The CASA Update

CASAI am sad to report that I will likely not reach my personal goal of becoming a CASA volunteer this year. I had hoped that if I had my name removed from our foster care license, this would remove the conflict of interest. Unfortunately, our local office decided that since Mickey would still hold HIS license and we are married, that it would still be a conflict. I’m not willing to get divorced, lol, so my goal is on the back burner until we decide to officially close our license. (I think we will probably renew our license this summer so that we can continue to do respite.)

The person I emailed with earlier this month said there may be ways I can volunteer with the CASA organization without being an actual CASA Volunteer. She passed my name along but I have yet to hear anything. I will follow up with them soon, as I am eager to feel useful.

Have you ever considered becoming a CASA Volunteer? I would encourage you to visit their website and explore how you can make a difference in the life of a foster child.

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52 Lists | My Favorite Adoption Songs

Home by Phillip PhillipsI have always loved lists! Lists help me process my life and help me stay on track (when I use them, anyway). I recently stumbled on Moorea Seal‘s blog where she shared the following:

I love lists!  So I thought it would be fun to start a series on my blog for 2013 that focuses on List making, lists for fun, lists for self discovery, you name it.  And it’s all about participation!  Each week I’ll have a new list prompt for you to download.  I think it could be really fun to print out a page each week, collect them through the year and then bind them together at the end of the year as a little memento of 2013.

I can’t say that I will always follow her prompts or even reach 52 Lists in 2013. I’m going to share lists in my own way and at my own pace. (I don’t need any more obligations or pressures in my life right now.)

One of the things I have often searched for over the past year is a list of the best foster care and adoption related songs. So, here you have it, my top 5 songs:

  • Dark Side by Kelly Clarkson
    I think this song applies to many kids in foster care, especially ones with Reactive Attachment Disorder. Daffy has definitely made the connection to the lyrics and how it applies to her life. In many ways, I feel like she is still showing us her dark side and testing us to see if we will always love her.
  • I Won’t Give Up by Jason Mraz
    This song played while we were on our way to the courthouse for Daffy’s adoption. I HATE crying in front of the kids, but I couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks. We didn’t give up and we WON’T give up.
  • Home by Phillip Phillips
    This song played during the A Home For The Holidays special and it truly could not be more perfect!
  • Temporary Home by Carrie Underwood
    Ahhhhh, what a tearjerker. I don’t know how anyone could listen to this song and NOT feel for children in foster care.
  • A Thousand Years by Christina Perri
    This is one of the first songs I dedicated to Daffy when she moved in a year ago. Cue more tears when a friend of mine made a video using this song and pictures of Daffy & me.

Hmmmmm…. I am seeing a common theme with my selections: TEARS! I guess thats par for the course given the struggles facing children in foster care as well as the powerful emotions evoked through adoption.

Do you have any favorites to add to my list?

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The Donald Update

i_gotta_do_what_i_gotta_do_t_shirts-r8311dc73bc8642078748b06ae5ac73f5_804gs_216At this point in the game, no Donald update would be complete with a birth mom update. She sent an email to the team with a “weekly update”. (I found this interesting as I have not received a weekly update prior to this, so I am not sure if this is something new she is implementing or something the team is asking of her.) Anyway, she informed the team that she has found a new home for her 2 dogs so that they would no longer be “road block”… I’m not sure if this is a road block to her finding a new apartment since the team has asked her to move or if this is a road block to Donald returning to her care since he is a KNOWN abuser of animals. She also indicated that she would be moving her elderly grandmother out of her home at the beginning of the month. She is moving this grandmother to the care of her sister. I would like it noted that this sister has had 4 children of her own removed from her care. This sister has 3 more children including one with global delays and one who is a fire starter. This sister provided foster care to Donald and Daffy in the past (at the court’s order, despite the state fighting against it) where she and others in her home physically and sexually abused Donald and Daffy. But birth mom thinks this is the best place to put her grandmother?????????? Seriously???? Things like this make me question whether she has the ability to keep ANYONE safe… the grandmother, her step daughter or even Donald.

Speaking of the step daughter, birth mom also indicated that the step daughter is now on anti-psychotic drugs and believes this will solve all problems with that relationship. The girl is 7. The team has previously determined that Donald should not live with any other children and we recently learned that donald sexually abused Daffy.  So, please, tell me how it’s in anyone’s best interest for Donald to live in a home with a younger child who supposedly needs anti-psychotic medications at 7 years old.

I couldn’t find any words to respond to the email. Even as I reread it now, all I can do is shake my head. It makes me angry that the team has asked birth mom to make these kinds of drastic changes to get her child back, when they know their is a good chance this will fail. It makes me just as angry that the birth mom would abandon her elderly grandmother to a known dangerous situation and also put at risk her husband’s child.

Donald’s clinician responded with her own update. (Somehow I missed it and didn’t see it until this morning.) In part, she had written:

I did not encourage any of his aggressive talk about hurting BIRTH DAD, but did state he needs to do what he needs to do.

Am I crazy or is that NOT a therapeutic response to a dangerous kid????? Can Donald use that same theory to explain why he fed his sister prescription medications to kill her? Was he “doing what he had to do” when he sexually abused his sister? Or choked her?  And going forward… when birth mom says no, can he attack her? Use weapons? All because he needs to do what he needs to do? How will he separate his justified anger at his birth father from anger he feels towards his step-sister? Step-father? Teacher? Peers? Pets?

I’m having a really hard time with the idea of staying on this team. I know that in some ways they need me now more than ever to be a voice of sanity, but I can’t fight “the man” alone and I feel like i am being pulled into a vortex of worry and despair for a family (and system) that either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about the dangers they face.

In addition, I am not dealing well with the recent information that the birth mom shared about Donald sexually abusing Daffy. I’m angry. Plain and simple. I KNOW in my mind that I should be more understanding that Donald was likely also a victim of abuse in order to become the abuser, but at my core, I am disgusted with him. I ache for Daffy and HER pain. It’s time for someone to be on Daffy’s side and that someone is me. I could explode when I think about the fact that the STATE kept her in danger all these years by keeping her with him, against the advice of many (GAL, therapists, foster parents, etc).

I’m really struggling right now personally. I can’t find balance in my life. I’m not the person I want to be. I want to continue to advocate for kids in foster care. I know this is my job…. this job belongs to all Americans, really….but I am having a very hard time staying committed to Donald.

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Getting the Call

Getting the CallThere was a time at the beginning of our journey to become foster parents that I dreamt of “getting the call”… I imagined how exciting it would be to get the first details of a child that would eventually become a part of our family.

That time is gone.

Recently, I got an email from our Wendy’s Wonderful Kids working asking for an update on the status of our license and whether we thought we might adopt again. I responded, in part, saying “In Dec, we told the resource worker we would like to do respite, but have not been called. We would likely consider adopting again in the future if the right match came up.” I had no idea that she was asking because she had a sibling group in mind to match us with. *sigh*

I have run the gamut of emotions since that initial email. I was flattered that she believed our family would be a good match because of our experience. I was excited at the idea of welcoming two new members to our family. I was scared at the possibility of failing them.  I felt terrified of Daffy backsliding again. I was annoyed at Goofy and Pluto’s strong reaction against the potential of adopting again in the future. I felt guilty at the thought of turning away children who need a family. It was a vortex of feelings and emotions.

Time has really given me the clarity I needed and I am glad I did not rush to a decision. A placement is not right for our family at this time.

I honestly don’t know if we will be ready in a 6 months, a year or ever. Daffy’s legal adoption may have occurred in October, but this journey is FAR from over and we just can’t add to that right now.

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A little of this and a little of that…

A friend of mine took Daffy for the weekend…. it was quite a nice and unexpected break! Overall, Daffy has been in relatively good spirits since Daisy and April left in December, but she is still struggling with things as they pertain to her to birth mom and Donald.

Last night I asked Daffy if she wanted to call Donald and she replied that she really didn’t want to, but that since it had been a few days since she talked to him, she would. He got on the phone and she asked if he was “on level” to which he replied no and she promptly rolled her eyes at me. She tried to get out of him what happened but as usual, he was tight lipped and dismissive, acting as if it were no big deal. She then said “Is there anything else you want to talk about?” He replied “Nope!”, so she said good night and hung up without even waiting for his response. She is really disgusted with him and his lack of improvements in the past year… and she doesn’t even know the half of it!

Daffy and I had chat time last night before bed and she asked when she would be seeing her birth mom again. I knew this question would eventually come. She hasn’t been talking about her birth mom since the “Christmas visit” earlier this month, but I knew it had to be weighing on her mind. Honesty is always my policy, so I told her that I really didn’t know as we don’t have a specific date set and that I thought it would probably be sometime this summer. I braced myself for an upset, but it didn’t happen. She seemed quite content with that answer, as if simply knowing when was enough.

I have yet to receive any communication with her birth mom since that visit, which seems odd. Not only has she not contacted me, but hasn’t reached out to Daffy via email either. I have replied back to a couple different team emails (she is now included on them), but still nothing. I guess it will be a wait and see game.

This morning I received an email from Donald’s clinician. She was reporting two critical incidents that occurred over the weekend following Donald’s visit with his birth mom. Both involved calling a supervisor in because of his level of agression and violence. My response to the team email is as follows:

CLINICIAN and all,
This sounds a lot like the DONALD that we lived with last year, except that
we didn’t have a supervisor to “change face” or a seclusion room for safety (for him or
for us). I still feel physically sick to my stomach when I think about it.

In my experience, I would caution to slow the transition for everyone’s
safety, as these are the signs that were ignored last year when he
transitioned here that ultimately placed him in the hospital, GROUP HOME
and eventually RTC. These are the same types of behaviors that he
also showed with the FORMER FOSTER family 3 years earlier.

If there is something I can do to help stop this cycle from repeating for
DONALD, please let me know.

Thanks,
MINNIE

I was the only one to respond and of course the team has remained silent. I know they don’t want to see the reality that he is not ready to live in a family (and especially that of his birth mom), but that is the truth. He is dangerous. He WILL hurt someone. I can’t be silent. He only started with the TF-CBT specialist in September. Why are they expecting miracles? Even the top trauma expert in the state said that things may never change for him. I know they don’t want to give up hope on this 12 year child (and neither do I!), but they need to be HONEST and accept his current limitations before someone gets seriously hurt.

His next team meeting is still more than a month away. It will be interesting to see what happens between now and then. I am also curious to know what they were able to determine about the message written on the back of his door. My guess? They swept it under the rug because it doesn’t align with the plan of reunifying him with his birth mom. *sigh*

In other foster related news in my world:

  • I am trying to set up a coffee date with the respite teen to check in on her and the baby. We text a few times a week and she reports that things are going well.
  • I have not heard from Alice’s family since a brief email in December saying things weren’t going well.
  • The new sw for April and Daisy picked up the last of their belongings last night. She reported that things are going very well in their new placement and that she is hopeful for their adoption. I was surprised at the ease in which she lied to my face, since I had spoken to April’s former respite care giver/current day care worker just 2 days before with a totally different update. The day care worker reported about a nasty scene a couple nights prior where April refused to leave with her new family and had to be carried out (reminded me LOTS of our super fun ER trip #sarcasm). She said that the foster mom was disgusted with April’s behavior. She also said that on Friday, April told her that she could no longer “act up” or the foster family would sever ties with the day care worker. I was APPALLED, as the team had stated several times how important this connection is to April.
  • Still not a peep from the resource worker to reschedule the meeting she cancelled a week ago today.

Honestly, there are days when the whole system just disgusts me. From the way kids are treated to the way foster families are treated, it’s really a broken system that often does more harm than good. I am SO relieved that we were able to adopt Daffy rom the clutch of this miserable system.

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This Open Adoption Thing

@houseofwillies commented the following on my last post:

So I’m fairly new to the blog and have been following your Twitter as well. So I am wondering how the relationship between you and birth parents came about? Is it normal for an adoption through foster care to have those relationships after the adoption happens? Obvioulsy Daffy knows who her Bmom is…but is this common for adoptions through foster care? I’m sorry if I am prying or asking things you cannot answer. Just trying to prepare myself for what may happen as we are hoping to adopt a 9 yr old girl currently in foster care. I have to admit after reading your blog I’m scared to death and excited at the same time!

Rather than just comment back directly, it makes more sense for me to answer here because I have had other similar questions as well.

When we decided to pursue adoption through foster care, we were definitely open to having a relationship with birth parents. Upon being matched with Donald and Daffy we did not believe that would be a possibility. At the time we met the kids, it had been more than 3 years since their parents rights were relinquished (birth dad) and terminated (birth mom). The children had not had any contact with either of their parents in more than 2 years (birth mom visits continued during the appeal process that she later lost).

Donald, in particular, had a real desire to stay connected to his birth mom, saying that he was going to go find her as soon as he turned 18. As an adoptee myself, I understood (and supported) this desire. Daffy was more concerned about what had happened to her mom since she had last seen her and got permission to write her birth mom a letter. (If you are looking for more details I have tried to list all posts that specifically pertain to the open adoption concept under the Open Adoption tag on my blog. The posts start with the newest at the top so it’s better to scroll to the bottom and start there.) At that time, Daffy also asked the team for a visit with her birth mom. One thing led to another and suddenly we were on a path to “open adoption”.

Daffy’s adoption is not “legally” open, in that we have no legal obligation to have any contact with her birth mom. We choose to allow it because we feel it’s what is best for Daffy. On that same vein, if her birth mom is not appropriate or it in any way harms Daffy to continue visits, we will stop them. We always have Daffy’s best interest in the forefront of every decision.

When we first looked at this open adoption concept, Mickey and I decided that 2 visits per year would be appropriate- one in the summer near Daffy’s birthday and one near the holidays. While I do think 2 visits per year are appropriate and fair, I would definitely NOT wait until after the holidays again. I feel this caused great stress for Daffy the entire holiday season. Next year, I will have the visit at the beginning of December if possible to “get it out of the way”.

The other complicating factor in this situation is Daffy’s birth brother, Donald. Initially, Daffy & Donald were each going to have their own separate and ongoing relationship with their birth mom (IDEAL!) but now that the team is looking at putting Donald back with his birth mom, the “poo” is hitting the fan. First of all, we always planned that Daffy would see Donald monthly in whatever placement he went to. If Donald returns to his birth mom, this now means monthly visits for Daffy with her birth mom because of Donald. Additionally, the simple fact that Donald may be returning to birth mom (and Daffy isn’t) is creating an enormous amount of stress for Daffy and has definitely put a wedge in the already strained relationship that Donald and Daffy have. Daffy knows in her head that her adoption was the best thing for her and she loves us very much, but there is a part of her wishes none of this had ever happened and that she, too, could be living with her birth mom. Things are never that simple, though. She knows it would be unsafe for her to live with Donald so this could never be a reality. These are all things she is working on with her therapist and with us.

From what I have seen, it is NOT common for foster children to continue a relationship after adoption if the parent’s rights were terminated BEFORE the match. I think its more common for there to be some level of contact if the adoptive family was a foster family for the child/children DURING the entire process. I have heard that sometimes parents will relinquish rights rather than have them terminated if an open adoption agreement can be hashed out.

I don’t believe there is a right or wrong to open adoption. There are very valid reasons for some adoptions to be closed and also great benefits for some to be open. It really needs to be handled on a case by case basis, but if the child’s best interest is always put first, the right conclusion WILL be found.

And finally, @houseofwillies, PLEASE do not let my experience scare you! I started this blog with the intent to document what I hoped would be a magical path to adoption. Granted we have had our ups and downs (and some of those downs were waaaaay down, lol), but we DID get our happily ever after and every bit of this journey was worth it to get where we are today! I am following you on Twitter and look forward to watching your journey unfold, too! 🙂

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Christmas Visit

christmas visitDaffy was supposed to have a visit with her birth mom to celebrate the holidays last week, but due to heavy snow, it was cancelled twice and Jan 2nd became the day. Daffy was disappointed that their Christmas visit was going to take place after New Year’s, but living 2.5 hours away from her birth mom and working around other commitments made planning difficult.

Daffy had an appointment with her therapist that same day which couldn’t have been better timed. We both attended the session and her therapist asked Daffy lots of questions about how she was feeling about her brother Donald and her birth mom. Daffy had been OBSESSING over her birth mom ever since she saw her with Donald at Donalds birthday party in Mid December. Daffy seemed very reserved at the appointment but did say she is very fearful that her brother is going to hurt her birth mom and her new husband. She said she wanted to talk to the state and I told her I would set up a meeting if she would like or she could write a letter. I asked what she would say and she said basically that the state is crazy for trying to put him back there and that he needs to be in a family with no pets and no kids… like we have discussed for almost a year!

So, anyway, Mickey, Goofy and I attended the holiday visit along with Daffy later in the day. We arrived right on time and Daffy sat nervously waiting, wondering if her birth mom would show up. Birth Mom & I had just emailed that morning so I couldn’t think of any reason she wouldn’t come, but the clock ticked on. Finally, a half hour later, her birth mom showed up, no excuse and no apology.

As planned, she arrived with her new husband and his young daughter. The first thing out of Daffy’s Birth Mom’s mouth was “So, I had to have another talk with Donald about SANTA!” I was stunned that she was saying this not only in front of Daffy but also in front of her own young step child. Its her belief that kids should know the truth… that there are good people in the world who will help out poor families but there is no Santa. WTF. I won’t even go off on my Santa rant right now.

Next, they got to exchanging gifts. Daffy seemed happy with the gifts her birth Mom got her, although awkward since we were in the middle of a food court and she was opening a whole box of gifts alone. Once the gifts were exchanged, I took a picture of them together and then made the mistake of sitting down. Daffy’s birth mom all but ignored her as she started to fill me in on all sorts of things going on with Donald and that transition and brought up NUMEROUS uncomfortable things. At one point, she said that the state never had any reason to take the kids and that they knew that and are currently making right by Donald but are “too late” for Daffy. I was BEYOND annoyed for several reasons. First of all, the state DID have reason to terminate her rights. When the birth mom appealed it, a higher court UPHELD it. Second, Daffy is safe, happy and loved. Her adoption isn’t and was never up for negotiation and any hint that it was sends the wrong message to Daffy. Daffy did not have a choice. The state made it very clear to Daffy’s birth mom when we met in August that there was NOTHING she could do to stop the adoption. At one point, I asked when Bmom met her new husband and she yelled over “Hey Daffy! When did the state take you away from me?? Was it 2006?” ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW???? Daffy was TWO YEARS OLD. You expect her to remember the dates and to remind YOU? OMG. I could have gotten up and walked away at that point, but sadly I stayed for more. She mentioned being admitted to a psych hospital a few months after her last visit with the kids. I was praying Daffy wasn’t internalizing that as her fault. I was stunned at the things she was saying right in front of her step daughter and Daffy, especially because she has always been so appropriate in the past. Its like this came out of nowhere.

We drove home in silence, but I couldn’t ignore what had happened. I asked Daffy if she believed that she had only been taken because another foster family had pushed for it and she said while that was true in her opnion, she knew it had happened because her mom couldn’t keep her safe. I know that was just one of many clarifying conversations we will have over the years.

I stewed the entire night about it and decided to email the team the next day. If these are the messages she is giving to Daffy, what the hell is she saying to Donald? Is she negating his entire history by telling him there was no reason that he was removed??? The CW seemed disturbed and said she would discuss it with Birth Mom at their next visit.

I haven’t learned any additional information about the “Mama hit me” incident, but hope they are doing what they can to get to the bottom of that!

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2013 Family Resolutions

family resolutionsAs I created my personal resolutions for 2013, I realized many were family related, so we sat down to come up with our first ever set of family resolutions! We decided that 3 resolutions would be a good starting point.

  • Family Game Night We have committed to participate monthly in a family game night. Weather permitting, some of our family game nights will include outdoor activities. We plan to purchase the board games Apples to Apples and HedBandz for sure. We also plan to get the Wii hooked up again and do at least one video game night this year!
  • Races We will be running our first race as a family on New Year’s Day. We have decided to set a goal of running 3 races as a family in 2013. We are really hoping to run The Color Run as one of our races, depending on the cost. (Anything times 5 is always a lot.)
  • Soup Kitchen Our goal is to volunteer at least once in 2013 at a local soup kitchen. Mickey is, by trade, a chef so this seems an appropriate way for us to volunteer our time and talent.

Daffy was quite worried that since we set only 3 resolutions that we would not be doing the “usual” things we do as a family. I reassured her that all traditions will continue and that these are NEW goals for our family to achieve. Honestly, I can’t wait to get started!

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