Sunday, January 31, 2016

why I cry

I think I'm going to blog about all the emotions and what it's like to say goodbye. I'm going to put these posts on the actual blog so other foster parents can find these and read them at a later date.

So, with that, I think it's VERY important that everyone understand some key points.

I do not have some kind of savior complex. I don't foster so I can "save kids" from a life of poverty or convert them to Christianity.
I foster because it's the right thing to do.
I just happen to be a Christian. And I do tell the children in my home why I believe what I do.
But that's not my main focus.

I've always said I wanted to help families stay together. I never intended on fostering with the goal of permanently adding to our family. In fact, when we got the call about TT many years ago, they had to fix our paperwork and mark the "adoption" box on our home study after he was placed.

That said, I don't fault people for fostering and adopting. I just think it's really important for everyone to understand that CPS is not an adoption agency. The goal of CPS should always be to keep families together.

And even though families should often stay together, goodbyes suck.

I think one of the biggest reasons my anxiety gets all out of whack is because of the incredible amount of UNKNOWN as things move forward.
  • Is the State going to seriously consider Russell's grandparents?
  • Are the grandparents going to take both kids?
  • What will happen to Star if they don't take both kids?
  • Is the State going to do unsupervised visits before the move?
  • How long is this going to drag out?
  • Is anyone going to explain to the grandparents what it means to parent a child with Down syndrome? Is anyone going to explain Russell's special needs?
I think if I could just know what the PLAN is...I'd feel better about things.
  • Do I need to start tidying up all the laundry? I mean, laundry is always clean in my house. But it's not always sorted and put away. Do I need to have the kids packed and ready to go on February 16?
  • Should I go out and buy boxes for all the toys that I'll be sending?
  • What if they take only Russell? Oh shit. I've got to separate out the toys...some for Russell and some for Star.
  • I don't want to buy boxes if they aren't going anywhere. But I don't want to scramble last minute either.
  • What if the lawyer says they need to stay with me until after we get the results from the geneticist? Is it really necessary to drag the case out like that? I mean...if the kids are going to move, what's the point of keeping them here. Move them now and let them get settled.
I've always got questions.

And I'm really a shit or get off the pot kind of person. I've seen this in too many of the cases I've had down here. NOTHING changes. CPS just keeps the kids with me and pushes paperwork around. Different services aren't offered to the bio families. They certainly don't do anything to support kinship placements. So the kids hang out with me for basically no reason. If they're going move the kids...just move them already.

I used to get really angry about this in Dude and Dolly's case. Absolutely NOTHING changed at Grandma N's house in Dallas from the VERY first day the kids were placed with me until they were moved to Grandma's house 27 months later. And yes, the kids were safe with me. They were loved. They got to do things that a lot of kids in their situation would never have gotten to do. But did it really make sense to drag the case out for 27 months when NOTHING ever changed?! Grandma wasn't offered any kind of services to prepare for them. Grandma wasn't offered a stipend to care for them. Nobody wanted the kids to go to Grandma's except Minnie (the caseworker) so things got drug out. I'm not 100% convinced that keeping them here with me did any favors for the children. Foster care, even in the most stable and loving homes, is traumatic. When their mom walked away, the State should have done something. Either Grandma N was a good placement or she wasn't.

Obviously...she wasn't the best of placements.

Again, I don't fault her for getting sick. That is not her fault nor could it have been predicted. But the fact that she just dumped the kids back into the hands of CPS tells me that she didn't have a support system and that she probably wasn't equipped to parent those kids ever.

But that was my opinion all along. Those kids didn't belong with that grandma.

So you can imagine that I've got some stress now that they want to take a child that was VIOLENTLY abused and move him to grandparents that have never known him.

I've been down this exact same road before.

Grandma N hadn't seen Dude and Dolly in years when they came in to Care. They didn't know her at all. She just felt obligated to "keep them out of foster care and adoption".

Russell's grandparents don't know him. He turns 2.5 this Thursday. They didn't see him but one time the first 17 months of his life. They evaded calls from CPS and lied about their son when they found out Russell was in Care. But now they want him?

I question that.

I'm not going to go into all the details here why I question this placement with the Russell's grandparents. In general, I've been told they are nice people with good intentions. But they failed their first home study. Not with a giant red flag that screamed Russell would get abused again...but with quite a few little red flags that point to the fact the placement of Russell in their home might not be a good thing. Especially long term.

And Russell needs someone that is going to commit to him for a lifetime.

Not just age 18. A full lifetime.

So I'm scared shitless. Some of it is about me and my own emotions and selfishness. Some of it is about Russell and his safety and worries I have for him long-term.

I'm going to practice self-care as much as I possibly can. I allowed myself to wallow yesterday. The babies were both sick and they wanted to be held. I held them and I cried a lot.

Yes. Some of this is about me. I love these kids. I love them like they're my own.

But they aren't mine. And I do know that. I do not cry because I believe they should stay with me. I cry because foster care isn't fair to anyone involved. Not the family of origin. Not the foster parents. And certainly not the children.

Foster care just plain sucks.

So I will take care of myself. And because I've got a good relationship with Bopper and Ms. Remus, I will probably try to get as many of my questions answered. I'm going to pray like crazy. I want the decision makers in this case to do their jobs well.

And I'll pick myself up. And we will move forward.

The babies might be here a few more weeks...a few more months...or forever. I've got to be OK with any of those outcomes. And somehow, I know I will be. Because ultimately it's not about me. It IS about these kids and doing what's best for them. I hope CPS can truly figure that out this time around.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

crap on top of crap

Everything I know - I know only through text messages. My information is limited. I can't answer many questions. That's probably why I feel so much like shit. I have NO IDEA what is going to happen and that scares me.

This is what I do know. Bopper and I covered this in our text conversation:
  • Court was held yesterday. Everyone that was supposed to be there showed up. I did not come because I was told they were only going to extend the case. I still don't regret not going. I doubt I'd know much more even if I had been there.
  • Visits for Sylvia (bio mom) are going to increase one hour. Instead of meeting with her children two times a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) for two hours, she now gets three hours per visit.
  • The goal is not reunification. But because Mom's lawyer asked for longer visits, they were granted.
  • Russell's paternal grandparents are being considered for placement again. No one can tell me if this is placement of just Russell - or if they are going to try and keep the siblings together. These grandparents did not pass their first home study. However, there were no giant red flags - just lots and lots of little ones.
  • Russell's paternal grandparents were granted visitation as well. They will be meeting on Wednesdays for two hours. No one knows if the visits are just for Russell or if both babies will be staying.
  • Russell' paternal grandparents are also advised that they can attend all of his medical appointments.
  • The overall goal in the case changed from "non-relative adoption" to "relative conservatorship". This means the State is no longer pursuing termination of parental rights. If the children are placed with the grandparents, contact with Sylvia will continue and she could legally get the child(ren) back at a later date if she pursues the correct legal routes. (Read on...parents don't always have to do the pursuing.)
  • The next hearing is only 18 days away from now.

I messaged Ms. Remus, the babies' lawyer.
  • I asked her if she supports the move to the grandparents. She said it's too early to tell and that the judge wants Russell's condition with his bones stabilized. (ie: figure out if he has brittle bone disease or not) Ms. Remus would prefer that Russell stay with me until this is established - and in her words she wants this because the grandparents have other young children at home that could potentially hurt Russell.
  • Ms. Remus went on to say that the grandparents are nice but there is concern about whether or not they would be able to meet all of Russell's special needs. They're also very limited in resources. (ie: they are very, very poor)
  • I acknowledged that limited resources should not fully determine a placement. Being poor isn't a crime.
And that is all that I know.

I've basically got two weeks to prepare my heart for the children to possibly leave.

The key word there is "possibly". I still have NO IDEA what is going to happen. But judging from all my past experience - family is ALWAYS best here...even when it isn't. So, I'm going to make sure all the laundry is done and ready to be packed. I'm not going to buy anything else new. And I'm just going to maintain life as best as I can for the children.

-----

I don't have good experience with kinship placements down here in Texas. Personally, I've seen too many of them handled poorly!

MissArguePants & TurtleTurtle

Our first case ever (in Texas) was MissArguePants and TurtleTurtle. They were 8 and 9 when they came. I was told they had been adopted by an aunt and uncle and that they had been sexually molested. I knew the abuse was bad. But I had no idea how bad!

These girls had been in Care almost their entire lives. They had bounced between several different foster homes. Finally they were placed with the aunt and uncle. When that happened, CPS closed the case. They were not adopted though. The relatives were just given guardianship.

Then the girls were hurt in their kinship home. They came back into foster care. Mom was located and everything started all over for the girls.

The kinship placement was horrific for those girls.

Ricky & Michael

Ricky's little brother, Michael, was still in foster care when Ricky left our home to go back to Rebecca's. Ricky's slightly older brother, Gabriel, was working to get guardianship of Michael. Eventually he succeeded. The case with CPS was closed. When that happened, Bio Mom moved right back in with Gabriel so she's in full contact with Michael. Basically, the State paid a shit-ton of money to remove the kid, mess with their lives, and then put them all back together again with absolutely no changes! Mom never got help or broke her addiction. The reasons they removed the Michael were never resolved. It was all a huge waste of time and money. (Ricky aged out of foster care and is doing wonderfully. He still lives with Rebecca -- a fictive-kin placement that was perfectly healthy.)

And then there's the phone call I got last night.

Dude & Dolly

Great Grandma P called me last night. After telling me a little bit about how sick she is (I'm sure she's nearing the level of sickness that will likely kill her) she told me that she got a phone call the day before. The person on the other end of the phone didn't say much. She couldn't figure out who it was. But then the caller identified themselves. It was Dolly.

Apparently Grandma N, the kinship care giver that was given Dude and Dolly, did get sick enough that she could no longer care for the children. It seems that she did call CPS to come get the children.

CPS decided that it would be a good idea to locate their mother and just have her come and get the children.

With zero oversight of any kind - Dude and Dolly have no been reunified with their biological mother. No one knows if Mom is clean. No one established any kind of home study. They called her and she came and picked the children up. For reasons no one knows, because Dolly couldn't say, they moved to Oklahoma.

The only good thing is that Dude and Dolly are both in school now. They are both old enough to make an outcry if they need to.

But that kinship placement?! I'm not mad at Grandma N for getting sick. But out of ALL of the dozens and dozens of adults in and out of that home, not a single one stepped up to be a support system for Grandma N so the kids could stay in the same home. She took those kids, couldn't raise them anymore, and just gave them back to The System. The System didn't want to deal with them and just gave them back to Mom. I seriously doubt anything has changed. So those children are in the same environment now as they were when they came to me.

-----

I don't have a good ending for this. I could go on and on about how this is effecting me emotionally and physically. But I'm sure you've all had enough of that garbage lately.

So please just say a prayer for these kids in foster care – my kids, your kids, all the kids. Because foster care totally sucks!!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

the elephant got off my chest

As this week drug on, I wound myself up tighter and tighter. I tried oh so hard no to. But my body didn't cooperate. From the moment that Bopper came to my house and said that she had no idea what was really going to happen on Friday, January 29, my mind started swirling..........

Would they TPR on Mom?
Would they change the goal back to reunification?
Oh shit. Are they going to start unsupervised weekend visits?
I'm never going to sleep. Star will get so messed up.
Surely they can't start unsupervised visits. Mom's home assessment wasn't positive. She doesn't consistently have utilities.
Even if they TPR on Mom, what about the two bio dads?
Russell's dad is only 18 and he's been locked up for two years. Does he want to work a case plan?
No. No 18 year old gang-banger wants to raise a baby boy with Down syndrome.
Russell's dad's parents didn't pass their home study either.
Is anyone going to ask Russell's dad if he just wants to relinquish his rights?
Maybe someone should talk to Mom about relinquishing her rights.
No. Nobody is going to do that either.
So what the hell is going to happen?!
OK. I bet the State takes PMC (permanent managing conservatorship).
Maybe I should tell someone that WE would be willing to take PMC.
Could we take PMC?
Could we raise these two without any financial assistance at all?
It would be better if we adopted. We'd get a small stipend and the two children would both have full-ride college scholarships.
(Yes...kids with Down syndrome DO go to college!!)
(Russell will. He's smart! He's making amazing progress.)
-- insert entire tangent about how well he's doing and how much he'd regress if he left our home --
OK...back to Friday.
I haven't even thought about Star's dad for awhile. I wonder where he is.
He hasn't asked to see his daughter. They can TPR on him for abandonment.
So maybe they are going to keep pushing for TPR.

And round and round and round I'd go.
Then I'd yell at myself to stop and I'd try to focus on something else.
The elephant on my chest was so heavy. It hurt.

Then I'd pick a baby up and smell deep in to their neck. I'd kiss them. I'd whisper in their ear, "I love you. I'll love you forever. I love you even when you can't see me. I'll never stop loving you. You deserve good things. You are a wonderful child."

And then I'd try to function.

It was bad.

At about 5:00pm on Wednesday night, the lawyer for the babies, Ms. Remus, called me.

I was standing at the stove making dinner. She caught me by surprise. The dozens of conversations I had had in my head seemed to disappear like a vapor. I was tongue tied. I honestly didn't know what to say to her.

She seemed so happy and perky. I sounded so freaked out.

I stammered a bit and then basically said, "I'm sorry. I didn't want to let this phone call go to voice mail. I'm super emotional right now. I don't remember exactly what it was that I wanted to say to you. I'm just worried about the babies. Bopper said that there isn't enough evidence for TPR and that makes me very nervous about the trial on Friday."

With a firm voice, Ms. Remus said, "Oh...there ARE grounds for termination."

And with that, the elephant got off my chest. I started to be able to breathe again.

Ms. Remus went on to say that there are things that need to happen. The State has to deal with Russell's bio father. He still has rights and there aren't grounds to terminate on him.

That all makes sense to me.

She mentioned something about *things* with Sylvia (bio mom). I know Sylvia has been making a lot of little mistakes. There's the drama with Big Sister Violet. There's the fact that she doesn't have stable and safe housing. And I think there might be more the State is trying to do to solidify a case against her.

Ms. Remus said that the trial tomorrow isn't going to happen. There will still be court. She's discussed things with the judge already. But the hearing tomorrow is going to be short and all that is going to happen is that the case is going to be extended. She then said that the kids (and I) don't have to appear.

Not only did the elephant get off my chest, he took a few steps away from me too. Deeper breaths were possible and my head didn't hurt as bad.

I still don't know much of anything. All I know is that this case is going to be extended. I don't know if this extension is going to be for a month or three months or longer.

But Ms. Remus made it very clear that she wants the children to stay here. Her words were, "The children aren't going anywhere Friday...maybe not forever."

The key word in that sentence is still MAYBE.

This is foster care. Anything could happen.

I assured Ms. Remus that I know my role. I know I'm a foster parent. I know what that means. I apologized for being so emotional. I said something along the lines of, "I'm sorry. It was just so hard to hear from no less than six nurses and doctors at the hospital recently how much better Russell is doing. He was hurt so badly before coming in to Care. He was being starved. And it bothers me so much that Sylvia isn't being held responsible for that. I worry for his future should he go back home to her. Surely that is grounds for termination. I know no one can prove who broke his bones. But they can prove who didn't feed him."

Ms. Remus was positive the entire phone call. I could sense confidence through the phone line. And honestly, that was good enough for me. (Bopper was nervous on Wednesday telling me her news. I fed off that nervousness entirely too much. Bopper is not a strong, confident person. She always comes across like a church mouse. I don't relate to people like that well.)

I hung up the phone and my worries were gone.

I still know my role. These children are not mine. Anything could happen. This is foster care after all.

But for now, they are staying here. No one wants these children moved out of our home. I should know more sometime tomorrow if Bopper calls me after court. Foster care is a shit-ton of waiting. And now I'm waiting to hear what happens in court. But I'm OK with that. I'm not going to pay $44 for daycare (where my kids almost always get sick) just so I can hear for myself that the case is being extended. I trust Ms. Remus and/or Bopper to tell me what I need to know about the case. Ms. Remus said I can still attend court. But I'm not going to.

So I'm waiting. And I'll let y'all know what I hear when I hear something.

Thanks again for lifting me up in prayer this week. It really did make a difference.


-----


Neat story about the power of prayer...

Visits to specialists down where I live typically take 2-3 hours. They ALWAYS take at least an hour. Waiting rooms are crowded. And I was dreading going to the cardiologist yesterday more than you know. I've been there multiple times with both Dolly and with Russell. I've always had to wait a long, long time. I was not looking forward to sitting in the waiting room with Sylvia and whatever family members decided to come along with her.

As I pulled into the parking lot, Mom and her sister got out of their truck to come see the babies. I handed Russell to Sylvia and put Star, still in her car seat, in the stroller. I took a deep breath as I opened the door to the office expecting to see dozens of people inside.

I looked left. I looked right. My jaw practically dropped.

There wasn't a single soul in the waiting room and it was 11:30am. Our appointment was at 11:45am and it looked like we weren't going to have to wait at all.

Sure enough, we were in and out in just over 30 minutes.

The hole in Russell's heart continues to get smaller. This is a good thing. He doesn't need any medications and he's healthy.

And I didn't have to deal with spending hours and hours with Mom.

Right or wrong, I was thankful for that. This case isn't moving toward reunification so these trips to the doctor make me even more uncomfortable. We're not co-parenting so it's awkward and I hate it!!

I believe that God spared me a long wait at the cardiologist because so many people were praying for me to have peace. Thank you.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

anxiety

My level of anxiety is through the roof.

And don't get me wrong - this is NOT because I think these kids are somehow "mine". This simply isn't the same as when we intervened with Dude and Dolly. I honestly feel in my heart that if I knew they were going to be safe (and yes...safe is what I've boiled this whole thing down to) I wouldn't be so damned upset.

But I don't believe that Russell will be safe if he goes home.

Add to that...
  • 2 science fair projects (one of which was forgotten until there was only 1 day in which to do said project)
  • an investigation on my home (TT is going to be pulled at school today to be interviewed - please say an extra prayer for him)
  • my job (I've been super busy lately)
  • all of Russell's appointments with specialists (He came in April. Most appointments were made in June. That means all his 6 month follow ups happen in January.)
  • emotional teenaged crap with Herman
  • SERIOUSLY stressful crap going on with my husband at his job (like national security level kinds of stress)
  • plus life in general with a family of seven

My chest hurts. Literal physical pain. My thinking is foggy. I'm running on auto pilot. I don't want to eat. When I do eat, I don't want to eat the foods that are good for me. I'm drinking too much caffeine. I feel sick. Every time I stop moving, my brain starts swirling and I get fixated on something I should be doing or something that is completely out of my control.

I don't post this to get a bunch of comments telling me people feel sorry for me.
I'm not posting this to drum up drama of any kind.

But I know others have felt like this before. And anyone thinking about doing foster care needs to know this can be reality.

It's a cycle for me. I'm fine. I'm rockin' it. I get worried. I get overwhelmed. I think I can't go on. I accept the new reality. I move forward. I'm fine. I'm rockin' it.

Lately, it just seems my peaks have been higher. Which means this low seems all that much lower.

I know I will climb back up. It won't be like this forever. I have faith. (Bopper keeps telling me to have faith. Over and over. Faith she says. Give it to God.)

I've got faith. Honest. I do. I believe that God can work miracles.

I'm praying that whatever happens, these two children will stay safe. (And for that matter...their big sister too.)

When I foster, I FULLY invest in each child. Whether they're in my home for 24 hours or over 2 years, I throw myself all the way in.

I believe that's the way it's supposed to be. That's the way it has to be.

My chest hurts right now because of anxiety.

But can you imagine how Russell felt with multiple broken bones and no medical treatment?! No pain meds. No casts to help him heal. No regular food intake. He was isolated in his pack-n-play covered, literally, in a layer of black filth all alone.

He had it so much worse than me.

The least I can do is throw myself fully into his life. I love him like he's my own knowing full well that he is not. I have to be OK with that.

And honest. I am OK. This is what I signed up for.

My pain will never be as great as the pain he felt that brought him to me.

I don't believe that Star was ever abused outright. In fact, I'm not convinced she ever would be abused if she went home. (In my heart I think Russell was hurt only because he has Down syndrome.) But for now, she has lost her entire family. She lost everything too. Yes, she loves me. She's comfortable in our home. She wants to be with me. But she lost her family and that is horribly sad. Foster care is a huge loss to every child that enters in to Care.

So please don't feel sorry for me. I just write this so others know they aren't alone.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My People

When the investigator came to my house on the 8th, she said she needed to come back to officially interview Mr. Amazing. She also mentioned wanting to interview TT. We told her that the very next week wouldn't work because Mr. Amazing was going to be out of state for a work conference. She said she'd come the week after that.

My heart dropped a little. We were planning on having my mom, my sister, and her kids come to visit that week.

And at the time, it wasn't going to be "legal" for My People to come.

I just wasn't going to tell anyone.

You see...my mom and my sister have already gone through ALL the necessary background checks that my licensing agency requires. They've submitted state checks in Iowa multiple times. They've submitted FBI fingerprints. My mom went and got tested for TB once because she was told to. They've submitted forms. They've submitted references. They've gone out of their way to comply.

But my agency can't seem to keep track of things. They lost the fingerprints.

The State of Texas has all fingerprinting done electronically for the FBI check. The State of Iowa has NO locations that do electronic fingerprinting. So...when my mom and my sister submitted prints for their background checks, they did their fingerprints at the local police station and then mailed them in to the FBI.

Obviously both women passed the background checks.

But when I was told they had to do them again because my agency lost the information - I was furious!! Because of course, my agency wanted them to pay to have them redone. They also seemed to think that electronic fingerprints were "required". Now exactly how could My People that live in Iowa get electronic fingerprints done where there are no locations in the state that scan the fingerprints in and send them electronically to the federal agencies?! Did my agency think My People should drive all the way to Texas to get it done but not be allowed to see me when they're here?!

So I decided a couple years ago that when my parents and my sister were visiting, I just wouldn't tell anyone anymore. Once, when they were here while we had Daisy, I hid their suitcases and they went sight seeing while Mr. CW came for his monthly home visit.

But we're in the middle of an investigation. I would not take any chances.

So...once again...I called my licensing agency to ask what the requirements would be to allow my family members to come visit me.

I've asked many times over the years. The rules and regulations and how they're interpreted seem to be different every time I ask. My agency has rules above and beyond what the State Minimum Standards require. So, I asked again.

First I was told that they couldn't come unless they had passed state and federal background checks ahead of time.
Then I was told someone would check with "higher ups" in the agency. Maybe they could stay in a hotel the whole time or something.
Then I was told no. My family couldn't come. There was no way to get the fingerprints done and back in time. Even if they stayed in a hotel, they couldn't come over to my home more than twice or else they'd be considered a "frequent visitor" and "frequent visitors" have to pass all the background checks.
Then I pitched a fit with the local director. I insisted that according to the paperwork they had shown me, my family wouldn't qualify as a "frequent visitor" as long as they stayed less than 7 days. The definition of "frequent visitor" varies based on the actual frequency of visits. If the person comes less than 7 days for a single visit once a year, they aren't a "frequent visitor". Background checks wouldn't be necessary. My agency needed to say it would be OK for My People to stay.

Finally...after much tension and heartache...the local director said My People could come. In order for everything to be "legal" they needed to stay in my home less than 7 days. I laughed and said we'd just stay in a hotel the last three days of the visit because we'd be out in public and that would be allowed.

I called my mom and my sister back on Monday the 11th to tell them that the trip was back on. They had just about 48 hours to get packed if they were going to stick to our original timeline.

My people arrived on Friday the 15th as we had originally planned. (shhhhh...don't tell anyone....as far as the official people are concerned, My People arrived on the 18th)

While they were here, my mom and my sister went ahead and appeased my agency. They paid the almost $45 each to get their prints done electronically. Next time they want to come and stay, they will be on the approved list of "frequent visitors".

And wouldn't ya know it...the investigator I was all worried about never even called last week. And Bopper rescheduled her home visit. The only person in my house was my licensing worker and she already knew that I've allowed my family to stay with me "illegally" before.

But it's taken care of. They'll all be "legal" visitors in the future. Whew.

My People left early this morning to head back to Iowa. Star and Russell keep looking all over the house for them. Star has needed a lot of reassurance today. She's wanted to be held all day long. I'm hoping the babies settle back into our somewhat normal routine soon.

-----

We've got a very busy week this week though. Russell has all his therapies several different days. My licensing worker comes Monday. Bopper is coming Tuesday. We see the cardiologist on Wednesday. We're off to the orthopedic doc on Thursday. And Friday is hearing where, as far as I know now, the State of Texas is going to ask the judge to terminate parental rights. This week is going to be super intense.

I'll keep everyone posted as all the drama unfolds.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Friday, January 8

I left the story hanging with Julie, the investigator, still needing to come to our house. Despite the fact that she interviewed me at the hospital, she still had to see Star in person, look at our house, and interview Mr. Amazing.

All she told me when she left the hospital that Monday was that she'd come to my house on Friday. She didn't set up an appointment so I didn't know when to expect her for sure. Julie showed up that Friday right around lunchtime.

I can't even give y'all a full play-by-play anymore. The experience was basically uneventful. (Granted, I was thoroughly messed up emotionally for a few hours after she left. But still...)

She came in. She saw the children. We talked about all that had happened since Russell left the hospital (he was seen by his pediatrician and he got his cast at the orthopedic doctor's office). Then she took a quick tour of the house.

The only thing she asked about was the bumper I had on the crib. I purchased full mesh bumpers for Russell because he was constantly sticking his legs through the bars of the crib and getting himself stuck. Several weeks ago I switched the sleeping arrangements around. Russell was moved to the pack-n-play downstairs because of his frequent early morning risings. He doesn't cry. But he does play very loudly in his crib and he would wake TT and Bart occasionally. By moving him to the guest room downstairs, that eliminated that problem.

When I put Star in Russell's crib, I didn't even really think about the bumpers. They were fully legal for Russell because he's over one year old. I should have removed them because Star isn't. I didn't though.

Julie looked at the bumpers and asked if my licensing agency had approved them. I told her how I had recently swapped beds around and had spaced it off completely. She touched them. She mentioned how they had been debating whether or not mesh bumpers were allowed with infants younger than 12 months old. Julie said she couldn't remember what the final consensus was. She insisted that she wouldn't cite me for the bumpers but that she'd let me know.

Maybe that whole conversation is why I was an emotional wreck for a few hours.

I do NOT want to get in trouble for anything. And I'll be honest, CPS scares the shit out of me. Dancing this close to them voluntarily is a scary adventure sometimes.

Anyway, Julie was super laid back. She came back downstairs and said that she couldn't interview Mr. Amazing right then because she had an urgent investigation she had to tend to in another town. She also mentioned something about wanting to interview TT as well (because TT had held Russell on his lap that fateful evening of the leg break).

We told Julie that the interview with Mr. Amazing would have to wait for at least another week because he was going out of state for a work training. She wasn't phased by this at all. She doesn't suspect us of anything. She just has to do due diligence and wrap this up.

I still get nervous when I think about it all. My stomach will still get in knots. I'm not going to relax until the investigation is 100% over. Even if that happens within the next two weeks, I probably won't settle down much because court is getting closer and closer.

But Russell is doing wonderful. He can get around anywhere he wants to. I just have to hang on for a couple more weeks. Then I'll know if I can breathe a sigh of relief or not. (I'm super nervous about court!)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Thursday, January 7

This was an easy day.

Occupational therapy came at 9:30am to evaluate Russell. She actually dropped two of his nine goals because he has met them now. (They were old goals.) His regular OT assistant will be able to start seeing Russell next week just like before.

Russell had gotten up super early so I put him down for nap the minute OT left. He woke up just shy of noon – when PT showed up.

I had to explain everything...again...about the break. It just makes me sick every single time. I feel horrible that anything happened to my little guy while under my care.

The physical therapist had to write all new goals for Russell. Obviously, he can't work on running, or jumping, or walking up stairs. Because the orthopedic surgeon said there are no restrictions, he can weight bear as tolerated, the new goals are things like learning how to pull up, balancing, strengthening his arms, and even cruising along furniture. (Despite the size of the cast, I have been assured by both doctors and my internet research that this is a common and minor break for toddlers to have. Even though the cast is not designed for weight bearing - it has a 10% bend and he has to balance on his toes - he can stand in it if he wants to.)

At 2:00pm I took Russell and Star to visit their mother. Nothing notable happened there. I picked them up at 4:00pm and we all went home.

In the evening, I did something for me.

By nature, I'm an extrovert. (Probably explains why I blog.) But in reality, at least right now, I have VERY few opportunities to socialize. I work from home. We've pretty much stopped going to church (partially because of the babies' schedules...and partially because we haven't found a church where we fit in and I hate church shopping). My two closest local friends moved away (one across town and one across the state). I haven't really connected on a personal level with anyone in B.A.C.A. either. It seems my best friends are the therapists and social workers that come to my house all the time. It's sad.

Now, I've got acquaintances that support me and help out when needed. But I don't have anyone close to me that I can just call up to go gab with. I'm always dealing with babies and kid stuff. My schedule doesn't have a ton of flexibility in it. And I haven't made the effort to get to know anyone else. It's my fault and I'll own that. But I am painfully lonely.

While talking about my loneliness in an online group where I've got friends, we discussed meeting local people with common interests online as a way to get to know more people IRL. (I've got FANTASTIC online friends. People that "get" me and this foster care lifestyle.) That seemed like a good idea. I could find a group on Facebook or something.

Well, I got to thinking about that and tried to figure out what "interest" I could use to connect with others. A couple weeks ago I decided to search Facebook to see if there was an local Down syndrome support group. Sure enough...there was. I asked to join the group online and I got to "talk" to the president of the group. Thursday night was the first monthly meeting since I connected with the group.

I am not a Nervous Nellie. But I think with all the investigation stuff going on, I'm just more sensitive right now. I didn't REALLY want to go to this meeting. I knew it would put me outside of my comfort zone. But I have GOT to start getting out and doing things. I just have to.

So off I went.

The meeting was pleasant. There were about 10 other families there I think. The presentation was from a local organization whose mission is dedicated to improving the quality of life for children with disabilities and their families by enabling them to participate in various events and activities throughout the community. They are involved with full community inclusion and have organized some pretty awesome things in the past for kids with special needs.

I got to talk to some other parents. I got out of the house. And I did something just for me. It wasn't quite as relaxing as a spa day or something that wasn't centered around parenting and special needs. But it was nice to make some local connections.

Once home, I stayed up entirely too late writing Part Three of this investigation adventure we're on. I also tried not to worry about Julie, the investigator, who was scheduled to come on Friday.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Wednesday, January 6

I was a mess. Speech therapy came in the morning first thing for Russell. As soon as she left, I packed up the kids in the car to take Russell to the ENT. I did not know if Sylvia (bio mom) was going to show up or not. My stomach was all in knots.

I wasn't worried about anything that would seriously happen. It's not that. It's just ME. Sylvia barely talks to the children and she never talks to me. I've had to wait over two hours at this ENT office before. The thought of being uncomfortable because of the lack of conversation for that long made me nervous. I'm a talker. It's just who I am. There's also the fact that Sylvia never brings anything for the children to meet their needs. What exactly would/should my role be?

Well, Sylvia wasn't there when I pulled up. And she didn't come before we got called back to the examination room. As more and more time passed, I became more relaxed.

The ENT doctor gave Russell a once over. The PE tubes are still in place. He ordered a simple in-house hearing test...knowing full well that it was unlikely that Russell would pass it.

The doctor was right. He didn't. Russell wouldn't hold still and he wouldn't stop making noise.

The doctor then ordered another ABR (auditory brainstem response) lightly sedated hearing test. Because Russell already had one of these before, and because I know his caseworker right now will get things done, I went ahead and scheduled the test prior to having the judge's permission for sedation. (Of course if I don't get that permission in time I will cancel and reschedule.) (The test is scheduled for February 1st.)

We left the doctor's office. Both kids immediately fell asleep in the car. I was hungry because I hadn't been able to force myself to eat before we left that morning. Eating is just not priority for me when I'm stressed out. (And usually, I make really poor food choices when I do eat when I'm stressed.) I pulled in to Panda Express and went through the drive-thru. I ate in the parking lot savoring every single bite.

Both kids stayed asleep once we got home. I did some freelancing.

The next appointment that afternoon was to see the orthopedic surgeon for a cast. My stomach started tensing up as the afternoon wore on.

While driving to the orthopedic doctor, I got a text from Bopper asking if I was at the doctor yet. I pulled into the parking lot of the office and told her I was there. She said that Sylvia was as well.

Mom got out of her car when I did. She came over to me while I was unbuckling Star. She took Star from me and I went to get Russell. I buckled him into the double stroller and we all (Sylvia, Star's paternal grandmother, the kids, and me) went in to the doctor's office. I felt confident. As my nerves had risen during the afternoon I had decided that it was going to be a mind over matter thing. I'm twice Sylvia's age. I'm twice her size. I was done feeling intimidated by the situation. It's not my fault her kids are in foster care. It's not my fault she doesn't talk to me or her children. I would take care of her kids as necessary - no matter what that meant. I wouldn't try to keep her from being uncomfortable. If she was uncomfortable because the dynamics, that was going to be on her.

For over two hours, we sat side by side in an incredibly crowded waiting room. I filled out all the paperwork. I played with Russell. I fed him lunch (as he had slept through everything after leaving the ENT office and I had decided that sleep was the most important thing for him at that time). I fed Star some too - even though she was sitting on Mom's lap. Sylvia never tried to take over to feed Star herself. (It was weird!!) So I kept feeding Star the little puffs of baby food. I talked to the children. I tried talking to Sylvia several times as well. I tried to tell her about her children - the things they do, milestones they've met, the fact that both just cut a new tooth. The most she would do was nod and smile. Sylvia never seemed uncomfortable about anything. She's the most neutral person I've ever met. I was crazy uncomfortable the whole time. But I did my best to not let it get to me.

Sylvia is not rude. She is polite. Outwardly, she seems to love both of her children. I'm sure she does. But she simply doesn't talk. She might babble back at Russell if he makes enough noise. She'll reach out and stroke his face or arms. She held Star up and bounced her up and down saying "jump jump jump" oh so quietly. She'll tell Russell, "no," if he hits her. But she doesn't talk to them. Not in English. Not even in Spanish.

I talk to my kids all the time. I tell them what I'm doing. I sing songs. When I have to wait in a waiting room like this, I play with them. I hold their toys. We pass them back and forth. I do all the things a mom usually does.

Sylvia interacts a little with the kids. But there is no conversation. Ever. It's no wonder that Russell had ZERO receptive language when he came. She basically holds them and rocks them like they are infants or something. It's really hard to explain. You'll just have to trust me. It's weird. It's not dangerous. I wouldn't think much of it if I was observing as a stranger. But over time, it's just seemed weirder and weirder.

We finally got called back to the examination room. By now, Grandma had left. (I don't know where she had gone to.) Sylvia, the kids, and I followed the nurse back to the room.

The wait in there was still just as odd. I got Russell out of the stroller and played with him. This is when I usually play even more with the kids. I almost always sing songs because no one else can hear me. So...I played with Russell. She held Star. Sylvia let Star crawl around the room and pull up on things. She physically redirected Star when necessary. She would laugh oh so quietly if Russell did something funny. But that was about it. Eventually she cradled Star in her arms and put Star to sleep.

The wait was long even back in the examination room. But eventually the doctor came in.

This is where things can get really weird. But I basically just acted like Sylvia wasn't there. I introduced myself and the patient. The doctor asked how it happened. I gave him the 30-second story of "I don't know". He asked what hospital we had gone to and said he'd look at the X-ray.

I was a little uncomfortable explaining to the doctor in front of Sylvia about how this was a re-break of an old fracture and that he had suffered 15 fractures before coming to me. I have to tell doctors this. They're going to see the breaks on the X-rays. They need to know ahead of time why they're there and that CPS is managing the situation. I'm blunt. Smiling and laughing just a little, my husband said, "The doctor probably thought Sylvia was your nanny." And you know what?! He probably did. That's weird too.

Sylvia showed NO reaction when I spoke to the doctor. She said nothing. She didn't even try to introduce herself when the doctor came in. And since the doctor was all business right away, I didn't formally introduce her either. I probably should have. But...it's in the past now.

It took some more time for the doctor to pull up the X-ray. Eventually he did though. He came back in the room and asked if a red cast would be OK. I said that was fine. Then, before any time had passed at all, Russell was in his cast from his toes to his diaper. Mom stood up two different times to watch them put the cast on. But she didn't ask any questions or say anything to the doctor. I got a new medical clearance to give the therapy company and we were on our way. The whole thing took three hours. Our next appointment is in three weeks.

Mom walked Star over to my car. When I walked past her vehicle, sitting in the driver's seat was Star's bio dad. (the scary guy that was deported last year) He quickly looked away as we went past. But I saw him and I knew who he was.

I buckled the cherubs in and started the drive home. Mom left quickly as well with hardly a goodbye to either child. (She's always very detached when it comes to saying goodbye. There's no emotion. It's just a matter-of-fact transaction almost.)

I picked up my cell and gave Bopper a call. I know that my statement about seeing Star's dad on this side of the wall means nothing to CPS officially. But I figure it's the least I can do to keep Bopper in the loop as to where people are and what is going on. Bopper thanked me for calling and said that she would try to see if there's a way for CPS to see Dad on this side themselves. (ie: make an unannounced visit to Mom's place)

I then asked Bopper about Big Sister Violet. I told her that she had worried me a bit the day before. I explained that it's a pretty big deal to add a family member to the house and I wanted to know if that possibility was on the horizon.

Bopper explained a little bit more about the situation with Violet. The details don't really matter here. Ultimately, CPS is trying to work with family members to put a safety plan in place. They truly want removal to be a last resort. I fully agree with this approach. Violet is being shuffled around a lot. I'm sure there's some neglect going on. But in the grande scheme of things, I don't believe that Violet is being abused in a way that requires protection from CPS. If she can stay with family, that's probably best.

If I'm being totally honest, Star would probably never have been abused. Everything about this case leads me to believe that Russell was nearly killed because of his Down syndrome. I'm never going to know the full story. But that's what I believe in my heart.

That will be rough for Star to process as she gets older if she doesn't stay with her family of origin.

I hung up with Bopper knowing that we could still end up with a new 3 year old family member. But that for the rest of the week and weekend, it was unlikely. Bopper ended the call by telling me that she has LOTS of other information to tell me the next time she comes over for a home visit. Bopper seems to spill everything in person. She's quite careful on the phone.

I'll know more about the whole situation the next time we get together. Until then...it's just a shit-ton more of waiting.

Tuesday, January 5

The morning was average in nature. I got up and helped get my hubby ready for work. Bart and TT did their morning routines and headed off to school. I waited for OT to show up for therapy and for Kenda, my licensing worker, to show up for a home visit.

At about 7:30am, Russell's occupational therapy assistant sent me a text. They had been wrong the day before. All of Russell's actual therapists had to come to the house to do an evaluation before services could start up again. (They had given me the impression that the only official eval that had to be done was for physical therapy.) I told her that I understood and went about things now just waiting for Kenda.

Just shy of 9:00am or so, Kenda arrived. She asked all the questions she needed to. She observed the children. She took notes for her report. And then she left. It didn't take long. This visit was part of the "safety plan" that was put into place by my licensing agency as part of the investigation. Kenda has to come at least once a week. I think some of the visits, if not all, are supposed to be unannounced. Then she submits her reports to CPS who then turns them in to the courts. I knew about this visit though and was ready. (Not that I clean for social workers. I still don't clean for social workers. There were dirty dishes in my sink, laundry on the floor by the washer, and the beds weren't made when the investigator came today. I still just live my life the way I live my life. No mad cleaning or external freaking out from me.)

As Kenda was here, I went about my business packing the diaper bag and getting the cherubs ready to leave. As she walked out to her car, I walked to mine and buckled the babies in to their respective car seats. I took off across town to go see our primary care physician.

There might be about 4 dozen or more doctors closer to my house than where I go with my kids. But it's worth it. Thankfully, Tuesday was no exception. The office was relatively empty and we were seen as a walk-in with a very minimal wait. I got even luckier because the professional on staff was my favorite nurse practitioner.

Once again I had to tell the story about the break.

Every time I have to tell someone how Russell got hurt I feel like hell. I honestly wish I had a story like "he fell off the bed" or something. I feel terrible saying that I don't really know how it happened.

NP Tammy listened to everything and told me a zillion times to not worry about it. (Again with all the medical people telling me to calm down. I wish I could. I'm still a wreck and I will be until CPS closes the case entirely.)

I got a medical clearance from NP Tammy for Russell to start all of his therapies again. I also asked for a referral to a geneticist. I, along with other professionals in the investigation, want his bones checked for osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease). The appointment took less than an hour from start to finish. I loaded the babies back up and headed home.

Russell and Star had a visit with their mother that afternoon. I had orders from NP Tammy to restrict Russell's movement (crawling). After discussing things with Bopper, it was decided that I would leave my stroller with Mom for the visit so Russell would have somewhere to sit. That way we would know that Russell was safe and wouldn't be injured further. I told Bopper that Mom could get him out. But she would HAVE to protect him and his leg. Bopper said that she would do her best to be at the visit at 2:00pm to talk to Mom in person.

In the waiting room for the visit, I told the monitor about the movement restrictions. I also told her that Bopper was going to come talk to Mom in person. The monitor tried to call Bopper but was unsuccessful in locating her. The monitor assured me she would explain things to Mom. I said goodbye and left the building.

The visit went fine. Mom left him in the stroller the whole time. It didn't seem to phase Russell. We went home.

A little over half an hour later, Bopper called me to check on the kids. She apologized for not being at the visit in person. She then went on to tell me bits and pieces of what she had been busy doing just a few hours prior.

I really don't know much. I certainly don't know enough to blog about it. But...something happened with the babies' big sister, Violet, and her placement. Mom was caught in lies. Mom's sister was caught in lies. Bopper and her supervisor were in the middle of it all. It was ugly whatever it was. (Violet was originally placed with an aunt when Russell's case was opened. Then she moved to her bio dad's house. Then I think she moved to her paternal grandmother's house. Now...I'm not sure where she's at.)

Immediately my body tensed. Were we going to have to take placement of Violet now?

Oh my!

Bopper said things were under control. She didn't give me any real information though.

She did go on to say that her supervisor, Raymond, instructed her that Bio Mom needs to start coming to all of Russell's medical appointments.

Oh my!

Bopper seemed horribly uncomfortable telling me all of this. She told me she didn't understand. I told her CPS doesn't make sense doing this when the goal in the case is non-relative adoption. She agreed with me. The goal hasn't been reunification for quite some time now. Having a bio parent go to medical appointments, to me anyway, only makes sense if the child is going to go home to the parent. I personally think Mom should have been required to go to medical appointments the minute Russell came to me. But once the goal got switched to adoption, that should have ended. It doesn't make sense to start having her come now.

Bopper was still upset from everything she had been doing with Raymond and Violet that afternoon. I could tell she didn't feel right. Bopper is something of a church mouse. She's super sweet. She's crazy timid. She's soft spoken. She literally told me to my face that she's easily scared. I honestly can't believe that CPS hasn't chewed her up and spit her back out again. She's not incredibly new either. She's been around for several years at least.

I told her I thought it was ridiculous. But of course, I would comply. I sent her the doctors' names and addresses for both of our Wednesday appointments.

I spent the rest of the night wondering if we would be adding a scared little three-year-old to our family soon.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Monday, January 4

I put Russell to sleep in the crib in our room Sunday night. Because he had napped so much in the late afternoon/early evening, he didn't settle down until after 10:00pm. I didn't care really. Russell is never fussy and I knew we were trapped in the hospital until CPS showed up to interview me anyway. He'd be able to sleep if he was tired.

I played on my phone some. I snacked on some crappy food. And I tried not to worry. Eventually I fell asleep too.

Russell stirred a few times. I sleep really light when I'm in the hospital with one of my kids. I hate getting woke up by the nurses. But they have to chart vitals and so it happens.

Sometime between 3:00-4:00am, Russell fussed. I could tell he desperately wanted to roll over in bed and sleep on his tummy. His leg was uncomfortable. I woke up enough to weigh out my options.

I could leave him in bed. He'd fuss a little but he'd be OK. I could wake up and hold him. Or I could put him in bed with me and we could both just sleep.

At that point in time, I figured if CPS was going to "get" me...they were going to get me. I took care of Russell like he was MY kid and I met his needs...minimum standards be dammed. I scooped Russell up and put him on my tummy so he could sleep face down the way he wanted and he could drape his legs down on either side of me and be comfortable. Right or wrong, I took care of my kid in the way he needed me to take care of him. He had been left alone and in pain too many times before coming to me and I simply couldn't do that to him. We both fell asleep quickly. I remember a nurse coming in once to take his vitals while he was draped over me. I prayed she wouldn't think it was a bad thing.

Morning came and Russell was all smiles. I put him back in the crib so I could get out of bed, stretch, and do those things one does first thing in the morning. Breakfast didn't come until about 8:30am. We played and babbled back and forth with each other until then.

Just before 9:00am, my phone rang. It was Bopper. She wanted to make sure we were still in the hospital. In a bit of bewilderment I said, "Of course we are. We can't leave until CPS says we can. The hospital won't discharge us."

Bopper said something about the investigator calling her and wanting to know where we were. Bopper said she would call them back and make sure they understood the full situation. The person from licensing now on the case was local (as opposed to the on-call person that handled things Sunday from a remote location several hours away). I started to get nervous again as I awaited their arrival.

My stomach got tense. I got this nervous cough. I kept checking the time. I tried to play with Russell but I couldn't focus on anything. It's something else waiting for an investigator to come. This one person held my future in her hands. Her impression of me was everything. If she didn't like what I had to say, she could take my foster children from me. She could charge me with child abuse. She could make it so I could never work with kids again (including our involvement with B.A.C.A.). I don't care how many doctors told me not to worry...I still worried.

Bopper told me to have faith in God when she texted me that morning. I told her I had plenty of faith in God. It was my faith in people that was shaky.

(My two cents...God gives us free will. He can help arrange wonderful things on Earth. But people still get to do what they want. We aren't in some cosmic puppet show.)

Julie, the investigator, came into the room about an hour later. She was pleasant. Russell was sitting on my lap. She informed me of my rights and all that. Made sure I understood what was going on. She told me that the interview needed to be audio taped.

I've been down this road before. I told her I understood.

Then I started answering questions. She asked a lot. But never once was Julie accusatory or short with me. She asked thorough questions and she remained neutral in her response to my answers. After Lord only knows how long, she concluded the interview. She stated that she now had 30 days to develop her report and her supervisor had another 15 to sign off on it. She said something about being able to make a recommendation immediately. I didn't want to get my hopes up though. So I just nodded and didn't ask her to explain.

My stomach was in knots. The respite provider that had taken Star Sunday night told me that she would be able to take Russell too if it came to that. But, because they live an hour away from where we do, the placement couldn't last long. They wouldn't be able to maintain his therapies and visits would be challenging. I was so scared that Julie would discharge Russell but say he had to go to respite care with Star until the investigation was completely over. If they had to go to respite, the odds of them terminating placement with us and moving them to another home with another agency was really high. The thought of that made me sick.

Julie left the room. I wasn't 100% sure if she was leaving the hospital altogether or if she was going to talk to doctors.

After what seemed like hours, but was probably only a few minutes, the doctor on the floor Monday (a different doc from who admitted us the day before) came in to our room while rounding. She reported to me that the fracture in Russell's leg was an old fracture that had rebroken. They had pulled up his old medical records and compared his injuries from a year prior to this fracture. The location was the same as an old break. This doctor stated that under no circumstance did she suspect abuse. Again, I was not to worry. She seemed to think Russell is just prone to injury due to having his body so shattered before coming in to foster care.

I sighed a huge sigh of relief. You have no idea of fast the relief washed over me.

Still...I continued to worry. I needed a miracle. I needed CPS to get this information. I needed them to determine that Russell and Star weren't in danger. I needed them to move a mountain of paperwork to let Russell be discharged into our care and for me to be allowed to pick up Star from respite.

Remember, my last investigation lasted almost two months. My kids were taken from me and I was told nothing while I waited. Even though we were completely absolved of anything in that investigation (no citations, no disciplinary action, no safety plan that had to be put in to place, no nothing), my kids still suffered the trauma of an extended move. They couldn't move paperwork back then for Dude, Dolly, and Pumpkin. I had no reason to believe they were going to move it for Russell and Star. (PTSD is real.)

I don't remember how much time passed, but Julie walked back into our room again. I asked her if she had met with the doctor that had come in to our room that morning. (You know how doctors are never around in the hospital when you need them?) Julie answered with a smile that yes, she had met with the doctor doing rounds. Said doctor had given her the paperwork she needed. Julie told me not to worry. She was going to recommend that Russell be released into our care. She had no concerns of abuse or neglect.

This all happened before lunch. There was still a lot of waiting to do. She had to go back to the office and the case had to be "staffed" with all the people that make decisions over Russell and Star's lives. Nothing was official yet. Her supervisor could still say no. My licensing agency could still say no. A lot of people had to be OK with her recommendation.

The waiting was hell.

Foster care is a shit-ton of waiting.

But we waited.

And I prayed. I prayed a lot. I asked some of my closest friends to pray for me. I called My Genius Sister a zillion times. I prayed and I prayed and I prayed.

Eventually we got the final, final OK to be discharged. All the important people agreed that there is no threat of abuse or neglect in our home. Russell could go with me and I could leave straight from the hospital to pick up Star.

Because the investigation isn't "officially" over, a safety plan has been put into place. My licensing worker has to come out once a week through the month of January to check on Russell and to ensure that he is being cared for well. Protocol again. They can't send the kids home without putting a few measures in place to prove they are covering all their bases.

I can handle some more paperwork in the name of keeping these kids with me where they belong. I was grateful that CPS moved mountains. I truly believe it was a miracle. I will admit that I was wrong...maybe Jesus was in CPS on that Monday.

Sunday, January 3

Star was fussy during the night. I had gone into her room to feed her a bottle at some point in time. She has a twin bed in the room she's sleeping in. Rather than go back to my bedroom, because she seemed out of sorts, I stayed in that bed so I could more easily tend to her if necessary. At about 7:45am, I heard Russell crying in his room downstairs.

Immediately I knew something was wrong.

Russell NEVER cries in bed. And he NEVER cries first thing in the morning.

Again, just like the night before, it wasn't an outright cry. It was more like he was fussing because something wasn't right. It sounded like he was in pain. But nothing severe!

I grabbed Russell and brought him upstairs to Mr. Amazing. I changed his diaper and got him dressed. I raced through the shower. We were at the ER by about 8:15am, I think. I didn't even feed Russell breakfast. I packed it in my diaper bag so I could feed him in the ER.

There wasn't much of a wait. We went right back to a room. The doctor saw him almost immediately.

The doctor was kind and compassionate. He was gentle. He examined Russell.

There were no signs of trauma. No redness. No swelling. No signs of anything being wrong visibly. Even the doctor called Russell's response to pain "inconsistent". He ordered an X-ray.

I fed Russell breakfast in between things.

The wait was relatively short. The X-ray tech didn't say much. (Of course they aren't supposed to. The doctor is supposed to read the films.) It was awful telling the technician that Russell had suffered 15 fractures prior to coming in to Care. The tech nodded and said that he could see them on the film. That's about all he said though.

Not too much time passed before the doctor came back and told me that Russell had a new fracture in his right leg.

My heart sank. I literally felt like my life was over. I was devastated that my foster son was hurt. I was horrified that he got hurt while under my care. And I knew the investigation could ruin me and my family. The doctor said he was ordering X-rays of the left leg to make sure that the fracture wasn't genetic in nature. I shook my head and told him that something like that would have come up already due to the vast number of fractures Russell had suffered prior to coming in to foster care.

The rest of the day is a blur. I'll give you details but don't quote me on exact times or the exact order of events. Just thinking about it as I'm writing this causes my chest to get tense and painful. (PTSD is real in Foster Care Land. Just look up any of my posts labeled "investigation" and you'll know where I'm coming from here.)

After the second X-ray was done, the doctor confirmed that the break wasn't genetic in nature. He asked me again if I knew how it happened. Again, all I could tell him was about the exersaucer adventure from the night before. The doctor insisted, politely, that the break had to have happened from some sort of trauma. He said Russell would have cried out in pain. Did he fall off a couch? Did he fall down the steps? It had to be something big to cause a break like this. All I could do was shake my head and say that nothing big happened the night before. The doctor was very clear in explaining that tugging to get Russell's leg out of the exersaucer opening would not have caused this break.

The doctor told me that he was required to call this sort of an injury in to the child abuse hotline. I nodded my head. I understood. A nurse came over to get all the information about me and the people in my house so she could make the report.

While waiting, I started calling people. I called Bopper several times. She didn't pick up. Because it was a Sunday, I didn't leave a message. Bopper should be allowed a day off. I sent a text to Rainbow. She reminded me that I needed to actually call the on-call worker at my agency. So, I did that too. I also messaged and/or called Mr. Amazing, and My Genius Mother, Brother, and Sister.

Then I just waited in the ER with Russell. I prayed. I cried. I held him. We played together. As long as I wasn't moving him much, he was as happy as always. Even when I moved him, he barely fussed. I thought about all the things that were going to happen. I couldn't imagine a happy ending at all. Our last investigation took almost two months between the removal of the foster children from my care and their return. We have court at the end of this month. I know my agency has a very limited number of open homes that can do respite - and an even fewer number of homes that take infants.

Bopper called me back while we were waiting. She apologized for not picking up. (Bopper is too kind sometimes.) I told her what had happened. She was super protective of me immediately. She insisted that there is NO WAY I would have ever hurt Russell. She said she had to drop her mother off at somewhere but that she would come to the hospital immediately.

It felt good to know that Bopper trusted me. But I still felt hollow inside. How on earth had I hurt Russell?! I felt horrible!

Bopper got there right as we were being moved up to a room. Per protocol, the hospital had to admit Russell so that CPS could do a proper investigation. The ER doctor told me that the break is a simple one that would normally be treated in outpatient care. They had splinted Russell's leg. No one was going to do any more tests of any kind in the hospital. He was just being admitted so I could be investigated and his safety could be ensured.

I spent all day waiting for some official looking person with a badge to come interview me.

We were wheeled up to a room on the third floor. Bopper kept telling me to have faith. Bopper is very much a woman of faith and she knows I am too. Bopper was insistent that God would see me through this and that I had done nothing wrong. She kept on saying I had to have faith.

I looked at Bopper and said, "Oh, I've got faith in Jesus. My faith never wavers. But Jesus doesn't work at CPS."

As soon as they wheeled Russell into the room, several nurses came in. One of them was insistent on seeing Russell right away. She took one look at him and exclaimed, "Oh my goodness! He looks so good! He's so much bigger! Oh my!" She went on and on about how wonderful he looked. She just beamed when I told her that he was walking, and understood some sign language, and was happy and playful all the time.

Obviously, this nurse cared for Russell one year ago when he was hurt and originally came in to foster care.

This nurse looked at me and said, "Yes, I took care of him. He was so hurt before. I remember going home from work that night and just crying."

The doctor on the floor came in while Bopper was still there. He was kind and gentle as well. He indicated that the Down syndrome could also have contributed to Russell's fragile bones. Repeatedly, this doctor told me not to worry. He almost apologized for having to admit Russell. He said that it's just protocol. He said it didn't look like I had done anything wrong. He didn't suspect me of abuse. He said over and over not to worry.

Every time he told me not to worry, Bopper would say, "See Ms. Cherub Mamma? You don't have to worry!"

It was nice to know that I wasn't honestly being suspected of abuse. But it didn't really calm my nerves at all!!

Bopper left. Russell and I spent the afternoon in the hospital room together. Mr. Amazing held down the fort at home. CPS and my licensing agency got busy with the work of handling the investigation and managing the safety of the children.

The investigator on-call that Sunday was located several hours away. I kept thinking they were going to come in person. But Bopper indicated that this hotline call must not have been prioritized very high. I guess a "P1" call means the investigator has to come immediately (think life or death situation). A "P2" call means that the investigator has something like 48 or 72 hours in which to make contact. Bopper said that because the investigator hadn't shown up yet, it must have been prioritized as a "P2".

That didn't ease my nerves much. It meant that we might be stuck in the hospital for several days waiting for someone to start an official investigation.

Still, as the day progressed, the on-call investigator spoke with Bopper. Bopper kept me in the loop all day long. She said she insisted to the investigator that she didn't suspect me of a thing. The investigator told her that was good to hear. The investigator said it's uncommon to actually hear from case workers during the start of investigations and she was appreciative of Bopper's take on things.

My agency reminded me that I needed to call the hotline too. Any time a child is admitted to the hospital, the foster parents have to call the child abuse hotline and report it. I took care of that.

By late afternoon, I was told by my agency that they were required to put Star in emergency respite care. This crushed me. I didn't want to make my baby girl stay with strangers. I discussed how to coordinate it all with the on-call worker. Star's car seat was in my vehicle at the hospital. So the agency worker couldn't just show up at my house to pick up Star. (They don't have their own stash of car seats. They use ours for transportation when necessary.) I also told the on-call worker that I needed to go home and pack Star's bag. Mr. Amazing is pretty awesome. But he would be nervous packing a back for a baby like that.

We kind of went back and forth. The on-call worker discussed things with the state director of our licensing agency. I guess it's helpful that I know the state director personally. (She just happens to be the worker that licensed my husband and I when we started this foster care journey in Texas six years ago.) The state director gave permission for me to personally drive Star to the respite home.

So yeah...I'm under investigation for hurting a baby. But I was given permission to go home, pack Star's bags, and drive her to the respite home myself.

The on-call worker from our agency stayed with Russell while I took care of that.

I cried almost all the way to the respite home and most of the way back. Even if tears weren't falling down my face, I was completely crushed on the inside. My two foster kids were suffering trauma that was directly related to me. I felt so responsible - despite not knowing how I actually hurt Russell at all.

It took almost 3 hours to go home, pack Star up, drop her off, and get back to the hospital.

Russell slept almost the whole time I was gone.

The on-call worker left. I stayed with Russell.

Sometime between about 8:00pm and 9:00pm that night, the orthopedic surgeon walked into our room. He took one look at me and said, "You need to know this did not happen because of abuse. I charted it accordingly and I'll tell anyone that needs to hear it. You didn't do anything wrong."

Through tears I looked at him and said, "Then how did it happen?"

He smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said, "Kids."

He insisted over and over that this was not my fault and I didn't have to worry.

The weight was lifted from my chest just a little. I hadn't been able to eat all day. But I knew I'd at least be able to sleep that night.

Saturday, January 2

It was a normal day. Nothing major to report. We all did our lazy weekend stuff.

It was sometime around 5:00pm when the only thing notable happened.

Russell and Star were in baby jail together playing. Russell started throwing toys out and was getting a bit wild. I needed to redirect in order to keep Star safe.

I picked Russell up and put him outside the gate (of baby jail) and I started picking up the toys with him that he had thrown out. I was stern. I have to be. Russell HAS to learn that throwing toys and hitting is not OK. (The two usually go hand in hand when the babies are together. I had only seen him throw though.)

From there, I picked Russell up and put him in an exersaucer.
He's too big for the actual bouncer (stationary - with bungee cords) that he used to love. He gets too wild in that one. But the one pictured above is safe for him. It contains him briefly, gives him toys to play with, but doesn't enable him to throw anything or hit anyone. I guess you could say it's where he goes for "time out".

By now, Russell was crying.

I don't know if he was crying because I was stern with him. Or because I took him from his toys. Or because I had to wipe his nose off. But he was crying. And it was a VERY different cry from normal.

I left Russell in the exersaucer for only a couple minutes. When he didn't settle down, I picked him right up. As I was picking him up out of the exersaucer, his shoe got caught on the leg opening. I tugged a little before I realized what happened. His shoe popped off.

I held him for just a bit. He was still fussy. Not crying outright. But something wasn't right. I decided to see if maybe he was tired. He hadn't napped good that day so I put him in bed.

Again, Russell kept fussing. It wasn't a cry I recognized. So I went back into the bedroom after just about 2-3 minutes. I did not leave him crying anywhere for long.

By now though, Miss Star had decided that she was jealous. She did not want to be in baby jail alone and she did not like the fact that I was holding Russell and not her.

The big kids were in the living room watching a movie. I took Russell and plunked him down on TT's lap. Russell immediately snuggled in a fell asleep.
I took care of Star and went about my business. I decided that Russell's fussiness must have been because of some trigger. Maybe the loud movie. Maybe because I was stern with him. I didn't know. But when he fell asleep, I figured he was just tired, too.

Russell stayed on TT's lap for a bit. When TT wanted to escape the sleeping toddler, I made a bed on the floor of the living room with a big blanket and a pillow. Russell slept there for maybe an hour or so.

When he woke up, he was still fussy.

I didn't know if it was because of his cold and the fact that I had to keep wiping his nose. Then I remembered how his leg had gotten stuck in the exersaucer. Maybe I had hurt his hip or something pulling him out. Because of the Downs syndrome he has very loose ligaments. Maybe I had hurt him. I felt so bad. But it didn't seem severe. He wasn't crying. He was just fussy in a way I had never heard before.

I fed him supper. I noticed at bedtime, when I changed his diaper, that he was favoring his right leg. He wouldn't put it down on the ground. I was worried. But figured even more than I must have hurt his hip or something. There were no marks on his skin. There was no swelling. And I couldn't tell for sure what was wrong. I gave him some Tylenol and I put him to bed. I have a monitor between his bedroom and mine. I knew that if he woke up crying, we'd go to the emergency room. But I didn't want to mess with that if I didn't have to.

Sure enough, he went to bed without any problems and he slept all night long. I never heard a peep.