Friday, January 25, 2013

Foster Parent Friday: Helping Your Foster/Adopt Child Feel They Belong (Guest Post)

When we were going through our licensing classes we were able to watch from the sidelines as an adoptive family faced a very scary situation at least in part due to un-addressed issues related to the adopted child's history.  Our class was co-taught by a foster parent and a social worker.  All along the foster parent had been using the example of her nephew, someone who had been adopted from foster care as a child.  One day when we came in the story took a very solemn turn - in a very public way (all over local news), this teenage boy had tried to blow-up his parents home.  Everyone survived but it was a real eye-opener for all of us who were in that class because we had been hearing about this child, we had seen the news story about the situation, and then watched someone we'd come to know have to personally go through the emotions associated with having this happen in their family.  At the end of the day, among other things of course, the boy's behavior was attributed to his feeling that he didn't belong.  He was from a different race than the parents and despite having been adopted many, many years earlier, the boy felt different from everyone else and the parents didn't get him help.  (We were told) they felt like they had a good family and everything should have been ok - that he DID belong even if he didn't feel like it so nothing else (counseling, etc.) was done.

Today I bring you a guest post from Agnes Jimenez on how to help adopted teens feel they belong.  I'd suggest these are good things to consider for children of all ages who are in or who have ever been in care.

How to Instill a Sense of Belonging in Your Adopted Teen

As the parent of an adopted teen, you must understand that your child is going to have certain issues that other children will not face. This is just part of being adopted, and there is nothing that you can do to change the way that such an event occurred. However, you can work very hard to show your adopted teen that you love them, that they belong in your family, and that they can trust you. When you do this, you can change the way that the adoption impacts your child.
  •  Express Love and Affection
    One of the biggest things that you can do to help your teen now is to show that teen that you love them at every chance that you get. Some parents make the mistake of thinking that their child already knows about their love. Even if this is true, reinforcing those feelings can make a large difference. Go out of your way to tell your teen how you feel, even if that is not a strong part of your personality. 
  • Be Involved
    You can really show your teen that you care if you are involved in his or her life. Go to all of your daughter's piano recitals. Never miss one of your son's football games. This is good advice for all parents, but it must be a priority for the parents of adopted children. If you are involved, it shows that you care, which can speak more loudly than any words. 
  • Portray Adoption as a Positive Thing
    Some adopted teens think that they were rejected by their birth parents. This can make them feel abandoned and insecure. Talk to them about how you think of adoption as a wonderful thing that brought the child into your life. When they see how differently you view it, they will know how much they mean. (Mie's Note: While I agree with this point, I would also suggest based on the story I shared that we must also acknowledge the pain associated with the loss of the child's first family, helping through the grief process and not just covering it up with stories of how perfect adoption might seem).
  • Hold Family Events
    Finally, you need to put special emphasis on family events. Go camping together. Have game nights. Take vacations to other countries. The more that you can do to help your family bond as a whole, the more the adopted child will feel like a part of it. 

If you do these four things, you can really show your adopted child that you care. You can show that child that he or she is a valued and intrinsic part of the family. It is always important to work to demonstrate to your teen that they belong, that they are wanted, and, most of all, that they are loved. 


About the Guest Author
Agnes Jimenez is a professional blogger and writer. She writes for many online establishments and currently partners with in spreading awareness about troubled and depressed teenagers (and how to deal with them).  Help Your Teen Now aims to increase awareness on the current psychological and societal stresses of today's teens and how these factors affect the future of our society.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Working Mama Wednesday – Yes! You CAN Do It.

As a foster parent the thing I hear the most is “I could never do that” – it’s something all foster parents hear from time to time and causes mixed reactions.  I usually just smile but deep down it rubs mie the wrong way.  I am not special, no different than you, I just say yes when they call and do what it takes to love on these kids.

As a working mom the thing I hear the most guessed it “I could never do that” – or its cousin “I don’t know how you do it”.  Regarding work it doesn’t bother mie as much as it does regarding foster parenting.  It does, however, make mie pause. 

The reality is that I truly do not comprehend how people say they “cannot” do it just as much as they don’t understand how I can do it.  I get up every morning.  I get my (5) kids ready.  I get them fed.  I put one on the bus and then start my 25+ mile commute that includes two stops at different daycares (three soon as baby baby starts attending yet another daycare...).  I drink my breakfast (a homemade chai latte) on my way.  I put my makeup on while stopped in traffic (I know...).  I work all day.  Sometimes I’ve made my lunch – other times I buy something.  I try to leave work by 4:45 or 5 and then start the race home to get to first daycare before it closes, 15 minutes before the second one closes.  It’s a tight race sometimes.  I usually get home between 6 and 6:30.  Hopefully my hubby and I have preplanned dinner.  After dinner there may be some playtime with the kids, depending on the time but basically it starts the nighttime routine.  Without the baby it’s 4 kids, 2 bedrooms, and at least one of them always has a meltdown.  When that is done there’s still baby to take care of, 1-2 loads of laundry, hopefully a shower for mie, and some more cleaning.  Like the dinner dishes.  I usually get in bed by 10:30 or 11.

This has been some version of my reality since I’ve been a parent.  I didn’t mention my hubby in there but obviously he plays a role as well (he’s home to welcome the bus in the afternoon, for example). 

The truth is, I don’t know any other way.  When people tell mie they can’t do it, all I can figure is that there is something in their life that they would have to give up that I don’t work into my routine.  Here are the things I would think of that I don’t do as much of:
  • ·         Perfectly cleaned house.  It just doesn’t ever happen in my home.  But the basics are done most of the time.
  • ·         Sleep.  Without the baby it’s usually 6-7 hours – with it’s usually about 4 with all of the waking up and disruptions from his noises.
  • ·         TV shows & movies – I hear people talk about all these different shows they watch and if you ask mie if I’ve seen a particular movie chances are I haven’t.  I DO watch tv, almost every day, usually while I’m feeding the baby, folding laundry, or cleaning up the common areas.  I rarely sit down and watch tv while doing nothing else.
  • ·         Exercise.  I’m about to start running again so I’ll throw that in a few times a week but otherwise it’s usually not a regular part of my routine. 
  • ·         Beauty care.  I  try to fit in things like waxing, pedicures, manicures (home or not) here and there but the reality is I go 1-2 months between getting my nails done (or painting them myself) and I can’t remember the last time my eyebrows were waxed.

I didn’t mention weekend time or much interaction with my kids but the reality is that usually I’ll choose activities with them over chores every time.  We go to museums, play dodgeball weekly, color, play games, have movie night, and generally just be together.  Last night we started a science experiment where we are checking to see when a popsicle stick gets waterlogged.  It’s hanging on my wall.  I don’t sweat that there is a quart-sized bag of water hanging from my bulletin board (or that the calendar on my bulletin board is from 2011). 

So tell me folks – what is it that I’m missing out on?  Someday my kids will be out of the house (theoretically – they perpetually seem to stay about 2 years old!) and I’ll need to have a few things on my list to try out – you know, what normal people who “can’t” be like mie do...

I’m guessing I’ll need to clean more toilets and scrub my floors more.  Maybe catch up on scrapbooking?  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Say What (?!?) Sunday - Help from the president...

Out of the “Say What?!?” box...
My son must have seen something about the presidential inauguration because over the weekend we had this conversation:

L: Mom – you know that thing where the president gets up and talks to everyone?
Mie: Sure!  Sometimes they have speeches and soon they will have an inauguration.
L: Yeah, that.  I’m going to go there one of these days.
Mie: You are?  That’s great Logan.
L: Yep.  I’m going to go there and then I’m going to ask him a question.  I’m going to ask him when he is going to fix it so that when someone finds money or earn money or win money they stop putting it in the newspaper.
Mie: Ok, why do you want to tell him that?
L: Because of the bad guys?
Mie: Tell me more.  What do you mean? 
L: I want to do whatever I can to stop the bad guys in the United States from doing things bad and when they put it in the newspaper, you know...
Mie: You mean that bad guys can find where the money is if they write it in the newspaper when someone wins or earns or finds money?
L: Yeah, and so if we don’t put it in the newspaper the bad guys won’t find it and it will be better!

Hmmm.  Smart kid.  I would like to know what collection of experiences he’s had to help him think through that!  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

More Tears Today

I wrote yesterday's post before yesterday happened.  As I sat I had no idea that my life would take a turn even further into the "no permanency for YOU" world.

We have been waiting for 3 weeks now for a sibling group to join our home.  The people who removed them want them here.  The placement people want them here.  The new workers have been wishy-washy saying "they're not sure yet", so these kids wait and wait.

So do we.

I've turned down an adoptive placement while waiting.

My kids know that these other kiddos are out there waiting.

Baby Baby's future in our home is tied to these siblings so that if they don't come, he will almost certainly leave at some point.  (This is going to kill mie, and my son, and my husband.).

Yesterday we got a semi-answer.  Apparently the state (county) doesn't feel like people can handle 6 kids these ages (we're only licensed for up to 6 years old, so you can imagine what their ages might look like).  They think it will be detrimental for those kids, for our kids, for our family.  (Honestly I'm not sure how concerned they really are about that).

So the impact is that these children wait with NO family while there is a family eager to committ to them permanently, trauma and all.  We have had lots of experience with children these ages, as a large family, with similar traumas.  Yet the desire (I think) is to place them with a smaller family.  This means that they would have to be placed with a family that has NO kids or 1 (Imagine going from 0 or 1 to 4 or 5 with traumatic behaviors?  Jeesh.) or an older family with kids who are older (and therefore they are older, committing to raising at least 4 young ones).  *sigh*  The logic makes no sense to mie though I DO appreciate the desire to think through what's best for everyone.  I just wish they'd actually come see our family in action or maybe even read our homestudy.  Maybe talk to us or people who see us on a regular basis and realize that our family CAN handle this.

The further impact (if they're concerned about our family) is that the kids in our house will leave and 3 or 4 more children will come in a few weeks.  They will leave and 3 or 4 more will come in a few weeks - so in other words my family will have 5 or 6 kids in that age range ANYWAY and there's no guarantee (quite the opposite!) that they're going to have experienced less trauma.

Our hearts are defeated right now.  We did hear from someone yesterday that asked when we'd be ready to take the kids.  I could have been dishonest and not bring up the conversation from earlier in the day and instead said "bring them now!" - then they would have had to justify removing them from my home.  But that wasn't the RIGHT thing to do and if nothing else we're dedicated to doing the right thing for these kids.

I'm still trying to remember that God is in control.  This will work out and the kids will come to our home in the right time or they won't.  God is still on the throne and we can only assume then there is a better plan out there for us.  We shall see.  Thanks for coming on the journey with us.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tuesday's Tears - Lack of Permanency

The theme in my world of foster care recently has been lack of permanency and the devastating effects in both my cases and those around me.  I continue to watch several cases around me be extended over and over again with seemingly no end.  Though my cases are new to me, they aren't to the kids.  They are representative of what happens to kids in the system, especially when courts fight tooth and nail to put kids in kinship care without regard to whether or not that is truly the best, most stable place for them.

I have always advocated for the return of children to family when appropriate.  Ideally we can get parents the support they need, quickly, to get them the ability to provide quality care to their children.  If that isn't an option or isn't working we can get them to relatives or friends of the family who can provide a quality permanent home to the children.  I know at least a few families who received children through kinship placements and can vouch that they do exist though with the caveat that they are not-quite-kinship placements.  (In other words, they are long-removed kin, friends of friends who don't actually know the parents but yet still qualify as kin because they were recommended through the family instead of the system and maybe that means they are physically and emotionally removed from the family enough to provide quality care to the children long-term?)  Does this make a difference?  I'm sure there are good relative kinship placements out there I just haven't seen it.  Instead what I've seen is children getting moved from place to place.  From foster care to relative to another relative to another relative and eventually back into care at which point, in my experience, they go back to look for more relatives!

Children are in care for more than a year, more than promised before permanency, and it has a huge effect on them!  Imagine living with a family over Christmas and saying "next Christmas can we get a Christmas tree again?" and instead of being able to hear "of course!" they hear "well, if you are living with us we'll get another tree but I can't promise you'll be here next year sweetheart".  And you hear something like this over and over again for every question you have.  As a child, as you're learning about the world from people who are supposed to be able to provide you securely with answers, all you find is "maybe".

Somehow as a foster parent you're least desirable, even if you're willing to adopt, but as an adoptive parent only looking for children who have been put through the wringer and been deemed unadoptable by kin THEN you're amazing and valuable to society.

It's not enough!

I'm not sure what the answer is, honestly.  More prayer.  More involved foster parents both in court and in policy wherever possible.  More visibility into good foster family situations.

More of US standing up in support of these children, everyday.

Do Something.

(If you're looking for ideas on how you can help without being a foster parent, check out THIS POST.)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Moolah Monday - A GREAT Gift Idea

We were fortunate this year to have a big family Christmas.  Almost everyone from our immediate family came out for my graduation ceremony and we grabbed the opportunity to celebrate Christmas together a couple weeks early.  Super fun.  And a bit crazy.  But fun for sure.

At one point we sat around like I imagine most families do to open presents together.  As my husband, my sister and her husband, and I opened our gifts from my parents we each found an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of printed paper with information on it about a really nice restaurant.  My parents decided to purchase a gift voucher for the four of us to go out to eat dinner together at this nice restaurant in town.  She'd done some research to find a nice restaurant and then went to TRAVELZOO to purchase a voucher worth $200 that included appetizers, dinner, and dessert for 4 people.  Then, as our gift, she gave each of us a copy of the voucher with our name on it (and some clothes).

Last night we all went out on a nice date to a fancy restaurant.  We all got dressed up, hired babysitters, and drove downtown at night for a kid-free evening.  (read: Someone else put my kids to bed!).  We all agreed that the restaurant was not our type of restaurant because we didn't know what half of the things on the menu were and there weren't kids running all over the place ( kids at all).  It was such a treat.  It wasn't somewhere we would have ever gone if we hadn't had a gift voucher.  We wouldn't have taken time like that as adults together except for the gift.  All of it just wouldn't have happened at all.

It ended with a great dessert and lots of laughter, at least some of which was at our experience eating at that restaurant, like when we convinced our husbands to feed each other and let us take a picture of it or when I took a large bite of steak butter because I thought it was cheese.  (Bleh!).

I came home to all kids in bed (not necesarily their own, but hey, beggars can't be choosers!) and it was quiet.  Lovely!!!

If you're looking for a gift for foster parents (or any parents) this was a super gift.  As far as I can tell my parents probably paid $25 per person for the gift and received an additional $25 per person as a promotional value.  That is a reasonable price in my book but I'd venture to guess they have other deals to match your price range.  It forced us to go out together for free for us and relatively inexpensive for the gift-giver for a night-out we wouldn't have taken on our own.  So next time you're looking for a gift-this might be a good option for you.

Thanks Mom & Dad!

(This post is entirely my opinion and not sponsored in any way).

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Tuesday's Tears - New Year, Same Drama

Thank you all for the well wishes about #16.  Having a baby in our home is a dream come true for everyone.  Summer wants to hold him all the time and asks where "her" baby is.  Logan loves holding him, feeding him, burping him, and we're both enjoying the fact that baby is wearing the clothes Logan wore when he was a baby.  Even my husband is doling out the baby-love.  We're enamored by this sweet kiddo and LOVE having a newborn around.

We're not loving the cost of the private nanny we've had to hire while I'm back at work until he can go to daycare.  Argh.  (Someone asked about FMLA - yes, foster parents do qualify to take time off due to FMLA however it is not paid time off unless your employer volunteers to pay.  Usually after having a baby through pregnancy you would receive short term disability or other related funds based on the fact that after having a baby your body needs to recover.

I do believe if this child has to leave our home it will really, really hurt.  It will be hard for all of us.  Though I'm hoping he'll be one who stays, based on past history this baby won't be in our home forever.  I don't even want to think about it.

What you don't yet know is that shortly after we got new baby, we welcomed #17 & #18 into our home.  Interestingly, these two are related to a child my sister currently has in her home so it has felt natural to welcome them into ours.  It feels as if their family is kind of reunited, without all of the adults in their family of course.  We can see a cool world where given current placements these three remain forever where they are and end up being raised together, something that wasn't happening where they were.

As we speak though we are currently waiting on word about #16's 3 siblings.  I'm not going to get into the details here but needless to say they need a home and everyone agrees that siblings should be together.  As with all kiddos they need a stable, final place to live if that is at all possible - permanency is always critical.  This place could be with us or someone else but it is important that the decision be made soon.  We could find ourselves soon welcoming them into our home or sending #16 to live somewhere else.

Please pray for a decision matching God's will to be made soon as there are several people involved and affected by this decision.  We are concerned about the siblings in our home, the baby, the baby's siblings, my sister's foster child, and all of our biological children based on the outcome of this decision.  Though I can see a world with or without baby and his siblings, I can also see a world without any of them based on how people do or don't work together in these cases.

Right now I'm seeing a lot of ugly in the system.  It really discouraged me for a day or so last week.  Today though I'm back to remembering why we do this, why we care, why we love these kids even if they leave at some point.  I'm also back to trusting that no matter the outcome of this decision or how much it hurts for a time when they leave that God is still in control.  I KNOW that this is true.