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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dios Mio!

Oh.my.goodness. We have had a night. I was all set to write this great post about how I totally avoided the danger zone and stayed calm and therapeutic recognizing that 1) it's spring break 2) tomorrow is a visit 3) it's raining. Right up until Smiley lied about going to the bathroom and washing her hands and then threw a screaming, kicking tantrum about going to bed. 

Yeah at that point I wasn't so calm. And when you are screaming so loudly that you don't want to go to bed and now you are going to do what I said because you are in trouble it really is time for bed. I don't care if you want to go or not. I want to go to bed. 

The therapists have told us that Smiley draws rain in all her pictures. It represents sadness for her. So when she had her second crying jag within in about of picking her up I was racking my brain. And the thought hit me so hard I actually gasped. Today we had the first rain storm since she's lived with us. (Because we live in Chicago and we move have had snow storm after snow storm.) I wonder if there was a trauma event when it was raining. 

It could be that or the other triggers of not a normal routine due to spring break and a visit tomorrow. Smiley refused to talk to Sheila during her call and then broke down afterwards saying she missed her mom.

Simon also struggled today. He wasn't following directions and I had to raise my voice because he was acting silly in a parking lot. He also left the grocery bag with the fresh bread in it on the floor and the dog managed to eat it before I caught the mistake. He feels so deeply and was so upset with himself I ended up popping him up on my hip like a toddler to help him calm down.

These kids were neglected and they have no idea how to self sooth. And I am a yeller by nature so I have to really work to keep that in check. Overcoming the neglect is going to be hard work. Even though I have three kids who should be able to do a lot on their own they really need mothering and attention like three two year olds would. 

I have a feeling Thursdays are going to be rough for a while.  


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Court

We had our first permanency hearing today. Sheila was 30 minutes late and walked in mid-hearing. The judge was not pleased and made the comment that this seems to be a theme. She also agreed with the GAL who observed that either she isn't capable of realizing the seriousness of the situation or she doesn't care and has given up. 

We knew that the case plan was going to be unsatisfactory. What we heard from the states attorney as evidence of no effort and no progress was pretty serious. No effort and no progress is grounds for termination in our state. There have to be findings of no effort and/or no progress for a consecutive 9 months (I believe. I could have some of the statutes mixed up.) DCFS likes to have two unsatisfactory case plans before the take it to legal screening to ensure the case is likely to be granted termination.

She's not done any of her parenting classes and the supervisor of that program actually sent in a report documenting all the ways they tried to work with her. Her excuses as to why she didn't show didn't add up. She isn't attending counseling. She went of her medication against the advice of her psychiatrist (she had a mental health hospitalization last year which is part of why the kids are in care). She refused to give DCFS the name of her boyfriend for a background check and with the history of domestic violence that was alarming to the court. 

The GAL and the judge were concerned about the lack of therapy for the kids. The judge allowed me to update the record with Smiley and Simon's diagnosis and the plan to assess Sarah and Stella. She mentioned that these kids are going to have lots of challenges and it will take years of hard work to overcome those challenges. The judge ruled no progress, no effort on Sheila and all the Dads. There was also a paternity test ordered for Simon and Sarah to see if the Dad who they are visiting with (sometimes) is really the dad. The problem is that he is not likely to show.

Sheila was upset. She cried. I'm still not sure she realizes how serious this is. We met after court and as I was explaining Simon's anxiety and PTSD she looked flabbergasted. When I mentioned he scores and reacts like other children who have been repeatedly exposed to domestic violence and parental substance abuse she looked shocked. Her body language was: I have no idea how that could be. 

The denial is hard because that means she won't be able to correct her issues. It was mentioned that the she does not understand why DCFS is involved in her family. (Remember that she had her kids removed once and had intact services prior to this removal. The issues have been discussed over and over. She's also received a copy of the case plan.)

I don't see her correcting enough things to make progress. Her discontinuing medication is most alarming to me. She also has a criminal case pending for driving on a revoked license. She is facing jail time as this is at least her 2nd offense.

All very sad. But we are closer to permanency for these kids and potential adoption. We'll know more in three months at the next status update.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Visit Anxiety

It's fitting that I just finished picking Gabby up to spend the weekend with us. It was supposed to be Gabby and LM but LM ran her mouth and got grounded. (Go Maria!) My chatterbox who suffered extreme anxiety is tucked safely in bed above my new chatterbox with extreme anxiety. Maybe some of what I learned will work for him.

Last night Simon broke down. I let him know at bedtime that I noticed he really needed me yesterday. I told him he seemed worried. He began crying and told me he wasn't worried. He was scared that "when I move to my Mom's, I won't live with you anymore." He was shaking while telling us this. We explained that he will know if he is going to move to his Mom's. We will talk about it and it will not be for a long time. We reminded him that we still see the Fab Four so we would still see him too. We got him calmed down but there is more under the surface. The incident was progress. It was us being therapeutic and really noticing the meaning behind some of his behavior. It was him trusting us to listen. But it was heartbreaking.

Hubby pointed out that maybe it was pre-visit worries. He also pointed out that Smiley's inability to get ready for school today was also probably visit day related. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Trauma Assessment

I'm a little weary today. We got the results of Simon and Smiley's trauma assessments yesterday. I'm not sure what I was expecting but my heart broke hearing that Simon is in a constant state of fear and is suffering from clinically diagnosed anxiety. His PTSD is in the 90th percentile. And if we don't get some hard work done now he will likely be diagnosed with RAD later on.

I began crying when they described picturing him at 2 or 3 listening to domestic violence in the next room. Unable to understand or put words or pictures to the sounds he was stuck in a fear state an has no idea how to stop worrying.

Smiley is always a little sad. Which probably means her smile is often phony. She spends a great deal of time in a dissociated state. Their biggest concern is that she won't be able to cope with another move. She has quite a few risk factors for an attachment diagnosis down the road as well. 

It just hurts my heart that these beautiful kids were not cared for. And that we are still trying to send them back to the Mom who didn't do her job. Maybe it's helpful for me to be reminded exactly how much damage this woman did to her children. She may not have hit them, but she care for them either.

We have a lot of work to do as a family to heal some of this hurt, if it can be healed. An important task is ahead.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Gabby Turns 12

Today was a momentous day. It was Gabby's 12th birthday party. And we got to be there. I remember sitting across from Maria at JB's IEP meeting last year and her asking me to be at the kids' birthdays. And today we completed a years worth of birthdays.

It might make the other guests raise an eye brow or two at my broken Spanish. It might seem strange that their family members call me Mom but its our normal and I wouldn't change it. I never thought we would get here but here we are. Nearly a year later and still going strong.

The kids played together. MM asked if Simon could stay. They giggled. I got home made tamales and chile rellano. We watched as Gabby's face was smashed in her cake. LM was full of sarcastic comments and eye rolling and JB had a few meltdowns. But we helped her get over them.

After the birthday party, we left with the Quartet and headed to a St. Patrick's Day party. We spent time with family and friends of the family who have known me since I was a little girl. One of them said, "watching the other kids go must have been hard but I imagine what you are doing is very rewarding". I actually thanked her for saying the right thing. No angel talk. No poor kids. No isn't that hard. I feel like taking her words and handing them out to people like business cards. Here- this is what you should say to foster parents when you meet them.

There was a guy running for congress there shaking hands. My Dad mentioned I was a foster parent. I told him to think of the beautiful kids he just met when he gets elected and votes to cut funding for social service money to our state. Maybe it wasn't the nicest introduction but it was honest.

We ended the night dancing up a storm. We had such fun! When we got home Simon asked me the same questions Jelly Bean asked me when we got home the 1st year we took her to this party: Will I get to go to the party next year? Will I still be living here?

Foster care, never far from their thoughts.

I told him if I had to guess, that yes he would still be living here. And if not, maybe his Mom would let him come. 





Monday, March 10, 2014

A Very Nice Day

Foster Care is a roller coaster. You are up you are down. And often you are strapped in until the ride comes to a stop. In one day, we can have all of that. My goal, though, is always to get to typical or "normal". 

This morning, Simon and Sarah were picked up for a visit with Dad. Two hours early they came home. There was no visit with Dad. The driver drove them to the wrong house. Smiley struggled with the change in schedule.

We pulled out a gold standard in our tool kit.  We left the house. 

A pretty normal action, right? But for kids who live with me, it allows us to shake up the schedule of visits and appointments and the system.

So we went to lunch at a new chain restaurant. And I forgot until we arrived that the kids used to live in the state that the place was named after. A pitfall of foster care is sometimes you walk into a trigger without realizing.

It gave Stella an opportunity to talk about the past. She was happy to share. Simon, shut down. He mentioned missing his brother and then that was it.

The kids enjoyed lunch and we had a nice meal. Do you know what was the best? It was normal. We were a family. Laughing, sharing food. We then went to a place with bounce houses and they ran off the energy of being couped up inside this winter.

It was the same place we went the day we met the Quartet. I marveled at how far we've come in this journey. The kids played nicely together and my prayer is that they will always be as close as try are now.

We ended the night watching Disney World fireworks on You Tube. Cuddled up on our bed talking excited about what kind of vacation we should take. It was low key. I'm looking forward to more days like today.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Still Grief

My brother and sister-in-law came over for dinner tonight. No special reason other than I thought I had made too much corned beef. (Turns out it was a perfect amount and was very delicious.) we spent the evening chatting and catching up on life.

The conversation turned to the kids.I was   talking about different they were and how well the all got along when all of a sudden it hit me that it's March 7th and they went home in April.

It had almost been a year since they lived with us. This time last year we were handling overnight visits, family meetings and talking about giving our notice.

And the sadness was overwhelming. I have no idea why, but the tears came. So I went back and read some of the posts from this time last year. I'm not sure the writing conveyed how awful I felt inside. And the band aid that was on the grief was ripped off.

At the end of it all, I still lost my kids. 

There is still a hole in my heart where they were. And while I am so glad that they have been successful and I feel blessed that they are still very much apart of our lives, I miss them. And our relationship is different (as it should be).  I am reminded of them all the time and it doesn't usually bring me to tears. 

Maybe I blocked all of the dark time out. Maybe it's the trauma anniversary phenomenon that I'm experiencing. I had all these upcoming dates in my head and I couldn't figure out why they felt familiar. Then I matched them up with the events of last year and it made more sense. They were dates of things that happened as the Fab Four left. We have a permanency hearing for the Quartet on the day the kids started their 10 day visit for spring break. I'm going to a baby shower on the anniversary of the kids leaving. 

Maybe it's the guilt of loving additional children and putting their needs ahead of the Fab Four. Or the guilt that we have so much in terms of resources, and they do not. Maybe it's the realization that a year later I'm not positioned much better to be a forever mom. While much, much better, maybe the pain will always be there in some form or fashion. 

I ran into Stella's teacher this week. She was also Jelly Bean's teacher last year. She said to me, "You look really great!" And then repeated it before we parted. I thought about the compliment and thought that probably the last time I saw her was a year ago when my life felt like it was crumbling around me. I'm going to focus on how far I've come and how much I've grown but there are still moments when it's hard.

I have kids sleeping in the next room. Really great, smart, sweet, lovable kids who need a Mom. That's a pretty important reason to put all of the other parts to the side and keep trudging through foster care land. There were other kids out there who needed our help.