Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"thank you for protecting children"

Our local B.A.C.A. chapter had another Level 1 "adoption" ceremony this past Sunday. The little girl that needs our support lives almost two hours away. Because TT had a major homework assignment he needed help with, I had to stay home to wrangle the kids. Mr. Amazing went on his motorcycle though and was a part of the process to empower this wounded child so she can testify against her abuser.

Following the Level 1 ceremony, a bunch of B.A.C.A. members went out to lunch together.

It's a unique experience going out in "public" as a large group of bikers. After all, "bikers" have a reputation and not everyone knows what B.A.C.A. stands for. All they see is a group of people wearing their cuts (vests) and they don't know any better. Sometimes it's a bit intimidating.

B.A.C.A. members are required to "look the part". Even though the entire organization is built on the idea of non-violence, we are supposed to look like bikers. Khakis, a polo, brown loafers, and a scooter won't cut it.
Mr. Amazing and another member of our chapter were sitting together at a table. While eating, a young girl approached them and said, "Thank you for protecting children." Everyone was quite touched. I believe they were able to give this girl a few temporary tattoos that said B.A.C.A. on them. (We often keep things like this in our vests to give to kids at Level 1 ceremonies and other "kid" events.) I got goosebumps when Mr. Amazing told me the story. I'm so proud to be a part of this organization!

The very next day, our chapter received a referral via the international B.A.C.A. website.

Apparently, the young girl that thanked my husband has a big sister that was with her that afternoon. When the young girl approached the B.A.C.A. members, all her big sister could do was sit back and cry.

According to the email that was sent in, the big sister has recently been abused. She's awaiting information on the trial that is to come. She's scared to death to have to testify. The child's parent asked if we, B.A.C.A., could go with her to court.

Our organization will now vet the situation. We require that anyone we help be involved in the legal system. We are not vigilantes. We work WITH the police and other law enforcement. We meet with the family and make sure our organization is a fit for what they need.

These are the kinds of kids we want to help though. Hopefully we will be able to bring her into our fold. We will help her see that we've got her back. We'll be a part of her life as long as she needs us and we will all show up in the courtroom when she has to testify.

I firmly believe God sent our B.A.C.A. chapter to that very restaurant at that very time so this connection could be made. That gives me goosebumps too.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

what I know about Dude and Dolly

Several people have asked me on this. I don't have much of an answer.

I've sent a text message to Great Grandma P. She told me she's trying to get ahold of some relative in the Dallas area that knows Bio Mom and Grandma N (who has Dude and Dolly). GGP hasn't messaged me again.

I sent a Facebook message to the one relative I "know" in the Dallas area. This is a maternal cousin to the kids. GGP had connected me to this person last year. She messaged me back and said she didn't know anything about the situation. It's obvious she has little to no contact with Dude and Dolly.

I continue to stalk Bio Mom's public Facebook page. This was her status yesterday:
I'm so blessed to have my family and my love ones back thru thick and thin ..I love u my kiddos I miss u too ...but today was a special day had a blazed......with (Grandma N) (Dolly) and (Dude), me my bby and hubby.......muahhh I love youuuuuuu?!!?????
SIDE NOTE: Bio Mom has had two babies after Dude and Dolly. Baby Zippy came in to Care when I still had Dude and Dolly but was placed with an aunt - sister to Bio Mom. Bio Mom is parenting her fourth child. The baby referenced in her post above is the one she has custody of. The "hubby" she mentions is of no relation to Dude and Dolly. Their bio dad is back in prison.

Bio Mom still lives in Houston. Her contact with Dude and Dolly is incredibly sporadic. I know that according to a FB status Bio Mom posted back in September that she didn't even know how to find Dude and Dolly in Dallas.

Apparently Grandma N is still alive. I know nothing of her health status. I have to assume that the children are still in her care and haven't been put back in foster care.

I probably won't hear anything again from anyone. I'm not going to go out of my way to do anything myself about this. I have to trust that the cherubs are safe. As far as I am concerned, nothing is any different today than it was over 2 years ago when they left me. All I can do is pray for the children and move on with my own life.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sometimes I say no

I thought it was funny yesterday that the Internet totally has me pegged as someone that always says yes.

So, with the goal of keeping things real, I'm going to explain why we said "no" to respite over Thanksgiving. I'm not saying this to defend myself. This is just to help others that do respite and/or foster care understand why WE chose to say no this time. And maybe to help others see that it's OK to say no sometimes, themselves.

The young man (I'm going to call him Bryan) in question is 14 years old. Bryan's current foster family is going to be gone over Thanksgiving at a wedding. I don't know WHY they aren't taking him with them. All I know is that Rainbow, at my licensing agency, asked if we could do respite for Bryan.

Rainbow explained that this young man is rather significantly developmentally delayed. I called her to ask more about him after we had our text conversation yesterday. When I forced her to peg him at a developmental age, she guessed Bryan functions around the age of a 9 year old or so. She said he talks quiet and slow, but that he talks a lot. And he doesn't like to throw anything away. He's independent (i.e. I wouldn't have to help him with self care). But he is slow in general. She indicated a past with his family of origin that speaks of significant neglectful supervision. The more Rainbow said, the more I understood why his foster family might not want to bring him to a wedding.


This is where I'm going to have an aside and I'm going to talk about respite care in general.

Respite is NOTHING like doing foster care. I've seen countless of people online advise others that are thinking about doing foster care to do respite first. Tell them to "get their feet wet".

In my opinion, respite doesn't do that. Respite is babysitting. That is all it is. You don't get involved with the case. Shoot - I don't usually get all the information about why the child is in Care when we take a respite placement. I don't know how many moves they've had or what things they struggle with. I know nothing of the biological family and who the child has contact with and who they've lost. I'm simply asked to care for a foster child so I can give their current foster family a break.

Granted, this respite babysitting is caring for a child from the hurt places. The child has extreme baggage simply because they are in foster care - and all foster care is because of trauma and all foster care IS trauma. If I push, I might find out possible triggers and some of the reason why the child is in Care to begin with. So it's not like babysitting my nephew or the next door neighbor. But it's not the same as doing full foster care.

It's also very short term. And when I don't know the kid, that means a lot of energy goes in to helping the kid on respite to fit in to our home and to be comfortable. I can't overwhelm them with rules. And since they don't know us, they don't know our expectations. They can't read my body language. They don't know the things that make our family tick.

I enjoy doing respite sometimes. I like giving a kid some time off from expectations. We've had some very fun respite placements.

But doing respite is exhausting for me. Someone I barely know drops off their child in my home - usually with barely a goodbye - and then it's up to me to figure out what to do next. I've had kids dropped off at my home that didn't speak English. I've had kids dropped off without even the most basic of necessities that should have been provided by their current family. No pajamas. Not enough diapers. Once I had a baby dropped off in a car seat that was obviously worn out and still had the sticker on it from the garage sale the foster family had purchased it at. I "make" $10 a night taking in a child for respite. That baby stayed two nights I think. The new car seat I had to buy, because I wasn't about to use the piece of garbage that was left with her, cost me $60. I lost money big time. And while I'm certainly not in this for the money, I don't appreciate having to dole out my own funds because foster parents that are still receiving their full per diem decided to not send an appropriate bag with the child.


Now...back to Bryan...

Bryan is developmentally delayed. He functions at an age younger than TT and Bart. However, he's 14 years old. He's going to know he's older than TT and Bart. I'm pretty sure he's going to want to hang out with them and do the things they're allowed to do. I know this would make for some interesting dynamics. I know it would force me to stay VERY hyper aware of those three kids for the whole time Bryan is here. I know that hypervigilance would wear me out!

TT suffered a concussion 2.5 weeks ago while at football practice. In order to help him heal, he's had to stop doing everything that he loves to do. No football. No TV. No video games. The concussion caused some personality changes. For about a week or so he was super angry and irritable.

Then I thought about how my already angry/depressed 12 year old is going to be on a week off from school. And I thought about how he would mesh with a 14 year old he doesn't know that brings his own personality challenges to the party.

And then I thought about how tired I already am because Miss Star is such a lousy sleeper at night. And how Russell wakes up super early causing even more lack of sleep for me.

Couple all that exhaustion with what I know it would take to keep Bryan, TT, and Bart happy...and I got a headache just thinking about it.

So I messaged back to Rainbow this morning and told her no.


Now...y'all have me pegged pretty good. Because I did tell her to contact us if they can't find a respite home. I wouldn't want to leave a foster family in the lurch and make them miss a wedding. (Maybe Bryan doesn't have permission to travel. Maybe the wedding doesn't allow any children in attendance. I don't know.)

I told Rainbow I felt bad but that right NOW, I can't commit to doing respite care for Bryan.


I'm not opposed to doing foster care over Thanksgiving. If Bryan had been a girl this probably would have gone completely different. The dynamics wouldn't have been the same. An older child or a younger child would change things too. These specific dynamics were something I didn't want to deal with though.

And it's not that my boys would have been rotten or anything like that. But it would have been a place where my boys would feel it necessary to include Bryan and it's likely that Bryan wouldn't be allowed to do what they want to do (go over to a friend's house) or might not be able to do what they were doing (play outside with a large group of kids). And if Bryan's not doing what they are, that means it's up to me to keep Bryan occupied and I'm not up for that right now.

It is what it is. Sometimes we have to say no. And that's OK.


Rainbow messaged me back later this morning to say that they found a good home for Bryan to go to over Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thanksgiving traditions

This is off topic...but I sort of brought it up when I mentioned in the last post that we eat different food at Thanksgiving. Our tradition seems to make people curious and I tend to get a lot of comments on my personal Facebook when we talk about how we do Turkey Day. So, I'll share our tradition here.  :)

Most importantly, I want to state that I try to live a life of Thanksgiving. Every prayer we pray in our family starts off with the things we are thankful for. We praise God, give thanks for things in our life, and then ask for help. This is our daily attitude.

When it comes to Thanksgiving though, the actual holiday, I could take it or leave it.

I like family coming together and all that jazz. But I don't much care for turkey. I don't eat gravy. I don't like stuffing. And other than mashed potatoes, I don't look forward to any other "traditional" Thanksgiving foods.

When Mr. Amazing and I first got married, all our Thanksgivings were at either his parents' house or mine. Of course we ate all the traditional foods. I wouldn't dream of complaining either. When we had our first Thanksgiving alone though, I think I served ham.

For almost 10 years now, we've lived far away from family. Thanksgiving is usually just the five of us along with any bonus cherubs living in our home. Neighbors have come over - typically extra kids anyway. And Mr. Amazing has had people come over from work too. I don't remember when it started exactly, but our tradition is to serve anything BUT traditional Thanksgiving food.

We start planning our theme sometime in October. We toss all sorts of ideas around. It's a fun dinnertime conversation. Once we finally decide on a theme, we then spend a few weeks talking about all the foods that we can make within that theme. I go ALL OUT. I make TONS of food. But it's not traditional.

Past themes have included:

STEAK HOUSE: ribeye steaks, loaded baked potatoes, salad, fresh rolls, etc.
ITALIAN: an antipasto platter, several different pasta dishes, salads, garlic bread, tiramisu, etc.
DINER: three different slider burgers, onion rings, milkshakes, etc.
BREAKFAST: pancakes, baked French toast, fruit sauce, muffins, etc.
BBQ (we've done this a few times): ribs, brisket, chicken, sausage, beans, creamed corn, etc.
TRADITIONAL: ok....ok...we did do a traditional Thanksgiving one year - only the turkey was smoked by Mr. Amazing on his pit

Last year was Porksgiving....all things pork. Mr. Amazing smoked a pork shoulder and most of the side dishes had some form of pork in them. We had bacon green beans, sausage-filled baked beans, bacon cornbread, and more.

This year we're calling it Appsgiving. I'm serving appetizers all day long. The menu is not 100% set in stone. I'm not sure if I'm going to serve it as a "meal" where we actually all sit down together. Or if I'm just going to keep cranking out food all day long and we're just going to graze. So far, the list looks like this:
mini cinnamon rolls
monkey bread
mini sausage rolls
chocolate chip cheeseball with graham crackers
spinach artichoke dip
white pizza dip
bacon-wrapped little smokies
potato skins
shrimp cocktail
deviled eggs
pizza pinwheels
grilled chicken skewers
fried chicken fingers
mini banana-split pies
pumpkin cheesecake shooters
Oreo fluff shots

There might be more. There might be less.  :)  I do love to cook like I'm feeding a million people.

And now I'll end this post like I do every one I put on my personal Facebook....y'all are welcome. If you're anywhere close to the border of Mexico, send me an email. I'll tell you who I really am and I'll give you my address. You're more than welcome to come over and share some of our abundance.

Happy Appsgiving!! 

Text conversation between me and Rainbow

Hi :)

Oh boy. Now what?!

Would you be so kind as to do respite for one of our boys during Thanskgiving? It would be 11/25 - 11/28.

Who's being such an asshat that they can't include their foster kids on Thanksgiving?

He's 14...Low functioning but independent. No behaviors...he just talks a lot and likes to collect paper.
Ha ha ha they are going out of town that week for a wedding :(

I don't know.
Can he sleep downstairs? Is he a flight risk?

Not a flight risk at all. Very good kid. Just needs a night light.

I'm going to have to think about it. Not sure I want to complicate those days off really.
It's always stressful to bring in a kid we don't know. And since it's over the holiday, I'm going to be busy.
Also, we don't do traditional Thanksgiving. He will probably be a little freaked out by our food choices.

OK. We just really want him in a home that we know he will be welcomed especially over the holidays.

Way to tug at my heart strings.

To be honest, I don't know how much of a holiday he has ever had.

You're killing me.

Haha. Sorry. Not trying to do that.

I can't say yes without talking to everyone else.

But he really does have a sad story!

Of course he does. And you know I want to save them all. I'm such a sucker.

Haha. I know. But I don't want to make things hectic for you. Just let me know what you decide.

It really would make things hectic. It's emotionally very difficult every time a new kid comes!!!!
I'll let you know tho. Message me tomorrow if I forget to let you know.

OK. I will. Thanks for considering.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Daily recreational logs

I am required to fill out a calendar for every foster child in my home detailing their daily recreational time. The back side of this calendar allows space for me to document any contact with their biological family.

In my opinion, these calendars are a complete joke. Good foster families don't have time to waste filling out these types of forms. Nobody really reads them anyway. And bad foster homes, ones that don't allow any real recreation time, are going to lie on the forms anyway.

I've been filling these forms out for years now. For the little ones, I've been using a slightly modified system. On the calendar I write in anything "special", like doctor appointments, therapies, and court hearings. Along with the calendar I submit a letter stating what a typical schedule looks like. Or, in the case of these infants, that their schedule varies significantly because they are babies and that their needs are met as necessary. I mean really...sometimes Star takes three naps in a day. Sometimes she takes six. No one gives a damn about this and I shouldn't have to try and keep track of this kind of stuff.

The rec logs I've been turning in for years - literally since Dude and Dolly were with me - have never been a problem.

Until Friday.

I got an email from the director of our agency. She's now our licensing worker because both of the actual workers they had on staff quit on them. (My agency has a real problem with turnover.) The email from Marcy read as follows:
Our auditors reviewed Russell's file and found several missing information. They are requested updated daily logs for Russell since placement. Days missing (Saturday & Sunday) must be filled out. Also please list all recreational activities, not OT/PT/ST or court. This form must list recreational activities that are age appropriate and provided to Russell on a daily basis; example: listening to music, play specific games, FM read books, etc.
I will need to pick these up before Tuesday. Please let me know when I can stop by to pick these up along with his therapy notes that the secretary discussed with you earlier.
This email upset me almost immediately.

My Christian licensing agency is asking me to fill in DAILY recreational logs retroactively for the past seven months.

The first thing I did was bitch about it on my Cherub Mamma Facebook page.

Then I really did think about it. I had a choice...either fill in the calendar with made up stuff for each and every day. Or tell the people in authority that their request is wrong and that I won't comply.

There's merit to just doing it and moving on. Not rocking the boat.

But I got this pit in my stomach. They're asking me to LIE. They're asking me to make up what we did. And yes...Russell has a wide variety of toys to play with. But no...I don't read a book to him every day. And I don't feel right misrepresenting truth just to fulfill some stupid requirement.

So, I wrote a letter. I included forty different dated pictures that show Russell in various places in our home playing with a wide variety of toys. Here's what I told Marcy, our licensing agency director:

To Whom It May Concern
In regards to the daily recreational logs due for Russell

I cannot in good conscious fill out daily recreational logs retroactively. There is no way that I can say for sure what happened every single day since Russell came to stay in our home. Also, I’ve been filling out these rec logs in the same manner since they were assigned to me several years ago. At no point in time has anyone ever corrected me and said I needed to do them differently. Anything I would fill out now would be a lie and I’m not comfortable with my Christian agency being so hung up on these rules that they would ask me to lie and fill out seven months of logs retroactively.
I can certainly fill logs out differently as we progress forward with this case. However, I need someone from (our licensing agency) to show me what acceptable logs for infants should look like. When I had a teenager I simply wrote in one “free time” activity per day and listed what his school schedule was. My infants don’t have a “schedule” per se as I meet their needs as necessary.

Let me also point out how absurd these logs really are. It should be the responsibility of the licensing worker to ensure that the children in my home are being cared for appropriately. Good foster homes don’t have time to fill out logs every single day detailing out minute-by-minute how the children spend their time. And bad foster homes, ones that don’t allow recreational time or don’t vary it at all, are going to lie on their logs. Once a month a worker comes to my home. They should be able to assess that my children have appropriate toys for their developmental level available.

This is a look at an average day with Russell:

Russell wakes in the morning. I get him dressed and place him in either a bouncer or in his play yard while the big kids get ready for school.

I drive the big kids to school.

Once home, Russell goes in his high chair and is fed breakfast.

The reason I listed each one of Russell’s therapies out on the rec log is because his therapy time IS play time. He is given a variety of toys and things to do with each therapist. He enjoys this time very much and obviously, it is crucial to his overall development. Ultimately though, Russell is playing during therapy with the therapists.

After therapies are over, Russell goes down for nap.

After nap, Russell is fed lunch.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Russell goes to a visit with his biological mother from 2:00-4:00pm. When he first came to the our house, he would go down for nap immediately following the visit. Lately, Russell stays awake all afternoon. He typically plays in the living room with his infant toys or he plays in his play yard.

I rotate Russell’s toys once or twice during a typical day. Developmentally he is an infant. He simply picks things up and shakes them, chews on them, and/or bangs them together. Russell has the following toys at his disposal:

Cars and trucks
Little People
Giraffe ball toy
Mega Blocks
Musical cube
Toy kitchen
Play garden with slide and ball drop
Block slide toy
Tunnel to crawl through
Maracas and tambourine
Board books
Basketball hoop

It is IMPOSSIBLE for me to say WHAT he plays with all day long. It ONLY makes sense to say that Russell has “free time” when he’s playing. Under no circumstances do I tell him what he has to play with and his attention span is so short he plays with everything. I understand that “free time” isn’t allowed on the rec logs. So I’m not sure what to say. He is an infant. He plays like an infant does. Again, this is why I need someone to tell me what acceptable rec logs for infants should look like.

Dinner is at roughly 5:30pm.

After supper Russell plays with the toys in the living room or he’s placed in his play yard.
Bedtime falls sometime between 7:00pm and 8:30pm depending on how tired he is and whether or not Russell took a second nap in the afternoon.

The following are pictures taken of Russell since he came to our home. They will give proof to a variety of toys and activities being available to Russell.

I HATE confrontation. But I decided I just couldn't let this be. It will be interesting to see how Marcy responds to my email and the letter.