Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Our Story - Part III

Someone on a foster parent support board that I am part of just had two children removed from her home for abuse allegation. A woman in another group I belong to is facing allegations due to a bruise on a child who attended her home daycare. I, too, have dealt with allegations. I’ve posted about our current foster kids and our previous placement, but I’ve been holding off on writing about the beginning of our foster care journey. I have close friends, even family, who don’t know this story. It is shaming, embarrassing and heartbreaking. But it is the first part of our story.

We got license to be foster parents in September 2010. We didn’t get our first placement until May 2011. We got a few calls for children during that time, but thankfully they were able to find family for those kids. It has been eight months, though, and I was chomping at the bit for a placement. We got the call on a Friday for two sister, ages 2 and 3, who had been in care a year but needed a new home. There were concerns about possible special needs for the older one.  A week later I met them in their foster home, a week after that they moved in with us. My husband was out of town the whole first week they were with us. The older girl, J, was a handful, but after a week with them I was totally in love (yes, yes, I know, honeymoon period).

On their 10th day with us, we were playing outside in the backyard, just me and the girls. I had my back turned and was focusing on little B. It had only been a few minutes, but when I turned around, J was gone. The gate was still padlocked so I couldn’t figure out where she was. To make the longest 10 minutes of my life short, I called police, she was found 2 blocks away CROSSING A STREET and was almost hit by a car. The officer charged me with criminal child neglect. The girls were removed. I was totally, completely shattered.

I had just ended my first year of grad school and had been planning my summer solely around the girls. I suddenly had a ton of free time on my hands, so I basically ran away. I found an organization to volunteer with, got in my car and drove for 9 hours. Then I visited friends for a few weeks. Then I came home, picked up my husband, and we drove to the Midwest to attend a couple of weddings. I was gone about a month. Other than my immediate family, my husband’s parents and a couple of friends, I told no one. I was wracked with guilt and scared about the criminal charge. I was so sad about the additional trauma to the girls. It was not the high point of my life.

I was lucky. I had TONS of support from my agency and my friends. Four months, buckets of tears, panic attacks and thousands of dollars in lawyer fees later, we had court. The police officer chose not to attend. Apparently it wasn’t that big a deal to him. The case was dismissed. The representatives from my agency actually cheered, drawing a raised eyebrow from the judge. Less than two weeks later, we got called for A&N, who were the biggest joy of my life for 13 months. I also gained a new kind of compassion for birth parents. Now I know what it is like to face charges, to have children removed from my home against my will. It’s pretty freaking ugly.

People thought we were crazy for continuing to foster. My parents were not thrilled, mostly because they were worried about the liability for hubby and me. But fostering was my dream. We worked hard to get to that point. I was not giving it up just because our journey started with my worst nightmare. After all, it could only get better. It couldn’t get a lot worse, at least. I’m glad we stuck with it most of the time. But when I read about other foster parents facing (usually false) allegations, it breaks my heart for them and brings back all my old feelings of anxiety. It is always a reminder that what we do is dangerous for us. There is risk. There is great reward, but we can never forget the risk.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The beginning of TPR

The judge approved termination of SuperD’s mom’s parental rights on Friday. Dad’s hearing was continued for reasons I think are ridiculous. They will both appeal, so we’re still only at the very beginning of what will be probably a yearlong journey (that may end in adoption – hubby and I have been having some serious conversations lately!). I’m still trying to process my feelings about sitting through the TPR hearing and witnessing what is likely the end of a family relationship, tenuous as it was.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Heart to heart

So, I addressed the adoption comment with mom and dad after yesterday’s family visit. I was SUPER nervous about it and tried really hard to speak from my heart. Turns out, the conversation went great! I actually think if this case goes to adoption and there are no kinship options, they might even support us adopting her. I let them know that I can see during every visit how much they love their kids, how they try hard to engage them and play with them during visits and that as a foster parent, I appreciate how respectful they are to me.

I made sure they know that when I spoke with caseworker about an adoption option, I also talked to her about other ways to support Monkey were she to leave our home, such as offering to babysit, providing respite, etc. And I told them just because I asked about it does not mean that I hope the case goes to adoption. Obviously I can’t share details, but this case is weird. I’m not at all sure the tpr/adoption goal will be approved. I don’t know the whole story, but something just feels off to me about how and why the kids were removed and how services have proceeded since then.

After we were done talking, I told them that I was nervous all day and that I expected them to be pretty upset with hubby and me. I also encouraged them to keep fighting for their kids. I don't know if that was appropriate, but I can't take it back now. I guess we’ll find out next month at court what is going to happen, but I am SO relieved that I cleared the air with mom and dad.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Whine, whine...wine?

We had our family team meeting for Monkey today. It was enlightening and heartbreaking and did not end well. We left before the end because we had to pick up SuperD at preschool. Our social worker chose the moment we were leaving to announce to Monkey’s family that hubby and I are interested in adopting Monkey. Which made mom cry and prompted me to immediately get up, put my arm around mom and remind her that we were interested IF the case went that way, which is still a big if at this point, and that our job was first to support her and her family. I have busted my tail to develop a strong relationship with this mama, and social worker thought that telling her Monkey might stay with us would be comforting to her. It was the wrong thing to say at that moment.

We have a family visit tomorrow. I always take Monkey and get there early to help transition her over to mom because it takes her a while to warm up. I’m going to try to smooth things over with mom by speaking straight from my heart. Hubby and I WANT to tell her that she should fight tooth and nail, do everything possible, to keep from losing her kids, that we don't want to take her baby from her and that we think she can do what it takes to get them back.
I'm going to be much more PC and diplomatic than that, but that's what I'll be thinking.

In other fun meeting news, mom announced to the room that she thinks Monkey is spoiled and that she is very concerned about Monkey crying through each and every visit. Trying not to get defensive. I get to love her baby every day and that isn’t easy for her. Hubby said it felt like she was just grasping at straws at that point, but it felt like a direct attack on me.

Also, hubby and I have both had a stomach bug for the last 72 hours. I'm over this week and it's only Tuesday. We still have an Early Intervention assessment AND SuperD's goal change court date before the weekend. And I'm out of wine.

Monday, April 22, 2013


This morning, SuperD sat next to Monkey, held her hand, and sang softly, “SuperD is her, SuperD is here, SuperD is here,” over and over (using his real name). She often stops crying and smiles when she sees him, so he was really just trying to make her happy. It melted my heart.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Waiting for the call

Do all foster parents experience the nervous excitement of receiving a call for the next placement? On my cell phone, when social services calls the number shows as Unlisted. So I almost always know when they are calling me. And every time, even though I routinely have workers calling about Monkey and SuperD, I get a little tingle thinking it might be a placement call. I don’t want to be excited, exactly. It’s not that I feel any kind of happiness about a child who has to come into foster care. And several times, I’ve gotten called and accepted a placement only to be called back and told that a relative is on their way in from out of state. I really do feel joy when I get those calls. I know if a relative is willing to come, it is most likely the best place for that child.

But the seven times I’ve gotten a call, accepted, and then waited to hear back about when I can pick up the child or have them brought to our house? Immediate endorphin rush as I hurry to call hubby and tell him to expect a new kiddo, gather age appropriate items, plan logistics and try not to get TOO invested since I know they could call back at any time and tell me the child won’t be coming. I really don’t think there is any other feeling like this, at least not that I’ve experienced.I hadn’t been giving a lot of thought to new placements, since we’re at two. I think our file says we only want two, and that’s what we have actually said. But twice now, we’ve had three.

Right now, every time the phone rings, I find myself hoping it is a new placement. One I can accept, which really means a little girl since SuperD’s room is not conducive to sharing. Hubby and I have talked about it. Our agency doesn’t really allow you to check with your spouse prior to saying yes. They want you to be on the same page and know what you can and can’t handle. I’m okay with that and hubby knows that if we get a call for a 0-2 year old girl, there is virtually no chance I’m saying no. It doesn’t make a ton of sense as far as our life is concerned, but I feel like there is a child out there who is supposed to be in our home and who will be finding their way to us soon. Is that crazy?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Naptime is sacred

In the interest of not waking SuperD up from his 3 ½ hour-and-counting nap, I just crawled up the creaky stairs of my 72-year-old house on my hands and knees. His bedroom is at the top of said stairs and shares a wall with the stairwell. Don’t ask how I already knew that crawling is the quietest way to get up those stairs. Naptime is sacred in this house.