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An Update On Our Foster Care Journey

Initially, with this pregnancy, our plan was to continue our foster care journey this coming fall once Elijah was born so we could bond with him & get a hold on what it’s like to have a newborn. So we put ourselves on hold & flirted with the idea of possibly doing respite care once I made it into the second trimester & was no longer in a high risk category. As it turned out, I had a lot of minor problems with infections beginning in the second trimester that were also big scares at the time. Fortunately, even though I am still dealing with the infections, no major issues occurred & we aren’t worried about them at this point.

Fast forward to now where our foster goals have once again changed. Since my husband has accepted a new job & we’ll be moving next month, we don’t feel continuing our foster care journey at this time would be fair to anyone. Not ourselves as we adjust to his new job, parenthood, & acclimate to living in a rural area. Not to our fur babies who are already going to have to adjust to having one tiny human who is constantly needing every ounce of mommy & daddy’s attention in those early months. &, most especially, not to the traumatized children who are the faces of foster care.

One thing we learned quickly as foster parents is that you should be in a good place in your life when doing it. We feel that picking it back up again with all of the major life changes we’ll already be encountering is not a wise decision.

However, that is not to say that we do not want to foster again. In the short time that we did it, we both saw how rewarding & beneficial it is for kids in care. Is it hard? Absolutely. But, in my own experience & from what I’ve heard other foster parents echo, it will be the best hard thing you’ve ever done.

There are sooooo many kids in care that need loving temporary & forever families. Especially in our state, the heroin & opioid crisis continues to have devastating effects for children. Devastating effects that have left the foster system dramatically overrun. May is Foster Care Awareness Month & I would like to take this opportunity to urge you to look into your hearts & ask yourselves if becoming a foster family is right for you (now or in the future).

 

6

They Get It

When we were in the homestretch of our foster parent classes we kept hearing one familiar thing from a slew of people, whether they were instructors, other foster parents, or leaders of foster parent support groups. The thing we heard time & time again was, “Nobody else is going to understand your new life. No one is going to understand it because they can’t understand it. The only people who are going to understand what you’re going through are other foster parents.”

And we’ve discovered that to be absolutely true.

At the time, I thought nah, most of my friends are social workers, &/or empathetic people, they’ll get it….with the exception of a very, very few (maybe 2), WRONG!

We’ve had some bad luck starting off. Our first placement had some developmental concerns. We worried we didn’t know how to care for him adequately and whether or not he was getting the help he needed. He was quickly approaching TPR, which we were told would most likely would result in an adoption. So we bowed out. For the little guy & for ourselves.

The second set of kids we’ve done respite for over the past 3 weeks to see whether or not they were a good fit also hasn’t panned out. We were informed early on the oldest had a lot of behavioral issues & use to hit people & throw things a lot BUT was doing better recently. His younger brother, 6 months, had no concerns or special needs that needed met. The first week, as most foster parents know, is typical the honeymoon phase. It’s the sweet spot where behaviors are at their best. We were there for two days & then some behaviors started to come out. I made a behavior chart, created a prize box, & did some timeouts with kiddo. He seemed to be doing well with them until visit days, which is totally normal. For him, however, the breakdown from visit days never seemed to completely go away…instead it jumped him up to level 20 & he’d come back down to a level 10…& then there would be another visit day & he’d shoot up to a level 30 that would come back down to a 20. You get my drift. We shared our concerns about these visits to no avail. Despite it all, they had no plans of ending them.

& then it happened….he started harming our animals. Initially, he would lightly hit our Rottweiler Tyson & threw a thin plastic toy at him once. I corrected him & he did a timeout. He hit him a few other times & I did the same. This week, for whatever reason, his aggression toward them skyrocketed. He started taking it out on Sophie, our oldest & most fragile fur baby that’s a 7 pound Yorkie. He squeezed her head & her body. Again, we talked with him & did timeouts.

At that point, we knew the boys wouldn’t be a good fit for our family as this has always been the one thing we said we wouldn’t take (a child that hurts animals). The social workers were very understanding about this. We even told them we’d be willing to give it another week to see if it’s something we can work further with him on but were told they wanted to get them moved ASAP as current foster mom is at the end of her rope. They told us oldest kiddo did have some special needs in placement in reference to his behaviors & the cabinet was exhausting all resources. .

Throughout this whole ordeal, none of the decisions we made for the boys were taken lightly & they sure were not done easily. Even though we know, for the safety of our pets, we cannot take them as a placement we still feel horrible for them, more specifically the oldest. We know he is a child with a lot of trauma that has witnessed a whole lot in his short life. We know the reasons for his behaviors…but we cannot in good conscious overlook him harming our animals.

When talking about this to people, we’ve received a lot of criticism & judgement. We’ve been asked, “are you sure you want to be a foster parent?” & then, “educated,” about kids in the system. To which I say…absolutely. Not all foster children are violent by any means. And not all foster children harm animals. It was even one of the things suggested in class while we were doing an exercise of behaviors we did not feel we could work with. It was our number one & still is.

While we felt this was understandable, although very sad at the same time, the only people (excluding 2 friends & my sister) seemed to get that. The social workers at the cabinet did. Other foster parents did…..but no on else in our lives seemed to have got it. And then I thought back to those final days of classes……

“Nobody else is going to understand your new life. No one is going to understand it because they can’t understand it. The only people who are going to understand what you’re going through are other foster parents.”

 

 

7

Stranger Things

Foster care is a strange thing, the strangest of things actually. You have children in your home that you’re suppose to parent. Children that you change, feed, & play with every day. Children who run to you as soon as they see you, ask you not to work anymore so that you can be with them all day, wrap their arms around you while they cry, & who stay up, despite your spouses best efforts, until they hear you walk through the door at night. 

They are also children with birth parents who have screwed up royally  that they still love. Parents that may not always show up to visits, or fight during them and make them afraid. Children who get shuffled around with absolutely no notice at all. 

That is what happened to our kiddo this week. I got a call at 11 that they wanted to do a make up visit at 12:30. So a social worker picked him & his brother up unannounced & they were put in another car with different car seats and made another over an hour drive to another city. 

When he came home, he had a meltdown because BM was not there. He threw things, kicked & punched our walls, & threw some lighter jabs at me because, deep down, he didn’t really want to hurt me. When I asked if he was still sad & needed a hug, he melted. In that moment, you would’ve never known he was the same child who just attacked the foundation of our home, or threw all of his bedding & toys against another wall. The child who clung to me with his eyes running didn’t resemble the one who had, minutes earlier, yelled & screamed, & told me I was mean. 

& this is the strangest and worst thing about foster care for me. You have these tiny souls who are counting on you to make things better & protect them. But the thing is you can’t…despite bringing up concerns to their worker, the visits may still go on despite your best efforts to voice why they are not what is best for this child currently. The only power you have is to hold the kiddo in your arms in the wake of yet another devastation. The only thing you can do after another tornado is quickly invent, “monster spray,” to ward off the monsters that have all of a sudden grown significantly in the days of & following the visits. 

You’re a parent/caregiver to these kids but you don’t have any power, not really. You can’t protect them from further visits that are causing their trauma to grown & implode on them all over again. You can’t control the schedule of their day, or whether or not their routine will unexpectedly change. Heck, you can’t even take them on vacation without permission. The list goes on.

But let me tell you why it’s worth it. I got to daycare this week & kiddo came running up to me with the biggest smile. He blurted out, “thank you, for coming to get me!!!” & my walls crumbled. If you’re a foster parent, you know the ones. The ones we try to put up so we don’t get too attached to these kids. In an instant, he tore mine down. Despite me. The fact that he was so thankful for something most kiddo’s & adults would think is a given broke me. 

You’re not a foster parent for you. Foster parenting is really freaking hard, let’s be honest. But you know what? It’s also really freaking rewarding. ❤️

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Foster Care Green

When we got our very first placement, we had some red flags. At the time, the situation was exactly what we were hoping for as it was one that was heading toward adoption. After spending more time with the child, however, it became clear that the kiddo we had had some developmental disabilities. While we were prepared to deal with behavioral and emotional issues, we did not feel equip in taking on a child with a disability we didn’t know how to give the very best care to. So, in the end, we made the decision to let our worker know this.

& we waited for a new situation. Our worker came out two weeks later to talk about what our goals were & what we felt we could handle in a placement. She had mentioned a possibility of two young boys that were brothers as placement, ages 4 &6 year. After talking with Scott about it, we both felt it was something we could handle so i let her know. Initially, she had said options were being explored for them & we assumed the option was off the table. Out of no where, (like most things in foster care) a week later, I got a phone call. She said the boys were still needing a placement & wanted to know if we were still interested. I went with it.

They came to our home this Monday night so we could see if it was going to be a good fit. She and the current foster mom had said the 4 year old had some behavioral issues so we wanted to make sure he didn’t hurt our fur babies. As we had no major problems, we both felt we could handle the boys. At this point, the plan is to do more respite care to slowly transition them to our home. Current foster mom says someone had told her the plan was to do TPR (termination of parental rights) during the next court date so we shall see.

IMG_7055

Hence the backseat of my Tahoe being taken over.

What I’ve learned as a foster parent thus far:

  • Just because something is the situation you want does NOT mean you should ignore red flags. DON’T DO IT!!!! If you think something is wrong, trust it. If you feel a situation is NOT working out, accept it
  • Communicate with your worker
  • Accept what you can & cannot take on

 

18

It Is Well

“& through it all

through it all

my eyes are on you

& through it all

through it all

it is well”

After fully mourning all of our treatment failures, I’ve always believed that, someway somehow, we’d become parents one day.

Growing up, I watched a lot of Joyce Meyer & something she said has always stuck with me in the midst of hard times: “God will give you double for your trouble.”

That’s what I’ve told myself to maintain my sanity in all of this. In a world where seemingly every strung out addict, child abuser, & teenager can get pregnant when you can’t, you start to doubt things. You start to wonder why. You think that maybe, just maybe, you can’t have children because you’d be a terrible mother.

I held onto hope that, in some form, I’d get to be a mom to some pretty special kiddos. Was it easy to always believe this? NO!!! Of, course not. There were times when you may as well have told me pigs were finally flying. I’d heard promises, enough of, “I believe this one is gonna be it for you!” Especially, in the midst of fertility drugs...especially then. Do not try to be overly positive or talk sense into a woman pumped with a shit load of hormones. Just don’t do it.

While we’ve done two cycles of Femera recently & have an upcoming appt with a new RE to discuss doing an FET with our 1 snow baby, we entered the world of foster care. Going in, I became fully prepared to parent someone else’s child & give them back. I prepared for partnership with birth parents, visitations, the whole shebang. Even though we went into this in hopes of adoption, we doubted it would come to us soon. We believed that, after fostering a few kiddos, a situation where adoption became the plan would present itself. But we never believed it would be the first thing that came along.

A few weeks ago, we were asked to do respite for a seven month old baby boy. We had him for a few days & our worker checked in to see how it was going with him several times (which seemed strange at the time considering she hadn’t done that with the last respite placement). Yesterday, when he’d be returning to his foster home soon, she text me again asking about him. I told her it had went really well & mentioned that his foster mom had told me his goal would soon be adoption and her family couldn’t adopt him as they are much older. I let her know we were interested in adopting him if possible. And then it happened….she told me that had been her plan all along & she felt it would be a great fit!!!!! She even told me she’d spoken to her supervisor about it who also felt it would be a good fit for all involved.

For now, we’re just waiting to be officially approved-something our worker said should hopefully happen this week. When that happens, we can talk about how baby boy will be transitioned to our home.

We are over the moon excited & praying all works out. We feel this would be the perfect situation for us as bio mom has already TPR-ed (terminated parental rights) & bio dad is expected to have his done next month since he hasn’t followed through with requirements at all at this point.

I for one won’t be able to breathe until this is all said & done. Just trying to contain my excitement.

So now we wait….something I’m still not very good at, at this point.

If you pray, please send prayers up for our situation please!!

“Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” ~Isiah 61:7

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Becoming Mama

Not much in my life has happened the way I planned, the way that I thought it would. Becoming a mama was no different.

Growing up & well into my adult life, I thought it would happen the way it usually does. I’d meet someone I loved, we’d get pregnant, &,  you know the rest. As it turns out, for me anyway, that’s not the way it happened at all.

Three years ago, I miscarried. Until that moment, things had went according to plan. When I looked down at the squinter of the only pregnancy test I’d ever seen with two pink lines (minus the other I took the next day just to be sure),  it was, in that moment, I thought I’d become a mother. And then I had a second blood draw at the gynecologist to hear that my levels weren’t rising. While they were suppose to be doubling daily, mine were remaining stagnant. Soon after, I started bleeding during a night class. I went in the next day for more blood draws &, later that day, I’d hear it. I’d be told that my levels were dropping & I was having a miscarriage. My heart literally sank to my feet while Oceans played in the background. I use to love that song….until it sang silently in the background while I was being told my world was falling apart.

Fast forward to meeting & falling in love with my husband. While we’d thought we would get pregnant fairly easily, it seemed we were mistaken. After some testing & several very invasive treatments, our journey to parenthood remained a flashing access denied.

When we embarked on this journey toward fostering, we never dreamed that a child would come into our home & so quickly become attached to us. Never dreamed that, after twenty four hours, they’d look to us as parents & refer to us as such. I believe it was the second day kiddo was with us when I heard it. He looked up at me because he wanted something &, before I noticed him doing so, let it out. “Mama!”

I froze. Initially, I was sure I’d have to create an age appropriate explanation as to where mama was….& then I realized it…he wasn’t asking for his birth mom. He was referring to me.

It was in that moment that I feel like I became a mother. In the worldly sense anyway. Having a miscarriage & then losing 4 embabies is a funny thing…you’re not sure what you’re any more. You were almost a mother but not quite…something got in the way. There was a wrong turn & you never really arrived there. Until now.

“A child born to another mother calls me mama. Both the tragedy & the magnitude of that is not lost on me.”

As a foster parent, you never now how long a child will be with you. You never know how long you will be there to keep them safe, or how long their time with you will be. What you do know is that you love these children & you want to do so for as long as you can.

Not much in my life has worked out the way I’d planned…but a few of those unexpected moments have worked out in the most beautiful of ways. I may not have been able to get pregnant naturally, through IUIs, or even IVF’s so far….but it did lead me to fostering. Although I’m new to the game & have much to learn, I am truly thankful for that & excited to give kiddos in great need love in the most challenging of times.

Fostering has not only, after great struggle, made me a mama but also makes my heart beat & sets my soul on fire. I never dreamed I’d say this but I am thankful for the way things have worked out up to this point.

I’m definitely not the person I was three years ago…I hope you aren’t either ❤️

4

Visitation

They’re one of the most awkward & daunting things we as foster parents go through. Taking place at the DCBS office & all the galore that it is doesn’t help matters.

Being a smaller county away from our own, the office was incredibly small. So small, in fact, that I almost didn’t find it entirely. A few chairs lined both sides of the two walls that were a little too close for comfort. There was a, “children’s area,” (& I use that term very loosely) in the corner that held one rackety toy that appeared it was about to fall to the grimy floor. A police officer sat in the far corner to my left, gun on his side & suited up in his uniform. His presence became even clearer to me when the child in my care noticed him, got wide eyed, quickly averted his gaze, & seemed to go somewhere else.

I introduced myself to the birth parents awkwardly, explaining who I was & stating I wasn’t sure I’d get to meet them. I slipped his birth mom a letter detailing what he’d done the past few days, along with a few pictures I’d taken over the weekend. They were mostly friendly with me & thanked me for the pictures.

All the while my eyes are stuck on the small toddler who quickly started calling me mama. He wasn’t smiling. He never once referred to his parents as mama, or dad. In fact, the only word I heard him say in that cramped waiting room at all was, “sip,” in reference to the large fountain drink birth mom had. And then his siblings walked in yielding the same expression the kiddo with me had. Blank. No smiles. No words. Blank.

When they all went back for their visit, excluding the inevitable goodbye, I thought the awkward part was over. I thought wrong.

It’s an incredibly odd thing to raise someone else’s children. After a while, they inevitably begin to feel like your children. You’re the one who gives them their nightly baths, feeds them, kisses their boo-boos, & gets up with them in the night. You’re the one they run to when they feel scared, confused, & *insert wide plethora of emotions kiddos feel here. You begin to feel like their parent because you’re the parent….until further notice. 

So I sit in the cramped, dimly lit office twiddling my thumbs. I’d never been to a visit before & didn’t know what to do with myself. One of the workers came to the window & asked if I was a foster parent (apparently, in addition to social worker face, I have one of these faces too). After I confirm, she tells me, “they usually go get something to eat or something like that. It will be a while.” I tell her I’m not from the area & don’t mind to wait here. She nods back, walking away.

While I sit there awkwardly the police officer in the corner makes conversation with me about the drink in my hand, telling me how much his wife also loves Starbucks refreshers. I tell him about the new Pink Drink just before someone swings open the door to request he come back to the visitation area in case someone tries anything.

Sitting there I hear the kiddo that’s with me crying. I know it’s him because I’ve become acquainted with his cries. I know that the one echoing through this ancient office means that he’s hungry & ready for lunch. Soon after I hear another from him that I know he does when he fake hurts himself & wants me to, “tiss,” it.

When the visit is over, all the kiddos come out in front of their birth parents. Kiddos older brother walks up to me pointing at the snacks hanging out from the top of my bag. I shake a few Puffs out for him & his parents tell him he didn’t even say hi but was asking for my food. They instruct him to say thank you & he looks through me to squeak, “thank you.” I tell him he’s welcome, dropping the snacks back in the bag.

The social work asks this kiddo if he’s ready to go & walks out with him and the youngest brother. He never says goodbye to the parents. Doesn’t cry. Just looks ahead, grabs the social workers hand & walks to the car with her as she carries the baby. My kiddo is the only one who cries. He watches birth mom walk away & loses it. He starts reaching for her & screaming. She stops to look back at him and time stands still. I’m not sure what to do. She tells him bye again & I tell him he’ll see her next week. When we’re back inside getting him in his stroller, she comes back inside behind me. Now she too is crying. She tells him she’s sorry and she’ll see him again. He cries harder again now that she’s back in his line of vision With that, she walks away & try to tell him it’s okay before we walk back out to the car. Back out to what has become the security that he knows.

For the rest of the day, we lived in toddler nightmare land. Nothing was alright. Tantrums dropped like heat in deserted lands. Our usual routine of sitting quietly, bath time, screen time, & lights out in upheaval. And who could blame him? He’d just been reminded of how his entire life had been completely torn upside down. Before experiencing this firsthand, I’d heard how incredibly devastating these visits could be for these kiddos. But I hadn’t seen it. I hadn’t taken a child I was parenting until further notice to one of these. I hadn’t watched them stare blankly at their parents & then completely crash into disarray for the remainder of the day/days ahead.

I hate it for them. In the future, on visitation days with this kiddo & our future placements, I think I’ll defiantly plan to either A) do something extra fun that day after the visit or, B), return home to the temporary security that these kiddos come to know. I will do something, anything I can, to ease the upheaval that these visits bring.


What have you done to make visitation days easier for your kiddos???? What has worked?? What hasn’t???