Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The other reason I'm going to Iowa

Ever since My Genius Mother called me and asked if I thought TT and Bart could handle Cousins Camp without me physically there, we have had a HUGE dose of Mr. Wonky in our house. Both of my youngest cherubs immediately answered with a resounding yes! They wanted to go to Iowa and they didn't care if I came or not.

Methinks they have reconsidered.

It has been bad!

Rages. Tantrums. Things being thrown. People being hit, kicked and otherwise assaulted.

Did I mention the fact it's been bad?!

It's soooooooo hard to pinpoint exactly what the problem is. In fact, I don't always do that. My kids know that when they are dysregulated they can choose. They can come and talk to me about it and really try to figure out WHY they are dysregulated. Or...I can deal directly with the behavior only - which usually means making their world very small. (In other words, they get grounded.)

There are a LOT of reasons why my kids struggle in the summer.
  1. Less routine than normal.
  2. More neighborhood drama with all the other kids.
  3. A desire to play video games and/or watch TV that does not match what is allowed in our house.
  4. Dude and Dolly came to us June 15, 2011.
  5. The Summer from Hell (investigation) happened July/August 2012.
  6. Dude and Dolly got to go to Cousins Camp summer 2013.
  7. Dude and Dolly aren't in our family anymore. (This grief is still raw as we cycle through seasons and holidays for the first time without them.)
  8. Daisy's weekend visits, in general, worry my kids.
  9. CPS restricting our family from traveling together and the general frustration that brings to all of us.
  10. And of course, the general theme in our home because it's a constant trigger...foster care sucks.
As it looked like it was going to be more and more difficult to bring Daisy along just to drop my boys off at the border of Texas, it became more and more apparent that maybe I needed to go with my boys all the way to Iowa.

The temper tantrum Mr. CW's supervisor threw kinda synched the deal last night.

My Genius Dad is happy. He did NOT want to drive all the way down to Oklahoma to pick my boys up. My Genius Sister is happy. She gets to see me! (Yippee!) And in a sad way, I am happy too. I get to see my entire family...even My Genius Brother!

I'm so sad that I don't get to bring Daisy. I'm going to miss her terribly. Bringing her along was the only way I could really enjoy this summer's vacation.

But it is only 12 days. I will get a chance to get some sleep. I will get a chance to really play with my kids. And I will come back home ready to advocate for Miss Daisy with all my strength. There's a chance I might get called to testify when we go to court just four days after my return. I will need all my wits about me for that! (Granted, I'll probably spend those four days with Miss Daisy attached to my hip. But it's all good.)

Thank y'all for your constant support and validation. Sometimes I wonder if I make a bigger deal out of this stuff than I should. Sometimes it's nice to know I'm not alone in my frustration with this crazy System!!

They lie in the training sessions

You're brand new to fostering. You sit in these training sessions and learn a whole new language. Reunification. Visitation. Unsupervised. Termination. Case worker. Supervisor. Licensing. Spot checks. You take it all in; eager to learn.

They tell you stories about teenaged girls making up lies about the men in the home because they want moved. They tell you to expect the unexpected. You learn how to stay safe and how best to protect the new cherubs you're going to be caring for.

And then you hear things like, "Make them a part of your family. Bring them on vacations. Include them. Let these cherubs have the experiences they're unlikely to get anywhere else. Just let us know and we'll approve it. It's easy."

Under the trainer's breath you might hear, "Unless it conflicts with a visit. Then we have to work around that. But it's easy to do. You can travel and visits will get scheduled to accommodate."

But the big and loud party line is, "Include them. It's easy."

And then there is reality....

(I'm still really pissed off so this might be longer and wordier than absolutely necessary.)

Every summer I take my kids to my parents' house and they go to Cousins Camp. All the cousins over age two attend and many camp memories are made. My Genius Mother works very hard to plan wonderful excursions and fun things to do at home. This year camp is approximately five days long (I think) and it is filled with all kinds of exciting adventures. The kids are going on a scenic train ride, attending the Iowa State Fair, going to Living History Farms, and going swimming at a water park. I will not take this experience away from my kids. It's a trip we make every year.

This year I started by asking if I could bring Daisy with me. She's too young to really participate of course. But I believe she would be best cared for by me and I wanted to bring her along. However, it would involve missing one weekend visit (47 hours) with her biological mother, Kori.

CPS immediately told me no.

Then, after I pushed a little, they told me I could ask Kori. If she said yes, maybe the trip could be considered.

Kori prayed about it but didn't have a peace with it. She too said no.

So I altered my plans. I didn't want to put Daisy in respite care. I just don't feel comfortable placing her with a stranger for 12 days. I know it's probably not a big deal to some people. But to me, it is. So I changed my plans. I would drive my boys to the TX/OK border and drop them off with my mom. Daisy would ride along with me so that I could continue to meet all her needs and she would be with people she knows and are comfortable with. Then after I dropped TT and Bart off, we would turn around and head back home. Mr. CW didn't think this would be a problem at all. I even mentioned something about this short trip (less than 48 hours and within the state of Texas) to Daisy's lawyer. She seemed unphased.

But then reality hit.

Mr. CW asked his supervisor yesterday about the travel. Despite Texas minimum standards stating that "technically" I don't even have to ask permission for travel less than 48 hours long and within the state, I still have to ask. And then Mr. CW has to get an OK from his supervisor. Then a travel log goes to the lawyers to get signed. Then a judge has to sign his OK.

All for a two-day trip within the state.

Mr. CW's supervisor said NO.

Mr. CW pushed him a little. Supervisor still said NO. He said that Daisy's medical needs would be best met if she stayed here in respite care.

Mr. CW even went so far as to remind Supervisor that Daisy is only a "moderate" and that Supervisor already made a big deal about Daisy's medical needs not being that concerning. Surely this two day travel could be approved.

Mr. CW reported to me that things got very intense and his supervisor actually got hot under the collar. It was a NO!! No travel allowed. Supervisor would rather Daisy go to respite care.

I cried. (Mr. CW felt so bad for me.)

I just want to take care of this baby in the manner that is best for her. But I can't do that at the expense of my forever kids. They get to go to Iowa.

They can't fly. Too expensive.
My parents can't drive all the way down here to get them. It takes too long.
And the idea of respite so I can drive for 10+ hours and then drive 10+ hours back home seemed ridiculous.

I have decided to do the thing I hate most. I'm putting Daisy in respite and I'm going to drive my boys all the way to Iowa myself, stay for vacation, and then drive back. Daisy will be out of my care for 12 days/11 nights.

I know it's only 12 days. But I'm sick, just a little, thinking about it. Would you put your baby in care with a stranger like that if you didn't have to?

I contacted a foster mom licensed through my agency that I know OK enough down here. Karen recently just opened her home again after being closed for awhile following a recent adoption. Our agency pays horribly for respite and Daisy has special needs. Karen agreed to take Daisy though for the time I am gone. She doesn't do this for the money and I take solace in that. Daisy definitely won't get the same level of personal care she gets while in my home. She will go to a strange day care. But I have to let go and be OK with that too. It's less than two weeks.

Thankfully my new licensing agency worker ('cause yeah...I've got a new one again), has no problem with Daisy going to Karen's house for respite. All I have to do is send her the dates and she'll take care of the necessary paperwork.

It just kills me this is how it worked out though.

It's not necessary.

Even the minimum standards don't make it sound that difficult to travel.

Foster care sucks!!


-----

For those of you wondering why Mr. Amazing can't just watch her...
  1. Daisy would have to go to a strange day care during the day anyway.
  2. We would have to pay for this strange day care out of our own pockets and it would be expensive.
  3. She will be horribly "messed up" in the evenings and probably won't settle down for Mr. Amazing because she will still wonder where I am and where her brothers are.
  4. Being messed up like this will cause her sleep to become horribly disruptive.
  5. Mr. Amazing needs his sleep so he can stay safe on his job (which is getting increasingly more dangerous by the day).
  6. In the long run, respite care costs us less and will disrupt Daisy less than bouncing back and forth between a new day care and an empty home with just Mr. Amazing.
Foster care still sucks!!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Still no news to report

I've had some people comment that what I've experienced as a foster parent is almost too much to believe.

Trust me. I know. I've lived it.

The drama is exhausting!

Thank y'all for your prayers this past weekend! It seems the concerns that CPS had were not valid *this weekend*. They did surprise Kori at home to check on their concerns. But Kori was not in violation of anything and Daisy remained with her for the rest of the visit. (Well...I'll pick her up from the visit in about 6.5 hours.)

The drama is still quite high. I've got some minor things I'll have to report after I pick Daisy up tonight. (She has flea bites ALL over her!) And who knows, these visits might still get cancelled by the lawyers. I honestly don't now everything that is going on legally.

But for now I'm confident in saying that Daisy is safe. And to me, that's the most important detail.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Prayer Request

I have to be vague. MAJOR things are happening in Daisy's case. I am asking for all of Daisy's prayer warriors to send up mighty requests from now until the weekend visit is over next Monday. Please pray for safety for Daisy and that the adults in this case face justice.

I promise I'll keep y'all posted. For now I do have to be vague. But things...they are a changin'.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The visit is still on

Nothing happened today. Daisy will still leave tomorrow night to spend 47 hours with her mom. I believe Mr. CW is popping in this weekend. But for the most part, these visits are unsupervised. 

So, for now, nothing is changing. We will see what happens next week. Court is only a month away and I'm sure it is going to be very interesting. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Vague booking

OK...it seems my vague booking has sparked a lot of interest.

I feel like I need to be VERY careful with what I post. That's why I MIGHT go private. I still haven't decided yet. I'm a creature of habit and I don't really want to mess with my blog and FB settings. I want to keep on blabbering like I have been for years.

I promise, if I go private I'll invite y'all along.

It seems everyone wants to know what happened today.
I'm not private yet so I guess I'll spill a little.

Last week Kori, Daisy's mom, had some difficulties describing Daisy's condition to the doctor when we were there for a follow-up. I passed along this information to both Mr. CW and Daisy's lawyer. These difficulties describing Daisy's condition point to Kori's level of denial.

Kori also felt the need to defend Bio Dad to the doctor.
And to Mr. CW for the hundred millionth time.

Denial...more than just a river in Egypt.

Daisy's lawyer wants to stop the weekend visits immediately.

Also, CPS is under the authority of a new head-head-honcho (HHH). The last HHH left to explore new employment opportunities with all the undocumented children crossing the border daily where I live. The last HHH is the one that changed the concurrent goal in Daisy's case to family reunification. Neither Mr. CW or his supervisor were in favor of this concurrent goal change but they couldn't do anything about it. The HHH made the switch back in March.

Well...Daisy's case just got staffed with the new HHH this week. The new HHH is VERY upset with all the things that have gone "wrong" in Daisy's case so far. She insists that the primary goal in this case remain relative conservatorship. She is not in favor of reunification at all. In fact, if the judge won't let them play with that primary goal, she wants to change the goal in the case to termination.

Keep in mind there are NO relatives stepping forward or approved to take Daisy permanently. Relative conservatorship (in Texas) means that a family member assumes full guardianship of the child but parental rights are not terminated. However, the guardianship is permanent unless the bio parent hires a lawyer to fight to get their kid back at a later date. It's also called PMC (permanent managing conservatorship).

I was officially asked today if we would consider being an adoptive resource for Miss Daisy.

I answered that we lean more toward "yes" than toward "no" when it comes to adoption.

Internet safety

Daisy is the first cherub I've had with a bio parent that actively uses the internet.

Due to some recent events that have happened and are brewing, I think I need to bring this blog down.

I'm incredibly concerned that Kori will stumble across things and I could get in foster care trouble. I use fake names but I am just a wee bit of a blabbermouth.

I don't want to be done blogging. I enjoy the community and support. And I get a lot of private messages from people considering becoming foster parents thanking me for my brutal honesty.

But I'm a bit afraid that brutal honesty could get me in trouble.

If I disappear, please know that everything is OK. I'm only doing this to protect Daisy and my family from potential problems.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fighting for every service...Part Two

See this post for the first part of the timeline.

I've been trying to get VI (Vision Impairment) services for Daisy since February 20, 2014 when the referral was sent to ECI (Early Childhood Intervention - a division of Easter Seals). I just found out today that the referral has finally been sent to the VI teacher at the schools. Of course, the schools are closed for the month of July so I won't hear anything until August.

But let me back up. Let me fill you in from May 19, 2014, when I left off on the other timeline.

On May 19, I had just spoken with Daisy's ECI case manager about the $50 fee the eye doctor wanted to fill out that super special form stating Daisy's visual impairment. She assured me she would talk to her supervisor about it and get back with me.

June came and went and the ECI case manager never called me or came to the home for her (required) monthly visit. I did see the Specialized Skills Trainer though on June 5. She encouraged me to call her supervisor and leave a message.

I called and left a message.
No reply.
I called back and left a very strongly worded message.

The supervisor finally called me back mid-month. She did some song and dance and tried to make it seem like all this was normal. I laid in to her pretty hard. I expressed the fact that the ONLY reason I wanted ECI involved with Daisy was because of these VI services. I expressed my concerns about how long this process had taken. I reminded her that I started this process in February and it was already four months later and nothing had happened at all concerning VI services.

The supervisor continued to sing and dance. When I hung up I didn't really feel like any progress had been made.

Sometime toward the end of the month the supervisor did call me back to tell me that they had finally gotten a purchase order approved for the $50 so this super special form could get filled out.

I just got a phone call this afternoon from Daisy's ECI case manager. She said they had received the super special form from the eye doctor and she had passed it along to the school district so Daisy could be referred for VI services. This case manager told me she left information with at least three different people in the school district.

The school district is closed for the month of July.
The case manager's last day with ECI is the 31st of this month.
I have to pray that someone does something because I don't have the name and number of the new case manager for Daisy nor do I have a name and number for any of the VI specialists in the school district.

It's going to take over six months to get these services started. In my opinion that is completely unacceptable. And I know I'll be lucky if anything actually starts in August.

You have to fight for every single service a special needs child requires.  It is exhausting.

Give a special needs parent a hug the next time you see them. Trust me. They need it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

the truth about travel

Traveling with foster kids has become a sore spot with me over the years here in Texas. The program definitely doesn't function how it's advertised!

Three summers ago, 2011, we had Pumpkin only. The first time we wanted to travel with her we had planned on taking her camping for two whole nights. It was a complete fiasco. (There are several posts detailing the whole story. Post one. Post two. Post three.) Basically, I was told "no" on the travel for several different reasons including Pumpkin's health and Bio Mom's opposition to the travel.

I believe respite should be readily available for foster parents to use if it fits their needs. But for me, I want to include my foster kids in ALL our activities. That means I want permission to bring all my kids with me. Well, that camping trip three years ago got cancelled. We ended up putting Pumpkin in respite and we went to an amusement park instead (something Pumpkin could not have participated in anyway). It made me mad though. So incredibly mad.

Things didn't get any better. On June 15, 2011 Dude and Dolly entered into our lives. Our vacation to Iowa had been planned and we weren't going to take any placements. But the cherubs needed us. We were the only home available. I was told if they didn't come to us they were going to be put in a shelter in Dallas. They were 2 and 3 when they came. I couldn't imagine sending babies to a shelter that far away from home!!

Come July that year though, and no way no how were we going to get permission to travel with Dude and Dolly. Sure, they had just been placed with us. Their world was completely upside down. Mom wasn't making a single visit. They needed us!! But travel outside the state?! Hell no would that even be considered!!! I was forced to put them in respite because I wasn't going to deny my forever kids the vacation they had been promised.

Summer 2012
The summer from Hell.
The investigation.
We went to Iowa after the kids had been taken from us. It was on the drive home that I got the phone call clearing us of any wrong-doing. 

Summer 2013
Pumpkin had moved on. Dude and Dolly weren't having any visits. I had enough time to get permission and, Praise God, it was granted. We got to take the cherubs to Iowa for Cousins Camp. We had a blast!!!

Summer 2014...

I knew asking to travel was a complete long shot. Daisy gets visits. Travel is always complicated when visits are involved because my schedule is supposed to completely revolve around all visits. And, considering the big picture, these visits are a top priority and they should be factored in. I get that.

But I took that long-shot and I asked Mr. CW if there would be any way at all that I could bring Daisy with me to Iowa so TT and Bart could attend Cousins Camp.

Mr. CW is awesome. He went to bat for me and really pled my case to his supervisor. But because the trip takes us out of state, and because Daisy would miss one weekend with her mom, he couldn't get an answer. At best, Mr. CW said, we could ask Kori for permission. If she granted permission for Daisy to travel, he'd try to get the lawyers and judge to agree. But without her permission, it would be no go for sure!

I worked it into a text conversation with Kori. She asked questions about where and for how long and then said she would "have to pray about it".

I gave Kori a few days and then said I needed to begin making preparations. She told me that she "didn't have a peace about it" and wouldn't grant permission for Daisy to travel with me out of state.

And this is where I get my britches in a bunch. Yes, Kori has been working her case plan. Yes, based on how this case is currently being handled, Kori deserves to see her daughter. But in the grande scheme of things, this affects 47 hours of Kori's life.

I told Kori I had three options:
  1. Put Daisy into respite care where she would stay with strangers so I could go on vacation with my kids.
  2. Not go on vacation with my kids. Instead, get permission (from CPS) to travel with Daisy to the border of Texas where I will drop TT and Bart off with my mom who will then bring them the rest of the way.
  3. Disrupt this placement and go on vacation.
I honestly considered all three options very seriously.

I went round and round. In the end, even though it's not what is best for me, I chose option Number Two because that is what is best for Daisy. I don't have a deep support system locally and I don't have anyone that is approved for respite care in my circle of friends. I couldn't bring myself to place her with strangers. I've met enough of the foster families around here to know that I just wouldn't be comfortable with that. Not to mention the fact that my agency is having a Hell of a time finding respite care so I'd have to take whoever they give me as a willing provider.

I'm not thrilled with this decision. I hate the fact that Kori is totally OK with placing her daughter with strangers for 11 days versus keeping her in the safe, loving foster home she's in now. I had to laugh, but Kori asked me three times if it would be OK for her to just take Daisy while we are on vacation. She simply doesn't understand why her daughter is in foster care and honestly believes that she should just be able to take her if I'm going out of town. I believe she even filed a formal request for this with her own lawyer. If this request makes it off of Kori's lawyer's desk, it will be immediately shot down by Daisy's lawyer - I've been told this in no uncertain terms.

But I do believe I'm doing what's in Daisy's best interests. She doesn't need to go stay with strangers. I can't imagine sending a baby to go stay with strangers. And if Daisy does go home in August, just four days after my cherubs return from vacation, we'll turn around and go back to Iowa together sometime this fall. Homeschooled kids can travel whenever they want. But if Daisy stays with us after court, I know that remaining her primary care giver was in her best interests.

They certainly don't make travel sound so complicated in the training sessions though. Respite sounds easy and pleasant. And those glossy brochures talk about giving kids opportunities to experience things they wouldn't get to otherwise. It's a shame that the reality of what I'm allowed to do with my foster kids has to be so different.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The magic rattle

I'm pretty sure all my readers know how Daisy got in the developmental condition that she's in. The story I've been told is that Bio Dad tripped over a baby bouncer and dropped her. Then, when she didn't respond, he shook her a couple times. Then he performed CPS incorrectly.

That story doesn't match up at ALL with the level of damage done in Daisy's brain.
  1. She has a broken rib that had healed before the injury happened that brought her in to Care.
  2. Her retinas detached. Even though they have reattached
    and her eyeballs themselves are healthy, she suffers from cortical visual impairment.
  3. She had severe bleeding in the brain, has had multiple cranitotomies,
    and has a VP shunt installed.
  4. She is significantly developmentally behind.
Daisy has been in our home for 6.5 months. In those 6.5 months I have "gotten used to" Miss Daisy. In general, she is relatively easy to care for (especially now that we have the muscle spasms that were complicating her sleep taken care of). Coordinating all the therapies and doctor appointments is just part of life. Special needs is no walk in the park. But it's our life right now.

Just the other day, during occupational therapy, it struck me once again about how far behind Daisy is though. Two grown women (the OT and me) were down on the floor putting Daisy in the quadruped position (up on all fours) and then literally moving her arms and legs for her to simulate crawling. In order for Daisy to learn each physical milestone, we have had to put Daisy into position and then move her body for her. Over and over. And over and over. And over and over. (wash. rinse. repeat.) We have to put her muscles into position and then train them all over again. I can't count how many times we put Daisy in the sitting position and held her there, putting her arm down to simulate how she should prop herself up, before she could do it on her own. And she was put in the quadruped position probably 1000 times before she stopped complaining about it and can now get in that position on her own. Therapy has advanced to moving her arms and legs for her so she will eventually learn to crawl on her own.

Babies shouldn't have to be taught how to crawl like this.

But Daisy's brain doesn't work the way it should.

This is our life.

I sat in my living room the other day with another shaken baby survivor. A friend of mine (in real life) fostered when she lived where I do. She has since moved further north and ended up being placed with a relative's baby that had been injured severely. She is back down here visiting family and friends and I was thrilled she stopped by to see us! Little J is exactly one day younger than Miss Daisy. He was shaken about a month before Daisy was. His medical records confirm that he was shaken multiple times. (The scarring on his brain and eyes are indicative of multiple abuses.)

Little J barely knows that his arms and legs exist. He can't sit up. He can barely hold his head up. He's more visually impaired than Daisy is as he really doesn't track objects at all. I felt a level of "survivor's guilt" because Daisy is so much farther along than he is.

It's amazing how different the services Little J is receiving are compared to Daisy's. He's really being shortchanged in the therapy department. His mamma is fighting hard to get him in to a new pediatrician and hopefully private therapies. I did my best to show her things that we were taught to do with Miss Daisy.

One of the things I did was explain how you have to teach the muscles what to do by doing it for them. Since Little J is so incredibly far behind, we talked about teaching Little J to roll over. Start with the head and push it to the side. Then touch the shoulder and push it a little. Eventually, touch the hips and give a gentle push, if necessary, so the body will roll over. Then you position the arms under the head to help him hold his trunk up a little. Tickle the back of his neck to get him to lift his head up. Always start each movement by touching the muscles you want the baby to activate. This tactile stimulation will help them learn what to do after you repeat the motion many, many times.

Then I got out my very favorite rattle. This rattle is 17 years old. I couldn't even tell you where it came from. But there's something special about it. It's the first rattle any baby in my home, ever, has held. It's balanced perfectly. It's the right diameter. It's just perfect.
Now, I think it's magic.

I had put every rattle we own in Daisy's hands when she first came. I'd put the toy in her hands, wrap her fingers around it and then pray that she would hang on. At best she'd move her arm once or twice and the toy would simply drop out.

Then one day in February, while my parents were visiting, my mom got some toys out for Daisy while she was in the high chair. My mom put the magic rattle in Daisy's hand and she held on. I remember getting all choked up. Daisy was holding on to a rattle. She kept it in her hand for over a minute. It was awesome!!

I knew I had to get that rattle out for Little J. As he was lying on the floor I took his hand and opened up his tight fist. I put the rattle in and closed his hand around the middle. Little J hung on.

His mamma teared up. This was the first time Little J had ever held on to anything.

I know that feeling.

14 month old babies shouldn't have to be taught how to hold on to a rattle.

So consider this my Public Service Announcement.
If you're tired, stressed or otherwise unable to handle your infant's crying, screaming or whatever....put that baby down in a safe place and WALK AWAY. Just walk away!

No baby should have to go through this.
(Little J took that rattle home with him.)