Labels

ACR (1) acupuncture (1) adoption (30) Adoption; RAD; emotions; tantrum (1) adoptive families (4) Amazing people (2) anger (6) Anxiety (1) appointments (1) Attachment (4) Attachment therapy (1) babies (1) banging my head (8) Bed wetting (1) beds (3) bedwetting (3) behavior (25) bio families (2) bio parents (26) biological parents (5) Biological parents; adoption (3) Biological parents; adoption; co parenting (1) Bioparents (1) birth families (20) birth moms (1) birth parents (5) birthdays (3) blogging (5) Boundaries (4) CASA (1) caseworker (9) challenges (4) change (1) Changes (2) co-parenting (16) confessions (15) Consequences (2) Court (19) crafts (1) CW Visit (5) DCFS (9) decisions (3) diary (1) dicipline (1) drama queen (2) emotions (129) Fab Four (14) Fab Four: Post Reunification (2) faith (10) family (12) Family fun (9) family outings (7) family support (15) family therapy (4) feelings (7) fertility (2) flowers (1) food (1) foster care (25) foster parenting (83) Foster parenting; permanency (3) fun (1) Gabby (4) grief (9) healing (5) Holiday (8) Holidays (5) Homework (1) honesty (1) Hubby (2) husbands (3) If I'm being honest (5) illness (1) investigation (1) Jelly Bean (4) laughter (1) legal issues (4) licensing (2) Little Mama (2) loss (5) love (8) lying (1) marriage (1) meetings (1) meltdown (1) Mental Health (3) migraine (1) milestones (1) Mommy Humor (5) mother (1) motherhood (46) Movie review (1) Mr. Mohawk (7) music (2) names (2) Neglect (1) neurosarcoidosis (6) Nostalgia (1) nothing to do with foster care (8) Open adoption (2) organization (1) other people's reactions (7) Overnight visits (2) parenting (12) permanency (10) perspective (6) photolistings (1) photos (2) pictures (5) placement (1) Placements (23) Post Reunification (26) Post visit behavior (2) Post-reunification (5) PRIDE (1) progress (1) PTSD (5) puberty (1) Quartet (3) Questions (1) RAD (5) relationships (6) return home (1) reunification (10) safe haven (1) Sarah (3) sarcasm (1) school (10) Sexual abuse (4) shopping (2) sibling (1) siblings (5) Simon (6) sleep (1) Smiley (1) Social Media (2) Solana (4) Stella (1) stress (9) Suicide (1) support (5) tantrums (3) Team Work (1) Teamwork (5) Thank You (1) The Quartet (1) The System (2) Therapeutic parenting (2) therapy (19) TPR (7) training (1) Transition (10) transition plan (10) trauma (9) triggers (4) typical kids (1) Urine (1) verbal abuse (1) Visit behavior (3) visits (38) waiting (2) where to start (3)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Annie

God love my brother and sister-in-law.  I say "hey lets take 8 kids who call us Mom and Dad and one of their biological mothers to see the refresh of the movie Annie and get pizza afterward" and they show up. It was another one of my crazy "hope for the best" moments that could have exploded. It ended up being a really amazing day! 

Some would question taking 8 current and former foster kids to see a movie about an orphan (in the refresh Annie is a foster child). In fact, the following question was posed on Facebook somewhere (I honestly can't remember if it was a Foster Care support page or a foundation): Should "Foster Kids" go see the movie Annie?  I think it was a valid question but one of the comments really stuck with me.  It was something to the effect of why do you have to label the kids as foster kids? They are kids. So what if they are in foster care. I think I finally landed on why the comment bugged me so much.

Similar to ethnic, racial, and sexual orientation labels, the labels of foster care and adoption are often times attached to other people's emotional reactions and experiences. Should the labels matter? In a perfect world no. But to ignore those categories and experiences that go along with being black, woman, adoptee, gay, etc. is to continue to assign them a negative connotation and to dismiss the negative and positive feelings that individuals with those attributes have. I don't believe its healthy to pretend that everyone's experiences are the same because they aren't. 

My children are foster kids. That is a fact. Does it make them less than other kids? No. Could other people think that? Sure. They would be wrong, but sure. My job as their Mom is to break that stigma while protecting their privacy and their right to tell their own story. Are there instances where I wouldn't share their history? Absolutely, but I will always do my best to make sure they never feel shame about being foster children. But that doesn't mean I ignore it.

Being aware starts by being thoughtful of movies, tv, books, and music that might trigger feelings of shame or unnecessary sadness and worry. My "foster kids" have PTSD. It entirely probable that seeing a movie that included domestic violence would send at least one of my kids into a full blown panic attack. My "foster kids" were neglected.  A movie about a child being left behind might be really hard for them to watch even if it is a beloved Christmas classic. 

So I'll say it again, I need to be thoughtful about what my "foster children" are exposed to. And here is how I arrived at the decision to take all 8 of my "foster children" (and Maria) to see Annie.

1) The story is about creating a unique family despite hardship.

2)They really wanted to see it.  It wasn't being forced on them. 

3) The reviews did not mention violence.

4) It might give them something to identify with in terms of feelings and experience of the main character. Here was a little girl wish and hoping her parents would find her. They don't see others have their same experience often.

Overall I was happy we went to see it. There were some references to addiction by Ms. Hannigan (the foster mom) and there was a line that made me cringe in the song "Hard Knock Life" that went "no one cares for you one bit, when you're a foster kid" (different from the original musical lyrics). But other than that it was a pretty safe movie from a foster parent perspective. 

The kids all really liked it and even asked me to download some of the music.  We then had a really nice lunch where all 8 of the kids sat and chatted and played happily together. (Well mostly, Jelly Bean tried really hard to garner additional attention but we managed to keep the attitude down to a minimum.)

It's hard to believe that 4 years ago I had no idea that all of these people were on the planet and now they make up the center of my world. My "foster kids" rock and if they didn't have that label my life would be so empty.










 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Day in the Life

A real life day of a Foster Mama:
Drop kids off at daycare. You don't get breakfast because the dog helped himself to your blueberry muffin.

Drive to work. Call attorney's office to check on status of home purchase.
At 2 PM remember to eat lunch. Leave work at 7pm.

Run errands for the remaining Christmas shopping. Arrive home at 10pm and be met with this:


And all the kids up and not dressed for bedtime. Corral kids into pajamas. Soothe Smey's meltdown over bedtime. Turn on music, spray pillows with monster spray. Kiss everyone goodnight.

Take 10 minutes to use the bathroom. 

Wrap and organize hifts until 1:00 am.

Get up, scold dog for eating another muffin, and get everyone to daycare.

Wait for 15 minutes to have the TB test read for foster care license renewal.

Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Chilling Away

Having kids with a trauma and neglect background requires some really heavy lifting on a daily basis. The kids carry the weight of their long, sad, horrific, histories around and as a foster or adoptive parent your job is to lift that burden from their shoulders and put it squarely on yours. The children test and push make sure you will stick around.  And it is exhausting at times to try and teach them the things they should have learned from the start.

They don't know touch is supposed to be comforting and loving. They didn't learn that parents will take care of them. They didn't learn to use words and reasoning to solve problems. They aren't confident food will always be available. Children with this background need you to start over and parent them as if they are infants and toddlers in the bodies of school aged kids. 

Smiley and I are currently walking this path. She's trying to push me away because she is starting to attach appropriately and that is terrifying for her. This week she will have lived with me a year. And I have to show up every day no matter how tired I am because if I don't, she can't heal and we won't be able to move past this stage.

She is still refusing to complete simple tasks that she can do just fine when just Hubby is home. Yesterday she cried from the moment I woke her up until the moment she left for the bus. She couldn't find clothes or socks. She couldn't find toothpaste. She didn't have her snack. When it was bedtime she couldn't get her pajamas on. And then we needed the pillow spray, music on, light on, she was thirsty.  It was a different version of "stay Busy with me". There were tears and she just shuts down and refuses to engage. She won't do what you ask. She can't answer your questions and she cries harder and harder. These meltdowns can go in for over 45 minutes.

And I feel helpless. I'm her Mom. I'm supposed to be able to soothe my child. To help her. But she didn't learn that so I have to teach her. We have to stick with it. I know we are chipping away at the wall. She wanted no part of a stroll through our new town with special hot chocolate and Christmas Lights. But she was able to say, "I don't like this. I am hungry." Big step forward.

This morning I woke her up and I tickled her like she was an infant. It was a great morning. She got dressed and out the door with no issues. Yoi win some, you lose some.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Anxiety

Forgive the stress purge I'm about to have here. This isn't a post to garner sympathy. Rather, it an honest post about the feelings and emotions I'm having. 

Several years ago I was on a medication that caused severe depression.  I began having panic attacks. My anxiety was high and I felt this sick feeling in my stomach and a tightening in my chest all the time.

These symptoms popped up again at times over the years. Like when Jelly Bean was hospitalized and then when the Fab Four went home.

I often feel the anxiety on the way to, and during, court.  I'm usually pretty good about taking the medication prescribed to me prior to times I know are going to trigger the feeling of an elephant on my chest. But this week I found my self trying to take deep breaths throughout my day as a means to feel more comfortable and it finally dawned on me that the anxiety has reached a daily level.

Some of the stress is around good things. Finding a house is awesome and I'm excited but at the same time, I've lived in our current house for 10 years. And we will be carrying the mortgage on the new property and renting our current house but need renters. We feel good we will find them, but what if we don't?

And the new schools, yes schools because the kids will be in 2 different ones, have wacky start times and that's going to make mornings tricky. How am I going to figure that out?

And the adoption has been delayed. Which is okay, but while they have continuances I still have to meet with all these people each month. And my kids are stressed out by the days each week they had their visits with their Mom because she put it in their heads she was going to get extra time. So we had 2 kids pee their beds today. One for the 5th night in a row.

And some of the anxiety is bad.  Our dog has been really sick and while we have gotten him medications to make him feel better, he's still sick and is not expected to survive longer than 2 years, if that.

I'm also feeling guilty about a lack of training for the 1/2 marathon because I've been busy at work. That stops today. The running may help the anxiety and lessen some of the "not enough" guilt I'm feeling.

To those outside of me- I look like I have it together. I plaster a smile on my face and get work done at 11 pm so it's ready for a morning meeting. I usher everyone where they need to go. I lend a hand to those who ask and it seems like I'm okay.

Truth is, I'm really not all that okay today. I really just want to crawl in bed and stay there.  But I can't. And I imagine that's how my Simon feels a lot of the time. And that breaks my heart.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hey People- Knock It Off

The Mothers of the world have a full plate and I would appreciate it if you could cut them some slack. Quit rolling your eyes at their child's tantrum in the mall.  While its interrupting your pretzel break, she's trying to teach her child by insisting on listening to directions and following through on consequences. 

And the Mom wrangling three kids through the grocery store? It was her first attempt at it and she's going to figure it out before she goes back to work full time.

And the Mom who's kid made a poor decision and broke your stuff? She leads the charge in helping kids and families that have suffered horrendous injustices so maybe you could give her a little goodwill and not added to the battles she has fought for her kids.

And the Mom who lost her cool at daycare when she discovered one of her four cherubs lied and didn't bring work home for a 3rd day in a row- she's trying to prepare for Christmas while also buying a house, working full time, and renewing her foster care license. She could use...well that Mom is me and I could use a glass of wine and a personal assistant.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

More Stress Please

We are headed out of town this weekend for a short water park getaway. We had scheduled it thinking it would be a nice break just before Christmas as it's such a busy time.  It's my busy time at work and we want the kids to focus on family and not stuff.

This week turned our lives upside down.

We've been looking for 2 years for a house and couldn't find the size we wanted, in the area near my parents and work, for a price in our budget. We spend at least 1 1/2 hours commuting (to the same town) every day for work. I feel like I live in my car.  

This week we finally found a house that met our criteria and as of yesterday, we are under contract!

I'm excited but totally overwhelmed by all that needs to get accomplished to pack and ready our current house for rent and the new house for us. And Grad school starts back up in January and I'm still running a 1/2 marathon in Disney in February.

This will be the last calm weekend we have for a while. This is the 1st time I've moved in 10 years. And let's not forget the kids and their worries and fears connected with moves.

Stella in her passive aggressive way mentioned several times how lucky Dad and I are that we don't have to change jobs because of the move.  The real statement behind that being "I have to change schools. You don't and that isn't fair."

This should be interesting.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

No Elves Here

Oh the Elf on the Shelf. I love the idea of you but in my home- it's not happening.

I put the Elf on the Shelf in the same category as the homemade heart shaped crayons for the entire class at Valentine's Day and Halloween Goodie Bags. Those things are for those other Moms who have their act together. For those parents who aren't exhausted by life. Or who don't have four children, work full time and train for a 1/2 marathon while going back to grad school.

Then there is the trauma aspect of our life. Be good or no holiday would blow up on us like pouring gasoline on a box of fireworks and lighting a match. An elf to watch out for naughtiness to tell Santa who never consistently visited my children would bring out the holiday crazy  even faster.

If you are a Mom out there who has been able to give the Elf license for creativity in your home- more power to you. I think it's fantastic you have a fun tradition with your children. (This isn't a "I am way busier so I win post"). 

I myself am not on that wavelength. I barely made it through grocery shopping, dinner, and homework last night. My kids are struggling with feelings of fear and loss over not seeing their biological parents. Their Bio Mom told them she was going to try to get an extra visit this month so she could give them their presents because she didn't bring them to their visit for December.

(And the angry foster Mom elf emailed everyone.)

We are in a puddle of stress and Christmas is going to be very light on stuff and heavy on quality time. Well if you call three separate family Christmas celebrations light.....


Thursday, December 4, 2014

It's Not About Me

I've been having a rough week. We all have them. It's not surprising, especially during the holidays for there to be some stress  but I had some added stressors this week and so I need to remind myself that when my kid works on something really hard and decides to wrap it up and give it to his Biological Mom, that it's not about me.

The sting I felt when he said "I made this for my Mom" was real. I'm a person. I have feelings. Last week if he had said, "I made this for my Mom" I might not have even pondered it. But as I sat waiting for the four of them to wrap up therapy, thoroughly exhausted from all that transpired this week, it hurt my feelings.

Let me be clear- I am glad my kid feels they can ask me for help with something as important as a handmade gift for their Mom. And I want to support positive feelings, interactions and memories about their Mom. (And to be fair, I got a beautiful picture drawn just for me last week when I was sick.) 

And his reason for making the necklace was heartbreaking.  It was "so my Mom doesn't forget about me." My poor baby. So afraid that he could be forgotten. It makes me angry and then I got mad at myself.

This is an honest piece of fostering/adoption. There are always those "others" who play and important role regardless of how poorly they have acted. Kids don't measure it that way. Nature doesn't build us that way. We are meant to count on our parents when we are young and then some. And parents are meant to support their children. Sometimes it doesn't work that way due to addiction or mental illness. 

We break that cycle now for these kids.

My Mom, Grandpa, Aunt and Goddaughter all showed up for Simon this week. We didn't forget his concert. We clapped and waved and smiled from the audience as he sang his heart out. And when he got to tell everyone what he liked best about the holidays he said:

"I love the holidays because I get to spend time with my family."

His family.

Yes buddy we are and we can't forget you. No necklace needed.




Monday, December 1, 2014

Almost A Year

We are about to hit the year mark of the Quartet being in our home.  I'm not sure where the time went.  It feels like I blinked. Last December was a blur and to be honest I don't really remember Christmas. So much happened with the other foster family and getting the kids enrolled in school and incorporating the Fab Four and Maria into our plans.

The kids don't seem to remember much of last December either but tonight I reflected a bit on how much they've grown.  How their personalities and strengths and weaknesses have emerged.

Simon wrote a comic book this week about past Christmases where he got no toys one year and "one or two" the next.  He wrote about being cold and a new house.  He's in 1st grade and the story was pretty cohesive. Somewhat melancholy but a great tool to get his thoughts and feelings out. He read it to us in a strong, clear voice! I was so proud of him.  His intelligence always knocks me over.  What kid gives up TV (which is very limited during the week in our house) to do optional homework? Mine, that's who! He is sweet and helpful and has this great style that always makes him look cool.

Smiley was "roaring" at Hubby tonight.  I really wish I could show her picture because she is just adorable.  She was scrunching her face up and had her hands up like claws and would roar at him and then just crack up with giggles.  When she's having a good day she is giggly and chatty often telling everyone all about her day.  She is stubborn and I really pray that one day she will use her willfulness for good instead of evil!  She loves all things Frozen and has been insisting that what she wants for Christmas is a Frozen lunch box even though she gets hot lunch at school. She is going to turn all of my hair gray....

Stella is still dreaming big and I hope that won't change.  It can be tiring sometimes to answer all of her questions  which normally prompt other question because she just has to know EVERYTHING. And how it works, and who invented it, and why its that color, and how she can get one, and what would you do with it if you had one. But you have to admire that kind of determination.  She is creative and cautious and studious and funny.  She's a great leader and its been really fun to watch her get to be a kid. 

Sarah has this cute pixie cut and adorable dimples.  She is super sensitive and works very hard to overcome that.  She wants to be a part of a family so badly and she's right on the edge of being able to claim our family as hers.  

They have their visit with their parents for the month of December this week. None of them have mentioned it but I suspect that the underlying tension in the house is being caused by it.  The other factor is that our dog is very sick. We are taking him to a specialist tomorrow but he isn't doing well.

 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving


Happy Thanksgiving!  We spent the day with family. My grandfather bought a new house and so it was the 1st Family Holiday there. It was fitting that it was also the 1st Thanksgiving for all of us together.

We have been working on "claiming" in therapy. Claiming our family. Claiming traditions.  Creating new ones unique to this family unit and continuing traditions from years past.

Today my kids watched the Macy's Day Parade for the first time. They made pilgrim hats and Indian Headresses out of construction paper. They played with their older cousins and they tried new foods unique to our family.  (The family tradition of fried cauliflower (think potato pancakes but with cauliflower) were a huge hit.)

We sat at a table all together and enjoyed hanging out. We also turned on the Christmas music and listened to it all the way to Grandpa's house, a tradition I insist on. It was a really special day. 

What are your family traditions? Is there something new you tried today?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Court Postponed

The court hearing was extended to mid-January.  Which means the TPR trial date will not be set until then.  I'm not surprised. And I have no specific feelings on if this is good or bad- it just is.  I can't change it so I don't need to worry about it.

See how much I've grown in the last 4 years?

We saw the Fab 4 last week. I told Mr. Mohawk I missed him. He told me he mostly missed the dog.  Hey- it was honest.

Jelly Bean reported Maria hit her to a teacher so an investigation was opened. JB admitted she lied because she was angry at her mom. The other kids supported Maria's accounting of events (that JB lied) but it cause Gabby to have some pretty big flash backs to being removed.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think JB would falsely report and put her family at risk. Nor did I think I'd ever be in the position to doubt a reporting kid.  This all gets crazier by the week.

Can I call a time out? 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Reader Comment Question

First of all thanks for reading!  I love questions so please feel free to leave them in the comments or on the Facebook page.

"Why wouldn't you want to go to trial to terminate rights? Why would the goal change be bad before year end?"

Illinois has something called a Directed Consent also known as an identified surrender.  (I believe most states do.) It's paperwork a bio parent can use to place their children for adoption with the adoptive resource (foster parents, family) that allows their parental rights to remain intact until the adoption is finalized. Once the adoption is finalized, the surrender is permanent.  If for some reason the adoption falls through, the children are not left orphans and the parents retain their legal rights. If after a year the adoption is still pending the parent can also change their mind and revoke the surrender.  (This is new. It used to expired after a year of being signed.)

A trial can be a lengthy process and it opens up the case to an appeals period.  There are motions to allow evidence and witnesses and continuances while everyone gets their argument together.  Some people come willingly to court, others have to be subpoenaed (court ordered to appear).  In Illinois a TPR trial has two parts a termination hearing (which can last several days depending on the length of time in care, number of children, and number of bio parents) and a best interest hearing.  The two parts allows the court to terminate rights in the best interest of the kids if for some reason the termination hearing ends up that there is insufficient reason to terminate rights based on the parents actions. Then there is a 30 day period that the bio parent can appeal errors that the trial court may have made (such as not specifically telling a bio parent they were at risk for having their parental rights terminated at a previous permanency hearing). If the appeal is granted they may have to go back and give the bio parent more services or hold the trial again.  The appeal can also go up through the higher courts.  

A TPR trial puts the adoption at risk no matter how certain DCFS is that they will win.  It also puts us in limbo. Whereas a Directed  Consent would allow us to move forward right away.  Visits with the bios also continue until termination happens so we will still have to deal with the pre and post visit behaviors. 

That leads me into the 2nd question of why would the goal change be bad before year end.  The simple answer is that holidays, especially the family centric holidays, are really, really hard on kids who have been in foster care. Another major loss at this time of year would be tough on my kids and it could have lasting effects.

Let's also be serious. Holidays are hard on adults with no trauma history. Raise your hand if you, or someone you are related to, turns into an absolute whack job the minute the Christmas commercials start airing. 

Foster and trauma kids have no idea how to cope with the expectations and the added pressure of gifts.  They don't believe they are worth anything and therefore don't deserve the fun/gifts/food that the holidays bring. They feel guilty when they are given things because their bio parents probably didn't have those resources.  It's totally overwhelming.  That's why it was no surprise that I had to hospitalize Jelly Bean in mid-December.

My kids moved to my house the week of Christmas last year. They suffered a huge loss of people they loved. It took Stella months and a therapy session with those foster parents to allow her to move forward and let them go. I can't imagine adding the loss of her Mom to that as well. (It is also her birthday month and birthdays are hard too.)

My fear is that too much loss would be associated with the end of year holiday season and my kids would be robbed of the magic. At this point, even though they are all tired of moving from house to house, none of them are really excited about the prospect of being adopted.  So even though being done with foster care would be the greatest Christmas present I could hope for, it would make this time of year more painful for my kids.

I touched on trauma anniversary or "traumaversary" in my last post.  It's the term used to describe a day or time period that past trauma occurred.  traumaversaries can continue to cause reactions for years and years to come.  I don't want Christmas and New Years to be traumaversaries, at least not bigger ones...

I hope this explains my last post a little better. In the end, my goal is to move them out of foster care as quick as we can but that can also impact how they experience seasons in the future.  At the end of the day it doesn't really matter what I want because I have no control over it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Stunned

I've been at this for four years now.  Not much phases me at this point.  Tonight I was making airline reservations while catching blood from someone's nose.  Just another Tuesday.  But I was stunned when I learned today that Bio Dad is not willing to sign the identified surrender paperwork.

What?

He missed over 50% of his visits.  He didn't even have his house approved for visits much less overnights.  He hasn't shown up to court but once in the last 2 years (and he was summoned).  He didn't take a single parenting class. He didn't participate in therapy or family meetings. 

But he wants to go to trial to terminate his rights.

I just don't get it. You were so disinterested before. Your kids were left to worry and wonder if you were going to show up for them.  And now you want to take it seriously?

I felt like someone punched me in the gut when Caseworker #3 told me that. 

And where are their attorneys?  Why are they not telling these parents that having your parental rights terminated can have a lasting legal effect as it may be grounds to terminate your rights on other children.  Both of the Bios have other children.

And for some reason Caseworker #3 thinks they will try to wrap up the TPR by end of the year as one of the attorneys is going on maternity leave.

Yeah right.

Lovely, right?

This is where I struggle as a person who understands the law and a Foster Mom. 

As a Foster/Adoptive Mom, it seems so incredibly unfair to make our family hang in limbo because NOW you decide to take this seriously.  Umm little too late buddy.  But thanks for making this process that much more complicated.

As a paralegal I understand that your rights to your children should be the hardest of rights to take away.

I was told its possible we will have a goal change to adoption before year end.  (I think that's far fetched.) Think of what a lovely trauma anniversary that could be.....

 And as the foster family we are just left to our own devices.  We just have to sit back and wait for everyone to tell us what is happening to our family next. 
 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Grief Too Big For My Little Guy

I've written about grief a lot in the past year.  Heck, I've written about grief pretty much the entire time this blog has existed. I still struggle to understand the best ways to cope and heal from it.  Currently, I am grappling with how to help my kids do the same thing.  It totally sucks. 

Everyone outside of Foster Care Land wants to paint this picture of foster care as beautiful and giving.  Yes, it is a good thing to have people who want to help kids and families.  Yes, those families are special. Yes, there is a tremendous need.  But the truth is that the day in and day out of foster care is messy and full of loss and its tough, tough stuff to deal with. And that's how it feels to be the adult in the situation.

Imagine being six. And really worried that everyone is going to forget you.  You watch everyone around you for signs that they are going to cut and run.  You wait for them to sit you down and tell you you're moving or your visit is cancelled. You wait for the scary noises that happened when you were little that cause you to jump.  You wait for the sounds of objects breaking.  You hope that this time when you tell the mom in the house you are hurt, she makes you feel better, heck you just hope she pays attention to you.

Then you have a really great day. You get to have a party at school wearing a costume that makes you feel amazing.  And your Foster Mom comes to the parade like she said she would.  And you get to go trick or treating with your Foster Dad and he makes sure you are safe in the street.  And everyone laughs. You feel so comfortable you fall asleep on the couch right next to Foster Dad.  Foster Mom comes to wake you up and help you up to your bed. And its really dark and you don't know where you are and suddenly, you don't want this mom next to you.  You want your Mommy. Not this Mom. 

And so you start to sob. And your words get stuck. And your Foster Mom looks desperately into your eyes asking you what is making you cry and you have no idea.  And the words won't come. And its dark. And the pain comes from nowhere.  And she's saying something about being safe and knows this must be hard but you don't understand.  Its confusing because you just feel sad and it hurts your heart so very much. And the tears spill over your cheeks. And you don't want to hurt Foster Mom because she is nice and helps you but you miss your Mommy. And you cry and cry while Foster Mom holds you and kisses your head until you fall asleep.

That's what foster care looks like this week.  Messy. Painful. Hard.

Simon, at six, is learning to grieve a giant loss that he will experience over and over throughout his lifetime.  This part is not beautiful. This part is awful and if I could absorb his pain I would.

 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Are You On Fire?

I ran this morning and was excited to pee without interruption.

Sad, I know.  When we first became parents a friend told me to create the bathroom rule. If you aren't bleeding and the house isn't on fire, no one is allowed to bother Mom while she is in the bathroom. I embraced this kind of advice.

As of late, I've been trying to have more patience with where the kids are at in terms of needing to know where I am to feel secure. This is normal behavior of toddlers. That's where my kids are at emotionally.  I've been answering the knocks with- I'll be out in a minute.

This evening the knock on the door came after an hour of Sarah and Smiley fighting their way to the top of my naughty list. 

Smiley: Sarah hit me.
Foster Mom R: Are you on fire?
Smiley: 

I came out and asked Sarah if she hit Smiley.  She said yes but she hit me too.

Oh for the love! 

Was it on purpose?

I don't know.

Lord give me strength...

I went back to making dinner, trouble shooting homework and straightening up for the appointment that never showed.

I turn back around and Smiley has thetherapeutic feeling cards in her hand.

I forgot how to play this.

That's okay. We aren't going to play with that right now.

Not even two minutes later I came around the corner to find Sarah and Smiley with the cards spread all over the floor.

Oh.my.word. 

Sarah is on night two of the week of not bringing all her homework home so I assigned her extra reading. I went up to check on her and found her and Smiley sound asleep a solid 30 minutes before bedtime. 

No struggle about monsters. No asking for the spray twenty times. No extra drink of water. No tears.

I'd give up peeing in peace of this was the result every night....

I'm sure this means that Smiley will be knocking on my door about a bad dream earlier than she has the last 6 nights but that's okay.  That's where she's at.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Motherhood Is Full Of Choices

I've gotten really good at making decisions since becoming a mother.  As much as my world revolves around foster care and parenting kids with trauma, some of what I do just comes with the territory of being a parent. 

For instance, at 1:30am on Sunday I found myself standing in front of my washing machine trying to decide if the Urine/Fecees cycle or the Vomit cycle was more appropriate for the sheets that I had just stuffed into the machine. I went with vomit and hoped for the best.

When I got home tonight I had to decide if my 5 year old was being truthful that their class earned a prize and tomorrow is pajama day. Since she was excitedly telling me before I even got in the house I decided it was true. If it's not she'll look silly in front of her friends. That is what we call natural consequences and I use them often. 


Friday, October 24, 2014

Stay Busy With Me

This week was the first week of no Bio Patent visits and it was rough. We've shed buckets of tears. Sleep is scarce and everyone is helpless.

Reasons this week for crying:
I'm scared of the toilet flushing.
I can't reach my socks.
You asked me to put my shoes on.
My sister is in trouble.
I can't find my toy.
It's dark outside.
We arrived home to our driveway.
I didn't bring my homework home.
I forgot my backpack.

We also played 20 bazillion questions with Mom as we held her hostage in the minivan on our way to and from everywhere this week. We covered all topics from ice to vultures. We asked Mom to turn the music up and put on a song only to talk over it each time. Even after we promised not to. Mom offered to rub our backs to help us fall asleep while we layed for 10 minutes with our eyes wide open. 

The therapists call this "Stay Busy With Me".  Because if Mom is staying busy with me, she can't forget me or leave me.

That's the root of the behavior driving Mom insane. Being forgotten. And it's such an uphill battle to prove otherwise. Because they have been forgotten.

The Bio Parents forgot visits and birthdays and phone calls. They missed meetings and court. They forgot to care for and protect. Over and over and over again.  

We can't let Foster Mom R be by herself for 10 minutes because she might forget us. And it's exhausting all of us. Even the dog. He went into his crate tonight just to chill and the kids were all like- why is he doing that? My response? He feels safe in there. Maybe he thinks he can't hear crying if he's in there. 


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Come Join Me On Facebook


Check out Love's a State of Mind on Facebook! I'm aiming for a community of bloggy friends to offer each other support and place to share more frequently about the shenanigans of the Quartet and R Family. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rentry

I have a post in the works about our trip. It was great. We had fun. 

Rentry has been tough. The kids have also started to realize the changes in phone calls and a lack of scheduled make-up visits means return home is not likely. Simon (6 year old 1st grader) actually asked "how come last time we went away and missed our visit we made it up ahead of time and this time we didn't?".

Um.....

I answered: Because this is the schedule right now. We will talk more about it in therapy this week.

Sarah then shared that she was sad because she "feels like she isn't going home to Mommy". She then sobbed in my lap for a long while. I didn't confirm or deny. I just tried to hold her and remind her that none of this was her fault. This was a big deal for my attachment challenged kid. 

Little Miss Smiley has continued with the crying over every.little.thing. Last night she went to bed because she was crying she had to wait for me to get up and help her with dessert. This morning it was because she didn't have any matching socks. (Seriously, where do the flipping socks go?). We are trying to use silly and outrageous but it's kind of like having the terrible twos in your five year.

Stella is fixated on homework as of late.  She is a diligent student but she's having a hard time concentrating and I think we need to have her evaluated for ADD. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

I'll keep telling you...

We are always working on reassuring the kids that they are safe. It's going to take years to overcome their experience with multiple and inconsistent caregivers. We had a moment this week that told me Sarah is hearing us say:

You are safe. We will take care of you. We will protect you and we will keep showing you and telling you until you know it.

Waiting in line for Buzz Lightyear she turned to me and said:

"You are the best Mom I ever had.  I'll keep telling you until you know it."

She was 100% sincere.  It was so sweet. And a little sad when I think about the fact that she has a list of Mom's she's had. She's hearing us say those words and that was a huge deal. 

*******
I did get a text from Sheila. I didn't get it until a few days into our trip but she had texted asking me to set up a phone call since "no one told me that there was no visit this week and next week". Kind of hard to tell you when you walk out of meetings and don't attend others. I then got an email from Caseworker #3 confirming that Sheila had been informed of the next visit date and that phone calls would no longer take place as the kids weren't handling them well.

I'm honestly not sure how I'm going to reply to Sheila. I feel like I need to at least acknowledge the text but I don't really want to engage her. I'm not interested in being her emotional punching bag and I feel like that's where it will head. 

I have a 19 hour drive home to think about it.....

Saturday, October 4, 2014

ACR


We had an Administrative Case Review (ACR) this week. In our state they are required every 6 months to go over the case plan with the caseworker, bio parents, foster parents, CASA, and whoever else might be part of the plan. It's a third party review that everyone is doing what they are supposed to and that the plan supports the goal.

When the Fab Four lived with me these ACRs would take 2 hours because everything was in both English and Spanish. The last one we had for the Quartet was about an hour and the reviewer really gave the case worker, Willow, a hard time about medical appointments.

This ACR was quick and painless. We were done in 30 minutes. It was a little goofy because the case plan we were reviewing was based off the return home goal. Since the goal changed to Substitute Care the plan pretty much goes out the window in terms of focus on the bio parents. This ACR was all about the kids. And I got to do all the talking.  It was the first time someone said to me, "do the kids have all they need?" And I felt like they meant it.

I was expecting Sheila to attend which typically makes the hard conversations about consistency and behavior even tougher, but she didn't show.  (On court days she typically runs 30 minutes so the meeting was over if she did attend.)

The caseworker put an end to the weekly phone calls. I'm glad I didn't have to make the decision. We'll see how she reacts.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Time For a Break

18 months ago I write this post about dreaming of taking other children to Walt Disney World. Well on Friday, we leave to do just that.

It's kind of a crazy time for our family. We all really need a break. The kids think we are going on a long trip to Wisconsin Dells. Tonight we had a two hour crying jag from Smiley. It's the first time I've doubted we were ready for this kind of trip.  I am hoping getting out of our element will get us  unstuck.

The crying all the time is getting old. I tried silly, I tried dancing, I tried modeling breathing techniques. None of it worked.

Here's where it gets tough. How do you prove to a kid that knows you are going to leave her, that you aren't going to leave her. I hate that kids even have to have someone prove it.

So much pain. So unfair. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Smiling Faces

Gabby called me via Face Time this weekend.  We happened to be at my Parent's house so they got to see Gabby and Jelly Bean.  I was so happy they called.  It was great to see their smiling faces and I was even happier they had a chance to catch up with my parents.


Its a natural separation and I'm no longer worried about losing contact with them.  I know our relationship is important to Gabby and now that she's old enough to facilitate that relationship, I feel she will always keep track of me. Its good to see that we helped a family make lasting changes.  It makes all of the stress and fear a little easier to swallow.

I Miss My Other Mommy

The therapists mentioned that often kids have a sense about the goal changing to TPR even though they haven't been told.  This seems to be true for my kids if the conversations and big feelings we have been witnessing this week are any indication. We've had several nights of crying fits at bedtime by Smiley and Sarah.  This week brought on statements of "I miss my other Mommy" and "I'm worried my Mom won't call".


Smiley has been doing a lot of crying.  We've determined that this is mainly about her attachment to me and her need to make sure I will take care of her.  Its exhausting.  As of late, she's not been able to get her pajamas on, brush her teeth, or finish homework without my either doing the task for her or right next to her, step by step.  I made the mistake of responding to her cries last night reminding her that her Mom should be calling today.


This set Sarah off.  We had a long conversation about her worries that her Mom would not call and the reasons why she can't live with her Mom.  She told me she was confused about that part.  She doesn't remember her Mom not being able to take care of her.  In reality, she only ever lived with her Mom for a few months at a time.  She spent her 1st year of life in foster care.  Then she lived with her grandma, then an aunt and uncle, and at some point back to her Mom.  She came back to Illinois and went to live with a family friend, then 2 sets of foster parents and then finally with me the last 9 months.  She sobbed in my arms.  The deep, body shaking of grief. It was heart breaking. I can't fix it. And I can't protect her from it.


Sheila did not call on-time.  Sarah was already aware that Mom had missed the call.  An hour after the call time I received a text that she was late because she was shopping for the kids. She won't see the kids for three weeks.  She is very much in denial about what is happening.  She wanted to call later tonight but as Sarah had already cried about the miss call time and moved on with the night, I felt it was best to leave it alone. 


I'm really struggling to understand how you can be shopping for the kids and then decide shopping is more important than calling them. Especially since just a few days ago she was texting about having more calls.  The responsible thinking just isn't there and that's the reason why she isn't parenting any of her kids.  I'm not sure that the calls are really in the kids' best interest at this point.  I think the only one who is really benefitting from them is Sheila. 


The Administrative Case Review this week should be interesting.  I'm wondering how productive it will be given she walked out on the meeting with the caseworker after court. Its going to be very hard to hear that the department no longer has to provide services.  She is also not going to like being told phone calls with the kids are at my discretion. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fun With Microscopes

As a foster family we have been living under a microscope for the past 4 years.  Today the inevitable happened and a "concerned caller" reported an incident.  I don't want to put the full details out there yet (if at all).  But we did manage to find out (after the 2nd call from the department) that it was indeed Bio Mom that raised the issue.


It wasn't a hotline call, but the insinuation was that something inappropriate happened. There will be no investigation (at this point in time) and we volunteered a safety plan of sorts to ensure no future confusion. I could see how the phrasing of a beloved family bonding activity could have caused someone to raise an eyebrow if taken out of context. I actually said I'm glad someone cares enough about the kids to double check and I stayed relatively calm about the pseudo accusation.


Then I found out it was Bio Mom and I got really irritated. I get that she's angry. I also get we are the obvious target.  But if you were so concerned about something that happened a month ago, why didn't you bring it up then? This type of behavior is unproductive and not helpful.  And it puts us in a tough spot because it forces us to fulfill her assumption that we will cut her out of their life. And more importantly, it puts your kids at risk for a disruption and that's harmful to them. We have the support of the casework to stop facilitating the phone calls if the attitude continues to be a problem.


I realize that this is more of the same type of behavior we experienced with Stella and Sarah's former foster mom.  It was ugly and stressful and I really don't want to deal with it.  I also realize that we aren't dealing with a stable person.  I just wish I could respond with the snark and bitchiness this deserves.  Its going to be a long 6 months to the next permanency hearing  where the goal could change to adoption.







Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Gabby

Gabby is now on Facebook. She randomly sends me messages. Last night she said she made something for "dad" in art and she could wait to give it to him. So sweet. Such a relief. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Anatomy of a Permanency Hearing

If you haven't spent much time in court, you probably have no point of reference or what to expect at foster care related court dates. Our foster parent training came with a break down of what is supposed to happen at certain types of court hearings but I'm never really sure what to expect.  (Each state and county handle things differently and this case is a different county than the Fab Four.)

First off, Sheila was 30 minutes late again. And since court didn't start on time, she made it by the skin of her teeth. We walked in the court room and were seated. Foster Parents sit in the gallery with the caseworker and CASA worker. 

The judge references the case and names everyone in the room. We had the CASA attorney (GAL and kids' attorney), the Assistant States Attorney (ASA) for the county, the DCFS attorney, the caseworker supervisor, the CASA worker, us, and Sheila.

The ASA began by brining up some administrative stuff for bio Dad (who didn't show).  They were unable to serve him with the summons so they are going to try an alternative address. If that doesn't work, they will publish in the newspaper about the case. Then we pretty much dove right in. The ASA asked that a goal change of Substitute Care pending determination of termination of parental rights. And Mom's  attorney put Sheila on the stand to give testimony.

It was hard to listen. I was taking notes and could see the attorney was trying to paint a picture that she was making efforts towards her case plan. I felt bad for Sheila as she was really nervous and didn't articulate well, any of the information they were trying to get her to provide. She even gave the wrong ages to the kids. Basically in the last two weeks she hasn't been able to get ahold of the caseworker who is in training and they tried to use that as blame for her lack of progress. I had to give it to her attorney, for a moment I really thought the goal was going to remain return home.

Then the other 3 attorneys spoke and gave some pretty detailed evidence that she isn't consistent, doesn't understand why her kids aren't with her, and that she has no insight into how to address the issues. The psych eval gave some pretty clear examples of why she doesn't have a good prognosis for parenting her children.

The hearing lasted 2 hours. And the judge ruled that she did not find reasonable progress or efforts. She also stated she believed that the flurry of activity was only because of court and that the case law is clear that, one part of an entire service plan being completed doesn't mean progress. The judge changed the goal to Substiture Care pending determination of termination. Basically that means the next step is the termination trial which happens in 3 steps.

They set a permanency hearing for six months out and a pre-trial status hearing for the termination trial. This is the point where they will give her the option of an identified surrender or going to trial. I'm pretty sure she will go to trial. 

Since the goal is no longer return home services slow down and visits reduce to once a month. I haven't heard yet when that will begin but we already have a natural break due to our travel plans. They also told us if Bio dad misses any 2 visits- they will cancel them altogether. 


Permanency Hearing Eve

It's no wonder I'm blogging at midnight. We have the permanency hearing in 9 hours that might change our lives forever. I've been through 6 or 7 of these things but tomorrow (today) is the first time I'm walking into court  and expecting the goal to change toward termination of parental rights. 

It wasn't until this afternoon that I was sure the Department was going to be asking for a goal change as not all of their legal paperwork was done. The minute I got the email, I instantly felt nervous. The thought that I could be adopting 4 kids became very real. It's not some idea in my head anymore.

The kids don't know we have court so I tried to act normal and we ran some errands after work. I took the kids to look for a Halloween costume and Sarah had the daylight scared out of her when she peaked around a corner and saw a very realistic zombie (seriously, who puts that stuff next to the kids section? I would have preferred the Batman panties over the PTSD meltdown).

This of course meant Smiley had to look too and I just got done getting her back to sleep after a nightmare about monsters. I guess we can rule out haunted houses for them....(Just kidding. I would never bring my PTSD/domestic violence exposed kids to a haunted house.) 

The costumes brought out some memories and for the first time in months I heard them mention their older sibling that lives out of state. The kids have been way more talkative about feelings, fears, and their memories over the last two weeks. They are also doing a great job of showing me they care in my love language, words of affirmation. Last night Simon told me I was "really talented" while I was working on a craft for our trip to Walt Disney World.  But it wasn't buttering me up. It was really a true compliment. (Keep it up kid and you can have whatever you want....)

I also bought a variety pack of hot chips. My kids love hot chips and a variety pack of 4 different kinds makes me "the best Mom I ever lived with". All part of my plan to hear those words everyday! Wait until they land at Disney World! Ha!

So wish us luck tomorrow. That sounds awful doesn't it? Luck, for a Mom to have her whole world cave in on her? And it will because as recently as this weekend she was still making all this stuff about her and not her kids. She implied I was trying to block her from talking to Sarah and placing blame on others for not understanding what her kids are feeling in therapy. She has expected that everyone should spoon feed her everything and that's not how it works. But I suppose that's all part of her victim mentality and the basis for why tomorrow might bring about a goal change. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

And So It Goes

I often listen to Pandora internet radio during my work day.  I read contracts all day and I do better when I can block out the other office noise around me. (And as I type, I realize some of that may be because I have no peace to myself outside the office!)


Anyway, a few weeks ago the song "And So It Goes" by Billy Joel came on.


I literally cried at my desk. Silent tears streamed down my face while I imagined this being sung by a Foster Mom and a Foster Child.  (Click on the video link to hear it sung.)


Foster Mom:
In every heart there is a room
A sanctuary safe and strong
To heal the wounds from lovers Mothers past
Until a new one comes along


Foster Child:
I spoke to you in cautious tones
You answered me with no pretense
And still I feel I said too much
My silence is my self defense
And every time I've held a rose
It seems I only felt the thorns
And so it goes, and so it goes
And so will you soon I suppose
But if my silence made you leave



Foster Mom:
Then that would be my worst mistake
So I will share this room with you
And you can have this heart to break
And this is why my eyes are closed



Foster Child:
It's just as well for all I've seen
And so it goes, and so it goes
And you're the only one who knows


Together:
So I would choose to be with you
That's if the choice were mine to make

But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break
And so it goes, and so it goes
And you're the only one who knows







The piano is painfully beautiful.  The song captures the feelings and emotions I have been struggling to articulate lately.   I'm sharing the sanctuary of my heart with 8 children.  I'm trying to help all of them heal from mothers past and it is met with the defenses and walls they have built up over time. And I would chose to be with them, if the choice were mine to make. But it isn't.


Four years in, and I'm pretty sure I believe that is the hardest part of being a foster parent.  Having others make choices about your life for you.  It comes with the territory of being able to have these amazing kids in your life but its maddening as it happens. I mean heck, I started running 1/2 marathons so that I could control something in my life.  That should give you a sense of the desperation I was feeling!


We have a permanency hearing next week and I'm definitely stressed out about this lack of control. First, I just want an end for these kids.  They are so tired and weary. Second, DCFS isn't finished with all of their paperwork for court.  We only have a few business days left and they are down to the wire.  It makes me very nervous that these kids are going to suffer once again because the adults couldn't get their paperwork handled. And it makes me nervous that there were other mistakes made that will mean a continued goal of return home in 6 months.  Finally, I really don't want to drive 1 1/2 hours to find out that its been continued after I've used a vacation day.  Not the end of the world but definitely on the list of things that would really tick me off. I have four kids. They get sick. I need vacation days saved up for fevers and vomit not delays because someone else didn't do their work.


Its also Sarah's birthday this week and she had a lot of trouble going to bed tonight because she is terrified that her Bio Mom is going to forget her birthday.  A big deal was made about Smiley's birthday and now Sarah is afraid that she won't even be acknowledged.  How sad. 8 years old and you can't trust that your Mom will remember your birthday.  Totally heartbreaking.  And that goes back to, why should she open her heart up to me? Every other adult/parent let her down.  9 months in and it feels like we are just scratching the surface of trust.  Its such a long path.  A step forward, a step back. Both of us waiting for the other to be taken away.  And so it goes, on and on. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Progress

We made huge progress tonight with Sarah. I had noticed today that she seemed more sad than she's been. It could have been a number of things: visit today with bio dad, lots of time in the car, apple picking with lots of crowds and noises. 

At bedtime she came to give me a hug and I asked her what was wrong (again). I asked if she wanted me to guess and she nodded. I guessed she was missing someone and she broke down. Poor thing was holding it in all day. When she told me she was missing her former foster parents (the ones who decided no contact) I guessed that it was the Halloween costumes that brought up the loss. She nodded.

Poor kid got hit by the grief out of nowhere.

We talked through it. She felt better and went to bed with no issues. She still doesn't feel like she can come to us to talk about her negative feelings but today she at least shared them. That was a big step forward! 


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Love and Loss

We got to the bottom of the crying fits at bedtime. Smiley told her therapist that she's had dreams of the dog dying and of us dying and getting lost. At 5 her concept of time isn't good and so this seems recent and continuous to her.

Poor kiddo. 

The Good Dreams spray has been important for her. Every day she asks me, well in advance, if I will spray her pillow. Like I'm waking her up for school and she's talking about bedtime. We've had a few nights of no crying so maybe talking about it helped.

This weekend brought a lot of foster care type experiences. We had an event at school that we included Sheila in. It took place during her visit and I supervised for the two hours we were at the school.  I think it went well.

It seemed hard for Sheila to speak to me. Perhaps it was awkward for her. I'm sure it's the first time she heard her kids refer to someone else as Mom. I'm sure she felt that I was taking away from "her time". There were also a few instances where the kids needed comfort and Smiley came straight to me. She didn't even look at her Mom. Stella also got hurt (it was a school even lots of kids running everywhere with objects in their hands) and while she went running to her Mom, Mom wasn't really able to comfort her. It was like she was at a total loss. She attempted to calm her down and it wasn't really enough.

I asked Stella how she would like me to handle that in the future.  She told me she'd like me to also intervene of I thought I could help her further. I'm not sure how much modeling Sheila picked up on. Sarah bounced between us and out of all of the kids seemed the most comfortable. Simon seemed really anxious and really tried very hard not to be physically near his Mom. 

I took pictures of the kids with her. I plan on printing them out for her and making a book for the kids. As the visit was ending she once again reminded them that if they want to call her, they can. Which was interesting because just this week Sarah told the therapist that her Mom missing phone calls makes her angry and worried. 

Today, we had the first part of our adoption training. Ironically, it's taking place in the town where Sheila lives. There were almost 30 people in the training. Only 4 or 5 families were adopting non-relatives which was very surprising. There were also a lot of grandparents adopting grandchildren. 

We didn't learn much new. The concept of sharing your children with the original family was discussed and because of the family connection dynamic a lot of the adoptive parents seemed very much against contact. 

Contact should be limited to the wishes of the child and the safeness and appropriateness of the birth parent, but some of those in the class seemed to want to wish those connections away entirely. It made me very worried for their children. There was a lot of pain in the room this morning and I hope those families find peace. 

This is a long road. I am so grateful that we've seen that foster care can end with positive connections and forward progress. Not everyone gets that opportunity. I hope that Sheila sees that while her rights might be terminated, it doesn't have to mean the end of interacting and feeling love from her kids. 




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

And of the Wednesdays

I think this is the part where we start to unravel. Perhaps the honeymoon phase is over. Perhaps they are attaching and therefore have big emotions. Perhaps it's just Wednesday....

I received an email about Sarah. She is having trouble turning in assignments (that she did) and her hand writing has turned "angry". Did I have any insight as to why?

God Bless her teacher. This woman had Gabby, Jelly Bean, Stella and now Sarah. 

I don't have to explain to her the trauma. She understands it. And my answer was: upcoming birthday, bad storms, inconsistent bio parents, and beginning to understand her Mom's issues with the therapists.

Received an email about Smiley yesterday. She seemed sad and tired. (Smiley's teacher had Mr. Mohawk. She is also amazing.) Was there anything going on? Umm well she started this thing where she throws a crying fit at bedtime. Nightly. Even after she's been calm and tucked in. She is complaining of bad dreams but hasn't woken me up or talked about any the next morning.

Simon was totally overwhelmed at dinner. We were in a restaurant so I'm wondering if it was the sensory overload. He could handle eating nicely and was shoveling the food in he's mouth with his hands. He then melted down when we corrected his manners.

The only one who did cry was Stella. But she nearly gagged on her food at the idea of calamari.

Thankfully we have therapy tomorrow. Maybe hey can help.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Case of the Mondays

We had a day. A really exhausting day. Sarah was crying when I picked her up from daycare because the girl she fights with ripped her paper and then told the teacher it was an accident. I'm over the drama that these two bring to an afternoon so I can only imagine how the teacher feels. 

Then Smiley decided she couldn't handle Monday evening. She dig a stale French fry out of the seat in the car and tried to eat it, prompting her siblings to yell in disgust. Then the tears started. Any hint of disapproval and this kid looses her composure. 

Then it was time for homework. More tears. Then it was I need help in the bathroom. Tears. Then it was full on tantrum. Yelling, screaming, stomping, pounding limbs on the floor. We walked up and down the stairs several times until we could do it without sounding like an elephant. Then she screamed at me for another 30 minutes. 

I threw a dance party in the kitchen while making dinner. I tried to be as silly as possible. Even the dog got in on it. He was jumping up and down too. The other kids thought this was hysterical and so they were all dancing around me making up lyrics to the song.

Stella requested Aerosmith. Her version of Rag Doll was pretty entertaining. 

Ultimately, we were able to move on. We did lots of positive reinforcement. And I have no idea where I summoned the patience from, but we managed to get through the bath where she "forgot" how to wash her body. 

The night ended with the "Good Dreams" spray on her pillow as bedtime has brought on fits about bad dreams during the last week. "Mom, I can't go to bed I always have bad dreams." "No I didn't have one last night." Gee kid, that's 5 nights in a row. Do we need to talk about what "always" means?

It's only Monday....

Friday, September 5, 2014

Emotions

The therapists looked at us tonight and said "you don't seem phased" in response to the recounting of the illness, post visit behavior, and big feelings that appeared this week at our house.

Sadly, we've had much worse. And maybe that's where the anxiety that I've been feeling all week is coming from. That and we are nearing closer to the permanency hearing and all the decision makers are saying goal change. Which inevitably means more behaviors, more big feelings, more fear and more grief. 

Grief. Such a tiny word for an enormous concept. And such a heavy burden for little kids. Adults struggle with losing loved ones. Now my kids are going to be losing an entire family, again. I know a little of what that feels like. And to be quite honest- I'm really scared about what that is going to look like for us.

Are they going to accept us one day? Will they love us like they love their biological family? And how often will our status as their family be challenged? Will the therapy, interventions and support be enough to overcome such a high hurdle?

Am I enough of a Mom? 

And then the thought hits, what if someone made a mistake? What if I've started to believe they are mine only to have someone tell me it's not true. What if I lose my kids again? 

I know it's not a bad thing but:

I love my kids. I am terrified someone is going to take them away and my prayer is that they do take them away, from another mom. 

That's such an honest, raw statement and I can't begin to explain how awful that makes me feel. The rational side of me says that these kids need protecting. They needed permanency because she can't do it. It's clear to everyone and she had plenty of chances. The kids deserve better.

The emotional side of me is chastising Itself for rooting for another human being to fail. What an awful, awful thing. This women gave birth to these beautiful children. I care for her. I am blessed because of her. And all of these emotions are twisted inside of me. 

And since I've been honest, I'll continue with the thought that adopting these children probably means that we won't be pursuing fertility treatments. So maybe I'm grieving that at the same time. 4 children with some serious emotional needs doesn't create an ideal space for a baby. Neither does a too small house and a full time job. 

I don't have time for the emotional pity party I want to throw and there are not a lot of people that we know that understand these feelings. But thank you for reading this. I've shed some very cathartic tears while writing this post. Enough, at least, to get up tomorrow and try to help these kids through the muck that is foster care.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Strep Throat

1/2 of my kids are on antibiotics for strep throat. Mine is a bit scratchy and that has me concerned because I don't have time to be sick.  I don't have time for the kids to be sick either but there isn't much I can do about that. 

Thank goodness my Mom was able to pitch in today and tomorrow. (Seriously, she's the one with the super hero cape!) 3/4 of them had a dentist appointment this morning so she ran them back to school for me.

The one who threw the tantrum yesterday had a much better day. Part of her consequences from the tantrum was to write sentences: I will use my words. She escalated it to 40 sentences during the tantrum, then lost dessert for the week. We will give her a chance to earn dessert back but I must say she wrote those sentences lightning fast when she had the opportunity to be watching the Frozen special on ABC tonight. Funny how that works.

Smiley was totally into the show. Gasping at the original renderings of the characters and singing along to the songs. She turned to me and said, "Mom when you and Dad go to Disney and someone watches us, can you bring me back a Frozen toy please?"

She knows we would have someone watch her! (Exclaimed my foster mom brain.) Even better though, is that she will have the chance to pick one out for herself when we actually go to Disney World in October! She doesn't know that, of course, but I do. I can't wait to see the wonder when she meets the characters!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fun Times

Everyone went to bed 40 minutes early tonight. We had several time outs and a full on tantrum that lasted over 30 minutes. 

Fun times. Even more fun when it's post visit. 

The kids had really strong reactions to visits this weekend. I can't figure out why. I don't know if it's because the therapy team has started to prepare them for news that the goal is probably changing or if it's school or if it's a birthday month. Or if it's because Dad missed his visit. But we had lots of not keeping our hands to ourself and lots of disrespectful attitude, even from our normally super sweet kid. 

Is it bad that I thought it was funny? Their little face all scrunched up with anger! The defiance right out in front. So serious from the kid with the mega-watt smile.

We also saw the Fab Four this weekend when they stopped by on a spur of the moment visit. School is off to a good start and they seemed well. My soul was lifted after hugging each of them. I was at a real peace inside. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Urine for It

I can't find the post about pee. Jelly bean peed on the floor and threw her bed wetting alarm at the wall and I'm pretty sure I wrote about it. I was going to link to it as proof to myself we've handled all this stuff before. Oh well. That's kind of the day I've been having.

I got up early to see Simon and Sarah off to their 1st visit with their Dad in a month.   Then my Mom called. My Dad was camping and ended up in the ER. He was fine, it was an overreaction on the camp staff's part, but he was in a neighboring state and my Mom needed to drive up to get the car home and pick him up from the ER. So I spent the majority of the day driving (through the town the Fab Four live in). 

Then I got home and discovered Sarah had let go of the dog's leash and she was so scared that she peed her pants. Hubby handled it great. No yelling. Praised her for coming to get him. But she was still nervous about telling me. 

We went to lunch and as we arrived home Smiley didn't make it to the powder room in time. She peed all over the wood floor. Then I went upstairs and was helping Simon straighten up his room when I discovered a spot of dried urine on the carpet behind a chair.

He decided to pee in his room instead of knocking on the door when his sisters were in the bathroom and he couldn't hold it.   We didn't yell. We removed everything that could cover up a urine stain from his room. We showed him how to clean the carpet. He cried and was upset but at least he admitted he did it. 

Then we discovered cut elastic in the bathroom and dealt with the lying about that. Kids went to bed early. Mom and Dad said how much they loved them. 

It was par for the course. Sheila missed her visit Friday. The kids didn't want to have a call with her Saturday. They are confused. They are sad. They are scared. They are trying to control something! Therapy this week can't come soon enough.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Family

We've been talking a lot about family this week. One of the kids told me that Hubby and I being married was "a problem I have to fix". The kids haven't had too many examples of a healthy marriage. And we discovered, they don't really know what "married" means. 

And of course after a family therapy session all about families and family traditions Smiley and Sarah had total meltdowns. Sarah crying in the car and mumbling under her breath that she doesn't want is to be her family.

Poor kiddo.

And then it got worse as Sheila cancelled her visit.  I was really disappointed because I knew the kids were going to take it hard. With school starting it's already been a rough week.

Sarah took it the hardest. Crying for her Mommy. She looked like she was carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. Simon then asked about visits with his Dad and how come they stopped. 

How do you explain to a kid whose parents keep letting them down, that once again, they aren't going to show. 

I told him that I was sure that his parents love him and that they were trying their best. And he's a great kid and whatever keeps them I'm sure they are sorry.

But that's not enough. I'm angry for him. I want to shake these adults and scream to look. Look at these beautiful kids who are so hurt and can't trust anyone, especially those they should trust. We are a month away from a permanency hearing and they are missing visits. It's so sad. 

We ended the night doing our homework from family therapy. We watched our wedding video. It was a good reminder for us as well. I had actually forgot how happy we were. How much laughing we did. I know we had fun but I forgot all the touching moments. 

We had a rough year last year. And differently proved in good times and in bad.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Proper Documentation

So Caseworker #3's supervisor called me back. She asked what was going on and I layed it out for her. I explained we wanted to make sure we were fulfilling our role as advocates for permanency for the kids and wanted to make sure that everything was on track for a goal change next month. We were concerned because Caseworker #3's first impression was one of apathy and unpreparedness. 

I fully admit that I told her supervisor she came into my house with nothing more than her cell phone and her business card. I also told her that if the CASA worker hadn't been there I would have ended the meeting.

The supervisor assured me she would discuss proper documentation and basic social work skills with her. And apparently she isn't new and should have known better. Oh and then she have me her email.

That afternoon I got a phone call from CW3 "just checking in". Hmm. Yeah you should have just given me the email in the first place.

In any event, I did learn that the legal screening had taken place and there were some loose ends that needed to be taken care of to finalize the legal screen. At this point they don't expect any issues and the supervisor assured me she would be on top of it. I'm not going to say that CW3 lied but she definitely had no clue.

We talked a little about the process in general. I knew there may be a trial involved if she didn't do an identified surrender, but I had no idea there are three hearings. As she was talking, I saw my vacation time flying out of my bank. 

Lots of interesting things happening. 

I got a text from Sheila that said she missed her call this week because she was in the hospital. I know it's wrong that my 1st thought was: great another bill they will send me and not you.  I want to believe her but she's always ready with an excuse....


Friday, August 8, 2014

Snark

This high road thing really stinks and this week I wish I didn't have to take it. I'd much rather use snark and sarcasm. I'm more fluent in those...

I followed up with Caseworker #3 on when the legal screen for the case would be completed.  This is a step the department takes to ensure that if they go for TPR, they don't hit any snags. We were asked prior to the last status hearing to submit paperwork that was needed for the legal screen that said we were an adoptive resource. 

That was April/May. The Permanency Hearing is scheduled for September. How many months should this process take? 

So I followed up with Caseworker #3. She responded she didn't know anything but stated that it would be done before the Hearing. Umm. Ok. But that's the same thing you told me last month when you sat on my couch with no paper and pen. And because that's my 1st impression of you, you'll have to forgive me for not really believing you are on top of things. 

So naturally I asked for her supervisor's email and assistance escalating the issue. Do you know what happened?

She refused to give me the email. Telling me she needed consent to give it to me. But I could call and leave a message for her boss to return my call next week when she is back from training. (On a side note- if these people are always in training why is nothing ever getting done in foster care?) 

I explained that I was surprised at the refusal, given that all the other supervisors we've worked with have passed on the info readily. I also explained that there were delays and we wanted to ensure there were no more unnecessary delays. 

Her response? Delays are common in this field and she wasn't comfortable giving out the email but feel free to call the supervisor.

You've been in "this field" all of 10 minutes missy. I actually live "in this field". And my kids have been "in this field" on and off their entire lives. So don't tell me about delays. And while they are common, they are U.N.A.C.C.E.P.T.A.B.L.E.  Oh. No. No.No.No.

I will be contacting you daily until I get an answer. You will be sick of hearing from me. I work in the legal field. I know that those who complain the loudest get their requests back sooner.  And I will bark up the chain. You woke the Mama Bear and you will regret your flippant approach to her cubs.

But of course I can't approach it like that. That won't get me anywhere. I didn't respond to the email. I left a message expressing my concerns about a lack of communication for the supervisor. I CCd the GAL and will let her take up the fight. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sometimes Its Really Just About Chips

Simon and I were in the kitchen. I was making dinner. He was putting away the dishes. He had just finished his phone call with his Bio Mom and he says to me, "Mom? Do you think we will be here next summer?"

So I stop what I'm doing and get down to his eye level. I can sense this is an important conversation and so I wanted him to know he had my undivided attention.

"Well Simon, that is up to the judge. But I can say I'm pretty sure that you will be here next summer. How do you feel about that? Is that okay with you?"

He answered, "Okay. Do you think next summer when I have field trips you can get the chips with the green stuff on them?"

Puzzled I asked,"The sour cream and onion kind?"

"Yeah! Those. Thanks Mom."


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Back To School

Back to school time is always full of stress for kids in foster care. The Quartet have never finished a full school year in one school. Ever. 

Think about that. The school year is August through May. They have never been in one place long enough to experience a 10 month stretch. So even though they are going back to the school they went to last year, we have a lot of anxiety going on. 

This also brought on an offer from Sheila to buy the kids school supplies. So I gave her the link. Then she said she was only going to get 1/2 of the lists. Then she asked me what grade her kids were in.

I am trying very hard to focus on the offer in the first place. But I'm not going to lie. It's hard. You say you love your kids and you are working to get them back but you don't know what grade they are in? I have a hard time understanding this thinking. There is not a lot of connection and it just breaks my heart. For them and for her. 

Work with the bio parents is what they teach. Co-parent whenever possible. What does that mean? Does that mean suggest to Sheila that she avoid talking about back to school even though she dismisses it? Does that mean overlooking she missed 1/2 (52%) of her phone calls in the past three months? Does it mean invite her to Kindergarten orientation? 

My mantra over the month and a half will be- her time is limited with her children

What a sad thought. I actually care a great deal about Sheila. She gave birth to some pretty spectacular kids. But I'm just tired of watching them struggle.

I am also totally over bio Dad. And if I'm being honest, I could give two toots about him, his rights, or his issues. He missed 1/2 of his available visits over the last three months. How hard is it to show up to a fast food restaurant for two hours a week? Really how long should kids be subjected to parents showing up 1/2 the time? I'm thinking that 9 months is unacceptable. The point of the visits is to prove you are stable and can handle your kids. Why are we subjecting the kids to someone who clearly isn't interested?And why are we spending money that could be going towards other things like quality healthcare, mental health services, or activities for the kids and parents actually making changes? They are issuing a summons to the next court hearing because Dad has never shown. NEVER.

Simon asked me the other day why he can't have his visits on the same day again. He reasoning: because then he only has one day of visits. (Only one day of worry and inconsistency). I also tallied the days Sarah has been wetting the bed and they are always on days of contact or scheduled contact with her bio parents. 

People ask us all the time isn't it hard? My new answer is not as hard as it is on the kids. I'm an adult. I can manage the stress. The kids can't.



Sunday, July 20, 2014

Caseworker #3

The new caseworker, Number Three, came this week. In a moment of brilliance I had her and the CASA worker come at the same time. She walked in with her phone and two business cards. That's it. No case file. No pen. No paper. No calendar. The only reason I bothered to talk at all was because the CASA worker was there.

It took every ounce of restraint I had not to offer her a pad of paper and something to write with. I'm a very direct person and in almost any other situation I would have shoved note taking supplies at the person. This is a new office and I'm hoping to avoid a reputation. 

That's so sad. These people have so much control over the outcome of these kids and my life that I can't comment on someone coming unprepared to a meeting at my house. 

I gave the benefit of the doubt that she might have read the case file. No such luck. Now I'm hoping she has perfect recall or something. The only piece of information we got about the case was that the CASA (who acts as the GAL in the county the case is out of) is in agreement with the state that termination of parental rights (TPR) should be the goal at the next permanency hearing. Caseworker assured me that legal screening would take place before the next court date in September. I expressed skepticism as the paperwork was supposedly submitted in May. She of course blamed the transfer of the case. (In my head I screamed: These kids shouldn't have to wait longer because you people wanted to save money on travel reimbursement.)

We also found out that Dad is the Dad of both kids. I'm glad this piece is confirmed as it makes the termination process smoother. It does mean that the baby Dad's girlfriend just had is the sibling of my kids. (Assuming she isn't lying.) We have asked that if and when the kids meet their brother, that they be prepared with the therapists. The GAL is not in favor of them even meeting the brother as it is likely to be another loss. I'm not sure how I feel. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Therapy Begins

So we began therapy. The practice we are going to only treats patients with abuse and trauma histories. They have very specialized certifications in attachment, trauma, and abuse. They did an amazing trauma assessment report that I feel will be key in the kids gaining permanency. The only downside is it's a good 45 minutes to get to at our appointment time. 

The first night we met as a family we set goals. There were some good goals that had Therapeutic value such as only the parents can parent. And one to work on bed wetting and the shame surrounding that. There were also some that could be viewed as silly but probably were ways to say scary things. Like more naps. Which I believe for that family member was code for "I'm not sleeping well." More trips was also included. I'm taking that to mean more quality time together. My goal was getting the kids to speak up. They talk very quietly at times and I cannot hear them especially in the car. These were all goals "to make our family even more awesome".

Last week we did an exercise to see how we operated as a group. It didn't go as well as I thought. Our task was to draw on a giant piece of paper, our family, doing something together. Stella of course had ideas but the moment everyone else added to them and began drawing she shut down. She refused to draw. She kept saying she "didn't get it" "I'm confused". She was frustrated. I was frustrated. And then the panic attack set in. Tears, hyperventilating, and a totally helpless Mom. 

It was a new side of her. Of course a few minutes after we got Stella back on track (sort of-she then decided she couldn't draw anything to her liking) Smiley lost her confidence and had a meltdown. Meanwhile Sarah started to copy what Stella was drawing and Simon continued drawing happily.

I'm really hoping this week is individual talk therapy. Last week was exhausting.