Wednesday, November 30, 2011


This morning at the bus stop, O gave L a big hug just before the bus pulled up. She immediately directed him towards Edmund and then Susan, making sure they got goodbye hugs, too. We've come such a long way since this day.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


There were a lot of things that we knew we'd be providing to the foster children in our care. Before we even started the training process, we were excited about offering:
  1. a safe place to sleep
  2. warm, weather-appropriate clothing
  3. plenty of food
  4. lights/heat/air conditioning that stay on
  5. warm water for bathing
By the time we'd been through the 20 hours of foster parent training that the state requires, we understood we'd also be giving:
  1. structure
  2. consistent rules and consequences
  3. help with homework
  4. a family environment in which to live
It wasn't until after L and O arrived that we saw that we were also:
  1. an example -- possibly the first one -- of a functional adult relationship
  2. teaching responsibility for one's own actions and behaviors.
I thought I knew how much I, and my children, had to be thankful for; I didn't really get it. Until a saw the lack of those things in the eyes of a child.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Well, at least foster care did that for her . . .

L's dental work -- which took 4 separate visits to the pediatric dentist, not including the initial diagnosis and cleaning -- is complete! If nothing else, being in foster care has gotten her teeth fixed. <end of pessimistic vent>

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Why is the government the only entity that is allowed to withhold the money it owes you for an indefinite period of time?

I've read the articles accusing foster parents of "making money" and so I'm hesitant to even complain. And from what I hear, we actually have it better than some foster parents, because the agency makes sure our per diem is paid every month.

The per diem is a daily rate -- a flat amount which varies based on the age of the child -- paid for each night the child spends in my home. It's supposed to help off-set some of the costs of feeding and housing an extra person. (Adding two little people has doubled our water bill. The washing machine runs 1-2 times a day, the dishwasher runs 5-6 times a week, and that doesn't even include all the water for baths, hand washing, brushing teeth, using the toilet . . . That's one utility.) The reality is that we couldn't afford to foster without that help.

We're also supposed to get reimbursed (up to a certain amount) for some expenses -- clothing, hair cuts, school supplies . . . . The reimbursement doesn't come close to covering what most kids actually need, much less the things that it seems "every body else has" -- which is why I shake my head at the idea that anybody makes money doing this -- but it means we only have to go out of pocket for the extras.

For those reimbursements, every month we fill out the form requesting the money, attach the original receipts and mail it. Since L and O arrived, I have sent 4 months worth of expenses. We haven't seen a reimbursement yet. Currently, the state owes us around $633 in reimbursable expenses. If it were anyone but the government, I could probably sue them for failing to pay within 90 days.

We aren't in it for the money. But, we also aren't really in a position to float the government a $600+ loan with no interest and no definite date for repayment. If we were also having to chase down our per diem, I think we'd be seriously considering getting out of the system because we'd be owing interest on a credit card on that money.

Honestly, it reminds me of filing a tax return. If I owe the IRS, I'd better pay on time; if they owe me, I'll get the money . . . sometime.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Learning Curve

L went to the dentist this week. This is her third (but not last) visit to repair some teeth -- serious decay issues. Bio parents are encouraged to attend medical visits -- because reunification is still the goal and they are still expected to behave like a parent -- but I have to be present as well, because I'm the one responsible for the ongoing care. I need to know what she can eat and how soon and I will schedule the next appointment at my convenience, not the bio parents'.

This is the second one her mom has attended. The first time, I had arranged for a babysitter at my house for O. This time, the only approved babysitter I could find was supposed to be at work that day. I suggested that she just meet me at the appointment and play with O in the waiting room -- pediatric dentist, so lots of stuff to do out there -- so that she would be out of the office as little as possible. I won't do that again.

It was really the first time I've observed their mother interacting with the two of them at once and I saw some things that explained a lot about how both O and L behave. They aren't "bad" kids, but they honestly don't seem to understand that 'No' means 'no' and that pouting when you don't get what you want isn't OK.

The worst part was when O said he was hungry. I reminded him that we'd said we were going to eat after the dentist and he was going to have to wait. Mom gave him a snack out of her car.

I really wasn't sure what the HELL I was supposed to do. If he were my child, I'd have refused the snack on his behalf. But I'm supposed to encourage both of them to remember that he's her child, so who's in charge here?

Then L wanted some and Mom -- thank God! -- told her she couldn't have it because she was about to see the dentist. L started whining and pouting and I couldn't ignore it and told her to quit it. She stopped -- immediately! -- and Mom said she would bring her something at their next visit, then asked her if that was OK.

Wait? What?! Is that OK with the 8 year old? She's old enough to get that she can't have something because of where she is and that should be the end of it. Don't ask your child their permission for you to behave like a parent.

That evening I sent an email off to all of the contacts involved: Caseworker, CASA, foster agency consultant. I documented the visit and asked how I should have handled these (and other) things.

The CASA's response made me feel worlds better. "She's usurping your authority and someone should talk to her about it." OK, then.

I've never been very good about asserting myself, and I really hate confrontations. I hoped that I wasn't going to be told I should have said something in the waiting room -- in front of the kids? -- when she handed over a snack I had said would not be forthcoming.

The reaction was quite the opposite. Email after email flew through my inbox. The DFCS Caseworker would talk to her about this. I was doing a great job and showing "tremendous patience." The result of my speaking up at that moment probably would have been exactly the sort of dramatic argument I was fearing, and I was right to try to avoid that in the presence of the kids. The last one startled me the most. My agency consultant told the DFCS caseworker that if the mother continued to undermine the work I was doing with the kids, she should not be allowed to come to the medical visits anymore.

Sometimes I am so focused on the hope that the bio parents will learn to be the parents that these children deserve to have that I forget there is a reason that "parenting classes" are a part of their case plan.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

We Are Not Saints

I bet every foster parent has heard it. "You are such a blessing to those children . . . I know you're doing great work . . . It's such a wonderful thing you are doing for them . . . "

I don't know how to respond to these kind, well-intentioned people without being rude. I can brush off the casual "Oh, I could never do THAT"s and the "How will you let them go?"s with relative grace and ease. But I cannot figure out how to respond to the person who is putting my husband and I personally on a pedastal.

What makes it hard is that I feel -- deep, down in my heart-of-hearts -- that they're right. We are stepping up to do a wonderful thing in opening our home and our family to children in desperate need of a stable home life. I hope to be a blessing in their lives.

BUT . . .

It's not about us. We didn't enter into foster parenting to put a trophy on the wall: "See us? Walking the walk of caring for God's people right here!"

We entered to foster parenting because we felt called to answer a need. And the NEED is where we need to place our focus, not on our wonderfulness of filling it.

Mr D and I both cringe when the praise goes on because we're afraid. Afraid that the focus is on the wrong thing. Afraid that the need will go unnoticed. Afraid we'll buy into it the personal accolades and forget why we're here in the first place.