Friday, September 8, 2017

at the developmental pediatrician

We got up early this morning. I fully packed everything last night so that Whiz wouldn't see me packing any bags this morning. I didn't put my shoes on either. He was quite aware life wasn't "normal". He wanted to freak out a little. But I made his favorite breakfast (fried eggs) and he ate it without issue.

Rex wasn't as cooperative with his breakfast. So, I ate his scrambled egg for him and he decided Greek yogurt would be OK. (Some days, Rex just doesn't want to have to chew food.)

We were on the road to the hospital by about 6:15am. Our first appointment was at 9:20am.

The ride to the hospital was uneventful. There was a little crying. But not more than I expected. I ignored it and turned the radio up loud. They stopped crying. I know for sure that Whiz even slept a little.

The appointment started on time. Two nice nurses walked us back to an exam room and took vitals on both the boys. They each allowed their blood pressure to be taken. I felt so good about things. I was ready for some answers.

I'm not sure exactly what I expected to happen with the doctor. I had hoped for a little shred of validation. I wanted the doctor to at least say that the things I'm seeing "could" be because of FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder). I knew that, most likely, the boys would not have all of the required facial dysmorphia. But the facial features in kids diagnosed with FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome) are only apparent in less than 25% of all children with some form of FASD. The boys have other markers. Significant markers.

Instead, the doctor, Ms. Branson, walked in the room and introduced herself and the team. There was one other doctor and a resident. Ms. Branson made mention right away that this was a single visit and we wouldn't have to come back. Then she turned to look at the boys in their double stroller. She exclaimed, "They don't have FAS."

From there...I didn't quite know what to do. She hadn't even started the examination and she had already made up her mind based on facial features alone. I was disappointed but I tried to not show it. Ms. Branson backtracked a little and said something along the lines of examining them anyway.

sigh

We were in a small conference room. The doctor brought in about 5 small red cube blocks, a fine motor toy with dowels and rings that fit on them, a three piece puzzle, and maybe one or two other things I didn't notice.

Dr. Branson didn't even take the boys out of the stroller for her entire diagnostic evaluation. 

The other two members of the team asked me very generic questions about the boys behavior and development. When I felt like the answer I needed to give was too complex for the simpleness of the question, they didn't ask for more details. They didn't want me to elaborate on much. They asked me very few follow up questions. It felt so superficial. 

Now, they had gone through ALL the documents I sent ahead of time. So these people had read through the ECI evaluations and had looked over the medical records I sent. So that was good. But they didn't seem like they wanted to know much more.

Everything was done in less than 45 minutes for both boys. The team left the room to discuss the "findings".

-- commence giant meltdown from both babies -- 

I fed them a snack while we waited. I got out other toys. I tried so hard. But by the time the doctor came back to tell me the "results"...Whiz was completely freaking out. If he hadn't been strapped in the stroller, he would have been throwing himself all over the place and probably banging his head on the floor. It was bad.

Nothing I did could redirect. So the doctor quickly talked over them.

She stood firm in her diagnosis that neither boy has FASD. 

Whiz has the primary diagnosis of "developmental language disorder". Under that he also got diagnoses for picky eater and temper tantrums.

Rex got the primary diagnosis of "global developmental delay". Under that it is also listed that he had exposure to alcohol in utero, prematurity (born at 35 weeks), family disruption due to child in foster care, and feeding difficulty.

I find it odd that Rex has a Dx about foster care and Whiz doesn't. Doctors make no sense to me sometimes.

Both boys are to continue ECI services including speech and occupational therapies. (I called our coordinator on the way home. She is going to schedule an occupational therapist to come and evaluate each boy so we can add weekly OT.) I am to consider adding behavioral therapy through ECI for Whiz to address his tantrums. I can consider feeding therapy for Rex.

Dr. Branson did say that given the reported history of alcohol exposure for Rex, she can't rule out alcohol related neurodevelopmental effects. Ultimately, she thinks Rex will need a comprehensive psychoeducational evaluation to assess cognition when he's a little bit older. She said more than once that she is more concerned about Rex than Whiz. She mentioned "intellectual disability" more than once.

-----

Ultimately, everything that happened...or didn't happen...today doesn't change anything. These boys didn't need any new official diagnoses in order to keep receiving services. My goal of getting the FASD diagnosis today was more for long term help.

If Auntie Carla needs a diagnosis for either boy as they get closer to school age, she can have them evaluated again. Nothing this doctor writes can prevent them from being diagnosed with FASD when they get older.

I'm going to TRY and see if I can locate the CPS worker that handled Mom's very first CPS case with her three oldest children (Rex and Whiz's half siblings). Their case was open when Mom was pregnant with Whiz. There is at least one person, if not more, in CPS that should be able to confirm that Mom was drinking when she was pregnant with Whiz. There is confirmation that Mom was a heavy drinker during her pregnancy with Rex. So that's already on file. And really, Auntie Carla could just tell the next doctor that she believes Mom drank while pregnant with Whiz. We have NO reason to believe that she didn't.

-----

Auntie Carla and I have been texting and talking a lot lately. I have such a peace about these boys going to live with her. She really is ready. She's appropriately optimistic about it all - yet she's completely grounded in her understanding of how big of an undertaking this is going to be. We've discussed the fact that lots of kids with FASD are unable to live fully independently. She is going into this with her eyes open. When I called her today and told her the official Dx of FASD wasn't given...she understood. She knows that they are still significantly behind with their language development. She knows that a diagnosis of global developmental delay isn't a minor thing.

-----

I have to type up an overview for CPS. The doctor/nurse somehow managed to combine Whiz's records with Rex's on the printed overview they gave me before I left today. So what I have in my hands right now is perfectly worthless. (Even though I know what info applies to each kid - it would completely confuse CPS.) The doctor's office is typing up new forms to mail to me. Complete information, with more details, is going to be sent directly to our regular pediatrician. I'll get copies of that, eventually, as well.

-----

I'll end this with pics of Whiz and Rex. Supposedly Rex has one of the facial markers because he has a shallow philtrim (area below the nose / above the lip). But, based on a 4-diagnostic ranking...a score of only 1, for the shallow philtrim, means that the level of expression of FAS facial features is none. 

I can't show you their eyes. The doctor says that Rex has the epicanthal folds. Apparently that doesn't mean anything. And if I understood Ms. Branson correctly, Rex is one percentage point away from having microcephaly. If his head circumference were just a wee bit smaller, that would be a marker as well. Both boys have heart murmurs...but she didn't relate that to FASD at all. 

WHIZ

REX
At least the doctor didn't negate any of my concerns. Everything was addressed and noted in their files. Both boys have significant developmental delay. They just don't have the Dx of FASD...yet. And I guess that's OK. It just felt like today was a colossal waste of time. She didn't diagnose anything that hadn't already been diagnosed. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

court recap

I'm going to put my usual disclaimer on relaying court information the way I do online. I give the details of court...because court is open where I'm at. That means that you could have come with me today and heard everything I heard. It's a little sad that it's not more private. But it is what it is.

I used to arrive to court as much as an hour early. I was always directed to do this by the social worker. Then again, this social worker that made me do this the most was Minnie. And Minnie is a B!T** for sure.

Interestingly enough, Minnie was at court today and walked out of the courtroom as I sat down in the waiting area. I still can't stand her...even this many years later.

I showed up at court today at 11:00am. I wasn't early at all. And it was fine. Our case wasn't called until a little after 12:00pm anyway. I had spoken with Lawyer Karen yesterday so no one really needed to speak to me at all today. I was there with the kids more out of ceremony than anything, I guess. The lawyers seem to like to be able to tell the judge that the kids are present.

Mom didn't show up. Dad was there, though. He reported that Mom had an interview. This was not said in the courtroom though. CPS reported that Mom wasn't there. And that is all that was said about it. (Other than a very obvious eye roll from the judge.)

All of the details of the case were brought up again. It is VERY apparent that the judge has a bias in this case. In fact, in all the years I've watched him try cases (and not just ones I'm a part of), I've never seen him respond the way he does about Whiz and Rex's mom. Granted, this is Mom's third open case. And the judge is never mean. He just doesn't expect a lot of explanation. When CPS states something, he doesn't make them elaborate at all. He simply responds that he's familiar with Mom and what has happened in the past.

This makes CPS's job easier. And I suppose it's not unfair to Mom. CPS isn't lying. It's just all a little odd to me. It does make me a little uncomfortable. But, like I said, it's not that the judge cuts CPS off and makes assumptions. He just quickly takes them at their word.

I know that the CPS worker, Vicki, was nervous today. She asked me some questions yesterday. And when I got to court today she straight up told me she was nervous. She had at least 2-3 cases being heard today though. Her day is definitely stressful!

The details of the case were presented. Mom is non-compliant with her services. Dad is compliant with his...but alcohol continues to be an issue. Dad admits to drinking. His counselor recommended in-patient rehab. But in-patient isn't possible as Dad is the sole provider for the family. They did mention that the last time CPS requested a drug and alcohol test from Mom and Dad that neither complied. The judge pointed out that refusing to be tested counts as non-compliance. And that was that.

Some of Mom's more recent indiscretions were brought up. I now know exactly why she was arrested about a month ago. And CPS did a decent enough job explaining that they still have concerns of domestic violence from Dad toward Mom. They mentioned the bruises on Mom's face and the thumbprint on her neck at one of the recent visits. Dad's lawyer and Dad didn't respond to this at all. And the judge believed CPS without any further discussion.

The concerns of how long ICPC will take were brought up again. Apparently it is a big deal for California to be the receiving state. The judge also doesn't seem to like the idea that the relatives live on a military base. He's concerned that Uncle Nick might get transferred before this case ends. That whole thing bugs me. But CPS was firm that the ICPC process is underway, that it's going well, and that California has no concerns with the family and that's how they hope to proceed.

When all was said and done today, nothing happened. A new pretrial date was set for November. A TPR hearing is now scheduled for December. CPS seems to think that ICPC will be finished by the end of September - but no one said anything about when the kids will move. The judge, more or less, just said something about hoping the ICPC is through by the next hearing. I have no idea if anyone is thinking the kids will move in November...or if everyone is going to wait until after TPR.

I wish I could tell Auntie Carla that progress was made toward moving the kids. But that's not at all what happened. In fact, they mentioned that the paternal grandma said she would take the kids and the judge told CPS to start on that process. AC and her mother are VERY close. I know that Grandma isn't in a position to take the kids AT ALL. She was recently diagnosed with a returning cancer. (This wasn't brought up in court so I don't know if CPS has this information or not. I know because AC told me about it.) The judge told CPS to "get on this". Grandma lives in Arizona. The judge said that maybe ICPC to Arizona would go faster than to California.

We will keep taking care of the babies. I'll know more in November. Foster care sucks.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Progression, Nonsense, and Confusion

One of the things in online foster care support groups that drives me bonkers is when someone says something like this,
"Has anyone ever had a case where XYZ was the problem? What do you think will happen in my case?"
Every single foster care case is different.

It doesn't matter if you're dealing with a case that started because of domestic violence. The service plan for the parents probably varies. The CPS worker and supervisor are different. The lawyers are different. And the judge is different.

Even if most of the variables are similar...there are still enough differences that the results of one case can't honestly be used to predict what will happen in a different case.

That said, here's a poorly written bullet point list of the progression of this case filled with the nonsense that is foster care ending with some confusion everyone has over the whole ICPC process.

-----

Sometime in the past:
Mom is involved in a CPS case with her oldest three children. I don't know the circumstances for the removal. I don't have any information other than the fact there was a case. I don't know where the children are now. I just know that Mom doesn't have custody. (I don't know if rights were terminated or if someone was just given PMC.)

July 2, 2015:
Whiz was born. Either at birth - or shortly thereafter - Whiz was placed into formal foster care. I don't know the exact reason as to why he was removed. I don't know if it's because of the open case Mom was in the middle of or if something happened in his home and he was removed due to an incident. (I lean toward the fact that he was removed at birth because of whatever was going on in the first open case due to the fact that neither Mom nor Dad have any legal issues from that time.) Whiz lived with his first foster family for over a year. During this time, Paternal Grandma was in contact with the first foster family some. She saw pictures and things like that. I know that CPS was made aware of Auntie Carla and Uncle Nick (AC and UN). But nothing was started to move Whiz to his aunt and uncle with the case because the goal remained "reunification" the entire case.

May 27, 2016:
Rex was born. Rex went home with Mom and Dad. Whiz remained in foster care.

November 2016:
Whiz was reunified with his parents. The case was closed.

January 7, 2017:
The police were called due to a domestic disturbance. Dad was arrested. Whiz and Rex were placed with a local relative who insisted that they were not going to get involved. They stayed with this relative one night, I believe. From there, Whiz and Rex were moved to a shelter.

January 18, 2017:
The adversary hearing was held. The judge wanted the children to remain in foster care. Whiz and Rex were moved to our home. While standing outside the courtroom, I overheard conversation about whether or not there was any family that would be able to take these boys. Dad mentioned something about maybe his sister would. The lawyer for the babies (Lawyer Karen) somewhat rolled her eyes when she heard the sister was in California. I swear she muttered something along the lines of, "That will never work."

From here CPS did start calling Auntie Carla in California. She established that AC would take the boys. I'm not sure what else she "did". But it became clear to me that CPS wanted to get these boys to their aunt and uncle.

March 10, 2017:
Court was held again. I think that this is where the judge gave permission for Texas to actually pursue ICPC.

At some point in time the goal in this case became "relative adoption". I do not know exactly when this happened. It might have been in March. I do know that the judge down here doesn't typically move kids to relatives that live far away when the goal is still reunification. (At least he hasn't in any of the cases I've been a part of.) When the goal is RU, the kids need to be close to their parents so that visits can continue. I totally agree with this!! Parents need to see their kids and kids need to see their parents. It's often ugly. It's a total pain in the ass. But it's a very, very necessary part of foster care. Everything needs to be in place to help the parents succeed! And seeing their kids regularly is part of that!

I don't know exactly how ICPC works. Neither does our CPS case worker (Vicki). This is her first ever ICPC case. This is my first ever ICPC case. Now...my level of experience shouldn't matter at all. But I will tell you that it's a little unnerving to listen to the lack of understanding coming from Vicki.

Sometime in late July or early August:
AC was contacted by someone in California to get things started.

Maybe it's because it's like the game telephone. This someone explains things to AC and then AC tried to explain them to me. But because AC doesn't really understand, some of the key details are left out???????

AC told me she was going to have to become a foster parent. And maybe that's what's going on. Maybe it's not. Maybe this is an adoption home study. I don't know. AC doesn't know. And Vicki doesn't know.

Are you unnerved yet?

August 10, 2017:
AC and UN had their first interview for the home study. It went well.

August 12 and 19, 2017:
AC and UN took two classes each day to satisfy the training portion of their home study.

They've also now been given a packet of paperwork to fill out. Fingerprints need to be done. They have to submit financial records. All the good home study stuff.

August 21, 2017:
I got a call from Lawyer Karen. It's the obligatory contact that she does before a court hearing. (We have court tomorrow.) She said she likes to discuss more sensitive topics over the phone rather than out in public at the courthouse where there is NO privacy. Yay her. I guess. I'm sort of miffed that she claims she's "been involved with the kids" yet she's never really met them and her involvement is no more than a quick phone call to me the day before court.

But I digress.

Lawyer Karen said she hasn't seen any ICPC paperwork cross her desk. I have no idea if this is a bad thing or not. I explained to her that AC and UN have started their home study and they've taken their classes. Lawyer Karen tells me that means very little. As my heart starts to flutter and my jaw drops she said that California still doesn't have to "accept the case".

What??!!

Lawyer Karen then goes on, with more detail than she probably should have given, to describe multiple cases she's a part of right now where the receiving state refused ICPC - even after the process had started.

All I can do at this point in time is tell her that the boys are fine with me. They can stay as long as they need to. I asked what happens when the receiving state refuses ICPC. I asked if Texas would change the goal in the case.

Her answer was about as clear as mud. She said, "No," the goal would remain the same. Then I somewhat understood her to say that Texas would have to wait and keep pressuring California to "take the case". She made it sound like the kids could be hung up in foster care for a long, long time.

I hung up, took a deep breath, and called AC. I explained to AC everything that Lawyer Karen had explained to me. I told AC I'd let her know what happens in court tomorrow. AC seemed quite shook. We said goodbye.

Fast forward about an hour or so and Vicki, from CPS, called me. She was almost in a panic. She said that her contact in California hadn't heard anything from AC and UN, yet. She said that a letter had been mailed out on June (or maybe July) 14. A follow up letter was sent on July 24. If AC and UN didn't respond within a month, California would throw the ICPC case out completely.

Vicki doesn't talk to AC very often. But she knew from me that AC and UN had started the home study process. So everything this person in California said to Vicki made no sense whatsoever. Vicki said she had tried to call AC and she had sent her a text. Vicki needed to make contact with AC as soon as possible because AC needed to call Vicki's contact in California.

Now I'm freaking out!! If you're still following all this nonsense and confusion, it sounds like California started the home study but someone else in California doesn't know this and the whole thing could get tossed on a technicality.

I sent a text to AC telling her to call Vicki's contact.

AC is allowed to have a life. She didn't see the messages from Vicki and me immediately. But when she did, she started making calls. She put the social worker she's been working with in California in touch with Vicki. AC has been assured by her social worker that California is most definitely going to "take the case". Supposedly I get to relax now.

-----

But I still have to factor in the rest of the information that Lawyer Karen shared with me today.

1. The lawyer for CPS has recently been assigned. So even if this case does go to TPR, there isn't anyone *right now* that could try the case. So our TPR date of September 5 is very unlikely to happen.

2. Lawyer Karen is serving as both AAL (attorney ad litem) and GAL (guardian ad litem). If this case goes to trial, something about that has to change. She can't question and cross-examine herself on the stand. So that TPR date of September 5 really makes no sense right now.

-----

At 11:00am tomorrow, right when the babies are used to getting fussy because they're hungry for lunch, I will be sitting with them out in the 100° heat waiting for their hearing. If we're lucky, there will be room enough in the tiny waiting room outside the courtroom that has air conditioning. If the babies are crying at all though, we'll have to wait under the shade in the outdoor waiting area.

The whole court thing will suck. Hopefully the babies will be quiet enough (ha ha) that I get to hear what is said in the courtroom. I promised Auntie Carla that I would call her and tell her what happens.

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If you're still reading...you're a little bit crazy. LOL And I'll update you tomorrow with what happens at court.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

scurry scurry

The general public - generally - doesn't "get" what it means to parent kids that have a past filled with trauma. And kids IN foster care...they're still in the thick of trauma IMO.

Take, for example, the visit yesterday with our CPS caseworker.

She came right as the boys were waking up from their naps. The timing was fine. I was able to put the boys in their high chairs for a snack during most of the visit. Typically that helps Whiz feel a little less nervous.

It didn't work though. I could tell, as the visit went on, how dysregulated Whiz was getting.

Only my redirection had to have looked weird to the caseworker. All he was doing was copying his brother by waving his hands in the air and banging his sippy cup. He was also squealing nonsense noises. All of those behaviors are incredibly normal for a two-year-old.

But they aren't Whiz's normal.

So I tried to redirect. I touched his hands and told him he was OK. I did this several times.

The caseworker looked at me with a puzzled look but didn't say anything.

I tried to explain to her that he was nervous. I'm positive she didn't see it.

Then Whiz finished his snack. And Rex finished his. And I was stuck. She needed to leave. Having the boys running around the house while we talked was a recipe for disaster. I knew this!! But I also knew that neither boy would cooperate and play in baby jail. I knew neither boy would engage with any of the toys out of baby jail. All I could do was watch everything unfold.

Sure enough, Whiz got himself so upset that when told he couldn't have both his ride-on motorcycle toy AND the popping ball push toy that Rex had - he threw a huge temper tantrum.

Thing is...Whiz wouldn't have been trying to do half the stuff I was redirecting if the caseworker hadn't been there.

I know that my job as a parent is to be the external regulation for my little kids. They aren't capable of self-soothing. It's my job to notice when they're struggling and to meet the needs so they can stay regulated.

One of the "tricks" I have is to redirect with short phrases specific to the exact behavior that needs to change. I also work hard to come up with a phrase that isn't something the general public might use. I want my redirection to be taken seriously. Therefore, I almost never say anything like "calm down".

One of the things Whiz does when he's nervous is to run around aimlessly. I can tell he's nervous. My kids can tell he's nervous. But to the general public, he looks like a hyper two-year old.

I don't want to tell him to "calm down". It is entirely too generic of a phrase and means nothing to a two-year old. It's also something that people might tell him when we're out and about and I want to redirect a very specific behavior. I don't want to tell him to "stop running" because some running is absolutely, perfectly OK to do. I needed a phrase to redirect him from the nervous running.

After much thought, I came up with the phrase "scurry scurry". It's specific to the behavior I'm trying to redirect. It's nothing that a stranger might ever tell him that would make it confusing. And Whiz has learned that when he's told "no scurry scurry" he needs to get engaged. I usually tell him "no scurry scurry" and he stops running right away. Then I tell him, "Find something to do." He has learned that this means play with toys. If he still wanders aimlessly, I put him in baby jail. Though, I never call it "baby jail" to the children - I reserve that phrase for adults. For Whiz, I tell him he's going to have to "play with toys". And when Whiz is really dysregulated, he often calms when put in baby jail with toys (after a small tantrum letting me know that's not where he wants to be, of course).

Somehow I'm hoping to help teach Auntie Carla how to recognize the difference between when Whiz is playing and having fun (running and making nonsense noises) and when Whiz is getting dysregulated and a tantrum is bubbling underneath. I know she'll have to figure out most of it on her own. But I'm going to try.

And in the realm of CPS *might* do something right....
I told our CPS caseworker that I'm willing to travel to do the transfer from Texas to California when the time comes. All I need is for the State to purchase my plane ticket. After all, they're going to have to pay two people to travel with these boys anyway. If they send me as one of them, I won't cost the State any wages. I traveled with Pumpkin when she went from our part of the state to El Paso. So it's been done before. Our caseworker seemed very pleased with the idea.

Monday, August 14, 2017

a monthly visit with CPS

CPS has to come to my home monthly to see the children and, basically, interview me. The caseworker over this case never sets things up in advance. I just get a call and if I'm available, she's at my doorstep 10 minutes later.

She came this afternoon.

Things I know to be true:
  1. The children are full siblings. (The DNA test came back.)
  2. The case is moving forward toward TPR with a goal of relative adoption.
  3. Court is next week. (It's the pre-trial. As of right now, the trial is set for September 5.)
  4. This is the first TPR hearing our caseworker has ever done.
  5. That makes me really, really nervous.
  6. Nothing that's been happening or not happening with visits is going to matter.
  7. In fact, very little of the incriminating evidence of domestic violence, substance abuse, and overall instability is going to be able to be submitted to the courts. Horrific text messages and photos aren't credible because the lawyer for the parents will simply say that no one knows when the photos and videos were taken. And no one is going to do anything about verifying the accuracy of any photos or videos. So they won't be used as evidence.
  8. It's all up to the judge and CPS has no idea what will really happen.
Auntie Carla and her husband have started the process of getting everything they need for their home study. They've been interviewed. They've had their fingerprints taken. They've taken one class. There's still more paperwork to do. They have at least one more class. But things have started.

Most likely CPS in Texas won't move the children to California until termination happens. So if this case is extended, the kids will stay with me.

NO ONE knows how long it will take for Texas and California to work together to get the home study done and approved. It could still take months.

But the ball is still rolling forward. No one from CPS is recommending that these children go home. And this is good...because they would be going home to a very volatile environment riddled with domestic violence and substance abuse. I'm not in love with the lawyer for Mom, though. I've met this lawyer (she was Daisy's lawyer and was instrumental in Daisy being reunified with her mother the first time). This lawyer will work hard to not allow termination of parental rights. She does her job well when it comes to getting kids back home based on technicalities and minor oversights on the part of CPS.

There wasn't much for CPS to report to me overall. And I just gave her the basic details she asked for to fulfill the standard form she has to fill out at every home visit.
Whiz ended things by throwing a nice sized tantrum as the caseworker was leaving. I just shook my head and explained that it's normal and it happens a lot. I tried to explain how her presence escalated his emotions. He was super nervous when she came and it just got worse the longer she stayed. I don't want to make the caseworker feel bad. But workers need to understand how their very presence affects the kids they're advocating for.

Foster care sucks.

Children need as many reminders as you give them

I don't have a library full of books from Love and Logic, but I do try to put a lot of their parenting strategies into play in my home. One of the things I learned from L&L is:
Children need as many reminders as you give them.
That means that TT and Bart (and even Herman) know that if I usually nag them about doing a chore, they don't "have" to do said chore until I've nagged "x-many" times. If I do a good job of telling once and then following through with a consequence, they need fewer reminders. I don't always have to have a consequence either! Sometimes all I have to do is physically get up and look them in the eye and tell them to do whatever it is that needs to be done.

I call that "physical parenting". I physically have to move my butt to where my kids are. I can't just holler up the stairs and tell them to get ready for bed (for example).

Oh how I wish I could just holler up the stairs.

But it almost never works.

I basically have a choice. I can keep hollering and keep getting ignored until I lose my shit and MAYBE my kids listen. Or I can physically move my body, make sure I have eye contact, and then be very concise and direct with my expectations. My kids are 12, 13, and 20. And they all still need directions like this at home. If I holler and holler, I lose every time.

I need to do the same thing with chores. Tell once. Then follow through with whatever is supposed to happen if said chore doesn't get done.

I struggle with this because my kids don't have much in the way of "currency" that means anything to them. They aren't motivated by money. There isn't much I can take away from them other than media time. But this problem is on me...not them. I either need to be OK with them not getting the chore done or I need to have a plan in place of how I'm going to handle it when the chore doesn't get done.

The whole reminder thing gets used even with Whiz and Rex.

Whiz and Rex like to whine and/or cry at transitions. (Especially Whiz!!) It's not a full blown tantrum. But damn...by the end of the day....I'm usually pretty tired of being fussed at during every transition.

And there's only so much I can do about this. I can do my absolute best to prepare them for transitions. They only understand so much. But I try. I try to remember to tell Whiz that it's almost time for whatever it is we're going to be doing next. Sometimes that helps.

But sometimes Whiz just cries. It's normal 2-year old stuff...sort of. (The intensity, frequency, and/or duration is often more than a "normal 2-year old reaction".)

When Whiz is crying, and I simply can't change his world to make it better, he is given a choice.
Do you want to cry or play?
And then I follow through.

It might seem harsh to people outside our home. But I'm not doing this to be mean. If he's hurt, I comfort. If he's tired, I comfort. If it's something that is out of his control, I comfort.

But sometimes crying is how Whiz chooses to communicate. And I have to maintain my own sanity as well.

A typical scenario would be something like this:

The speech therapist comes over. Whiz goes first. He has 45 minutes of one-on-one time with his therapist. He's playing with her toys. He's interacting. He's the center of her attention.

When therapy is done, I move Whiz to his high chair for a snack so Rex can start his 45 minute session without Whiz interrupting. A snack is appealing to Whiz so this transition usually goes smoothly.

Whiz finishes his snack in about 10 minutes. That means there are still 35 minutes where Rex needs to be allowed to play in the living room on the floor with his therapist alone. That's how this works. They aren't doing joint therapy. Whiz would dominate entirely too much.

So Whiz has a choice. He can go in the baby jail and play with toys or he can cry. Now, it's up to me to make sure the play area is appealing. I have it clean. I have new toys in it compared to the last time Whiz played in the area. There is variety. And I don't leave him alone there. I stay close by.

Most of the time Whiz will throw a tantrum.

I totally understand where he's coming from. He wants to play with the therapist. He wants to get that one-one-one attention. He doesn't want Rex to get it.

But Whiz isn't going to get what he wants. It just isn't going to happen. So I give Whiz the choice, "Do you want to cry or play?"

Whiz and I have been going through similar scenarios like this since he came. He knows what's going to happen. I don't ask him the question over and over. (I don't give him tons of reminders to stop crying.) If Whiz answers, "play," he gets to stay in the baby jail with his toys. If Whiz keeps crying, Whiz gets moved somewhere less desirable until he stops crying.

I call this taking a break.

I really don't like the words "time out". They are overused and over threatened. And by calling something "taking a break", it can look different every single time. It can be what Whiz needs in the moment. It's an opportunity for Whiz to simply take a break from whatever is upsetting him.

Sometimes Whiz needs to take a break and be held by me. Sometime he can take a break and sit on a chair next to me. I'm not opposed to moving him to the corner of a room that I'm in if he's crying. (I've done "nose in the corner" when a child - old enough to understand - is crying. And ONLY during the time they are crying. The minute they stop they get to leave the corner so they are always in control. And I never leave them alone.) And sometimes Whiz needs to go in the other room.

Right or wrong, Whiz will get put into Rex's bed if he's throwing a huge tantrum. I hate using a bed for this. But I justify it in my mind that it's not HIS bed. It's just a safe place for him to go.

When Whiz is overstimulated, he often needs the quiet of a room by himself.

The thing with all this is, though, I don't warn and "remind" over and over. I don't look at Whiz and say, "If you don't stop crying you're going to X-Y-Z." I simply ask once or twice, "Do you want to cry or play?" And then I follow through.

Children need as many reminders as you give them.

Now...to figure out how to keep track of all the little things I do to help Whiz and Rex stay regulated during the day. I want to teach their aunt, in California, these things. I want her to know how I can ward off a tantrum simply by asking Whiz if he wants to play or cry...that Whiz really understands this...and that Whiz will often calm down on his own and get engaged when he knows that he's not going to to be allowed to spiral out of control.

I'm going to try and blog about a few of these things. Get my thoughts on paper. Get feedback. And then compose something in writing specifically for Auntie Carla to keep.

Auntie Carla is so awesome! They started their kinship classes this past weekend. She's literally doing her homework - taking everything seriously - and asking me about things she's learned and how the babies relate. She and her husband are the total epitome of what kinship care should look like. I'm so thrilled to get to be a part of a healthy transition to a relative.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

TPR for Kori

Court was held this Monday for Daisy. The State was asking for a move from her current placement (to us) and for Kori to pay child support.



I had to send a text to Daisy's CPS worker asking what happened. At 11:54am I wrote, "Any word on the outcome of today's court yet?"

Daisy's worker responded, "She will be staying at her current placement and parents relinquished their rights."

That is ALL I will ever hear about Daisy again. It is over. There will be no more hearings. The case has been closed. (I have to assume that Daisy's current guardian will eventually adopt Daisy now that parental rights have been terminated.)

The photo above is a snippet from the public court documents that I can pull up online (because I know Mom's name). As you can tell, a "safety plan" was put into place for Daisy's current guardian. The State has reason to believe that this man has allowed contact between Daisy and her mom.

Mom's criminal trial continues to get "reset". She had court today. Nothing happened. (Again, I can access the public records online. The county this all took place in puts a lot of information up as it happens.)

I do not know Kori's official role in the death of her child, Dandelion. I will never know that.

I have to pray that I'm wrong about everything. I have to pray that the man now in charge of Daisy for the rest of her life truly loves her. I have to pray that he will keep her safe if Kori is unsafe and that he gives Daisy everything she needs to grow and heal from her own abuse.

I can't say that I desperately wanted Daisy to come to our house. 

I do want Daisy to be safe and loved and well cared for.

But there was also a certain relief when this didn't happen.

I feel a LOT of guilt over that relief.

I was scared to death to take on a severely disabled little girl who has gone through so much trauma. We would have done it because it was the right thing to do. We would have done whatever it took for Daisy. We had discussed this at length with all the kids. The nerves were there because none of us are stupid. Four year old little girls that have been bounced through many homes who are still recovering from nearly dying themselves aren't easy to take care of. But our entire family was committed to doing whatever we would be allowed to do for Daisy.

The State determined they don't need us.

The chapter with Daisy is officially over.

Foster care sucks.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

questions I'd like an answer to

I sent the following as an email to the director of our licensing agency:

In order to best prepare for a kiddo like Daisy, I am hoping that someone from CPS could answer these questions for me.

fully realize that the placement is not guaranteed!! But in order for the potential transition to be a smooth one, the more I know about Daisy, the better. Also, there is the issue of moving a child with severe special needs to all new medical providers.

And maybe none of these questions can be answered unless the placement is going to happen for sure. It would be helpful to know sooner, though. I honestly have to go into this knowing as much as possible. Daisy was a very challenging child when we had her before. Her neurological needs were not being met. And as a result, she had a lot of sleeping and behavior issues. (I didn’t sleep for 10 months. I honestly can’t do that again.) I will need to know if I have to drive to a neurologist in Central Texas or if I can get her on the waiting list for the pediatric neurologist I want to see here (where we live).

1. What medications is she on now?

2. What doctors/specialists does she see regularly?
(Names and addresses would be helpful so I can start updating her files on my end.)

3. What therapies is she currently receiving?
Would it be possible for me to see her most recent evaluations or talk with her therapists?

4. What procedures, if any, has she had in the last two years?

5. Has she had any vaccinations? (I wasn’t allowed to vaccinate her at all when she was in Care the first time.)

6. Since coming back into care in May 2016, how many placements has she had? I was told she had at least two foster families and now she’s with fictive-kin. Were there more placements?

7. Will sibling visits be required with her half-siblings?

8. Why is she leveled “specialized”? Is it due to medical needs, behavior needs, developmental delay, or????

9. If possible to describe, what is her sleep like? Please be honest here. I need to know exactly what to expect so that I can arrange the best bedroom placement for all the kids in my home.

I appreciate any information that CPS can pass on to me.
Thank you!!
Cherub Mamma


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I'm not honestly expecting an answer right now. I'm betting they won't tell me anything because the placement is not guaranteed - it's only something they are "strongly considering". 

If that's the case, I'll do my best to make sure that someone does answer these questions before I officially agree to take placement of Daisy. I mean, I've said "yes". But like all things foster care...they can't just bring her to my home. They'll have to talk to me about this again before she is moved.

If at any point in time I'm met with hesitation toward answering my questions - or pressure to move quickly to adoption - I'm going to take a LONG HARD pause before I agree. I will not destroy my family by deciding to do anything without getting the proper supports in place. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

a slightly more official call

The director of our agency just called me.

"Um...Cherub Mamma...do you know a child named Daisy?"

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Whoever Martin called yesterday must have listened to him. It seems there might be a special court hearing called concerning Daisy's current placement.

I was asked, on a more official level today, if we would take placement and consider adopting Daisy.

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I said yes.

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That is all I know for now.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

interesting phone calls and texts

A couple days before we left on vacation, I got a phone call from Ricky. We don't talk a lot anymore. He's a 20 year old man doing his thing. He knows our family is always here for him. But really, he lived with us for just about six months. We served him for a season in his life. I'm not going to push for extended contact for the rest of his life unless he wants it.

Anyway...Ricky's little brother, Michael, has gotten himself in some trouble. Ricky wanted to know if we were still doing foster care.

I told him yes.

And then, without going into detail...because my gut says nothing is really going to come of this...I said we could be a resource for Michael if he needs us. It would HAVE to be through the foster care system because I would need the financial assistance and structure that foster care brings to the party. But he could give the people involved our information.

Ricky knew we were going on vacation. I haven't heard anything new about Michael since that phone call - and the one that followed from Ricky's older brother, Peter. They know we'd help. But the people in charge of Michael haven't called.

I have no idea what will happen. I'll check in with Ricky when we get back home.

-----

Whiz and Rex's mom and dad finally learned that we were on vacation out of state. This information was not taken well. Auntie Carla sent me a text letting me know her brother is not happy!

I know that CPS told Mom before we left. But, it was somewhat indicated that Mom might not have been in a mental state where she would remember said information. I really wish CPS would have called Mom back and discussed it again to make sure Mom and Dad understood.

Either way - Dad is PISSED. He also now knows that the babies have been doing video chats with his sister, Auntie Carla. He's not thrilled with that either.

Auntie Carla doesn't think that Mom and Dad fully grasp where this case is going.

I'm not really looking forward to the next visit drop off after we get back from vacation.

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I got another out-of-the-blue phone call today.

Remember Daisy?

Well...things are still a hot mess with her case. She's still in foster care. Mom and Dad have barely started their criminal trials - despite the fact that Dandelion was killed over a year ago.

I "follow" both the CPS case and the criminal cases online by looking up the public information that their county publishes. It's definitely not all the details. But it's enough. I also may or may not have used some other resources to figure out exactly where Daisy is living right now.

But Martin, the caseworker that Daisy had when she was reunified the first time, just found out where Daisy is currently living. And he's not pleased!! In fact, he said ever since he heard it yesterday he hasn't been able to rest or focus on anything. He's super angry.

Daisy is currently placed with Kori's husband.

Kori never divorced her first husband. She just hooked up with Daisy and Dandelion's dad without officially ending her first relationship. Her legal husband is also the parent to Kori's older two children.

Kori and her husband have a unique relationship. Kori told me after the first RU that she was leaving Daisy's dad and going back to him. Seemed strange at the time.

Anyway...Martin does NOT think it's good for Daisy to live with Kori's husband.

And for what it's worth, neither do I.

Martin is no longer with CPS as a caseworker. He's now moved to the adoptions unit. However, when the TPR trial actually happens for Daisy's parents, Martin is going to have to testify as a witness. That's why he's still involved.

And he wants to get further involved. He asked if we would still be an adoptive resource to Daisy if the State could get things straight and get Daisy into a better home. He wants to move her away from Kori's husband and place her with us. He indicated that he'd do whatever it takes to move her as soon as possible.

I said, "yes," we'd take placement. I indicated that we would need support from the State. I'm quite confident that her neurological needs have not been met for over two years.

Again though, much like with Michael, I'm not holding my breath that anything will happen. Martin told CASA, and the lawyers, and anyone that would listen about us a year ago - right after Dandelion's murder. No one from that county has ever contacted us. Not once! So I'm not holding my breath that they will now.

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We're still on vacation for a couple more days. Here's to praying Rex gets to feeling better. He just woke up from his second nap of the day. I offered him a bottle and he drank four ounces. He then proceeded to throw up most of it all over me.

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Oh the joys of foster care.

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For new readers...
You can click through the labels on the actual blog page to read about Ricky and Daisy. They joined our family in December of 2013 (totally separate cases). Ricky stayed for about six months. Daisy stayed about ten. I'm still in contact with Ricky. I haven't spoken to Kori, Daisy's mom, since Daisy and Dandelion were permanently placed with their aunt. CPS let me know about the murder of Dandelion somewhat off the record. But because it happened in a different county, we have never been formally contacted in any way.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Thank you!

The other day, my brother-in-law walked into my mom's house, where we are staying for vacation, and handed me this.
If you know my brother-in-law, it won't surprise you when I say he didn't know much about the card.

I think I'm supposed to thank someone named Courtney.

If it's you, Courtney, thank you! I'm not sure who you are. But I'm thoroughly touched by your generosity!!!!!! If it's someone else, whop my brother-in-law over the head and tell him everything so I can thank the right person or people.

The pork tenderloin I bought with the card was delicious. Going to Goldie's is a MUST every time we come home. In fact, I have to go back because I still haven't had my annual ice cream from Goldie's yet.

Trips home to Iowa need to generally include: a trip to Pizza Ranch, a taco pizza from Casey's, ice cream from Goldie's, and donuts from Casey's. It just is what it is. These items can't be found in Texas.

I am very touched that someone went out of their way to give me this gift card. It's little things like this that totally boost my spirits. I still smile when I think about the case of diapers that was sent to me when the Neverland Kids came. (I never did find out who those were from either.) Local friends have bought outfits for my kids. I've had people send gift packages. They're small things. Things I could provide for myself. But it's nice to have that help and support. It really does lift my spirits! On nights when I'm up all night with babies, or days when I'm so incredibly tired of changing diapers, it's nice to know that people are thinking about us and supporting us in the ways that they can.

Thank you again, Courtney!! I really appreciate your thoughtfulness and generosity!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Daily Media Dice

My kids LOVE their screen time. TV, Kindles, Xbox...they love it all.

It's hard in the summer to restrict it completely. With temperatures climbing up into the hundreds for days on end, most kids don't play outside much. (And really...can you blame them?!) Neither of my middle schoolers have developed friendships where they call friends and get together with anyone outside of school. They either hang out with kids in our immediate neighborhood or they are alone.

I tend to allow more media than I should.

There are all sorts of ways that people restrict screen time. I know some people make their kids do chores first. I've done that plenty. Others make their kids earn media by reading. These incentives have the potential to work well.

But if I'm honest, I totally suck at managing systems like that.

I could give you all my excuses. I'll spare you.

I hate being the bad guy, too. Because I really despise the Xbox most of the time. I need days where there is NO media. But I don't like being the mom that says they don't get any media that day.

I'm just being honest.

So we're going to try something new this summer. Each morning one of the boys will roll the dice for the day. Whatever number comes up will correspond with the type and amount of media they will get for that day. I've said that I'm going to play along, too.

The boys helped come up with the system. I'm completely surprised that they're OK with "none" being an option 25% of the time. I know they're hoping they roll an "any media - two hours" every day.

Just knowing that there will be some days with zero media makes it easier for me to handle stuff. And I'm not being the bad guy when they roll a "none". It's all on the dice. (This is a good tactic when you've got kids that love to negotiate and bargain all the time.)

This is what they came up with:

DAILY MEDIA DICE
2. Kindle only - one hour
3. Kindle only - two hours
4. NONE
5. one hour each - any media
6. NONE
7. two hours each - any media
8. movie only
9. NONE
10. one hour each - any media
11. two hours each - any media
12. NONE
  • Movie only =  must agree on movie to be watched together
  • Any media = for one hour….you may play separately for one hour each or you may play together for a total of two hours. Kindles will be surrendered or blocked after your media time is consumed.
  • Any media = for two hours…the maximum amount of time any one child shall be on the Xbox is two hours. Time may be shared – but shared time counts toward your total. Kindles will be surrendered or blocked after your media time is consumed.
I'm hoping I've got all bases covered. And I just might allow a re-roll after lunch after they do chores and/or read. I'm not telling them that yet, though. I'm sure this system will evolve over the summer.

The last day of school is June 2. I love having my kids home! I hope this system cuts down on the begging for screen time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

getting a babysitter

Yesterday, a new friend that I met in B.A.C.A. came over to the house to visit. (Let's call her Butterfly.) We sat around and just talked for a few hours. (It was soooooo nice to have some adult interactions!!) Not only is this woman wanting to get involved with B.A.C.A., but she's also a CASA volunteer already. She really understands the complexities of child abuse and foster care.

She also volunteered to do whatever it takes to become a babysitter for us.

I figured I'd share with everyone what that REALLY means.

If Butterfly is going to become a "legal" babysitter for any of my foster children, she has to be willing to:

  1. get complete background checks done including FBI fingerprints (at her cost)
  2. provide a copy of her driver's license and social security number to my licensing agency
  3. get tested for tuberculosis
  4. have CPR and First Aid training
  5. take a class in restraints that is held at my licensing agency
  6. read a study guide about supervision of foster children and take a test
  7. read a study guide about childhood development and take a test
  8. read a study guide about the Medicaid Health Passport and take a test
  9. read a study guide about transporting foster children in vehicles and take a test
  10. take an online class about psychotropic medications
  11. take an online class about trauma
  12. take an online class about being a medical consentor
  13. take an online class about disaster response
  14. take an online class about identifying and preventing child abuse
  15. take an online class about infection prevention
  16. take an online class about shaken baby syndrome
  17. take an online class about sudden infant death syndrome

I barely know Butterfly. But I'm really not comfortable asking her to do ALL that just so I can legally go out to dinner with my husband for a couple hours. Even if Herman, my son...age 20, is to babysit, he has to complete all of those requirements.

I haven't decided what I'm going to do. I'd like an opportunity to go out with my husband every now and then. But that's a lot to ask of anyone. Especially a causal friend. Especially when that friend is already a licensed nurse. But she still has to prove her knowledge for my agency. Especially when that friend has already undergone background checks and trainings to become a CASA volunteer. And did I mention, I barely know my new friend?!

Foster care sucks.

Monday, May 15, 2017

you have to give them permission

I'm going to speak like I know what I'm talking about. I'm going to give demands and say things HAVE to be done.

Please know that I'm flying by the seat of my pants almost 100% of the time.

But this...this I feel pretty strongly about. I feel this way based off the, albeit limited, conversations I've had with adult adoptees. I feel this way based of off writings done by adult adoptees. And I feel this way based off the reaction my son has when I do it.

As an adoptive parent you HAVE to give your adopted kids PERMISSION to not like you.

Mother's Day pretty much sucks. The media gives it entirely too much hype. So even if I told my kids we weren't going to celebrate the godforsaken holiday, they would still be bombarded with messages that they are supposed to.

And that's rough for kids in foster care or ones that have been adopted.

Sometimes it manifests with negative behaviors from our kids.

I'm not going to speak about the negative behaviors going on in my house. My kids are older so know that they are older "nasty" behaviors that parents don't like. But it's not my place to embarrass my kids by putting all their life out on the internet forever. So I'll be vague.

I got an opportunity to practice some therapeutic parenting yesterday.

Out of the blue, I grabbed my adopted kid and took him for a drive. I showed him irrefutable proof of some things that had happened. I gave him an opportunity to tell me what's been bugging him in his life. I gave him an opportunity to fess up for the wrongdoings and to get whatever he needed off his chest.

He was embarrassed. He was angry. He did not want to talk.

He's also 13. This is pretty normal.

As we drove, I did some talking. He did some talking. And there was a lot of quiet.

Then, I told him I was pretty sure what had been behind some of the recent negative behaviors. I used my words to give him permission to be mad at me because of Mother's Day.

He doesn't have to be grateful. He doesn't have to appreciate me. It's totally OK for him to be angry on Mother's Day and to hate the whole thing. I told him that out loud.

He has spent his life trying to understand why his mother chose not to parent him. Why did she give him up? Why didn't she want him?

Yes. I call her his mother. Not his birth mother. Not his biological mother. I just call her his mother. Because she is. She carried him for nine months and then she made a decision I'm never going to understand. But that doesn't make her any less his mother.

And it is NOT my place to say that my presence makes it all better.

He didn't want to hurt my feelings though. He never does.

So it's 100% my job to tell him it's OK to have those feelings.

What I told him yesterday was basically that the behaviors are NOT OK. But if he's got words he wants to use, I have to suck it up and hear them. I have to validate them. I have to tell him there's nothing wrong with him for feeling that way. It has to be OK for him to be mad at me for adopting him. It just has to.

Because out of the adoptive triad - HE is the only person that had NO SAY in the matter.

My kiddo cried some. I begged and pleaded with him to just let it out. I offered up counseling services. I offered up everything I could think of. He doesn't want to talk to anyone but me about this stuff. So, once again, this drive was all I could do to help him. We talked about him wanting to meet his mom. I told him, again, that I was never given much information about her and his dad. They wanted a closed adoption. (At least that's what I was told. And I will forever regret being too inexperienced and naive to ask for an open one.) I told him that I "found" her on Facebook years ago and I look at her public posts. (I show them to him sometimes as well.) I haven't "friended" her because I wouldn't do that without his blessing. I offered to friend her. I talked with him about how I could send her a private message that she may or may not accept. I told him that he could start a Facebook account and message her. But that's about all I could do. I don't have an address for him to write to or a phone number for him to call.

And that was that. He didn't want to talk any more. He made no decisions about trying to contact his mom. He told me he was going to make repairs for the things he had done wrong. He went inside and it was like nothing had happened the rest of the day.

I can only imagine how hard this is for him. And it doesn't really get easier. It is different. His feelings will change. But I don't expect him to ever love the fact that he was adopted. He can love me. He can love our family. But it has to be OK for him to hate being adopted.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

general catch up

The babies have been here for almost four months. We've finally settled into a pretty decent routine on most days. They each sleep through the night more often than not. They turn to us for comfort. It's exhausting. But it's working.

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The babies' parents still don't have a visit schedule. I have NO idea why CPS is allowing the nonsense. I guess it's probably because I accommodate it whenever possible.

For example, they had a visit last Saturday, May 6. Mom looked me in the eye and said she was going to go home and look at Dad's work schedule. She told me she'd call the monitoring company to set up the next visit either yet that afternoon or first thing on Monday. They are court ordered to get four hours each week. They can have two 2-hour visits or one 4-hour visit.

She waited until Thursday the 11th to ask for a visit on Saturday the 13th.

I was mad. But I said yes.

Visits with their parents are roughly weekly. They've been doing them on the weekends for four hours at a time. They meet at a Burger King. When it's over, the boys are always incredibly tired and overstimulated. They handle the transition to and from the visits well, though. It's frustrating to me that Mom & Dad insist on always scheduling afternoon visits. But...I'm just the foster parent. It's not my place to do anything more than inform people that the time is difficult for the kids. I have informed. But I'm not going to do anything else. When the visits run until 5:00pm, the boys often cry from the time they get home until bedtime. Not having a nap just wears them out. I do what I can to fill that time and bedtime often comes early. The boys are usually a little out of sorts the next day. By the day after that, they're generally back to "normal". Visits are hard. They just are. They're necessary, though. Which is why I refuse to complain or try to do anything else. It simply isn't my place. Because let's be honest - even if the visits were at a different time, four hours in a Burger King would still be hard. The visit venue isn't going to change. So I might as well just suck it up and deal with it.

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The boys are video chatting with their family in California about two times a week. Nothing is official yet in the case. I've been told that it's likely the goal will change on the 23rd, when we go to court next, to "relative conservatorship". Rights won't be terminated. The paternal aunt and uncle will be given permanent custody...eventually.

I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY like Auntie Carla!! I can't imagine how disappointing this is for their family. She shows an amazing balance between supporting the babies' parents and not making ANY excuses for their behavior. The family is going to be an awesome resource for the babies!!

ICPC takes forever, though. We all know it could easily be six months to a year before the babies are moved to California. And that's providing the judge allows the goal change. He should. But...this IS foster care and absolutely anything could happen! They will have to go through an official home study. It will have to be approved by Texas. Things will go back and forth between the two states for awhile. Then, and only then, will the babies move.

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Whiz is really starting to show an increased amount of anxiety in strange situations. When the babies first came, I took them almost nowhere...just to visits and occasionally out shopping with me. We didn't go out to dinner and we never got together with anyone else. It's obvious Whiz is aware when people (i.e. social workers) are talking about him. He's very aware of his surroundings! I kept his world small.

Yesterday I took them to get their pictures taken. We were the ONLY people in the studio. He had been fed. He wasn't tired. And still - Whiz freaked out by the end. I had him in the new (and quite comfortable) double stroller. He started screaming. This is very uncharacteristic for him. I tried to shush him. I tried to hold him. He didn't calm down though. He got more and more dysregulated. Then, right after I buckled him into his carseat, he vomited all over himself.

Anxiety barf is nasty!!

I said something about Whiz's ability to barf on command to Mom, yesterday. She laughed and said he's been that way his whole life.

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I called ECI for Whiz this week. His language delays are becoming more and more concerning to me.

He knows that language has meaning. And my gut tells me that he's developmentally advanced when it comes to his receptive language.

But his expressive language is VERY far behind.

Granted, he's using sign language. So he does have spontaneous speech. That is good! But he simply can't repeat basic sounds back to form words. For example, we read a book called The Belly Button Book. It's hilarious and says that hippos call their bellybutton a Bee Bo. Try as Whiz might, he can't repeat the sounds "bee bo". He turns two years old on July 2. He should be able to repeat basic sounds like that.

So as much as I DO NOT want to fill my schedule up with therapists, I think it's time to have an evaluation done and get a professional involved. I'm not really thinking that they're going to make that huge of a difference. But if I'm missing something important here, or if having a Dx helps Auntie Carla get a stipend when the boys move...I need a professional involved.

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I'm also thinking both boys need to see a doctor to be evaluated for FASD. I'm not convinced that either boy has the physical markers. But I'm not a professional. Both boys are tiny. According to my calculations, Whiz is in the 3rd percentile for height. I was told by CPS that Whiz has a heart murmur...or at least that he was born with one. Neither boy has language they way they should. Granted, Rex is only two weeks away from turning one. I was told by at least one speech therapist that "normal" development is one word at one. Rex does not have anything close to speech. He barely babbles. He isn't picking up sign. And he almost never uses anything but crying to get our attention. (Which, by the way, is very exhausting some days!) I do know that Rex was born five weeks early. So maybe that's playing into some of his developmental issues. Either way...I'd like it ruled out.

Mom also told me that two of her other children (Whiz and Rex have three half-siblings that live elsewhere) have an autism diagnosis. I double checked with My Genius Brother. He agreed with me, FASD and autism have many symptoms that cross-over. A doctor that doesn't do a thorough exam could easily diagnose a kid with autism when it's really trauma and FASD.

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The next court hearing is May 23rd. Like always, I will have to bring the kids with me. Even if they are excused, I will probably go to court. I want to know what's really going on. I want to hear what the lawyers actually have to say in this case. I want to know exactly what the judge has to say about the ICPC. I don't trust CPS to tell me much. Their current worker is an odd one. I can't quite put my finger on her. She seems good enough...but distracted.

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We survived Mother's Day. On Saturday, I had Whiz carry the bag in for his Mom with the photos that I had taken of the boys. I framed a 10x13 of the two babies together for Mom. Part of the Portraits Innovations package included some greeting cards. I printed those up with the "package photo" along with an individual shot of each kid. The front of the cards read "Happy Father's Day. Love, Whiz & Rex." I framed one of the cards for Dad and included it in the gift bag. That seemed to confuse Dad. He seemed disappointed that the extra greeting cards said "Father's Day" on them. I tried to explain it was part of the package and I included all the other sizes of the package photo in an envelope for them so they could give those to family members. I'm not sure he understood. Either way, I'm done with Mother's Day and Father's Day for the babies' parents. I'm having the 16x20 canvas photo that was part of the package deal sent to Auntie Carla, in California.

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And that about sums things up with what's going on with the babies. I'll try to write something about my forevers later this week.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Out Crazy the Crazy

When I first started learning about this whole therapeutic parenting thing - I found a blog called Welcome to My Brain. It totally changed how I thought about parenting. It completely turned things on end. In fact, I remember being a little scared. My kids were relatively young. I thought all of Herman's "issues" were related to his incredible stubbornness. TT and Bart were too little for me to really worry about. I wondered, sometimes, what God was preparing me for.

Well, Christine doesn't blog so much anymore. And she completely reorganized a lot of her posts and took a bunch down.

But her YouTube videos are available and they are amazing!!

This one is probably my favorite:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WU_HJY8md-0

FYI: Don't watch that video WITH your kids. It's better if you implement the tips and they come out of nowhere. Believe me. I know this one from experience.

I'd like to add on to everything that Christine has to say about getting kids un-stuck.

For me, I've boiled it down to the fact that when my kids start to get dysregulated, they need to DO something to get un-stuck. They need to stimulate their senses in a new way.

That's one of the biggest reasons we leave the house when a kid starts to lose it. Go for a drive. Just get OUT. I know Christine says to go for a walk in the video. Unfortunately, that really triggers my kids and makes it worse. They don't want anyone in the neighborhood to see them upset. They don't want to talk about anything that's bothering them where anyone else could possibly hear.

When you're in the car, there is no expectation of eye contact either. That is huge!! Sometimes we run a basic errand. Sometimes we go to McDonald's. Either way, I make sure the kids left at home are safe and under control. If not, everyone comes. Then I grab the child that is upset and I just start driving.

So if we're stimulating the senses, leaving the place where the dysregulation is happening is SEEING something different. Stimulate the visual.

If I'm working to just keep calm, I enjoy diffusing essential oils. I don't necessarily believe in all the hoopla about EOs. Good Lord - I know that's a dangerous thing to say. Probably ranks right up there with talking about politics or religion. (LOL) I like having my house SMELL nice though. I do think that certain scents can help boost my mood. Most of the time, when I diffuse, it's for me. The lights on my diffuser are a reminder to me as well that I'm "on my game".

I also work on keeping order and not overstimulating everyone with the SOUNDS in the house. When I'm really on my game, I've got music playing quietly in the background. Again, this is more for me. But it's my job to be the external regulation. Though, sometimes, cranking up some music and dancing is a good way to get a kid out of a funk.

That leaves touch and taste.

TOUCH: One of my kids is sensory seeking when he's getting dysregulated. I've got several different things around the house for that. A simple vibrating massager is kept in the living room and it's always ready to go. And because we've talked about this so much with my kids, sometimes he will ask to take a bath when he's stressed out. The warm water covering his whole body gives him the input he needs. Of course I always offer up back rubs or hugs.

Along with touch is anything that stimulates the large muscle groups. Run around the block. Play basketball. Go punch a heavy bag. Do anything that gets you to move. When your kids are little, you probably have to do this with them. Sometimes mine will recognize the dysregulation though and choose to go move on their own.

TASTE: Like I said in my post yesterday, kids from the hurt places often have a harder time managing their blood sugars. I know I'm not exactly phrasing that right. It's not like they've got diabetes. But when their blood sugars dip - they get "hangry". This is VERY true for one of my kids. I figured it out when he was pretty little. And even though he's much older now, I pack snacks like the mom of a toddler any time we're going to be going out for a long time or if we're going to be doing something that I know is difficult for him. The last thing I want to have happen is for him to get hungry and have to deal with that feeling on top of the stress he's already trying to manage.

Dr. Karyn Purvis did a study during a camp with kids that had experienced trauma where they addressed this issue.
This first link describes the camp.
The second link mentions where they fed the kids at camp every two hours.
I took this information to heart several years ago. It's made a huge difference with my kids. And I can tell every time I screw up and my kids haven't been eating right. A bowl full of sugar cereal for breakfast and then a skipped lunch is a sure-fire way to guarantee there will be a temper tantrum of epic proportions at about 1:30pm when someone slights someone else playing outside.

Sometimes my kid(s) need a whole meal. Sometimes they need it earlier than when we serve lunch or dinner. I've learned to be OK with that. Sometimes they eat supper the minute they walk in the door from school. Sometimes, when I know it's been a rough day, I pick them up from school and we immediately swing through a drive-thru. I know it's crap food. But one of my kids REALLY likes crap food. And I'm OK with that. It keeps him level-headed and better able to handle life sometimes.

When they were little, I kept dum-dum lollipops in my purse. Sometimes stimulating the sense of taste with a piece of candy is enough to ward off a melt-down. The sugar, the strong flavor, the act of giving them something they like, is all helpful. Sour candy can work really well too.

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Please don't think I've got it all together and I remember to do this stuff every day! Believe me, I get it wrong as much as I get it right. But when I'm working hard to be on my game, these are tips I keep in my toolbox as they've been very helpful over the years.

Friday, May 5, 2017

McDonald's instead of punishment

When I started reading blogs written by foster/adoptive parents, some of the most helpful posts included actual things that happened in the home and stories about how the parents handled the situation.

I used to post things like that more often. With all the babies we've had in our home over the past few years, my actual blogging has fallen by the wayside.

Something happened a couple weeks ago in my house though and I thought it would be a good story to share. This is what therapeutic parenting (sometimes) looks like in our house.

When you go to trainings to become a foster/adoptive parent - you're often told that you'll have to parent differently. The scenarios you're given may or may not be good ones. I personally don't think I've ever attended a training session that actually taught me much. Many of the stories we'd read or act out were either too extreme for me to wrap my brain around or too simplified.

Know what I mean?

So this story is specific. It's not going to be exactly like what happens in your house. But maybe you'll get the gist of what I mean when I say that relationship HAS to be more important than immediate consequences.

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My kid was playing video games after school. I was in the other room working on something else. I could hear the tension building in my son's voice. He was getting angry. Really angry. Things weren't going right in the game and his frustration was mounting.

Verbally, I told him from the other room he needed to calm down.

Never in the history of telling someone to calm down has it ever been effective.

I stopped what I was doing and came into the room with my son.
"I can hear in your voice that you're getting upset. Your words are harsh and you're breathing in short breaths. Those are signs that you're getting angry. Do you need to stop playing the video game?"
I came to my son and got down at his level (versus standing over him). I used direct descriptions of behaviors that are harder to argue with instead of vague accusations. I didn't order him to do anything. I tried to let him have control over the situation.

It didn't help. He kept getting angrier and angrier. Eventually it got to a place where I told him that he no longer had a choice in the matter. He was required to be done playing video games.

He took the controller and threw it across the room breaking it.

Another child came in the room and tried to diffuse things. I told that child I had it under control and he didn't need to get involved.

Unfortunately, that made my angry child even more upset. He started making very dangerous threats. He tried to climb over the recliner in order to get at the other child and start a physical fight.

At that point in time I had to make a choice. I had four kids that needed to be kept safe. (Rex was sleeping so at least that kept one kid out of the mix.) I was afraid that if my angry child actually went toward his brother, the other child would lose his ability to maintain control and an honest-to-god fist fight would break out in my living room.

I put my angry son in a restraint.

My angry son was incredibly angry.

I hadn't used a restraint in what felt like years. It scared me. My mind was racing. I took him from standing to down on the ground. Over and over I told my son that all he had to do was tell me what he was going to do if I let him go. I needed to keep him safe. Where would he go to get himself regulated?

My son is sensory-seeking when he's dysregulated. So, as much as he didn't want the restraint, he didn't fight it at all. In a way, he wanted it. In fact, I let go of his hands completely and just kept him pinned close to me and he never honestly tried to get away. He did slowly drag me across the living room. He refused to tell me where he would go to get himself regulated.

I tried not to panic. But believe me...I was panicking.

I honestly didn't know what I was going to do to end the restraint if my son wouldn't tell me where he was going to go to regulate himself.

5:00pm hit and my husband walked in through the door from work. I unpinned my angry son and very, very briefly told Mr. Amazing what had happened. My angry son just sat on the living room floor - almost in a trance of anger and embarrassment.

I looked at him and said we needed to go to the truck. I told him we had to go to McDonald's.

And that's why this is therapeutic parenting. That's why this looks different.

I simply couldn't punish my son for his outburst right then. It would have been the wrong thing to do!!!

Instead, I HAD to meet his immediate needs. My son was hungry. He needed to eat dinner right then. My son needed to leave our home. For my kids, getting out of the house almost always helps with their dysregulation.

So I drove my son to McDonald's and let him pick out his favorite meal. He started eating in the car right away.

Without me having to say much of anything, my angry son told me that he would purchase a new controller with his own money. He would be grounded from the Xbox until the new controller was in our home. And he would apologize to everyone for his outburst.

He also told me about some things that had happened in school that day that had upset him. He was already thinking about what his possible triggers were that caused the outburst.

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Relationship is more important that forcing an immediate apology or dishing out consequences. Meeting the immediate needs of the child is more important that punishment. It's much easier, and much more effective, to handle consequences when everyone (and I do mean everyone - the parent and the child) has calmed down.

I think it's safe to say that most all kids do know right from wrong. Even when they act like they don't...they really do. And most kids want to do the right thing. They're doing the best they can. Honest, they are.

Escalating things when there is dysregulation in the house never helps.

Believe me, when my angry son threw that controller I wanted to lose my mind. I wanted to yell. I wanted to smack some sense into him. For goodness sake - he's a teenager. He knows better!! I know he knows better. I've been raising him since he was born. Never in the history of his life has it been OK to throw things across the room in anger.

He knew that, though. He knew he had done wrong. He did not need a lecture from me pointing out truths he already knows. He was embarrassed. He needed a way out. Plus, he was hungry. Lots of kids, especially those that have experienced trauma, have a harder time managing blood sugars and get "hangry".

So I gave him an immediate out. I didn't expect him to fix any of the issues right away. I met his needs first.

I think this is important whether the kid is 2 years old or 17 years old. All of our kids need to have their needs met. They'll have plenty of time "in the real world" to get their asses kicked when they screw up. It is NOT up to me to start that process early. And it certainly doesn't coddle my kids when I meet their needs. It shows them that I care. It helps them regulate faster. And it helps them stay connected. When they are regulated we can talk about what the trigger was. We can go over coping skills that our kids can use when they're triggered. We can make repairs for damages done.

But all of that is only effective if our kids are regulated.

And sometimes that means they get McDonald's after they throw a temper tantrum.