Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Things I learned today

Minnie called me at 2:20 this afternoon to see when the kids would be home from school. Because yes, it's the last day of the month and she needs to get her official visit in.


Initially I expressed a displeasure in her arriving with such late notice on Halloween no less. She said it would be fast. And because ultimately I need to keep Minnie on my side, I agreed for her to come at 3:30 when the kids get home.

Minnie arrived at 3:20. Thankfully I was back from picking up Dude. He was somewhat shell shocked from all the Halloween activities at school today. He was not thrilled to see Minnie but he just ignored her for the most part. Dolly wasn't home yet.

Minnie and I started chatting. Through the course of the conversation I learned several things:

  • Grandma N in Dallas still wants the kids. (Not that I thought this had changed. But she has NO contact with the children like...ever -- unless of course the State is paying her to come down or paying for the children to come to her. No phone calls. No letters. No cards. No contact.) I double check this and make CPS tell me that grandma wants them every single time we have to talk about Grandma N.
  • Grandma N doesn't want her son to be allowed over at her house anymore. She'd like to arrange his monthly visit at an office or something instead of in her home. I guess they've had a falling out of sorts.
  • Grandma N would like to cut Dolly's hair as much as I want to. Unfortunately, until Grandma N is granted PMC, it cannot be done. Bio mom insists that not a single hair be touched on her head.
And lest you think I'm out of line with wanting a hair cut – this is what Dolly looks like with her hair down. Since coming in to Care it has not stopped growing. I took this a couple months ago. It is very, very long. It has to be put up every single day. And even Dolly wants it cut. She's tired of the tangles.
  • There will be a visit to Dallas in December. Minnie has to work the date around two different mandatory (to her) CPS Christmas parties for children in Care.
  • However there are no family visits the week of Christmas. Yup. No accommodations are made for bio families and the children during the holidays. CPS basically shuts down for the week and all visits are scheduled before and after the holiday.
  • With this in mind I thought maybe we'd have a shot at getting to take the kids to Iowa over Christmas. Practically holding my breath I asked Minnie what she thought of letting us go out of state. Minnie said we'd talk to bio mom at this week's visit (which has been rescheduled for Friday because of Halloween). But Minnie doesn't think it will be a problem. I was in shock! So, we're going to submit some dates for Minnie to present to Bio Mom on Friday and if she says OK, Minnie will take things to the judge to get signed.
  • Speaking of court, Minnie made mention of the next court date in January. I looked at her and said, "So now...there shouldn't be anything stopping the kids from going to Dallas? The grandma wants them. They are having visits. They'll go...right?" Minnie said yes. Then, with some hesitation she followed that with, "Well...unless things with Bio Dad complicate things." I don't really know what that means, but this is the first time in 16 months that CPS has hesitated at all when discussing the transfer of the kids to Dallas. I'm so disgusted it's not even funny. They are languishing in Care. There is no excuse. Either this grandma is safe or she isn't. But does NOT take this long to figure this shit out! I'm beyond disgusted. I'm pissed off! There is NO excuse.

We're getting ready to go out for Halloween. The littlest cherubs are all a mess from their parties at school. They are overstimulated and could barely engage when they got home from school today. But they can't wait to go out. Dolly is an adorable fairy princess. Dude is a terrific fire fighter. Bart and TT are the cutest SWAT team members ever. (They'd kill me for calling them cute.) Herman is off helping a group of kids that made a haunted house in their back yard.

Hope all is well with you. Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Diagram of a Visit

Welcome to the internal dialog in my head...

Tuesday morning: Oh that's right. I'll find out later on today if we've got a visit tomorrow or not. Keep that in mind self. Don't forget to call Minnie if she doesn't contact you first.

As the day progresses: Man I wish I knew if I was going to lose half a day tomorrow or not. Damn I hate having my schedule at the mercy of other people like this! There is nothing to do in that stupid town either. Maybe I'll take Bart and TT grocery shopping during the visit.

Nearing 4:00PM: OK. I'll call Minnie and see if there's a visit. No answer. Grrrrrr I'll send Minnie a text.

5:11PM: Minnie finally sent me a text. Damn. Mom called in for a visit. There goes my day tomorrow! At least I don't have to rush the kiddos out of bed in the morning. Dude and Dolly will miss school again.

Throughout the rest of the evening: Damn this sucks! I didn't sign on for a visit schedule like this. When the kids came I said I couldn't transport to visits. CPS was OK with this and went ahead with the placement anyway. It was all completely arranged and those first few visit attempts were handled by Minnie. They did the transport. We've been through several workers now and we're back to having Minnie on the case again. She should know this. But no! She's going to make me transport. And I don't have the guts to fight it. This is so awful. I hate driving over there. After an hour in the car every single child is so incredibly dysregulated I can barely function. --- The drama of it all got bigger and bigger in my brain all night long. I went online to see if there way anything we could do in the town other than go shopping. I did see that they have a public library. But other than that, no, there's nothing to do. I can either wait at the CPS office for two hours or I can go shopping. Neither option is a good one. I'm not exactly a fan of retail therapy with my two younger forever cherubs. And waiting at the CPS office is gross. It's dirty. It's demeaning. If they let us wait in the conference room it's not so bad. But the time we had to wait in a visit room....ewwwwww! There's only one chair and a tiny little loveseat thing. The floor was nasty gross and the whole room just felt dirty. The few toys in the room are broken and dirty as well. I just feel gross while I'm there.

7:00AM Wednesday morning: This is nice. I don't have to get the kids out bed this morning. They can wake up on their own. Ahhhhh. The house is still reasonably quiet.

As the morning progressed: It's not too bad. We're getting through school with Herman, TT and Bart OK. Dude and Dolly are a bit whacked out but it's very manageable. All I've had to do is redirect a little super goofy play. (When Dude and Dolly are dysregulated it usually manifests as an inability to engage and lots of strange, nervous, high-pitched giggling.) Even lunchtime went OK. Dude ate without having to be told to actually eat one hundred times.

11:45AM: Toys are gathered. The shopping list is in my purse. It's time to go. Load 'em up and head 'em out. Bart and TT are sitting next to each other in the back of the Suburban. Ewww...that's not good. Let's hope like crazy they can handle it. Dude and Dolly are in the middle. Maybe Dude will fall asleep on the way there. That would be better than napping on the way home.

12:15PM: Not bad. The cherubs are all riding OK enough. I'm talking on the phone to my sister. All seems well.

12:30PM: Not so good. TT and Bart are bored to tears. They're also trying to manage big feelings. Even though they are my forever kids, these visits seem to effect them strongly. TT and Bart are starting to fight with each other. I'll yell at them to shut up. That'll never work though! There's so little I can do while we are driving down the road. Damn I hate this part.

12:45PM: It's getting worse. I'm going to have to pull over to deal with TT and Bart. Damn I really hate this part.

1:00PM: Whew. We made it to the visit. Now to unload. Mom isn't here yet. Wonder if she's going to show?

1:05PM: Now I'm pissed. The CPS office is locked (as it always is). I'm calling and calling the extension to the main desk. No one is picking up. I'm out in the waiting room with the four kids. Mom isn't here yet. I'm NOT waiting longer than 15 minutes. I sure wish an SSW would pick up the phone and talk to me. I'd love to touch base with someone in charge around here! I called Minnie at her desk. I called Minnie on her cell. I sent a text message to Minnie. I called multiple extensions of other CPS employees. But no one would answer me.

1:10PM: FedEx needed to contact CPS. Someone else in the front office paged back to the CPS office. They finally came to the door. Mom just walked in. Great Grandma is here too. Whew. I can leave. Oh, what's that miss SSW who came to the door? Minnie isn't at work? You didn't know about this visit? There's no one back there to monitor things? Hmmmm.....that really isn't MY problem. These are the children. This is their mother. Minnie confirmed this visit yesterday. I'll be back in two hours. Feel free to stand there with the deer in the headlight look. This is a court ordered visit and I sure as Hell didn't drive an hour west so I could turn around and come back later!

1:20PM: Emotionally I'm spent now. That SSW really ticked me off. Damn I have a hard time with these visits. I don't even know how to explain my feelings. They are just so big. So powerful. So overwhelming!! I'm mad that we're having to play these games. Mom isn't working her case plan. She's never going to get her kids back. They just aren't a real priority to her. She doesn't really have a home. Yes, Mom is crashing at Great Grandma's sometimes. But she also stays out for days at a time. Mom doesn't have a job. Mom has nothing and she's not doing anything to change.

Why oh why oh why do I have to drag her cherubs through this mess?! It's so hard for them. I shoulder so much of their pain though as I try to make this into something that is bearable. When Dude and Dolly tell me they love their mom, I look at them and say, "of course you do baby". When Dude and Dolly tell me they want to live with me forever, I look at them and say, "I know baby. Tell your lawyer." And when Dude and Dolly ask me if they can go to Iowa to visit Granny and Papa I look at them and say, "I don't know. We'll see baby." There are soooo many questions I have to answer with, "I don't know".

It's painful. Physically painful. After a visit day I ache. I ache emotionally. I ache physically. I ache for all that the children have gone through. I ache for all that they have lost. And I ache because of the trauma that these visits continue to cause. Things were so much easier when Mom was out of the picture entirely. I saw progress developmentally, physically, and emotionally during that time. The removal this summer followed with the increased contact with their bio family is sending them backwards. It pains me to watch this! I'm actually seeing some strange signs that look like attachment disorder. I've never heard about this. The kids have "attached" to me so well. But they were removed this summer because of that damned investigation. And even though they're back, things are far from healed. I've never heard of attachment disorder coming on simply because a child is in foster care. Am I crazy? But "symptoms" that were never there are starting to show up. All this continued trauma cannot be good for the cherubs.

Damn I hate this. I hate feeling this emotional. Foster parents all over the country drop "their" kids off for visits with bio families. All over the place children are forced to maintain relationships with people that abused and/or neglected them even though it is plain and clear that these people are never going to be given custody again. Is it this difficult for the other foster parents? Am I too weak emotionally? Why is this so damn hard for me?! I feel like I should be able to let go easier. I feel like I should be able to do this without it hurting me so much. I feel so weak. Damn I hate this!

1:30PM: Grocery shopping. Hmmm....this isn't too bad. TT and Bart are a little squirrely but they seem to be settling down. We'll get everything off our list that doesn't need refrigerated. Shoot, let's go over to the toy department and do a little Christmas shopping. This is going OK. Whew!

2:30PM: Time to check out and go back to get Dude and Dolly. Yeah, we'll have to sit in the parking lot a bit. But I want to be on time, not late.

3:00PM: I'm here. Oh...there are my babies. At least I don't have to try to call the SSW on the phone again. All seems well. What's that Great Grandma? I need to put Dude in the corner when I get home? He was a bit of a terror during the visit? Yeah, well, that doesn't surprise me. Dude is having a difficult time with these visits. He doesn't want to be there. Yes, he's drawn to his Mom. It would be strange if he wasn't. But ultimately, Dude doesn't like the visits. And I'm betting he was ignored during the visit and acted out to get attention.

Do you need a ride home Great Grandma? Yes? No problem. Hop on in. (I can't take Mom anywhere but I can have contact with Great Grandma.) No Grandma, I haven't talked to your granddaughter yet. I know you gave me her number but I've been really busy. Besides, just because she stopped in to see the kids in Dallas during their weekend visit, anything she has to say about that really needs to be directed to the kids' lawyer. But yes, I do promise I'll call her.

What's that you say? Mom is still up to no good? I'm sorry to hear that Grandma. I bet that's really hard! Take care Grandma. We'll see you soon. I promise you that as long as the babies are with me you'll have contact. What's that? You say that if their mom can't get her act together you want us to adopt the kids? Yeah, me too. I pray that prayer all the time. But...they'll probably end up in Dallas. I know. You don't like it there either. Sigh. It is what it is. Take care Grandma. Love you! See you soon.

3:15PM: Driving home. Dude is asleep. Dolly is starting to drift off but is fighting sleep with all she's got. I was smarter this time and forced a different seating arrangement in the truck. We should get home with fewer problems.

3:45PM: Pit stop. Gross bathroom. No lights in the bathroom. I'll have to try again.

4:00PM: Found a different gas station. These multiple stops are taking a lot of time. Sigh. I hate this drive!

4:30PM: Home at last.

4:35PM: Hey Dude...what's that banging sound? (silent stare in return) me what you were banging. me or go stand in the corner.

Reluctantly Dude pointed to some trucks down in the toy box.

Dude...go stand in the corner.
--- about 60 seconds passed ---
Dude...what are you going to go play with?
The motorcycles?
That sounds good Dude. Please go play with the motorcycles and don't bang the toys and break them.

Dude can't process his big feelings. These visits have ripple effects that last for a couple days. Damn I hate this stuff!

And the evening progressed: We had a home visit from Rainbow. This time around when it came time for her to do a body inspection of the cherubs I didn't let her lie to them and tell them she was "checking for mosquito bites" like she did last time. I told her earlier this week I was uncomfortable with lying to the kids and I was going to tell them the truth this time. (She lied last time I'm sure to make things easier for me. I just can't stand lying to my kids for any reason. The truth can always be told in a way they can understand.)

This time around the inspection sounded like this:
Dude and Dolly, come here. Rainbow needs to talk to you. Did you know it's Rainbow's job to help keep you safe? Well it is. That's part of her job. It's not OK for Mamma L***, Papi S*** or anybody else to hurt you. Rainbow is here to make sure you stay safe and that nobody hurts you. She's going to look your arms, legs, back and tummy to make sure you are OK now.

And then, because even though the afternoon sucked...I tried to play. I try to hard to keep things light and fun even when I want to crawl in a hole and drink too much Diet Coke (or vodka).

Hey Dude...Rainbow needs too look at your tummy. Oh my. Rainbow...did you see that? I might not be allowed to spank Dude...but I am allowed to EAT him. Get back here Dude. I want some ribs.

Through a fit of giggles I lifted Dude up and raspberried all over his tummy.

Damn I hate this part. I hate their family visits. I'm tired of the logistics of the monthly home visits. I'm tired of being disrespected by CPS. Rainbow is awesome but even she can't do much to help anything that's bugging me.

Oh what? It's now 6:00PM and I haven't had a chance to make anything for dinner? Yeah. I knew that was going to happen. We're going out. Because who's kidding who?! My per diem money goes to eating out more often than not. When I lose over four hours to a family visit and then have to chase that Hell with a home visit from a worker...well...I ain't cookin'!

The rest of the evening went fine. Dinner was uneventful. We dumped the oldest three off at church on the way home. I couldn't stay though because we had only taken one vehicle to dinner and Dude and Dolly needed to get home for bed. (I do not mess with bedtime whenever possible. Bedtime is 7:30...OK....7:45 is more realistic. But church doesn't get out until 8:00 and that's too late for my little ones.)

I helped with bedtime. I'm over my big feelings for now. (Blogging is so therapeutic for me.) And I went to bed at a decent time.

Dude is in a diaper because it's quite likely he'll wet the bed. Visits bring out an inability to stay dry all night in Dude. I can expect he'll come home in a different outfit from school today too. It seems he always has an accident the day following a visit.

Dolly will need tons of reassurance after she wakes up. She'll bring me her her baby dolls so I can hold them. She'll tell me her babies miss their first mommy. She'll give me lots of hugs and kisses. Dolly will tell me today about a dozen times that she wants to stay here with her doggy.

I know it's coming. I guess I'm ready.

Foster care sucks.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Juggling a crazy schedule

I've got one question left that Stacy, a reader, posed to me awhile ago...
How can a two-parent family where both parents work full-time (I don't remember if that's your situation) can do the appointments, phone calls, etc. required to foster a baby or preschooler?
My partner and I are thinking about fostering but it seems like there's so much scheduled on top of the normal parenting requirements that there almost needs to be a stay-at-home parent.

This is going to be a difficult question to answer. Every single state, agency, and social worker operates differently. So, what I know to be true about my area might not apply in yours Stacy.

Because I work from home I've never tried to put extreme limits on when and where those appointments and phone calls, etc. take place. I've pretty much let everyone know that I can go with the flow. However, I know that Mimi at I Must Be Trippin' is a single foster mom that has structured her schedule. I believe, and correct me if I'm wrong Mimi, that she was very up front with all parties involved in her cases. She does home visits with everyone only one day a month. She meets with social workers, CASA volunteers, lawyers, etc. during that day only. Where I'm at I bet being that strict with my schedule would be met with a great deal of resistance. However, the need for foster parents is so great! I'm betting that if you were up front during your home study and extremely up front the first time you meet with any of the professionals involved in your kid's cases that it would be do-able just about anywhere.

The first couple weeks of a new placement will probably be the most difficult each and every time. Where I'm at we are required to take our kids to a doctor within the first 72 hours of placement for  a communicable disease screening. I simply take my kids to the doctor and get a full physical done as well to at least get that ball rolling. Often kids will need a few different doctor appointments when they first come in to Care. I've had several placements where the children were behind on vaccinations which required multiple appointments to get caught up.

I have 30 days in which to make sure my kids have seen a dentist. Again, the dentist has always required multiple visits as well. All my placements have arrived with rotting teeth that needed extreme restoration.

Then of course you might have to juggle therapy, psychiatrist appointments, family visits and more. Each of these are case specific though.

Legally, your job has to accommodate your appointments. The Family Medical Leave Act entitles you to 12 workweeks of leave within the first 12 months following a placement. Granted, this is unpaid. But you are legally entitled to take time off to tend to the various appointments. When we were licensed in Iowa I worked outside the home and my husband was a full-time college student. I approached my boss with the idea of us fostering prior to us getting our license. He was generous enough to understand that I was going to need a flexible schedule. I personally ended up just being able to take time off as necessary and work extra to make up for things. Thankfully, during the time we fostered in Iowa it was MUCH, MUCH easier than it is down here in Texas. I had so many fewer appointments.

I'll be honest – I'm not sure how a single foster parent or a two-parent family where both work outside of the home do it. But they do!! Here are some blogs I read by either a single parent or a two-parent working family. Maybe they can be of help or inspiration.
Letting Go of Mie
All My Pretty Ones
I Must Be Trippin' 
Love's A State of Mind 

I'd love it if any of my readers could comment on this blog with more advice about juggling the craziness that is foster parenting with a full-time working schedule. I'm guessing that most of the responses will include getting a strong support system that is approved by your licensing agency/State to help back you up. Transportation services are available in many areas as well. Please chime in with other helpful hints!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

We've been busy

This is a quick post to let y'all know we're OK. Life is busy with my family in town for vacation.

Dude and Dolly returned from their visit in Dallas this past weekend in typical foster care fashion. They were horrifically tired and all out of whack. But ultimately, they have been so excited to see my family who is down for a visit that they snapped out of the funk pretty quickly.

Of course Dude and Dolly have both informed me that they don't want to live in Dallas. They want to stay with us forever. Dude told me that he's scared of Dallas. (I think he's scared to lose us more than anything.)

Dude and Dolly also mentioned that their grandma's apartment may have additional people living in it. Both children slept in the same bed as their grandma instead of in the beds that were "designated" for the children during the home study. This really bugs me but there's very little I can do about it. I mentioned it to Rainbow who said she'd talk to Minnie about it. But in the end, if Minnie saw the apartment and has no concerns, my concerns will be discarded immediately.

On Monday we celebrated TT's birthday. Bart also celebrated "Bart Day". His birthday is the day after Christmas so as soon as he was able to understand good enough, we switched his "birthday party" to be celebrated in the summer. We don't call it his half birthday - we just call it "Bart Day". That way it can be celebrated whenever works best for our family. We didn't celebrate Bart Day in June as Mr. Amazing didn't go home to Iowa with us and Bart wanted his daddy around. As soon as we left Iowa plans were being made for when our Iowa family would be coming down to visit us. TT was excited to know that his cousins would be down over his birthday. Bart decided to wait until October to celebrate his Bart Day and TT thought it would be fun to share their special days. Fun was had by all.

TT is still a little emotional but he enjoyed his birthday very much. After talking with me about his first mom those big feelings got quite a bit smaller. He has been much more regulated overall. TT still has a few difficulties with my family being here. It affects his regular schedule and that is difficult for him. But he enjoys having his family around and he pushes through.

Yesterday we went to the beach. There were a few minor sunburns but it was oh so much fun! I wish I could show you how stinking cute my kids were out in the water. Dude and Dolly were so scared when we went last summer. This time started out with a lot of trepidation as well but both ended up having so much fun playing and splashing. Below is a picture of my sister and Dude and Dolly relaxing in the water. Off in the distance is TT and Herman. We all had a fantastic day!!

Dude and Dolly's mom has called to confirm another visit for today. I've been told she's not doing any part of her service plan, but she is keeping most of her visits. This is going to make for a long day. None of us enjoy the hour drive to where their mom lives or the hour ride back. Thankfully though I don't have to drag TT and Bart along with me. That will help with the dysregulation side of things as they will get to stay home and play with Daddy.

I've got a ton of blog posts rolling around in my head. I'm sure I'll have a lot to say after my family leaves and heads home for Iowa. For now though, we're going to play some more and have fun.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My mom isn't coming

This post doesn't have much of a specific point. It's just a glimpse into a conversation I had this evening with TT. I'm doing most of the talking but that's only because it's so incredibly difficult for TT to fully open up about this topic. He's still trying to understand his own emotions. But we've been processing this for years so I'm pretty comfortable doing the talking while he does the listening and nodding in agreement.

The back story -- TT's birthday is October 14. He is turning nine years old. Birthdays can be very, very difficult times for adopted kids. For children relinquished at birth, it's an exact reminder of the time they were rejected. For kids that were adopted when they were older, it's a reminder of years past and their first family. There is no denying that a birthday makes us think of family. At its very root our birthday is a celebration of the day we were welcomed into the world. And at every single birth a mother was there. We all think of our mothers on our birthdays.

My family is also on their way here for a visit. TT struggles with extreme anxiety. Disruptions in his typical routine are very difficult for him. As much as he desperately wants to see his extended family, he's nervous about it all.

Being a foster family adds to TT's personal struggles as well. Each time Dude and Dolly have contact with their bio family it reminds TT of his own story and his own lack of contact. Dude and Dolly had a visit yesterday. They are leaving for Dallas tomorrow. This is difficult for all of us to process and handle sometimes – but it's especially difficult for TT.

Today was a good day though. TT started off the morning by dusting the living room. He knew that our goal today, after school was done, was to clean the house. He didn't even look at the "to do" list. He simply saw the dust and started cleaning. Then, after breakfast, TT and Bart both got done with their school in a very timely fashion. TT did really well on a couple assessments too and was very proud of himself. As soon as school was done, TT got busy cleaning again. He was in a good mood and really seemed to go with the flow all day long.

After I got Dude and Dolly down for bed tonight I left to go grocery shopping. Typically this doesn't phase TT anymore. (He used to be stressed if I wasn't home at bedtime but he's past that level of separation anxiety now.)

However, when I got home, Mr. Amazing told me I should go up to see TT. He told me that TT had been downstairs twice already. I went upstairs to see what was bothering TT. The relief on his face when I walked in the room both made me feel good to see him and broke my heart all at the same time. It's never easy to see your kid suffering.

I crawled in bed with TT to cuddle with him and talk to him. I jumped in with both feet and asked him what was wrong.

TT just shook his head. He was so visibly upset though.

I scooped him up and reminded him that he can talk to me. I reminded him that he can tell me anything. I told him, "You won't hurt my feelings. What's bothering you TT?"

He timidly said, "Granny and Papa coming."

Somehow I just knew this wasn't exactly it. I pushed. I said, "Are you sure? Is there anything else bothering you?"

He broke down sobbing and managed to mutter out, "My mom isn't coming."

Here he is trying to reconcile so many big emotions. People that claim him as family are willing to drive 1255 miles to see him on his birthday. Yet, his own mother, who IS his family, has no contact with him whatsoever.

Being adopted is hard!!

As soon as he started crying, he immediately tried to stop. I hugged him close. I told him to let it out. I asked him if he wanted to talk. He shook his head no. I then asked him if he wanted me to do the talking. He said yes.

Snippets of my monolog included things like this:
Of course you miss your first mom TT. It's normal. You have so many conflicting emotions. You love me. You love Daddy. You want us in your life. But you miss your first mom and first dad. Even though you never got to know them, you are drawn to them. You want them in your life. And as you feel both of those emotions you know that you can never go back to just your first mom and dad. And even though you're part of our family forever, you still miss your first mom and dad. More than anything I bet you want all of us together and it's so hard knowing that right now, that's not possible.
TT just snuggled in and nodded in agreement. He cried softly in my arms. I prayed for his first mom and for him. I prayed that she would come to know Jesus if she doesn't already. I prayed that TT's pain would be taken away. I prayed for peace and rest in his spirit.

I talked "for" TT some more. He struggles so much to say what he's feeling concerning all of this. He's scared that he's going to hurt my feelings. I think he's scared of what he's feeling sometimes. I remind him over and over that his feelings are normal. It's OK if he's angry. It's OK if he's sad. It's OK if he wants to be with his first mom.

I asked TT if he's still afraid I'm not going to come back sometimes. All he could do was nod yes. All I could do was remind him that I will never ever leave him no matter what. I'm quite confident TT will struggle with separation anxiety for the rest of his life. The first person he knew and trusted left him. It made a permanent scar on his brain. He doesn't fully trust anyone else to stick around either.

We talked about my feelings too. (OK...I talked, he listened.) I told him, as much as I can't imagine my life without him, I know that he had to suffer in order to become part of our family. I wish he could have grown in my tummy. But that's not possible. And I wish he could be with his first mom and first dad so he wouldn't have the emotional pain he does. But then he wouldn't be in my life. I'm just as conflicted. We cried together.

By now we had been cuddling for quite awhile. He had completely relaxed and was ready to go to sleep. Just hearing his feelings being validated, and seeing me in person, was enough to help him finally settle in and go to sleep. I prayed for him once more and I came downstairs to put away groceries.

Mr. Amazing looked up at me and got a puzzled look on his face. Then he asked if I was OK. All I could do was smile and answer yes. I'm just fine. Like any mother, I just wish I could take the pain away.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Going to Dallas

Today is my anniversary. Mr. Amazing and I have been married for nineteen years. Neither of us had marvelous days today. He spent the day in horrific meetings. I got my infusion for my arthritis this morning. I dealt with a huge visit from Mr. Wonky today. (TT's anxiety peaks like CRAZY around his birthday. And it's always worse, waaaaaaayyyy worse, when my family is coming for a visit. The double dose of stress knocks TT way off kilter.) Homeschool was no picnic today. And my kitchen was something of a disaster. So when Mr. Amazing and I spoke on the phone at 4:00 this afternoon I informed Mr. Amazing that he was "making" dinner. After he got home and got out of his uniform we packaged up the family and headed out to eat.

We were eating later than normal. I informed Mr. Amazing that I didn't care where we ate at as long as the restaurant did not require me to fill up my own glass of Diet Coke. Because I had two coupons, we settled on Olive Garden. Dinner took longer than normal and we didn't get home until after 7:00PM. I sent Dude and Dolly upstairs with strict instructions to get ready for bed. This is a skill they have and usually do without any problems.

Dolly got her PJs on quickly. Dude however...did not.

Because there is so little I can do as a foster parent in situations like this I didn't do anything other than be more stern than normal. I raised my voice and gave him my "pissed off mamma" face.

Dude was tired. I might have been a little more stern than necessary. He started crying and very slowly picked up his jammies. I scooped him up and put his PJs on for him. He cried through it all.

I read stories. Things seemed better. I let my frustration go quickly. At least I felt like I did. I only read one story. But it was late enough and both kids were tired. I informed them that they get stories at school and I don't have to read two every single night.

Dude climbed on my lap with Dolly while I sang to them. Every night I sing Jesus Loves Me. I also sign a variety of other songs that vary each night. We cuddle. I hug them. I kiss them. And then I pray over them. Each child lays down in bed and I tuck them in while singing the final lullaby – a custom song with their names in it.

Then, the last thing we talk about is whether or not they have school in the morning. Dolly was so excited this past Friday night. She looked at Mr. Amazing and told him, "I love bedtime Daddy 'cause I get to wake up and watch cartoons!" Tonight's conversation was letting them know they get to sleep in because we have a visit with their mom tomorrow. (I have to keep them home from school for their weekly visits. Their visits are in the afternoon now because that's the only time that would work for me and Bio Mom.)

Then Dude asked if Granny and Papa were coming.

I reminded Dude and Dolly that Granny and Papa are coming but they won't be here until Friday. Then I reminded them that they won't see Granny and Papa until they get back from Dallas.

This conversation led quickly to Dude telling me he doesn't want to go to Dallas. Again (for about the 173,654 time in the past sixty days) I told Dude that it isn't up to me. It's up to the judge. And the judge said that the cherubs are to go to Dallas for a visit once a month.

I don't know what happened. Maybe Dude decided he was still mad about the PJ thing. Maybe he really did change his mind. Maybe he's mad that he's going to miss time with Granny and Papa. But he screwed up his little face and sternly announced to me that he wants to stay in Dallas forever.

I'm worn out. I'm tired of this conversation. I'm not sure how therapeutic my answer was but I'm running out of good ways to handle the whole thing. I don't know what to say anymore when they tell me they don't want to go to Dallas other than, "tell your lawyer". When they're upset and announce that they want to move to Dallas forever about all I've got left in me is, "I know baby. It's up to the judge."

Tonight it sounded more like this.
"That's fine Dude. You can go to Dallas. It's not up to you or me it's up to the judge. He's going to decide the next time we have court. But you're not going to hurt me by saying that Dude. You're not hurting my feelings. I'm a foster mom. My job is to take care of you because your mommy couldn't. It's up to me to love on you as long as you're in my home. But eventually Dude you're probably going to go to Dallas forever and you will never see me again. I will miss you Dude. I love you. But I will be OK."
It very much felt to me like Dude made his announcement so he could hurt my feelings. It's no different than one of my forever kids telling me that they hate me. Dude dug at me with what he's got.

It's so draining though. These conversations are getting more and more difficult. These cherubs are confused. They barely understand foster care. They've had more stability with me in the past 16 months than they had probably ever had before. (And that really sucks because their time with me was interrupted with the investigation from Hell! And everything else about foster care is peppered with, "I don't know baby. It's up to the judge.") They're used to instability. They're drawn to stability. I do believe that more often than not they want to stay with us forever.

Yet, I can't promise them a damn thing. All I can do is remind them that it's not up to me. It's not up to them. It's not up to the social workers. It's not even up to the lawyers. It's that all important judge that will determine where they live forever. Then, because it's the truth and I always tell the truth, I let them know...if they tell their lawyer they want to stay with me, the lawyer will have to think about it and talk it over with everybody. If they tell their lawyer they want to go to Dallas, that's probably what will happen.

It's soooooooo unfair putting that kind of pressure on children that barely understand what foster care is. I so hate how The System works down here. But it is what it is.

No good ending here. Just figured I'd share my story from tonight. Foster care sucks.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Previous placements

Mama Foster asked this question of me the other day:
I am curious about your placements you have had before moving to your current state. I may be wrong, but I thought you mentioned that you fostered in another state you lived in and I love to hear about the kids people are placed with.
Many years ago, when we lived in Northeast Iowa, we decided to become a foster family the first time. Our experience there was radically different than what we've experienced in Texas! We were licensed for two years there (maybe a little more – I'd have to look it up to be sure). I'm not really where to start with that part of our story though.

I guess you could say it all started when we finally sat down and took our first class. Honestly, I don't remember much of the initial process any more. I know the classes were OK enough. They tried to paint a true picture of what foster care looked like. But at the time, My Genius Sister was a social worker. I had talked to her so much about her job that nothing they told me in the class even phased me or my husband.

Living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa we went through many of the steps to get our license to do foster care. In the middle of everything, we ended up doing some unconventional fostering so to speak.

My 16 year old cousin came to live with us. It's a long, complicated story that really isn't mine to tell. But it is safe to say that we were busy enough with her that we didn't think much of the whole "official" foster care paperwork. Time passed and my cousin moved out. Not too long after that I accepted a new job and we sold our house in Cedar Rapids. We moved further north to a tiny town west of Decorah.

Again, my busy job kept me from thinking about the foster care paperwork and licensing process. Mr. Amazing was a full time college student. He definitely wasn't thinking about adding more kids to our brood. But once my job settled in and I had a decent enough of a routine, foster care started tugging at our hearts again. I approached my boss and discussed what level of flexibility I would need. All was a go so I contacted the State about where we were in the process of things.

Long story...the state of Iowa had lost our paperwork. They took full ownership of the mishap and, despite the training requirements having been changed, they grandfathered us in based on the training we had already completed. Social workers were sent to our home. The home study was completed. We marked the box "fostering only" as we had no plans to adopt at that time.

We had been told that the need for foster parents was quite high. Still, after we had our license in hand, no children came. We did respite for an adoptive family several different times. An amazing family had adopted three children all so close in age it was almost like having triplets. (When the kids came to my house it was like having quads as they were all the same age as Herman too!) At least one (if not all three) of her kids had RAD. At the time I had no idea what that really meant. I just knew she was thrilled when our family was able to help them out and watch the kids every now and then.

Still, no official placements came. So...we got puppies. Two of them. Yellow labs.

Three weeks later, we got the call for TT. Thank God the social worker decided to "fix" our paperwork so that we could make TT a permanent member of our family.

Herman was thrilled to finally be a big brother. Our little family was so happy.

Then, when TT was five months old, we got what I consider our first "real" call to foster. It was an 18 month old little boy named Jordan. I feel bad, I don't really remember all the intimate details of everything. I kept a journal though of the entire time Jordan lived with us. In fact, I got it out the other day and read it from cover to cover. He was an easy kid to care for all in all. Fostering in general was easy for us back then. Literally almost no documentation. All I had to do with my babysitter was give our social worker her name and address. Anyone could come into my home without issue. We went camping. We went shopping in Minnesota. I didn't have to have permission for much at all.

Jordan had some issues of course. No child comes into Care without suffering some kind of trauma first. He may have shown early signs of RAD. Any time anything stressful happened the child could shut off his emotion and go sooooooo deep within himself. I mentioned this many times in my journal. It was very surreal how detached he could become. Hollow. Blank. Deep within himself. Much deeper than any 18 month old should ever be. Jordan also suffered from night terrors. Not nightmares....but night terrors. They were frightening to me at first but I learned how to just hold him through them until he settled back down.

Jordan's parents lived together in a town not too far from us. They had problems with methamphetamines. Jordan had come in to Care as a result. I had a social worker go so far as to indicate that the chances would be high that we might be able to adopt Jordan. But both parents worked their case plan. Everything worked like how I imagined foster care should work. Jordan had visits. We all participated in a Family Group Conference. Jordan's visits were increased. Jordan's visits moved up to unsupervised weekend visits. Jordan went home.

The only reason I think I didn't completely lose myself in sadness when Jordan left is because...just two weeks after he had arrived that spring...I found out I was pregnant. Then, in the fall, Jordan's baby sister was born. She was immediately taken into custody and I, a woman who had so desperately wanted another child, had to say "no" to a baby. They let Jordan stay with us though and just worked things out so that the children had visits at the same time with their parents. His sister was beautiful. But there was no way I could agree to having TT, Jordan, Jordan's sister and then my own newborn all at the same time. Four children two and under?! Not only would that have been nearly impossible, but I also worked full time outside the home and I freelanced on my "off" time.

After six months (May to October), Jordan went home. Reunification with mom and dad. I was happy for them. I felt like we had done a good thing. I even stayed in contact with their family for a bit. I babysat a couple times for Jordan and his sister after reunification.

Then, my husband got a job. (He had finally graduated college.) We sold our house and we started our cross-country tour that kept us from fostering for what seemed like an eternity to me. During that time God put many children in our path that needed us just as much as any foster child would. Looking back I know that God's plan has been perfect. I used to get mad. I felt such a call to help the abused and neglected. But God put us in a duplex right next door to a little boy that needed us oh so badly. And then, He put us in Deep South Texas where we were able to foster again.

So that's that. Did I answer enough Mama Foster?  :)  Is there anything else you want to know?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Amended birth certificates

The first question posed to me the other day came from Sunday Taylor. She said:
Now I am going to get you in trouble...So, how do you feel about adoptees having their original birth certificates sealed and receiving an "amended" version.

Within the adoption triad this is a very hot topic. However, I've got no problem addressing how I feel about things.

First, I guess I should give a brief overview of our adoption history. Cherub 2 came to our family via adoption through the foster care system. In a way though, it was more like a domestic infant adoption. There was no history of abuse or neglect. Instead, TT's first family made an adoption plan. Originally they had planned on taking advantage of Iowa's Safe Haven Law. They were going to simply leave their son at a hospital and walk away. (Not that there is anything simple about making a decision like this!!!) After giving birth in the hospital though (because after laboring at home TT's first mom decided to go to the hospital because of the pain), they were approached by a social worker. It was explained to them that if they formally relinquished their rights, it would go faster and smoother for the baby. And since they ultimately wanted what was best for their son, this is the route that was chosen.

We were a licensed foster family and we got the call that fateful afternoon. Of course I said, "yes!!!" immediately. I was in shock. I was surprised. I was thrilled beyond belief.

Then we went about the process of fostering with adoption as the goal. The whole process took FOREVER. I think for the most part it was because our lawyer drug things out. Never did the first family not sign anything (at least that is what we were told). But it took a year before we were able to stand in front of a judge and make things official. On October 12, 2005 I had the joy of making TT a permanent legal member of my family.

TT's first family never wanted an open adoption. I was young and naive so I didn't push for one. I accepted things as they were presented to me and just loved on my son with all I had. I was grateful we had been given some medical paperwork. I really didn't give much thought to the fact that we didn't have a birth certificate yet. I was told one would be sent to us in the mail.

When it arrived I was surprised. It listed me and my husband as the mother and father. Honestly, I thought maybe I had filled out something wrong. I was a little creeped out by things. It didn't seem right to me. Being totally truthful though, I filed the paperwork away and took solace in the fact that I did know TT's first parents' names. I even had their social security numbers. I figured that if TT ever wanted to find his first family, I would have the necessary paperwork. At the time we were in the process of moving out of state and I didn't give a lot of thought to the birth certificate again for quite awhile.

As TT grew older I immersed myself in the blogosphere. I read books about adoption. I tried to learn as much as I could. I wanted more than anything to handle this topic of adoption well as an adoptive mother. I wanted to educate others about adoption. I wanted to be respectful of my son's story and help him always understand it.

That's when I learned about the whole birth certificate and how it is amended (or falsified) for adoptees. I learned what a disservice this does to adoptees and how many problems it can cause.

Again, I'll be honest...I'm not out pounding on doors trying to change policy myself. I'm not an activist in this realm. I haven't done a lot of research about what I actually can do to change things. But falsifying a birth certificate denies adoptees many things. Yes, it "protects" the privacy of their first family. But it denies the adoptee so much. Some adoptees don't even know the name of the hospital they were born in. (Yes, some states actually change the location of birth to match the adoptive family's location.) Many adoptees have difficulties using their "amended birth certificate" as a legal form of ID. Many have been denied a passport!

Like I said, I'm personally not out there actively trying to change policy. However, this past week I was made aware of a petition that is being circulated. Signing a petition is an easy thing to do. I'm asking my readers to check this out. Read the comments submitted by others that have signed. Read about the real stories of adoptees being denied something that you and I most likely take for granted. Yes, some adoptees want their original birth certificate so they can locate their first families. I think they deserve this right. Others want their OBC so they can get a passport and be allowed to travel abroad. Others just want to know the truth of their beginnings. Please read. And please sign.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Several great questions

I've had three questions sent my way. I'm going to get to answering them as quickly as I can. If anyone else has anything they'd like to ask me about my family, adoption, fostering, or anything – fire away!

My family

Just so y'all know, I come from some crazy stock! But out of respect for my anonymity, my sister did not comment on my last blog post. However, she did just send me a text wanting to know:

"how did u get so lucky 2 have such an awesome genius sister??"

And since I said I'm willing to put my answers to all your questions up on my blog,
here's my answer:
I was born first. You got to watch and learn from me.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sixty followers!

Happy Thursday to all!

I was so excited to pop on this morning and see that Cherub Mamma has sixty followers! Welcome. Welcome!!

I'm not much for give-aways. I've got a pretty basic blog. Shoot - I'm too lazy to go out and find pictures to go with all my posts. You're pretty much just stuck with me and whatever is running through my brain at the time.

But I figured, in honor of the fact that I do have so many readers now, I'd do a few question and answer posts. (Because honestly...the only reason I started blogging was because my Genius Sister talked me into it. I had no idea I'd ever actually have people other than her that would want to read.)

Is there anything you want to know about me? Or about my family? Or about fostering? Or about adopting?

I might not have an answer. If I don't, I'll look something up for you.

Ask away. Maybe there's some part of my story I've left out that you'd like to know more about. Or maybe there's something that's going on in your life that I might be able to help you with. Ask away.

And thanks to all y'all that stop by every day. I appreciate the support more than you'll ever know. This fostering stuff is hard work!! Knowing I'm not alone in the adventure means so much to me. Thanks!!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I talked with Great Grandma P this morning

Just so y'all know, I voluntarily gave Great Grandma P my phone number.

I know, I know...privacy and all that crap.

There's just something about GGP. I can't explain it. We click. I wasn't afraid to give her my contact info. I handed her my business card with my address on it and everything.

I met her at court back in February for the first time. Bio Mom wasn't there. (She was in jail/rehab/whatever.) (The State hasn't been forthcoming to me about Bio Mom and her actual whereabouts. I heard her 9 month relocation referred to as jail and as rehab. Then the worker said..."oh whatever it is, I don't know".) Great Grandma P was so genuine with me. We talked about the kids. We talked oh so briefly about their past. GGP was so appreciative of me and my family. She wasn't threatened or upset. Sure, she wasn't thrilled that her great-grandkids were in foster care. She's definitely not thrilled with the choices her granddaughter was making. But she openly acknowledged how much better off the kids are.

From there, GGP told the ENTIRE family how wonderful we are. She won't let anyone bad mouth us. In fact, at court last time when Dude wouldn't have much to do with his bio mom and bio dad, GGP reminded everyone of the truth -- ALL Dude has known for the past year is our family. He can't be expected to open up to people that hurt him and are practically strangers to him now. I like having GGP on my side.

GGP loves the kids oh so much! It's so apparent. She wants to be their grandma and have that kind of a relationship with them. She knows she can't raise them. She's 74 years old now.

GGP called me this morning. I went ahead and answered the phone. She was calling to find out if the kids were going to be in town for their visit.

I told GGP that no, Bio Mom hadn't called to confirm the visit so it was cancelled.

GGP voluntarily told me some things about Bio Mom. Without going into detail, Bio Mom isn't currently staying with GGP anymore. And Bio Mom is back to making lots and lots of poor choices.

I explained the visit schedule one more time to GGP. Visits are on Wednesdays from 1-3 but ONLY if Bio Mom calls CPS on Tuesdays to confirm the visit.

GGP went off on Bio Mom again. She's so sad that Mom won't step up to the plate. It's heartbreaking to watch a family member make so many bad decisions that affect so many other people.

I told GGP that I will continue to do what I can to make sure that she still gets to see the kids. If Mom is going to stop coming to her visits (visits that GGP always tags along with), I will make sure to schedule a visit myself with GGP. I have to be the one to do this as CPS couldn't care less if the kids see GGP. She's not part of the case plan as she's unable to raise the children to adulthood. (Remember...she's 74 years old.) Therefore, CPS doesn't value the relationship or see a need for the kids to maintain contact. I have been given permission to coordinate visits with GGP though because I begged for this permission. CPS does know that GGP poses no threat to the kids. As long as I'm meeting with only her, CPS says it's OK. They just aren't going to go out of their way to supervise visits with GGP because she's technically not part of the case plan.

GGP was so understanding. She immediately said, "Oh my! Well, do it when you can. I'd to see the kids once a month or so. I'm sure you can't afford to drive over here all the time. I won't tell Bio Mom when you're coming. I won't get you in trouble. If she doesn't want her kids..." Then GGP kind of mumbled something. It's so heartbreaking to me to watch all of this through her eyes. I truly do believe the GGP is not going to share my contact information with Bio Mom. GGP is fiercely protective of me. She just wants to see the kids every now and then. And if I'm already in town for a scheduled visit, she wants to stop in no matter what.

In fact, the reason she called me again this morning was because she wanted to know if we were going to be there or not – because she was going to have to walk across town to see the kids. Her car broke down several weeks ago and she doesn't have the money to fix it. (GGP is very poor. Yet she still works hard and takes care of herself. She has a small house and she works every night cleaning City Hall. She doesn't relate to her granddaughter's decisions at all.) Anyway, GGP wanted to make sure she had enough time to walk from her house to the CPS office so she could see the kids.

We ended the conversation just agreeing to stay in contact. I promised Great Grandma P that I will not cut her off from the kids. GGP told me to call her any time and she'd let me know what is going on with her and with Bio Mom.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Visits can really stink

Dude and Dolly's mom is supposed to get one court ordered two hour visit in the CPS office per week. We established that these visits would be on Wednesdays from 1:00PM to 3:00PM. All Mom has to do is call CPS within 24 hours to confirm that she will be coming to the visit.

I started calling the CPS at 4:00 today to see if Mom confirmed or not. I'm not going to keep the kids out of school and drive an hour west if Mom isn't going to be there.

After a couple of attempts, Minnie finally answered the phone and said that no, Mom hasn't confirmed the visit. She stammered a bit and said, "No, there won't be a visit. Well...unless Mom calls." I gently reminded her that Mom is supposed to call within 24 hours of said visit. Minnie said, "Oh. That's right. No. No there won't be a visit."

She then followed with, "You know how we said the kids would go to Dallas the first weekend of the month? Well, I've got training this Friday so we're going to do it the next weekend."

Oh shit. Um. NO. You never did confirm when the next Dallas trip would be. In all reality, I assumed there wouldn't be another Dallas trip.

This timing TOTALLY sucks. Dude and Dolly are going to fly off to Dallas on the very day that my family will be arriving from Iowa. You know – the family that actually pays attention to them all the time. The family that calls. The family that sends presents. The family that actually visits. My mom and dad, who live 1255 miles away, have actually had more contact with Dude and Dolly since they came to live with us than any of the rest of Dude and Dolly's bio family.

Nevertheless, the visit to Dallas has been scheduled. And the visit to Dallas must be kept. Dude and Dolly are just going to have to miss out on seeing the family they actually know and love. (And yes, this is how I worded it to Minnie.)

Now on to the other part of visits that totally stink...

Great Grandma P called me this afternoon. I didn't take the call initially because I was on a different call when she rang in. She left a message asking if we were going to be in town for a visit tomorrow.

What do I do?

Bio Mom is couch surfing but is primarily staying with Great Grandma P. If I get GGP involved in this whole visit fiasco, she could end up enabling Bio Mom more than she should. Then this whole case will drag out even longer. If I call GGP back and tell her that we aren't going to be there because her granddaughter didn't call in -- she's likely to try and get her granddaughter to call in and try to keep the visit.

But...then again...she might not.

Either way, I don't want to risk it.

I feel just awful ignoring Great Grandma P. In fact, I feel so awful about it that I did call her back once. She just didn't answer so I hung up. When she called back, I let it ring again. I absolutely adore Great Grandma P. But I think it's wrong to put her in the middle of the whole visit mess and I'm not sure what I'd tell her if I did actually talk to her.

Do you think I did the right thing?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Inventory time

I don't know how I'm supposed to count all of my cherubs' belongings when my laundry looks like this most of the time.

This needs to be washed.
 This needs to be folded.
And this is clean and is sorted by kid - but I haven't even starting to think about the folding yet.

Most of the time I think I rock with the whole "big family" thing. ('Cause in my book - five kids is still a big family these days. We just all happen to fit in one vehicle now! whoo hoo)

But laundry is my nemesis!

Thankfully all my kids know that most of their laundry "lives" on the floor of my bedroom in a laundry basket just waiting to be folded. And thankfully I managed to get everything counted for Dude and Dolly this morning before school so I could fax off the inventory list to my licensing agency. I think I only found a couple more outfits after the fact that were in the basket of laundry sitting in front of my washer. I go fold laundry? Or mess around on Pinterest some more???