Friday, October 31, 2014

Reader question...RE: homeschool - PART TWO

I explained our journey toward homeschooling in a post yesterday. I still haven't answered all of grkanga's questions though.
Here or on FBk please write about the reasons why YOU would or would not home school a child. NOT specific to your children but generically. Does the local school district available make a difference? What was your school background? What do YOU most like about home schooling your children and what have you found is harder than you expected?
My first post was really all about MY kids specifically. I had to get that out of the way first. Generically it's hard for me to answer questions about why or why not kids should (or shouldn't) be homeschooled. Doing school at home is radically different than traditional public school. It really is very personal.

I think the local school district definitely played in to things for me the most. Like I said yesterday, if all of the teachers we met had been like the one TT and Bart had for first grade, they'd probably still be in brick and mortar school. She is an amazing teacher who makes the educational process personal for each kid. When I told her that TT has severe anxiety and that wearing gloves helps him when he's on sensory overload, the gloves were welcome in her classroom. When it became apparent that Bart needed extra work to stay busy, and that it wasn't necessary for him to fully participate in all the classroom activities (because he was more advanced), she accommodated him fully! Instead of sitting through calendar time, he was allowed to stay at his desk and write.

But other than our experience with that one single teacher, things haven't been very positive. I was blown away by how far behind TT was - despite receiving terrific grades in K-2. And I knew that Bart was just going to keep getting in more and more trouble at school because of the unrealistic expectations for boys that need to move during the school day. I'm not opposed to ADHD medication in any way. But I didn't want to immediately drug my kid when I knew a different learning environment would probably help more.

I am homeschooling my kids largely because I want my kids to have a passion for learning. There are so many things that have changed since No Child Left Behind was made law. Teachers, at least the ones I've gotten to know personally, tell me that they are so limited to what and how they can teach. Everything is dictated for them. It is difficult to treat each student or class personally. And those tests...those blasted tests. I knew they would destroy TT due to his anxiety.

Homeschooling has really been a journey for us. That first year with TT and Bart was anything but easy. The fighting was daily and I struggled so much. I wanted school at home to look like brick and mortar. The more I let go of those expectations, the easier things got.

I have read that homeschool moms need to be allowed to have a "grace" week...or month...or in our case - year. I let go of the subjects that caused the extreme fighting. Literally - just let go of them. I worked hard on relationships. And I did everything in my power to decrease TT's anxiety toward school. Children just can't learn when they are in a state of high anxiety. The brain prevents it. When you're stuck in fight/flight/freeze you simply can't transfer knowledge from short term to long term memory. I stopped all testing. I said things over and over to remind TT (and Bart) that my goal for school was for them to get the knowledge in their brains. We did a lot of oral work because writing seemed to bother both of them. And spelling...I stopped that altogether.

We did do math. But I got a different curriculum - one that didn't look like or function like public school curriculum. For what it's worth, I've been incredibly pleased with Math-U-See. We managed to do two year's worth of math last year which totally got TT caught up to what kids his age are doing in public school. And because I slowed things down and personalized how we did math, his anxiety dropped away. He can do word problems now without completely freezing and freaking out. He understands things so much better.

Things this year are going so much smoother than last year. It's complicated to describe really. I can't exactly say why things are better. There are so many possible reasons. But, things are better.

I added more work that looks like curriculum and the boys don't freak out when the books get cracked open. That appeases the teacher in me. Part of me still wants my kids to know and be able to do everything the public schools say they should be able to do. But daily I struggle with all that really is expected in a traditional brick and mortar school. It's unrealistic to expect kids to sit in their desks and regurgitate information all day long without being allowed to move and talk. Learning should come alive.

I'll be honest, I never retained a single bit of American history as a kid. Not from what I learned in elementary or high school. It went in one ear and out the other. I puked the names and dates down on paper and got almost straight A's. But the knowledge didn't stick.

We're watching a simple series I bought on Amazon this year called Liberty's Kids. I've checked out books from the library to supplement the content in the series. And now, for the first time ever, I actually know and will probably retain information about my country's forming history.

The kids dictate some of the things they want to learn and I come up with "curriculum" and/or activities to supplement. We read the book The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler last year and then went to visit the art museum in our town last year. Bart announced that we should have donuts on the first day of school this year and that morphed into an entire "unit" (if you will) of learning about donuts. They read about the history of donuts. They made their own homemade donuts. We visited local bakeries and even got a full backstage tour of a Shipley Donuts location. (The owner had homeschooled his children and took time out of a morning to give my boys a hands-on tour of everything.)

Nothing about homeschooling has really been easy. It took a long time to work out the relationships between mom/teacher/son/student. Bart pushed a LOT. He didn't want to obey. I have threatened to send him back to brick and mortar more times than I can count!!!

I don't feel like I identify with most of the other homeschooling families that we've met either. I'm much too liberal for the homeschool co-op we joined last year. Well...maybe liberal isn't exactly the right word. But I'm definitely much more "free range" than any other homeschool family that I've met locally. So we really do this homeschool thing alone. I'm grateful I've got two boys that are close in age though. I think that makes it easier.

Overall, I really do adore homeschooling. I love the flexibility. I love how personal it can be. When my boys understand a math concept, we move on. There's no principal telling me that they have to do three more worksheets as homework and they have to take a pre-test and a final test to prove that they know how to do long division. When they get a concept, we move on.

And my boys have learned things that aren't taught in public school. Granted, these things can all be done in the evenings and weekends with public schooled kids. I'm not saying my kids know more than others!!! But they are comfortable with stuff that their peers, at least the ones in our neighborhood, don't do. Both Bart and TT know how to light the grill and cook a chicken breast from start to finish. Both boys understand consumer math and know how to grocery shop effectively. They can follow a recipe to make a batch of cookies or mix up something for dinner. Those types of skills are going to help my boys when they graduate and do "life" on their own.

This post is crazy long and I don't feel like I've said much. We're still going 'round and 'round with this homeschool journey. Odds are we won't be homeschooling next year. I've got the boys on a waiting list for a small charter school. And if Mr. Amazing gets the opportunity to move us out of Texas because of his job, I will seriously consider public school again wherever we end up. But I'm flexible enough to know that my boys might stay in homeschool through high school too. I want them to receive the best education possible. And if I feel that's in my home, that's where they will go to school.

But I also have to take TT's passions into consideration. And TT absolutely loves football. He lives and breathes football. I let him play flag football for the first time last year and he became totally hooked. Add to that...the kid is pretty good too. He wants to play in the NFL. Yeah...I know that's a pipe dream. But who am I to deny that to my kid?! So...in order for him to play in the NFL he needs to play in college. In order for him to play in college he needs to play in high school. In order for him to play in high school he needs to play in middle school. And next year, TT is in 6th grade. Texas doesn't allow kids to be homeschooled and to participate in public school activities. So, if TT wants to play ball, he's got to go back to public school. I've got Bart and TT on a waiting list at a small charter school yet this year. They'll go if spots open up. I want them to get used to what formal school feels like again before TT gets thrown to the wolves in middle school. And if middle school is too much for TT, he'll come back home. But I have to let him try.

Again, this post is a bunch of rambling but it does sort of explain why we're doing what we're doing. If anyone has questions or comments feel free to fire away. I think homeschool has benefited my kids tremendously. TT's anxiety is diminished on a day-to-day basis and Bart can move at a speed that works for him without being subjected to tons of repetition. But it's fluid and our needs might change. I take every school year and evaluate what will be best for that year. I'm not stuck that one way is the only way.

I'll leave you with a video of TT playing quarterback (and running for a touchdown). Just because it makes me smile....





Thursday, October 30, 2014

Reader question...RE: homeschool - PART ONE

A reader, grkanga, commented on my last post with some questions she'd like answered.
Here or on FBk please write about the reasons why YOU would or would not home school a child. NOT specific to your children but generically. Does the local school district available make a difference? What was your school background? What do YOU most like about home schooling your children and what have you found is harder than you expected?
I've never really written much about our homeschool adventures. This will probably be a long post because we've wound round and round to get where we are today. But I can walk you through our journey and how we ended up where we are now.

Never in a million years did I ever think I would homeschool. I am from a long line of teachers. I have always supported the public school system. In fact, during the time I did attend college (I didn't graduate due to...um...life) I was an education major. I was a theatre major with a minor in English and planned on teaching high school. Herman started right up in a brick and mortar without thought to any other options.

TT joined our family when Herman was in first grade. God put a wonderful (WONDERFUL) family into our lives immediately after that beautiful surprise. The mom said that she didn't run a day care but that she would love to be the babysitter for our new bundle of joy. She had a boy at home the same age as Herman and an older daughter. She homeschooled them. Their whole family loved on TT while I worked outside the home and Mr. Amazing finished his college education. It was the first time I had ever met anyone that homeschooled their children. They planted the first seed that homeschooling could even be an option.

Fast forward to fifth grade for Herman. By now I was a work-at-home mom doing freelance graphic arts (what I still do today). Herman had a lot of problems at school. There were no academic issues. Herman is incredibly bright!! But there were a lot of social problems. Every year seemed to be worse than the year before. I was constantly being called by the school.

Most of the problems in fifth grade were issues with a bully. One day, in the fall of that year, Herman was walking home from school and the bully physically attacked him. It was serious enough that the school let us know we could press charges. Mr. Amazing and I talked it over and decided that pressing charges was too severe for a fifth grade student. We hoped that the meeting with the police officer was enough of a deterrent for future bullying.

We were wrong. Very wrong.

It just got worse and worse.

I met with Herman's two teachers toward the end of the year and asked them if it was as bad as I thought it was. Sadly, they said "yes". The school had done a lot. They had moved the offending child out of Herman's class. They had put measures into place to try and protect Herman. But all the bullying had gone somewhat underground and the things the other classmates were being talked in to doing were verbal and discrete. The school couldn't stop it. With the full blessing of Herman's teachers, I pulled Herman home and we did homeschool for the last 10 weeks of school. His teachers literally gave me a bunch of books and told me what Herman needed to work on for the rest of the year. They felt bad. I even got an apology from the Vice Principal.

I never really did feel like a homeschooling mom though. Herman and I spent a lot of time butting heads. Finding that balance of mom/teacher/son/student doesn't happen quickly when everyone is used to brick and mortar school. We moved out of that town before Herman started sixth grade - so back to public school he went.

Then we moved to the area of Texas we live in now. Without rambling on and on, I'll simply state that yes, it was largely because of the school district that we are now homeschooling all the kids.

I'm going to focus on mainly TT and Bart because they have gone through the most transformation. But I did have Herman in an online school for almost three full years of highschool. He started off in the brick and mortar middle school here for 7th and 8th grade and I had a LOT of problems with the offerings of the public school. If anyone wants to know about that experience I can put it in another post. (This one is getting quite long already.)

Both of my younger cherubs started off in brick and mortar schools down here just like Herman. I first put them in a very small charter school. I was incredibly overwhelmed when I went to the traditional public elementary school closest to our home. I knew that TT's anxiety would be completely out of check there. I couldn't start him in kindergarten in such a huge school with so many people speaking Spanish. The tiny little charter school seemed like a better option. TT started kindergarten and I put Bart in 1/2 day preschool there.

It wasn't all that I had hoped it would be though. TT went through four different kindergarten teachers over the course of the year. FOUR teachers!!! They kept quitting. The school was also very tiny and often mixed different grades together. When TT's fourth teacher quit with 2-3 weeks left to go in the year I pulled the boys out early. It seemed pointless to send him through the anxiety nightmare of getting to know a new teacher when there were only a couple weeks left.

Because I didn't want TT and Bart to be in the same classroom, and the little charter school couldn't promise me that wouldn't happen, I enrolled the boys in the traditional brick and mortar school the following fall. Things continued to go downhill. TT's anxiety was off the charts and we dealt with all sorts of behaviors at home. Bart's ADHD seemed more and more prevalent too. They stayed in the brick and mortar for two years. I simply adored the teacher both boys had in 1st grade. If all the teachers had been like her, we'd still be doing public school. But the school itself had too many policies that I took issue with. And I saw the joy of learning being sucked right out of my boys. Add in the fact that standardized testing starts in third grade and I knew we had to do something for TT. There was no way he could stay in the traditional brick and mortar school and manage his anxiety. The tests alone would kill him.

So I tried something else.

For 3rd grade, I enrolled TT in an online public charter school. The school didn't offer anything for students under 3rd grade so I bought A Beka 2nd grade in a box for Bart. It was our first year of schooling at home.

I started seeing all sorts of "holes" in TT's education. He struggled with reading pretty bad. He showed a lot of signs of dyslexia. I worked with the online school and the official teacher of his class. They explained the special education process. We decided to finish off third grade and work on some skills over the summer to try and help him catch up. TT failed all his standardized tests for third grade. I downplayed it as much as possible but we were all concerned.

Fourth grade started and I put TT in the online public school again. (Texas law requires that students be enrolled in a public brick and mortar the semester prior to starting in an online school. Bart didn't qualify, so I did a different curriculum for him.) I started the special education process but TT tested just high enough within grade level that there were few modifications that the school was going to be able to offer him. After spending almost an hour on the phone with his teacher I decided to pull TT from public school altogether and move to a more traditional homeschool education completely. His teacher agreed with me that a more flexible learning environment would be better for TT.

To add to all of this...our cherubs, Dude and Dolly, had just left our home forever. We were up to our eyeballs in tremendous grief. I wanted to rally the troupes and reconnect as a family. I knew we'd never be able to keep up with the incredibly rigorous curriculum of the online school, manage TT's dyslexia symptoms and anxiety and deal with Bart's ADHD. Traditional homeschool it was.

I bought a completely different math curriculum. I used bits and pieces of the consumable curriculum that we didn't have to send back to the online school. The year prior Bart had completed all of his 2nd grade curriculum and most of TT's online stuff. It made sense to just have the boys do the same work even though they're a year apart.

And that brings us almost to where we are at now. I take a traditional homeschool approach with a whole lot of unschooling thrown in for good measure. I'll write more about what school looks like for us now and why I do things the way I do in my next post.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Training is needed

Most children that come in to Care require extra help. Most children that come in to Care have some sort of a special need. I've personally dealt with physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy (for several of my cherubs), counseling (talk or play therapy) and in Daisy's case, vision therapy. Other children need special education accommodations. This is because children from the hurt places have rarely had a healthy childhood with all the emotional and educational experiences necessary for healthy development.

I have decided that a huge training deficiency is a lack of understanding, amongst the decision makers, about how all these special needs can be met.

When Daisy left, I typed up three very detailed documents for CPS to use. I even cc'd a copy of each one to Kori. The first was a list that included every single specialist, doctor, and therapist that Daisy was seeing. I had names, addresses, phone numbers and emails for everyone. The second document was a general medical history. I knew Kori wouldn't know off the top of her head when different procedures had happened so I listed everything out with dates. She needs to be able to tell future doctors when Daisy had her last EEG, for example. The third document was a detailed list of all of Daisy's future medical needs. I spelled out all her upcoming medical appointments and several things that CPS needed to follow up on. One paragraph of that paper said this:
Daisy needs to be receiving vision impairment services through the public school system. As of now, Daisy has had the initial appointment and the full vision test. She does qualify for both VI services and Mobility/Orientation services. The next step in this process is for (my school district) to schedule the ARD meeting. The paperwork is going to have to be transferred to (the school district Kori resides in). ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) can help with this but someone is going to have to make sure the ball gets rolling. Daisy desperately needs the vision therapy. The longer she goes without, the more her vision can be stunted.
I just got a message from Martin, Daisy's (old) CPS worker. He said that the new supervisor in Daisy's case needed clarification on that above statement as Daisy is not of school age yet.

I'm sorry - but CPS staff members should have a basic idea of how special education works! I can promise you that Daisy is not the only child under 3 that is in the public school special education system. I have run in to it time and time again. The decision makers in these cases have no idea how to go about getting services for the kids. And since many, many foster parents aren't trained on this either, I'm betting way too many foster kids just simply don't receive services. (I received NO training on special services prior - or after - becoming a foster parent. Everything I know I've learned through direct personal experience.)

That just kills me!

Because really - what needs to be explained in that paragraph up there? I said exactly where Daisy is at in the process and what needs to happen next. They can either call ECI or the appropriate school district. But no...they needed to contact me to have me explain that children under school age, even infants, can be a part of the special education process. What did they think I meant? Did they think I just made all that up?!

My biggest fear is that all of Daisy's early interventions will just stop. I know that I had to learn the hard way about absolutely everything! My agency is unaware of the processes to receive therapies. And now it's perfectly clear that CPS is as well. And since I feel that Kori truly doesn't believe her daughter needs all these therapies, Kori won't do the hard work of staying on top of things to make sure they happen. What motivation is she going to have to keep calling people if she doesn't think Daisy needs them anyway?!

Sometimes it's really hard to let go. I've got no control over any of this now. In fact, Martin just told me that the State is NOT the medical consentor in this case. They said they'd do that in court, but the paperwork says otherwise. Kori is free to decide, or not decide, anything at this point in time. I was very disappointed to hear that. No one is going to accompany Kori to any of the medical appointments.

I fear for Daisy's future.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I just saw Daisy

Earlier this week Kori invited me to meet with her and Daisy at a local fall festival. It was a very neutral setting and one that made sense without being too awkward, so I said yes.

If I'm being totally honest, I'd tell you I really didn't want to go.

I knew if I wanted to maintain connection at all though, I needed to agree to this and meet with them. Otherwise I might not get another chance.

I want to give y'all a play-by-play. I want to point out all the ways that Daisy is being cared for differently from when she lived with me. But that's not fair. So I'll say this, it is evident that Daisy is very loved and that Daisy's current needs are all being met.

Daisy is attached to her mother in a healthy way. There was live music at the event and it was obvious that Daisy was overstimulated (and possibly confused/scared/upset) by the unknown of where she was. The music was very, very loud and Daisy couldn't tell where she was or who the people around her were. When I went to pick her up, she became instantly upset and wanted to go back to Kori immediately.

This hurt my heart.

But in reality, it's an incredibly good thing. Daisy wants to receive comfort from her mom. That is healthy attachment. And that is very, very good! I'm pretty sure Daisy didn't know it was me and just wanted to go back to the familiar.

TT and Bart came with me. I bought them some "tickets" and they ran around the festival winning a whole pile of crappy junk toys. They tried getting Daisy's attention multiple times and Bart tried holding her too. Daisy just wanted to stay in her stroller though and basically interact only with her mom. It hurt TT and Bart's feelings, but they handled it amazingly well. We processed things when we left. They too recognized how good it was to see Daisy happy with her mom. As much as we wanted Daisy to come to us, knowing she's comfortable with her mom is reassuring in the long run. It's better than thinking that Daisy has been caught up in anguish over losing us in her life.

We stayed an hour. Kori and I only had so much small talk that we could make. And since Daisy didn't want to have anything to do with me, I could only stomach sitting there doing nothing for so long. As I got ready to leave Kori asked if I wanted a picture of me with Daisy. I said yes. This picture is probably too revealing, but I'm not going to sweat it. I got to see Miss Daisy again. Miss Daisy is doing well. And for that, I am grateful.

Monday, October 6, 2014

But what about MY kids?

While I was outside the courtroom prior to Daisy's hearing last week I heard something from the original social worker that made my skin crawl. She was talking about the family that cared for Daisy for the first six weeks she was in Care prior to coming to us.

I don't want to bash on these people. I think they were doing the best they could with what they thought foster care was. Obviously though, their training failed them miserably!

The caseworker said that while trying to hash out when visits were going to take place between Daisy and her mom, the original foster family was obviously opposed to participating in visits in any way shape or form. They were placing very tight restraints on their schedule and limiting when they would be willing to transport to visits. Then one of the foster parents said something along the lines of this, "Who will be there to get Daisy out of the car?"

The social worker had no idea what she meant and pressed for more information.

"Who will be there to get Daisy out of the car at the CPS office? I mean, I'm going to have to have my biological kids with me and I can't expose them to that."

I almost threw up a little.

No, fostering hasn't been easy for me. And no, it most certainly hasn't been easy for my kids either. But I don't regret any of it.

A blog I stumbled across today sums it up just about perfectly. I encourage you to read these words. I'm thankful for all that my children learned by opening up our home to foster care.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Community Property

There is one aspect of foster care that tends to make me angry. Not just frustrated...but downright angry. And that is when casual people you meet treat foster kids like they are community property. There are lots of little ways people devalue foster kids. But the biggest one, the one that makes me angry, is when ANYONE says anything along the lines of, "Oh my, they're so cute. I just want to take them home with me."

Numerous strangers said things along those lines to me about Dude & Dolly. And yes, I even had people say it to me about Daisy. Now...once the foster kid is an almost grown man-child, people don't pipe up with wanting to get involved like that. But cute little foster kids - people think it's OK to offer up their home.

This is wrong.

Any child in foster care is living in a limbo from Hell! They know they don't have permanency even if they can't speak. Tiny infants (like my TT when I brought him home) know that they aren't with that woman they were inside for 9 months. The voices don't sound the same. The sounds of the home aren't the same. The smells aren't the same. The rhythm of the way the new mom walks isn't the same. They know!

And big kids know too.  Kids that hear "someone else wants them" worry that maybe they will have to move again. No kid needs to have that concern in their life. And don't get me started on what a phrase like "I wish they could come home with me" does to an attachment challenged child!

It's a hurtful phrase to the foster parents too. They are the ones that sacrificed their "normal" life to voluntarily let all sorts of decision makers in. They are constantly reminded that they, as parents, are less than. Quite often foster parents are barely treated better than babysitters by the decision makers in the case. We don't have much of a say in court and we are limited by a million rules to making real decisions in a child's life. The last thing we foster parents need to hear is that someone else would gladly take that child for us. Because the person volunteering their home has no clue what it takes to be a foster parent and in one fell swoop they just devalued all the extra sacrifice. Fostering is NOT so simple as to just take a kid in to your home.

The other place I notice foster kids almost instantly becoming community property is at the doctor's office. It's even worse at the hospital.

I'm not exactly sure how to spell out the exact ways I've seen it and felt it. Because sometimes it is just a feeling. It's like the doctors and nurses take a level of control over the child and honestly think that you, the foster parent, don't care because "they're just a foster child". I had nurses be so surprised that I stayed by both Pumpkin's and Daisy's said the entire time they were hospitalized. Granted, my agency requires it. But still - I could have had social workers from my agency fill in. I chose not to. I stayed by their side because it was important to me AND because it was important to them. My kids needed ME.

I also noticed that community property issue when the doctors offered up so little information about health of my child. It was almost like they had an attitude of, "We've got this under control. You're just the foster parent anyway. We don't have to tell you anything." I never did get to see a copy of Daisy's MRI despite asking the neurosurgeon and the neurologist.

I have a friend that is deep in the trenches right now with a very sick foster baby. Her little girl was born addicted to drugs in a bad way and also has a serious heart condition. She is one sick baby and the prognosis over her future is grim. It is unlikely that this baby will ever have a "normal" life. She is going to fight severe special needs forever.

My friend has two forever kids and one other foster child. The hospital she has to be at if she wants to be with her baby isn't right next door to her house. The hospital stay has been exhausting to her on so many levels. She is stretched thinner than thin.

But still, she got added to a mailing list (I assume from her church) asking her to sign up to make meals and provide childcare for someone's biological child that is ill. Almost NO ONE has stepped up to help her. In fact, when she worried about how she had to leave the hospital because no one was available to watch her other kids while dad was at work, she had someone tell her that it doesn't matter...the baby doesn't know the difference.

No one would tell a biological parent that their child doesn't need them when they are sick and hospitalized. No one.

Don't tell that to a foster parent either. If anything, our foster kids need us even more because absolutely everything in their lives is such a mess.

The other concern with this super sick foster baby is how the medical professionals are treating the baby. She was admitted because she had a cold. Since coming back to the hospital, she has been subjected to so many unnecessary tests and treatments. She is back on methadone despite having been completely weaned off of it for awhile. And the foster parents that are fighting so hard for this baby have had no say in any of her treatment. (Both parents have medical backgrounds too so they do know what they're fighting for.) To the foster mom in question, it has felt like the hospital took over fully and isn't involving the foster parents because that baby is community property.

Another friend drove over three hours across the state to the hospital to pick up her newborn foster daughter (a kinship placement even). The doctors in this case decided to keep the baby admitted a bit longer. CPS was there but the hospital social worker decided to trump everyone and not even let the new foster mom visit her brand new baby. Wouldn't even let the foster mom SEE the baby! And this foster mom is on track to adopt this baby (she has her older brother already).

Could you imagine being told by a hospital that you can't even see your baby? Especially since CPS, the legal guardian in the case, was there saying you most certainly could?! Still...the hospital won and my friend had to turn around and drive home.

Stories like this break my heart.

Those two babies I talked about above are currently in the hospital as I'm writing this. I am asking for prayers for these two sweet babies and their foster families that are fighting so hard to be treated properly. Health, healing and a quick transition home to where they are safe and loved is needed for these babies. Thank you for your prayers.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Comfort from a stranger

During the week between the pretrial (Sept. 24) and the final hearing (Oct. 2), I worked through a lot of big feelings. I knew that we were going to be doing a lot of those "lasts" and I was sad. I had really enjoyed having a baby in the house. (Due to life, it's unlikely I'll have a baby around again until I'm a grandma. And that had better not happen for a long time!)
One of the things I did was wear Daisy a lot. She always seemed to calm down in the carrier. I know she liked the physical contact and movement. (I couldn't wear her and sit at the computer to work. I had to be moving.)

Often times, after supper, I would strap her on and clean up the kitchen. I love to listen to oldies so I'd play Elvis really loud and dance while I cleaned. She LOVED this. In fact, as soon as "All Shook Up" would come on, she'd start bouncing and shaking her leg like she was dancing. It was almost like she was telling me, "Come on mamma...it's time to dance!"

The day after the pretrial, I had Herman take a video of us dancing together. I knew it was another one of those "lasts" that I was going to miss. I posted the video in one of the Facebook support groups I'm in online. I briefly told the story of Daisy and shared my grief over knowing our time together was short.

One of the women in that group just happens to have a husband that works for CPS. She's also an adoptive mamma. She said my story really touched her heart. Up until this night, we weren't personally "friends" - we were just in the group together. She "friended" me and sent me a private message that night. She showed me a picture of a necklace and asked if she could send it to me.
I was so touched. I gave her my address.

It's hard to find people in real life that understand this fostering journey. I've got a few friends where I live that get it. But my strongest supporters are moms that I've met online that are walking a similar journey.

The next week seemed to fly by. I didn't know if the necklace had really been mailed or when it might come.

Then October 2nd came. I think it was the only court date I've ever had where I didn't spend hours the week before stressing about what I was going to wear. I decided on a simple outfit of capris and a lightweight sweater. I decided to wear an ankle bracelet that I had made myself many years ago. I figured I could look at it during court and think fondly of what it was like when I had free time to explore hobbies like jewelry making - and think about what new hobbies I might take up after Daisy leaves. I put a pretty bracelet around my wrist that was made of different beads that my grandmother had in her costume jewelry collection. When she passed away my aunt had all her costume jewelry taken apart and put back together into custom bracelets for all the girls in the family. My grandma was a foster mom many, many, many years ago and I was reminded of her love of children from the hurt places.

I dressed Daisy in a simple outfit and we got ready to go.

Then Miss Daisy left a present in her diaper that rivaled all the gifts the child had ever given me. I had to stop everything and change her clothes from top to bottom (including the shoes - ugh).

OK. Deep breath. Now I was ready to walk out the door to go to court.

The mail had come during all that fiasco and I looked in the box before I got in my car. There, right on top, was an envelope from my new Facebook friend.

I ran inside, opened the envelope and wrapped that symbol of support around my neck.

And off to court we went.
My new friend does sell these necklaces. I've already had people on Facebook ask me if I could post a link to where I got it. Even though I rarely promote things here, I'm thrilled to be able to link to her little store. Go check out Sunflower Farms and Shop and show Lindsay some love.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The trial that didn't happen

Let me start out by saying - I am OK. This is NOTHING like when we lost Dude and Dolly. I cannot even begin to compare the two experiences. I cried a lot yesterday. But today...today I have been OK. I don't think the grief is going to overwhelm me at all. Yes, I'm sad. But I have known all along that this was the most likely outcome. If anything, making the comparisons in my mind between this experience and losing Dude and Dolly last year at this time is what's probably been the hardest for me. Not only am I OK, but my husband and children are all OK too. Thank you for lifting our family in prayer. It really makes this so much easier to bear. Just knowing that I've got hundreds of people praying for my family all over the world brings a comfort like no other.

Yesterday was difficult. Big feelings were all over the house. TT's anxiety was off the charts and Bart's ADHD had him literally bouncing off the walls. That's never a good mix. When I get dysregulated I need less sensory input. Put me somewhere quiet and preferably alone. Let me connect in person or online with my community. But don't touch me. Don't make too much noise. And just let me be.

When my youngest cherubs are dysregulated they sensory seek. They get physical. They fight with each other. They bounce all over the house. They make so much noise. (Oh do they make noise. Repetitive sounds. Nonsense sounds. So many annoying sounds.)

And then the baby was fussy. She wanted to be held. When I wasn't giving her 100% of my attention she was crying.

Yesterday was rough.

But today was so much easier. Maybe it's because so many prayer warriors were praying for us today. Maybe it's because I actually got enough sleep the past few nights. (Miss Daisy still sleeps like crap but we managed to finally figure out a system to help her sleep better. It involves a little rule breaking but it has been worth it to get better sleep.) Maybe it's because we grieved so hard yesterday.

I got to the courthouse a little after 1:00pm. I knew I didn't need to be early because we were the first case on the docket and the doors would be locked to the air conditioned waiting room until our case was called. It was HOT outside (high of 93° today). All the players in the case were there. In fact, I saw Ricardo, the CPS supervisor, in the hallway on the way in. I cornered him immediately and asked him, "So, what's the plan for today? Are you guys conceding or is there going to be a trial?"

His response didn't surprise me at all.
We are going to agree to a 180 day monitored placement. I've seen cases go either way. If we go to trial today and lose, we could be kicked out of the case entirely. If we at least agree to a monitored placement, without actually going to trial, CPS will be involved for six more months.
Ricardo went on to tell me that he addressed the concerns of Kori going to the criminal trial with Daisy. I didn't blog (on here) about this fiasco that happened last week. The short version of that story is that Kori admitted to me that she cancelled one of Daisy's speech therapy sessions so she could go to the criminal trial. I brought this detail to the attention of CPS immediately. Today Ricardo said that Kori's lawyer was going to provide documentation from the courts stating that it had been requested that Kori be there. It was concerning but not concerning enough to force CPS to actually go to trial today. CPS didn't have proof today that Kori had brought Daisy to the trial so they really couldn't do anything with that information.

I asked Ricardo if he was going to move Daisy right away. He looked sympathetically toward me and said no, he'd wait a a few days. I honestly did NOT want to drag this out. Long goodbyes are as crappy as short ones. I told him that moving her today was fine - her things were all packed.

Once over by the courtroom I saw everyone else. Mr. CW was there along with the investigative worker, the CPS worker that had the case first (before Mr. CW was on), Martin (the current CPS worker) and several other people. Everyone was there in case they decided to actually go to trial. All the CPS people congregated together around the State's attorney to discuss the case. Kori looked very uncomfortable when she walked past them all and sat down next to me.

Did I mention it was crazy hot outside? It was sweltering.

Mr. CW came over to thank me for nominating him for CPS worker of the year. The Texas Foster Family Association has an annual meeting where they honor foster parents, workers and agencies. I nominated Mr. CW several months ago and he won! I was very happy for him!! He went up to Dallas last weekend to accept the award and also got to spend some time with family at the Texas State Fair. We chatted about fair food and fun until the bailiff came and unlocked the doors and called our case.

Once in the room everyone assembled. Everyone except the lawyer that was supposed to be representing Miss Daisy. The judge decided to wait a bit for her and called the next case to go ahead of us. I didn't move. I stayed in the gallery and watched the fate of another family unfold before my eyes. Foster care hurts my heart sometimes. A sibling group of four is going to be in foster care for a long, long time while their mother goes to prison.

Ms. Colorado (the lawyer substituting for Daisy's usual lawyer) arrived late. Our case was called immediately after the first one ended.

They didn't beat around the bush. Roll call was taken and the judge asked CPS what they wanted to do. CPS responded by saying they were in agreement with a 180 day monitored placement as long as a couple provisions were put into place.

There was a little back and forth between everyone but nothing heated. The judge took time to make sure that Kori understood the rules. I'm still confused that NOTHING has been said about Bio Dad at any of the court hearings. I heard them specifically say that they are going to terminate Bio Dad's rights when all the players were talking prior to court. I heard that word for word. I don't know what they're waiting for on that end because they have never said anything to the judge about TPR on Dad. I, personally, would like to see his rights terminated. It will make it that much harder for Kori to have a relationship with the man when all this is done and over with.

In fact, I called the District Attorney this week to make sure that he has my contact information. I have no problem testifying against Bio Dad. I hope they call me. A tiny part of me is afraid that they won't now because I no longer have Daisy in my custody. An even bigger part of me is afraid that Bio Dad's attorney will call Kori who will completely down play the permanent damage that Daisy has suffered.

Anyway...back to court.

It is a 180 day monitored placement. That means that CPS still has temporary managing conservatorship. Kori is restricted to travel within a two county range. She has to allow CPS access into her home any time they show up - no matter what. I believe a worker will be making a weekly visit to her home and, like before, surprise inspections can still happen.

Then the State did something a little above and beyond what they usually do. They explained that one of the provisions to Kori getting custody is that she, under no circumstances, can cancel ANY medical appointment, therapy or early intervention of any kind. CPS explained this. Kori's lawyer agreed to it. And the judge realized that something needed to be done to ensure that the correct level of monitoring was in place for this. The judge made the State the medical consentor. Kori does not get to make any medical decisions for Daisy for the next six months (other than her already approved decision to not vaccinate). Someone from CPS is going to have to go to every doctor appointment. And if Kori cancels anything, the monitored placement could be in jeopardy.

Another provision is that Bio Dad cannot be within 200 yards of Daisy. The judge made it very clear that this is a big deal. No funny business allowed. He granted visitation to the paternal grandparents even though CPS was firmly against this. But he said if the grandparents allowed any contact with Bio Dad, the placement will be in jeopardy.

And last, Kori is required to put Daisy in day care. I personally hate this rule. Day care isn't going to be good for Daisy at all. I know that Kori at one time was looking to hire an in-home nanny. Individual attention for Daisy would be better for her. But the State has required day care and I believe they will pay for it as well.

We all filed out of the courtroom. I chatted with Mr. CW a bit. He asked how I felt about the ruling. I was honest. I think it sucks. But, I'm not a green foster parent. I've looked up the laws and I've read them. The State didn't have grounds to keep Daisy in foster care any longer. And even though I wanted them to try and fight harder for Daisy, I understand why the route of monitored placement was taken. I asked if there was anything special I could do to make sure that we get the call should the placement with Mom fall through. Mr. CW said that intake will see that we had her before. But there are absolutely NO guarantees - and nothing I can do about it - to make sure we would get the call. In fact, he said that sometimes they purposefully don't place back with the first foster family. I can't wrap my brain around that and it makes me very mad. But I'm not going to allow myself to dwell on that detail. We are keeping our license open for awhile just in case. However, if my husband gets an employment opportunity that requires us to move, foster care is not going to make us turn that down. We will close our home immediately and move.

Ricardo came out at about the same time Kori did. I asked when the move was going to happen. Kori said they had asked her if she brought a car seat. I guess they wanted to move her right then and there. I looked at Ricardo and asked if we could have two hours. Herman didn't really see Daisy this morning before school and I wanted every family member to get to say goodbye. I also wanted CPS to pick Daisy up in my home so that I would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Daisy's things were going with her immediately. (If Daisy had left from court it's likely that CPS wouldn't get her things to her for weeks.) Ricardo looked at Kori and asked her if we could have two hours. A little bit reluctantly she agreed.

We walked to the parking lot together and said a quick goodbye.

I made all the phone calls to all the important people. I told my family. I called Daisy's therapy providers. I let my licensing agency know.

And then I sat down in the living room and played with Daisy.

Let me reiterate - it was NOTHING like the couple of hours I had with Dude and Dolly before they were ripped from my home. Those few hours were a torturous Hell. They didn't want to leave. I didn't want them to leave. My entire family was in shock.

No, this afternoon was pleasant. I played with Daisy. I fed her a snack. I snapped some pictures. And everyone got to say goodbye. I told CPS they could come at 4:30pm. Herman gets out of school at 4:00 and I had told him to come straight home. Miss Daisy simply adores Herman and she went straight to him as soon as he walked in the door.
CPS showed up right on time. In true CPS fashion this assistant brought a car seat rated for an infant up to 20 pounds. I told the worker at my door that under no circumstances was I going to allow her to use that car seat with Daisy. Rather than wait for her to go back to the office and locate an appropriate one, I unbuckled mine and put it in her car for her. I brought all of Daisy's things out and loaded her car up full. I then buckled Miss Daisy into the seat and kissed her goodbye.

I sent Kori a text message of that picture above and one more of all four of the kids together. I thanked her for the goodbye.

She messaged me back and said, "I live in town - not on Mars." She also included her email address.

I believe that I will get to stay in Daisy's life for a little while.

And that was that.

I haven't even cried today. (I cried enough yesterday thankyouverymuch.)

I'm going to be OK. My husband is going to be OK. My kids are going to be OK.

We are going to rearrange the house. The guest room will go back downstairs. The crib will go in the corner of my (huge) bedroom. I'm going to put away all the baby stuff. I might even have a garage sale and sell some of it. What I really want to do is find some young mom who's on the cusp of having CPS in her life in a bad way and help her out. But I'm not actually making any decisions right now on all the baby stuff. If we move due to my hubby's job, it's unlikely that we'll move it all with us. (Which makes me very sad. I've got some awesome baby stuff.) For now though, I'm literally just praying to God to tell me what to do with everything. I haven't gotten an answer yet.

What happened today had to happen. I'm grateful that the judge did what he could to make sure that all of Daisy's medical appointments, therapies and early interventions HAVE to be maintained. That, my friends, is answered prayer. I won't get to post as many updates but there's a good chance Kori will message me pretty regularly. And for that, I am grateful.

For now, our fostering season is over.

But just wait. Now I've got time to go to all the B.A.C.A. trainings. It won't be long and I'll be riding with my husband all over the state to help abused kids stand up to their abusers in court and not be afraid.


A quick update

I know some people only follow the blog - not Facebook. So, here's the short version of what happened today.

Miss Daisy will be being picked up by CPS at approximately 4:30pm to go back to her mother's house. CPS agreed to a 180 day monitored placement.

I'll blog the long version later.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Praying Mothers

Right now there are two moms doing a lot of praying. One is praying fervently that wisdom prevails and that the future can be taken into consideration. One wants to protect the baby she cares for from the potential of future harm with every fiber of her being. This mom has called to every prayer warrior that she knows. She has prayed over this baby since before the baby was born.**

The other mom is praying that all this crazy ends. She believes with every fiber of her being that her baby is safe in her arms. She sees no potential of future harm and wants to be able to make decisions over her daughter's life again. This mom is praying as hard as as the other mom and has her own family and friends praying as well.

God can move. God will move. And the powers that be will decide the fate of that baby and these two moms tomorrow. Court is at 1:30pm Central Standard Time. It's the only case on the docket at that time so we shouldn't have to wait too long. By this time tomorrow, it's likely we will once again be a family of five. But I'm not going to stop praying.

-----

I've spent the last week preparing my heart for the goodbye. We've talked about it at home. We've discussed how it's going to feel. I've sorted through her things. I've even made my list of everyone that I have to call tomorrow if she's leaving. I will be able to go on autopilot and no one will suffer. I'm not cooking dinner tomorrow and the kids know we will be gathering together as a core family of five to regroup and start the new chapter of our lives.

-----

** The story of the pink blanket **

In the early months of 2013, before we intervened in the legal case with Dude and Dolly, I spent some of my free time sewing. I'm not an accomplished sewer, but I can make a straight line. I made several different blankets with the intents of donating them to my licensing agency to be given as Christmas presents. As I sewed the blanket you see in all of Daisy's sleeping pictures, I prayed. I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. I knew the bundle of pink was going to go to a little girl so I prayed for that little girl as I sewed each line. Out of all the blankets, I remembered praying the most over the one Daisy has.

The night Daisy came to me she was wrapped in that blanket.

I honestly don't think the social workers that had her knew the significance. I don't think they knew I had donated that blanket. And all I could think of is how much I prayed for that baby before she was even born. The blanket is very special to me. It belongs to Daisy but I'm struggling with the decision. Do I tell Kori of the incredibly significance? Or will it be lost on her because she doesn't think her daughter should have ever come to me in the first place? I think it's just something I'm going to store in my heart forever.