Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tuesday's Tears: Under Attack

Yesterday I told you about how hard it was to spend 5 days in the hospital with a baby.  I know I probably didn't have to tell you that - you're all smart folks and could have figured that out on your own.  But in case you missed it...it was hard.

I'm great in emergencies.  I really am.  I handle stress well, don't panic, keep it cool, all that jazz.  But afterward...

I've been a bit of an emotional wreck.  I didn't want to go back to work for fear of missing out on my kids' lives (but I did).  It hit me how scary it was to see my baby so sick.  And then there's the judgment...

Parents are judged all-the-time or at least they feel that way.  The kiddo throws a tantrum in the grocery store because they don't get the candy they want - cue judgemental stares.  Cutie tells the daycare worker "mommy tried to drown me", flips someone off, or drops the "f-bomb".  It doesn't matter that none of that behavior ever actually happened at your home, suddenly you feel like a really bad parent.

Normal parenting judgement is bad enough but hear me - it is FAR worse as a foster parent.  Not only do you have all of the normal judgement and guilt as if you were the birth parent but you also have it from all of the other areas.  You're constantly monitored by the state and worry what the state will think.  If you're with a private agency you have the state AND the agency.  Your child has a caseworker, a CASA, an attorney and all of them have supervisors.  Then there's the judge and everyone who knows you as the foster parent. Last but not least, the birth family - no matter how bad their situation they have the "right" to judge every decision you have.

Let's take our recent trip to the hospital.  There is no question I did absolutely the right thing.  Naturally I felt horrible that my baby was sick and I had to watch him be sick for 5 days tied to tubes and wires but I was judged (or felt judged) from every side.  Nurse practitioner thought I was going overboard bringing him to the hospital that night; based on how I described it she felt I could wait until the morning.  I couldn't and everyone in the ER said so (uh - he was admitted) but nevertheless was I a crazy mom?  I had to tell the CW.  She had to tell the parents.  He had to miss a visit.  Is it my fault?  Did I do something to cause his illness?  Am I not taking care of him well-enough?  The answer is of course not but those thoughts are surely running through some of their heads.  Afterall - he's had a cough for almost his entire life.

Or, let's take this woman...she used to get on my case because she felt I wasn't brushing his teeth well-enough.  Imagine the guilt when the first time he went to her home to spend the night he came down with a gum-infection?  Was it my fault?  No, absolutely not, he caught some virus somewhere and it's not because I live dirty or expose him to things he shouldn't be exposed to.  Nevertheless, mommy guilt x5.

I was even judged yesterday by the health insurance people for PAYING for baby's prescription myself.  There was some sort of issue getting his medicaid approved at the pharmacy so after 15-20 minutes with a rambunctious 3 year old at my feet I said forget it, I'll just pay the $5 myself for the prescription.  $5 - oh the shame - I shouldn't have done that.  I should have just called and had them fix it first.  Right.

While we're talking about my daughter -  I don't talk about our challenges much because in comparison to some of the foster care crazy she's fairly mild but the reality is that she's a challenging 3 year old. She's spunky (read: tends toward the defiance).  We've been potty-training her for 18 months now.  Eight.Teen.Months...  She's persistent (read: stubborn).  She throws a good fit.  She argues about anything.  She wants her way or no way.  She's anything but the perfect proper princess.  (But we love her and most of these things are not outside the range of normal for 3 year-old girls).

(Imagine trying to keep her from catching something at the hospital?  You know, playing on the floor, eating things off the floor, touching EVERYTHING....blech!)

After all the judgement from the hospital visit what did we get?  A call from the board of our local baseball league.  He wanted to tell us that the coach has complained that our daughter's behavior during games is unacceptable and out-of-control.  The phrase "Kicking & Screaming" was used with complete inaccuracy.  We were accused of not participating.  We were accused of not doing anything about it.  The reality is that even with my 2-4 other kids I typically jump out there and try to help guide her because none of the ACTUAL coaches do ANYTHING to help.  Not a thing.  Every once in a while one of the moms out there says in her softest princess-like voice "please come by your cone sweetheart" but that is NOT something my daughter will listen to.  There's no encouragement.  There's no softly grabbing her hand and walking her to where she needs to be.  There's no stern coach voice.  Nothing.  They just ignore her so despite my best judgement (which is to let the coaches be the coaches and not interfere) I have to be the crazy mom who runs on the field to stop her from taking off her shoes and pouring rocks in it.  (Side note - when I was in the hospital she came to see us after her game.  I asked her if she poured rocks in her shoes and she proudly said NO! with a smile...then pointed her head to show us she put it there instead. *Sigh*).  I wasn't asked to be a coach.  I've been team mom twice and my husband's coached for 4 years but we weren't given the opportunity with this team and all of a sudden we're being shamed and judged for our daughter's behavior?

The reality of the situation is that our daughter's behavior drives me nuts during the games and she is clearly different from the other girls who are much more compliant.  They are all only, first, or far-spaced children.  The parents are the same.  I don't want to speak bad about them but it is clear they are first-time parents to few children.  I'd be happy to hand them #7...remember him?  The one who vomited on command?  Or how about #10 - the one who screamed so loud all.the.time.  Of course, that would only prove to them that we are bad parents.  The truth is I've got a huge family and worked with children forever (and now a Ph.D. in human behavior) and I can say with certainty Summer is different but not abnormal and we are not bad parents.  But these people are happy to try and point out to us our flaws.  By calling the board.  About our 3 year old.  (Did I mention to you they never even once have talked to us about it?  Not even once?)


I am convinced we're under attack.  You see, just like Laurie and the Wright Family.  If the enemy can convince me that I'm a bad mom to any or all of my kids he can shut me down from parenting any more children.  So far there have been 21 and 2 are forever - he can't take that away - but if he could stop it there I know he would.  It's not far reaching to believe the enemy would try to lie to mie to try to shut down what God could do through mie with our children or with anything else.  This makes complete sense to mie especially in light of last week's developments...

Did I forget to mention the siblings?  Of course not - you know about them but you didn't know...

Last week after texting CW about baby baby and being in the hospital she called to talk to me about "something".  Turns out she had just talked to her supervisor and wanted to make sure we still were willing to take the siblings.  They wanted to make sure we weren't going to accept another placement that night.  They wanted us to get moving in pursuing our license because they saw the placement with the kids as imminent as soon as the judge made his ruling.  Thankfully that didn't mean RIGHT THEN to anyone because we were still in the hospital but it still meant soon.  We're supposed to talk about the license tomorrow and hopefully shortly after that the kids would move in.


If the enemy could make me believe I suck as a parent and I have my hands full with my rambunctious 3 year old and sick baby and maybe Logan should have been an only child anyway then maybe the kids won't come.  And if they don't come then they'll go somewhere else.  And who knows what happens if they go somewhere else.  And who knows what would happen to Summer.  Or Logan.  Or baby baby. Or Mie.

No - I'm a good parent.  I KNOW that I'm a good parent and I won't accept lies.  I will be a good parent to any child that comes into my home.  I have a strong reputation for that.

In the meantime I'm working on my gracious response to baseball coach (and whoever else is involved) because "BITE MIE", "SUCK IT", "How would you handle vomit-on-command", and "I hope that baby you're carrying ..."  well, nothing good can come of those...

Pray for our family as we handle what we're given and look forward to each step.  Pray for our license to be changed tomorrow and our new kids to come very soon.  Pray for health for all of us and serenity for Summer.  and pray for the people at baseball...

Monday, April 29, 2013

Moolah Monday - Medicaid & Foster Care

Last week I spent 5 days in the hospital.  It was a great hospital designed for children.  In other words, I spent the nights in the hospital with child.  A very small child I tend to call Baby Baby.

(I almost broke down to cry when I typed that...I'm great in emergencies but afterward the spigot flows!)

It was hard.  It was very, very hard.  Hubby had to take 4 nights off work because someone had to stay with the other kids while I stayed in the hospital with the wee one.  I had to take 2 days off work (because somehow I thought it was a good idea to go into work after the first night in the hospital...).  I missed my kids' baseball games.  I got nearly no sleep.  Hubby did a great job but was tasked with taking care of the entire home-field all by himself.  A few friends jumped in to help with the kiddos and one with a meal, but it was hard.  Very, very hard.

Of course, not to go without mention, it was extremely hard to see Baby Baby like that.  Tubes and wires and miserableness.  Too hard.

Even though it was a major challenge on our family, now that he's ok I started to think how blessed we are.  Not only is everyone home and ok now though we had to worry about everything else we did not have to worry about finances.  At one point I thought - man - some people in here are thinking about copayments and coinsurance and no insurance.

I didn't once have to think about paying for the medical bill.

Foster children receive some form of government provided health care and while I'm generally not supportive of across the board "entitlements" as some people refer to them, medicaid (or some kind of medical care) for foster children is an extremely beneficial and necessary component.  We would not be able to foster (certainly not 20 kids so far!) if we had to worry about how to pay for their medical care in case of an emergency like this, especially given the history our kids face that tend to lead them to poorer health or required therapies or delayed preventative care.

Tomorrow I will write more about the tears I face today but I wanted to take the minute to raise awareness of foster care medicaid programs.  Look into them.  Support them.  Make sure your local providers accept medicaid designed for foster children even if they aren't willing to take medicaid for all (I don't blame them).  Advocate for these children who otherwise really have no other options.  I can't imagine what the bill is for the state for Baby Baby's healthcare but I'm so grateful to the citizens of Texas for stepping up and caring for him and others like him in his (many) hour(s) of need.

Friday, April 19, 2013

I am here.

Hello everyone!

I am still here but caught up in an incredible workload because my team has created some amazing things and our senior leadership loves it so they want it rolled out...now...

Hang in there with me.  I'll be back soon - hopefully early next week.

In the meantime know there isn't any updates in our cases, my kids are well, my hubby is finally recovering from his illness (I know - you didn't know he was sick), and my son is asking mie for chocolate milk.  Life is normal, except the 16+ hour work days.

Does anyone feel led to create a logo for mie for my blog?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What the WHAT (?!?) - Trying to decipher this plan...

I wish I could post a picture as the title of this post.  If I could, it would be the following:

Instead, I used the phrase my daughter has been saying recently.  (Where DO they get this stuff?)

So you know about our situation last week that is leading to a disrupted placement for #19 & #20.  You know about how #3's mom tragically died this week and we found out about it on the news.  (Did I mention she was shot in the head?  yeah...).  You also remember the craziness we've been through with #16 (a.k.a. "baby baby") and his siblings who were (sadly) sent back to their relatives by the judge on a technicality (from what I can put together)?

Well it's been rough around here.  It's been hard to put together all of the pieces and get a good understanding about why things have shaped up the way they have.  Why did we have to experience the safety issue in our home when things were otherwise going so well? Why did we need to go through all of that?  Why did my son and the boys have to start the bonding/healing process only to be moved to another family eventually?  Why did the judge send the other kids back?  What will happen to them?  To baby baby?    What's next for all of us?

I have an intense desire to have my life planned out before Mie.  In reality it is planned out so I should be happy but REALLY what I want is to know those plans, in detail, at all times.  That ain't happening and it makes me uncomfortable.

To make a long dramatic story short (about what's happened in the last few days, especially the last 24 hours), the plan is now certainly to have #19 & #20 moved.  Everyone seems to be in agreement with that.  That was "decided" last night.  This morning I contacted Baby Baby's case worker to let her know of the change in our situation.  When we previously accepted the placement I had contacted her first to make sure they wouldn't remove #16 from us if we accepted #19 & #20 so she knew we had them.  I wanted her to know that situation changed, just in case.  Two minutes later she called me back to let me know they want to move the siblings with us but it will take a little bit to get things in order on their end.

There are still some things to be worked out including court orders and licensing.  There is a complication in that when we request our license we are having to request from complete strangers, not our usual worker who is unavailable right now.  I know there is a little concern on their end, not knowing us, about mie being a working mom and having kids those ages.  We're hoping that it all works out.  We really are.  This was our dream situation when we started and we've been hoping and praying since it was presented to us that it would work out.

Could it be that it all works out this way tied with a pretty bow?

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Tuesday's Tears: Permanently Changed (RIP)

Last night I went running with a friend.  I've been moody thanks to our recent experience with foster care.  Hormones hasn't helped, nor has extra regular stress. I thought going for a run would be a good way to shake the blues, burn some stress, give myself a mental break, and get some much-needed exercise.

It was.  I spent the whole run listening to a friend, making myself run just one.more.step, and thinking about my blog post today.  I was thinking about telling you how life-changing foster care is.  Many of us say that though we gripe about foster care and our experiences with the system we wouldn't trade our lives.  The kids, the life-lessons, the unshakeable awareness of the world out there that we'd otherwise shield ourselves and our families from are all things that have made us grow as people.

I thought about our recent situation.  We gave the county a little bit of time (2 weeks) to have the children moved from our home because we want them to go to a good place that can care for their specific needs, we didn't want to cause any more harm in the process, and we can keep them all safe in our home while a new home is found. We just don't want to take the life-long risk of further damage to our forever kids or living with this type of extensive safety plan if we don't have to, and we don't, and it will be better for them to live somewhere else.  The county counter-offered by suggesting only one of the children are moved.  This child needs to live in a place where no other children can be harmed.  This would include the bio-sibling who lives in our home.  So, as of now, the plan is to leave the bio-sibling in our home with us.  We'll see how this goes.

What I wanted to tell you though is that it doesn't matter what happens with these children.  Our lives are forever changed.  Having one child leave changes our family.  Having both leave changes our family.  Having both stay changes our family.  Every time we get a call, then bring a child into our home, then keep them for however long they stay, then participate in their forever plan (leave or stay), our family changes.  This isn't always bad but the reality of it is that it cannot be reversed.  I have had 21 children (1 bio, 1 adopted).  They all have been my children.  Knowing that 16 of them have left does not mean they have left our hearts or they are no longer our children.  Sure they no longer live with us but they are still ours in our heart.  They were still my children's siblings.  We have pictures and memories.  We were a family with each of them when they were here.  They might physically leave when they move away but they never leave our family.

This makes our current situation interesting.

But then...

After my run last night I was cleaning up the house with the local news on in the background when I heard about a police shooting nearby.  Unlike most events like this, they actually published the name of the person who had been shot.  I heard it.  I had to rewind to hear the story again, then again to show my husband.

Our lives are never the same.  The children - the families of the children - who come into our lives through foster care are forever part of us.

This person on the news - the deceased person - is my age and I knew her well.  She was the mother of one of my foster children.  The one I wrote this email to.  The one I wrote this about.  She was the one who let this happen.  I knew her, but of course because of the nature of the relationship (and I'm sure how long ago it was that we last talked), I didn't hear about her death from family or friends but instead on the news.

I'm so sad.  The entire situation is sad.  There are children who no longer have their mother, a fact being touted by the media and others against the police.  The reality is that the kids haven't had their mother in a long-time - it wasn't this incident that took her from them - and yet while she was alive there was still hope that one day they would have some quality relationship with her.  Now it's for sure - they won't have a relationship with her.  Half of the media/public is condemning the officer involved - something I am vehemently against both in support of the police AND knowing her personally.  Half of the media/public is condemning her for being a worthless "P.O.S" (I actually saw that) "druggie" "wanted felon" who deserved to die.  Clearly, most of these people didn't know her or her family.  They are people hearing a snippit of the situation and making judgments to make themselves feel better.  The reality is there are two sets of families grieving - the police officers and hers.  And ours, of course, though with the confidential nature of our cases we don't really have a place to grieve.

That, though, is not why I write.  Even years after this child left our home, even years after we spoke to her last as she was looking to me as a mentor & friend to help her mother and stay clean before she took off again, we deeply grieve.  We grieve her loss.  We grieve what could have been for her.  We grieve for our lost child whom we loved very, very much. We grieve the special role they asked us to play in his life forever that we were never able to assume after he left to live with relatives far away.  We grieve for him, and his sister, who will not grow up knowing quality love from their birth mother.  We grieve for our son who to this day asks about him and if he can come to visit - afterall, this woman and her then husband stood in our kitchen and promised him that he would be able to see their son again often.

Our lives will never be the same without him.  Or her.  Or any one of our other foster children no longer in our home.  Or their families.  It won't be better or worse.  It just won't be the same.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Guest Post: Discussing Adoption with Your Child

The intention in our house is to raise our adopted children with knowledge of their birth family with as open of an arrangement as possible to keep all of our children safe and healthy. With that in mind, adoption has been an ongoing conversation in our home. This is fairly easy for our family because of the 21 children who've lived in our home only ONE has only ONE mother. All of the others have at least two - their birth mother and their foster mother - but most have even more mother figures in their lives. Nevertheless, not everyone can have an open arrangement with their adopted child's family nor is it always easy to know what to say about your children's biological family, especially when the children were removed from the home and placed into foster care.

With that in mind, I'm sharing a post from Pam Johnson that addresses just how to talk about adoption with your child.

Discussing Adoption With Your Child

Adoptive parents today face several challenges. We must strive to help our children feel comfortable about the fact that they were adopted. Being open and talking to your children about adoption is the most beneficial thing you can do, but there are some things you should never say to an adopted child.

Don’t Lie
If your child discovers they were adopted on their own, the worst thing you can do is lie to them about it. Never tell your child that they were not adopted! Every child who has been adopted has a story, and they have a right to know all about what happened. Don’t ever make stories up to them. Tell them the truth, with age appropriateness of course.

The Past
Don’t ever tell an adopted child to forget about the past. Don’t tell them to stop wondering about their blood parents and what happened. Many parents do this when the children are older, because they want nothing more than to make the child feel better. They feel that the child must have had a hard life, so they want to wipe it away. However, older children often need to talk about it - the good, as well as the bad.

Their Journey
Never tell an adopted child how they should feel about the fact that they are adopted. An adopted child has a unique journey of his or her own, and that needs to be part of their own unique lives and feelings. It may take them 30 years to come to terms with it, but that's ok. Just be a supportive parent, and you're doing the right thing.

Their Mother
Never tell an adopted child anything about their mother that you don't know for a fact. For instance, never say that their mother must not have loved them. Children need to know the truth and you can tell your adopted child that they did not grow inside your tummy, but that they have a ‘birth mother’, and that they grew inside this person’s tummy. You can go on to explain that their birth mother wanted to find someone to take extra special care of them and that you are lucky to have been that chosen person. There's no need to paint a rosy picture or share gory details, until they are definitely able to handle it.

Adoptive children have feelings, just like the rest of us do. As parents, you want to make sure they know that they are loved and cared for. Be very cautious though. Don’t force conversations on them, but if they have questions to ask, be honest. Listen to your children and give them the love and comfort of that love. Give them the things they need to allow them to go through life knowing that they are just as loved as anyone else in this world.
Author Pam Johnson is a family counselor who specializes in helping adopted children cope with their family life. She obtained one of the Marriage and Family Counseling Degrees Online.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Our Fears Realized...Changes to the Situation with the Newest Boys

Things happened yesterday.  Things we'd always feared.  Things we'd never wanted in our home.

A safety plan was immediately put in place.  We did a lot of safety things with the kids last night.

As soon as I get a hold of the caseworker we will be asking for these kids to be moved ASAP.

My hubby and I agree on that plan.  I  feel it's more complex than just asking them to be moved.

My heart is broken for what was, my broken dreams of what could have been, and lost hope for certain things that could have been.

Of course I wrote a note to someone interested in foster care two nights ago.  I told her I'd experienced everything in this world and as I typed it I knew there was one thing I hadn't.  It bothered me that I said I'd experienced everything and yet didn't want to point out that I hadn't experienced this or get into it or acknowledge that there was something out there that we could be subjecting our core family to through foster care.  I sent the note anyway and got that pit in my stomach.  Less than 24 hours later exactly what I was thinking of came to life.

Please pray for our family.  Situations are always complicated.  We want to be strong as a core family, to handle this with wisdom, and for God to heal our hearts, probably my husband's and mine the most.  Pray for safety and that this type of situation NEVER comes our way again.