Friday, July 29, 2011

Lots Of Talk For Little Action

This month we had the Service Plan Review for Baby 4, Family Court hearing, and Preschool meeting for Baby 4. Nothing super exciting happened, but it gave us a clearer picture of where his case is going and the speed it's getting there.

In our county, foster parents are encouraged to attend Service Plan Reviews for the children in our home. The caseworkers are required to give written notice of these meetings 10 days in advanced to everyone invited to participate. Was I surprised when I received a phone call 6 days before the SPR? Not really, there have been so many mistakes made in 4's case, what's one more? The caseworker said, "You probably won't be able to make it on such short notice..." Oh, no. You're not talking about my son without me there. I informed her I would most certainly be there with bells on.

Not only was I not told in enough time, but the next day after my call, Dad was notified of the meeting at his weekly visit- 5 days before when the rule is clearly 10days prior notice. I wrote the case manager a cute email asking him to clarify the rule for me because I thought I was supposed to get a written notice 10days before the SPR, not a phone call 6 days before... I said, I must have been mistaken... and I CC'd his supervisor, my caseworker, my caseworker's supervisor, President Obama, everyone I could think of that might be able to to figure out why we can't just do things the right way for once.

At a Service Plan Review, everyone involved with the case comes together and assesses where we are at and what needs to be done to reach the goal for the child (reunification, adoption, independent living, etc). The goal for every child initially is reunification, and that is still 4's goal. The only people who were invited bust didn't show were 4's parents. This is unfortunate in his case because they are really the people who benefit from these meetings. With Baby 2 & 3 the SPR was the caseworker, Dad, third party reviewer, and me. The third party reviewer is person who has no connection to the case. They are there to make sure that the standard questions all get answered and she records what was said. Since she's not familiar with the case, she also asks questions for clarity that often help gets information out in the open.

 At this particular SPR, I sat with the foster care caseworker, CPS investigator, CPS team supervisor, 2 county lawyers, 4's play therapist, Dad's service coordinator (or caseworker? I'm not sure), 4's lawyer, and the 3rd party reviewer. We went around the room and introduced ourselves, "Hi, I'm Teresa, Foster Mother for 4". Then the CPS investigator gave a summary of why 4 came into care and what legal reasons we have to keep him in care now. Then he asked me to tell the group about how 4 is doing medically, emotionally, and behaviorally. 4's therapist gave a brief description of what they've been doing (and took some credit for what I've been doing, just saying), Dad's service coordinator gave an update on what he's doing and asked some questions about foster care procedure. Then we all gave our 2 cents about relative resource. The take away from the whole meeting was that nothing is being done anytime soon for 4 in the courts and we don't know what will happen when there is movement in the case.

The week after the SPR was court. I was at MAPP training, so Brandon went to this. Court was scheduled for 2pm. Our city closes the courthouse at 4:30 instead of 5:30 now since some budget cutbacks. At 4:27 the case was called and just adjourned until August 11th because it would simply be awful to make the judge work overtime. Never mind the 2 and a half hours 4's parents and Brandon sat in the lobby- Such is foster care.

Last week, was 4's Committee for Preschool Special Education meeting. At this meeting there was a representative from our school district, a teacher from our school district, a representative from the team that tested 4, a parent of a child with special needs in our district, the foster care caseworker, and me. My education and work background is in Preschool Education, so I have an idea about how these things work, although I've never actually sat in one of these meetings. Pretty much it's a show down to the death between the parents who want services for their kids and the school district who wants to save money any way possible.

In 4's case, there was an educational surrogate assigned by the school district who was at the meeting to advocate for his best interest. The school district chose to assign that title to the woman who was also the parent rep at the meeting. The educational surrogate gets to sign off on what services we decide are best for 4. The problem with this is she doesn't know 4- like hasn't ever seen his face. Foster parents are usually the Educational Surrogates for their kids, but since 4 has been with me less than 6months, I was not eligible to fill this role. Apparently I don't know what he needs since we haven't been together 6mo, but this other person can figure him out by reading his evaluation. The school district says they almost never assign an educational surrogate because kids don't usually get evaluated until after they've been in foster care longer than 6 months. Here is the Public Service Announcement section of my post:

Dear Fellow Foster Parents,
Please get your children tested for Early Intervention Services as soon as you see a possible delay. The testing and services are free. Even if the child doesn't end up needing therapy, you'll know at what age level they fall for speech, cognitive ability, and large/ small motor skill. The earlier theses service are in place, the faster your child can catch up to age level. It doesn't take 6 months to figure out that a 2 yr old is non verbal, or that your 4yr old can't climb steps.  Having a child in your home for over 6 months without getting them the help they qualify for is just as neglectful as what some of their parents have been accused of.
Thank you,

Moving on- We get to the CPSE meeting and everybody gets a chance to say what they want about 4's abilities. The district rep who was chairing the meeting puts up the first offer:

District Rep- 5 days universal preK in a public school with Speech done in our home- n transportation.
Evaluation Team Rep- Has concerns about his medical needs and some other stuff. What about 5 day universal preK in a public school with a nurse and special ed/speech in class.
Caseworker- Why not an integrated class?
District Rep- 4 needs the least restrictive setting and he could do alright in regular school.
Educational surrogate -  He needs role models to catch up and the typical kids in public school will help him catch up.
Me-  4 is behind cognitively, his speech is hard to understand, he has visible scars and a trach, he makes animal noises when he is overwhelmed. Putting him in a typical public school setting would set him up for social isolation and behavioral acting out. If he were in a special needs classroom, he would likely be the highest functioning child in the class and he would be the lowest in a typical class. Having him in an integrated setting would allow him to be right in the middle. He wouldn't be the only kid who needs help and he would have typically developed kids to play with as his social skills increase.
Teacher rep- In my professional opinion it would be appropriate to have him in an integrated classroom getting Special Ed 5 days/week and speech 3days/ week with a bus to and from school
District Rep- I agree, we have a public school with an integrated class like that and if 4 does well he could still move to the typical class without having to change schools.
Me- What if he is returned to his parents and they live in a different school district? He would have to be moved to another school. If we put him in a private setting, he could be bussed there no matter where he is living.
Educational Surrogate- There is no plan of him moving to his parents
Caseworker- Anything is possible
District Rep- Then I think we all agree. 4 will be at the private school 5days/week, with speech 3days/week and he will be transported by the district. His target start date will be September 12th.

Whew! That's perfect! Exactly what 4 needs to get caught up so he has the best chance of starting Kindergarten in  typical class with minimal services.

So after 15 miles of travel and 5hrs of meetings/ waiting for court, we know that 4 is in foster care and preschool. Seems efficient, right? Ha! Welcome to Foster Care.

Monday, July 25, 2011


During MAPP training, we talk about the stages of grief. The grief that our kids experience, the grief that their parents experience, and all the behaviors that suddenly make sense when you remember that they are trekking along the stages of grief. Things like the honeymoon period when kids seem like they are attaching and they are behaving beautifully (shock), or the aftermath when they turn into hellions (bargaining- I'll be so bad, they'll hate me and send me home), or when they are aggressive or start fires, or their parents make false allegations about the foster parents (anger anyone?). Then there is depression- parents missing visits, kids overeating or not eating at all. Finally- acceptance- when the parent starts working the case plan or surrenders or starts focusing on the child instead of how much they hate the caseworker, system, and foster parents. Acceptance- When a 7yr old finally potty trains or a teenager starts making friends. Every family we connect with through foster care falls under one of these stages since foster care is essentially loss and grief.

Generally I think that most psychological stereotypes are annoying and inaccurate. I don't like being read or analysed according to some half baked theory written by a human when I know healing comes from God. BUT- I was very surprised by how neat and in order my grief when losing my babies fit into these stages. I thought I would share:

Shock/Denial- "They're not actually going to go home. Look at everything that's going on with the biofamily! They can't possibly add 2 more kids to that mix. If they do go home, they'll be back. They're coming back to me, this won't last."

Bargaining- "I'm still going to see them all the time. If I just give presents, and rides, and free babysitting they'll let us see them. It's not like they're really gone"

Anger- "How would they let my boys live like that?! This is we have juvenile delinquents, because we let kids live in homes with criminal parents and no supervision. They could have been anything they wanted, they could have had every opportunity they deserve, but now they will have to fight for everything they get.The system rips kids away from healthy, loving, stable homes- THE ONLY HOME THEY KNOW- and gives them to a person who hasn't changed anything since losing their kids in the first place!"

Sadness/Depression- "I'll just have to keep my distance and protect myself next time. I'm probably not going to love the next kid as much as them anyway." While I compulsively cry over their baby books and look up their family on facebook to see any new pictures of them. I cried everyday for an entire month and I still don't go a full day without being sad over some aspect of their leaving.

Acceptance/Understanding- I will let you know when I get there. I know this place exists because I don't think about Baby 1 everyday anymore. Losing him was awful. I remember it being worse than losing Babies 2 & 3. However, I can just remember the sadness, I don't feel the intensity of those emotions any more. With 2 & 3, every memory brings back the full force of emotion I was feeling as it happened. Now when I see pictures of Baby 1, I only think of the good times with him, not the sadness without him.

Then there is developmental grieving, which is when something happens in your life that triggers your loss ad sends back in your grieving process. Remember how I've accepted losing Baby 1? A little story:

I was so excited when we got that call for respite 8. Three weeks of baby smell, and baby toes, and baby cheeks was exactly what I needed. When he came to us, I was pleasantly surprised by how well he fit into our family and routine. Everyone was taken with him. Brandon and I were in love. Even my parents were smitten, which is unusual for them and our respites. Our family doesn't generally attach to the kids who come for just a short time. My Mom was over the moon for 8 and my Dad would call and make sure he was OK. At first I chalked it up to him being adorable and a pretty long respite placement (19 days), but we've had cute kids stay that long before without getting so connected. It was weird.
Baby 1- 7.5months old
Respite 8- 7.5moths old

On the last night of his placement, I put all 8's clothes in the wash so I could send everything back clean. I dug out some PJ's that we had for him to sleep in. As I held him in the pajamas that were initially bought for Baby 1, it hit me like a ton of bricks- Respite 8 was the spitting image of Baby 1. He is the exact same age as 1 was when he left. They both have crazy curls on top of their heads and 2 bottom teeth. They both love the exersaucer and giggle all the time. They have the same nose and are big for their age. I held sleeping respite 8 for over an hour and cried exactly the same way I had cried the day 1 left. This grieving stuff is no joke.
Baby 1 loves the exersaucer
Respite 8 loves the exersaucer

The most commonly heard phrase among foster parents from outsiders is, "I could never do that!". I could never give a baby back! I'd get too attached! I don't know how you do it! This is how we do it. We grieve. We cry and scream and stare into space. We don't back down because it's hard. We know the joy outweighs the pain. There aren't any foster care-super hero-ninja tricks to avoid loss, you have to hit it head on. As soon as you get where you can't take anymore, you do it again- because it's worth it!

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." -Annie the movie

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Kid's A Brat

After cruelly making Baby 4 clean up his toys all by himself  *GASP!*

Then enforcing his regularly scheduled bedtime *WHAT?!*

My 4yr old turned all teenager on me and said,

"I don't love my house anymore!"


I know Baby 4 was really trying to show me how unfair and awful I am

But it was music to my fostering ears

Listen closer

"I don't love MY house anymore"

It is his house

And while he certainly doesn't love it anymore

(Who could blame him; I'm really quite the tyrant)

He loved it before getting in trouble

My kid's a brat

But he's MY brat

And he lets me live in his house

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Train The Teresa

When we recertified this year, part of our home visit focused on the training we had done during the last year and how we felt about the choices that were offered. Our county does a lot of great in-service trainings on a variety of topics. This year I took Sexual Abuse training that was 12 hrs and very eye opening. Brandon took 12hrs of Shared Parenting. I also took a class called Parenting the traumatized child that was 4hrs and a legal training that was done by an adoption attorney and focused on laws regarding rights of foster and adoptive parents- that was 3hrs but I could have sat and listened to her for 12hrs. Brandon and I also attended a conference for fost/adopt parents that had workshops about Fostering Fatherhood, Vicarious Trauma, and The Road to Permanence. Our county didn't host this conference and it really wasn't worth the time- very basic, I could have read all the info in a leaflet.

When we gave the run down of all that, our homefinding caseworker suggested taking the upcoming "Train the Trainer" class to become certified to lead the MAPP training that foster parents have to take to get licenced for foster care. She said that generally the foster parent trainers have more years experience, but we have had all kinds of cases and respites in the our 2yrs and have enough experience to share. I was so excited at the idea of being able to to prepare perspective foster and adoptive parents for the journey they are about to travel!! In our county, every MAPP class has 2 caseworker trainers (who also do the homestudies) and 1 foster parent trainer teaching the class. So  I expected Train the Trainer to be mainly foster parents from our county.

When I first walked into the class, my first surprise was how many materials were involved in this training! Three 2" binders and a 1/2" binder that was FULL of information, 2 VHS tapes, 2DVD's, and a set of charts was supposed to fit in this cute tote that they gave us. The second surprise was that this was not a county training, but a state training. It also wasn't for foster parent trainers, but the agency workers as well. Out of our class of 22 people- 5 were from my county, 3 were from my agency, 4 were foster parents, and 5 had taken MAPP as a student before coming to get certified to teach. I felt a little unqualified to be sitting with caseworkers and matchers, but I also felt like I had such a different view on the material that I could be an asset to these classes. The agency workers have no idea what foster parents go through and the sacrifice they are really asking for when they approve our homestudy and send us kids. I'm so glad that our county includes foster parents as trainers in these classes.

The classes themselves were very interesting. llllllllloooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnngggggggggg, but interesting. We did Tuesday through Friday 9am-4:30pm, had this week off, and go back on Monday for a full week of 9-4:30. We went through the meetings that we would be teaching, how to assess (and get prospective parents to assess) their strengths and needs, how to facilitate a group of adult learners, and the criteria that is used for "mutual selection" when "selecting in" or "out" of becoming a foster parent. I think it hysterical that we can't say screened out, or denied, or Heck No!! when someone doesn't qualify for foster care. Instead we have to get them to see their needs and help them choose to "select out" of the program. But I digress..
I love hearing people from other counties talk and discovering how different policies can be from agency to agency. Some caseworkers were talking about trying to get foster parents to do training. The lady sitting next to me said that her agency increases the foster parents' daily stipend if they go to trainings. Really?! My agency just won't recertify you if you skip your hours. There was also a homefinder from a county I had never heard of that said they have a policy to have bioparents accompany their children to the foster home upon removal. They meet the foster parents and see where the child will sleep that day. I think that is so crazy! I have never shared my address with any of our kids' parents and my agency lets me decide to even give my phone number. I have to think that all sorts of safety concerns arise from this policy, and I'm glad I don't foster there!

A part of this training was preparing self-disclosures. Stories from your life that relate to the material and make you more human and equal in the eyes of the group. Clearly, self-disclosure is something I'm pretty comfortable with as displayed all over this blog. The trainers we had when we were getting MAPP certified were so good at making their stories feel natural and unrehearsed. It is surprising to know how much thought and scripting is involved for a casual heart to heart. We were asked on our self-disclosure worksheet something that we are not comfortable sharing in the group. I'm uncomfortable sharing how far I push the envelope when it comes to sharing foster care details online. Let's keep that between us :)

So all in all, this has been a great experience for me and I'm getting a lot of good material for posts!! Once I'm certified, I will be ready to co-lead a 10 week MAPP class for Foster/ Adoptive Parents in my county.

Friday, July 22, 2011

End It On A High Note

"You did it: you changed wild lament into whirling dance; You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers."  Psalms 30:11 (Msg) 

The Little Engine That Could

"Teresa! Watch Me Sleep!"

Preemie Clothes

On the bottom shelf- Just in case

Orange Jello Concoction- looks like barf but tastes delicious

Air conditioned bedroom set at a frosty 68 degrees


MAPP Homework started

I responded to the email and did Such & Such

"I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for." Jeremiah 29:11

Bad Day Crankiness

I don't know if any of you have noticed, but it's been kind of hot out. Like over 100 degrees and humid hot. The sauna that is Upstate NY right now sets the stage for my current terrible mood.

Baby 4 has entered the "Watch this!" stage which is unfortunate because he hasn't left the "Why?" stage. My days are filled with "Teresa! Watch this!", "See?", while he drives his car or jumps around like a ninja. Then when the car crashes or he lands on his bottom after a cartwheel attempt he says, "Why did I do that?". I know this is normal and developmentally appropriate, but it's stressing me out.

Baby 4's caseworker, our school district's special education representative, and I have been playing phone tag all week to get everything set for his preschool meeting next week. Somewhere during all that, the law guardian attorney for the child got involved, and so this has become a big deal for no reason. He just needs to be enrolled in preschool darn it!

We've had 2 Dr appts, 1 Dad-visit, 2 relative resource calls, a compression garment fitting, nursing, and a homevisit this week. I.AM.EXHAUSTED.

I have MAPP training homework due Monday that I haven't even started.

I have started nesting for Baby 5. Even though I've shut down all positive feelings I could have about this maybe-baby, I still cleaned like a maniac all morning just in case.

Since it was a thousand degrees out, I sat in the pool with 4 and we played a couple of rounds of "Watch this!", "Look at me!".

I know I look like I have a 4yr old, but I don't. He's a baby. He has the attachment of a baby, he has the social skills of a baby (stare at faces and smile). I can't leave him with a sitter, his behavior regresses and I don't trust anyone to care for his medical needs. If he would fit in a Moby wrap, I would strap him to my chest where ever I went because that's what he needs. NO.ONE.GETS.IT.

Parenting a 4yr old is hard. Any 4yr old- they're kind of a pain. It's even more difficult when the newborn -3yr old parenting has to be done simultaneously. I'm working to get Baby 4 to see me as the person who is safe and meets his needs. I want him to come to me when he needs comfort or food. I'm teaching him that Moms are for love and not fear.  I'm also teaching him about respecting adults and what kind words sound like. I'm teaching him that we don't always have to go first and that it's OK to be angry, but not OK to make angry faces at people. I'm doing 4 yrs of parenting at once and some of my messages conflict with his former parenting and with his budding independence.

So all of this hit me this morning the second my eyes opened, and I've been off my game all day.

Then I check my email and I got this from someone at one of my volunteer commitments: (excuse my paraphrase) Hey, So & So told me that Such and Such responsibility hasn't been done yet this week. Perhaps you could get on that.

I couldn't even respond. I have been very honest with everyone about the situation my family is in- including So & So. I don't keep them updated to the minute because that gets old. Baby 4 is always getting sick and going to the hospital, there is always a new baby or a respite baby coming in or going out of my house, I always have a thousand things happening on the same day. There is always court and relative drama. GIVE.ME.SOME.SLACK.

Then I think about other women who have new babies or have bio-kids that get sick and are in the hospital. No one would EVER be sending them an email like that. No one would expect them to be doing anything other than care for their family.

In the past 5 months I have lost 2 children, brought a new baby home, had him hospitalized twice, buried a loved one,  and been in the Emergency Department 4 times. I maintained all of my outside responsibilities and I feel expected to perform the same as before all this happened because these children are from foster care and not my own body.

I am tired, and hot, and I need a day off. I also need a polite way step down from Such & Such because there are bigger fish to fry in my house at the moment. So I decided to blog about it. I guess misery really does love company. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Going Crazy!!!

Just got a Hallelujah call!!! BUT there is no baby 5 yet... A county next to ours has a newborn boy whose mother surrendered him this week. There is no known father and a high likelihood that any prospects will not come forward. The condition to the surrender is a yearly letter and pictures sent to her county DHS. The baby tested clean, but Mom admitted to using several substances during the pregnancy. He was born 4 wks premature, but is doing well now.

His county asked our county for the homestudies of several families who could be his adoptive placement. Our county sent 5 families and WE ARE ONE!!!

The matcher said that she doesn't know if there are other counties sending over 5 of their families as well, so there may be a lot of competition. She said we could find out if we are his family by next week, or not for several weeks, or we could get passed up and never hear anything at all. OK... like I'm sane enough to handle this.

So am I excited? Nervous? Anxious? I have no clue.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Wish For You

I am completely aware that I am obsessive when it comes to my kids and foster care and how my life revolves around both. I am constantly analysing and advocating services I think would benefit us, Baby 4, his parents, relative resource, the man strolling down the side walk- there really is no boundary to my advocating. My two most recent missions have been getting Baby 4 compression garments to minimize his scars and getting him special ed preschool services.

The compression garment portion of this post is strictly venting. When I met baby 4 in March, there was a big debate between the Drs on his medical team as to whether he needed recontructive surgery since some of his scars (they were wounds then) stretch over joints. Their focus was on making sure 4 would have full range of motion now and as he gets older. The Dr that won out said to have 4 doing physical therapy daily to increase that range of motion instead of surgery citing that surgery could always be done if the less invasive way didn't produce the desired effect. We went through all the physical therapy and his range of motion is good, but his scarring is getting thicker as it heals. The medical team had mentioned compression garments and the physical therapist really pushed to have these for 4 ASAP. I started advocating with the medical team who said to wait until all the open areas had healed before pursuing the compression garments. It was late April before 4 was completely bandage-free and May 10th before I had a prescription for these things. When I went to the vendor who makes them, he tells me that it takes 6-8 weeks to get Medicaid preapproval. Couldn't we have done that while waiting for the wounds to heal? 9 weeks later, I hadn't heard from the vendor. Fast forward several calls, a surprise visit to the vendor, getting 2 Drs and the caseworker We have just now gotten Medicaid pre-approval to get FITTED for these garments. AHHH!!!! We're headed over to the vendor tomorrow. 4 will have to wear stockings from waist to toes and one glove from fingers to elbow 23hrs/day for 1 year. Hopefully the increased scarring from the last 3 months will not require surgery. My wish for Baby 4 is no more scars and no more surgery, but plenty more years of running, jumping, and playing ball.

While Baby 4's medical issues are largely out of my control (although I still try), I am in a position of influence when it comes to his academic progress. 4 has finished his preschool early intervention testing and we are now waiting for the school district to have a committee on special education meeting to determine what services they will provide for him. The general rule is that a 25% delay in one area or a 15% delay in three areas would qualify a child for special education services. Right now, Baby 4 is testing 11 months behind his age in 2 areas and has the speech therapist who did his testing pushing for services because he tested at age level for speech, but she was able to that his practical use of language is lacking. He has the skills, but his behavior doesn't support his ability. Everyone of the evaluators assessed that 4 is quite bright and his delays seem to be a mixture of trauma and lack of initial exposure. I agree whole heartedly. So what are we going to do about it? I am reviewing ABC's, colors, shapes, and animal sounds every day. I am counting out loud everything we see all day long. I am documenting everything he does looking for a new pattern or reason for his behavior. I am reading as many books as he'll sit through. What I can't do is make him speak clearly (or even in English) to other people or approach a child his age with any kind of acceptable social skill. It's not for lack of trying, it's for lack of people around him who don't coddle the hurt baby with a trach (talking to you Grandma and Papa). He needs to be with kids who function typically and teachers who meet him at  3yr old level. He needs an integrated preschool program. We have several very good classrooms just like this just minutes from my house. None of them want Baby 4 because of his trach. The school district doesn't want to pay for a private duty nurse. My wish for 4 is to catch up this year academically, get his trach out, and start Kindergarten typically functioning and completely blended in with his peers.

More than my wishes for services and apparatus's, are wishes for healing and happiness. I wish that baby 4 has many days where he wakes up and goes about his day without thinking about being in foster care or being injured. I want him to just be Baby 4 and have fun like every other 4 year old boy. I needed a win for him this week. I needed to get the pressure garments, or get word about a co-op preschool who welcomes kids with medical needs. Instead I got something much better. I took 4 to a splash park this week and watched my son fill and empty a water bottle for 40min. Just running around, making mud like every other 4yr old boy. No foster care, no injuries- just water play and mud pies. That's my wish for Baby 4.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pride in New York

Foster Care has challenged me in every single way I could have ever imagined. It has tested my faith, marriage, sanity, and friendships. Foster Care has even tested the durability of our dining room set (which Brandon has added extra support to since we've had kids). Foster Care drains all of my time and talent and constantly requires me to be better than what I was sure is my best. It also calls me out on my flaws- like my resistance to change. Foster Care has most definitely put a spotlight on a bit of a pride problem I have. I don't think prideful is a word that people would use to describe me, and I'm only recently becoming aware of it myself. Let me tell you- its not attractive.

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6 ESV

My first collision of foster care and selfish pride was with Baby 1 at our first WIC appt. WIC is a federal food program that gives vouchers for food and formula. To collect these vouchers, you need to go to an office and wait with other women while county workers shuffle papers and make assumptions. See, only the person who actually prints your vouchers knows your situation. They are the only one who looks up your child's info on the computer screen and sees that your income or marital status has no bearing on the child's eligibility. While I consider myself a very loving and understanding person who chats with the Mom next to me without judgement of her collecting WIC, I am very uncomfortable with people assuming that I have children that I can not provide for and must rely on assistance. It's ridiculous, really, because I know that people with average incomes can qualify for WIC and there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of a program that you legitimately qualify for. I just get all embarrassed and try to fight the urge to tell everyone I meet at a WIC appt that I am a foster parent. Pride and ego rule my thoughts when that is God's territory. While I understand and fight to surrender that to Him, the thought of that first appt creeps into my mind: I'm getting all the documentation needed and handing it in. The lady checking me in says, Who is the proxy on the checks? I said, "Umm..Just me I guess" Rude WIC lady says, "So there's no Dad?" Of course there's a Dad! Of course I'm married! AND he has a job! We don't need your pity vouchers with a side of judgemental glances! We are foster parents! We help abused and neglected kids!

"Better to be ordinary and work for a living than act important and starve in the process."
Proverbs 12:9

If I thought getting the checks was humbling enough, I can't even begin to tell you how my pride rears it's ugly head at the grocery store when using them. No one there knows the difference between foster parents and other WIC clients. I especially get embarrassed when I have my WIC purchases of baby food, rice cereal, and formula sitting on the counter in front of salmon, steak, pre-made sushi, or soda. I know I'm fulfilling someone's preconceived prejudice of people using the system or making poor choices. It's at those times that I wish I was wearing a "I love being a Foster Mom" Tshirt.

"He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate"  Luke 1:52

 A little back story: Baby 4 has medical needs that qualify him for an overnight nurse. We were unable to locate a nurse for him in our area, so I pushed to have the Dr sign off on him being discharged from the hospital with just me doing his overnight care. This has worked well, and I have been able to properly care for him. Back to the post:

My most recent battle with pride happened at Baby 4's preschool evaluation. In the past 2 months I have taken 4 to emergency twice, and I was using that to explain to the school's social worker that while 4 requires very little care, he also requires close supervision because his condition can become severe very quickly for a variety of reasons. The social worker, who I imagine was trying to save the school district some money, suggested I pursue the overnight nurse that would be paid by Medicaid and have that nurse also accompany 4 to preschool. I told her of our difficulty in finding a nurse and said I am comfortable not having a nurse in our home. I reminded her that the school district is responsible for providing a school setting with appropriate medical interventions for 4 and gave my opinion that 4 would be fine as long as a school nurse was in the building, but not necessarily right next to him. She looked me dead in the eye and said, "Teresa, I understand that you want to do everything for 4, but look at what's happened because you didn't have a nurse.". EXCUSE ME?!?!?! Do you know who I am? Do you know what I've done for that baby?!?!?! Do you know that I check on him every 2 hours all night long?!?! Do you know that the issues he was hospitalized for had nothing to do with his care (or lack of), but are common complications of having a trach?!?!?! Do you know the only thing in this room larger than your lack of social grace is my ego?!?!?! Clearly she didn't.

"One's pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor."
Proverbs 29:23         

"For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.". Galatians 6:3ESV
"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom." Proverbs 11:2 ESV

I've been playing a memory verse game with Baby 4 every night before bedtime. I always go through how much I love him, Brandon loves him, Mommy and Daddy love him, relative resource loves him, Grandma and Papa love him, and God loves him. I say, "Do you know what God says about you?", and we go through our memory verses: I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am strong and courageous. God did not make me fearful, He gave me a heart to love, muscles for power, and a brain for strong mind. God knew me when I was still in Mommy's tummy. I want 4 to be confident in the identity that has been set for him by God. I want him to know that no matter what others say or think, no matter what circumstances arise- He has value and worth. If God wants that for my son, I can imagine He wants me to get a hold of it too.

Today is the day I'm getting over myself. I'm not saying I'm looking forward to my next WIC appt or rude comment. I do know, however, that those will come and I don't have to worry about what that person's judgement of me is. Regardless of what someone thinks of me- my God gives me value and worth. He knows my situation, effort, and intentions. Thank you foster care for showing me my flaws... again.

Friday, July 8, 2011

What Foster Care Means To Me

I've been working on some interesting stuff for the blog. Really, lots of craziness and updates here. But let's be serious, this is what foster care is all about:

Happy Friday!!

Friday, July 1, 2011

All Possibility, No Certainty

This week has been super fun and crazy busy. We have Baby 4, Respite 2, and Respite 8. They are all fitting in well together. While these next few weeks are jam packed with trainings, service plan reviews, preschool testing, and court- I'm enjoying every minute with these 3 cuties.

Baby 4 has been such a big helper, and has increased in his usual request of having, "2 babies and 2 boys" to having "5 babies and 2 boys". I have been very intentional about making him the star of this week. I tell him all the time that he is my favorite, and that I'm so happy to have a big boy in our family. He thinks it's so funny when I say, "Oh 4!! These babies make me do so much work! Giving them bottles and changing their diapers makes me so tired! When are they going to be big like you?!". Brandon also made a big deal of having a big boy day with 4 and taking him to see Cars 2.

I called our caseworker on Tuesday to let her know how much we are enjoying Respite 8 and how he has reinforced my desire for a baby. Her response? "Yeah, I actually thought of you guys when he came into care last month." WhAt?!?!?!??!?! We were skipped over for him?! She went on to explain that his case was pretty clear cut and he would be reuniting with his Mom very soon and it would be hard for us to have such a short placement. I agreed and I get it, but it's a little unnerving to know someone else decided against letting us add to our family- even temporarily- especially since his foster care placement is expected to be about 8weeks long and we're doing respite for 3 weeks. How are we to emotionally engaged to do 8 weeks, but not 3? hmmm... I guess I don't like being aware that there are people sitting at desks in an office building making big decisions for my family.

Speaking of big decisions about our family- I think we're being considered for another baby. Our county has all the kids in care go to the county foster care clinic. All of my kids have regularly seen nurse practitioners, but there is one pediatrician who is technically the Dr for all the kids in care. When we were there last week with Baby 4, the Dr stopped me in the hallway and says, "Your name came up in a meeting today." She told me about a one yr old who has severe congenital defects and very low function. She said that although he's 1yr, he functions like a newborn and needs a lot of medical care. The Dr said he'll be coming into care soon and we were being looked at for his placement. She said that we were her recommendation. My caseworker hasn't heard about him yet, so who knows what will happen.

Some of the considerations that we would have to make before accepting another medically frail child would be:
Can he travel in the car?
How many surgeries/ hospitalizations are expected?
How much nursing/ therapies does he need weekly?
What is the expected bio-parent visit schedule? Do I have to be present for those? (I have to be in the building for 4's visits because nobody there is proficient in his care)
Do we expect his condition to improve over time, or is there a poor prognosis?

This is where life with foster care perks up. We're coming back from the black hole of "goodbye", made it through the rocky road of a new case, climbed the mountain of new caseworker style and information, and navigated through the detour signs of relative resources. Now we can be happy- knowing we are living our calling and enjoying this stage of our family. It gets even better from here as we are continually getting better at reading Baby 4's cues and needs, and he gets better at being open with his hopes and feelings. Even though I'm looking forward to the next Hallelujah call, it's not that urgent, "I don't want to be alone" feeling. It's a peaceful, something good is going to happen feeling. I cherish the memories I have when we were in this phase with Baby 1 and then 2 & 3. It's exciting to know this time will be on my list of favorites forever.

Baby 4 ducking on the caterpillar ride at the festival

I have no idea what's in store for our family. I don't know what would have been if Respite 8 was Baby 5. It's a toss up if we will get a call for the precious baby with the broken heart. I could be writing to you next week about our new sibling group of 4 or it could be months before I hear the matcher's voice again. Anything is possible, nothing is certain, and everything has been planned by my God, who knew our story long before we started living it.