Maria talked about how she was responding to lying and attitude. She said the therapist reminded her that LM is 13. And though Maria didn't work through the reasoning the same way I did, she wasn't buying the therapist's explanation.

Those of us with traumatized kids come up against this all the time. We hear, "that's normal teen behavior", "my kids do that". Sure. Yes. I'm sure it is. I'm sure they do. 

However, was your kid sexually and physically abused? Does your kid disassociate when scared?  Does your kid live in a state of constant chaos? Hmm well maybe it's not quite the same. And looky, looky, a therapist who isn't trained in trauma and attachment issues treating a child with those problems.

And even if it was "normal" that doesn't change the fact that this kid is crying out for help. Nor does it change that this Mom needs help too. On my best day, with my college degree in psychology, and my husband, and my Mom, and the army of therapists and my network of other parents who had walked this path before me, I still got it wrong. 

I repeated to Maria tonight. It is hard to be the Mom of your kids. Because it is. She may not recognize all the time that its their trauma that often adds a layer of challenge but she knows "it's normal teen attitude" doesn't seem like a good enough answer. 

I praised her for reaching out. Assured her she wasn't alone. Offered to come tonight if she needed but reminded her we could talk on Sunday when we pick the kids up as planned. Reminded her she could have LM call me if she needed.  I also reminded her that she was the Mom and LM will love her even when she enforces the rules. (I suspect that Maria is letting some things slide by with an apology and LM is running with that.) Maria is also concerned LM is suffering from depression and I agree an evaluation is in order.

Such an unlikely partnership. One I couldn't fathom six months ago. But here we are....



Monday, October 7, 2013

Support

Through this wonderful blog-o-sphere I have been able to connect with some local women who share the hills and valleys of parenting traumatized children through adoption, foster care, and guardianship. 

I was fortunate to get to meet with some of them on Sunday. It was great to know I'm not alone in real life. It was great to be able to hug another Mom who "gets it". Who wasn't going to tell me all kids "act like that" or try to urge me to "try IVF" as if it was a new nail polish color. These were strong women who have been battered at times, just like me. These are women who have cried buckets of tears and fought long, hard battles for their kids. 

And I was able to share where I'm at, without tears. Without getting choked up and without feeling phony. My intro to the one Mom I had not previously met went something like this:

I'm a foster parent. We had 4 kids who had been with us for 2 + years who were returned home in April. We are supporting them post re-unification and figuring out what that is supposed to look like. Meanwhile, we are waiting for our forever kids to find us.

And I impressed myself with how far I've come!

One of the Moms asked me how I would feel if God's plan was simply for me to be that support role in several families lives. It was a really good question. My quick answer was, that very well could be what's in store for us. We'll have to see.

Could I be that support? I'm sure of it. I'm learning how to be suggestive without being overbearing. To assist but not meddle. To be concerned but not too judgmental. But would I want that to be it? My answer would have to be no. 

One of the Moms said, "I don't know how you did it with four! You are a saint! All that noise!" Ahh. I LOVE the noise. I miss the noise the most!

So here is my wish for those of you reading: I wish you find the support you need. From your faith, your family, your friends, or the community. I wish that the blog-o-sphere allows you to find extra support especially when it is needed.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Moms

When I signed up to be a foster parent I agreed to help families. I had no idea that in a few years I'd be sitting in the audience of a school musical of a former foster child. But tonight that's what I did. My Mom and I each drove nearly three hours round trip to see a 45 minute show.

Why? Because I agreed to help families. I agreed to support reunification. I agreed to love these children like my own and that doesn't stop when their address changes. And also because her Mom couldn't be there. 

It was quite a beautiful moment for me. While I was sad that Maria couldn't make it, I was happy to be her stand in. I am still a Mom. Perhaps not THE Mom, but "A" Mom, at least at this event. 

As I sat there watching, her worried face turn to relief when she realized she had people in the audience. i sat there thinking how lucky I got. Not only to have this awesome responsibility of being a support for this child and her family but also that the woman sitting beside was who I learned how to be "A" Mom from.

Of course I showed up. She always did. And still is. She didn't chose to become a foster grandma. I chose it for her. But that doesn't matter to her. 

I say we are going to take Maria and the kids on vacation for the weekend- she says I'll make dinner for everyone.

I call panicked because I'm being sent for a psych intake with a suicidal 8 year old she comes and gets the other kids.

Meeting with the district attorney - she scoops the children up for school.

Headed on vacation for my Mother-in-law's birthday. She moves into my house for the week. 

I called her less than 24 hours from the time we needed to be at the show, she didn't hesitate. I knew she wouldn't. I have the benefit of knowing that my Mom will ALWAYS show up. Jelly Bean has not.

But she does now. A Mom and a back-up Mom and a Grandma also.

I sat there with tears in my eyes hoping for at least another 10 years of school moments like this. And all the other moments in her life. Grateful that I was included. And relieved that I don't have to wonder about her. And then the singing began. 

Lucky for Jelly Bean she was exposed to all kids of music in my home. And despite her being new to this school (as in a few weeks - she was moved to a special class) she knew all the songs. Even "Lean On Me" which we used to sing along to in the car all the time. We did a little twist on it. When the lyrics say, "for It won't be long"  you sing (for) FIVE (it won't be long) TOO SHORT. Complete with hand motions. So as Jelly Bean was singing I did the hand motions and she giggled at me from across the room.

I posted a picture on Facebook. Maria commented thanking me for my support and asking God to bless me and my family. 

Not bad for a back-up Mom.