Thursday, March 28, 2013

Losing sleep

As always, life has been a whirlwind.

Last week, we had SuperD’s permanency hearing. It got continued for a reason that is unfathomable to me. One person, his guardian ad litum, was sick. Okay, if she had anything to contribute, I would understand postponing. However, this is a person who has NOT ONCE in almost 8 months met SuperD or even made any contact with me. How exactly is her courtroom absence worth delaying SuperD’s permanency? She doesn’t care about my kiddo. She’s being paid  (admittedly, not much I’m sure) to do a job she’s not doing. And NOW we’re in an awkward spot because we may have to resume contact with SuperD’s mom, which he hasn’t had in almost a month. SuperD is struggling so much right now that inviting this contact back into his life is going to be really, really rough on him and on hubby and me. This whole situation just sucks.

Meanwhile, it looks like Monkey’s relative placement option is falling through and they MIGHT be requesting a TPR/adoption goal for her in May. Normally we would be excited, albeit heartbroken for a bio-mama who is trying SO hard but will likely just not be able to parent. However, Monkey has four siblings in another home. While I know we’ll be considered to adopt her, I wonder if that is even fair to her. Should she grow up away from her siblings, who are all together? They adore her. I see it at visits every month. Placing them together was not an option, but don’t they deserve the chance to be raised together if they can find a family who will take all five? Or do we somewhat selfishly pursue adoption of a baby we, too, adore, with a commitment to keeping in contact with her sibs?

Even though I know ultimately I will have little, if any, control over what happens with either child, these situations are keeping me up at night. What ifs churn in my brain for hours after bedtime. I think I’ve been awake until 4 a.m. at least twice in the last week. Hubs and I feel like we are overanalyzing everything, but that’s just how we are. We just want what is best for our little ones.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sometimes it's funny...

When I fold laundry downstairs, I send SuperD upstairs to his room with small piles to put away. Usually socks, then underwear, then shirts, etc. Today I found a pile of socks and underwear in the closet in our loft upstairs, not in his room and nowhere near his dresser. I was annoyed. This was several days worth of clothes and I had been wondering where all of his socks were. When I asked him about it, he told me, “Sometimes it’s funny to hide things.” So then I had to try not to laugh while asking him to please follow directions in the future. But really, he’s right. And sometimes I don’t need to take the small things so seriously. Sometimes, it’s funny to hide your underwear in the closet!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Down to the wire

We are coming out of a rough 24-hour downward spiral at my house. For the most part, other than some overwhelming ADHD symptoms, SuperD is fairly easy to parent. He is challenging in the way 4-year-old boys are. He is challenging in the way kids who have had 4 homes in less than a year are. But he has “only” been in foster care for 15 months and there is a good chance we will be his forever home. There are definitely days I forget I’m parenting a special needs child (as I consider ALL foster children special needs). And then there are days where it is, so clear that his needs go beyond that of a typical child and I question whether we can even begin to meet them. Whether we want to meet them forever.

I have perused a lot of foster/adopt blogs. Recently I have been seeking older child adoption blogs and resources. I know at age 4, SuperD isn’t really an older child. But I need an idea of the worst case scenario of what to expect if we adopt him. I’m learning a lot. Things could be MUCH worse with/for SuperD. Many, many foster and adoptive parents deal with challenges and daily struggles that I cannot even begin to comprehend. And those homes are filled with anxiety, rage, chaos, struggles, hope, laughter and, most importantly, LOVE.  Our home is filled with those things, too. Some days, the rage is mine and I have to fight myself to keep it on a therapeutic parenting level.

The hubby and I feel like pessimists, like we are overthinking this. Like there is something wrong with us for not just feeling that he is our child and that we want to tackle anything he may throw at us. But there it is. We’re just not sure. And in 48 hours, the state is going to ask for a goal of TRP/adoption, so our time to make a decision is rapidly coming to a close. We want to wholeheartedly desire to parent SuperD. And we know we can be good parents to him. I feel like we need to get out of our own heads and make this decision with our hearts. Why is that so hard??

P.S. This post was actually supposed to be about working through a 24-hour cycle of anxiety, tantrums and being “stuck.” Another day, I guess.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Decision time

We just got SuperD’s permanency hearing paperwork in the mail. It request a goal change to Termination of Parental Rights/Adoption. We REALLY need to decide if we’re going to pursue adoption or start getting ready for him to transition into an adoptive home. I never thought this choice would be so difficult for us.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

KNOWING but not understanding

I KNOW the goal of foster care is to reunite kids with their parents or relatives and achieve permanency. I KNOW what I signed up to do as a foster mom. In addition to being a foster parent, I am a social worker, so I KNOW exactly what the outcomes are for children who are removed from their families of origin (and it isn’t always good, no matter how stable and loving a home they grow up in).

So why am I so heartbroken to hear that A & N will not be returning to our home after five months in their kinship placement? Their caregivers are feeling very overwhelmed with N’s recently surfaced behaviors (um…duh, three moves in 13 months for a toddler). I love the relatives they live with and want to support them as much as possible. They live out of state, so physically helping them isn’t an option.

However, when they recently contacted me and said they were planning to relinquish the girls in April – even though I KNEW that there was another approved relative placement for them – I allowed a teeny, tiny part of myself to hope they might come back to us. Yesterday I learned that the caregivers have decided to keep them. They have good reasons for doing so, and I am honestly thrilled that the girls will have permanency and not have to move again. But still…I keep thinking about how it could have gone if they’d been returned to us. Sometimes I just don't understand life works out the way it does.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Our Story - Part II

Even though there is a Part III to our story (which is actually where our foster care journey started – confused yet?), it feels like we really started here, with sisters A & N. We got called for them in September 2011. They turned into our first long-term placement.

A was 2 weeks old and N was 12 months old at the time. Naturally, hubby was out of town for the week. I got called in the middle of my late afternoon class (at the time I was in grad school) and was barely able to sit through the rest of class. We’d gotten calls before where the agency ended up finding relatives to take the kids, so I wasn’t entirely sure this would pan out. I went home and started trying to figure out how to convert our crib from a toddler bed back into a crib. I frantically looked for our pack n play. I made a list of things I would likely need – diapers, bottles, wine.

Around 8 pm, I finally got confirmation that they were coming to us and I needed to go to the agency office to pick them up. I was terrified. I prayed they came with car seats. I got there and it was pouring rain. We quickly signed paperwork and I begged someone to help me install the car seats in my car (one came with the girls, one was borrowed from the agency). That’s how clueless I was – I had no idea how to install a car seat with a seatbelt and no base.

A was teeny tiny. N was confused and needed a bath. N was also in an infant seat that was WAY too small for her and reeked of smoke, as did every single item that came with them. Thankfully, there was a few days’ supply of diapers, wipes and formula. I got them home, unloaded them, and called my husband. I had no clue what to do with these tiny people. We had no bio kids and the short-term placements we'd had were toddlers and preschoolers.

By 10 pm, we were all in tears. N finally passed out in the pack n play, A fell sleep in her car seat. I called my husband, crying that I was going to return them so they could go to a family who knew what they were doing. It was not my finest hour.

Fortunately, I woke up the next day with new resolve. I called in to my (very, very supportive) internship, packed the girls in the car and proceeded to spend a small fortunate at Wal-Mart. I seriously bought ALL.THE.BABY.THINGS. Three days later, my husband came home. Two days after that, he left for another week and the girls and I all got horrendous colds. I figured if I could survive on my own, with these two little strangers, while sick, then I was probably in it for the long haul.

That haul turned out to be 13 of the best months ever. We fell deeply, deeply in love with these girls and were both heartbroken and happy for them when they left to a kinship placement out of state. We have been very fortunate to have a good relationship with their family and have stayed in touch via email and the occasional phone call. Exactly one week after they left, we got the call for Monkey and we started the process over again.

Riding the foster care roller coaster

Another roller-coaster week in the life of foster care. Monkey is really coming into her own. I love this 6-month age, where they’re starting to explore the world around them. They’re so cute and fun!  And SuperD gets funnier every day. Today he announced that his eyes are gray and green and white and purple. Okaaay, buddy, if you say so!

The kids are the good part, the slow, steady ride up the roller-coaster. Before the bottom drops out. They’re the reason we do it. Getting the phone call, preparing for a new kiddo, meeting the family and getting excited about developing a positive relationship with them. The snuggles, the kisses, knowing that we are giving them a sense of safety and security. That was yesterday in our house, all warm-fuzzies. We are currently watching SuperD’s attachment behaviors change, and it is fascinating. That’s a post for another day.

Then there’s the heart-wrenching downhill slide. The part where your stomach jumps into your throat and you aren’t sure why you ever got on this ride to begin with. That’s pretty much been today in our house. A phone call, potentially bittersweet news about a former placement. Confusion about the status of a parent of one of our current kiddos, and frustration that no one at the agency seems to know or care. Feeling like we are the sole advocates for the precious little ones entrusted to us, even though we have literally no ability to make an actual decision about their lives. It’s heady stuff, and today it is all feeling like a bit much.

But just when I think we should talk about getting out of the foster care biz, I get more sweet smiles, giggles, kisses and love and remember that I can’t really imagine life any other way right now.