Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I changed my mind...

I know I introduced my newest cherubs yesterday.

But all day long, as I held that beautiful baby, I just couldn't get "Little Mermaid" to fit.

I tried. But it's too much of a mouthful for such a tiny little thing.

(Yes, her hair reminds me of Daisy. But that's about it. I think Daisy was about twice the size of my newest baby cherub.)

Anyway....I'm going to go with Tinkerbell now. I think she will make a good "Tink".

I'm strange. LOL I know that. Finding blog names is hard to do when the kids first come. I'd like to wait to "name" them. But everyone wants updates and I've got to have names. :)

It's not like I really call the kids by their blog names in real life. But, since I do spend enough time online talking about them, I'd like their names to fit.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Introducing....

We were officially verified (licensed) and in "the system" yesterday. We also took a placement of three little cherubs yesterday.

The case is quite high profile so I'm going to have to be careful. Already, based on a limited amount of information, several FB readers Googled and figured it out. Not that I don't love y'all. But I've got to be careful.

For now though I can officially introduce:

13 month old Little Mermaid
She's a tiny little thing who, as of last night anyway, does not want to be put down.

3 year old Pirate
He's a whirlwind! They tell me he speaks Spanish only but all I heard was mushed up words that sound like gibberish. Some English. Some Spanish. They assure me he understands English. But did I mention he's a whirlwind? Needed redirected several times, sternly, last night in the two hours they were running around while I signed paperwork. Turned the playroom into an instant disaster. (I envision me having to up the weekly allowance for TT and Bart as they will have to help keep the house in order.)

5 year old Captain
He's the oldest of the five (total) children. I didn't get the sense that he's really a captain necessarily. But since Pirate fit the middle one, and the youngest can be a princess, I needed something to go with the theme.  :) Thankfully he speaks English well and followed directions easily last night. He's in kindergarten so I'll be enrolling him in the public school before Thursday. (I've got two days to let him settle and maybe get caught up on sleep.)

There are more children in the large sibling group. I took what my license would allow.

The three cherubs came to me with nothing but the clothes on their backs, two dirty bottles and a handful of diapers. I had about two hours notice before they came so I did one shopping trip last night. However, I couldn't buy clothes because I didn't know sizes. And I'm glad I waited as all three are quite tiny and I would have bought wrong. We'll be going shopping today.

I'm glad I nested the way I did this past week. I'm actually ready for this I guess. Well...as ready as anyone could ever be.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Saying No

I already had to say "no" to a child. Cheerleader, the placing worker at our agency (and also our family's licensing worker), called me yesterday. After hearing the profile, I knew it would be too much for the dynamics already in our family. Saying no is so difficult for me. Well...let me clarify...the actual saying of the "no" isn't too difficult. But my heart was heavy all night long because I did it.

It's really (REALLY) important that you learn as much about trauma and behaviors and diagnoses as you possibly can. That way, when you're deciding what you can or cannot parent, your list will be reasonable. Then...stick to that list. Because once you hear that a child needs you, your heart will be pulled. You may want to take on more than you're capable of handling effectively. And that's not typically a good thing.

A reader asked me: What situations are you NOT suitable for, what would make you decline? I ask because you have clearly had both age extremes, both genders, severe disabilities. What would be a non-fit?

Our list is pretty broad. We are licensed for 0-17. Our agency knows that we would consider teens that have opted to stay in Care until 21 as well because they've asked us about a placement for a 19yo once. (Not sure why the official license only goes to 17.) We are licensed for three foster children. We can't take more because in the state of Texas, if you have more than six children total in your home, you have to be licensed as a group home. In our county, group homes have to have full-house sprinkler systems.

As we went through the licensing process, we had to fill out a form that was basically a check-list of behaviors and whether or not we would be willing to parent them. We could mark in one of three columns: Yes, No, or Negotiable. I wish I would have made a copy of this form. I'm running only on memory now. We had a few columns where we marked "yes". It had things like: ADHD, learning disabilities, and minor medical needs. Mostly though, I marked "negotiable" for most of the behaviors on the list. The "no" column for us included things like:
known fire starter
known sexual acting out on others
known cruelty to animals
Because, IMO, if the placing worker is willing to tell you that they already KNOW the child has these dangerous behaviors, it's probably going to be too much for me to be able to keep all of the children in my home safe. I wouldn't immediately disrupt a placement because behaviors like this happened. But if behaviors like this are already documented, you can bet your butt the difficulties will be long and hard. Because again, IMO, "they" only tell you a tiny bit about each child. And if the tiny bit you're being told is already quite challenging, the full picture will blow your mind.

The young man we got called about yesterday has been in Care for a long, long time. These are some of the things we were told about him:
Age 15
Rights on his mother already terminated
No visits of any kind
Father deceased
Available for adoption
In special ed program at school - in the 8th grade
On four different medications (of which, I had only heard of one)
Several major diagnoses including mood disorder
Never had a stable placement, been bounced through many homes
Reported to be very disrespectful to adults
Currently in a home not with our agency, the family gave their 30-day notice

Cheerleader called me and said that the love we give kids would help this young so much. We're so dedicated that she knew we'd be able to help him.

Sigh.

All that may be true. But I told Cheerleader that this young man needs to be placed in a home that is willing to either consider adoption or at the least, be OK with saying they'll do long-term foster care until he ages out. He's only in 8th grade so that means he needs a family that, from the beginning, is willing to commit to more than four years of Care.

We are not that family.

Just telling me that this young man is 15 years old and has never had a stable placement tells me that he has suffered a level of trauma that is going to bring with it a tremendous amount of behaviors. He has NO reason to trust adults to be there for him. (Thus the reported behavior of being very disrespectful.) And the thing is, my own kids are crazy disrespectful a lot of the time. We're constantly redirecting that behavior. But they have all had the same parents since they were born. Even TT is strongly attached to our family. This young man would have no reason to trust us for anything. So if you tell me he's disrespectful, I can only imagine that the pain, lack of trust and all the behaviors that accompany being treated like trash your whole life run pretty deep.

I'm having to speculate a lot. But I have to assume that the level of care he would need would be more than we could offer. It would probably not be healthy for my younger two kids to get pushed to the side so I could tend to an older brother who isn't used to being part of a family.

I spent a lot of time yesterday running scenarios through my mind. Maybe he wouldn't be so difficult to care for. Maybe he would thrive in a family that treated him like a valued member.

Those maybes aren't a good thing though. It's better that I go with my gut. Because sadly, there will be more children. We'll get called again. And just the fact that we're not willing to commit at the very beginning to a difficult placement that, at minimum, would last four years, is an OK enough reason to say no. 


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

OPEN

At 1:45PM tomorrow TT, Bart, and I will walk into the County Health Department. They will each receive a piece of paper stating that they do not have tuberculosis. I will return home and fax those pieces of paper to Rainbow. At that point in time, our home will be officially back open for foster care.

Our license will be for 0-17 just like it was before. It is unlikely that we will take any middle school boys though. (Despite the fact that Bart's exact request is for a boy his age.)

Mr. Amazing and I are going to continue with the process of becoming full B.A.C.A. members. He will definitely get his back patch before I do though. One: He started before me. Two: It's more likely that I'll miss meetings now due to child care needs. It takes a full year from when you start attending B.A.C.A. meetings and when you submit your fingerprints for an FBI clearance before you can become a full member. Mr. Amazing started around May last year when a neighboring chapter had an information meeting in our corner of Texas. I didn't go to a meeting until August.

TT is still begging for a baby. I'm still a little scared that we decided to do this all over again. Herman doesn't care too much about any of it. And Mr. Amazing wants a girl (or two).

I haven't heard anything else about the 13 month old baby girl that CPS indicated they might want moved from her current foster home. We have said yes to that move if it should happen. But who knows...this is foster care. Anything could happen!!

We're as ready as we're gonna get. Let the new adventures begin!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Fight • Flight • Freeze

TT has been having a rough go of things for about two months now. There has been a serious increase in negative behaviors. He's trying...oh he's trying so hard to be "good". But it hasn't been easy for him at all.

I know that Rainbow's visit yesterday was difficult for him. It's enough out of routine to be difficult. But with her visit comes the knowledge that we could be adding additional children to our home by Monday (yes...tomorrow). He held things together though. Even after watching an action movie before bed, he held things together.

And life was OK this morning. We ditched church because...well...sometimes we ditch church. This morning was lazy. The younger two cherubs like to get up on lazy mornings and watch TV or play video games.

TT ate breakfast without fighting. (Sometimes he and Bart have a hard time transitioning after watching TV or playing video games for longer stretches of time.) TT got dressed and he seemed to transition OK.

But then he got mad because Bart didn't want to play the same thing as him. There was some minor stomping of the feet and huffing and puffing, but nothing that even needed redirected really.

TT voluntarily ate a small lunch. (Again, transitions and eating seem to be something that both TT and Bart struggle with when they're dysregulated.)

I hollered at Herman to go get dressed. (Teenagers...'nuf said.) He peeled himself off the couch and went upstairs.

TT followed him and somehow talked Herman into playing with him instead of getting dressed first. TT wanted to hit the pads. We've got some punching pads that are typically used when training for mixed martial arts. TT loves it when Herman or Mr. Amazing hold the pads and he can punch. It is wonderful for getting the physical activity that he longs for and it helps him get the sensory input he desperately needs. (TT doesn't have diagnosed sensory process disorder...but he most definitely has some of the quirks. He is definitely a "seeker"!!!!) When TT is dysregulated at all, getting sensory input in a healthy way helps him stay in control of his emotions.

All seemed well. Herman is excellent at keeping emotions in check when they play with the pads together. He knows how to keep it from getting out of control. Even Bart commented on that. He looked at me and said, "Ya know, Mom, if that was me and TT upstairs you would have yelled at us already." I laughed and said, "Yeah, but you guys always get out of control." Bart nodded his head and agreed.

After about 10 minutes or so of rough-housing, the noise stopped. I assumed that Herman had gone on it to his room to get dressed...finally.

Then TT came downstairs and and purposely slammed into the chair that Bart was sitting in. Then he thrust himself on to the couch and buried himself in the cushions hiding his face.

He was obviously fully dysregulated. He wasn't holding it together anymore.

Mr. Amazing instructed TT to leave the room. In general, temper tantrums do not happen in what we refer to as public places in our house. TT was welcome to go into the guest bedroom or he could go upstairs to his room.

TT refused.

I came into the living room to assist.

We weren't giving TT a time-out. He was in full control of what happened next. He could either stop his tantrum and sit nicely in the living room. Or he could take his angry self into a different room of the house. We weren't assigning any amount of time he needed to be separated. The only rule is that he couldn't be his angry fighting self in the living room.

TT refused to leave or calm down.

I counted down from three. TT was expected to leave the living room and go to the guest bedroom just across the hall from where we were at. Or he could take himself up to his bedroom.
One...leave the room.
Two...leave the room now.
Three...get up and leave or we are going to help you.

TT refused.

The way Mr. Amazing and I handled it next works only because he is our "forever" child. (You simply can't do this with foster kids.) I picked TT up by the hands and Mr. Amazing took him by the feet. He kicked, hit and struggled something fierce but we got him safely into the guest bedroom and put him on the floor.

TT escalated.

It was not our intention to restrain him. But when TT is dysregulated, he will sometimes continue to escalate until we do. I fully believe this is because of his sensory processing quirks. He needs the deep pressure of the hug (how we hold him).

Thing is, when things get like this, we do our best to allow TT to be in control of it all. We weren't going to touch him, just stay close so he wouldn't hurt himself or the contents of the room. He continued to escalate though - hitting and kicking (making contact) with Mr. Amazing and me. That isn't acceptable. Mr. Amazing put him in a restraint and also popped him on the rear one time.

It was like a switch went off in his head. TT immediately calmed down. Mr. Amazing immediately let go and then walked out of the room. I stayed right there close by but not forcing communication or contact of any kind. TT gathered himself and said he wanted to go to his room. I told him that I was going to go too but that I'd stay in the hall. TT was totally OK with that.

He walked upstairs to his bedroom and curled up on his bed. I followed behind and sat in the doorway.

Now, I'm sure some people reading this think we overreacted. Restraints should be avoided. I know that. And maybe we should have let him tantrum in the living room. But that's just not allowed in our house. And TT was doing what I call "stick poking". If we had left him in the living room, it would have escalated to violence. It always has before. He "pokes" and "pokes" until ugly things happen. Furniture gets broken. People get hurt. We do what we can to avoid it ever getting to that place anymore. This whole tantrum lasted less than 10 minutes I think. Years ago, before we had our responses as streamlined as they are now, tantrums like this would last for an hour or longer.

TT softened a lot. I asked him if he knew what the trigger was. He said, "no." He did come over to me though and he curled up next to me. I reassured him over and over that we love him so much.

TT very much hates tantrums like this. He recognizes when he's dysregulated and he doesn't like how it feels. This time, because the tantrum seemed to just explode without anything building it up, I thought it was important to figure out the trigger.

I asked him what happened.

He said he didn't know.

So I switched it up. I asked him to tell me about the feeling without describing it outright. What color would you have been when you got angry? Where did you feel the anger at in your body?

TT couldn't answer. But he did start telling me the facts of what happened.
Herman and TT were rough-housing.
It felt good.
They were having fun.
Nobody was angry.
Herman accidentally hit TT in the head.
Herman apologized immediately.
TT accepted the apology.
They kept on playing for a little bit.
Then Herman was done and he left the room.
I saw the problem immediately. It's that Fight / Flight / Freeze response. I guess you could say that TT's is heightened. When he's triggered, he responds in a bigger way than most kids. When Herman hit TT in the head, it triggered the "Fight" response. TT didn't have enough time to calm from that response fully when Herman decided he was done playing. TT had been triggered and it was almost like he needed to fight. TT wasn't angry at Herman. Herman had apologized and he was OK with that. But the switch had been flipped and TT almost just HAD to fight.

That's why he came downstairs angry...not even really knowing why...and started to stick poke.

It's so important to understand the Fight / Flight / Freeze response. I won't allow it to be an "excuse" for my kids' behavior. But it very much IS the reason behind a lot of it. And it's up to me to recognize it and provide external ways for my kid to regulate again.

I'm not convinced our way is perfect. But it does work for TT most every single time.

This article is a wonderful explanation of being caught in Fight / Flight / Freeze. And since this post is long enough, I'll just link to the article instead of highlighting any other points. Knowing this about my kids makes a lot of their behavior make a lot more sense. I help my children understand how they are responding too. TT is a fighter. Herman often goes into Flight mode. And Bart...he's a little harder to figure out. He almost does this perfect combination of simultaneous Fight and Freeze. He's fighting, but he's completely stuck and keeps repeating the same sentence over and over and over. In Herman's case though, now that he understands how his tendency is to flee the scene, hasn't run away in a long, long time. (And yes, Herman has run before. Even overnight once. Goodness that was a night from Hell!)

After TT processed the event and I explained to him why he was feeling what he did, he fully calmed down. He could make eye contact again. He could talk. And he wanted the healthy sensory input of a hug. To further help him reset, we left the house together. I recognized that he was probably hungry so I went through a drive-through and got him a crappy-meal. Then we went to the furniture store and I finally committed on the bunk beds we're buying for TT and Bart's newly combined bedroom. TT handled everything perfectly and when we got back home he was respectful and waited while I talked on the phone to My Genius Sister for permission from me before going out to play with his friends.

I don't think the underlying dysregulation has disappeared yet. Like I said, it's been hanging around for a couple months now. But if I stay in tune to triggers and responses, we'll continue to weather this cycle just fine I'm sure.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Health Department Inspection

Rainbow asked me yesterday if we had updated our Home Health Inspection yet. I had completely spaced off taking care of that so I called the County right away. I left a message on the voice mail of our inspector. I was waiting for him to call me back.

However, at about 9:45 this morning, my doorbell rang. The inspector had decided to just show up. I was surprised, but not worried. I've got nothing to hide. (Though I did have to tell him that I knew I wasn't in compliance with one of the inspection items as I was going to take care of it before he showed up and he surprised me.)

I mentioned this inspection on my Facebook page this morning and it's generated a little bit of conversation. It seems that this particular inspection varies greatly depending on where you live. This blog post is simply to clarify what the inspection means in my part of Texas.

As far as inspections go we have several we have to go through to obtain, and maintain, our foster home license. They include: a health department inspection, a fire inspection and an inspection done by our licensing agency. Today, the health department showed up. Their inspection is probably the most simple of all. They looked at the following items.
  1. Is the outdoor play area free of hazards to children?
  2. Is the kitchen kept clean?
  3. Is perishable food refrigerated or safely stored in other ways?
  4. Are animals which can get rabies vaccinated against rabies every year?
  5. Are plumbing facilities in good working condition?
  6. Is there an adequate sewerage system? (septic tank or municipal system)
  7. Is your drinking water supply from a public system or from a private well approved by the local health department?
  8. Are cleaning supplies, bug sprays, medicines and poisons stores do children cannot get to them?
  9. Is garbage kept in metal or plastic containers with tight fitting lids?
  10. Is garbage removed at least once each week?
  11. Do glass doors have markings at child's eye-level to prevent accidents?
  12. Are insects (flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches, ants), mice and rats under control?
Other than the markings on the glass door, we were good. And the inspector trusted that I will put up window clings immediately so he marked our inspection as being in full compliance.

Our fire inspection is still good as it only has to be done every two years or so I believe and my agency still has our old one on file. And Rainbow will be filling out mountains of paperwork for all of her inspection items as her list is by far and away the longest. Our agency is the one that makes sure all of our medications are double locked, that guns are in a locked safe with ammunition locked in a separate location, that we have an official first aid kit, that we have mattress covers on all the beds, etc. etc. They make sure we meet or exceed every single minimum standard that the State has in place for foster homes (and that list in Texas is extensive!).

We're very close to having our foster care license. Rainbow is coming to our home tomorrow to fill out ALL her paperwork and go over the official trainings that we technically have to take again. (I'm pretty sure she's just going to have us sign for the trainings though as they really are just a formality.) Our agency is anxious to get us ready for placements. It seems there's a baby girl that might need to be moved within the next few days and they want us open and ready to take her.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Another trip to the psychiatrist

If I'm being totally honest, my level of normal and what most of the country's version of normal are not the same thing. And lately...things haven't exactly been normal in my house.

Behaviors have been seriously amped up. TT has been struggling with impulsive behaviors, destructive behaviors, stealing (mainly from his brothers), and overall self-sabotage. He and Bart have been fighting almost constantly. It's been a challenge. Line of sight parenting has been very necessary for almost a month. That gets exhausting for all involved.

Bart too has been all over the place. He can't sit still. He's so loud. And he's fighting with TT something horrible.

We're trying to help TT by putting him on an anxiety med. And it's to a place where I feel that Bart needs to be on an Rx for his ADHD. I can only help him manage things so well without this assistance. He got the "official" ADHD diagnosis over a year ago and went on Focalin. However, that turned him into a raging maniac and I stopped the medication. I wasn't thrilled with the psychiatrist so I just stopped the medication. We've been using GABA and a B-vitamin marketed for stress to help him focus a little bit. But it's just not enough anymore. (I also diffuse oils and work in lots and lots of active time into our school day. But again, it's just not enough.)

So I called the new psychiatrist today. Bart had an appointment scheduled for May of this year - the soonest they could get him in. But the doctor has a policy where you can call on Mondays and Tuesdays to see if there are any cancellations. She only sees new patients on Tuesdays. I called four times yesterday but there were no cancellations. When I called at 10:00 this morning they asked me how soon we could come in. We left for the doctor's office immediately. Thankfully the doctor agreed to see TT as well so we could discuss how the Lexapro he's been on might be affecting him.

The appointment went well. The doctor is putting Bart on Vyvanse. She's using this one because it's what Herman is on already and he has had no adverse side effects. Thankfully, ADHD meds typically kick in pretty quick. We should know if this works within a week or so.

The psychiatrist indicated that TT's cluster of negative events has most likely not been caused by the Lexapro. She let me explain, in detail, several of the things that have happened but she didn't overreact. My gut tells me that the spiral downward either has to do with the holiday season in general or the fact that he's definitely in the throws of puberty. (We all know that puberty messes with the best of kid's brains.) However, because TT reports that the Lexapro hasn't changed the way he feels inside at all, the doctor is switching him to a new medication.

Again, we'll have to wait at least two weeks to see if the new med has any effect. The new medication is a relatively untested one according to the pharmacist. The doctor reported that it was developed for adults but was largely ineffective. She did say that several children in her care have had success with it though. The pharmacist said that some people call it little more than a sugar pill because no one can scientifically explain why it does what it does (or doesn't do). TT starts on the Buspirone tonight.

If I'm being honest, I have to say that I feel like a failure because all the children in my house are on prescription drugs due to mental health issues. I know it's not my fault. And I know I tried a lot of other things first. But I don't like giving up so much to the pharmaceutical industry every month.

On the flip side though, when Herman FINALLY went on Vyvanse for his ADHD last year his life literally turned around. He brought his grades up from failing to A's and B's. Life around the house got easier for him too because he wasn't fighting the inattentive problems and he could actually focus.

Both Bart and TT are expressing a desire to go back to brick and mortar school. I believe that they both need prescriptions that are working well in order for them to be successful in a traditional school environment. One of the biggest reasons we brought TT home to school was because of his almost crippling anxiety. And Bart used to get in trouble all the time when we went to brick and mortar school for kindergarten and 1st grade. In order for him to succeed in upper elementary, he'll have to be able to sit down and shut up for longer than 5 minutes at a time.

Here's to praying these meds work. Even if they stay at home for school, I could use a break from the rather high level of crazy we've been dancing in lately.