Friday, April 29, 2011

Another school rant

Pumpkin is not toilet trained. Not at all. Not by any stretch of the imagination. No matter what her bio mom might think. She has no idea if she's soaking wet or sitting in a pile of poo.

One of the ways I deal with this is to change her frequently. I've had to work through quite a few issues when it comes to this area of care and Pumpkin. Five-year-old butts can be pretty disgusting! But if I change her frequently, I don't deal with the "quantity" that really gets to me. Besides - that's how I've handled ALL my children. I think it's the right thing to do no matter what. No child deserves to sit around in a messy diaper.

So, you can imagine my frustration when Pumpkin got off the bus after school today and her shorts were so wet I could almost wring them out.

I am not impressed with the special education department at our school. I have yet to see the teacher interacting with the students AT ALL! Yes, I've seen the aides playing with flash cards or sitting next to a child that is scribbling. But that's about it. I've been in and out of the classroom at all different times of the day. I have yet to see anything that resembles educational involvement.

Last week, Pumpkin got off the bus from school carrying a stick from a blow-pop lollipop. She was covered in candy pieces and was chewing the gum. This made me totally freak out! For one thing, lollipops can be a choking hazard for neuro-typical children. They are generally safe enough if the child is old enough and they are sitting. But Pumpkin is NOT neuro-typical. And...here's the biggie...she can't walk well. What was she doing with a lollipop while on the bus?! I'm quite confident that she wasn't sitting the entire time she was eating it. And, to top it off, she has no business chewing gum. I've had to finger-sweep her mouth before because of choking. She may have chewed gum tons of times before coming to my house. But I'm not going to take that kind of risk with Pumpkin.

And, despite my best efforts, the staff in Pumpkin's classroom still isn't filling out the daily information sheet fully. I want to know if Pumpkin is eating during the day (she can't tell me herself). I also need to know if seizure behavior is present. Pumpkin hasn't been in my care long enough for me to fully trust that her seizure's are under control the way they should be. I've gone in to the classroom during the day (to pick up Pumpkin or to drop things off) and the aides have told me that Pumpkin has been particularly tired lately in the mornings. I kindly ask the aides to write it down for me in the daily log sheet that I've provided. Being extra tired is a sign that something isn't quite right. Any child that goes to bed at 7:30PM and gets up at 6:30AM shouldn't be so tired that they can't function during the morning. However, the level of fatigue hasn't been recorded for me ever. Despite the fact that I have a space dedicated to that specific symptom on the sheet. Grrr

With the lollipop issue, I called the school that very afternoon and spoke with the assistant principal. I played it off that I wanted to make sure to say something right away as the Easter party was the next day and I knew there would be a lot of candy. I was worried for Pumpkin's safety and I wanted it addressed without me having to make the confrontation.

With the daily logs, I'm just going to wing it for the rest of the year. In just about a month Pumpkin will be home with me all day every day and I will be monitoring her behavior myself. It just doesn't seem worth it to make a stink this close to the end of the year. Besides, they are filling out the sheet daily – they just aren't doing a very thorough job of it.

As for the wet shorts, I took the passive aggressive approach this morning. At drop off we were discussing that Pumpkin hadn't eaten breakfast yet. The conversation was light-hearted and I just said, "Wow! Pumpkin must have had a LOT to drink yesterday at snack. When she got off the bus her shorts were soaking wet. I could have wrung them out they were so soaked!"

The aides immediately let me know that she wasn't in that condition when she got on the bus. They informed me know that "policy" states the children can't have messy diapers when they're getting on the bus. They even told me that they've been called back to the bus yard to change a child before the bus would take them. Now...I know they don't make sure that Pumpkin is dry every day before she leaves school. I have to change Pumpkin's diaper every day when she gets home from school – and there is only a 20 minute lapse from when school gets out to when she arrives at my home. (In fact, she was early yesterday and got home just 10 minutes after school let out.) But, at least I guess I know they didn't put her on the bus all wet like that.

I feel like my hands are so tied. Of course I want to advocate for Pumpkin as best as I can! But there's this dance that I know I am in. Ultimately, they are the ones caring for Pumpkin during the day at school and I don't want to offend them. I don't want them to become frustrated and as a result offer up an even lower standard of care. Pumpkin can't tell me how she's being treated. I'm not insinuating that they would abuse her. But I don't want to do anything that could make things worse for Pumpkin.

We've only got 4 1/2 weeks of school left. It's not worth it to cause a fuss right now. I'll get all my "ducks in a row" for next year! If Pumpkin is still in my care...things will be different. I will see to that!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Thank You

Thank You for keeping the drama to a minimum last week.
Thank You for helping Cherub 1 make some connections about sleep this week. I know that getting enough sleep is paramount for my sanity. However, convincing a 14 year old of that fact is quite difficult. (You can send them to their rooms – but you can't make them sleep.) I'm glad he got something of a clue this week and started taking better care of himself.

Thank You for the CPS visit this week. It was good to hear that Pumpkin's mom is actually on her way to getting Pumpkin back. Yes, what she did was horribly horribly wrong! But ultimately, I believe parents deserve a second chance. That's what this whole foster care system is set up for. Pumpkin's mom is doing everything her case plan says. Yes, she's going to need to be monitored for a long time to ensure Pumpkin's overall safety. But it was hard for me to think that they were just "toying with everyone" by having visits and talking about Pumpkin going home if that wasn't even a possibility. I know the judge has the final say. But it was good to hear the CPS worker have a slightly positive attitude toward reunification.

Thank You for all the friends that have been in and out of my house all week. I love being the neighborhood house where kids feel comfortable enough to hang out in my front yard even when I'm not home. I love how they all know where we keep the glasses at and that they don't have to ask for something to drink. I want those kinds of relationships around

Thank You for the new employment possibility that opened up this week for my husband. Open the doors if it's Your will. We will gladly follow!

And thank You for the most blessed holiday of the year. Christmas is nothing compared to Easter. Despite the huge amounts of chocolate that now fill my house, wonderful conversations about Your sacrifice have been had all week. Thank You God for loving me enough to die for me. Thank You for your mercies that are new every day. Thank You for new life!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I saw the girls

I wrote a LOT about my first foster daughters on my older blog (that has since been shut down). Needless to say TurtleTurtle and MissArguePants had a huge impact on my life.

I haven't stopped thinking about them since the day they left my house. That Saturday where I had to make a very hard decision. The one where I had to send the girls to live somewhere else. I had to make the hardest decision I've ever made in order to protect my legal family. Damn that Saturday sucked!

I know they left our home and went to emergency respite. That family would have taken them in "officially" but their CPS worker was being a pain about the family visits. The girls lived in the respite home for a month before leaving our agency and going to yet another foster family. From there, I stopped hearing anything about them.

I saw them tonight.

Their case plan still involves reunification with their biological mother (a person that has never...except for maybe the first year of the oldest girl's life...raised them). They are going "home" in May or June.

It hurt to see them. Physically hurt. I was washed over with a flood of emotion. I missed them. I missed loving on them. And at the same time - I didn't miss them at all. I really only missed the "idea" of them.

Taking care of TurtleTurtle and MissArguePants was the hardest thing I have ever done!!!

They looked good tonight though. I'm sure because of the level of mental illness they suffer from they didn't even make the connection why I was at the CPS office (picking Pumpkin up from her visit). They let me hug them. All I could do was tell them that I never stopped thinking about them. I never stopped caring about them. They were both quite disconnected from it all though.

I'm not happy that they are in foster care. I'm not happy that they are going back to their mom either. In this case, all I want to do is check the box that says "they should never have been abused". There is no good answer for them. These little girls suffer from extreme mental illness due to a lifetime of abuse and neglect. But at least I know how to focus my prayers for them now. I pray that their mom gets the help she's going to need when they come to live with her. She's going to need it!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dear New Week

Dear New Week,

Last week really stunk. On Monday I had to sit through an ARD meeting where it seemed no one had a clue about my little girl. Then, that afternoon, I met with a social worker. She told me that odds are, my little girl will never go home. In all her years as a social worker (both with CPS and our agency) she's only seen one special needs child actually go back home. This news made me really, really sad.

On Tuesday I had to drive almost an hour away to pick up the leg braces for my little girl. It's a good thing and all, but very time consuming.

Wednesday seemed to be better. But then we accepted placement of a beautiful little girl and intake wasn't done until 1:00AM. Ya know, I need more sleep than that.

Thursday was pretty intense. New placements are like that. And then, because CPS screwed things up, this new little girl was taken from my house and put with her little sister. I'm glad she got to be with her sister. But this little girl really wanted to stay at my house and I felt really bad that CPS couldn't work things out so that her little sister could join our family instead.

Friday my husband hurt his ankle at work. I didn't go to the ER with him but I did stay up late at home waiting for him to be done – just in case he needed me. He's in a splint now and can't get around too good. He's in a lot of pain.

Saturday was OK enough. But Pumpkin fell and split her lip open right at bedtime after her bath. First we went to the doctor's office since one of the locations she can go to is open until midnight. However, can you believe this...they don't have the ability to do stitches or even Dermabond at the doctor's office?! We had to go to the ER anyway!! Injuries like this are a pain when the kid is "your own". But are you aware of how many people have to be informed when a foster kid hurts themselves?!

So, New Week, I'd like a break. Could you help all my kids sleep really good? Maybe heal everyone? I don't have any appointments on my calendar and that is nothing short of a miracle. I'd like it to stay that way please. I've got cleaning to do. Freelancing to catch up on. And a huge mountain of laundry. If you can New Week, I'd really like you to take it easy on me so I can get this stuff done.

Thanks!
~ Cherub Mamma

Thursday, April 14, 2011

And...she's gone

As quickly as she came...CPS swooped in and took her away again. It's going to take awhile for the image of utter defeat and sadness that consumed Belle to not be burned in my mind. My heart breaks for what she's going through.

  • I contacted our agency first thing this morning letting them know Belle's sister could stay with us.
  • Our agency contacted CPS letting them know that the placement would be approved on their end.
  • All parties involved knew that Belle's wishes were to stay here.
  • Then we waited.
  • And waited.
  • And waited.
  • Around 2:00 I couldn't stand it any longer and called CPS myself. I was told that they were waiting to hear from the two agencies involved with the two little girls. I said my agency was in favor of the transfer and were awaiting the decision of CPS.
  • I called back to my agency and let the intake worker know what the CPS supervisor said.
  • She did her thing again to let CPS know that a transfer would be approved if that's what they decided.
  • At 4:30 I got a call from CPS. A decision had been made. The worker would be by in about an hour.

Belle looked so sad. And not sad like when my kid drops his ice cream cone. But a hollow sort of sadness that ran deep into her soul.

How do you explain to a ten year old that her desires weren't valued. I'm sure they have a reason. But when deciding between what should be two completely equal safe environments, shouldn't the kid's desires be taken into consideration? She had seen the other home. She had seen this home. It wasn't her fault she got separated from her sister. Why was it so difficult for CPS to consider what she wanted?

I'm never going to know.

I'm personally wiped out. Completely wiped out. I've got nothing. I was up until after 1:00AM last night doing the intake. I woke up before 5:30AM and couldn't stop rolling over all that had happened this morning. I became emotionally involved as Belle shared her story (all on her own I might add). And now...she's gone.

The answer will be "no" if we get any more calls in the next couple weeks. With all the recent respite placements and now this day with Belle, there have been too many comings and goings. I need a break.

Lunchtime conversation

This is all my fault.
But I had to do it...I was looking out for myself.
I didn't want to get hit.
He hits my mom all the time.
He mostly hits my sister too.
It's all my fault though.
That we got separated.

(You and your sister?)

No. Me and my mom. It's all my fault.

(No sweetheart. It's not your "fault". You didn't do anything wrong. You were very brave. Your mom wasn't keeping you safe. You did the right thing. You don't deserve to get hit.)

I had to do it. I had to protect myself.
I'm not safe when I'm with my mom.

The story is never right the first time

CPS arrived last night around 11:30 with a very beautiful, and very scared, 10 year old little girl (I'm going to call her Belle). We sat down and started signing the mountain of paperwork. The worker from our agency screwed up and didn't arrive on time. When I called her to find out where she was, she said that she was still over 1/2 an hour away because she thought CPS was going to call her one more time to tell her when to be at my house. (communication snafu!)

So, we had to sit and wait and wait and wait. I couldn't put Belle to bed because she had to sign stuff for our agency too. She was shy and pretty much just sat and listened to the workers and I talking. The workers asked me questions about other placements I've had and stuff like that. I explained how our first placement was a sibling group and how it was very VERY difficult. The worker then said, "So you don't take sibling groups anymore?"

I gave her a funny look and said "No, I don't have a problem with sibling groups. Why?"

It wasn't a sibling group of five being split up last night. It was only a sibling group of two. We were given a choice between two boys (ages 5 and 8) or this 10 year old girl last night. Turns out - those were two completely separate cases. Belle has a little four year old sister and CPS wanted to keep them together. However, someone in intake screwed it up and when they were talking to foster families, they didn't give anyone the option to keep the girls together.

So, last night as they were dropping off Belle's sister, the other foster family expressed a desire to keep the girls together. They offered up their home. Of course nothing can be done without a mountain of paperwork so Belle still had to come to our house. When CPS arrived here and I found out that the girls had been split up on accident, I said that Belle's sister is welcome at our home. The workers said they would talk with their supervisor today. Belle said that she wants to stay here. I'm hoping they will take that into consideration.

As for Belle's health -- she's fine. She's very knowledgeable about her seizures and says they are under control. She described them to me and told me what she likes to have her mom do when she has a seizure. There are no other disabilities! (whew!!)

For now, I just have to sit and wait until someone in the bureaucracy gets this whole thing straightened out with the two girls. We may go back to just having Pumpkin. Or, we may add one more and be full to capacity. It's quite an adventure!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

We said yes again

Emergency placement.
10 year old girl.
Part of a sibling group of five that is being split up.
Arriving tonight in about an hour.
Prayers are appreciated.
I've nested as much and as fast as I could in the last hour but somehow I don't feel prepared.



Oh yeah....
This girl has seizures too.
They tell me everything is under control as long as she takes her meds.
....
But then again, I heard a similar story when Pumpkin came.

Monday, April 11, 2011

ARD/IEP meeting for Pumpkin

Oh. My. Goodness.

I don't even know where to start.

The meeting had all parties in attendance: special ed teacher, regular ed teacher, diagnostician, principal, GAL, CASA worker, CPS worker, bio mom and me.

The diagnostician led the meeting. She started off by going over the documentation that proved Pumpkin met the standards for special ed. As quickly as she could, she rattled off what Pumpkin's neurologist wrote, and then what each of the therapists for the district (physical, occupational and speech) had to say. And I do mean she went fast!

None of it was a surprise to me though. I've been a part of most all the testing. I interviewed with the speech therapist at the school. And, though I didn't work with the other two therapists at the school, I observed separate evaluations at private therapy.

And here is where I've got it a bit easier than most parents. I can listen to everything the professionals have to say about my child and I don't grieve. Pumpkin came to me "as is" and I've never expected more from her than what she is. (OK - well, maybe I have hoped for some things... like potty training. But I'm learning to lower my expectations even further.) I can hear that she's moderately to severely mentally retarded and my hopes and dreams for her aren't shattered.

Then the meeting got interesting.

Pumpkin's special ed teacher started going over the goals for Pumpkin for the rest of this year and all of next year. I'm trying not to be too negative...but there wasn't a SINGLE goal that woman read off that I think Pumpkin will be able to do.

I don't remember them all. My mind started swirling as soon as she started talking. Learn the water cycle?! Sort events by how long they take to do?! Recite the Pledge of Allegiance?!

I want this child to understand "turn around" when it's time for me to brush her hair. To "lay down" when it's time for me to change her diaper. Or even to not call everyone else "Pumpkin". Or not to say "good morning" when it's 7:30PM. I'm pretty sure that being able to separate words into syllables isn't a top priority!!

The diagnostician did say that many of the goals probably seemed a bit lofty. But they are required to make all of Pumpkin's goals align with the goals of her same aged peers. (Stupid stupid stupid No Child Left Behind at its finest!!) They just have to modify them down to Pumpkin's level. She probably only said that because as the teacher went on and on with the ridiculous goals she's put into place, my eyes got bigger and bigger and my mouth probably dropped open. I couldn't help myself.

I advocate as much as I can whenever it's appropriate. I did verbally agree with the diagnostician that the goals seemed lofty. I did say that my ONLY goal for Pumpkin is to improve her communication! But my hands were tied. I'm just the foster mom. No one else had anything to say at the meeting. (That's probably why it only lasted for 42 minutes.) And, honestly, I was so dumbfounded that I didn't know what to say. I'm not really in a position to take on an established school system. Especially not as a foster mom. And really, the things they are proposing won't "hurt" Pumpkin. If the diagnostician is correct, they will be modifying these goals down so much that they might even help Pumpkin learn how to make choices and communicate better.

Nevertheless, I signed all the paperwork and was thankful that it didn't drag on for hours and hours. (I was under the impression that most ARD meetings take much, much longer than 42 minutes.) I have already spoken with Pumpkin's CPS worker about the realities of Pumpkin's developmental level. I have expressed my concern that bio mom isn't aware of the severity of Pumpkin's delays. I met with the CASA workers to let them know the same things. And I spoke in great detail with Pumpkin's GAL last week about all of this as well. It is up to these people to deal with Pumpkin's mom and to let her know that the goals the school is setting for her daughter are completely unrealistic. I've done my part the best that I can.

What a joke!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Being a respite provider

You can read all kinds of stuff about what to do when you get a new foster placement. But, I've never read anything about respite. And, well...respite is different.

I'm still working out the kinks. Each respite placement is going to be different. But these are the things I've been thinking about this weekend. (We've got two extra kids – 13yo and 7yo sisters for the weekend.)

The first thing I do is give a tour of the house. Then, I make sure the kids aren't hungry. I'll go over a few things like making sure they know they'll get food any time they want – I just need them to ask me first so I can let them know what's available. I also show them where the glasses are in case they're thirsty.

But that's about it. I don't think it's necessary to start going over house rules and all that. These kids are already in "the system". Granted, everyone's house is different. But so many of our little family rules (like asking to be excused when at the table) don't have to apply to guests. And really, these respite kids are just guests.

I am speaking about short term respite of course – not several weeks or months.

It's been a good weekend so far. The girls came last night at about 7:15PM, there wasn't too much to last night. As for today, I decided to leave the TV in their room. (We've got an extra TV that I keep in the guest room for when my parents come to stay.) We've got toys coming out our ears in this house. So the littler one has had a ball exploring and playing with Bart. But the 13yo girl? I figured it wouldn't kill her if she was allowed to watch TV all day. I feel bad for her. She's 13. I know when I was that age I spent all my free time with my friends. So, not only is she now dealing with the daily trauma of being in foster care. But for reasons that probably don't make sense to her, she had to go stay with a different family for a weekend. She's got no friends here. She has no electronic "toys" to occupy her time. Some extra TV won't hurt her.

Doing respite care really stretches me. I find myself deciding regularly if correcting a "rule" is really necessary. It's not that I want to let things slide all over the place. But I do realize that life is a lot easier if I loosen up. It's not a big deal if they don't ask whether or not they can have chocolate milk when they're getting themselves something to drink. (Typically chocolate milk is a treat – not an every day thing in our house.) I'll even let them stir it themselves. If they eat cereal for breakfast and supper, that's OK too. (I can try, but I just don't cook like anyone else down here.) The girls that are staying right now had never had stir-fry before. I had planned spaghetti for the menu thinking that was safe but one of them doesn't like anything in tomato sauce so I decided to improvise with pantry staples. I asked if they liked Chinese and was told that they'd try it. Unfortunately, the little one freaked out at suppertime. And yes, our food rules state that PB&J is the alternative. But really – what difference does it make in such a short term situation. So, I told her that if she was living in my house all the time I would really want her to take a bite. But it was OK for her to get a bowl of cereal instead.

Honestly, the hardest part about doing respite care is reminding my own three that the normal rules haven't changed! I swear, they have taken every opportunity today to test my patience. We have had many, many conversations about how they are to model the rules for our guests because it makes it easier for everyone that way. It's been stupid, common sense stuff too. Bart was climbing the fence in the back yard. Bart was running all over the house with the play dough. Bart was interrupting and screaming and yelling and carrying on all day.

Oh wait...I haven't been reminding all three of mine all day. It's just been Bart. Over. And over. And over.

But, on the flip side, he's had a lot of fun playing with our guest. And despite the fact that she's so shy she barely talk at all, she's had a lot of fun playing too. The two of them were giggling so much while playing zombie that I couldn't help but laugh myself.

I like doing respite. I know that the one thing foster parents need more than anything else in the world is support. And sometimes that means they need respite. It's helpful for me to do things like this so I can meet other foster families too. I may need a babysitter or respite sometime myself.

And I'll keep praying that my own kids can learn to roll with the punches just a bit better. That Bart (and Herman) won't have to show off so bad every time. That TT won't let his anxiety get the better of him. It'll get easier with practice. Right???

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Minimum standards

Our agency worker messaged me yesterday that she couldn't come to the home visit as was previously scheduled. This didn't bother me except for the fact that I just had to know about the whole kitchen knife thing. I couldn't stop thinking about it. And really, it seems so minor when it's all out in writing like this. Honestly - locking up my knives shouldn't be that big of a deal. But I already feel so intruded upon by CPS and all the minimum standards that I wasn't sure I would be able to take much more.

Yes, there are foster families that need to lock up their knives. Some foster kids are "cutters". Others have suffered through so much abuse that they themselves are abusers. Having knives at easy access just isn't smart in homes like that.

But we aren't a foster home that takes in kids with those kinds of troubles. We have three children of our own and I have to keep them safe as well. I don't need to lock up my knives.

So I emailed our worker back to get the details.

She emailed me back to let me know that the minimum standards haven't changed. I don't have to lock up my knives. They are just advising some families to keep in mind that it might be necessary if the kids they take in are a danger to themselves or others.

Whew!

Our worker also told me that the way I'm checking on Pumpkin at nighttime is just fine. In fact, they will be rewriting the Individual Service Plan at the end of this month to say that checking on her one time at night is fine.

Whew!

So, I put a call in to CPS to find out the scoop on our medicine box. They put me in touch with our worker there. She's seen my medicine box. But I'm sure due to her caseload and the fact this is a minor detail in the grand scheme of things, she didn't remember it at all. I explained what it looks like and how it functions. Ya know, that it has two separate combination locks on the outside of the box. I told her that if I have to, I will locate a place where I can lock this box up at. But, before I rearrange my house and complicate my morning routine, I want someone to explain to me WHY my box isn't considered double locked. She said she'll look at things when she comes for her home visit sometime next week.

Thankfully, I can now put these issues out of my brain for awhile. Whew!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Foster care in the courts

I knew something had happened.

Rules are changing. Our agency social worker is double checking more and more things in our home. They are cracking down on standards. (For example, the box we use to lock up medication has two separate combination locks on the outside of it but now that is no longer considered "double locked" and we have to find a cupboard or a closet to lock our medication box in.)

Now I know why.

I'm not sure what we're going to do. I think I can handle most of the changes because they aren't really changes for us. Our home already met the minimum standards without problems. My only issue will be if those minimum standards change. Mr. Amazing went to a training session tonight without me. Something was mentioned about us having to lock up all our kitchen knives. (I'm going to have to get the full story from our worker tomorrow when she comes for our home visit.) Honestly, I don't think I can live my life that way. I'm too free-range. For example, I want my kids to be able to cut up an apple on their own. They also said that we have to check on Pumpkin twice a night. I'm going to be honest here. I'm NOT setting an alarm to get up in the middle of the night to check on her. If looking in about 1/2 an hour after I put her down and then again 2 hours later doesn't cut it - I'm not sure I can live up to the rules.

We've already been told that our agency director is going to be joining our agency worker on the home visits. Tonight my hubby was told to expect visits from the state licensing agency. I guess it's good that they are double checking things. But I'm not a fan of being made to feel like I'm a bad guy.

Feeding issues continue

I know I posted about Pumpkin's food issues not too long after she came into our care. However, they keep getting more puzzling and more puzzling. Again, I'd love some advice!

Some history...Pumpkin ate almost everything offered to her for the first 2-3 weeks she was in our care. She used silverware and would feed herself. I was pleasantly surprised.

As time went on, Pumpkin started feeding herself less. Instead of eating, she would simply sit at the table and stare. She never complained. She never asked to get down. She just sat there. My first approach to this problem was to feed her myself. From there (about a month later) I progressed to telling her to "take a bite". Often this would get her started eating and she would feed herself. A little slow. But she'd feed herself. I would simply remind her a few times during the meal to "take a bite".

Pumpkin has been with us for over 3 months now. The food issues seem to just keep getting more complicated. I'm not sure what to do.

If the food in question is a pre-packaged processed meal (ie: Lunchable, spaghetti from a can, etc.) by and large Pumpkin will feed herself. Not only that, she'll eat it in the same amount of time as her peers. And you should see the girl put away ice cream. She knows how to eat. And she can do it just like her peers.

However, she no longer feeds herself breakfast. I'm tired of telling her to "take a bite" over and over and over. Unless I tell her to "take a bite" she just sits at the table. I don't really have time (I don't make time??!) to spoon-feed her breakfast during the school week. She is fully capable of feeding herself. She ate breakfast on her own for many, many weeks after she came into care. But now, she has pretty much stopped. On the weekends she sits at the table with her bowl of cereal slowly eating by herself. It takes her almost an hour, but I do make sure she eats.

For supper, if the food in question is homemade (which is largely what I serve) she just doesn't eat. She sits at the table and stares. She doesn't complain. She doesn't ask to get down. She just sits. It's gotten to the point where telling her to "take a bite" has little effect. Yes, she'll eat it if I spoon-feed her. But is that necessary?!

Taking into consideration that the food I prepare is different from what she's grown up on, I realize it could take some getting used to on her part. But she's rejecting the most simple of foods. Tonight I served apple slices and a hot deli meat sandwich. She didn't take a single bite the entire time the family was at the table together. After we cleared everything (but her stuff) away from the table and left her alone, she started eating. It took her over an hour to eat 1/3 of an apple and part of a small sandwich.

Should I....
Just let her sit there and she'll eat if she wants to?

Continue to tell her to "take a bite" and still leave the actual feeding of herself in her control?

Spoon-feed her?

Offer her a different meal from the rest of the family so that she will eat by herself? (For the most part she doesn't eat bread so I can't go with the standard PB&J that we established in our food rules before. It would have to be something out of a can.)

I welcome all thoughts on the subject. To the best of my knowledge Pumpkin was never abused by having food withheld from her. Her mother has a drinking problem and a lot of Pumpkin's care was provided by older siblings. Pumpkin came into care when she was found wandering the streets. But other than the fact that her mom took her off the anti-seizure medicine, Pumpkin looks and acts like she was well cared for overall. She is of average height and weight. I don't think her food issues are that of a typical foster child situation. But then again - I don't know. I just don't know.