Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Last week in foster care

Monday- I find out the Baby 2 &3's brother was born, removed, and placed with another foster family. They are a lovely new family (first placement), who I trained in MAPP, who opened for strictly healthy newborns. They told me about the situation without knowing I had been waiting for or wanted this baby. I did not tell them anything. They were so excited about their baby.

I text 2&3's Dad to let him know the baby was not placed with us, but we are willing to have him if Mom wants to ask for us.

I also emailed our caseworker to tell her about the situation, but I purposely did not ask for the baby to be moved to us. I wanted to see what the county would say about it on their own.

Tuesday- Our caseworker emails me back.  No one knows why we weren't called, but they'll look into it.

2, 3, and new baby's Mom skipped court and her first visit with new baby.

Wednesday- Court for Baby 9. The county took a strong stand for reunification to happen this year. I was completely thrown off kilter by the haste in our new plan. There are still so many things that need to happen to keep the plan on track, but the tone that was set in court gave me the heads up to start preparing to say goodbye.

In the court lobby, I see the new baby's caseworker. She tells me that she has baby's case and knows about my connection to the family. She was shocked when I told her we were waiting for new baby's placement, but didn't get called. She said the county should "fix it" right away, but did not offer to help facilitate or advocate that at all.

Baby 2&3's Dad calls me while I'm in the lobby. He's thinking new baby is going to need to be adopted. It seems both parents are unwilling to cooperate with CPS. He asks me if we are still available, and says he is going to talk to the Mom about asking for the move.

I called another caseworker as I was leaving court to ask for a reality check. Should I drop this, or wait for baby to be moved to us? She felt like it was in the best interest of new baby to be placed with us so we can build bio-connections with 2&3. She was going to make sure everyone who matters was aware of what's going on. She called me back about an hour later to let me know they were going to have a big meeting about it. She said the matcher who placed the baby feels absolutely terrible about the mix up. It was series of unfortunate mishaps when new baby needed a home that caused all the confusion. But here's the thing- it doesn't seem like there was confusion when the foster family knew about my relation to new baby. Someone told them and it wasn't me or the bio family.

Later, I get an email from my caseworker saying the decision has been passed higher up from her supervisor to the administrator.

Thursday- I get call from Baby 2 &3's Dad. He was served with court papers for new baby because he is legally married to Mom, even though he is not new baby's Dad. He wanted some phone numbers so he could figure out what his role in all this will be. He reiterates that he would prefer the baby come to us, and Mom would like that too.

Friday- I call the county to tell them we will not be part of new baby being moved after today. He's been with the foster family for a week, and they are all bonded and cuddly. It's not in his best interest to move him now. My caseworker said the administrator had said no move anyway unless it was ordered by the judge. She said she was just about to email me when I called.

Even though I was on the fence about adding to our brood, I grieved for this baby that' not mine. I cried for the brother I could have given my boys. My boys that don't live with me either. So this new family- who I believe was never even told that any of this happened- will have a quick abandonment case followed by the adoption of  their really cute baby who is the carbon copy of Baby 3. Mom will have no contact with them or the baby- just like she did with 2&3. I know "fair" is not even a thing in foster care. There is no "fair" in any story where a child needs foster care. Putting the last 4 years into this family and loving them so hard it often left me  bruised, just to have these doe eyed fosterlings that I trained swoop in and get to fall in love with new baby seems like a special kind of injustice, though. I'd be lying if I said I was hurt or angry. I'll try not to think about it, and get less bitter over time. I did have to unfollow them on social media so their happy family pictures weren't all over my phone anymore.

On the flip side, I can't imagine living in the very small circle of foster families in our area knowing I took someone else's placement. They would have been crushed, and I would have felt horrible.

Just knowing it's all over and what happened, happened, gives a bit of relief from last week.

Monday, September 15, 2014

I wish I would have written this

This post could just as easily be titled "4 Things Parents of Kids with Early Childhood Trauma Wish You Wouldn't Say". I wish I would have written especially this portion:

"“All kids do that/struggle with that.” Well, yes and no. Many of the things my son struggles with are problematic for other kids at some point, sure. But it’s not the same. For us, the struggles are prolonged, and often more difficult. Sometimes it feels like you have to slide backwards a few inches before you can creep ahead a few more. Sometimes it feels like nothing is easy, ever. The up side? The victories take my breath away. Something as simple as the first time my toddler climbed on a swing and said, “Push me!” is enough to leave me in tears. That makes everything worthwhile."


"The victories take my breath away"

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wanna Make God Laugh?

I love plans. Mmm... Like a warm blanket and a cup of tea; well thought out plans are good for my soul. My birthday was last week, and I'm discovering my love of plans has grown with age. We are finding ourselves in a place where we can afford to plan beyond right now and our kids are all pretty stable. Life is good.

So I planned to adopt Baby 4 in September. When Dad signed his surrender in May, the judge set a permanency plan hearing for September 30th.  She instructed the county to have the adoption done before that date. So our lawyer sent the court our petition to adopt, then the court sent the county a request for information. The county sent 4's birth certificate, his parents' surrenders, and their approval that 4 be adopted. That was accepted, now we wait for the court to ask for our updated homestudy- which has been completed. The caseworker will send our homestudy upon request, and once the judge accepts it, they will call out lawyer with a finalization date. It does not seem like we will be getting our date this month.

The next plan is to take Baby Girl to Boston for a 3rd opinion on her heart. BG was born with a heart condition called Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome. Essentially she only has the left side of her heart developed and working properly. We thought she would need a series of 3 surgeries to  survive her condition, but as time went on it was clear these surgeries would not be the solution for her. So we sought out the best heart surgeon to try something different. We had to wait forever to get a date to go out there, and when we did- they told us we were going to do the consult, and if we agreed on the plan, go ahead with surgery 3 days later. All in one trip was not in my plans. This surgery could keep us in Boston for 2 weeks or 3 months. It all depends on Baby Girl.

After Boston we were going to start BG in preschool at our local Deaf School. I was going to be taking sign language classes there as well. Baby 4 would start basketball. Baby 9 and I would have time for a swim class. Life was going to settle down for once. Maybe I'd get my house clean. Maybe I'd just watch tons of Law and Order reruns. I'd be fine with whatever.

In January BG and B4 would have their birthdays, and I would know what was going on in Baby 9's case. Then we would talk about what to do with our fostering. We don't want to be done, but I don't think we want to add to our legal family anymore, either. We were thinking getting into emergency foster care. We would be the home that takes the children after hours/weekends/holidays until a regular foster family can be found to take them in for the rest of their foster care stay. It would be for real helping without the long term commitment. Or maybe we would just stay open for respite placements. We had time to plan. I wasn't concerned.

After we didn't get an adoption date, and we don't know how long we'll be in Boston, and nothing is certain in 9's case... we get some news... Baby 2&3 are going to be big brothers. They were successfully reunited with their Dad who is doing well with them. He is not the Dad of this new baby, though. It looks like this baby is coming into care. This baby is going to be due right around the time I plan to be coming back from Boston. So I called the county and told them we'll be waiting if they need us. They said we'd be their first call. If my plans work out the way they usually do, we won't even be in the state when he's born. Who knows what will happen? That's the point, though, right?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Real Foster Care

Baby 9's case is real deal foster care. She has been in foster care for 16 months and no one has any idea what is going to happen in her case.

Kids in foster care have been removed from their families because of abuse or neglect. There are horrible stories of children being beaten, raped, given drugs, left alone for days with no food in the house. Those are not most cases, though. Most cases really deal with a family that is in crisis- whether it be from mental health diagnosis, substance abuse, domestic violence, etc- and the parent made a bad choice for their child. Sometimes that's it- just one bad choice. Sometimes it's that the parent does not have good judgement in general, and while they love their child, they find themselves facing crisis after crisis.

In every case we've had, I've had some sort of inkling what was going to happen. That never took away the fear or feeling of being completely out of control, but the inkling was always right. In hindsight- there was writing on the wall from the beginning of the case how it was going to play out. But those were not typical cases. It's not typical to have super involved and invested Dads working to get their kids back. It's not typical to have such a high profile severe abuse case where no contact is granted between Mother and child. While I feel like I have a lot of foster care experience, this is the first time I've had to just take care of the kid and wait for the case to sort itself out.

Taking care of the kid has been a cakewalk. Baby 9 is healthy: great eater / sleeper / pooper, no allergies, no ear infections, 60th percentile for height and weight. She's cute as all get out: with ringlets of golden brown hair, a perfect button nose, and chubby cheeks. And she's a child genius:She has all her body parts down, about 3 animal noises consistently, all the moves for "Ring around the rosie", "All the little fishies", "5 little Monkeys", "Itsy Bitsy Spider", and "Wheels on the bus". Recently she's added "Let it go" to her vocal repertoire which also includes, "Night Night Sweet Baby" and her rewrite of the alphabet, "E E E H H E". She's advanced on her physical milestones as well. She does stairs on her feet, jumps with both feet off the ground, kicks and throws a ball, climbs up on the kitchen table by using the chairs as step stools, pushes the kitchen chairs back to the table when we've removed them since she keeps getting up on the table. Ugh! I just love this kid!

Waiting for the case to sort itself out has been a whole other story. I am constantly frustrated with the tight rope we walk with a parent who is doing 'OK'. Literally every other week the visit schedule changes because Mom starts or quits a program. There have been 4 living situations and 5 different locations for the visits. She's mostly following the parenting a substance programs. There have been 2 or 3 instances that show poor judgement, but they are always followed up by getting it back together. Then- what we've been waiting for all year- no more halfway house!!! It looks like 9 can go home!! Foster Care success!! Except, Mom did not comply with the counties recommendation, and got a place in a program that does not allow children to reside with the clients. Not even overnight visits. So even though she is doing well, nothing changes. She knew this when moving.

I support reunification. It's not a line. I really do want to see children with their biological families. I really want Baby 9's Mom to do well. I want her to win. But the question that comes up in this scenario is for how long do we believe in that? for a year? 2? 5? At what point does moving a child back to their biological parent after living with one consistent caregiver become detrimental to the child? She was 7 days old when she was placed with us. She calls us Mama and Dada, and Baby Girl 'Sissy'. When Brandon goes to work, she yells for him at the window. She asks for Baby 4 when she walks by his room while he's at school. If all of a sudden we were all gone, what would that do to her? She knows and loves her Mom. She calls her Mommy. Would that be enough to cushion the blow of losing everything she has known her whole life?

Still, none of it matters because the court is going to decide whatever it decides. Either way we'll all be changed. Either way there will be tears, and scars, and loss. Either way, I'll never regret being the one to hold her when her Mom couldn't. Either way, I am so thankful that we get to love Baby 9. That's real foster care.