Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Things I heard yesterday when I called my agency

In regards to Dude and Dolly:

Their worker doesn't think it's a good idea to move them again.
Yes. They are definitely going back to Dallas in September.

In regards to Pumpkin:

I'm not sure what her worker wants. I know she needs her therapies. But really, CPS doesn't care a lot about those sorts of things. She's in a daycare every day now. (Because suddenly that's better than a home environment?!) I don't know for sure what they are going to decide. The CPS worker is going to ask her supervisor. I'll get back with you.

-----

I know I have at least one more big snotty cry in me for sure. The thought of never seeing my other three kids again makes me quite sad. I was pretty clear with Rainbow though – if they don't come back, we are done fostering. 

I'm getting ready to start homeschooling and the last thing I need to be sorting through is all the drama a new placement brings. Besides, our agency is still under probation so it'd be quite awhile before any kids came. I don't want to have to do all the mandatory training in the meantime if it's not going to be necessary in the long run.

More than anything I'm going to try and contain my anger. Three children had their lives completely uprooted for no good reason. Sure – investigate me if you must. But it certainly didn't need to take that long and the ties in my home with those kids certainly didn't have to be broken this way! The System failed yet again.

Originally I had thought we would keep enough training and what not under our belts so that we could be a respite home. I wanted to be for another foster family what Daphne had been to me. However, if I want to help out for more than two nights at a time, I have to maintain our full foster license. Again...I don't want to have to maintain that level of training if it's really not necessary. The training is inconvenient and insanely boring! Plus, almost all of it is an hour away from me. I don't want to have my full fostering license. I don't want random investigators to show up at my home ever again.

So I'll probably do what needs to be done so I can babysit and provide respite for up to two nights at a time. I told Rainbow I'll work only through her and only for her families. I know it's not much. But I got really hurt this time. I am going to sulk for a little while.

Monday, July 30, 2012

More investigation info.

I got the phone call from my agency while driving through downtown Fort Worth. Rainbow sounded happy on the phone so I didn't freak out immediately. I must say though, I'm very glad she was giving me good news. If she had told me bad news I probably would have wrecked the car!

Rainbow called me first – just like she had promised. There was almost as much relief in her voice as what I felt. She felt very bad explaining to me that whether the children come back to my home or not is now up to their CPS caseworkers. She hadn't talked to them about the verdict yet so I was going to have to wait longer to get the rest of the details. Rainbow did share with me that Dude and Dolly are back to the worker they had almost a year ago. This worker just happens to be the one that thinks we are all "too attached". I'm not holding my breath that I'll have the option of getting the babies back in my home again.

Not that I'm chomping at the bit to get them.

This is where I'm going to be totally honest...
When all is said and done, these children never were mine. Yes, I cared for them for a year. Yes, I'm madly in love with them. Yes, I would still adopt them in a heartbeat! But if we go ahead and have these two little ones move back in with us as foster children – I personally think it could be more trauma than what it's worth. They were ripped out of our home over 6 weeks ago. I have NO IDEA what coping tools they were given by the respite family. I have NO IDEA how they were cared for and what they were told about us and why they had to leave. It could be horrifically confusing to them to come back here. I say this largely because they are (unless things have changed) going to go to their grandma's house in Dallas in early September. Moving them out of their respite home and back in to ours for such a short time hardly seems healthy for anyone.

Rainbow knows that we aren't fully set on taking the little children back. She has to check with their worker and let me know how things are progressing in their case. Also, Dude and Dolly's dad is now out of prison. I was told on Friday that he was in our area with Grandma N (his mother, the g'ma from Dallas) for a visit. Those babies hadn't seen their birth father in well over a year...if not longer. I need to know more details about what is actually going on in their case and what the State is going to propose at the hearing September 10 before I'm going to make a decision on anything.

Mr. Amazing and I are in agreement over one thing though. If the babies can come back to our home, and if the current respite home will not keep them until court in September, the babies will come back here. We do NOT want them in yet a third home. None of these changes are their fault and they don't deserve to be confused even further. I know we could survive the behaviors that are sure to come as a result of this System induced trauma this summer. But if the current plan in their case is still placement with Grandma N, and the respite home they're in can keep them, we will have them stay there. They will just make it all "official" and our agency will finally get the children's belonging to them.

As for Pumpkin, I hope she's back soon.

I know. I sound nuts. This whole mess started because of Pumpkin. (That's simplifying things!!)

But all I've ever wanted to do is look out for the best interests of the children in my home! And right now, while I know Pumpkin is in a great respite home, she's not able to get any of her therapy services. And to me, that is a travesty!

My only reservations with Pumpkin coming back have to do with my own liabilities. I will NOT have contact with her bio mom. I will NOT transport to any unsupervised visits. In fact, I'm uncomfortable transporting to any visits. But I doubt they would make arrangements for me. I'll just have to get all the information I can about what they expect from me and make a decision based on that.

For example, Rainbow told me about a day recently when she came to pick up Pumpkin for a visit. Pumpkin screamed "no" at her and refused to comply. Pumpkin wouldn't get up off the couch to leave with Rainbow. Had Pumpkin been under my care, I would have simply picked Pumpkin up and I would have carried her to the car screaming. Pumpkin may be seven years old now but developmentally she's only around 18 months!!! Do you let an 18 month old toddler dictate what you do for them?!

Rainbow wasn't comfortable picking Pumpkin up and forcing her to comply though. I assume it's because she questioned her liability in the situation. She chose to call Pumpkin's CPS worker and ask her if she wanted her to force Pumpkin into the car for the visit or not.

I will NOT be able to care for Pumpkin at all if my actions will be under that level of scrutiny. Pumpkin needs to be kept safe and that means Pumpkin has to do things she doesn't want to do. Everyone involved in her case knows this is how I handle things. I describe how I carry Pumpkin to keep both of us safe. I describe how I have to hold her down during certain medical procedures. Pumpkin is not capable of making decisions for herself at all. But if my liability is such that Pumpkin's rights now mean she gets to determine whether or not she has to go places, well then, I can't care for her anymore.

There is also one more piece of the puzzle that will have to be addressed. The investigation did not turn up anything negative in my home. However, they raised concern about the sleeping arrangements of the children. All three of my foster children shared a very, very large bedroom. (The room itself is 12x15.) Little ones of opposite sex can share a room until they are six years old in the state of Texas. So really, this shouldn't be a problem at all!! Pumpkin didn't turn seven until after the investigation started and she was removed from my home. But still, the investigator(s) are concerned about Dude and Pumpkin being in the same room together.

For the 12 months both Pumpkin and Dude had been in my care this was never a concern to any of the professionals that came in to my home. I was originally told Pumpkin should be classified by her developmental age when it came to sleeping arrangements. It's also important that Pumpkin be close to us due to her medical conditions. So, my agency is fighting this new stipulation. However, they may not "win" and if we choose to take all three kids back, we might be forced to move sleeping arrangements around.

We have one empty guest bedroom downstairs. There are a lot of things that would have to be shifted in my home to move the children and separate Pumpkin from Dude for sleeping. And honestly, I'm not sure how many changes I'm willing to make at this point in time. But since there are already so many "ifs" in place, I'm not over-thinking this piece of the puzzle.

I'm hoping I hear something today. But...this is CPS we're dealing with. I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A visit from Mr. Wonky

TT, Bart and I spent three weeks away from our home in deep South Texas. We spent three weeks away from Mr. Amazing and Herman too. As much fun as TT and Bart had on vacation in Iowa, they missed their daddy and their big brother an awful lot too!

Friday night was re-entry. Squeals and hugs abounded. Then, each little one cuddled with Daddy on the couch for awhile while watching part of the Olympic opening ceremonies. They went off to bed with smiles on their faces. It was good to be home.

And then there was Saturday.

Herman had signed up for an all day hunter's safety course. Daddy and Herman saw the little cherubs for only a few minutes before they had to say goodbye. Then Mr. Amazing came back home to swap out vehicles. He took his motorcycle to a rally he had made arrangements to attend a couple weeks ago.

These events don't usually bother my boys. And silly ol' me, I figured TT and Bart would be fine on Saturday. Originally we weren't going to be back until late, late Saturday night. Surely the boys would remember that. Besides, Daddy wasn't going to be gone all day. He was planning on being home by 2:00 in the afternoon.

Silly ol' me.

TT started getting wound up. Then Mr. Wonky came for a visit. TT couldn't seem to do anything without falling. He tripped every time he walked. He flopped on the ground. Baby talk was all he could muster.

I tried as hard as I could to stay therapeutic. I tried to meet his needs first. But the flopping. The falling. The fussing. The whining. I mean really - I told him to pick up his backpack with the colors in it and he couldn't figure out how to do it. He kept stacking the paper, tapping it on the ground and then throwing it up in the air because he "couldn't do it". The behavior became draining quite quickly!

Thankfully I figured out the trigger quickly. This one was pretty obvious to me. So I asked him. (I try to never TELL him what brought Mr. Wonky in for a visit. These are his feelings, not mine. But I will help him go through possibilities if he wants.) Well, TT looked at me as he flopped all over the living room and said, "I'm mad! I'm mad Daddy isn't here."

I looked at TT and said, "That's really hard buddy. You know why this is making you feel so incredibly upset don't you?"

He paused and indicated that it would be OK for me to continue. And, in TT's case, putting reality out there quickly usually helps him calm down faster. He's responsive to hearing the truth in the matter and doesn't fight me every single time. Most of the time he's aware when he's dysregulated and most of the time he wants to get out of the funk. (Not all kids could handle diving into the "deep" stuff as quickly as I toss it out at TT though. I'm very aware of that! We made a lot of progress last fall and winter when things were quite sticky on an almost daily basis.)

Anyway... I looked at TT and told him, "Your first parents couldn't parent you. They left you. You feel abandoned by them. That feeling never goes away. And now, after being gone for three weeks, you're mad that Daddy went away today. You feel abandoned – very abandoned!"

He turned and screamed at me, "Why do you always say it's about adoption?!!"

I replied with confidence, "Because this time it is honey. This time you're super mad because of adoption. And it's OK."

He continued to fuss and flop. He kept screaming at Bart and me to leave him alone. My response to that was, "Children that want to be left alone will go to their rooms. Children that are in the living room will have to deal with the others around them."

He ended up flopping up to his room. I wish I knew how to better convey what I mean by "flopping". It's a strange combination of walking, running, tripping, bouncing back up and walking a few steps before starting it all over again. For a child as athletic as TT is, this behavior is a huge indicator that things are very dysregulated. I did follow TT to his room. This was for a few reasons. First - and I'm being very honest here - it's because he's known to throw and break things when he's super dysregulated. I'm tired of stuff being broken all the time and if I stay close he doesn't ramp it up as bad. In the back of my mind I also knew that me staying close would help him calm down the fastest no matter what. A few years ago TT used to get violent just so I would restrain him. Then, after fighting me in a restraint for several minutes, he would melt into me and just let me hold him. He often needs physical touch, and a lot of it, before he will fully relax. So I need to be there in that exact moment he's ready for a hug or the dysregulation can carry on far too long. (I spent many months telling TT, "Darling, if you need a hug just ask for one. Please don't attack your brother, throw things across the room and scream at me just so I'll restrain you and then hug you. Hugs by themselves are sooooo much better than restraints.")

TT went through all that it takes for him to calm down. First he needs to stay mad at me. Then, he'll do the hard work and take deep breaths. Often he'll snuggle up to me. I usually try to get him to snuggle up with me spoon-style with his back against my chest. I tell him to listen to my breathing and try to match it. Then he'll typically "own up" to his poor behavior. And last, he'll tease me so that we can wrestle. Very rarely can he fully calm down without a beat-up session. He likes to be tickled and rough-housed with. Like I said, he needs a lot of physical touch!!

It wasn't a particularly profound visit from Mr. Wonky this time. Everything was par for the course. We go through this regularly enough. Sometimes I know the trigger. Sometimes I don't. Either way, I try to always give him an opportunity talk about things if he wants to. And yes, that means adoption is often brought up. Separation anxiety and feelings of abandonment affect TT quite strongly.

You can't hide the truth though. It is almost always "about adoption". As wonderful and amazing as it is to have TT in my forever family, he will deal with the pain of losing his first family for the rest of his life. I plan to give him plenty of opportunities (and not all yucky ones like this) to discuss his story. I'm hoping as he grows the yucky parts are fewer and farther between. But never do I want him to bury those feelings. So many adult adoptees say that they fear talking about their adoption because they don't want to hurt their adoptive parents' feelings. (My research is via the book 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge. I also discussed this with Rainbow, who just also happens to be adopted.)

Thankfully TT calmed down and the rest of the weekend went well. Even when Bart thought it would be fun to mimic some of the behavior that had flown into the house, TT stayed regulated. Here's to hoping the rest of the week isn't too chaotic. (Though, we still know nothing new about Pumpkin, Dude or Dolly so the possibility of full-on crazy is quite eminent!!!)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Relief

I will write a longer post later – when I have more time. But I want to update all the prayer warriors out there that have been so comforting to me....

The investigation is OVER.

There were no citations. There were no disciplinary actions. It is just over. No one in my household did anything wrong and justice has prevailed.

I rolled into home tonight (from vacation) with just enough time to watch USA walk through the parade of athletes. It's been a long day of driving but I must say, it sure was easier in the quiet of the car knowing that my name was cleared.

It's up to CPS what happens next. I don't know yet if the children will come back to our home or not. That decision may not even be up to us.

I thank you all for your prayers. I'll keep y'all posted. This adventure isn't over just yet.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Heading back home

My vacation wraps up tomorrow. I'll spend the day doing what freelancing needs to be done, laundry and cleaning. Despite all that has hung over my head the past month, I really was able to enjoy myself on this vacation!

I had good days. I had some bad days. It's been so long since I've seen "my" kids that I've adjusted to the new normal as best as I can. I miss them horribly. But now the ache is more for them than anything else. I only sent nine outfits. A huge wardrobe of wonderful clothes sits in boxes up in their room at my house. They have toys I know they love that are also in boxes at my house. I ache for all they have lost in this situation. They deserve better than this!

The foster mom that has Pumpkin has been WONDERFUL! She messages me every few days to check on me and to tell me how Pumpkin is doing. It hasn't all be easy to hear. One Sunday she messaged me to tell me some symptoms Pumpkin was displaying. They were classic seizure symptoms. And, in typical Pumpkin fashion, no one had seen the seizures. I walked the foster mom through the things she needed to do. But it was so hard for me. This was a crisis and I wasn't there for Pumpkin. Granted, Pumpkin wasn't going to come on vacation with me anyway so this crisis would have played out without me there no matter what. But it was the principle of it all. I know that in the back of this foster mom's mind she had to weigh in how much she could trust my advice and compare it to the liability we have as foster parents overall. In the end she took all my advice as is, didn't overreact and take Pumpkin to the hospital, and Pumpkin recovered quickly without medical intervention. (For what it's worth though, that particular Sunday was a bad, bad day for me!)

Pumpkin's respite foster mom is just as upset about the whole investigation as I am. But she's clued me in to more things that are probably playing a factor in the delay. My licensing agency is under probation with the State of Texas. During a probation our agency cannot move any children or accept new placements. It's supposed to give the social workers time to get more training. I guess there have been a lot of investigations statewide that have resulted in citations. This comes on the heels of a corrective action that our agency faced a year ago. I was told that a probation is the last step before a licensing agency loses THEIR license.

If you factor that in with the fact that I was recently investigated due to an issue that was COMPLETELY out of my control earlier this year -- I'm sure CPS is taking a long hard look at my file. Granted, every single time I've had my family gone over with a fine tooth comb "they" have found nothing wrong. But there is the fact that there have been two investigations somewhat back to back. << sigh >>

Always remember... It is not "if" you're going to be investigated, it most definitely is "when"!

I'm looking forward to getting home again. We've got a few weeks of summer left, but I've got to start getting ready for school. I picked the curriculum I'm going to use for Bart. TT and Herman will go to online school. I'm actually looking forward to homeschooling. (It will definitely be better than the brick and mortar options available on the border of Mexico!! I am just not a fan of the Texas education system at all!!)

I'm trying to decide if we, as a family, should do "anything" else yet this summer. I was talking things over with my Genius Sister earlier today. I think instead of stopping at Sea World on the way home from Iowa, I should pocket that money and put it toward a family trip to Schlitterbaun on South Padre Island. Wouldn't that be fun?! At the exact same moment though we thought the same thing...about the time I actually put that on the calendar, I'll get a call about this damned investigation and my life will be turned all upside down again.

What to do? What to do?

So, in typical fosterhood fashion...I'm just going to wing it. If foster care has taught me anything, it's taught me to live in the moment. I cannot think even a week ahead most of the time. I can't make plans. I have to trust in God's provision for my forever family and the bonus cherubs I've been entrusted with. I won't make any promises to my kids. We might stop at Sea World on Friday. We might not. What will I be doing two months from now? I have no idea!!

Well, I do know one thing - I will continue to advocate for children in The System. I will NOT stop doing that no matter how all my battles shake out. I'm going to continue to do what I can personally and I'm going to continue to try and call others into caring as well. I do not mean that I'm going to go around recruiting foster parents. There are so many ways everyone can get involved. For instance, check out this blog that was just started by a former foster child:

http://socksforsmiles.blogspot.com/

When Princess was in Care she was only allowed white socks. For whatever reason that's all she had. Now that she's with her forever family she has been able to ban them from her life and wear the colors, patterns and characters she wanted so desperately when she was younger. She's advocating for foster kids in The System now and she wants to supply them with colorful socks. Check her out and then think about what you can do too. Send her some socks or start your own mission. I know that as soon as my sewing machine gets fixed I have visions of making fun pillow cases and blankets to donate to kids in Care.

But first I have to say goodbye and make the long drive home. I hate goodbyes!! But I'm anxious to get home to my biggest cherub and Mr. Amazing. It's been a good vacation.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A thank you to my internet friends

I clicked on to Blogger this morning and saw that I now have 50 followers. I'm excited to have that many people wanting to read what I have to say. But, on the flip side, I know the reason I've gotten new readers it because everyone seems to like to watch a train wreck.  :)

I don't say that to be mean. Honest - I'm glad I've got so many people reading. I hope that even though so many of my posts have been negative that everyone can see my passion for foster kids. I hope that maybe a few of my posts have helped someone else.

I know that my current journey is discouraging some people from fostering. My next door neighbor grew up in foster care and had fostered before. She and I talked over a year ago and she decided that her family would go through the licensing process again and start helping more children. But as things drug on and on with Dude and Dolly she and her husband backed out. I've seen a few other blogging friends say they were going to take a break right now and make reference to our story.

This stuff I'm going through is scary as Hell!!!

I'm incredibly grateful for the support I've received though! Thank you to all my readers that comment on my posts. Knowing I have people praying for me all over the world gives me great comfort. God has blessed me. On days when I'm struggling with the intensity of the investigation, I've received random emails of support. Sure, comments are great. I welcome them! I love them! But to get the personal attention of an email from total strangers?! Wow! They surprised me and strengthened me so much.

Yesterday I had a blogger friend message me via Facebook. We exchanged phone numbers and we talked. I was on the phone with someone I've never "met" for nearly an hour (before I had to dash away for a family event). It felt like I was talking with an old friend. She wanted to make sure I had ALL my ducks in a row. (ie: have I thought about what lawyer I would hire should this investigation end poorly) Someone I've never met wanted to make sure I stay safe through all this crazy. Thank you Mama Foster!!

God is nudging my IRL friends to support me as well. I've been receiving text messages just "checking in" quite frequently. FB messages are more common now than ever before as well.

I thank you ALL for the support. As alone as I tend to feel when I'm having a bad day, I know that I am anything but alone. God has placed a community around me and I'm very grateful for it.

So, welcome to my new readers. Thanks to all of you that stop by. Many, many thanks to all of you that are praying for my family. I hope my story doesn't prevent people from continuing to care for the children that so desperately need us. I will continue to be open and honest about everything though. If nothing else,,,,to open the eyes of anyone in The System that can make a difference. To those of you that are fostering or supporting a foster family in any way, stay safe and stay strong. God bless you!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

An email from CPS

The woman investigating my household sent an email to the director of my licensing agency today. It reads as follows:
Cherub Mamma, hope all is well. I am getting emails from CPS asking that you not continue to check in on the status of the investigation. Licensing can take up to 30 days or longer (should the supervisor extend that time) to complete an investigation. I know you're anxious but I am asking that you wait until our agency contacts you with the results. Licensing is not allowed to give you any details or status updates on their investigations. Please direct any questions you may have to us. Thanks.
Oh my!!! Now I'm in more "trouble" for simply trying to find out how much trouble I'm already in. What a crock of shit! I sent TWO lousy emails to the investigator. I wasn't pushy. I wasn't demanding squat. I simply didn't want to come across as someone that is just going to sit back and let them walk all over me. I want to show that I am willing to cooperate. I want to show that I have a vested interest in getting this mess over with. But apparently that's not how CPS works.

My agency director literally said, "You're acting like a parent. But CPS isn't used to that. Foster parents don't typically try and find anything out about their investigations." She went on to say, "CPS isn't concerned about the welfare of the children." She is in agreement with me that this situation is all shades of wrong. However, she is fearful that perhaps CPS might think that my licensing agency is telling me to check in. Or that because I'm checking in CPS might think more unfavorably of me. That way of thinking is completely foreign to me but I have to comply.

So I guess I now have to sit back (even more) and shut up (even more).

For what it's worth, (TODAY) I'm considering not taking the children back should my name be cleared. I'm so incredibly mad at The System it's not funny. I am scared to put myself so close to the fire again. I'll probably change my mind on the subject every 30 minutes until I actually hear the verdict. But since I'm being honest about how I'm responding to all this Hell, I figured I'd let you in on my thought process today.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More about nothing

So....after I got the email from the investigator today I lost it! First I went up into an empty bedroom upstairs and cried a little. Then I tried to call Mr. Amazing. It's not a lot of fun dealing with all these powerful emotions so far away from the love of my life. Mr. Amazing was busy at work though and couldn't talk. So...I cried a little more. Then I figured I HAD to talk to someone. And since I'd probably worn out my mom and my sister's ears, I called Rainbow. Unfortunately, Rainbow was at lunch. I told the secretary it was no big deal and I'd get ahold of her later.

Just a few minutes passed though and Rainbow called me. I was incredibly emotional but I was driven to process this more. I told her I needed to know what COULD happen. With hesitation in her voice she told me the truth. If they determine that I ever spanked Dude or Dolly it will be on my permanent record as "RTB" (reason to believe) I abused a child. I would NEVER be able to do anything that would require a background check. Rainbow said this but immediately went in to an ultra-defensive (of me) mode. She said over and over that she can't possibly see this ending that way. She said she turned over six months worth of notes from all the home visits she made to see us and that every visit Dude and Dolly only reported going to time out as a punishment. She said that the CPS worker for Dude and Dolly doesn't believe they were ever abused. She also said that Dolly's therapist turned in notes that don't support an abuse claim.

But I have to continue to wait. Rainbow said that typically the verdict is sent via mail from the investigative department of CPS to my licensing agency. If my agency doesn't see something by tomorrow when the agency director gets back in the office, the director is going to call the investigator. I'm hoping I'll hear something. (But then again, I've been saying that for over 2 weeks now so I'm not holding my breath.)

I then proceeded to have a ginormous cry of epic proportions. It felt as awful as the day the children left over three weeks ago. It's been hard carrying around this level of emotion. I can't really grieve. I can't really move on. I just have to wait.

I managed to pull it together and have a lot of fun at the last Cousins Camp event this afternoon. We had a ball at the pool!!

But during dinner I got a text that brought it all flooding back to me. I found out tonight that everything has cleared for Pumpkin's mom on her side of the investigation. Of course she didn't get in any trouble at all. Visits have started back up again at the CPS office. Pumpkin's first one is tomorrow. I doubt they will hold a special hearing though to try and get the unsupervised visits started again as we go to court in only a month. I'm guessing that Pumpkin will go home in August. It makes me sick to my stomach!!!

I don't know how my vacation is going to end. All along I figured if the children couldn't come back to me, I'd just stay in Iowa longer. Now though, I think if it ends poorly I'm going to have to high-tail it back to Texas so I can personally see to an appeal of the case. There is no way I'm going to go down without a fight. There are too many professionals involved in this case that do not believe the children were ever abused. I cannot live the rest of my life being denied the opportunity to work with children if a background check is involved.

If the children can be returned to my home - well - I'll put it out there - I'm not sure I want to take them. I WILL TAKE THEM OF COURSE. But I'll be honest, I'm not sure I want to. Rainbow assured me that Dude and Dolly have been fine. The kids talk about us positively. But really, she didn't say much about Dude and Dolly. All of it was fluff to make me feel better in the moment. And since Rainbow isn't a parent in real life (she's a young, single, social worker) she does not understand what it will be like if the children do come back to me. I'm quite confident she can't wrap her brain around the behaviors I'm sure we'll see mixed in with all the emotional baggage I'll be carrying as a result of the long, drawn-out investigation. Even my forever children are upset by everything. If the foster kids come back, it will NOT be an easy transition!! I'll do it, but it won't be easy.

Cousins Camp wrapped up tonight so all the events I promised my forever children have been fulfilled. I'm staying in Iowa until I hear a verdict. I'll decide what to do specifically at that time. Do I stay in Iowa another day or two and help fill my pregnant sister's deep freeze with casseroles? Do I turn around immediately and head for home? Do I use a Groupon I saw today for a hotel/water park in Oklahoma and take an extra day on the way back to Texas? Do I take my friend in Fort Worth up on her offer to stop and visit? Do I stay an extra day in San Antonio to do Sea World one more time with our annual passes? So many decisions.

And while my eyes may hurt from crying, this vacation has been a tremendous amount of fun too. I got to spend time with my three year old nephew (my brother's son) that didn't know me before this week. The kiss he planted on my cheek when we said goodbye tonight melted my heart. Earlier this week I got to get in a giant water fight with all the cousins out in the kiddie pool. (Note to self: do not attack the 10 year old standing in the middle of the pool first!) I got to listen to my 12 year old niece try and talk her parents into letting her come home with me for a visit to Texas. (It was a "no" but she might come down in October with my parents on their next visit.) There were so many wonderful memories made!! I'm glad I came!

Through it all, I'm praying I can handle the investigation verdict. I'll keep y'all posted.

Still....no news

sent last Friday.. 

Dear Investigator,
I'm just checking in quickly to see if you know the status of the investigation on our household. It's been over 30 days now. If there is anything else you need from me, please let me know.
~ Cherub Mamma

I just received a reply... 

The case has been submitted to my supervisor for approval.
There is nothing else pending from you at this time.
~ Investigator

I'm now sitting here with my hands shaking and all the lunch I just ate trembling in my belly. The anticipation / anxiety / waiting / nervousness / shame / guilt / frustration / anger / etc. etc. is overwhelming. This just seems so damn unfair to all parties involved. Me. My family. The children. Our agency. And even the bio families!

I have a new respect for any family that has had to suffer through this simply because of a one-time mistake. Let alone those that are accused that have done nothing wrong (like myself)!!! Shoot - even those that have really screwed up bad should get more information in a timely fashion if they are to honestly be given a chance to make the situation right. This land of limbo is just plain wrong!

Friday, July 13, 2012

The cousins are here!

Cousins Camp is in full swing. The rest of the gang arrived yesterday. In a matter of just a few hours all the kids painted their T-shirts, ate supper, swam in the kiddie pool and got off to bed. There are nine kids in the house ages: 3, 3, 6, 7, 7, 8, 10, 12, and 12. There are no twins – just cousins and one friend who for this week is an 'honorary cousin'.

Last night was difficult for me. That list of cousins was supposed to have another 3 year old and a 4 year old.

As I watch the chaos that nine children all thrown together can bring, I'm a tiny bit thankful Dude and Dolly aren't here. I know that Cousins Camp would have overwhelmed them tremendously. It would have been a lot of work for me to help them with everything. Oh it would have been a lot of work!!!

But just the second that thankfulness starts, I'm swept over with an incredible sense of loss. This is SO NOT how I wanted our relationship to end.

Everything about this investigation is hurtful to the children. I'm sure as far as Dude and Dolly are concerned, I've been lying to them all along.

1. I told Dude and Dolly I'd be with them until a judge said otherwise. I told the cherubs that they would either stay with me or go be with their grandma in Dallas. For three weeks now they've been at a stranger's house.

2. I told Dude and Dolly that when they did leave my house they would get to take ALL their belongings with them. This was incredibly important to them. They would go through a mental list of all their things and double check regularly that they would always get to have and keep them all. For three weeks now they've been living out of a duffel bag with little more than a week's worth of clothes. I was told not to pack any toys for them. For three weeks now they've been at a stranger's house with nothing they can call their own.

I want closure! Shoot -- we all DESERVE closure! There is no reason for this to have stayed open for so damn long. I'm miserable. But even if I'm supposed to put on my big girl panties -- those kids deserve closure!!

I didn't hear anything from anybody this week about the status of this investigation. I sent an email to CPS today but didn't get a response.

Every single time I scoop up one of my nephews I'm saddened. This is so painful. I know I'll be OK in the long run. This will not break me. But it's so hard in the moment. I miss 'my' children terribly. And even though they're gone right now, I can't really even grieve. I'm forced to be in the most peculiar state of limbo I've ever experienced.

Yes, I'm having fun. It's wonderful to spend time with my family. But oh how I want an answer as to what I can expect with the rest of my family that isn't with me right now!!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thirty Days

Dealing with bio families can be quite complicated sometimes. I've been lucky overall I guess. I haven't had too many issues. (Unless of course you count this whole investigation that happened because I reported a bio mom.)

Dude and Dolly's bio mom dropped off the radar almost immediately after the kids came in to care. She didn't come to visits. Then, when CPS took to reminding her more and basically holding her hand through the process, bio mom did manage to get to a couple. However, back in November, bio mom violated parole and was arrested. Dude and Dolly haven't seen her since.

They did still see Great Grandma occasionally though.  From what I've been able to piece together, Great Gma took care of these cherubs when their bio mom frequently couldn't. However, she has said she's too old to take the children on permanently. (In fact, I believe it was when Great Gma put the hammer down on bio mom and enacted a little bit of tough love that the children came in to Care.) I've stayed in touch with Great Gma a bit. She calls me to check on the kids periodically. To me, she acts like a grandma "should". She wants to see the children and spend time with them and she checks on them in between the sporadic visits that CPS allows her. (Sooooooo unlike the paternal grandma that is still slated to take custody of the cherubs.)

When the shit hit the fan I seriously thought about calling Great Gma. But in reality, how do you explain what happened in a positive light?! I didn't want to worry her unnecessarily...especially since CPS doesn't value the relationship these cherubs have with her. I hoped that things would end quickly and I could just tell her what happened in person the next time I saw her.

I avoided a call from Great Gma on Tuesday.

When she called back Wednesday I decided to bite the bullet. As difficult as it was, I told her what was going on. Nothing like telling a woman that part of her family has been moved in The System again and that I've been accused of abusing them. It wasn't an easy conversation.

She expressed deep concern for me and the children. She's no newbie to foster care so she sounded as defeated as I feel. She said she wants to find the children and talk to them and "see what they really said". (She seemed as confused by the whole thing as I am. But...she's just taking my word that I don't hurt those children.) As she hung up she said, "I still love you. God bless you."

This investigation started on June 12. It's been thirty days. I'm praying this is over soon!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Vacation check-in

It was HELL the day they took "my" children away from me. Here I am two weeks later... and I have good days... and I have bad days.

I have to force myself to look at the bright side of things. The house is cleaner for longer stretches of time. The children I do have are capable of almost all their own self care. The physical part of parenting is easier.

Leaving for vacation wasn't easy. Sometimes it feels wrong having fun right now. But I'm very, very glad I'm here. I cannot put my life on hold while I wait for CPS to finish this blasted investigation.

For starters - I have NO idea how they are conducting this investigation! Are they asking people in these children's pasts about the "pow-pows"? (Of course they aren't!) Are they asking the people at our licensing agency about my husband and I? (I don't think they are.) So how exactly are they investigating anything?! (They aren't.)

What they are doing is taking an outcry seriously. What they aren't doing is actually finding out the truth. Even if they determine that we as a foster family did no wrong, they never really investigated a thing. It's bothersome to me.

So I left for vacation with all this crap still hanging over my head. Everyone has told me to "relax" and "enjoy myself". And in fact, I am going to! The drive up was as easy as it can be when you're traveling as a single adult with two elementary aged children (that aren't allowed to spend the entire trip playing video games). And now that I'm here it's great spending time with my mom and dad and with my sister and her family. I hate living so far away from the people I'm closest to!

It's a little rough playing with my 3yo nephew. All those toddler things remind me painfully of Dude and Dolly. But, if I am going to look on the bright side of things – Dude and Dolly had never been on vacation to Iowa with me before. At least I'm not spending all my time remembering them "the last time they were here". In fact, it's almost just as difficult being away from my oldest son right now as it is being away from Dude and Dolly.

My vacation is easier than it would have been. I can literally just turn my two boys loose in town and relax for the day.

I am eagerly awaiting notification of the investigation later on this week. Surely they'll tell me something soon?! I know I won't immediately race back to Texas. (I will not deprive my forever children of the vacation they were promised.) But I will be anxious to get back home and in the thick of fostering again.

I don't know why I really want back in the thick of things again. It sure is easier without all the extra "rules" and parenting issues. I looked at my sister tonight as we sat around the table after dinner. Her two kids were running around outside with my two kids. I had to acknowledge that this vacation would have been a LOT harder for me if Dude and Dolly had been able to come. While they are 3 and 4 years old chronologically, they are not emotionally. They would not have been allowed the amount of freedoms the other children were experiencing. Not to mention, as a foster parent I'm held to a much higher liability standard so I just plain couldn't have let them run around without me present.

But I do want back in the thick of things. I want that difficult parenting back. It feels so wrong ending everything with an investigation on my home. I feel guilty - even though I'm not. I feel responsible for the additional trauma the little ones have had to endure. It's awful! I guess more than anything I want to reassure these precious children that adults they love aren't going to abandon them the rest of their lives. Somehow though, I doubt I'll be able to fix the damage that has been done through this in the short time they likely have left in Care. (I can't dream about adoption anymore. That's so far removed from my reality now it's unthinkable.)

I don't really have a clever way to end this post. I just figured I'd let y'all know I'm still doing OK. I'm enjoying time with my youngest boys. It's great seeing my mom, dad and the rest of my family. And I'm constantly praying for my three foster children. I hear about Pumpkin regularly and it's good to know she's doing just fine. Those other babies though...well, all I can do is pray. And I'm doing a lot of that!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Happy Birthday Pumpkin

Today is Pumpkin's birthday. She is seven years old. She doesn't understand what a birthday is, but she does know the song. She loooovvvves the birthday song. I think we sang it about a 100 times last year for her. Each time she'd rock her head back and forth and smile so big!

I'm not going to lie and say I'm totally "missing" Pumpkin right now. Read my archives – I gave my 30 day notice. Granted, she wasn't going to leave my home until September...but my abilities to care for Pumpkin, and deal with how her case is being handled, had tapped out.

Nevertheless...I'M supposed to be singing Happy Birthday to her 100 times today. I was supposed to make her cake and be there when she blows out the candles. I'M supposed to take the pictures to prove that she's being loved and cared for. It was supposed to be MY job.

I'm grateful that I know the foster mom that is caring for Pumpkin right now. We're not exactly "friends", but we are both on Facebook so we stay in touch. She's messaged me several times to tell me that she's thinking about us, praying for us, and that Pumpkin is doing just fine. She told me that she's got cake and presents for Pumpkin today. I'm glad to know that Pumpkin is doing OK and nobody is going to forget or ignore her birthday.

I'm sad though.  It's supposed to be ME.

Happy Birthday Pumpkin.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Boxes - part 2

Their things are all packed and placed accordingly on their beds. I left the clothes and toys that I would want to bring on vacation with us together in one box on top of it all. Should I get a miraculous phone call tomorrow I could easily get Dude and Dolly (physically) ready for a vacation.

I'm torn though. As much as I want this to be over...as much as I do want them back in my home...I can't imagine the fall-out that I'll face should they come back before I leave. I would delay the departure a day or two I'm sure. But plans have been put in place that I do have to have my kids in Iowa for so we'd have to leave soon. Can you imagine what two preschoolers will act like after trauma like this?! I know it would not make for the most pleasant of vacations overall.

I'm ready either way though. I'm as ready as I can be.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Boxes

I bought nine boxes at WalMart today.

I will NOT pack their things in garbage bags.

And no....I still know nothing. I'm just trying to be prepared for either way this could shake out. The biggest bummer is that I can't put my vacation on hold until the 12th. Plans have been put in place for the rest of my children and all their cousins.  I'm leaving for Iowa on Friday no matter what.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Investigation update

I figured I'd give this one a classy headline. I already used "No News" once.   :)

The following is a string of emails I sent and received today in hopes of finding out what is going on with my investigation.
I probably shouldn't put things out like this on the net almost word for word. But part of what I hope to accomplish with my blog is painting a realistic picture of what it looks like when you hold hands with The System. This is what I'm going through...

Me to Rainbow:
I need some advice --
Do I need to pack up all the things for Dude, Dolly & Pumpkin? It's not something I want to leave for my husband to do by himself and I'm leaving for Iowa on Friday.
Or is there a chance these three could come back to my home yet this week? (If we are given the OK for them to come back while I'm in Iowa that will be complicated. I'm not sure how we'd be able to handle things.)

Rainbow to Me:
Well, it's hard to tell. They only have 30 days to finish their investigation, so it should not be much longer.
Since it could go either way, it is up to you whether you want to pack all of their stuff or not.
If the kids are allowed back in the home, Pumpkin will be able to stay at the foster home she's at now until you are back from vacation. The little ones could most likely also stay with who they are with now until you return.

Me to Rainbow:
Just to check then -- when did this investigation first start "officially"? I'd like to know when I can expect the 30 days to be up.
I called the Hotline on June 4th. I saw the investigator in my home (in regards to MY HOME) on June 14. When did the 30 days start?

Rainbow to Me:
We are not given that information, but I am guessing the 15th, since she was at your home the 14th.

Me to Rainbow:
Is there any way the agency director can help find out where this is going then? I really, really NEED to know whether or not to pack their things or not. I cannot leave that job for Mr. Amazing. He's a terrific dad. But he won't know how to separate everything between the children.
Also, if there is a chance that the kids will come back to my home, I have to plan for that accordingly over my vacation. I want to bring them with me like I promised them. I can't imagine the fallout if they are "returned" to me but didn't get to go on vacation. I would cut things short if necessary but I need to plan for that from the beginning.
Surely someone can find out where this investigation is headed?????


Rainbow to Me:
We do not hear from the investigators because we are not supposed to know, and are not allowed to tell you if we did. I already asked the agency director, and she has not heard anything. We are all in the dark. I guess the easiest thing to do would be to pack, and if the kids do get to go back, it would be a hassle to unpack, but better than leaving it for your husband. I'm really sorry, I know it is hard not to know what is going to happen, but unfortunately, that is how this works. 

Me to Rainbow:
What would happen if I contacted CPS licensing myself?

Rainbow to Me:
They may tell you the same thing.

Me to CPS:
Hi there.
This is Cherub Mamma - foster mom to Dolly, Dude and Pumpkin.
As you know, I'm currently under investigation and the foster children have been removed from my home.
I'm getting ready to go on a vacation that was planned a couple months ago. In fact, I have permission from a judge to bring Dude and Dolly with me if the situation allows. (Respite had been secured for Pumpkin.)
I realize that CPS is allowed 30 days to complete an investigation. I also know that my agency knows nothing about the status of the investigation.
Is there ANYTHING I can do to help the process along?
I very much would like to bring Dude and Dolly with me if at all possible. However, if it is going to be determined that they cannot be in my care anymore, I'd like to know that before I leave this Friday (the 6th) so I can plan accordingly.
Any help or information you can give me would be much appreciated. 

CPS to ME:
As you mentioned, I do have the 30 days to complete the investigation.  I have not discussed the complete details of this case with my Supervisor, however, even if I did; I would not be the one to approve or give the go-ahead for the children to travel with you.  That decision is completely up to your agency.  Please discuss this with your agency director for further assistance.

Me to CPS:
I have full permission to let the children travel with me. It all hinges on whether or not they are going to be allowed by CPS to return to my home. And that is determined when the investigation is completed. Can you at least tell me when the "30 days" started so I can know when to expect the answer?
I don't mean to sound pushy - I realize that you're very busy and this is a delicate situation. But if there's anything I can do to help wrap the investigation up, I'd love to know. More than anything, I want to avoid leaving for Iowa and then finding out that these kids could have come along like they had been promised.

CPS to Me:
The case was received on 6/12/2012.
I will discuss the case with my Supervisor when she returns this week.  Any updates will be provided to you and the agency if permission is granted to disclose information at this point of the investigation.