Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Working Mama Wednesday - But I Don't Wanna...

I work a lot.
I could definitely work more.
I probably should work more.

I've found myself thinking a few times that I need to expand my career into a new branch in an effort to expand my relevance and build up for an even higher-level position.  This is an odd thing for me to think about because even though I work very hard and have had great success so far I have never considered myself uber career-oriented.  In other words, I'm not the person who says I need to be the VP of X before I'm 35 - I've never really been that person.  Instead, I've always been the person who says I want to do the absolute best with the most impact where I'm at.  Period.  But nevertheless I've found myself thinking about this new opportunity that, by-the-way would likely be volunteer and in addition to my current more-than-full-time job.

Here's the thing.  At my company, position, and level, I don't have many peers that are in the same life-stage I'm in.  I'm easily the youngest person at the same pay-grade or at least it's very close.  Everyone else is older than me, most with kids raised and gone or in the final years of high-school. OR there's the men who have young kids with SAHMs at home.  Let's face it - empty nests and parenting teenagers is a much different parenting experience than parenting preschoolers and young schoolers, especially when those young kids are young and there's SIX of them.  (I literally have to remind myself frequently that I have an infant!!! Of course I'm tired!). 

My point is, the things that my peers are doing (in their careers) tend to be those things I'd associate with empty nesting.  I hear them saying (in my mind) "Now that the kids are grown..." and "Now that the kids are older..." "...I can finally do (insert career growing thing here)".  It's a sort of peer-pressure kind of thing.  Frankly, they weren't likely in the same position when they were my age or when their kids were the ages of my kids and I can't think of a single one that has 6 kids (or 24 really). 

I found myself thinking "someday the kids will be out of the house and then I'll be able to do these things", as if I actually want my kids to grow up and move out of the house.  It's kind of like the "someday I'll get to sleep through the night" thing while you have an infant.  But really, I don't want that.  Sure, I'd like life to be easier and physically less exhausting.  I'd like to have a shorter to-do list and get back to my hobbies.  I'd like to have a clean house.  I'd like to get back into exercising.  But I DO have an infant.  And an almost 3-year-old girl whose just getting the whole "terrible twos" thing.  And an almost 4 year old who's still in pull-ups because I gave up on potty training and who has more than enough spunk for THE ENTIRE WORLD.  And a 5-year-old boy almost ready to start kindergarten on medication for behavioral challenges who has huge potential to heal but needs a big enough role now.  And a 6 year old girl who's great but needs support in many ways.  And my super-duper 6 year old son who thrills my heart but needs his mommy to get through the life we lead. And 2 dogs that shed all over my house leaving tumbleweeds made of fur.  And a hubby who works a different schedule than the normal 9-5 leaving me alone with all of those kiddos every.waking.moment when I'm not phsyically at the office.  That all makes it pretty difficult to do all that stuff my peers are doing "for their career" or even just to take a shower more than 2x a week.

Yep - I'm a mom.  I like it that way.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tuesday's Tears: Things I Cry About Today

In no particular order:
  • The panicked look my kids had on their face yesterday when they asked me "Is it true we're going back to live with our mom soon?" (It is not, not that I'm aware of)
  • I've stopped potty-training Summer.  Instead I've given her permission to be a little girl again and only give her pull-ups.  She can let me know when she's ready to keep her panties dry. I'm not bothering with it anymore.
  • I've been potty training Summer for 20 months.  Most of it has been horrible.  I think it's caused other problems for her.
  • The thought of sending Baby Baby home at some point - for all my foster mom friends who've raised a child of any age, but particularly from the hospital, for any significant period of time and then had to say goodbye.
  • The work I always have to do...or, more accurately, never being done with the work I have to do.
  • My hubby's quickness to be irritated with just about anything.
  • The time I spend away from my kiddos.
  • The thought of birthday party season in my home
  • The thought of the medicine one of my kids has been taking and the likely inadvertant negative side-effects is has caused.
  • Watching parents lose their kids because they just can't get it together enough to keep them.
Thats it. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Moolah Monday - Back-to-School Clothes


As I welcome myself back from a 10-day vacation (actual, not just from blog-land) I find myself struggling to write a little bit.  I have so much to say about our case and yet I'm continually reminded (on the inside) to be cautious about what I share in this case.  Maybe it's that there really isn't much to share.  So ambivalent this case is...

As I welcome myself back I also find myself catching up from all the stuff not done while I was gone on vacation and now I'm staring straight down the barrel of back-to-school preparation on top of normal life.  All the way home (we drove for 2 days each way) I thought about how I couldn't wait to get home and get busy cleaning and organizing and doing all the stuff that's needed to be done.  I was excited about it.  Now that I'm home I just want to take a nap.

We will have 3 kids in public school starting in a few weeks.  Logan goes to a magnet school for gifted children.  He will continue there this year (YAY! - love that school) but his newest siblings are not allowed in.  Our district is crazy as far as placement rules go.  Seriously.  Anywho...I was "lucky" (no joke) to get my two oldest foster children into the neighborhood school, together. 

This neighborhood school requires standardized dress, which is basically uniforms with more variety.  These two children have not had a school with standardized dress before so it's time for me to buy them new clothes.  Logan's school does not have to wear the uniforms but still needs bigger clothes.  Baby Baby is quickly becoming not-so-babyish and needs 9 month clothes.  The little girls (including Summer) do not need new clothes right now but will feel left out if they don't get at least something.  Oy.  Clothing 6 kids for back-to-school is expensive.

I decided to take them one-at-a-time, in part because I need to in order to keep my sanity and in part because I wanted to make it a special trip for each of them.  They don't get that much 1x1 time with mommy on a regular basis so I wanted to see if I could make this fun and memorable.  Boy am I glad I was able to pull it off, at least with one so far.  My oldest foster was first to go.  She was excited for many reasons and I could tell it was special for her too.  After we picked out a few items I suggested we go try them on.  Her response "Oh, like in the bathroom?". 

Mie "Sweetheart, have you never been to a store before that has fitting rooms to try on your clothes before you buy them?"

No.  She had not.  She had no concept of fitting rooms and was in awe as we went back to try things on.  I made a big point to tell her how beautiful she was as she tried on her outfits.  We bought many, many items AND to top it off the man at the counter was inspired to let us have 15% off, just because.  The grand total for her clothes, not counting "winter wear", was $209.  In reality that isn't bad but if I multiply that by 6 - Yikes!  Not counting winter clothes?  Yikes. 

Truth-be-told, I will not be spending $1300 on clothes for my kids this month.  I spent $65 on Baby Baby's 9 month wardrobe immediately after dropping the $209 on uniforms for miss beautiful.  That took care of him.  Though I'll pick something up for the little kids I will buy them one or two things, not a ton - I have a ton of clothes in their sizes already.  Logan will need a sizeable amount of clothes - I never really bought him a 6 year old wardrobe only 5 and made due with what we had with minor supplements so he's really due for a good refresh.  That being said I'm collecting the Kohls cash I earned from buying clothes for the other kiddos to help fund his purchases.  The last little boy already has some uniform clothes from when Logan was in private K - I'll start with some but will need a good amount more.

In addition, I've come to learn that several nearby counties offer some sort of clothing reimbursement for foster children.  The county these children are from offers $300 per year or $1200 for the group.  In order to qualify I have to submit individual receipts (one per child with nothing but the reimbursable items on it) to the local county board and wait to be reimbursed by check.  I clearly cannot use it to fund Logan or Summer's wardrobe but it will go a long way to getting these kiddos new clothes AND getting them some quality time with mommy.

I'm really looking forward to these shopping trips.  Next up - school supplies!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thankful Thursday - A Lovely Visit

This isn't about a lovely visit with birth parents.  In fact, since the last time I told you about how the visits were going we've had two more missed visits meaning one parent hasn't seen the children in 4 weeks and the other has missed all but one supervised visit in that time.  That parent also has unsupervised visits.  Since the last time I updated you on visits this parent has been arrested (and let go) during one of the visits and had some seriously funky stuff happen on the other.  I wish the police hadn't let that parent go during the first visit - it would have made things so much easier for us all because even though the crime was the same, it doesn't appear quite as bad to the judge when the police let you go because they feel sorry you have 3 young kids in the car with you.  Oh, if that officer knew the truth. *Sigh*  We're leaving on vacation soon which means there will be 2-3 more visits "missed" before the parents have a chance to visit their kids again.  That's a long time between visits.

Actually, this post is about a lovely visit from my hubby's aunt who drove a day to come see us.  Actually, she drove a day to attend a training event in the area and chose to spend the night with us so she could hang out.  I seriously love this woman.  If I had to pick someone I felt really demonstrated what it was like to be a true honest-to-goodness Christian woman it would be her.  She's down-to-earth, genuine, non-apologetic but very graceful...everything I'd hope to be.  I don't know if she knows I feel that way about her.  Maybe I should say something.

That was the extent of the lovely visit we'd looked forward to for a couple weeks because we had a few other very ugly things visit at the same time.  Blech.

*Baby Baby caught a cold and slept in 15 minute increments for 5-6 days.  By the time my hubby was home to help ME get some rest Baby Baby was sleeping for 60-90 minutes at a time and I had caught his cold.
*Strep has paid a visit to our home as well - maybe it's what Baby Baby has or not - Logan came home Tuesday with a fever and Summer woke up Wednesday with one.  This visitor has disrupted my hubby's pre-vacation plans to work around the yard and the house.  He has been able to keep up his busy movie-watching schedule though.
*The visit to the ER was no fun last night, taking me away from the home for 3-4 hours that I was supposed to get to spend with the wonderful aunt.  The reason we were there was even less fun - we went to wake Logan up from his nap and though his eyes opened he was completely unresponsive for 3-4 minutes.  His body was rigid and he couldn't speak.  His eyes were not able to follow anything and eventually he started this weird giggling.  It was very scary.  It seemed like what I would think a febrile seizure would be like but his fever was only at 101 at that moment.  I never want to experience that again.  Thankfully ER tests showed that he was fine (of course), and soon I'll have the crazy bill as a momento of our experiences.

Oh the madness. 

We are very much looking forward to our upcoming lovely visit to California.  The 2 day car ride to get there?  Not so sure about that.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Tuesday's Tears: When You Should be Sad but You're Not (Really)

There were a couple things that happened in my life today that made me really rethink my heart, compassion fatigue, and my concern for people in general.  As foster parents, I believe it is important for us to stop and check our hearts for too much hardening.  It's easy to get jaded or start looking out for #1 (our own personal interests) more than the interests of the creator and those may not always be the same thing.  I don't want to be jaded.  I want to continue to show compassion to the people in my life, all of them, as much as possible.

There was a death in my family yesterday.  I was only mildly sad, in part because I knew it was coming, in part because I was hoping it brought relief to my relative and my relative's caregivers, and in part because I didn't know this particular relative well at all.  Not knowing a relative well (or at least decently well) is somewhat foreign in my very large but relatively close-knit family, but this particular relative is one of 2-3 that I could identify that I never really knew.  So generally I'm not sad, not like I was when my uncle was murdered a few years ago or how I would be if anyone else in my family passed away.  I am, however, sad that I'm not sad.  Does that make sense?  I wish the situation were different for many reasons, that he had led a life where I would have had a role, that I would have known him more, that my family would have felt supported by me more during this process.  That is what I care about at this point, that and how my dad is feeling about this latest death in his family.

There was also interesting things happening in the kids case yesterday.  I'm trying to really limit what I put out here about this case even though it is by nature more or less anonymous anyway (which is why you don't see our kid count anymore - it's still here, behind the scenes).  There were more missed visits this week, a legal situation during the one visit that did happen which promises to complicate future visits.  Oh the mixed feelings.  On one hand, I hate that my kids had to experience what they had to experience during their visit - there are certainly worse things that could have happened and generally they were safe but they shouldn't have to experience stuff like that.  No kid should.  We shouldn't be talking about what worse could have happened you know?  I also feel bad for the parent that this situation happened.  Sometimes there's just bad luck.  Sometimes there's bad luck combined with bad choices.  This is one of those cases (so it seems) - if the bad choices weren't there then the bad luck wouldn't be so bad - but still, I do feel bad for the parent and the kids that this is a negative in the situation.  At the same time, I'm hopeful that this is what it takes to get the tide turned in favor of the KIDS who need permanency.  There were actually several things about the last visit that *should not* look favorable for the parent but it's hard to say how they will actually affect the case.  One thing is clear - yet another set of visits was canceled and that could push the people involved to be more supportive of termination and quality permanency.  I'm hoping.  I feel bad that I'm happy that there was this point of failure for the parent because I genuinely do support reunification and never ever want kids to be separated from their family when they can be reunified safely.  I just haven't seen that "reunified safely" thing work in even 10% of my kids lives.  2/24 kids have been reunified "permanently" with the family they were removed from.  That's it.  Several have happy endings but I just haven't seen it work well very often and the "evidence" in this case is like those that weren't successful, not like those that were. 

Our kids decided they wanted to change their names last night.  They initiated the conversation (knowing Summer's name was changed when she was adopted - when the judge said she could stay forever).  It seemed to be their way of letting us know they want to stay forever, after the crazy of their visit (but we didn't talk about it that way).  They were all excited about their new names and then dropped the bomb - they were going to tell their parent about their new names when they saw them next.  *Insert screeching car sound here*  We put our foot down and had to stop their fun, insisting they be called their actual name not their selected name until the judge tells them they can change their name.  On one hand I want them to be able to daydream about whatever they want to daydream about.  On the other hand I don't want to be accused of trying to steal these kids or even trying to change their names (that has not, at all, been something my hubby and I have been involved with - we will only even consider that with any reality when everyone in the case is aligned on termination and a trial happens or a voluntary agreement is signed...that's it).  I don't want anyone to think we're trying to sabotage the parent's attempts to reunify because we're not.  BUT, the kids - what about what they want?  When does that count?

So today I'm taking inventory. I  don't really have good answers about what I *should* be feeling.  There are always mixed emotions in foster care and in life in general.  I'm glad I don't have to have all the answers.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Moolah Monday - Daycare Update

I wanted to share with you the good news I received a few weeks ago regarding daycare funding and foster care.  This is good news for those it affects so stay tuned...

A while back I told you about how daycare funding works for foster children in my state.  I'm not going to rehash it all now so if you're interested in the nuts and bolts of it all, go here to check out that original post.  At that time I had some misinformation that I want to clear up.

When we went through licensing and up until 3 weeks ago we were told that daycare funding is provided for working foster parents who have children up through Kindergarten - in other words infants through preschool.  This always worked for us because we have preschool or younger children.  Even when we had our first school-aged foster child last spring we didn't have to worry about childcare because he attended school during the day and then was bussed home where my hubby could meet him after school.  It all worked out easy-peasy.  When we accepted the baby's siblings we knew it came with the commitment to provide one school-aged child with childcare over the summer.  Add that to our two forever kids and I'm now paying $485 per week for childcare, not to mention the initial few weeks of childcare I'm responsible for with the two littler kids as their childcare is setup (so far I'm in for an additional $350 per week for 3 weeks, I believe).  Anyway, childcare is getting expensive.

I've always been under the belief that if I'm going to pay for the school out of pocket then I am going to pick the school I want to pick.  In order to receive daycare funding you need to select a childcare center that accepts childcare funding and those are few and far between, especially if you only count schools that are of an acceptable quality.  Unfortunately many are subpar in my opinion.  The school I send my littles to is GREAT, but I decided if I'm going to pay for my newest school-aged child then she is going to go into the summer program for school-aged children with Logan.  I wasn't going to receive funding anyway so she could have the cool experience they were going to have.  It would also get her away from the other kids school so she didn't have to worry about her siblings or being the natural mom to them - she could just be another kiddo.  It's worked really well so far except for visits interfering with the field trips planned at the school.  This school, by the way, does not accept daycare funding from the state.  When you do you must sign an agreement to take any child that comes to the school with the funding as long as they obey the rules like every other child.  The daycare owners don't want "that type" of client in their school (they aren't the only ones - you should see some of the posted rules in medicaid doctor's shocking they feel the need to post rules like "if you are rude to the staff we may refuse the right to provide you service" because some parents are that rude...jeesh).  That leaves me in a pickle needing to go to two different daycare facilities.

Our family has a new licensing worker.  As she setup daycare for the kids lo-and-behold we find out daycare IS provided for school-aged children as long as the funding is available.  She tried to setup our #21 with school funding.  Unfortunately, because I set her up at the school with my forevers, we cannot receive daycare funding.  I could switch her to another school but I really don't want to do that for her sake - she's having so much fun there and building friendships and enjoys hanging with Logan.  SO, I'm out-of-luck.  But YOU, if you're in the state of Texas with school-aged children and you need childcare, you may be able to get your daycare paid for.  It would only save me about $180 per week, but that's a good chunk of change to save. :)

Friday, July 05, 2013

Foster Parent Friday - Controlling Your Tongue

Wise foster parents often consider the impact of their actions knowing someone could be watching because in reality, someone always is and the consequences as a foster parent can be far more damaging than as a traditional parent.  This isn't about paranoia, it's about realizing that there is a legal system and a social work system and fierce emotions all wrapped up into one big package called foster care and in no way is any one of those parties interested in staying calm to investigate a situation.  And, who really wants an investigation anyway - just one more hassle that should be avoided at all costs most of the time.  Clearly this means we need to avoid prohibited things like the plague (no spanking, lock up your meds and chemicals, don't use drugs - you know, all the stuff bio-families don't have to do...) but it also means we have to watch what we say, even when it is innocent in nature and may be culturally accepted in your family or even in society.  It doesn't mean you have to become mute, but should pose a challenge if you're doing it correctly.  I have a few types of conversations/phrases in mind that you should pay attention to and will present over a series of posts.  Today we're going to talk about Negative Talk about Family Memebers.

The Situation:  It is so easy to become self-righteous or even just angry at bio-family because of their often stupid choices and end up saying something too close to little ears or even saying something to the little ears directly.  It's understandable - as foster parents we see the impact of their choices.  We see how the kids are hurt (and damaged) by missed visits, drug use, crazy parenting, and all the other stuff that leads kids to be in our homes in the first place.  We love the kids and are hurt when they're hurt (hello compassion fatigue!).  So many of us feel the need to talk about it with our spouses, other foster parents, friends, family, the grocery store clerk...OR...we love the kids day in day out.  We're they're for them.  We keep them safe and are constantly working on helping them heal and too our shock and dismay the little boogers will insist on talking about their birth families as saints - how much they love them, the dollar they got at their last visit, their parent's new home that may or may not exist - we want to tell the kids how lousy their parents really are. 

Why it's a problem: If we're really in it for the best interest of the kids then this type of behavior serves no real purpose.  It's not helpful for us to tell our kids how really bad their parents are in most circumstances.  Pointing out to them how stupid their parent is for buying the new bathing suit 2 sizes too small despite having provided them the correct size only helps you vent, it doesn't help the kiddo feel any better about their situation nor does it help your bonding with the child (if that's your intent).  Most children feel a connection to their first families and relate part of their identity to their family of origin (whether or not they have a relationship or the quality of that relationship).  When we put their family down directly or indirectly we often inadvertantly chip away at their self-esteem in ways none of us fully understand at the time.  Put it this way - if my parent was too stupid to buy a bathing suit in my size then maybe I'm stupid like they are OR maybe I'm not worth them spending the time to get the right size.  I don't want my kids thinking like that.  This type of behavior can be damaging even when talking where little ears can't hear.  Friends/family/strangers may inadvertantly wonder if your child has inherited certain traits (maybe not stupidity but what about impulsiveness like the parents?) and begin responding to the child accordingly so that a self-fulfilling prophecy effect occurs.  OR, friends/family/strangers say something directly to the children.  OR, because of your negativity those friends/family/strangers who would have considered fostering themselves decided they're not up for the crazy when in reality that particular crazy is only a tiny part of the job.  OR, friends/family/strangers decide they don't want to hang out with you because your talk is so negative and you lose that vital support.  None of these options are particularly helpful for the children in your care or ultimately you as the caregiver.  Finally, it's not helpful for the bio-families.  Yes, I care about them too and so should you.  Reunification with a healthy family is always the best option for the kids we love and we're only making it harder by gossiping about their imperfections.  We would say we need to be encouraging to our friends who struggle with an imperfection - why not the families?  Even when the reunification isn't the best option because the family cannot or will not be healthy for the children, when you adopt you want to be able to tell the child you did everything you could to help get them back with their first family.  Can you honestly say that knowing you spent XX amount of time putting them down?

The solution: Speak the truth in love and take the opportunity to build your kids up.  You don't need to lie and sugar coat the situation but there are ways to say things that are helpful. 
  1. Explain the situation in age-appropriate terms: Let's say a parent misses a visit because they were high - You could tell the child "I'm sorry you didn't get to visit with mommy/daddy today.  Mommy/Daddy was too sick today to keep you safe and healthy".  Then, depending on age/maturity you could modify the underlined piece with one of the following: "...unable to make good choices today", "...still taking drugs/drinking too much alcohol today," or something similar based on the child's ability to understand the details of the situation. 
  2. Show empathy: "It is so (sad, mad, confusing, hurtful, etc.)" when mommy and daddy miss a visit.  Whenever possible, use feelings your kids have identified though you may need to help them figure out their big feeligns.  It's ok to explain how it makes you feel too - I often tell my kids "It makes me sad and cry too".  Don't just assume you know how the child feels though or focus entirely on your emotions.  It's even ok to say "I know you were looking forward to visiting them" or "I hope you get to see them next week" as long as it is true, authentic, and child-centered.
  3. Encourage: "You deserve a mommy and daddy that will always keep you safe" or "You're so very important and we need to make sure you stay safe" are good options.  In the encouragement try to focus on those pieces of self-identity that is damaged by the event like their self-esteem or image.  If the parent sees them and comments negatively on their outfit, for example (and yes that does happen), you can say "You are so beautiful and it hurts when someone says something like that" or something similar.
  4. Act: Give the child something they can do about it - empower them in the right direction to help avoid turning their energy into something negative.  In our family this often involves praying for their family but it could involve a variety of things as the situation warrants - write a journal entry, draw a beautiful picture of yourself/write an essay about all the beautiful things about you/play the "i'm beautiful because" game, volunteer to help those in similar situations as the parents - serve soup to the homeless, collect bars of soap for the local treatment center, etc.  I'm coming up with random things here but in essence you want to find something age appropriate and situation appropriate to help them feel empowered over the situation.  If you're planning on doing something more formal for volunteering or an activity that involves more intense emotions I'd recommend doing it conjunction with a trained therapist or licensed counselor to ensure they are supportive and aligned but there are almost always things you can do to help a child of any age feel empowered in a simple way.
These suggestions are helpful for talking to kids (if I do say so myself) but what do you do with your own desire/need to discuss the crazy things first parents do?  Though I'd always recommend speaking the truth in love, I'd say there are probably a few things to consider about the types of people you can talk to and what you should say with each one:
  1. Counselors/Therapists - Sure - foster parents need them too!  They can be a great resource when you're struggling to make sense of it all or need to vocalize the crazy in a confidential manner.  "I'm angry because my foster kids' first families use drugs repeatedly and I think they're stupid" or "It frustrates me that my kids' first family finds the money to smoke crack and pay for those stupid rims on that car but they can't find a safe place to live or bring a decent lunch for their kids during the visits" are perfectly acceptable things to share with the counselor". 
  2. Spouse - I'd generally say that conversations between spouses can and should be perfectly honest as well and it's important for spouses to feel like they can share those ugly feelings they have from time-to-time with each other.  There are two main cautions.  First - make sure there is no possible way for anyone else to hear.  This might be a coffee date, a late-late night conversation when you know the kids are in bed or a break-time conversation when you're both at work but you don't want your kids (forever or foster) to hear a word of what you are saying if you're going to be negative about the first parents.  Second - you want to watch how much of your conversations with your spouse are aimed at foster care at all, especially the negatives about foster care.  You need to focus on your relationship, building it up and enjoying each other at least as much as you're tearing down other people, amen?  You also want to be encouraging to your spouse so too much time for either of you "being honest" about foster relatives might not be helping you reach that goal. 
  3. Friends/Family - You may have a friend or family that is close that you share more with and then the rules of speaking to your spouse likely apply here.  For most family and friends though I'd recommend sharing information sparingly, as needed, and always with love and respect toward the first family.  If you can't do that, don't share with them until you can.  The more distant family and friends will tend to hear the negative over the positives of fostering and will have one of two reactions - they will want to avoid the drama and therefore avoid you or they will join in the drama/gossipping/emotion purging.  The first response will harm your support system and likely cause more drama (why don't they want to hang with me anymore - wahhh!).  The second will drag them down and likely drag you further into complaining and whining about the parents without helping encourage you or with benefits for the kids.  These more distant folks will also be less likely to be discreet with the information you share because they're not as close to the system as you are so it's possible they make comments at some point while the kids or others you don't want to hear are around.  Try and stay positive but honest with friends and family and keep the verbal purging to your counselor, spouse, or closest friend/family member.
  4. Foster Parent Support Groups - My gut wants to say these groups are fair game but you need to be careful here too.  There is no one else who gets the situation more completely than other experienced foster parents and therefore it can be so therapeutic to share with these friends.  They understand confidentiality and a good group understands that you love foster care (enough to do it!) even when you spend some time complaining about the crazy.  They have their own crazy and sometimes it's nice to hear you're not the only one but at the end of the day you all love your kids and understand why you do what you do.  The caution here is two-fold.  First, you want this type of group to be encouraging so be careful to spend more time encouraging each other than gossiping about the crazy.  Second, there are often new foster parents, prospective foster parents, or people who may not personally know you well in these groups and you don't want to lead them astray.  
Ultimately, when speaking about foster care, especially about a particular case involving negative first families, try remembering that what you share is reflective of your heart.  We may not like all of the first families and we may hate what they do, rightfully so.  They are still people and if you believe like I do they are children of the most high God, in desperate need of the grace and salvation I've received.  It is not solely because of mie that I was spared from walking the road they're on - I should not be proud but instead should realize that I too deserve death for the ways I'm ugly on the inside too.  When we're spending too much time griping about the sins of the first parents it's easy to forget our own or lose sight of the grace we were given to spare us that walk.  If our heart is full of thanksgiving for our own grace our mouths should be overflowing with that thanksgiving rather than condemnation for those already condemned.  We're human - we'll make mistakes and we sometimes need to share what's on our mind in a safe way - but when we find ourselves spending all our verbal energy bashing first families it should give us pause to consider the state of our hearts.  Even when first parents are pure evil (and sometimes they are) it serves us better to acknowledge the evil and move on rather than stay to wallow in their filth, bringing us down with them.  That doesn't help them, it doesn't help us, it doesn't help our kids. 

Do you have any techniques or suggestions to add?

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Tuesday's Tears: Missed Visits

Sorry for the lack of posting.  We just got back from our Sea World vacation and had a blast but took us away from the real world for a week.  (Yes!).  And, before that, life got crazy at work.  I work for an organization that has been very publicly in the news recently and seeing as how my role is significantly responsible for communication it turned my world upside down for a while.  The week after we got the siblings.  At least we got a week with them to "settle in" before things went nuts.

In that time we also went to court for an update.  The goal is termination and non-relative adoption (us) but that is very much contested as neither parent agrees with termination.  It has more/less been decided that both parents cannot have them together, only one parent has a shot at getting them back (i don't know the details behind why that is) but this is complicated by the fact that the parents are still together and do not intend to be separated, other than for the 6 months it would take to get the case over with and get the kids back.  They've said that.  Several times.  So - it is a very interesting case.  At the recent court date the judge made it clear she does not support termination at this point and extended visits to 4 hours unsupervised with the three siblings and the favored parent.  The intention is to "see how this goes" so that we could work toward return at some point in the next few months.  Baby is not included in this whole deal for reasons unbeknownst to me (and I'm not complaining or questioning).

The judge seemed to me to be wanting to put these kids back with the favored parent no.matter.what and is bending over backwards to get that to happen at the risk of putting the kids in jeopardy both physically and emotionally despite the parent(s) continuous inability to be on a positive trajectory for the past two years.  One step forward, 3/4 step backward.  If we're really tracking progress in quarter steps is that enough for these kiddos?  No.  The kids did mention that they want to stay with us "forever and ever" and their attorney, when asked by the judge, said as much.  The whole thing is confusing to me because in any other situation, in many other courts, this case would have been done and over with.

I left court that day pretty upset.  I'm frustrated because these kids deserve safety and stability and they are not going to get that with these extended visits.  The conversation in court prior to official proceedings is that no one believes this will be successful in the long run but they all hesitantly agreed to the visits to put on a good face for the judge and to let the parents dig their grave (these are my words, not theirs).  If that is the case, where is the best interest of the kids?  Who is REALLY sticking up for them?  I hate that they are being drug through this any longer, now moving past the 2 year mark.  Plus, who knows how this affects baby baby who has known no other mom but me.  Is this going to turn out that after 9-12 months he goes to live with a stranger?  Will he be permanently separated from his bio-siblings?  I hate that the judge doesn't support termination here.  I've had these kids now for a month and knowing how they've been doing and what they're relationship and history look like with their parents it just kills me that this is dragging out.  These visits are just going to complicate their healing.

The other thing I'm upset about is how this is going to affect our family.  We have to find a time where we can carve out a 4 hour part of our day, dependent purely upon parent and relative-supervisors schedule, which is very limited.  We have so little time together as a whole family as it is that I really look forward to our weekends to book special things like trips to the zoo or the museum or the waterpark.  I'll have a hard time doing that though because I'll have to drop them off somewhere, then drive to where I want to go, leave 30-60 minutes before the visit is up so I can get somewhere to pick them up.  That means I'll have 90 minutes or so to "do something" with the kids left in my house - which isn't really long at all.  Or I use that time to do something short but impactful with my forever kids, meaning the foster kids get left-out of what we're doing because of their visit.  I hate that too. 

Then there's the trauma-induced behaviors that visits cause before and after.  Significant portions of days will be spent in therapeutic parenting because of visits that are not expected to work out anyway.  That sucks for the foster children.  It sucks for the forever children.  It sucks for us parents.  I was upset about it.

I decided to go with the option of spending time with my forever children during their extended visits, which means parent is picking them up from me at our weekly grocery store trip and then dropping them off at the local waterpark.  I'm taking the kids to the waterpark during the visit and I don't have to miss any waterpark time because parent is dropping them off there. 

We were able to do one of those visits so far.  The children were out of sorts in the morning waiting for their visit and then reacted strangely (staying with me) when parent came to pick them up 30 minutes early for their visit.  They left with parent ok when it was actually time to go.  When they were dropped off at the waterpark things went sour.  The oldest two were QUITE upset that they had to go with parent instead of going with us to the waterpark.  They angrily vowed never to go to a visit again.  Behavior calmed later that night as we got in to a normal dinner routine.  And wondered how the supervised visit scheduled for the next day would go since they insisted they were never going again.

Surprisingly - supervised visit was canceled because parents couldn't make it. 

Another supervised & unsupervised visit was scheduled earlier this week because they missed the normal one since we were on vacation.  note - they didn't say a word about visits while on vacation.  I told them they had to go to school instead of staying home with the forevers because they had a visit to go to.  They were wild as usual (and by they I mean one of them, really).  They were supposed to be picked up so they didn't have a lunch or their normal nap-time bags.  Of course, for a reason unknown to me, this visit too was canceled and set to be rescheduled later this week without the unsupervised time, leading me to wonder what happened in the case to prevent this visit?

Who is hurt in all of this?  Once again, the kids, whom everyone is supposed to be protecting.  They had to be treated differently than my forever kids because of their visit.  Then their visit didn't happen.  One made up all sorts of crazy excuses why parent didn't show up to the visit.  The others didn't seem to care but I know it affected them.  I wonder if this is the new pattern and the beginning of the end or if this will continue indefinitely until eventually they're put back in the home well after they've really bonded to us, against their wishes.  Hmmmm...