Listening to my favorite song this morning.. and it was a good reminder. We must enjoy the small stuff. Life is too short.
Or in this case, blog.
Things are really calm in our house right now. There’s no big crisis. Mental health services are in place & other services are coming into place as planned. Classes are going ok–more than ok for our Davey! And my weekend away was just what I needed to be recharged and ready for another busy week. B gets next weekend off, and he is being called more and more for engineering jobs—signs that he’s rocking the jobs he’s doing.
But, Brian and I are still grieving the loss of several friendships and the changing of others. I think it’s totally normal & appropriate, but, just like with other loss, there’s no handbook. We were discussing my blog posts and my FB post… He was a little concerned that the wrong people would take it personally. But, it was *all* personal! It was my feelings and emotions. It was days and days of tears being poured out into words. And I can’t say that I am sorry. I have loads of friends who haven’t said a word about what’s going on with my boys… I know tons of people who have seen us hurting. And, there have been several who have really been there. There are women I can text and know that they will understand. And I am so grateful for that! Those friendships will last a lifetime.
But, there are those who have just taken a step back. Some because of fear, some because they don’t know what to say, some because they are just wrapped up in their own stuff. And that is ok. There’s no need for guilt for that… I totally get not knowing the right thing to do or say.. I understand that this stuff can be scary. (I don’t know what do to or say and it often scares the crap out of me!!) But, I guess my feelings are a good reminder. A reminder for me, especially! A reminder that people have so many burdens. A reminder that being a friend means just letting people know you are there. A reminder that I have friends who want to be there, but I just haven’t opened up to the right people at the right time. A reminder that there are so many, many struggles! A reminder that sometimes other people really, really need you–even if they don’t say.
The song, “But for the grace of God go I” is still a refrain that is sticking. The song is a love story, but, to me, it’s a reminder that despite the bad days, there are so many good ones! A reminder that I have my kiddos to hug and hold. A reminder that there is progress, if not perfection. A reminder that it could be so, so much worse.
I hope that this finds you at peace. I hope it reminds you that you are loved. I hope it reminds you that I am here if you need someone. I hope that it may bring you hope if hope is what you need.
Here, I am feeling some hope… Hope that was missing for some time. And I am feeling loved. And I am working on feeling at peace.
When I was younger, my mom was going through some of the same struggles I am now. Literally. She had a teenager who made some of the same or similar choices to my son. There was lying and hiding and even a little drug use. I remember thinking of what I would do that would fix everything. I remember offering to have him live with me.
But, now I know.. when you are facing it, it’s not easy. It’s not black and white. Never for a second did I doubt my mom’s love for my brothers. And I hope that nobody doubts mine.
Fast forward a few years, when we first got our little Bean, there was a chance to meet her bio-grandma… The only things I knew about her mom were that her mom was a meth addict and that Bean had a different dad than the other kids, but her mom was still married to the dad of the other kids. And I was clinging to the fact that her mom was a user… When I met her grandma, I expected to see the mom of an addict. And I was wrong. I was so incredibly wrong. I met a grandma who could have been my mom or my mother-in-law (they all share the same first name!). She loved her daughter and adored her grandkids. She wanted nothing but the best for them all. And she was making the best choices that she could.
I know that being a foster parent meant automatic judgement. And I am learning that being the parent of a teen who makes stupid choices equals automatic judgement.
What is hard for me, is that I am learning that even the people who I thought knew us, are judging us harshly. And it has really been hurting me. Especially since they have no clue what goes on in our house. They don’t know what consequences our kids have faced. And they haven’t been there with the crisis team. They haven’t been there in the family hugs when we are all hurting so badly.
And I think it’s easier to assume that we must be doing something wrong. I think that if they admit that there is a chance that we aren’t culpable, that they can tell themselves their child will never do anything like that. I think if they can lay blame on something, they can tell themselves that it will never be them. I think that assuming that we aren’t doing our jobs makes it easier to sleep at night. Maybe unconsciously even. I even blame myself at times, surely I have failed at motherhood to have to deal with what we’ve dealt with… And I am sure that there are things that I could have or should have done differently. But, I am also sure that I have done my best. Our family has sought and found resources for mental and behavioral health. We have found a team to support and help our kiddos. And we are just beginning to see progress!
Way back when I was teaching PS-MAPP, I would tell my future foster families that it is so easy to judge the bio-parents. And it is. And it can be easy to hate them. But, if we were judged on our worst day everyday, how would that look? As a teenager, I worked and volunteered, I was a better-than-average student, and I was super involved in my church.. But, I lied to my parents, I drank occasionally, I did all sorts of stupid stuff. And I think that most of us did. Thankfully, we don’t have to wear those bad choices on a shirt every day.
What’s my point? Heck if I know!! I just know that I am hurting. And I know that I don’t deserve that.
Have you ever felt miserable and googled your symptoms? Ever done a Web MD search? Did you find out that you probably have cancer and the type of cancer that you have is likely fatal?
It’s the same for criminal stuff. If you love someone who is facing charges, don’t Google. You just don’t want to know. Navigating the courts is scary, but, in this case, I think that it’s scarier knowing the possible outcoms.
In other news, parenting teenagers continues to be challenging. It is unlike anything that I ever imagined. I thought that navigating the foster care world would be the hardest thing we ever had to do as parents. And, it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t know. I would have missed out on the amazing days. The days with smiles and hugs and laughs. The pride of seeing them succeed. I wouldn’t wish our recent experiences on my worst enemy & I wouldn’t trade my kids for all of the money in the world.
Teaching the class I taught to future foster/adoptive parents, there was one common complaint among my students. Class after class they would tell us that we were too negative. We only shared the hardships of fostering. We only shared the horror stories.
Now, even though we are no longer fostering, I still try to keep connected to foster and adoptive parents.
And, honestly, so very much of what they share is their hardships, their struggles… It’s hard work. It’s life in the trenches.
I spend a lot of my time still fighting the affects of early childhood trauma. Even though we closed our license years ago, and we are a forever family, those scars remain. More than that, some of the wounds haven’t even healed!
But, today is not the day to dwell on that. Today is a day to celebrate!
The reason we never shared the good in being a foster parent… It’s because it doesn’t need to be spoken. It’s obvious. From the first second you even think about fostering, you can already picture the child you will love. The instant you meet them, you fall in love. The good is so abundant.
Today is the day that our family became a forever family.
After three years in the system our boys were finally ours!
They are the good.
So hard to imagine life without them.. How did we survive before?
So, we did everything I had planned yesterday. Plus, V & I baked blueberry muffins for breakfast. And we ended the day with a sleepover.
Today shouldn’t count as a day of break. I try to keep the kids buys and occupied over the summer, but I don’t usually plan a lot for the weekends.
But, today has already been busy! I woke up d this morning bright and early to pick up our basket. I am pretty sure I’ve blogged about the produce co-op we use–check it out! And by the time we were back the girls were awake and asking for pancakes already. After pancakes, I cycled the laundry & washed some dishes and hopped on the treadmill for a few miles. I have not been jogging much. But, I walked 3 miles and that’s good enough for today. Then I made myself somewhat presentable to head out.
The kids and I went to a very cool event today. As most of you know, our oldest boys didn’t come straight to us from their bio-parents. They lived in a shelter for nearly a year before they were placed with us. The shelter that they lived in has gone out of business. But, there are more in the Valley. Today we went to an even to help out with the one that’s on our side of town. The crisis center is pretty freaking amazing. They have an emergency shelter for foster kids who cannot be placed with a foster family right away. They also provide services to families in need–our family has received help from them. I went to an amazing class on bonding issues there a few years ago.
Today’s event was held at a local restaurant that I’d heard of, but knew nothing about–Organ Stop Pizza. And it was way cool. Like the name implies, this restaurant is famous for its pipe organ. If anyone wants to take us there again, we’re accepting invites 😉
We’re back home now… And I am sitting. I should be working on laundry or cleaning or Girl Scout stuff. But, I think I’ll just sit here for a bit instead.
I am on-line *a lot*. And some of my best friends live in m computer. But, there are a lot of crazies out there!!
My boys are getting to the age that they want to play more on-line games. The requests for sign-ups comes pretty much every weekend (no weekday video games here during school).
So, the lectures have started.
Don’t give your full name.
Nobody needs your address or phone number–EVER!
Don’t share where you go to school.
It’s easy for people to lie through a computer.
And on and on… I generally don’t stop until they’ve done a minimum of 4 “yes mom”s and a couple eye rolls.
More than them though, I think we all need a little reminder about how unsafe the cyber world can be. If you’ve never been to spokeo, go there now, put your name in and be prepared to freak out a little. The first time I went, I saw a photo of my house, with my car in the drive & you could read my plates. My address, car & babies were that easy to find.
With our less-than-typical family, we have to be extra cautious and all of that was right there! So, I made sure to get my info off that site…
Then I did a little more, too.
I wanted our phone & address to be unlisted. You may not know this, I was clueless, but the phone company charges a monthly few to be unlisted. They do not, however, care if you change your name. Go ahead, be creative.. Change it to Regina Phelangie 😉 No charge & I get a giggle when I get junk mail, too.
Next step, see where you can be found–google yourself and your spouse. My guy is out in the public for work, there’s not a whole lot we can do about it, but, thankfully, it doesn’t lead to our doorstep. I am all over FaceBook & you *might* find this blog if you really search.
But, I *try* to keep my settings on FaceBook where I feel comfortable & I do try to keep my kids personal info off of here.. I share their faces and smiles and stories, but I avoid naming their school. I crop our address out of photos.
And, the last thing (but, maybe it should be the first..?), I have tried to co-parent my kids in a way that would give those other relatives no need to find us. We keep a PO Box, we are willing to share information. When we were actively fostering we made every effort to respect the biological parents and keep them in the loop.
I think it’s silly to assume you’re safe. I am pretty sure anyone reading this could find our address somehow. I just try to keep an extra layer, make it a little harder, and live in a way that nobody sees the need…
Besides, if you want to talk to me, just push that “comment” button–I love comments!!
I may have posted something along these lines before, but I’ve been at this blog awhile & this one bears repeating anyhow.
I have a few friends who are just starting on their fostering journey and I wish I could just give them all of the tips and tricks and things I learned through the years instantly. But, I don’t know how to do that. I figure, this post can help a bit though…
Often, as a foster parent, you are the one who sees the child the most. You’re the expert on the case. But, the courts and the case worker tend to forget this fact. They rely on the GAL (Guardian Ad Litem, or the lawyer for the child) to be the expert. The caseworkers are usually really good people who have a really tough job and have no way of truly knowing what’s going on with every.single.case. The problem becomes, “How do I get “the system” to pay attention and know my foster kiddo like I do?”
I know, for a fact, that I’ve blogged before about documenting. Document, document, document!! I had a nurse in class one time tell us, “if it’s not in the chart, it didn’t happen”… The same is true with foster care. If you didn’t document it, it didn’t happen. Biological family visits are on the top of this list. If you’re local, you have the incident reports that I know and love to fill out… Here are the times that we used incident reports (only when dealing with visits):
I will warn you, your caseworker likely won’t appreciate this many reports. Tough. It’s the report that you use to communicate these issues. Tell them that *I* told you you needed to document 🙂 After you file the incident report with your agency and the caseworker, make sure you that you keep track of the dates of these incident reports. I think it’s great to keep a calendar that has all of the foster care related stuff written on it, then you can use that calendar as a snapshot of what’s going on and can use it to fill out your monthly reports. Each agency handles their monthly reports a little differently, but it’s just good practice to have it all together.
Now that you’ve started documenting more, make sure that you’re there to insure that someone is reading those reports.
Go to court. Make sure you’re there every single hearing. Show up a little early and bring a few things with you–bring a recent photo of the child or children, bring an up-to-date summary of any incidents that have happened since the last court date. I like to e-mail *everything* then you have a little back-up proof just in case any of the lawyers act like you’re giving them new news. Try to chat with both the GAL and the caseworker before court. Give that photo of your kiddo to the GAL and ask that he or she give it to the judge to be included with the court documents. Having that little face looking at the judge is a massive reminder of why we’re all there in the first place.
Take notes while you’re in court. It can go quickly and be hard to understand. If you have the option, see if someone from your agency can go with you the first few times to translate. Make sure that you note the date and time of the next hearing. Also, make note of what the judge orders… If the judge orders that the bio-parent do something, it’s o.k. to ask your caseworker about progress. The caseworker might not share everything with you, but I found it never hurt to ask. I was always as diplomatic as possible and *always* polite, but I was the one in the trenches, I had a right to check up and make sure everyone else was following through. I learned to use that calendar… If the caseworker told me she’d take care of “X” I’d put a note on my calendar to ask her about it during the next home visit…
Court isn’t the only place you need to be! Get yourself to your FCRB’s. FCRB stands for Foster Care Review Board. If you’ve never been to an FCRB for your child go here. Get yourself on the mailing list and make sure that they know that the child is in your home. Sometimes when kids move, it takes the system too long to update and you’ll miss a review. You don’t want that to happen more than once. There are a few people that judges really listen to… the FCRB is one of them. You do not need anyone from your agency to go with you, but if they do attend, they can participate, too. The board will listen to your testimony as well as that from the caseworker, your agency, the biological family.. And then they’ll make a recommendation to the court. The court takes this recommendation over half of the time.
If you’re doing these things and following up, you’re doing what you can. Hopefully the courts will make the best decisions. Just be glad that you aren’t the one who has to make those calls. Watching a parent lose his or her rights to their child is one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. Driving with V the other day I started thinking about what his bio-mom has missed out on and I started crying. He is about the coolest 7 year old in the whole wide world, and she never gets to cuddle him, she never gets to hear his questions, she never gets to tickle him or look into his blue eyes. A parent losing there rights is a big deal. And there’s a reason that it takes the courts so long to get through the process. Each day that a foster kiddo stays in care, however, is chance for you to love him or her. It’s chance for them to see what a family should be and feel safe and loved. Even the kids that were only with us for a short time, left a huge impression on us… and we got to see, even in just months, how much they changed and grew and how much of an impact we had on them.
Parenting isn’t’ for the weak. Foster parenting is for the iron-man athletes of the parenting world.
Lately, I have been running into more and more families who are entering the world of fostering because of need, not because they want to.
These families are finding themselves facing a kid who needs a home. Most of them are related to the kids. But, that’s not always the case–sometimes it’s a friend. It doesn’t really matter how it comes about. The fact is that there is a kid who needs a home and a family that wants to step in.
Kids do best when they can keep connections. So, keeping a kid with a relative or a neighbor or someone they know is good. But, these well-meaning families are unprepared. I think that pretty much anyone who takes on a non-bio kid is unprepared the first time or two around. And most foster parents have training and support and are going into it with some support. Relatives who get that emergency call have none of that.
When I am asked advice about these situations there are a few things I highly recommend.
1. Get your foster license. Going through the process of licensure will give you some training. You will form a relationship with the state or an agency. You may get to know other foster families (huge advantage!). And, you, likely will get more financial assistance for the child from the state if you are a licensed home.
2. Get the state involved. I know it’s tempting to avoid “the system”. And it’s scary to face the unknown. But, going it alone is a huge risk. Imagine you take your nephew in when your sister is dealing with the court system in regards to some drug issues. Six month later, he’s doing well and you’ve all adjusted.. Sister can show up and take him out of that good situation and throw him right back into chaos. Without the involvement of the state it can be far more difficult to get guardianship, it can limit your ability to make decisions, and financially, you are on the hook. If nothing else, foster kids here have excellent medical insurance. Yes, the system has issues, but they also can help.
3. Find some support. Get online and see if there is a Relatives as Parents organization in your area.. Ask a social worker for local groups.
This site had a ton of links, organized by state, that were just a click away.
Love is not enough. But, it is a good start 🙂
(I started this post months and months ago, but abandoned it.. It’s no longer timely for our family. But, I think it’s an important message that I need to get out there. If you know anyone who has adopted or dealt with the foster system, I think that this is one of my stronger pieces about one of the struggles that is so real to them.)
I have blogged before about “Mom Guilt”… I really think it’s a silly thing, but I recently fell prey to it myself.
One of the kids did a particularly ugly behavior. I mean it was *really* bad. So, like any modern mom, I turned to the Internet for support. Some people told me that if it were their kid, they’d beat the kid. One or two surmised that I am raising the next generation’s serial killer… We don’t beat our kids and I am relatively certain that this was not the work of a psychopath. But, it also isn’t and wasn’t something I or we could just ignore.
The behavior was likely just a case of not thinking and poor impulse control. That does not mean that it was o.k. Not even a little. It also doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a consequence…we ended up having an extra helper for lots and lots of chores and lots of one-on-one time with B & me, during which the behavior and choices were discussed over and over again.
Anyhow, now that things are a bit calmer, I was revisiting the Internet comments in my mind… One Mom commented that I shouldn’t feel guilt because no matter what parenting steps I am taking, some of it is just nature. And I agree, no matter what you do as a mom, there are some things you just cannot control. For us, we know that D has ADHD. It has nothing to do with our parenting, it’s just a fact. So, the way that we nurture him is designed to help him with some of those natural issues…
And, on top of all of that, we have another layer in our family. The nurture that they deserved wasn’t there when they were little. Our poor, sweet, innocent children went through more than I want to even contemplate. They suffered at the hands of the people who were supposed to nurture them. They missed out on critical bonding time. There are literally connections in their brains that didn’t form or didn’t form correctly because of the selfish acts of the very people who brought them into the world.
There are some people who have told me that my kids aren’t special or unique because they’re adopted–there is one word for those people–wrong!
My kids are up against both genetic flaws and the uphill battle of getting back what they missed out on… And that makes me sad for them. We have wonderful, amazing children. What strength they have. Thankfully, I think they’re blissfully unaware of what they’ve overcome. But, it’s pretty stunning if you think about it. Most of the adults I know wouldn’t survive what they went through.
Children, and adults, who go through “the system” truly have the deck stacked against them. These are kids who weren’t given up for adoption, they’re kids who were removed from unsafe conditions. In even the *very* best situation, they are torn from the bonds of one family and forced to rebuild with another. And that is the best case.
So, I do have some guilt. I often wonder if I am making the right choices. I feel bad for not checking every single answer on homework. I feel bad that the kids aren’t doing more activites or classes. I feel bad when I see them make bad choices. I feel bad when they act out in public. I have my share of mom guilt. But, I think it’s a waste. 🙂 I adore my kids. I am pretty sure they know that. And I am doing my best. And I think that is all that I can do.