Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas specials

I love watching Christmas specials from my childhood. 

You know, Frosty, Rudolph, the one with heat miser, whose name I always forget, etc.

One thing these all have in common is that they are whiter than white. There are no characters of color in most of them. 

Can anyone out there recommend some Christmas shows that feature characters of color that I can share with Primo?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas and I are running a race

Our race started out as a long distance event, but has recently began to feel like a sprint. Er, well, Christmas is sprinting, I on the other hand feel like I'm running a three legged race with one ankle bound to a toddler. 

Add to this the many, many, events and commitments of my teen daughters during this season and I find myself with every weekend and most days in between filled to capacity.

I love the Christmas sprint, and in the past I've been in fighting shape by the first of December.  I shop for gifts all year round, our home is usually festooned in all things Christmas a few days after Thanksgiving and my Christmas cards are ready to go.

BUT, (yes it's a big but) this year my Christmas decorations and nativities are still in the basement, packed away next to my Christmas spirit.

Primo's case is limping along as we are now in the middle of the 6 month wait for his second TPR trial. Everyone involved in his case is tired and cranky right now, myself included. We have now entered the third year of this case.

The terrible twos have fully asserted themselves, I know, I know, the threes may prove to be more trying, but believe me the twos are in full raging force right now! Many days that feel like one long tantrum.

In the midst of all of this I'm still searching the basement for my Christmas spirit.  I know I'll find it eventually, I just wish it didn't feel so heavy this year.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Today I'm thankful for you

Truly, I don't know what I would have done without your valuable advice, your support, your comments, the sharing of your stories.

Your foster care blogs have meant the world to me. As I embark on my 3rd year of loving and caring for Primo I continue to read and soak up as much as I can, you are a great support as I travel down this long road.

Thank you for sharing your stories.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Shadow a social worker for a day...

I think this sounds like a brilliant idea. I think it should be part of the foster care training program.

Wouldn't we all like to know the hows and whys behind the scenes of this job? I would.  This training could foster a better understanding of late or missed home visits along with those end of the month calls for visits that could have happened weeks ago, why is it always the last few days of the months that home visits get done?

I'm not sure how many cases each foster care social worker has? For example Primo and his siblings are one case, but this one case involves 3 different homes to visit and 4 different children to complete and collect paper work for every month.

I know that there would be confidentiality issues with future foster parents shadowing social workers, but I would love to really understand what social workers have to go through on a daily basis. Wouldn't you?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Foster Care Running Tally

In the past 2 years Primo has had:


3 lawyers (guardian ad litem)
3 agency social works
1 DH$ social worker
1 foster home

Truly not bad stats for over 2 years in the system.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jumping! (into foster care)

This morning I was jumping on the bed with a grinning 2 year old who was looking right into my eyes and laughing.

How did I get here?

Life really is a miracle.

This little guy loves me, he calls me Mama and cries for me when I leave him.

I had no connection with him until he was month old, I never imagined a future with him, and now we jump on the bed every morning to celebrate the new day.

 


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Holding Pattern

I won't lie, this 6 month wait between termination trial dates has been a real drag.

Every expectation of everyone involved in the case was unfulfilled.

It has been very difficult for Primo's parents, and the foster parents involved and especially the older brothers. While they are happy to still be able to visit with their children they are also devastated to be living in another 6 months of limbo.

Visits are painful because Primo's parents are in such a bad place right now. There is no easy way to lose your rights to your children, but this long wait has been horrible for them and we're not even half way through it yet. There have been many missed visits.

This time last year we thought that Primo would be going home. His parents were doing really well, Mike and I and Primo's older brother's foster Mom were helping them get ready for their children to come home. While this was bitter sweet, it was a positive time for all of us.

What a difference a year makes. It has been devastating to watch all the positive relationships and support spiral downward.

I'm almost positive that Primo's parents want to continue a relationship with all of their children. I've been told that we can't speak to them about this until post termination. Which doesn't make much sense to me because how will be in touch with them if not via visits?



Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lock Boxes

Now that Primo is two I seriously need something to lock up house hold meds, like our over the counter pain killers, liquid cold crap, yes that's what I officially call that green so you can sleep liquid medicine, and prescriptions etc.

During previous safety inspections the social workers have been fine with all that kind of stuff being in an upper cabinet in the kitchen. For our next inspection I want to have an official lock box. 

I've been looking in stores and online and have not found one that seemed inexpensive or practical, they are either way too small, or way to heavy (fire proof variety which I don't need, but a good size). 
I'm also concerned that I will lose the keys and then when I have a horrible headache or whatever I will be trying to bust the stupid thing open because I forgot where I hid the keys.

Last week I ordered one online, but it was too small to hold a larger bottle of over the counter pain killer in, ugh. This one was strictly for prescription bottles and we don't have too many of those.

I was scanning the internet this morning when I should have been at church and I found an old adoption/foster care thread that contained the best answer yet to the "lock up all your meds" dilemma, and I'm going to share it with you.

Go out and buy a cheap toolbox, any size you want as long as it has a little loopy thingy in front for putting a small padlock on (see photo). There are lots of inexpensive plastic ones out there. I paid $9.99 for mine and another $3.99 for a little pad lock with a combination so I never lose the keys.

I was able to by the perfect size for my bathroom closet shelf. If you care about how the inside of your closet looks this may not be a good idea for you. For me it was very inexpensive and easy to find, almost every tool box I looked at was able to be locked with a padlock.

This would not do if you have teenagers in your home that you need to keep medications away from, but for a toddler it does the trick.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

One of the best things I've read on the web...

I love this post by MamaJ over at FosterCareQandA. Check her out.

I distinctly remember having a moment of clarity during our foster care training about this very topic.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Reading about transracial adoption and foster care

Foster care has consumed us for the past two years, in an effort to get back to some of the things we enjoy doing Mike and I have decided to reclaim some of our hobbies.

Mike's hobbies basically revolve around watching football and participating in fantasy football, done.

I have decided to go back to playing my favorite sport recreationally once a week and spend more time reading like I used to.

I've finished reading Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos, I liked it a lot. It was so surprising to follow the journey of someone so wealthy and famous going through the foster care process. I have read a few blogs that have mused about why more highly educated, wealthy folks don't do foster care? OMG shall we count the reasons? Visits, permission to get a hair cut, denial of travel and vacation plans, the monthly invasions of agency social workers, DH$ social workers, lawyers and advocates, weird standards for keeping your home safe, no respect for your schedule, court hearings that go no where. I think the real question is why does anyone do this. I know, I know because we LOVE the kids, but foster care takes so much more than love.  

I've been reading other non-fiction: Come Rain or Come Shine and In Their Own Voices, both are about transracial adoption. I've found both books to be very educational, but while reading Come Rain or Come Shine I read one line that broke my heart: "Black males are among the most "unadoptable" children in society." I started bawling and have yet to go back to that book. 

So, come last Saturday night when I was home alone with Primo, who was asleeep, I really wanted to find something lighter to read. You know, something funny and entertaining. I looked online for an ebook, but couldn't find anything light to read. Finding a humorous book is difficult, I would love to have some suggestions from you all!

Anywho, I looked through my e-reader and I found a book I'd completely forgoten I'd downloaded, Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter, a foster care memoir. I was not in the mood for more foster care. I specifically wanted something light because dealing with foster care day in and day out, along with reading about transracial adoption is not light and funny and I needed more light and funny right then.

Out of desperation I read the first few pages, I was hooked! I loved this book, it's not easy to read as the author spent many years in foster care. It is written beautifully and full of good information for foster parents. This book broadened my understanding of why children in foster care long for their parents for years and years. I was also struck by how even the so called "good" foster homes the author was in were less than ideal for her. I stayed up well past midnight, I couldn't put it down. I recommend it whole heartedly.

What have you read lately?

Friday, September 27, 2013

It's the end of the month...

let the requests for home visits commence. One social worker missed last month, will they miss two in row? I don't think so.

You'd be proud of me, I didn't even vacuum and dust Primo's room before the last social worker visit.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pain

It's been pretty tough around here since our miserable court date

I've been down. I found this video on FB.

I started to feel that nothing I did really made a difference in helping with the HUGE needs of foster children.

Foster children face overwhelming odds and unhappy statistics.

Then on Monday I read a post from a fellow foster care blogging Mom that brought me to my knees. Her two foster children, who had lived with her for two years were removed from her family without warning or time for proper good byes. No transition time at all.

When I complain about the "system" of foster care and how it doesn't put first the needs of the children it is supposed to be protecting and serving I'm not being specific enough. The so called "system" is made of human beings, they are the "system". People are letting these kids down. Pure and simple. It is extremely difficult for me to believe that there are social workers, judges and lawyers that place so little value on a child's wellbeing. Is there no common sense to be found? Are the structures of the courts and foster care so indifferent and ridiculous? For me, in this moment this is how it feels.

I have a fierce desire for Primo to be free from foster care. He's been in care since the day he was born. Enough is enough. When I watched the above video about teens in foster care I became more determined. Children need loving permanency, TODAY.

Sorry for rambling, I'm heartbroken today.


Friday, September 20, 2013

One of My Outlets for Foster Care Stress

Riding in my car alone (which rarely happens) with the radio at the loudest volume possible listening to a song I love and singing along (out loud).

Ah sweet freedom!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"I didn't want to keep him in foster care. It's not fair. It's not fair for me to think: Well, you know what, one day I might get my life together. Well, you know what? Your life is not together now and your baby needs love now."

It think it's worth reading this interesting article  I had never heard of this before, now I have some idea of how other country's residents feel about their children being adopted by foreigners.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fun Facts From My Foster Care Manual

I still haven't found anything about hair cuts for foster kids in my manual. 

I did however come across some other interesting rules I didn't know about.

1. All clothing purchased for a foster child must go with them when they leave your home, this includes clothing they have outgrown.

2. Medical assistance health insurance for foster children doesn't reimburse doctors as well as private insurance. To help make this up to your foster child's doctor please take your biological children this doctor too.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Foster Care and Hair

We took Primo to the barber shop quite often this summer. We had permission from his parents to keep his hair very short all summer.

This morning Mike bet me that I could NOT find anything in writing (I grabbed our huge official foster care manual, that we received after completing our foster care training) about foster parents needing permission for hair cuts.

I've been looking and I haven't found anything yet, but it's got to be in there right? 

Doesn't EVERY foster parent know the rules about hair cuts? 

Apparently they don't, well at least one foster parent I know who had been doing foster care for 3 years didn't know. I mentioned waiting for permission to get Primo's hair cut and she looked at me like I was CRAY CRAY CRAAZY. The first time she heard about this rule was from little old inexperienced (at the time) me.

AND...to be honest I have no idea where I heard about the rule.

So far I've made it through the first inch of about 3 inches of the manual.

Anything you'd like me to look up for you?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Still SLUMPING, big time...

I'm having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that Primo's stay in foster care has been prolonged by 6 months. So frustrating to have NO control. I know I have to let it go.

BUT...HOW?
 
Foster care sucks big time for me right now, but nothing about having Primo around is bad. Thank goodness he has no idea what is going on or not going on in court or in his case right now. As far as he's concerned he's home with his family and all is right with the world.

Primo being in one single solitary home for his whole two years in foster care = GOOD

 A bright spot, no?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

One of the best things I've seen on the web today...

I've heard a lot about Dr. Karyn Purvis and her book the Connected Child. I just viewed this video and now I'm going to download her book.

Monday, September 9, 2013

I've found a fun new website it's called Growing a Jeweled Rose. I do NOT love messy projects, but I have the feeling that they may be good for Primo. To be honest I'm looking for some fun stuff to fill the days when there's no play school and the weather is so gorgeous right now it would be great to try these things outside. The site is so fun and messy, I've already made the colored rice, although we haven't played with it yet. I remember how much my older kids loved playing with shaving cream and slime, there are some great recipes for these too, imagine shaving cream studded with pop rocks!

What fun sensory stuff do you do with your kids?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

As a result of the recent court debacle...

I've come to the realization that I had been putting a lot of my life on hold, waiting and holding my breath waiting for Primo to be legally free for adoption. Not only this, but I'd say Mike and I have both been in a bit of a holding pattern for the past two years. We live court date to court date, waiting and adjusting to each change that comes with each new court date.

Because we've had and infant and now a toddler, who can only be cared for by approved baby-sitters for the last two years, the usual weekend invitations that came our way before foster care have all but ended. We are often too tired and distracted to make the effort to invite other couples over after Primo is in bed.

Recently we were invited out to dinner by a couple we hadn't seen in a long time. This invitation, probably our first in over 6 months, reminded me of all the friends and family we haven't seen regularly over the past two years. I was as excited and happy as a tween who'd just been invited to her first school dance!

All of this was building as we waited all summer long, with very little vacation, for Primo's August court date. What a let down the results of that long awaited for court date were! We've been so caught up in foster care that we've let other areas of our life go, and this has to stop.

Mike and I have both decided to get back to some of the hobbies we've let go over the past two years. We also invited a beloved couple over for dinner after Primo was in bed this weekend, we had SO MUCH FUN!




Monday, September 2, 2013

It's that time of year again...

BACK TO SCHOOL!

Despite my depression over Primo being confined to foster care for an extra 6 months, life goes on.

To distract myself from myself today, I went school supply shopping. Primo is now two and is starting play school. None of my other kids went to school this early, but my boy is super social and high energy so he'll love school.

I grabbed my list, without so much as glancing at it ahead of time and headed to the store. I had a much needed laugh when my eyes landed on "diapers and wipes", I mean can this really be considered school with these items on the official school supply list?

Primo is now loaded up with tissues, diapers, wipes, jumbo crayons, stickers and a smock, everything you need to make play school all that it should be!

Here we go...

Monday, August 26, 2013

What the?

I'm extremely frustrated. I just heard from Primo's social worker that the TPR trial has been continued because one person who HAD to be there just plain didn't show up. So now we wait until FEBRUARY to try again.

I'm speechless.

Pre-court

Before I knew what I was doing this morning (you remember, right? Primo's TPR trial is today), I had gnawed off two of my finger nails! After over 10 years of conquering my nervous habit of biting my finger nails it is all over just like that.

I can't imagine how Primo's parents must be feeling this morning.

Stress like this may drive a person right back to any old unhealthy coping mechanisms they have used in the past.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Court is next week. Everyone is feeling confident that the termination of parental rights will happen. I have mixed feelings about this, but do want Primo and his brothers to be able to find some stability in their lives after 5 years in foster care.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Open Adoption via Foster Care?

We are now filling out a lot of adoption paper work for Primo. TPR trial is around the corner, it feels odd to fill out this paper work before termination has been finalized.

This all leads me to think about how much openness there will be in this adoption. I know that I want Primo to still have contact with his parents once he is adopted. I would love to hear from anyone who has an open adoption via foster care. 

What has worked for you and what hasn't worked?

Is your open adoption agreement legally binding?

How many times a year do you have contact?

Etc.

Thanks!


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Images...



Inst*gram, snap!chat, FB and V!ne, there are sooo many ways to share photos and videos these days all of which are off limits to foster parents. I get it and I don't post photos of Primo anywhere online or otherwise, but try convincing teenagers of this rule. So much of their lives are online and when they consider Primo their brother after 2 years of living with him it is nearly impossible to keep them from posting photos of Primo. A couple of my kids are legal adults, I've explained the rules, but just the other day my sister (one of my sibs who lives very far from us) called me exclaiming over the adorable photo of Primo on one of my daughter's inst*gram accounts. She lamented the fact that her children rarely see photos of their cousin and how much they miss us all.

This is where it gets difficult, out of town family want to keep up with Primo and see photos of him. What's a foster mom to do? And as for controlling adult children forget about it.

How do you share photos of your foster kids with out of town family?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Visit Logistics

Where I live and with my agency foster parents are responsible for taking their foster children to and from their family visits. If for some reason you cannot take your child to a visit you must find a social worker willing to drive them or another foster parent, or maybe some one who specifically has all their foster care clearances and is over 21. This is more of a one time thing type of option. As foster parents Mike and I are supposed to make sure Primo gets to his visits no matter what.

I've read on on other foster care blogs that some children are taken by transporters who pick them up for each visit and return them home afterwards. While I value my face to face time with Primo's parents and siblings I have to admit to being a bit jealous of those foster parents who have the option of a transporter.

I'm about an hour from Primo's visit sight, so coming home between dropping off for a visit and picking up is not an option given the 2 hour visit time. This means that I have to find something to do for 2 hours in the city or just hang out in the waiting room and that overall visits take 4 hours out of my day.

I would love to drop Primo off for his visit and drive home and have Mike pick Primo up on his way home from work, once in a blue moon this works and I love it when it does. For the most part however this doesn't work. Primo's parents are generally late for visits, so this means there is often an half hour during which all the siblings and foster parents wait in the agency waiting room, and on the days when the parents don't show up at all we leave the visit early. The two social workers who handle this case don't want to be caring for the children during this half hour wait, and if neither parents comes to the visit what then? They would have to be responsible for the children for two hours before the foster parents returned.

I realize that having a transporter could also be stressful as they are one more stranger that the children would have to spend time with. I would imagine that Primo would not love getting into a car with someone he doesn't know for an hour on his way to visits and back. But sometimes during my more tired and frustrating days I daydream of spending those 4 hours however I pleased instead of sitting around waiting and battling city traffic.

Monday, July 29, 2013

One of the Best Things...

I've read on the web lately is THIS.  I too love foster care, as difficult as it is, and I'm hoping that if I read this lovely post by Teresa a few more times it will help me out of the slump I'm in right now.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Freedom

It's with great relief that I can report we now have permission from the judge to travel on our family vacation next month!

We always need permission to travel even within our own state if we are staying over night and now that Primo's parents don't want him to travel with us anymore I have some idea of why many people don't want to get involved in foster care.

Where we live we are a very easy (15 min) drive to another state and less than 45 minutes from yet another. Day trips we did all the time before foster care are now a major hassle. We can't wake up on any given Saturday and decide it would be fun to visit X,Y or Z museum/aquarium/ANYTHING without permission. This also often means that I can't take Primo to my children's sporting events during the school year.

I'm really starting to yearn for more freedom.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Going Above

We've decided we really need a vacation, so we asked Primo's lawyer if he could ask the judge for an order granting us permission to travel out of state as a family. He said it would be no problem at all and he was very surprised that Primo's parents wouldn't give permission for him to travel because there are going to be no missed visits because of our vacation.

I'm sad that things have changed so much. I don't like having to ask the court for permission to travel, but at the same time I'm tired of sacrificing family time to foster care.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Vacation Woes

Primo has been denied permission to travel out of state on vacation with us in August, by his parents. They have always granted permission before, but this time they feel it would be beneficial for him to spend a week with another family. Any other family, but not the other foster families who care for his siblings.

This leaves us with two options cancel our vacation or ask Primo's GAL (Gardian ad litem, in short his lawyer) to try and get permission from the court for Primo to travel with us.

I guess technically there is the third option of respite care, but as I don't know anyone personally who I could ask to do respite care for Primo this doesn't feel right. We are very used to traveling with him and enjoy it, he has never been left out of any of our vacations. I don't see any value in leaving an almost 2 year old with strangers for a week.

What would you do?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

2 Diaper Bags

One of the practical changes I've made during Primo's time in our home was to go from one diaper bag to two.

In the beginning I had only one. I often left personal items and cash in the diaper bag when I took it to visits. This didn't work well for obvious reasons.

With two diaper bags, it's convenient to leave my personal wallet etc. in the second/personal diaper, this way I don't have to drag my purse along to all Primo's doctors appointments etc. The other bonus was that the visit diaper bag is always ready to go, I just re-stock it after visits and as no one uses it between visits it is simple to add a cup and a snack and I'm ready to run!


Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday Morning Thought

I really wish that when I was going to visits once and even twice a week that I had found a beginner's yoga or spin class near the the visit sight. This could have been an important way for me to help with the stress of foster parenting.

Well...maybe next time.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pattern

Wow, there is a big difference from my earlier writing on this blog and what I write now.

Looking back I can see that I have become a bit despondent in my foster care life. For example, if I read some of my earlier and more popular posts I can see how much happier I was.

I guess I'm in a bit of slump. Foster care is not an easy thing to write about, their are privacy issues, and by it's nature foster care is not easy, carefree and fun.

It seems that many blogs follow the pattern of starting out positive and idealistic and then slowly take a down word turn. Oh well, probably just the nature of foster care in general, but I really want to get some of my earlier optimism. Perhaps this is impossible, but I don't like the way I feel about foster care now.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

How Many Walls?

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before but Primo's visits with his parents were cut back by the judge.

The result of going to less visits has been me liking visits even less. When I went once a week, (and for many months I went twice a week), it was just part of the foster parenting routine, I didn't love it, but I didn't question it or think about it that much. Now if you throw in a visit missed or cancelled by Primo's parents we can go a month without a visit, so when an actual visit rolls around again I resent it. I don't want to go, I feel nervous again about visits, I feel sad that Primo goes so long without seeing his parents, in short, I have many more emotions around visits now that there are so few of them.

OR, it could be that I'm feeling worn out by the system and the change in visitation has nothing to do with anything.

I'm tired. 

I don't know how foster parents carry on with cases that go on for more than two years. I know you hang in there for the kids, but 2 yrs to 7 yrs or 8 or whatever! years without a resolution is just brutal.

I can't even begin to imagine what this must be like for the children.

About a year into Primo's case I successfully gave it all up, in my mind I decided I would be patient, I had no control over foster care so I would watch it all play out, while loving Primo and doing my best for him. 

This is NOT cutting it any more. I need to get my good attitude back.

Is foster care like running, you hit a wall and then it gets better again?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Monday Morning Thought...donations?

A question for those of you who participate in foster care via a private agency, do you donate money and or toys and clothing to your agency?

Does your agency rely on and solicit donations from the general public?


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Pre-court Drama

I guess when I posted a couple of days ago about the fact that not much was happening on the foster care front I angered the foster care gods!

It would seem that all hell has broken loose and Primo's, and his brother's case is up in the air again.

Can't say too much about it, you know, it's just the usual musical chairs game of rotating personnel involved in the case. Last minute "getting with the program" after almost 5 years of being asked repeatedly to get going on the program.

I have to admit it has all thrown me for loop. I thought most everything was worked out and had been handled fairly, but that's just not good enough is it?  It would seem that ulcers for foster parents is a must before TPR trials!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Not much happening on the foster care front. We continue to wait for Primo's TPR trial late this summer.

Primo is a whirl wind of activity, it seems that he runs everywhere. He's climbing everything and loves playing outside, even if it's raining. He's a happy healthy almost 2 year old.

I'm so happy that he really has no idea of the waiting game his life is at this point. He just runs joyously through every day. Kissing and hugging us and thoroughly wearing himself by bedtime.

He is loved.

Monday, June 17, 2013

School is out and all my girlies are home! One of them might have been heard to say this on the way home from shopping this evening: "You know what's good about being the palest of the pale? You never have to figure out your specific shade for make up."

Friday, June 14, 2013

Respite Experiences?

As a foster parent, have you used respite for your foster children and if so how did it work out for you and the kids?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday Morning Thought...

Wouldn't it be great if all foster parents were given a stipend for a monthly massage?

I'm sure every one who works in child welfare would love one too.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Foster Care Lull

I never expected to have our first foster care placement last so long.  Primo's stay in foster care has been any thing but linear. He's come close to reunification, and then back again. Now it seems he is headed for termination, but I won't believe that until the judge says so!

I truly believed that he would reunite with his parents and siblings. 

BUT, I had no idea Primo had siblings until he'd lived with us for two weeks. And I had no idea how many he had until, well, I'm not sure when, but he had been with us for quite a while when all that came out.

Twice Primo was supposed to move in with his two older brothers. First at 6 months old when his brothers were finally in a pre-adoptive home. His brothers were removed from that home before Primo could be moved in. Then again he was supposed to move in with his brothers, into the pre-adoptive home they are now in. This home had other foster children and adopted children and they wisely wanted to see how the boys transitioned into their home before they added Primo into their busy mix. It turned out that adding the boys to their family was the max for them, so Primo stayed put with us.

So, three times I have prepared to say goodbye to Primo. And now that he has been with us for so long I can't imagine saying goodbye to him.

Foster care is fickle, children are moved for investigations, emergencies, to live with siblings, family members etc. There has been such a lull in Primo's case over the past few months as we wait for his termination date. In the back of my mind however I know that Primo's life could change in an instant and the family that he has known for almost two years could disappear. All of our lives could change in seconds and our first foster care child could vanish from our lives.

I really can't get over how vulnerable all foster care children are. Their cases can take years and years to resolve and during that time they can be packed up and shipped out multiple times, as is the sad case of Primo's brothers. They have been in 5 or 6 homes in over 4 years. 

I truly do wish that children's cases could be decided, not quickly, but in a certain time frame that is conducive to the safety, stability and well being of the children.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Generosity of Spirit

Every time I go through the drive thru of my favorite coffee/tea shop I pay for what ever the car behind me ordered. Some times I pay for one tiny tea, sometimes a car full of coffees and deserts, whatever it is I pay for it. This is a small rule I've imposed on myself ever since that day long ago when some kind soul driving the car in front of me paid for my tea.

I felt so happy that day when my tea was free! So, I like to pass along the favor to others. This is easy to do when I'm happy and my wallet is full.

When I'm having a bad day and my wallet is thin it's not so easy. On days like these I may feel relieved when there is nobody behind me at the drive through. But if there is someone I still pay. I want to build a habit of random acts of kindness, even when I'm not feeling kind.

It's a bit like foster care. When foster care was shiny and new I bent over backwards to be kind and accommodating to every one involved in the system. As time wore on, and the shine was tarnished, it became increasingly trying to keep up my generous attitude. Throw in a little disrespect, a few "if looks could kill", and more than a couple of requests that were above and beyond the call of foster parent duties and I was ready to simply start throwing back what was being given to me.

BUT, remembering my old drive thru rule I adjusted my thinking and started back at square one. Some days it is easy to be kind, respectful and generous, on the days when it is FAR, FAR and seemingly impossibly FAR from easy I try to do it any way. 


Friday, May 24, 2013

88

The end of another week, the end of this particular week marks Primo's 88th week in foster care. That is 616 days with out his parents and siblings. Enough time for Primo to come to believe that we are his family.

Truth be told I'm not sure there could be enough visits in one week for Primo to have maintained his bond with his parents. The bottom line is that he is afraid of them. This is very painful for all of us. His fear is developmentally normal.

With the addition of Primo's baby sibling visits have changed. He's lost his place as the baby and become the whinny toddler. This is very painful for me to watch. He plays with his older brothers during visits, but tries his best to avoid his parents.

Primo is still screaming at the start of each visit and periodically during the visit also. His baby sibling cries A LOT during visits. I can't imagine what it feels like for three adults and 4 children to be stuck in a small room for hours with all the crying, not to mention clawing at the door to get out that Primo does during visits?!

At the end of this 88th week the all of this sadness and disappointment is starting to feel quite heavy. I'm not sure how Primo's parents have survived the last 5 years.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

flying time

Often when I read other foster care blogs it seems to me that their children's cases are moving along so much faster than Primo's.

Then every now and then I see a photo on a blog and am reminded that usually time is just passing quickly for me because when I'm reading I am still envisioning that child as I imagined them on the day they arrived in a home.

Lest you think that Primo's case is flying on quickly I thought I should remind you that Primo came to me when he was a month old and just yesterday I started to think about planning his second birthday party, just thinking about it. Shocking I know, it is shocking to me to!

Primo is now more little boy than baby. He is super active, always running and falling and trying to jump off of things. He is talking, stringing together 3 words at a time. He is demanding and has a quick temper, but he is also loving and enjoys new things.

I wish I could post a picture of him, but I'm not comfortable with that so here is a photo of a boy that looks about Primo's age:


Monday, April 22, 2013

canceled home visit

Busted my butt getting ready for DH$ to come out to the house today. They called and canceled 1.5 hours after they were due to arrive.

On the up side, Primo is napping, dinner is prepped and the house is super tidy. Not sure what to do with myself.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Where do we go from here

Mike and I didn't get into to foster care to adopt. We have 4 children, we did not yearn to raise any more. When it came to raising teenagers we have had more than our share of serious issues to deal with in the last 5 years.

We decided to do foster care to provide a safe and loving home to an infant or toddler who needed some where to stay until they could go back home.

We prayed every night that Primo would be reunited with his parents and siblings. But it is beginning to look like this will not happen.

So here we are. Primo is completely bonded with us and has been a part of our family for over 18 months. I find myself not wanting to even think about adoption until we know if parental rights will be terminated, some time this summer.

We all want Primo to stay, but I have to admit that when I think of the long road ahead I feel a bit hesitant. I know all to well what it takes to get a child to 18 alive and well, not to mention beyond. When I was young and ideal I only thought of my children becoming 18, adults in the eyes of the law, and leaving home for college, jobs or travel. I now know that not all children are adults at 18, it can take quite a few more years than that. Those can be difficult years for some children.

Some of my children have glided from childhood through the teen years quite effortlessly, others have encountered HUGE challenges during this time. I could go on and on, all this to say that I am acutely aware that parenting takes copious amounts of patience and stamina. I have been parenting for over 20 years, and in the back of my mind I harbor this question: do I really want to sign up for another 20 year stint?




Sunday, April 7, 2013

Family Decision

Primo now has a new baby sibling. We made the very difficult and yet so simple decision not to take his sibling.

First let me say that we did not take this decision lightly. The bottom line was that after all the pressure from Primo's agency and meeting over and over with our immediate family we just couldn't get everyone living in our home on board. My teenaged daughters are just plain finished with foster care. They are worn out, disillusioned, stressed and anxious. It's not working for them.

They are all completely in love with Primo and want him to stay forever if it works out, but the idea of prolonging the uncertainty that has become our whole family's daily lives is not an option for them.

So, the court's decision to set a termination date for Primo and his older brothers, but give the bio parents over a year to work a plan for the new baby made the decision easy for my children. They simply stated that they could not live with the continued drama, not when there was an end in sight for Primo's case. On top of that was the very real possibility that we could have Primo's baby sibling in our home for a year and half and then he might have transitioned back to Primo's parents. We would have to explain to a three year old why his sibling was leaving to go live with his bio parents, while he stayed with our family.

As much as Mike and I wanted to make everything work so that Primo could be raised with his brother, we simply could not ignore the fact that foster care has irreparably changed our family dynamic. Our children have suffered huge losses (along with many benefits) at the hands of the foster care system. It is just a fact. Their lives as they new them pre-foster care have ceased to exist. All of our daughters have handled this in different ways, but it has become increasingly obvious that they have reached their limit.

On top of this is the fact that Primo has many, many siblings and to our knowledge only two have been kept together. We will be able to maintain a relationship with these two older brothers and with the new baby sibling who are all within easy travel distance from us.

While we went back and forth over and over again with this heart wrenching decision the one thing I kept reminding myself of was that none of us had caused the situation that Primo and his many siblings now find themselves in. All of the foster parents and the adoptive parents who now care for Primo's siblings were and are trying to make the best out of a painful situation. There are no fairy tale endings, each family must decide how much they can take on, while keeping the rest of their family intact and healthy.

I have to say that since we made this decision it has become abundantly clear that this was the BEST decision we could have made for our family.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Questions about A New Financial Year

I received some questions from Foster Dad (you should check him out) about my post updating my decision to put Primo's stipend into a separate checking account from our household accounts.

The most difficult thing about having Primo's money separate from ours is dividing my shopping cart into two transactions at the register. I actually don't find this very difficult, but it is the largest negative of the whole experiment. I have to say that I'm not a stickler for 100% divided money. When I go to the grocery store and do a big food shopping, I don't pay for Primo's milk and snacks separately, that is too much for me and doesn't cost enough money for me to worry too much about it. When I'm shopping at a large mart or bulls eye, I separate out my order, there is generally less stuff in my cart, and more expensive items like large boxes of diapers, wipes, clothing etc., and it is easier to do. 

If I were to start over long ago in 2011, would I have wanted to keep Primo's money apart from ours? I'm not sure about this. My agency sends Primo's checks a month behind, meaning for the time he was with us in October, for example, we would not receive a check until the end of November. So during his first two months with us there was no money coming in to cover expenses. I also wrote here about our expenses the first 6 or 7 months of having Primo in our home. Therefore I would say that I wouldn't have been able to open a separate checking account for Primo for quite a while without being penalized for low balances, or no balance at all.

Over all I'm very happy with my decision to open a separate checking account for Primo's stipend. As for the lost convenience of paying in a single transaction when I'm out shopping, it seems a small price to pay given how good I feel knowing that I'm spending Primo's money appropriately.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Court this week: goal changed from reunification to adoption.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A New Financial Year Update

So far I'm loving having Primo's stipend in a separate checking account with it's own debit card. It feels great to pull out that card and pay for Primo's clothes, especially right now while I'm in the middle of shopping for winter clearance clothes for next year.

A couple of months in and I have been able to cover all of Primo's expenses with some money left over. I guess this money could be go towards extra utilities, take out food etc.

I use Primo's debit card to gas up the cars with the portion of the stipend check that is for transportation.

So far so good.

Monday, March 4, 2013

One of the most difficult things in foster care for me has been finding qualified baby-sitters.

I am happy to announce that I have been able to find and qualify my first ever official baby-sitter!

This is so exciting and has really added to the quality of my whole family's life!

I think the process seemed so overwhelming that it took me a long time to get to it.

I would encourage all of you who are required to have SUPER qualified baby-sitters to take care of all of this before you have a foster child placed with you. I wish I had.

I'm so excited by having found a sitter that I'm now working on clearing 2 more.

Friday, February 22, 2013

the travel question

Do you travel with your foster children? Do you want to?

Do you have a trusted respite provider?

How often do you use respite care?

Have you ever been denied traveling with your foster child? If so, how did you handle this?


Saturday, February 16, 2013

The lowest lows

As a foster care case is on the up swing and things are going well everyone gets along and likes each other. You may even begin to believe that you are a GREAT foster parent, you maintain a respectful and friendly relationship with your foster child's parents. You bring birthday presents, Christmas presents, Valentines day gifts along with regular envelopes full of photos of your darling foster baby to his parents at visits. You are able to travel when ever you need to because your foster child's parents are eager for him to remain in your care and don't want him to have to go to respite care with strangers. You plan your travels so visits are not missed whenever possible. You actually look forward to seeing and visiting briefly with you foster child's parents. This can go on for months even years.

Suddenly after one bad day in court EVERYTHING changes.  Gone are the friendly visits, gone is ALL of the mutual respect. In fact it is as if you are invisible at visits, with the possible exception of coming into quick focus as a target for complaints and harsh words. Worse than that may be the new negative way in which your foster child is treated by his parents. This child is not meeting his parent's expectations and this must be because there is something wrong with the child and that must be your fault as the foster parent.

It is at this time that you might begin feel like a failure of a foster parent, and your first instinct may be to fight fire with FIRE. Taking the high road is an awfully steep climb and doesn't seem worth it as the instances of yelling and threatening alternate with staring straight through you like you don't exist, continue visit after visit. You lose sleep at night trying to come to terms with this sudden earth quake that has shaken you to your core.

On top of all this you may be asked to excuse and over look violently disrespectful behavior, to keep your fears to yourself and to try and be more understanding.

It sucks but the high road is the only road in this situation. You continue to make hand and foot print presents and hand over envelopes of photos. You smile and say hello each and every time even if you receive zero response to you greetings. You listen straight faced to insult after insult. You cry on the drive home after witnessing your foster child being shouted at then ignored by his parents because he can't bring himself to be happy during visits.

The good news is that all of this has NOTHING to do with you. You are the same as you ever were.

The bad news is that all of this hurts worse than a hundred bee stings.

If it weren't for that one little boy who lights up your days, you'd be running for the hills.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My teens are really getting under my skin. This is nothing out of the ordinary, it has happened with every one of my teenagers. 

But when all of them are up in arms and agitating at the the same time it feels a bit overwhelming. Shake in a little foster care drama and...well? YOU know!

Anywho, I have decided to institute a new routine in our house:

Twice a month I will meet with each of my teens, individually, and will ask them to list two things I'm doing well to support them, make their life better, etc.. And then, and this really scares me a bit, I will ask them to share with me two things I could improve on. In return I will share with them two things I feel that they are doing well and also one thing that could use some improvement along with how I can support them in this area of their life.

I'm hoping this will help all of us have more positive communications.

In the past I had thought that doing foster care when my kids were younger would be more difficult than starting foster care when my children were older. I will never know for sure what the difference would have been for my children, but I'm quite surprised by how difficult foster care has been for my teens.




Thursday, January 31, 2013

Support

I have been exploring the idea of joining a foster care support group. Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post.

As foster parents we are told in training that everything involved in our foster child's case is confidential. Specifically WE were advised, during training, that when anybody asked about the new child in our home we respond by saying something to the effect of "this is the newest member of our family". Hmm...does this response invokes a lot of questioning? Yes, yes it does.

The question is this, is there really any way to keep your foster child's case a secret? I don't think so.
I'm not suggesting that foster parents divulge all the nitty gritty details of the case, but really I do think you have to be honest about why you have an extra child in your care.

Then there is the issue of foster parents needing a safe place to blow off some steam. Foster care is difficult. Some days are easy breezy and others feel like your very life is being threatened. With emotional highs and lows like these I feel there is no way to be a good foster care parent without some confidential support from other folks in the same situation.

Reading and commenting on other foster care blogs has been a life saver for me, but now I'm feeling the need for some face to face human contact around the stresses and joys of foster care.

Maybe I will have to start my own support group as there doesn't seem to much of this activity in my area.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

I've been thinking about finding a foster care support group. I have read mixed reviews on other foster care blogs about support groups.

Do you attend a support group? If so, what do you like or dislike about it?


Friday, January 18, 2013

Exhausting Day Care Days

With the exception of my first blissful day of day care for Primo I have spent day care days running around like a crazy woman. I clean, do laundry, vacuum, run errands, rush to appointments, by the time I go to pick Primo up I'm a sweaty, exhausted mess. I have actually started to dread day care days. We rush to get to day care on time and then I never stop running until it is time for pick up.

I seriously need to slow down and take care of myself during these few and far between days of freedom. Instead of freedom and relaxation these days are stressful and I NEVER feel that I have accomplished everything I set out to do.

Last night I read a very short ebook called Shield: A Framework of Self-Care For Foster and Adoptive Families

This is a very easy read, and much of what was written I already knew, but there were some good reminders about the stress of foster parenting and the depression and anxiety that can come up for many foster and adoptive parents.

There were also some really good ideas about preparing for your first foster placement or the arrival of your adoptive child or baby. I wish I had read this book before I started foster care.

This little book was a good reminder to me to not feel guilty about taking care of myself. I have been a parent and a foster parent to 3 teenaged girls and a baby/toddler 24/7 for the last 16 months. No respite and very few baby-sitters, have left me tired, over scheduled and constantly feeling like I'm not doing enough for my individual relationships with my husband and children.

The major ups and downs and changes in Primo's case are really getting to me now, the lack of control over the future and the fear of the unknown feel devastating right now.

So here's to embracing a little guilt free self care. I will not rush around on day care days, I will nap if I want to, get a massage, watch TV, read, take a bath, indulge in a delicious take out lunch, have coffee with a friend, I WILL NOT FEEL GUILTY.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

In past few months there has been a lot going on in Primo's case. Because of this, and because every 6 months there is supposed to be a new plan of action drawn up as to which direction a case is headed there is this VERY important meeting that was supposed to happen months ago.

I have read on other blogs that this is sometimes referred to as a "staffing", I don't know if this type of meeting has an official name around these parts. Basically it is a meeting of "all parties", with the exception of the foster parents, (although I do believe we are allowed to be there, but we have not been invited to be at the meeting) to discuss the case and decide if reunification or permanency (adoption, or kinship placement etc.) is the goal.

This meeting to decide the future of Primo and his brothers has now been rescheduled 4 times. I know it is difficult to get all the lawyers, social workers, supervisors and parents in one place at one time, so I am praying everyday that the meeting happens sometime this month so that we can figure out what exactly DH$ has in mind for Primo's future.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

A new financial year

With this new year I have opened a new checking account. This account will be where I deposit Primo's checks from our agency. The debit card from this account will only be used to purchase goods and services for Primo.

I know I'm probably a little obsessed with the whole money thing, I have written about it a few times in the past.

The thing is, I have heard from quite a few foster parents that the checks they receive for the care of their foster child/ren are more than enough to care for them month in and month out. I have heard from others that the checks are never really enough to cover all their expenses. Therefore I have always been interested in tracking whether I'm spending ALL the money on Primo, or not.

I know that during the first months of a new placement I will almost always spend more than is coming in. This was true for Primo, I didn't keep meticulous records, but it was easy enough to see that it took at least half a year to break even. After this I kind of stopped keeping any track of what I was spending for Primo's care.

Lately I've been feeling that perhaps I'm not spending all that much on Primo's care. All the big baby equipment purchases are in the past, no more formula, less diapers and his growth is slowing down, so he doesn't out grow his clothes as fast as he used to.

I wanted to hold myself more accountable for where Primo's money was going, thus the new checking account experiment.

I know there are many expenses that are almost impossible to track, for example: housing, utilities, extra groceries, more take out meals on days when foster children are sick or foster parents are overwhelmed, all the driving done for foster care appointments and visits (as I type this list I'm feeling that this whole, keeping track of money thing, may be impossible).

For me, I will probably not take in to account the housing, utilities or extra groceries for the following reasons:

1. Primo now eats all table food and I rarely buy specific food just for him, and he doesn't eat enough yet to noticeably add to my grocery bill.

2. There is no real way for me to track increased water and electric usage, my bills have not noticeably increased.

3. Housing is a strange one to me, it is not as if I would have a paying renter in Primo's room if he wasn't using it. I know that providing housing is a cost that the agency may figure into the checks they send for Primo, but I'm not interested in quantifying that cost as it doesn't change at all due to his presence here.

So, I've possibly just laid out all the flaws in my calculations, but that is how it's going to be for me, for now. I guess I could just take a percentage of what I think the 3 costs listed above may be and take that into consideration, but math never was my strong suite, and neither is spelling.

As for driving to appointments and visits, I do get reimbursed for those at a rate of 45 cents a mile, so I will take the transportation portion of my check and put it towards gas for my cars.

I know that my new system will be a bit of an inconvenience, no more texting Mike to pick up large boxes of diapers and wipes on his way home from work. I will have to purchase it all myself with my handy dandy debit card from my new checking account.

I'm actually pretty excited about seeing the results of my new experiment. I have already made a few purchases with then new debit card and I find myself way more conscious of what I'm spending. I'm pretty sure I will find that I buy way more stuff for Primo than I thought I did.

I will update on my money experiment occasionally, for those of you who are interested, I know I am!

I would also love to hear how other foster parents deal with money and expenses and how or if you break them down in your household budget?








Thursday, January 3, 2013

Photos

I take a lot of photos of Primo. I started out taking pictures to each visit with his parents, babies change so much and so quickly from week to week and I wanted them to have a visible record of his babyhood.

I still often take photos to visits and give them to Primo's parents. BUT I have started to have to edit the photos quite heavily. When Primo was small and couldn't move it was easy to set up a shot with nothing in the back round etc. Now that Primo is walking and running it isn't so easy.

Sometimes the house is messy in the back round, or horrors of all horrors there is an uncovered outlet showing in a photo (Primo's greatest joy right now is to pull out outlet covers and lose them), or the dog, or my kids or another relative,  or the exterior of my house is showing in outdoor photos, you get the idea.

Am I just paranoid?

I want to continue to give Primo's parents photos of their son, but it is hard to get a shot of him alone, he is almost always reading a book with one of us or being held. Do bio parents really want to see shots of their son with his foster family? I don't know. These photos are an accurate record of his daily life, but maybe I should continue to only send photos of Primo alone. When I send a bunch of vacation photos of Primo alone it seems like he spends his time by himself surrounded by paparazzi.

What do you do?