Monday, March 30, 2015

We said "yes" again

Our official "yes" for Baby Boy (blog name to come) has been turned in to our agency. Rainbow has a message in to CPS. I'm sure we'll hear something tomorrow.

I'm as ready as I can be for another baby I guess.

I'll let y'all know what happens as soon as I hear anything.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Baby Boy

I got a notification Thursday about a baby boy that needs a home. He was removed because his mother took him to the doctor and the doctor immediately suspected abuse. He had a fractured arm and was very malnourished. I believe he came in to Care February 6 and was hospitalized for six days. Then, because a home couldn't be found, he was transferred to a shelter in Central Texas.

He's 18 months old and has Down's Syndrome. When he was taken into Care, he weighed somewhere between 9 and 11 pounds. (I have conflicting information.) He has fractures to multiple parts of his body in various stages of healing.

After much prayer Mr. Amazing and I are considering taking this boy as a placement. I've only got a few more questions for Rainbow to answer before I give a definite yes or no.

  • What is the reunification/permanency plan? (If possible I’d like both the answer that is “on paper” and the REAL gut feelings of the case worker.)
  • Speaking of, who is the case worker?
  • Will Baby’s speech therapy be in English?
  • What size clothes is he in?
  • What size diapers does he wear?
  • What is his temperament? Does he fuss a lot? Is he easily soothed or does he need held a lot?
  • How does he handle the middle of the night feedings? Does he cry a lot? How long does it take him to take his bottle at night? Does he settle down easily afterward?
  • Does he need special bottles?
  • Does he have any feeding problems? (poor suck, aspiration concerns, etc.)
  • Where do you get the Pediasure? Is is an Rx? Is it covered by Medicaid or would it go through WIC? (If it’s what I think it is, it’s VERY expensive!!) If it’s just the easy-to-find OTC Pediasure shakes, can he be switched to toddler formula?
Rainbow was unable to make contact with Baby's worker on Friday so only a few of my initial questions got answered. I was able to see a very detailed form that Rainbow was sent from the central database. It explained most of what I need to know. But I just sent her the list above today so she can get answers for me, hopefully, on Monday for the rest of my questions. I'm pretty sure we're going to say "yes". But I do want honest answers to the list above. If he's a terrible sleeper or if they honestly say he cries a lot and isn't easily soothed, I might lean toward a "no". I'm prepared to not sleep much - he needs a bottle every 3-4 hours, even all night long. But if I'm going to spend all my time not sleeping and listening to crying that can't be soothed, that's not a good fit for our family. I've got other kids that need me too. Someone has to teach school.  :)

-----

Keeping the drama alive though, Kori sent me pictures of Daisy and Dandelion today. I asked how her girls were doing and Kori shared that they are together and local...but in a home that only speaks Spanish. I got so upset I almost started shaking. Daisy's language development is being extremely stunted as a result! System-induced abuse in my book! Makes me so mad!!!

I told Kori that my home is open and she could request that the girls be moved here. This time around though she has a relative that she's comfortable sending the girls to - and one that is comfortable taking the girls. (Not sure where this relative was the first time around.)

Kori has court this week. They've changed the schedule some though so she's not exactly sure when. I asked her if she wants me to keep my home "open" in case the move to the relative doesn't go through. She says CPS is talking like it's going to happen so she's pretty confident that it will.

I'm sure CPS is wanting to get the girls moved to the relative. Then the girls will stay there forever. I bet this case drags on and on and on and on. They wanted Daisy to be moved permanently to a relative the last time around...only no relative surfaced. Kori still has no idea how bad of a situation she put those girls in by staying involved with the Bio Dad (abuser).

-----

On the home front, Herman is recovering from his auto accident quite well. For those of you not on Facebook, Herman got hit by a car last week...while walking to school. He skirted danger for sure! Not a single broken bone! No internal bleeding. Only a bunch of road rash, bruises and a huge (really, really gross) gash on his left thigh. (One of my EMT friends saw the picture and said it's an "impact crack".) He got a bunch of stitches and spent the night in the hospital for observation. He's home now though and even went to school on Thursday. (Stayed home Friday to go to the surgeon's for a follow-up.)

My house is clean. Laundry is done. I feel like I've been nesting this weekend.

Looks like we're probably going to hop back on the roller coaster to go for another ride.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

We're back home

We're back in Texas and we're regrouping as a core family of five. There are still so many swirling emotions. I know we won't accept any placements immediately.

For one reason, I've been sick. I traveled all the way from Central Iowa to Deep South Texas with a nasty stomach bug. I still need to get caught up on housecleaning, laundry and whatnot before I could even consider adding more family members.

We also all need to adjust to the Neverland Kids being gone.

And last, we still need to process losing my dad.

Change is hard. Loss is hard. (And TT is taking this hard!)

I know we'll just try to get our feet under us over the next two weeks. Then we're going to volunteer as a family at an event we've gone to before called The Texas Mile.

Before we were prospects for the motorcycle group B.A.C.A., Mr. Amazing and I joined a group called Christian Motorcyclists Association (CMA). We're not super active (though Mr. Amazing is the Vice President). Twice a year CMA volunteers to help run The Texas Mile. We get to work in multiple areas including taking entrance fees, parking, the hospitality tent, and handing out the tickets to drivers at the finish line. In fact, Mr. Amazing, TT, Bart, and I were working the finish line in October 2013 when the track record of 278.2MPH was set! We saw the Ford GT up close immediately following the run. It was impressive!

The Texas Mile has been very healing for us. The first one we all five went to was in October 2013 immediately after losing Dude and Dolly. All five of us made it to the October 2014 Texas Mile right after Daisy left. It seems fitting that we regroup at The Texas Mile in March 2015. We'll work hard and have fun watching all the fast bikes and cars!

We also have to wait and hear on a job that Mr. Amazing interviewed for last week. We'd never knowingly take a placement if a move looks eminent in our future. So, we'll wait to hear on that job prospect before anything else changes.

If the job goes through though, I already picked out some houses in the area that look perfect! My favorite has five bedrooms, four bathrooms and a huge kitchen. It's just the right size for us and a few more cherubs.

We'll be waiting to see what happens next.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Emergency trip to Iowa

I imagine that most of you know what's going on due to my Facebook posts. In the event that you don't follow Cherub Mamma on FB, here's a super quick update...

My daddy hasn't been well for many years. He has suffered multiple heart attacks and strokes. The last four and a half years have been very challenging as he didn't recover well from his last stroke at all.

On Monday of this week he fell. My mom took him to the ER and he got six staples in his head. His condition deteriorated rapidly this week.

Because his behaviors were EXACTLY like what happens when he gets in a depressive state, it didn't seem necessary to go back to the doctor right away.

However, on Friday it got worse. Much worse. He was admitted to the hospital. The wound on his head was very infected.

I started communicating with my agency on this Saturday as my dad continued to get worse. I wanted them to make preparations for my Neverland Kids to go to respite care. Initially they told me this wouldn't be a problem.

My sister called me early this morning to tell me that my daddy was being moved to hospice. I knew I had one day, today, to get all my affairs in order.

Over breakfast I told Pirate and Captain that they were going to respite care...a babysitter...for a few days with, but that they would come back to my home as soon as I was done seeing my daddy, mommy and the rest of my family. I showed them on a map how far away Iowa is. I told them I wanted them to come with me but that the social workers and the judge said, "no". I told them they were coming back to me though and that we'd be together again.

Rainbow let me know in the middle of the day that we were going to have to disrupt instead. They had no luck finding respite that CPS would approve. Again, I don't know all the details. I was just told this is the way it is.

Rainbow told me to go to the school and sign the paperwork to un-enroll Captain.

I went to Captain's kindergarten room and talked to him. Through tears I told him that he was going to have to say goodbye to this school. He cried too. I told him that I wanted him. I told him that this wasn't my idea. I told him I was so very sorry but I wanted to give him a chance to say goodbye to his friends.

I spent the day trying to tie up all the loose ends. I've filled out paperwork, finished filing paperwork from February. Freelanced. And folded all the laundry I did over the weekend.

I also packed everything the Neverland Kids own up for them.

Captain got off the bus at 3:40pm. We went and picked up Pirate from daycare. They came home, ate a snack and watched TV. I couldn't muster up anything else. Pirate clung to me a lot. I could tell he was scared. I told him I loved him and I loved being his "Mamma L***".

Rainbow came at 5:00pm to pick up Captain and Pirate. Another worker came at the same time to get Tinkerbell. The kids are going to emergency respite tonight with homes in our agency. These homes can do respite for the kids for a night or two. I don't know why they can't keep them the whole time I'm gone.

The last thing I said to the boys was, "I love you, even when I can't see you."

And then, they were gone.

I believe that CPS is going to move all three kids from the emergency respite homes tomorrow to place them together in a home licensed through a different agency. They won't be coming back to my home.

I messaged Kori today and found out that her girls are no longer in a shelter home. They won't be coming back to The Crazy House either.

I will be leaving for Iowa first thing in the morning tomorrow (Tuesday). I don't know if I'll get there in time to say goodbye to my daddy or not. My family has told him I'm coming but I told them to tell him not to wait for me.

Mr. Amazing and Herman will drive up separately. They can't leave tomorrow due to work and school but they'll be in Iowa soon.

This is particularly hard. On so many levels. Losing four people you love all at once isn't easy.

I have no idea what we're going to do next.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times

Long post.
Crappy writing.
I'm super tired and worn out but I'll word vomit this to try and capture all that happened today.

At 9:00am I got a text message from the company that will be supervising visits with Captain, Pirate, Tinkerbell and their bio parents. I didn't know anything was being scheduled for today so my afternoon had to get rearranged a bit. I started preparing myself for the emotions that come with the first visit. I'm not a robot. It's never easy for me. I have to trust that the kids I've been caring for are going to have their needs met by the very person (at least partially) responsible for their neglect and/or abuse.

At 12:00pm I got an unknown local phone call. I answered and heard a familiar voice. It was Emilia, Ricky's old caseworker from CPS. I knew she had transferred divisions at CPS and was in the department that handled the monitored returns. I even knew she was the worker over Daisy's case now that Daisy is back home with Kori. But I didn't make the connection until she asked me if we have room in our foster home.

Daisy...and her newborn baby sister...came back into foster care today.

Everything I knew about Kori and Bio Dad has been true all along. They have been in constant contact and Kori was letting Bio Dad see Daisy despite court orders against such contact. Also, Kori hasn't been cooperating fully with all the therapies that were court ordered to continue. Court was held today. And while most of the evidence was circumstantial, they had enough that the judge ordered immediate removal. They also decided there was enough concern to go to the home and remove baby Dandelion. (She's a cute little flower that popped up out of nowhere...LOL. And yes, both girls have the same daddy.)

I had to tell Emilia that our home is currently full. I cried.

She immediately apologized.

I told her not to apologize. I thanked her for calling me. Then I asked if I could have a few minutes before she moved on to calling anyone else. I said I wanted to call my husband. Immediately I thought that maybe we should disrupt our current placement so that we could take Daisy back.

Yes - disruption is bad. But here is my take. I have a longer bond with Daisy than I do with the new cherubs. I also believe that any "normal" foster home can provide adequate care for Captain, Pirate, and Tinkerbell. But Daisy needs a seriously special home that can effectively manage her special needs. There are more adequate homes than there are special homes.

So, I called my agency to see if a disruption would even be allowed. Rainbow put a call in to the director who was in a training up in Dallas.

Then I called Mr. Amazing.

I ruined his day.

Mr. Amazing still misses Miss Daisy with every fiber of his being. He misses her the way I miss Dude and Dolly. It's a full body ache.

And to know that she needs us now but we aren't likely going to get to be there for her?!

Heart breaking!

Then I just had to wait.

At around 1:30pm Rainbow called me back to let me know that the director was not in favor of a disruption. Everyone's hands were tied. There was nothing anyone would do to.

I called Emilia back. I told her that we wanted Daisy and Dandelion. I said if she could work a miracle I was all for it. I told her to talk to Kennedy, our current cherubs' worker. I said that Daisy needs a home equipped and ready to meet her special needs. I said we were that home. I said that if she could even get a waiver we'd keep our current three and take the two new ones.

At 2:15 I left to go pick up Captain early from school. I dealt with that crazy mess. I went to day care to get Pirate. (I had hoped to actually accomplish a lot of homeschool today. I miserably failed at that endeavor.) I took the Never Never Land Kids to Burger King to their visit.

Wendy (Bio Mom) showed up at 3:00pm. The transition to the visit went well. I warned the supervisor of the visit that Tinkerbell doesn't know Schmee (Bio Dad) and that there might be more difficulties during his visit. She took my number and I left.

I then killed the next two hours blowing up my Facebook Cherub Mamma page, calling my mom, calling my sister, texting people, and trying to process all of my day. For fun, I even answered the phone when Kori called me.

Yeah. Kori called me.

The summary on that?! I let her have it. I told her that my home is full and I can't take her girls. (Yes, she wanted her girls to come to me.) I then proceeded, because the conversation led this way by her direction, to tell her that she needs to leave Bio Dad! I told her that her child almost DIED and that's a pretty serious thing. I said many things that I had told her before but I didn't censor myself at all this time. I told her she could forgive the man as a Christian woman because that's the right thing to do. But he hurt Daisy more than once and he has no business being in her life.

She listened. She cried. She tried to defend him. She tried to defend her decisions to stay with him.

I told her that now, because of her decisions, her innocent newborn baby is gone. And because Daisy can't come to me where she would at least have some continuity of care, she is at risk for mental illness...attachment disorders. I said that little kids can't have that many primary care givers. I said it's really, really bad for them!

She listened. She cried some more.

I actually told a white lie and said I had to go. I couldn't stay on the phone with her any longer. It was too hard for me. Kori needs a friend right now but I'm not in a place to be that friend. I listened and talked with her for at least 20 minutes. I'm not going to buddy up with Kori now though. I can't help her with her children. And I'm not going to listen to her defend that man without telling her how wrong it all is.

The whole situation made me so sick.

I ache for those girls who need their mommy. Why can't that mommy recognize what Bio Dad did to Daisy?! Why is she in such denial?!!

Mr. Amazing came home at 5:00pm. We went out to dinner with TT and Bart.

Big feelings were everywhere!

During dinner Kori called again. Out of curiosity I answered. She wanted to know if I knew anything about an emergency foster home...group home...or something. She was hard to hear over the din of the music in the restaurant. I deduced that the girls had been placed in a shelter. Kori hadn't been told where and I told her I knew nothing about it. She cried. I was pissed. I messaged Emilia to see where in this state the shelter was. I can't do anything about it but I was curious.

At 6:45pm we were headed down the road to pick up Captain, Pirate and Tinkerbell. I got a phone call from the visit supervisor. She said that Schmee wanted to end the visit early. Tinkerbell was crying. I laughed a little as I told the supervisor that the visit is over in 15 minutes and it's going to take me that long to get there.

Ugh.

I really hope Schmee flakes out soon if he's going to flake out.

The kids transitioned to me better than I thought they would. Tinkerbell even stayed awake in the car on the ride home. The boys showed off their new toys that Wendy had bought them. However, when I asked if they liked the visit, both boys said, "No."

Everyone handled the bedtime routine well. I was honestly incredibly surprised!!! I showered Pirate and Captain, read a story and tucked them in. Captain even used his strong words (something we're seriously working on now) to ask for Mr. Amazing to come up and tuck him in to bed too.

Oddly, both boys started calling me "Mom" or "Mommy" tonight. It was strange. I've always been Mamma L*** to them. I've also made it clear that they can just call me by my name. But after the visit I was Mommy.

There were hugs and kisses and no tears as we tucked them in and said goodnight.

Tinkerbell was exhausted. She took a bottle (something we dropped about a 7-10 days ago). I could tell she needed something and I wasn't sure if she had eaten or not. Since she can't talk, I thought offering her a bottle would be a good thing. She drained it and then fell asleep on my shoulder. I put her in bed without a fuss.

Late tonight Emilia texted me back. She said there is a new shelter in our local area. Both girls are there tonight and will remain there until a suitable home can be found. She tried to make me feel better by telling me the director of the shelter is an RN.

I said, "That's good to hear. I guess. But they need a FAMILY."

She responded, "Of course they do. But babies are difficult to place. Especially babies with special needs."

"I know!" I responded. "Which is why my heart aches right now. My family can do it."

Her hands are just as tied. She agrees that it would be in Daisy's best interests to be with us but "systems are systems" (her words).

I told her to let me know if anything changes...or if she finds any miracles up her sleeves.

Emilia said she's going to take a picture for me tomorrow when she visits the girls and brings them their medication. (Daisy has bad eczema again and is crawling with lice.)

----

And that was my day.

I think I got all the highlights.

Now to answer the questions that are sure to come up:

No. We can't have more than six children. The State of Texas only allows six total children in a home. Any more than that and you have to be licensed as a group home. And in my county, group homes have to have in-home sprinkler systems.

No. They won't make any exceptions to this rule.

Daisy's case still has the goal of reunification. Visits are going to take place in the CPS office two times a week. Kori gets another chance.

No. I won't be allowed to disrupt on my current cherubs. There is no way that I can see for Daisy to come back to me right now.

Yes. God is in control. Miracles can happen.

Emilia has assured me that she will give my contact information to the foster family that gets Daisy. Hopefully I'll be able to help them fully understand her needs.

And now I have to go. It's been a long day. I'm up way past my bedtime. This is probably full of typos. But Tinkerbell is crying and it's probably going to be a long night.



my thoughts on visits

The goal of foster care is (almost) always reunification. Even if the State determines that the biological parent(s) is not safe, a family member is always preferred over non-relative adoption. The goal is to keep families together.

Most of the time that is a very good goal!!!

Please don't go in to foster care if you're not willing to support reunification. Because this stuff is hard. Super hard. Crazy hard. But it's necessary.

Here are my thoughts on visits. A metaphor if you will. And I don't take credit for this idea, but for the life of me I have no idea where I heard it first.

Visits are the equivalent of ripping a band-aid off a wound so you can keep it raw.

Imagine if you will...their family tree. Each member is a branch. When the children were removed from Wendy (Bio Mom), their branches were cut off their tree. They were separated from what kept them alive. My family welcomed them into our home. They're Red Delicious. We're Granny Smith. But we're all apple trees and my tree can keep their branches alive.

However, the goal is for their branches to get grafted back on to THEIR tree. They aren't supposed to attach to our tree forever. So we have to keep the wounds raw. We don't want the kids' branches to dry off and die. They do have to attach to us. But they can't attach permanently. We have to continually keep the end of their branch wet and raw so they can attach back to their Red Delicious tree (or at least to a tree in their orchard) when it's safe.

Every visit keeps that wound open and raw so the ultimate goal of reunification can take place.

These cherubs came to my home a month ago. We've had one month for them to get used to our orchard. We've nourished their branches and given them all they need to be strong, healthy and to grow.

Today we get to rip that grafting tape off and send them back to their original tree for a visit.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

tooth brushes, vegetables & car seats

As a foster parent, I understand that despite the sometimes horrific situations that bring children to me, those children still desire their bio parents. They love them. They want them back.

Under no circumstances should I ever talk bad about the bio family. These children identify with their family of origin. If I say something bad about their mom, I'm saying something bad about them.

I will speak truth. I tell Captain that his mother didn't keep him safe and that's why he's living with me. But I don't tell him that she's a self-centered person who only keeps posting about missing one of her children on Facebook right now and went and got a face tattoo last week. I don't tell him that his mother is a bad person for not keeping him safe. I don't even talk against the evil perpetrator in this case.

However, I do have to do things like help Captain brush his teeth.

He came to me with six silver caps in his mouth. I watched him brush his own teeth at first and he spent more time playing in the water with his toothbrush than he did brushing his teeth. So, I told him to start brushing and I'd finish up. Boy did he look at me funny when I stuck my fingers in his mouth and made sure his back molars got brushed.

He didn't understand.

I had to explain what cavities are. I told him, because it's truth, that his teeth weren't being taken care of the right way before and that's why he has silver teeth. I told him I need to help him brush to make sure he doesn't get more.

I didn't say a single bad thing about his mom. But how is Captain processing this?

Either his mom is bad because she didn't take care of his teeth. Or I am bad because I'm brushing his teeth for him.

That's hard for a five-year-old to process.

It's the same with vegetables. Every time I tell Captain that it's my job to keep him safe and healthy, I'm sure he thinks about how his mom didn't keep him safe and healthy. This is hard to comprehend. As a result, Captain spends a lot of energy trying to convince himself that he's eaten vegetables before.

I don't know if it's right or if it's wrong, but I call Captain out on this one. He doesn't like vegetables at all! He also hasn't recognized a single vegetable except carrots and green beans. And both of those came with an immediate announcement of, "I don't like those." So when I ask Captain what foods he ate for breakfast with his mommy, because I'm honestly trying to figure out what this kid likes to eat, and he answers, "vegetables," I call him out. I tell him, "Captain, I know you didn't have vegetables for breakfast. When you're ready to tell me what you did have, I'm here to listen. I want to feed you foods that you like."

Captain knows he should be eating healthy food. He's heard it at school and now from me. But his little soul has to process why his mommy never fed him healthy food. If he is supposed to eat vegetables, how come his mommy didn't feed them to him? One of us must be right and one of us must be wrong.

Without saying a negative word, I'm sending him a very strong message about his life before foster care. Imagine how he feels when I tell him every single time we get in the car that not only does he have to sit in a car seat, but he also has to use his seat belt?

I'm pretty sure that seat belts weren't a priority in his old home. With so many children five and under, there are few vehicles that would have accommodated everyone. I haven't tried to sleuth this one out, but I have to assume that they just rode in a regular car sitting in the seat not buckled up. Especially since he still doesn't understand that he has to buckle up every single time he gets in the car!

So when I tell Captain it's the law for him to be buckled up, he realizes that his mommy broke the law every time he didn't fasten a seat belt.

It's important for me to not talk bad about Captain's family. It's also important for me continue brushing teeth, feeding vegetables and fastening seat belts. So it's REALLY important for me to continue to tell Captain that he loves his mommy and that he misses her. He needs to have his honest feelings validated and he's having to process so much right now. If he did seem mad at her, I would validate that too. But he needs to know that it's OK to love his mommy each and every day and he needs to know that even though our worlds are incredibly different, my home is a safe place to talk about loving his mommy.