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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Guest Blogger | 4 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Began Fostering

Thanks to Rachael Walker for allowing me to share this post with all of you! I am always interested in other’s perspectives!

Becoming a foster parent is definitely one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. However, it is also one of the most difficult and draining!

Before we began fostering my husband and I went to a lot of classes, training and meetings with the agency we foster with. While our agency was certainly helpful and informative they can’t prepare you for the way you will feel and the everyday reality of being a foster carer.

It certainly isn’t for the faint hearted, but I am so proud of the difference my family and I have made in children’s lives.

If you are considering fostering, these are some points that might help you. These are four things I wish I had known before I started to foster:

How it would impact on family life

Of course I realised that having another child in my home would make a huge impact on my family life; my husband Tim, teenage son Jack and myself, but I didn’t consider just how much.

When you put yourself forward for short term placements you have to accept that you will have to drop everything at the last minute – for instance when we accepted Lyndon we had planned a trip to see relatives for the next week that we had to cancel. The child comes first in these situations, but I have certainly had less opportunity to see extended family since we began fostering.

How I would feel about my foster placements

I was worried that I would fall for every child that I cared for, but luckily this hasn’t been the case. While I have felt a bond with all of them, some children are harder to let go of than others.

Some placements are very short term, and this makes it easier to mentally detach yourself from feeling too close to the child on a personal level. Some older children are also easier to part from, as they don’t need you to be maternal towards them in the same way. However, my first foster daughter Lucy is certainly a very special little girl to me, and I hope to keep in touch with her for the rest of my life.

That I may have to experience rejection from a child

I hadn’t considered before we began fostering that a child may not want to live with us, and may have been happy with their previous foster family and not wanted to leave. I naively assumed that if a child had come from a difficult home life they would lap up the attention and affection we gave them, but of course most situations are a lot more complicated than this.

If a child felt that their last foster placement was their family and they were happy there, they are going to be angry that they had to come and live with you. And even if their biological parents were addicts or abused them, that they still loved them and this was their home. This is completely understandable.

No matter how perfectly you set out a bedroom for them and how many cookies you bake, be prepared to meet with ‘get away from me, you’re not my mommy!’ If you expect to go into fostering and receive a child that is grateful and in awe of all you do for them, then you are making the wrong decision. That is not a reason to foster.

That I had realized how much these children had lost

I obviously knew that the children I would care for had lost their home and parents, but of course it runs much deeper than that. These children have lost their neighbors, their friends, their family pet, and the blanket that they like to sleep on at night.

Their school may have been the only continuous stability in their life, so if they have moved schools this is even more difficult. You have to accept that most children you care for will be missing the life they have lost, and will cling to you or feel animosity towards you as a result.

If you are wondering whether fostering might be for you I would recommend that you have an informal chat with somebody from a fostering agency or request some further information; the agency I foster with offers a chat function on-site which is a little less intimidating than making that first phone call.

Fostering is so rewarding but certainly not for everyone; it is so important that you get as much information as you can before hand and really consider whether you can handle the emotional pressure that this special job will involve.

guest bloggerRachael Walker is a foster parent, wife and biological mother of one from Birmingham, UK. Read her blog here: http://www.rachaelwriting.blogspot.co.uk/

Calling In Reinforcements

As we approach the one year anniversary of Daffy’s adoption – a day we have dubbed her “adoptaversary”- we have called in reinforcements.

Tink was at her first OB appointment (finally!) and was asked if she had any concerns for her safety, she was quick to reply YES as a result of her fears of Daffy! I decided to be PROactive rather then REactive and wrote immediately to Daffy’s former case worker as well as the adoption specialist on the case. I told them our plans for keeping Tink and her baby safe and asked if they had any other suggestions. I was SHOCKED to hear back within just 15 minutes from the adoption specialist and a half hour from the case worker.  The next day I received a call from the head of the post-adoption unit who quickly assigned a new worker to our case.

Over the past couple weeks, that worker has come out to meet with us, met with Daffy’s therapist and then came back to present her suggested plan. We will be receiving in-home services from a local agency for a max of 90 days (paid for by the state) and they have recommended a neuro-pysch exam for Daffy just to “rule out” any diagnosis other than ADHD. Letting social workers back into our lives to that extreme feels like ten steps backward, but honestly, I am desperate for change. I am desperate for hope that things will be better one day.

I have continued to work on how I deal with Daffy, forcing myself to be quicker to recover when I am angry, providing her with quality time when even the sight of her face turns my stomach. Daffy has continued to be… well…. Daffy. If I ask her to eat lunch, she will ignore me for an hour even if she was hungry to begin with. If I tell her it’s time to get off the tv, she will grunt, stomp her feet and wail at the top of her lungs for hours. The more I try, the more she resists. Then she acts SHOCKED when I am angry. It’s an evil merry-go-round of sorts and I just want to get OFF this ride!! It’s dizzying and maddening.

At the suggestion of Donald’s former therapist (the one I started meeting with this summer), Daffy and I have started to communicate daily in a notebook. It helps to some degree to be able to carefully word my thoughts before responding and allows Daffy to say things she might not otherwise say (without making up lies, anyway). However, it could be just another tool for her to use to manipulate the situation. She doesn’t write her “angry things” in the notebook. I think she knows I would take it right to her therapist and she would be “found out”!

As you might be able to guess, I am pretty bitter with her therapist. She wrote to me shortly before she was to meet with the post-adoption worker and said that she had spoken with Donald’s former therapist and said that she heard some things from her that I hadn’t told her directly. WHAT????? NO WAY! I’ve told her EVERYTHING. She just excuses it all away. In fact, when I spoke with the post-adoption worker this week, she said Daffy’s therapist denied ever having seen the image Daffy drew with the gun and someone’s head chopped off.  Really??? I got right online and forwarded her the email with the image as well as HER OWN RESPONSES to it saying Daffy must be “sad” to have drawn that image. Are you kidding me??????? Don’t try to weasel your way out of it now that there are professionals taking a look at her behaviors, thoughts and actions!!! UGH!

Right now we are in a holding pattern. We are waiting till mid-Oct to start the in-home services. Since they can only last for a max of 90 days, we need to make sure the coverage will include the birth of Tink’s baby and that whole transition.  We’ve got A LOT going on as a family and we need all the supports in place that we can get!

Incidentally, I talked to Daffy’s birth Mom last week, too. Donald is transitioning to full time at “home” this week and she is facing her own major challenges (who didn’t see THAT coming??). The one thing that sticks out in my mind from our conversation is her saying that she asked to be trained in proper safety holds because waiting for the police to arrive takes too long. All I can do is shake my head….. how can ANYONE think that is safe for her or her stepdaughter????

Thanks to all of you who have commented on my blog and emailed me recently. I appreciate your support and it really does help to know I am not alone. I appreciate the ideas, suggestions and links you send to me! Getting through this will not be one “ah ha moment”, but rather a slow process with a lot of small changes over time, so keep those ideas coming! I am open to almost anything!

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My Life In A Picture

mylife

If my life were a picture, according to Daffy, it would be my death at her hand. Marvelous. I find myself thinking back to the day our social worker told us that the state prefers to have foster children adopted as close to the 6 month waiting period as possible. She told me that every month longer decreases the chance of adoption. At the time, I couldn’t understand why. I assumed that the longer the placement, the stronger the bond. We are currently 18 months post placement and 9 months post adoption. This is how my child feels about me. She not only wishes I were dead, she wishes she were the one who killed me. Awesome.

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Whirlwind

Ooooooooh boy, things have been a whirlwind of activity around here! Here is a quick run down (which I am sure will change after the office opens this morning)…

Friday afternoon I got a call from our resource worker. She had finally connected with Daisy and April’s cw. The girls foster mom had just given her “two weeks notice” that the girls needed to be moved. The resource worker let me know that 2 families were being considered as a match and she set up a disclosure meeting for 11/13 and gave me the foster mom’s phone number to connect with her to discuss the girls and get a better idea of what is going on with them right now.

Over the weekend, I spoke several times with the foster mom. She shared both the bad and the good. I was relieved to hear her say that she fully supported the girls coming to live with us. (If I find any extra time in the day, I will post details about these calls.)

On Monday, I received a text from the foster mom saying that she had told the cw that she wanted the girls out by the end of the week! Whaaaaaat? Panic set in. I emailed our resource worker twice and then called her on Tuesday morning and left a voicemail. Her supervisor called me back later in the day and we discussed the urgent nature of the case. This worker authorized us to offer respite to the foster family for THIS weekend hoping this would buy us time with the foster mom.

Yesterday morning I heard directly from the cw for the first time. We discussed how best to transition the girls. I said in a perfect world we would have a month, but that the current situation is clearly not ideal and things need to happen more quickly. The cw considered whether or not to move the girls to a group home briefly to properly transition them, but the down side would be ANOTHER placement and ANOTHER school before coming here. As it is, we will be the girls 3rd home  and 3rd school THIS SCHOOL YEAR! I find that unacceptable. Ultimately, we hashed out a plan for respite this weekend with the girls returning Monday afternoon and then MOVING IN next Friday! YIKES! She gave me some tasks to complete including giving our school a heads up, scheduling therapy, dentist appointments and an eye appointment for Daisy. I don’t think I could fully accept what I was hearing. Does one family really get two happily ever afters?

As a side note, at this point, I referred back to my blog to find out the specific date that we met Donald and Daffy last year for the very first time. 11/6/11. The MOVE IN date for Daisy and Daffy was set for 11/16/12. Coincidence? Naaaaaa…. just another sign that this is the right match. I am sure of that. 😉

Yesterday afternoon the cw called again and shared that the whole plan was “falling apart” [insert glass crashing noise here]. She said that the foster mom had now reported that her husband may be having surgery next week and that the girls could not stay until the 16th. The cw said she and the agency would be looking for a respite home in the girl’s area to take them Mon-Thurs nights so we could keep the plan as is, but if they were not able to locate one, there would be a need to officially place the girls Friday. THIS Friday. As in, TOMORROW. Are you freakin kidding me???? We talked about what would need to be done to make that happen and are ready to act today depending on whether or not the agency has located a respite home.

Honestly, I feel torn about this respite idea for the girls. Sure, it gives us the extra days we need to plan, transfer their school records, implement services, move rooms around, etc. BUT… this means the girls would understand they were leaving their current foster family and yet not going to their permanent placement. The state can call it respite all they want, but its no different than an emergency placement. Another home, another family, another move. Enough is enough.

I am feeling incredibly stressed at the moment. There are so many unknowns, so many variables, so much to discuss and no time to make it all happen. Goofy is particularly worried about the fast transition and what that will mean for the girls. His fears don’t ease my own. I am terrified to fail. I thought a lot about it yesterday. If this were one child, I think I would be less nervous. It’s two children… just like last time…. when I failed. *sigh* I know, I know, I didn’t fail. I “saved” Daffy from a broken system. I advocated for the best interest of both kids and while Donald doesn’t have his happily ever after yet, we are still hopeful it will come. Blah, blah, blah. I know these things on a conscious level, but in my heart, I feel like a failed. And I am terrified to fail again. 😦

Anyway, now I sit and wait for the call to determine whether the girls are coming for respite tomorrow or if that is their move in date! Eeeeeks!

Daisy & April

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I have recently been tweeting about Daisy & April… two former residents of the group home that Donald and Daffy were placed at. I thought I would take some time to give you the background.

We first met this sibling group when we were matched with Donald and Daffy and began visits at the group home last November. These girls were Daffy’s very best friends. As we visited with Donald and Daffy at the group home, we got to know Daisy & April as we would often play in the yard together. After the first few weeks of visits, the staff at the group home stopped the girls from playing with us during visits. I think they realized that the girls were getting attached, not so much because they necessarily felt a connection (although maybe they did) but because they were desperate for a family themselves and envied what they saw Donald and Daffy receiving from us emotionally. It was extremely sad to see the staff call the girls away from us, their faces falling in disappointment. Mickey and I talked with our bio kids at length about how connected we felt to these girls. We knew we could be biting off more than we could chew but decided to send this email to the group home on January 3rd, 2012:

I am writing to you because Mickey & I both value your opinion. There has been something weighing on our minds since we first came to the group home. I have stopped myself several times from mentioning it. We have prayed about it extensively and we both feel compelled to get more information.

Let me say first, we both deeply love Daffy & Donald. We want what is best for them above all. That said, something we have discussed from the start is that if things “went well” we would consider adopting another sibling group in the future. There is currently another sibling group at the group home that we feel drawn to and wonder if that is something we should explore or if that would not be in Donald and Daffy’s best interest at this time. There is a part of me that feels that they need everything we have to offer right now, but there is another part that feels we could be “leaving behind” this other sibling group who are also in need of a family (that could be a good match for our family). One of our downfalls is obviously that we want to “save the world” and while we know this isnt possible, we feel compelled to do what we can.

We did mention this briefly to our social worker this morning who suggested we not mention it to anyone unless we were sure (for fear of being pressured), but I know that you know all the children well enough to provide an honest opinion that truly looks out for their best interest. We would appreciate any thoughts you have.

Best,
Minnie

At our next visit, we discussed this with the staff at the group home and they discouraged us from pursuing the sibling group. I think they knew how full our hands would be with Donald and Daffy.  (As a side note, at the time, they were a sibling group of 3… 2 girls and a boy. The boy is ironically now separated from his sisters and lives in the same RTC as Donald.) The girls were placed with a pre-adoptive family this summer. We attempted to make contact with the girls on Daffy’s behalf numerous times through our caseworker but were unsuccessful.

The day before Daffy’s adoption, our cw let us know that the girls had disrupted from their pre-adoptive home and may be returning to the group home. It felt like the ultimate sign that this was meant to be. Heck, it STILL feels that way. Over the past 9 months, I have had a nagging feeling that we “left behind” members of our family.

Since we learned about the disruption, I have sent numerous emails to the group home, to our former case worker and to other foster care contacts at the state level whom I have email addresses for. On Friday, I heard from our former case worker that the girls did not return to the group home, but are placed with another foster family. She said she is unsure whether this is a pre-adoptive home. She also wrote to the girl’s case worker and gave me her name (which means I was easily able to deduce her email address since they all follow the same format in our state). I wrote to the case worker myself expressing our interest in submitting our home study. I then heard back from 3 other people (2 at the state level and our new resource worker). They were all forwarding our information to the worker as well. Ummmm, can you say cw’s email is blowing up with our names? LOL I am HOPING the squeaky wheel gets the oil, but we have yet to receive any response.

I couldn’t guess what will happen from here. I have no clue if we will be matched. I don’t know their history and I have no idea why they disrupted. All I know is that we have felt connected for almost a year and I feel compelled to explore this further. Only time will tell….

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.

30 Wishes. 30 Cities. 30 Days.

One Simple WishAs I posted a few days ago, May is National Foster Care Month! I use this blog primarily to share our journey, but I couldnt let another day go by without sharing the good work of the people at One Simple Wish! They are on a quest to grant 30 wishes in 30 cities in 30 days to foster kids across the USA! For as little as $5, you can help them on their journey to raise awareness on the issues of foster care and lend your voice to victims of abuse and neglect! Click here to learn about all the ways you can help on the 303030 mission or click here to grant the wish of another waiting child! Getting involved feels good!

More transitions

Donald was moved to the new facility yesterday. We met for lunch with his current and new caseworkers and then headed over. We were able to see his room, school and some of the facility. Its set on a hill and its cooooold up there so we didnt ask for the full tour! Donald seemed really nervous, barely speaking two words. Because we arrived mid day, no one was on staff at the dorms, so he was required to go directly to his classroom. There seemed to be 5 students and 3 teachers- not a bad ratio.

The decision to remove Donald from ALL homepathic remedies was made by the state and those meds did NOT transfer with him. He stopped cold turkey. I dont know if I believe they even assisted with anything, but if they did, well this new facility is in for a real surprise! He is currently not medicated in any way. Its just a matter of time until he assaults someone there.

We raced off to our local school for Daffy’s Special Ed referral meeting. The “team” was resistant to testing her, saying that they dont diagnose ADHD (which we knew) and that they feel her school issues are solely from the transition in January. I was surprised at the resistance since our school is NOT the one who will pay, but rather the “sending” district, the district they lived in when they were taken. That district whole heartedly agreed with full testing. The testing is supported by the caseworker, therapist and social workers for the agency we work with. What more does the school want?? Ultimately our local school did agree to test, but in the mean time we need to get her reading glasses (the lowest prescription on the planet was prescribed last week and not recommended to be filled by the dr) so they can confirm that sight is not part of her issue while she tests. Honestly, its a waste of money, but we will do it to humor them. Testing will not begin until the appropriate paperwork is signed by the state. Lets hope they feel like hurrying about something.

Our social worker will be back next Monday and while I love the family support specialist we work with, I really need our social worker to be running the show. She is so organized. I feel like I am trying to juggle all the balls right now and something will slip through the cracks. April is going to be a busy month of meetings and a time of more transitions as we are hoping that treatment teem meetings will now be held separately. Should be interesting to see how this plays out!

-Minnie xo

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

The first of many times….

Today we were asked about Daffy’s medical history when we brought her to the eye doctor. I know this will be the first of many times we are asked about her family history and the first of many times we will have to explain whey we dont know.

I am familiar with this process. As an adoptee, I spent my life saying “I dont know” about diabetes, about heart disease, about cancer, about hypertension, about mental health… I just didnt know… and I hated it. I hated having to explain that I was adopted. I hated the way they looked am me with sadness in their eyes, because they knew I had been rejected. Rejected by the very person who should love me the most.

When I eventually reunited with my birth family in the late 90’s, I was elated to be able to provide medical information when asked. I recited it plain as day, without explanation…  and without the sympathetic looks to follow. As time has gone on, though, since contact with my biological mother ended (a mere 5 months after it began) and my biological father passed away (4 years ago now), I have stopped being able to recite that information. I have *some* medical information, but many things could have changed or developed in my family over the years that I am not privileged to know, so I am back to explaining why I don’t have all the facts.  And getting the sympathetic look. And I hate it.

I hate it for me but I hate it even more for Daffy. All she wants is to be a part of a family. To have a mom. And a dad. And brothers. And sisters. She does not want to be singled out. She does not want to be different. Yet every time we go to the doctor’s office, she will be. No matter if she adopted and no matter how much we love her, she will always be the one with missing pieces of her past. She will always feel that same raw rejection when asked. And there is nothing I can do about it.