Sunday, August 24, 2014

a messy post about mental illness

I'm going to be all over the place with this post. But I've got to get these thoughts out.

I attend one of the bigger churches in my area. Several thousand people worship there over the course of the weekend. There are three services in English on Saturday and Sunday, and one in Spanish on Sunday afternoons. I have never felt like I belong in this church. We started attending last summer and right when I was trying to get connected, Dude and Dolly left. I grabbed my grief and hid in a corner not wanting to let any of the strangers I had met at this church in. I quit my "life group" and, sadly, they let me without a follow up of any kind. When I attend church I don't know anyone around me. I'm very alone there.

I realize this isn't the healthiest place for me to grow my faith. But this church was good for Dude and Dolly. They learned so much more there than they did at our old church. And the teen group has been amazing for Herman. TT and Bart really enjoy the messages they get in kid church. So, we've stuck it out.

I was crabby this morning as I walked in to church. Everyone was smiling and welcoming me to the service. I absolutely hate being told to "enjoy" the service. To me that's NOT what church is about. It's not about my enjoyment. It's about me and God and my relationship with Him.

Then worship started. They sing a lot of praise songs that I've never heard before. Sometimes I get bratty about this too.

This morning though, as I felt myself tensing up, I prayed. I asked God to take this spirit from me. I asked Him to help me open up and be receptive to the worship and the message.

And then the message started.

And boy did it speak to my heart.

Up in front of a very packed congregation, Miss T stood and talked openly about her own, personal, mental illness. She didn't say that it was sinful. She didn't say that she just found faith and prayed it away. She gave a message of raw honesty that I've never heard in a church before.

Bipolar. Depression. Anxiety.

Mental illness.

The take-away for me in the message was this that Miss T had to say. You can plan and prepare and understand all you want about mental illness. But you still have to DO something about it. Just like you can plan and prepare everything you want to wear to work the next day. You can lay your clothes out in your closet. But the next morning you still have to put those clothes on or else you're going to work naked.

You have to DO something.

Be honest with your friends and family. Ask for help. Seek out professional help. Accept that medication can make a difference.

All this was said in church. In a place that typically tells you YOU'RE not strong enough in your faith if you're depressed or anxious about anything. tie all this in to foster care.
(This is where it's probably going to get messy.)

They spoke a lot in church this morning that mental illness affects not only the person directly dealing with it, but also the immediate friends and family members.

As foster parents, we invite mental illness in to our homes.

Maybe I'm wrong. But I think it's safe to say if something has happened to bring a child in to Care, the adult responsible for the neglect or abuse of the child is suffering from mental illness.

Maybe that's too strong. Correct me in the comments if you think so.

Sometimes CPS is called to investigate because the child is living in extreme poverty. I personally pray that when that happens, the appropriate departments in CPS can help that family receive services to get the financial assistance that they need. Families do not need to be separated simply because of poverty.

But for a child to suffer the level of abuse necessary for removal, I think it's safe to say the adult abuser is mentally ill. And for a child to be neglected - truly neglected - there has to be a reason why. A real reason.

I'm not talking about the kind of neglect hoity-toity white people think about from their positions of affluence and fear. You know, like when a parent leaves their 11 year old at home for an hour while they run to the store. Or when a family lets their 6 year old play in the front yard without sitting out their watching them every blasted minute. That's not neglect.

But it is neglect when a nine-month old baby boy is left alone with his 1yo and 2yo brothers for over five hours. When the gas man asked the older boys playing in the alley where their mom was, and they took him to their home where the baby was on the floor covered in filth and feces...that is neglect. Those children needed help and the mother needed major intervention.

It is because of mental illness - self-medicating addiction - that the mother walked out on those kids and left them alone.

And when I welcomed that now almost-grown man, that had been neglected so terribly as an infant, in to my home, I welcomed mental illness in to my home.

I'm not saying that HE is mentally ill.

But mental illness does not only affect the person suffering from it.

Ricky's thought processes have been drastically altered by mental illness. It's a family story, a funny one at that, to say that Ricky ate poop as a baby.

The reality is Ricky was severely neglected to the point of being covered in his own feces.

That is not funny at all.

Mental illness warps reality for the person suffering and the people close to them.

Now...back to church. Tie this all together???

I have never suffered from anxiety. I'm not a horrible worrier. But as my time doing foster care is getting longer, as I've become more "seasoned", I can't say that is true anymore.

I cannot describe how bad my anxiety was last week. It was manageable leading up to court. But by Tuesday? Oh. My. Goodness. It was ALL I could do to function. I felt like a shell of a human being just going through the motions. I was a nervous wreck.

It wasn't rational. My thinking brain knew that. But I couldn't just pray it away.

I was worried for Daisy's long-term safety. I was worried about having to possibly testify in the trial. I was angry because Daisy's lawyer has nothing to do with her between hearings. I was angry in general at how The System works. Swirling thoughts just circled round and round in my mind. Worry. Fear. And just a horrific sense of unrest.

It's not normal to parent other people's children.

This whole business of foster care isn't normal. It's necessary. Kids get hurt. They need safe homes to live in. But it's not normal.

I know I need to DO something about it. I'm personally trying some homeopathic remedies to help with my own anxiety. And I know if this case drags on much longer I'm going to need to seek therapy. I need to word vomit and know that it's OK to feel the way I'm feeling. Validation can go a long way when you feel like you're losing it for no reason.

Sometimes I'll talk with Kori about the most normal of things. Yesterday she messaged me about what kind of car seat would be best for Daisy. I was able to explain to her that rear facing is best and why. It was a normal conversation.

However, as it went on, Kori showed her true colors again and again. She got upset when I answered, truthfully (because she asked) that Daisy isn't handling these overnight visits well. I told Kori that Daisy is crying a lot more and is having problems sleeping. Kori informed me that CPS is completely wrong about her and that she deserves to have Daisy back with her.

This woman is the same person that told me on Tuesday that "this accident" should be a "learning experience" for Bio Dad. He's not an animal.

It's really hard dealing with mental illness all the time.

So if you're out there fostering, or you're in The System in some other capacity, it's not easy. I hope you're able to DO something to help yourself. This journey is so incredibly challenging. It is incredibly rewarding to be a part of the stories that end well. Knowing that I helped keep Pumpkin safe and was a part in getting her settled with her aunt and uncle forever feels good.

It really sucked saying goodbye to Dude and Dolly and leaving them in a precarious position.

It's enough to make me go crazy.

I'm trying to DO something. This blog is a form of therapy for me. I've got friends and family that understand me and what's going on. That helps too. But I recognize I might need more.

What do you DO to help manage the instability of Foster Care Land?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Court update

Our trial was scheduled for 1:30pm today. I arrived at the courthouse about 40 minutes early. I've always been told to arrive early so that the lawyer for my cherub(s) can speak with me and/or with the cherubs (when applicable). The doors to the indoor waiting room were locked. I sat outside with Daisy. Thankfully she fell asleep in the stroller for a little bit of the wait.

There were three trials all on the docket at 1:30pm. We were the third case in line. We didn't called into the courtroom until 2:50pm.

It was a very long wait until that time came.

Imagine entertaining a developmentally delayed, vision impaired child in 100 degree weather while outside or in a tiny little waiting room while inside. Toys are rather pointless. I don't load her up with snacks all day long. (Especially since she has seemed a little under the weather since I picked her up last night.) All we could do is hold her as her mother doesn't like her to crawl around in public places. Daisy went back and forth between her mother and me most the entire time.

At 2:50pm we all filed in to the courtroom. Roll call was taken and all the decision makers stated their names and their roles in the case for the record. Then, immediately, Daisy's lawyer asked for an in chamber meeting. The judge agreed and all the decision makers filed out of the room.

For over 20 minutes I sat in the courtroom with Kori, Bio Dad, Daisy's paternal grandparents, Kori's mother and Kori's ex-husband. Also in the room were the bailiff and the judge's assistant (secretary??). It was awkward. Daisy was frustrated from having nothing to do for hours and wiggled and fussed on her mom's lap the entire time.

At about 3:15pm everyone filed back in to the courtroom.
Then, for reasons that I still don't know, the judge and his assistant walked out of the room.
About 3 minutes later they came back in.

The judge reminded everyone that the dismissal date for the CPS case is November 10, 2014. He then asked CPS what their position is in this case.

The lawyer for CPS asked to reset the trial. It seems that Bio Dad has finally been indicted for his crimes against Daisy. Because of this, they want to wait and see what happens in criminal court before proceeding in CPS court.

Daisy's lawyer stood and asked for the same thing.

Kori's lawyer stood and very much opposed resetting the CPS trial. She argued that because Kori's support system had gone to the trouble of coming in from out of state and whatnot, the trial should go on today as scheduled.

The judge listened and then did a lot of speaking. First, he made it clear that the criminal trail for Bio Dad is not going to impede on the CPS trial. He granted the continuance but he made it very clear that he is not, under any circumstances, going to change the dismissal date for this CPS case. Everything in this case has to be "done" (whatever that means - because Lord knows kids stay in foster care for years down here) by November 10, 2014.

Another pretrial was called for September 24. The new date for the CPS trial is going to be October 2. The judge emphasized that everyone needs to be fully prepared for the trial on October 2. He stressed this point several times. He indicated that expert witnesses may need to be lined up. He wanted everyone to understand how serious he is about this trial happening on time and this case being over by November 10.

I don't have much else to report. Visits are going to continue on as normal because basically, nothing happened today. Bio Dad goes to trial for his crimes (he plead not guilty to two different charges) on Monday.

CPS does not want reunification. Neither does Daisy's lawyer. The trial in October is considered a contested trial. Because of the charges against Bio Dad, CPS will now be able to ask for TPR on him. But even Daisy's lawyer doesn't think there are grounds for TPR on Kori. If I was a betting person I would bet that Kori will get Daisy back "because Dad will be in prison and therefore Daisy will be safe". Or they will find some relative that is really willing to step in and care for Daisy. Supposedly there is a relative (a sister maybe??) that has stepped forward. The judge OK'd a home study but said he will not consider placement until the trial.

Thank you all for your prayers. I guess we get to do this again in just a little over a month.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cleaning house

While getting ready for vacation, we tipped one of the chairs down in our Suburban to make room for a very large cooler. Since only four of us were headed north, we didn't need all the seats and bringing along a cooler makes it so much cheaper. Those gas station drinks and treats are too expensive.

Well, once in Iowa, we did some more rearranging of the vehicle. As I went to pull the chair upright again I got a catch in my throat. There, tucked in a little nook under the chair, was a small purple circle.

One of Dolly's bracelets.

Dude and Dolly are still all over my house. Most of the time I'm OK with it.

Sometimes it still really hurts.

One of the things I've needed to deal with since September 23, 2013 was the fundraising puzzle. I realize I've got a lot of new readers that have joined this adventure since Dude and Dolly left. Not everyone knows their story. So I'll give you a VERY brief recap...

Dude and Dolly were MY kids. Their mom abandoned them the day they came in to Care (June 15, 2011). The only visits she kept were the ones that CPS practically forced her to keep. She never worked any of her case plan and actually ended up back in jail just a couple months after the kids came to me. When she got out, she didn't even call CPS to try and see her kids again for several weeks. (Even then, I'm pretty sure CPS called her to set up the visit.) She never wanted to parent.

The case plan the entire time these cherubs were in my home was relative conservatorship with their paternal grandma (Grandma N who lives in Dallas). At no point in time did Grandma N do anything to develop a relationship with these cherubs. She didn't know them. They didn't know her. (Shoot...they didn't even both speak the same language!) Grandma N also keeps close ties with all of her children - even the gang member, drug dealing, drug using ones. No one thought it was a good idea for the kids to go to this grandma except their CPS case worker. And that person, Minnie, is a very odd duck and really seemed to be incredibly biased against us.

The judge told us to hire a lawyer and intervene in the case. The GAL advised the same thing. The cherubs' therapist wanted them to stay with us. So after 23 months of waiting for the State to do the right thing by these kids, we hired our own lawyer and intervened.

Lawyers are expensive.

Awesome friends of mine decided to help us and a puzzle fundraiser was started.

Each piece of the puzzle was "worth" $5. If someone donated I wrote their name on the back of the puzzle piece and we started putting the puzzle together.
The puzzle was of my two cherubs. Dude is up in the tree. Dolly is down below telling him to come down. And me, Mamma Bear, I'm watching over both of them.
Everyone worked together to help put the puzzle together as donations came in. It lived on this card table in our dining area. It was a constant reminder of our new fight. It was also a reminder of how many people were fighting with us by praying and donating. I was completely blown away by the generosity of all my readers. I was incredibly humbled.
When the cherubs were moved from our home abruptly on September 23, 2013, it was almost like time froze. I got less than five hours to say goodbye and poof - they were gone. Forever.

We didn't drop out of the case. Even the judge recommended that we stay "in" through the holidays. But it was futile. CPS continued to lie about the cherubs. I saw court reports that I knew were inaccurate. We still had limited phone contact with the cherubs but it was painful. Horrible. Terrible. We knew we'd never be able to change things and our lawyer was just going to keep costing us more and more money. So, we dropped out of the case. Everything was "finished" in January 2014. We dropped out right before a court hearing because we were convinced that Grandma N was going to be given permanent managing conservatorship (PMC) and that it wasn't worth the financial or emotional effort anymore.

But that puzzle stayed on the table. Almost mocking me.

Donations still came in after the cherubs left. I still had pieces to put in the puzzle.

But I couldn't do it.

Finally I moved the puzzle to a smaller end table in my living room. It gathered dust as I ignored it.

The puzzle was still there when Ricky and Daisy moved in.

A couple months ago I got the courage to just disassemble the puzzle altogether.

Last night I finally finished cleaning house.

This wall displays two of my favorite family photos. One is when we were a family of eight with Pumpkin, Dude and Dolly. One is from about a year later when it was just US. My family. Me, Mr. Amazing, Herman, TT, Bart, Dude and Dolly.
Please trust me when I say that I believe in reunification. I don't grab on to every kid that comes in to my home and think that "I" can do so much better for them. That "my" family is better for them than their family of origin's. But Dude and Dolly...they did belong with us. They were (and still are) my kids. They always will be. They took a part of me when they left and I will never stop loving them.

I couldn't get rid of the puzzle. But I couldn't put it together either. Thankfully, I found a compromise.
The puzzle doesn't mock me as terribly now that I've cleaned it up and displayed it properly. All those names on the backs of the puzzle pieces remind me of the support I had during a very dark time. Thank you again to everyone that prayed for us and sent donations. I still am greatly humbled.

And if you're the praying type, please send up some prayers for Miss Daisy and all the adults involved in her case. We go to court tomorrow and it's going to be monumental. I honestly have no idea what is going to happen because since we've been in Texas, I've been wrong when predicting the outcome of court hearings almost 100% of the time. My thinking brain says that Daisy needs to stay in foster care. But I really have no idea what the judge is going to do.

I'll keep y'all posted.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

I'm back from vacation

It was refreshing to leave the 100+ temps of Deep South Texas to enjoy some time with my family in Iowa. I was sad to leave Daisy behind but I didn't completely melt down at the drop off. In fact, I don't think I cried once over vacation. (So unlike the summer two years ago when I had to leave my three fosters behind because I was under investigation.)

For a little over a week my three forever cherubs played with their cousins and had a tremendous amount of fun. The "official" Cousins Camp (where ALL the cousins are there) lasted four days. We went to the Iowa State Fair, took a train ride on the Boone Scenic Railway, toured Living History Farms, and shivered a bit at an aquatic center in Ankeny. (Iowa was warm but not particularly hot enough for swimming the day we went. Nevertheless, I donned my swimsuit so my nephew could do a couple loops on the lazy river.)

I stayed in contact, though not daily, with Daisy's respite provider. Other than a minor 24-hour virus, Daisy had no issues. The respite provider reported that Daisy was a very happy baby and enjoyed all the attention she got at day care.

Mr. Amazing picked Miss Daisy up when he got off work yesterday. She was quiet and a little bit confused when she got home. And, as has been par for the course, she didn't want to be away from me at all. In fact, right now at this very minute, Miss Daisy has decided that she doesn't want to be in either of her bouncers and is screaming at the top of her lungs because I won't sit down and play with her.

I called Mr. CW on the car ride home just to check in. I don't have any new news per se. But he did tell me a few things of interest.

Kori called a meeting with Mr. CW's supervisor and the supervisor's boss. (Mr. CW was not invited to this meeting.) He hasn't had a chance to speak with his supervisor to learn any of the specific details of this meeting. However, he says all the people involved in this case in his office are confident that Daisy will remain in foster care after the trial on Tuesday next week.

Mr. CW puts it this way, "All we have to do is put Kori on the stand and let her talk. I trust Daisy's lawyer to do her job. Of course, Kori's lawyer will do all she can to make me look like a bumbling idiot. I'm prepared for that. But Kori just needs to talk until the judge throws up in his mouth a little. That will happen. That woman is something else."

Then Mr. CW dropped a bomb. I will see him in court on Tuesday but then he is off this case. Mr. CW has been promoted in the investigations department.

I'm sad for Daisy. She deserves continuity. Mr. CW is already her second worker. She's been through several at my licensing agency too. And by this fall, she'll be getting a new lawyer as well. When there is this much change, things fall through the cracks. And even though I have ALL the information anyone could need about Daisy, I'm *just* the foster parent.  I literally told Mr. CW, "Congratulations. suck!" Then I laughed a little. He told me he's very excited to get the promotion but he feels horrible about not being able to see Daisy's case all the way through. And really, I know he was telling the truth. It wasn't some line to make me feel better.

Well, Miss Daisy is still crying. I really need to give her a bath and do something productive with my day. I've got laundry and unpacking to do.

Please be in prayer for all the individuals responsible for Daisy's future. Tuesday is going to be a very big day. I go back and forth about what I personally think is going to happen. My logical brain says that Daisy needs to stay in foster care. Kori is STILL defending Bio Dad to everyone that will listen to her. (She gave the respite provider an earful about how wonderful he is and how he would never hurt Daisy.) She's still in incredible denial about how badly Daisy has been hurt. I believe that CPS is going to claim that even though Kori wasn't directly there when Daisy was injured enough to come in to foster care (you know...when Daisy almost died), Kori is unable to be trusted to protect Daisy from future abuse. Even though my logical brain thinks Daisy will stay in foster care, I've been wrong pretty much 100% of the time. She could leave abruptly and I could be done with foster care by the end of next week.

Thanks for the prayers. I'll keep y'all posted.