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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Baby Mama Drama

Just when I'm all "openess is awesome, I can work with bio parents" reality trips me and I fall on my face. 

So Sheila failed to make the phone call we scheduled. 12 hours after the scheduled time I got a text asking if I forgot or if she was supposed to call me. 

I responded the following day that I expected her to call but if she wasn't sure she could have called anyway or texted. I reminded her the importance of consistency. 

Her response was of course to say I called last time (so of course I screwed up) and that she couldn't remember (say what?) and it's not like she doesn't call on purpose (refreshing). Oh and the gem at the end stating that she's "trying really hard to keep things good between us" (because of course I'm trying to be difficult by setting the boundaries). 

It's my own fault really. Once again I bought into the facade that she's going to do her part. 

How do you tell me you really miss your kids and you want a relationship with them and then you forget to call them.  Especially when you asked for the call and I reminded you a few days prior? 

Am I wrong to expect her to call? Should I, for the sake of my children, carry more than my share of the relationship and call her? Should I insist on emails.

I replied back that we made the kids available and that she didn't follow up for 12 hours. That's she needs to take responsibility for her actions and her relationship with the kids. Her response was simply "OK".

Apparently being right is more important than re-scheduling. Which honestly, I don't know what I would have agreed to. The kids knew we had a call scheduled but they didn't seem to notice (or at least haven't asked) that it didn't happen. 

I sent the screen shot of her response about not being able to remember to the therapists and Caseworker #4 and asked for a team meeting about the best approach. Stella has some big feelings about baby Solana being in foster care. (She is very worried no one will protect her if she goes home to Sheila.) Caseworker #4 can't do much about the phone call but it made me feel better to tattle that she still can't remember to, you know, call her children.

If you can't remember a phone call on a weekend, how are you going to take care of an infant? 

The answer is of course- she isn't. And that kiddo will likely be in foster care for 2 years before anyone does anything about. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I Said Screw the Secret Santa

Every year my family does a Secret Santa. We usually set the limit at $20-25 and each of the adults picks another's name. We have a smallish family so we usually end up with someone we are already buying for (like my sibling) or the same person year after year. It often ends up like a gift card exchange and there have been years that people forgot who they picked and someone got left out (no fun). Since we have an ultra competitive family, a gift swap would be hazardous.

The past few years the Secret Santa felt more like a chore. And I thought maybe we could put our money to better use. I suggested we screw the Secret Santa and pick a cause! 

We decided to do a Sweet Case drive with Together We Rise, a great organization that supports kids in foster care by providing bicycles, wish lists, and trips to Disneyland. They also provide Sweet Cases, or duffle bags filled with goodies for kids in foster care so they don't have to travel with trash bags. And as a super fun element, they encourage you to decorate the bags so that each one is unique!

What could be better than family craft time? (It sure beats the disgusting Jelly Bean game we played last Christmas that caused my cousin and I to throw up. Moldy Cheese flavor is not pleasant.)

When I made the suggestion my family jumped on board. Each adult is going to donate the $25 for their Sweet Case to donate but we are trying to fundraise 5 additional so each of the kids can make one too. If you are interested in making a donation please either PM me through Facebook or send an email to 

If you can't donate now, please think about donating to one of their campaigns in the future. This organization directly supports the kids and has a special passion for teens and siblings. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

November- National Adoption Month

It's November! Which means it's National Adoption Month. The President signed a proclamation and everything. But I'm struggling with how best to honor "adoption". I'm especially struggling with the "Happy Adoption Month" sentiment.

If there is one lesson I've learned about adoption- it's that it isn't the happy greeting card commercial our society likes to view it as. And it's a deeply personal experience. What might make one person feel happy and grateful might make another experience shame and rejection.

Sure it's a good thing to give children permanency and fulfill the dreams of people who want to be parents. But there is pain and grief behind that joy. A sense of loss- of roots and connection and sameness that we all crave. Both child and parent alike. 

Adoption has come a long way from where it was - secretive, shunned, hushed, coerced. There is more openness and dialogue about the impact of adoption but we still have a long way to go. Our vocabulary, our insensitive phrases, the files still closed to the person they belong to, it all needs to continue to change.

Will you be part of that change? Will you support adoption positive language.  Will you listen to adoptees share their story no matter if it makes you uncomfortable? Will you share your own experiences no matter how hard?

"November 21 marks National Adoption Day, when we unite as families, advocates, and communities -- and as a country -- to raise awareness of the barriers to adoption and recommit ourselves to moving more of our young people into permanent homes." Barack Obama

Sunday, November 15, 2015

My Dearest Stella

The other night we were talking about college and you were asking about schools for singing. I said "but I just got you here, I'm not going to rush you to leave for college" and you responded, "I know."

Oh I hope you do. I hope you know how much I cherish whatever years we have with you here at home because they don't seem to be enough. I feel like we were cheated. I weep for the little girl who spent so much time in an uncertain place with scary people and sub-par care. 

But I cheer for all that you have achieved inspite of those experiences. My helpful, kind girl, with an imagination and slow, sure smile. Though you be little, you are mighty.  You are brave and courageous.  You jump at the chance for new experiences and I love that about you.  I love you.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Like a fix to an addict...

Information. Information is to a foster parent like a fix is to an addict.  They need it. they crave it. its never enough. You always want more. It makes you do crazy things.

  • Stalk stranger's Facebook, My Space, Instagram, Twitter.
  • You learn the circuit clerk on-line records search, checking it multiple times a month.
  • Comb through stacks of papers hoping something was missed in the sweep for confidentiality.
  • Read the caseworker's notes upside down.
  • Scribble down everything the judge says in court as if you were the court reporter.

At the most recent ACR, I was handed the kids' current case plan. I usually have to beg for these and it's usually several months after the ACR that I receive it. Normally the case plan is redacted and pages of information are missing as it deals with the "family history".  I think that kind of makes it hard to take a team approach and generally creates more issues. Personally, I don't think that everyone should get to hide behind "confidentiality" because really why is it confidential? Certainly nothing in my home.  If it happened to the kids, I should get to know about it even if it was witnessing Mom get beaten up. (See point 2 above. I already know about the charges and case outcome.  My life would be way easier if you just coughed up the details, thank you very much. And certainly, the records belong to the kids.  Shouldn't they have access to their own history?)

Caseworker #3 handed the packets to me with a smile and said "there is more information on here". (CW #3 appreciated my addiction resourcefulness. She understood.) Since the goal is now adoption I got to see more. I also got the benefit of having an office close to our home so I was able to attend my first ACR in person in 5 years.

Early on, the therapists told me we probably won't know all that happened to the kids.  They also said it didn't really matter.  We would treat the symptoms and assist with healing the unspecified trauma and focus on how they were progressing.  As a Mom, that is very, very hard for me.  They are my kids.  I'm supposed to know.  I'm the keeper of their lives.  How can I help them if I don't know what happened to them? How can I absorb the awfulness if I don't know what it is? I'm the adult, I need to carry the heavy stuff for them and let them be kids.

I didn't read the Case Plan until I got home. The information Caseworker #3 was referring to was a new summary of all of the indicated events that brought the kids into care. There wasn't just one. There were more than 4 at different periods of time. I learned the names of different boyfriends that abused her. I learned the last name of one of the other siblings. Failure to protect or prevent harm. Over and over again. I cried.  Just this little piece of information and I couldn't understand why it took so long for them to be protected from harm. Clearly these kids needed help.  It was like reading the newspaper articles about the department when a kid in care dies. 

I'm going to need a stiff drink when we get their subsidy packet back.  I have a feeling there is a lot worse in the files. 

20 Thoughts I Had During the Homestudy

1) Sh*t she's early. Oh well...
2) A redacted birth certificate? It's their birth certificate. They should get to know what was on it.
3) Sexual abuse history!? WTF. 
4) Changed placement due to sexualized behavior? WTF.
5) No, this was their 4th placement. You are DCFS. Shouldn't you know this?
6) Need to move this information. The redacted birth certificate is making me angry. 
7) Why is the mental health n/a box checked? Um they have PTSD and RAD. I think that's applicable.
8) You are missing a sibling in the listing.
9) You want me to fill out a sibling contact agreement but you won't tell me their names? But you give us their birthday? WTF?
10) Did she seriously just ask Hubby his weight? 
11) "You can describe me as curvy".
12) Perfect, another maternity leave to hinder my kids' permananecy. 
13) Did she really just ask me to explain the difference between foster care and adoption?
14) Do people get that wrong?
15) How do I know I'm attaching to the kids? It's a feeling. Can I say "I'm attached because if you don't get this moving along soon, I'm going to go all Mama Bear on your ass?"
16)Yeah...probably should let Hubby answer that questions first and come up with a different answer.
17) "We will support their curiosity about the circumstances that led to their adoption by having an open, age appropriate dialogue their entire lives."
18) The family that isn't supportive of their adoption isn't family anymore, that's how we handle that.
19) Did Hubby just admit to being a champion of therapy? 
20) 3 hours worth of questions. I need a nap.

Friday, November 13, 2015

20 Random Thoughts Prior to a Homestudy

1) I probably should clean the bathrooms. She might need to go if she will be here 1.5 hours x 4 kids. However long that is. I don't multiply decimals.
2) Everyone has told me that's a way overestimation. Maybe I don't really need to clean them.
3) Holy Hell, yes I do. 
4) Good God children, how do you get pee under the seat? How is this possible? I don't even know how to lecture you about stopping this because I have no idea how this can happen.
5) Next week I am giving bathroom cleaning lessons and you are all going to take turns on a weekly basis.
6) Gross. 
7) Still not as gross as lice.
8) Do I need to serve treats? Would baking something be too contrived?
9) Definatley. The kids would tell on me. "This is the first time Mom has made cookies in our new house! ever!" So would Hubby.
10) Why do I care? She's already been here. 
11) Because it's foster care and crazy sh*t happens and how many horror stories have you heard? It's not final until the order is entered. 
12) Need to hire the attorney.
13)Is she the one I tried to interview with and she hired the person before me without meeting me? 
14) Can't find the email. I guess it doesn't matter since I don't know what she looks like. 
15) Let it go R. Let it go.
16) Should I write down the issues? We need to make sure we capture anything pre-existing. Must remember Smiley's IEP and Sarah's 504 Plan. And Simon and Stella's glasses.
17) Just make sure the fresh fruit is visible on the counter.
18) WTF are these pencils doing on the floor.  Where do they come from. Why is it I find them by tripping over them but when I actually need them, nowhere to be found?
18) Why did we tell her 9:00AM?
19) Because you had just given your "how do we expedite this process" speech and you didn't want to look like you were stalling.
20) Screw it. We live here.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Can he use your last name?

That was the gist of the email I got from Simon's teacher today. Can he use your last name? He wants to change his name tag on his desk to read his adoptive name. He told his teacher he wants it to say "new last name". 

I love that my kid has grown so much that he can articulate to others his feelings about what is important to him. 2 years ago he couldn't tell me what he wanted to eat for fear he would offend me or it would be something no one else wanted to eat. He acquiesced to everyone. And don't get me started about the way his sisters pushed him around. (This is only slightly improved. He's still incredibly patient with his sisters- way more than me.)

So for him to ask to have the name he feels is his- is HUGE. 

My response was - if he feels this way, we should listen to him. Change it in the yearbook too. 

He has claimed our family as his own. He is demanding to be included in it. Court delays be damned. Legalities don't matter to him. In his heart he belongs with us.

His new name IS his name. I want to ask all the people who told us we didn't have the right to give him a new name- what they make of this? 

He wants the name we have him. The one that honors, past, present, future. The one that cements his place in our family.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Am I Really?

I had Sarah's 504 plan meeting last week. It was the annual meeting to qualify her for classroom supports based on her PTSD diagnosis since it had affected her in class. (Which Caseworker #4 actually said he was "surprised it was necessary for her to have a 504 plan"....let me clue you in- don't say sh*t like that.)

Her amazing therapist came and reminded everyone just how far my kid had come. Somewhere along the way I missed actually hearing her diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder but it's in a report somewhere. While she has basically fallen off that spectrum (not exhibiting signs) her therapist reminded us that we must keep working with her as if she still had RAD as to not backslide in our progress.

When the meeting concluded the very well meaning staff applauded our family for being a foster family and adopting. It was the usual - you are amazing/the kids are so lucky.

And as I got in the car I thought, am I that amazing?  I was 5 minutes late to the meeting. I had no idea what my kids wore to school as I was in the shower when they left. I assume they ate breakfast.....And then again later that night when I blew up at my kids. Totally lost my cool at being asked about a snack before dinner (because hello I was a neglected kid and didn't always know where food was coming from). Then resented that I have to be so very careful all the time because of all the hurt caused by others. And then of course there was the adorable pregnancy announcement from a sibling and a baby shower thank you card that came in the mail today. 

Yeah. I'm a real wonderment. Sobbing in my room because I feel guilty for wishing that this was an easier road while also knowing that there is no such thing.

What qualifies people to tell strangers they are amazing parents? I could be total crap. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Foster Care Land

I've had foster care on the brain the better part of this week. I know, I know- "well duh!? You ARE a foster mom." 

Some days that fact barely registers. With no visits I can sometimes get away with "forgetting" that we are in this weird limbo place where we are a family but not quite legally. We handle school, work, dinner, and bedtime. Rinse. Repeat. At least on days where trauma doesn't rear its ugly head....

I've missed the Fab Four tremendously this week. I found out that Solana's (baby sister) bio dad accepted a plea deal and got out jail. So I'm wondering about the case plan and visits. Sheila texted me and I read another book by Ashley Rhodes-Courter, Three More Words. It's the sequel to her memoir about growing up in foster care. In this book, she shares her experience as a foster parent navigating the system and also incorporating her biological family into her life. 

I feel so helpless to help the other 400,000 kids in foster care. While I realize being the foster mom to the 8 I've had in my home has been critical to their lives- what about the rest? There aren't enough foster homes, let alone, quality foster homes. The court system is bound by regulations and not common sense and I'm just totally frustrated by it all. I'm sure a lot of this has to do with Solana because I can't help but worry about her.

How do we change it? How do we make it so we help the kids and families that need it efficiently, and expeditiously, with quality? How do we move the kids through to permanency who have no hope of reunification without the additional traumas? How do we stop them from getting hurt in the first place?

How do we get the states with the most asinine rules to reform? After reading about stuff happening in New York, Florida, and Texas, Illinois almost looks like it has its act together. 

And I feel sad for all the kids and families living in this alternate universe of foster care. The rest of the world going about their business while families in crisis scramble for peace.