Thursday, March 31, 2011

Special ed????

Two mornings in a row I've dropped Pumpkin off at school and have seen what I deem a very strange site.

One of the teacher's aides has been sitting at a table in the classroom coloring pictures on worksheets. From what I can tell, these are the very worksheets they are going to give kids in the classroom to do.

I know that Pumpkin's 504 meeting gave allowances for them to do hand-over-hand work. However, this isn't even hand-over-hand. This is the aide actually coloring the pictures for the children. Exactly what then will the children be doing?!

If nothing else, it is a waste of valuable time. This aide is being paid to work in the classroom and interact with the children. Pumpkin needs lots and lots of interaction because her language skills are so incredibly delayed. Granted, the aides are all very nice women. I enjoy their company when I chat with them. They are kind to Pumpkin and always greet her when she comes in the room.

But if she's got time to sit and color worksheets. She's got time to sit and actually work with the children when they come in the classroom in the morning instead. I don't care if they are developmentally delayed. Or autistic. Or in a wheelchair because they are profoundly disabled. They deserve more than what it looks like they are getting.

I'm not looking forward to the ARD/IEP meeting at all. I'm scared to death that I'm going to do all the talking because I actually want the teacher and her aides working towards goals that will help Pumpkin. Things that will require work on their part. I don't give a rip if Pumpkin can draw her numbers and letters and can color in the lines. I want Pumpkin to be able to answer a yes/no question. I want Pumpkin to be able to make a choice between two things. (Currently Pumpkin just says "no" to absolutely anything you ask her.) I want Pumpkin to ask for her wants and needs to be met in a way that others can understand.

I'm learning more and more what it means to be an advocate. Guess it's a good thing I'm strong-willed by nature. Somebody's going to have to stick up for Pumpkin!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

We're home

Pumpkin was discharged this afternoon. I'm glad to be home! Unfortunately, our doctor visits are no where near over. We have to follow up with her primary care physician tomorrow. We have to go as a walk-in too as the only appointment available was at 2:00 and that doesn't allow enough time to get in, be done and get home in time for the other cherubs when they arrive from school. We also have to follow up with her neurologist next Friday. Again - as a walk-in. The doctor didn't think it was necessary to actually schedule an appointment. <<sigh>>

I'm tired of doctors.

For now though, Pumpkin seems to be feeling much better. I just hope my patience grows by leaps and bounds. I'm finding that my frustration with her inability to do things is growing. I might need to start a new sticker chart for myself.  :)  Either way, I think I am going to have a margarita after all the cherubs are in bed tonight. I think I've earned it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Going home tomorrow???

Today's stay wasn't too bad. I was smart and wore long sleeves and long pants. (Why oh why do they keep hospitals so gosh darn cold?!) I spent a great deal of time playing on the iPad. I'm hooked. It's pretty cool. Pumpkin's neurologist says we should be able to go home tomorrow morning. I haven't seen any more seizure activity. She seems to be doing better. And, equally as important, the rest of my family is surviving without me. I requested that a social worker from our agency come relieve me this evening. I got to run home, take a shower and hug the rest of my kids. I will be glad to pack up in the morning though as soon as we get the OK. Hospitals don't make me uncomfortable like they do some people. But I prefer home sweet home for sure!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

At the hospital

This will be short. I'm trying out my hubby's new iPad. I really should go to sleep. But since I'm going to be hanging out in the hospital awhile, I can take plenty of naps if I want. Pumpkin saw her neurologist today and he admitted her because of the seizure activity. She seems to be doing better tonight. But they are going to run a lot of tests and hopefully get her more stabilized. And you can bet your rear end I let CPS tell Pumpkin's mom.
(I only make mistakes like that once. LOL)

A mistake I won't make twice

I think I have to learn every foster parenting lesson the hard way.

Yesterday, after strange sickness behavior from Pumpkin for several days, I determined that she needed to be evaluated immediately to rule out sickness vs. seizure activity. To make a long story short, she threw up (out of the blue) on Saturday afternoon. She vomited again in the middle of the night.

Side note: I'm so glad I got my triggers under control doing behavior mod on myself with dirty diapers. Because a child sitting in their own vomit not trying to alert anyone to their condition is even more disgusting than a diaper blow-out.

On Sunday, Pumpkin seemed "out of it". Kinda sleepy. She took a long nap that afternoon. There was no purposeful language - only gibberish. She didn't eat anything all day. However, I continued to chalk things up to just being a sick kid.

After sleeping fine all night, I decided it would be OK for me to take Pumpkin to school yesterday. I let her teachers know all that had happened. They said they would monitor her for me. At 11:30 I got a text from her teacher letting me know that Pumpkin had been asleep for about an hour. Since I was on my way to pick Pumpkin up for an appointment, I was able to talk to the aides right away.

Pumpkin was still asleep when I got to school. Her aide told me that she had been "zoning out" and almost falling asleep at the table. This didn't seem right to me at all. Pumpkin shouldn't have been that tired. So, I took her home, packed a bag for the hospital and took off. On the way there I called the entire army of people that have to know any time something like this happens with a foster kid.

Fast forward to 4:00PM. I hadn't heard back from CPS yet. Pumpkin's visit was supposed to start at 4:30. Trying to do the right thing, I lost all sense of reality and sent a text to Pumpkin's mom asking if CPS had contacted her yet. (Mistake. BIG mistake!) I was trying to be nice. I just wanted to keep her mom from showing up at CPS for their family visit. We weren't going to be there and I wanted to save her the hassle.

Pumpkin's mom told me no, CPS hadn't contacted her yet. I said we were at the ER because of possible seizure activity. She sent me a text in all caps wanting to know where I was at because she wanted to come too. (Duh! I should have known this would happen.) I said she couldn't come unless a CPS staff supervisor was with her because she's not allowed unsupervised visits. Mom freaked out and tried to call me. I didn't pick up. Mom then grabbed a phone that belonged to someone else (so I wouldn't recognize the number) and called me again. This time I picked up because I thought maybe it was CPS finally calling me back. But noooooo....it was Mom. Totally freaking out.

"Why can't I be there?! I'm her mom! I should get to be there."

(Duh! What was I thinking?!)

As I was trying to talk to Pumpkin's mom, CPS did call me back (finally). I hung up on Mom and talked to my worker. Thankfully we've got a great social worker who said she would try to calm Mom down. She was going to have to check with her supervisor though. They may have to let Mom come visit us at the ER. I reiterated that a supervisor would have to come along. I just wasn't up to doing this alone. (Pumpkin's mom and I handle medical issues totally differently. I knew she would get Pumpkin all worked up and I didn't think it would be good for Pumpkin.) I also apologized about a million times that I was sorry for breaking the chain of command. She apologized for not checking her voice mail sooner and told me it's OK if I have to call one hundred times with stuff like this. I am to contact her first - not the mom.

I got lucky I guess. My worker was able to calm Pumpkin's mom down. They didn't send her to the hospital with us. My day got to stay reasonably drama free. (Though there was a man on the other side of the ER with cocaine in his system that required restraints. It made for an interesting soap-opera type event to watch.)

The doctors ruled out any kind of infection. All they did was up Pumpkin's dosage of anti-seizure medicine. I'm to follow up with her neurologist today.

I have to constantly remind myself that this is not a normal thing I'm doing. I doubt any mother would get a text about their kid being in the hospital and respond well. But it's not my job to make her life easier. She's the one that screwed up. And unfortunately, there are lots of natural consequences as a result of her screw up. My focus has to stay on Pumpkin. It was a mistake I won't make twice!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Primal Wound

Too often in our approach to the newborn we deal with him as if he is exactly that – "brand new". We neglect the fact that neonate is really the culmination of an amazing experience that has lasted forty weeks. ... By looking at the neonate as if he had "sprung full-blown from the brain of Zeus" we are missing the opportunities that the newborn's history as a fetus can provide.
– T. B. Brazelton

This is something I feel quite passionately about. It's the element of adoption that I think gets lost so many times (at least in infant adoption). A lot happens during those 40 weeks before our kids come to us. A lot that shapes who they are and how they feel about life.

Cherub 2 came to our family via adoption at birth. We know very little about his story as his first family didn't indicate that they wanted an open adoption. We didn't push for open adoption either. Knowing as little as we did about adoption, we just did what the social workers and lawyers told us to do.

What we were able to piece together about his birth story is this...

TT's birth parents were a young couple - ages 19 & 20. We have reason to believe that his mother kept the pregnancy a secret from her immediate family. (I believe this element of her pregnancy helped shaped a lot of TT's personality. I believe it is one reason he has such high anxiety.) During the summer before TT was born, a somewhat anonymous phone call was made to the social worker that ended up handling our adoption. The pregnant mother asked our social worker all kinds of questions about the Safe Haven laws of our state. Well after the fact, our social worker said she was pretty sure the caller was TT's first mom.

When TT's first mom went into labor she attempted to labor at home. Then, when the pain became too intense, she and TT's dad drove across the state lines to a hospital close to us. There she delivered a beautiful, healthy baby boy. Both parents indicated that they wanted adoption for their son.

A social worker came to the hospital and explained the options. They had every legal right to take advantage of the Safe Haven law. However, this would mean that the baby would have to be made a Child In Need of Assistance. With a label like this, the adoption process would be long and drawn out. It would even hold the possibility of complications as they would have to go through a much more difficult process of terminating parental rights. The other option TT's first parents was given was to formally relinquish TT to the State and terminate his rights through a traditional adoption process.

We were told that TT's first family wanted to do what was best (and fastest) for their baby. We got the phone call about TT the next day. We were told that it was a foster to adopt situation. We rushed to the hospital to meet him and he came home with us as soon as they would release him (48 hours old). His parents signed termination paperwork there in the hospital. It was still a long drawn out process (I wasn't too thrilled with the efficiency of our lawyer) but TT joined our family legally just two days before his first birthday.

......

I started trying to "learn" about adoption when TT was about 2 years old. Up to that point, all I knew was that I wasn't going to lie about the adoption. It was going to be discussed. The first book I just happened to grab was Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge. The book talked about how, even as an infant, these children experience extreme loss. I remember thinking some of the book seemed a little "out there". But I read it from cover to cover and kept it close. I knew it was a book I would want to read several more times.

......

As I watched my incredibly beautiful son grow, I saw elements of his personality unfold. Almost once a year I go back to read that book. I need to remind myself that despite his smiles and giggles, he has suffered the most primal wound possible. He lost his first family. (Speaking of, Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier is another good book about adoption loss.) The more I watch my son grow, the less "out there" I think the books are. My kid is happy. My kid is attached. But my kid has a wound that will never make sense.

His first family loved him so much they let him go.

They had their reasons. And I can't imagine my life without Cherub 2. I just can't. I'm grateful that his first family chose life and that we get to be a part of it. But can YOU wrap your brain around someone loving you so much they left you?! It makes sense that many, many adopted kids have attachment issues. Abandonment fears.

......

Fast forward to us doing foster care.

TT has had the most difficult time with us doing foster care out of our three kids. As each child enters our home he wrestles with his own demons.

One night, at supper, out of the blue, he mumbled, "Oh, I've got a big feeling. But. Oh. I'll talk about it later."

I gave him the OK to talk about it right then and there.

He mustered up the courage and then said, "How can they...at the visits...just act like nothing happened?"

TT has gone with me several times when I have to drop Pumpkin off at CPS for her family visits. He can't make sense of the process. I explained that I'm sure Pumpkin's mom is very sad for the things she did. But it doesn't do her any good to be sad all the time. Eventually people have to accept things the way they are.

Imagine the rest of his thoughts though...

Does my mom feel sad about leaving me? Does my mom miss me?

We discuss these feelings with him when he wants. But I don't have the answers.
......

Wednesday evening this week we welcomed two beautiful cherubs into our home for respite care. The two year old little boy (Peanut) was quite upset when his foster family left. He cried and cried and cried. He kept asking for "ya ya". I asked his sister who Ya Ya was and she said it was his mom.

TT couldn't leave Peanut's side. The amount of compassion coming from TT was astounding. He felt so bad for the little guy. Then his own eyes welled up.

I went out on a limb. I don't want to make TT feel bad for reasons that aren't authentic to him. But everything I've read in "the books" tells me that I have to create opportunities for TT to discuss his adoption. He has to know that I'm OK with it.

I asked TT if he remembered missing his mom when he was a baby.

He's seven years old. I'm sure he doesn't "really" remember the intimate details of his birth. But that wound...he feels that wound.

He melted all over me and said yes. He remembers missing his mom.

I hugged him. I let him know that it's OK. I made sure he knew he could talk about anything he wanted to. This time around a quick cry was all he needed/wanted. Then he bottled it all back up so he could help tend to Peanut. He was still so worried about Peanut. Sometimes I wish he'd talk about it in greater detail. Allow himself to fully feel those emotions that hurt him so deeply. I'm not a fan of how he bottles it back up so quickly. But I can't force anything.

......

I've got no profound way to end this post. It was just a story I thought needed to be shared. We'll keep giving TT opportunities to discuss his adoption. And with us fostering, I'm sure there will be plenty.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Communication snafu

When you provide respite where I live you are compensated for the nights that the children actually sleep in your home.

I swear the family we're doing respite for said they were picking up the kids on Saturday. I swear I heard them say that.

But no. We are doing respite "through Saturday". And according to the family that dropped these wonderful cherubs off, that means they are picking them up Sunday afternoon.

So I now I get absolutely no time with just my three cherubs and Pumpkin over spring break. If I had known that, I would have said no.

Especially since I found out from our worker that this family requested respite only because they have a licensing review next week and they need to bring their home up to minimum standards. I honestly thought I was providing some sort of "emergency" respite for something of a more serious nature. Not just giving a family a last minute opportunity to houseclean and enjoy spring break without any children.

I think I'm going to have to practice saying "no". I don't want to say no to the kids. I really don't. But I feel taken advantage of right now and it doesn't feel good.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Note to self

Even if the foster parent that calls you to do some respite care for them speaks perfect English - double check to make sure the kid they're dropping off at your house does too.

I'll never get used to this

Two beautiful children joined our family last night. They're only staying until Saturday. But they're here nevertheless.

Maybe it's how they do things down here. (The culture where I live is TOTALLY different than anything I've ever experienced!) Maybe I'm reading too much into things. But I was really taken aback by the drop-off process.

I think the only reason the foster family walked the children up to the door was because they were helping carry the car seat for the baby. I'm not even sure they said goodbye to the kids.

These children have been in their home for 7 months! I couldn't imagine treating a child like that. The transitions have got to be scary as hell for the kids! A hug and a goodbye sure would have been nice.

The foster mom was kind enough to offer to go get some additional groceries. It wasn't necessary though. I've got plenty of food in the house. I also told them that I had sippy cups. So, I took the paperwork and the parents went on their merry way.

I didn't check the kids' things before their foster family left. I just assume that kids that have been in care for awhile will come with what they need for a few days of respite. So many items were missing in their suitcases though. And I know - maybe I'm being too judgmental.  But there were no diaper wipes. (Thankfully I have plenty of those!) No toothbrushes. No pajamas for the 2 year old. No hairbrush for the 6 year old.

I keep a closet stocked with toothbrushes. Each child got a new one last night. The little girl will have to borrow Pumpkin's hairbrush. And I just slept the baby in his t-shirt.

My heart breaks for children in state care all over this country. This is powerful stuff. I'm never going to get used to what it feels like when children are dropped off at my house.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fighting the crazy off by staying busy

My parents left this morning.

I am sad.

Very, very sad!

I HATE living over 1200 miles away from my entire family!

I got a phone call from another foster mom. She needs respite for two kids starting today. I wanted to say no. My son's birthday is Friday. We don't generally do "kid parties" though so there isn't anything major on the calendar. But I really wanted to just wallow in my sadness.

I checked with Mr. Amazing. He didn't mind. He seemed to think it would help keep me from feeling so sad if I kept myself busy. He's probably right.

So, I'm adding two more kiddos to the house this afternoon. They're going to stay until Saturday. I think I'm certifiable.

I've got to go now. Beds need made. Floors need swept. I've got more kids coming soon.

I think in the long run I'm crazy either way. But with a 14yoB, 7yoB, 6yoB, 6yoG, 5yoB and 2yoB at least I won't be wallowing in loneliness.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Respite for Pumpkin

Here's how it all shook out......

I prayed and prayed and prayed all day long. I prayed for my agency worker. I prayed for my CPS worker. I prayed for our agency regional director. (I forgot to pray for the CPS supervisor.)

About 2:45 I couldn't take it anymore so I called our agency to find out what the status was. Our SW (let's call her Sarah) took a deep breath and said that she was just going to call me.

"It doesn't sound good," I said.
She replied, "No."
I said, "Pumpkin has to go to respite doesn't she."
She muttered out a yes.

This is difficult to explain...bear with me. I asked what had happened and Sarah told me that she had talked to our CPS worker (let's call her Amy). Amy was OK with Pumpkin staying at my house. However, when she presented things to her supervisor it was knocked down. It seemed hopeless. Sarah told me that she was going to call and find a respite provider. I offered to do all of the necessary school and visit transportation if they could find a home close enough to where we live. I even said the Pumpkin could stay with me all day and I would just need a bed for her to sleep in. (We are on Spring Break next week so she won't have school. I really want Pumpkin to stay in our house as much time as possible.)

I hung up with Sarah and decided to call Amy.

Amy's version of the story was slightly different. She said that CPS doesn't have a problem with it per se. They default to our agency's minimum standards in this case. So I said, "You mean if our agency says it's OK, CPS will say it's OK?!" Amy indicated that this was true. Only she would have to get a supervisor to sign off on it.

So I called Sarah back. (Confusing as hell. I know. I guess I'm just spelling out all of this obnoxious conversation as a way to shed light on what "the system" can look and act like.) Sarah seemed slightly confused. So she said that she would call Amy again.

Acckk!!

I could be wrong. But it seemed that we got caught in a circle and no one would bend. Our agency said we could "break the background check rule" if CPS would send them a letter saying it's OK. CPS said they could break the rule if our agency said it was OK. Neither organization would put it in writing giving approval for my parents to stay. Neither organization wanted to take responsibility. Both parties claimed they understand and it really isn't a problem. Neither organization sees my parents as a threat. But MINIMUM STANDARDS aren't being met so their hands are tied. So, Pumpkin can be at our house all day long. She just can't sleep in our house if my parents are here.

Sarah managed to find a respite home for Pumpkin about 20 minutes away from my house. I agreed to handle all the transportation for school and family visits. I take Pumpkin to this house and tuck her in to bed. Then, in the morning the respite provider gets Pumpkin dressed and I come pick her up and take her to school. (Good deal for the respite provider. She gets full compensation and we will not be receiving any per diam for the days Pumpkin is officially on respite. But it's important to me that Pumpkin's life stay as close to normal as possible. Proof I guess that I'm not in this for the money. And, according to some, that I'm certifiable. LOL)

I've been pleasantly surprised. This change in routine hasn't really phased Pumpkin at all. (Maybe her mom used to do things like this so she could "go out". I have no idea!!) Things are going so smooth in fact, Pumpkin smiled and played with me tonight as I was tucking her in. When I asked for a kiss goodnight -- I actually got one! This my friends is huge! Pumpkin is showing a wider range of emotions. It's awesome!

The respite mom is wonderful!! I've been very blessed. At no time did she make me feel bad for doing this. She has been quite reassuring. And none of Pumpkin's delays even phase her.

I'm still praying that the paperwork from the FBI will show up at our agency soon. If my parents are still here the day the day the paperwork comes in (IF it comes in) Pumpkin will not have to go to respite anymore. Until then, I have to obey THE SYSTEM. <<sigh>>

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Urgent prayer request

The paperwork on my parents' background check hasn't arrived from the FBI yet. I am asking those of you that pray, to join me in this request. I'll give you the background history...

Our agency requires that anyone over the age of 18 that is going to stay the night at my house fill our a massive form that indicates that they are moving in. Yes, moving in. Not just staying the night. But moving in. Along with this form that includes a thorough amount of history on them and references, they also have to submit to an FBI fingerprint background check.

I knew all of this when we were going through the licensing process. I had my parents fill out the paperwork this past summer. I submitted it to our agency along with copies of their fingerprints in August 2010.

Unfortunately, our agency didn't submit the paperwork to Washington correctly. They had me send a check for payment. From what I can tell, they didn't mail in the paperwork in a timely fashion either. It got kicked back to the agency in December. Again, they dropped the ball because no one contacted me to tell me that I have to pay with either a credit card or a cashier's check. When I finally found out, I submitted my credit card and sent the paperwork back to the FBI myself.

The FBI charged my credit card on 02/28/11. However, the paperwork proving my parents don't have a rap sheet hasn't been sent back to our agency yet.

Because of this, they may have to move Pumpkin to emergency respite care tonight.

Our agency social worker is actively trying to get permission for Pumpkin to stay with us through my parents' visit. First she has to get permission from our CPS worker. If she grants permission, our agency SW then has to get permission from our agency regional director.

I know how the system works. Rules are rules. And despite the fact that in this case it would be absolute best for Pumpkin to stay in my house, rules are rules. I'm not holding my breath.

I'm also not packing Pumpkin's bag just yet.

Pumpkin would be very, very safe in my home with my parents here. She would never understand why she was being moved if that's what has to happen. I ask for prayers that the decision making people can see past the black and white of these rules to do what is best for Pumpkin.

Thank you.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Happy Monday!

It's been a good morning so far!

My littlest cherubs woke up and got dressed and were ready to go to school on time.

My oldest cherub was up and ready to go on time. He even ate breakfast at home! This is nothing short of a miracle. And to top it off, he was in a good mood!!!

Despite the fact that Pumpkin woke up crying and I had to feed her breakfast, she seemed to snap out of her funk by the time we got to school. In fact, she gave me my first hug ever! And I don't mean that she stood there and allowed me to hug her. I mean that she actually turned around, walked back to me, put her arms around me and gave. me. a. hug! I almost cried!!

Then, on my way out of school, the counselor stopped me in the hall. They are FINALLY ready to have the 504 meeting for Pumpkin. If special education is new to you, this post sums things up pretty well! The focus is on kids with RAD, but it explains 504s pretty well. I want Pumpkin to have this meeting so that she can ride the bus home from school. (The pick-up line is just about crazy enough to make me go insane daily!) Pumpkin meets all the requirements because of her epilepsy and severe developmental delays. If all goes well, the meeting might happen tomorrow. I'm excited!! (I want as many services as possible in place as soon as possible! The court has ordered a home study on another aunt of Pumpkin's. Of course, family is "better" than foster care. But I still don't trust that she will get the highest attention to her medical and educational needs. If I have the services in place, there will be more people advocating for Pumpkin even if I'm not in the picture.)

And the best part of this week....my mom and dad are leaving soon to make the 1200+ mile drive down to visit me and my family! I can't wait to see them!!!!

If you're a praying kind of person, please be in prayer over this visit. There are health concerns for my dad. My mom will be doing all the driving. And, despite my best efforts to have their background check in place for this visit (I filed the paperwork with our agency last August) we still don't have clearance from the FBI. (Yes, our agency requires a full FBI fingerprint background check for any overnight visitors over the age of 18.) If that paperwork doesn't make it back from Washington to our agency by Wednesday, Pumpkin will have to go into emergency respite care. It would totally suck for Pumpkin. But my agency will make no exceptions. (Even though it's largely their fault the paperwork didn't get filed correctly or in a timely fashion.) And, because I rarely get to see my parents, I'm not going to make them stay in a hotel. I'm praying that the paperwork will arrive in time!!

No matter what happens, I'm going to stay positive. This WILL be a good week! Happy Monday y'all!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Is this "Moderate"?

I spent the entire day at a sleep clinic sitting next to Pumpkin while she had an extended EEG. And by all day, I mean we got there at 6:30 this morning and they started unhooking the electrodes at 5:45 tonight. It was a looooonnnnggg day!

Thankfully, Pumpkin handles stuff like this pretty well. Of course she hollered and screamed while they put the electrodes on her scalp. And she writhed and yelled when they took them off. But other than that, she just sat in the bed and played. I didn't even run the TV all day. I was smart and brought some brand new (to Pumpkin anyway) toys with us. She played with Mr. Potato Head for hours and hours! It was mind numbing for me. But we made it through.

I came home to 20 emails. One of them happened to be a from our agency social worker letting me know there has been a status change for Pumpkin.

I believe every child starts out being listed as "Basic" where we are at. From there, our agency has us keep a log for the first 30 days. We have to list out Rewards, Discipline and a description of the child's Behavior and Mood. This log, along with medical information and recommendations from social workers, gets sent to an independent agency that assigns the official "level". There are three: Basic, Moderate and Specialized.

Each level is supposed to represent the kind of care the child requires. Each level also pays a different per diam.

I am not concerned AT ALL about the money. Honestly, if I was doing this for the money, I wouldn't have been able to sit in that room with Pumpkin all day today. My family is fostering for completely different reasons. My husband and I believe that God called us to this mission. We went through all the training. We opened up our lives to full background checks. We filled out an exhausting amount of paperwork concerning our history, how we parent, the status of our marriage, and more. We will deal with all the complete nonsense of the system. We are in this for the long haul.

Caring for Pumpkin is extremely easy and extremely difficult all at the same time. When I filled out her log, I was honest. Pumpkin is mellow and easy to care for. They wanted to know about her behavior and mood and I was honest.

But the reality is...Pumpkin is really, really difficult to care for. But it's because of all her delays. Not because of her "behavior".

Pumpkin can walk around the house OK enough. That's because she can hang on to furniture and the walls. As far as "community" distances go, Pumpkin HAS to hold a hand to walk. And when she does it is painfully slow! Or, she has to be held. Pumpkin is 42 pounds of dead weight.

Pumpkin cannot follow commands. At best, it is an emerging skill. If you tell Pumpkin to "sit down" she will repeat "sit down" two or three times before she slowly sits her rear end down. It's the same thing with "lay down, come here, go to the bathroom, go upstairs, go to your room" or anything else for that matter. Forget about asking her to put things away or to get things for you. This isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things. It is an emerging skill and she is showing progress. But you have to count on tending to Pumpkin as being a very slow and tedious process. Or count on moving her around like you do an infant.

Pumpkin cannot do any self care. Nothing. She can't dress or undress herself. She is completely unaware of whether or not her diaper is wet or soiled. She can't wash her hands, brush her teeth, or do anything else. In fact, she only feeds herself about 75% of the time.

Pumpkin has a vocabulary of about 50 words and phrases. She does not use language to communicate her wants and/or needs. This lack of language alone makes taking care of Pumpkin a guessing game at all times. What does she like? Is she hungry? Would she like a drink? Honestly, she could so easily be abused in this area because it would be easy to neglect her or treat her differently than what she deserves.

Keep in mind through all this - Pumpkin is over 5 1/2 years old. She is not an infant but her needs are similar to one. She requires a lot of nurturing and you have to be prepared to do it expecting nothing in return from Pumpkin. (Sounds selfish but it is tiring to care for someone that does not reciprocate emotion.) Along with all of the above developmental delays, Pumpkin has extra medical needs. She sees a neurologist every two months and could easily be hospitalized if her epilepsy is not under control. As soon as the paperwork gets through, she will also require physical, occupational and speech therapies. I have no idea if these therapies will happen during the school day or if I will be responsible for transportation. It could end up eating a lot of time out of my weekly schedule.

So, I'm asking the foster care community - does Pumpkin sound like "Moderate" to you or "Specialized"? (Thankfully they didn't come back with "Basic" or I might have just lost it.)

I asked our agency social worker the same question. Not because we want more money!! But because, if Pumpkin has to leave our home for any reason (even if it's just respite), I think she needs to be represented accurately. I'd love to hear how it works in other areas of the country and if you think I'm overreacting. (I can take it. Honest I can. I'm wearing my big girl panties today.)

I'm hoping there's an appeals process. I'm pretty sure there is. If so, you can bet that I will fill out the daily log differently this time around. I will better describe how she tolerates diaper changes and what it's like when she refuses to eat. To me, labeling Pumpkin as "Moderate" is the same as CPS telling me that she has a limp and developmental delay. It just doesn't explain the whole story.