Thursday, May 29, 2014

an uninformed case worker

I've got several blog posts in the works. But Miss Daisy got herself sick this week and it's been rough. Really rough. Thankfully her illness was completely "normal" though and I didn't even bring her to the doctor. We weathered out the stomach bug like a normal family. (I'm also thankful that it appears no one else is going to get the...um...digestive issues.)

But I would like to continue to paint a lovely picture of what foster parents deal with regularly. So I'll share what the home visit from Emilia (Ricky's CPS worker) looked like yesterday.

First, she sent me an email at 4:06pm asking:
Please let me know what's a good day and time for my visit this month.
Please keep in mind that yesterday was May 28 and Emilia has to be in my home to visit Ricky before May 31. She doesn't work on the weekend. That gave me almost no time to actually schedule this visit. I pretty much just had to tell her to come whenever.

We emailed back and forth. She decided to come right then. She actually arrived just a little over an hour after she sent the first email to me.

Emilia went up to Ricky's room to talk to him. Then, in the most casual of fashions, she came downstairs and asked if there was anything new I needed to talk to her about concerning Ricky.

I brought up the fact that I want his ISP (Individualized Service Plan) to reflect that he is allowed more unsupervised time this summer. Right now he's allowed 3 hours a day. I want him to have at least 8-10 hours of unsupervised time this summer. For example, if he goes to the skate park in the morning, then comes home but I'm out running errands or something, then he goes over to the mall, then pops over to his brother's for supper, we might not see each other all day. His schedule would have been perfectly normal for any teen. But if I don't have permission from CPS for him to be gone like that, I could be cited for improper supervision. I need his ISP to put it in writing that he can be unsupervised for an extended amount of time.

I asked Emilia if she had received the email with this request from my agency worker. I had not been receiving any communication from Emilia myself and since Rainbow (from our agency) has been helping with my kids lately, she offered to try and get answers herself. Typically an email from an agency worker holds more weight than an email from me.

Emilia literally told me that she has several kids with our agency and she's not sure. Tripping all over herself she basically admitted that she hasn't paid any attention to the emails from our agency and she has no idea. She asked me to send the request again.

I then asked Emilia what was going to happen in court next time. She gave me some pat answer that amounted to, "nothing". I pressed a little. I said, "But the next hearing is considered a pre-trial. What does that mean?"

It was sooooooooo obvious that Emilia knew NOTHING of this case. She has written Ricky off so badly that she came to our house to talk to him about this case and avoided that conversation altogether. Ricky is going to age out so she does not give a damn.
Is he safe in our home?
Check.
Is he doing OK in school and life in general?
Check.

She didn't even know that the next hearing is a pre-trial or what that even means to this case.

I was sick.

Now...I know Ricky is going to age out. There's little Emilia could do for Ricky anyway since nobody in The System is willing to explore any other options for Ricky.

But as she was walking out the door, Emilia looked at me and said, "Well, I'm off to go see Michael."

Michael is Ricky's little brother.
Michael is only 12 years old.
Emilia doesn't know what's going on in this case at all.
Emilia doesn't even bother to open up the files prior to a home visit.
It looks like Emilia has written off Michael too.

Foster care sucks!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bio Mom says I lie

Mr. CW was just here for his monthly visit.

I continue to fear for Daisy's future. He and I have little to talk about at each formal visit because we stay in close contact all the time. However, he did share with me that Bio Mom has called him expressing concern over "foster mom" (ie: ME!!).

She says I lie about her baby.

Mr. CW just listens.

She says I exaggerate about all that is wrong with her baby.
She says Miss Daisy can do all sorts of things and she does them at every visit.

Mr. CW just listens.

I appreciate the fact that he doesn't get sucked in to her drama.
I REALLY appreciate the fact that he takes the information I give him seriously.

So I showed him another example of Daisy's deficiencies today.
I took a burp rag and threw it over Daisy's head covering her face.

Daisy just sat there.

Daisy doesn't know how to pull things off of her face. (It's a skill I've been trying to teach her by forcing her to do it and cheering like crazy when she does.) (Special needs kids require strange looking therapies sometimes.)

Mr. CW watched and I reminded him that Daisy is one year old! She wasn't sitting there playing some kind of peek-a-boo game. She was sitting there with a rag over her face and she literally didn't know what to do about it.

Then I upped the ante.

I pointed out the fact that if she was in bed and a blanket was too close to her mouth, she would not know how to move it out of the way so she could breathe safely.

(For any of you questioning any of my sleeping habits with Miss Daisy
please know I've always taken this fact into consideration.)


Mr. CW continued to watch Daisy sitting on the floor with the rag over her head.

He took some notes.

And finally Daisy pulled the rag off.

I cheered.

And I prayed yet again for her future!!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Fighting for every service

The process to get Daisy into therapies started when she was in her first foster family. Once she was moved to me I continued that process. It took forever, but she is now receiving occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy each two times per week in my home.

Because these are private therapies Daisy does not qualify through ECI (Early Childhood Interventions) for additional therapies. Medicaid will not pay for both in our area. However, ECI can offer Visual Impairment (VI) services. So, I contacted ECI and asked for an evaluation.

ECI came to my home the first time on March 19, 2014. Miss Daisy (obviously) qualified for this kind of intervention.

A second evaluation was done by ECI on April 3, 2014. I'm not sure why it takes two evaluations. But it does. Each one was handled by different people though and now a case manager has been assigned. This case manager has to come to my home once a month. Daisy also is seen by an occupational therapist once a month. That therapist has a different "title" though for what she's doing in our home. It's technically not OT, even though it looks just like OT in reality. (Special needs becomes one strange world filled with all sorts of people and specialists.)

After the meeting on April 3, paperwork was sent to Daisy's "visual development" eye doctor. This doctor has to fill out a form officially stating that Daisy has visual impairment. It doesn't matter that I've got forms that say she's visually impaired. It doesn't matter that I can prove what eye doctors she's been to. This single sheet of (apparently) very special paper must be filled out.

I will make calls to doctors. I will chase down paperwork. But no one told me that this very special piece of paperwork needed to be signed and was just sitting on someone's desk not getting signed until last week when the ECI case manager made her monthly visit.

And sadly, because said case manager made her visit at 3:00PM on a crazy day, I forgot to write down a note to myself to chase down this missing piece of special paperwork.

I just remembered.

I called the doctor's office.

They told me that they left a message with the case manager that a fee needs to be paid.

I asked how much it was going to cost to get this very special piece of paperwork signed.

The person on the phone had to transfer me to another department.

I had to tell the whole story again.

They put me on hold to look it up.

They are waiting for $50 before they will touch this very special piece of paperwork and officially declare that my baby is visually impaired.

I'm not in a position to immediately fork over my own money for this sort of stuff because I know I won't get paid back. I said thank you and called ECI.

The case manager knew nothing of the required $50 fee. She doesn't know how ECI is to pay this fee. She's going to have to talk to her supervisor and figure things out.

So here we are over six months since my baby was made blind at the hands of another human being. It's been two months since I started the process to get my baby connected with the visual impairment specialist through the school system. And everything is hung up by a $50 fee to fill out some simple piece of (apparently) very special paperwork.

Special needs parenting sucks!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Those awkward questions

Yesterday was an interesting day. Miss Daisy and I had to wake early to go to her 12 hour EEG. I started out at a nearby gas station getting some Diet Cokes and a taco for me for breakfast.

I really have to work on my answers about Daisy. I know the cashier meant well. He was just trying to make conversation. But now that Daisy is one-year old, questions and answers get stickier.

Very Nice Cashier Man Who Meant Well: "Is that your baby?" (Looking at a very big baby in an infant "bucket" car seat.)

Me: "Yes."

VNCMWMW: "How old is she?"

Me: "She's one year old."

VNCMWMW: "Can she walk?"

Me: "No."

And this is where I simply screwed up. It was early in the morning. I was tired. And I guess I wanted to explain why my very big baby was in the bucket car seat. The cashier man probably didn't care. I should have kept my mouth shut. But, because it was awkward and I felt like filling in the silence I followed that "no" with, "She has severe special needs."

VNCMWMW: "Oh." (pause) "What is wrong with her?"

Again, I should have kept my mouth shut. I put him in the same place. He felt like he needed to say something. If I had kept my mouth shut he never would have known. It never would have mattered. And yes, he crossed the line. But he didn't know better. It was a young guy and he was just trying to make conversation. He didn't mean to offend or say something wrong. But now we were in that really weird place. I paused. I silently kicked myself for saying anything. And then I answered, "She got hurt pretty bad a few months ago."

He was polite. Just said he was sorry. Our transaction was done and I headed out the door. He told me to have a nice day.

I have got to learn how to keep my mouth shut.

There's something magical about turning one year old or something. I've had quite a few people ask me if Daisy can walk yet. Or make comments about her crawling and walking. One lady at Herman's high school (side note: he's back to a brick and mortar school now) couldn't stop talking about Daisy's chubby legs. Then she went on and on (and on and on) about how Daisy will thin out when she starts walking.

It's rough for me. I want a world where people aren't afraid of special needs. I want it to be OK to care for a child that needs something different or extra without it being a big, huge deal. So part of me wants to tell people that she has special needs. Not because I'm trying to make a spectacle out of her, but because it is who she is and she doesn't need to be ashamed and neither do I.

But I know it's probably best if I keep my mouth shut. It's really nobody else's business.

I know I'll figure out how to handle the awkward silence in conversations eventually.

Every time it happens though I wonder how Bio Mom will handle this. If Daisy goes back to her she's going to be up to her neck in a world she never dreamed of. Emotionally it's going to be way harder for her than it is for me. I grieve for Daisy. But a developmentally challenged Daisy is all I've ever known. Bio Mom won't get to live in a bubble where she holds her baby in a room for two hours a week and can pretend that everything is normal. If Daisy goes home, Bio Mom will have to navigate the inquisitive nature of the general public regularly.

How do you handle it when people ask questions they shouldn't?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

foster care isn't always the problem

The System is broken. There is no doubt in my mind on that one! There are statistics all over about all the ways The System is broken. So many children in The System. Children that are supposed to be kept safe are abused by people in The System. Moves. Residential treatments for kids that don't need it. Psychotropic drugs handed out like candy. Hospitalizations. More moves. Problems in school. No permanency. Permanency found isn't always safe and cherubs end up back in The System again after they leave.

I could go on and on.

But the stuff I'm rolling around and around in my brain has to do with teens in The System.

So many people point their finger at The System and show how it's failing the kids.
I pulled this information off a Google search:


Education:

  • By the age of 19, only 57% of emancipated foster youth have received high school diplomas or GEDs.
  • Less than 5% of former foster youth graduate college.

Employment:

  • Employers are less likely to hire a former foster youth who have the similar qualifications than a non-foster youth.
  • Less than 50% of former foster youth are employed 2½ - 4 years after leaving foster care, and only 38% have maintained employment for over one year.

Housing:

  • In California, 65% of youth leaving foster care do so without a place to live.
  • Only 40% of eligible emancipated foster youth receive independent living service.
  • Nearly 40% of transitioning youth will be homeless within eighteen months of discharge.

Health and Wellness:

  • 56% of youth leaving foster care reported using hard drugs.
  • Nearly 50% of foster children suffer from chronic health conditions such as asthma, visual and auditory problems, dental decay, and malnutrition.
  • Former foster youth experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at twice the rate of US war veterans.
  • More than half of children in foster care have moderate to severe mental health problems.
  • Former foster youth were significantly less likely to have attended any sort of religious services.

Relationships and Permanency:

  • Foster youth are more likely than their peers to have marital problems, and are more likely to raise a child outside of marriage.
  • Foster youth tend to be more socially isolated and have a harder time forming long term relationships.
  • Parents with a history of foster care are almost twice as likely as parents with no such history to see their own children placed in foster care or become homeless.

Finances:

  • In one study, median earnings among employed former foster youth were just 59% their peer's income.
  • Foster youth are several times more likely to rely on public assistance.

Incarceration and institutionalization:

  • Over 70% of all California State Penitentiary inmates have spent time in the foster care system.
That is a lot of information to digest. Part of me wants to go through each statistic line by line.

But this is what my brain keeps rolling around....
FOSTER CARE isn't the problem.

Trauma is!!!!

Somehow we have to get to the root of the problem and it isn't foster care! It's trauma. It's everything that happened to Ricky BEFORE he came to live with me! That is the shit that has to get addressed!

I certainly don't have all the answers.

But I know what can help.

Get involved in your community.
Donate to your local food banks.
Drop extras off at the school for kids in need.
Offer to babysit for a family that is struggling.
Do whatever it takes to help families before they "need" foster care.

-----

Part of the aging out process for Ricky was filling out a form called the Casey Life Skills Assessment. I had to fill out one too. The PALs instructor just stopped by the house with the results. She compiled a form that shows how I filled out the form about Ricky compared to how he filled it out about himself. Somehow I'm supposed to address all the areas where there is conflict.

For example, one of the statements was:
I can figure out the costs to move to a new place,
such as deposits, rents, utilities and furniture.
I said that Ricky doesn't understand that.
Ricky said that he does.

Exactly how do I teach something to Ricky that he says he already knows?

The example the PALs coordinator showed me was:
I know how to fill out a job application.
Ricky said he knows this. She said they went over it in class.
I showed her the application pinned to our message board waiting for ME to fill it out because Ricky says he can't do it himself.

In eight months Ricky is going to age out of The System. I seriously doubt he's going to choose to stay in Care past age 18. Right now his plan is to go back to Rebecca's and finish high school.

He will be 18 though. He will have the choice to leave Rebecca's and she won't be able to do anything about it. If Ricky doesn't choose to accept help from The System, or my family, or Rebecca - he will be on his own.

It won't be "foster care's" fault though if he can't stay clean, get employed or find housing. The resources really are there for him. And he's lucky because he does have a deep support system of friends and safe family.

But he's going to have to fight against everything he ever really learned growing up. The System is telling him things but they are the exact opposite of what he learned at his mother's side. One and a half years of life in The System simply cannot undo all that he learned and suffered through before foster care caught up with his family. He missed out on so much. There are things he's never been exposed to and he doesn't fully understand them now. It's like he's watching some strange movie sometimes. He's a part of our family but I know he's purposefully keeping himself on the outside of it. Despite my best efforts, he's on the outside looking in. And I cannot force him to join us.

I hurt so badly for Ricky. I want to help him. I joked and told the PALs teacher that I think of him like my man-child. He's ready to grow up and be on his own. But in so many ways, he's still such a young child and I can't expose him to enough to counteract his deficiencies. I wish I could.

She just shook her head and completely agreed with me.

No five week course can prepare any teen for independent living. You can't teach 18 years of life in five Saturdays. It's not possible.

So, in honor of National Foster Care Month, I beg you to get involved. Help families before foster care is necessary.
Have that kid over to dinner in your son's class that is often left home alone.
Introduce him to a home cooked meal, fruits and vegetables.
Invite the neighbor along to go to the pool. Let them watch healthy family interactions.
You know the kids I'm talking about.
Help them. Help them now.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Another timeline

June 15, 2011
Dude and Dolly joined our family and entered foster care.

May 10, 2013
Mr. Amazing and I officially hired a lawyer and intervened in the legal case of Dude and Dolly. With the encouragement of the judge and the GAL, we intended to adopt the pair. We were willing to have an open adoption with any family members that were safe and sober.

September 23, 2013
Dude and Dolly were given less than five hours to say goodbye to the only family they had ever really known. They were taken to live with a grandmother half-way across the state that they barely knew. My family suffered through horrible grief.

November 2013
The judge told us to not drop out of the case. He seriously didn't expect Grandma to keep things together in Dallas. He said to our lawyer, "Don't they want to adopt them?"

January 2014
After reading falsified and trumped up court reports, it became obvious that staying "in" the legal case with Dude and Dolly was futile. Mr. Amazing and I officially dropped out of the case and accepted a final bill from our lawyer. We assumed Grandma N in Dallas would be given PMC (Permanent Managing Conservatorship) at the court hearing January 27. With PMC granted they would be out of foster care, monitoring would stop and they would have legal permanency.

May 11, 2014
I called Great Grandma P (GGP) to wish her a Happy Mother's Day. We talked for a bit.
I learned a few things:
  • Dude and Dolly's bio mom is out of prison but is partying again.
  • Minnie saw GGP at bingo not too long ago and told GGP that she still sees the cherubs once a month in Dallas. She showed GGP some recent pictures. (Meaning Grandma N is still being monitored!)
  • Minnie told GGP that court is coming soon for the cherubs again. Bio Mom needs to get in contact with her.
  • GGP said that Bio Mom wants to go to Dallas to get the cherubs back.
  • GGP is going to go in to the CPS office and find out more about the next court hearing.
The part I can't stop thinking about is the fact that Grandma N, in Dallas, is still being monitored! Those cherubs still don't have permanency!!!

My mind is racing through about a million different scenarios. So many things could still happen. Here's one that has played through my mind a few times...
  1. Bio Mom goes to Dallas and gets the cherubs.
  2. Bio Mom brings the cherubs back to where we live.
  3. Bio Mom is still partying and she gets caught.
  4. Grandma N gets in trouble for allowing the cherubs to have contact with Bio Mom.
  5. The cherubs end up back in foster care.
I'm sickened by all of this. Don't ever believe all those guidelines and laws that say little children have permanency within a year of entering Care. It is a lie!

I asked Great Grandma P to call me if she does indeed get more information about the court hearing later this month. I'm so curious. I'm not in the case but I want to stay connected any way that I can.

"Oh snap!"

...Bart's reaction when he found out that
Pumpkin is STILL in foster care.


-----

January 2, 2011
Pumpkin came in to Care and was placed with us.

September 1, 2011
Court was held and Pumpkin was ordered to reunify with her bio mom.

September 2, 2011
Pumpkin went home to her mom.

September 12, 2011
Pumpkin was physically abused by her mother in the doctor's office.

September 13, 2011
Pumpkin came back to my home.

March 18, 2012
Pumpkin's aunt and uncle drove across the state to come meet with me to learn all about Pumpkin. They had expressed an interest in caring for Pumpkin from the very moment she came in to Care. But due to the fact they live many, many hours away, CPS would not seriously consider it and Bio Mom was not in favor of it.

August 22, 2012
Pumpkin's bio mom finally realized she was physically unable to care for Pumpkin. She agreed that it would be OK for Pumpkin to move to El Paso with her aunt and uncle. The court agreed.

September 21, 2012
After a month of waiting, I flew with Pumpkin and her CPS caseworker to finally make the permanent transition of Pumpkin to her aunt and uncle's.

some time in 2013
Pumpkin's biological mother died. (Pumpkin's bio dad is from Mexico and has never been involved in the CPS case at all!)

May 11, 2014
I got a text message from Pumpkin's aunt wishing me a Happy Mother's Day. She sent a lovely picture of Pumpkin and told me they hope to have PMC of Pumpkin on the 30th of this month.

It has been almost 3.5 years from the time Pumpkin came in to Care and she STILL does not have legal permanency! I have to pray that the courts wrap things up at the end of this month. Pumpkin's aunt and uncle deserve financial assistance if they are going to care for Pumpkin for the rest of her life. Pumpkin's aunt said they are still trying to figure that part out.

It makes me sad that they have to fight so hard for what they deserve and that even though Pumpkin doesn't know the difference, she's still in foster care.

Random thoughts about my mothering experiences


When I was 19 years old (23 years ago) I was a live-in nanny to two beautiful little girls. I'll never forget when the four-year-old told me, "I wish you were my mommy and Pam was my babysitter."

21 years ago I was busy falling in love with Mr. Amazing. I met his daughter a month later when we traveled to Florida for a quick vacation so I could meet her and he could propose to me.

19 years ago that little girl was visiting us in Iowa when I suffered my first pregnancy loss. (And yes, it was exactly 19 years ago today. I don't think a lot about that miscarriage anymore but this year the grief is back just a little.) That Mother's Day was incredibly difficult for me.

17 years ago I held Herman in my arms on Mother's Day and marveled at that tiny baby that knew only me as his mother.

14 years ago Mr. Amazing and I longed for another baby. My body didn't cooperate. I found out I was pregnant the last week of May 2000. Two weeks later that baby died too.

13 years ago I felt the tug to help families strong on my heart. Mr. Amazing and I started fostering not to add to our family permanently, but to be a support to other families and to help kids. The first kiddo in our home though was my cousin. Her mom and dad took us up on an offer of unconventional respite care and TreTre moved in with us. And then the state of Iowa lost our foster care application paperwork and training information. Everything "official foster care" was stalled but I didn't care as I threw myself into trying to help my cousin. (My cousin who just so happens to have been adopted at birth from foster care.)

Almost 11 years ago we held a license to foster in the State of Iowa but no children came. Our home was opened to foster on July 1, 2003 but we didn't get our first call until October of that year.

10 years ago I held a beautiful blond baby in my arms while I'm sure his biological mom grieved. TT was mine though and I was blessed.

9 years ago today I held Bart in my arms and could barely believe my life. I was sleep deprived and so incredibly happy. I was also about to embark on a journey across this country that would prevent us from fostering for several years. Mr. Amazing and I sold our house and his job took us to several states.

7 years ago we were living in a tiny 3 bedroom duplex. The call to foster was so strong on my heart but we simply didn't have the physical space to add any more children into our home. (Minimum standard rules and all.) But then Mr. Amazing reminded me of the teen in the other half of our duplex from the hurt places that I mentored and cared for. And the kids down the street that hung out at our house all the time. And all the lives I was touching.

5 years ago we were in the beginning processes of getting our foster care license again. The home that we purchased on the border of Mexico was three times the size of the tiny duplex. It only seemed right that we fill it with children.

And this year I'm something of an emotional mess. I'm thinking of the little boy we fostered in Iowa for 6 months. I'm thinking of TurtleTurtle and MissArguePants. I'm thinking of the little girl that stayed here for less than 24 hours before she got moved to a different foster home so she could be with her sister. I'm thinking of Pumpkin. My heart is heavy with grief over Dude and Dolly. (My family feels incomplete.) My heart remembers all the kids that came into my home for respite care. I hurt for Daisy and all that she has gone through and will continue to suffer through for the rest of her life. And I ache for Ricky whose mother cancelled their visit yesterday. Ricky can't even (legally) be with the mother-figure he loves because he's in foster care and "they" think he's in an inappropriate relationship.

But I'm happy and so incredibly blessed too!!

The first thing I saw this morning was the smile from Daisy who trusts me so completely. The first words out of TT's mouth were, "Happy Mother's Day". About an hour later Bart came down and the first words out of his mouth were, "Happy Mother's Day". It was special that my two youngest thought to say those words before anything else this morning. (Believe me...if you know Bart you understand the significance in that!) Ricky struggles with words but he came down this morning to see me and went straight over to the dishwasher to empty it before he ate his breakfast. He shows his love with gifts and acts of service. The dozen roses he gave me sit in the middle of the kitchen table and I love them! Mr. Amazing got me a yummy coffee and breakfast taco because he didn't want me to make my own breakfast (and boy do I love a Laredo Taco Company taco)!!!

Today is a beautiful day. I am surrounded by love. I wish I could share today in person with my own mother and the other mothers in my family that I love so much. My family lives 1255 miles away though so phone calls will have to do.

I hope that wherever you find yourself today you're happy and loved too. Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

We saw the neurologist

This post is mainly for me. I log this stuff so I can remember the details. It'll be a little dry and possibly a little snarky. I'm not in the most fabulous of moods today.

Daisy's appointment was at 10:15AM. We showed up just a little after 10:00AM. Bio Mom didn't roll in until closer to 10:30. And yes, I was praying she wouldn't show. I can't help myself. I'm just not in love with this co-parenting stuff this time around. I pushed for it like crazy with Pumpkin because I thought her mom was going to step up. (I didn't know there was a physical abuse problem in their family until 9 months in to the case.) But with Daisy...it's just awkward as Hell and I hate it. I do it. But I hate it.

I went solo to the appointment today - no social worker. The waiting room is so small. The doctor is so peculiar (all brain doctors are). And I just didn't want to tag on another person this morning.

We got called back to the room around 10:45 or so. Bio Mom held Daisy and they interacted in a normal way. I did the bulk of the talking and thankfully Bio Mom didn't contradict me with anything. The way this neurologist works is that you go back to the room and a nurse goes over EVERY single detail and concern. This nurse types it all in to the computer summarizing any concerns and reporting on development, behavior and any seizure activity.

Then the doctor comes in the room. The doctor sits down at the computer and reads what was written. Most of the time if he asks a question he directs it at the nurse...NOT me. Like I've said before, it took him an entire year when I had Pumpkin before he'd talk to me. It is the most bizarre of situations. But it's how he does things. I have it on good record that all brain doctors are a little strange so shopping to find a new one doesn't seem to be worth the trouble since I am established with this doctor and he does trust me enough to talk to me some now.

Today Dr. BrainMan read through Daisy's file and seemed pleased with her progress. He then started assessing her himself. He got up and walked in front of Daisy from side to side. Because he made noise, Daisy was able to audibly localize him and she tracked his movements. When I made mention of this, Dr. BrainMan went on to explain that because of Daisy’s young age, we are not to concern ourselves with how well she can or cannot see. We simply do not know how much sight she is going to recover.

Bio Mom was paying close attention here. I know she was tickled pink to hear Dr. BrainMan say, "Daisy can see". That's all she focused on and then she checked out so to speak.

Dr. BrainMan went on to explain that vision is a two part process. First part is overall eye health. Then it is up to the brain to decipher what it’s seeing. It is in this second part that Daisy is “stuck” if you will. We don’t know how much brain damage she suffered to the connection between her eyes and how she processes what she can see. And because of her young age, nothing can be determined in this area yet.

I knew...I just knew that Bio Mom wasn't paying attention to the "brain damage" part.

Sure enough she walked out of the doctor appointment and immediately made a call to Mr. CW demanding that Daisy go visit a real eye doctor. She's convinced Daisy can see and that's all she heard this morning from the neurologist.

She didn't even stay around to ask about the extended EEG that was ordered. On our way across the hall to schedule that she casually asked ME (not the doctor), what an EEG is. She didn't stay long enough to make the appointment. While standing at the window waiting for the schedule, Bio Mom looked at her watch and said she had to go. So...she was late to the appointment (granted, only by a little bit) and she had to dash out before everything finished. But on paper she looks good. She came to the appointment!

Mr. CW and I talked for awhile. He knows the reality of Daisy's condition. He told me that he pretty much just let Mom rant. If Bio Mom happens to involve her lawyer then we might have to *do* something. But for now, nothing is going to change.

Just to be on the safe side I drew up a detailed email going over all the information I have on Daisy's sight. I covered all the doctors we've seen, the diagnoses Daisy has been given and when our next appointments are. I also reiterated the "two parts" of being able to see: Daisy's eyes are healthy but because of the brain damage we do not know what she's actually able to see and process. I then made mention again that we know she's visually impaired due to the specific ways in which she is behind developmentally.

-----

Foster care sucks!

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The issues *I* discussed with Dr. BrainMan focused on the constant jerky movement on the left side of Daisy's body and her sleep issues. Dr. BrainMan made a LOT of sense when he said he wants to deal with the possible seizure side of things first as the two are likely related. He said, "We could do something about the sleep problem but that wouldn't address the seizure concerns so we'll address the possible seizure activity first and see if that resolves the sleep problems."

I am to give her a double dose of her seizure medication tonight only. I have NO IDEA why a one-time increase in meds will make a difference in the long-run but that's what I'm supposed to do.

Daisy is scheduled for an extended EEG next Friday. We'll be in the office together for 12+ hours. Bio Mom is not going to be allowed to attend this procedure as the laboratory has a strict policy of only one adult with the child and Bio Mom isn't allowed unsupervised contact. Mr. CW isn't even going to make in an option. For that I'm grateful. It will be better for Daisy to be with me for that vs. being with her Bio Mom anyway. Contact with Bio Mom stresses her out horribly. She won't sleep today and she's incredibly fussy after spending just over an hour with Mom at the doctor's office.

So, I really didn't get any answers today and nothing changed. But we'll know more after the EEG and we see Dr. BrainMan again in two months. If the double dose of seizure meds does happen to make a difference tonight, I will probably call the office to see if an increased dose of meds in general is in order.

As is typical with special needs kids, we just have to wait. Wait and see what happens next.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Grief sucks

"I liked it better when
Dude and Dolly were here."
Thoughts from the 6yo next door neighbor girl that I'm babysitting today.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Teen Trauma Holes

I really should be cleaning something, making dinner, or working on my freelancing right now. But My Genius Sister tasked me with a blog post she thinks I ought to write. And since the house is relatively quiet, I'm going to give it a try.

My Genius Sister used to be a social worker. She listens to all I have to say about Ricky's case and filters it through her experiences in the field. She says I need to write a post about the inadequacies of The System and how trauma takes a huge toll even on the "good" teens.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I struggle with how much I should say about parenting Ricky. He knows I blog. He could read it if he wanted to. Never do I want to say anything that could embarrass him. That's why I don't talk much about parenting Ricky and I talk mainly about how The System affects his case.

This post is going to have to cover a little of both though.

Ricky suffered 14.5 years of trauma. I've read in several places that it takes one year of stability for every year of trauma suffered to heal...and foster care does not count as stability. If that is the case, Ricky has a long, long way to go until he can recover from all of his early childhood experiences. I know healing started for Ricky when we went to live with Rebecca. He got off drugs. He got out of his dangerous lifestyle. He started going to school regularly. But it still wasn't stable enough to say that he was in permanency. The threat of removal was always there if CPS got involved. And that's exactly what happened.

So now Ricky is up to his eyeballs in "foster care" and the "aging out" process. He's still suffering the trauma of not having permanency. And don't let the fact that he's 17 years old lessen that trauma any. He deserves permanency just like Dude and Dolly did!!! He needs it in order to be able to move on in his life.

I feel like I'm hopping all over the place here. Bear with me. It should all come together in the end.

When The System got ahold of Ricky, "they" told me what a good kid he was. "They" told me he was an A/B student, he was in extra curricular activities, that he never got into trouble. "They" left off a LOT of details.

The System often does not want to factor in how deeply trauma affects ALL kids. It pains me how so many significant details get glossed over.

I was told Ricky had the goal of becoming a lawyer after high school and college. At first I believed The System when they acted like it was an attainable goal. I mean, he gets all A's and B's in high school.

But then I met Ricky and I got to see all the trauma holes that have affected his development.

And this is where I struggle with what to write. I want to go into detail and explain everything. I like to word vomit. But I really want to protect Ricky's right to anonymity and privacy. So you're just going to have to trust me. Without being disrespectful to Ricky, it is safe to say he has a LOT of what I call "trauma holes" that affect his day to day life. To me a trauma hole is a way to describe something that a "normal" kid would understand or be able to do but a kid from the hurt places doesn't understand or can't do it. It doesn't mean they aren't capable of learning things. It's just an area where they are behind right now. These trauma holes are often invisible to people that don't really know the child that suffered the trauma. And The System certainly doesn't know Ricky.

The System doesn't "know" very many of the clients they serve. Maybe the case worker is overworked with too many cases to manage. Maybe the case worker is burnt out. Maybe the supervisor wants The Department to look good so they do something that looks like family reunification on paper but is detrimental to the children. A lot of decisions are made by The System because they look good on paper. Even the best of case workers are limited in what they are allowed to do by rules made by people that do not know the children.

For example, CPS (the head of The Department down here...not Mr. CW...not Mr. CW's supervisor...but the head of The Department) changed the concurrent goals in Daisy's case from Relative Conservatorship / Non-Relative Adoption to Relative Conservatorship / Family Reunification simply because they wanted it to look like The Department was willing to work with the family. They were afraid this case would be high profile and possibly get attention from the media and they wanted The Department to look good. And yes, I was told this outright. And yes, it may now bite the caseworker (Mr. CW) in the ass because he's now forced to work with that Family Reunification goal despite the fact it's not really in Daisy's best interests.

Anyway...back to Ricky and The System...

I realize not every case worker is bad! Not every supervisor is bad! Not every goal for every kid is out of line. In Ricky's case, aging out probably is the best goal. But do you know what that actually looks like?

NO ONE is making sure Ricky's truly ready for independent living. The System still thinks Ricky could be a lawyer if he wanted to. The System doesn't know that he hasn't passed a standardized test the first time he takes it...like...ever. The System doesn't know that he struggles to understand interactions that are common in middle-class families. The System doesn't see his trauma holes, therefore, The System assumes everything is hunky-dory. They think he really is capable of becoming a lawyer and they aren't doing anything to help guide him in any other direction. The System basically checks off the boxes on their paperwork and moves on. 

Here's an example: Emilia was told by her supervisor to find out if anyone has talked to Ricky about sex. Emilia looked at me one time during a home visit and said, "Have you...um...talked about sex with Ricky?" When I answered, "yes," she moved on. She didn't double check anything. She didn't try to find out what I said or how he handled it. She simply moved on ignoring any trauma holes that he might have on the subject. She simply marked the check box on her home visit paperwork and that was that.

Maybe I had told Ricky that all sex is wrong. Maybe I gave Ricky a 3 hour shame session on homosexuality, sex outside of marriage or some other bullshit. The System doesn't know. They don't care.

And it's like that with everything.

Ricky has a bank account.
Check.
Ricky is in gymnastics.
Great - he's involved. Check.
Ricky goes to school every day.
Check.

But does Ricky understand money management?
No.
Does Ricky understand the contract I signed when he started gymnastics?
Doubtful.
Could Ricky get himself to school or a job everyday without his own transportation?
Unlikely.

So we've got a lifetime of trauma that isn't addressed by anyone really. I mean...I'm personally addressing as much as I can. But he's still in a situation without permanency and it's not all sticking. And the PAL training is good and all in theory. But having a kid put a condom on a wooden penis does not cover all there is with sex education. I'm sure every kid in the room checked out when they went over those details.

And this is happening to thousands of teens all over the country. The System doesn't understand how much even the best behaved of teens struggle. I guess they're up to their eyeballs in the ones that are making illegal decisions that the ones that behave fall straight through the cracks.

Another example: Emilia filled out the paperwork for Ricky to go to weekly counseling. Emilia is responsible for telling the counselor what they are supposed to talk about in said counseling sessions. It's literally not up to the counselor. They have to work within the guidelines that CPS sets forth. Emilia was told by The Department to make the goal for Ricky's counseling "find out if Ricky and Rebecca are having sex". I know this because Ricky's counselor told me this outright.  So here we have this fantastic teen that suffered 14.5 years of abuse and neglect. He's going to counseling. But the counselor isn't even supposed to address his real trauma. She's supposed to find out the answer to a question everyone has already answered for CPS. "No, they aren't having sex."

There's no good ending to this post. And maybe I didn't bring it all together in the end like I had wanted to. I just want more for Ricky. I hurt because intervention should have happened years and years ago in his family and it didn't. I hurt because I know his younger brother, Michael, is going to grow up IN foster care and I know what that means.

I hurt because foster care sucks.