Begin Again

Begin Again

A very wise friend and fellow foster parent said to me yesterday ” Those babies are with you as long as they need you. Not as long as you need them.

She nailed it. It’s time to begin again and remember why I do what I do.

To back track a little bit, here is the email I sent to the worker on Tuesday regarding what had been going on:

Hi WORKER,

I am not sure the status of your case, but wanted to email you to keep you updated.

MOM has come off her seroquel cold turkey and refuses to go back on saying it attributed to her weight gain (which was admittedly severe in such a short period of time). To say she is a space shot does not even begin to describe her. She is not capable of caring for even herself, let alone her child.

She is deteriorating quickly.

We initially told her she could stay a week. Thursday will be two weeks. She has made almost no effort to find a place for herself. My son and I have made all the phone calls and I have driven her to numerous apartments. She has a complaint about each, though she did agree yesterday morning to finally apply for one (no idea if she will actually get it as the gentleman who we spoke with said he didn’t like the type of people that PROGRAM tends to send).

We are very close to the point where I will be taking her to a shelter and dropping her off. I understand the need for her to have “natural supports” and I care very much about her and JACK JACK, but I am not able to parent both her and JACK JACK while also driving her to several appointments per week and searching for an apartment for her. I took her in to provide shelter. The rest of her needs are too much to ask of me and should be handled by professionals. She needs help.

She ran out of formula Sunday night due to poor planning on her part. She refuses to carry her own baby citing her arthritis. She hands him off the majority of the time. She leaves him unattended often and twice he has rolled down the stairs (2 stairs). I think part of this is her incoherence and and forgetfulness because of the medications. I don’t think she is intentionally neglectful, but the end result is the same.

She is destined to fail if she does not receive supports once she is on her own. I BEG you to stay involved for her and JACK JACK’s sake.

I understand that this email may cause my relationship with her to end, and I will accept that as I know what I am saying is in JACK JACK’s best interest and honestly, that is all that matters.

Honestly, this email didn’t even BEGIN to describe how odd Mom’s behavior had become. One morning, she was pouring a cup of coffee and held up the Half & Half and asked Daffy “Is this Orange Juice??” Another time, she placed the baby in the car and as we drove she frantically asked me “Where’s the baby???????” She asked me to buy her a newspaper and when I handed it to her she asked “What’s this for?” These are just a few tiny examples. Her frame of mind was way beyond forgetful.

Long story short, the worker called me that afternoon and said that Jack Jack would be moved to foster care. Obviously I was sad since my point in taking her initially was to AVOID him going into foster care, but I also felt relieved because I knew in my heart that the two of them could not make it on their own with Mom in her current state. Since a voluntary case is not available in our state, this was really the only option for Mom to get the supports she needs to be successful.

The state called mom the next morning to discuss the many concerns I had shared with her. She let Mom know that they would be moving forward with a case. I’m not clear how exactly things changed from the state’s perspective, but Mom decided to move in with her sister (the one who had no interest in helping her or Jack Jack in any way over the past 3 weeks and has previously thrown them both- literally – on the street). Jack Jack and his mom moved out within just a couple of hours.

The worker told me yesterday afternoon after they let that this buys Mom a few more days. I don’t know know if the worker thinks that Mom can pull it together in just a matter of a few days or if they may still bring a case. I’m pretty certain she can’t keep it together without major changes, especially living in such an unsupportive environment. (The sister told me yesterday that if Mom makes one false step, she will throw her sister out and keep Jack Jack. Uggggggh.)

Mom says she wants to stay in touch with us, but who knows what will really happen. I still have some things she couldn’t fit in the truck yesterday which guarantees me at least one more visit.

I cried quite a bit yesterday. This was the hardest good bye I have done. I didn’t realize that 20 days was enough to fall in love, but I guess it was. I love Jack Jack. He is a totally awesome baby and I hope and pray he will have a bright future and get the love and nurturing he deserves. I also hope his Mom will get the help and support she needs. She deserves much happiness herself. It takes a village to raise a child and right now, she is very much alone.

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The Jack Jack (and Mom) Update

Thank you all so much for the amazing feedback on my recent post! I am humbled by the overwhelmingly positive comments of support I have received about taking in Jack Jack’s Mom.

Jack Jack’s Mom was released from the hospital yesterday morning. She was gushing her appreciation that we took her in. Shortly after I picked her up, I received a call from the state saying they had called the hospital and were told that she had left the program. I explained that she was discharged and we had decided to take her in. The worker was surprised but seemed okay with it. Later that afternoon, our resource worker called and jokingly threatened to kill me for being nuts, then congratulated me on being human. She went on to say that there had been a meeting and that our foster care license had been on the line. Although Jack Jack is NOT in foster care, there is apparently an “open investigation” and a licensed foster home can not be taking in someone under investigation as that would prevent any other placements. The supervisor wanted to pursue a case against Jack Jack’s Mom through the courts, but somehow the state worker and our resource worker convinced him not to and they agreed to let her stay! The resource worker told me that they will be doing some case planning with Jack Jack’s Mom which will include a parent aide and built in respite (with us!) Yeah! I was really happy to hear they wanted to HELP her instead of make her situation worse.

Jack Jack’s Mom has continued without luck to pursue a shelter that will take in her and the baby. I am beyond frustrated that no one has been able to find something for her, not because I mind having her here, but rather because we were told that no mother and child can be left on the street by the state. She has been told numerous times that she is the highest priority for several welfare departments, yet when the end of the day comes, those workers punch out and go home to their nice warm beds never giving her a second thought.

Anyway, after having Jack Jack’s Mom here 36 hours or so, I’m sad to say I do have some concerns about her and can see how this case was inititially referred for investigation, especially when she was in her peak of mental illness. I still fully believe that she loves her child and would never intentionally harm him, but the mental health piece is definitely an issue in her daily life. I have never seen anyone on the volume of medications she is taking… yet I still can’t figure out if she is spacey BECAUSE of those meds or because she needs more to get herself focused and back down to earth. She often leaves the baby on the floor and simply walks away. I had to remind her at least 5 times today to take her mid-day meds. She has no concept of time. She often seems confused and unable to complete simple tasks. I am hoping and praying that the hospital stay was just stabilization and that her continuing to work with her team will allow her to get to a better place because if this is the best she has got (and she has to do it alone), Jack Jack is in trouble.

I encouraged her to try to relax for the weekend simply because I don’t want her to leave with the baby in the condition she is in. It’s not a good long term solution, but it buys me some time to figure out how best to help her. Any thoughts?

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I Am Jack Jack’s Mother

baby handLast Thursday was a day like any other… until I got a call from our resource worker asking if we would consider providing respite for a ten month old infant. I hesitated but something nagged at me telling me there was a reason we were receiving this request. I returned the call and said we would do it.

That afternoon, Goofy, Pluto and I were at the local hospital discharging another woman’s baby. As it turns out, his mother was in need of a psychiatric hospitalization and there was nowhere for her baby to stay. The hospital admitted him and a (semi) local organization worked with our child welfare system to secure respite (us) while this woman got the help she needed.

My family was initially not thrilled with my decision… especially since I hadn’t even bothered to consult any of them. We aren’t really “baby people” if you know what I mean. Late night crying, bottles of formula, dirty diapers… well, those just aren’t things that we like to deal with! Goofy didn’t speak to me at all the first night we brought the baby home.

That said, it took almost no time for each member of the family to fall madly in love with Jack Jack (not his real name, of course). As he came to trust us, he began to let his personality show and he is an absolutely charming happy baby! He wakes with the brightest smiles and is full of laughter. Its been amazing to see Goofy and Pluto interact with him… it gives me a glimpse as to what they will be like when they become husbands and fathers. Daffy has struggled a little bit to figure out her role with Jack Jack, but she does offer help when she can.

Jack Jack’s Mom is being discharged tomorrow. She is homeless. The program she had been a part of (and living in) told her she was no longer a good fit for their program, ultimately putting her and the baby on the street. Effective immediately. She made calls all day long (many while I was there for a vist with the baby) but had no luck securing anything. One agency returned her call to say that their interview process for a shelter takes a week minimum. SERIOUSLY!? How broken is our system that her “home” could throw her out without notice and a homeless shelter takes over a week to determine if you should be… well…. SHELTERED?

Today Jack Jack’s Mom quietly asked if we had any extra room at our home for a few days. I said no, but I knew I was lying. We have a spare bedroom that would be perfect. I told her we had bad experiences having people live here in the past (totally true), but that I would talk to Mickey. I really didn’t think he would go for it and I had my own reservations as well. I can’t save the world and I know that.

As I left the hospital, I realized why this case had struck me so deeply. I Am Jack Jack’s Mother. Her story is mine. I was 19. I was hospitalized for depression. I left the hospital and became homeless. I lost physical custody of my daughter to her father as a result. This realization brought me back to those cold and lonely days. I wondered where my next meal would come as I ate peanut butter from a jar with a dirty plastic spoon. I wondered where I could shower or brush my teeth to be prepared to look for work. I worried about carbon monoxide poisoning as I let my car run for heat and stressed about how I would pay for more gas. I visited with my daughter when and where I could. My family did not suport me during that time. I think they thought it was “character building” and that I should own the results of my life choices that led me to that place. While I fully support responsibility and I was never looking for a hand out, I simply wanted guidance…. a friend…. someone to help me to help myself. I was blessed to find that person when I started a new holiday job at the mall about 6 weeks after I left the hospital. 6 weeks of long days and cold nights. This woman allowed me into her small one bedroom apartment and let me sleep on her couch. We became the best of friends and, 20 years later, I am happy to report she is still one of my closest friends.

I don’t know that Jack Jack’s Mom and I will be friends in 20 years, but I do know first hand what its like to be in her situation. I know what its like to feel so alone in the world, like you could disappear and no one would even notice. Most of all, I know it’s time for me to come full circle and return the favor that was bestowed on me by a virtual stranger.

I’m sure my fellow foster parents are shaking their heads at my lack of boundaries (and heart that is 3 sizes too big, lol), but let me clarify…. Jack Jack is NOT a foster child. My choice to allow them to stay here for a week so that his mom has time to secure a safe home for them may PREVENT him from going into foster care.

That is a win in my book.

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What a day!

At the moment, I am eating, sleeping and now BLOGGING foster care. It’s oozing out of every pore!

The day started out with a planned visit between Daffy & her birth mom. While planned, I hadn’t mentioned it to Daffy. The weeks leading up the last visit (and the delay of such visit) were stressful for Daffy, so I thought I would try something different this time. I’m really pleased with how that went. No stress before hand and a very nice visit today. In the future, I may give her some notice, but certainly not a lot. All it does is give Daffy time to worry.

Anyway, we met at the mall around ten. Birth Mom’s mother (Daffy’s biological grandmother) drove her. I know that birth mom and her own mother have had many conflicts over the years so I was a bit nervous, but that turned out to be for no reason. Daffy’s Grandmother was very reserved but very supportive of her daughter and Daffy’s visit and did a nice job also including me in the conversations as well. I was very impressed with her ability to see his situation for what it is, and honestly, grateful that she didn’t see me as the villain. I think that she and Daffy must not have had a close relationship as Daffy showed almost no reaction to seeing her and did not hug her upon seeing her again.

Overall, Daffy seemed very reserved and quiet herself during much of the visit. When she wanted to point something out, she would call “Mom!” and every time I responded by habit and every time she was talking to me. I KNOW that still stings for birth mom to hear. I couldn’t help but wonder if Daffy was doing it on purpose because of the frequency she said it during the visit while otherwise staying quiet. Maybe that was her way of reinforcing roles? Maybe it was just coincidence, I don’t really know.

We stopped at Cinnabon for a snack at the end of our visit. We chatted about all sorts of things. Birth Mom told us about her new house and showed Daffy a photo. That led to a conversation about Donald’s transition. Birth Mom shared that Donald will be seeing the house for the first time this week. (His clinician will be taking him.) Weekend day visits will begin after that with the first overnight being Easter weekend (don’t even get me started….) Daffy totally zoned out, far enough to the point that Birth Mom even noticed and asked her if she was okay. Daffy replied that she was fine and Birth Mom accepted it at face value. I should probably take some time send an email to birth mom and use this as a teaching tool for her to sense Daffy’s reactions to conversations about Donald. She seemed to miss all cues at the last two visits.

Anyway, goodbyes were easy, Daffy gave hugs and we happily went on our way. This is certainly a complex open adoption, but I have to say I have been very blessed that Daffy transitions from visits so easily. Its so clear that she knows her role within our family, she is one of us.

We came home to learn that Mickey had been hired for a new job (PRAISE THE LORD!), but that he needed to go for a 3 hours training/orientation…. TODAY! I still needed to log time for work myself and we have the 5 year old twins (Simba and Nala) here for repite too! Goofy and Daffy were very helpful with the twins while I got some work done.

I spoke with the twins case worker this afternoon and left the conversation feeling less than confident for the family (thats a blog post for another day, if we stay connected at all to this case). The cw did give us permission to go forward with visits this week with the twins birth mom.

Tonight, I received a call from the Respite Teen (I really should give her a blog name at some point, huh?). She had recently signed herself in for a voluntary hospitalization. Within 2 days of admitting herself, the foster family whom she had been living with changed their minds about caring for her baby while she was hospitalized and asked the state to come take the baby, effectively putting her baby in foster care. I’m unclear what “charges” the respite teen faces…. abandonment maybe? She said she has a court hearing tomorrow that she can’t miss… yet she is currently hospitalized. She has no license. No car. No boyfriend (recently got a retraining order against him at the state’s encouragement). No friends. No family. No foster family. No attorney. Nothing. All she has is the state who watches over her. The same state who is now fighting AGAINST her to take her baby. How can this be right???  She said she hasn’t heard from her own case worker. I offered to email the cw tonight (which I did) begging for the cw to update the respite teen. She deserves to know what is happening! I feel helpless. This teen has nothing.  In a perfect world, we would take her in and help her raise her child. This isn’t a perfect world. Daffy would never survive. The rest of my family would kill me. And hell, I am barely on stable ground myself. I KNOW I can’t handle that, but I can’t sit by and do nothing. I have an obligation to her. She is supposed to call me tomorrow morning to update me.

Tonight I spoke with Simba and Nala’s birth mom and set up a visit for tomorrow, including driving the mom several towns away to run an important errand of sorts (will share more if this case stays ongoing, as previously mentioned above).

It’s like the cosmic forces of foster care have all collided in my life today. So, yeah, I have had my FILL. On one hand, I feel overwhelmed with helplessness, but on the other hand I feel filled with a renewed sense of purpose. I chose this path. I knew it was messy, but I wanted to make a difference. This is my chance. Now is my time.

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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!

A Respite Update

The pregnant teen stayed with us for 6 consecutive nights in September. The last few days of her stay, we also had Alice for the weekend. That turned out to be a very bad decision and not one I will repeat. I ended up having to call the on-call services available through our (former) agency for advice which is something I hadn’t done since Donald was here in January. The pregnant teen believed that Alice had stolen her iPod and was insistant that I needed to STRIP SEARCH her. Uh, no. Just no. It was intense at the time, but that is long behind us now.

We have a planned respite for the pregnant teen at the beginning of November. I am planning a baby shower for her which I am really excited about. Regardless of the challenges she faces as a teen mom, I want her to feel nurtured and loved and I certainly want her to have the things she needs to best care for her baby. The odds are stacked against her in every way possible, so this is the least I can do.

Alice is currently in a group home and her team is considering whether or not going back to her foster family is the best thing for her (or for her sisters who are placed with the foster family). It’s looking unlikely she will return to them so our role as her respite family is on hold indefinitely.

A few random updates

Daffy’s Art from Summer Academy

A few random updates from the trenches…

Donald

It’s been an up and down week for Donald. He did not return phone calls Friday or Saturday. He did not call on his “call day” (Monday). He screamed at me with disgust on Tuesday that he didn’t want to talk to me . Yesterday we had a pleasant conversation that lasted a whopping 13 minutes. In fact, he talked to Daffy (at her request) and told her he loved her as they hung… the very first time he said that to her since he left at the end of January. Weird.

Donald’s birth mom visited with him last week and reported that things seemed different. She said he hadn’t acted as loving as he had at prior visits and that she felt he was conflicted. She & I are currently trying to schedule a visit together with him so we can have an open dialogue about what his hopes for the future are. We feel like he tells each of us what we want to hear and are hopeful that if he sees us as united for him that he will be able to finally be honest.

As far as I know, no therapy has been set up for Donald yet. As much as I feel his case worker understands his needs, I feel that there is no sense of urgency for him now that his sister is being adopted. I have no leg to stand on as his “former foster mom”, but feel that a fire needs to be lit to encourage the state to work to get him help and get him to permanency. I will definitely be bringing this up at the next team meeting in September.

Daffy

Daffy starts school in 6 days. She isn’t thrilled to be going back, but I feel like she really needs it (not that she has a choice, LOL). She does so much better with tasks to complete than with an abundance of free time.

She is extremely excited about her birthday party tomorrow! I have some concerns that this could be a very overwhelming day for her with so many people here for her, but I am going to try to keep things light and positive. Mickey and I made the decision to allow a phone conversation between her birth mom and herself next week on her actual birthday. Her birth mom has been very appropriate and I am confident that she will not do anything to destroy the relationship we (birth mom & I) have been carefully building with her.

Alice

I learned Wednesday that Alice is being evaluated at a psychiatric hospital and her next destination is unclear at this time. I’m disappointed that things did not go in a different direction, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since respite didn’t “save” us either. If Alice does return to her foster home, we will be ready and willing to support them.

Other posts currently in the works: My Adoption Story Part IV and an update on Tink, so check back soon! 🙂

Respite for Alice

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.

Our social worker contacted us on Wednesday to ask if we were available for respite. She shared that she was looking for respite for 1 of 3 siblings living approximately 35 minutes away. We happily agreed. Respite seems just about our speed these days. Its allows us to focus on daily stuff with Daffy and continue a relationship with Donald, yet still be able to help other kids in care.

As a side note, we happen to know this sibling group as they were previously placed at the same group home that Donald and Daffy lived at. Our agency had set us up with this family upon the kid’s placement in january, in part because the kids knew each other and in part because this family was about 5 months ahead of us in the process. Our agency was thinking they could be a good resource family for us. We saw them a couple of times and the foster mom and I attended a support group together once. I didn’t see them as a great resource, though, as we were in very different places with our kids. Their sibling group was still waiting for TPR, while our kids had been legally free for adoption for 4 years. This family also did not have any biological children (or any children at all) before they accepted the challenge of this sibling group, so we didn’t have a lot of common ground.

Alice (age 12) arrived with her foster father around 6pm. He carried in her backpack and let me know she would not get out of the car and asked that I talk to her. I wasn’t convinced that there would be anything I could do to get her out of the car, but decided to give it a try. I knocked on her window and waved excitedly. I reached for the door handle and she unlocked the door. I decided to pretend there wasn’t a single odd thing about her still sitting there as we chatted. It took nearly an hour, but she did finally agree to come out of the car.

Her foster father had removed himself from the situation (I am guessing he thought this would help?) and was around the side of the house. Alice went to look for him to say good bye and even gave him a hug. She came in just after the rest of the family had eaten dinner and she refused to eat, but did sit with Daffy & I at the table and made pleasant conversation. Next, we made home made ice cream and then her & Daffy swam for a little while. I let the girls watch a movie before bed and they went to bed without any trouble.

The next morning our social worker stopped by to see how things were going. She shared that Alice was on the verge of disruption from her foster family and that the team was considering placing her in a residential treatment center. My heart broke for her, but I knew how hard things must be at the foster home for the family to consider that, especially after having had her in their home for a year.

Unfortunately, due to a crisis with Tink (I will blog about this in another post), Mickey cared for the girls for most of the remainder of the day. The girls, again, went to bed without any issue that night. I was happy to get to talk to the foster mom after the girls went to bed. She shared that they had made a lot of hard decisions and had decided to keep Alice in the home!!!! I was thrilled to hear the news and happily agreed that we would provide ongoing respite to support their family through this difficult time.

The next morning, our social worker stopped by once again. (Seeing her two days in a row reminded me of the first few weeks after Donald & Daffy’s placement). While technically this was our regularly scheduled meeting, it gave us a great opportunity to catch up on both girls (Daffy and Alice). The sw told me that she had suggested to the foster mom (and team) that we attend Alice’s team meeting coming up later this month. I gladly agreed. I am happy to support both Alice and her foster family and I feel I will be able to do a better job of providing ongoing respite if I have some idea of whats going on. Our sw also outlined a little more clearly what she is hoping the monthly schedule would look like:

Week 1: Alice here for weekend
Week 2: Alice’s 2 younger sisters here for weekend
Week 3: Alice here for weekend
Week 4: No respite

Ummmm, wow. I had already agreed to help before knowing all the details (will be sure to ask up front next time, LOL) so there really wasn’t much to discuss other than whether or not the state will pay to cover that much respite. Our sw believes they will because this will save the state a substantial amount of money over Alice being moved to a residential setting (very sad that it’s about the almighty dollar, but I am happy that Alice is staying put for the time being).

Mickey and I believe we are up for the challenge, although there is a part of me that hopes that things for this family will settle down within a few months, allowing US to go back to our “regularly scheduled program.” I am also nervous that as she becomes more comfortable with us, we will begin to see her challenging behaviors. We’ll just take it one weekend at a time and hope we can make a difference even if only in a small way.

Expectations

I recently talked to the pregnant respite teen‘s foster mom. She casually mentioned that the teen was pregnant (Duh!) and said “this isn’t what we bargained for“…. really? A 17 year old girl in foster care who has been in the system since infancy and disrupted from her adoptive home and placed in residential care? You couldn’t fathom that she would be pregnant at 17 years old by her abusive boyfriend? Really? Its almost predictable in my book.

That said, “An 11 year old boy, beaten brutally by his father on numerous occasions (requiring hospitalization), followed by 13 placements in 8 years with multiple disruptions?” And you thought you could handle that? Really? It should have been predictable.

The demons that we face as foster parents are unimaginable. There is no “perfect” foster child. Each comes with their own trauma history, their own set of negative behaviors and their own pain. They also come with their own hope and their own strengths. As foster parents, they need our guidance. They need our nurturing. They need our advocacy.

I am not sure that any amount of training could have prepared me for this journey. I came into this process filled with hope, and while I have learned an immeasurable amount and have faced countless challenges, I am no less hopeful today than I was on that very first day. Maybe it’s better that we didn’t know what was in store for us. If we had been scared away, we would be missing one of the greatest blessings of our lives!

The Day After

This morning a slew of emails began. The team members who left the meeting early (or at the end, depending on how you look at it) were wondering how things had gone and those of us who attended…. ok, ME….. needed to process what the hell just happened.

Its been more than 24 hours now and I still dont know if I can wrap my arms around yesterday’s events.  Donald’s clinician believes that he had a PTSD reaction and truly doesn’t remember the events of what happened after we told him Daffy would be adopted. Initially, I believe he understood and simply wanted to kill his sister, but after talking to him tonight, I am not  so sure.

Below is an email (edited for the purpose of making it less searchable) that I sent to the team after talking to Donald tonight:

I had a great chat with the clinician this afternoon [Dont even go there…. I am pretty sure I still disagree with her on most points, but I do feel that somewhere deep down she cares about Donald even though she isnt the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree] and she suggested that I follow through on our nightly phone call to Donald. I am really happy that I did and wanted to update you about some things he said on the call…. These are sort of in random order….

First I asked how he was doing and he said not so good. I don’t know that I have ever heard him sound so “down”…  The only other time that comes close was when he was heavily medicated at the PSYCH Hospital in February. He talked far slower than usual and his voice was, well, depressed. I asked if he was still upset about yesterday and he said yes.

He asked me if we were adopting Daffy, to which I replied “Yes” and he said he thought she was getting adopted by a different family. I am wracking my brain trying to think about what I said yesterday that might have given him the impression that it wasn’t US that was adopting his sister and I cant think of anything. It could just be his poor memory, disassociation, or confusion, I suppose.

He asked if his sister could come on Saturday’s visit and I told him “No”…  I said I thought things needed to cool off, but said that they would see each other [in the future]. I also reassured him that even after adoption, Daffy would still be his sister. Adoption doesn’t change that.

I reminded him that we told him yesterday we would help him work to be ready for adoption, too. I  further explained that he and his sister are 2 different kids with 2 different needs and that the team is making choices that are best for each of them. I told him that Daffy still hasn’t seen their birth mom because the time isnt right for her (which he seemed to love and said “I am“, very proudly), and then took the opportunity to say that she is ready for adoption and he isnt yet. I then hammered home the point that “different kids do different things” when the time is right. He seemed to accept that, at least for the moment.

I told him that at the meeting yesterday I advocated for him to be able to see his birth Mom on an ongoing basis and reminded him of a conversation we had when he lived here when I told him that I would help him locate her when the time was right for him. He seemed to remember and I reminded him “I kept my word”… Then I asked if he wanted to continue to see his birth mom and he said “Yes, like I see you” [ugh, heartbreaking] and I told him that’s why it was important for him to speak at the team meetings about what is important to him. I told him that I knew it was scary, and if he wanted, he could sit with me at the next meeting. I reminded him that its important for him to be honest about his feelings.

He asked again if Daffy could come Saturday and I reminded him that now was not the right time. I said “Are you still angry with her?” and he replied “Yes” and I said “We need to wait for things to cool off a bit and work through some of the big feelings” and again reminded him that he WILL see her, just not right now. He seemed okay with the fact that Mickey & I would come alone. I told him that I wanted him to be safe between now and then and he agreed to try. We chatted a bit about what the RTC’s weekend event might be like. He said if they had a bounce house (and it was okay for adults to go in) that he would go with me. I also told him how he was a great photographer and asked if I brought my camera if he would take some pictures for me and he agreed. He then paused to tell a peer about how when we met he took hundreds of pictures with my camera. I suggested that taking photos might be something he would like to do for a job when he grows up. (I don’t think he believes he has a future, sadly, so I took this chance to remind him.)

Overall, its probably one of the most intense conversations I have had with him (outside of maybe the time he disclosed sexual abuse when he lived here in January). I felt like he was genuine and at least somewhat open to talking about scary feelings more than most days we have talked with him.

In closing, I am sad. Like I said to the clinician today, when we began this journey we purposely sought a sibling group with the goal of keeping siblings together in a system that often does whatever is easiest. We believed this was our calling and our strength in foster parenting. It’s ironic that because ofthe siblings we were matched with, we ended up fighting for the very opposite. The clinician mentioned hoping we would be a resource family for Donald in the future and I could say without hesitation that we ARE in this for the long haul with him. He & Daffy may not be able to live together but they will ALWAYS be connected and ALWAYS be siblings and we will do everything in our power to preserve that relationship and help them to achieve a healthy relationship going forward. Although we may not be the best match for Donald and may not be able to best meet his needs, we ARE connected to him and that will not change.

Sadness overwhelms me tonight. I ADORE Daffy and cant imagine my life without her, but leaving her brother behind was never part of the plan.