A Different Perspective

Big Sister and Little Sister spent 3 months with us last summer (May – August).  When they left to live with a family member, we were broken-hearted and at the same time we were happy for them.  They had been separated from their 3 older siblings during those three months and we had always hoped they were doing well.

When their case worker called to give us an update a couple of weeks ago, we discovered that they weren’t doing as well as we had hoped.

Their time away wasn’t the best.  Then the judge granted a monitored return to mom and dad.  This meant that for six months, CPS would continue to monitor how mom, dad and kids were doing.  Five weeks later, they were removed again and young hearts who had hoped their family would be back together permanently, were once again torn apart.  Sadly, this is a normal part of foster care and I hate it!

We do feel fortunate that we could say yes when we got the call asking if we could take them and now we have a different perspective.

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In the past, all the children who had come into our home were either new to the foster care system or were back in the system, but new to our home and family.  This means there is an adjustment period and it can, and typically does take months for everyone to find their comfort level.  In this case, there is still an adjustment period, but it is shortened due to the fact that we are familiar.  We were their family for 3 months and that makes things easier.  Not that there aren’t challenges, but the familiar certainly helps.

While I’m happy things are easier because of the familiar, it doesn’t mean that I’m not angry.

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I’m angry that the judge ruled against the recommendation of the case worker, CASA and Guardian ad litem and ruled that they be moved to a family member that was not in a position to adequately care for the children.

I’m angry that there is so much emphasis put on biology and as such,  what’s best for the children is pushed aside to place them with biological family.

I’m angry that each move, whether with biological family or not, makes it more difficult for children to feel safe and trust their caregivers.

Most of all, I’m angry at the parents and the reasons are too many to list right now.

So we start all over again and go thru the steps with the primary goal being reunification.  It doesn’t matter that this is mom and dad’s 4th time having their children removed, reunification remains the goal.

Then we wait to see if there are other family members who will take the kids while parents work their services.  In other words, we wait to see if we say good-bye yet again.

Then we wait to see if the courts will return them to mom and dad or terminate their rights.

We wait to see if the decision will be in the hands of a judge or jury.

We wait to see what happens if they do go back to mom and dad.  Will they get it right next time or will the kids are removed a 5th time?

In a nutshell,  I’m angry with the system and with the parents.  How many times do these children have to be tossed around in the name of reunification?

Having a different perspective hasn’t changed my feelings, but it has certainly caused some of those feeling to become more intense.

We love these little girls and only want what is best for them, but how can this possibly be good for them?

How can it be good for any child to spend half of their life in the foster care system?  Yes, Big Sister has spent that much time in the system.  Little Sister has spent over half of her life in the system.  Now there is a new baby on the way who will enter this world into the system.  How can it be good for them that this is normal?

At the same time, this is what we signed up for.  We willingly stepped into this world of foster care and we have to be on board with the decisions made.  It doesn’t mean we have to like them and we don’t.

For now, we are their family unit and it is our responsibility to do everything we can to make sure they live in a safe, loving, nurturing and normal family environment.  We’re doing the best we can and sometimes our best doesn’t feel like enough.  We just have to hope it is and that no matter how much longer they are with us, they walk away with a different perspective for their lives.  A happier and more positive perspective for their futures.

 

 

 

 

Sometimes It’s More Bittersweet

Foster care is obviously a big part of our lives.  So much so, that I haven’t written a blog post in about six weeks.  With a newborn and a toddler in the house for the last few weeks, writing has been a little challenging 🙂

When I left you, I talked about the revolving door of foster care.  It has continued.

We still have the baby, but the two little girls we got right before Christmas left last week to go live with family.  We also agreed to help out another family with respite care (respite care = caring for a child to give foster parents a little break or caring for them because the foster parents are leaving town and can’t take the foster child with them).  So we’ve had a 1-month-old and a 7-month-old for the past week.  We’ve gotten a few calls but have had to turn them down because the State of Texas only allows two under the age of 18 months be placed in a foster home.  The calls have included infants and with two in the house already, we had to turn them down.

Then yesterday we got a surprise call.

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It was from a case worker we worked with previously.  My first thought was that she was the new case worker for the baby we have now, but instead she was calling to see if, by chance, we had beds available for the two little girls we had last summer.

These two little girls were our first placements after licensing.  We had them for three months and then they left to go live with a family member.  We had watched the oldest blossom and the baby had gone from having some developmental delays, to being not only being caught up, but being above age level in her development.  We all loved these girls dearly and were absolutely heart-broken when they left.  So when the case worker asked if we had openings, I felt excitement, sadness and fear.

The thought of these two coming back into our family was such an exciting feeling.  At the same time, I was so very sad to learn that they had been returned to mom and dad, only to be removed yet again.  Then the fear set in as I told the case worker that we could take the oldest, but with two infants in the house, we couldn’t take the youngest (who is now 15 months), until Thursday when our respite baby goes back to her foster parents.

Fortunately, the case worker very much wanted these girls to be with us, so after conversations between our agency and the case worker, these precious little girls will be returning to our home.

Foster care can be so bittersweet, but sometimes it’s more bittersweet than usual.

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This is one of those times.

As our door revolves yet again, we are hoping that these girls will be able to stay with us long-term this time.   We want the opportunity to help these little ones blossom and grow long-term instead of being uprooted once again.

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We don’t know if the judge will give mom and dad another chance or not.  We do know that CPS doesn’t want them with the family member they were with previously and we will likely be picking up the pieces of their broken hearts.  Yet, we’re so very happy to have them become part of our family once again and are hoping for the very best.

As the Door Revolves

In May, 2017, a 5 month old and her 5 yr old sister were placed with us.  They left 3 months later.

It took a few weeks, but we got another placement, a 2-yr-old little boy.  We were told his premie newborn baby brother would come to us when released from the hospital Two and a half weeks later, the little guy went to live with his grandmother and the baby was released into their care as well.

We again had to wait a couple of weeks when Baby Girl was placed with us.  Then several weeks went by and we received the placement of another 2-yr-old little boy, who turned 3 the next day.  He was with us for exactly 1 month before going to live with his mom’s cousin.

About 1/2 hour after he left, we got a call about a 1-yr-old and her 4-yr-old sister.  They arrived on our doorstep a couple of hours later.

Then last Friday Baby girl left us.  We were just 1 day shy of having her 4 months.  Little did we know that another baby girl was born last Friday and last night that baby girl was placed in our care.

In 8 months, we have had 8 children come into our care.  We seem to have a revolving door for foster children and while each of them have touched our lives in different ways, it’s not easy having them come and go so quickly.

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At this moment, we have no idea how long the sisters or our newest baby girl will be with us.  The State of Texas pushes CPS workers to find acceptable family members (kinship) or family friends (fictive kin) that will take these children.  So the chances of us keeping any child long-term feels like an improbability at the moment.  Still, we will keep the door spinning and accepting children into our home and our lives.

 

As Expected, Sadly

Yesterday I received a call from the CPS worker telling me that Baby Girl would be moving to her aunt’s home.  They would be picking her up the following morning.

The pick up happened this morning and although Baby Girl was giving out her beautiful gummy smile to all of us, we were a basket case of tears.

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We signed up for this heartbreak and each time I find myself asking why.

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Then I look in the mirror and have a talk with me.

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“There are other babies that need you.  Those babies need someone to love them, care for them, and meet their every need so they have an opportunity to grow to be happy, healthy and strong. ”

So yes, we have cried “A LOT” over the last 24 hours and there will likely continue to be tears as I look thru pictures, put away her outgrown clothes and wash her bedding in preparation for the next baby that comes our way.

And yes, I do mean baby.

Along this journey we have learned a lot and one thing we have learned is that having babies in the home just works best for us.

Lili has made no secret of the fact that she loves having babies here.  She loves watching them grow and change.  She loves helping care for them.  She loves talking to them and playing with them.  She could make Baby Girl laugh like no one else could.

Naomi, has shown us her mommy side.  While she seems to like older babies and toddlers more, she had a special bond with Baby Girl.  That bond played out in different ways, but one way in particular was very special.  When Baby Girl would get over-tired, she would get extremely fussy (understatement).  Other than me, Naomi was the only one in the house that was able to calm her down and get her to sleep.  She held her in her special way, would sing to her and soon Baby Girl was off to dreamland.

Dave, who admittedly is not a baby person, developed a special bond with Baby Girl as well.  She flashed that gummy smile and he was putty in her hands.  He might not admit it, but it showed on his face every time.  He would even change dirty diapers from time-to-time.

Throughout this process, we have discovered that for our family, babies work out the best.

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We can do schoolwork while they nap.  They hang out with us on field trips and errands.  Not that we haven’t enjoyed the older kids we’ve had (and still have), but we’ve found a rhythm that works well and would like to continue down the path of having babies in our house.

So now we wait for the call that another baby needs us.  I don’t know if that will be today, a week from now or a month from now, but we will be here and be ready for that call.

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Do You Remember the Time

I wrote a blog post every day or at least every couple of days.  Those days seem to be long gone now and I do know that between 5 kids, a husband, a house, homeschooling and just living, the blog has taken a backseat.  Still, I hate that I’m not on top of blogging on a regular basis.  It really is therapeutic and I’m likely going to need some therapy over the next week.

One week from today, there will be a placement hearing about moving Baby Girl from our care to the care of a relative.

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It doesn’t matter that she came to us straight from the hospital.  It doesn’t matter that in almost 4 months, mom has only seen her a handful of times.  It doesn’t matter that mom has been given her list of services and isn’t working any of them.  It doesn’t matter that dad isn’t in the picture at this time.  It doesn’t matter that this family member has a denied home study.  It doesn’t matter that Baby Girl is being moved from the only home and family she has known to complete strangers.  It doesn’t matter that she’s thriving in our home.

It does matter that they are family.  It does matter that the state would only have to pay half of what they pay foster families.  It does matter that by moving her, the state is less liable for anything that might happen while she is in the care of family.

Not that I’m bitter or emotional at all about this (she says sarcastically).  I suppose I shouldn’t be bitter or emotional since I signed up to do foster care and know full well that I will likely say good-bye to each child that walks thru our door.  But at the same time, Baby Girl has been loved, nurtured, and adored for almost 4 months now.  She has become very much part of our family and she is as attached to us as we are to her.  I don’t think this state often does what is truly within the best interest of the child.  I guess that means it’s my job to do what is in their best interest while I have them.

So in one week we will get a call letting us know whether or not she is being removed from our care and into the care of a family member.  Because of the judge overseeing the case, the chances of this happening are very, very high.  As such, we have to do everything we can to prepare ourselves for broken hearts next week.

In the meantime, we did have a good Christmas.  It wasn’t the Christmas we thought we would have though.

On the 21st, we were informed that the little boy we had (the one we told would be with us thru Christmas) would be picked up and taken to a relative.  About 30 minutes after he left, we got a call about two little girls who needed placement and within a few hours they were walking thru our door.  The oldest is 4 and the youngest is 17 months.

They came to us with the clothes on their backs.  Nothing more, nothing less.  We scrambled to get them clothes and gifts for Christmas.

Then, in the wee hours of the morning on Christmas Eve, hubby, Lili and I were all sick.  There is never a good time to be sick, but I’m not sure there could have been a worse time either.  There were gifts to wrap and preparations to complete.  We had family scheduled to come over that afternoon, which we had to postpone.  Of course there was also that little job of elf that needed to happen Christmas night.

Hubby got hit the hardest and I knew he would not have the energy or strength to help.  So I dug deep, did a lot of self-talk and got it done.

Having both parents down for the count meant that there were disappointments as well.

Naomi wanted Cinnabons for breakfast on Christmas morning.

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There was no way we could make that happen though.  Not only did either of us have the energy to get to the nearest Cinnabon, but we certainly didn’t want to expose everyone in the store to the flu.  So Cinnabon would have to wait for another day.

Our nephew was visiting from out-of-state and we were not able to see him.  Can’t say I blame him for not wanting to walk into the infirmary.

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At least two of us didn’t have the Christmas spirit we usually have and then later that day, Baby Girl threw up.  She was the one I really wanted to try to protect from getting sick.  Somehow, she managed to smiled and coo thru it all!

Now Christmas is over.  The tree has been taken down.  We’re having a major cold snap, so there hasn’t been a lot of time outside the house.

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Our two newest are starting to really settle in and we’re preparing for the likely change of Baby Girl moving on.

But that’s our life.  We’re doing what we feel we should be doing.   It’s difficult and it’s  sad, but it’s also rewarding and has left us with happy memories many times overs.   As such, we’ll continue to do this as long as we can.  Maybe one day we’ll accept a placement that will never leave.  Until then, we’ll do all we can to make life as good as we can for these little ones and hope that when they move on, they have a wonderful life.

Mending Little Broken Hearts

Tomorrow, Baby Girl’s case goes back to court.  The really difficult part of these court dates is the unknown.

I know she will not be returning to mom any time soon, but last month I sat on pins and needles waiting to hear whether or not she would be removed from our care and placed in the care of her aunt.  Since the other children we had went to family members, I was quite shocked when I was told her aunt failed the home study.

This time I sit on pins and needles waiting to hear whether or not she will be removed from our care and placed in the care of a friend of moms.

In Texas, there is a lot of effort put into placing foster children with other family members (kinship) or with friends of the biological family (fictive kinship).  Logically, I get it.  Well to a point I get it.  There are certainly situations that don’t necessarily make sense to me, but for the most part I understand why it’s important to keep familial connections.  Emotionally, it’s much more difficult.

It’s this part of foster care that causes many people to say, “I could never be a foster parent.”  A child moves into your home and life.  You care for that child.  You get to know that child.  You begin to love that child and that love grows.  Then one day you find yourself packing their things and handing them over to a case worker because they are being moved to live with a family member, a family friend, or in the best case scenario, back to mom and/or dad.

I will not sugar coat it.  It is not easy at all!!!

So why do we put ourselves thru this?

For me, it is the realization that as much as my heart breaks when I have to say good-bye, foster children have more than just heart-break.  They are removed from the care of their parent(s) which means on top of heart-break they feel fear, confusion, and uncertainty.  They grieve the loss of their family, friends, home, pets and the life they knew.

These kid’s lives are turned upside-down and it’s my job to help them turn their lives rightside-up again.

So I do this because they need me to help them feel safe and sure.  They need to feel love and security.  They need some assurance that no matter what happens, they will be okay.

You see, this isn’t about me and what I can’t do or about my fear of having my heart-broken.  Foster parents “will” have their heart broken over and over again.  This is about the thousands of children in foster care who need me to put aside my fear of a broken heart so I can help mend little broken hearts.

While I would love to have baby girl stay in our care, what I want really isn’t a factor in what the case worker or judge will decide.  All I can do is love her while I have her.  Yes, there will be heart break and lots of tears, but at the same time I will be prepared to open my arms wide for the next little one whose heart is in need of mending.

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Be Truly Thankful

It can be extremely difficult to find anything to be thankful for in foster care and I am ever so aware of that fact today.

Last night, we accepted the placement of a 2-yr-old little boy.

Removal from your home is traumatic enough, but the circumstances surrounding his removal only added to that trauma.  Add to that the fact that happened 2 days before Thanksgiving.  On top of that, he was removed the day before his 3rd birthday.

My heart broke into a millions pieces last night as I held this scared little guy.  He could not calm down until I handed him over to hubby who gently held him and helped calm some of his fears.

Once he began to feel a little more comfortable, we were able to get him to smile and laugh.  We now know he loves being read to (makes this momma happy) and he has an awesome laugh.

He finally fell asleep and after several hours of sleep, he woke up a much happier boy.

We will celebrate his birthday today and prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow.  We don’t know how long he will be staying with us, but as with all the kids who come into our care, we’ll help him feel safe, secure and loved.