Thursday, June 30, 2011

Communication

I just got off the phone with Dolly and Dude's current CPS worker. I called her because court is supposed to be tomorrow and I haven't spoken with anyone involved in this case (except my agency worker). (Never count on your workers to make all the official contacts they are supposed to make. You often have to be proactive and initiate contact yourself if you need to know something.)

Well... court isn't scheduled for tomorrow after all. The judge is going to be on vacation.

Nice for them to let me know. My hubby was going to have to take part of the day off from work to watch Pumpkin as our day care is closing early. Thankfully he doesn't have to miss work now.

We were discussing when visits could be scheduled with mom now that she's out of jail. I expressed a desire for visits to not conflict with nap time. I then mentioned briefly how sleep is a rare commodity now that Dolly & Dude have joined our family. Dude is waking multiple times every night (FOUR times last night!) and Dolly wakes up at least once, if not twice. The CPS worker asked if they are settling in OK.

I explained that they are doing fine overall. I've got enough other kids around that during the day Dolly and Dude are well entertained. They are generally quite happy and easy to care for. (Sleeping is the only issue. I'm sooooooo tired!!)

I then went on to explain that other than the sleeping problems the only other issue is the whole English/Spanish communication breakdown.

She seemed surprised. She told me that she had met with the children two whole times before they were removed. And... well... she said the kids just didn't talk much at all. She didn't seem to think that we would have any communication problems.

Oh. My. Goodness.

She met with the kids two times. Wow. In probably less than ideal circumstances. Cause 2 year olds and 3 year olds warm up instantly to strangers all the time. So she knew completely how well they speak English. And because they didn't speak to her at all, we shouldn't be having any problems.

This was almost laughable to me.

I did go on to explain that both cherubs seem to understand me (for the most part) pretty well. I also let her know that Dolly qualifies for speech therapy per the family doctor I took them to. Funny, the social worker already knew that Dolly has speech delay and was in the process of trying to get mom these services before the kids were removed.

So... the worker knew the kid needed speech therapy but she was comfortable saying that Dolly spoke enough English to be OK in our home?! I'm quite confident that if she actually heard Dolly say anything it was in Spanish. Dolly only knows nouns in English. All of her actual "communication" is in Spanish. And it is delayed (making it even harder to understand)!!

We're going to stick this out for now though. Like I said, the kids seem to understand us OK and they are meshing into our family well (all things considered). CPS is trying to get a home study done on their paternal grandmother. That process is going to take awhile because grandma lives in a completely different district about 9 hours away. Nothing moves quickly in "the system".

I have the pleasure of meeting their worker tomorrow. Should be interesting - though she seemed nice enough on the phone. Court is tentatively scheduled for the week of the 11th but a date hasn't been set yet. And, after court they'll have a new worker as the case will switch departments within CPS.

Oh goodness -- how I love the system.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fun phone calls

CASA: Hello. Is this Cherub Mamma?

Me: Yes.

CASA: Hi. I'm the new case worker for Pumpkin. You used to work with G***. Well, I'm taking his place.  .... other worthless conversation  ....  How is Pumpkin doing?

Me: She's fine. She's Pumpkin. Exactly what did you want to know?

CASA: Well, I wanted to know what she's up to this summer.

Me: You do know that Pumpkin is severely mentally retarded, has epilepsy and functions around the level of 18 months old? Right?

CASA: Oh. (long strange silence)

Me: She's fine. She's attending private therapies. And she plays at home.

CASA: Has her CASA worker been out to visit recently?

Me: Well, G*** and another gal came out a long time ago. But no one has been here for awhile.

CASA: Oh. Someone is supposed to come and see Pumpkin once a month.

Me: No one has been here recently.

CASA: Well...it's the end of the month. Can I come out tomorrow?

Me: Let me check my schedule.   ....   Sure. My calendar is open. (oh joy oh mirth)


***
I just love the system.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Budget cuts

A few months ago our county suffered some budget problems and had to let all of the people that moderate visits go. Visits were no longer going to be held in public places. All visits had to be moved to the CPS office where they could be monitored by current CPS employees.

Pumpkin still got her two visits a week. It was a pain in the neck waiting in the CPS office for the workers to coordinate everything. But, from what I could tell, it was working OK overall.

Well, I'm not sure what has happened. Perhaps there have been too many removals lately which increased how many visits they had to coordinate each week. I got a call from our worker tonight. All parents who were receiving court ordered visits two times a week are having their visits cut down to only one time a week. The visits aren't going to be any longer to make up for the lost time. They just aren't going to be as frequent. This will free up more rooms at CPS to coordinate more visits with other families.

Pumpkin's mom is going to totally miss Pumpkin's sixth birthday (which falls on July 5th). Their visit this Thursday has been eliminated. The CPS office isn't open next Monday because of the holiday so they won't get a visit that week at all. The next time Pumpkin sees her mom will be July 11th. That's a long time to go without seeing your parent when everything for reunification is supposedly working out fine. I'm guessing CPS will be pushing to get unsupervised visits as soon as they can get time in front of a judge.

I have no real point to this story. Just putting it out there for all to see what foster care looks like in reality.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I'm a rule breaker

I'm too lazy to look up the minimum standard word for word right now.
You'll just have to trust me.

Our state has several standards that cover where children can sleep. Children under six can share a room with the opposite sex. (Pumpkin won't have a problem sharing her room after her birthday next week as they do consider "developmental" age.) All children must have their own bed. Only children under 1 year can sleep in the same room as a foster parent. And foster parents can never sleep in an upright position holding a foster child.

These rules sound good on paper. They help keep kids safe.

However, have you ever had a sick two year old with a fever of 104° that does not want to be left alone?

Fevers don't usually freak me out. A fever is there to do a job. My brother (a marvelous family doctor) taught me a long time ago that you treat the level of distress -- not the number on the thermometer. However, when my little guy woke up last night with a fever of 014° that would not go down after being dosed with ibuprofen, I had to take him to the doctor. I haven't met any of the lawyers or CPS workers involved in this case yet. And since court is tentatively scheduled for Friday, I knew I'd have to answer to all of them this week. I decided to get the virus diagnosis out of the way early.

So, we headed off to the ER at 11:00 last night. We were lucky and were out of there with a script for Tylenol at 12:30. Unfortunately, no one slept well once we got home! Dude kept waking up. TT woke up and wanted to sleep on the floor in our room. I think Dolly even woke up once too.

Dude was the challenging one. He wanted to be held. He was burning up with fever and was scared to death. In fact he grabbed on to me so tight several times I couldn't have put him down if I wanted to.

So, I held him.

Now...I've got SIX children to care for. One of them has seizures when she gets sick. I knew I had to take care of myself too. That meant I couldn't stay awake all night. I had to try to get as much sleep as I could.

Eventually I just put Dude down on the mattress that is on the floor of our room. (TT has permission to sleep on it when he gets spooked out in the middle of the night. It helps his anxiety and it keeps him from waking me up - most of the time.) I decided I didn't give a damn about the minimum standard. The kid needed to sleep. I needed to sleep. Everyone was safe. Rules be damned!

It helped a little. At least I was there to grab him when he cried. I would have given anything to just pull him in bed with me like I did with my kids when they were that age. I figured that was pushing things a bit too far though. Stupid black and white rules.

When everyone woke up at 7:00AM I thought I was going to die. I was so hoping that Mr. Amazing would be able to take over for me. Unfortunately, he had already thrown up at least once and wasn't in any position to tend to five small children. My head was killing me but I managed to get everyone dressed and fed.

Dude wouldn't let me put him down all day. Literally. If I managed to get him down on the couch asleep, as soon as he woke up he would scream until I held him again. Yeah for the bonding. Boo for the incredible boredom as I just sat there on the couch all day.

By around 1:30 or so I was drifting in and out of sleep on the couch. Dude was asleep. I decided to break the rules again. Dude and I went upstairs to my room so I could properly sleep while Mr. Amazing held down the fort in the living room.

I'm not too worried about the rules. In reality I'm sure the people involved, if it were to come up in conversation, would understand. Of course I'm not going to broadcast what I did.

I guess that's another thing they don't teach you in the foster parent training. There are a lot of rules and it just isn't possible to follow all of them perfectly. Especially since some of them don't take into account the actual needs of the children. They are so black and white and allow for no wiggle room. I know it's to keep the kids safe. I know it's because somewhere, sometime, some stupid foster parent screwed up and hurt a kid. But it's more important to me to meet the kids where they are at. And sometimes that means holding them while everyone sleeps.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Unexpected per diem check

Apparently when I filled out the second round of daily logs for Pumpkin, CPS realized that she is indeed "specialized" and not "moderate". They didn't bother to tell anyone at our agency about the level change right away. But at least she is now labeled in the system appropriately. This should help ensure that she receives an appropriate level of care should she need to leave our home at any time.

I didn't hold my breath when my agency said we'd receive some back pay (per diam) because of the communication delay between CPS and our agency. We're not in this for the money.

However, I was happy to receive a check in the mail just now. It will certainly help offset some of the extra expenses our two new cherubs have incurred.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Things they don't tell you in training

I've been thinking a lot about about the things you can't learn in foster parent training. I've got several different things that come to mind including parenting issues, Medi.caid, and more. I'm going to try to touch on several of them in future posts.

One of the biggest things we weren't told though was one of our agency's policies. They literally left off their official stance on "supervision". I had no idea the kids weren't allowed to play outside without me watching their EVERY move. With our first girls Miss Argue Pants and Turtle Turtle, I treated them like normal 8 and 9 year old girls. (I had been told that the goal of foster care is to give kids as normal of a childhood experience as we can.) I allowed them to go over to neighbor's houses to play. I let them ride their bikes around the neighborhood. I trusted them until they proved they couldn't handle the trust. It seemed like the right way to handle things. (I'm a rather free-range parent to begin with. The deeper I get into things the more I realize this conflicts horribly with foster care in general.)

I found out - after the fact - that my agency would have said I was negligent with my supervision if they had known I let them play like that. Each child is supposed to receive an ISP (Individualized Service Plan). In this plan they list out very detailed rules, expectations and goals for each child in care. I just didn't happen to ever get an ISP for the girls. Not sure why.

Included in the ISP is the level of supervision they say the child needs to have. For example, Pumpkin is required to be in my hearing and/or line of sight at all times. This means that if I go upstairs to put away a basket of laundry and I leave Pumpkin downstairs playing I'm breaking the rules. (Shhhh....don't tell CPS that I have to break this rule every now and then.)

There have been several different policies and standards that I didn't learn until after the fact. Unfortunately, you can't seek out this kind of training ahead of time. You're literally at the mercy of your agency or county to learn all the ins and outs.

I recommend going online to read the full list of minimum standards that your state requires. This information can be found on your state's department of health and human services web site. We sat through the training for minimum standards but they glossed over it so fast and it all sounded so simple and common-sense like. I have now found out how ridiculous some of the standards are.

For example, I'm not allowed to keep water in our wading pool overnight. Our state's minimum standards do not allow any standing water on our property. (This even includes bird baths!) Now, this rule is a bit over the top for me. I can't afford to drain and refill the pool every day. As an environmentalist (wanna-be) I also can't justify using water this way. So, I drain the pool when it gets dirty (every couple days or so). It's good to know what the rule actually is though so I won't leave the pool up for a week and allow it to get all slimy on the bottom. I truly don't want to get busted for breaking a rule like this if I was to get a surprise inspection.

You never really know what standards are big deals and what ones are in writing but no one really cares. No one told me that I'm required to have outlet covers throughout the entire house. Not even the investigator that came to do an inspection last year! So, obviously, that's not a big deal. However, they are cracking down on the rule that says anyone that enters your home more than 2 times a month must go through a full background check. And yes, this even applies to the contractor you hire to re-tile your bathroom. Of course, the only way you'll get busted on this one is if you just happen to have a surprise inspection from licensing while the contractor is there.

Every area has their own set of rules. When we were licensed in the Midwest the experience was totally different than what it's been like down here. We're learning on our feet though and doing OK. I'll write some more about other things we've learned on the fly in future posts.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mr. Amazing is just that

My husband is AMAZING! Not only is he an amazing compassionate man who is willing to parent and love on every kid that crosses our threshold... He heard me mention that I had to have a 20 minute completely unproductive phone conversation with my most annoying client for work today. With that in mind, he brought me home a bottle of tequila. He truly is amazing!

Not only that, but he put in a long, hard day at work today. Then he had to go register at the hospital for a medical procedure on Friday. He raced home with no time to spare. He ate dinner while I took our oldest cherub to youth group at church. Then, while I stopped to pick up milk (because Good Gravy we are going through food faster) he proceeded to clean up the kitchen and get FIVE children ready for bed. He even brushed their teeth. He truly is amazing!

Then, while I finished the tuck-in process, he went back out into the rain to pick up our oldest from church.

After coming home from church, when any normal man would completely crash out on the couch, he got down on the floor and picked up baby toys with me. Then, and only then, did he stop and take a few minutes for himself. He truly is amazing!

I'm a lucky woman!!

________


The cherubs are finally sleeping without freaking out. Yes, there are tears. Dolly can take her gorgeous chubby cheeks and make the bitter beer face in less than 3 seconds when you say the word "bedtime". She can even produce real tears. But it is very short lived. And they are staying in bed after you tuck them in. They even slept through the night last night without waking up even once. As a sleep deprived mamma - I am grateful for that and I hope it sticks!

I found out today that their mom is still in jail. Visits won't be starting for awhile. I know the name of our CPS worker but no one from CPS has contacted me at all yet. Court is scheduled for July 1 but I was told to expect that to change due to the jail situation.

Pumpkin is handing the addition to our family pretty good. She's had a few bouts of jealousy. But, for the most part, she just hangs out in the background. (Pumpkin isn't much for socializing.) I have to admit, having the extra cherubs has actually made caring for Pumpkin a little bit easier. Honestly, I'm busier so I can't focus on her wonkiness.

I'm also doing a better job of accepting Pumpkin for who she is. I've had to process her condition with multiple people to get to this place. But I am doing a better of accepting that Pumpkin is truly very delayed. Some of the higher functions she has are nothing more than "splinter skills". They don't mean as much as I want them to. Just because Pumpkin manages to say, "I farted" one time doesn't mean that she's ever going to have the ability to tell me when her diaper is dirty. It was a one time fluke. I had to let go of my desire to "fix" Pumpkin. It doesn't mean that I'm not going to advocate for her. It just means I have to let go of my unrealistic goals.

Bart is in heaven with the extra kids. He's in love with Dolly and thinks that Dude is awesome! Even Herman is fond of the two new ones. TT still has his anxiety issues. But he's working through them. We've had a few rages that are beyond frustrating. And he's already trying to come up with reasons for us to send all three foster kids to daycare for a day. But he'll be OK. I know he will.

And me, I'm hanging in there. The Good Lord has seen fit to give me more energy than I thought these old bones had. All my toddler parenting skills are coming back to me. I'm even managing to stay on top of most of my freelancing. My kids are stepping up and helping out more. It's all working better than I thought it would. It's not perfect. (I completely forgot to take Dolly and Dude back to the doctor to get their TB tests read on Sunday. They're going to have to get stuck again. I feel awful!) But, I don't expect perfection.

There's a lot of love going on in our house. I like it!

Monday, June 20, 2011

When we get "the call"

I had a request from a reader (Hi Melanie!) that I list out the questions we ask when we get a placement call. And since I actually do have a list that I refer to, this post will be a relatively easy one to write.

1. Age of the child(ren)?

2. Why are they in care -- or coming in to care?

3. If they are already in care, how long have they been in the system?

4. Have they been in the system before? What is their history of moves?
The more moves they have suffered through the more likely they will have "behaviors". Read up on attachment disorders. This is not a topic that was covered in any of my trainings. But learning what I have about actual therapeutic parenting has been a huge advantage as we parent kids from the hurt places.

5. What grade are they at in school? Do they receive special education services for any reason?
It doesn't have to be a big deal but it's a good idea to know if the kids are at grade level for their age even if they aren't receiving special ed services.

6. Any known behaviors?
This is a big question. It can affect who can sleep with who if there are sexualized behaviors. (Some kids have to be in their own room.) If they are older it's good to know if they have a history of running, alcohol or drug abuse, and more. Push to get as much information as you can. You'll learn how to read between the lines. You'll probably never get the full story but try to find out as much as you can about the kids. Keep in mind that YOU have to look out for yourself and your family! The workers, while they may have good intentions, really just need a bed for the child. They aren't as concerned about how good of a "fit" this child will be in your home.

7. Do they have any special needs? (Medical? Diet? etc.) Are they already in therapy? Are they on any medications?
If they are already on medications, I would look up what they are online if you're not already familiar. You're supposed to get the full story. But...you won't.

8. Are there other siblings? If so, where are they living?

9. How/where are visits being planned at this time? (with parents or siblings)
We have had placement calls where the visits were going to be scheduled an hour away from our home. If we had accepted the placement, we would have had to drive to the visit, sit and wait for two hours and then drive the hour home. This could have potentially eaten up two evenings every week or every single Saturday.

10. What is the case plan at this time? (Are they working towards reunification?)

11. Will they be OK with our dog?
I'll be honest, I forget to ask this question most of the time. (We've been getting calls for little ones mainly.) And I don't think any worker would tell me honestly because that isn't a common question. However, it's a good idea to double check stuff like this. Some kids with a more challenging background might not treat pets very kindly.

12. And, because of where we live... DO THEY SPEAK ENGLISH?

Know that you can ask ALL the questions in the world -- but you'll probably never get the full story. It really is a leap of faith. Know that if you get a placement that isn't a good fit, you aren't stuck forever. Of course you never want to move kids around if you can avoid it. They need consistency more than anything. But if you need to protect your family for safety reasons, you have every right to do that. (I can tell you our personal story with this if you weren't reading my old blog. Just email me if you're interested.)

If you're just starting out in fostering there is a lot to learn. The training you get barely scratches the surface. It is so much more than parenting and giving them love. I wish it was that easy! There are lots of rules and minimum standards to follow. I joke that we are basically glorified babysitters that have to do a lot of paperwork. But it is beautiful to love on a child that needs it. To support a bio family that is struggling. Or to offer respite to a foster family so they can have a break. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I'm in love

It's looking like the Dolly & Dude might stay awhile. Despite the language limitations, we're getting on OK. They turn to me for affection and comfort. They are quite enamored with Mr. Amazing. And, well, who wouldn't love Bart & TT?!

I'm actually enjoying children that return affection. One of the most difficult parts about caring for Pumpkin is that she does not "give" ANYTHING back. Honestly, I've gotten (at best) three hugs since she came into care. It's not like I want her to be madly in love with me or anything. But she takes an awful lot of work!! It's hard for me to give and give and give and get nothing in return.

Dolly & Dude are speaking more English every day. And when we went to the doctor on Friday, I was told that Dolly has speech delay. So, even though she's speaking primarily Spanish, it's baby talk anyway. If she stays, I'll have to enroll her in speech therapy. (Which would end up helping our communication difficulties as I would request that therapy be in English.)

I've got tons of neighbors that speak Spanish. I know who to turn to if I get in a bind. Also...many, many, many people in our church speak Spanish. And now that the cherubs are in our home, I don't want to move them again. It just doesn't seem fair to them. (Foster care isn't fair!) The communication problem doesn't seem to bother either one. In fact, I think Dolly is starting to think it's funny. I'll tell her "no comprendo" and then she'll smile at me and say, "si" (all long and drawn out with a huge twinkle in her eye).

We'll see what happens. I'm sure no one at CPS or our agency has honestly been looking for a new placement for Dolly and Dude. I'm sure no one will complain if I spare them the paperwork nightmare and just keep them. We'll keep on praying. Hopefully God's answer will be loud and clear.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Survived Day One

We all survived day one. I'm still quite torn about this placement.

Originally I said "no" to the call. The new cherubs are from another county and visits were going to be an hour away. Pumpkin already takes up soooooo much of my time. I didn't want to have to commit to a visit schedule like this one.

Also, my agency said they didn't want to place any children with us until we got back from our vacation. Granted, our vacation isn't until August. But we are going to be gone for almost three weeks.

However, my agency called back on Wednesday evening practically begging. They are incredibly nice. They have NEVER pressured us to take a placement. They accept every single "no" without question. So, to say that they were "begging" does need to be put into perspective. All they did was explain that they really wanted us to consider the placement. I was told that no homes in our area are available. They had already discussed things with our agency's regional office and they had permission to make an exception due to the vacation issue. (I guess they will deal with the respite problem when the time comes.) CPS also discussed things with bio mom and let her know she was going to have to drive to us for visits. It was either make these exceptions – or the children were going to have to go to a shelter nearly six hours away from here!!

I couldn't imagine sending a 2yo and a 3yo to a shelter that far away! Neither could Mr. Amazing. So, we said "yes".

The only criteria left to fill was to make sure that the children spoke English. All the workers talked to each other and to the mom and it was determined that they did in fact speak English.

Someone lied.

So now I'm horribly torn. These babies need a home. I think they need a home close enough to their mom so they can have visits. I think they need a home – not a shelter.

However, they also need to be able to communicate in their language. It's just not fair that I keep looking at the little girl and saying, "I'm sorry. No comprendo." She's just going to shut down and not speak at all eventually.

Day Two has kicked off. The new cherubs are still asleep. (Crying for two hours at bedtime can really wear a baby out!) We're off to the doctor today. If they didn't already hate foster care enough, I'm pretty sure they won't be too thrilled with me as the day progresses. They'll get blood drawn, get a TB test and get caught up with their shots. Should be interesting!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

They're still asleep

It's 9:55AM and my two new cherubs are still asleep.

They cried for nearly two hours last night when I tried to put them to bed.

They don't speak English.

(And yes, I made sure to tell every single adult involved yesterday that English speaking children is a REQUIREMENT in my home. I even went on to clarify that the children must be able to SPEAK English -- NOT just "understand" it.)

I'm hoping that perhaps they speak a little English and that the Spanish only vocabulary was due to the trauma of removal. However, if we don't reach a comfortable level of communication within a short amount of time, this placement will not be a good fit. (It's more than difficult for me and it's TOTALLY not fair to the children!!)

I'm still trying to think of good blog names for the cherubs. For now though, I can tell you it's a 3.5 year old little girl and a 2.5 year old little boy. They came from a neglectful environment riddled with drugs and alcohol. CPS has been "involved" in their family but they were just "working with" Mom up until yesterday. The surprise visit yesterday morning revealed a very unsafe situation and resulted in an official removal.

I'm going to let them sleep for awhile longer. I have a feeling that not only are they tired from all the trauma of yesterday. But, they are probably used to keeping a slightly (cough) unconventional schedule. (Children that live in hotels don't usually keep the same kinds of routines as what I try to maintain.)

Their clothes have been washed and counted. My cherubs have been lectured talked to about how they are going to have to help out more. I think I'm as ready as I'm gonna be.

Pray for me!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thank goodness I went grocery shopping

I went shopping this morning. Dropped $258 at the W*lMart. (Be sure to say that with a thick redneck accent.) Got enough essentials to last for a few days.

Guess it's a good thing I got that out of the way. In about an hour or so our family of six will become a family of eight.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Words of wisdom

"Don't think for a moment the enemy won't do everything he can to convince you that your efforts in Christ's name are in vain. Nothing is more destructive that feelings of uselessness and worthlessness. That's precisely why the enemy seeks every avenue to fuel and perpetuate them."
- Beth Moore

Sometimes I feel guilty because I don't do my Bible study every single day. In fact, it's taken me over a year to do a 90 day study (again). But here's the thing...

I needed that exact phrase exactly when I read it the other day. Sure, if I had read it earlier it wouldn't have been a bad thing. But I got so much out of it by reading it exactly when I did.

God is good!

Now, I think I have to rewrite the quote and post it all over my house.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mother guilt

I got to spend the morning in a tiny waiting room of a neurologist with Pumpkin, Pumpkin's Mom, Pumpkin's sister, and the CPS worker. It was awkward to say the least.

First, Mom had forgotten about the appointment. CPS called her this morning and I guess she claimed that no one had let her know. This is a lie. But...oh well. She managed to get to the doctor's office relatively close to on time.

Of course Pumpkin left my side to go sit with her mom. This is normal. This is good. However, Pumpkin also decided to reach into her bag of tricks and throw a big fit for Mom. This is not normal (while in my care). This was not good. I believe it is fits like this that became the reason Mom stopped taking care of Pumpkin's medical needs. I don't believe that Mom possesses the ability to tell Pumpkin "no".

Pumpkin wanted to watch a movie. The TV in the office only plays a medical infomercial loop over and over (and over and over and over and over). Pumpkin's mom had not brought anything to entertain Pumpkin with. And, if I understand my role in situations like this, it is up to Mom to parent Pumpkin...not me.

Now, I had brought things for Pumpkin. A snack, a drink and some books. Generally though, when Pumpkin is waiting anywhere with me, she just sits there (even when we wait for hours). She usually has no desire to do anything other than sit. But, due to how we all situated ourselves in the waiting room, it would have been difficult for me to assist in helping Pumpkin calm down. I offered the drink. I also made sure that Mom knew I had books. But if I had done anything myself, it would have seemed too obvious that I thought Mom couldn't handle it.

So I just sat there while Pumpkin hollered and squirmed and cried. I did make Pumpkin take off her glasses because she gets them all out of alignment when she tugs at them while crying. Other than that though, I just sat there.

It sucked.

When we finally made it back to the doctor's office (after a 3 hour wait) it got weirder. Of course I'm the only one capable of describing Pumpkin's current health status. So, I had to do all the talking to the doctor. Mom asked for a hand out so she could "learn" more. But, I don't think the doctor understood what she wanted to know. And let's be honest, Mom didn't know why she was there. CPS had to explain it to her while we were waiting.

CPS explained to Mom that this meeting with the doctor is so that Mom will understand how to care for Pumpkin and how to manage her seizures. Then she added it's basically to satisfy the judge....so if Mom screws up again on the medical neglect issues (that contributed to why Pumpkin is in care) she won't be able to claim that she "didn't know what to do".

I don't think Mom still knows what to do though. I'm not confident that Mom can manage the seizures in a way that will keep Pumpkin out of the hospital all the time. I'm not sure Mom knows how to recognize the different kinds of seizures that Pumpkin has. I know I have a hard enough time determining what is "normal" for Pumpkin and what is a seizure. Mom said this morning that Pumpkin's only seizures have her shake on one side of her body. I'm pretty sure Pumpkin has absence seizures (zoning out) and I don't think she always shakes when she's having one of her bigger ones.

And here is where my guilt settles in...

I want to make things as good for Pumpkin as they can be. As I look around, I question how much anyone else cares. Her doctor says very little about Pumpkin's quality of life. Apparently many of my concerns just aren't a big deal to him. If she's only seizing a few times a month that's all he cares about. I have worries about her overall delays and how she behaves. They don't seem to phase him.

CPS just wants her home so they can be done with this case. It doesn't look like they care if Mom really knows about and accepts her level of delay. I don't think they are dealing with what kind of parenting Pumpkin is going to require long-term.

I believe that her private therapists care. But not enough to actually work WITH me on her care. That collaborative effort isn't important to them. And the school....they stink! I don't think they bring anything to the table.

So...I feel like out of all the people involved...I care the most. (Damn that sounds egotistical. Honest, that's not where I'm going with this.) I'm worried about what kind of a home environment Pumpkin will be going back to. However -- I have no desire to parent Pumpkin long term. It's not like I want to keep her forever and "fix" things. That's where the guilt kicks in.

I know I need to do my best while Pumpkin is in my care and then trust God with the rest. That's easier said than done though. I wish I could sort out my own feelings with this whole mess. Somehow I think I'd feel better if I just had a long-term plan in my brain that I think would be best for Pumpkin. Unfortunately, I don't think there is one. I don't fully trust her mom to parent her. There is no other relative able to take on the task. Adoption would be difficult at best. And I don't want to.

Foster care sucks!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Sunday morning conversation

My cell phone rang this morning. It was Pumpkin's mom. I don't answer calls from her anymore.

When I didn't pick up, she sent me a text.

MOM: "I just wanted to wish my princess A Happy Birthday and tell her I love her!"

ME: "U r a month off. Her birthday isnt until july"

MOM: "Oh its Cuz im going thru alot how is she doing?"

ME: "She is fine."

MOM: "Thank U"

...wow!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Riding the foster parenting roller coaster

Got another call for kids this afternoon. (CPS must be really busy now that school is out.)

This time they wanted us to take a 10 year old girl. She has a 12 year old brother too. But since I nixed the 10 year old boy yesterday, our agency thought that meant I wasn't taking any older boys.

I know they don't understand what our true parameters are (other than "no middle school girls"). I have to assess why the kids are being removed, what their ages are and what their behaviors are reported to be in order to determine if the fit is good. Each case is different. My yes or no is dependent on not only the children that need a home - but how well my own three are handling life.

Yesterday I was told the boy had suffered a lot of physical abuse. I'm speculating...I know that...but I got the impression on the phone yesterday that he too was a little volatile. That is not a good mix with our son, TT, right now. He's still rather dysregulated from the last few weeks of (perfectly worthless) school. It's going to take him a little bit of time to transition to our summer schedule. Throwing a volatile 10 year old -- who my 7 year old would want to play with -- into the mix just didn't sound wise. Sounded more like pouring gasoline on a fire to me. I said no to the older boy yesterday. I agreed to take his little 2 year old sister because TT happens to LOVE babies so I knew it wouldn't be a problem.

So, when they called today they thought we'd only be interested in the girl. I got what information I could. Both kids seemed like a "basic" type of placement. My heart felt strongly that the kids shouldn't be split up. I told our agency I needed to talk to the rest of my family before we could decide.

TT said he would be OK with it. Herman and Bart were totally fine with getting both kids too. (Now, it's not like the children are always involved in our decisions on whether or not to get more kids...but I really felt led to talk it over with them first this time.)

About 15 minutes later I called back to our agency to tell them we'd take both kids. The director answered the phone and immediately let me know CPS found a home where the kids could stay together. I laughed and told her I was calling to take them both too.

We're on "standby" now...in case the other placement falls through. Of course I know this means we're not getting this particular sibling group. But I'm sure the phone will continue to ring.

It's quite a roller coaster of emotions doing this foster care stuff. I'm not sure I'll ever get used to the adrenaline rush.
1. Get the call.
2. Try to remember all the questions I'm supposed to ask. (Do they speak English? Why were they removed? etc. etc.) (Today's call came while I was driving back from an appointment with Pumpkin. I didn't have my cheat sheet of questions to ask with me.)
3. Make a decision...yes or no.

If we decide "yes" I immediately start going over the logistics....
1. Where will they sleep?
2. When will I take them to the doctor? (they have to go within the first 72 hours)
3. Do I have clothes for them at home already? Will we be shopping tonight at midnight?
4. What's on the menu plan? Will we have enough food for more people?

Then they call back and I'm told that CPS found a different home.

At first when this would happen I would feel a huge letdown. Huge!

Tonight I'm just sad. Getting phone calls like this so regularly is a reminder of how many kids are out there that need a home. There aren't enough homes that want to ride this roller coaster.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Busy afternoon

All within about 2 hours...

School let out and all my cherubs came home for the summer.

My agency called. A little boy roughly age 2 or 3 needed an emergency placement. I assessed how he would fit into my home and said yes.

I got an email from my worker at our agency about a citation I received in December. (We did not have children in December so when she originally approached me with this paperwork I said I needed more information.) Apparently, when the "incident" happened between TurtleTurtle and my son TT back in November 2010, I was not within supervision standards set forth in my Individualized Safety Plan.

Without going in to all the details...I was within supervision standards. The children were supposed to be in hearing or sight distance and I was supposed to check on them every 10-15 minutes. Yes the children were upstairs and I was downstairs. But we have an open floor plan and I could hear them.

I got really mad this afternoon. I had NEVER been told I was under investigation over the matter last year. And now, over six months later I'm being told about it?! They want me to sign something admitting that I was wrong and agreeing to always stay within the supervision limits set forth by "the system". I was just about ready to throw in the foster parenting towel.

Then my agency called back. A home had been found for the little boy. But...don't hang up...there's a sibling group of four. Could I take two of them?

Again I assessed how the children would fit into our family. This time I had to say "no". I would not take a 10 year old boy coming out of a volatile home environment that included physical abuse and sexual abuse. However, if necessary, I would take the 2 year old sister.

A little more waiting...

Got the call that CPS found a foster home that could keep all four kids together. While I had a supervisor from my agency on the phone I decided to approach the citation issue.

She's going to look into it for me. And, speaking off the record of course, she told me that sometimes a "paper is just a paper". And...sometimes it's not.

I promised her if what I'm signing is "just a piece of paper" I won't be a brat and I'll sign it. I know that being investigated is just a part of fostering. We were told over and over during all the trainings (both in the Midwest and down here) that it's not "if" you get investigated...it's "when". I can play nice with the system if I have to over crap like this. It is something to think about though. Those two girls were in my home for only two months and they turned everything upside-down. AND I got investigated TWICE!! What a mess.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I'm not a very good therapist

Is Pumpkin so incredibly delayed because she is mentally retarded and she really is severe (vs. moderate or mild)? Is Pumpkin so incredibly delayed because her seizure medicine puts her in a fog and she just can't overcome the side effects? Or...is Pumpkin so incredibly delayed because she has suffered years and years of neglect?

These questions can't be answered. (at least not easily they can't)

I want to help Pumpkin overcome these delays. She has never been in school. She has never been in therapies. But the progress is sooooooo slow.

I'm a take charge kind of gal. If there's a problem, I want to fix it. And I want to fix it RIGHT NOW. I really felt like things were going great when Pumpkin got here. In four months I made up for five years of medical neglect. Pumpkin got back on her seizure meds. Her teeth got fixed. I got her caught up with all her shots. I got her enrolled in school. I got her in private PT, OT and speech therapies. And I got her an IEP at school which included school PT, OT and speech as well. I was rockin' it.

But now, I am stuck. And yes, I'm the one with the problem.

Pumpkin's occupational therapist told me that they are working on Pumpkin's dressing skills. They have her putting on and off her socks and shoes. They also want to work on putting a shirt on and off.

Good I say. I'll work on this at home too.

But I stink at it!

Tonight I told Pumpkin to take off her shoes. Well...she knows where her shoes are and she pulled at the laces at little. But she couldn't untie them. And for reasons I can't seem to figure out or control, this ticked me off. It sounds so damn petty. I know it does. But if my struggles can help anyone else to not feel alone in situations like this, I guess I'll spill my guts to the internet.

Anyway...I switched and then told Pumpkin to take off her shirt. But, as I've figured out recently, once Pumpkin gets stumped on a request, there's no point in continuing on. I should just stop giving her commands. She can't do it. She just can't. I need to learn how to shut up. (not a skill I'm very good at)

Here's my dilemma. I want Pumpkin to learn some of these self-care skills. And I know that she's not going to "really" learn them if she only does them in therapy. The process has to come full circle and she has to work on the skills at home too.

However, I need to avoid doing things that trigger me and make me angry. It's not Pumpkin's fault that she sometimes forgets the difference between "shirt" and "shoes". Or "lay down" and "sit up". That she doesn't know what "roll over" means so I can clean her bottom in the bathtub. Honestly, I know it isn't her fault.

But I feel so pointless going through the motions over and over and over and over. When I give her a command she'll understand it about 5% of the time. I hang my hat on the 5% and then get ticked off the other 95% when she has no idea what to do.

Do I stop giving the commands and just do everything for her?

That doesn't seem right. She deserves a chance to learn. Since coming to my home we have successfully taught her to say "more" when she's at the dinner table and wants more to eat. We have also taught her "all done" for when she is finished eating. I have taught her how to climb up the stairs and how to crawl around the corner before standing up (so she doesn't tumble back down the stairs in her attempt to stand up again). She has learned a few signs.

But honestly, almost everything in Pumpkin's day to day routine requires (at a minimum) physical prompting. There are a few commands that she gets right every time. And by few, I do mean only around three.

Reunification is where this case is headed. I'm quite confident that bio mom is not going to all of the sudden become Mom of the Year and start being active in Pumpkin's therapies. I shouldn't speculate, but I doubt that Mom will do much other than what CPS requires of her. These things weren't a priority for her the first five years of Pumpkin's life. Why will they become important after Pumpkin goes home?

I want to help Pumpkin be all that she can be but I'm just not sure I can keep doing "therapy" at home too. I stink at it. I just don't have the patience. It's almost easier for me to think of Pumpkin as an infant and ALWAYS treat her like one instead of pushing her and trying to get her to do stuff on her own and then still having to do it for her anyway. I feel bad. But I feel even worse when I get frustrated with Pumpkin and her inability to do things. My less than stellar parenting moments are becoming more frequent and I've got to make a change somewhere.