I got a text from Bopper this morning at about 8:30am. It's Spring Break in Texas and the grandparents wanted to know if it would be OK if they brought all five of their kids to today's visit. I took a deep breath and responded yes. It's only two hours. I really didn't think it would be that big of a deal.
However, as I thought about this, it bothered me to know that legally this family could not travel to my home all together. They have only one vehicle and it seats only five people. Four of their children are required by Texas law to be in a car seat or booster. The car seats are to be installed per manufacturer's instructions. And I'm pretty sure no manufacturers say kids can be in the front seat. So, technically, four of their kids need to be in the back seat. They don't have a vehicle where this is possible. I have briefly expressed this concern to CPS before - but only how it would affect unsupervised weekend visits with the babies as I assumed those were going to be starting very soon and I wanted to know how I would be required to handle that if I were doing a drop off by myself.
Side note: Typically we meet in the parking lot at the CPS office in the evening, after the office is closed, to drop-off kids. At least that's how it worked with Daisy. I wanted to know what my reaction should be if the grandparents didn't have proper car seats for the babies AND what I should do if they didn't have proper car seats for their own kids. Bopper's initial reaction was that I would only be responsible for things if they didn't have car seats for Russell and Star. She said that the grandparents are looking for a new vehicle. And then she said that unsupervised visits aren't going to be happening for a long, long time.
Anyway...I decided that if I didn't say something to CPS about my transportation concerns again, it would eat at me too much. I was VERY CLEAR that I didn't expect anything to change today! I still expected that both grandparents would come along with all five children. However, I felt it was necessary to at least point out to CPS if were to happen, it wouldn't happen legally.
I'm not sure what Bopper said. But the grandparents decided that Grandma would come with only three children and Grandpa would stay at home with the other two.
The visit went well enough. I'm not going to complain. This is unique ground we're covering. While co-parenting might be the norm in other parts of the country, I've been told by every single person involved here (my agency, CPS, and the visit supervising company) that having visits in the home of the foster parents is completely unheard of.
Grandma and her three oldest kids came to the visit. They played in the living room with the babies for a little over an hour. Then Grandma asked about feeding Russell lunch.
Both babies were brought into the kitchen. I got lunch ready and then stepped back a bit so Grandma could feed Russell (and Star could feed herself – Star refuses to eat off a spoon but will feed herself anything you put on her tray). I couldn't leave though, as I was baking cookies.
The visit supervisor did a great job of translating back and forth between Grandma and I. Russell was being a bit of a stinker and didn't want to cooperate with Grandma as she was feeding him. Star seemed uncomfortable too. It was more just because it's awkward and different though. Grandma certainly wasn't doing anything wrong!!!! I tried to explain to Grandma that his behavior wasn't normal at all, though. And then I explained that she'd likely see more behavior like that if/when he moved to her home and that she should expect a lot of regression. She asked why.
I explained that Russell doesn't understand what's going on around him. There will be no way to explain to him why he's moving in with them. I've been taught in several different trauma trainings that a move can cause a kid to regress as much as a year. That's why kids in foster care need additional supports to heal. And even though Russell is safe in our home, a move is still a move. That's one reason why I wanted visits to be in my home. The kids will see me interacting with the grandparents. They will see me trusting them. And it will be easier for the bond I have with the kids to transfer to the grandparents. Grandma expressed gratitude again for all we're doing for the babies.
As for Russell's behaviors though, I went on to explain why I'm so incredibly strict. For example, when it comes time to wash his face, I won't let him turn his head away from me. I firmly grasp his head and tell him no if he doesn't cooperate. I don't play with him or make it seem like what he's doing is OK.
It's not that his behavior isn't normal for a 2 year old. It is! But his maturity is going to happen so incredibly slow, that if you don't start NOW to direct appropriate behavior, you'll be dealing with an 5 or 6 year old that won't wash his face or let you do it.
I hate feeling like I have to present the worst case scenarios. Of course not all kids with Ds are going to be that delayed. But kids with Ds are very known for having behavioral difficulties. Anyone that parents Russell will be doing themselves a favor by being incredibly consistent and firm in establishing proper rules and expectations.
It's hard to convey all that I know about Down syndrome in these short meetings via a translator. I certainly don't try to be negative all the time either. But I want the grandparents to understand what to expect. I get the impression they haven't starting trying to learn anything about Down syndrome on their own. That makes me a little sad. But, it's apparent that they love Russell so I cling to that.
I explained as much as I could about Russell, what's normal for him, and what to expect as he gets older. It seems harsh in a way. But if they're not going to try and learn anything on their own, they need to hear from someone that it's possible that Russell won't ever be developmentally/emotionally older than 8 or 9 years old.
I was thankful this visit supervisor cut things off at noon, exactly. (Last week lunch drug on longer that it should because Grandma doesn't keep things moving with Russell and he doesn't want to eat for her well. The visit went on until almost 12:30 and the supervisor let it. I was too uncomfortable to tell everyone to leave. LOL)
After everyone was gone I called My Genius Sister to get a little bit of what I call "therapy". She lets me process all my feelings and lets me vent so the things that bother me don't eat me up. There were a few things about this visit that bothered me significantly. But I spewed everything to my sister and I'll suck it up and go on from there. If I get a chance, I will convey my concerns to Bopper. But I don't think it's anything Bopper doesn't already know so I'm not too concerned.
My big kids should be back from the trampoline park and lunch soon. I sent them off so they wouldn't have to be here during the visit. The rest of the afternoon is just for us. I like days like that. And because the visit was in my home this morning, the transition to nap was very smooth. As awkward as these visits are, they are still best for the babies. I'm glad we're able to do things this way.