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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 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

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


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


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.