Wednesday, November 30, 2011

We said yes...

That's right friends - 6 weeks after our last kiddos went home we finally got another call (so weird it took that long!) and we said yes to a new placement this afternoon.

Just because we said yes doesn't mean they'll actually come.  They are moving foster homes, which makes mie a bit nervous after our last experience with kiddos who moved foster homes.  They have a few challenges but they seem like "normal" foster care challenges and they promised mie (?!?) no RADish behaviors (yet).  They also promised mie they are being moved not because of their behaviors but because of a medically fragile child that will stay in that home.

I asked for a pre-placement visit but we won't be doing that this time.  It's available to us, but we decided it wasn't necesary this time, especially with the timing of it all.  It's another neglect case and they seem to have typical neglect-related challenges.

The caseworker mentioned she couldn't do the move this week.  If that's the case, I'm thinking it will be next Tuesday or Wednesday - we'll see!  If that happens, we'll add #9 - a 3-year-old girl and #10 - a 1-year-old boy and we'll have 4 kiddos again.

Hmmm...things might be getting interesting again around here!

Working Mama Wednesday - New Schedule!

I am SO excited. 

You've all heard mie whine about our home schedule.  There are many perks to having a crazy, non-traditional schedule like ours including plenty of "mie" time at home (with the kids of course).  I told you recently about how I was looking forward to vacation because we'd get to spend more time together as a family.  I've also mentioned before how little time we actually get as a family altogether.  13 hours per week total.  But we've made it work and take advantage of some of the benefits of that type of schedule, not the least of which for my husband is his own personal time - he watches a lot of movies on his own and we all prefer that.

This is all about to change friends.

One of the benefits of my husband's job is that though the schedule is non-traditional, he has the opportunity to change his schedule about once per year.  He doesn't always switch to a new schedule but each year picks the best schedule that's available to him that will meet his professional desires and our family's needs.  For the past 5 years or so he's chosen to work approximately the same schedule with minor variations of days off or sliding the hours to begin a little earlier or later.  To say we're adjusted to this schedule would be an understatement.

My husband had the opportunity to choose his schedule again last week for the upcoming year.  He wanted a bit of a change of scenery, so to speak, which left him with choices for a different schedule altogether.  After discussing the options with mie and mie giving him the thumbs up to choose what he wanted, he decided on a brand. new. shift that will be wonderful for our family:
  • My husband will now be home every.single.night!  I can't tell you enough how exciting this is.
  • He will work closer to home, cutting about 90 minutes a day off his total commute time. 
  • My husband & I will be able to do church activities together.
  • My husband & I will be able to take the kids to Parents Night Out regularly and have a date night
  • I will no longer have to worry about how to prepare dinner for a family not eating together or at the same time - I can now prepare FRESH food!
  • I will be able to count on someone to watch the kids while I exercise or do other things at night
  • I will have more help with the drop-off/pick-up schedule with the kids
  • We will have the opportunity to take short day-trips here and there more easily.
  • I will have the opportunity to take day-trips with the kids on the weekends without worrying about coming home right in the middle to capture the time we get with daddy
I could go on and on.  There are benefits of the other schedule that we'll lose, as an example he'll be working more days during the week than he did before, he won't have as much time on his own to do his own things or clean the house like he does regularly now, etc.  Nevertheless I'm very much looking forward to this new schedule and the impact it can have on our family.

One thing we'll need to consider is that we'll be significantly increasing our time together and that, without work, can take a toll on a marriage not used to that.  We'll go from about 13 to 35 hours together per week.  SWEET!  But that can mean more time for arguing, getting on each others' nerves, and taking that time for granted.  Hopefully we'll be aware of that and consciously work on making sure we work together to make this time as great as it can be and our adjustment period will be successful.

I'm so excited I cried.  Seriously.  Tears of joy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - Parental Rights Issues

Thinking about foster care should make you think about all the issues that go with it, including termination of parental rights.  I've talked about how sensitive parental rights are in the past, but for a variety of reasons I feel led to discuss it again today.

If you review my past post you'll see that termination breaks my heart.  It obviously breaks my heart for the kids who have had to endure through a situation horrible enough to make their parents face TPR in the first place, but it also breaks my heart for the parents who lose their children and the extended families who are left broken by the situation, no matter the reason. 

Termination happens for a variety of causes and regardless I don't believe that TPR is the ultimate best choice for families.  What I mean is that parents should be healthy and whole and have the full ability, willingness, and choice to raise their children into healthy and whole adults.  The family should be intact.  Of course, this isn't the case in a fallen world.  Parents aren't healthy and whole (ever) and they are never able to raise their children into healthy and whole adults.  Period.  Parents have hurts and hang-ups.  They aren't perfect.  Children inevitably end-up with hurts and hang-ups.  Even the best parents make mistakes, they can't always protect their children from harm, and children by nature will also make mistakes causing their own harm.  I think it's foolish for us as a society to expect parents to be perfect and to never make a mistake.

With all that said, there is a big difference between true abuse and neglect and common parenting mistakes.  One thing you should learn as a foster parent is that the line that separates those two things, the line separating cases that should end in termination and those in reunification, is sometimes hard to distinguish.  Not only are you often dealing with half-truths and multi-faceted perceptions, but you're also dealing with political precedent and policy (your own and that of the government).  Personally, I tend to be on the side of things that wants to protect parental rights in raising the children vs. the government's involvement in parental matters.  I think it's the responsibility of parents to figure out how to raise their children, what discipline methods to use, what to teach their children, how to feed, nurture, etc.  That being said, I also recognize the need for us as a society to step in when clear abuse and/or neglect is occuring.

Bad people exist, therefore bad parents exist.  I remember this case that to me was a clear case of abuse.  Or we hear on the news all-to-often about babies and toddlers who end-up in the emergency room or worse die from injuries related to a parent "punishing" there child by pouring scalding hot water on them or punching them in the stomach or somehow breaking their ribs and skull.  From police officer friends I hear all too often about parents who pimp out their children for drug money, an income, or just for their own pleasure.  Clearly there is a need for us to step in and help the children who can't help themselves.

But then there are cases like this one that is all over the news today.  A child who is obese was removed from his parents.  I'm not going to get into the case details here, partly because I don't know them and partly because I'm troubled that this case is public at all, but it's a good example of where there is more of a gray area.  Should parents lose their rights if their children are overweight?  If they are severely overweight?  A caller on a radio show this morning made the point that if the child was under-nourished/malnurished/not fed for a year they would be removed, how is this different?  I could make arguments either way on what I know about this case, but the bottom line is that I wish it didn't have to come to this. 

I heard also on the radio today the insistance this is abuse (probably better labeled medical neglect, but again I don't know the details of the case) and the insistance that the foster parents would be presumably well-equipped to handle this type of case.  I sure hope so, but in my experience as a foster parent I'm going to doubt that there are many foster parents really skilled at helping an overweight child lose weight.  We foster parents are often given children with "food issues", but usually they result from a lack of food, improper use of food as a parenting strategy, and potential association with food and abuse.  Typically (though not always) these children are underweight or have other unhealthy relationships with food such as hoarding, vomiting, refusal to eat healthy foods (or any foods) and binging.  If for no other reason than this type of removal is rare, it is unlikely they will find (or even look for - another issue entirely) a foster parent specifically skilled in helping a 3rd grader loose significant weight.  Regardless, the tragedy in it all is that the child is likely to end up blaming himself for the removal and having an even lower self-esteem/self-value, etc. than he would have faced by being obese, which will naturally (but not certainly) lead to further unhealthy behavior in the future. 

I talked to my mom this week about a sign I saw on vacation.  It said something along the lines of "29% of our children are in poverty".  My point to her was that doesn't really mean anything.  What does poverty mean besides the opposite of wealthy?  Does it mean they don't have enough food to eat?  Does it mean they don't have shelter?  Clothes?  An ipod?  Depending on who you ask, poverty means different things and in my opinion doesn't in and of itself mean something is wrong.  Surely I don't want people to live "in poverty" and I feel it's my personal responsibility to seek out injustice and fix it as best as I can, but it doesn't mean that they are living horrible lives, necesarily.  Now, if you told me they don't have enough food to grow and mature, that would be a problem.  If you told me they don't have a jacket when it's snowing outside, that's a problem.  If you told me the absolute only housing they could get is infested with rat droppings and other contaminants, that is a problem and those are the things we need to address.  Do any of these things mean the child should be removed from his/her parents?

There was another story yesteray about children living in a semi-truck with their dad.  They had enough to eat, they had access to showers, they had clothes.  They called it an adventure.  Do they need to be rescued and put into foster care?

What about my daughter now, who lived the first 9 months of her life on the streets and in shelters with her parents?  Did she need rescued?  Her case is more complex than that and involved multiple illnesses and made-up illnesses and parental mental illness and domestic violence, but did she need removed because her parents were poor?  She had enough to eat (though at that age it was all formula), she had many illnesses (but had access to proper medical care, should they have used it appropriately), she had shelter (in a homeless shelter)...did she need to be put in foster care? 

How do you know?

These are the things we (should) wrestle with as foster parents.  Thankfully we don't have to make the call - unless you're involved in the legal side of things you don't have to decide whether removal is warranted.  If you have a concern you can call and report your concern.  If you're a foster parent you have the opporutnity to work with parents and support them in getting their kids back if you think that's the right thing to do for the children.  You can pray for wisdom. 

In the meantime you can take care of the children the best you know how.  You can provide them with what you feel all kids "deserve", not the least of which is love, safe/clean shelter, sufficient nourishing food, adequate clothing.  In the meantime while you have them you can do everything you can to help them heal from everything they've faced and maybe give them resources to heal when faced with things in the future because they will face things, no matter where they end up.

These are my thoughts on the subject today.  I wish I had all the answers but I don't.  Nevertheless I do something, the next right thing.  Join me?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Moolah Monday - Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Are you all Black Friday and Cyber Monday peeps?

With my tendency toward frugality and need desire to find deals you'd think these annual occassions would be right up my alley.  Truth-be-told, they are, but not necesarily for the frugality.  I've never really participated in Cyber Monday so I suppose Black Friday is the only one really up my alley - which will make sense after I expound a bit more.

I've done Black Friday shopping maybe 4 or 5 times or so since I've been married (which, I'll remind you is now 9 years).  There have been years I've been able to shop and some years where it just hasn't worked out.  Prior to having children it was easier to participate even though it's never been "easy" to get up and out of the house at the necesary hour.  Since kiddos have entered the picture it's been much more difficult, especially with the hubby's work schedule.  I just can't see me taking them out that early in the morning to fight the crowds and stress over keeping them safe to get a semi-good deal.  It's more and more unusual that I get to participate in Black Friday for that reason.

Honestly?  That's ok with me, especially this year.  I had NO desire to go out for Black Friday deals this year.  Maybe it was the move to shopping earlier (on Thanksgiving) that got me, but this year I was not only uninterested in the festivities, I was repulsed by them.  The whole idea of Black Friday shopping just made me sick.  Am I alone here?

Usually I love Black Friday not for the deals (though those are fun) but for the experience.  Contrary to normal people, I actually love the crowds.  I love being around all the people.  I love being part of the shopping while others are shopping and feeling the comraderie of it all.  I enjoy the special craziness it takes to get on a motorcycle with your dad at 11pm on Thanksgiving night in your mom's leathers to stay warm in the freezing temperatures to introduce your dad to Black Friday deals at the outlet malls.  (was that just mie?) Super fun!  I love the idea of walking around through all the people and fighting traffic and waiting in lines.

I'm not being sarcastic.  I actually love those things!  Though I hate getting out of bed on a cold morning, or any morning before 8 really, I love doing it "for Black Friday".  I love that it usually signals the beginning of the Christmas season and what's to come with other holiday festivities.  I usually love getting my first pumpkin spice steamer from Starbucks.  I love going to my favorite stores and seeing how they've decorated and what deals they have and how other shoppers have left the place a complete mess whether or not I'm actually going to buy something.  I just love the passion in it.

This year was different though.  I couldn't get myself to get excited over all those things because I realized that the passion and tradition I love so much has turned into something that is destroying the meaning of Christmas.  Rather than all that I love about Black Friday, it has turned into an all-out free-for-all where anything goes including violence, to save money on stuff.  It's just stuff.  And people are out trying to check off all of their Christmas lists.  Check them off.  I got something for Jim and Bob and Sam and Sara.  Check check check check.  This year I sensed that it was all about finding something to buy for someone on the list.  It felt like a bunch of people making a mad-dash for junk.  It is, after-all, just junk.

As a society, have we become more interested in giving something because it's obligatory than because we want to bless someone with a gift?  Are we teaching our children to expect people to give us stuff, and to love that stuff more than we love the people who give it?  Do we really need a flat screen tv in every room and every video game system and the latest i-device?  Really? 

Don't get mie wrong.  I love giving.  I love blessing my children with things their little hearts desire.  I love seeing something I know would bless a friend and being able to pick it up at a good deal.  I love being able to spend money on other people.  I love surprises and watching someone open the gift I carefully picked out just for them.  What I don't love is how it feels like we've turned into a society that expects something for nothing, that believes we "deserve" the latest and greatest and demand that others go to great lengths to make us happy with stuff.  I don't love that at least on some level we've lost the sentiment behind gift-giving so that its now something we have to do to keep up with the Jones' or prove our love rather than something we do out of a joyful spirit.  I don't love that the Christmas season is now feeding a never-full hunger for more stuff rather than getting us closer to the heart of God that sent us the most amazing gift 2000 years ago and that the celebration of that day has turned into a day of debt and consumerism instead of freedom and gratitude.

I did go shopping at night on Black Friday but only because I was out-of-town at the time visiting friends and family and I wanted to leave them with gifts I'd picked out for them, saving the unnecesary cost of shipping.  I would have much rather shopped over time, as I felt led to pick out just the right thing for the people I wanted to shop for.  I only had a few gifts to buy because I had already started picking out the right gifts months before as I saw things I knew would be a blessing to the special people in my life and I had already brought them with me on our trip. 

And we went at night because during the day we took a day trip to the mountains with my parents and kids.  We saw the desert and enjoyed creation.  We took the kids sledding in snow in the mountains and played with them for hours.  We went on a nature hike on a small trail in the mountains to see what we could find - to learn about that area - to play some more.  We were together.  We had a good time.  We could have done it for free (but chose to take a rather expensive tram ride).  I'd much rather THAT be our Black Friday tradition from now on. 

Treasuring memories, creation, and time-spent with loved ones instead of stuff that will eventually rot away.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thankful Thursday - A husband who gets me, part II

What's your ideal 9th wedding anniversary present?  A trip to a bed and breakfast?  A couples massage & salon day?  Something romantic like a dinner at a fine dining establishment or a hot air balloon ride? 

After 9 years of marriage, my husband is getting closer and closer to knowing mie.  Of course, I keep changing over time so that doesn't help his endeavor, but I know he's trying and I appreciate that very much.
And because he gets mie, he provided mie with the perfect anniversary gifts for which I didn't drop a single hint.

T-Fal 10- pc. Copper Bottom Stainless Steel Cook Set.Opens in a new window
My hubby bought mie this set of pots and pans.  He said he spent 2 hours or so in the store researching the one that would be best for our family, even considering that non-stick cookware may not be healthy for our family.  How cool is that?  The set we had we received as a wedding gift from my grandmother and although many pieces are still just fine, some of the pieces are nearing their end-of-life so this was just perfect!
Dessert Decorator PlusDisposable Decorating BagsDeluxe Tip Set
He also bought mie these cake decorating items.  I love decorating cakes and cupcakes - for each of my kids birthdays I make custom designs with homemade icing.  It's become my "thing" now.  I don't get too many opportunities to be creative like that nowadays, so I savor the opportunity to do great cake decorations.  Though I have some of these tools, having more is just a blessing!

How cool is my husband.

Also, one of the best "gifts" he gave mie was an act of service the night before my birthday.  I should have taken pictures, but really, you'll thank mie for not doing so.  He helped mie clean out our turtle tank as he had promised.  He didn't forget that he'd promised.  He didn't do it on his own.  He did it with mie and that was key.  It's not often that we get to do things together and I cherush the times we do get to work on something, even if it is as disgusting as cleaning that nasty turtle tank.  YUCK!  Our turtle tank is now sparkly clean (or as clean as it will get!) and everytime I walk by it I remember how he helped mie.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Working Mama Wednesday - Vacation is coming!

Pretty soon my family and I will be embarking on our somewhat annual family vacation.  It made mie think about how much I value our family vacations and wish we had more.  Time just gets away from us in our crazy schedule and its virtually impossible for our family to take a vacation of any time without someone taking time off from work.  That's not necesarily a problem, it just complicates matters.  Many couples with kids struggle to take a weekend here and there because they need to find childcare.  That's not our issue.  For us to take a weekend away we need to figure out who isn't going to go to work - are we going on my husband's "weekend" or mine?  Who can afford to take time off work given what's going on there - who will get in trouble, who can get the time off, who has more time off.  We can't take the inexpensive types of trips - the Saturday day-trips to nearby tourists spots or hiking or maybe even the weekend camping in the woods.  It's not because we don't have woods or tourist spots or hiking spots and it's not because we lack the appropriate gear and it's not even because sometimes we have up-to 4 (now 5) kiddos and it just takes a lot of work to do things like that with preschoolers, let alone a lot of them.

Nope.  For us its the time.  And really, the time.  Not from a "we need more time together at home" or "wow if we go away on the weekend we'll have less time to lounge on the couch and get laundry done" type of time-less.  We really don't have the time together.  The longest period of time my husband and I are together during a 24 hours period in any given week is 13 hours including time we're together sleeping.  The smallest time is 3 hours.  The longest non-sleeping time we have together is 5 hours and the shortest is 0 as in no time.  There's not much you can do in a total of 5 hours, and for reference, those 5 hours are usually weekdays where some are before work/school and some are after work/school - the hours are broken up.

Yep.  Time to vacation or do any sort of out-of-home leisure activity together is extremely limited around here, which is why we value the time we do get to be together as a family all that much more. 

It got mie thinking about vacation time from work.

When I first started working full-time I was 18 and earned 1 week paid vacation. How cool was that? I could take 7 days of vacation and that did not include some of the days we were closed, like Thanksgiving and Christmas (I do believe those were the only days we were closed so I typically worked other holidays). But still - that was awesome.
When I took my first job out of college I was 20 and earned 2 weeks of paid vacation. Now that was really cool. That meant I could take off the week of Thanksgiving and the last 2-weeks of the year, which acutally made up 3 full-weeks using my 2 weeks of vacation. Of course my job really didn't allow for that and I was lower on the seniority totem pole so the likelihood of me getting those weeks off was pretty slim. Not that it mattered - I didn't have kids and we lived near family so we didn't need to take those weeks off. I'd just assume take time off here and there during the year and that's just what I did.
Almost 5 years ago I celebrated my 5th year at this company, which I celebrated by proclaiming to all that I just earned my 3rd year - after 5 years, when I was 25, I began having 3 weeks off paid each year. This was really cool because at this point I no longer lived near family and traveling back to see them over the holidays, or any days really, required more time-off. This allowed for the Thanksgiving week, the last two weeks of the year, AND 1 more week off during the year. I traveled a lot during those years for work, so if I played my cards right I could earn more time off AND get my travel paid for. One time I was able to work in Denver for a week and then rather than travel home afterward I traveled to LA first, took my nephews to Disneyland for one of their birthdays, and then flew home. Because the price of the plane tickets was actually cheaper to fly to LA first, I went on the company dime, stayed with my parents, and I could afford to pay for Disney for them. That was so much fun.
Almost 5 years ago means that I've almost spent another 5 years at this company. It's been about 4.5 more years since then but since vacation kicks in at the beginning of the new year I can say that in a few more weeks I'll start earning 4 WHOLE WEEKS of vacation. I'm so looking forward to this. It will mean that I can take off the week of thanksgiving, the last two weeks of the year, and two whole other weeks during the year. I can take a spring and summer vacation if I want to. We could take a vacation to visit family out of state and another vacation just for our family, if we wanted to. To date we've really only been able to have vacations where we go visit family because our vacation time was limited and we value those trips. But it will be so nice to be able to do both.
4 whole weeks - I'm really looking forward to that. Now, what-to-do, what-to-do...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - Child Bullies

Our son is usually sweet and loving, smart and talkative, and generally a rule-follower except when he gets really tired.  Then he might get whiny, smart-mouthed, and find himself getting into trouble more.  We typically know when these times are coming and though we address the behaviors as parents internally we know the cause - he's just too tired.

Recently things have been different.  For the past week or so he's been moody, grumpy, doesn't talk with love (our house rule), and just generally mean.  He says things we're not used to him saying, he completely ignores us often (instead of infrequently), he's defiant, he's not cuddling with us much, and he refuses to talk about things with us.  Last Friday his school called me because it he was in the office for the 2nd time that day and his teacher rarely sends people to the office.  By the time I arrived that afternoon to pick him up from school, he had been sent to the office 2 more times - once for kicking his best friend and once for just being generally disruptive.  Finally they took his temperature to see if he wasn't feeling good.  This was not like him.

He proceeded to melt down when we went out to dinner that night.  I know you all are thinking why did we go out with him that night - in hindsight I would have reconsidered the plan too.

It has really been horrible. It has been stretching our parenting skills, which have never been stretched before. My mommy heart is sad - I'm watching my son make poor choices and my normal mommy tools aren't working to prevent those poor choices, which then requires more severe consequences. As a mommy, it just sucks. It sucks as a daddy too - one day last week he refused to hug, sit next to, or even just talk to his daddy who later told me that night he actually cried about it.  It takes a lot to make this daddy cry.

As a mom I know there will be times as he gets older where he needs to separate himself from us.  There could be turbulence.  I expected that later, not now.  And yet here we are and we've been trying to figure out what has triggered this change of behavior in our little guy.

Last night I got a glimpse.  As we cuddled before bedtime he explained to me how the bully at school, Bret, was picking on him.  In his words, "Bret thinks he can do whatever he wants to and the teachers don't do anything about it".  He went on to tell me that earlier in the day, on the playground, Bret didn't like that Logan one a race and so he pushed him.  He also said Bret pushed him to the floor, hit him in the stomach, jumped on top of his stomach, pushed him into the monkey bars, and said he was going to kill him.  I know that not all of that happened because he has absolutely no marks on him and I can't believe that all of that happened without the teachers intervening.  But I do believe some of it happened because of how he seemed to be affected by it.  Not only that, he's mentioned this kid before, specifically saying how "he thinks he can do anything" many times.

It breaks my heart to see my little guy going through this.  He's only five.  From what I can gather, the other kid is probably older and is someone who comes to after-school care from a public school because he's not in Logan's class.  I reminded him that he's valuable and no one is allowed to be a bully to him or anyone else.  We talked about what to do if it happens again.  I thanked him for telling me and said we would talk to the teacher.  Other than that I didn't know what else to do.  I felt helpless.

My husband dropped the kids off this morning.  He talked to Logan's teacher who to my surprise confirmed that this kid has caused problems in the past and that she has seen the behavior.  He's a first-grader.  Not only that, he's the son of one of the teachers.  It all makes sense now - that is why he thinks he can do anything.  My husband then went to talk to that teacher, without letting her know he knew it was her son.  As soon as she heard the name she made some excuses about it involving other older kids but said she'd tell the director. 

My husband plans to ask the director today if the teacher said anything.  Based on her reaction to the news he didn't think she was actually going to say anything.  She better.  If not, hubby will say something for her.  This will not be tolerated. Now we're angry.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Foster Parent Friday - How does daycare work?

I received this question from a sweet friend.

Q:  Do the kids come to you already having a daycare situation and you have to keep that up? Or do you plan their daycare? Or can they stay home with you if they are younger than kindergarten age? And what are your thoughts on having them home with you if you were a stay at home mom?

A: This is really 2 different questions, but I can answer them both in one post I believe.

  1. How does daycare work within CPS - who qualifies, how does it get paid, etc.
  2. What are your thoughts on being SAHM with foster children.

First - My response to this has to come with a caveat that my answer is based on rules in my area and though I'm guessing it all works similarly in other states/counties and with different agencies, I just don't know how it works elsewhere.

In our area, daycare is provided by the state (kind of) for foster children in homes with either a single foster parent who works full-time or in a dual-parent home when both parents work full time.  The parents can be self-employed or employed by another employer and daycare will be provided as long as it is full-time employment for each parent.  School does not count as full-time employment.  Recently due to the budget cuts and presumably known fraud/waste, foster parents in our area are required to prove their employment.  This doesn't bother mie - it should be easy to prove that you're working if you are indeed actually working.

If you qualify with this rule then daycare is provided.  Of course, children who are school-age do not need daycare, so daycare is only provided for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.  Daycare is NOT provided for school-aged children in the summer - foster parents are on their own with that.  (This doesn't affect us, we aren't accepting school-aged children).   After-school care is also not provided for school-aged children. 

So, if you have parents that work full-time and you have children that are younger than school-aged, daycare is provided.  When I say daycare is provided, that means that it is long as there are funds available.  Daycare eligibility and funds are managed by the county department that manages the welfare-style daycare programs that are available to low-income families and those who are in workforce programs (in other words, they are unemployed and are looking for work and may be attending a work-training program).  Foster children are automatically qualified (according to the rules above), so your family income is not considered in the eligibility process.  Supposedly, in our are anyway, the daycares have an agreement with the daycare providers that says they will accept the payment agreement as dictated by the workforce management group (in our area it's called CCMS or CCS, let's just call it that).  When you sign-up at the daycare then, they get a notice on how much they will get paid and how much the parent co-pays.  I have never had a copay.  I think foster parents are not supposed to have a copay.  That being said, I would venture to guess not all foster parents are aware of this rule and that some daycares get away with charging a copay to foster parents.

Daycares don't get paid much for foster children through CCS.  My first daycare was a home daycare and she said that she got paid $70 per week per child.  I don't know if that's true, but if it is, that's $280 per month per child - about 1/3 of the going rate of childcare around here.  I don't think she was doing it right for a lot of reasons, but I do believe they end up getting paid less than they would for a regularly paying parent.  Keep that in mind.  I ended up leaving that daycare at least in part because I was told on more than one occasion that they could be having full-paying children instead of mine and there were certain favoritism-type things happening because of it (like, my children weren't napping or visits interrupted naps and she couldn't have her full-paying children or parents upset by that).  We found a new daycare.

Speaking of finding daycares - CCS only pays for people who are approved by CCS.  With the low-income eligible parents they could choose pretty much anyone who wanted to be set up with CCS to receive payment, including relatives who were willing to care for their children.  With foster children, the daycare provider must be a licensed facility (could be a home daycare) that is setup to receive CCS payments.  Oh, and not only that, it has to accept the CCS payments from your county.  I live on the border of two counties.  We are licensed in one county and our home is located in the other.  Our first has was in the county we are licensed in.  Our daycare is in the county our new home is located in.  Oh my was this frustrating.  Bottom line - you are limited to what daycare you can choose and hopefully you can find a good one.  The school my son and daughter go to doesn't accept CCS, so when I get a new placement the foster children go to a different school.  That's not by choice, per se, but I like the school my kids go to and am not going to make them leave to move them to a facility that takes CCS.  Therefore, our schedule sucks regarding daycare drop off and pick-up and frankly my foster children attend a school that is not nearly as good as the one our permanent kiddos attend.  I don't like it.  It is what it is.  I could send my foster kids to the same school as Logan and Summer, but then I'd have to pay for it - about $180 per child per week.  I suppose I could make it work, but it would definitely limit the number of kiddos we could take.  So we deal with it as is.

The foster parents are solely responsible for setting up daycare as long as they follow all the rules I set out above.  You set it up then you tell the caseworker where the child will be.  That's pretty much all their involvement in daycare selection.

OHHHHH, it takes 2 weeks to setup daycare payment after placement.  That's an average, it could take more or less depending on how competent certain people are in the process.  So, in the meantime the foster parents are responsible for paying for daycare out of their pocket (or, better said, out of the foster care payments, which haven't come yet, so really it's out of the foster parents pocket).  We set aside money for this each time or, if we don't have it at the moment we figure out childcare between the two of us for the first few weeks.

Second Now that you know how to qualify, setup, etc., daycare as a foster parent you have a bit of insight into what happens when you are a SAHM.  Plainly, if you aren't employed full-time (or your spouse isn't) you don't qualify for daycare payments and if you decided to put children in daycare then you'd have to pay for it yourself. 

This is a different question of course than whether or not you should be a SAHM when you're
This is a different question of course than whether or not you should be a SAHM when you're a foster parent. I think the conversation is exactly the same as the one you'd have with biological children. You weigh all the same factors. If you believe you should be a SAHM to your biological children you'd probably believe the same with your foster children. There are a few more complicating factors that I'd argue most of the time indicate SAHM is preferred over working for foster parents. First are all the appointments and visits and such. If you work the county provides transportation to visits, but the rest is on you and you already know how many visits and stuff are required. I think its more rare than not to find a job that allows you to be flexible in this way. I'm blessed in that I have that flexibility. If you have a normal 9-5 kind of job - maybe a teacher or retail job or something like that - it may be more difficult to manage all the appointments especially if they track your "butt-in-seat" time. As a human performance person I could go on and on about that, but its a topic for another day.

The other complicating factor is in existance with biological kiddos but is probably more intense with the trauma foster children have experienced and their reactions to that trauma. Many SAHMs find themselves struggling with certain behaviors with their kiddos and they wonder if they should work to get a break. Many working moms have found that they're better parents when they get a break to work outside the home. It's the same discussion with foster children. Sometimes foster children benefit from being in an environment like preschool where they can be with peers and have a different authority figure during the day than mom or dad. Sometimes that's better than being home all day with mom. Sometimes, that's a really bad thing. Some foster children (just like biological children, but more intense) have behaviors that get them kicked out of daycares.

So my answer here is that SAHM vs. WOHM discussions with foster care are similar to those with biological or adopted children. I probably lean toward valuing SAHM in most situations vs. WOHM with foster children as I would with biological or adopted children. That being said if you're a 2-parent or single parent home where every adult works full-time, that doesn't exclude you from being a great foster parent and in some cases that might be a better situation for some kids than a 2parent home where mom is a SAHM. It just depends. Depends on the kids. Depends on the parents. You as the foster parent do have the option to do either, pending you follow the rules above and your budget allows for it. It's really up to you and your family.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Wedding Wednesday - It's Our Anniversary!

9 Years Ago Today
This lady and this guy were married.
My dad walked his baby girl down the aisle.

At some point I lit my veil on fire with candles.  Who thought that was a good idea to put mie in a flamable material then put mie near candles?  I'm not graceful.  Thankfully that material melts with only a little smoke :)
We became husband and wife.  Weren't we just cute! 

My husband's facebook status today said:
Today we celebrate 9 years of marriage.  She is the one who makes me smile when I don't want to, the one who I can trust more than anyone else, and the one who can make my tummy happy!  She is the one who gave me a child, the one who I can share anything about myself with, and the one who I am attracted to even after 9 years.  She is as beautyful today as the day I first saw her!  I don't wanna live life without her being a part of it!  I love my wife, Marie!

Seriously.  That was awesome.  Mine said:
Happy Happy anniversary to my wonderful husband!  Thank you for 9 years full of memories!  May we get 9x9 more.

I was totally out done.

Happy Anniversary to us!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - Bad Mommies & Daddies

Sunday night my son was upset at mie and threw a mild fit.  You see, Logie is allowed to sleep in our bed, his preferred sleeping location, on the "3rd night". He used to get to sleep in our bed every other night, but when he entered kindergarten we changed the pattern in part to encourage him to sleep in his bed more, in part to allow us more sleep in our bed alone as a couple, and in part to help him expand his number skills using a new pattern.  The rule is he has to sleep well in his bed 2 nights in a row then the 3rd night he sleeps in our bed.

This usually works pretty well for us.  He's really gotten a whole lot better at going to bed at a good bedtime.  It allows all of us to still have a family bed a few nights a week.

This particular Sunday night he was over tired.  The time change, a slumber party, a birthday party, playing with his cousins, all of it led to a tired little boy.  A tired little boy who insisted even though he KNEW better, that it was already his 3rd night, not his 2nd night as it was.

I fought the battle with him and made him get into bed, reminding him of the rule - he had to go to bed like a good boy if he wanted to sleep in our bed the 3rd night.  Thankfully Logie doesn't throw violent fits.  He usually doesn't throw his arms around and wiggle on the floor.  He usually doesn't even cry.  Instead his tongue starts wagging, saying things out of anger.  Oh this boy is going to need to learn more and more about taming that tongue - we're working on it. 

This Sunday's fit ended with him saying "Mommy, you just want to kill me".  (as I was cuddling with him in his bed, we had just finished praying - or actually he may have prayed something along the lines of "help my mommy not want to kill me anymore").  Thankfully my mommy heart has developed a protective little barrier so that this didn't hurt too bad and I took it for what it was - a tired little boy.

The tears in all of it was that I then had to explain to him why saying things like that were so bad.  Not only would I never want to kill him.  Not only is making him sleep in his bed nothing like trying to kill him.  When he says things like that people may think that his mommy and daddy actually are trying to hurt him and he would have to go to foster care.  He now knows just what foster care is and though I encouraged him to always feel free to tell the truth, the truth in this case was that mommy was nice to let him sleep in our bed on the 3rd night because little boys like him should be sleeping in his own bed and that making him sleep in his own safe and cozy bed was most definitely not trying to kill him.

I then reminded him that there are some bad mommies and daddies out there that do try and hurt or kill their children.  I gave some brief examples about what bad mommies and daddies do - that some of them beat their children, some mommies and daddies throw their babies into the wall, that some mommies have drowned their babies, some of the children have been very hurt and some of the children have died.  And it's very important for him to remember that those things do happen and so we shouldn't say that mommy and daddy are trying to kill their children unless they actually are.  I didn't go into graphic details that his mind couldn't handle, but he did need to realize what it means to say a lie out of anger.

He knew what he had done wrong.  His little heart was broken.  He had time to calm down as I was talking to him and get passed his little fit of rage that powered his tongue.  He looked at me and in a shaky (half-crying) voice he said "I want to be a really good daddy to my children".  His heart was sad for what he said to his mommy, but it was also sad for the children he knows do not have a good home with mommies and daddies who are not good mommies and daddies.

Though I'm glad the reality of foster care is so present in our lives, that we can't ignore it, and that there are benefits from being exposed to some of the travesties of this world, I hate that there has to be truth in what I told him.  That some parents are bad.  That some children are hurt by the people who are supposed to care for them.  I wish he could live in a world where the worst thing for a child to experience really is that they don't get to sleep in their parents beds every night because they have their very own safe and cozy bed in their own room.  I wish my son and all of the other children out there didn't have to eventually learn about stranger danger and all of the other pains this world can bring.  I want to protect him forever and though I'll do my very best I'm not sure I can protect him from every hurt that may cross his path.

The good news is that we have concrete examples that can turn into teachable moments.  I'm grateful for that even though I wish those examples weren't real, that they weren't needed, that this world already lived with perfection daily.

Over the past few days we've heard this song (Slumber - Needtobreathe) several times.  I really like the tune, the words, the recording of it all, but even more importantly I love the message.  "Wake on up from your slumber, open up your eyes...."  We heard it this morning again when we woke up (appropriately) and continued our conversation from the other night.

Mie: Logie - what does that song mean?  Why are we supposed to open our eyes?
Logie said something - i don't remember...
Mie: Yes Logie - When someone is hungry we need to not ignore them, we need to try and feed them.  When they are hurting, we need to teach them about Jesus and try to heal their pain. 
Logie: Maybe if they are hurting we can take them to the doctor?
Mie: Yes, or we could give them a hug if they are sad
Logie: and in Texas that everyone could have enough food to eat.

Yes Logie - we need to open our eyes to the pain of this world and do what we can every day to fix it.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Say What (!?!) Sunday - Karate

Our son recently began Karate lessons through the city. We thought he'd love it, but after his initial excitement about the idea he began to get leary. It was sudden and we weren't getting the whole story, but as soon as I told him he was signed up he began to protest and begged that I don't take him.

After some coaxing, we began to get to the "root causes" of his fear about taking Karate lessons. It helped when we told him that daddy took Karate for 4 weeks and that Batman knew Karate, but his fears were really eased after two particular conversations where he was able to get his little boy fears out.

#1 - Collateral Damage

As we were riding in the car on our way home from school I excitedly told L I had finally signed him up for lessons, something we'd talked about for a while.  Instead of excitement I got the mini-tantrum, which eventually led to this:

L: But Mommy, I don't want to hurt anyone!

I actually think he was worried about getting hurt himself, but he has a sensitive soul so I can see him being worried about hurting someone too.  I assured him that they were going to teach him how to do Karate but also how to use it responsibly so that he wouldn't hurt anyone unless it was in an emergency.  We've talked about emergencies a lot and even have an "emergency scream" that we practice just in case, like if a stranger tried to grab him.

#2 - Skin Changes

Another day altogether we were walking down the street, just to go for a walk as a family.  We hadn't been talking about Karate at all and were having a rather pleasant conversation until out of nowhere:

L: Mommy, when I start Karate is my skin going to turn dark?

Thankfully I'm quick, because that threw me through a huge loop.  And he was REALLY worried about it.  I mean, almost shaking kind of nervous.

Mie:  No Logie, God gave you the skin color you were born with and that is the skin color you are going to keep.  Is that why you don't want to start Karate?

With fear and processing he nodded his head.

Then it hit mie.  The only experience my son has with Karate is from the movie The Karate Kid from 2010.  he has not seen any of the originals but has seen the new one several times. 

He thought he'd get hurt like the boy in the movie.
He thought he'd turn dark skin like the boy in the movie.
He thought his teacher would be Chinese, like both teachers in the movie. it all makes sense.

I thought about sitting down and watching the original movies with him, but I think they were too grown-up for him at his age.  I know I was terrified about the skeleton costumes when I was a kid (come on...not the only one right?).

I took the opportunity to talk about how people who do Karate have lots of different skin colors and each person looks different. I pointed out that daddy did Karate and his skin didn't turn dark. I pointed out that Uncle Mike and Uncle Bob did Karate too and Uncle Mike is asian and has darker skin but Uncle Bob has lighter skin and isn't Asian - karate students and teachers come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and "colors".

We also took the opportunity to talk about how God makes people differently and that He does so on purpose, knowing who he wants each person to be so that if He created Logan with light skin then he wanted Logan to be just the way he is and if he created Uncle Mike with darker skin then he wanted Uncle Mike to have darker skin and that both of them were precious, special, and just the way God wanted them to look.  I told him I didn't know who would be teaching his class and what that person would look like, but I assured him that the skin color didn't matter and mommy or daddy would be there to make sure the teacher wasn't mean to him and wouldn't be able to hurt him. 

What a conversation.  I'm glad my son feels comfortable bringing things up to discuss with us and that we are able to have those teachable moments, because I would have never assumed THAT was on his mind.

I love the brains of little kiddos - especially my Logie.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Foster Parent Friday - Waiting to foster after adoption

You'll remember in this post I talked about how excited we were that #7 & #8 were going home.  I also shared that we'd be taking a little bit of time off and that we were looking forward to adopting Little Miss.

Today's question comes from the comments on that post. 


As you see, I tried several times to respond at it kept getting erased.  If you don't see mie commenting on your blogs - please know I try to comment 3-5 times a day and for whatever reason they get deleted.  I have this problem where it keeps asking for my login credentials.  Argh.  It's probably a firewall thing at work.

A: You see my short answer- here's the long answer.

Several people have recommended that we wait to open our home again for at least a couple months after Summer's adoption is/was final, maybe all the way to the end of the year.  I'll say that everyone who has made this recommendation are parents but not foster parents, and their logic is similar to what you see above - take the time to solidify your family now that Summer is adopted before you bring in more kiddos.

This logic makes perfect sense in some scenarios and I can see it's value in some situations.  I think it feels right for someone who has biological kiddos and is used to the idea that it takes a while to get everything settled down after adding a newborn to your family.  There aren't that many new parents who bring home their baby from the hospital and immediately begin trying for another.  There's an adjustment period where you're consumed with this new life and, in the case of having other children, getting everyone used to being a family of 1+ more.  Totally understand why people would recommend waiting when their experience is primarily biological.

I can see waiting as a very rational approach for other types of "straight" adoptions - private-infant, international, adoption-only from foster care.  In all of these scenarios there is also a period of adjustment at least post placement.  Please remember that in most states (if not all - I'm just not knowledgeable about it...) there is a period of time that is mandated between placement and finalizing the adoption.  In our state it is 6 months.  Therefore, it is at least understandable that you'd wait until after the placement to get used to the children, get them used to you, and go through that whole adjustment period.  Then there is a period of 6 months before you can finalize - that finalization date (adoption day) really has nothing to do with whether or not your family is ready to accept other children.

There are a few exceptions to that statement and they primarily have to do with "older" children.  In this case, by older I mean children who are old enough to understand even at a very basic level what adoption day represents.  A 6 month old has no concept of adoption day.  They won't remember it.  They won't understand what it meant.  They might see pictures and hear stories and during some progression over their life begin to understand what adoption day was all about.  They may or may not like the fact that they were adopted when they get older, but for a 6-month old the day before adoption day is most likely going to look exactly like the day after adoption day.  For older children, and I don't know what older really means, this may not be the case.  Our daughter is 2 and also had no concept of adoption day.  To her it was something where we got all dressed up and there was more family there and she had to go for a car ride and had ice cream at 10am.  Mind you, she doesn't know what 10am is and probably doesn't even understand why THAT is a big deal let alone adoption day.  There is an age at which that changes though - it probably depends on the kid.  If they have even a remote concept of their bio parents vs. their adoptive parents, if they at any level recognize their loss or sense permanency, I feel the situation needs to be handled differently.  I think this could happen as young as 2 or 3, so I'd recommend parents try to be really in tune to their child's situation.

In these cases with older children, I might recommend waiting for two reasons.  First, adoption day becomes a "special day" so to speak.  I'd imagine most adoptive parents make a bigger deal about it than a regular non-adoption day, and for that reason I'd want the family to be able to celebrate the adoption and it's importance for a while.  One of the messages of adoption day is "we love you so much that we want you to be part of our family forever".  Due to the nature of a new placement, I'd hate to cut that sentiment short by adding a new placement that requires so much work.  Imagine getting a placement the night of adoption day and after having expressed for a long time how important the new addition is suddenly diverting all attention from adoption day festivities and presumably the newly adopted child to new foster placements.  The message inadvertantly sent could be "Yeah, yeah, you're very important to us but right now these new kiddos need me more than you do".  My recommendation in these cases would be to wait at least a little while to avoid sending that message and avoid cutting the "forever family" celebration short.

I'd also consider waiting for another maybe more critical reason for older children.  Though I'm in the camp that all who are adopted have experienced a loss on some level, the loss of their birth parents, there are arguably some who are more aware of that loss than others.  I do think it has something to do with the age at which a child was separated from his/her parents - the older the child was the more he/she will be aware of that specific loss.  With adoption, I think the goal shouldn't be to minimize that loss but to help the child process through it.  Separately the goal should be to provide a permanent home and family so that loss doesn't have to happen again and turn into 2 (or more) losses.  I think for children who have been separated from their birth parents and birth family it is really, really difficult to understand and internalize the concept of permanency.  There's no way to assure an adopted child that they won't be moved to a new family until that actually doesn't happen.  I think it's a long, long-term process to prove permanency.  For that reason, I'd recommend waiting for a little while after an adoption to take foster children.  Foster children could leave after a few days or weeks or months - you never know.  Having a foster child leave could rip open the healing scab adoption begins by making the child question - am I the next to leave too?  Of course, having a foster child leave and the adopted child stay has the potential to reinforce the fact that they will never be leaving, but it's a chance I wouldn't be willing to take at least not so close to adoption day.

In these two situations, I don't know what the right time period to wait would be.  I'd say at the very minimum a few months.  Most agencies won't license you if you've had a significant event, including a birth or adoption, within the past 12 months.  Some agencies (so I've heard, not true for us) won't allow people who are currently licensed to receive a new placement until a certain period of time has passed after an adoption. 

In our situation, our daughter neither understands the significance of adoption day nor realizes that we aren't her birth parents.  She has no concept of birth parents at this point.  She has no concept of adoptive parents.  Let's pretend she did.  We have had her for 16 months now, almost double the time she was with her birth parents.  Time in and of itself doesn't hold the key to healing or proving permanency.  What's telling with us is how bonded she is with us as her family: my husband is daddy, I am mommy, and Logan is her brother.  She doesn't know any different.  The day before adoption day looked similar to the day after adoption day.  Nothing really changed.  We have a semi-open adoption agreement so we plan on being open with her about her birth parents, encouraging some contact, etc.  Adoption will not be a secret.  But the day in and of itself didn't change anything for her daily life. 

On top of that, she is our 4th child, our 3rd placement. Since she's come we've had 1 child leave and then 4 children come and go. She's stayed. She is getting older now and will be more likely to realize other children are going home/are gone and that is a concern for us but it has nothing to do, in her case, with her adoption day. Our biological son thought he was leaving when our first children go home and he was never on the list of kiddos to potentially leave.

All to say that yes, I can see there being good reasons to wait for a period after an adoption to accept new foster children but in our situation they don't really apply.

So what benefits are there to getting back on the list?

First and foremost there are kiddos who need homes. There will be a child or a group of children who get moved from their home over the next few weeks/months and they will need us to be their parents, whether or not that is a permanent placement. We're good at being parents. We can help. By not going back on the list those children who could be in our home might end up in a shelter. They might end up with another family that is less-equipped or loving than we are. We have a home. We have a family. We are equipped. We need to open our home for these kiddos in their time of need.

The first reason is by far the primary reason to open up again. There are two more related to our last placement that need to be mentioned. Truthfully, and this is usually something I'd only share with other foster parents who'd truely understand the sentiment, I think they're placement really scarred me. Please understand I know it scarred them worse than it scarred me, well the placement didn't but the whole situation probably did and I'm sensitive to that, but now that they're home I can be free to think about me and my family a little bit and I know at least I am traumatized as a mom having gone through that experience. So, reason #1 - I've been grateful for this break, but it's almost like needing to get back on the horse after having been bucked - I need to do it otherwise I may not ever open up again! Reason #2, considering reason #1 and my feelings about being a bit gun-shy after the last placement, we believe that its possible if not highly likely that #7 and #8 will come back into care at some point in the future. We are torn as to whether or not to take them back if they come into care again and the longer we are without them the longer we're enjoying not having them in our home. We miss them but that is not the point. I don't know if they are a good fit for us. I don't know if we're the best fit for them (aside from their healthy bio-parents). I have friends who have adopted children with similar characteristics and seen their outcomes and frankly, I'm not sure we'd be able to handle that permanently. It's a scary thing. However, if we have new kiddos and our house is full if/when they come back into care it will make our decision a bit more easy for us - if we're full we can't take them back. Honestly this whole thought process feels plain wrong, but it's from the gut right now and it's the ugly truth. I pray that if God wants us to take these kiddos back if they do come into care that He'd make it obvious to us and change our hearts.

Who knows what will happen. It will be what it will be and we've gotten pretty used to change around here. Change is constant in our home. That's ok. Speaking of, we did officially go on "the list" on Halloween so technically we have 3 open positions right now and could get a call at any moment. I don't know when our next call will be - our next adventure awaits!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Sharing a Great Post - How to Support Adoptive Parents

Lest you start panicking - I do not intend to turn this blog into a forum for adoption-only information.  It happens to be on my mind this week and I do now feel qualified to share after having officially adopted, nevertheless we have far more experience in the foster-care land and I think we can help more regarding foster-care than we can regarding adoption.  (But if you have questions about adoption please ask - I either know or have the resource, so I can help there too...)

Came across this post today which was a great read and may be helpful for all of you who are interested in helping foster parents and, in this case specifically adoptive parents, but don't feel called to foster or adopt yourself.  Trust mie, good friends are vital in this process and I think this blog post points it out well.

I will say that I don't agree with all of these statements, not all apply to adoption from foster care, and I think some of these are personal sentiments rather than truth-for-all.  I do think it is a great start to get you thinking about what to say and what not to say and that can give you a glimpse into what hopeful adoptive parents go through as they go through the process and my is it a process.  One that is often filled with confusion, buried minefields, and something you figure out only as you go.  Kind of like a video game where you don't see things coming until they hit you.  That's about right.

I remember when we got our first foster placement.  We went from 1-3 kiddos on the weekend and even though I didn't have to work the next day (it was Sunday) I was thrown through a loop. I didn't know how to make dinner for all of us and it took a while to get to the point where I actually made enough food for mie too.  I was super blessed by my Sunday school class who provided meals to us for those first few weeks. 

What would I say differently if I wrote that article?

Here's what I know - first (and this is a caution to all of you foster/adopt parents) - most people are trying.  They don't know what to do and often say stupid things or nothing at all.  We get hurt and our pain is totally justified.  But they probably didn't mean it.  They probably were trying to be supportive but have no idea how to be.  So please, try to be patient with folks who are ignorant of how to be supportive - their statements and interest alone provide you an opportunity to minister to them and teach them about the foster and adoption community - who knows you may be a catalyst that helps God open a door in their hearts.

Staying Away - In my experience with foster care, I don't necesarily need you to stay away or not visit for a while. I can definitely see that with international adoption or straight adoption from foster care this may be an issue and we may need to limit contact with our kiddos for a while. Trust our judgement and trust that we are not trying to hurt your feelings. If you are concerned, call, text, or email and ask how you can help or better yet, offer suggestions. Say things like - can I bring you dinner tonight or tomorrow? I'm going to the store and am going to pick up something for you - do you need any laundry detergent, formula/food, or diapers? How about a 12-pack of coke, a bucket of licorice, or a hot apple cobbler with ice cream (or whatever treat)?  If you do stop by for a quick visit and depending on how close you are, offer to throw in a load of laundry, wash dishes, or sweep the floor or alternatively to watch the kiddos while the new parent does that or takes a shower.  It takes a lot for most people to actually allow you to help, but offering goes a long way toward making us feel thought-of, which gives a boost to what we can handle.  Bottom line with all of this, if you don't see us for a little while, if we decline normal functions, if we don't call or email you for a little bit don't assume we're falling apart or that we're permanently disavowing our friendship.  We're just trying to figure out how to get through the first few days and weeks and though we'd appreciate the phone calls and emails and such to check on how we're doing we don't want to feel like we're failing in the other areas of our life.  We need permission to adjust, just like you'd give permission to a mother who just gave birth. 

Sharing the Children's Story - With adoption, I've found the advice to not ask too many questions or expect too many details of the children's story to be something that is unique to each adoptive parent.  Some parents don't mind sharing, particularly if the child is younger, but others are very sensitive to letting that be the child's story to tell.  Just be aware of that.  For foster care it is MUCH different - most times foster parents aren't allowed to share the details.  Asking a foster parent for details about the child's history can put the foster parent in a very sticky situation.  We want to share, I assure you.  Most of the time we're appalled at some of the decisions birth parents make OR we're supporting their efforts to get better and we want to tell you all about that.  That being said, foster parents have a confidentiality requirement.  My best advice?  Show interest in the children by asking questions like "how was their first night" or "do you have enough clothes that fit them right now?", things like that.  Then, the foster parent will share what he/she feels comfortable sharing.  Focus on the here and now not the child's past. 

Other than that, I hope you enjoy the blog post I linked to above.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Adoptive vs. Biological Parenting

Now that I'm officially an adoptive mama I wanted to spend a few minutes writing out my thoughts on our experiences with biological parenting and adoptive parenting. 

I've been really blessed to have many, many people in my life over the past few years who have been blessed to become parents by birth and by adoption.  It's surprising how many of my friends adopted first and then became pregnant, many of them where pregnant within months of their gotcha days, especially since statistically that experience is very rare as pointed out here.  Several of them have written blog posts about their experiences as birth & adoptive moms, which you can find here, here, and here

Our story, as you know, is different. We had relatively minor fertility challenges that we thought could be fixed by a few doses of clomid. We were blessed with the pregnancy of our son about 9 months after we started trying.  In those 9 months I ovulated 2x with the first time ending in a very early miscarriage (<6 weeks) and the second ending with the birth of our son in October 06.  We assumed we'd get pregnant the natural way at some point, probably within 12-18 months.  It has been more than 5 years now and we've had no other pregnancies.  We were shocked in 09 to find out that we were effectively sterile and had been since birth.

It was only then that we began considering adoption.  Foster care adoption was most appropriate for us and subsequently we fell in love with foster care in and of itself, having only adopted 1 of the 8 children we've cared for.  In all honesty we've only been adoptive parents for a few days, but I think it's safe to say that we have at least a preliminary experience with it, especially since our daughter has lived with us for 16 months.

Almost unanimously, my friends who adopted and then gave birth have indicated they feel the same toward parenting their adopted child and their biological child.  Though their children may be different and therefore may require different types of parenting or they may have different interests/personalities and therefore the parents have different relationships with their children, generally they feel the same kind of love toward their children.

That is not the same experience we've had.  Interestingly, I also have a few  friends who have adopted from foster care after giving birth and they too have expressed a different experience.  I have a theory about this, but I'll get into it later.

I definitely have a different type of love toward my biological son than I do with my foster children and even toward our daughter.  Please hear me - I'm not saying I don't love her or that I don't treat them the same - that is not it at all.  What I'm expressing is an internal "feeling" of love more than the outward expression, and I happen to think it is based on biology and time. 

I was shocked as a new parent at how much my body responded to my son.  I leaned toward attachment parenting to begin with and therefore did the whole cloth-diapering, baby-wearing, breast-feeding, co-sleeping thing with my son.  I have always felt very connected to him.  When he was a baby and he cried (and still today!) it pained mie.  I had a strong physical reaction to his cry in general.  When he's sad I get sad.  When he's angry it affects me.  When he's hurt - you get the point.  My body goes through a bit of stress with my biological son's expressed needs.  Now that he is older, the physical reaction is less intense than it was when he was an infant, but it's still there.  To top that off, of all my children I've had a longer relationship with him.  Where biology has begun to fade, the history of our relationship has begun to play a stronger role in our connection and just as in any long-term relationship the history has an impact on the emotions I feel toward my son and our relationship.

With foster children (and adoption from foster care) initially there is no biology and no relationship.  Children you've never seen before who have at least some other experience on Earth apart from you suddenly show up as members of your family.  There isn't a biological connection that helps bridge the gap to this child while you build a relationship history.  At some level, you have to make an active, conscious choice to love your new children while you get to know them where they are.  Arguably, some mothers have to make an initial conscious choice to love their newborns and infants as they are not easily enamoured with them and their constant demands.  I understand that, but it wasn't my experience.  I was immediately smitten with my son and would have laid down my life at any moment without question for him from the time I knew he was in my womb.  This wasn't an active choice - it was something innate in mie.  On the other hand, that innate reaction just isn't there for my foster children, instead it is a choice to love them and be a mom to them.
That choice isn't difficult. It's actually pretty easy. I do have some strong motherly instincts, lots of experience with children, and I believe the children placed in my home have inherant worth as human beings who need love.  That easily drives mie to love them, but it's not the same kind of drive that is innate as with my son.  In some ways, this actually makes me a better parent to my foster children.  Their cries and behavior don't cripple mie like my son's have at times.  This has allowed mie to not panic when my foster kids vomit all over the place or when I'm making a cup of milk for 2 2-year old shrieking girls at the same time, neither of whom are content getting their milk poured second.  In other words, it's just given mie more tolerance to their screams and cries which enables mie to handle the behaviors for what they are rather than reacting to the stress it causes mie internally.  It's more like a job (which I do really well at, by the way) where I'm able to just keep working to care for them from my brain rather than relying on my senses and innate reactions to tell me what to do.

The loss I believe is the closeness I feel to my kiddos.  I've mentioned before that it only takes about 2-4 weeks for our family to adjust to life with a new placement, including having them feel like "ours" and so I do get to a point where they feel like my children and I don't really think of them any other way in public (I say I have XX kids instead of 1 and XX foster children).  But that emotional, instinctual connection isn't there like it is with my son, not initially at least.  Because I continue to actively love the children regardless - I cuddle them and kiss them goodnight, I fix their booboos and hug them when they are crying, etc. - they come to see mie as mom and they appear to have connected with mie on that level.  In many ways they have all taken a piece of my heart with them when they left because they were my kids too.  Nevertheless, it is a different feeling than I have with my biological son.

Thank God our feelings don't dictate our actions.

Now that our daughter is adopted, she won't be leaving, and everything is final, I have to say that it is still different.  I love her as much as I love our son; there is no distinction between the two of them in terms of how much I love them.  But again it feels different.  I think this is at least in part because we're still adjusting to the idea that she is really our daughter and that CPS is out of the picture with her.  That's such a foreign concept at this point!  There have been little moments like on Halloween where she just did so many cute things - it was like discovering our daughter for the first time despite the fact that she's been our foster daughter for so long.

I echo this post - being a foster parent supportive of reunification goals makes you guard your heart when faced with a dual-plan of adoption. You just have to guard your feelings a little bit until all is said and done because in this world, plans change, things happen, and in the best circumstances in any case there is some loss and grief to handle - no matter the end outcome. 
I love my son.  I love our daughter.  I'm so grateful for both of them.  Now that our daughter is getting older and the longer we have history with her I do believe that "feeling" of love and attachment will continue to grow in my heart as it has with my son.  It has already started.  I think she's beautiful and charming and fun to be around.  I appreciate her so much.  I love to see the two of them together.  I know she already has my husband wrapped around her finger.  I don't ever expect that I will feel the exact same feeling of love toward my son and my daughter.  I expect it to continue to be different and I expect my love for both of them to continue to grow even if the feelings I might experience in any given moment change (hello teenage years to come!).  But that's ok.  I don't need everything to be the same.  I gave up on THAT when we started pursuing foster care ;)

So what's my theory?  I have this theory, though only very mildly substantiated by a handful of anecdotes, that your first child becomes your standard.  What happens with that first child somewhat dictates your standard for what the parent/child relationship is and until you have more you have nothing to compare it to.  For people like me who had a biological child first and experienced that close of a physical bond like we did, I believe that becomes your point of comparison and the experience you have with future children will be naturally compared to that first bio-child.  We naturally compare as humans.  For those who first experienced an adoption, presumably that child was very much wanted and loved and the emotions associated with receiving a first placement become the standard.  I don't know - maybe that's not a good theory, but it so far has remained consistent. 

In any case, bottom line, parenting is not what we feel inside - it is how we demonstrate our love with actions to the children who we're assigned to care for.  If nothing else, that remains consistent whether biological, adopted, or any other type of parenting relationship.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011



Summer Rose Sophia

Adoption day was last week and we can now officially share pictures of our beautiful new daughter with all of you.  Even though I don't share a ton of pictures on this blog, at least not a ton of identifying ones particularly of foster children, I have been really excited to have the opportunity to write this post with said picture above.

Speaking of the picture - this was taken with my camera phone after we left court and went to Cracker Barrel for a late breakfast.  We celebrated in style, 12 of us, including a scoop of Blue Bell ice cream for the guest of honor and her new forever brother.

See the sugar packet?  Her new forever cousin and aunt taught her to eat sugar from the packet.  That's just nasty, I agree, but really it is such a special day why not?  Eating ice cream at 10:30am and 2 sugar packets one of which appears to be an artificial sweetener seems the perfect way to celebrate adoption day, no? (and, to be honest, she used most of that sugar to give me a sugar scrub down at the table.  My left arm is exofliated I'm sure!).

Court itself was a wonderful ceremonial experience, but it really didn't last long.  We arrived on time about 8am, went over a few things with our attorney, took lots of "before" pictures, and then waited with a slew of kiddos in the hallway until it was our turn to be called to the bench.

See the slew of kiddos?  The three oldest are my niece and nephews.  Then Logan and Summer.

Waiting and pictures were hard work for the princess-of-honor, but we did get a few decent shots.
This one wasn't too bad, but it seems daddy was getting done holding the squirming child.

The girls were happy to take pictures to capture this day (including my mom, sister, niece, and princess.).

By the time it was the boys' turn they were a bit reluctant, but at least they're all somewhat smiling.

When we entered the courtroom, the judge noticed all the family in attendance and told them to come on up.  She frequently mentioned how this was definitely a family thing today.  See Summer raising her right hand - she was ready to testify.
The judge also said to the photographer, my sister, that she could go wherever she wanted to take pictures.  I was surprised how many shots we have.
Then after we testified we were able to take the picture with the judge. This wasn't her judge through the whole case, which was somewhat unusual - I know he was scheduled to do the hearing so I'm not sure what happened.  In any case this judge was nice and in the end the adoption was final with the records sealed!  Thank you Judge!

When it was over, we all waited in the hallway a little bit longer to receive the final documents.  Here we are, the happy adoptive family! 

Thanks to my good friend Melissa for bringing her two young boys to celebrate our big day and for taking a lot of the pictures!  There were lots of cute pictures of her boy(s) hugging on my Summer, but I apparently don't have any of them on my camera.

All in all it was a great day.  Summer did manage to vomit on her outfit on the way to court, which was quite unpleasant especially because I thought we were done with vomiting when our last placement went home, but I think years from now it will be a "funny story" type thing that we hardly remember, kind of like the rain on our wedding day (that followed us across the country to and through our honeymoon).  After the celebration breakfast we went home, took a family nap, then went to build-a-bear to get Summer's official "welcome home" bear, just like Logan has from the day he came home from the hospital.  Of course, he got one too because he doesn't remember making the one he has - he was 2 days old.  We ended the night with a nice dinner at Red Robin, at which she threw a tantrum and a dinner plate which broke in a million pieces with a crash on the floor.  It was a great day and now Miss Summer is no longer just "#4". 

Welcome home officially, Little Miss.