Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Good, Bad, and the Ugly

The Good

I visited Baby 2 & 3 today!! I got to see them and give them presents. It was only 10 min or so and they don't remember me, but I got high fives and big smiles. Not that I needed reminding, but those boys are a part of me. I'm connected to them so deep even though it's nearly a year we've been separated. It was the best Christmas gift I could have asked for- 10 minutes with my babies.

Baby 4 is having surgery tomorrow- his 6th since he's been with us. Surgery has always been scheduled for around 6am, but tomorrow he doesn't go in until 11:45. Since he can't eat after midnight, I would like him to sleep in tomorrow as long as possible. So we stayed up late and watched A Home For The Holidays on TV together. The Dave Thomas Foundation puts this special on every year to feature families who have adopted from Foster Care and spotlight waiting children.  I told 4 it was about families like ours. The kids weren't safe in their 1st house, so they went to live with a new family. We talked very briefly about adoption where I explained that in foster care, the Mommy and Daddy are working really hard to make their house safe so the kids can go back. In adoption, the kids never move back; they stay with their new family forever. Baby 4 said, "Well, I'm staying forever.". It would have been the cutest moment ever if the next part hadn't happened. Not even 30 seconds after he professed his intention to stay with us forever, 4 informed me that he would like to "adopted Justin Beaver forever, but I'll miss you". Well, there you go!

The Bad

I'm exhausted. That pretty much covers it. Dr's, therapists, and caseworkers all want to get their visits in this week because most take vacation next week. Appointment after appointment round here.

The Ugly

I feel like I owe you the real truth about foster care and the impact it's had on us. Here's the ugly truth: Even the strongest support doesn't ensure foster care won't tear your family in two.

This week, in light of Baby 4's recent behaviors and ongoing teaching and re-teaching appropriate social skills, my extended family turned on me. I heard about how lenient I am- "letting" Baby 4 be disrespectful and bringing embarrassment on myself and this family member. Then I heard from the other side how I'm way too hard on 4- "He's just being a boy" and I need to give him more slack. After several heated arguments where I chose my son over everything else important, I have been disowned by one of my parents while the other one has chosen to separate themselves from me until everything blows over. Apparently everyone else shares an opinion with one side or the other and we've been quite the conversation topic "ever since you got him".

NONE of these people know the dirty details of what 4 has been through. NONE of these people have experienced PTSD or chronic anxiety in themselves or their children. NONE of these people have parented a child who has suffered loss and trauma the way 4 has. NONE of these people has ever tried to parent someone else's 4 yr old. NONE of these people have researched trauma, loss, bonding, and attachment the way we have, and NONE of them have had to be around Baby 4 for longer than a couple of hours.

I am not the perfect parent. I don't have all (or even most) of the answers. I am the only one of us who stepped up to help a kid who needed a Mom, and I feel like if you could do it better then you should.

It was not even a choice worth thinking about to stand by Baby 4 over someone who shares my DNA but was willing to disband their whole family because they couldn't understand my parenting style. I choose my child. I choose to be the type of parent I wish I had- one who will NEVER leave. I will spend Christmas with my sons while some others may choose to spend Christmas alone. That's the ugly that foster care can bring out of people.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hodgepodge Post

I've been a neglectful blogger. Lots of foster stuff has been happening, and I feel like it's all I can do to come along for the ride. There's no way I'm going to produce something eloquently written or pleasant to read, so I thought I'd just mash up a bunch of updates in one messy post and let you sift through at your own risk.

  • We had court for baby 5 last week and there were no changes made to his situation. This means he will definitely be with us for Christmas through January 26th- when we go back to court.

  • In court, the county recommended that his parents do a program with him that is supposed to support bonding and attachment. Since his primary bond is with us right now and the plan is still to move him very soon, this program would have benefited him greatly. After some banter between lawyers, the judge asked the baby's attorney what she thought and she said she was OK with the parent not taking the program. I was furious, but it got worse from there

  • After court I flagged the attorney for the child down and asked her for an appt where she could meet Baby 5- her client. Her response? "Oh, I don't think I can do that." What?! You are supposed to see the child you are representing. She went on to tell me that she has already met him and has notes from that meeting. No. See, he's an infant who never leaves my side- so it would be impossible for me to miss a meeting between him and his lawyer. I double checked with the caseworker just to make sure no meetings occurred at visits. The law guardian has never seen this baby. she has no idea what his temperament or special needs are- she has no idea ho visits are going and she fabricates meeting notes. Next month she'll go to court and advocate for what she believes is his best interest without knowing anything about him. I literally had to write down my contact info for her and walk away before I turned ugly. We'll see if she calls me.

  • Baby 4 has started some out of control behavior in the past week or so. He got hit in the eye by a boy at school because 4 threw a book at him. Then he was completely rude and uncooperative at a Christmas activity with his therapist. The next day I caught him trowing a teddy bear at Baby 5's head. Whether its all the talk of Christmas, his upcoming surgery, or baby's return home- he's spinning downward and I'm losing patience.

  • Good Moms probably don't make faces behind the back of their preschoolers. Noted.

  • I probably need to take respite, but there is so much at stake. Whatever good behavior 4 is showing now could regress if I place him in respite. I would have to move 3 machines and 5 medications to a respite home and make sure they are comfortable with his medical needs and then turn around and bring all of that back home and get it set up again- which is exhausting to even think about. Baby 4 has lived in five different homes in his 4 yrs of life. Moving and having different caregivers is normal to him- a "normal" that I am trying to break. I want him to feel secure in his place here, and respite seems to negate that.

  • Baby 4's birthday is next month and I'm getting excited about his party!!! Naughty or not- he deserves to celebrate big after all he's been through this past year. He was injured only 7days after his 4th birthday and then placed with me after leaving the hospital. Making it to 5yrs old took a strength I could never even hope to have myself.

  • After an issue that I don't even want to think about long enough to type it, I was told by my homefinder that I work so well with Bio parents and appear so confident, that my kids caseworkers often leave the brunt of problem solving on me when they would step in with other foster parents. Read: we punish you for being good.

  • Secret: I do not like extending myself to bios. It's inconvenient and threatening to my fragile ego. I do it because I'm convinced this is best for my kids and I would walk on hot coal for my kids if it was best for them. It's also what Jesus would do.

  • My Mom took Baby 4 to a live Nativity where he loudly announced that Dominic the Donkey brought Mary and Jesus to Bethlehem. Score 1 for proper religious training.

  • My 1st group of Fosterlings graduated from MAPP last week. We only had 3 select out over the 10 weeks. I loved training MAPP and can't wait to do it again in March.

I'm sure my will to write will come back soon and then you won't have to sort through bullet points to figure out what Foster Care looks like on Christmas week. Talk soon!

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    Damage Control

    The results from court yesterday were undeniably in my favor. Baby 5 is going to stay with us for the next 2 weeks until they can officially discuss visits with Dad and in what capacity he'll be involved in 5's custody and placement. Until then, the county offered 1 visit/week. Considering the caseworker told me to be ready to pack him on Thursday, this was a win for us.

    But in my gut, I know this baby is going home. I know there is no legal reason to keep him away from his Father. I get so angry with the system for dragging it out like this. This Dad- who had nothing to do with the placement of his child in foster care- is going to come to court every 2 weeks, probably for months,until the judge is in the mood to reunite them. There is no caseplan for Dad to work- his background and home are cleared for Baby 5 to go to him and there are no mental health or drug concerns. I sympathize with this Dad and I'm frustrated that his family has to be more broken than necessary to fit the court's process.

    A lot of what we do in Foster Care is about damage control. In MAPP we call it reducing trauma. What's going to happen is going to happen, but we can make wise decisions about how to go about these changes. Taking Baby 5 from us and sending him right to Dad with no visits would have been horrific no matter how great Dad is. Making a baby stay and bond even further with us for months knowing you're going to move him is wrong too. Doing a several visits from a few hours, to all day, to one overnight, to two overnights eases Dad into parenting and let's baby experience his new surroundings before he thrown into it permanently.

    So when the caseworker said she would set up the first visit for next Saturday, I pressed her to set one up for this Saturday as well. And I advocated for lengthening the visit time a little every weekend to smooth the transition for my baby. This resulted in me having to transport today for baby's 1st visit with his Dad. Since Dad lives outside our county, we only bring baby to the county line and meet Dad in a Walmart parking lot, then he brings baby to his house. Next week, transportation will be set up from my house to the county line, so I won't have to drive him.

    I'm always reinforcing with Baby 4 about having love instead of selfishness. When he shares (or refuses) I ask: "Is that love or selfish?" and we praise showing love because that makes Jesus happy. When I see selfishness in him, I work hard to squeeze it out. When he's asking for more toys every time we go to the store or whines about the snack I gave him, I immediately reduce the toys or snack he already has and we start from the beginning- "You are not getting anything new until you are appropriate with what you have.".

    Now it's my turn to practice. Am I going to be really sad and see this transition for the loss it causes in my family? Am I going to wish and want one more week? Christmas? New Year? Or can I take this opportunity to shower this baby and his Dad with love and help them come together as quickly and seamlessly as possible? Because that makes Jesus happy.

    I'm thankful that I got to meet and talk to Dad and I'm confident he loves his son. These next few weeks will be all about maintaining perspective as the love v. selfishness war wages in me. It's damage control for Baby 5 and in my own spirit.

    Friday, December 2, 2011

    The Talk

    Here's how it went last night before bed:

    Me: Do you remember what kind of family we are?

    Baby 4: Tell me

    Me: We're a Fo-

    Baby 4: Foster Family!

    Me: That's right! Kids come to live with us when it's not safe at their house. We keep them safe while their parents work on making their house better. You came to live with us so that you didn't get sick or hurt at your house, remember?

    Baby 4: Yes! (Insert details of his trauma)

    Me: I know, I'm very sorry that happened. Baby 5 came to live with us because it wasn't safe at his house either and now we're a family. Do you know that your Mommy, Daddy, and Relative Resource are working very hard to make their houses safe so you can go there?

    Baby 4: Why?

    Me: Because they love you so much! Baby 5's Mommy and Daddy are working hard to make their house safe for him too. You are pretty lucky to have so many people who want you at their house. If baby 5 can go live with his Mommy and Daddy, will we still be family?

    Baby 4: Yes

    Me: Yes, we can still love each other even if we don't live in the same house.

    Baby 4: Can you sing Jingle Rock?

    Me: Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock......

    Court is this morning for Baby 5 and ,since I have no idea what's going to happen, it's really difficult to prep Baby 4. I hope I'm making it easier for him. We'll see in just a few hours.

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Minutes - Days - Months - Forever

    Baby 5 is a little over 4 months old, but today was his 4 month Dr. appt. He is 80th percentile for height and 50th for weight and head. He's going to be a basketball player!! He got his shots and I cried- it's so sad to see your baby in pain!

    We will have had Baby 5 for exactly 15 weeks tomorrow. He fits so nicely into our lives. It feels like he's been here forever. At the same time, I feel like he's been here for just a few moments, it's gone by so fast!

    No matter what, I'm so happy that we met this little guy. Even with all the terrible truths about the foster care system- the poor choices, injustice, heartache, loss, anger- the simple fact that we get to love beautiful children and watch them grow makes it all worth it.

    Teeny Tiny Baby Shoes!!!