Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A meeting at my house

After court on January 29, 2016, I was told that the goal in this case was switched from non-relative adoption back to relative conservatorship. Even though Russell's paternal grandparents failed their home study, they are being considered as a placement option for both of the babies. They were granted two visits with the children before we go to court again and they were told to start attending Russell's doctor appointments.

I met the grandparents for the first time on Monday, February 1st when they came to Russell's ENT appointment. They had their first supervised visit with the children that following Wednesday.

At neither time was it really appropriate for me to have lengthy conversations with the grandparents. At the ENT appointment they were basically meeting him for the first time. (I think they might have seen him one time when Russell was about one year old. But I'm not sure. They're claiming now they didn't know about Russell at all until very recently. And I get the impression they waited until the DNA test results were back before moving forward with wanting custody.)

And at the visit, they didn't really want to talk to me. They were pleasant!! Nice even. Don't get me wrong. They seem like very nice people! They just didn't have anything to say to me. Grandpa speaks limited English and he is the one that has spoken with me. Grandma speaks no English and she's always been busy taking care of the young children they bring with them. But when I asked Grandpa if he had any questions, he said no. He very confidently said he feels capable of taking care of Russell.

This is all good. Really. It could be. If the grandparents truly understand what it means to care for a child like Russell, this could all be OK.

My gut tells me that they don't "get it" though.

I'm not sure they understand that this is a lifetime commitment on a couple levels.
1. I don't think they realize what it means to really care for a child with Down syndrome.
2. I don't think they realize the State wants them to take permanent custody.

As the foster parent though, I play the smallest role when it comes to determining Russell's future. I am to care for him now. I am to trust the State when they choose a placement. And I'm to let go when the time comes.

I know my role.

However, I can still advocate.

It is important – very important – that I advocate from a place that still supports the State's goals. That means I focus on truth...not speculation. And I keep my emotions out of it.

Therefore, I can't tell the lawyer, "I think they're planning on just giving the kids back after CPS closes the case."

That's speculation. And it looks like I'm trying to get them to keep the kids with me.

It doesn't matter if I've read posts on Facebook that point to the idea that they just want to "help Mom out". What I read on Facebook is really irrelevant.

What I can do though is support the State's goals. And if the State wants to consider placing with these grandparents, I can offer to help with the transition.

I stewed on this for quite awhile. I wasn't sure who to talk to or what to say. But with Bopper out due to a surgery she just had, I decided I needed to communicate with Ms. Remus, the babies' lawyer. I sent her a text:
I'm concerned that Russell's grandparents don't really understand his special needs. Bopper is out this week so I can't ask her. But when I helped transition another foster child of mine (that I cared for for almost 2 years) to a kinship placement, the aunt and uncle met with me in my home where we discussed my little girl's severe needs for several hours.
If the State is going to move Russell, I'd like to help transition in a similar way.
It's big things they need to know – like the waiting list Russell is on for services when he's 18 as it is unlikely Russell will every live independently and the wait list is almost that long.
It's also little things like helping the understand Russell's feeding issues and how they relate to his speech therapy goals.
Who could help organize a meeting to go over these details?
Ms. Remus responded, "I will. It's a great idea. What's a good date and time for you?"

I replied, "I can make just about any time work. The only thing, we would need a translator."

It was here that Ms. Remus really impressed me. She told me that she's going to be at this meeting to serve as translator (and obviously to evaluate the grandparents).

That means I'm going to have to clean my house. (lol)

I'm ready for this meeting. I printed off forms from the American Academy of Pediatrics. I also printed off a couple charts that list out developmental milestones - comparing neurotypical kids to those with Down syndrome.
I printed only the small chart on this page.
I printed off pages 8-12 from this list.
And then I printed off the part of each of Russell's last therapy evaluations that lists HIS developmental ages.
Physical therapy:
-- Stationary = 18 months
-- Locomotion = 14 months
-- Object Manipulation = 18 months
Occupational therapy:
-- Grasping = 14 months
-- Visual-Motor Integration = 11 months
Speech therapy:
-- Receptive Language = 5 months
-- Expressive Language = 7 months
It is my goal to help them understand that Russell isn't just a cute baby to take care of. A lot of work has been done to help him get to where he is now. And without continued efforts, he will regress. And while that might not seem like a huge deal when he's 32" long and weighs only 25 pounds...after you've been changing diapers for 3 or 4 years it might be a bigger deal. I also have to explain that things will be very difficult for Russell with communication overall. Unfortunately, there were no Spanish-speaking homes when he needed a foster home. It was determined by everyone involved that it would be better for him to be in an English-speaking foster home closer to his family of origin versus an English-speaking shelter several hours away. (Russell has continued to be exposed to Spanish almost daily in the community and with his mother. But his therapies are in English and English is what we speak in our home.) Russell is going to regress with his language no matter what. And as you can tell, there isn't a lot of room for regression.

I'm trying to not overwhelm everyone with too much information. I'm going to have all of Russell's medical history and I'll go over what each of the specialists do and how often Russell has to see them. I'll then explain what is involved with Russell's weekly therapy sessions. I was very pleased to find out that the therapy company that currently serves Russell travels in a far enough territory that they should be able to continue to serve Russell if he moves to his grandparents' house. (This is very, very good! Russell will have some continuity with people in his life. And yes, his therapies will switch over to being done in Spanish.)

I'm hoping to have a few minutes with Ms. Remus alone. I do have a few questions for her. I want to show her some things I've seen on Facebook so she can hopefully steer the conversation appropriately. She needs to figure out for herself if the grandparents understand that this is a lifetime commitment to Russell on both levels. I also really want to know if I should have the kids packed and ready to go prior to court or not. I want to know what she's going to recommend.

I'm a little uneasy with this meeting taking place in my home. I trust the grandparents. But they will be able to tell Bio Mom where we live. And Bio Mom will be able to tell Star's dad. And I do NOT trust that man.

But on the flip side, my name is on a zillion forms. I have to sign in at every visit. Surely Mom knows my first and last name by now. And if you google my first and last name, you get all my info. So if Star's dad wants to find me...he'll find me.

I had a quick conversation with my forever kids. I reminded them to be mindful if there are strange vehicles in the neighborhood that are circling around. (Our neighborhood does not have any through streets so people in it should be here for a reason.) Ultimately though, I'm not really worried. I know how to dial 911 if necessary.

And meeting with the bio family like this is a VERY good thing!!! If the State decides to place Russell and Star with Russell's grandparents, it's much better for everyone involved for this meeting to take place. They will have a better understanding of their grandson and I will have done everything I can do to advocate for Russell and his well-being.

I appreciate everyone's prayers as this case appears to be coming to an end. As level-headed as I really do feel about this meeting in my home, I will be a nervous wreck. I know that over the next 24 hours, I'm going to spend entirely too much time running different conversations through my mind. I also have to finish cleaning the first floor of my home. My kitchen always seems to be a wreck and laundry is my nemesis.

I'll be ready though. And I'll feel better when it's all over with. Just knowing that Ms. Remus is going to spend time with her clients is a very good thing. I want the decision makers to have all the information possible before they decide things for these babies next week.

Monday, February 1, 2016

hellos and goodbyes

I know that I have to practice a lot of self-care during hellos and goodbyes. When a child enters my home, it is super crazy stressful. It is one thing to read about a story of abuse in the newspaper or to see a story on the local news. But it is totally different when that story becomes a full, living, breathing, wounded person that is now living in your home.

Simply absorbing the story is physically painful to me sometimes.

And then there are all the doctor appointments and social worker appointments that happen immediately after placement. Most of the time you have to retell the story of the abuse over and over to different professionals. It's exhausting.

(And can you imagine being the child?! They LIVED it. Imagine how they feel!)

So when kids come I prepare as best as I can. I have groceries purchased and meal plans made. This isn't always easy when it's an emergency placement. But I usually manage to get a lot done in the few hours between the phone call and the drop-off. That gives me time to just be still with the child. Give them space to adjust.

I think it takes a minimum of a month for a child to adjust to removal and placement. And that's just a bare minimum adjustment. I'm not saying behaviors go away and everyone is all hunky dory. I'm just saying that they have sort of an idea of the routines in my home and the kid feels a little less like a stranger to me and more like they belong. We all adjust to the new normal.

And then there is the other end of the spectrum...the letting go.

When Dude and Dolly were taken from me the letting go just about crippled me. I had never hurt so bad. They gave us less than five hours to say goodbye. I had to pack them up with enough things for a couple weeks and send them on their way. I wasn't ready. They weren't ready. It was as much of a surprise as their arrival was. It was hell.

When Daisy left it was better. The transition had been long enough. The State had told me what they were planning on doing. I had already packed her things and thought about what my life would look like with her gone. (Yes...I was looking forward to sleeping again.)

I wasn't thrilled with the idea of sending Daisy back home to her mom. But I was able to make the transition in my head and heart ahead of time. So it was easier.

I'm having to do the same thing with Russell and Star now. Anything could still happen in their case. But I have GOT to stay in the moment. It's the only way to make the transition smooth for me and for the babies.

It's little things.

Russell's ARD meeting is probably going to be held within the next couple months. If I knew he was staying with me long-term, I'd be all over the special education department to get details and to get it scheduled. And I'd be meeting with Russell's lawyer to see if it's even possible to home school him as I don't think Russell should start formal school this fall.

But if he's leaving me, it honestly doesn't make sense to push any of the school stuff. If they schedule his ARD...we'll have to do it. But if they don't...it will be up to his new care giver to take care of things. And since they don't live in the same district as me, it wouldn't be horrible for the first ARD to actually happen in the district Russell will attend.

There's a seminar coming in March being put on by Wright's Law - a special needs advocacy group. I was planning on attending. But if Russell is leaving, I don't need to. So I have to just leave the dates on my calendar and wait until after the next court hearing. No need in paying for a seminar like this if Russell is going to leave.

I need to start looking at all the toys and deciding what toys need to go with what child.

I can even start looking at how my house is currently laid out. What things will need to go back in storage? What things will I need to even possibly sell or give away?

I do these things to make it easier to say goodbye. If I can prepare just a little for the goodbye, it won't hurt as much.

I'm trying to force myself to eat. I'm trying to force myself to sleep. I really, honestly need to get OFF of Facebook. But that one is hard to do. I'm not connected to many local people. My friends are all online. But I'm going to try and wean myself off some of Facebook. I don't need to read the foster care news articles that are forever popping up in my feed. I don't need to learn more about transracial parenting right now. I need to just be a good mommy to the kids I've got in the moments I have them.

And I don't care if it's placebo effect or not...I'm taking some over the counter supplements. I don't usually struggle with anxiety. But the hellos and goodbyes (especially the goodbyes) are hard for me. I worry. I stress. I worry some more. So I'm taking some krill oil, GABA, and a Vitamin B supplement for stress.

The worrying doesn't do me any good. I can't control the reasons why Russell's grandparents are just now getting involved. I can't control what the State is going to decide about either child. So I need to stop thinking about it.

It doesn't mean I stop loving the kids or caring for them. But it does mean that I don't make up a month's worth of baby food for the freezer right now.

I survived the craziness of the ABR hearing test. (Even though Russell didn't fall asleep so now it's been rescheduled for the end of the month.) I met the grandparents. They seem very nice. I wish they would have stepped forward a year ago.

I will love these kids forever. I will be their mamma as long as the State lets me. And we'll all go from there.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

why I cry

I think I'm going to blog about all the emotions and what it's like to say goodbye. I'm going to put these posts on the actual blog so other foster parents can find these and read them at a later date.

So, with that, I think it's VERY important that everyone understand some key points.

I do not have some kind of savior complex. I don't foster so I can "save kids" from a life of poverty or convert them to Christianity.
I foster because it's the right thing to do.
I just happen to be a Christian. And I do tell the children in my home why I believe what I do.
But that's not my main focus.

I've always said I wanted to help families stay together. I never intended on fostering with the goal of permanently adding to our family. In fact, when we got the call about TT many years ago, they had to fix our paperwork and mark the "adoption" box on our home study after he was placed.

That said, I don't fault people for fostering and adopting. I just think it's really important for everyone to understand that CPS is not an adoption agency. The goal of CPS should always be to keep families together.

And even though families should often stay together, goodbyes suck.

I think one of the biggest reasons my anxiety gets all out of whack is because of the incredible amount of UNKNOWN as things move forward.
  • Is the State going to seriously consider Russell's grandparents?
  • Are the grandparents going to take both kids?
  • What will happen to Star if they don't take both kids?
  • Is the State going to do unsupervised visits before the move?
  • How long is this going to drag out?
  • Is anyone going to explain to the grandparents what it means to parent a child with Down syndrome? Is anyone going to explain Russell's special needs?
I think if I could just know what the PLAN is...I'd feel better about things.
  • Do I need to start tidying up all the laundry? I mean, laundry is always clean in my house. But it's not always sorted and put away. Do I need to have the kids packed and ready to go on February 16?
  • Should I go out and buy boxes for all the toys that I'll be sending?
  • What if they take only Russell? Oh shit. I've got to separate out the toys...some for Russell and some for Star.
  • I don't want to buy boxes if they aren't going anywhere. But I don't want to scramble last minute either.
  • What if the lawyer says they need to stay with me until after we get the results from the geneticist? Is it really necessary to drag the case out like that? I mean...if the kids are going to move, what's the point of keeping them here. Move them now and let them get settled.
I've always got questions.

And I'm really a shit or get off the pot kind of person. I've seen this in too many of the cases I've had down here. NOTHING changes. CPS just keeps the kids with me and pushes paperwork around. Different services aren't offered to the bio families. They certainly don't do anything to support kinship placements. So the kids hang out with me for basically no reason. If they're going move the kids...just move them already.

I used to get really angry about this in Dude and Dolly's case. Absolutely NOTHING changed at Grandma N's house in Dallas from the VERY first day the kids were placed with me until they were moved to Grandma's house 27 months later. And yes, the kids were safe with me. They were loved. They got to do things that a lot of kids in their situation would never have gotten to do. But did it really make sense to drag the case out for 27 months when NOTHING ever changed?! Grandma wasn't offered any kind of services to prepare for them. Grandma wasn't offered a stipend to care for them. Nobody wanted the kids to go to Grandma's except Minnie (the caseworker) so things got drug out. I'm not 100% convinced that keeping them here with me did any favors for the children. Foster care, even in the most stable and loving homes, is traumatic. When their mom walked away, the State should have done something. Either Grandma N was a good placement or she wasn't.

Obviously...she wasn't the best of placements.

Again, I don't fault her for getting sick. That is not her fault nor could it have been predicted. But the fact that she just dumped the kids back into the hands of CPS tells me that she didn't have a support system and that she probably wasn't equipped to parent those kids ever.

But that was my opinion all along. Those kids didn't belong with that grandma.

So you can imagine that I've got some stress now that they want to take a child that was VIOLENTLY abused and move him to grandparents that have never known him.

I've been down this exact same road before.

Grandma N hadn't seen Dude and Dolly in years when they came in to Care. They didn't know her at all. She just felt obligated to "keep them out of foster care and adoption".

Russell's grandparents don't know him. He turns 2.5 this Thursday. They didn't see him but one time the first 17 months of his life. They evaded calls from CPS and lied about their son when they found out Russell was in Care. But now they want him?

I question that.

I'm not going to go into all the details here why I question this placement with the Russell's grandparents. In general, I've been told they are nice people with good intentions. But they failed their first home study. Not with a giant red flag that screamed Russell would get abused again...but with quite a few little red flags that point to the fact the placement of Russell in their home might not be a good thing. Especially long term.

And Russell needs someone that is going to commit to him for a lifetime.

Not just age 18. A full lifetime.

So I'm scared shitless. Some of it is about me and my own emotions and selfishness. Some of it is about Russell and his safety and worries I have for him long-term.

I'm going to practice self-care as much as I possibly can. I allowed myself to wallow yesterday. The babies were both sick and they wanted to be held. I held them and I cried a lot.

Yes. Some of this is about me. I love these kids. I love them like they're my own.

But they aren't mine. And I do know that. I do not cry because I believe they should stay with me. I cry because foster care isn't fair to anyone involved. Not the family of origin. Not the foster parents. And certainly not the children.

Foster care just plain sucks.

So I will take care of myself. And because I've got a good relationship with Bopper and Ms. Remus, I will probably try to get as many of my questions answered. I'm going to pray like crazy. I want the decision makers in this case to do their jobs well.

And I'll pick myself up. And we will move forward.

The babies might be here a few more weeks...a few more months...or forever. I've got to be OK with any of those outcomes. And somehow, I know I will be. Because ultimately it's not about me. It IS about these kids and doing what's best for them. I hope CPS can truly figure that out this time around.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

crap on top of crap

Everything I know - I know only through text messages. My information is limited. I can't answer many questions. That's probably why I feel so much like shit. I have NO IDEA what is going to happen and that scares me.

This is what I do know. Bopper and I covered this in our text conversation:
  • Court was held yesterday. Everyone that was supposed to be there showed up. I did not come because I was told they were only going to extend the case. I still don't regret not going. I doubt I'd know much more even if I had been there.
  • Visits for Sylvia (bio mom) are going to increase one hour. Instead of meeting with her children two times a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) for two hours, she now gets three hours per visit.
  • The goal is not reunification. But because Mom's lawyer asked for longer visits, they were granted.
  • Russell's paternal grandparents are being considered for placement again. No one can tell me if this is placement of just Russell - or if they are going to try and keep the siblings together. These grandparents did not pass their first home study. However, there were no giant red flags - just lots and lots of little ones.
  • Russell's paternal grandparents were granted visitation as well. They will be meeting on Wednesdays for two hours. No one knows if the visits are just for Russell or if both babies will be staying.
  • Russell' paternal grandparents are also advised that they can attend all of his medical appointments.
  • The overall goal in the case changed from "non-relative adoption" to "relative conservatorship". This means the State is no longer pursuing termination of parental rights. If the children are placed with the grandparents, contact with Sylvia will continue and she could legally get the child(ren) back at a later date if she pursues the correct legal routes. (Read on...parents don't always have to do the pursuing.)
  • The next hearing is only 18 days away from now.

I messaged Ms. Remus, the babies' lawyer.
  • I asked her if she supports the move to the grandparents. She said it's too early to tell and that the judge wants Russell's condition with his bones stabilized. (ie: figure out if he has brittle bone disease or not) Ms. Remus would prefer that Russell stay with me until this is established - and in her words she wants this because the grandparents have other young children at home that could potentially hurt Russell.
  • Ms. Remus went on to say that the grandparents are nice but there is concern about whether or not they would be able to meet all of Russell's special needs. They're also very limited in resources. (ie: they are very, very poor)
  • I acknowledged that limited resources should not fully determine a placement. Being poor isn't a crime.
And that is all that I know.

I've basically got two weeks to prepare my heart for the children to possibly leave.

The key word there is "possibly". I still have NO IDEA what is going to happen. But judging from all my past experience - family is ALWAYS best here...even when it isn't. So, I'm going to make sure all the laundry is done and ready to be packed. I'm not going to buy anything else new. And I'm just going to maintain life as best as I can for the children.

-----

I don't have good experience with kinship placements down here in Texas. Personally, I've seen too many of them handled poorly!

MissArguePants & TurtleTurtle

Our first case ever (in Texas) was MissArguePants and TurtleTurtle. They were 8 and 9 when they came. I was told they had been adopted by an aunt and uncle and that they had been sexually molested. I knew the abuse was bad. But I had no idea how bad!

These girls had been in Care almost their entire lives. They had bounced between several different foster homes. Finally they were placed with the aunt and uncle. When that happened, CPS closed the case. They were not adopted though. The relatives were just given guardianship.

Then the girls were hurt in their kinship home. They came back into foster care. Mom was located and everything started all over for the girls.

The kinship placement was horrific for those girls.

Ricky & Michael

Ricky's little brother, Michael, was still in foster care when Ricky left our home to go back to Rebecca's. Ricky's slightly older brother, Gabriel, was working to get guardianship of Michael. Eventually he succeeded. The case with CPS was closed. When that happened, Bio Mom moved right back in with Gabriel so she's in full contact with Michael. Basically, the State paid a shit-ton of money to remove the kid, mess with their lives, and then put them all back together again with absolutely no changes! Mom never got help or broke her addiction. The reasons they removed the Michael were never resolved. It was all a huge waste of time and money. (Ricky aged out of foster care and is doing wonderfully. He still lives with Rebecca -- a fictive-kin placement that was perfectly healthy.)

And then there's the phone call I got last night.

Dude & Dolly

Great Grandma P called me last night. After telling me a little bit about how sick she is (I'm sure she's nearing the level of sickness that will likely kill her) she told me that she got a phone call the day before. The person on the other end of the phone didn't say much. She couldn't figure out who it was. But then the caller identified themselves. It was Dolly.

Apparently Grandma N, the kinship care giver that was given Dude and Dolly, did get sick enough that she could no longer care for the children. It seems that she did call CPS to come get the children.

CPS decided that it would be a good idea to locate their mother and just have her come and get the children.

With zero oversight of any kind - Dude and Dolly have no been reunified with their biological mother. No one knows if Mom is clean. No one established any kind of home study. They called her and she came and picked the children up. For reasons no one knows, because Dolly couldn't say, they moved to Oklahoma.

The only good thing is that Dude and Dolly are both in school now. They are both old enough to make an outcry if they need to.

But that kinship placement?! I'm not mad at Grandma N for getting sick. But out of ALL of the dozens and dozens of adults in and out of that home, not a single one stepped up to be a support system for Grandma N so the kids could stay in the same home. She took those kids, couldn't raise them anymore, and just gave them back to The System. The System didn't want to deal with them and just gave them back to Mom. I seriously doubt anything has changed. So those children are in the same environment now as they were when they came to me.

-----

I don't have a good ending for this. I could go on and on about how this is effecting me emotionally and physically. But I'm sure you've all had enough of that garbage lately.

So please just say a prayer for these kids in foster care – my kids, your kids, all the kids. Because foster care totally sucks!!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

the elephant got off my chest

As this week drug on, I wound myself up tighter and tighter. I tried oh so hard no to. But my body didn't cooperate. From the moment that Bopper came to my house and said that she had no idea what was really going to happen on Friday, January 29, my mind started swirling..........

Would they TPR on Mom?
Would they change the goal back to reunification?
Oh shit. Are they going to start unsupervised weekend visits?
I'm never going to sleep. Star will get so messed up.
Surely they can't start unsupervised visits. Mom's home assessment wasn't positive. She doesn't consistently have utilities.
Even if they TPR on Mom, what about the two bio dads?
Russell's dad is only 18 and he's been locked up for two years. Does he want to work a case plan?
No. No 18 year old gang-banger wants to raise a baby boy with Down syndrome.
Russell's dad's parents didn't pass their home study either.
Is anyone going to ask Russell's dad if he just wants to relinquish his rights?
Maybe someone should talk to Mom about relinquishing her rights.
No. Nobody is going to do that either.
So what the hell is going to happen?!
OK. I bet the State takes PMC (permanent managing conservatorship).
Maybe I should tell someone that WE would be willing to take PMC.
Could we take PMC?
Could we raise these two without any financial assistance at all?
It would be better if we adopted. We'd get a small stipend and the two children would both have full-ride college scholarships.
(Yes...kids with Down syndrome DO go to college!!)
(Russell will. He's smart! He's making amazing progress.)
-- insert entire tangent about how well he's doing and how much he'd regress if he left our home --
OK...back to Friday.
I haven't even thought about Star's dad for awhile. I wonder where he is.
He hasn't asked to see his daughter. They can TPR on him for abandonment.
So maybe they are going to keep pushing for TPR.

And round and round and round I'd go.
Then I'd yell at myself to stop and I'd try to focus on something else.
The elephant on my chest was so heavy. It hurt.

Then I'd pick a baby up and smell deep in to their neck. I'd kiss them. I'd whisper in their ear, "I love you. I'll love you forever. I love you even when you can't see me. I'll never stop loving you. You deserve good things. You are a wonderful child."

And then I'd try to function.

It was bad.

At about 5:00pm on Wednesday night, the lawyer for the babies, Ms. Remus, called me.

I was standing at the stove making dinner. She caught me by surprise. The dozens of conversations I had had in my head seemed to disappear like a vapor. I was tongue tied. I honestly didn't know what to say to her.

She seemed so happy and perky. I sounded so freaked out.

I stammered a bit and then basically said, "I'm sorry. I didn't want to let this phone call go to voice mail. I'm super emotional right now. I don't remember exactly what it was that I wanted to say to you. I'm just worried about the babies. Bopper said that there isn't enough evidence for TPR and that makes me very nervous about the trial on Friday."

With a firm voice, Ms. Remus said, "Oh...there ARE grounds for termination."

And with that, the elephant got off my chest. I started to be able to breathe again.

Ms. Remus went on to say that there are things that need to happen. The State has to deal with Russell's bio father. He still has rights and there aren't grounds to terminate on him.

That all makes sense to me.

She mentioned something about *things* with Sylvia (bio mom). I know Sylvia has been making a lot of little mistakes. There's the drama with Big Sister Violet. There's the fact that she doesn't have stable and safe housing. And I think there might be more the State is trying to do to solidify a case against her.

Ms. Remus said that the trial tomorrow isn't going to happen. There will still be court. She's discussed things with the judge already. But the hearing tomorrow is going to be short and all that is going to happen is that the case is going to be extended. She then said that the kids (and I) don't have to appear.

Not only did the elephant get off my chest, he took a few steps away from me too. Deeper breaths were possible and my head didn't hurt as bad.

I still don't know much of anything. All I know is that this case is going to be extended. I don't know if this extension is going to be for a month or three months or longer.

But Ms. Remus made it very clear that she wants the children to stay here. Her words were, "The children aren't going anywhere Friday...maybe not forever."

The key word in that sentence is still MAYBE.

This is foster care. Anything could happen.

I assured Ms. Remus that I know my role. I know I'm a foster parent. I know what that means. I apologized for being so emotional. I said something along the lines of, "I'm sorry. It was just so hard to hear from no less than six nurses and doctors at the hospital recently how much better Russell is doing. He was hurt so badly before coming in to Care. He was being starved. And it bothers me so much that Sylvia isn't being held responsible for that. I worry for his future should he go back home to her. Surely that is grounds for termination. I know no one can prove who broke his bones. But they can prove who didn't feed him."

Ms. Remus was positive the entire phone call. I could sense confidence through the phone line. And honestly, that was good enough for me. (Bopper was nervous on Wednesday telling me her news. I fed off that nervousness entirely too much. Bopper is not a strong, confident person. She always comes across like a church mouse. I don't relate to people like that well.)

I hung up the phone and my worries were gone.

I still know my role. These children are not mine. Anything could happen. This is foster care after all.

But for now, they are staying here. No one wants these children moved out of our home. I should know more sometime tomorrow if Bopper calls me after court. Foster care is a shit-ton of waiting. And now I'm waiting to hear what happens in court. But I'm OK with that. I'm not going to pay $44 for daycare (where my kids almost always get sick) just so I can hear for myself that the case is being extended. I trust Ms. Remus and/or Bopper to tell me what I need to know about the case. Ms. Remus said I can still attend court. But I'm not going to.

So I'm waiting. And I'll let y'all know what I hear when I hear something.

Thanks again for lifting me up in prayer this week. It really did make a difference.


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Neat story about the power of prayer...

Visits to specialists down where I live typically take 2-3 hours. They ALWAYS take at least an hour. Waiting rooms are crowded. And I was dreading going to the cardiologist yesterday more than you know. I've been there multiple times with both Dolly and with Russell. I've always had to wait a long, long time. I was not looking forward to sitting in the waiting room with Sylvia and whatever family members decided to come along with her.

As I pulled into the parking lot, Mom and her sister got out of their truck to come see the babies. I handed Russell to Sylvia and put Star, still in her car seat, in the stroller. I took a deep breath as I opened the door to the office expecting to see dozens of people inside.

I looked left. I looked right. My jaw practically dropped.

There wasn't a single soul in the waiting room and it was 11:30am. Our appointment was at 11:45am and it looked like we weren't going to have to wait at all.

Sure enough, we were in and out in just over 30 minutes.

The hole in Russell's heart continues to get smaller. This is a good thing. He doesn't need any medications and he's healthy.

And I didn't have to deal with spending hours and hours with Mom.

Right or wrong, I was thankful for that. This case isn't moving toward reunification so these trips to the doctor make me even more uncomfortable. We're not co-parenting so it's awkward and I hate it!!

I believe that God spared me a long wait at the cardiologist because so many people were praying for me to have peace. Thank you.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

anxiety

My level of anxiety is through the roof.

And don't get me wrong - this is NOT because I think these kids are somehow "mine". This simply isn't the same as when we intervened with Dude and Dolly. I honestly feel in my heart that if I knew they were going to be safe (and yes...safe is what I've boiled this whole thing down to) I wouldn't be so damned upset.

But I don't believe that Russell will be safe if he goes home.

Add to that...
  • 2 science fair projects (one of which was forgotten until there was only 1 day in which to do said project)
  • an investigation on my home (TT is going to be pulled at school today to be interviewed - please say an extra prayer for him)
  • my job (I've been super busy lately)
  • all of Russell's appointments with specialists (He came in April. Most appointments were made in June. That means all his 6 month follow ups happen in January.)
  • emotional teenaged crap with Herman
  • SERIOUSLY stressful crap going on with my husband at his job (like national security level kinds of stress)
  • plus life in general with a family of seven

My chest hurts. Literal physical pain. My thinking is foggy. I'm running on auto pilot. I don't want to eat. When I do eat, I don't want to eat the foods that are good for me. I'm drinking too much caffeine. I feel sick. Every time I stop moving, my brain starts swirling and I get fixated on something I should be doing or something that is completely out of my control.

I don't post this to get a bunch of comments telling me people feel sorry for me.
I'm not posting this to drum up drama of any kind.

But I know others have felt like this before. And anyone thinking about doing foster care needs to know this can be reality.

It's a cycle for me. I'm fine. I'm rockin' it. I get worried. I get overwhelmed. I think I can't go on. I accept the new reality. I move forward. I'm fine. I'm rockin' it.

Lately, it just seems my peaks have been higher. Which means this low seems all that much lower.

I know I will climb back up. It won't be like this forever. I have faith. (Bopper keeps telling me to have faith. Over and over. Faith she says. Give it to God.)

I've got faith. Honest. I do. I believe that God can work miracles.

I'm praying that whatever happens, these two children will stay safe. (And for that matter...their big sister too.)

When I foster, I FULLY invest in each child. Whether they're in my home for 24 hours or over 2 years, I throw myself all the way in.

I believe that's the way it's supposed to be. That's the way it has to be.

My chest hurts right now because of anxiety.

But can you imagine how Russell felt with multiple broken bones and no medical treatment?! No pain meds. No casts to help him heal. No regular food intake. He was isolated in his pack-n-play covered, literally, in a layer of black filth all alone.

He had it so much worse than me.

The least I can do is throw myself fully into his life. I love him like he's my own knowing full well that he is not. I have to be OK with that.

And honest. I am OK. This is what I signed up for.

My pain will never be as great as the pain he felt that brought him to me.

I don't believe that Star was ever abused outright. In fact, I'm not convinced she ever would be abused if she went home. (In my heart I think Russell was hurt only because he has Down syndrome.) But for now, she has lost her entire family. She lost everything too. Yes, she loves me. She's comfortable in our home. She wants to be with me. But she lost her family and that is horribly sad. Foster care is a huge loss to every child that enters in to Care.

So please don't feel sorry for me. I just write this so others know they aren't alone.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My People

When the investigator came to my house on the 8th, she said she needed to come back to officially interview Mr. Amazing. She also mentioned wanting to interview TT. We told her that the very next week wouldn't work because Mr. Amazing was going to be out of state for a work conference. She said she'd come the week after that.

My heart dropped a little. We were planning on having my mom, my sister, and her kids come to visit that week.

And at the time, it wasn't going to be "legal" for My People to come.

I just wasn't going to tell anyone.

You see...my mom and my sister have already gone through ALL the necessary background checks that my licensing agency requires. They've submitted state checks in Iowa multiple times. They've submitted FBI fingerprints. My mom went and got tested for TB once because she was told to. They've submitted forms. They've submitted references. They've gone out of their way to comply.

But my agency can't seem to keep track of things. They lost the fingerprints.

The State of Texas has all fingerprinting done electronically for the FBI check. The State of Iowa has NO locations that do electronic fingerprinting. So...when my mom and my sister submitted prints for their background checks, they did their fingerprints at the local police station and then mailed them in to the FBI.

Obviously both women passed the background checks.

But when I was told they had to do them again because my agency lost the information - I was furious!! Because of course, my agency wanted them to pay to have them redone. They also seemed to think that electronic fingerprints were "required". Now exactly how could My People that live in Iowa get electronic fingerprints done where there are no locations in the state that scan the fingerprints in and send them electronically to the federal agencies?! Did my agency think My People should drive all the way to Texas to get it done but not be allowed to see me when they're here?!

So I decided a couple years ago that when my parents and my sister were visiting, I just wouldn't tell anyone anymore. Once, when they were here while we had Daisy, I hid their suitcases and they went sight seeing while Mr. CW came for his monthly home visit.

But we're in the middle of an investigation. I would not take any chances.

So...once again...I called my licensing agency to ask what the requirements would be to allow my family members to come visit me.

I've asked many times over the years. The rules and regulations and how they're interpreted seem to be different every time I ask. My agency has rules above and beyond what the State Minimum Standards require. So, I asked again.

First I was told that they couldn't come unless they had passed state and federal background checks ahead of time.
Then I was told someone would check with "higher ups" in the agency. Maybe they could stay in a hotel the whole time or something.
Then I was told no. My family couldn't come. There was no way to get the fingerprints done and back in time. Even if they stayed in a hotel, they couldn't come over to my home more than twice or else they'd be considered a "frequent visitor" and "frequent visitors" have to pass all the background checks.
Then I pitched a fit with the local director. I insisted that according to the paperwork they had shown me, my family wouldn't qualify as a "frequent visitor" as long as they stayed less than 7 days. The definition of "frequent visitor" varies based on the actual frequency of visits. If the person comes less than 7 days for a single visit once a year, they aren't a "frequent visitor". Background checks wouldn't be necessary. My agency needed to say it would be OK for My People to stay.

Finally...after much tension and heartache...the local director said My People could come. In order for everything to be "legal" they needed to stay in my home less than 7 days. I laughed and said we'd just stay in a hotel the last three days of the visit because we'd be out in public and that would be allowed.

I called my mom and my sister back on Monday the 11th to tell them that the trip was back on. They had just about 48 hours to get packed if they were going to stick to our original timeline.

My people arrived on Friday the 15th as we had originally planned. (shhhhh...don't tell anyone....as far as the official people are concerned, My People arrived on the 18th)

While they were here, my mom and my sister went ahead and appeased my agency. They paid the almost $45 each to get their prints done electronically. Next time they want to come and stay, they will be on the approved list of "frequent visitors".

And wouldn't ya know it...the investigator I was all worried about never even called last week. And Bopper rescheduled her home visit. The only person in my house was my licensing worker and she already knew that I've allowed my family to stay with me "illegally" before.

But it's taken care of. They'll all be "legal" visitors in the future. Whew.

My People left early this morning to head back to Iowa. Star and Russell keep looking all over the house for them. Star has needed a lot of reassurance today. She's wanted to be held all day long. I'm hoping the babies settle back into our somewhat normal routine soon.

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We've got a very busy week this week though. Russell has all his therapies several different days. My licensing worker comes Monday. Bopper is coming Tuesday. We see the cardiologist on Wednesday. We're off to the orthopedic doc on Thursday. And Friday is hearing where, as far as I know now, the State of Texas is going to ask the judge to terminate parental rights. This week is going to be super intense.

I'll keep everyone posted as all the drama unfolds.