Wednesday, October 28, 2015


I'm blogging from my phone because my computer has been out of commission since my last post. That's part of the no update... The other part is that I was waiting for some kind of positive spin or silver lining. That's not coming, though. I don't have it in me to mince words, so this is going to be an uncomfortable read with some swearing. If that offends you, please stop reading after the next paragraph.

CPS indicated my husband in the investigation on the injuries of Baby 12. They do not have a theory of what they think occurred that night. They simply feel like he should know what happened. Baby 4- in an effort to move the blame off himself- lied about things that he saw, heard, imagined, and counted. His stories were plentiful and never consistent, but they made the agency question the safety of our home. After they indicated the first case, 2 more CPS reports were called in anonymously accusing me personally of substance abuse and neglect. Those reports were unfounded and those cases are closed. The agency is hopelessly split over what to do with Baby 9- who we are in the process of adopting. There are people who desperately want her to stay with us and firmly believe we are the family that we have always been. Then the other half do not want to chance letting a child stay in a home where abuse or neglect have ever been questioned. I remain steadfast that we have always been the  family we are now- genuinely devoted to loving all the children in our home and keeping them safe.

That's the end of the niceties.

You guys, I lost my shit over this. I've lost 40 lbs since August- literally just being consumed by it all. 

I couldn't be home after I found out about the indication. I couldn't look at my husband- who I know was going through what I was (except worse because it was him they were indicating)- and he wasn't opening up to me. As unfair as it was, I was mad at him for not protecting our family from this. I could not handle Baby 4 continuing with stories and lies that could endanger Baby 9's placement and the investigation. There was a little, "How could you, after everything we've given you?", and a little, "He saw how this worked. He's going to pull this shit over and over for the rest of our lives.". So I ran. I escaped any chance I could. I was out almost every night, and on the nights I was home - my husband was out. It got to the point where my kids would see their Dad walk in from work and turn to me to say goodbye.

I did everything I could to get out of my head and I hurt everyone. I betrayed my friends and broke those relationships forever. I stepped out on my husband- permanently altering our marriage. Everyone that tried to offer support has been negatively impacted by my downward spiral. All of my transgressions are out in the open now. Everyone knows what I've done and wants me to fix it- but I can't. 

I have never been in this place where I wasn't ready for a fight. I'm a fighter. I'm good at it. I can throw words and wear a blazer and make everyone in a meeting sit up straight while they agree with me. I've never been afraid of anything. My faith has been developed in that place. I know what it feels like when I'm going to fight, and I know to check in with God before I make my plans. I know He's faithful to go before me and give me favor, and comfort me, and peace that passes all understanding, and every other good Christian thing. Jesus and I have fighting down to a science. I didn't stop to check in with Jesus when I was going to run in August, though. I didn't have the practice in my faith to know He'd do all those good Christian things even if I did nothing. I treated me and Jesus like a team where I had to pull my own weight. That's not how it works. He's the Shepard, and I'm the sheep. The expectation for things working out never falls on the sheep. The Shepard doesn't ask for 50/50. In my fear, I decided to forsake my faith and self destruct. I made no effort to try sparing the people around me. That's something that I'm very sorry for.

I was a foster Mom. I put my entire last 7 years into our love story. I don't regret a single thing about that. All our friends were foster friends. Our reputation was fostering. My job was training foster parents. I was going to do this forever, and I was going to be great at it. Then it was all dying. I have no clue what else I want to do with my life. I literally cannot imagine a world where I have more purpose and more impact than I did in fostering. I was 22 when we started this. I turned 29 in September. By the time I'm 30- everything I've worked for in my adult life will be gone. My whole identity will be gone. And it's all over lies. We have never stopped being great foster parents.

For a while, the fleeing worked. I fell in love, and felt adventurous and wanted. I connected with things outside of fostering that made me feel like myself. I used to be the girl who knew about local musicians, and said risqué things, and went out dancing with my Mom. People liked me and we always had friends around before kids... I could be that person again. But I did it all the wrong way. I was reckless and selfish, and didn't reconnect to the past with my husband. I did it with someone else's. When that came out, the fleeing couldn't work anymore. 

I don't think foster care broke me. I'm certain I broke me all by myself. The love in our story stands. I wouldn't go back and change anything about the kids we've loved or their families. I don't even think I would change giving my entire self to foster care. I really wish it wasn't ending. I really wish I had a graceful exit somewhere inside me. I really wish I had used the last couple months helping the people I love instead of licking my own wounds while they wrecked themselves for me. 

This isn't a goodbye post. The story is not over, although it's in its last couple chapters. We have to appeal the indication and get it overturned. We have to fight to keep Baby 9, and that probably means jumping through tons of hoops. If everything goes well, we could adopt her and close our home in the spring/ early summer. If the shitstorm continues as it has been, we could need to give our opinion on a new adoptive family for her in the next 90 days and be closed then. I do not see a storyline that includes continuing to foster. There is also no chance of our adopted children being removed because there is no actual health and safety risk in our home.

I am in a better place than I have been since all of this went down. I'm not fleeing anymore. Some days are harder than others. Some days I have to write myself, "Do Not Run" notes, and other days I can focus on helping my family heal. All 5 of us are here at home. The kids are mostly unaware of what's happening. They are getting tons of screen time so the adults can talk, but they are also seeing us talk and be together way more than we have been.  I'm happy for the chance to show my kids how to work through trouble instead of running. I'm humbled to the point of physical pain that my husband is standing next to me through this. It's hard not knowing what the next story will be. I am actively forcing my faith to keep me still while God makes that plan. He won't withhold any good thing from me. His ways are higher than my ways. When my heart is overwhelmed, He will lead me to the rock that is higher than I. I don't have to chase the next story.  

Thank you for all the comments and emails checking in. It was very grounding to not be forgotten. I'm sorry I didn't have a happy response for you. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

How are you?

Quick overview: Tuesday was the visit and accident. Wednesday was the day we saw bruising, a CPS report was made, and the kids were removed from our home. Thursday Baby 9's adoption worker came out and told us she had asked for Baby 9 to be removed as well, but her supervisor denied her request and chose to wait until a finding is made in our CPS investigation. Friday was the day that the CPS investigator came out and interviewed me, Brandon, Baby 4, and Baby 9. I feel like that went well. the investigator said that when she interviewed baby 13 in his new home, he did not have a consistent story and did not seem to know what timeline anything happened on. That is totally normal for a 3 year old, but not super helpful in an investigation. She said, The only thing I know for sure is that he was in a car accident Tuesday evening, and we don't know the severity of it yet. It didn't sound like a sure thing, she thinks we're innocent, but it sounded like she was being fair and thinking through all possibilities.

After the investigator left on Friday around 2, I slept until 9pm on the couch. My parents took my kids out to the park and the mall. I stayed in bed most of Saturday too. It took extraordinary will to get up at 2 pm to shower. Yes, I was laying down, half-comatose for 24hrs. I'm writing it because I'm trying hard to be honest. I got out of the house Saturday night for a babysitting gig I had set up a while ago. Having clean clothes on and forcing myself to drink water did perk me up.

I'm still getting tons of support from everyone, but now people are wondering how to handle me. I'm getting a lot of What do you need? How are you feeling? Really, truly? I don't know.

I feel exposed. Like everyone found out some deep, dark secret of mine. It's not that I did anything wrong or had something I was hiding. I feel like everyone can see I'm just human. I was out with my friends completely unaware that my kid needed me. I don't have supernatural powers to know when a kid is lying or telling the truth. I can't guarantee I'll give Baby 9 everything I thought I could promise her family. It's my job to keep my kids safe. I took that very seriously, and still Baby 13 got hurt. I couldn't help him. I couldn't write a compelling email to fix it. I can't find a community resource to help. I can't advocate for a better situation for my family. I'm just me, and I'm a the mercy of CPS like every other Mom in their caseload. I feel like I failed. I know I did the best I could muster for all my kids while they were here. It stings the back of my throat to realize along with everyone else, that my best wasn't enough.

I'm just human, and it's not enough.

Feeling all of that is too much on me, so I need to sleep. I can't be awake with all these thoughts. They are physically painful.

I'm scared, and sad, and frustrated, and anticipating it getting worse before it gets better. I don't miss the kids yet. I know that's coming, but it hasn't hit me, and when it does it will be bad. So, I have that to look forward to.

I obviously can't say that to all the people asking, so I say, "I've been better." or "I'm getting there."

Then I crawl back into bed. Just like I'm going to right now. I lay and wait for the storm to pass.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The drop off

Everyone rallied around me when we got the news that our new kids were being removed. I was getting calls and texts. My parents came to help pack. Friends took my 3 other kids to their houses. Baby Girl's nurse came back after her shift with plastic totes and to help with Baby 11.

I was dazed. I started pulling clothes out of all the closets and drawers. I went through our toys, and shoe boxes, and laundry, and diapers. I located all the medical cards and WIC checks and wrote down all the future appointments and phone numbers that could be needed. I packed up medicines and wrote down schedules for feedings and meds. I tracked down bottles, and baby hats, and socks. I packed up all the new school supplies and uniforms I had gotten for Baby 12- who starts Kindergarten in 2 weeks. I took down all the Frozen party decorations and packed them in gallon sized ziplock bags so they could be re-hung in the new house.

My house looked like a war zone. I cried with reckless abandon in front of everyone. And there was my tribe.. packing those horrid plastic totes and making light small talk between my breakdowns.

Forever will not be long enough for me to pay them back for those moments.

Brandon came home from work, and we packed the cars. We needed both cars to fit everything. I took Baby 11 and we headed off.

When we got to the door, Mom answered. This was bad. This was very bad. I have been told over and over again how violent Mom is. She has threatened other foster parents, physically attacked caseworkers. I'm never supposed to be alone with her and she's never supposed to be alone with the kids. Yet here we were. Relative resource was not home, and me and the kids were alone with Mom.

She did the unthinkable.

She hugged me and cried, "I am so sorry they are being taken from you." She went on: I grew up in the system since I was my kids' age until I aged out at 18. I know a good foster parent from a bad foster parent, and right from the beginning I knew you had genuine love for my kids. You're not in this for the money. My kids love you and they are going to miss you, so this is bittersweet for me. I have them with family now, but they aren't with you.

I didn't have the time or energy to process what was happening then, but now I see we were having a real, human moment based on the relationship I always hope I'm building with my kids' parents.

I apologized, I'm sorry I don't have any answers for you. We would never hurt your kids. They were always loved while they were with us. I told her what I knew about everything.

She said she had asked 13 what happened to him, and he said his biological brother hurt him. "I told him I knew [brother] didn't do anything to him because we were all at the visit together. Then he told me it was [Baby 4]."

Mom let me say goodbye and hug and kiss all the kids. She told me we could still see them when we wanted to. She told me she had never gotten along with any other foster parents, and she would have been mad if this had happened anywhere else.

I loitered around smiling and chatting until the relative resource came home. I knew I wasn't supposed to leave the kids with anyone else. She seemed nice, albeit already out of compliance with court orders. Brandon was quiet. Mom pointed out the tears in his eyes.

Then we left. I picked up the girls from my friend's house and came home. Baby 9 asked, Where's the birthday party?

We anticipated the CPS investigator coming out any time now, so we needed to get the house in order. I intended to just rest my eyes for a moment, but I fell asleep hard in my bed while Brandon cleaned. I don't think I could have handled one more second of that day. My spirit was tired and my mind needed to be done racing. It wasn't a pleasant sleep. It felt like death.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

What happened?

This is the first of, I'm sure, many posts coming in the next few days. Our world is flipped on it's side and while I'm not comfortable sharing any of it, it feels like lying not to:

On Tuesday night, I went out to dinner with my friends. We painted pottery, and ate seafood- all while giggling about insignificant gossip and shared stories. It was exactly what I needed after leaving my house. 6 kids were at the table dropping rice and squishing plums. Everyone was hyped up because the new 3 kids came home late from their visit- missing their play/wind down time before dinner. The transport car that was bringing them home had been rear ended. The person who called to let me know said it was just a tap and the kids and both cars were totally fine, they just needed to exchange information. When I did get home everyone was sleeping. I frantically decorated our whole downstairs in Frozen themed posters, banners, confetti- essentially anything I could find at the party store with Elsa's pointy little face on it. I sat down to watch some TV and fell asleep.

Wednesday morning started off like every other; with kids up before 7 jumping around and playing in their rooms. I called down Baby 12 to show her the Frozen birthday extravaganza that we set up just for her 5th birthday. She was so excited!! She put on her "Birthday Girl" shirt and matching tutu. I had her pose for a picture next to the table that now held her gifts and candles that would go on her cake, tonight after daycare. We'll have pizza and cake, and you can open all your presents. Then I called down the rest of the kids for breakfast.

Brandon caught Baby 13 at the bottom of the stairs and immediately changed his diaper. He called me over, Teresa, come look at this. I was positive I was going to find a diaper rash that we would just apply some cream to and move on.

I was wrong.

Baby 13 was covered in bruises. Big bruises. Bad bruises. Bruises that weren't there the last time I saw him.

I asked him what happened? He told me he hurt himself on the wall. I scooped him up and took him upstairs to his room and asked which wall? He pointed to all of them. I asked very softly while he was in my lap, who hurt you? He was soft but clear when he answered Baby 4. I asked, What did Baby 4 do? He said, Nothing.

I called Brandon upstairs so I could get hysterical and cry in my own bedroom. Brandon told me the night was completely ordinary, and I knew the morning was just like any other. So what happened?!!

I called Baby 4 upstairs and asked how did 13 get hurt? He asked questions like he genuinely didn't know. He got hurt? When? Is he OK? I didn't want to talk too much to him. I knew this was going to be a big deal, and I wanted his information to be unaltered by anyone else.

We all need to get dressed. Baby 13 needed to be seen by a doctor right then. I called Baby Girl's nurse up to tell her what was happening and let her look at him to decide if we were going to the pediatrician or emergency. She looked at 13 while I got dressed in my room. When I came out, she asked, Did he tell you what happened? Her eyes were wide and I knew in my gut he had told her. I asked what she heard; He said his biological brother did it. The 8 year old who lives with a relative resource, but visits with them all on Tuesdays.

My friend came over while I packed up Baby 13 and gave directions for the morning. Baby 4 would go to her house, Baby 9 &12 would go to daycare, Baby Girl and Baby 11 would stay home with the nurse. Brandon went to work and I headed to the doctor. The kids all saw me crying. I told them I'm sad that 13 got hurt.

We got to the pediatrician and I was still a mess. Baby 13 seemed totally unaware that anything was wrong. He wanted to make sure he wasn't getting any shots and that he had enough juice in his cup. They took pictures, gave me tissues and pats on the back, asked him what happened (I hurt my face on the walls at my house), and called in a CPS report.

That CPS report cited his injuries, noted they were inconsistent with the story given, and alleged that we had provided inadequate supervision.

I cried my way through Walmart while 13 and I picked up cookies for daycare and cake for 12's birthday party. Then I dropped 13 off at daycare.

About an hour and several phone calls to/from various caseworkers later, the decision was made to remove all 3 new kids from our home. 12 & 13 would go right from daycare, and I'd drop Baby 11 and all their belongings off that evening.

If I'm being perfectly honest, my first and primary concern was the placement of Baby 9. She has only ever known us her entire life. CPS has to prove something bad happened at our house before moving our adopted kids, but they can move 9 simply because the mood strikes. We could fight it, and we would, but she needs to stay home. My next concern is what happened to 13. I don't know. There's not even a Mom-gut inkling. But he's hurt and I want to make sure it never happens again. My third concern is what the CPS investigation will turn up. I've been in the system long enough to know the truth isn't always the same as a CPS finding. I also know you can get different findings in the same case depending on the worker interpreting the evidence. In the end, our foster care license and Baby 9's adoption depend less on what actually happened and completely on what gets written by the CPS investigator. She has 60 days to make her finding. 60 days of torture.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What if our stories aren't the same?

Babies 11,12, and 13 have been here almost 3 months. We have all had to make a lot of huge adjustments since suddenly doubling the number of kids in our family. I haven't really gotten into the swing of feeding a family of 8. The "seat of your pants" style of meal prep where I buy what looks good int he store and then cook what I feel like each day does not work for a family of 8. I am so thankful they came during warm weather, because having 6 kids playing inside the house all day is a bit like torture. My new guys aren't yet out of the dump everything out of this box, then everything out of the next box style of playing. I have yet to get all the kids out the door for church, instead taking 1-2 each week in a rotation. I feel bad about that last part. I don't take all 6 kids anywhere, but going out is time for individual attention, at least for now.

I am so in love with these new 3. Baby 11 is the most chill baby ever. He sleeps like 37 hours per day, waking up only to spit up down my shirt and give me a crooked smirk. Baby 12 is smart and sassy. She needs a lot of supervision and argues like a lawyer, but she also gets super proud of herself when she's done a good job and she likes to sit and talk about anything. Baby 13 is angry. He doesn't know that's what he is or why it happened, but every stimuli throughout the day is met with growling, throwing, and yelling. You look at him and think, "If there was every a kid who needed bootcamp...". Then he sucks his thumb, asks for a kiss, snuggles right into your neck, and becomes your favorite.

Baby 4 is having a hard time adjusting to the new delegation of attention. He talks a lot about missing being the only kid to pick TV shows, or being able to pick the bottom bunk if he wanted to. He sees the other babies getting so much of our time and gets jealous, not realizing that they are getting reprimanded and redirected more than anything. I think they bug him like siblings are supposed to, but that happened before the love and bonding that he has with our girls.

Baby 9 was freed for adoption in June (getting it's own post later). She is picking up every single bad habit she sees from our new kids. She's growling, and hitting, and touching poop (yep, that's happening with more than 1 of the kiddos). She has said she's doing it, "Like Baby 13" or "Because Baby 12". She is sharing a room for the first time ever, and her sleep is suffering. Baby 12 sleeps pretty well, but Baby 9 is really distracted by the extra movement and noises in her room. 9 is like a super fun mix of sleep deprivation, being 2, and copying unpleasant behavior. She still has her chubby doll face that makes us stop short of sending her to boarding school.

Baby Girl is OBSESSED with Baby 11. She has signed more than a few times that she is his Mom. Her nurse says she asks where he is all day at school. She hugs and kisses the big kids, and they respond in kind, but mostly she's all about the baby. When she's not holding him, she's looking through pictures on my phone of her holding him. It's really cute, even if it's also a little stressful.

Baby 2&3 were also here for 4th of July week, temporarily giving us 8 kids. They are doing great. Baby 3 is starting Kindergarten in the fall. When I look back at our fostering, they are our success. We loved them hard. We let them go. We've stuck it out. Foster Care worked for them and they are going to be OK.

While the case may be new to us, still, it's been going on for quite a while for 12 & 13. I got word last week that their TPR petition is being written. I know with certainty that the only way these kids get freed for adoption is after a trial and 2 appeals. This is not a situation where the parent does anything except go down fighting. Baby 11 is not on the same case, so the parents get the full time to try to reunify with him. There's no clear information yet about how that is looking for them to get the baby home. all the offered family resources have fallen through.

This leaves the (thankfully) unspoken question that I am dreading... Are we an adoptive resource for these kids? The honest truth is, I don't know.

I love them. I can see myself loving them forever. I see our family being the big family of crazy kids that have lots of fun.

In that scenario, I also see us not being able to foster anymore. I see us living on a very tight budget. I see less vacations and more public school than I'd prefer. I also see half of my kids living in open adoptions and the other half having no family contact.

Brandon immediately said, "We're not the kid of people who send kids back." when we were talking about this. He's right. We're not. 12 &13 have had 5 placements in the past 2 years. They never know if they are coming or going. They've been separated from their siblings already. Moving them is not a good idea.

If we say we are foster only, and can not adopt them: We can still foster. We can make their transition slow and organized. We can offer to stay connected as extended family instead of parents. We also lose any control of how their story goes. What if they get disrupted from the place we send them, and placement 6 turns into placement 7,8,9 and they are never adopted. What if they get split up? Photolsited on the internet for out of state people to come pick up like puppies at a shelter?

And Baby 11... Does he go with them? What if he goes home and they get tossed around?

What if our forever love story isn't their forever love story? What if it is?

The reality of talking TPR right out of the gate is haunting me.The caseworker will ask us at some point, and by then we will have talked about it tons more and have an answer planned out. For now, we just enjoy this crazy awesome ride.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

It's what we do

Foster care has been moving fast for us.

The baby, who was in the NICU, that we were called for had some medical setbacks and couldn't be discharged. I went to the hospital to visit him on his original discharge date. I fell completely in love. He's sooo tiny and has a head full of black hair. On Thursday- just 2 days later- I got a call from the caseworker to let me know he wasn't coming into care. His relative resource came through and he'd be discharged to her when the time came. I was sad, but ultimately knew it was the right answer for the situation. Relative resource was already successfully parenting baby's siblings, and families should stay together if at all possible.

I talked with Brandon, friends, and my doctor about what our family might look like in the coming years. Baby 9's Termination of Parental Rights petition is here and being heard in court soon. We don't know how long the court process will take, but it seems pretty certain that she will be freed for adoption. Once that happens, we will be placed on 'adoption hold'. Adoption hold means that no new babies can be placed with us until the adoption is finalized- 8 months if everything goes smoothly or 2 years if the parents choose to appeal the termination. Th purpose of adoption hold is to prevent changes int he family that would disrupt the adoption. There have been families who got new kids and changed their minds on adopting the child already int heir home. It looked like our options were to advocate for a new placement in the next month or so, remain content with our 3 babies until after 9's adoption, or start some basic oral fertility meds and consider a biobaby. It was dependent on the day which way I was leaning.

This Friday, I got a call from the caseworker who took me to see the baby in the NICU. She said the relative resource for the baby had backed out, and wanted to know if we were still willing to take him when he was discharged. She mentioned they were also looking for a foster family for the 2 siblings who would likely be coming into care Monday. I said, "I'm just thinking outloud here, but would you want to consider us for the whole sibling set?". She said she would have to check with the matchers since we'd be pushing our maximum number of kids on our license. I told her I needed to speak with Brandon and consider our capacity before committing to anything. We'd probably ask for daycare for the older two... She said she'd have to get special approval to give daycare to a stay at home Mom.

I started crying as soon as I hung up. You guys, Baby 11 is coming. No fertility treatments or practiced thankfulness- just a beautiful baby who needs the space that's open in our story. I called our caseworker to let her know the baby was coming and to discuss her thoughts on the older siblings. I was concerned that they would find a family for them who was willing to take the baby too, and I'd get another, sorry he's not coming, call. My caseworker was honest about that being a possibility but not a likelihood. She said she'd see what she could find out for me.

Less than 15 minutes after the first call for Baby 11, I received another call. Baby's caseworker, my caseworker, and the matcher were on speaker phone. They wanted to let me know that the older siblings were not coming into care on Monday. They were coming into care right now- like they were already in the office right then. We had approval to take the whole sibling set and approval for the county to pay for daycare for the 2 big kids. they said, "What are you thinking?"

I said, "I think we can do this."

2 hours later,  2 caseworkers pulled into my driveway with Baby 12 and Baby 13. A 4 yr old girl and a 3 yr old boy. Baby 12 told me, "Relative Resource said you're my new Mom.", and Baby 13 tried to hustle $3 from my Mom in exchange for using the potty. They are adorable. They fit in perfectly with our family. I'm certain we're still honeymooning with behaviors, but so far, so good.

I am obviously not familiar with their whole case yet, but the county has been involved for years. They know the situation pretty well. From what I can tell, this is going to be a hard case. It'll likely be a long case. I think this family just needs someone who is not going to leave- no matter what happens. They've had a lot of people leave them when times get really tough. I'm not going to pretend I'm not scared, but I think I can be that person who stays after threats, and stays after behavior, and stays after hurt feelings.

We'll take 3 kids on a Friday evening. We'll run the course. It's what we do.

30yrs, 28yrs, 8yrs, 4yrs, 3yrs, 3yrs, 2yrs, 1 month

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Big Load

This morning, waiting for the school bus:

Baby 4: I wish Baby 10 was here. Do you wish Baby 10 was here?

Me: Well, I miss her, but I'm happy for her that's she's back with her family.

Baby 4: I wish she didn't go back so we didn't have to say 'Goodbye'. I've had to say goodby to a lot of people

Then he listed all the people he doesn't live with anymore

It was a lengthy list

My heart broke for this tiny baby who carries a big load everyday. Usually he does it so well that I forget, but right then he was weary. The story that gave him a family also took so much away. Today it was more lonely than lovely. It's a normal Mama response to try to be the fixer, but all I could really do was hug him while he felt all his feelings.

Then he picked up his big load and went to school.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hallelujah Call

I named the calls I get for babies 'Hallelujah Calls' because on my old purple flip phone that I loved so much, the matchers numbers came up with the Hallelujah Chorus as the ringtone. I have since retired my beloved flip phone and no longer have the ringtone, but the excitement with each call is still the same.

Today I got a call for a baby. He was born premature, but healthy. He's a little 4lb peanut just like Baby 3. His family is having legal struggles that are preventing them from parenting him permanently. He has a relative resource that is raising his siblings. She wants him as well, but she needs time to decide if she can make the changes to her family that would need to happen before adding a new baby. The county does not think handing relative resource another baby is a good idea, but it will all depend on the resource and the judge in the end. I'm not ready to call him Baby 11 for that reason, but we're ready if he needs us.

The plan is for court at the end of the week and discharge from the NICU next week. I have to wait until court happens and the parents are informed of the removal before I can go see him. I'm hoping they go to court on Friday and inform the family of the plan right then so that we can visit all weekend and be super familiar with his care by discharge next week.

In the mean time, I have to:

  • Get preemie clothes down from the attic and wash them
  • Buy a visit bag and notebook
  • Buy newborn diapers
  • Wash the bottles
  • Wash the bassinet sheets for our room
  • Set up Pack'n'Play in the living room with the bassinet insert
  • Find my boppy pillow
  • Set up crib in Baby 4's room (I don't actually have to do that now, but it'll be good for Baby 4 to have time to prepare and for the caseworker to see our long term set up.)
  • Breathe

I'm fighting the urge to go out and buy every tiny cute boy thing I can. Little babies don't need tons of stuff, With all this time to prep, though, it's going to be a challenge. (Edit: between starting and finishing this post, I bought 2 onesies with little ties on them, a crocheted hat with matching pacifier clip, and socks that look like footballs on Etsy- So I'm pretty much doing awesome with this whole 'babies don't need stuff' point)

A week has never felt longer.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Fare Thee Well

Baby 10 left yesterday. The first court date turned up a relative resource who was checked out and got custody yesterday at court. The siblings never ended up being placed together because the county figured less moves was better if they were just going home in a couple weeks.  Aside from the siblings being in separate homes, foster care worked the way it was supposed to in this situation. We kept 10 safe and loved until her family could make a plan to take care of her.

Baby 4 and Baby Girl both took to 10 very quickly. They wanted to be touching her and kissing her all the time. We explained what was happening Monday night at the dinner table. Baby 4 got teary eyed and wanted to talk about how he'll miss her and doesn't want her to leave. He also had a myriad of comments/questions about him leaving if his family can be safe. I reminded him that he's not in foster care and will live here forever no matter what happens in his family. He then asked me if I would have cried if he had gone home when he was in foster care. Seeing 10 leave obviously brought up his own grief and loss. I am proud of him talking about it so freely, though. Baby Girl is in total denial. In response to any questions about 10 leaving, she just shook her head no and signed 'all done'. Baby 9 was jealous and a bit displaced by the baby, so she's fine saying 'Goodbye'. 4 was comforted by talking about the next baby that might come. He might be a boy! He might be old enough to play outside with! 4 is excited to foster again. Brandon asked 9 if she wanted a new baby and she was very clear, "No.". We'll still have to work on her. She enjoys being the baby.

So I packed up all of Baby 10 belongings. She accumulated quite the collection in the 2 weeks she was here: clothes, shoes, books, diapers in two sizes, wipes, formula, rice cereal, bibs, burp cloths, blankets, swaddle wraps, bath soap, lotion, pacifiers, snowsuit (it is still snowing here in NY), coat, headbands. Everything the resource will need to take care of her for about a week, and clothes that should last until the next size up in a month or two. It might be overboard. I think overboard is a good description of how I foster in general. I want to be sure we make a difference. I want to be sure that we give everything we can.

I got the call after court and headed out to drop 10 off. It was a nice house in a beautiful neighborhood. Relative resource was pleasant and thanked me for caring for 10. She appreciated the notes I had written about immunizations, feedings, WIC, sleep schedules. Baby 10 was very comfortable with her right away. Turns out I had been saying baby's name wrong the entire time she was with us. Oops. I felt accomplished walking away knowing that they were set up to suceed in every way I could offer.

I cried pulling out of the neighborhood; then I turned down the radio and called the matchers to let them know we are open.

I had to stop myself from checking on baby 10 all night. I keep thinking she's sleeping in the swing or up in the crib. Baby 9 came and told me, "Baby's crying", and I had to remind her that Baby isn't here. It doesn't feel like we just fostered 10 for two weeks, she really became our family.

"Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation." Khalil Gibran

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Baby 10

I thought of you today. I put my big kids on the bus, took Baby 9 to story time at the mall, and thought of writing a blog post. I could write about what radical grace looks like in foster care. Maybe I would write about Respite 13 who came last weekend as a behavior respite, but acted exactly like my toddlers, making me question my standards for my kids. I could write about loss. I would have written about loss.

I wanted to tell you that blessings don't cancel out loss. They are completely separate. I have the life I wanted since I was a child. I'm Mommy to the most awesome kids. I feel like I'm making a positive impact on the world around me. I am connected to the God who loves me and has never left me alone. All of that thankfulness and all of that bounty is with me all the time. So is my loss. My heart is tied to all these babies that I can't see grow up. I'm connected to their Mothers in a way that makes me wildy uncomfortable. It keeps me awake at night- the desperate need for them all to be safe wrestling against the reality that I'll never know if they are. I've lost the wide eyed way I viewed the world. I've lost. And no amount of happiness changes that fact.

I was going to tell you that. Right after an episode of The Fosters and folding some laundry, I was going to write that post.

But then the phone rang.

A swirl of cleaning and calls, and brushing my hair, and car seats, and shoving that unfolded laundry in my closet, and making my bed. I broke out an ice pack to try getting rid of my flushed cheeks before the caseworker came.

With Baby 10.

A beautiful, healthy, happy 4 month old girl. I don't know anything about her except that she's adorable. My only guarantee is that she'll be here until court on Thursday.

She's the littlest member of a sibling group that really needs to be placed together. The county would have to give me an exemption to the "2 under 2" rule for me to take them. I don't know if or why the other foster families involved couldn't take them. So we could reasonably be saying goodbye to her or hello to a new child this week. I'm inexplicably OK with either scenario.

At the end of today, I sit on my couch with my husband- who has a sleeping baby on his chest- and I feel all my losses and all my blessings at the very same time. It's overwhelming and kind of beautiful.

Foster care is a story that I'm willing to suffer for. I'm willing to do every single moment of it over again because today Baby 10 landed in a safe place where she is loved. Even if, at the end of this week, she's added to the list of babies I worry about and pray for fervently while I should be sleeping- it will be worth it.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

More Love in the Story

A different kind of love story has been developing in my foster care journey. I have connected with a few awesome foster Moms from my agency and, man, I love these girls.

Foster Care is hard. We always have drama. My life is this never ending saga of heartache and injustice and acronyms that are a burden to my friends and family. They don't get it, and they want to protect me, so they demonize the birth family or the system or they stroke my ego to try and make everything better. Foster Moms are a different breed. They know the acronyms. They drink in the dramatic saga like a beloved TV series and recall all the details so you can pick up your story where it left off. They aren't weighed down by the crazy. They float on it just like I do. They don't make me feel less crazy, but they make me feel like I'm not alone.

We each have 3 kids around the same age, so they get together and play. It's been good for the kids to be surrounded with other foster families who function like their own. Our kids all have big behaviors. It's hard not to get your feelings hurt even when all your training and knowledge tell you their behavior is not personal. They did not go to school today with the intention of making you look like a bad Mom who can't control her child, but that's what it feels like when the school counselor calls you for the 3rd time this week and wants to speak to you about your son. So when you're having a "What was I thinking?! I can't do this! I don't even like kids!" kind of day, to call someone who gets it and doesn't hold it against you is the greatest gift. They laugh (a real laugh, not a nervous polite laugh) when I tell them that I bribed Baby 4's teacher with a Starbucks gift card to not call me to pick him up early for disruptive behavior, then actually bought and delivered said gift card. They tell me my son has been fine while playing at their house (because they dealt with whatever happened so it is fine). They have their own stories to share and know it's nice to have someone else deal with the petty stuff once in a while.

I've spent many evenings whispering fears and anxieties to them over paint and canvas, essential oils and wine, and colored pencils and mandalas. I've driven down city streets with them looking for my child's parent because I had a bad feeling and needed to make sure they were OK. We go to meditation classes and comedy shows and borderline inappropriate movies together (JLo's latest, anyone?).

When their kids have a good day, I rejoice with them. When court sucks and all the energy they've put into keeping it together still isn't enough, I sit there and make sure if it's going to break, it breaks on both of us. I befriend the pregnant Mom of one of their kids, and suggest socially appropriate baby names to her. I bitch about caseworkers and bring Starbucks to trainings. They surprise me with dinner at my doorstep when Brandon's away for the weekend and I won't be able to shower until he gets back because Baby Girl's nurse called in sick so I have to be by her side. They teach me how to stand up for myself with the team working with my kids, and they show me how to be be brave in loving my kids' parents.

I've known that you can't do foster care in a bubble. The difference in doing life with these ladies instead of on our own is remarkable. I'm one of those stay at home Moms who meets and talks to people all the time and always say, "Yeah!! Let's get together! For coffee? I love coffee!" knowing full well I never even saved their number in my phone. I'm really glad I didn't miss out with them.

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: 
If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

 It's Biblical, dear reader, go make some friends. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Foster care has been a lot like purgatory. We opened our home after Baby Girl came back from her big heart surgery in Boston. We've received a grand total of no calls in the month we've been open. I have never gotten no calls at all. At least some calls for placements we say no to. Respite 13 came back last week for the weekend. Baby 9's case has gone nowhere. The rest of this post is what nowhere looks like:

In September, reunification was the immediate goal for Baby 9's case. We were going to go back to court in November to start overnight and extended weekend visits. Then the plan was for Baby 9 to return home right around Christmas- in time for a trip Mom had planned to visit family out of state. It was important to her that 9 go with her and the judge seemed fine making that happen.

Then everything imploded in October. We went from 3 monitored visits per week to nothing. Mom stopped talking about reunification and started talking about a relative resource. She stopped working with CPS all together and became consumed with her own survival.

In November we went back to court and started bi-monthly jail visits. The county started writing the petition to terminate parental rights (TPR). I had a face to face with Relative Resource, She was honest about her own desire to raise Baby 9 as well as her hesitation about taking her from the only home she has known. Ultimately, she chose not to pursue custody of Baby 9 in exchange for our explicit agreement to remain very involved with their family throughout our lives.

In December, foster care was pretty quiet. 2 visits were scheduled, but only 1 happened. The caseworker talked with Mom about surrender. She absolutely was not going to do that.

In January we had court. Mom did not come. She is still not cooperating with the county. TPR is done and the plan is to have it filed. If  Mom asks for visits, they will be 1 hr supervised at the county building. Depending on the day, I get 20 calls in a row from Mom or silence. She refuses to have contact with the caseworker.

Now in February, There have been no visits still. I'm still taking multiple calls and texts from Mom, but all I can say is, "Baby 9 is good. Call the caseworker and get your visits." No one knows why the TPR hasn't been filed. No one knows anything.

So we wait.

A few things can happen here:

The TPR can get filed and we go to trial to have Baby 9 freed for adoption. This will take a minimum 6 court appearances. After which, Mom has the right to appeal the decision twice before we can move forward to adopt. Just a trial will take about a year. A trial and 2 appeals would be 2 years.

The TPR can get filed and the judge orders a suspended judgement. This is what happened with Baby 4's Dad. The judge decides that perhaps another year to work the plan is all that is needed for reunification to happen. If Mom decided tomorrow to get herself together, I could see this being an option. So nothing would happen for a year. Mom would either work the plan and 9 would be returned to her within the year, or Mom does not resolve the safety issues keeping Baby 9 in care then there would be a minimum 4 court appearances before 9 would be freed for adoption. So about 1.5 years until 9 is freed.

The TPR can get filed and Mom decides not to go to trial, but instead agrees to a conditional surrender. This could possibly be done in one court appearance, but most likely 2. Baby 9 would be freed for adoption immediately and could be adopted by the end of this year.

Mom finds a resource who is willing to take custody of Baby 9. This would take a minimum 2 court appearances and probably wouldn't go anywhere. The county is not going to support moving 9 to a person that has been uninvolved for the past 20 months. It would, however, slow any of the above processes down by 3-ish months.

I really am hoping for a conditional surrender. That gives Mom legal rights to post adoption visits with Baby 9. I am going to keep her involved either way, but having a surrender gives her the right to take us to court if her visits drop off. That is something that I would want if I were Mom. It also saves Mom from having a termination on her record, which can hinder future jobs. A surrender is a choice- just like a pregnant woman making an adoption plan for her unborn baby. She also doesn't have to sit through multiple court appearances where all her dirty laundry is aired in open court. It speeds up the process significantly which helps all of us. A surrender also gives me a legal document to fall back on in case things get sticky with post adoption contact. It won't be just me saying, "We need to do this visit on a different date." if Mom is clearly intoxicated. It's the surrender that we both signed saying a visit will end if the parent is under the influence.

I know Mom doesn't want to look like she's giving up or doesn't want Baby 9. She does want her. It's just not safe. I don't know what she'll do. So we wait.