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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).

 

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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.

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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

 

6

Grief & Loss

It’s a very strange thing. Before you enter this new uncharted world, you believe that you understand. You don’t. You can imagine all you want what it is like to lose your loved one but, until the very moment they are taken from you, you’re never going to fully understand this pain. You can’t.

Grief is wanting to call your person & realizing you can never call them again. It’s re-reading all of your Facebook messages to see how many times in those messages you told them you loved them…& still wondering if they knew. It’s listening to saved voicemail while smiling & crying simultaneously. It’s looking through all the comments on your profile pictures to see what they’ve written under each because you know they’ve commented on nearly every one (sometimes twice!).

A lot of it also encompasses wishing for time travel to tell yourself what you know now, that you’d better attach yourself to your person while you still have time because, soon, there won’t be anymore. .no matter how badly you want there to be. It’s regret. A lot of regret.

There have been so many regrets. Regrets that I did not go home more, did not stay long enough when I did. At one point, my biggest regret was that we chose to do two respite placements for weeks at a time that kept me at home when I could’ve spent time with mamaw. I could’ve enjoyed the last two months of her life with her but, instead, I was tied up at home with foster children who weren’t even our foster children. And I got really mad at myself…until I thought about who mamaw was & what she would’ve wanted.

Grief is the most awful thing for so many reasons. It makes you question everything. Did they know I loved them enough? Should I have made different choices? All the while knowing, whatever answer you arrive at, isn’t going to matter at all because, at the end of the day, they’re still going to be gone.

My mamaw was one of the most phenomenal people I have ever known. She was like a married Mother Teresa who smoked and cussed a lot. She was the kind of person who fed and housed homeless people in her home. She was the kind of person who would have wanted me to take in children who did not have families to love them (while feeding them entirely too much food). And she was the kind of person who wouldn’t have wanted me to be sad for a single second since she has been gone….but we all know that’s a pretty impossible feat when losing someone you love so much.

So, at the end of my day, I have to hang onto the lyrics of The Dance.

“& now I’m glad, glad I didn’t know.

the way it all would end, the way it all would go.

I could’ve missed the pain but I’d have had to miss the dance.”

 

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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 ❤️