Sunday, December 23, 2012

Baby Brother

Got a call last week from the agency caseworker for L & O. She reminded me that I offered to do respite for the foster home in which they were placed after we said we couldn't take them. Although L & O themselves have moved to a family placement, Baby Brother has not. (The family member with whom L & O are placed is on their father's side and Baby Brother has a different daddy.)

Baby Brother might need to spend a few days in respite -- could I do it? It wasn't the best timing, but it was manageable, so I said yes. They told me there as a 50/50 chance they would need me. The foster home wanted to take him with them on an out of town family trip and BioMom was saying No. The caseworker was hoping to either change her mind or get a judge to overrule her, but wanted to have something in place if that didn't work out.

He was here for 3 nights. And he was the most precious, sweetest, happiest, easiest not-quite-1-year-old I have ever seen. And I exhausted myself waking up to see if he was crying when he was not. :)

I didn't know his foster mom previously. And now that I've interacted with her, I think I understand why BioMom wouldn't let them take him along. (When I agreed to do it, I wondered why she would--she never refused to let us take L & O anywhere.) Foster Mom is totally and completely head over heels for that baby (can't blame her!) and she talks about him as though he's already hers. She called me 3 or 4 times each day, "just to check on him, is he OK?" When they picked him up from us they were taking him to see Santa, and -- let's face it -- an under 1 year old seeing Santa? That's for the parents, not the child. And a bit of the experienced parent in me was shocked to see Foster Dad wake up sleeping Baby Brother to say hello when they picked him up. (We met them partway between our houses and Baby Brother was sound asleep in his carseat--one of the infant ones that you take out of the car with the baby still in it.)

If Foster Mom talks about that baby around his BioMom with even half the possessive attitude* she showed me, I am sure that BioMom said No to the travel just to remind her that she is still that boy's mother.

I don't know anything about the case, so I don't know what Foster Mom was promised in terms of availablity to adopt.

I do know that Foster Mom has no other children in her home and is looking to grow her family.

And I do know that Baby Brother is having regular visits with BioMom.

*Foster Mom wasn't rude or ugly. On the contrary, she was apologetic for calling so often and thankful to us for taking him while they were gone; it wasn't a trip she could choose not to take and she would rather have had him go with her. It was just very clear to me that she's not only attached to Baby Brother, and sees him as a member of her family, but that she is uncomfortable being separated from him....which I don't think would play well to a bioparent who is being kept separated from him!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Asperger's and Connecticut

Because I have such a young one in the house, we have not watched much of the coverage of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.

We discussed what happened with Peter and Susan. We encouraged them to continue to talk to us whenever they want or need to do so, but to ensure that we are in private when they do so. Edmund and S are young enough to not need to know any of the details. (At 3, S doesn't need to know anything about it all.)

But even within that little bubble, the latest stories connecting the shooter's behavior's to a supposed Asperger's diagnosis have filtered through.

And it makes me furious.

Asperger's can cause over-reactions to frustrations, disruptions and disappointments. Some people with Asperger's react to stress by lashing out.

But it is not a condition that should have made anyone expect that young man to pick up a gun and start shooting people.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Best laid plans

So, we had that lovely review panel.

And we talked about changing the visit location between the time with Mom and the time with Dad and I was all excited about that.

The next visit.....first with Mom (at McDonald's), then with Dad (possibly at a nearby park).

Except that when the supervisor picked S up, she told me she hadn't been able to reach Dad to confirm the plan, so she wasn't sure how it would actually all play out. 30 minutes into the visit with Mom, I got a call from the supervising person. Dad is "unavailable" for the visit today, she tells me carefully, and asks if I'll be at home 2 hours sooner than originally planned.

"Unavailable" = back in jail. He was out long enough to have one visit with her and to attend the review panel.

At least nobody told S he was sick again. (S is of the opinion that he had to go to work, a lie with which I am perfectly comfortable.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Moments That Break Your Heart -- Take two

She's 3. She's been in my home for about 4 months. One night, we changed the usual evening routine, so I could attend something with the older kids. She's staying home with the other parent in the household, with whom she is perfectly comfortable. When I told her where I was going and who was going to get her dinner and put her to bed, she said, "OK." Then I said good bye and she looked at me solemnly and asked, "Will you come back?"

She's 8. After a year in your home, she's finally reuniting with family. During the time she was with you, she had regularly scheduled contact (in person and on the phone) with both Mom and Dad as well as some grandparents and occasional contact with aunts, uncles and cousins on Dad's side. Her parents are not on good terms with each other, and the grandparents have told you that this year has been the most regular contact they've ever had with her. She's going back to Mom. After the initial excitement to be "going home," she turns to you with tears in her eyes and asks you if she'll ever see Daddy again. The truth? Probably not.

She's 3. When she got in the car with the caseworker to come to my house, she asked him if he was taking her to jail.

He's 5. You went to the grocery store while he was at school and bought more of the cereal that had become his favorite breakfast since he's been in your home. When he saw the groceries after school, he got very excited. 30 minutes later, you get the call. Pack him up, he's going to Dad's tonight. When you tell him, his first reaction is disappointment because "Daddy doesn't have that cereal." Yes, I sent the box of cereal with him. Dad was probably offended, but I don't care.

She's 3. She's in the car about to head to her first visit with her Daddy since she came into care. As she's being strapped in to the car seat, the transporter's phone rings. No visit. Daddy's in jail. Guess it could have been worse...we didn't arrive at the visit and wait for him only to have him not show up.

He's aged out, without ever finding a permanent family that would claim him as their own. Living on his own and managing OK. He tells you that there a lots of places he can go for Thanksgiving. There are a number of families that would happily welcome him into their home for that celebration. But, he continues, "there isn't one house where -- if I'm not there -- they'll miss me."

She's 3. You're sitting outside at a coffee shop having a snack, when a police cruiser slowly drives by. She watches it until it is out of sight, then turns to you and identifies it as "the police." When you agree, she says, "they ain't coming to take you away?"

She's 8. You received donated Christmas gifts for her that included a board game you already own, so you held onto the new game to be "hers" when she went home without telling her about it. Now, she's reunifying with Mom, so you sent the new game to her mother inside a box, having explained out of earshot what's in it. When she comes back from the next visit, she excitedly tells you that Mom got her "an early welcome home present" and it's the game. With a secret smile, you tell her that's great, pleased that Mom was able to use it in that way. But what this child is the most excited about? "It's new and it has all the pieces!"

She's 3. When she started having visits with her mother, she would sob and scream and cry when it was time to separate again at the end of the visit -- she wanted to stay with her Mommy so badly! Now, she waves goodbye to Mommy with a smile as she gets in the car to head back to your house. As much as I am happy not to have to tear her screaming away from her mother, it also breaks my heart that she's OK with it now.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review Panel

As I've said before, S's case is a different county than we've ever worked with before.

One of the things I'm learning is that every county is different. Sometimes very different. So, each new county feels like I'm a first time foster parent all over again.

Anyway, in S's county, they have these things called a "review panel." Instead of going before the judge every 3 months (as they did in L & O's county), they alternate between court with a judge and a meeting in a conference room with "members of the community" and the parties involved in the case. No judges, no attorneys. (Well, there weren't any attorneys there this time--I don't know if they aren't allowed or if they just didn't come.) The child is supposed to attend as well, but is sent out of the room to a play room before the detailed talk about the case starts. (Boy was I glad that Mr D and I both went! One of us went out of the room with S, the other stayed for the whole meeting.)

The review panel goes over the case, talks about the case plans, hears from the parents and the caseworkers about how much progress is being made, then makes recommendation to the judge on whether the current placement is OK or if something needs to change.

S had her first review panel today, and I am really liking this system.

The meeting is held in a conference room around a table and is more of a discussion than a hearing. When the parents have concerns about how something is working, the group talks together and brainstorms ideas to improve it within the already established rules. In S's case, her mother said she felt like 4 hours at one McDonald's wasn't the best arrangement for S's visits with both parents (2 hours with each, but scheduled back-to-back at the same location); she said -- and I agree with her -- that she felt like that was a long time for S to have to spend in one small play area. The caseworkers laid out the limits--has to be in public, should involve interaction (not going to a movie, for example), must be within 15 miles of the town in which I live (to minimize the travel time for S). They talked about parks or a nearby mall and the possibility of having the visit location change between parents. (For example, maybe Mom could see her at the park from 9-11 and then Dad could meet her at a nearby McDonald's for lunch from 11:30-1:30; the next time, they would switch the order, so that they each got a turn at the park and at lunch.) I hope that plan actually happens, by the way -- I think the visits would be a much better bonding experience if they were a little more varied, and I've mentioned before that I worry about the financial impact of asking the bioparents to buy a fast-food meal every time they see their child. (This alternating system would spread that responsibility out and ensure that the cost doesn't always fall on one or the other parent.) We'll see whether any actual changes come out of that.

Ultimately, though, I liked the cooperative feel. It really felt like we were a team working together to do what was best for S and to help her family succeed in reunifying. (Selfishly, I also feel much more informed about exactly what the case plan is and the progress that's being made on it, than I ever was with just the court hearings.)

There were other things I didn't like so much, like having to watch S's father entice her into playing in ways that encouraged her to do things her mother had just told her not to do. I don't know if he was deliberately undermining S's mother or if he was just too focused on "having fun" with her to realize the discipline problem he's establishing. I could see S looking at her mother as she disobeyed her, testing to see how her mother would respond. Which she didn't, other than one attempt to ask S's father to "not let her" do that, which he ignored. I was glad that one of the caseworkers was out there at that time, so they could see it too. These two need some help co-parenting and supporting each other. They were polite and friendly to each other, but clearly not "on the same team". (And, personally I thought the mother had established reasonable rules, which the father was ignoring. And I thought the mother wasn't sure how to enforce those rules without possibly causing a public fight with the father, so I don't think she didn't care that S was disobeying her -- she just didn't know how to handle the fact that the father wouldn't back her up, so she let it go. So, mostly, I think the father needs some help learning how to parent, in general, and specifically how to co-parent.)

It was also a little awkward when S called me "Mom" in front of her mother, who she is still calling "Mommy." 

But that would have happened with the other county's system of hearings before the judge every 3 months as well.

Anyway, I like this county's attempts to make the whole experience less adversarial. I wonder what the statistics say about whether one approach works better than the other. It certainly feels better to me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

You can call me.....?

So, "Mom" held for the rest of the day yesterday.

And when Mr D returned home from work for dinner, he was suddenly "Dad."

The next day we were back to being Mr and Ms FirstName.


In other news, the caseworker for L & O left me a message. They have been placed with family, which would be great to hear if it weren't for the fact that the family in question was denied as a placement during the time they were with us. Because of a history of violent behavior.

Hard not to feel guilty--wondering if they'd be there if we'd had room to take them back.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Names again

S has consistently been calling us Mr and Ms FirstName. She calls her bioparents Mommy and Daddy. She has regular visits with Mommy and occasional mail from Daddy.

So, we felt that the Mr and Ms FirstName was the best thing for her to call us. We attempted to introduce our mothers as Ms FirstName as well, instead of Grandma.

But she is three. And words like "Mommy", "Dad", and "Grandma" are not as emotionally loaded for a 3 year old as they are for the adults to whom they are applied.

And there are 3 other children in this house. And those children call me and Mr D "Mom" and "Dad". And they call their grandmothers "Grandma Lastname" when referring to them and just "Grandma" when in their presence.

So the grandparents quickly became "Grandma" and "Grandpa" to S, just as they are to Peter, Susan and Edmund. I told myself that was OK because most people have more than one grandparent and many children have more than two sets, so she wasn't really replacing "her Grandma" with these -- just expanding her circle.

Mr and Ms FirstName has stuck around, partly because our biokids make an effort to refer to us that way when speaking to her.

But, right this minute? I am at a McDonald's playground while my car is across the street being serviced. And S is climbing up to windows and hollering down to me, calling "Mom! Look at me!"

I don't know if "Mom" will last after we're back at the house. If it does, I hope that the difference between "Mommy" and "Mom" is significant enough for those to be different names for the two of us in her mind. I'm certainly not going to tell her she can't call me Mom, and yet.....I'm trying really hard not to take over her mother's place, although I am taking over that role in S's life for the time being.

It's a hard line to walk, much harder than I imagined when we signed up for this.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Random updates

I have heard nothing about L & O -- or their brother -- since we declined to take L & O back.

I don't know if I'll ever hear anything. I had hoped that my offer of being a respite provider would keep us somewhat in the loop, but that may be wishful thinking on my part. I left a voicemail for the caseworker who called me.....I think I have to just let it go now, don't I?

S is settling into the routine of being at our house while visiting with her mother regularly. She no longer cries when leaving Mom at the end of the visit. On the one hand, that's good -- that every visit isn't an additional traumatic separation. On the other makes me sad that she's learned to let go like this. I don't know what I actually want -- other than for her mother to magically have made better choices months ago to prevent this from ever happening?

S's mom is making great progress on her case and is impressing the case worker. There is only one part of her case plan that hasn't moved forward much, and some of that is out of Mom's hands, so there's a lot of leeway on the timing of getting that part done. (She's done the parts of it she can control, even reaching out to her caseworker for help to make sure she was doing everything that she could and doing it correctly. Now, she has to wait for something else to happen.) Mom is taking classes above and beyond what's required and asking for additional drug screens. The caseworker says she's never had a parent do as much, as quickly and sustain that for as long a period of time. We fully expect S to go home...but it will still take a few more months.

It's good that Mom is doing so well, though, because there's nobody else. There's family, some of whom have asked to take S in, but none of them are acceptable to DFCS. There's an aunt -- with a past history of her own with Child Protective Services. There are grandparents -- with a disturbing history of 911 calls to their residence. There's a biological father -- incarcerated, with no release likely any time soon. Caseworker said that if Mom can't get it together, they'd be looking at an adoption case.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Well, shit.

Note: I don't curse. Ever. So putting that word in the title is a sign of just how bad this news was....and, no, it has nothing to do with election results.

I got a call at 8am this morning.

L and O are coming back into care today, as is their baby brother.

Their mother failed a drug test.

The call, of course, was asking if we could take them back.

We can't. The logistics just don't work.

If we took all 3, there would be 7 children in my home. Our largest vehicle seats 7, which means that I would not be able to leave the house without leaving a child behind if Mr D were not at home. Not practical.

If we took only L and O, splitting up the sibling group, we would still have to have L and S share a room. I'm not even certain that's legal in my state, since they aren't related. Even if it were, I'm not comfortable with it. L, at 8, is very interested in arts and crafts projects, so her room was fully stocked with crayons, markers, and beads. S still puts things in her mouth and does not fully understand the concept of "if it doesn't belong to you, don't touch it." Or, frankly, even the concept of "not everything belongs to you." There is no way that S would leave L's things alone.

So I said No.

I said we could be available for respite or occasional babysitting. I said, if they have to split up the group, we could take one. (If they do split the group, the baby will be the one.)

If S were not here, we could make it work and we would do it. Even though we have been very clear that we are not a potential adoptive home for these kids, we would be the foster home until they found an adoptive family. (The judge told the mom when they went home that there would be no second chances. It's been 3 months since they left here, and she's already failed a drug test? This case is not likely to be about reunifying with her. There might be a family adoptive option, or they might be looking for a whole new family.)

They are having a family team meeting today to determine the plan. I don't think the kids have been removed yet.

I still feel guilty for saying No.

I am heartbroken for those precious children who thought they were home and it was over and now it all starts again. I really wanted to believe their reunification would be successful, that this was how it was supposed to work, and that we had done our part to help preserve a family.

I am devastated for their mother, who worked so hard while they were with me, and who has now -- most likely -- lost her children due to her addiction. It was never that she didn't care about them. It's not that she doesn't care about them now! But when the stress of managing all 3 kids on her own built up, it appears that she turned back to the drugs. It may have only been once -- I'll never know -- but it was enough to get caught.

And now I don't know what to say when people ask me if I've heard anything about how they're doing. I've been saying that I haven't and explaining why that's a good thing. Now....I just can't talk about it?

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Wish I'd waited to post my "cute moments", because I have to add this....

At the first house we went to while trick-or-treating last night, the lady at the door bent over to S and said sweetly, "What do you say?", trying to prompt a "trick or treat!"

S said, "Please?"

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cute 3 year old moments

  • I run a pretty structured household. We talk a lot about "the plan for the day" -- more than I had realized before S arrived and started mimicking me! S has begun telling me what she's going to do, and then say "That's the plant."
  • She tries to tell me she's "excited" about something, but it sounds like "I'm so inciting!"
  • Out of the blue statement: "Trees can't clap. Because they don't got any arms."
  • We take turns saying the blessing before dinner. At first, S didn't want a turn, but now she eagerly begs for it to be her night. When she does, her prayers are awesome jumbles of the things she hears us say and whatever is on her mind. Example: "Dear God, thank you for this wunnerful food...and people not be scared or sick or 'lone...and thank you for food and friends and I love Mommy and my plate....Amen."
  • Counting the trees as we drive down the road-- "1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 18, 4, 11, 14, 18!"
  • Another out of the blue statement: "Horses have heads. And so do birds. Us and horses and birds all have heads."
  • Every time Mr D leaves for work, she asks him if he's going to work "again?!" Every. Single. Day.

Friday, October 26, 2012

All About Visits

Cherub Mama's comment on my last post got me thinking about visit locations and how they don't seem to be consistent. Then her post about a visit day kept me thinking. I'm do other states/counties handle visits?

Where do they visit? Who supervises "supervised visits"? Does the foster parent get any kind of "report" on how the visit went? How is the date and time scheduling handled?

I've worked with 2 different counties now, and the visitation plans could not have been more different.

The current county -- for S and D -- has a 3rd party agency supervising the visits. The supervising person picks up the child from my home, takes them to to visit, stays, and then returns the child to me. That part of it is super convenient from my end, obviously, since it means that I don't have to do the driving and that I can add the travel time to the amount of foster child-free time I can expect to have. It also means I get some face-to-face time with the person doing the supervising, so I get something of a "how it went" report on the return. Since it's the same person every week, I feel OK about it from the child's perspective as well, although I know that S is not nearly as comfortable with someone she sees only in that context as she would be with me.... So, that's a bright side.

The supervising person and the bioparents agree together on a location and a day/time for the visit. The day and time part has been super easy, as they have always called me first to get available options and then contacted the biofamily. The visit supervisor has been concerned about finding the best time for S (asking me about nap schedules, for example) and has insisted on a location closer to my home than the biomom would prefer in order to limit the amount of time S has to spend in transit. I guess that part has been a bright side as well. The scheduling has been about meshing 3 schedules -- S's, the supervisor's, and the bioparent's, with a heavy priority on S's schedule.

The downside is the location choices. These visits have all, always, been at a McDonald's with an indoor playground. The timing that was chosen does mean that S needs to eat during the visit, so I'm sure that's convenient.... Poor S was so confused at first though. When she first got here, she would crow with delight at the sight of any McDonald's. We never went. After a while, she asked why we didn't go and we told her that "the food isn't very good for you" and that eating out is expensive, so we don't do it very much. We softened that message by saying that it was "OK sometimes, as a treat, but not everyday." Then, I got told the visits will be at McDonald's. S spent the first few visit days asking me repeatedly if it was OK to eat at McDonald's with Mommy at the visit. Oops.

This particular 3rd party agency does supervised visits, obviously, but also teaches parenting classes, conducts home studies and offers substance abuse and other counseling services. I'm not sure exactly what sort of credentials the people doing these visits have--I don't know if they're a counselor, a social worker, a therapist, or just a warm body with (hopefully) some training in what to watch for. So, that's why I keep calling them the "person"!

To sum up, for that county: the visit transport is not up to the foster parent (good), the schedule is flexible (great), the location choices are not ideal (bad).

The other county I worked with -- with L and O -- had a very different plan for visits, although I've been told repeatedly that they are the only one around here that does it this way.

They've partnered with a non-profit 3rd party that also does parenting classes and family support, but this one has a twist. It has a small house that is used for all these things, including supervised visits. The house has a large playroom full of things for kids to do with their bioparents, including a table for the family to use for eating or working on homework. There's also a fenced backyard with a playset and large toys. Since they do all their supervised visits there, the staff member supervising doesn't transport; the foster family has to find ways to get the kids to the location. The schedule is also much less flexible, since you can't have more than one family in the room at once! The child's school schedule is considered immovable (thank heavens!) and they work around the parents' work schedules, but any other conflicts just have to give way to the visitation center's schedule...including bedtime. I loved that L and O had a place they could go be with their mom where they could all actually interact and the supervisor could get a sense on how she was learning to balance the needs of multiple children. They also ate dinner with her, and since that center was providing her parenting classes, they were able to encourage her to shift from bringing them a fast food kid's meal for dinner to bringing in a home-cooked meal. (I always wondered if she was ever allowed access to the kitchen at the house and encouraged to at least reheat food on-site.)

That sounds great, doesn't it? I thought so, until the cracks started to show....aside from the transportation (which was an issue for us because we lived about an hour from the site....and the visits were 2 hours long, making it impractical to return home during a visit), they didn't appear to really "supervise" all that well. As in, there wasn't actually a person in the room with them at all times. (How is that "supervised?"). But the really big problem surfaced when Mom's visits were "supervised community visits." That meant that the court wanted someone to watch her parent her children in public. She needed to show she could juggle all 3 kids needs outside of the structure of the house.

The actual community visit locations were pretty good. There were a few McDonald's visits, but most of them were at a large park where the kids could really play and Mom would have to demonstrate her ability to balance the wildly different needs and wants of an infant, a preschooler, and an 8 year old. The problem with the community visits was, again, the supervision. They were supervised--better than the ones at the center, I think -- but that was because they were supervised by a different 3rd party agency than the one that has the house. The group with the visitation center was still teaching Mom her parenting classes, but they didn't do "off-site" supervision and the communication between the two 3rd parties was not good. So, the new supervisor never knew what parenting topics had been covered and what had not; she didn't know what catch-phrases Mom might have been shown that could have served as a quick wake-up call; she had to take Mom's word for it if she claimed not to have "covered that yet."

So, for that county, the visit locations were great, the scheduling wasn't, and the transportation was a major headache.

In neither county was there any sort of requirement for the bioparent to call in to confirm the visit, but none of them really ever missed one either, so maybe that's something they would add if necessary. 

What about anyone else? I've heard talk of tiny visitation rooms at the Department of Children's Services, but don't know if any counties around here do it that way or not.....

Thursday, October 11, 2012


I'm trying not to let it bother me that S's mom redoes her hair at every visit. No matter how I have styled the child's hair, her mother takes it down and rearranges it....always into the same style.

By the way, we're all the same ethnicity, so that's got nothing to do with it.

Usually, I let S decide how we're styling her hair -- within reason: all down, all up or just some up?, braids or ponytails? how many?

Maybe I should try styling it her way next time and see what she does....that's the one style S never asks for though. I'd probably still do it "wrong."

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Attitude Adjustment

I've been struggling lately with keeping a positive attitude while interacting with S. So, in the spirit of changing my thinking in order to change my mood and my reactions, this post is going to describe some of the things that are good and fun about having a 3 year old.

They like stating the obvious. Most of the funniest statements I have ever heard came out of the mouths of 3 year olds. Today, she told me that "We go to bed every night."

They really do want to help you. When S offers to help me carry the groceries in or sort the laundry or scrub the floor...she means it. It may actually make the job harder when she tries to "help", but she doesn't know that and she really, truly wants to do something for me. I need to remember to judge her on her intention, not the result.

They have rapid mood swings. That may sound like a bad thing, but it really isn't. One minute, it's the end of the world; the next, everything is rainbows and sunshine. The emotional lows of tantrums and crying are more than offset by the emotional hugs of giant hugs and big grins and infectious giggling.

They like repetition. My 12-year-old may complain that I "always say that", but I will never hear that from a 3 year old. Well, I might, but it would be something the 3 year old is happy about! 

They can take delight in little things. S loves to go places, so if I announce that we're going to run some errands, she literally squeals with delight. Sometimes she even jumps for joy at the idea of going to the bank. It used to make O's day when I would pull over so he could to watch a train go by. Three year olds can be just as pleased the hundredth time you drive past the pasture full of horses as they were the first.

They are terrible liars. Really. I don't think I've ever been taken in by the story a 3 year old was spinning.

They can turn anything into a toy. The cliche of the preschooler tossing a toy in order to play with the box is a cliche because it's true! Papers, leafs, rocks, laundry baskets, blankets, pillows, empty water bottles....everything can be a tool for active little imaginations.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Edmund asked me yesterday if I knew what "retard" meant.

I'm pretty sure that I managed to stay outwardly calm, and said that I did.

While I was trying to figure out how to continue this conversation -- where did you hear that word? who said it? To whom was it said? Here's why it's not a word you should be using.... -- he continued, "it means slow."

"Well, yes, it does." I agreed. Technically. I guess?

Then I asked him where he heard it.

At school. In music class.

Oh! "ritard!"

Not the conversation I thought we were having.....

Friday, September 28, 2012


As is the nature of such things, not long after I ranted about S's resistance to toilet training, the proverbial light bulb went off and she started enthusiastically and eagerly cooperating. She's exclusively wearing underwear now and I'm beginning to lose track of how many days since she had an accident, which means.....

I can enroll her in preschool!

I'm a stay-at-home parent. Or I don't work outside the home. Or I don't have a job. Or I don't have paid employment. However you want to phrase it, it means that the state does not pay any childcare expenses for foster children in my home. It also means that I don't need S to be at a daycare 5 days a week for 8-10 hours. I just want her to go to part-time preschool -- 2 or 3 days a week, for 3 or 4 hours.

Around here, the preschools that offer that sort of day require 3 year olds to be "completely independent in toileting" to enroll. (So, yes, that was feeding some of my personal desire to get her toilet trained. I couldn't enroll her in school until I could tell the school that she was training!)

Personally, I think it's ridiculous that the state will only pay for a 3 year old to get regular, structured, social interaction with children of her own age if that interaction is for the time a parent spends working a job. I also think it's short-sighted of the state to not realize that they are going to burn-out at-home parents of preschoolers, since it's not like I can set up a casual play-date swap with a good friend, either, without said friend having to go through a lengthy approval process. I get the flip side of it -- that they don't want lazy foster parents to abuse the funding to just hand the child off to someone else -- but I really think they could consider allowing a small amount of funding towards preschool. It's not like I'm expecting to get a blank check in the amount that full time daycare would cost!

But, I can't change that rule, so we are paying for it. In the it-never-hurts-to-ask category, we have asked our agency if they can help us out some; the agency caseworker is looking into "creative funding". And since the preschool she is attending is a part of our church, the director is also looking into whether she can find some "scholarship money" and has a few specific "anonymous" people in mind that she thinks might jump at "paying for a foster child to attend the preschool." We'll see. If not, we'll be spending almost two-thirds of her per diem on preschool.

She starts next week. I can't wait! (Now I can schedule that eye doctor exam for me....)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

So, do you hear anything from them?

We are, as far as we know, the first foster family that has ever attended our church. We're certainly the only currently active one and appear to be the first one that's been as actively involved in the church's programming as we are and as open about what we are doing. How the foster system works is a learning curve for the other actively involved members just as it is for us...

When L and O came and stayed for over a year, they got enmeshed in our church community, just as the rest of the family is. So, now that the new school year has begun, I am still getting asked about them at church.

Do I hear anything? Do I ever get to see them? Is there any kind of contact? How are they doing?

The questions come from loving places. They are asked by good, Christian people who loved those children. They want to know that the children they welcomed into their hearts are OK. They want updates.

And I can't give those to them.

Some foster parents maintain contact with the bio-families after reunification. We may someday have a case like that. But this was not one.

While we were transitioning them home, the caseworker commented that BioMom was likely to want to pretend our family had never really been important in the kids' lives. That she wouldn't be calling me with updates on how the kids are doing and probably would not respond if I tried to reach out. Unless she had something she wanted to do and needed a sitter, and then she was likely to dump the kids with me while she did what she wanted. And that wouldn't be healthy for any of us. L's therapist recommended I not maintain any sort of regular contact in order to prevent that specific scenario from happening.

I don't live close enough to her to be useful for emergency pickups from school or occasional short playdates. If she wanted them to come here, it would be for overnight visits. If the kids came back here on those terms, how confusing would that be? And yet, how would I say No if she asked?

So, I called a few times, just to say hello. She answered the first time because she wanted to talk to me about getting L's school records transferred anyway. After that, she didn't pick up. I left cheerful, hopefully non-threatening messages, but suspect that my well-wishes were not passed on to the children.

And that's OK. (Well, it's not, when I think about how abandoned O might feel, but I have to let his biomom make those decisions now.) As I try to explain to the people who ask, she's under no obligation to maintain contact with me. As far as I know, the kids are doing well. That's probably all I will ever know.

I kinda hope it is all I ever know, because the only way I'm likely to hear anything about them again is if they get pulled back into DFCS Custody. But it's hard to explain that to people who don't really understand fostering....

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Empathy and Asperger's

I think I mentioned that Susan has Asperger's.

An acquaintance of mine who happens to be a teacher said once that she went to a training on working with kids on the autism spectrum. The instructor began the class by asking how many of them had previously taught a child with Asperger's or autism. Then he said to those with their hands raised, "Congratulations. You know one person on the spectrum." He went on to explain that each kid on the autism spectrum is unique, just as each neurotypical kid is unique. What worked with a previous student may or may not work with your next one and the symptoms that define your current student's struggles may be completely different than anything you've seen before.

For Susan, she struggles with social interactions. She doesn't read other people very well and she has a very hard time making "small talk." She wants things to happen when they are supposed to happen and does not like it when the plans are changed on the fly. Her (public) school has been incredibly proactive in helping her learn the skills she needs to get better at these things, especially in their work with her on figurative language, which she had to learn by rote, instead of picking it up from context clues the way most neurotypical kids can. (For example, used to be that if I told her that she was taking forever to get dressed, she would ignore me, because she knew that the process of getting dressed was going to be done in a finite amount of time and therefor my saying it was taking "forever" didn't make sense. She's since learned "it takes forever" really means something more like "it's taking too long." She still doesn't hurry up, though.)

Aside: When I mention her diagnosis to people, I often get asked if I watch Parenthood. I have. I still do, sometimes. But I struggle with the characterization of Max, because (since the departure of the character that was his behavioral aide), I don't see them working with him to help teach him how to function better. I don't see him learning what's appropriate behavior in public and I don't see any attempts to help him learn that. Maybe that's a character arc that they are taking deliberately, but it saddens me that the show isn't using the platform it has to demonstrate how much help is available and how much can be taught. (To be clear, I think the actor is amazing. He nails the no eye contact, constant motion, difficulty with change that characterizes most kids on the spectrum. When they have given him scenes where he needs to show the difficulties that will never really go away, he has done so well at them. I wish they would utilize those talents to show him growing and learning how to function in neurotypical society.)

I've often heard social skills issues in Aspie's described as "lacking empathy." It's not that Susan doesn't have empathy. It's not that she doesn't care about what other people want or like or enjoy. It's not that she doesn't want other people to enjoy being around her. It's not even that she's not paying attention to what those around her like or want. It's just that she doesn't always know how to show it.

Today, she's going to a birthday party for another girl in her 5th grade class. (She doesn't get invited to a lot, so we never turn down an invitation.)

I asked her what she wanted to get as a gift for the birthday girl. The birthday girl is "girly" -- into makeup and hairstyles and trendy jewelry. Susan is . . . not. But Susan knew these things about the birthday girl and chose to get her an assortment of nail polish colors and a small manicure set to go with it.

Susan also told me repeatedly that the birthday girl really likes rainbows. She wanted to wrap the present in something with rainbows on it. And she wanted to wear a shirt with a rainbow on it to the party -- although she doesn't own one -- because she wanted everything she was bringing to the party to be something the birthday girl liked.

She's not lacking empathy. She just doesn't know how to show it in ways that don't come off as "weird."

Friday, September 21, 2012

Caseworker meeting

A quick update on BioMom's "doing well."

Caseworker still says that, but admits to being baffled as to why she's ducking the interviewer's calls.

Based on what I'm told BioMom has started doing on her case-plan, I can fully believe that she legitimately couldn't make the dentist appointment. (She's gotten a job, she's started a couple different required "classes" and is also enrolled in a drug treatment program. She also still doesn't have a car and she does not live in an area with much in the way of useful public transportation. At this point in the case, it's probably right for her to prioritize all those other commitments over an appointment for the child that the mom knew I would ensure was kept.)

Why no one let me know she wouldn't be there is still beyond me, but hey, I'm just the foster parent, right? I don't need to know important things like whether the child's parent will be present at a medical appointment. Grr.

For the record, I have no idea whose fault it is that I didn't know. Did BioMom tell someone, assuming the news would be passed on? No telling. And blame isn't important right now, so I'm not asking, just trying to let it go. And venting on here is part of how I let it go...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What does "doing well" mean?

S's BioMom confuses me. That's not hard to do, because I still fall into the trap of thinking that bioparents will behave in ways I can imagine behaving if I were in their situation...

The first visit S had with her mother was not handled the way visits usually are in my area, mostly because of the time crunch.

The visits are supervised, and the supervising person picks the child up and takes them to the visit, then brings them back.

S's first visit was squeezed in around some routine medical appointments that had already been scheduled before she came into care, and I was just keeping those appointments instead of making different appointments of my own for initial health checks. Since Mom had scheduled those visits, she obviously knew when and where they were and I was told she intended to come. That's good.

So, the supervisor picked S up and took her to a visit and told me that she'd meet me at the 1st doctor's appointment with S. She assured me that S would ride with her and that Mom would just have to follow in her own car.

Except, it turned out Mom didn't have a car. So, the supervisor let her ride in her car with S and herself. I suppose because the alternative was to essentially tell Mom that it was too bad she wouldn't be at her daughter's doctor's appointments after all.

At the doctor's appointment, I let Mom answer most of the health questions--I'd only had S a week, so I was still figuring out a lot of the answers myself. I was surprised to hear that this 10am appointment was during naptime. I was also surprised to hear S described as a "picky eater", and felt compelled to add the comment that she will eat some things from every food group. (To me, that's not a "picky eater.")

The dentist came next. That's when I learned that Mom didn't have a car and she "guessed she'd just ride with me." OK. I wondered at that point if I was going to have to take Mom home after all this. I didn't; she had her mother come pick her up at the dentist's.

Both visits went well -- S is in good health, although there's some dental work to do. Mom strikes me as a reasonably good parent, although I think she may baby S a little bit. (She carried her everywhere, for example.) We scheduled the next dental visit together, so Mom knew when it was and made no objections to that date and time.

S screamed bloody murder when it was time to go, though. She kept crying that she wanted to go with Mommy and there was no good answer at a 3 year old level for why she couldn't. Up til then, S had been repeating that Mommy was in jail. I think S had understood that as the reason why S was at my house. Seeing Mommy out and about and unescorted by anyone rocked that assumption. Clearly, Mommy is not in jail anymore, so why can't I go home? Mom didn't know what to do -- I wouldn't have either! -- she kept trying to talk S down, but S wasn't having it. Finally, Mom asked me for advice and I told her she was going to have to walk away. After a few more minutes, she did.

It was heartbreaking.

Since then, S has had another visit with Mom, where the supervisor transported both ways. The artwork S had brought to give her was still in her backpack, so I don't know if Mom ever looked at it. (S said they didn't play with any of the things in the backpack, which were all things S had wanted to take with her; It's quite likely that Mom thought the backpack just contained an emergency change of clothes, diaper wipes, etc.)  Caseworker has said that Mom is doing well on her case plan already and it seems likely she will get S back, eventually.

Then came the follow-up dentist visit. I thought surely Mom would be there. She wasn't. I told S that she might not be there because she might have had to work. No idea if that's true or not, but it seemed like a reasonable explanation for the 3 year old.

Then an officer of the court charged with collecting background information on S called me to ask what I knew about her and mentioned that Mom was avoiding his calls.

Another visit coming up. And a meeting with caseworkers. I just get so confused to hear that Mom is "doing well" and then have her not complete what seem like fairly easy steps.....hope I'll understand more after the visit with the caseworker.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Update on "sibling" separation

I was nervous about the days following D's departure.

How would S take it?

Would she revert back to crying herself to sleep, as she did the first week or so that she was here? Would she search for him in the house? Would she demand to know why he got to go to his daddy and she had to stay?

None of the above.

She barely blinked. She commented once about "when D comes back" and I gently reiterated that he wouldn't be coming back, he was going to stay with his Daddy until he could go back to his Mommy's house.

Other than that, it's barely registered.

I don't know whether they weren't as close as everyone thought (just friends who knew each other, which felt better for them than not knowing anybody in the house?) or whether there's been a lot of people coming and going in her life or whether she's just a roll-with-the-punches kind of kid or whether she really doesn't quite understand or believe that he won't be back. (Watch: just when I get her convinced, he'll get pulled back into care and come back!)

I had noticed that, in the two weeks or so that they were here together, S had shifted from looking for him when he was at school to looking for everybody. And in all cases, being easily reassured by my answer that they were "at school." So, maybe, having him here for the first few weeks helped her transition here, but now that she's settled, his leaving wasn't such a big deal?

I don't know. But I still feel like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Toilet Training again

I hate toilet training.

I have always hated toilet training.

I trained my 3 bio kids.

Then, I trained O.

Now, I have to train S. She knows how to go on the potty, but she "don't want to" as she says whenever I ask her to try. I have not yet found the carrot that will motivate her. Stickers? Not interested. Candy bribes? Exciting for 1 day, then over it. Toy reward? Says she wants it, but doesn't go. Can't go to school until this happens? Doesn't care. Picked out her own new underwear at the store, but can't wear it until she stops wetting the boring training underwear? Shrug.

The worst moments are when she tells me with a smile! that she peed or pooped her pants. Again.

Makes me want to throw punishment in there, even though I know that "all the experts" say not to.

(She's not phased by having to wear a diaper. If I tell her that she can skip her nap if she goes in the potty, but that "babies who poop in their pants" take naps, she tells me she wants to be a baby and takes a nap without a fuss. When I stopped asking if she needed to go and started just telling her to try -- for more than 2 seconds --  it led to crying for Mommy or Daddy "because they love me.")

I hate toilet training.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


As far as I can tell, there's no legal reason D's Mom and Dad can't have contact. But there could be something no one is telling me. Domestic violence is not a part of this case, but I'm well aware that doesn't mean it hasn't happened in the past.

The day after D's marathon day of visits with Mom and Dad, both cases went to court.

I spent the day doing mindless things-that-need-to-be-done. I did the grocery shopping. I caught up on the laundry. When I hadn't heard anything by about 3pm, I began to assume that they weren't going anywhere for a while because the caseworker had said he would call me if they were leaving, but would just email me an update of what happened if they weren't.

Then the phone rang. And I realized my cell phone had been in the car for the last few hours and I hadn't been on email in about the same amount of time.

Agency caseworker had left me a message at around 1:30. D was going to Dad, S was staying "for at least a few more weeks."

An hour later, I was driving him to meet his family in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant, hoping I hadn't forgotten to pack anything important. Thankfully, I had a state-approved babysitter already lined up for something happening later in the evening and she was able to come a little early. So D said his goodbyes to everyone at the house and S did not have to watch him reunite with family while she does not.

And I just sent the rated T game home with him, without ever getting into the fact that he wouldn't be allowed to play it here, even if we'd had a system he could have used for it....

And now...I am fostering only one child, which is a new and strange experience for me! (Guess I'd better give them their own labels now...)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

First Visits - Part 2

Part 1 is here.

After some scurrying, we squeezed S's visits in that week. Visit with mom was Friday morning, before her doctor and dentist appointments, which Mom then attended, so Mom got to spend a long time with her. And with me. That's another post for another day.

We got S's visit with Dad scheduled for early Saturday morning, so that we could salvage a portion of the planned family day. Ms F would come get her at 7:15am.

I got a phone call from D's supervisor asking if he could have his visit on Sunday afternoon. He has two hours with Mom, two hours with Dad, at the same location, but with a half hour in between "so that Mom and Dad don't see each other." Wow.

Knowing as I did now that the visits had to be this week, I agreed, although it would mean he'd get back from the visits after bedtime. (I couldn't ask for it to start any earlier without risking his not getting to eat lunch after church. And as it turned out, he walked in the door at bedtime, so it wasn't too late.)

We got up early on Saturday, planning to be ready to head out for our family day as soon as S got back from her visit. Ms F got here on time and buckled her into the carseat. S was excited to see Daddy. Ms F asked me quietly if we were going to be at home; she'd called Dad to confirm and he hadn't answered, so she was afraid he might be a no-show. As I was assuring her that we wouldn't go anywhere, her phone rang. Pleased to recognize the number as his, she answered it. Immediately, she looked less pleased. Her eyes got wide. She turned to me and mouthed, "he's in jail!" Then she started explaining to the woman on the phone that S was right here, but that she couldn't let this woman talk to her. She could have let Dad talk to her, but "you're telling me he's not there, so there really isn't any way I'm giving her the phone." Ms F told S that her daddy wasn't feeling well, so they weren't going to see him today after all.

Side note: I hate lying to children. But I went with the "not feeling well" for a while, because what else could I do? When it turned out that it would be weeks before he was out of jail, I had to change the story..... 

S was confused, but handled the schedule change and the disappointment surprisingly well. We started our family day early.

D's visits went pretty smoothly, comparatively. He came back with a video game (for a system we thankfully do not have) rated T which appears to be about who can beat someone else up faster. At the time, I left it at "we don't have anything you can play that game on." He got here right at bedtime, as it turned out, so we got ready for bed and he went to sleep smoothly.

The next day was court, when we would have the next review of possible family placements.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First Visits - Part 1

When it came to the first family visits for D and S , I had to resist the temptation to spout that "bad attitude" quote I used to have on my wall when I worked in an an office full-time. The one that said, "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."

They were separate visits, with separate people. Two visits for each child, one for mom and one for dad. The caseworker told me that each child would have a different supervising person, from separate agencies, because she wanted to keep the actual cases as separated as possible in order to prevent either family from successfully directing all blame to the other one. She also insisted to me that the visits should be scheduled at my convenience, not the parents', and that there was nothing I needed to do about visits until I heard from the visit supervisors about scheduling them.

So, I waited. The kids had been in my home for nearly a week when I finally heard from S's visit supervisor. I'll call her Ms F. Ms F called on a Thursday morning and asked if Saturday would be OK with us; I confessed that we had a family day planned that would make that hard, but we could cancel it if that was the only day that would work. (Clearly, I'm not very good at insisting on things being done "at my convenience.") Friday was out because S had pediatrician and dentist appointments scheduled. Ms F said we shouldn't have to cancel our family day and we scheduled S's visits for the next week on Tuesday.

I merrily sent off an email to the agency caseworker (I don't have any contact info for the county one), letting him know the date and time of her scheduled visit.

It set off a hailstorm of texts, emails and phone calls.

I'm sorry, but the law says they have to have a visit this week. Is there a reason they can't have a visit til next week?

A reason? Other than the combined facts that a) it's currently Thursday, b) the child has medical appointments on Friday, and c) you told me to schedule it at my convenience? Oh, and I still haven't heard from D's visit supervisor, by the way, so don't know how his visits could happen this week!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Who They Are - S

S is a 3 year old girl.

She's chatty and bossy and absolutely adorable. She already has Mr D wrapped around her finger.

She has no noticeable delays, no major behavior issues that have shown up so far. She's afraid of the dark and doesn't want to go to sleep, but she's 3.

She melts down if you try to close her bedroom door with her alone in there. So she naps with the door open. At bedtime, we leave it open and explain that we will close it when we go to bed. She's OK with that. When I leave her room at night, she asks where I'm going. She's happy to hear something as simple as "I'm not leaving the house."  

She is going to be the case that breaks our hearts. Either way. Because Mr D has already commented that he could see adopting her if her case went to TPR. (So has Peter, oddly enough.) It is way too early in her case to even begin to guess how likely that is. We are afraid that she will be that one that was "so hard to let go" when she goes home. And yet, we can't hope for her family to fail her either.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Who They Are - D

D is a 5 year old boy.

He was due to start kindergarten the day after they were taken into care, so he missed his first day. We live in a different county, so he started here about 2 weeks into the school year.

He adores his "momma." When his grandmother talked to him at court before they went before the judge about going to live with his daddy, he told her he wanted to stay with me. Since then, however, he has declared that he wants to go to Daddy "until Momma gets out of jail."

He does not like the rules and boundaries that we have set in place and is fighting them with every fiber of his being. He is aggressive and angry. In his first week of school, he came home with bad behavior marks on 3 out of 5 days. He says he doesn't know why he does things like push people or not listen to his teacher when she tells him to quiet down. He screams and cries when I try to talk to him, no matter how gently, about a behavior that needs to change.

He told me he wishes he was with his momma, because "momma don't care about school." He also says he "hates this house" because Momma doesn't have rules. (We often explain our rules in terms of "at this house, we....don't hit .... use nice words.... sleep in our own beds.....")

He is shocked and angry when I enforce the consequences that I warned him would result from certain behavior. I say, "If you can't walk with me in the parking lot, you will have to hold my hand." Within 3 minutes of my saying that, he is dancing over the cracks in the middle of the road, about 10 feet from me. I call him over and take his hand, and he tries the whole way to the car to twist it away from me, crying and screaming the whole time.
He reacts to the simple homework from Kindergarten with anger and frustration for about 10 minutes..."I can't! I don't know what to do! It's too hard!"....then, when I don't let him give up, settles down and does it all. Usually correctly. In a very short amount of time.

He is just so angry and so scared. He hits and bites himself when he melts down. I've already sent in a plea to hurry up his assessment for counseling because it is so obvious to me that he needs help figuring out how to handle all those big feelings. More help than I can give him alone.

The caseworker thinks it is likely that he will be sent to a family member at the 10 day hearing. (Might be Daddy, might not.) I have mixed feelings. Although I don't know how long I can handle the aggression and the anger and the lashing out....I want to see him in a stable environment. With counseling. And I don't know if he'll get that in a family placement. But maybe there would be less anger and lashing out with a family member? I don't know.

Trying really hard to hand this over to God and trust that He will guide the people making those decisions. Praying those people are listening to what God wants them to hear.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Beginning again


These two are both much more like what I was expecting when we started fostering --
They came to our house with literally nothing but the clothes on their backs.
They had watched Mommy get arrested.
They were talking freely and calmly about how Mommy is in jail right right now.

And what I was under the impression "wasn't done", at least in my state --
They are not related. At all.
Their cases are distinct and separate, which means...
Separate visits and....
One could go home (or to a family placement) and the other stay.

We'd forgotten how rough the first few days can be, especially at bedtime, when scared little children are trying to go to sleep in a strange bedroom, without any familiar people or things to make it easier. 

I also had to take them to court the day after they came....because they are from a different county than the last set, and this one requires them to attend court hearings. They aren't allowed in the courtroom, however. They just have to be there. In a little tiny "playroom" which has some toys (half of which are broken) and a TV (which I could not get to work). We saw several extended family members -- some of whom are potential placements -- when we first arrived. Some of them were...not pleasant .... about the fact that the children were wearing clothes that were not their own. Because somehow it was wrong of me that I gave them something clean to wear. (When it was pointed out to said relative that they had only one outfit and had worn it for two days, she demanded to know why I hadn't washed it. When? While they were not-sleeping?) The caseworker had me and the children escorted out "the back way" by a deputy when court was over.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Or maybe so?

Another call today. Another pair of children looking for a place to be safe.

This pair is 5 and 3. They are coming tonight.

I don't really have time to say anything else right now.....

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Or maybe not

So, yesterday I said yes to a 2 and 4 year old partial sib-set that turned out to be not yet in custody because they have to be found first.

Today, the same caseworker called and asked me about taking a 1 year old and 4 year old instead. "It's an inadequate supervision case; they were found playing in a sewer."

I asked about the other two and she said she wasn't sure they were coming. They still haven't found them. And there might be a family that would take the whole sib-set.

While we were talking, she got tapped on the shoulder. "What? Oh. OK." Today's pair have been placed somewhere else already....

Monday, August 13, 2012

What's a break?

After L and O drove off with their mom for the last time, our agency caseworker said she wanted to schedule a meeting with us. (And I really mean, right after they drove off, she said this. She was there at the handoff. We were standing in the parking lot and she wanted to schedule a meeting.) She wanted to talk about how long a break we wanted before we took more kids, about whether any of our restrictions were changing (age, gender, race, behaviors, etc), about whether there was any feedback for the agency about how they handled the case.

We tentatively scheduled a conference call meeting for about a week after L and O went home. It fell through at the last minute when other calls (for her and for us) interrupted the time we were supposed to talk.

We played phone tag for a few days, trying to arrange another day or time to talk.

She tried to call me this morning and got my voicemail. I called her back about 10 minutes later. She laughed and said that she really had been calling to schedule that meeting, but in the time since she called...they had a case come in and she thought of us.

Sibling group of 4 that will be split up --either 2 and 2 or 1 and 3 -- all 4 years old or younger. She doesn't want to burn us out, so if we're interested, they could arrange a respite plan for a week or two to give us more of a break before we jump back in. What did we think?

I spoke to Mr D, but I knew what we were going to say.

We offered to take the two older ones, and I said I was uncomfortable with the idea of making these kids go somewhere else for 2 weeks and then move again. I would need a good bit of babysitting help the first few days, and tomorrow I have a gynecologist appointment, so if we can wait til after that, that would be great.

Agency caseworker called the county back -- different county than L and O, so hopefully visits will be closer -- and got back to me. My well-woman visit is safe because the kids haven't actually been picked up. It'll be Friday at the earliest before they'd be being placed. Turns out that BioMom has taken off with the kids and they have to find them before they can send them to me.....

This could be interesting.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gone Home

L and O are gone.

We took a goodbye tour of the school for L during teacher preplanning -- she got to say goodbye to her teacher and some of the staff. She saw the new spirit wear going up on display and got very clingy and whispered that she wished she was going to our school again next year.

O took a walk through the house before we left for the last time, saying goodbye to every room.

When we got to the meeting hand-off location, L was cool and calm with us. Excited to see her mom, with a big hug and grin for her, L climbed in Mom's car very quickly and had to be told (by Mom) to get back out and say goodbye.

O made the rounds of last hugs and I was surprised to see tears welling up. It started when Peter told him goodbye with a big hug, and then O turned to me to say goodbye. I didn't think he would understand how "forever" that goodbye is likely to be, but he sure seemed to!

After that, it was much harder to let O drive off with BioMom than it was to see L go. L was so clearly done with her goodbyes and ready to go before she even got in our car that last time, but O seemed to struggle with it a bit more. I hope he's been OK since, but I'll never really know, will I?

In the time since they left, we've had a family debrief of "how it all went." My house is almost thoroughly clean again and I'm caught up on the laundry. School has started and the house is quiet for long stretches of the day. We've repaired the things L broke in his room. I touched up the paint on his walls, as well.

I'm enjoying the little things. The ability to leave Peter, Susan and Edmund home alone while I run to the grocery store for a short list; it's a 30 minute absence where I'm never more than 5 minutes away, but I can't leave a 12 year old in charge of foster kids of any age. The luxury of knowing that the kids will be thrilled at getting a book from the bookstore. The fact that we can go more than 2 meals without needing to run the dishwasher. The general quieter noise level in the car and around the table. The idea that I can keep up with the laundry on less than 2 loads a day.

Throughout all this, I've been itching to dig into my boxes of "extra clothes", wanting to reorganize it all. I keep telling myself that I have to get all the "needs to be done" things finished first. Then, I'll tackle the project that is reorganizing my hand-me-downs, so that I can pull out a certain size and gender on a moment's notice again......

Monday, July 23, 2012

This is how it's supposed to work

I think I finally found my answer to the people who respond to the news that L and O are leaving us with a concerned look, a gentle hand on my arm and a soft-spoken, "but how are YOU doing?"

This is how it's supposed to work.

These two children spent over a year in my home. I've taken them to school, I've scheduled their appointments, I've soothed their fears, I've cleaned up their vomit. I've documented and reported every nightmare, every difficult question, every inappropriate comment made on a phone call. I've raised them for over a quarter of O's life. And I will miss them when they go.

But, from the beginning, I have known that there was family out there that loved them, that wanted them, that was fighting for them. This was never a potential foster-to-adopt case, no matter how frustrated I (and the court) sometimes got with the family. 

Is BioMom a perfect parent? No. But if children only stayed with perfect parents, there wouldn't be an intact family in the world.

Will she continue the work we've done to teach L that she's not O's parent? Probably not. I suspect that L will spend the next ten years or so of her life being Mom's babysitter. She won't be the first oldest-child to do so.

Can BioMom and BioDad continue to work together to provide their kids with everything they need once they know that DFCS isn't watching every move and hearing everything they say to the kids? I don't know.

But none of that is appropriate for me to share with the well-intentioned souls who have loved these children as members of my family and who are now questioning how I will feel about "letting them go." And they will be safe. And loved.

This is how it's supposed to work.

At the root of it all, I am at peace with their return home. I hope and pray that this year of not having her kids with her have helped BioMom grow up some and get her feet under her more firmly. I trust that God has a plan for these kids and their extended family and I try to be confident that I have fulfilled the role He had for me in their lives. I wonder, somewhat wistfully, whether the image of the relationship Mr D and I have will ever surface in L's teenage or young adult mind when she's faced with choices about what kind of man she wants in her life; I'd like to think that, somewhere, she will decide that she wants what we have -- stability, respect, support -- rather than what her mother has had to struggle through on her own. I want that for her.

But what I want is not at issue here. What is "best" for the kids may not even be at issue here, depending on how you define "best." As arrogant as it sounds, they would get better parenting with us. They might have more opportunities for extra activities that cost money and take time with us. But those are not reasons to remove children from their families. BioMom has worked hard to fix the parts of her life that were reasons to remove them, and she has succeeded. It's time for them to go home.

This is how it's supposed to work.

The case isn't over. They are returning home, but the case will remain open. County CW will be dropping by their home unannounced, as will the CASA. There are provisions in the court order that will make it easy for CW to pull them back into care if certain changes BioMom has made are not maintained. If that happens, I am certain they will call us to take them back. I don't yet know what we will say, but that's another post for another day. For now, I am thinking positive, cheering BioMom on to continue the improvements she's made in her life for their sake, and only saying one thing:

This is how it's supposed to work.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Successful Hurdle Leaping!

A few hours after my last post, I got a phone call. It's not all the answers, but it did tell me that BioMom has successfully crossed the last "t". It was safe to tell the kids the transition plan.

And it was safe to begin transitioning their possessions back to BioMom's house with each visit.  (They have a lot of possessions, so knowing we'll have 4 or 5 trips to get everything moved is reassuring.)

Doing the Happy Dance.

Everyone asks me if it isn't going to be "so hard" to "let them go."

Maybe it will be when the real day comes.

But, right now? Right now, I am so excited for their BioMom, who has worked her rear end off for months and never missed a chance to visit with her kids. Right now, I am thrilled for these children who have wanted this whole year to "go home" even though "home" was never a place to them--it was a person. Right now, I am ecstatic for my own biological family, which has been wearing thin and needing a prolonged break from the behaviors of L and O.

Right now, I am dancing in the streets.

"A few days"


It's been a week since they said "a few days". Now they're saying "maybe by the end of the week."

And I still can't tell the kids anything.

And I still can't plan for anything either as a foster family or as a biological one since I don't know exactly when these transitional visits will be.

And I still have kids jumping out of their skin because they don't know what's going to happen when and I can't tell them.

And the caseworker is ignoring me when I ask for status updates of how that last thing BioMom had to do is going.

And I'm exhausted and overwhelmed and HATING THIS SYSTEM!!!


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Word choices

Fostering has changed some of my basic language. There are things that I never used to say that I do now and things that I used to say all the time that now I don't. And I'm not talking about the obvious cases, like the lingo of acronyms and court terms. I'm talking about subtle stuff, like....

  • Instead of "going home" from school or errands, we "go back to the house."
  • I refer to myself in the 3rd person a lot more.
  • Instead of saying "I have 3 kids", I say "there are 5 at my house right now."(This one will probably vary from placement to placement. L is heavily resistant to having anyone think she is my child, so I fell into this phrasing in order to claim her without calling her "mine.")
  • I refer to my husband by name a lot more (rather than "Dad.") (Again, will probably vary from placement to placement, as I imagine we may have later placements that want to call us Mommy and Daddy.)
  • I refer to the children by their ages or names a lot more. (Instead of "my son" or "my daughter", it's "the 7 year old", "the 5th grader", or "Peter.")

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Reunifying! Maybe...sorta...probably, soon?

Court happened.

After court, I was told the plan. We were reunifying with BioMom. But since we've only had one home visit, we'll have a couple more of those -- supervised -- then an all day visit -- unsupervised-- then a few overnights and finally move them officially home.

All told, this will take about 6 weeks.

With the official return date being the weekend before school starts here. BioMom lives in a different county and school will start there a few weeks later, so they won't be going the weekend before L starts school, just the weekend before all 3 of the other school age kids here at this house do.

Oh, but this is all dependent on one more hoop for BioMom to jump. And we won't know whether she's jumped it successfully for "a few days", so we aren't to tell the kids anything has changed. (Although L knows they went to court because BioDad told her they were. So she's asking me what happened and when she'll go home and if this was the "last court" for them. And she is --thankfully -- a smart girl who can understand when I explain that I don't want to tell her something that might not happen, so I am telling her all I know are "might happens" right now.)

And yes, that's the way I was told about it. "We're reunifying, here's the transition plan, but it all depends on this thing happening, so . . . don't tell the kids."

Right now, I'm feeling frustrated and angry and selfish and bitter.

Essentially, we are still in limbo land--because it could all fall through if BioMom doesn't leap over this one last hurdle. So we can't tell the kids it might happen. But if she does do what she needs to do, it will happen, so we can't tell the kids that it won't, either. We just can't tell the kids anything. For "a few days." And I may still be a newbie foster mom, but I know what "a few days" means in caseworker speak. And it certainly doesn't mean we'll know in 2 or 3 days, like it means in the normal world.

Once the hurdle is jumped though, we still need a month or 6 weeks to transition back to their mother? To the woman they've been seeing regularly throughout the time they've been in care? To the person who was their full time caregiver for most if not all of their lives prior to coming here? (For the record, I was in favor of a long transition to Paternal Aunt's. They've never lived with her and O didn't seem certain of who she even was. But going back to Mom seems different.)

And -- here's where I get selfish -- the timing of this means there will be no time for any sort of just-the-5-of-us-again vacation between the time L and O leave and school starts. Nope, it'll be all-about-them -- getting them packed up, slowly moving their things to Mom's house over the course of a month, dealing with the behaviors that are sure to come as they try to cope with moving back and forth between us over several weeks -- until it's time to get ready to catch the school bus in the morning again. And yet, I don't feel like I can ask for a few respite days when they're in the middle of transitioning, so there will be no such family-bonding vacation this summer. Just like there wasn't one last summer, when L and O arrived 2 days before the intended one and we spent the rest of that summer expecting a call to send them home every week until it was too late for a vacation. Take L and O with you, you say? Well, you see the timing of all of these transitional visits is going to change week-to-week based on BioMom's work schedule. So I can't plan anything in advance because I won't know until "a few days" before which days they are going to be with her. (And that's the BioMom's version of "a few days" which seems to mean at best the day before.)

Yes, I would like some cheese with my whine, please.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"Permanency Hearing"

So, in a few days, we'll be having a permanency hearing on L and O's Case.

They're just a week shy of having been in care for 12 months, and great care was taken to ensure that this hearing would be before that 12 month anniversary.

At the last hearing, the parents were sternly told that they needed to have done xyz by this date and that they were lucky there was family to be considered at the permanency hearing because otherwise they'd be looking at TPR if they hadn't done said xyz.(That family is Paternal Aunt, by the way, who no one has mentioned since.)

I'm told they will most likely not be sent home the day of the hearing, even if the judge decides at the hearing that it's time to reunify. (We have yet to have a visit longer than 2 hours or a visit that isn't supervised.) I'm told that there will be transitional visits, with the goal of having them home full-time by the time school starts. But I've heard that plan before with the move to Paternal Aunt at the end of the school year.

I'm told no one thinks BioMom is ready to handle parenting 3 children on her own. I'm told that's not a good enough reason to keep the kids in care because there aren't any "safety concern" reasons. (Her drug tests are clean, she's maintained employment, taken all her required classes, obtained housing....) I guess having a single parent that no one thinks is ready for it isn't a "safety concern." I suppose we have to hold our breath and wait to either be proven wrong or watch her fail. (BioDad is out of state and has been denied as a placement. He's still showing up to court every time it happens, but he is not a serious contender for custody and the relationship between him and BioMom is not one of mutual support for the good of the children.)

I'm told--by several different people involved in the case--that they won't be surprised if the kids end up back in care again in a few weeks or months. But that's not a "safety concern"?? That's "permanency"?

I don't know what to expect from this hearing. I don't know what to hope for. Some days I think BioMom has worked so hard and so clearly loves her kids that it's time to get them back to her. Other days I think they deserve permanency that will last and wonder if Paternal Aunt would be better at that. On really bad days, I wish they could have a clean slate and an entirely new family to get them out of the drama circus that appears to touch every single extended family member we've every heard of.

Mostly, I'm trying not to hope for anything specific and just wait and see.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Aftermath of the Home Visit

I've always hated the day after the visit. I don't think I'm the only foster parent who feels that way.

Usually, L adjusts back to us and our routines pretty quickly, but the day after is always full of drama-queen behavior and she spends the day being reminded that I don't play the drama game. O needs a few days to be reminded that I mean what I say, that I have different rules than Mommy does. and that drama does not get him more attention from me.

This week was a doozy, though. And it started even before the visit this time.

To back up -- BioMom asked if I would send several things with the kids to her home for this visit, all of which I sent because they all sounded like either good ideas or at least reasonable ones.

She asked for:
  • a copy of our daily schedule/routine, so that she can keep things as consistent as possible for them.
  • a list of our house rules, for the same reason as above. Also, she said she was going to be creating a list of rules to post at her house, and I suspect she wanted to use mine as a starting place.
  • a set of pajamas for O and maybe for L. The kids will be getting back from this visit after bedtime, and BioMom wants to give O a bath and send him back ready for bed. She said she'd leave it up to L whether she wanted to do the same, which is why the pj's were a "maybe" for L.
We'll see if she ever does anything with the schedule and rules, although the cynic in me suspects that she took one look at them and scoffed that I'm too strict and regimented with her precious babies and I don't understand how sensitive they are.

Sorry. I'm feeling a little bitter and overwhelmed right now. These kids -- contrary to all of the examples I learned about in training -- appear to believe that everything they do is perfect and wonderful and cute and their mother appears to think that misbehavior by a 4 year old is cute and drama fits by an 8 year old are funny or endearing.  O uses affection to get out of trouble--he always asks for a hug or a kiss when he's done something wrong, in a way that is clearly intended to divert my attention from his misbehavior. L will scowl and stomp and sob as long as she has an audience.

As for the pajamas, technically, she needs to provide them with clothing. But, she's been sending everything she buys for them to me, so that they can wear them; the clothes she has at her house are a year old and too small. And this wasn't intended to be an overnight visit, for which she would be expected to provide their needs. So, I was fine sending the pajamas. (In fact, the supervisor told me that she'd told BioMom she needed to check their sizes during this visit and make sure she bought what they needed for the future; I told the supervisor that BioMom doesn't really need to buy them more clothes; they will be coming home with a fully stocked wardrobe made up entirely of clothes that belong to them already. BioMom shouldn't have to waste her money by buying another pair of new pajamas for children who already have 6 or 7 sets that fit them fine!)

The night before the visit, when I tucked O into bed, I started to say my usual, "Tomorrow is Tuesday and you get to see Mommy!", intending to throw in "and see her house and your room and meet the dog!" He interrupted me to say he was going home to Mommy tomorrow. Uh, what? I explained that he was going to see Mommy tomorrow at her house, but he'd still come back here that night. After I had him settled for the night, I realized that the pajamas had confused him. He heard her request them and knew he was bringing pj's to Mommy's house and having a bath there. He was certain that this meant he was sleeping there that night.

In the morning, he was still insisting he was going to sleep at Mommy's tonight. This time, I explained the plan to give him a bath and send him back to my house ready for bed and I think he finally believed me.

They got home so late from the visit with Mommy that they went right to bed.

And today -- the day after -- the behaviors were out of control.

L was in full drama queen mode--everything was huge and all about her and the end of the world. (And that is one of my buttons, so this sort of thing does not go well for either of us.)

O cried at breakfast because we were out of Froot Loops. He cried at lunch because Edmund had finished the leftover ham casserole and there wasn't any more left. Worse than the hair-trigger crankiness, he was back to not accepting No for an answer. "Can I do this?" "No, that's break this rule you already know about." "But I want to, so can I?" "I said No." "But WHY????"

They are both back to talking about "when we leave" and "when we go home." Will we take this with us? What about that? Mommy says the house is ready, so we can go home now, right? When will we? When will you know? Why don't you know?

No one had much to say about Mommy's house other than that they liked it. No comments about the pool, the "huge" yard (which the supervisor says is not that big), the treehouse....AND my bitterness is showing again.

L said somewhat wistfully that she "thinks Mommy's house is a trailer" (which it is).

Tomorrow will be better. But, today? Ugh.

Monday, June 18, 2012

First Home Visit

So, I told you that last week's visit did happen and that I knew the plan before I picked up L and O from camp. (Hallelujah!)

After they left for that visit, I got a call from my agency worker. She casually asked if I had "seen the email about visits" yet. I hadn't . . . because I didn't get it.

It said that this week's visit will be at BioMom's home. It will still be supervised and they will have both community visits and home visits for a few weeks. (Why was I not on that distribution list? Shouldn't I know little things like where the children I am supposed to be caring for are going to be going!?)

When L and O got home from their visit last week, they already knew that the next visit would be at "Mommy's house." Which they have never seen, so they are very excited. (L is also a little suspicious of me. After all, I told her I would tell her anything as soon as I knew of it and I didn't tell her this. I think she believed me when I explained that I didn't hear about it until after she'd left for this week's visit.....especially after I elaborated that I will only tell her things I KNOW, not things that are just MAYBE going to happen. With the recent memory of the experience of you're-going-to-Paternal-Aunt-oh-wait-never-mind-no-you-aren't, she agreed that she didn't want to be disappointed like that again.)

As far as I know, there is no set date in place to drop the supervision, but that may all change when they go to court next week. There will be time for one home visit, which I suspect is deliberate--CW can tell the judge that "home visits have started" (as ordered at the last court date) and yet there has been as much time as she could give BioMom to fail to make rent and get evicted.

It'll be interesting to see how the kids react. Part of me wishes I could be there to see their real reactions. I predict that L will come home raving about the place--because she never says anything negative about any of the choices her mother makes. (Even when her mother asked her on the phone what she wanted to be for Halloween and couldn't remember her answer through the length of the short phone call, but didn't appear to realize it--L shrugged it off to me when I reconfirmed what I thought she said she'd wanted.) O will take his cue from big sis and rave, too, but he's more likely to slip and complain about something not being what she said (or he thinks she said) it was going to be. He's still trying to insist there's a full-size pool in the backyard and has only just stopped insisting that Mommy's house is bigger than mine. (It won't be -- it's a 3 bedroom trailer. And that's enough for what they need, which is the line I've been taking with O -- that Mommy's house doesn't have to be bigger than mine because there aren't as many people at her house.)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Visit Uncertainty -- resolved

Big sigh of relief tinged with frustration that this is how things are.

The visit did happen. I got the call about 10 minutes before I had to go pick up L and O from camp letting me know the actual when's and where's, so I was able to tell L as soon as I saw her. Yes, Mommy found a babysitter. Yes, that means you're still going to get to see her today, but Baby Brother won't be there because he's a little bit sick and needs to stay at home. 

They had a good time and all is right and normal in their worlds again. At normal as the life of a foster child can get!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Visit Uncertainty

It's nearly noon.

L and O are supposed to have a community visit with their mother this afternoon. They've had visits with her every Tuesday afternoon for as long as they've been here. She's never missed one, except the day she was in the hospital in labor with their baby brother; that time, she tried (and failed) to convince the caseworker to okay a visit at the hospital after the baby was born.

But the community visits have opened up a little more flexibility in the exact time and, of course, the location of this family togetherness time. Which means that I spend the whole week waiting to hear what the plan is. Where are they going this week? What time will the visit be scheduled start and end? What time does that mean they will be picked up and returned to my house?

It's nearly noon and I still don't know the answers to those questions for today.

I'm a scheduler and a planner. When I tuck children into bed at night, I tell them what we will do the next day. "

Tomorrow is Sunday and we'll go to church in the morning."

Or "Tomorrow is Thursday and you have school and then we'll go to Susan's PT appointment."

Even "Tomorrow is Saturday and we can sleep late in the morning because we don't have much going on."

Monday nights, it's always "Tomorrow is Tuesday and you get to see Mommy!" I've been confident saying it because BioMom is so dedicated to her time with these kids that I know she will move heavan and earth to get there.

I couldn't say that last night. Because all I knew about the visit was that Baby Brother is sick--too sick to be out in public at a community visit--and BioMom was trying to get in touch with a babysitter to watch him while she came to the visit. No times were being set in stone for the visit until she got her sitter lined up although we were still aiming for the afternoon. There was even a mention of a "make-up" visit on Sunday if she couldn't get a sitter.

So, I had to drop them off at daycamp this morning, admitting that I didn't know yet where their visit would be, or when they would leave for it, and that there was even a possibility that it wouldn't happen.

I will leave to pick them up from camp in about 2 hours. I'd really like to know the answer when I arrive because I don't want to have to tell them I still don't know. Especially on top of L's struggles with Mr D's absence!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Leaving and Returning

Early  this morning, my husband left town for 10 day business trip.

We knew this trip was coming. We'd casually told all the kids when he would leave (today), when he would be back (in about a week and a half), what they would be doing while he was gone (nothing much different except it's just me as the adult, instead of our usual tag-team). We didn't really think it was a big deal.

It isn't a big deal to Peter, Susan and Edmund. He takes this trip every summer. The last two years, we've gone on this trip with him and made a family vacation out of it. But this year's location isn't very family friendly and I wasn't taking 5 kids to live out of a hotel for 10 days anyway. So we had told the Originals that we weren't going with him this time because there wasn't really anything for us to do there.

It isn't a big deal to O as far as I can tell. In typical 4 year old fashion, he's much more attached to me (the primary caregiver) than to Mr D. So he's taking it in stride without much of a blip.

We just realized last night it apparently is a big deal to L. When he was telling them good night last night, letting them know he'd probably be gone when they woke up in the morning, asking them to be on their best behavior for me while he's gone, reminding them when he'd be back.....she teared up. She wouldn't look at him, didn't want to say good night or good bye and was fighting back the tears. We left her alone mostly, although I did rub her back a little bit and whisper to her that he'd be back next week. At tuck-in time, she whispered that she didn't want him to go. Again, I reminded her that he'll be back.

This morning, she's clingy and already claiming to miss him. (Although so far, he hasn't been gone longer than he would have been if he'd just gone to work today.)

I wonder how many men in her 8 years have left, maybe "for a little while", and never returned.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I mentioned that the kids are getting restless with that magic 1-year date looming in the near future and the recent addition of visits held out in public. (The visits are still supervised, just no longer held within the easily controlled environment of the fully staffed county visitation center.)

It's manifesting itself in ramping up of defiant behaviors. I'd noticed it at first with O--who has begun to tell me that he'll just wait and do whatever-I-just-said-he-couldn't when he's at Mommy's house. He's back to flat out ignoring us when we try to gently redirect him, forcing a show-down that I don't want to have, but can't let him win. It's exhausting. And this 4 year old--who has not had an toileting accident in months -- has had 5 in the last week.

Now, I'm noticing it in L as well. She breaks a long standing house rule--don't run in the house. I remind her--We don't run in the house, please! She stops running, says sorry. 5 minutes later, she's running again. Correction again, "Sorry!" again. So this time I follow up with a warning -- if you can't remember these rules for more than 5 minutes after a reminder, you might need some time to yourself today. No!No! She straightens her back, shakes her head. I'll remember! But 5 minutes later is running again. So, when I enforce the consequence, she tears up and begs for another chance.

It's been clear to me from day one that these kids have never had consistently enforced discipline in their lives. We have established structure, routine, and consequences for poor choices. We were running along pretty smoothly until just recently.

So what changed?

2 things. School's out--which loosens the structure of their days because there is no time spent at school anymore. And community visits started.

I'm trying to believe that the two things are equally at fault for this downward slide, but it's hard not to blame the community visits. Especially for O, whose behavior has changed so dramatically and who only ever had school 3 days a week to begin with. When I begged the caseworkers for advice, I got nothing helpful. Just reassurance that they aren't surprised to hear it. CW said that at O's age, it's especially common. The kids can sense from the change in visits (and the way BioMom is talking about her house to them) that they might go home soon. O can't really verbalize what he's feeling about that--the conflict between feeling happy about being with Mommy again (because he does love and miss her) and feeling sad and anxious about leaving the place and people that have been "home" for the last quarter of his life.

We go to court again in about 2 weeks, so I'm just trying to hang in there with the patience and the not-actually-killing-anyone until then. That hearing might send them home, might set up transitional visits, might do any number of things. But, at the moment, both CW and my agency worker think that we'll know more about a permanent plan then. So, I am left crossing my fingers until then and hoping that having a plan will mean I can actually tell the kids something. And praying that knowing a plan will help them cope with the stress and uncertainty that is still a part of the lives of foster children who are stuck in this limbo land of "waiting" for other people to decide what will happen to them.