Monday, April 27, 2015

Foster Parent

Want to become a foster parent?  My previous post was about social workers.  I will say that most of the social workers that I have met are great.  However, not everyone is made out to be a social worker. The same applies to foster parents, there are some great ones and some not so great. Unfortunately it is those not so great ones that everyone notices.

The job of a foster parent is not an easy one.  Kids are brought to your door at any hour with nothing and you are expected to know what to do with this child staring back at you.  What do you say? What do you do with them?

I have had some kids that walked into my house and made themselves right at home.  I have had some kids walk in crying (actually very few).  I have also had some walk in and wait quietly for my lead.  Generally I quickly introduce them to everyone, show them their room and ask them if they are hungry.  Most of the time they say yes.

First meal is not some fancy homemade meal.  Actually it isn't homemade at all.  We normally order pizza.  It is a hit.  Although you may be the greatest cook in your county, to your new kids it will be unfamiliar food.  It is quite possible that most of their meals are fast food or out of a can.  You can ask them what they like to eat over a meal of pizza.  I find that they are normally very honest with that question.

On the occasion when you do get bags with the kids, go through it.  We had a foster parent in our county who had a baby for a month before she actually emptied the diaper bag.  Imagine her surprise when she found drug paraphernalia in there.  Yes, the diaper bag had been all over the place, even went to church.  Check the bags.  This also gives you an opportunity to see what the kids are going to need.  They will need something.

We stock up on basics when they go on sale.  We always have extra toothbrushes, toothpaste, clothing and even school supplies.  I organize clothing in my garage in tubs by sizes.  One of our earliest foster kids came at the end of winter.  It was still cold enough to require a coat but I couldn't find any to buy. They didn't come with coats so I had to layer lighter jackets.  The next year I stocked up on clearance coats for all sizes and sexes.  Every state is different but in our county we get $100 clothing allowance to get what the kids need.  When you look at the cost of shoes, socks, underwear, and other clothing items you can quickly go over $100.  By having a stash I am able to concentrate on important items.  Most of the time the biggest expense is shoes. I buy nice shoes, often they have never had nice shoes and it is amazing how much they love them.

So you get the kids settled in and the journey begins.  This could be short term or years.  They could tell you it is short term but that doesn't always mean anything.  The thing to remember at this stage is that your job is to foster the children.  Do not start talking about how much you want to adopt the child at this stage.  Do not try to sabotage the parents.  At this point you should be working with the parents, reunification is the plan.  You should develop a relationship with the parents.  I still have relationships with some of my foster children who went home and their parents.

If you are doing foster parent because of a burning desire to adopt be aware that adoption may not happen for years.  You may have many kids in your home before a case goes to adoption.  Or your first case may.  Be prepared to support reunification because that is what foster care is.  Be prepared to be heartbroken, because all foster parents are at one time or another.

There will come a time when either the parents are working their plan and reunification seems imminent or it is apparent that they are not.  If reunification is not looking apparent, at some point a social worker will ask you if you will adopt if it goes to adoption. This is the time to speak up. You do not have to adopt, you can say no and they will look for an adoptive placement.  Never adopt because you feel that you are required to. We have adopted children from foster care but we have let some be moved as well.  I remember one little girl who was going to be available for adoption and we said no.  She was only three years old.  It was hard but we had just adopted Larissa and Anthony and it didn't feel like the time was right.  She did get adopted and I think about her at times.

Foster parenting can be a challenge but it can also be a joy.  Some kids will steal your heart and others you will be glad to see them go home.  You never know what to expect and should be prepared for anything.  It is always good to have some support from your local foster parents or others who have fostered.  Others really won't understand all that you are dealing with.

I could write so much about my experiences but I would bore everyone.  Anyone with specific questions?  Any recommendations from other foster parents? I'd love to hear stories of other foster parents.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Social Workers

I stopped off at DSS this week to drop off some paperwork.  I sat and talked with Little Man's social worker.  We talked a few minutes about Little Man's case (not much to say since not much is going on). Then she closed the door and we proceed to talk.

I mentioned a while back that locally we had a foster parent who was planning on adopting her foster child only to be shocked when she went to court to find that someone else had brought their own lawyer with the intent of adopting their child. The baby had been with the foster family since birth. This social worker was the one who had to go to that home and take the child away from the only home that he had known.  She was powerless to do anything.  She felt it was so wrong.  The DSS lawyer did a very unethical thing and it was one of her friends who adopted the baby.

This social worker is still dealing with the pain of removing that baby.  She is frustrated that she was powerless to do anything.  As she sat there talking I wondered if they ever have therapists come in and talk with the social workers.  We see so much pain as foster parents but as a social worker they see so much more.

I am not going to talk about whether social workers are good or bad.  Social workers are human. They make judgments every day, some better than others.  They make these judgments based on their own life history and experiences.  Every day they are lied to by numerous parties.  I would imagine that they would get cynical after years of working in the field.

I have seen their pain.  A few years ago DSS, GAL and foster parent asked that a specific child not go home.  The judge sent him home.  He was dead within a few months.  Terrible.  Ask any social worker involved in that case and they talk abut how powerless they were to prevent that child's death. The judge made a judgment call and the child paid the price.  I am not sure why he went against DSS and the GAL recommendations.  I wonder if he will do that again.  When the social workers talk about that case, you hear their pain.

When we had Emma and Michelle placed with us they came from a disrupted adoptive placement. The previous adoptive home had never fostered, they were not prepared.  They looked good on paper but had no clue what they were getting themselves into.  The kids paid the price for that, another move.  The social worker who placed them in that home also placed them in our home.  She gave us every bit of information about the girls.  She wanted to make sure that they did not move again.  One day she talked to me, she told me of her regret about placing the girls in the other home.  She said that she couldn't see placing kids in a home without foster or adoption experience.  When she talked with me she was coming from a painful place.

I have developed relationships with a lot of social workers over the years.  I have been the listening ear to many frustrations and painful experiences. Every day they see pain and loss.  I can't say if social workers are good or bad, I can tell you that they are hurting too.  Before you judge, stop and think, what has my social worker been dealing with this week.  Am I helping or hurting her efforts?

Next, the foster parent responsibilities.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


Little Man has been keeping me quite busy. He has 4 molars coming in at the same time and last week got his 12 month immunizations. He was a little late because every time I took him in he had ear infections.  He is a tough little guy, no fever or ear pulling to let me know that he was in pain.

He is a busy little guy, always into something.

He is so determined to get his shoes on my himself.  I expect to hear him say "me do it" someday soon.

I will say that I am an advocate for immunizations. I knew and adult that had polio as a child.  It gave him a life full of challenges. Having my children immunized helps the children who are too young or too sick and can't get protected.

However, I am not a huge advocate of the sheer number of shots they give at one time. I was surprised when they came in with 4 shots.  I had some reservations because of his teething.  I should have listened to my instincts.  I should have requested that he get two that day and the other two in a few weeks.

He came home and took a nap.  After he woke up from his nap he wouldn't leave my lap.  He was miserable, feverish and not himself.  The child who played with a double ear infection was laid low by those shots.  I held him until my husband got home and then he held him for a long while.  He laid there crying and hot. Going outside (his favorite thing) didn't perk him up.  He just had to work through it.

It seems like kids get a lot more shots now then when my older ones were young. So I went searching and found that it was true.  However, the number of visits hasn't increased.  Why do they not spread the vaccines out more?  I know that next time I will be more aware and will not allow more than two at a time.

There is a lot of debate about vaccines at this time.  The only one that I haven't given my kids is the HPV.  That is for older girls, not infants.  Anyone have an opinion on that specific one?  I have heard some very negative things about it.

Recommended Vaccines (1975-1994)

MMR (new)
The measlesmumps, and rubella vaccine began to be more widely used after mumps vaccination was recommended for all children in 1977.
In 1977, 57,345 cases of measles were reported in the United States. By 1984, the number of cases had fallen by 95%, to 2,587.
HIB (new)
A polysaccharide vaccine for Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) was licensed for use in children 18 months and older in 1985. It was replaced by conjugate vaccines licensed in 1990 and recommended in 1991. After introduction of the vaccine, the number of meningitis-related deaths from Hib dropped from 600 to fewer than 10 per year.
Hepatitis B (new)
The hepatitis B vaccine was recommended for all infants beginning in 1991.
Polio (OPV)

Recommended Vaccines (2005-present)

HPV (new)
The first human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was licensed in 2006 and recommended by ACIP for girls and women aged 11-26. The vaccination is licensed for use in boys and men, but ACIP has not recommended such use.
Hepatitis A (new)
The first hepatitis A vaccine was licensed in 1995 and recommended for all children on May 19, 2006.
Meningococcal (new)
Since 2005, the meningococcal vaccine has been recommended for all adolescents at age 11-12.
Hepatitis B
In 2010, ACIP expanded its previous recommendation for seasonal influenza vaccination to include all people older than 6 months who do not have a contraindication to the vaccine.
The CDC has stated that “before introduction of a vaccine in 2006, rotavirus caused an estimated 20 to 60 deaths [and] 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations…in the U.S. each year.” A study of representative U.S. laboratories showed that in 2008-2009 the number of positive rotavirus test results was 60% lower than in the prevaccine era.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Respite Care

We did respite care on Friday and Saturday.  A 5 month old who was wearing a size 1 diaper and a very skinny 2 year old.  At 6 am the 2 year old walked into my home.  Literally walked in Athe front door and sized up the place.  I guess we passed because she came up to me and said. "Mom, I hungry."  Well, naturally I fed her.

She made herself right at home and didn't want to leave when it was time to go.  She isn't the first foster child to have this reaction. No cares about separation from their foster family.  No mention of any other mom.  This little one was quite a talker.  If you had come by you would have thought that she had been with us for a long time. We called her Little Bit because her foster mom quickly told me both girls names but said they call her Little Bit.  Honestly, I couldn't pronounce the names let alone spell them.  So we had Little Bit and Munchkin (we named the 5 month old).

I am amazed at how many kids walk into our home with no tears.  It is easier to number those that cried for their mom then to number the ones who don't.  I often wonder why.  I hand Little Man off to the church nursery to a flood of tears each Sunday. I don't think that he would calmly walk into a strangers home, there would be tears.

We are often called by DSS to see if we will do respite care.  For those who don't know, respite care in foster care is when a foster family needs someone to take care of their foster child for a short period of time.  Typically foster families do respite care for other foster families.  We are licensed so no one has to worry about SLED checks and such. The family that provides respite care is paid the per diem rate, here that is a little over $10/day.

We try to say yes every time they call.  On the other hand, we try to use respite ourselves as little as possible.  Our Little Man has never gone to respite care.  He simply goes on vacation with us. Many foster parents take their kids on vacation with them.  Some never do and some had plans prior to kids coming into their care that can't accommodate other kids. We have also done respite care for a sick foster mom, another foster mom needed a break from behaviors, so it is not used for just vacations.

While I don't like to use respite care, it can sometimes be necessary. Has any of my readers been a respite provider?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Plans to Homeschool

I have mentioned that I plan on homeschooling Larissa next year.  Traditional school and her seizures are just not working for her.  We are hobbling along for the rest of the school year.  She has missed 26 days of school this year, many of those related to her seizures.

Another child we have been dealing with is Emma.  I really felt that she needed to be retained this year.  We feel that emotionally and academically she is really not ready for the third grade.  We had a meeting with her school and they told us that she is actually testing fine and would be bored in the third grade.  This didn't match with the struggles I see with homework and her weekly grades but it is hard to fight with the numbers from their testing.

Over spring break we received her latest testing in the mail.  She tested below grade level in every subject.  My husband asked me why we weren't having her retained.  As I sat there thinking about our options the thought came to me that she needed to be homeschooled next year.  Her behavior at school has been good, she has acclimated to that environment well.  However, she is still emotionally and in my opinion academically struggling.

She has come a long way with attachment. However, I feel as though I need to work on my attachment with her more.  I love her, I am attached to her but those early years of tantrumming and fighting attachment on her part have taken their toll on me.  She still tends to have tantrums at times. They are much shorter in duration but take a toll nonetheless. We discuss these tantrums after she is calmed down but so far they continue. I hope that as we both take the time to work on attachment that perhaps some of her old coping behaviors will dissipate.

I think that by homeschooling I can better understand Emma and her emotional and academic needs. Next year shall be very interesting indeed.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Gambler


a. To bet on an uncertain outcome, as of a contest.
b. To play a game of chance for stakes.
2. To take a risk in the hope of gaining an advantage or a benefit.
3. To engage in reckless or hazardous behavior: You are gambling with your health by continuing to smoke.
1. To put up as a stake in gambling; wager.
2. To expose to hazard; risk: gambled their lives in a dangerous rescue mission.
1. bet, wager, or other gambling venture.
2. An act or undertaking of uncertain outcome; a risk: took a gamble that stock prices would rise.

I have come to realize that I have a gambler.  My gambler doesn't care if the stakes are high or low.  She is wiling to gamble that she won't get caught.  

I came to this conclusion yesterday after a small incident.  We were having stew for dinner and Michelle asked if she could get some bread with butter.  I told her to go get it but to not put a lot of butter on it.  I repeated myself (this has been an issue).  She was actually using margarine and I don't see much nutritional value in it.  We have been disagreeing over her margarine usage.  By too much I mean almost a 1/2 inch of butter on a piece of bread.  I have showed her how to butter her bread.

She is sitting next to me at the dinner table when I look at her half eaten bread.  There was more than a 1/4 inch of butter.  I looked at her and asked her if she did what I asked about the butter. She said no.  I asked her why.  She said she didn't know.  I get that answer often.  Then I told her that I wouldn't accept that answer.  What was she thinking or feeling when she chose to slather on that margarine.  She paused for a minute and then said that she thought she might be able to get away with it.

Now the issue with butter may not seem like a big issue.  It isn't the butter it is the disregard for what I tell her.  All day, every day she disregards our rules and things that I tell her.  I imagine that many times she gets away with the small things in the busyness of our family.  Every time she gets away with it she feels that she has won the lottery.  Obviously for her the consequences aren't enough to stop her.  Honestly I am out of ideas for consequences.  

So every day, all day Michelle is gambling.  She is betting that she won't get caught.  She wins often enough that she is willing to gamble on not getting caught. The consequences aren't high enough to make her stop.

Yes, I have a gambler.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Pink Zebra Striped Furniture

This piece has been sitting buried in my garage for some time now.  Emma asked to have it a while back and I said she could.  Since my back was better I spent Monday cleaning out the garage so I could get it out!  Yes, it took all day because it was in the back.....and my garage is full of projects waiting to happen.

Emma requested pink zebra stripes and wanted green somewhere. Tuesday I made progress.

Today I finished it.  She loves it.  Now we just need to get it moved upstairs.