foster care

Vacation

Given that we now had two little ones, we decided to take a road trip as a vacation. Two weeks in a compact car and 4000 miles in total. At the time, Mason had just turned 3 and Lucas was 7 months. We did a few test road trips, with the longest being five hours. We reassessed a few things. . . do not put two car seats next to each other, find activities to keep kids busy (ha ha ha), perfect the reach around bottle hand off to the infant, and carry lots of snacks.

Bio parents had already gone missing so we had to have a court order allowing us to take them out of the state. We had to provide addresses and dates for where we were staying. We rented AirBnBs because it was the easiest option for a family. We had a travel pack and play which is a bit smaller than the normal pack and play.

I packed that car so tight we couldn’t fit one more thing. I had diapers crammed into the space between the spare tire and the trunk. I had formula under both front seats. I had the cooler on the floor between the car seats and a plastic container of books and toys between the boys. I hung plastic toy rings from the roof to entertain the baby.

And we left. At 4 am because websites said to drive when the kids slept. Joe and I put them in the car in their pajamas. Mason did NOT sleep one minute during the entire ten hour drive. His toys/activities kept him entertained for at most five minutes. Lucas did well, napping, cooing and crying for baba. Each stop required two diaper changes in less than ideal gas stations.

We saw ran around the Washington Monument, played in the pineapple fountain in Charleston, did silly dances at rest stops and introduced the kiddos to friends and family.

Then we got the text that the parents did not confirm for Tuesday’s visit. I laughed and texted back, “good thing because that would be an awfully long drive.”

Most people adored our kids and interacted well. My mom did not. My mom cancelled on us, didn’t meet us at the place we were supposed to go and finally we went to her the evening before we left my home town area. She chain smoked in front of the kids, told my 3 year old that she’s my only Mommy and threw her own tantrum when my grandmother gave me some childhood books for the kids.

I said some nasty words to her before we left and vowed never to speak to her again and we drove away. Little did I know, she would die two weeks later.

Joe, Mason, Lucas and I drove away, into the mountains for our own little retreat. We spent our one and only night in a hotel and I had Mason run around outside to try and tire him out. It didn’t work. He bounced from bed to bed and Joe and I sat bleary eyed waiting to go to sleep.

Mason usually goes to sleep at 7. I don’t think we ever made it to bed before 8 and the latest he stayed up was 9:30. We’d then have to tip toe around in hopes he slept in and wouldn’t be so cranky the next day.

We saw water falls and did some hiking. We bonded with the kids and showed them off proudly. We found out my beloved eldest cat had died at home and had some heart break on our last day in the mountains.

Then we headed home. We were going to drive through the night to get back. It was a huge mistake. 16 hours in the car, with the kids howling (who ever says kids sleep in the car has never met Mason), Joe cursing and me going, I can drive ya know. Mason had night terrors while sitting upright in the car seat as google maps kept saying it would take longer and longer to get home. Accidents closed roads and we kept on going. It was pure hell.

But we got home. And recovered for five days before I got the phone call about Mom.

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foster care

Visitation

Anyone will tell you the primary goal in foster care is always reunification. Part of supporting that plan, is improving the child parent relationship. Courts set up visitation schedules to allow that. Our boys originally had two visits weekly for an hour and a half each or three hours a week. Visits can be supervised or unsupervised. Generally, parents start out with supervised visits and work their way to unsupervised, overnight and eventually reunification. Our kids were picked up from daycare, brought to either the “office” or playground and the transporter supervised the visits. When it was time to leave, the parents would get all worked up and it would usually take another thirty minutes to get the kids into the car and on their way home. The parents would give the kids sugary drinks, candy and general junk food. Parents are expected to be able to feed and care for the kids at the visits but just in case, I always sent a bottle with formula, extra diapers, etc.

Visits are also set up for siblings because it’s important the siblings who are split up due to foster care (very common) have the ability to maintain their relationships. The parents missed a number of visits and the caseworker and transporter determined the siblings should have visits once a week. So one day it was held near where Fiona lived and the following week it was at our house (due to weather). We got to see the kids play together, made a dinner out of appetizers and had a really good time.

We started setting up our own visits. It started out meeting Fiona and foster mom at a park. A few weeks later we picked Fiona up and spent a few hours at the water park. Then we did a few hours each weekend. Then overnights every other weekend until she was at our house every Saturday night. Our transporter got another job and the weekday sibling visits transformed into our responsibility.

I think we had daily discussions about whether or not we could handle Fiona or handle three kids period.

foster care

Week 1, everybody lies

One thing to remember in foster care, everybody lies. Most often, it is well intentioned fibs. There were some outright lies, like he sleeps through the night! He naps. He eats everything. The caseworker will contact you.

Day 1: The boys are dropped off. Mason and the foster parents toddler begin tearing through the house. We lay 3 month old Lucas in the baby swing. Box after box of toys and clothes are brought in the house. The foster parents leave quickly. They had warned us they would. It is hard saying goodbye.

Mason won’t nap. He runs through the house like a tornado. Lucas cries and cries and cries. The swing doesn’t seem to work properly so we just manually get it going every few minutes.

Night 1: Lucas screams anytime we lay him down. I can’t get him in the bassinet. I walk outside and he finally falls asleep. As soon as I stop moving, he wakes screaming. I wonder if the neighbors hear.

Day 2: Mason gobbles down breakfast. Joe and I are exhausted. Lucas might have slept for an hour. The swing is the only thing that calms him down.

Night 2: Lucas cries nonstop. I’m not sure if I even tried the bassinet.

Day 3: Joe leaves for work. I want to cry. I have been unable to set up daycare for both kids. Lucas goes to one fifteen minutes away. I leave him, bleary eyed and guilt ridden. Mason’s daycare will take him Tuesday but they are technically closed this week for the break. I had no idea. I find myself having to help Mason constantly. Two sets of diapers is not fun and changing a nearly three year olds’ poopy diaper is pure torture. But I signed up for this. I pick Lucas up early and daycare complains that he is fussy.

Night 3: We realize the air conditioning is too low for Lucas to sleep. We raise the temperature and we are able to get him to sleep for two hours at a time.

Day 4: Transportation calls to set up visitation. No problem. I don’t remember much after this. I arrange to pick up a stroller the next day.

Night 4: Did I sleep? Did the baby sleep? Who can remember?

Day 5: I will never make another crack about maternity leave being a vacation as long as I live. It’s visitation day! Kids come home at 7, dirty and the baby slept during the whole car ride home. Great! The good news is Joe and I put together the crib while the kids were out. The bad news, the parents are complaining about dried blood in the baby’s ear.

Night 5: Lucas goes in the crib. Lucas goes back in the swing. Mommy lays on the couch. The neighbors must hate us.

Day 6: Parents complained to caseworker about the dried blood in the ears. She calls me when I’m an hour and a half away from daycare, with a compact car filled with baby stuff. I make an emergency doctor’s appointment, clear one spot for Lucas’ car seat, and speed to daycare, then an hour away to the doctors’ office. Apparently he has reoccurring ear infections and has to be on antibiotics.

Would some one please explain why you have to completely undress the baby at the doctor’s office and have to wait in the cold room for thirty minutes? Lucas threw up on me and I cried onto his bare back while the doctor said a prayer for both of us.

I drop Lucas at the visit, where Mason and his older sister are playing. Mom grabs him, frantic and immediately changes his diaper and prepares a bottle. Dad shakes my hand. Both are nice but dramatic.

They see I’m a person, not a monster. A very very tired person.

Night 6: Lucas spends the night in his room, bundled up, temperature raised, and sleeps for about two hours at a time.

Day 7: Joe is home. I take Mason out as he doesn’t have daycare. We go to the playground. I discover that I have to follow Mason on each piece of playground equipment, and convince him the big slide isn’t the best place to play. I am so unprepared.

Night 7: Two hours of sleep, an hour of feeding, two hours of sleep.