Friday, September 8, 2017

at the developmental pediatrician

We got up early this morning. I fully packed everything last night so that Whiz wouldn't see me packing any bags this morning. I didn't put my shoes on either. He was quite aware life wasn't "normal". He wanted to freak out a little. But I made his favorite breakfast (fried eggs) and he ate it without issue.

Rex wasn't as cooperative with his breakfast. So, I ate his scrambled egg for him and he decided Greek yogurt would be OK. (Some days, Rex just doesn't want to have to chew food.)

We were on the road to the hospital by about 6:15am. Our first appointment was at 9:20am.

The ride to the hospital was uneventful. There was a little crying. But not more than I expected. I ignored it and turned the radio up loud. They stopped crying. I know for sure that Whiz even slept a little.

The appointment started on time. Two nice nurses walked us back to an exam room and took vitals on both the boys. They each allowed their blood pressure to be taken. I felt so good about things. I was ready for some answers.

I'm not sure exactly what I expected to happen with the doctor. I had hoped for a little shred of validation. I wanted the doctor to at least say that the things I'm seeing "could" be because of FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder). I knew that, most likely, the boys would not have all of the required facial dysmorphia. But the facial features in kids diagnosed with FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome) are only apparent in less than 25% of all children with some form of FASD. The boys have other markers. Significant markers.

Instead, the doctor, Ms. Branson, walked in the room and introduced herself and the team. There was one other doctor and a resident. Ms. Branson made mention right away that this was a single visit and we wouldn't have to come back. Then she turned to look at the boys in their double stroller. She exclaimed, "They don't have FAS."

From there...I didn't quite know what to do. She hadn't even started the examination and she had already made up her mind based on facial features alone. I was disappointed but I tried to not show it. Ms. Branson backtracked a little and said something along the lines of examining them anyway.

sigh

We were in a small conference room. The doctor brought in about 5 small red cube blocks, a fine motor toy with dowels and rings that fit on them, a three piece puzzle, and maybe one or two other things I didn't notice.

Dr. Branson didn't even take the boys out of the stroller for her entire diagnostic evaluation. 

The other two members of the team asked me very generic questions about the boys behavior and development. When I felt like the answer I needed to give was too complex for the simpleness of the question, they didn't ask for more details. They didn't want me to elaborate on much. They asked me very few follow up questions. It felt so superficial. 

Now, they had gone through ALL the documents I sent ahead of time. So these people had read through the ECI evaluations and had looked over the medical records I sent. So that was good. But they didn't seem like they wanted to know much more.

Everything was done in less than 45 minutes for both boys. The team left the room to discuss the "findings".

-- commence giant meltdown from both babies -- 

I fed them a snack while we waited. I got out other toys. I tried so hard. But by the time the doctor came back to tell me the "results"...Whiz was completely freaking out. If he hadn't been strapped in the stroller, he would have been throwing himself all over the place and probably banging his head on the floor. It was bad.

Nothing I did could redirect. So the doctor quickly talked over them.

She stood firm in her diagnosis that neither boy has FASD. 

Whiz has the primary diagnosis of "developmental language disorder". Under that he also got diagnoses for picky eater and temper tantrums.

Rex got the primary diagnosis of "global developmental delay". Under that it is also listed that he had exposure to alcohol in utero, prematurity (born at 35 weeks), family disruption due to child in foster care, and feeding difficulty.

I find it odd that Rex has a Dx about foster care and Whiz doesn't. Doctors make no sense to me sometimes.

Both boys are to continue ECI services including speech and occupational therapies. (I called our coordinator on the way home. She is going to schedule an occupational therapist to come and evaluate each boy so we can add weekly OT.) I am to consider adding behavioral therapy through ECI for Whiz to address his tantrums. I can consider feeding therapy for Rex.

Dr. Branson did say that given the reported history of alcohol exposure for Rex, she can't rule out alcohol related neurodevelopmental effects. Ultimately, she thinks Rex will need a comprehensive psychoeducational evaluation to assess cognition when he's a little bit older. She said more than once that she is more concerned about Rex than Whiz. She mentioned "intellectual disability" more than once.

-----

Ultimately, everything that happened...or didn't happen...today doesn't change anything. These boys didn't need any new official diagnoses in order to keep receiving services. My goal of getting the FASD diagnosis today was more for long term help.

If Auntie Carla needs a diagnosis for either boy as they get closer to school age, she can have them evaluated again. Nothing this doctor writes can prevent them from being diagnosed with FASD when they get older.

I'm going to TRY and see if I can locate the CPS worker that handled Mom's very first CPS case with her three oldest children (Rex and Whiz's half siblings). Their case was open when Mom was pregnant with Whiz. There is at least one person, if not more, in CPS that should be able to confirm that Mom was drinking when she was pregnant with Whiz. There is confirmation that Mom was a heavy drinker during her pregnancy with Rex. So that's already on file. And really, Auntie Carla could just tell the next doctor that she believes Mom drank while pregnant with Whiz. We have NO reason to believe that she didn't.

-----

Auntie Carla and I have been texting and talking a lot lately. I have such a peace about these boys going to live with her. She really is ready. She's appropriately optimistic about it all - yet she's completely grounded in her understanding of how big of an undertaking this is going to be. We've discussed the fact that lots of kids with FASD are unable to live fully independently. She is going into this with her eyes open. When I called her today and told her the official Dx of FASD wasn't given...she understood. She knows that they are still significantly behind with their language development. She knows that a diagnosis of global developmental delay isn't a minor thing.

-----

I have to type up an overview for CPS. The doctor/nurse somehow managed to combine Whiz's records with Rex's on the printed overview they gave me before I left today. So what I have in my hands right now is perfectly worthless. (Even though I know what info applies to each kid - it would completely confuse CPS.) The doctor's office is typing up new forms to mail to me. Complete information, with more details, is going to be sent directly to our regular pediatrician. I'll get copies of that, eventually, as well.

-----

I'll end this with pics of Whiz and Rex. Supposedly Rex has one of the facial markers because he has a shallow philtrim (area below the nose / above the lip). But, based on a 4-diagnostic ranking...a score of only 1, for the shallow philtrim, means that the level of expression of FAS facial features is none. 

I can't show you their eyes. The doctor says that Rex has the epicanthal folds. Apparently that doesn't mean anything. And if I understood Ms. Branson correctly, Rex is one percentage point away from having microcephaly. If his head circumference were just a wee bit smaller, that would be a marker as well. Both boys have heart murmurs...but she didn't relate that to FASD at all. 

WHIZ

REX
At least the doctor didn't negate any of my concerns. Everything was addressed and noted in their files. Both boys have significant developmental delay. They just don't have the Dx of FASD...yet. And I guess that's OK. It just felt like today was a colossal waste of time. She didn't diagnose anything that hadn't already been diagnosed. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

court recap

I'm going to put my usual disclaimer on relaying court information the way I do online. I give the details of court...because court is open where I'm at. That means that you could have come with me today and heard everything I heard. It's a little sad that it's not more private. But it is what it is.

I used to arrive to court as much as an hour early. I was always directed to do this by the social worker. Then again, this social worker that made me do this the most was Minnie. And Minnie is a B!T** for sure.

Interestingly enough, Minnie was at court today and walked out of the courtroom as I sat down in the waiting area. I still can't stand her...even this many years later.

I showed up at court today at 11:00am. I wasn't early at all. And it was fine. Our case wasn't called until a little after 12:00pm anyway. I had spoken with Lawyer Karen yesterday so no one really needed to speak to me at all today. I was there with the kids more out of ceremony than anything, I guess. The lawyers seem to like to be able to tell the judge that the kids are present.

Mom didn't show up. Dad was there, though. He reported that Mom had an interview. This was not said in the courtroom though. CPS reported that Mom wasn't there. And that is all that was said about it. (Other than a very obvious eye roll from the judge.)

All of the details of the case were brought up again. It is VERY apparent that the judge has a bias in this case. In fact, in all the years I've watched him try cases (and not just ones I'm a part of), I've never seen him respond the way he does about Whiz and Rex's mom. Granted, this is Mom's third open case. And the judge is never mean. He just doesn't expect a lot of explanation. When CPS states something, he doesn't make them elaborate at all. He simply responds that he's familiar with Mom and what has happened in the past.

This makes CPS's job easier. And I suppose it's not unfair to Mom. CPS isn't lying. It's just all a little odd to me. It does make me a little uncomfortable. But, like I said, it's not that the judge cuts CPS off and makes assumptions. He just quickly takes them at their word.

I know that the CPS worker, Vicki, was nervous today. She asked me some questions yesterday. And when I got to court today she straight up told me she was nervous. She had at least 2-3 cases being heard today though. Her day is definitely stressful!

The details of the case were presented. Mom is non-compliant with her services. Dad is compliant with his...but alcohol continues to be an issue. Dad admits to drinking. His counselor recommended in-patient rehab. But in-patient isn't possible as Dad is the sole provider for the family. They did mention that the last time CPS requested a drug and alcohol test from Mom and Dad that neither complied. The judge pointed out that refusing to be tested counts as non-compliance. And that was that.

Some of Mom's more recent indiscretions were brought up. I now know exactly why she was arrested about a month ago. And CPS did a decent enough job explaining that they still have concerns of domestic violence from Dad toward Mom. They mentioned the bruises on Mom's face and the thumbprint on her neck at one of the recent visits. Dad's lawyer and Dad didn't respond to this at all. And the judge believed CPS without any further discussion.

The concerns of how long ICPC will take were brought up again. Apparently it is a big deal for California to be the receiving state. The judge also doesn't seem to like the idea that the relatives live on a military base. He's concerned that Uncle Nick might get transferred before this case ends. That whole thing bugs me. But CPS was firm that the ICPC process is underway, that it's going well, and that California has no concerns with the family and that's how they hope to proceed.

When all was said and done today, nothing happened. A new pretrial date was set for November. A TPR hearing is now scheduled for December. CPS seems to think that ICPC will be finished by the end of September - but no one said anything about when the kids will move. The judge, more or less, just said something about hoping the ICPC is through by the next hearing. I have no idea if anyone is thinking the kids will move in November...or if everyone is going to wait until after TPR.

I wish I could tell Auntie Carla that progress was made toward moving the kids. But that's not at all what happened. In fact, they mentioned that the paternal grandma said she would take the kids and the judge told CPS to start on that process. AC and her mother are VERY close. I know that Grandma isn't in a position to take the kids AT ALL. She was recently diagnosed with a returning cancer. (This wasn't brought up in court so I don't know if CPS has this information or not. I know because AC told me about it.) The judge told CPS to "get on this". Grandma lives in Arizona. The judge said that maybe ICPC to Arizona would go faster than to California.

We will keep taking care of the babies. I'll know more in November. Foster care sucks.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Progression, Nonsense, and Confusion

One of the things in online foster care support groups that drives me bonkers is when someone says something like this,
"Has anyone ever had a case where XYZ was the problem? What do you think will happen in my case?"
Every single foster care case is different.

It doesn't matter if you're dealing with a case that started because of domestic violence. The service plan for the parents probably varies. The CPS worker and supervisor are different. The lawyers are different. And the judge is different.

Even if most of the variables are similar...there are still enough differences that the results of one case can't honestly be used to predict what will happen in a different case.

That said, here's a poorly written bullet point list of the progression of this case filled with the nonsense that is foster care ending with some confusion everyone has over the whole ICPC process.

-----

Sometime in the past:
Mom is involved in a CPS case with her oldest three children. I don't know the circumstances for the removal. I don't have any information other than the fact there was a case. I don't know where the children are now. I just know that Mom doesn't have custody. (I don't know if rights were terminated or if someone was just given PMC.)

July 2, 2015:
Whiz was born. Either at birth - or shortly thereafter - Whiz was placed into formal foster care. I don't know the exact reason as to why he was removed. I don't know if it's because of the open case Mom was in the middle of or if something happened in his home and he was removed due to an incident. (I lean toward the fact that he was removed at birth because of whatever was going on in the first open case due to the fact that neither Mom nor Dad have any legal issues from that time.) Whiz lived with his first foster family for over a year. During this time, Paternal Grandma was in contact with the first foster family some. She saw pictures and things like that. I know that CPS was made aware of Auntie Carla and Uncle Nick (AC and UN). But nothing was started to move Whiz to his aunt and uncle with the case because the goal remained "reunification" the entire case.

May 27, 2016:
Rex was born. Rex went home with Mom and Dad. Whiz remained in foster care.

November 2016:
Whiz was reunified with his parents. The case was closed.

January 7, 2017:
The police were called due to a domestic disturbance. Dad was arrested. Whiz and Rex were placed with a local relative who insisted that they were not going to get involved. They stayed with this relative one night, I believe. From there, Whiz and Rex were moved to a shelter.

January 18, 2017:
The adversary hearing was held. The judge wanted the children to remain in foster care. Whiz and Rex were moved to our home. While standing outside the courtroom, I overheard conversation about whether or not there was any family that would be able to take these boys. Dad mentioned something about maybe his sister would. The lawyer for the babies (Lawyer Karen) somewhat rolled her eyes when she heard the sister was in California. I swear she muttered something along the lines of, "That will never work."

From here CPS did start calling Auntie Carla in California. She established that AC would take the boys. I'm not sure what else she "did". But it became clear to me that CPS wanted to get these boys to their aunt and uncle.

March 10, 2017:
Court was held again. I think that this is where the judge gave permission for Texas to actually pursue ICPC.

At some point in time the goal in this case became "relative adoption". I do not know exactly when this happened. It might have been in March. I do know that the judge down here doesn't typically move kids to relatives that live far away when the goal is still reunification. (At least he hasn't in any of the cases I've been a part of.) When the goal is RU, the kids need to be close to their parents so that visits can continue. I totally agree with this!! Parents need to see their kids and kids need to see their parents. It's often ugly. It's a total pain in the ass. But it's a very, very necessary part of foster care. Everything needs to be in place to help the parents succeed! And seeing their kids regularly is part of that!

I don't know exactly how ICPC works. Neither does our CPS case worker (Vicki). This is her first ever ICPC case. This is my first ever ICPC case. Now...my level of experience shouldn't matter at all. But I will tell you that it's a little unnerving to listen to the lack of understanding coming from Vicki.

Sometime in late July or early August:
AC was contacted by someone in California to get things started.

Maybe it's because it's like the game telephone. This someone explains things to AC and then AC tried to explain them to me. But because AC doesn't really understand, some of the key details are left out???????

AC told me she was going to have to become a foster parent. And maybe that's what's going on. Maybe it's not. Maybe this is an adoption home study. I don't know. AC doesn't know. And Vicki doesn't know.

Are you unnerved yet?

August 10, 2017:
AC and UN had their first interview for the home study. It went well.

August 12 and 19, 2017:
AC and UN took two classes each day to satisfy the training portion of their home study.

They've also now been given a packet of paperwork to fill out. Fingerprints need to be done. They have to submit financial records. All the good home study stuff.

August 21, 2017:
I got a call from Lawyer Karen. It's the obligatory contact that she does before a court hearing. (We have court tomorrow.) She said she likes to discuss more sensitive topics over the phone rather than out in public at the courthouse where there is NO privacy. Yay her. I guess. I'm sort of miffed that she claims she's "been involved with the kids" yet she's never really met them and her involvement is no more than a quick phone call to me the day before court.

But I digress.

Lawyer Karen said she hasn't seen any ICPC paperwork cross her desk. I have no idea if this is a bad thing or not. I explained to her that AC and UN have started their home study and they've taken their classes. Lawyer Karen tells me that means very little. As my heart starts to flutter and my jaw drops she said that California still doesn't have to "accept the case".

What??!!

Lawyer Karen then goes on, with more detail than she probably should have given, to describe multiple cases she's a part of right now where the receiving state refused ICPC - even after the process had started.

All I can do at this point in time is tell her that the boys are fine with me. They can stay as long as they need to. I asked what happens when the receiving state refuses ICPC. I asked if Texas would change the goal in the case.

Her answer was about as clear as mud. She said, "No," the goal would remain the same. Then I somewhat understood her to say that Texas would have to wait and keep pressuring California to "take the case". She made it sound like the kids could be hung up in foster care for a long, long time.

I hung up, took a deep breath, and called AC. I explained to AC everything that Lawyer Karen had explained to me. I told AC I'd let her know what happens in court tomorrow. AC seemed quite shook. We said goodbye.

Fast forward about an hour or so and Vicki, from CPS, called me. She was almost in a panic. She said that her contact in California hadn't heard anything from AC and UN, yet. She said that a letter had been mailed out on June (or maybe July) 14. A follow up letter was sent on July 24. If AC and UN didn't respond within a month, California would throw the ICPC case out completely.

Vicki doesn't talk to AC very often. But she knew from me that AC and UN had started the home study process. So everything this person in California said to Vicki made no sense whatsoever. Vicki said she had tried to call AC and she had sent her a text. Vicki needed to make contact with AC as soon as possible because AC needed to call Vicki's contact in California.

Now I'm freaking out!! If you're still following all this nonsense and confusion, it sounds like California started the home study but someone else in California doesn't know this and the whole thing could get tossed on a technicality.

I sent a text to AC telling her to call Vicki's contact.

AC is allowed to have a life. She didn't see the messages from Vicki and me immediately. But when she did, she started making calls. She put the social worker she's been working with in California in touch with Vicki. AC has been assured by her social worker that California is most definitely going to "take the case". Supposedly I get to relax now.

-----

But I still have to factor in the rest of the information that Lawyer Karen shared with me today.

1. The lawyer for CPS has recently been assigned. So even if this case does go to TPR, there isn't anyone *right now* that could try the case. So our TPR date of September 5 is very unlikely to happen.

2. Lawyer Karen is serving as both AAL (attorney ad litem) and GAL (guardian ad litem). If this case goes to trial, something about that has to change. She can't question and cross-examine herself on the stand. So that TPR date of September 5 really makes no sense right now.

-----

At 11:00am tomorrow, right when the babies are used to getting fussy because they're hungry for lunch, I will be sitting with them out in the 100° heat waiting for their hearing. If we're lucky, there will be room enough in the tiny waiting room outside the courtroom that has air conditioning. If the babies are crying at all though, we'll have to wait under the shade in the outdoor waiting area.

The whole court thing will suck. Hopefully the babies will be quiet enough (ha ha) that I get to hear what is said in the courtroom. I promised Auntie Carla that I would call her and tell her what happens.

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If you're still reading...you're a little bit crazy. LOL And I'll update you tomorrow with what happens at court.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

scurry scurry

The general public - generally - doesn't "get" what it means to parent kids that have a past filled with trauma. And kids IN foster care...they're still in the thick of trauma IMO.

Take, for example, the visit yesterday with our CPS caseworker.

She came right as the boys were waking up from their naps. The timing was fine. I was able to put the boys in their high chairs for a snack during most of the visit. Typically that helps Whiz feel a little less nervous.

It didn't work though. I could tell, as the visit went on, how dysregulated Whiz was getting.

Only my redirection had to have looked weird to the caseworker. All he was doing was copying his brother by waving his hands in the air and banging his sippy cup. He was also squealing nonsense noises. All of those behaviors are incredibly normal for a two-year-old.

But they aren't Whiz's normal.

So I tried to redirect. I touched his hands and told him he was OK. I did this several times.

The caseworker looked at me with a puzzled look but didn't say anything.

I tried to explain to her that he was nervous. I'm positive she didn't see it.

Then Whiz finished his snack. And Rex finished his. And I was stuck. She needed to leave. Having the boys running around the house while we talked was a recipe for disaster. I knew this!! But I also knew that neither boy would cooperate and play in baby jail. I knew neither boy would engage with any of the toys out of baby jail. All I could do was watch everything unfold.

Sure enough, Whiz got himself so upset that when told he couldn't have both his ride-on motorcycle toy AND the popping ball push toy that Rex had - he threw a huge temper tantrum.

Thing is...Whiz wouldn't have been trying to do half the stuff I was redirecting if the caseworker hadn't been there.

I know that my job as a parent is to be the external regulation for my little kids. They aren't capable of self-soothing. It's my job to notice when they're struggling and to meet the needs so they can stay regulated.

One of the "tricks" I have is to redirect with short phrases specific to the exact behavior that needs to change. I also work hard to come up with a phrase that isn't something the general public might use. I want my redirection to be taken seriously. Therefore, I almost never say anything like "calm down".

One of the things Whiz does when he's nervous is to run around aimlessly. I can tell he's nervous. My kids can tell he's nervous. But to the general public, he looks like a hyper two-year old.

I don't want to tell him to "calm down". It is entirely too generic of a phrase and means nothing to a two-year old. It's also something that people might tell him when we're out and about and I want to redirect a very specific behavior. I don't want to tell him to "stop running" because some running is absolutely, perfectly OK to do. I needed a phrase to redirect him from the nervous running.

After much thought, I came up with the phrase "scurry scurry". It's specific to the behavior I'm trying to redirect. It's nothing that a stranger might ever tell him that would make it confusing. And Whiz has learned that when he's told "no scurry scurry" he needs to get engaged. I usually tell him "no scurry scurry" and he stops running right away. Then I tell him, "Find something to do." He has learned that this means play with toys. If he still wanders aimlessly, I put him in baby jail. Though, I never call it "baby jail" to the children - I reserve that phrase for adults. For Whiz, I tell him he's going to have to "play with toys". And when Whiz is really dysregulated, he often calms when put in baby jail with toys (after a small tantrum letting me know that's not where he wants to be, of course).

Somehow I'm hoping to help teach Auntie Carla how to recognize the difference between when Whiz is playing and having fun (running and making nonsense noises) and when Whiz is getting dysregulated and a tantrum is bubbling underneath. I know she'll have to figure out most of it on her own. But I'm going to try.

And in the realm of CPS *might* do something right....
I told our CPS caseworker that I'm willing to travel to do the transfer from Texas to California when the time comes. All I need is for the State to purchase my plane ticket. After all, they're going to have to pay two people to travel with these boys anyway. If they send me as one of them, I won't cost the State any wages. I traveled with Pumpkin when she went from our part of the state to El Paso. So it's been done before. Our caseworker seemed very pleased with the idea.

Monday, August 14, 2017

a monthly visit with CPS

CPS has to come to my home monthly to see the children and, basically, interview me. The caseworker over this case never sets things up in advance. I just get a call and if I'm available, she's at my doorstep 10 minutes later.

She came this afternoon.

Things I know to be true:
  1. The children are full siblings. (The DNA test came back.)
  2. The case is moving forward toward TPR with a goal of relative adoption.
  3. Court is next week. (It's the pre-trial. As of right now, the trial is set for September 5.)
  4. This is the first TPR hearing our caseworker has ever done.
  5. That makes me really, really nervous.
  6. Nothing that's been happening or not happening with visits is going to matter.
  7. In fact, very little of the incriminating evidence of domestic violence, substance abuse, and overall instability is going to be able to be submitted to the courts. Horrific text messages and photos aren't credible because the lawyer for the parents will simply say that no one knows when the photos and videos were taken. And no one is going to do anything about verifying the accuracy of any photos or videos. So they won't be used as evidence.
  8. It's all up to the judge and CPS has no idea what will really happen.
Auntie Carla and her husband have started the process of getting everything they need for their home study. They've been interviewed. They've had their fingerprints taken. They've taken one class. There's still more paperwork to do. They have at least one more class. But things have started.

Most likely CPS in Texas won't move the children to California until termination happens. So if this case is extended, the kids will stay with me.

NO ONE knows how long it will take for Texas and California to work together to get the home study done and approved. It could still take months.

But the ball is still rolling forward. No one from CPS is recommending that these children go home. And this is good...because they would be going home to a very volatile environment riddled with domestic violence and substance abuse. I'm not in love with the lawyer for Mom, though. I've met this lawyer (she was Daisy's lawyer and was instrumental in Daisy being reunified with her mother the first time). This lawyer will work hard to not allow termination of parental rights. She does her job well when it comes to getting kids back home based on technicalities and minor oversights on the part of CPS.

There wasn't much for CPS to report to me overall. And I just gave her the basic details she asked for to fulfill the standard form she has to fill out at every home visit.
Whiz ended things by throwing a nice sized tantrum as the caseworker was leaving. I just shook my head and explained that it's normal and it happens a lot. I tried to explain how her presence escalated his emotions. He was super nervous when she came and it just got worse the longer she stayed. I don't want to make the caseworker feel bad. But workers need to understand how their very presence affects the kids they're advocating for.

Foster care sucks.

Children need as many reminders as you give them

I don't have a library full of books from Love and Logic, but I do try to put a lot of their parenting strategies into play in my home. One of the things I learned from L&L is:
Children need as many reminders as you give them.
That means that TT and Bart (and even Herman) know that if I usually nag them about doing a chore, they don't "have" to do said chore until I've nagged "x-many" times. If I do a good job of telling once and then following through with a consequence, they need fewer reminders. I don't always have to have a consequence either! Sometimes all I have to do is physically get up and look them in the eye and tell them to do whatever it is that needs to be done.

I call that "physical parenting". I physically have to move my butt to where my kids are. I can't just holler up the stairs and tell them to get ready for bed (for example).

Oh how I wish I could just holler up the stairs.

But it almost never works.

I basically have a choice. I can keep hollering and keep getting ignored until I lose my shit and MAYBE my kids listen. Or I can physically move my body, make sure I have eye contact, and then be very concise and direct with my expectations. My kids are 12, 13, and 20. And they all still need directions like this at home. If I holler and holler, I lose every time.

I need to do the same thing with chores. Tell once. Then follow through with whatever is supposed to happen if said chore doesn't get done.

I struggle with this because my kids don't have much in the way of "currency" that means anything to them. They aren't motivated by money. There isn't much I can take away from them other than media time. But this problem is on me...not them. I either need to be OK with them not getting the chore done or I need to have a plan in place of how I'm going to handle it when the chore doesn't get done.

The whole reminder thing gets used even with Whiz and Rex.

Whiz and Rex like to whine and/or cry at transitions. (Especially Whiz!!) It's not a full blown tantrum. But damn...by the end of the day....I'm usually pretty tired of being fussed at during every transition.

And there's only so much I can do about this. I can do my absolute best to prepare them for transitions. They only understand so much. But I try. I try to remember to tell Whiz that it's almost time for whatever it is we're going to be doing next. Sometimes that helps.

But sometimes Whiz just cries. It's normal 2-year old stuff...sort of. (The intensity, frequency, and/or duration is often more than a "normal 2-year old reaction".)

When Whiz is crying, and I simply can't change his world to make it better, he is given a choice.
Do you want to cry or play?
And then I follow through.

It might seem harsh to people outside our home. But I'm not doing this to be mean. If he's hurt, I comfort. If he's tired, I comfort. If it's something that is out of his control, I comfort.

But sometimes crying is how Whiz chooses to communicate. And I have to maintain my own sanity as well.

A typical scenario would be something like this:

The speech therapist comes over. Whiz goes first. He has 45 minutes of one-on-one time with his therapist. He's playing with her toys. He's interacting. He's the center of her attention.

When therapy is done, I move Whiz to his high chair for a snack so Rex can start his 45 minute session without Whiz interrupting. A snack is appealing to Whiz so this transition usually goes smoothly.

Whiz finishes his snack in about 10 minutes. That means there are still 35 minutes where Rex needs to be allowed to play in the living room on the floor with his therapist alone. That's how this works. They aren't doing joint therapy. Whiz would dominate entirely too much.

So Whiz has a choice. He can go in the baby jail and play with toys or he can cry. Now, it's up to me to make sure the play area is appealing. I have it clean. I have new toys in it compared to the last time Whiz played in the area. There is variety. And I don't leave him alone there. I stay close by.

Most of the time Whiz will throw a tantrum.

I totally understand where he's coming from. He wants to play with the therapist. He wants to get that one-one-one attention. He doesn't want Rex to get it.

But Whiz isn't going to get what he wants. It just isn't going to happen. So I give Whiz the choice, "Do you want to cry or play?"

Whiz and I have been going through similar scenarios like this since he came. He knows what's going to happen. I don't ask him the question over and over. (I don't give him tons of reminders to stop crying.) If Whiz answers, "play," he gets to stay in the baby jail with his toys. If Whiz keeps crying, Whiz gets moved somewhere less desirable until he stops crying.

I call this taking a break.

I really don't like the words "time out". They are overused and over threatened. And by calling something "taking a break", it can look different every single time. It can be what Whiz needs in the moment. It's an opportunity for Whiz to simply take a break from whatever is upsetting him.

Sometimes Whiz needs to take a break and be held by me. Sometime he can take a break and sit on a chair next to me. I'm not opposed to moving him to the corner of a room that I'm in if he's crying. (I've done "nose in the corner" when a child - old enough to understand - is crying. And ONLY during the time they are crying. The minute they stop they get to leave the corner so they are always in control. And I never leave them alone.) And sometimes Whiz needs to go in the other room.

Right or wrong, Whiz will get put into Rex's bed if he's throwing a huge tantrum. I hate using a bed for this. But I justify it in my mind that it's not HIS bed. It's just a safe place for him to go.

When Whiz is overstimulated, he often needs the quiet of a room by himself.

The thing with all this is, though, I don't warn and "remind" over and over. I don't look at Whiz and say, "If you don't stop crying you're going to X-Y-Z." I simply ask once or twice, "Do you want to cry or play?" And then I follow through.

Children need as many reminders as you give them.

Now...to figure out how to keep track of all the little things I do to help Whiz and Rex stay regulated during the day. I want to teach their aunt, in California, these things. I want her to know how I can ward off a tantrum simply by asking Whiz if he wants to play or cry...that Whiz really understands this...and that Whiz will often calm down on his own and get engaged when he knows that he's not going to to be allowed to spiral out of control.

I'm going to try and blog about a few of these things. Get my thoughts on paper. Get feedback. And then compose something in writing specifically for Auntie Carla to keep.

Auntie Carla is so awesome! They started their kinship classes this past weekend. She's literally doing her homework - taking everything seriously - and asking me about things she's learned and how the babies relate. She and her husband are the total epitome of what kinship care should look like. I'm so thrilled to get to be a part of a healthy transition to a relative.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

TPR for Kori

Court was held this Monday for Daisy. The State was asking for a move from her current placement (to us) and for Kori to pay child support.



I had to send a text to Daisy's CPS worker asking what happened. At 11:54am I wrote, "Any word on the outcome of today's court yet?"

Daisy's worker responded, "She will be staying at her current placement and parents relinquished their rights."

That is ALL I will ever hear about Daisy again. It is over. There will be no more hearings. The case has been closed. (I have to assume that Daisy's current guardian will eventually adopt Daisy now that parental rights have been terminated.)

The photo above is a snippet from the public court documents that I can pull up online (because I know Mom's name). As you can tell, a "safety plan" was put into place for Daisy's current guardian. The State has reason to believe that this man has allowed contact between Daisy and her mom.

Mom's criminal trial continues to get "reset". She had court today. Nothing happened. (Again, I can access the public records online. The county this all took place in puts a lot of information up as it happens.)

I do not know Kori's official role in the death of her child, Dandelion. I will never know that.

I have to pray that I'm wrong about everything. I have to pray that the man now in charge of Daisy for the rest of her life truly loves her. I have to pray that he will keep her safe if Kori is unsafe and that he gives Daisy everything she needs to grow and heal from her own abuse.

I can't say that I desperately wanted Daisy to come to our house. 

I do want Daisy to be safe and loved and well cared for.

But there was also a certain relief when this didn't happen.

I feel a LOT of guilt over that relief.

I was scared to death to take on a severely disabled little girl who has gone through so much trauma. We would have done it because it was the right thing to do. We would have done whatever it took for Daisy. We had discussed this at length with all the kids. The nerves were there because none of us are stupid. Four year old little girls that have been bounced through many homes who are still recovering from nearly dying themselves aren't easy to take care of. But our entire family was committed to doing whatever we would be allowed to do for Daisy.

The State determined they don't need us.

The chapter with Daisy is officially over.

Foster care sucks.