The End Of The Road… Or Is It?

Monday night as I was laying in bed (trying very hard to fall asleep), the 11 o’clock news came on. I didn’t pay much attention until I saw the logo of our agency flash on the screen with a voiceover sharing that the agency is closing. Saying that I was stunned doesn’t begin to describe my feelings. I had to blink several times to be sure I was actually awake and not in some horrible nightmare. How could our agency be closing? I immediately grabbed my cell phone and emailed our social worker, quickly followed by an email to our case worker. I felt hurt and betrayed that the first I heard of this life-changing information was on the news. My mind was racing… How could this have happened without warning? What would this mean for Daffy? Who would do the 3-5-7 work? Who would be our social worker? Which agency would we go with? Who would do Donald’s TF-CBT work? How would this impact the decision of the state about Daffy’s permanency? Our agency has always been in our corner and always fought for Daffy’s best internet. I felt very small and very alone.

Within minutes I heard back via email from our social worker sharing that she herself had just learned of the news that day. It was at that moment, that I realized how selfish I had been in my thoughts. How could I be thinking only of how this would effect our family when hundreds of people were now losing their jobs? Our sw did her best to calm my fears assuring me that our license would be transferred to another agency and promising to make her recommendations on our case loud and clear. As tears streamed down my face, we emailed for a little bit longer and then she suggested we meet the next morning. I happily agreed. From the start, our social worker has had a way of being able to calm me and to sooth my fears. She is extremely well educated and experienced. She doesn’t sugar coat things but still has a way of being kind and reassuring. (Note: How quickly I heard from our sw is just one tiny example illustrating her commitment to our case and how she has always been there for us.)

Tuesday morning our sw and the family support specialist from the agency both showed up with coffee and we sat and chatted. It wasn’t like our previous meetings. It was more like 3 old friends chatting (albeit about something sad) and I loved that feeling.  Our sw shared that cases that will wrap up by December will remain with the agency unless there is reason to believe the cases will go into 2013. She is fighting hard to keep our case and get Daffy adopted by the end of the year. This has always been our goal, but now the stakes are even higher.  If the state decides that Daffy can not be adopted without her brother, that would mean moving to a new agency and a new sw… more changes for kids have already had way too many disruptions in their lives. There are still so many variables, so many things that could derail us from our goal, but knowing that things did not change over night was somewhat helpful. During our meeting, the sw and family supoirt specialist were particularly open about their feelings about this case and am really excited that they will be able to be more vocal and honest going forward now that their agency does not need (or want) referrals from the state. This could really be a game changer. It didn’t remove all of the political obstacles in this case, but its definitely a win for us. Ironic, isn’t it? Our agency closing may turn out to be a blessing in disguise? Weird.

There is still a chance we will be transferred or that our sw will get another job and leave the company before the end of December. That scares me, but no matter what happens, we will march on in this fight. I feel like we are LITERALLY fighting for Daffy’s life and I will NOT give up, but it will certainly be easier if our agency is on board to see things through to the end so I am keeping my fingers crossed and saying my prayers!

Always learning

I am always learning. Whether its from experience, a conference /class or reading, I am always on a quest to be the very best foster parent I can be! The past 2 days I attended a conference. I soaked in hoards of information. I wanted to share my thoughts here to inspire others to get involved with their educational opportunities.

Keynote Speaker, John Halligan

John and Kelly Halligan lost their thirteen year old son, Ryan, to suicide on October 7, 2003. At the time of his death, Ryan was a student at a middle school in Essex Junction, Vermont. It was revealed in much greater detail after Ryan’s death that he was ridiculed and humiliated by peers at school and on-line. In memory of his son, John spearheaded the Vermont Bully Prevention bill which was signed into law (ACT117) in May 2004 and only a few months after Ryan’s death . He also successfully led the passage of the law pertaining to mandatory suicide prevention education in public schools (ACT 114) in April 2006.

I heard John both as a keynote speaker and also took his class- both were phenomenal! His keynote address was deeply personal and I found tears falling many times as I pictured my sons Goofy & Pluto in the face of his some Ryan. His class was extremely well done with lots of information about bullying and cyberbully. As an experienced internet/computer user, I still found many tips that I could take home and apply to my life.

Jack’s Brain, Jill’s Brain with The Upside Down Organization

Established in 2007, The Upside Down Organization (UDO) has built its reputation on providing high quality, dynamic learning experiences for child-serving professionals in the United States and abroad. Partnered with The Children’s Guild and functioning as its external training arm, UDO is unique in that it doesn’t just offer professional development – it serves children and families every day.

An instructor can make a class… I would take anything offered by Heather Higgins! This class discussed the differences of boys & girls and how the brain works. She was able to keep us entertained and laughing and, most of all, learning!

Keynote Speaker, David Roche

David’s face distinguishes him from all other presenters and motivational speakers. What really makes David unique, however, is his remarkable spirit, warmth, wit and authenticity. David has transformed the challenges and gifts of living with a facial disfigurement into a compelling message that uplifts and delights audiences around the world. The story of his heroic journey from shame to strength has inspired standing ovations from the Clinton White House to the Sydney Olympics Arts Festival, from most of the 50 states to Canada, England, New Zealand and Moscow.

I heard David both as a keynote speaker and also took a class from him. While he did have a strong message about overcoming his different appearance, I did not feel I left with something tangible that I could take home and apply to my life.

I am so grateful that our agency encourages us to attend so many varied trainings. I plan to take advantage of as many as I can (with the secret goal of achieveing the most training hours in one year in our state, LOL)

Wishes, Visits, Attachment & Testing

Sometimes I get so busy tweeting the little ins and outs of our daily lives, I forgot to come and blog.When nothing “major” is happening, it doesnt seem to warrant sitting down to write, but I know the little things are often more important so I am going to try to be better with posts! 🙂

A few things of note over the past few weeks:

  • Daffy asked her “Fairy Godmother” to grant her a wish… a picture of her and her biological Mom! Her Fairy Godmother was able to grant that wish and it was an amazing moment! Daffy opened the package, saw the picture and was completely overwhelmed with emotion. She told me later that night that she never cried from happiness before. She has been thrilled to show the picture to anyone who will look and is often analyzing it for little details and similarities.
  • Daffy saw Donald for the first time since being moved to the new residential treatment center. Daffy was “bored” within 5 minutes of being there and told me as we left later that she thought the place was “creepy.” I really didn’t know what to say because honestly, it IS creepy.
  • Donald’s former CW and I took him to lunch one day after a meeting last week. I was not happy when his new CW and our SW bailed on going because I had made it VERY clear that I did NOT want to go alone with him, but ultimately I ended up driving him both ways by myself. He scares me and he knows it. I try to put on my “game face” with him, but I know he can see right through it. (I have never really had much of a poker face, anyway.)
  • We received a copy of Donald’s Treatment Plan. I am happy that there are some very specific goals set for him over the course of the next year, but at the same time I feel like only Donald’s needs are being viewed. For example, he is currently physically attacking peers and staff an average of 1-2 times per day. The goal is for him to decrease the attacks by 90% before he moves in. Ummmmm, I am not really okay with my FAMILY (or anyone!) being attacked at a rate of even 10% of what he is currently engaging in. How can the state even ASK us to accept that???? If he were an adult, the state would pull my children for allowing them to be exposed to that kind of domestic violence.
  • Daffy has been sharing all sorts of things with me during our chats. She shared about the last visit she had with her mom and what it was like the day she was taken. Her therapist thinks these are signs that she is attaching. All this attachment talk boggles my mind. I mean, I GET what attachment is, I know why its important, I understand what causes issues in attachment, but what I dont understand is how I will know if Daffy is truly attached. I know *I* am attached to her…. the days that we thought she might be moved, I was paralyzed and physically sick over the thought of losing her. The more I search for answers, the more questions I find myself asking.
  • The process to get Daffy tested for ADHD is well underway. The school has sent home several forms for us to fill out and this morning I picked up additional forms from her pediatricians office for us and the school to fill out. We WILL get answers.
  • Tomorrow our SW and I will be meeting with a specialist to discuss Daffy’s sensory issues. While I dont think she has “major” issues, I feel she should be afforded the same close scrutiny that her brother received to best accomodate her needs. I feel she has been ignored for far too long already because her brother had the bigger (& more dangerous) issues. If one good thing can come from their separation right now, its the ability for us to focus on Daffy to allow us and her therapist to help her flourish.
  • Daffy got her new glasses. The eye doctor had told us the prescription was minimal and there was no need to get it filled unless she started getting headaches while reading. The school, however, wanted us to get the glasses indicating they couldnt test properly if she couldnt see,  so we got the glasses. I was SHOCKED when I tried them on to find how strong they are! She wasnt really thrilled to get them, saying they made her look like a “teacher”, but they seem to be growing on her, especially as people comment how “cute” she looks in them!
  • She had her first sleepover away from the house this weekend. The next day I asked if she forgot what I looked like since she didnt call and she said she was wondering if I was crying because I was missing her. I feel like the fact that I was on her mind was a good thing.
  • I have several trainings coming up in May. I love learning and I can’t wait!

-Minnie xo

[All names have (obviously) been changed to protect the privacy of our family.]

More games

The representative from the sending town had suggested that Mickey and I become the educational advocates for the children. This person is someone assigned to represent them in school related educational meetings since it would be a conflict of interest for the state to represent them against another part of the state. Make sense? Anyway, I got a call from our caseworker this morning that she thought we should not be the educational advocates. She was extremely vague as to why, but said it could be “misconstrued” by some others in her department. Misconstrued as what? Caring about the best interest of our children? Wanting to gain the most information that we can for when they are adopted and the full responsibility falls on us? All I can do is shake my head. She did say we could take the classes so at least we would have the same information when we attend all educational planning meetings. I suppose thats something, but I will never understand the state.

We scheduled a visit with Donald for this weekend at the same time as Daffy will be attending her friend’s birthday party. I made the decision that with Donald in the midst of a major transition and off all meds (including homeopathic) that it would be better if Mickey & I visited alone for this weekend. We will plan to bring Daffy next week, hopefully when Donald is slightly more stable.

The reports from the group home so far are that Donald is doing really well adjusting. I know its a very different structure than his previous group home, this facility is a lot more laid back. He isn’t typically the kind of kid that does well in a laid back environment so it will be interesting to see how it goes, but I am happy he is getting a few good days under his belt anyway. I think it will help the staff to have some “good moments” with him before they see his worst.

-Minnie xo

[All names have (obviously) been changed to protect the privacy of our family.]

CPR/First Aid Training & a Donald Update

Mickey and I are now proudly CPR and First Aid certified. Mickey already knew most of the information and honestly, I panic under pressure (especially where blood is involved) so I will likely never use it, but at least its one more thing crossed off the list of things to accomplish as a newly licensed foster parent (and a not-quite-licensed foster parent, since Mickey still has 2 classes left to take to be added to the license)! <– Can’t wait for that to be done!

I called Donald tonight at the hospital and could hardly understand him. He sounded drunk and was muttering about “3 snacks.” I asked if he was okay and said he sounded funny and he told me it was just the phone. Daffy got on the phone with him and within seconds covered the mouth piece to ask if me if he was crying. Then, they got disconnected. I called back and the worker that answered explained that he had been given “something for him to sleep.” Weird. I have talked to Donald at the same time 9 of the past 11 days, sometimes even later and he was always wide awake and nowhere near bedtime. Its a Friday night and they have him sedated for sleep at 6:30pm?? Something sounds fishy to me. He has mentioned the time out room twice this week. I have a feeling they are seeing his rages and medicating him to an extreme level. It could be the only way to control his rage so I am not judging at all, I am just glad they are getting to see a glimpse of what we saw and wish they could give us more information. I hope they are reporting this to his case worker. If they are, she sure isnt updating me. At this point, I am not even sure if I am his legal foster parent. And since the very day he was admitted, no one has contacted me from the hospital with any information, or even to ask questions. I hate being so out of the loop. If we are supposed to be his FAMILY and working towards reunification (albeit a long time away), don’t they think it would be helpful for us to know what’s happening during his hospitalization? Grrrr. I hate political crap.

Overall, a very good day with Daffy. The morning was tough as she was convinced that she was NOT going to go to school, but once we put our foot down about that one, her mood shifted and she actually had a great day. I noticed her calling Mickey & I “Mom” and “Dad” quite a bit this afternoon. So cute. It’s music to my ears! 🙂 I am going to go cuddle her before bedtime! Have a great night!

-Minnie xo

[All names have (obviously) been changed to protect the privacy of our family.]