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.


Mitzy said...

YES, visits are this difficult for other foster parents, I feel your pain.

Anonymous said...

I was going to say the same thing as the first commenter. Yes, it stinks. Yes, they tie you up with emotional blackmail when you never planned on transporting or monitoring visits, because they know you love the kids. Yes, it throws off no only the days of the visits but the kids' days following and your days preceding, as you wonder about your schedule. Yes, I hate it.

Mandy said...

I know what you mean about big feelings for us during the visits. I hate how weak I feel too. I hate how I feel so vulnerable.

MamaFoster said...

yes it does

Mama P said...

I love that you wrote this out. Now I don't feel so guilty for my own thought processes. I agree that visits suck for everyone.

Meg0422 said...

Have you discussed any of this with the lawyer recently? Are you keeping notes for her so on court-date you can hand it to her, highlighting the disregulation and stress? (with copies for the judge etc?)

CherubMamma said...

I'm expected to document all family contact. But really, the way my children respond to visits is totally typical of most visits in Foster Care Land. No one is going to think twice about any of the things my kids are doing. Nevertheless, I keep the log and I make very general notes following each visit. I've discussed things with both my licensing agency and with CPS. No one reacts at all. This is all very "normal".

As far as the lawyer goes, I'm going to meet with her (hopefully) before court in January. I'm assuming though that the children will go to Dallas this time unless there is a specific legal reason they shouldn't.

I highly doubt anything I write up would be passed to the judge though so I'm not going to bother right now. If perhaps their lawyer thinks there is a legal reason the children should not go to Dallas, well then, I'll do as much as I possibly can to help the lawyer with her case. But I'm not holding my breath.

More than anything, I just have to ride the roller coaster. I'm not in charge of this at all.