foster care

Sister Sister

So here we are, getting used to a toddler and an infant. Sleep deprived, overwhelmed and figuring it all out step by step. We get through our first staffing (see prior post), minor surgery on one of the kiddos, meeting the bio parents, and our judicial review (JR). The bio parents swore they were going to detox and even had a relative text the caseworker that they were in detox the morning of the JR. A Judicial Review is a court proceeding to review how the kids are doing in their placements and how the parents have done in their case. A judge or panel is in attendance along with caseworkers, guardian ad litem or casa, parents attorneys, foster parents and any other professionals associated with the case. AND the parents, if they show.

With no evidence that the parents were in detox (hearsay) and due to the fact that the parents had not done one item on their case, the goal was changed from solely reunification to concurrent or reunification and adoption at the same time. This means the court is prepared to give the parents the necessary chance to prove they can care for the children but is already planning ahead for if they do not do this.

Then we get the text.

Can you take the sister?

For the first two months, we knew very little about the boys’ sister. She had serious medical issues and was in another foster home an hour plus away from us. Her foster mom adored her. We just assumed she was in the same boat as us, willing to adopt. We were wrong. When the case changed, she asked if we’d be willing to adopt Fiona. I was purely dumbfounded. All I could say was we only have a three bedroom house and two compact cars. And not enough money for three kids, never mind two.

Soon after the visits stopped. Parents have to confirm their visits the night before. We had two weeks without visits, then one confirmed. I wanted to take the boys to the doctor so I was able to set a time toward the end of the visit and drove the boys myself. Then we waited. And waited. And waited. Fiona was crying. Next thing you know, it’s time to go to the doctor and the transporter was ready to take Fiona home. She threw herself on the floor screaming, crying and kicking.

It was really my first interaction with Fiona and such a powerful one. I saw a little girl whose heart broke.

 

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foster care

Bio-parents, the system, judgement and guilt

So you want to be a foster parent?

Do you want someone in your house, twenty four seven, judging your every move?

Great!

Being a foster parent, per websites, others opinions and of course, the fun filled Facebook groups:

They are not your children. Okay, they are your children but they are not your children. But they are your children. They should call you Mommy and Daddy.  They should never call you Mommy and Daddy. They should call you what ever they are most comfortable with. You should recognize them as your children. You should recognize that they are their biological parents’ children. You shouldn’t change their identity. You should give them a fresh start. Reunification should always be the goal. Reunification should not be the goal if it’s not safe. You should give the bio parents every chance. You shouldn’t give the bio parents a chance if they don’t put their kids first. The foster system is broken. The foster system in definitely broken.

As a new foster parent, I was afraid. I was afraid of forgetting a rule, not having the right paperwork, angering the bio parents, being judged by the caseworker, etc etc etc. I felt like my family was Joe, Mason, Lucas, the state, the caseworker, the bio-parents, daycare and the transporter. And the GAL (guardian ad litem.) Luckily the GAL is completely awesome and a lifesaver.

Bio parents complained constantly about the condition of the baby. He never ate enough, he was too fussy, and pointed out every scratch. I started documenting everything and sending it to Aaron, our transporter. I was constantly on the defensive. Of course, the kids (and I) were constantly sick over the first few months. We had colds, ear infections, skin infections and even a case of MRSA!

On the same note, can you imagine not knowing your infant/newborn child and only seeing him for two hours twice a week? Of course, you’d judge the caretaker unfairly. I can’t imagine the pain those two are in.

And we were told, we are not Mommy and Daddy. We are Joe and Kate. But a two year old can’t understand that. At that point, women were Mommys and men were Daddys.

These were our days for a few months. They’d be picked up from daycare, brought to a park or visitation room and then dropped off at 7 pm. That’s when Joe and I really started to meet the older sister. She was a bright and happy five year old that mumbled quite a bit. She’d run inside to use the bathroom before being driven another hour to her foster mother’s home. After using the bathroom, she’d have to be cajoled back into the car, because she’d rather play with Mason’s toys in our living room. We’d whisk Mason into the bathtub and then straight to bed.

Aaron, our transporter, would tell us how they did with the parents, that the bio parents were planning on going to detox, that they were getting it together, etc. He was so hopeful back then. The transport worker is the closest to both the bio parents and the kids. They get to see the interactions and the relationships. They meet the foster parents and talk with them. They are the go-betweens when they should be the caseworkers!

So we continued, visit, daycare, doctor, sick day, visit, caseworker, visit, doctor, daycare.

 

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.