This Feels Wonderful

momentThere are countless posts that I should have written to catch things up to current… like a post about how we just had our 60 day team meeting and have only met with our lead social worker twice because of all the changes and internal issues at the agency… or a post about Daffy meeting with two of the post adopt workers to discuss what she thinks is appropriate for visits with her birth Mom and Donald.

But for right now, THIS is all that matters. Tink’s son Andy has arrived! He was born Sunday 12/15 after one of the most calm labor and deliveries I have ever seen. Tink blew me away with how she trusted her body to birth her son and she even did it med free! Later that evening Tink was talking about how wonderful it was to have her family all around. Goofy commented that Pluto was not there (we didn’t have time to pick him up after Tink’s water broke at home)… and Tink replied “And Daffy.” Whaaaaaaat? I was FLOORED… almost to the point of being speechless. Tink requested that Daffy come to the hospital the next day. I contacted one of our social workers and asked if we could move our Monday evening meeting from our home to the hospital room and she agreed.

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous the next day. We had never discussed a hospital visit with Daffy, as Tink had said there was no way in hell she would allow her. We had never even asked Daffy if she WANTED to come. I mean, I’d assume she would want to, but with Daffy, you never can be sure. She has been unhappy about this pregnancy from the start. By the time this whole plan came about, I was almost AFRAID to ask, fearing that she might say no. I also didn’t want to make it a huge deal when this is what NORMAL families should look like.

So, anyway, Daffy and I talked a little bit Monday afternoon about what the birth had been like before we headed out to see Tink and Andy in the hospital. I was explaining how they placed the baby right on her chest the second he was born to promote attachment, etc. Daffy commented that it was like ducks… the first person they see is who they attach to as their mom. She also commented about how the cat was going to feel really displaced by the baby (yes, I could easily read through that to know she was talking about herself…. unless, of course, she was just looking for an excuse to be able to touch the cat.)

When we arrived at the hospital, the potential “baby daddy” and his mom were in the room which was quite uncomfortable (but not relevant to this particular story so I won’t go there). The social worker was already there as well (got to be the first time she has ever been on time, LOL). We encouraged Daffy to go have a look at the baby and she did so, somewhat reluctantly…. or maybe hesitantly is a better word, it was hard to tell.

Daffy sat back down and the social worker later commented that Daffy seemed to fill the space with stories of little value about her homework and other such things. (Daffy’s need to constantly chatter drives me crazy, but seeing it from the perspective of anxiety made it easier to understand.) I felt like Tink might be ready for more so I whispered to her that maybe Daffy was ready to hold the baby, espcially in such a controlled environment. She agreed. The moment Tink handed Daffy the baby, my heart swelled. It was history in the making for our family. A truly life changing moment.

I snapped a few pictures (and Snapchatted one to Mickey who was at work). Daffy’s arm quickly tired (or maybe she realized just how boring it is to hold a tiny human who does absolutely nothing?) and she gave the baby back to Tink.

I remained mesmerized long after. Heck, I’m still in awe of that moment. I don’t want to get my hopes up that we have turned a corner… I don’t believe that any of this negates what we experienced over the past year or the risk that Daffy poses to animals and potentially Andy… but for right now, I just want to enjoy this time with my family for what it is. Oxytocin from Tink’s birth? A Christmas miracle? Finally the beginning of positive change? No matter what the reason, the past 5 days have been amazing and it feels WONDERFUL!

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Our First Respite Weekend

Respite foster care is when one foster family cares for the foster children of another foster family allowing the first family a break. This type of foster care is especially helpful when foster children have behaviors such as seen in many therapeutic foster homes.

I am happy to report that we survived our first weekend as a respite family! The Teen arrived on Friday night around dinnertime and settled in quickly. That night Tinkerbelle was coloring the under side of Daffy’s hair pink (and added a streak to mine) and the Teen joined us and chattered away. She mentioned the next day that she really had felt welcomed by Tink (which made me quite proud). Clearly she felt comfortable… she shared with Tink that she is 3 months pregnant (and her foster parents are aware and didn’t want ME to know). I thought maybe she would mention it directly to me later in the weekend, but she never did bring it up.

Saturday morning the Teen and I took Daffy to gymnastics then headed home to meet up with Mickey to go strawberry picking. The Teen seemed really excited to do this! I wish I could say it was amazing, but I was sad that Tink, Goofy and Pluto weren’t joining us for our usual summer tradition. It felt odd to be just the 4 of us. Anyway, somewhere around that time the Teen started talking about how we really SHOULD make strawberry turnovers…. and we really NEEDED vanilla ice cream. Maybe if I wasn’t such a pushover, I would have found a way to say politely that we all prefer strawberry shortcake and that Mickey didn’t WANT to make turnovers, but there didn’t seem to be a nice way, so we let it go and he made the turnovers. She complained they weren’t flakey enough but was the only one to go back for seconds so I guess they couldn’t have been that bad after all, LOL.

She was up bright and early this morning and ate breakfast followed by several cans of Coke (something we usually dont have in the house other than when we host parties but she found stashed while rummaging through our cabinets) and then attempted to “roast” marshmallows using a lighter, my microwave and the toaster oven. Once the marshmallows were gone, she literally BROUGHT me 4 boxes of cake mix from my cabinets suggesting that I make her a cake. Being my non-confrontational self, I simply found a way to ignore the requests.

After the boy’s baseball game this afternoon and a quick dip in the pool, she began to pack her stuff (you wouldn’t believe how much stuff she brought). She decided to “clean” Tink’s room, making Tink’s bed and lining up all of her stuffed animals and laying things out on her bed. I am hopeful this was simply a nice gesture and not her way of covering any theft. I hate to assume that, but she made several comments throughout the weekend about Tink’s nice things and I know that its a pretty common issue for foster kids who have been in residential settings.

I reminded myself many times throughout the weekend that her food issues are just that… ISSUES. I don’t know her history well enough to pinpoint where the issue comes from… in fact, it could be any number of things… but accepting her behaviors as something from her past playing out now to protect herself allowed me to be a lot more understanding and compassionate.

Overall, it was a good weekend. She seemed to enjoy our company and we found her pleasant and, more importantly, safe. It’s something we would do again, I think. (I would definitely check in with the fam before making any commitment, LOL)

Things I would suggest asking when called to do respite:

  1. Age and gender of child
  2. Allergy and medical information (including medications to be given in your care)
  3. A summary of history including any assaultive or abusive behaviors (to people or animals, if you have pets) or fire starting
I hate that there is a need to be so direct, but my experience with foster care dictates that you can never be too cautious when it comes to the safety of your family and many times social workers will not provide information unless they are directly asked (and sometimes not even then!) I completely support the concept of respite, but above all I support making INFORMED choices. If you accept a child, even for the weekend, that has needs you are unable to handle, you are setting yourself (& the child) up for failure. While most kids are better behaved during respite, saving the worst of their behaviors for their foster family or biological family, you are certainly not doing anyone any favors by not educating yourself about any potential risks and taking actions to keep everyone safe.
Things I would suggest asking of the foster parent once you accept respite:
  1. Favorite foods (or any food issues)
  2. Usual routine (bedtime, bathing habits, etc)
  3. Any special rules that need to be followed (contact with friends/family/etc, use of phone or internet)
  4. Bring age appropriate toys/games
  5. Bring appropriate clothing (clothes to play in snow, swimwear, dress clothes for church, etc)
  6. Make arrangements to meet the child ahead of the respite (if possible) to alleviate anxiety

I think we were just about as prepared as we could be and I know each respite will be different, but the above suggestions are definitely a good rule of thumb for being a smart and prepared respite family!

If you have something to add or an experience to share, I would love to hear from you! Please leave me a comment below!

First Respite Call

We got our first call to do respite for a teen girl. It totally caught me off guard because I wouldn’t have expected they would ask us to do respite with a child already in our care. I trust our social worker, though, so I said yes. In the hours that followed the call, I learned a brief synopsis of the teen’s sad life and also realized that I know her foster parents from our agency’s support group. When I spoke with the teen’s foster mom, she asked how our daughter, Tinkerbelle, felt about sharing her room. I told her that we hadnt asked but that it wouldnt be an issue. We began this process together and with the full consent of all our biological kids. The respite is only for 2 nights. We can handle ANYTHING for 2 nights, right? So I picked up Tink from school and told her we were asked to do respite. She asked how old the girl was and when I told her she exclaimed “Do it! Get her!” I was not expecting quite that joyous of a response, but honestly, I’ll take it! LOL

As we have gone though this process, there have been many times I have felt segregated from the foster parenting world because we are pre-adoptive parents rather than foster parents. I have sensed that foster parents look at pre-adoptive parents as if they are in this for selfish reasons because they plan to “keep” the child rather than work towards reunification. While we did purposely seek children to adopt, we in NO WAY interfered with our children reunifying with their biological parents. In fact, their parental rights were terminated years before we came into the picture. In any case, I feel like the call today turned us into “real” foster parents. We will do our part to support this girl, albeit for 2 nights, and then return her to her foster family. It’s unlikely that we will be able to do much beyond providing a safe and fun environment for this teen and giving respite to her foster family, but it still makes our choice to become a foster family seem more concrete.