Saturday, February 25, 2012

Our week in review

Foster care doesn't slow down for President's week or our impending adoption. We have been busy bees over here this week!

Sunday- Not so shockingly, the pre-placement visit with Baby 6 and the woman with five children went poorly and she told us after just an hour that she couldn't take him.

Monday- The county offices were closed, but 6's caseworker called me from home and said the nuns had changed their minds about taking Baby 6. I brought him there at 4:30pm, and the trade off went well. Baby 6 seemed to really like the facility and he's the only child they have right now.

Tuesday- 9am homevisit with Baby 4's caseworker. She's a bit of a wet blanket, but she's very thorough when it comes to documenting everything. Baby 4 LOVES everything Cars, and after 8 months of these visits, she still calls Mater from that movie "Mainer" and Baby 4 has to correct her, which annoys me. She gave me some hope that Baby 4 will be with us for a while. She also approved my Mom coming into our home and watching Baby 4 for the week we'll be in CA for our adoption. This is great news for everyone. 4 will get to keep his routine and we'll be able to rest knowing he's safe- even though I'm sure he'd be safe in respite, I'd still worry.

Wednesday- Our Homefinding caseworker came over to meet my Mom and have her sign the disciplinary contract stating that she won't spank Baby 4 and the consents for the background checks they want to do on her. It's the closest my Mom has gotten to the Foster Care process and I think she likes being involved. We discussed placing our home on "self hold" until the new baby is settled, but decided that while we will say no to taking any new children, we have the room and absolutely want to take any of our past children if they come back into care. We plan to continue fostering and accepting new placements once our daughter has recovered her 2nd surgery in June.

Thursday- Baby 4 had a Biovisit in the afternoon, so I took him to an indoor playcenter in the morning.

Friday- Baby 4 wakes up with pink eye because indoor playcenters are filthy-dirty. So we head to the Dr. I just want bathe in GermX- gross gross gross!

Next week brings a new string of craziness. We visit the surgeon to see if Baby 4's trach is definitely a thing of the past and I start teaching my 2nd MAPP class of fosterlings!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Adoption:Our Miracle Story

I really want to honor the purpose of this blog, and keep our chats foster-focused. There is certainly enough to discuss without bringing up all our adoption updates as well.

If you're interested, though, there's a pretty incredible story unfolding over at Adoption: Our Miracle Story .

There are some updates I haven't blogged yet and it's still in rough form, but there is an adorable PICTURE of my daughter you may want to check out!!!

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Honey, Can you get the door? The Nuns are back!"

This story is either really depressing or really funny depending on how you choose to take it. I'm choosing funny because Prozac is expensive stuff :)

We made a heartbreaking decision on Monday to disrupt the placement of Baby 6. We agreed to wait until court on Wednesday when the county was "sure" he'd be discharged to his Relative Resource.

I met Baby 6's Mom on Wednesday morning. She was so nice and we hit it off right away. I didn't say anything to her about disruption because it was going to be a non issue, 6 would be returned after court that afternoon. He was all packed and ready to go when I got a text from his Mom saying he'd be with us for another 2 weeks because the judge denied the placement with RR even though the county, parents, and law guardian were in support of it.

The caseworker said that she is "sure" 6 will be discharged to RR when they go back to court in 2 weeks. Technically, that won't interfere with our adoption because we leave tentatively on March 1st to meet our daughter. But I have little to no faith in the county's prediction of how this case will end. So I asked for him to be moved still. And I heard nothing....

....until Thursday at 4:30 when the matcher called and said that there was a nun- like habit and rosary nun- who wanted to talk to me about taking him. I called Sister Foster Parent twice on Thursday with no success.

This morning I got a call from the caseworker that Sister Foster Parent would be picking 6 up today at noon. I was kind of torn about this placement. As much as our home is not right for Baby 6, I don't know that putting him in a convent is right either. It was a "beggars can't be choosers" moment though and I scheduled the meeting at my house. Sister Foster Parent brought a junior nun with her to meet 6 they seemed normal enough and I thought he warmed up to them well. Baby 4 and I waved to him as they left and I felt a HUGE wave of relief.

....until THEY BROUGHT HIM BACK!!!! What?! Is that even a thing? They can just bring him back? It was literally on 2.5hrs before he was back at my house body slamming my couch. Turns out the nunnery has concrete floors and the first time he got on all fours and started banging his head, they decided this wasn't going to work and put in a call to the county who set it up with me to take him back while they looked for another option.

Seriously. This is the cutest kid anybody could hope for. He's a bruiser for sure and he's got the terrible two thing down to a science, but all he needs is someone who will throw themselves fully into helping him. Someone who will claim him as their own and stick it out the first rough weeks or month. There is no one in my whole county willing to do that for a baby? Everyone wants babies!!

At 4:30 this afternoon, the caseworker calls me with the name and number of a foster home who is considering taking Baby 6. They already have 5 children from 15yrs- 11mo, and Mom home schools all of them. I called her and talked with her a little bit about him and offered to bring him to her. She didn't want to move him right away, and thought visits first would be good. OK, that's a good idea. Then she told me her boys play basketball tomorrow, so a visit then probably isn't a good idea... Well maybe Sunday after church... She's nervous about him being aggressive with their 11mo old...

So basically he's not going anywhere. It's going to get to the point where I have to demand that he be moved immediately, which is unfortunate because I've really been trying to play nice. The agency is closed on Monday, so definitely no moves until Tuesday. I just keep thinking if he fit perfect in our family and we desperately wanted him to stay, he would have been sent home already. Foster Care is tricky that way.

On the other hand, this experience has made me feel a little better about our decision to disrupt. If holy servants of the Lord want to return him, obviously I'm not the problem :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Taxes and Such

***Disclaimer- I am in no way an expert in finances or tax law. No portion of this blog should be taken as legal advice. Please contact a tax professional and your agency before making your own tax decisions.***

The IRS allows Foster Parents to claim children who have been placed in their home by an authorized agency and have stayed 6 months or longer for the year. There is something about the child providing 50% of their expenses, and maybe the Foster Care stipend counts towards that or maybe it doesn't- depending on who you ask. If the baby was born after June, but placed directly with you and lived with no one else for the rest of the year, you may or may not be able to claim that child as a dependent.

Obviously this is more of an anecdotal post than informational.

In the MAPP training class we took 3yrs ago, we were told that we could claim kids in care after they had been in our home for 6 months. The MAPP class I co-lead in 2011 was told that kids in care can NOT be claimed as dependents on the foster parents' income tax. I'm not super sure what happened between those years, but I choose to follow what I was told when being certified.

Baby 1 came in August of 2009, so taxes were not an issue at all that year- we couldn't claim him.

Baby 2 lived with his Mother for 2.5 months in 2010, and with me for the remaining 9.5 months. He never spent a night with his Dad.  Baby 3 only lived with me for the 10months he was alive in 2010. They never even had an overnight visit during that time. Their caseworker offered me their Social Security numbers in January 2011 so I could claim them as dependents on our 2010 taxes.

We have always used Turbo Tax for our taxes, and we have had good results so far. I put in the information for Baby 2 with no problems and I watched the little ticker at the top of our computer screen go up as our tax return increased. Then I entered Baby 3's info and got a large pop-up- "The Social Security number you entered has already been used for an Earned Income Credit. Make sure the number is correct and no one else can claim the dependent." I checked the number and it was right. I contacted the help line and they informed me that I am legally entitled to dispute the use of 3's social security number by anyone else. I would just need a letter from our agency stating the dates that he was placed with me. The IRS would then investigate both us and the other person who claimed him and make their decision.

Since I was clearly in the right, and the caseworker offered to write that letter for us, I could have filed our taxes by mail with the letter included and waited for an audit. The problem was that I knew by then that the boys were going home. I also knew it was the Dad who claimed Baby 3 fraudulently. I was afraid that pursuing this would cause financial strain in the home where my children would be living, and would kill any possibility for us to see them after they left. So I just claimed Baby 2 and said nothing to Dad about it. It was hard to keep my mouth shut when he told us (after the boys went home) that he bought an Xbox with his tax return. Ugh!

This year is different, though. Baby 4 is with me still. I don't feel the need to play nice with any of the adults in his situation when it comes to money. So I was prepared to be audited and make some people mad when I asked 4's caseworker for his Social security number while preparing to do our taxes. I wasn't prepared for her response, though: "I believe in regards to the claiming foster kids on taxes, we are not a part of that and we are not allowed to provide social security numbers. You could ask your homefinder to see if there is something different then what I believe it is." What?!

So I did exactly what she suggested. My homefinder checked with several other people and called me back to let me know that the caseworker can release his social security number to me, but the county would in no way help me in the case of an audit. They will not write a letter on our behalf, and they will not defend us to upset bios if it comes to that. Whatever, I can prove he was with me without them- good thing I keep all my paperwork. I got the social security number from the caseworker then Baby 5 was sent home, Baby 4 had his birthday and surgery, and taxes got put on the back burner.

The night that baby 4 stayed in the hospital after surgery, Relative Resource called my phone to talk to him. Baby 4's Dad was there too, and talked to RR in front of me. I have no idea what she was saying, but this is what I heard from Dad:

"That's good, That's good. Yeah, I would go to Jackson Hewitt- They're good."
"You don't have any kids"
"I don't know it like that."
"I don't have his card. You have his card."
"I'm not asking her that. She's going to say no anyway."
"Just go to Jackson Hewitt in the morning. They'll tell you."

Like I said, I have no idea what RR was saying, but it sounded to me like I was about to experience a repeat of last year. So I had Brandon bring down all our stuff and I did our taxes right in the hospital that night.

Our return came back just fine, so I guess we're not being audited (yet).

Baby 5 did not live with us for 6mo in one year, and Baby 6 was only with us a couple of weeks so taxes next year should be less exciting since I already have Baby 4's social security number.

Who would have thought that foster care could bring such drama into something as boring as taxes?

Monday, February 13, 2012

I Couldn't Do It

I'm heartbroken right now. This was part of the Foster Care experience that I didn't plan on. I just called the county and asked to have Baby 6 removed from my home. I'm crying and feeling so guilty about the whole situation.

I did not know about our adoption when I took the placement for Baby 6. I also had not grieved the loss of Baby 5. Further, I did not account for the energy needed to guide Baby 4 through the transition of losing Baby 5, turning 5yrs old, having his trach removed, and getting a new baby.

Baby 6 is covered in bruises from his tantrums this weekend. Our cabinet doors are broken from him hanging on them. My arms and shoulders are sore from pulling him away from danger and holding him still for diaper changes. I have bruises on my stomach and legs where he bangs his head on me. He's rough all the time- even when he's not being aggressive. I'm positive that with consistent discipline and routine he will improve. The problem is I just can't wait it out with him.

I was told by his caseworker last Wednesday that he would be moved on Friday or today to his relative resource. I called her on Friday and left a message, and this morning I left messages for her and the CPS investigator with no answer. At 11am, I called my caseworker who called someone else which resulted in the baby's caseworker calling me at 11:05. She said she doesn't know when or even if Baby will be discharged from care to his relative resource. There is court on Wednesday, but it's still really up in the air. I nearly burst into tears- I don't know how much more I can handle and you had my hopes up!

Still, I wasn't thinking about disruption. I just needed a physical form filled out for him to give to the adoption agency if he's still going to be here when we bring home our daughter. Caseworker told me to call the Dr. and get that done.

I called the Dr, who had just filled out this form for Baby 4, and she asked me if I knew that one of the questions on the form is "Is there any reason a child should not be placed in the home of the applicant with this patient?". The Dr. told me that she would have to say there is a concern for the safety of another child placed in our home due to 6's behavior. I made my choice right then to disrupt.

I don't know if that statement made by the Dr. would have stopped the adoption, although it certainly wouldn't have helped things, but either way the Dr's statement was true. There is concern for the new baby's safety if 6 is still with us. On top of her being a newborn, our daughter is medically fragile. If 6 can leave bruises on me, what could he do to her? There is no way I would put her in danger.

I've said very strongly worded, opinionated things about families who disrupt. It's a crappy thing to do. It's reckless and harmful. I don't take any of it back. I still think those things. Baby 6 needed someone who was on his side and would help him heal after placement in foster care. His behavior is a direct result of his trauma, and instead of being the end of that road I just added another stop to his instability.

There was a choice to be made between 2 kids, and I made the choice that benefited me most. I'll never have to say "Goodbye' to our daughter, so I chose her. It's not noble, it's selfish. I tried to balance foster care and adoption, and I couldn't do it.

So the plan now is to wait to see how court goes Wednesday. Hopefully he can go home, but if not he'll be moved to a new foster home where he is the only child. He'll be OK in the long run, but I will continue to be another person in a long list of people who failed him. That stinks.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

an Update and a Winner!

I have been completely wrapped up in my own head this past week. I've reached a level of anxiety that was formerly unknown. I literally can do nothing but walk around in a haze of adoption jargon and unsure plans.

When we first found out about a newborn girl with a broken heart who needed a family, I refused to let myself have any feelings about it. I was like: Sure, I can handle sending in our info and being told "No". But then we were told "Yes" and I was completely thrown for a loop. We have spoken to adoption agencies (plural) this week, a lawyer, and Dr's all the way across the country this week. We found out that 5 other families were considered as well, and we were the family matched with this baby. We found out that California didn't like our homestudy and we need to do it over again- in the next week. We found out that she doesn't have a name yet, so we went ahead and gave her one, albeit unofficially. Baby is not ready to be discharged from the hospital yet, but she's getting bigger and stronger everyday. She was born at 33 weeks- 4lbs 9oz and now she's nearly 6 weeks old and 5lbs 12oz. We think when she comes home, she'll need just normal infant care with the exception another heart surgery when she's 6 mo old. Everyone wants us to adopt this little girl, but we need to get over the legal hurdles to make this happen. The entire process to be approved for this adoption usually takes 6 months and we need to get it done in 3 weeks, so we can bring her home in 4 weeks. Now I'm like: Nope, I can not handle sending in our info and being told "No".

Baby 6 is a tornado of toddler. He is so cute, but it's literally nonstop cleaning and recleaning, hiding our remotes, and keeping him from climbing the baby gates. He's pulled 4 keys off my laptop. He doesn't stay in one place long enough to really have a feel for who he is. Except bedtime. Come 7pm, he will let me hold him, rock, and sing until he's sleeping. There has been a relative resource identified for him that is being checked out right now. I'm kind of hoping he can go to her soon. Had I known about everything we'd be going through in these next few weeks, I probably wouldn't have taken another placement. There has to be a reason that I got the email about our daughter (?!?!?!?!!!!) 7hrs after taking him rather than 7hrs before.

When I told the county about the adoption and our need for respite in a couple of weeks, the matcher offered us the option to disrupt 6's placement. She said everyone would understand if it was too much right now, and 6 would be OK. My knee jerk reaction is to pack him up. That's not me, though. We don't send kids back because they are difficult or because we are busy!! So 3 or 4 times a day I look up from the goldfish crackers he just threw on the floor or the photo album that he ripped apart and I say a little "Thank you" for the blessing that he is and the excitement he brought to our family.

Baby 4 is doing AMAZING!!! He's breathing perfectly on his own. He's so patient with Baby 6, who has trashed the playroom and hits 4 all the time. I am so grateful for him. He's the best kid I know. I've started trying to prep him for respite and our adoption by telling him that we need a girl baby around here, so if there is a girl baby that needs a house, we would say, "Pick us! Pick us!". We told him that he might have to have a sleepover at our friend's house while we pick her up. 4 was totally cool with it. This morning he asked, "Are you getting my sister today?". Not yet, buddy.

The photo album that 6 ripped up had pictures of Baby 5 in it. I completely broke down. I haven't had any time to miss my boy, but that heartbreak doesn't go away until you face it. I miss the face that smiled at me all day everyday. I miss pureed bananas and even carrying that heavy, bulky infant carseat. I'm so so happy about out future and so so sad about the past.

So that's whats going on here. Now on to the important stuff :)

Thank you to everyone that reads my blog and everyone who entered our 100th post giveaway!!

And The...

Winner Is...


*Brittany*- shoot me an email @ and let me know where to mail your prize!! Congratulations!!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

It Happened On a Friday

There are a lot of things I'll say about Foster Care, but one thing I'll never say is that it's boring. Foster Parents have no need to go bungee jumping, sky diving, or spelunking because we get all the adrenaline we need just sitting around on a Friday.

Let's start on Thursday to set the scene: Baby 4 and I were in the hospital after his last surgery (YAY!!) to take his trach out. The procedure went splendidly and he is feeling fantastic, but they had him spend the night for observation. Baby 4 went to sleep at 7:30 and I started loading Turbo Tax onto my laptop because we need to get our taxes done ASAP (There is so much to our tax story that it will be it's own post this week- keep an eye out for it). Long Story short, my computer is super slow and I fell asleep at 10:30 still waiting for it to load.

Look MA! No Trach!!

My Friday started at 1:00am. We get a room mate who is apparently very unhappy with her admission into the hospital. She cries all night and screams when anyone in scrubs walks into the room- even if they are there for Baby 4. I am so thankful that 4 slept through the whole thing. I was less fortunate, and was wide awake until 3:30. I did get our taxes done, though.

When I fell asleep at 3:30, it was a very short 3 hours until Baby 4 said, "Can I watch a movie?" at 6:30m.

We got dressed, ate breakfast, and watched How To Train Your Dragon. At 8:30, the Dr. came in and said He was going to write up our discharge papers and we should be home by 9am.

At 10:06 am we still hadn't seen those discharge papers, and were watching Elmo in Grouchland when I got my Hallelujah!! I answered the Matchers call and she first asked about 4. When I told her that we were still in the hospital, she hesitated bout the placement of Baby 6. I avoided the reflex to beg by calmly assuring her that we would be home soon, and that Baby 4 is feeling fine. She told me Baby 6 was taken into care yesterday and placed with a newly certified foster home. After a very rough and sleepless night, the family asked for him to be removed immediately. He's 22 months old and we know very little about him.

The matcher knows I have a judgemental streak, and she defended the first foster family as much possible saying that the foster parents work and have to be up in the morning, etc, etc. Here's my opinion, not that it counts for anything- Don't take a child into your home if you're not willing to stick by him as he transitions. We're talking about a 1yr old who climbs out of the crib at night an bangs his head on the ground when you tell him "No", not a kid who killed your cat or ran away. How do you say no to a baby that's already in your house?! I'm mad because this has happened to 2 of my babies- Baby 1 and Baby 6 had their first placement disrupted before coming to us and it makes me furious. Do you not know what you're signing up for? It's a kid- who was taken from their Mother and put in your house. They are not going to walk in, kiss you, and call you Mommy- but that's not a good reason to keep your receipt and return them within 30 days. Back to my day...

So I said yes to Baby 6 at 10:10am. We were released from the hospital at 10:45. Baby 6's caseworker brought him to our house at 12 noon. He is definitely a handful. He's as active as any 1yr old boy I've seen. He has a serious case of cuteness.  He loves Baby 4 and the dogs. Harley- our bigger dog- licked 6's face and 6 licked him right back.

At 1:00 we went to Walmart for our new kid shopping spree. Baby 6 came with 3 diapers, a snow suit that he will not be wearing here due to my pride, 3 pairs of pants, 2 shirts, and a footed sleeper.

By 3:00pm, we had accumulated a bunch of Gerber finger foods, 3 sippy cups, boots, sneakers, 5 pairs of pants, 4 shirts, a 10 pack of socks, 2 sets of PJ's, a winter coat, 2 pacifiers (my guess at why he didn't sleep for the other foster family), lotion and bath wash, a diaper bag for his visits, a case of diapers, travel size GermX for his visit bag, and 2 heart picture frames for his parents. $162.72 at Walmart on a Friday. You know those credit card ads? The face on the cashier when baby 4 told her we were buying clothes for his new brother because we take kids who have no house- priceless.

7:30pm Baby 6 went to sleep in a crib with zero tantruming. He slept straight through to 7 this morning- thank you binkie!!

After getting 4 & 6 to bed, I checked my email. I got a response from the adoption agency we've been working with since last Friday on the adoption of a newborn girl in California. This has been a crazy set of circumstances, but basically we are teleconferencing with BioMom's lawyer and Baby's Drs on Tuesday. If this adoption goes through, it would happen very quickly and it would have God's signature all over it. How many people have a baby emailed to them on a Friday?

Here are some details about the private adoption: Our friends from church adopted through this agency and recieved an email last week asking if they knew of any families who were interested in adopting a special needs newborn immediately. On Monday I spoke to the agency and found out we may not be eligible for her because sometimes Foster agencies and adoption agencies don't play nicely with each other and won't share homestudies or allow foster parents to keep their kids while they pursue private adoption. Monday Morning we spoke to our foster care homefinder who was very supportive and sent over all our info and homestudy to them. Then Wednesday we got news that the Baby might be placed in Foster care in her own county instead of being adopted. Then yesterday we found out she will be placed for adoption and we are being considered for her. We will speak to our agency on Monday and Baby's medical team on Tuesday. We'll know then how this proceeds. She was born prematurely in January and still has not reached her due date. She's already had one heart surgery and will need 2 more after we bring her home. We were in no way pursuing private adoption, but we are so glad it dropped in our laps. This adoption could still fail, although things look really good for us right now.

9:00pm- Brandon got home from work, peeked in on our new son, and we toasted to our very exciting future. You know, just another day...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

1 Year- 100th Post GIVEAWAY!!!

I started this blog on February 1, 2011. We were preparing ourselves and Babies 2 & 3 to return home in a few weeks. I was feeling very alone and found myself talking about Foster Care a lot- mostly to people who weren't interested. My husband and I started this blog to create a place where we could air our emotions without isolating our social circle. Then I got really into it, and hubby has had nothing to do with the blog since he said, "I think you should make the title blue".

This year has brought SO many changes. I've experienced every emotion possible- joy, devastation, intense love, deep pain, excitement, fear, pride, and everything in between. We said goodbye, and hello, and had some really cute temporary house guests. I've spent more time at the Children's hospital this year than I ever hope to again (except tomorrow when we check in for Baby 4's decannulation).

The blog took some time to catch on, but when it did I found a strong and beautiful little community of foster bloggers who get what it's like to be on this crazy road. I'm so very grateful for everyone who reads this blog and has supported us this year. Your prayers are so valuable and your kind words have brought me through.

To show my appreciation AND to celebrate Foster Care: Our Love Story 's 100th post- I am giving away my favorite children's books about Foster Care:

Maybe Days A Book for Children in Foster Care by: Jennifer Wilgocki and Marcia Kahn Wright is by far my favorite of all these books. It's a little lengthy for little ones, but it accurately describes what job everyone in Foster Care does. The last page is priceless, "A kid's job is always to be a kid."

The Star A story to help young children understand foster care by: Cynthia Miller Lovell is Baby 4's favorite book about Foster Care. He asks for it all the time and loves the page with all the feelings faces. This book follows a little girl from remval through her first homevisit with her caseworker and stresses that Foster Care placement is never the child's fault and they are not alone.

Murphy's Three Homes a story for children in foster care by Jan Levinson Gilman - this book addresses our kids' natural tendency to assume their moves after placement into foster care are their fault. In this book, Murphy learns he's not a "bad luck dog" and he gets a family who treats him well even when he's naughty.

My Foster Family a story for children entering Foster Care by Jennifer Levine - This is a great tool for the 4-8yr old who is new to your house. It's a simple story told from the child's perspective about all the emotions felt when meeting a new foster family and biovisits. It's also a coloring book, which makes going through the story less intimidating for the child since they have something to do while you read.

Families Change A Book for Children Experiencing Termination of Parental Rights (Kids Are Important Series) by Julie Nelson While the title says it's for TPR cases, I think this book is stellar for any child who has moved from biofamily into placements. It normalizes change and gives kids permission to accept that change. This is by far the best book of the bunch as far as illustrations. There are so many different ethnicities represented that it would be hard for a child not to find a picture that they can relate to.

Here's how it works:

1) Become a follower of Foster Care: Our Love Story by hitting the button on the left side of our home page

2) Leave a comment on this post

3) Check back in one week - February 8, 2012 for the Announcement of our WINNER

Good Luck!!!