foster care

Little Engine Who Could

Today we went into court expecting the parents rights would be terminated. The parents have not shown up to court since over a year ago. The parents have not done one thing on their case plan. The parents have not passed a single drug test (only take them when cornered). And today they showed. A trial date has been set and they are contesting the termination of parental rights. Which they have every right to do so. That’s our legal system. If rights are terminated after trial, they have the right to appeal. It’s their right.

In the meantime, we continue to be foster parents when I just want to be the parent.

In the meantime, caseworkers, attorneys, and guardian ad litems still visit monthly.

In the meantime, I need a court order to take them on vacation with me.

In the meantime, if surgery is needed, I also need a court order.

In the meantime, I have to defend every bruise, scratch and bad day because I’m not “that” kind of foster parent. (Newly walking toddler = lots of bumps and bruises!)

In the meantime, they can be taken at a moment’s notice because the system deems it necessary.

My worries continue with no end in sight.

In the meantime, I go home, and I’m still Mommy.

In the meantime, I nag for them to eat their vegetables.

In the meantime, I tuck them in at night.

In the meantime, I get them showered, fed and ready for the school bus.

In the meantime, I turn sight words and ABCs into games.

 

At the end of the day, the parents haven’t done anything to show they can care for these kids. I have to keep my head up, my anxiety down, and stand by the side lines. While I think these thoughts, my heart breaks for the parents because they are in an impossible situation.

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foster care, Mommy Life, parenting

I am not the best Mom

I had this ideal of what kind of Mom I would be. I’m artsy craftsy. I love to get down with kids and color, play with slime, create collages and play with legos. For our respite kid, that’s what I did. I played inside with crafts and outside playing tennis in the street. At 7:30 he took a bath, 8:00 he went to bed, 9:00 lights out.

That was a fun week.

It’s different. By the time our two (then three) came to us, we were exhausted. With our older boys who were here for 5 days, I literally didn’t sleep. I went 48 hours at one point. With the infant and his issues, we were lucky to get two hours of sleep at a time. We aren’t spring chickens and the kids had us wiped pretty much immediately.

Now a days, I wake at 5:30, toddle downstairs and make my coffee. I check email, facebook, and the county arrest page. At 6:00 I hear Fiona loudly open her bedroom door, go to the bathroom, forget to flush, slam the door and start playing in her room. About 6:15 I coral her into the shower. I wash her hair, set the timer, and let her do the rest. Then I lead her into her bedroom where she has to be dressed because it’s too cold. I have breakfast set up, send her downstairs, send the 3 year old into the shower. He has to be carried because he likes to fake sleep, even though the baby has been talking or pounding on the crib since 5:45. I wrap him in a towel, send him to his room. Yep, he can dress himself. I grab the baby, open the dreaded diaper, then put him in the shower. He stands playing in the water while I wash, then I wash him, and hand him to hubby who is holding a towel. Then I run downstairs, do Fiona’s hair, nag her to brush teeth, bruth Mason’s teeth, dress Lucas, brush Lucas’ teeth yell about socks and shoes, and get them outside where the school bus picks Fiona up at the end of the driveway. We take about fifteen minutes each morning to do sight words while they jump around, yelling, and waking the neighborhood. Then I’m out the door, for 8-10 hours of work where I get texts from caseworkers, guardian ad litems, doctors, school nurses, and field it all.

I try to leave at 5 but sometimes wind up as late as 6, come home, tell kids to finish dinner, try to feed the baby as he throws dinner on the floor, ask myself why they won’t eat their vegetables. Three days a week I try to get the boys out of the way while Fiona is being tutored. Otherwise Mason is in the tutor’s face talking and Lucas is stealing her pencil.

At 6:30 we get ready for bed. It’s pajamas, brush teeth, bedtime story and tucked in. Between 7 and 7:30 the kids are all in bed and we are pretty much drooling on the couch trying to keep our heads up. Maybe we hold a conversation or maybe we stare blankly at the television.

Weekends are one fun day where we go out and have adventures (playground, festivals, you name it) and one lazy/cleaning day. The boys abide by this pretty well and are happy to watch movies and fumble around in the living room or if they’ve been good, in our room. Fiona won’t have it. She’s up and down and all around, glued to my side. I want to be fun mom, but it’s do laundry, sit for a few minutes, write out checks, sit for a few minutes, check account balances, close my eyes. I want to be the fun mom, but a lot of times I feel like swiss cheese. Everyone’s taken a piece of me.

 

 

foster care

Weekend Warriors

Before becoming insta-family of 5 or insta-mommy to 3, we had Fiona on weekends only. We started with every other weekend. We’d make it an event. We did the water park, the playground, the library, the mall play area when it rained all weekend long. We went to festivals and farmer’s markets. We had a lot of fun but I worried that Fiona would think it was all fun in our household.

The first few overnights, there were tears each and every night. She’d cry herself to sleep.

She needed to be dressed. She couldn’t dress herself, put her socks on or her shoes. Every little detail required help. She didn’t flush the toilet. She didn’t turn lights off. She didn’t close doors.

Nag, nag, nag, nag. . .

She and Mason fought for our attention. They’d be by my side constantly. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Yes- Fiona called us Mommy and Daddy immediately because we were Mason’s “Mommy and Daddy.” Some think that’s wrong, but as far as Mason understood, women were Mommys and men were Daddys.

Joe and I had a push – pull argument. Should we take Fiona? Is it too hard? Can we handle 3? The answers in order: yes, yes, no.

We went to a local festival with a friend and her two year old. We were getting food for five, pushing a stroller through gravel, and trying to find a picnic bench in the shade when I turn around and realize Fiona was missing. It was the longest ten minutes of my life. At that point, Fiona couldn’t say our first names- never mind our last, or a phone number. We had no proof she was our child or in our custody. I ran around screaming her name at the top of my lungs. A mother wound up bringing her back to us (Joe was standing in one place with the stroller.)

That was the exact point when I realized I was attached. I got down on her level, held her shoulders, and told her teary eyed never to do that again. She scared me.

After that, I think she attached too. I really became Mommy.

Another thing, after that I put laminated index cards in their pockets with my name and phone number. . . just in case!

foster care

New Placements – Double Trouble

After doing respite for our adorable eight year old boy, I was ready to accept kiddos into our house. Jose brought joy and laughter to our small house. The day before my birthday I woke really early to find an email about a set of brothers who were up all night and needed a place to sleep while they located a more permanent household.

Lies! Every single person who tells you they just need a bed for the night is lying. These are people who have just ripped children from their parents and they are desperate to get them into a safe stable house and they lie! It’s well meaning but a lie none the less.

The younger brother, Matt, had a mild condition and the older brother Mikey, had no known issues. They would likely be going to the grandparents or the prior foster family as this was the second time they were removed from their mom.

Joe agreed and I said yes. The social worker said they’d probably sleep all day and I arranged to work from home.

They arrived in my driveway caked with dirt. I helped carry two vinyl bags and a suitcase inside and showed the boys the bedroom. They could call Ms. Kate. I had snacks ready and the boys dove in. The driver left and I was alone with an eight year old and a ten year old.

AND IN OVER MY HEAD!

When children are removed from their house, they have to be seen by a doctor within seventy two hours. People are calling you constantly. You have to get them to school. You have to find them clothing. You have to convince them to shower. I failed at all of this.

I sent them upstairs to sleep. I laugh just thinking about it. Each step they took shook the whole house. They jumped up and down the stairs taking the steps two or three at a time. They knocked the pictures off the walls. They jumped on and off the dressers. They jumped from the top bunk onto the floor. They told me about xbox and drank every bit of apple juice in the fridge. I called Joe at work frantically asking if he could come home. NOW.

Phone calls kept coming in with more information. Matt needed medication. Matt had behavioral issues. Grandparents can’t handle the boys. The prior foster mom was away but could not handle Matt’s issues. When was I taking them to the doctor? When was I taking them to school? Would I change school? The boys needed shoes.

I called our foster family friend Cathy. She came with her teenage foster boy Doug to talk with the boys about behaving. Doug told them to listen to me. Yeah right!

Joe came home and we all went out to get the boys shoes, clothes and more food for the house. Matt and Mikey fell asleep in the back seat of the car and we thought they were just exhausted. Joe tried to wake Matt and the kid went ballistic. He started kicking, hitting and cursing. It took a good half an hour to calm him down. While in the store, the boys wanted everything in sight. When we got home, we discovered a toy we had not purchased.

I was awake all night, partially because they were jumping off the beds and partially because I knew we were in serious trouble. Everyone was asking us to make plans to keep these boys and we could not handle them.

The next day, my birthday, I went to go wake up Matt for school. He refused to wake and then had a violent fit, hitting, kicking, spitting and cursing. It was the worst of the worst. I got them cereal, milk and by the time I got them in the car, the kitchen looked like a war zone.

At school, I heard more of the boys’ issues. Matt’s condition was quite serious, closer to autism, ADHD and ODD, then the minor condition I was led to believe. The boys were given food to take home on the weekends which was often taken away by Mom. The school did everything they could to convince me to keep them, even as I cried hysterically in the principle’s office.

The next stop was to the social workers’ office who was in charge of placements. Twenty four hours after taking the brothers, I admitted to her we couldn’t handle them, especially as our first placements. We were all just figuring out how badly Matt needed help, we being the system itself. The system was the caseworkers, the school and us. They would move Matt into a group home where he could receive extra care and keep Mikey with us.

I got them clothes, picked them up from school and got home to find a birthday cake. Mikey looked at Matt and said, “You ruined Ms. Kate’s birthday.”

The boys were at our house for five days. We got Matt on medication and then Mikey started acting up. He was scared and hurt and wanted to be back home with his Mom. He had to take care of his little brother and never got to just be himself. When transportation came to pick them up, I cried. When the boys weren’t there, I stomped my feet into the ground and screamed. I loved the boys, even for five days, even though they ruined my birthday, hit me, kicked me, screamed at me, and stole. We couldn’t change their lives and they needed better caretakers then us.

Your heart may be open to taking anyone, but that doesn’t make you capable. I hope their five days with us did more good than harm. It was truly a life lesson not to take on more than you can handle.

In those five days, with the help of many around me, and because of two wild loving boys, I found my Mom voice.

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About

0-3, Becoming Insta-Mommy to 3

Becoming a parent usually happens over time. It starts with a positive pregnancy test, gives you nine months of doctor’s visits, lamaze classes and more advice than you know what to do with, and then someone hands you a bundled up human being who will learn right along with you. Unless you decide to do foster care, with no prior parenting knowledge. In our case, we were handed a three month old who slept through the night (lies!) and a three year old who bounced off the walls. And their sister was just a little person in another county, not remotely entering the four walls of our world.

Ten months later, here we are, foster parents to three siblings who surprise us every day.

Excuse me, family of 5, coming through!

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