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.

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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.

----

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.

-----

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.

-----

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.

Friday, March 24, 2017

court for Sparkler

Sparkler is a friend of My Genius Sister's.

Sparkler was visiting her mother, JW, in prison this past week. JW was delicately trying to tell Sparkler that court was going to happen again. Contempt charges had been filed against Cardinal, Sparkler's paternal grandmother, and the guardianship of Sparkler was going to be contested.

JW is trying hard to not make all of this extra stressful for Sparkler. Everyone knows that anything could happen in court. Despite the fact that JW wants Sparkler to live with My Genius Sister (MGS)...Cardinal is "family" and sometimes judges can't see past that.

JW asked Sparkler if she knew about court already.

With more confidence than an 8 year old should have about matters of this nature, Sparkler schooled her mother...
"Yes, Mom. I know there is going to be court. They're going to talk about guardianship. Do you know what a guardian is, Mom? A guardian is supposed to GUARD you. And Mom, I really think MGS would guard me better than Grandma does." (paraphrased)
Things with Sparkler have deteriorated from just "not good" to downright dangerous. She moved out of the home she had been in. This, in and of itself, isn't a bad thing. The home she was in could almost have been featured on an episode of Hoarders. But her new home had no furniture, very few clothes, and no food. Plus, Grandma is drinking...a lot. She's leaving Sparkler alone. In fact, Cardinal was unable to be located not that long ago and Sparkler took it upon herself to walk to the local bar to wait for her grandma. Patrons took pity on her and bought Sparkler supper. And funny...Grandma was very surprised and angry that someone in the bar called child services and yet another investigation was opened.

So right now, My Genius Sister is at court. She doesn't get to sit in on the proceedings because she has to testify about some photos that are being presented as evidence. It's a different judge this time. And...fingers crossed...I think this judge cares more about the safety of Sparkler than the last one did.

Please say a prayer for everyone involved. I'll let y'all know what happens.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

scheduling a visit

This post is going to be long and choppy. But I want to shine a light on some things foster parents sometimes have to deal with in The System.

At the adversary hearing, about two weeks after the children were removed, Whiz and Rex's parents were given their service plans. They were also assigned visitation. Because of the domestic violence charges on Dad, visits between Mom and Dad were to be separate. Each parent was given two, 2-hour, visits per week. Mom's visits were to be in the local CPS office. (CPS agreed to provide transportation.) And Dad's visits were to be supervised in the community.

Relatively soon after court, CPS coordinated the visit schedule between Mom, myself, and the third-party monitoring company. Mom's visits were to be on Tuesdays and Thursdays, about 30 minutes away from where we live. I am required to provide all transportation. That is a done deal where I'm at. Neither CPS or my licensing agency will transport the children unless it is an emergency. Even then, it's unlike they would transport. This requirement of me, to provide all transportation, is in my contract. (And I'm totally OK with that!!! I just say this so people understand that there are NO "transporters" available.)

Dad works full time. Visits for him were to be done around his work schedule. That meant that the actual visit day and time might change and that he would take his four hours worth of visit time all at once 1 time per week.

Mom has been pretty hit and miss. She's called to cancel most every visit she misses ahead of time so I don't have to drive and wait around for the no-show. I'd say she's made it to about 1/3 of her visits.

Dad doesn't do well at scheduling his own visits. I think that in most cases, visits with Dad have only been scheduled when the third-party monitoring company calls and/or texts Mom to make him set up a visit. He's actually kept every single one of his visits that was set up, though.

Then they had court on March 10. Dad was able to convince the judge to let him have visits with Mom. The number of hours didn't change. Visits are still supposed to be a total of only four hours, per parent, per week.

The third-party monitoring company sets up all the visits with the parents. CPS generally stays out of the whole mess.

The boys had a visit with both parents on Thursday the 16th. They had another one on Sunday the 19th.

I have NO problem with the schedule or the frequency. I'm definitely not trying to sabotage anything. But when the monitoring company told me they were scheduling another visit (this one for only two hours) with Mom for Thursday the 23rd, I did ask if that was "OK" - as I thought the parents were only supposed to get four hours per week and Mom had seen the boys for four hours just the past Sunday.

Back and forth I went with the monitoring company. More than anything, I want the monitoring company to actually SET a visit SCHEDULE with the parents. I do not care if it changes all the time. But from the very first time I spoke with Dad, he told me that he gets his work schedule a month in advance. He has told me every single time I've asked him that he will give his full schedule to CPS and/or the monitoring company and set visits up a month at a time.

I've had the babies for over two months now and I NEVER know when the next visit with Dad is going to be. And now that Mom and Dad visit together, based on Dad's work schedule, I don't know when ANY visits are going to be.

And I'm just not OK with that. I don't want much....just a little bit of advance notice. Not only do I have a household to run, but I've actually got a rather time consuming job that I have to give attention to on a daily basis as well! I can't promise a job to a customer and then get pulled away for hours to transport to a visit, wait around, and then transport back home. (I wait in the community for two hour visits. The location of the four hour visits is slightly closer to my house, so I drive home.)

Everything ended on Tuesday night this week with the director of the monitoring company telling me that he was waiting to hear from Mom to see if she had secured transportation to the Thursday visit. I assumed one would happen - but I didn't know for sure yet.

Wednesday morning...

Both babies puked on me at different times. I didn't think too much of it. Rex is a puker and Whiz will puke when he's mad.

Wednesday afternoon...

I sent a text to the monitoring company (the boss man) asking if the visit for Thursday had been officially confirmed. In between any answer, I got Whiz up from his nap.

Whiz had a fever of 103. I sent another text to the monitoring company advising them of this. I said, "Do you want to do a visit with him sick? He could be better by tomorrow, of course."

The monitoring company boss told me to contact him Thursday morning if Whiz was still running a fever.

Later Wednesday afternoon...

I decided to take Whiz to the doctor. Normally I don't think too much of a fever. But because of the visit, I was going to make sure I covered ALL my bases!! I packed both babies up and headed to the pediatrician.

I sent a text to the monitoring company, "I'm at the doctor with Whiz. He tests positive for influenza A. He's likely to be sick for several days as the symptoms just started today." I sent this text to both the actual monitor and her boss.

The monitor (let's call her Abby) replied, "Let me speak to Mom and see what she'd like. We don't recommend the visit, but if you'd like me to ask, I will."

I replied, "I will do WHATEVER I need to do. I understand both keeping the visit - because Mom needs to be able to parent healthy and sick children. I also understand looking out for Whiz and his comfort and letting him stay home."

The response from Abby that came next floored me:
"Visit will still happen in the morning. If Whiz is worse, then Rex will be the only one to stay for the visit."
Let me break that down...

Abby wants me to put two kids in my car and drive 30+ minutes over to the town where the visit it. I'm supposed to drop the healthy child off and then hang out somewhere in the community with the sick kid for two hours. Then I can come back to pick up the healthy kid.

Or...

I can drive both kids. Drop off one. Drive back home. Wait around for maybe 45 minutes. Drive back. Pick one kid up. Drive back home.

I told this 20 year old girl, "If Whiz is worse, it won't be good for him to travel and stay out in the community for two hours during the visit time. And I can't drive back and forth like that. It would be over two hours in the car for Whiz."

During this fiasco that definitely raised my blood pressure, Rex tested positive for the flu as well. I communicated this with Abby and she told Mom. Mom decided to cancel the visit for today.

Thank God!

Both boys were puking this morning. Whiz ran a fever ALL DAY. And both boys slept a ton!!! Mixing a visit into all of that would not have been good at all!

And here I am...Thursday night...and I have NO IDEA when the next visit with the babies' parents is going to be.

I'll be bugging Abby and/or her boss again tomorrow. I'm going to type up a lovely email for our CPS worker and my licensing agency. Right now, all I'm "demanding" is at least a two day notice prior to any visit. But I haven't put that in writing (other than texts).

And if you know anything about foster care, if it didn't get written down...it didn't happen.

Document. Document. Document.

Monday, March 20, 2017

CPS did their monthly visit

Not word for word...but quotes from the babies' CPS worker from about an hour ago...

The children will probably go back on a monitored placement.
Then they'll come back into Care when Dad gets arrested again.

The judge gave me permission to start on the ICPC home study.

The parents have got a year to work on their case plan.

One thing that is going to hold the parents up is that they only work their services on Dad's days off.

Yes, the old case will be taken into consideration. (I asked about the 15/22 federal law.)

The parents know how to work The System. They know what to say. They'll take their classes. I've got information from the neighbors. I can't disclose to you what they said. But they know things. I hope someone will call me.

I have no proof. Mom had a black eye the other day but she refused to let me take a picture of it.

We will check the police reports to see if neighbors call the police on Mom and Dad.
Even if there's no arrest, we will factor that in.

Well, if they go back on a monitored placement, at least we'll have the home study started on the relative for ICPC.

I hope we can keep these babies safe.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

we have court on Thursday

The case with the newest cherubs is well under way. I've barely talked to their CPS worker though so I have no clue how the parents are actually doing with their case plan. (Not that it's my business. But when I can tell that parents are doing everything they are supposed to, I know that reunification is a realistic possibility and it can happen sooner rather than later. When it's obvious case plans aren't being complied with, I know that CPS has to work on alternate solutions for the children and permanency.)

I do know that visits have been very hit or miss. I'm not sure how much weight that brings to this specific case, though. The parents have detailed case plans they are to work and CPS is supposed to be handling many things. I haven't been given the information to take Rex for his DNA testing. That was one thing that is supposed to happen. And I seriously doubt ICPC has been started for the relative resource in another state that expressed interest in taking the boys. I know the worker talked with the aunt. But that's all I know.

The hearing this Thursday is a 60-day status hearing. I checked with their worker (playing dumb) and asked if I needed to have the babies' things washed and ready to pack after court...or if the State was planning on keeping the boys in Care longer. Their worker responded that it would take something rather remarkable for the boys to go home on Thursday and that's not what will be happening at court.

I'm pretty sure this case is going to drag out entirely too long. My gut tells me that the parents are not complying at all with any of their service plans. I fear that ICPC (the process to move children in foster care across state lines) will take way too long. In the best of cases it takes many months. I've heard of it taking as long as a year to complete. States don't always play nice with each other. And if for any reason the ICPC falls through, I don't think there is another family option.

I continue to pray for Mom and Dad. But I'm afraid that nothing is changing in their relationship. And that means that Mom is still unsafe (very unsafe) and that means the kids wouldn't be safe if they return home.

I'm not nervous about court this time. There are a couple reasons:
  1. I'm trying really, really, really hard to keep my head and heart in the right place. These boys deserve to live with family. I'm not actively trying to adopt anyone. And even though everything seems super messy, the case is too young for me to be emotionally attached in an unhealthy way. I tend to keep my head and heart in check for about a year. After that year mark I struggle when cases are messy. I'm a shit or get off the pot kind of gal. And I hate how the State drags things out forever without requiring progress. 
    Like when Russell and Star stayed in Care with me instead of being moved to the grandparents. The State didn't do a damn thing to stray from that ultimate ending - so they should have reached it sooner rather than later. Same with these kids. If they're going to move to a new state...let's get that process started. Put me in contact with the aunt. Let's start Facetime or Skype conversations. Let's actually have a healthy transition! 
  2. I'm also taking an anti-anxiety medication. I gave up trying to handle this very bizarre way of living without some extra help. It's not normal to parent other people's children for them with a ton of other people making sure you're doing it the "right way". Nothing about that is normal. And on a day to day basis, I do OK. Court is just very stressful for me because so many times bad things have happened at court. I freak out just driving near the courthouse if I'm out shopping. I'm on a med I can take for a couple weeks and then go off any time I want. Then take again when I think I might need it.
Thursday is the big day. Court just happens to be scheduled at the exact same time a visit with Mom is supposed to happen. I've been told CPS is rescheduling the visit. It might happen after the hearing. I don't know yet. CPS hasn't told me. (Gotta love their level of communication.)

Please pray for the decision makers. Mom needs help. CPS is offering it. But if she doesn't want to accept what's going on in her life, she's going to lose these children. That is the most tragic ending I can think of.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

the first visit

In Texas, after children have been removed and placed in foster care, CPS usually holds something called a Family Group Conference shortly after the first adversary hearing. This meeting was held for the boys this week on Tuesday night. The visit schedule was discussed and transportation arrangements were made so that Mom would be able to get to her visits.

The first visit was supposed to be this morning from 10:00am to 12:00pm. It has to be in the CPS office because the staff is trying to help Mom choose to leave her very abusive situation. They file police reports when she shows up all bruised.

I'm rooting for Mom. I don't know the whole story, but I'm choosing to go into this case fully on her side.

I'll freely admit it - I was NOT on Daisy's mom's side or Russell's mom's, either. Those two babies had been violently physically abused. I was empathetic to their mothers as I firmly believe they are probably victims, too. But Daisy and Russell had been hurt so badly that I didn't have a lot of love for either mom from the get-go.

I wrote a letter to Whiz and Rex's Mom to tuck in the diaper bag. I also packed a second bag with toys to help occupy the time. Our CPS offices typically have horrible (HORRIBLE) visit rooms. Last, I got permission to provide lunch for both boys.

Sadly, at 8:01am this morning, I got a text message from the CPS worker telling me that Mom had called to cancel her visit.

I'm very sad for Mom. I wish there was a way I could (safely) contact her and tell her about her kids. (I've been told by several people that Dad is very volatile. I'm not going to be passing out my phone number to anyone in the family of origin just yet.)

This afternoon I got a call from the visit monitoring agency. (CPS in our area hires 3rd party companies to monitor the visits.) They wanted to know where I live so they can set up visits with Dad. He's employed so they have to be in the evening, on the weekends, or on his varying days off. I was confused when the monitoring agency told me what town they were going to put the visits in. It didn't make sense to me because there are no CPS offices in that town. She then said that the visits were going to most likely be in a Burger King or McDonald's.

A shock of exclamation came out of my mouth.
  1.  I don't think visits should ever be held in fast food restaurants. It implies that the family can afford fast food. It's not private by any stretch of the imagination. And no kid wants to hang out in a McDonald's for two to four hours. (Dad is going to take one 4-hour visit a week because he can't schedule two 2-hour visits.)
  2. Even though I don't think any kid should have visits in a fast food restaurant -- I especially don't think it's appropriate for an infant and a toddler! Dad wouldn't even be able to put Rex down on the floor to play. And for FOUR HOURS?! That is just setting Dad up to fail. And as much as I'm not a fan of him based on what I've been told...that's still wrong on so many levels to set him up to fail from the beginning.
The monitoring agency said that they've been instructed to set visits up with Dad in a different city from where he (and Mom) live and from where I live. The lady said she'd check with her supervisor to see if there was an office that could accommodate the visits instead of having them at a restaurant. I thanked her profusely.

I haven't heard anything back. Probably won't until tomorrow. And now it looks like my weekends are toast for awhile. I won't be able to leave or do anything. (I have to transport and then stay available in case Dad no-shows or wants to cut his visits short.)

Things are about to get messy, I'm sure. Visits are never easy. They will be starting soon.

Monday, January 30, 2017

What I know about Daisy

I know I put most of this up on Facebook. I've been a pretty lousy blogger lately. But a reader asked me about Daisy and her case so I figured I'd update here.

All I know is that Daisy is still in foster care. I don't know where she's at exactly. I don't know how many foster homes she's blown through. And I know that the State is trying to terminate rights on both of her parents.

I'm able to "follow along" with this case just a little because the county Dandelion's murder happened in puts their CPS cases up online. Since I know the names of the involved parties, I can look up the case and see when things are scheduled to happen. It's limited information. I can't help myself though. I check it regularly.

The TPR jury trial is currently scheduled for February 13.

On January 18th of this year, both Mom and Dad were finally indicted on a criminal level for the murder of their daughter, Dandelion.

"injury to a child with intentionally causing serious bodily injury"

It's a First Degree Felony. Both are still out on bond. But the criminal proceedings have finally begun.

I'll be following along with this as much as I can online as well. I'm curious as to how it will all turn out in the end.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Where are Russell and Star?

A reader asked me yesterday where Russell and Star are.

I sometimes forget that not everyone follows my drivel on Facebook.  :)

This is a super fast recap of how that case ended...

I went to court on the morning of August 1, 2016. Russell and Star had been excused so they stayed home with Mr. Amazing. I was pretty sure the case was going to take a major change. I just had no idea how major and how fast.

Mom was there. She made it clear to everyone that she wanted the kids to stay with us. She no longer was in favor of them going to stay with the grandparents. First she tried to tell her lawyer. He ignored her. Then she tried to tell me. I brought the babies' lawyer over to translate.

I honestly don't know how it all happened. It was rather fast and overwhelming.

Lawyers and CPS went into the judge's chambers. Then, as fast as it started, it was over. Everyone said they were in favor of the babies being moved to the grandparents' home. Even though the lawyer for the Russell and Star expressed concern, she ended up saying she was in favor. Mom's lawyer lied and said that Mom was in favor.

The hearing ended and CPS told me they'd be by in about four hours to pick the kids up.

The case had reached the legal end. If they had wanted to do the RIGHT THING and actually TRANSITION the kids to the grandparents - they would have had to extend the case. Everyone decided against this option.

No...that's not true. No one even discussed it. A transition was never an option.

Instead, they gave the grandparents Permanent Managing Conservatorship. They did not terminate rights. Mom was given a visit schedule so she could keep seeing her kids. And just like that, CPS was out of the case. There was to be zero oversight. Zero transition. It was just going to be done.

I went home and packed up as much as I possibly could. CPS showed up. The babies' things barely fit in her car. Bopper gave me the phone number and address for Grandma. She also gave me Mom's phone number. I cried a lot. It was so unfair for Russell and Star. They had barely seen the grandparents over the last several months. They had never been to their house. They had never had an unsupervised visit of any kind. The kids were just swooped up and moved.

As the week progressed I got super sick. I chalked it up to everything but what it was. I ended up being hospitalized on August 7 with Clostridium difficile (C. diff). I was in and out of the hospital three times over the course of the month. (I also developed pancreatitis and severe mouth ulcers that left me dehydrated. Oh...and they found a tumor on my liver during testing for C. difficile. I don't have cancer - the biopsy was negative.)

Because of the illness, I neglected updating the blog at all. The grief of losing the babies the way we did was pretty intense. I mean...I knew they weren't going to stay with us. I knew that even though Mom changed her mind, no one was going to listen to her. I just assumed that CPS would actually transition the children to the grandparents. I figured there would be visits and at least a little bit of communication. Instead, there was nothing.

I did manage to switch licensing agencies though. That process took a lot longer than I thought it would. We are now licensed through a new one and I'm hoping things work better than they did with our last agency. I'm not holding my breath though. Most of what's wrong with foster care is wrong on the State level. No licensing agency can change that.

Whiz and Rex moved in with us on January 18. I certainly didn't "plan" on taking two babies again. We're licensed for ages 0-17. I figured we'd take older kids. These two babies had been placed in a shelter though. I have no idea why we weren't called when they were removed initially. We would have said yes then. When I was told about them being in a shelter though, it just seemed like the right thing for them to move in with us. After all, I've got two cribs, two car seats, two high chairs, and two baby jails. Whiz is almost 19 months old and Rex just turned 8 months old on the 27th. I didn't have to rearrange anything in the house. I just had to get the baby toys out again.

As for Russell and Star - I hear tiny bits and pieces about them. Their mother accepted my friend request on Facebook. When she posts pictures of the kids, which isn't that often, I get to see them. The grandparents blocked me on FB and won't return any of my text messages. (I never tried to call because of the language differences. But I can text them in Spanish...and I did. And my texts were ignored or not received.)

Russell is still seeing the same occupational therapist as he did when he was in my home. She hasn't broken HIPPA...but she did tell me that every single concern I had about Russell going to live with the grandparents is true. He's dirty and sick all the time. The level of neglect is significant. But, there isn't anything serious enough that anyone can call the hotline.

Russell and Star's mom is pregnant again. She's still with Star's father (the man suspected to have broken all of Russell's bones). Star's dad has been arrested again though and is in federal custody. I'm sure he'll be deported again. But, due to where we live, I'm sure he'll be back on this side of the wall as soon as he can be. Hopefully Mom's new baby will be perfectly healthy and Dad will have no reason to abuse any children again.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Grey

Most kids in foster care are there because of grey reasons. It's simply NOT cut and dry. Most kids are in foster care because of the ambiguous term "neglect".

I found this data to be interesting and it definitely backs my claim. It says that 81% of all confirmed cases of maltreatment in Texas were neglect-based. Eighty-one percent. Let that number sink in just a bit.

Foster care is necessary. I'm not saying it isn't. But out of those 81% of children that were neglected, how many were taken from their families of origin and placed with strangers? And how many of those times was it REALLY necessary?

Sadly, I've had quite a few "black and white" cases come to my home.
  1. MissArguePants and her sister, TurtleTurtle, had been sexually abused (and physically abused and horribly neglected).
  2. Pumpkin had been medically neglected and physically abused and neglected to the point of being totally alone where she wandered the streets. (Pumpkin is non-verbal and functions on the level of a toddler. This was really serious neglect.)
  3. Daisy had been shaken almost to death.
  4. The Neverland Kids watched their infant brother be killed right in front of them. They needed a safe environment. I'm not 100% convinced they NEEDED to be taken from their mother permanently. She wasn't the abuser. But the death of a child is incredibly serious and the situation was very significant. I stand behind CPS removing the children so they could assess the full level of danger in the home. I'm not sure I stand behind how CPS handled things after the kids were forced to leave my home. CPS terminated rights on Mom and Dad and the children are in need of an adoptive home. Odds are, the siblings are being split up. At least that's the last information I heard.
  5. Russell had 15 broken bones, a lacerated liver, and he had been starved almost to death.

All of these children NEEDED to be taken from their families and placed into a safe home. Foster care really is a necessity.

However...
  1. Dude and Dolly were being neglected. There was never any evidence of physical abuse. They were being fed and clothed. Their needs were being met for the most part. Granted, their mother just walked away when they were taken. And then she spent quite a bit of time in jail. But could the case have gone totally different if she had been given better services? What would have happened if she got help and her kids stayed WITH her?
  2. Ricky NEVER needed foster care. Yes, he needed to be out of the home with his mother. But he had already moved to a good place. Rebecca took excellent care of him. She had already been caring for him for years. CPS did not need to get involved the way they did with Ricky.
And that brings me to our newest kids: Whiz and Rex.

Their case is grey. Oh so very grey.

It doesn't look that way on the surface. After all, Whiz has been in foster care before. Domestic violence and alcohol abuse are damaging to families. I do not know what happened for real during the first year of Whiz's life. I don't even really know the whole story of how he got to me. I know that Rex was born and the State did not remove him. He stayed at home with Mom and Dad. I know that Rex is fat and happy. I know that someone took good care of him. And for the last couple months, when Whiz was at home with his Mom and Dad, I think they cared for him OK enough as well.

Maybe they didn't. Maybe there's more to this than I know.

But it's not my job to go down that path. It's my job to help this family get back together.

Really. That's part of my job as a foster parent.

I'm not "allowed" to do much with the family of origin. I'm not allowed to supervise visits. I can't provide transportation or do anything outside of our contact before and after visits in the CPS office. But I can smile at Mom. I can use respectful language and not look down on her. I can ask her about bedtime rituals, favorite meals, skincare products, and more. I need to show her that I value her as their mother.

I will struggle a little bit more offering this level of respect to their father. If the criminal charges against him are true, he needs more help than CPS is probably going to provide. But...it's not MY job to judge him. It's my job to care for his children and to support the goals of the State. And despite his mistakes, I can still be a decent human being. I don't have to vilify him. I can encourage a positive relationship with his kids.

I'm not 100% convinced that the children needed to come into my home in order for Mom and Dad to get the help that they need though. I do NOT have any answers. But I do know that foster care, no matter how wonderful the home, is damaging to families. Whiz was plucked from everything he knows and placed with strangers. It's been weeks and he's seen his parents 1 or 2 times...tops. Nothing about my house looks or smells or sounds right. And there's nothing I can do to fix this. All I can do is meet his needs and help him see that he is safe and loved.

I pray that all the services CPS offered to Whiz and Rex's parents are good. I pray that they get the help they need. I honestly do. Because these awesome little boys deserve to grow up with their family. Every kid does. I hope this case is a short one.