Monday, January 30, 2012

Celebrate Good Times!

Yesterday was a great day. Literally the best day I've had in a long time. Today is Baby 4's actual birthday, but we had his party yesterday. This was the first kid party I've planned where the kid actually knew what was happening. He got to pick his theme- Spiderman, and he had input in the guest list. He has been so excited for his birthday. He told my Mom that he can go snowboarding now that he's 5yrs old.

He picked out the goodies for our favor bags

Spiderman all the way

Party Box of Fun

Of course, there were presents

And a special birthday shirt

We headed to our favorite play center
and had some cake

Oh yea, Baby 2 and 3 came too!!!!
The party lasted about 4 hours. I kissed my boys as many times as they would let me. I checked with Baby 2, who said he would run away to Mexico with me if I bought him a sombrero. So if you don't hear from me...

Baby 4's biofamily came and it was very pleasant. There were a couple of times I could have gotten huffy- when people were added to the guest list or when I bought a new car seat to accommodate all the people I picked up and drove to the party. In the end though, they were grateful  to be able to see 4 on his big day, and it only strengthens their trust in me and my intentions for Baby 4.

Happy Birthday Baby 4!!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

I Could NEVER Let Them Go!

I will venture to say that every single foster parent has heard something to the affect of, "I would never be able to give a baby back". I'd like to tip my hat to Mama Foster and this post about comments like that. She says it way better than I could.

Basically, we (Me, my husband, or foster parents in general) could NEVER let a baby that we love go either. We fall instantly in love with them. We get way too attached. Our hearts break with every injustice. But what are we to do? Not help a child who has no home because it will hurt us when they leave? Are we supposed to let these kids go people who can remain distant and not invest their whole selves into these babies? Obviously, No.

Here's the practical guide we follow when giving up our children:

Step 1- Ya put on your Big Girl Panties, because the judge just said "Immediately" and you have no say in the matter.
Step 2- Pack up 6 cans of formula, Gerber puffs, Baby apples, teething toys, blankets, bottles, and 4 binkies.
If you're not going to be with this kid, you best make sure they have what they need.

Step 3- Take in as much of that smile as humanly possible.
Don't you love the boogie nose?! Gross!
Step 4- You do a load of laundry
(or 3, 'cause Lord knows I'm always behind in the laundry race)
Step 5- Do one final keepsake and take LOTS of pictures
Step 6- When Baby is sleeping, and you have a few minutes to get everything together, cry as loud and ugly as humanly possible. Don't forget to back the Medicaid card and diaper rash cream!!

Step 7-  At this point there are no more tears. You go numb and take the longest drive ever.
You've already held your baby for the last time.

The handoff was what I expected. We pulled up next to Dad's car. Brandon carried the boxes and I opened the door to our van so Dad could pick up Baby 5. Dad thanked us for taking care of his son. He said it takes special people to do what we do. Baby got mad that he was woken up during the vehicle switch and he looked right at me and cried as Dad walked away with him. I was very upset by that little face that screamed how he needed his binkie and a few taps on the butt to feel better. When we got back into the van, Brandon said Dad had yelled from his car, "Keep in touch!", but I didn't hear it. Maybe I'll text him in a week to see how things are going, although it's not like he would tell me if everything was falling apart.

I'm a little bit of a wreck over the whole ordeal. I haven't changes the sheets on the crib yet, but I made Brandon take the bassinet he used to nap in out of the living room. We put away our infant carseat. My house doesn't smell like baby lotion and formula anymore. Saying Goodbye is hard, and I hate it.

I get way too attached to my kids. I would never be able to let them go! Except, I do. I manage to get through it. I feel every bit of pain. I grieve. I cry.

And I'll do it again because it's completely worth it.

It's been a terrible week

I've been trying to write about this week since Wednesday, but nothing I can say about it is coherent enough to post. Court, BioMoms, Victim Impact Statement, Custody petitions, Article 10 case, Article 6 case, Children's Motrin, Plea agreement - That's what I've written about.

I went to a criminal court proceeding for the first time on Wednesday. Most of the time the neglect/abuse allegations that caused kids to be placed in Foster Care are handled solely in Family court. Sometimes the act is so severe, that not just CPS, but the police get involved and press charges in Criminal court as well. I went to what was supposed to be the sentencing of a parent who did something so terrible that the law allows the judge to sentence 5-15 years as punishment. On top of that, there were 5 other charges that had nothing to do with hurting a child, but each of those held a possible 2-10yr sentence. "Justice" was served and this person admitted guilt to all 6 accusations and was given 8 years in jail for their actions. I was sick. The police investigator was mad. CPS was shocked they got any time at all (since most severe abuse cases only get probation). The perpetrator was completely unreadable- flat affect, no emotion. I hope and pray I never have to sit through something like that again, except I will have to- next week.

The sentencing did not become final last week because no one had been given the opportunity to write a Victim Impact Statement to the judge. Basically, that's a letter to the court explaining how the crime in question has effected the life of the victim after the initial trauma. In this particular case, I am the one who would be writing this letter. The assistant district attorney told me about it like 5 minutes before we walked into court, so I wasn't ready this week. They want to have it on file, though, because it effects future requests for early prison release and parole. So next week I will bring this letter to court and read it to the judge in front of the person who has plead guilty to an act that requires a particular kind of evil that is thankfully very rare. The thought of that gives me hives. These are the things you don't think about when you sign up for Foster Care. You think you are going to be soothing crying babies and dealing with a 6 yr old's temper tantrums- you never think you'll be facing the person who hurt a child and literally being that child's voice to a judge. It's an overwhelming responsibility.

While I was at criminal court, one of my kids had a visit. I keep a notebook in both my kids' visit bags and I write a little update every visit so the parents stay informed about what the child is up to, when appts are, etc. I get home from court, open the notebook, and read, "We have a problem". Oh good, because exactly what I need right now is a problem. The rest of the note explains that I need to have the child always travel with gas drops, Children's Motrin, and baby wipes. The child needed all these things at the (one hour) visit and I didn't provide them. The note said, "I know the state pays you to take care of ---- so you can buy these things". Yes, I can buy these things. As a matter of fact, I have all of these things in my home right now. I am not, however, sending medicine to a visit with a healthy child so you can dose him up without me knowing what he's taken. I called the caseworker, who is going to take care of responding to that note for me, and she agrees that no medicine should travel with the child to the visits unless necessary. Then I looked in the bag, because I always send wipes, and sure enough, there was a full travel case of wipes in the bag

Next on my agenda for the week of horror was to find out from Baby 5's caseworker what she expected from our family court appearance on Thursday. The way I heard it last time we were in court, Jan 26th was the day the judge planned to order Baby 5 home to his Dad. Since then, though, I had heard some concern about this from the law guardian. Also, the county never moved from day visits to overnight visits, even though that's usually what happens when a child is being sent home. The 3 kids we've had leave were having 3 day, 2 night visits with their parent before they were sent home. Baby 5 has never slept anywhere but here. He's only seen his Dad 8 times in his whole life- which is not Dad's fault, it's the county's. Dad came to every visit that was scheduled. Anyway, I called the caseworker and she said that she thought there would be an adjournment on Thursday and that we would go back to court one more time before Baby 5 would be moved. I said, "Should I have him packed?". She said No.

We went to court and there were 2 things to be settled- the CPS case and custody case. As expected, the custody hearing was adjourned until March. What was unexpected is the Judge said that Dad is the preferred placement over any other (us), and Baby should be placed with him, "Immediately" under the CPS case. "Immediately"- had I brought 5 to court that day, I would have literally handed him to Dad right there.

I heard it and started the internal mantra, Don't puke in court. Don't puke in court. I was just holding myself together when the county lawyer says to the judge, "Foster Mother is in the court right now." Ugh! really?! The judge asked me to stand and state my name for the record, which I did. She thanked me for my service and asked me if I was prepared to transition baby today.

My head was spinning- He's not packed, 4 is at school, Brandon's at work, you ordered him home immediately? They won't get to say goodbye! I managed a head nod and  "Yes", although it must have looked pained because Dad spoke up as I opened my mouth.

He said, "I don't want to just rip him away from her. We can wait a few days." There was some banter that I didn't quite listen to because I was figuring out if it was OK for me to sit back down or keep standing in case the judge speaks to me again. In the end it was decided 1) that I could sit down 2) that Baby would be physically returned to Dad on Saturday. I owe Dad for those 2 extra days.

As we left the courtroom, I smiled and said to Dad, "That was great. I'm so happy for you!". I really am happy for him, but sad for us. Then Mom came out. She was hysterical. She wanted Baby 5 to stay with us because that meant she had the chance to get him back. She yelled at the caseworker and collapsed in my arms. She sobbed while I held her and said the most comforting and helpful words I could think of. She apologized for not being able to keep 5 with us. I told her not to be sad for us. We are happy for the time we've had with 5. She walked me to my car and told me she wants us to get another baby. I think the exact phrasing was "Put in an order for a new baby". As ridiculous as the entire day was, it's oddly comforting to know that the woman who's baby was taken from her and placed with me thinks we're good enough to take care of him. I don't know that I'd ever be OK with another woman raising my baby.

So I went home and let everybody know what was going on. It was all very business-like. I called my homefinder. We talked about being open for new placements. I got the baby's laundry together. I used up all the WIC checks we had for this month so he would have formula until his Dad could get WIC transferred to his name. I refilled all Baby's prescriptions so Dad wouldn't have to worry about that until next month. I didn't cry once even though I knew this was a sad thing.

Then last night Baby 5 started fussing. He's had a runny nose for a while that never quite turned into a cold, but is still really annoying. He screams when we clean his nose, but a quick funny face and some peek a boo quickly remedies that. His other current favorite thing is the Oompa Loompa song from Willy Wonka- well, kind of. I don't know most of the words, so Baby 5 is accustomed to my unique rendition. When I got him to stop crying so quickly after blowing his nose, I lost it. I asked a huge favor from my 6 month old. I begged him to be happy at his new house. I held him and asked him to let them calm him down when he's upset. I asked him to be OK with whatever they do to get him to sleep. Please laugh when they play with you, and snuggle when they hold you. Please don't miss the way we do things here.

That's a tall order for a baby. I hate that he has to do any of that.

Baby 5 has been our shortest placement so far- 5 months and 1 week. I love him so much it hurts. I am going to be crushed today when we take him to the county line, put his stuff in his Dad's car and watch them drive away. This is not the kind of set up where there is any hope we'll stay in contact after he leaves. Dad has been very nice to us, but that's just not going to happen, and they live so far away that it's not like we'll bump into them at the grocery store or anything. Today is the last time I will ever hold my baby, and it's awful.

It's been a terrible week.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Kindergarten, Decannulation, and Permanency

I got a Kindergarten registration packet in the mail this week from our school district. Baby 4 will be officially school-aged in September and it's freaking me out!! He's only been my baby for 1 year and now I'm sending him off to real school. Even though he goes to preschool every afternoon, all day kindergarten feel so much different- so grown up. I never planned to send my kids to school. I decided to homeschool a long time ago for several different reasons. You can't homeschool kids in care. You can pay out of pocket for private school or use public school. Baby 4 has to be registered for Kindergarten by March 2nd, so our decision has to be made soon.


Private school doesn't solve the fundamental problems I have with school:
  • Trusting a stranger with a large portion of your child's life
  • Lack of time management -3hr homeschool day vs.6hr traditional school day for the same amount of work
  • Indoctrination of beliefs contrary to our own- because even other Christians can believe differently than we do
  • The idea that in a room of 28 kids and 1 adult, my child will learn from the adult
  • Inability of schools to use the child's natural pace, talents, and style to make learning effective.

Did someone lose their soapbox? I seem to be standing on one.

Private school does seem to be the lesser of 2 evils though. It would be an easier decision if I knew 4 would be with us- or even in our city-  through the end of the school year. That way I would pay for the school year and know he'd be attending no matter what. I wouldn't handle it well if I lost Baby 4 and $4,000 in tuition all in the same day. On the same token, what if he stays and I put him in public school and hate it? hmmm..... moving on!

Baby 4's surgeon has scheduled decannulation for next month. That means they will take out 4's trach and watch him overnight to make sure he is breathing well on his own. They literally pull the trach out and slap a bandaid over the stoma (hole in his neck) and it will close up very quickly. This is GREAT news because having the trach out will open up so many doors for Baby 4. Swimming, sandboxes, uninterrupted nights of sleeping with no machines, no more surgeries every 6 weeks, and his medical needs will to need to be considered when choosing a school. This is huge since only a few schools- public or private in our district have full time nurses on site. This is also very DISTRESSING because we've been through this before. 4 was decannulated and sent home- where he was fine for 2 weeks- only to be rushed to the hospital in respiratory distress. There is no guarantee from the Dr that this won't happen again. They think 4 has been stable long enough to guess this time will stick, but we don't know until it's done. If he can not remain decannulated- the trach will be surgically replaced, it will be stitched in for one week while 4 is bed bound in the PICU, then we'll continue the surgeries like we've been doing. If the decannulation is successful, there is a more likely chance that DHS will recommend sending Baby 4 out of state to his relative resource.


The last time Relative Resource and her petition for custody were really addressed in court was back in November. She came up here and went to court expecting to leave with Baby 4. The county told the judge that having 4 travel would while the trach is in would be too risky for his health. The judge agreed and put the custody petition on hold.

We had court this week and while nothing happened, everything happened. Does that make sense? Nothing happened as far as Baby 4's placement with us, visitation, or the charges against the parent. Everything happened including Mom being offered and considering surrendering her parental rights, Dad maintaining that he would like to parent his son, and Relative Resource refusing to become foster trained and certified like the county recommended, and RR refused to withdraw her custody petition after being advised by her attorney to do so. RR's attorney told 4's attorney that he thought her petition "was going nowhere".

Did I mention RR teleconferenced into court FROM HER HOSPITAL ROOM?! I'm torn about whether or not health issues should be held against her. It's not something she can completely control and even I could get sick and be hospitalized, yet what would happen if she gets sick when she has 4? She is a single working woman with no family down south- they all live up here. Her being hospitalized for 3 days like she was this time would definitely put 4 at risk.

Baby 4's attorney made the court aware of the plan for Baby 4's medical treatment and we discussed how nothing was going to happen in the case yet. Then we set another court date for February where I suspect nothing will happen again. 4's attorney told me that we need the judge to decide bout the custody petition before 4's trach is out permanently if we want him to stay with us. Unfortunately, that is scheduled for Feb 2nd, so there is not a lot of time to make that happen. As far as I know, there are no plans for RR to come back up here any time soon and I would hope she needs to be present to be granted custody of my Baby.


March 28th marks one year of Baby 4 being with us. Supposedly that gives us some leverage when the judge is making decisions about his permanency. I've heard that after 1yr. foster parents are considered equal to blood relatives. If that is true, the "A" word is pretty likely, especially if Mom surrenders her parental rights.

Kindergarten, decannulation, and permanency are all very important milestones in 4's life. They are all coming up very quickly. They are all completely up in the air.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Question and Answer Time

Hi. My name is Teresa and I am a comment addict.

"Hi, Teresa."

For real, I get so excited when I see that someone has left a comment on here. It's surreal that anyone is interested in our story at all. I really appreciate your feedback. This week I've gotten some questions that I'd like to answer here:

The first is from Mitzy on the post Prepping Our House For Foster Care

"You mention in this post that you send your foster children home with full wardrobe for a full year. I would love to hear more about how you make that happens."

I have a couple of tips to building a wardrobe for your kids: The first is to look for used clothes lots on Craigslist, Ebay, and garage sales. When Baby 2 came to me he was wearing size 18months, I found a boys clothing lot on Craigslist that contained 200+ pieces of 18mo-4T clothes in the right seasons for $120. I offered $80 and had a great base to work with. By the time he left a year later, he was in 3T clothes and Baby 3 was in 12-18month clothes so that $80 was completely worth it. I did the same thing for Baby 4 when he arrived. I won an Ebay auction for $17.50 plus $10 shipping for a 4T lot that included 40 pieces- PJ's, Tshirts, several pairs of pants, a couple pairs of shorts, and a bathing suit. From there, I shop off season. For instance, on Sunday I went to the Carter's store and they had all their winter stuff 70% off. I was picking up 3 piece outfits for $6 and PJ's/Rompers for $3.99! I bought size 5 stuff for Baby 4, who is currently wearing size 4, and 18month clothes for Baby 5 who is in 6-9month clothes now. Walmart is great for this kind of shopping- their end of season clearance items often get marked down to $1.50, and I've gotten shoes for $3 several times. They have a line of inexpensive clothes called Garanimals that even at full price runs $3.50-$5.00 per piece and they are designed to mix and match. I like to get creative with clothes as the seasons change. If I find $1 short sleeve shirts in September, I'll layer them over long sleeved onsies and extend the life of baby's wardrobe. I've brought home 3 children in the month of March- when it's still cold here but Spring is quickly approaching. Instead of buying a winter coat for now, I buy a spring jacket and a zip up hoodie to wear together, and a clearance coat one size bigger for  the end of the year. Lastly, I ere on the bigger side when trying to predict what size my kids will be in down the road- you can always roll up pant legs and sleeves, and a lot of kids pants come with adjustable waists now. This answer wouldn't be complete without acknowledging that I have a great church family and the best friends who have given us clothes for every child we've had, and for that I am beyond grateful.

A seasoned foster Mom told me to never send new clothes with tags home with a child. Always cut the tags off and wash the clothes so that they can not be returned or easily sold. I do the same with cans of formula that get sent to visits- always open it first, even if I send it full. That way it's more likely to be used for the child you sent it with.

Question 2 is from Mama P on I'm Back!

"If the clothes went missing, what did he wear home?"

The mysterious case of the missing clothes turned into such a debacle, there is not enough blog time to even tell you. For this visit,  I sent 5 in a long sleeved onesie, sweater vest, jeans, and sneakers. He had another long sleeved onsie and another pair of jeans in his bag. All of the clothes were size 6-9mo. He came home in a white short sleeved onesie (0-3mo), a windbreaker jacket (12mo) and blue cotton pants (3mo) that were brought by the parent. The parent also sent home a bag full of 0-3months clothes, but the clothes he was wearing and the extra outfit were gone. I never thought that the clothes were stolen or intentionally left out of the bag. I'm just confused how they went missing when there is a supervising caseworker in one room with one parent and one infant. I spoke to the visitation worker who explained to me that the visits get very chaotic when it's time to get baby packed up and say goodbye. Often it's the worker who has to gather all baby's belongings and put them back in the bag and strap baby in his seat, and tend to the parent's emotions. The visitation worker mentioned that none of the clothes I send are labeled, so doing that might help. I agreed to label the clothes, but I'm not really sure how that will help because they are in a room with a couch, some toys, and a highchair- it's not like the clothes got mixed into someone else's. I mentioned this to 5's case manager who emailed the visitation worker. Case manager told visitation worker to be aware that incidents like this have happened in visita with 5's siblings. Her response? The Foster Mom sends baby to visits in a coat that is too small. You should talk to her about that. What?!?! The case manager came to our house this week for a homevisit and I showed her the coat, which fits just fine. I'm resigned to avoid this visitation worker and not talk about 5's clothes and visits any more. I'm so over it!

Lastly, another question on I'm Back! was asked by Rachael:

"Seconding what Mitzy said about being happy you're back, and not happy about the threatening! How in the world did you resolve that situation??"

I will never stop saying good things about how my agency handled this situation.  They were VERY understanding and agreed to change the visitation schedule and location to be sure this person would never be able to get in contact with 5's family. I made the police aware of the situation and they advised me to file a report for harassment if something like this happens again. I also deleted the option on the blog to have my new posts emailed to subscribers because I'm pretty sure this person kept up to date on the blog through that feature. As far as resolving this conflict in my own head- I had to stop being a victim. I'm prepared if this escalates, and if this is the end- I've lost someone who was willing to inflict the greatest hurt possible on me, but I still have my kids and the opportunity to treat them better than I've been treated.

Are there any other questions you would like me to answer? Please leave a comment!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Adoption Tax Credit

There is a tax credit available for people who adopt. It is intended to offset the cost of traditional adoption and provide incentive for perspective parents to adopt special needs children from Foster Care.

When adopting from foster care, almost all of our kids qualify as "special needs". Some of the qualifications for that are sibling groups, minority children, a child that has been in care over 1yr, or children with medical or developmental disabilities. If you adopt a special needs child, you are eligible for the entire adoption tax credit.

In years past, this credit could be used against your income tax. So you would get a bigger return, but the benefit was linked to your income and how much you pay in taxes. So for Middle class families, it could take years before you saw the full benefit of the tax credit. If you were a Grandma on Social Security who adopted 3 of your Grandbabies, you would never see this money because you don't owe taxes.

In 2010, however, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which had some small print that made this Adoption Tax Credit a refund. This means that for every child adopted from foster care through 2011, their adoptive parents would a receive a $13,170 check regardless of their income or taxes owed. This was great news for people who got to adopt in these past 2 yrs. Granny gets the money she needs to move to a bigger apartment or start college fund for her kids.

Unfortunately, this refundable credit went away on December 31, 2011.

The plan for people adopting in 2012 is that you can get credit up to $12,170 for each adoption against your income tax. However, the remaining amount can not be used in following years. You'll get a bigger tax return for this year, but not the check for the credit amount and there is no benefit beyond 2012.

In 2013, the Adoption Tax Credit goes away all together.

There is a petition going around to try to get the Tax Credit extended. I signed it, and I hope you will too. The financial incentive shouldn't be the reason people adopt, but hopefully it helps keep siblings together or keep higher needs kids in stable homes.

Click here to sign the Adoption Tax Credit Petition

This is a form letter you can send to your State representative

I'm Back!

I missed missed my bloggy world for the couple weeks I was gone. Things have been TENSE around here, let me tell you! I shut down the blog for a while after I received a threat (delivered to my doorstep) that my blog had been printed out and would be distributed to 5's biofamily. That would at least result in a conversation with my agency about my blogging and at most cause my kids to get moved. I believe the threat (which was actually attempted, but unsuccessfully) was intended to cause the latter. So I shut down this site and my facebook until things calmed down. I was sad about it too. I really love you all.

A very special Thank You goes out to Mitzy at Inside The Parent Trap . She wrote a very nice post wishing me well and it made my day. Mitzy, Blogger doesn't let me comment on your blog!! I get an error message about a long running script that I'm not savvy enough to understand, but I read your posts and love checking in on the goings on of your journey!

Foster Care did not take a holiday for us this season! We had surgery for Baby 4 two days before Christmas, court this week for Baby 4, and an increase in visits for both boys. I investigated the mysterious case of the missing clothes after Baby 5's visits last week- turns out that even with a caseworker sitting in the room supervising, the clothes that baby is wearing (including shoes) and the spare outfit in the diaper bag can get up and walk out all by themselves. Yesterday we got a Hallelujah call for "a baby with a seizure disorder who needs close supervision and medication". I very quickly said yes, then found out an hour later that the baby is "4yrs old and needs medication administered rectally during his seizures". So there is no Baby 6. Medicaid sent me a letter letting me know Baby 4 has been to the Dr. 18 times since coming into care, and so he isn't eligible for anymore Dr. appts until April. He is only covered for emergency services. Yeah, that won't work since we're planning another surgery for February. This will end with Medicaid extending 4's coverage after I spend way too much time calling way too many people and probably crying once or twice. Happy Foster Care!!

Coming up for us is court for Baby 4 on Monday, court for Baby 5 in two weeks, and then the probable return home of Baby 5. Baby 4 is turning 5yrs old at the end of the month and I reserved the indoor play center we love for his party. Later that week, we are planning to have him admitted to the hospital to have his trach removed!!! If that is successful, he'll be a completely typical kid with no special medical needs!!!

I started up my New Years "get fit" tradition the day after Christmas. I stopped calling it a resolution last year :) I broke out my hand weights and indoor walking DVD just as Baby 5 decided that he needs to be held around the clock. Baby 4 likes to sit on the couch for a half hour every morning and laugh at me doing aerobics while holding a squirmy 5 month old who screams if I put him down. The 16lbs of baby is doing nice things for my arm muscles though.

My main New Year's resolution is to stop trying to figure out the next stage of our story. I'm constantly thinking about "what ifs"- What if Baby 4 leaves? What if Babies 2 & 3 come back? What if we get a call for an adoptive placement? What if we never adopt and do just foster care forever? What if I get pregnant? This constant internal dialogue is exhausting and useless. What is coming next will happen whether or not I worry about or predict it. This year, I'm going to enjoy where we are right now. I love my boys and our situation is tolerable right now- no matter what happens next.