Sunday, December 29, 2013

We're still "in"

Texas has a rule that foster homes can have up to six children total - bio, adopted and foster combined. Any more than six, and the foster home has to be licensed as a "group home".

In my particular county, all group homes are required to have full in-home sprinkler systems. It is financially impossible for us to retro-fit our home with them! Therefore, we can only have six kids. They will NOT make an exception. Of this I am quite confident.

However, we have decided to remain "in" our intervention with Dude and Dolly's case. We're going to see things through the next court hearing in late January. From there, I'm sure the writing will be on the wall.

No, we haven't called since Thanksgiving.

And no, I didn't get Christmas presents to them.

Worse still, Dude's birthday present is sitting on my kitchen floor. (His birthday is tomorrow.)

I feel perfectly horrible about all of this! But there is only so much of me to go around and our world got rocked on December 17th. It just so happens that December 17th was the day I spent over $100 on fleece so I could make custom taggie blankets and pillows for both Dude and Dolly. I was going to make them on the 18th and mail them on the 19th. Instead, the fabric sits next to Dude's birthday present...mocking me.

I'm still going to make the blankets and pillows. I'm still going to mail Dude's birthday present. Even though everything will arrive late.

Hopefully I'll recover from the guilt I feel over all of this. I'm sure I'll never know how the kids feel about everything. But I want to try. I want to continue to make sure they know that I love them even when I can't see them. (A phrase we used A LOT when they lived with us - to prepare them for this exact situation.) I console myself with the fact that my mom got them cookies on time before Christmas. And "Granny cookies" are super special to Dude and Dolly! So at least there's been a little connection. Thanks Mom!!

Foster care doesn't make a lot of sense most of the time. We seriously felt called to intervene. Despite all we've been through, we believe we need to stay "in" through the next court hearing. And we all know that Ricky and Daisy are exactly where they are supposed to be now too.

When I get to heaven I'm not exactly sure I'm going to go straight to praise and worship. Right now I think I'd like to have a face to face sit down with the big guy and let Him know how I feel about all this crazy. His plans sure are complicated sometimes!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

More advocating

Cast of Characters:
Ricky = 16yo foster son
Lola = Ricky's bio mom
Michael = Ricky's younger brother
Rebecca = Ricky's former teacher and godmother
Angelica = CPS caseworker

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Today I'll introduce y'all to Ricky. Due to his age, and the nature of his case, I struggle a bit with how much to say. I really want to respect his privacy. But then again, this is an anonymous blog and I get A LOT of people that thank me via comments and private emails for my level of openness and honesty. I'm going to try and keep a balance here. Feel free to ask questions though if something I say needs clarification.

Ricky is child #6 out of 7 kids total. Two of the older siblings don't live in the US. The other older siblings are not viable options for taking him in (and away from CPS). Ricky's mom makes A LOT of poor choices. I think it's safe to say she's never been a stable parent. And for a time, Ricky himself dabbled on the dark side of things. He's got a past that is more than colorful.

However, about two years ago a teacher in Ricky's school saw through Ricky's facade and took him under her wing. As CPS was "watching" Ricky's family, she became quite involved in his life. I don't know all the details exactly, but instead of having a formal case opened against Lola, Rebecca had Ricky move in with her. Ricky's younger brother, Michael, moved in with a different family friend.

All was fine for a period of time. Ricky practically sling-shotted himself the other direction. He became a model student getting all A's and B's in school. He's active on the dive team. Making good choices is his top priority.

Despite losing her children from her home, Lola did not turn her life around. In fact, she got into a fight of sorts with the family that was caring for Michael. This time, CPS got formally involved. Michael was moved to an "official" foster family and kinship paperwork was drawn up so Ricky could stay with Rebecca.

Rebecca is good to Ricky. She met his every single need. With her, Ricky literally turned his life around. So, when Rebecca answered questions during the home study, she had no reason but to be honest. When asked, "Where should Ricky live?" Rebecca answered, "He should not go back to his bio mom."

That, combined with other events that I believe were most likely taken completely out of context, is what caused Ricky's life to blow up on December 17. CPS claimed that Rebecca didn't support the CPS goal of reunification. They also painted a picture of Rebecca not giving CPS adequate access to Ricky for home visits, therapy and things like that. The judge, seeing only a twisted picture, ruled that Ricky had to go to "official" foster care.

Ricky joined our family that night.

Dressed in a three piece suit with a tie, this sharp young man politely came in to our home. Hiding all his brokenness, he decided to fully comply with the crazy. While in the courtroom he was filled with rage. The story is rather comical in retrospect but I believe he punched a bench and broke it. Rebecca cried tears of grief and was told to knock it off or she would be escorted out by a bailiff. By the time Ricky got to our house though, there was no sign of anything that happened in court. He looked much older than his 16 years and the maturity he exuded took me by surprise.

Ricky's story matched that of what Rebecca told me the next morning when I met her at Ricky's school. She came to help make sure the guardianship information was transferred correctly from her to me. Then, on the following Saturday, I spent an hour talking with Angelica, Ricky's CPS caseworker. Everything I've been told by every player in this case (but the judge) points to huge errors being made.

"On paper" the goal is reunification. But Angelica has been very up front that she's not pushing for it in reality. She completely sees that Rebecca has been the best thing that has ever happened to Ricky. She even admitted that she was surprised the judge ruled the way he did. She assumed that he would simply chew Rebecca out for not being cooperative enough and keep things status quo. Angelica says she was as surprised as Ricky and Rebecca were by the ruling.

There are three things that can happen now.
  1. Ricky will age out of Care. He turns 17 in less than a month. He's barely got a year left before he can be on his own anyway. And with the snail-speed of The System, I'm afraid this is what is going to end up happening.
  2. Lola can sign her rights away. She has openly agreed to this. CPS is complicating things though and not making it easy for Lola to do this. But I've heard Ricky, Rebecca and Angelica ALL tell me that Lola is ready, willing and able to sign TPR on Ricky.
  3. Ricky can "play the game". He can make sure he goes to every single family visit whether he wants to go or not. He can start going to therapy. And then, the next time we go to court (Lord willing), the therapist will turn in notes stating that Ricky belongs back with Rebecca. And then (Lord willing), the judge will rule accordingly.
Ricky wants to be adopted by Rebecca. I'm sure Rebecca wants to adopt Ricky. And if Lola is willing to sign away her rights, I would like to see that happen. I think the Rebecca and Lola could draw up paperwork outside of CPS and it could happen faster than anything CPS could do. Rebecca is going to hire a lawyer I believe. But with this all happening during the holiday season, law offices have been closed and difficult to get ahold of.

Until the adults can make their next move though, Ricky does have to play the game. He's gone to two family visits and amazingly enough, his mom has shown up to both. (It's my understanding that she's somewhat hot and cold on this part of her plan.) Ricky is also starting therapy in a little over a week.

Thankfully Ricky is allowed as much phone contact with Rebecca as they want. Unfortunately they only get to see each other for 30 minutes at the end of the family visit each Saturday. But it is very apparent that she is his mom and primary caregiver. They have a healthy bond and it breaks my heart to see it being broken apart by CPS for no good reason! I'm going to do everything in my power to help "fix" this.

And while we wait for things to get fixed, I get to be Ricky's mom too. I told him he just has to deal with it - he's got three of us now. He grinned and started to give me grief about something! Ricky is fitting into our family wonderfully.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Miss Daisy

Miss Daisy came in to Care in early November. Her dad called 911 after he "tripped over something and dropped the baby". Daisy was rushed to the hospital and CPS got involved. She has been diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome.

My licensing agency initially placed Daisy with a brand new foster family. In fact, Daisy was their very first placement. I've been given limited details. Bottom line though, they were unable to meet all of Daisy's needs. Due to her injuries, Miss Daisy has a lot of medical appointments. Both the mom and dad in her first foster family work outside of the home. Miss Daisy was in day care and they had been relying on social workers at our agency to transport and handle many of the medical appointments instead of handling them themselves.

I haven't met her yet, but I've been told that Miss Daisy's lawyer is quite hands-on. It was the lawyer that demanded that Daisy be moved to a different foster family. Even though we had said yes to this transfer a few weeks ago, the actual call was a surprise to Mr. Amazing and I. Rainbow had indicated that the first foster family was doing better and we weren't going to be needed. However, I guess there was some sort of a court hearing and Daisy's lawyer demanded that Daisy be moved to a new home. She joined our family that very night.

So far Miss Daisy has been relatively easy to care for I guess. She has her moments - just like any baby. She doesn't sleep through the night. But that's normal for babies.

Due to her injuries, Daisy has two shunts in her brain. They have healed nicely but the bumps on her scalp draw a lot of curiosity. Daisy regressed horribly following her injury. According to Bio Mom and Dad, Daisy was crawling and pulling herself up prior to the shaking. Now, she can barely hold her head up. Daisy is also blind due to detached retinas in both eyes. Thankfully Daisy breathes on her own and is able to take a bottle (and even solids) without problems.

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Now for the recent drama.

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Following her initial hospitalization, Daisy was referred to a retina specialist to have surgery on both eyes. The surgery was to remove pooled blood and a membrane that is like thin scar tissue that had formed over each eye.

Policy in Texas states that a judge has to formally give permission for any procedure that requires general anesthesia. I do not know who dropped the ball. CPS? My agency? The first foster family? But when permission was granted for the surgery, they only had the judge sign paperwork for one of the eyes. Daisy had surgery on her right eye about two weeks ago. I was told when she came that "they" were simply waiting for appropriate paperwork from the retina specialist so they could get the judge to sign off on surgery for the left eye.

Well, I managed to get a follow-up scheduled for Daisy to see the retina specialist so they could examine her eye that had been repaired. (For reasons that I do not know, this follow-up appointment was not communicated to me at the time of placement. I had to call and schedule it myself.) After waiting a couple hours I finally got to see a doctor. I had to grip my hands tight and do everything I could to remain seated while they examined Daisy. It was beyond grueling. The screaming from Miss Daisy cut me to the bone. It was explained to me that they had to use a speculum to hold her eye open and then (after numbing drops were applied) use a wire to help examine the eye. The sounds of fear and anguish coming from Daisy were nearly impossible to listen to. I sat there and cried myself.

Then the doctor that examined her told me that he was not the one that had performed her first surgery. He told me that the eye that had been operated on looked good. He then said that the other eye had been healing nicely and most likely no longer "qualified" for surgery. This is problematic though. One eye is now clear and the other eye is cloudy. There is a chance that her brain could now shut off (for lack of a better explanation) communication to the bad eye. The doctor said he wanted the surgeon that worked on Daisy to examine her as well to see if he came to the same conclusion.

After a few minutes a VERY ANGRY doctor walked into the examination room. In no uncertain terms did he make it clear that someone had dropped the ball. These two surgeries were to have been performed 1-3 days apart from each other.

Paperwork - nothing but paperwork - has now caused Daisy to potentially lose sight permanently.

Again, I sat in the corner and cried while Doctor #2 examined Daisy's eyes. He said the same thing as Doctor #1. The eye that had been repaired looked very good. The second eye no longer "qualified" (???) for surgery. It's healing well. But it's not as clear as it should be.

So many people should have caught this. The first foster family should have known that the surgeries were to be done one right after the other (only days apart). The first foster family should have FOUGHT to get the judge to sign the appropriate paperwork. No one should have simply assumed that anyone else was taking care of this. All the people responsible for keeping Daisy safe failed.

Doctor #2 said that they will monitor Daisy closely. She may need a different surgery in the future.

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So here's my note to new foster parents...
YOU HAVE TO ADVOCATE! You have to do things that don't seem like they are in your "job description". You cannot trust that CPS is doing it. You cannot trust that your licensing agency is doing it. You're going to have to beat down doors yourself. What happened to Daisy is inexcusable. Whoever it was that sat in the office when her first surgery was scheduled should have known that both surgeries needed to be scheduled right then and there. Then, if the paperwork from the judge wasn't right, that person needed to be calling anyone that breathes and knows about the case to get new paperwork signed.

Don't foster if you're not prepared to fight. Please. Just don't do it.

These kids need us in their corner ready to take on Goliath. And even though The System is supposed to be in that same corner, often times they aren't.

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I covet your prayers for Daisy (and our family). She has a lot of healing to do and lots of specialists to see. I'm going to be busy spending a lot of time in waiting rooms over the next few months. Her retina doctor did say that the potential for permanent damage is now there because both eyes weren't operated on in a timely fashion. But he also said that there are too many variables at play and Daisy IS healing well. I pray that miracles happen for Miss Daisy. Thank you for your continued prayer.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

How this has affected my kids - Part 3

A long time ago, a reader posed this question to me:
My children were adults when I fostered so I didn't have children of my own impacted by the legal chaos like yours have been. I would be very interested in you posting about how your children have been affected by the entire process... from start to this horrific end. I know SOME foster situations work well. I believe in the concept of supporting biological parents being able to care appropriately for their children..... but the system has some HUGE flaws when it is common for children to not have permanency for 5-10 years. Please share...as you are able without increasing the pain to you and yours. 
I found it easy to write about Cherubs 1 and 3. Simply put though, I have avoided writing about TT's response to our fostering. This will be the most challenging post I've written in awhile. I can't seem to capture the complexity of it all in my mind - let alone on paper. But, I don't break promises and I've found already that I'm simply avoiding blogging because I feel like I should answer this question first. And now that we've got two new cherubs in the house...there is a TON of blogging material to write about! So, I'll try to explain how our fostering adventure has affected Cherub 2.

First, I'll give a refresher on TT. He was adopted through the foster care system when we did this back in Iowa many years ago. His story is VERY unique though!! He was not the subject of substance abuse, physical abuse or neglect. Instead, his biological mom AND dad made a unique adoption plan of sorts.

We don't have all the details. I was too young and naive to push for more. In retrospect, I wish I had asked (demanded) for an open adoption. What I'm stuck with now are bits and pieces that the social worker told me.

We believe that TT's first mom kept her pregnancy a secret. That in and of itself is traumatic for a growing baby. It is incredibly stressful to a person when they keep a secret of that magnitude. You can almost imagine that while TT was being formed inside his mom, he was swimming in a pool of cortisol - the stress hormone. That helped to shape his personality!

TT's first parents drove together across the border from Minnesota in to Iowa to give birth. I don't know how long they actually stayed in the hospital but I believe they were gone by the time I met TT less than 24 hours after he was born. While in the hospital though, they made it immediately clear that they were not going to parent this child. After discussing their options with the social worker, they decided to not take advantage of Iowa's Safe Haven law but to formally relinquish their rights. It was to be better for TT to do it this way.

ALL adoption starts with unfathomable loss. It is important to understand that TT sees everything we're doing through that lens. He identifies with the children that come in to our home in a way that the others simply cannot. However, because he didn't suffer abuse or neglect, his story is radically different. In a way, that makes it even more difficult for him. He's too young to fully understand why he feels the connection the way he does.

TT has a profound level of compassion. I'll take just a moment here to brag on my kids.  :)  Herman and Bart are very, very bright children. But TT, well...he is gifted. His moral compass is higher. The way he thinks is different. So many of our schools do not understand what a truly gifted child is. Google it if you want. It's not being smart. It's not doing well on tests. It is a different way of thinking. And TT is very gifted!!

When bio parents don't make their visits TT is personally crushed. He's angry on a different level from the others because he relates. He revisits his own feelings of loss and abandonment each and every time.

When children are in danger (ie: drug needles coming in to our house after a visit or just thinking about what brought Daisy into our home), TT wants to fight and protect in a deeper, stronger way than the others.

And every time a foster child in our home feels sad, TT relates. Emotionally it is crushing to me to watch a foster child struggle with what is happening to them. For TT though, it is even more profound. I know that I personally feel physical pain in my heart. (Literally. I ache sometimes.) I can only imagine that TT's reaction is bigger.

So fostering is VERY difficult for TT.

But then, there is the flip side.

TT wanted to watch the movie The Blind Side after the Super Bowl last year. The story of Michael Orr captivated him. TT is always intrigued to learn about adults that were adopted. And with two prominent men in the Super Bowl last year having their stories spilled out in the news, TT wanted to know more.

We discussed with him that the movie would be triggering. We told him it might not be easy to watch. He wanted to do it anyway. I made sure to stay by his side through it all. I held him when it got difficult and he cried. As the movie was ending, through his tears TT said, "There are more people that feel like me. I want to help more."

When Dude and Dolly left TT and I reacted the strongest. I encourage TT to let it out whenever possible. If he doesn't feel his big feelings, they always end up spilling out in an angry rage. When I can get him to feel AND express his sadness (or jealousy, or fatigue, or frustration, etc.) he seems to handle life much better. We do A LOT of discussion about feelings in our house. (Boys in general tend to funnel all their feelings into either happiness or anger. I've worked with ALL my kids since they could talk about the variety of feelings, their names, and healthy ways to manage them.)

Every phone call ripped TT to pieces. It was like pulling a scab off and revealing a raw wound every single time. It was difficult to heal; in no way could we console TT with the idea that Dude and Dolly were now happy and safe. (I will not lie to my children.) When Pumpkin left TT was happy for her. In fact, he often said, "It is good. She is with her family." That statement has a lot of weight for a kid that is adopted. TT tried to convince himself the same with with Dude and Dolly - but since that conflicted with reality, he never felt comforted.

Big feelings have abounded since Ricky and Daisy joined our family. Out of all of us, TT was the most reluctant to foster again. We sort of forced his hand and talked him into being "ok" with the idea of Daisy about a month ago when we first heard about her. When we got the call for Ricky he was all for it. That was an easy "yes" for him. I'm not sure why. Maybe because he wasn't as worried about competing with a teenager. However, because of the wrongs in each case, fostering is still VERY difficult for TT.

TT is right in the middle of things though, and he generally has a positive attitude. I wish I could share with y'all the pictures I've taken of TT holding Daisy. Every time she cries he's right there by her side. And as far as he's concerned, Ricky is simply to be worshiped.

I worry A LOT that we might be making TT's life more difficult for him than we should be. I worry A LOT that fostering is too hard on him. I worry A LOT!

I wish there was a better way. Simply put though, we are in a fallen world and until the end, children will be hurt and they will need families like ours. If we hadn't answered the call, we wouldn't be TT's family. He needed us then (and now) just like Ricky and Daisy do.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Wow!

I seriously do not know what to say. My mind has been racing a million miles an hour since Tuesday and my home has been turned upside-down.

Eventually I'll write about my two new kids. For now though, I'm a 42 year old woman that just got a 7 month old baby and I'm just a wee bit tired.

But if there's any question as to whether or not we should be doing this...

Mr. Amazing is a biologist. His goal every day is to help undo Man's damage to this planet and to help restore what God has given us. We live in a rather dangerous part of the country. One would think that a biologist would be a safe job. However, due to our location, Mr. Amazing has been around more gunfire here than when he served in the Armed Forces and fought in the Gulf War. As he was listening to another gun battle on Tuesday afternoon, he had a good "talk" with God. In fact, he demanded to know what his (our) purpose was down here. He told God he needed to understand. Why are we here? What are we supposed to be doing? (With Dude and Dolly gone it's been difficult on so many levels.)

Less than 45 minutes after Mr. Amazing pleaded for an immediate answer to his prayer, I got the call for Ricky. About an hour after that phone call, another person in my agency called me about Daisy.

Our purpose is very clear.

God is so good!

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As upside-down as our house is right now, we all have a peace about things that transcends mortal understanding. He is revealing Himself to us and we know we made the right decision to bring these two kids into our Crazy House.

Daisy needs a family that is going to advocate for her special needs. We are that family. I spent most of the day yesterday trying to track down records, make medical appointments and start putting her paperwork in order.

Ricky needs a family that is going to advocate for his best interests. Take every positive adjective you can think of and you've got my Ricky. He's smart, mature, responsible, respectful, strong, and oh so much more. He's also confused, devastated, and wounded by the recent decisions of CPS in his life. If we had said "no", he was going to be placed out of our area -- miles away from his friends, his school and the dive team he's a member of. There wasn't a single other foster family willing to take a teen boy the week before Christmas. With us, he's able to stay in the same high school. If he had been moved elsewhere, it's likely he would have not survived this tragedy still using those same positive adjectives above to describe him. With us, he has hope. (His words - not mine.)

God is so good!

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I thank you all for your prayers. Please keep them coming. This is a pretty huge adjustment. My schedule is packed again. Daisy alone is going to keep me hopping with all her medical appointments.

And eventually I'm going to grieve Dude and Dolly all over again. We're technically still in their case. And in some small way, I feel like I'm betraying them by fostering again. I know I'm not. But I still hurt quite deeply.

Never in a million years did I honestly believe that we'd foster in Texas again. But God kept our home open for a reason. Maybe, just maybe, that's why the judge said the things he did. Because if we had lost all hope on Dude and Dolly and had closed our home, we wouldn't have gotten the calls for Daisy and Ricky. And right now, Daisy and Ricky are exactly where they need to be.

I hope all this makes more sense on the other side of heaven. I still question God and why He called us to THIS ministry. It's not easy! But it is good.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

We said yes.

Two children joined The Crazy House tonight. And no...they aren't Dude and Dolly.

Things were busy in court earlier. It seems that Daisy really did need us. 

And so does a 16 year old boy named "Ricky". 

I'm running on fumes and emotionally I'm spent. But God has got us covered. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Why I do THIS

This is NOT a post where I'm trying to make myself or my family look all "saintly and wonderful". The purpose of this post though is to encourage any reader that has been only thinking about foster care. I'm going to share what happened in our house the last four days.

Early last week I got a phone call from my agency asking if we would be willing to do respite for two teen boys. The timing was OK and we knew one of the boys so we agreed. I always fly this stuff by Herman as he's tasked with helping entertain our guest(s) when we have teen boys over. He always says yes.

On Thursday, the day the boys were supposed to come, I called in to my agency to find out for sure what time they would be arriving. Unfortunately, one of the teens ran away the night prior; only one boy would be coming.  It just happened to be a boy that came a few months prior, Drake. I knew his stay would be easy and uneventful.

Drake arrived Thursday night. We pretty much just went about the usual routine.

Friday morning, we had to wake early so that he could get picked up for school. Drake lives over an hour away and someone from our agency was picking him up to do the transport. Typically foster parents (and respite parents) are supposed to do all transport. However, in cases like this, when they know transportation may make or break whether a family will help with respite or not, my agency will offer to drive. Drake's agency worker brought him back Friday night right before supper.

Drake is a bit of a quirky child. He's chronologically 15 years old. However, if I had to guess on his emotional development I'd say he's probably around 10 or 11. He spent a lot of the weekend by my side. Herman was so awesome though. He filled our house with all his friends and everyone accepted Drake as one of the gang. Herman hangs with a pretty good group of boys. On Friday night everyone ate over and then we watched movies and popped popcorn. Even though Drake didn't have the attention span to sit through a movie, he kept saying how much fun he was having.

Saturday was pretty much more of the same. Herman had some school to do so he was off by himself for a bit. But Herman's friends came over and hung out with Drake. Through the course of the day, Drake heard a lot of conversation about the pending paintball gathering that was to happen on Sunday. Casually, Drake said to me, "I'd really like to go paintballing tomorrow too."

I felt a bit stuck. Financially I was already in the hole with this placement. Drake accidentally forgot to pack any shirts so we had gone shopping for some new ones for him. (We only get $10-20 per day to do respite and the kids are supposed to come with all they need.) Also, letting Drake go would mean that Herman would have to teach Drake how to do it and make sure that Drake was fully included. Herman just grinned and said he didn't mind. He promptly went to work finding shoes and clothes that Drake could wear.

The part that stunk for me was supervision of the event. When Herman goes, I simply drop him off and leave. But, due to the rules required by the State of Texas, Drake isn't allowed unsupervised time. Someone approved by our agency literally has to be with him all of the time. That meant I was going to have to hang out at the paintball field all day. Reluctantly, I agreed.

It was the best decision I've made in a long, long time.

I had a ball hanging out with all "my" kids. (All Herman's friends call me Mamma L***. In fact, one of his friends just introduced me to kids I don't know as his mom.) I tried to find a balance between watching the boys play and sitting in my vehicle playing on my phone. I didn't want to intrude too much but I had to be on the property if I was going to be following all the rules.

You could tell Drake had never had an experience like this one before. He was super shy and timid but the kids all included him and let him use their guns (which were better than the rental he got). I got a little worried because Herman is VERY social and he kept going all over talking to everyone. Drake kept to himself a lot.

But as the afternoon went on, Drake just grinned more and more. He must have thanked me a hundred times. The one that got me though was, "Thank you so much Mrs. Eldridge. Today has been the best day of my entire life."

Thirty dollars and about 7 hours of my time and Drake got to have the best day of his entire life.

This fostering stuff doesn't have to be difficult. Anyone can make a difference. If you're not in a place where you can care for a child all the time, sign up to do respite care. Help another foster family out. Not only do you get to bless another family, but you can change a child's life just by showing you care too.

Friday, December 6, 2013

When I get mad, I yell at God

We decorated the house for Christmas tonight. Bart put on the pink Santa hat so he could remember Dolly. Emotion was high when the ornament with our family picture on it from last year was pulled from the box. It was hard for me to be happy when it felt like two members of my family were missing. I didn't handle things well. I'm not a huge fan of decorating on the best of years. But I was more bratty tonight than normal.

My God is amazing though. He loves me no matter what – even if I'm a brat while decorating for His holiday.

And that's a good thing. Because tonight, as soon as we were done decorating, I had it out with Him again.

I simply do not understand what I'm supposed to be "doing".
And I'm not much for sitting around waiting.

God was very clear when it came time to intervene in the case with Dude & Dolly. We obeyed and hired a lawyer. Despite the chaos, I had a peace about things.

He was very clear a miracle was going to be worked on September 23. I do not know what that miracle was. My children were taken from me abruptly. And honestly, I'm OK not knowing what the miracle was. But it sure would be nice if I could see the full picture. Maybe God put someone in place in Dallas. Maybe God built Grandma up to a place where she wants the cherubs. I do not know. But I was told a miracle would happen and I have to trust that it did.

When the time came to decide whether we were going to stay "in" or drop "out" of the case, I didn't get much of an answer from God. In fact, He seemed quite distant. But at no time did I feel I was going against anything when we decided to be done.

Then we got the call for Daisy. Both my husband and I knew we were supposed to say yes. After we did, we both were told that He was pleased. In fact, almost immediately we each sensed that Daisy would not be coming to us but the whole point of getting the call was to see if we would obey and say yes.

But now...now what are we supposed to do?
  • Do we keep making the phone calls?
  • Do we stay in the case?
  • Should still be trying to advocate for Dude & Dolly? If so, what does that look like? I feel so helpless and so far away.
  • Are we supposed to be taking new kids?
  • Is it OK to close our home and stop fostering?
  • Or are we supposed to find a cherub or two that is waiting for adoption?
So I had it out with God. I wish He would just send me a fax or something. Drop me a line. Give me a clue. Because I'm tired of hurting. I want my kids back and I just don't think it's going to happen. I just want to do what He wants me to do. And right now, I've got no idea what that is. And waiting around simply sucks.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Conversations at my agency tonight

Because our house is still "open" - we still have to take training classes. The State of Texas requires that we take the exact same trainings year after year (over and over and over and over). I was due for my Behavior Intervention 3 & 4 classes. Needless to say, there were a LOT of "big feelings" as I drove my car an hour away to go take trainings so I can keep my house open for kids that are no longer with me.

Once there I saw Rainbow. We chatted for a bit. It seems the foster family that currently has Daisy understands the seriousness of the matter and has made arrangements to take time off of work for her necessary surgeries. (As of now, both eyes need surgery - separately. There will also be follow up appointments and possible other complications that will involve medical appointments as Daisy ages.) Anyway...Rainbow knows that we will take Daisy but she has faith in the current family. Odds are Daisy won't be joining the Crazy House Clan.

Then I sat through the training.

--- snooze ---

After we wrapped up I sat and chatted with the training instructor - who just happens to be the placing coordinator at my agency. She's a young thing (I'm guessing around mid-20s). She is not a parent. In my opinion, I think that makes it a little difficult for her to lead parenting classes. But that's a rant for another day.

She doesn't have as much confidence in Daisy's current foster family as Rainbow does.
So maybe Daisy will be coming????

The placing coordinator also begged me to open our house back up. She said Rainbow has gone on and on about how wonderful we are. She says they've been getting a lot of placement calls lately, especially for teens.

I may or may not have ended the conversation like this, "We'd be open to taking a 'basic' teen boy. Not a 'moderate' or a 'specialized'...but maybe a 'basic'."

The look of excitement on the placement coordinator's face was sweet. She said, "Really?!"

Then I said, "No!! We're closed." Then I laughed that laugh. You know the one...the laugh where it's obvious I'm crazy when I say our house is going to be closed forever.

She said she'll talk to Rainbow and then she'll be in touch.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Call

Me: "Hello...um...this is Cherub Mamma. Is Dolly there? Can I talk to Dolly?"

Random female adult: "Sure. Just a minute. Dolly, the phone is for you."

--- lots of background noise ---

Dolly: "It's noisy." Then said to someone in the background, "It's my mom. I'm on the phone with my mom."

We had a quick phone call. Dolly talked with both Mr. Amazing and me. She said she had corn and turkey today. All her cousins were over at her apartment. She seemed completely unphased by the call. Not surprised, not sad, not anything. More like this is her new normal.

We didn't ask to talk to Dude. He rarely comes to the phone and we didn't want to complicate things today.

I'm going to wait until next week before we try to call again. I want to see if this phone call brings with it any unnecessary drama from CPS. Grandma indicated in the court report that she was unhappy with our contact because it upsets Dolly. If she doesn't complain though, we'll call again.

We're not going to involve Herman, TT or Bart right now.
We'll just call every now and then to stay in touch.

We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What I told TT

The phone call that came yesterday was a surprise. I didn't know who it was when I answered. I stepped out of the room once Ms. Colorado started telling me her news. The emotion was powerful.

After I hung up I grabbed Mr. Amazing and I asked him to come outside. I told him what Ms. Colorado had said. Without any hesitation he agreed with me that we need to stay "in" the case. I cried. He held me. I practically screamed. He held me. Then he went back inside to finish what he was working on.

I had to process a bit more. My Genius Sister is here for a visit but she was out with her hubby at the store. I called another foster mom confidant and spilled my guts. I'm an extrovert. I had to just speak out loud what had happened. It helps me put things in their place.

After a quick conversation while I walked around the block I came back inside. I grabbed my mom and took her for a walk. I hate dragging all these people through this with me. By the time we got back to the house I had thoroughly messed her emotions up but mine were better in check. I laughed and told her this was all her fault. If she had been a crappy mom I wouldn't care about other people and I wouldn't be doing "this". Even she laughed.

Then my sister got back and I took her for the walk around the block.

By now TT was perfectly horrified. He knew SOMETHING had happened. Thankfully by now I had my wits about me and I was able to tell him truth in a way that does not cause him more pain.
TT, remember when we decided to intervene in this case? It wasn't an easy process. We had to meet with our lawyer, sign paperwork and go to court. Well...now that we want out, it still isn't easy. That phone call was our lawyer. She had some news for me that made me upset. And getting out isn't going to be a simple process. There are still some things that we have to do. I don't think it's necessary for you to know everything the lawyer said. Dude and Dolly are still fine and we are still in the process of getting out. But there are some details that still need to be worked out. I didn't mean to scare you.
TT was satisfied with this answer. It is all still truth. And no, he isn't going to know about our phone call tomorrow. That part of the roller coaster has to be over for my forever kids unless this (crazy) judge indicates that there are serious grounds for Dude and Dolly to come back to us.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

You only thought it was a roller coaster

Bullet points.
Crappy writing.

I'm still processing the reality of what just happened.

-----

When Dude and Dolly left the pain was unbelievable. It was so much more than kids just "leaving". These cherubs had been with us for 27 months. The situation in Dallas was NEVER proven to be safe. And because the State did not do their job to prove anything, the uncertainty of their situation made me horribly upset. It just felt so wrong.

The judge had told us to intervene.
The GAL had told us to intervene.
The therapist was in favor of the cherubs staying with us.

But everything fell apart September 23.
It completely fell apart.

But we were still in the case.
The scab continually got ripped off.
With every phone call (or missed phone call), it hurt more.

And then the writing went on the wall.
The State self-reported.
Of course they didn't say anything bad.
Doesn't matter that Dude is spiraling down, down, down.
Doesn't matter that Dolly cried for us regularly.
The neglect is subtle.
The problems lie mostly with the company that Grandma keeps.
The problems will get worse as the cherubs get older.
But the paperwork says that there is no abuse or neglect.

We dropped out.
We said goodbye.

-----

The following day the State contacted my lawyer to check in.
My lawyer is a trip. She totally acted surprised...like she didn't know we were doing this.
She hadn't filed our paperwork yet.
She told the State she'd be in contact with us and would proceed accordingly.

-----

And then at some point in time Ms. Colorado spoke off the cuff with the judge.
She told him that we were dropping out of the case.

The judge's immediate response was, "They shouldn't drop out!"
Ms. Colorado: "But Judge, you sent the cherubs to Dallas."
Judge: "They need to stay in through the holidays. That's when people make mistakes. That's when the drinking and partying starts."
Ms. Colorado: "But Judge, the State is self-reporting. Did you read their report? The little boy is withdrawn and aggressive. And the phone calls weren't even happening as court ordered."
Judge: "Your client has permission to call the cherubs. They need to stay in the case."
Ms. Colorado: "But Judge, the State does not want to terminate parental rights."
Judge: "Doesn't your client want to adopt the cherubs? They need to stay in the case."

-----

So Ms. Colorado called me. She told me what the judge said. She wanted to know how we wanted to proceed.

-----

Per my lawyer we are to call Dude and Dolly on Thanksgiving. We don't have to go through CPS, we can call Grandma N directly. If she lets me talk to the kids, I can ask them whatever I want. I'm supposed to talk to them to get a feel of the situation in Dallas and determine if we really do want to stay in or if we really do want to drop out.

-----

We're still in.
I'll know more on Thursday.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

We said "yes"

Rainbow called me on Thursday. Rainbow is not the intake worker at my agency so I thought nothing of it. About 30 seconds into the phone call though I realized that Rainbow was not calling about the usual kind of business. Instead, she had a big question for us.

Would we be willing to take a placement? Given the special circumstances, she said that we were the first family that came to mind to fix the problem at hand.

About 2 weeks ago a six month old little girl came in to Care. My agency, in all their "wisdom", placed this cherub with a brand new foster family as their very first placement.

This precious little girl, Daisy, is a victim of severe shaken baby syndrome. As Rainbow listed off all the medical problems as a result, I ached. The evil in this world can still surprise me despite how calloused I feel sometimes.

The foster family she's with right now has been unable to make all of the medical appointments that Daisy requires. My agency has been having to pick up the slack. And while this may be acceptable in other agencies, it absolutely is NOT where we are at. In fact, when we sign the paperwork for our license, we specifically have to agree to transport to all visits, medical appointments, counseling and therapies. Our agency will assist if we get into a jam, but they simply cannot do it all the time.

Rainbow told me today that the foster family, despite being quite vocal about having difficulties with this case, and not being able to do all the transport, hasn't asked for a move yet. Rainbow was simply laying the groundwork should a move be necessary.

After much prayer, we have decided that we would take Daisy into our home. Rainbow said she has to get the specific case information from CPS next week. From there she will have to give the current foster family an ultimatum about the transportation issues. I don't know if my agency would force the move or not -- but if Daisy needs a new home, we have agreed for it to be ours.

I'll know more next week.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Anxiety in my house

I've had all three of my kids evaluated by a psychologist within the last 6 weeks.
Bart very definitely has ADHD (combined type).
TT very definitely has anxiety.
Herman very definitely has ADHD (inattentive type) and depression.
For TT, after much discussion with professionals, we have decided to go the route of supplements. We started with just niacin in doses of 500mg three times a day. I didn't do a long ramp up process. Perhaps that's why he's sick today. I don't know. But prior to today TT was doing "better". When he would start to get dysregulated, he could still listen to me and calm down without completely losing it. (We're going to add Magnesium to the mix when the meds come in the mail. I couldn't find the recommended dosage level of 150mg in the store.)

TT has had so much going on.
profound grief
his own birthday
Halloween
more profound grief
my birthday (tomorrow)
family coming in from out of town
Thanksgiving
He woke up today on the floor of my bedroom. When he wakes at night he's allowed to come in and sleep on the floor next to my bed. We keep a pillow and blanket in there for him at all times. Sleep is so hard for him when he's stressed. Sometimes he's completely unaware of why he's coming in our room. I think he comes out of habit. But sometimes he comes in due to extremely vivid and very scary nightmares (that always involve some sort of loss or abandonment).

We cuddled this morning for about half an hour. It was playful and he seemed just "fine".

At about 8:00AM we came downstairs and I made myself breakfast. He told me he wanted an egg and a piece of toast. He was going to cook his egg by himself when I was done cooking mine. However, he went into the living room to lie down first.

Within just a few minutes he went from calm and OK to very sick. He has spent the entire morning now curled up on the couch doing nothing but watching Netflix documentaries. (I can't "do school" when he's sick but I don't want to skip learning entirely.)

He has vomited at least half a dozen times and he's eaten nothing.

He could be sick for "real" (as in a virus...because whatever he has is very real...I just don't know if it's contagious or not). But this is what it looks like when TT gets anxious.

He doesn't seem to worry obsessively. But he gets sick. Stomach aches. Fevers. Vomiting.

It's been happening since he was about 3-4 years old.

I wish I could take his pain away.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Day I Lost My Kids - Part 7

Minnie arrived at our home just after 5:00PM. I hadn't even fed the children much of a snack. I seriously did not know what to do. I was in a state of numbness. I was scared to face Minnie I was so angry. But she came and I went outside with a bag of belongings for each cherub. I had packed about 1-2 weeks worth of clothes, a sweatshirt, pajamas, socks and underwear. That's all I had room for. The cherubs each put a few toys in their backpacks that they carried.

I didn't say anything. Not really.

Mr. Amazing however...he lost it! He came outside and started screaming at Minnie. As we joke now, his inner ghetto Mexican came out. Some strange accent took over and he hollered and hollered.
How can you sleep at night? Do you feel good? You lied. You lied on the stand.
He was more angry than I've seen him in a long, long time. In fact, he was so irrational that I put my hand on him gently and told him to go inside.

Minnie seemed almost proud of herself. It was sickening. You see, in court just a few hours earlier Minnie said, "There was no video of the cherubs. I did not take a video. The kids play with my phone. Sometimes we take pictures. I have to let them otherwise they get out of control. But there was no video." (Info on the video in question is here, and here.)

In my driveway Minnie said, "The video wasn't made during therapy."

In my driveway Minnie admitted that the video, the one that shouldn't have ever been made, really did exist. We knew it did all along. The cherubs' therapist, Miss Mary, told me she saw it! Minnie simply tried to claim in court that it didn't exist at all because she decided that we were claiming in court that the video had been made in therapy. NEVER did we say the video was made IN therapy. We simply said it was made at the therapy office. Minnie lied on the stand about the existence of the video at all.

The reason this bothers me is because Minnie has lied on the stand about so many things. And if she lies on the stand, I'm quite confident her court reports about the goings-on in Dallas are fabricated as well. And that seriously scares me!!

-----

The progress report that was just submitted to the court immediately started off by Minnie giving her version of the above story. Her version is MUCH MORE dramatic than reality. She said she was "fearful of Mr. Amazing's action due to his intimidating manor". She was also "fearful of the impact this incident would have on the children".

More lies.

Loving parents that are concerned about the safety and well being of their children get upset when their children are taken from them incredibly abruptly without good reason.

It seems a father worried about the character of the person in charge is more dangerous than a used drug needle tucked into a suitcase following an unsupervised visit.

-----

That, along with a ton of other BS in the court report is why we knew we had to be done with the intervention.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

We said goodbye

The call came about 40 minutes late. Only Dolly was on the line. She said that Dude wasn't even there.

I passed the phone around to everyone. We kept things short. Each member of our family told her that we love her. That we miss her. That we love her even when we can't see her.

When the phone got back to me I said, "Dolly, do you remember me telling you that when you move to Dallas you won't get to see us again?"

Dolly said yes, she remembered.

I then told her that we weren't going to talk anymore now either. The judge said she's to live in Dallas and it's time for us to say goodbye forever.

Dead silence. All I got was dead silence.

I must have said I love you a million ways before I finally said goodbye. Then I asked for Minnie.

I told her, "Paperwork will be coming sometime soon letting you know we are dropping out of this case. You win. What happened is not in the best interests of the children but...you win. Goodbye."

Then I hung up.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Officially Over

I met with Ms. Colorado this morning.

After reading the status report the State submitted to the courts it is incredibly apparent that continuing to stay "in" this case is futile. After discussing things with Mr. Amazing we decided to drop out.

We are going to get our court ordered phone call tomorrow. I will do whatever it takes to talk to the kids tomorrow even if that means I have to send Minnie a text every five minutes.

We will tell the cherubs goodbye forever.

Sometime within the next week or so Ms. Colorado will submit our withdrawal to the court officially. It won't require a hearing – the judge will simply sign the paperwork and we will be done.

The phone calls will stop. We will only have legal standing, should the children come back into Care, until March 23. Up to that time we could be considered Fictive Kin. After six months go by we will be nothing more than glorified babysitters in our cherubs' past.

Sometime in the near future the State will grant PMC to Grandma N in Dallas.  They might try to do it right away. They might wait until the next court hearing in January. They are not going to terminate parental rights on either bio parent.

-----

The grief is really bad again.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Phone Calls

Last Wednesday I had a perfectly craptastic day at home. Bart and I fought all day long. We ended up in the middle of an epic power struggle and neither one of us would back down. By afternoon I had shed so many tears my eyes were so swollen and puffy red that I could barely see. Topping all the adventure off, Bart had a football game right at 7:00PM...exactly when Dude and Dolly were supposed to call me.

At about 5:00PM or so I sent a text to Minnie. I told her that something had come up and I couldn't talk to the cherubs at 7:00PM. They could call me early or I'd have to cancel. I knew Minnie wouldn't coordinate an early call and I was spot on right.

Minnie did, however, reschedule the call for Friday when she would physically be in Dallas with the cherubs. We got to speak to both cherubs via FaceTime last Friday. It was nice.

No phone call was scheduled for Saturday. Back to back phone calls do not work.
(The 2x a week calls that are spread out barely work.)

Yesterday we were supposed to get our call at 7:00PM. Again, I was at a football game. Mentally I was prepared though and I kept my phone out ready for the call.

When it came in at 7:40PM though, I did not pick up.
When Minnie called back immediately, I did not pick up.

These phone calls aren't doing anybody any good. (They are more just part of the legal chess game that we are sorely losing.) I decided to put my foot down on Minnie and not let her get away with this. I sent her a text and explained that I had waited for 30 minutes for our call and when it didn't come I left and was now in a place where things were too loud for me to talk on the phone. I then asked Minnie who was responsible for the late call. Minnie passed the buck on to Grandma and said that Grandma's phone had been on silent.

Crappy excuse! These phone calls are court ordered and they are on an official schedule. Grandma doesn't have a land line. It is plausible that her phone could have been on silent. But it's still just an excuse! And a bad one at that.

Minnie rescheduled for this evening. First it was going to be at 5:00-5:15. Then she sent me a text rescheduling to 5:30PM. This was to allow Grandma enough time to get off of work, pick the cherubs up at day care, and get back home.

I agreed to the time but explained that if the call came in late I would not be available to pick up. (Football...again.)

5:30PM came and went.

I sent a text to Minnie at 6:00PM that read:
In the court reports...who is being held responsible for the absolute inability of maintaining the COURT ORDERED phone contact?
After a few minutes Minnie sent me a message saying tonight's lack of a call was her fault. She had been held up with another case.

I didn't respond.

------

Ms. Colorado contacted me today. It seems she has a court report from the State documenting how the cherubs are doing in Dallas. She needs me to come to her office so we can go over the details and make a decision on how we will proceed.

I asked Ms. Colorado for her gut response to the report.
She said, "I don't believe some of the things that are in it."

The State is still lying!!
And lying.
And lying.

I cannot fight against all the lies much longer. I'm pretty sure we will be done with Ms. Colorado's services tomorrow. I'll take the phone call from the cherubs Saturday morning (per our schedule) and I'll tell them goodbye forever.

-----

I have no idea what will happen next. But I'm pretty sure this chapter has ended.

Friday, November 8, 2013

I'm still here

Life has been crazy busy.

I still have to write:
"The Day I Lost My Kids - Part 7"
and
 "How This Has Affected My Kids - Part 3"

I'm going to get those done eventually. In the meantime, my computer has been all wonky because without thinking I upgraded to Mac OS X Mavericks and it's not playing nice with the computer software I use for my freelancing business. I've spent a lot of my computer time trying to fix that and keep up with the freelancing that I can do.

And...
I couldn't say no to Rainbow when she asked me if we could do respite. Three extra cherubs joined up with us yesterday. TT and Bart had fun entertaining a 7mo baby boy in our rather un-baby-proofed house today. His two foster siblings (a separate case) are here as well. The baby only stayed one night but the girls don't leave until tomorrow.

And...
Mr. Wonky has taken up residence in our house BIG and BAD lately. I'm up to my eyeballs in tantrums and almost constant dysregulation. I've taken kids to the psychiatrist, psychologist, and therapist more times than I care to count. So far nothing has changed. I'm holding out hope. But at least 1-2 hours every single day are spent trying to get one kid or another back off the ledge. All THREE kids are struggling with their issues. Herman is depressed. TT's anxiety is off the charts. And Bart's ADHD is challenging. He's even thrown in a few violent tantrums that I'm afraid might be as a result of the meds he's on. It hasn't been pretty. I'm exhausted!!

We're still in contact with Dude and Dolly. We got a scheduled FaceTime call this evening. Dude eventually even came over to the phone this time. The kids look good. Though, if I had to guess, the reality that they aren't coming back hasn't fully hit Dolly yet. And Dude is still really, really mad! He smiled and giggled some though as we made silly faces at each other. Most importantly, both kids got to see and hear me say, "I love you! Forever and for always! No matter what! Even if I can't see you!"

I drilled that in to them over and over the past year. I was glad to be able to say it and know that both Dude and Dolly could hear me. And tonight, the phone call didn't send TT into a fit of inconsolable tears.

We're slowly healing.

I have no idea what's going to happen next. I haven't spoken with Ms. Colorado since the emergency hearing a couple weeks ago. I know that the cherubs have all their things from us finally. I don't know if they're in therapy though or if the worker in Dallas is checking in on them or not.

Mr. Amazing and I have dabbled with the idea of fostering again with the intent of adopting. We both feel very strongly that God has told us we aren't done. It's not that we want to "save" kids for Jesus or stuff like that. But in the words of Mr. Amazing (or something close to this), "You know, none of our kids are easy. We've got tons of experience and ability. Why shouldn't we do this again? We could provide a home for kids that others can't."

Mr. Amazing is nuts!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

How this has affected my kids - Part 2

Today I'm going to write about Bart and how he has responded to being a foster sibling.

Bart is the baby of our forever family. He's never struck me as being a "third child" though. Bart is headstrong, loud, and incredibly independent!! Bart is much like Herman x1000. Bart too "goes with the flow" quite well.

We discussed fostering with both TT and Bart before we did it. We talked about the good things and the stuff that might be more difficult. At the time I know that both boys didn't understand. You really can't explain fostering to anyone. It is something that must be experienced.

Our first placement was MissArguePants and her sister TurtleTurtle. Bart was five and in kindergarten when they came. You'd have to go back in my archives to read about the girls. The short of the story though...those sisters rocked our world! They had been horrifically abused in more ways than training could ever prepare us for. And because they were closer in age to TT and Bart, they impacted their worlds tremendously.

Bart remained positive through it all. But it was difficult. The constant tantruming took a lot of energy to contain and TT and Bart didn't get the attention they were used to. For the most part though, Bart just rolled with the flow. We all breathed a sigh of relief when they left.

Then Pumpkin came.

Pumpkin is the same age as Bart. Developmentally though, Pumpkin was a toddler when she came. She could barely walk and she only spoke about 25-50 words total (and very few of those words were "spontaneous").

Bart LOVED Pumpkin. He simply adored her and he was fiercely protective of her! When Pumpkin started school she was in the self-contained special ed classroom. The teachers reported that Bart would make extra stops into the classroom throughout the day to check on Pumpkin to make sure the teachers were caring for her correctly. Quite the opposite of Herman, Bart hugged Pumpkin and tried to engage with her all the time. When school started after Dude and Dolly came it was no longer practical for me to walk Pumpkin in to class in the morning. She could not do it on her own of course. Bart immediately stepped up to make sure that Pumpkin got to her classroom safely every morning. Bart never saw her disabilities - he just saw his sister. It was beautiful.

Bart got knocked out of his role as baby of the family when Dude and Dolly came. It strikes me as funny when people get super concerned about maintaining birth order when doing foster care. When you add members to your family - you mess with stuff no matter how old the kids are! For example, Dolly was used to being the oldest and when she came she fell to 5th in line. Bart was used to being the baby (for the most part) and he was thrust into middle child.

Bart was jealous of Dolly from time to time. It created friction - but nothing that wasn't easily handled. For the most part, Bart just rolled with the flow. The longer Dude and Dolly stayed, the more cohesive of a family we became. Bart was an amazing big brother to the kids and he loved them like they'd been with us forever.

And then they left.

Grief was thick.

Mr. Amazing and Herman somewhat stayed in the background - neither one knowing exactly how to handle the strong emotions that had taken over our house. Bart, TT and I were quite vocal in our grief.

I got the idea from a FB friend to put up a interactive feelings wall. I used the six stages of grief on each of the colored cards. Bart, TT and I each made a white card with our name on it. (Mr. Amazing and Herman didn't want to participate.) As things have happened during the days/weeks/month since the cherubs left, we've moved our names around to mark how we are feeling. Bart's name has been back and forth through all the feelings. One day he had pushed his all the way up to "acceptance". Then, something triggered him and the next time I looked at the wall he was back under "anger". It's been very healing to express our feelings this way. It's sparked some excellent conversations and it has also allowed for us to share how we feel without having to talk about it.

We're a month out now from when they left. Bart is still sad...but he's moved on. I got a call asking us to do respite next week. It's for a 5yo little girl, a 3yo little girl and a baby boy. I intentionally didn't agree to anything until after I talked to the kids. I intentionally told them that I feared having a 5yo girl in the home might be difficult because it will remind us of Dolly. Bart thought about it for a second or two though and said, "I don't care. It'll be fun, Mom."

Bart is healing appropriately. In fact, I think it's about time that I can take down the cards on the feeling wall. We're all just bouncing back and forth between anger and depression or acceptance for the most part. Our anger is toward The System. We're all angry. But I think it's safe to say that Bart accepts the reality that the cherubs aren't coming back.

Bart shares my passion in wanting to help kids and families. I'm proud of him and how wonderful of a foster brother he was. If for some reason we decide to do this again, he'll be right there next to me with a smile on his face ready to welcome someone new into our home.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How this has affected my kids - Part 1

A reader has posed a question to me. grkanga asked:

My children were adults when I fostered so I didn't have children of my own impacted by the legal chaos like yours have been. I would be very interested in you posting about how your children have been affected by the entire process... from start to this horrific end. I know SOME foster situations work well. I believe in the concept of supporting biological parents being able to care appropriately for their children..... but the system has some HUGE flaws when it is common for children to not have permanency for 5-10 years. Please share...as you are able without increasing the pain to you and yours.
I'm going to answer on behalf of Herman first.

When we started fostering, in Iowa, Herman was right around seven years old. He was a very happy-go-lucky kind of kid that really rolled with the flow. He was an only child for the most part. But over the course of his seven years prior to fostering he had shared us (his parents) with several different people. My sister stayed with us for awhile. She was a young adult and didn't require my parenting per se. But still, she was there and it changed our family dynamics. Another time, my teen-aged cousin stayed for several months. Herman was four when she came. In an unofficial way, we were fostering my cousin who we hoped would take the opportunity for a fresh start and let go of some of her very bad habits. Unfortunately, my cousin was unable to make different decisions. Her stay with us involved many events that occur when you foster (running away, smoking, police involvement, etc.)

Herman also has a half-sister who lives out of state. He became an "official" little brother when that same half-sister lived with us for a year (the year prior to us starting our fostering adventure). Herman was never phased by this. Herman wanted siblings very much and he loved having his sister there! We welcomed his sister for the year and we were sad when she left. But through it all, Herman just rolled with the flow.

Our first "real" fostering placement was a little boy who was right around 18 months old. He stayed with us for six months. It was a text-book fostering case for the most part. He came. His parents worked their plan. They did weekly visits. Visits got bumped up to overnights. The boy went home to his parents.

Honestly -- I've got no way to explain things other than to say that Herman went with the flow.

When we got the call that TT had been born and we were going to get to adopt him, Herman's response was almost like, "Well...it's about time." He shifted into the role of a permanent big brother perfectly.

Herman just rolls with the flow.

When we decided to get our license here in Texas Herman didn't mind. This time around he was older and you'd think he'd have more of an opinion on things. But really, he didn't. He knows why we do this and he shares the passion that we have of wanting to help families. Well...that might be pushing it. I don't know if he personally shares our passion. But he fully understands it and agrees with it. When we asked him how he felt about us fostering, he didn't care one way or the other. He didn't even mind if we took in teenaged boys. Again...Herman just goes with the flow.

As we cared for MissArguePants and TurtleTurtle, Herman didn't get too involved. He played outside with them some. But in the house, they caused so much havoc that he just stayed out of the way. When they left we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Pumpkin made Herman uncomfortable. Caring for a special needs child was a new experience for all of us. Herman helped with Pumpkin when it was appropriate. But he didn't seek out opportunities to get involved. Jokingly I told Herman more than once, "Pumpkin isn't contagious." He was never mean to her though. He just tried to avoid her.

And then there was Dude and Dolly.

They became full members of our family. Everybody was involved. Everybody played. Everybody interacted. Herman seemed to mimic my emotions most of the time. He got angry at The System. He got angry at bio parents that don't want to do their part. He loved the children. He was the best big brother any kid could ask for.

When they left Herman tried to get all macho. He detached from everybody. Unfortunately, their departure coincided with us (his parents) discovering a horrible lie Herman had been weaving for quite some time. It's hard to say what was fueling his intense emotions. He was very upset that the kids were gone. He was also very upset because, as a male, he wanted to protect me and my grief was painful for him. And he was also very upset at himself for his choices and how he got caught.

Now that we're a month out he's pretty much back to normal. He talks about Dude and Dolly fondly. He's still furious with The System. And he can smile knowing that deep down I want to help more kids. Laughingly he says I'd adopt two-dozen if I could.

In true Herman fashion...he just rolls with the flow. He knows we're done fostering for now. He knows that if we moved out of Texas I'd probably want to foster again. And he knows that if the situation presented itself, I'd adopt if possible. He understands my passion. I know he's been influenced by what we did. It sounds all hokey when I write it out here -- but he really has grown and matured through the process. Morally he's a wiser person. Overall, he's OK with everything. He just rolls with the flow.

Monday, October 28, 2013

They've been gone for a month

We went to court last week to see about getting a schedule for our phone calls. So far, the "schedule" has been about worthless.

On Wednesday the phone rang in on time - 7:00PM. However, there was some sort of problem with Grandma's phone. The call dropped twice. I spoke with Dolly long enough to find out that Grandma was making them eggs and potatoes for supper and that Dolly doesn't know if she gets to do Halloween or not. If she gets to, she wants to be Ariel, the Little Mermaid.

After we got disconnected the second time Minnie got all quiet. She acted like she didn't know what to do. I told her that my boys really want to talk to Dude. She said something about trying to call to Grandma again but I guess it never happened. I spoke to Dolly for less than 7 minutes. Minnie never contacted me again that day.

On Saturday Minnie sent me a text at 10:09AM telling me she was having problems connecting with Grandma again. I'm quite sure that Grandma isn't putting forward any effort toward this phone calls. She might not have even been home. But missing these calls will never be enough to change anything in this case.

I responded via text to Minnie saying, "Do what you can. Just keep me posted. If we don't talk that's OK. I just don't want it reflected poorly on us – that we didn't want to talk or something." Minnie never responded to me.

At 10:47AM I got a phone call. Of course by then the family had all gone their separate ways – I only had TT with me. We were in a place where I could barely hear anything. It's not like I can just sit around all Saturday morning waiting to see if Minnie is going to connect us or not. It's so frustrating!!

Dolly and I spoke for about 7 minutes. She didn't have much to say. It's starting to get very awkward. I feel like I have to be very careful about what I ask and Dolly volunteers nothing. Basically Dolly tells me she colors at school and she's fine. I try asking open ended questions like, "What did you eat for breakfast?" I tell her what things we're eating and doing. But really...those are stupid questions. The conversations are short and painful. Dude won't come to the phone at all now! He won't even talk to his brothers. I'm betting he likes having that control. I can't even speculate if he's angry or not. I mean...I'm sure he is. But I know nothing anymore.

They've been gone over a month now. My home is no longer in compliance with many of the safety rules my agency requires. I moved my dishwasher detergent back under the sink. I've pulled all the plug covers off. Nothing is locked and my kids can easily get to the cleaning supplies. It's nice having my house back to "normal".

We're not taking any more kids. My husband is going to actively start looking for a promotion which will mean a move for our family. I know there is no way we could see another case all the way through and I'm not going to bring a child into our home without being able to assure them that we wouldn't move them out to another foster home.

My grief is still incredibly intense. It's very hard to explain though. I've moved through my grief over the children themselves...I think. I'm sure it will still come in hard to deal with waves. But I'm pretty sure the worst of that grief is over. Now I grieve for The System that fails so many children everywhere. I'm having a hard time reconciling the fact that I'm taught "God can work all things for His good" AND the fact that children get hurt daily. I want to help. I want to make a difference. And yet I feel perfectly helpless and worthless. I'm still so very angry. And anger is a hard emotion to hang on to. It does some pretty devastating things to the body. I've got to figure out how to let go.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Court...again - UPDATE

I'm so sorry for not updating sooner. And no, I'm not at home in the midst of a wonderfully happy celebration.

Court happened pretty much exactly as I thought it would this time.
  • Phone calls will be on Wednesdays at 7:00PM and Saturdays at 10:00AM.
    No exceptions and they will be on time.
  • The State has until 10/28 to produce notes from a worker that "supposedly" was put into place in Dallas three days after the children arrived there.
  • The State has until 10/28 to have family/play therapy in place in Dallas.
  • The State has until 10/28 to mail the rest of the children's belongings.
It is very, very unlikely that the cherubs will have a legal need to return to my care. The situation in Dallas is one of subtle neglect - nothing that CPS will ever catch. There of course is the danger that they could get mixed up in the middle of drugs and/or gangs. If one of the more volatile relatives does something dangerous in front of the cherubs there would be cause. But I truly believe that Grandma N does TRY to keep the kids safe.

So right now I'm concentrating all of my prayer efforts over the therapist that is to be assigned to the family in Dallas. My prayer is that the therapist that is put into place in Dallas is a good one. This is no small request either. It has been my experience that therapists are given little background information by the State. And since Grandma N knows NOTHING of what has happened over the last 2+ years, she can't be counted on to help the cherubs process much. I want Dude and Dolly to HONESTLY get to process through all they've had to endure. Dude needs to know that his anger is OK but he can't hang on to it forever. Dolly needs to know that this is not her fault.

Minnie didn't say anything in court that totally made my skin crawl. Though, as always, she is full of lies. She literally told Ms. Colorado earlier this month that the reason phone calls didn't start with us after the removal was because she didn't have my phone number. Never mind that Minnie has been on the case more than a year. Never mind that Minnie has called me from her cell countless numbers of times. Never mind that Minnie will even text me when it suits her. No...she claimed she didn't know my number.

The judge made me uncomfortable when they were discussing family therapy during court. Apparently NOW it is important for the children to be in an unbiased place where they can express their wishes about where they'd like to stay. I'm disgusted by the fact that everyone seems to think it was biased before. The kids were in therapy before. The kids spoke to their agency worker without me present before. The kids even told their lawyers they wanted to stay with us. But it didn't matter then. Now?????

It's too late. I always made it clear to the cherubs if they moved to Dallas they'd never get to see us again. They don't know that they have permission to tell their new therapist that they don't want to live in Dallas. And no, I will be given no contact with the therapist at all. I am being treated like the bad guy here. I get nothing outside of two monitored phone calls each week.

I don't have high hopes. Ms. Colorado looked me square in the eyes and told me that everything we brought before the court this past Monday should have been brought to the judge's attention by the cherubs' lawyers. It is so obvious that the State-paid professionals in this case do not care. And since everything hinges on State-paid professionals, there is little I can do to change anything.

So I'm taking it all to God. Prayer is literally ALL I've got. Please continue to pray for the cherubs. Please pray with all your might that somehow a therapist will be put into place that can discern the truth. Please pray that this therapist is able to establish a level of trust. Please pray that the cherubs use their strong voices. I'm NOT praying for the cherubs to come back to me. I don't want that to be the goal of their therapy. No...all I want now is all I've wanted since the cherubs came to my home...permanency and healing. And even though that's not happening under my watch, it is still what they need.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Court...again

My very strongly worded email about the inconsistency of the phone calls triggered Ms. Colorado to contact the judge. Working with him, an emergency hearing has been called for tomorrow.
The children will not be there.
It's NOT a placement hearing so the children won't be moved from Dallas.
The purpose of the hearing is to address some of the things that CPS is supposed to be doing but currently isn't.
Ms. Colorado said that she's going to bring up the parenting concern of letting the cherubs watch a horror movie. (One Saturday morning the cherubs both spent their time on the phone telling me about the movie they had watched already that day. It had a "bad guy" in it with a knife that cut people and was scary.)

Ms. Colorado is going to address the fact that a CPS worker has not been assigned in Dallas yet.

Ms. Colorado is going to address the fact that family therapy (despite being court ordered in September) has not started in Dallas.

And last, Ms. Colorado is going to address the issue of our weekly phone calls. She's going to demand an official court ordered contact schedule. (We're not getting all of our phone calls and when we do get them it is without notice of any kind.)

I'm also hoping that Ms. Colorado can do something about the fact that my cherubs don't have their belongings yet. Everything was perfectly boxed and dropped off at the CPS office exactly like I was instructed to do. But it's been two weeks and they haven't sent the boxes. That isn't fair to Grandma N, who I'm sure could benefit from having the rest of their wardrobes. And it isn't fair to the cherubs who deserve THEIR toys!

I'm a nervous wreck. It's all I've got to not role around various scenarios in my head over and over. Ya know....if the judge says THIS, then I'll say THIS. Or if CPS accuses me of manipulating the cherubs...I'll say THIS. I want to be prepared. Then again, I can't prepare for any of it because I don't know what's going to happen.

So I'm trying to not think about it. When I do think about it, I'm trying to just pray. 'Cause really...prayer is all I've got now.

Tension is high in my house. It's been a rough week all the way around. TT just had his 10th birthday and birthdays aren't easy for him ever. Mr. Amazing just went back to work after being on furlough due to the shutdown. And I got my arthritis medicine this week. That tends to make me sick/emotional for a couple days. Honestly...we're barely hanging on at times.

But we will get through.

Having court on Monday is a good thing. These issues need to be addressed sooner than later. It's unfortunately that MY lawyer is the only one fighting for the cherubs. It's unfortunate that CPS isn't doing the things that were court ordered a month ago. Hopefully getting CPS to do their job now will further insure the safety of the cherubs. Right now, it's all I can hope for.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

An email

I just sent a very strongly worded email to Minnie, her supervisor and Ms. Colorado concerning the lack of phone calls we have received from Dude and Dolly.

Week one (the week they left) = no calls
Week two = two calls crammed in at the end of the week on Thursday and Saturday
Week three = one call Friday and one call Saturday
Week four = no calls yet

Minnie told me last Saturday that calls are supposed to happen on Wednesdays and Saturdays. However, this Wednesday has come and gone and I heard nothing. I indicated that rules are in place for biological families that are supposed to have contact. Because these phone calls are court ordered, I hope we could be extended the same courtesy.

I very much want to be done with the calls. I don't believe that they are particularly helpful for anyone at this point in time. Like I explained to TT and Bart the other day, we can't PROVE that things are dangerous in Dallas. That is unfortunate because we can't prove things are safe either!!! No matter what though, the State has their mind made up and I highly doubt that the cherubs will return. Minnie is not going to document anything negative. She just isn't. And because the therapist and the guardian ad litem changed sides so to speak, we've got nothing to go on as foster parents.

But we are still IN the case. Despite things being a paperwork disaster (the court sent out the Petition to Terminate Rights to both bio parents and didn't put postage on it - egads!) we're still in things. If I was to tell the State we didn't want the calls, that would reflect very poorly on us.

So I have to play this nasty game. I have to continually hurt TT and Bart by setting them up for contact that we aren't consistently getting. And who am I kidding?! It hurts me too!! I actually feel better and move on with life right up until the time when a call is supposed to come. Then I get all sick to my stomach and upset.

I'm betting we'll get some call tomorrow and then again on Saturday. The calls coming so close together will make it impossible for there to be much conversation on the second call. I may or may not get a "warning" so I can be prepared for the call. Last Friday Minnie used her iPhone on FaceTime and we actually got to see the kids. However, she didn't tell me in advance that she was going to call so I got this FaceTime contact while driving! I had to pull over. And it was just me and TT in the car so Dude and Dolly were very disappointed that they didn't get to see everyone. As wonderful as it was to actually see them, it was perfectly rotten that I didn't know about it in advance. TT and I just cried and cried after we got home it hurt so bad.

I really wish I knew how to handle all everything.

This stuff isn't taught in the foster parent training classes!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Home School Changes

We made the jump to "traditional" home school for both TT and Bart this past Monday. Up until this week, TT was officially enrolled in a public online school. (Bart was piggy-backing on TT's curriculum in everything but math.) For TT though, that meant the curriculum was provided. The lesson plans were provided. And he had a supervising teacher over it all. Most importantly, the online school would have TT take the end of the year STAAR standardized tests.

As this school year progressed it became apparent that TT's struggles with learning differences hadn't lessened. We started the RTI process (Response To Intervention). I knew he had some problems last year. We were doing most everything orally. But the amount of learning lost over the summer, especially in math, was complicating things for TT. The very assessment driven curriculum of the public school continued to make things worse.

Mr. Amazing is currently at home right now due to the government shutdown. As a non-essential federal employee he's on furlough. He's had the *pleasure* of observing home school since October 1st. Granted, our family is under a tremendous amount of stress right now - hitting us from all angles - but he was able to observe school in its finest. He saw TT lose it simply because I said it was time to do math.

So we talked about it. We prayed about it. I consulted some people that I really trust. I even had a 45 minute phone conversation with TT's teacher. She had been in agreement with me that TT has dyslexia. This time I asked her to look into the future. We discussed how the school would be able to modify things for TT with an official diagnosis. Without hesitation she agreed that a "traditional" home school would be a good fit for TT. She sees the incredible downfall of having to complete that 3% of the curriculum each week in the online school. She also let me know that TT would probably just be diagnosed as a "slow learner" and any curriculum modifications would be minor if we got them at all. We would continue to spin our wheels with TT in the very test driven public school system.

Sure, that format works well for some kids. Bart would THRIVE if the state of Texas would allow it. But Texas requires that a student be enrolled in a public brick & mortar the year prior to enrolling in an online school. Bart didn't qualify because I home schooled him for 2nd grade so he couldn't enroll in the online school that begins in 3rd grade.

TT needs hands on work. TT needs things given to him orally. And TT needs things presented to him differently. I discussed how TT figures out the "pattern" of whatever lesson the curriculum was trying to present. Math, grammar and even spelling was always presented focusing on only one thing. He was supposed to master that and then move on. It was easy for me to see that TT wasn't truly "learning" what was being presented. The lessons don't really build on each other and the multiple choice tests/quizzes every day don't really measure if he's learned the subject. They only measure whether or not he can regurgitate the information right away. Mix it all up and TT can't do it. ALL multiplication...he can do it. Mix up multiplication, division, addition and subtraction and he'll get turned around. ALL (grammar) subject/predicate work...he can do it. Mix up subject, predicate, direct object, adjective, etc. and he'll get turned around.

So we withdrew him.

We're doing a modified version of un-schooling right now. It's definitely not radical unschooling. But we're stepping back from "school" as it looks to most kids. Daily I want my two youngest to read, write and learn. I've got them both going through a typing tutorial so that they can learn to type the correct way. They got email addresses and both kids started their own blogs. Already they've written work for their blogs that they would have fought me tooth and nail over if it had been "assigned". We're reading a wonderful book out loud that is a piece of historical fiction. It has inspired fantastic conversations. They're learning about Jewish life through the eyes of a zealot alive during the time of Christ. We've gone out on our own to research Jewish tradition and the Law. Next Friday we're going to have our own Shabbot at home with the family. (We're going to drive to church though on Saturday and we're going to turn our lights on and off as necessary. LOL) They've also watched several documentaries on Netflix.

I ordered an official math curriculum. Math-U-See will be arriving on our doorstep next week. That will get added in immediately. I also don't have to send back any of the consumables from the online school. We can do things from that curriculum if I think it will help. Eventually I'll have to come up with something for grammar. I may just continue to do my own thing for literature, science and social studies. For now though, I'm not making any major decisions. We're just trying to lessen the stress in the home to create an environment where TT feels comfortable learning! I don't care about test scores or a transcript. I guess that's one good thing about Texas. None of that is required.

Already we've seen the tantrums decrease. Through the writing on their blogs the kids have had spelling lessons and grammar instruction. It's working well. It's definitely going to take a lot of work on my end as I want them engaged in learning. I'm not so radical that it's going to be OK for them to play all day long. While there is value in play, I do want more structure than that.

Life has been a mess of emotion lately. We're still all struggling with the loss of our two family members. The phone calls have been nice and horrible all at the same time. We're still "in" the case but it's a mess. I had to lessen the school problems. Herman is still attending the online school but I'm changing it up for TT and Bart. It's our decision for right now. I don't know what we're going to do next year. Thankfully, foster care has taught me how to better live in the moment. I know I don't have to have next year planned out. For now, we're just off on a new adventure. We'll see where it takes us.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Day I Lost My Kids - Part 6

It takes about an hour to drive from where court is to our home. The cherubs slept part of the way. Mr. Amazing drove. I buried my head in my cell phone and updated people. I didn't want to actually talk to anyone. I sent a text to My Genius Sister and told her to call the rest of my family. I posted on Facebook and I chatted electronically with some of my closest friends.

It was Hell.

Once home I did not know what to do. I didn't know when they were officially flying out. I had no idea how much time we actually had together. Everyone was in a state of shock. It was perfectly horrible.

Because I was in so much pain, I decided to simply hide from it all. I let the children turn on the TV. And since the little ones were leaving, I didn't even make it be something that would keep their attention. My boys turned on Transformers and everyone zoned out. (Even the little ones.)

I stayed on my computer chatting with my friends. It was the biggest cop out possible, but I seriously did not know what to do. Should I have spent those next two hours saying over and over how much I love them? Should I have spent those next two hours telling them how evil the powers that be are? Should I have encouraged them to be excited? Or should I have given them permission to be sad? I seriously did not know!!! They were in as much of a state of shock as I was. So we all just zoned out separately.

It was Hell.

Throughout the next few hours I would try to connect every now and then. Dude was P.I.S.S.E.D. O.F.F.!!! He would have NOTHING to do with me. He wouldn't sit on my lap. He wouldn't talk to me. Nothing! And when I asked him how he felt about things, he very smugly told me, "happy".

Dolly was more curious. She asked a few questions about things she heard in court. She was very conflicted. The idea of going to Dallas didn't scare her or make her sad. But she wasn't thrilled either. As she sat curled up on my lap she said something about me keeping her safe. She didn't like my response, "That's going to be Grandma's job now, Dolly. I won't be able to keep you safe anymore."

How do you explain FOREVER to a child. None of this made sense to her.

It was Hell.

Dolly's birthday was the very next day. My Princess Sandwich (long story) was to turn six. I had been so confident that they were staying that we had made all the plans for her birthday party to be the weekend after court. With that in mind, not all of Dolly's presents had been wrapped. Even if they had been, she still wouldn't have been able to bring them to Dallas on the plane that day anyway....not enough room. Still, she had some presents from Mr. Amazing's parents that had come in the mail. We let Dolly open them. It was painful. I so wanted to be happy but it hurt so bad. Dolly smiled for the pictures but there was no sparkle in her eyes. Everyone was just going through the motions.

Minnie arrived just after 5:00PM.