Wednesday, December 9, 2015


So, I was tempted to title this "Screeching Halt" but that would imply something has actually gone wrong with the process of adopting C. And it hasn't. We've just hit one of those annoying little periods where we are SO CLOSE to being done and waiting on JUST ONE THING and it's . . . just . . . not . . . getting . . . done.

I got a call the week before Thanksgiving from the caseworker. I got excited, hoping she was calling to schedule a time for us to come sign the Intent to Adopt paperwork.

She was calling for our Christmas list for C.

I'm not ungrateful for the people who are willing to shop and buy for kids in foster care so they can have as "normal" a holiday as possible. I'm eternally grateful for those who made it possible for our previous placements.


C is 4 months old.

She is in a home with a same-sex sibling only a year and a half older than she is.

She needs nothing.

I couldn't even come up with one idea. The caseworker wouldn't let me just take her off their list, though, so we ended up with a list that says "clothing and diapers" in the next size up from what she's wearing now. 

Anyway, I asked about the status of the adoption case, since I had her on the phone.

We will not be finalizing in 2015. We may not even be signing paperwork in 2015. She said she has everything. There is a "narrative" she has to write (agency caseworker has no idea what she's talking about) before she can put together the paperwork for us to sign. She wasn't going to get to that in November and wasn't even certain she'd get to it early this month. And I KNOW and UNDERSTAND that we are not her only priority or even her highest one, most likely. I was hoping, though, we'd be one of those "get it done and off my plate" kind of things and she'd be efficient about it for that reason.

We have a meeting this week, so we'll see if I learn any more about where we are in the process.

I'm disappointed -- that we can't be done this tax year for financial reasons, that we can't have 2 "Christmas" adoptions, that we can't send out Christmas/adoption announcement cards -- but, in the long run, it's not that big a deal. Still kinda hoping for January, so we can maybe sound out New Year's/adoption announcment cards? On the other hand, at this point, it probably works better financially to not sign Intent to Adopt paperwork until January, so she gets the new year clothing allowance. Except, all she's getting for Christmas is clothes, so I'd have to spend the clothing allowance on her future prom dress at this rate!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

DNA Results

We have confirmation of paternity! The DNA results (finally!) came in and they show that C's father is the person who surrendered his rights and is also Lucy's father.

So, they are full biological sisters.

More importantly, we don't have to search out a different biological father and figure out if he (or his relatives) are going to take custody of C.

Now, we just move through the final hoop jumping and red tape of paperwork.

We're still being told a finalization date in December is a possibility. Mr D is hoping for it; I'm trying not to get my heart set on that. We shall see. It's all going to depend on how quickly this paperwork gets filed and signed off on. We've told the caseworker that we will essentially drop everything and come running at her call to sign the Intent to Adopt paperwork.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Permanency In Sight

We met with the new caseworker this morning. She is experienced in child welfare, but is really a supervisor. This means, among other things, she knows what needs to be done and how to do it. I suspect it also means that she's got way too much on her plate, trying to do her actual job and cover the day-to-day of cases at the same time. However, her reaction to that last fact appears to be a desire to get this case completed and done and out of the way. Perhaps The Powers That Be were smart enough to only have her take on things like this that could wrap up and go away in a reasonable amount of time.

The home conversion is complete and was sent to DFCS yesterday.

The Child Life History will be complete any day now if it isn't already. (Caseworker was told on Friday that it was "almost done" and the author called us on Sunday to ask a few questions she needed to know to "wrap it up.") The caseworker hadn't received it yet, but she also hadn't been into the office yet today.

The 6 month rule -- the one that says they can't finalize an adoption until the child has been in the home for at least 6 months -- will be waived. The fact that she is being adopted into a home that contains her biological sibling (who was also adopted) makes the case for it being in C's "best interest" to move things along. (If we were waiting out the 6 months, the earliest we could finalize would be mid-March.)

The adoption assistance requires that the caseworker do a few extra steps to "apply" for it. The application process appears to be a rubber stamp type scenario, at least in this case. Caseworker says she'll do the application from home tomorrow (Veteran's Day) because she's "off." (Federal Holiday=DFCS office closed. To her, this clearly means some time to work uninterrupted on paperwork. No wonder caseworkers burn out.) She expects to have the approval for the adoption assistance back by Friday.

We still don't have DNA results. Caseworker texted the person in charge of those while we were in our meeting and said he is usually pretty responsive to her, but didn't hear back while she was here. That's really the only outstanding piece. We can't sign Intent to Adopt paperwork until we know for sure that the man who surrendered his rights is actually her father. It's been 7 weeks. At the time the samples were taken, we were told 2-4, but knew we were told that for Lucy and hers took 6. Yesterday, caseworker said it's been taking 6-8 weeks, but she still followed up even though we're still within that window.

We mentioned that we'd love to have another December adoption date -- last year's Christmas card doubled as an adoption announcement and we were able to have the baptism while family was in town for the holidays -- and that we'd signed Lucy's Intent to Adopt paperwork in late November. Caseworker asked who our lawyer was; upon hearing the answer, she said that was still possible. Cases with that lawyer lately have been going to court about 3 weeks after signing. It all depends on how much longer the DNA takes. I got the impression she'd love to do a November signing date -- it would mean she doesn't have to do a home visit in December.

C is 3 months old right now. Part of me is marveling at the speed of this case. (OK, that part shows up whenever I think about how old C is. 3 months. We could be signing Intent to Adopt paperwork on a 3 month old. We could be finalizing the adoption when she is 4 months old.) The day-to-day, self-centered part of me is ready for the red tape to be over so we can move on with our forever family lives.

Balancing our experience against reading Rebecca at Fosterhood (especially the dragging out of Sandy's permanency) and Cherub Mamma (especially her Dude and Dolly story with such a lack of focus on the best interest of the child) makes me exceedingly grateful to be working with a county that actually appears to be working for the child's best interest and to care about quick permanency. If it's not possible to preserve the biological family -- and for these girls, it isn't -- getting them settled into stable forever families should be paramount.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Of Course

If there is one thing that's remained constant in the entire season of our lives spent working with the foster care system it's this: caseworker turnover happens frequently and without advance notice.

So, my latest attempt to find out if the (now-more-than-2-weeks-past-the-longest-time-range-we-were-told-it-would-take) DNA results were back yet was answered with the news that our caseworker has left DFCS.

She's actually, um, taken a job with my agency. Which is pretty awesome, actually, because she's great at her job and my agency is better than DFCS at keeping caseloads to a manageable level. So, much winning here -- agency gets a terrific case manager and caseworker gets a much improved work environment. Everybody's happy....except us for how it might/does impact our case. I just wish she'd waited a few more months!

No one knows who the new caseworker is. You can't just call the DFCS office and actually talk to anyone unless you have the caseworker's direct line, so it's not really easy to find out who we are working with next. (There's a separate number to report suspected abuse. I hope to little Baby Jesus in Heaven that someone actually answers that number, but I'm not about to waste their time for this question.) Most likely, I will find out who the new caseworker is whenever he or she gets around to calling me to set up their November home visit..

Mr D is still hoping for a finalization date before Christmas, but I don't think that's happening.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Feeling Judged

I had a moment in the grocery store a few weeks ago and it made me often is the judgement we think we are feeling from others actually completely inside our own heads?

I do not for a minute doubt that people have had moments of truly being judged by strangers around them. I've heard the stories of whispers and comments that drip with entitlement and lack of understanding. But, how often do we let ourselves feel judged based on nothing more than a facial expression we could have misread or a silence that might have meant nothing?

Here's my story:

I had Lucy in the child seat and C in her car seat carrier down in the basket of the grocery cart. C was screaming and Lucy was escaping the straps. But we were nearly out of formula and milk, so I had to do the minimum grocery run. As I approached a checkout lane, a gentlemen with a full cart waved me ahead with a smile.

The cashier made pleasant small talk as she rang up everything but the formula and asked me if Lucy and C were my only children. I laughed and said I had 3 more in school.

Then I pulled out my WIC checks to pay for the formula. As I did so, I thought I caught sight of the gentleman behind me in line -- the one who'd let me cut in front of him. I thought I saw him freeze, just for a second. I thought I felt him think, "5 kids? and on public assistance? Get your tubes tied and get a job, lady." I resisted a powerful urge to comment on the fact that we'd adopted Lucy from the foster system, that we intended to adopt C but she was in foster care and that was why she got WIC and that was also why I was feeding her formula anyway. None of that is the business of any random stranger in the grocery store and saying it would have served nothing but my pride.

But, here's the thing. The man in line said nothing. The cashier said only that I must be a busy woman. He did nothing but put his groceries on the checkout behind mine. She simply rang up my items in a professional and efficient manner.  I thought it. That was my voice in my head judging me, not theirs. It wasn't until I was in the car -- feeling judged -- that I realized I hadn't even made eye contact with either of them after I pulled out the WIC checks. I gave them no opportunity to show me a lack of judgement. I was so focused on myself, so turned inwards, that I didn't even really see them.

So, in that story, doesn't it sound like I'm the one who is jumping to judgement? I'm the one who is denying others the grace of assuming their best intentions.

Remove the log from thine own eye, indeed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Still Waiting

I have nothing new to report, really.

We are still waiting for the DNA test results.

We are still waiting for the agency to complete our home study conversion.

We are still waiting for the Child Life History to be written.

All those things have to happen before we can move to the next step in adopting C, which is the signing of the Intent to Adopt paperwork. We signed Lucy's in mid-November and just barely got a finalization date in that same calendar year. So, that's still remotely possible. But all those things we are waiting for were done by this time last year, so that's why the possibility is "remote."

C is sometimes taking a daytime nap now. One. Some days. When I'm really, really lucky, it overlaps with Lucy's nap and I get to eat lunch and maybe even shower uninterrupted.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Rules, rules, rules

My state has established a new policy regarding the supervision of children in the foster care system.

There's a sentence to strike fear in the hearts of foster parents everywhere.

Actually, I think this one is a good change. It's called the "Prudent Parent Policy" and appears to be somewhat aptly named. It's not going to make major differences in my life because C is really going to be the last placement for a very long time (I mean it this time!) and she's too little for most of the changes to matter. But, for older kids in care, it's going to make a huge difference in allowing them to lead semi-normal lives.

Under the new rules, the foster parents are allowed to use their own judgement (GASP!) concerning short-term supervision. That means I can:
  • leave the child with anyone over the age of 18
  • leave the child in someone else's home
  • let someone else transport the child
  • even let the child spend up to two nights supervised by someone else, either in my home or in theirs!
I still can't:
  • take a child out of state without permission
  • leave a child with anyone under the age if 18
  • leave a child with a biological family member other than state approved visitation (duh)
The only difference this makes to me is that I can now take C to a friend's house for babysitting if that's more convenient and that I can choose those friends from a longer list of options. And, maybe, that my mother could babysit overnight in our house so Mr D and I could get away for a break. By the time she's old enough for the other changes to be likely to matter, her adoption should be final.

But, for older kids? This is huge. This means that the 4 year old can go to a playdate at his friend's house after preschool. This means that the 8 year old can go to pizza with the baseball team and get a ride home with the team mom. This means the 10 year old can go to the spend-the-night birthday party for the classmate. This means that the 13 year old can go on the school's overnight field trip without the foster parent having to be a chaperone. This means that the 17 year old can travel with the dance team to the competition that is in-state but a 5 hour drive away, so the team is leaving the night before and will stay in a hotel. This means foster children can participate in school and activity carpools without the foster parents having to be the only driver. This means, in general, that foster parents can make normal, rational parenting decisions about where it is safe for the child to be. And that will go a long, long way in allowing at least a semblance of normalcy in these kids' lives.  

I always thought it was crazy that the system put me through all these hoops and trusted me with every detail of these children's lives, including trusting me to feed them, bathe them, clothe them, care for them in sickness...but didn't trust me to know which classmates' houses were safe enough to allow the child to go over and play after school for an hour. (And I'll confess, I kind of did this already with L who became good friends with a girl who lived about 8 houses away. I never let her spend the night, but I did let her go over to play after school, even though the mother was not "approved.")

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Caseworker Meeting

We met with the adoption worker last week. It's the same one that was assigned to Lucy's case, which is excellent news. She is efficient and organized and on top of things.

DNA samples have been sent to the lab and we are still waiting on results. Based on this particular family's history, the caseworker thinks it is unlikely that the DNA result will come back with any surprises, so we are moving forward with all the adoption paperwork on the assumption that the DNA will confirm paternity. If we're wrong, and it shows up that he's not the father, we have to put everything on hold and conduct a paternity search.

We've have to "convert" our home again (apparently this has to be re-done with each child, at least to some extent). We've filled out that paperwork and sent it off. Now we wait for the agency person who works on those to get it done. (Don't have a timeframe on that yet. It's not expected to take long, but our agency caseworker emphasized that she has no idea how many other home studies this person has ahead of us.)

DFCS has to complete a Child Life History again. The same person who wrote Lucy's is assigned to write C's and, just like the home conversion, it isn't expected to take her long to complete but we have to get in line.

Once those are done, we can sign the Intent to Adopt paperwork and get a court date. Adoption worker thinks another December finalization is a possibility.

She did drop a good-news bomb on us, though. Because Lucy's adoption is so recent and because C is "joining a sibling," C is classified as being adopted as part of a sibling group, which means she qualifies for adoption assistance! When the caseworker first said that, I was pleased, but thought only in terms of "that means they'll pay the lawyer's fees this time, won't that be nice." As it turns out, however, adoption assistance is a kind of package deal; you either qualify for the whole thing or you don't. So, in addition to DFCS paying the legal fees, C will be eligible for Medicaid until she's 18 (that'll be secondary insurance to our very good work-provided plan, so won't come up much, but could be helpful if she ever needs anything beyond an office visit or routine prescription) and we will receive a monthly stipend every month until she's 18 as well. We're still a little stunned at the idea that the state will be sending us money every month, but it does ease one of the "how will we do this" questions that we had when we were making the decision to accept her placement. This summer, I started a master's degree program with the idea that I would be prepared to get a full-time job in education when Lucy starts kindergarten; C's arrival pushes that return-to-work date back by about 2 years (probably) and we frankly weren't sure if we would make it that far financially. But, we took a deep breath and stepped up, trying to trust that God would provide. And He did! The stipend obviously isn't as much as I hope to make working full-time, but it's enough to probably give us those extra 2 years before we run out of savings. 

We're trying not to get our hearts set on that December finalization date -- although it would be so cool if both girls had December Adoption Days -- at least until we know more about the time frames for these first two pieces that are out of our hands.

C is sleeping well at night, not much during the day. It's a challenge, navigating caring for an infant who just wants to be held and caring for a toddler who is busy, busy, busy...but it's one that I know will have a relatively short life span.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How Yesterday Went

  • Got a text telling me he was signing surrenders.
  • I replied asking about the DNA sample
  • Responding text said they were doing that "right now."
  • Anna brought C back to the house.
  • She said "you were right; she does hate the car."
  • Learned that they had taken C's DNA sample.
  • Anna did not actually see biofather's sample given and she said she "hoped he didn't leave."
  • There is a rule (law? policy?) that states the child has to be in the home for 6 months before finalizing an adoption. I understand the logic behind the law, but Anna says she'll see if they can get it waived for this case on the grounds that we are already the adoptive parents of the sibling.
 Pending DNA results (which should take 2-4 weeks, but last time took closer to 6) and also pending the window of time biodad has to change his mind and revoke his surrender (highly unlikely -- he declined a final visit), C is "legally free." She's not quite 2 months old.

We've contacted the lawyer and started the process rolling.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Court Today

We learned late Friday afternoon that C's case would go to court this morning. She's required to attend. (I asked for notice so I could arrange childcare for Lucy. I guess I got the weekend.)

Biodad is supposed to be there and (we're told) will sign surrenders. No idea if he's given his DNA sample yet. (Apparently last year's sample given for Lucy's case is "no longer good." I guess they don't preserve them for long term storage.)

Awesome agency caseworker (Anna) has rearranged her schedule so she can go to court and volunteered to take C. So, she is picking her up early this morning (with a fully stocked diaper bag) and will bring her back when it's all over.

Normally, I like to go to court, if possible. But, for this case, I wasn't so sure. I don't know if the biological parents know that C is with the same people that adopted Lucy. I don't know how they might feel about that. And I, selfishly, don't really want to see them. Mr D has work commitments this morning and can't go. (We don't think they'd recognize him.) Also, this particular court has a tendency to decide on the day of court to "just meet in chambers" instead of in the courtroom. When they do that, there's a limit on the number of people who can come in the room (due to space) and the foster parent never makes the cut. When that happens, it means I juggled childcare and drove (an hour) to court to just sit in a waiting room all day.

So, C is off to court with Anna. I'll be giving Lucy some intensive one-on-one Mommy time, although right now she's still asleep. And around mid-day, I should learn what happened and where we go from here. Will biodad show? Do they have the DNA sample? What does the time-frame look like moving forward?

Interestingly, I got a call last night from the person writing the Child Life history. I think things behind the scenes are moving pretty fast.

Waiting is always a big part of foster care. At least this time, I know I'll get some answers today because Anna has to bring C back to me....

Friday, September 25, 2015

Where Things Stand

A bullet point update, because I am Always Too Tired right now.
  • The SwaddleMe swaddling blankets (pictured to the left, although ours are shades of pink) have been a life saver. C needs to be wrapped up tightly a lot of the time, especially to stay asleep. Her withdrawal symptoms include a lot of jerky flinching, which wakes her up. Mr D and I have realized that we are both very, very bad at swaddling a baby in a blanket. These things, though? Fantastic. 
  • At first, the blankets were only saving my sanity while we remained in the house. C hated the car and, of course, I had to unswaddle her to put her in the car seat, didn't I? But, then! I realized what the little hole in the back of the blanket was for. I CAN SWADDLE HER WITH THESE WHILE STRAPPING HER INTO THE CARSEAT. Answer to prayer.
  • Birthmom's surrender is official and final and done. There does not appear to be any plan for a final visit.
  • Birthdad has stated his intent to surrender, but has still not actually been seen by the caseworker. I doubt he will want a final visit, even if offered one, since such a visit would also be the first time he's seen her.
  • Caseworker seems very thorough and on top of things. It makes me happy when they actually want to see the child's bedroom and check under the baby's clothing; I know I'm not hurting this child, but it's the caseworker's job to ensure it.
  • I used up my Dreft on the second load of her laundry. I'm not buying more. She's doing fine with her clothes washed in our regular detergent.
  • Daytime sleep is still a bit of challenge. 
  • Every day, I see a little bit more happy baby time and a little less screaming, miserable, withdrawing-from-drug-exposure baby time. Hooray!
  • Lucy is equal parts proud of and jealous of her baby sister. She points her out to people -- "Bay-bee!" -- and insists I go running if she hears her over the monitor. On the other hand, she's gotten very clingy to me and begun to resist letting Mr D or Peter doing things for her, especially when she's tired.
  • Tho Originals are still being big helps, although I try to limit what I ask of them, other than being more responsible for their own things. (I no longer make school lunches, for example.)
**Disclaimer, in case you're wondering: I have no ties to the makers of SwaddleMe and purchased these with my own money.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Early Days

C arrived during Lucy's naptime on Friday and then it was the weekend. Today is the first time I've really had to be alone with both littles awake. That's fun. (Well, no. No, it isn't. Hopefully, it will be fun. Later.)

C seems so tiny -- although she's a healthy weight. We're still working on figuring out the best bottle/nipple combination for her. She has a very strong suck, so she gets frustrated with store bought "infant" nipples with their slow flow because she wants the formula to come out faster! This is the learning curve that happens with every baby, of course.

She has no issues with night/day confusion, thankfully. She'll usually take at least one long sleep overnight. We've haven't discovered a consistent daytime nap schedule yet, but I'll take that over night time sleep issues any day.

She's generally happy if held, which is where the challenge this morning came in. I can't just hold her all day, as much as I might want to do that!

To answer Emily's question, the big three are being big helps right now and are completely in love. Edmund held her (sitting carefully on the couch) for me the other day when I needed to go clean Lucy up from a diaper explosion. Peter came home from a run and immediately invited Lucy outside to play with him on Sunday evening while Mr D was out doing the grocery shopping. (He'd thought he could get back before Lucy got up from her nap. He was wrong.) Saturday afternoon (while Lucy napped), I was trying to get a screaming C to settle down and Susan came down from her room to ask if there was anything she could do to help me. I'm well aware this spontaneous helpfulness won't last, but I'm using it while I can!

Lucy is fascinated, but a little clingy. She calls C "Bay-bee." It's adorable. Except when she screams it at the top her lungs when "Bay-bee" has just started to drift off to sleep....

Saturday, September 12, 2015

She's here!

Kayla went to the court date and signed the surrenders.

Biodad didn't show up. The caseworker still hasn't actually seen him. And she was at the hospital when C was born. He wasn't there then and the NICU reports that he has never visited. Kayla keeps telling the caseworker he's at work. When the caseworker told me that, she made little air quotes with her fingers.

So, the case goal is unofficially adoption, but the caseworker (who only does the intake) isn't sure if the county will have to assign us a foster caseworker first until they can get biodad into the office to sign his paperwork. We are irritated by the delay because we're so spoiled by Lucy's case that we let ourselves wonder if another December finalization was possible. (Lucy was legally free in mid-August! If C is legally free in early September, maybe....?)

She is already off the one medication that she was still on. She's tiny -- I'd forgotten how little 9 pounds really is! -- and beautiful. She seems to be doing OK. Mostly, she got held a lot yesterday and spent the night in the swing, waking to eat and settling back down pretty well.

Friday, September 11, 2015


When things finally move in foster care, they can move very, very fast.

I got a text Wednesday night saying that DFCS was filling out the paperwork to take custody on Thursday and would set things up so we could go visit Baby C.

Mr D and I plotted and planned to go Saturday afternoon when Peter could watch Lucy since NICUs don't allow children into the unit.

Then I got a call on Thursday from the county caseworker. C was going to be discharged "today or tomorrow" and the nurses would really like us to come visit so they could go over everything with us directly.

We ended up at the NICU yesterday with Lucy in tow and just took turns visiting with C.

There is court this morning, at which both parents are expected to officially surrender their rights. After court, the caseworker will pick C up from the hospital and bring her here. If court goes as expected, we are already looking at an adoption case.

She was born with quite the cocktail of drugs in her system and it has been a lengthy withdrawal and weaning process. But, she is off of all but one of the medications used for that and on a "tiny" dose of the remaining medication.

She's about a month old. She is smiling and cooing at the nurses and they clearly adore her.

She sleeps best while rocking in a swing, per the NICU nurse, which for sure simplifies the whole "where does she sleep" question I was stressing over way back when. (She sleeps in the swing because that's what the medical staff told us to do. We are working on assembling an assortment of swings and swing-like objects to keep all over the house. When she gets big enough to not need to do that, she will move into Lucy's room. )

Mr D and I went out to dinner last night because we could. And soon, we can't. Word is starting to spread. (We told the church staff, he told some co-workers and (biggest source of spreading) the players and parents of the team he is coaching right now.)

Here we go.

Bracing ourselves.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tuesday is Monday this week

Yesterday was Labor Day, so I knew I most likely wouldn't hear anything until today at the earliest.

We got a tiny bit more information on Friday afternoon along with something that sounded like a promise of more that never came.

C was not premature; she was full term. But she is withdrawing. A NICU nurse told me once that Lucy's prematurity may have actually benefited her health in the long run since it meant less drug exposure time. That didn't happen with C. That's all I know about her health. I don't know how bad the withdrawal is or how they are treating it. At this time, she is not placed with us (officially) so I have no rights to information and have to wait for caseworkers to share.

There is still no estimated discharge date.

Biomom does still indicate a plan to surrender rights, but it appears nothing will move forward on that until CPS actually takes custody of the baby. That won't happen until the hospital tells them when they expect to discharge her. At that time, the caseworker can give the hospital permission to talk to us about how she's doing and what's going on.

No one has talked to biodad about his plans. Tom had the impression that biodad was "not interested" and even might not know about the baby. I don't think that's right. The photo shoot from Facebook indicated that he knew about the pregnancy and the county caseworker commented that his contact information was the same as Kayla's so they are still living together. A message has been sent to him to go talk to the caseworker this week. If he does, we will hopefully know his plans; if he doesn't, that will hint (to me) at a plan to surrender, because wouldn't you make sure to go see the caseworker if you thought you wanted to work a case plan? Of course, it might also hint that Kayla never passed on the message.

We still do not have permission to go visit her in the hospital.

The last conversation on Friday ended with the caseworker saying she was going to call the hospital for an update and would get back to me. I haven't heard anything since. 

We went ahead and told the kids and did some furniture rearranging in bedrooms to make things work better with two little ones sharing the room that is currently just Lucy's. Lucy, of course, has no idea what is about to happen. It'll be interesting to see how she reacts.

We still don't know so much important stuff. The biggest being WHEN?

Friday, September 4, 2015

I Called Him Again

I'd actually managed forget in the months since Lucy's adoption was final. I forgot how much a foster parent has to bug a caseworker to get any answers.

So, I called Tom again. (That's the supervisor of my agency caseworker who is out on medical leave, remember.)

I got his voicemail, so I left a somewhat rambly message. The part that I think got across was when I said that we haven't even told the current children yet that this baby is coming because we just need a few more concrete answers first so we can have that conversation with them without it being full of "I don't know" statements. We don't know when she'll be here. We don't know if she's doing okay. We don't know if she'll be an adoptive placement. We don't know, we don't know, we don't know.

He texted me back that he'd called the county caseworker after he listened to my message, but got her voicemail. He asked me to text him a list of the questions so he could be sure he got them all answered. When I sent him all 8 or so of them -- in one long text -- he responded that it was "perfect!" and said he would email that list to the caseworker as well in case she would respond better to that.

Later, I got only the briefest of updates. CPS is holding off on taking custody until they have a more firmed up discharge date -- so I guess it's not early next week? The other questions were being forwarded to yet another county caseworker who supposedly knows more. Oh, and they were going to see if biomom would sign a release so we could come visit her in the hospital.

We're heading in to a holiday weekend. I'd love to spend this time rearranging furniture and setting up cribs everywhere I think C might sleep. But I don't want to do that and then spend another 3 weeks waiting for her to show up. Or, even worse, do that and have something cause her not to come at all.

I don't think it's likely that she doesn't come at all. Unless...I'm almost afraid to type it. Unless she dies.

I don't think that's likely either, but I've heard no health updates since the very beginning. And no one who talks to me seems to know why the hospital doesn't know when they might be ready for discharge.  Part of me wants that permission to visit so that I can talk to the NICU nurses. Maybe they would tell me something. Even if it's vague. Actually, I expect it to be vague. I don't expect them to tell me that she'll be released on a specific Tuesday and stick to it; I just want to know what improvements she needs to make to be released. Is she breathing okay? Eating? Maintaining her own body temperature? Does she need medication on a regular basis? Does she need to put on more weight? Has she lost weight since birth? Gained? I just don't know.

I also don't thoroughly understand biomom's position. (As I type that, I think: probably biomom doesn't either.) We heard she was planning to surrender, so CPS was going to take custody and we would be given permission to visit. Now, we're hearing they are asking her to give us permission. Does that mean she changed her mind and now plans to work a case plan? Or does it just mean that she can't surrender until they take custody?

So many questions. So much waiting. We're back in fosterland, for sure.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Foster Care Pregnant

I'm stealing my title from one of Cherub Mamma's comments.

Being "foster care pregnant" is wierd. I think it's striking me especially this time; we've known for months this might happen, known for weeks now that she was here, but are still waiting for "delivery day."

It's also extra poignant right now because I have two ladies of my close acquaintance who have been pregnant all summer as well. One of them delivered about a week after C was born; the other still has a month to go until her due date. I've been to baby showers for both of them. I've prepared meals for the family whose baby is already here. And I've stayed silent about my own "pregnancy" because of the chance it could all fall apart and the confidentiality issues involved.

It's kind of like being in those first few months of pregnancy (the ones where you don't show yet and you aren't telling because you don't want to have to tell everybody if you miscarry). But we've stayed there for months, and will probably be giving birth suddenly.

Part of me is mourning the fact that this baby -- like M and like so many other babies in the foster care system -- doesn't get to have the big celebrations of her birth. There's no crowd of church ladies eagerly awaiting her arrival so they can fight over who gets to hold her in the nursery; there's no band of friends plotting to shower her with adorable, useless (or useful) baby items; there was no adoring squad waiting at the hospital while her mother labored. It makes me sad that her birth story doesn't get to include all that tangible evidence that she is loved and wanted and precious.

And yet...the rational side of me realizes that none of that matters. When she does arrive, she will be showered with attention and love from her "family" for as long as we are blessed to keep her. (It's looking like that's forever, but I'm trying to guard my heart a little bit until I know for sure.) She is blessed in that she is too young to know the deprivation she suffers.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

It's Tomorrow

I waited almost all day and heard nothing. OK, that's not quite fair. I got a text response to my question about biodad and the need for a DNA test, but it was pretty much a generic "how these things work" type of response, not a case specific one. (CPS prefers to have DNA, but there are other ways to TPR if the father is unknown or uncooperative. Well, I knew that.)

Finally, I called Tom at almost 5pm and asked if he'd heard anything from county caseworker. He said he hadn't, in spite of leaving a message for her, but had assumed that no contact meant they hadn't taken custody today. He said he would try again to reach her right now.

I waited again. For about 30 minutes.

And got a text from Tom. Saying that the county caseworker decided "to wait a while" before taking custody and would let him know when they did.

So, today's update -- which was supposed to tell me so much -- told me nothing different than what I've been hearing for almost a month.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It begins. Finally. Maybe?

I got a text this evening from Anna.

She's in the hospital. She'll be having (relatively minor, but unplanned) surgery tomorrow and will be out for about a week. She wanted to tell me what she knew and give me her supervisor's contact information as her supervisor will be covering for her while she's recovering from the surgery.

What she knew: C is expected to stay in the hospital for one more week. Kayla plans to surrender rights (already!?), so CPS may take custody tomorrow. (They usually wait until discharge to take custody, probably for budget reasons, unless they need to prevent the parent from visiting the child in the hospital.) If they do take custody tomorrow, we might be approved to go visit C in the hospital between then and discharge. The supervisor (let's call him Tom) will be talking to the county caseworker tomorrow to get more information.

I responded thanking her and telling her to quit worrying about us. (Can I just take this moment to say something that I hate hearing? I could never do Anna's job. I can't imagine being in the hospital and having to contact a bunch of people individually to tell them about it because my job required personal connections with so many and was so time-dependent that it wouldn't work to send out a blanket email: "I will be unavailable from x date to y date for personal reasons. Contact my supervisor if you need something before I get back.") She asked me to keep her posted.

I just texted the supervisor because I had one question I wanted to ask before he talks to the county caseworker. Kayla is surrendering; what about biodad? I'd be shocked if he makes a different decision with this child than he did with Lucy, but you never know. Regardless, do we have to wait out another DNA test?

My plan is to wait until about mid-day tomorrow before calling Tom to follow up. Until then....I'm feeling kind of...frozen. I want to leap into prep work with energy -- get the beds set up, pull out the baby clothing, put our support network on notice. But I don't think I can really do that until after we hear tomorrow's update. We haven't even told the kids yet.

So many questions. Surrendering already...does this mean no visits? No case plan? Do we go straight  to an adoption worker? How unheard of is this?!

Lucy's case was fast. This one? Sounds like it could be even faster.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday, Monday...

I posted last Monday that a new week felt like the start of another window of waiting.

I did get a text update from Anna early in the week, but it was one of those "nothing to report" type of updates. She said she still didn't know the planned discharge date and would try to find out why the baby was being kept so long. (Is something wrong? Is she actually having withdrawal issues? Does she just need more "growing" time?)

That was all I heard all week.

And, now, it is Monday again.

I do have some school meetings this week that will be easier to do sans baby, so part of me is selfishly hoping things continue to drag out. But I that baby alone in the NICU? Is anyone visiting her, holding her, loving on her? I know that NICU nurses are fantastic and loving people, but they have more to do than just hang out with one patient all day.

Lucy spent 5 weeks in a NICU. But that time, I didn't even know she existed until I also knew that she would be coming here in a few days. 


Friday, August 28, 2015

Academic snobbery

This post has nothing to do with foster care.

In fact, it has nothing to do with anything that I can discuss with anyone outside my nearest and dearest family members, and even then I have to be careful with whom.

But, I really, really need to vent right now.

In high school, I was one of those "best and brightest" academic kids. You know the ones. GPA over 4.0, taking all the AP classes the school offered back then and complaining that there weren't more of them, winning all the academic awards, offered academic scholarships from schools that I hadn't even applied to yet.

I went to a largish, private liberal arts university in the midwest. US News and World Report top 25 back then; I think it's ranked even higher now. There, I was surrounded by other students who were Just Like Me and I still did pretty well -- graduated with honors in 4 years with a double major in two areas that do not overlap at all.

After about 2 decades out of academia, I am now taking graduate school classes, working towards a Masters degree in an Education field. I am enrolled in a 100% online program at a smallish liberal arts school in my southeastern state's public university system. (Not the big flagship institution, one of the little ones with a directional description in its name.) Let's just say the admission requirements are not as stringent as my bachelor's program was.

I really, really don't want to be what my university professor uncle once described as "an academic snob." But.

The readings are killing me. Not because the material is difficult or there's a lot to cover or any of that. But because the assigned readings...we're talking about required reading assigned by an individual with a doctorate who is supposed to be teaching me to be an educator...are full of grammatical errors. Some of them are relied-on-spell-check typos: "the issue you as a perspective teacher face." Some of them are subject-verb agreement! One text (a published book that I had to pay for!) had a sentence with no verb phrase of any kind!

It makes me want to scream.

I get that typos happen. I'm sure I've made more than my fair share in the history of this blog. There might even be some on this post. And I can ignore and brush off errors in something posted on the message board about the next assignment. I will cringe, but can even let go of errors in the syllabus. But when the instructor chooses a text and assigns it as required reading? I expect it to have been thoroughly and professionally proofread. My blog is not an academic publication; these texts should be.

There's no way to complain about all of this to friends (and certainly not to classmates!) without sounding incredibly full of myself. I may sound that way to anyone reading this as well, but at least it doesn't burn any relationship bridges. But, oh, it is making me crazy. I want to break out a red pen and mark up the readings. Maybe I should. It might be therapeutic.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A New Week

Not long after I posted my last update, I got a text from Anna. She told me there wasn't any real update; C is still in the hospital, DFCS hasn't taken custody yet, but she still expects them to do so.  She also said she still didn't have any sense of a timeframe for C's expected discharge.

So, we went about our busy weekend baby-free...and kind of relieved about it. (Mr D was out of town all weekend so I was parenting solo, Peter had a cross country meet that was over an hour away, Susan had a school project to work on, I had a church committee meeting....all things we could have managed with a baby, but it was for sure simpler not to have one.)

And today begins a new week of waiting. I do feel that nothing surprising will happen on a weekend, so I was able to put the question mark of when she was coming out of my head for the past few days. But, now, it is Monday morning. And I will spend each day this week wondering when the call will come. And will the call be an update -- with a window of time to prepare? Or will it be, essentially, "so, I'm on my way..."? I'm hoping for the former, because we haven't told the kids (or anyone else). And since we haven't told them, we haven't even begun to set up baby equipment or pull infant clothes out of storage boxes.

I think it will be an update first. We had a few days advance notice with Lucy. Which stretched into a few more days as the hospital decided to keep her a few extra days. So, that could happen again. But what I don't know is what the county caseworker is thinking. Were the extra days notice with Lucy available because the caseworker was working on making sure she had a placement ready? And does she think she already has that this time? We shall see, I suppose.

Still have Dreft, but it's getting very low....

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

No, it isn't. Not this kind of waiting, at least.

But it's the hard thing I'm doing right now. I've heard nothing from anyone since the last update. I left a voicemail for Anna earlier in the week, commenting that I was trying to determine whether I could commit to doing something this weekend, but have heard nothing. (This is highly unusual behavior for her to leave me hanging like that after I've called to follow up. Either something has exploded in another case or she never got my message.)

For now, I'm assuming C is not coming before this weekend.

I don't know what to assume beyond that. Is she doing OK? Is she coming here at all? 

The only experience I've ever had like this in foster care was the second case we were asked to be a part of. Those were kids that needed an adoptive home because they were split across more than one foster home. Since the children were in safe and stable places, the county was being very careful and deliberate about picking an adoptive placement....and also dropping the ball to schedule meetings with us. We waited a month, thinking we were going to take on 3 children as a foster-to-adopt placement, but we never even met the kids. We never did another case with that county, either.

This is a completely different situation, but it feels very similar. There is no other foster-to-adopt home competing to take in C. The only question is whether she needs a home at all and when she will be healthy enough to leave the NICU. At the root of it all, though, I'm just waiting.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Some More Info

We know Baby Sister's name now. I think I'll call her C.

Anna talked to Kayla. So, consider the source. But the latest update, all according to her:

  • Kayla has been regularly attending a methadone clinic and staying clean. (She gave the hospital permission to discuss her with the clinic to confirm her story.) It was the methadone that Kayla and C had in their systems. 
  • C was born at a healthy birth weight, although we still don't know how early she was. (Based on the birth weight of over 6.5 pounds, I'm assuming not very early.)
  • C is still in the hospital. Kayla claims something very confusing about C's withdrawal and medications. According to Kayla, the hospital has put C on some medication to prevent withdrawal and will try in a day or so having C go without the medication to see what happens. In Anna's experience, this is not how hospitals handle newborns with prenatal drug exposure. In past cases she's had, they've only started medication if the baby shows signs of withdrawal, usually severe.
If (big, giant, flashing neon "if") this is all correct, then DFCS should be -- at a minimum -- working a case plan with Kayla. (That's my and Anna's opinion. No idea yet of the actual county caseworker's opinion.) It seems to me that confirmation of this story should mean that Baby C might even go home with Kayla and DFCS would just do some more "monitoring" to ensure she's continuing to make her clinic appointments.

I'll be interested to hear what the county caseworker says when we get an update there. Anna is not sure the hospital would even tell Kayla if the drug screens on the baby contradict her story until DFCS is ready to actually take custody which has not yet happened. She's also not sure if C being on medication actually means she did show signs of withdrawal and Kayla either doesn't understand or wasn't told the full story.

This particular county runs a staffing model where there's an "intake" caseworker who handles all the front-end stuff and then an "ongoing" caseworker who takes over at about the three month mark. The caseworker who called Anna is the intake caseworker. She has been the intake caseworker for the cases involving all four of Kayla's children. There is no chance of her not getting the history. There is a chance of her leaping to an assumption that this is a "here we go again" scenario. There is also a chance of that assumption being correct. The three previous children's cases all had the same judge, although there is more than one judge available for these cases in that county. It's way too early to know if C's case (if there is a case) will have the same judge yet again. I hope so, as this particular judge has an excellent reputation for working with biological families but not being easily fooled or manipulated.

I suppose it's still possible I could run out of Dreft before C is actually placed. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My Superstition Was Wrong

Well, I still have Dreft left, but I got The Call today.

"Anna" (our agency caseworker) called. She started out with pleasantries -- How's Lucy doing? Did your big kids start school this week? -- but quickly moved on to "I guess you know why I'm calling."

We're not sure exactly when she was born, but sometime in the last few days. We don't know her name yet. For now, I'm mentally calling her Baby Sister.

She was early, but we don't know by how much.

She (and Kayla) tested positive for substances that they should not have in their bodies right now. (Kayla is claiming it must be the meds given her in the hospital for labor pain, which is exactly what she said when Lucy was born, too. That's because the drug that she finds the most hard to give up is a prescription painkiller, but what she fails to understand or remember is that the drug she abuses is part of a family of drugs that is never given to laboring mothers.)

At the moment, Baby Sis is staying in the NICU. She's showing no symptoms of withdrawal yet (a good sign), but the hospital plans to monitor her for a while before considering discharge. Also, since we aren't sure how early she is -- or how big she is -- there may be preemie reasons to keep her in the hospital as well.

Anna got the call from the county caseworker as a professional courtesy and a feeler. Caseworker didn't know exactly when they'd be looking for an actual placement -- they don't know yet when Baby Sister can leave the hospital and they don't usually even start looking for a foster home until they have a discharge date -- but she knew our agency had a family that recently adopted a sibling. Would we be available and/or interested? Anna was able to say we might be, but wise enough to ask for more information.

So many things we don't know: Are there any concerns about her development? What are they? (That may or may not be a dealbreaker; it honestly depends on what the concerns are.) Will the county even attempt reunification this time? (Again, may or may not make a difference, but would be nice to know.) Is it the same father? How early is she? What was the drug? What hospital? Can we come visit if she's in the NICU for a while? When are we looking at placement?

Anna is waiting for a call back with those answers and will call me when she gets them. She doesn't expect to get them quickly -- this is pretty low on the caseworker's priority list until she has a discharge date. Meanwhile, I'm in a bit of a nesting, cleaning frenzy and mostly feeling excited at the idea that Lucy might get to grow up with a sibling near her age. I haven't told anyone except Mr D who is feeling a bit like we're having a surprise pregnancy. We still plan to tell no one until we have more details and know for sure she is coming. Or as for sure as foster care gets.

Monday, August 10, 2015


There is still nothing going on in fosterland around here. Our best guess at Kayla's due date (based entirely assuming the "she's about 5 months pregnant" in late April was correct) would put it later this month. There's been no update to her Facebook page since the pictures and I can't find any new information elsewhere online either. That means I still don't know what happened in her court cases. Part of me hopes she was convicted and sent to some sort of in-patient rehab program. (One of the cases involved a DUI, so that seems like a reasonable consequence to me. She has failed over and over at out-patient rehab. Maybe she could succeed with in-patient?)

School is starting. (Our schools run a schedule that allows them to complete all of the first semester before Christmas break...but it means starting school in early August.) Susan and Edmund are both in middle school this year, so it's been good having them on the same schedule to get out the door in the mornings. So far, morning shower times are staggering successfully. :)

M -- who I think I'll begin calling "Lucy" with this post -- is a busy, active little 18 month old. She's a climber in ways that the Originals never were, so you can't take your eyes off her for a second. On the other hand, she's pretty content in the mornings to play with her blanket in the crib, so I'm hoping I have at least a little while before she figures out how to scale the walls and get out of it all by herself.

My first semester coursework went well and the next semester will start in about 10 days. I'm hoping the start of the semester doesn't coincide with the arrival of a newborn, but I don't have control over that.

Slowly, the school year routine is falling into place with our not-so-little forever family. It remains to be seen if we're adding a "bonus child" this year or not. I can go hours without ever thinking about it, but mostly the uncertainty nags at me, especially as I try to plan for things that are weeks or months away. I also find myself wondering about inconsequential things: will the baby be a boy or girl? What's the baby's name? Will Kayla work the case plan this time? It's not as stressful a mental itch as limbo is when there is a child in my home whose future is uncertain, but it's still there, niggling at the back of my consciousness. In some ways, I wish I didn't even know Kayla was (might be?) pregnant, but then I remember that we would be closed if that were the case.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Silly Superstition

When M first came to us, she was tiny and fragile. A 5 week old baby born 9 weeks early, straight from the NICU.

So, I washed all her clothing, bedding and blankets in Dreft. We're members of one of those big warehouse clubs, so that's where I generally bought the Dreft, meaning I have a giant tub of it sitting in my laundry room.

It's been a long time since I bought the last one, and I don't think she needs her things washed separately from the rest of us anymore, but I figure I might as well use up the Dreft on her things rather than washing everybody's in it.

Recently, I've developed a superstitious feeling about the tub of Dreft in my laundry room. I think I will hear nothing about the new baby's birth or need for placement until after I've finished it. I'm not sure whether that makes me want to use it up faster or stretch it out to last longer.

Monday, July 13, 2015

What if?

There's still been no real information learned about Kayla and her pregnancy.

Mr D casually threw a "What if?" out there the other day that is making it hard for me to sleep again.

He said something along the lines of "if she's even really pregnant..."

It made me take a step back. What do I really, really know?
  •  I know she posted pics on Facebook of her (and M's biological father) with her clearly pregnant.
  • However, I don't know when the photos were actually taken. For all I know, this are pictures of her pregnant with M!
  • I know that someone commented on those photos asking if she was pregnant and she said she was.
  • However, she lies on Facebook all the time. On a different comment on the same photo, she claimed to have regained custody of her two older biological children. Her rights to those children were terminated about 2 years ago and they have been legally adopted into other families. 
  • I know that the person who informed me of the pregnancy is not likely to lie to me about this. She's one of those children's adoptive mother and she lives in the same town that Kayla does. (I live about 45 minutes away.)
  • However, I don't know how she knew. Did she actually see Kayla and could tell she was pregnant? Did she hear it through something like these Facebook photos? Or from another person? I just don't know how reliable her sources are because I don't know what they are.
  • I know that CPS already knew.
  • However, I don't know how they knew or if they've confirmed it in any way. For all I know, they got the same message I did from the same source. They won't do anything until the baby is actually born, so I doubt if any follow-up was done to confirm the pregnancy.
  • I know Kayla was due in court last week for 2 separate criminal cases. As best I can tell, last week was supposed to be a trial with a jury for each of those cases. Her cases were not on the docket for Monday morning and I have no idea when -- or if -- they were actually heard in court.
  • However, I have no idea what happened in court and I don't know how well the criminal courts and the family courts communicate. So, I don't know if the CPS folks know what happened either. They know it was on the docket because I told them it was. 
 It all still boils down to the very simple fact that I actually know very, very little. I am as prepared as I can be for a phone call that says "can you?" but that is all I can do. So, we're waiting. And I'm trying to quash the little voice in my head that says I could be waiting for an imaginary baby.   

Monday, June 29, 2015

Little Things

I think we all know -- theoretically -- that small acts of kindness or thoughtfulness can build up into waves of positivity. Or that what seems like a small act to us can seem like a big gesture to another person receiving or even viewing that choice. I got a reminder of this fact last week, which I hope will inspire me to continue choosing to do the small things.

It was Vacation Bible School week. The story for the day was about the feeding of the 5000 and the directions called for me to bring in actual bread to break in front of the children and then pass the basket of pieces around to allow each child to take a piece. The author of the instructions had thought about food allergies and sensitivities, but their proposed solution was that I use a picture of a loaf to break and skip the passing around.

I didn't much like that idea. I asked the overall organizer of VBS for a list of food allergies, but never got it. (She was a little swamped as a stomach bug ran through our volunteers and attendees.) So, the day before the breaking of the bread, I asked each group leader as they left my room if they had any gluten or other food allergies in their group. I had a few no-gluten kids passing through, but no dairy or egg allergies. One group leader (the youngest group -- rising 1st graders) said she would tell the child's parent about the lesson and ask that an alternate snack be sent that day.

That wasn't the only class with a gluten-free child, however. So, when I went to the store to buy the bread to break, I simply picked up a small package of gluten-free sandwich rolls from the freezer case at my grocery store. It was small thing to me. No extra trip. Not a large outlay of money. Just a few extra steps and a few extra dollars. (For good measure, I picked one that was also dairy free and made in a nut-free facility, although I think it did contain eggs.)

The next morning, on the day of the feeding of the 5000, the parent of that 1st grader came rushing into my room before VBS started, asking what we were doing with bread today. She had forgotten the alternate snack. I showed her what I had bought (label still on for her to read) and explained my plan. I could almost see some of the stress leave her face as she assured me that what I had purchased would be OK for her child to eat.

But the really big moment? Wasn't just helping another mom ensure her child had something safe to eat and would not be excluded from the class lesson. (Although that would have been big enough.)

The really big moment came later in the day. I had noticed her child's reaction when I asked the group if anyone needed gluten-free bread and held up an alternate basket -- big eyes and a hand shooting into the air to claim that bread. But I hadn't thought anything much of it until the parent came by to see me towards the end of the day. She said her child had been "so excited" that I'd had an option ready for her.

It was a small thing for me to do. I just picked up one little extra loaf while I was in the store anyway. But, by doing that, I was able to include children who might otherwise have felt left out. Everyone got a piece of bread. And isn't that what the story is really about anyway? We were all fed, and there was bread to spare. For everyone.

Friday, June 12, 2015

What I know... still not a whole lot.

I know:
  • Kayla is certainly pregnant. She posted pictures on Facebook that make it obvious and confirmed the pregnancy in the comments when asked.
  • the implication (by the pictures) is that this baby has the same father as M. (Which means no paternal family members likely to be possible placements if one is needed.)
  • Kayla also said (in the Facebook comments) that this new baby is also a girl. I think that means she has to be at least 15-20 weeks along (4-5 months pregnant), but I don't know how long she's known that.
  • Kayla was due in court last week for one case and this week for a different one (neither related to DFCS cases).
I don't know:
  • when the photos on Facebook were taken
  • what the actual estimated due date is
  • what happened in court on either of those dates or even what sort of court it was. (I can see the charges on the court's website. The list on the docket makes both court dates look like "arraignments," but I thought those had to be within a certain amount of time after the arrest and at least one of these arrests seems to have happened months ago.)
  • whether Kayla is still taking drugs
  • whether she will make it to the due date this time (M was over 2 months early, but spent the first 5 weeks of her life in the NICU)
  • whether anything she says on Facebook is actual fact (She has said other things on Facebook in the last year or so that I know are not true.)
We have one more piece of paperwork to complete before our home is officially "open" (but only for this particular baby) again. That status will be valid for 1 year. For 3 years after that, we can "reopen" with minimal effort on our parts. So, I'm feeling pretty good about our readiness to be a resource if M's new baby sister needs a foster family. At least, our legal readiness. Not so sure about my emotional and physical readiness to take in another newborn or to have 5 kids, but who's ever really ready for those things.

It feels safe to assume (based on the photos on Facebook) that nothing will happen this month or next. That's good; it means the odds are good that, if this baby comes to us, the 3 older kids will all already be back in school and the routines will have been established that help them get up and off every morning. It also means the odds are good that I will have completed the first semester of my coursework; I am only taking one class a semester, so am hoping I can maintain that, even if we take in another baby.

I keep saying "If." "If" "If" "If."

I'm protecting my heart right now. I don't know if this new baby will come to us. I have no control over that. I've done all I can. We will soon be legally ready. We have told the agency caseworkers what the situation is. They have told the county caseworkers that we are available. All I can do is pray that this is enough...or that it isn't, if this baby doesn't belong with us after all. 

We've said nothing to anyone else. Nothing to the kids, nothing to our families, nothing to the friends who have been our best supports as a foster family, nothing to anyone in our church. I find myself occasionally imagining the look on the nursery staff's faces one day when I show up with a toddling M (whom they adore) and another new baby....

It feels like a big secret we're keeping from everyone right now. But, given how little we know, I am confident that discretion is the right course at this point. When I know the baby is born, when I know she is being taken into custody, when I know where she is going....then I can share that with others in the circle. But, right now, no one else needs to know.

Monday, May 18, 2015


I had a message on the answering machine today from the county that placed L & O with us way back in 2011. A very friendly lady's voice said she was calling about Baby Brother.

I have had no real contact with anyone involved in their cases since he was here as a respite placement about 2.5 years ago. Last I heard, L & O were placed with their father (out of state) and Baby Brother was still in foster care, still with the family for whom we did that weekend of respite; they still wanted to adopt him, but the TPR process on his mother was dragging out. In fact, our agency caseworker missed M's Intent to Adopt paperwork signing because she had to attend a TPR trial on his case. He's got to be several months past 3 by now and has been in foster care since he was about 10 months old.

I called the number back, gave my name and said she'd left me a message about Baby Brother. She said she was the new caseworker and wanted to set up a time to come out and meet us.

I about dropped the phone.

I explained that we weren't his placement. We did a respite weekend once. She apologized, said the case file was disorganized and she hadn't been sure if we were the placement or a respite provider, but she didn't have anything more recent than that.

Nothing more recent than 2.5 years ago.

I don't even remember the name of the family that is caring for him, but they are with my agency, so I gave her that info. Then I texted my agency caseworker to tell her about it.

This is how it happens, folks. This, right here, is how children fall through the cracks in the foster care system. He's just a lucky one because he's in a good home that loves him.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Radio Silence

M's biological mother has not responded to any attempts at contact from the caseworker.

The Facebook page I've been stalking since M's case started has had no new updates for months and it has now apparently had its privacy settings adjusted, so I can't see anything. I can find other older pages, but no newer ones.

Other online searches are turning up nothing.

The person who told me about the pregnancy told me that Kayla is "keeping a low profile." I assume that means that she hasn't been able to find out more either.

I'm sure she's hiding from DFCS, knowing they will be "monitoring" her during her pregnancy.

I'm worried that it will also mean that she's minimizing her prenatal care, possibly putting the baby at risk. With M, she may have tried having the baby in neighboring state to avoid DFCS knowing about it. (That didn't work.) I'm scared that this time she'll try having the baby at home. If she'd done that with M, they most likely would have both died.

I've tried every avenue I can think of to reach out to her without crossing the boundary lines we set as a family.

There's nothing I can do. I pray for her daily: for her safety, for her mental health, that she will find the strength and discernment she needs to make good choices for herself and her child. I'm trying desperately to leave this at the foot of the cross and let God take over from here, but this is a hard thing to let go.

As best I can tell, one of several things could happen now. Option 1: We will never hear anything at all. I will have to assume in that case that she miscarried or the baby was stillborn. That will be the only conclusion that will allow me to sleep at night, because the alternatives are that she had the baby and either successfully hid him/her from DFCS (what kind of medical care can a newborn hidden from the state be getting?) or that DFCS removed the child but didn't even let our agency know to potentially place with us. Option 2: We will get a phone call in a few months telling us the baby was born and asking if we are still interested in being a placement either immediately or "just in case" something shows up during a protective order.

I supposed there's a 3rd option where we get some information about a due date or her health at some point along the way, but I'm thinking those two are the most likely. It's really hard for me to set this aside and tell myself that "someday, if we're needed, I'll get a call...."

Friday, May 8, 2015

Update on our Limbo Land

So, where do things stand here?

Well, we should be able to get the home re-opened. Apparently the "grace period" involves being closed for a couple months while we get caught up on our hours, but then we just have to do the same re-evaluation process we would have done last month anyway. And since we're closing "in good standing", we should be able to offer our home as a placement for the new baby if it's needed, even if that happens before the re-eval is all typed up and submitted. So, we're getting our hours wrapped up, including our CPR training, and then will do the re-evaluation visit with a caseworker. I should be done with my hours by the end of this month; Mr D might need some time in late June or even early July.

Anna (the agency caseworker) discovered that the phone number she had for Kayla (M's biological mother) is disconnected. I told her I also have some pictures of M I'd love to get to Kayla if she wants them, so she's going to try to reach her through Facebook or through the DFCS caseworkers who are supposedly "monitoring the situation." Hopefully, she can at least learn the due date. It would be nice to know that much, just to get a sense of when this might all start happening. If the tip I got was right, she was "about 5 months pregnant" about two weeks ago. That means a due date in late August? M was 2 months early, but didn't need a foster home for the first 5 weeks because she couldn't leave the NICU yet anyway. The timing may be tight, but I think we can be ready for the worst case scenario.

I think, if the baby does come to us, we will go the route you suggested, Cherub Mama. There'll be a crib in our bedroom, but also pack-n-plays in other parts of the house, like the office and living room. Our bedroom will be the official "place the baby sleeps", while reality will probably vary from night to night so that whoever isn't doing the feedings has chance at sleeping through them. Daytime naps can definitely be in our room. We're allowed to do that for the first year. Once the baby sleeps through the night, we can move the crib into M's room, but do the same "in reality, the baby sleeps wherever is most convenient for that particular stretch of sleep." If the baby is a girl, she can share a room with M indefinitely. If the baby is a boy, we have until M turns 3 before we have to figure out something else....and for now, I think we'd just be hoping that the case is over before M turns 3.

I'm still trying to hope that this baby doesn't need us and that it's for good reasons (like M's mother being clean and stable or the new baby's father having family that can take him/her in). I feel a little bit of guilt about how much I don't really want to do this; but I want even less to not do it if it's needed. If that makes any sense!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Choices

So, the biggest hurdle for us potentially taking in another baby is the sleeping arrangements.

We've got, realistically, 3 options that seem possible. (We've ruled out some options; No to construction to add another bedroom -- Even if we leave aside the financial question, that would probably cause our house to be difficult to sell down the road. No to placing the infant in my (very large) master bedroom closet -- caseworker says the "room" has to have 2 exits, usually a door and a window. No to moving.)

Option 1: Put Peter and Edmund back into the same bedroom.

  1. They've shared before, beginning when they were 6 and 10. 
  2. They are both permanent family members, so the state cares less about their sleeping arrangements than it will about the baby's.
  1. When they started sharing before, they were both in elementary school. They are now 10 and 15, 5th and 9th grade.
  2. Their daily schedules are wildly different. Peter is in extracurricular sports activities and often up working on homework or just relaxing in his room until 10pm; Edmund's bedtime is 8pm. Next school year, Edmund will start school later, so could stay up later, but will then also not need to get up in the morning until after Peter has left for the day.
  3. Lately, they have been sniping at each other a lot. Nothing especially nasty or worrisome, just typical brothers-who-can't-help-point-out-each-other's-mistakes.
Option 2: Put the baby in M's room.

  1. Umm. It means the boys don't have to share a room?
  1. M is a light sleeper. She sleeps well through the night and sleeps through noise outside her room, but if you so much as open her bedroom door, she wakes up. There's no way she'd sleep through a baby needing night-time feedings.
  2. When M is awake, she is noisy. She talks and babbles and screeches. She will be perpetually waking the baby as soon as she herself is awake.
  3. M is too little to understand that she might need to be quiet if the baby is asleep.
  4. If the baby is a boy, we are only allowed to do this until M is 3 years old. (Unless we finalize his adoption before then. Given how fast M's case went, that's entirely possible as she will likely be about 18 months when the baby is born.)   
Option 3: Put the baby in our room.

  1. This causes the least disruption to the rest of the household
  1. We're not even sure we're allowed to do this. When M first came, she was in our room in a Pack-n-Play because the respite boys were in the room that was to be hers and one of them was in her crib. The caseworker said it was OK "for now" because of the special circumstances of the respite boys being here for a short term. I don't remember whether it was the "in our room" or the Pack-n-Play part that was a potential problem. (I seem to recall the Pack-n-Play was not considered a "suitable" bed by the state. I'm not certain if that was the only issue or if she was supposed to have her own room, too.)
  2. If we are allowed to do this, I'm sure there is an age limit after which the baby has to move out of our room.
  3. Mr D is a pretty light sleeper. The Pack-n-Play tends to be a little noisy. M was also a noisy sleeper -- making little sighing and grunting noises in her sleep a lot. If this baby is similar, Mr D will not sleep well. And when Mr D doesn't sleep well, he is cranky. 
  4. How to put this delicately? I'm not comfortable being intimate with my husband with someone else in the room, even a newborn that's unlikely to notice or care what we're doing. Hence, I'm a little concerned about our marital relationship with this option.
I suspect we'll end up with some sort of hybrid, like:

Option A: We set up rooms as though the baby is sleeping in M's room, but actually s/he usually sleeps in a Pack-n-Play in the office. 

  1. Nobody is really sharing a bedroom
  2. Everyone has as much of a chance at normal sleep as is possible with a newborn in the house.
  1. We're lying to CPS. 
  2. The office contains computer equipment used by Mr D for work and by the children for school. This equipment would be off-limits when the baby is asleep?
  3. The office also contains our answering machine, which I'm not sure can be relocated.
Option B: We start out with the baby sleeping in our room, but move him/her to M's room when s/he begins sleeping through the night.

  1. We're not lying to CPS
  2. Having the baby in our room has an approximate end-date
  1. Mr D still won't sleep well for however many months it takes for the baby to sleep through the night.
  2. M will be older -- probably 2 -- when she's expected to begin sharing "her" room. (Is that a Pro or a Con? Not sure.)
Option C: The baby sleeps in our room, but we actually sleep on the sofa bed in the living room. (Again, this probably a temporary thing until the baby sleeps through the night or Peter and Edmund get to ages where they can share a room again.)

  1. Nobody is really sharing a bedroom   
  2. We're not really lying to CPS. (Although we would probably make it look as though we were still sleeping in our own bedroom.)
  3. Sometimes it might be just Mr D sleeping on the sofa bed, while I do night-time feedings in our bedroom.
  1. We have less privacy overall sleeping in our living room (it doesn't have doors). 
  2. This has to be temporary, but it's harder to say what will be the end-date.
Option D: The baby does actually sleep in my master closet, but we tell CPS that s/he is sleeping in M's room or in our room.

  1. It really is big enough to be a small room, which is all a baby needs. 
  2. No one is really sharing a bedroom, as the closet has its own door. 
  1. We're lying to CPS again. And this lie is much harder to keep hidden, as the things currently in my closet would have to be moved elsewhere to make room for the baby. And then, when caseworkers come visit, I have a completely empty closet? 
  2. Also temporary, also a vague end-date.  

Monday, April 27, 2015

Back Burner

We're still waiting to hear back on what (if anything) the agency caseworker learned from M's birthmother. We're also waiting to hear what her supervisor said about the grace period to finish up our licensing and what we need to do to stay open. I've promised myself not to call her to ask for an update until it's been about a week since I called her with the news in the first place. After all, this is not even an actual case at this point. No way it should take priority over, you know, children already born and in foster care or looking for homes. And it's the end of the month, so I'm sure there are lots of things to get wrapped up right now on her plate.

But I think we're pretty determined to be ready to figure something out if this baby ends up needing a place to go. We were still waffling over the weekend, struggling with the pull between rationality and emotion.

So, we got smacked over the head with it. This Sunday's scripture reading? Included 1 John 17.

How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

Well, then. I guess we do our part to be prepared to help and then see what happens.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Follow up

So, I waited until 8am, then called the agency caseworker. I had to leave her a voicemail.

She called me back several hours later, having already talked to one of the county caseworkers who was involved in M's case. (Interestingly, it was the adoption worker to whom she talked. I'm not sure whether that was because that worker was responsive and likely to actually get back to her or whether she had to talk to her about something else anyway or what.)

Good news: the county already knew about the pregnancy.

No one knows the actual due date. The person who texted me thought she looked about 5 months pregnant.

They will screen biomom for drugs at the time of the baby's birth.

If she tests clean and the home appears stable, the baby will go home with her, but under a protective order which will allow caseworkers to do random drug screens and generally follow up to make sure that she is coping.

If she fails the drug test, they will remove the baby. At this time, it's hard to say what sort of case it will be. Assuming the father is the same as M's, it will either be a concurrent plan (like M's was) or a straight-to-adoptive placement with no reunification plan even attempted. (If it's a different father, the county will have to assess him and his family members.)

The agency caseworker was going to call M's mother. She was hopeful that she would be able to learn the exact due date of the new pregnancy and planned to try to convince BioMom to let her help now. Agency caseworker knows of available resources and is willing to work to get BioMom into a better drug program -- one that might actually help her get clean -- if BioMom will let her help. She's hoping that BioMom will accept her help now, when no one is telling her she has to do it. She wouldn't accept her help when M was in care. I am skeptical that she will accept it now, either, but trying really hard to pray myself into a more optimistic state of mind.

We might have a 60 day grace period to wrap up anything before our home is really, truly closed. If so, we'll use those days to wrap up our training and do the reeval. That then gives us a year to figure out if this baby needs us or not. Although if the baby does need us, I have no idea where everyone will sleep....

Let me be clear about two things.

First, I would love to believe that M's birth mother could handle parenting this new baby on her own. But I just don't. The woman has a serious addiction problem which may have caused permanent cognitive damage. Even if she gets clean now, I have major doubts that she is mentally capable of parenting. (And that's not my decision to make, thank the good Lord in heaven.) So, I am trying to be prepared for the worst-case-but-seems-awfully-likely-scenario of this baby needing a foster-to-adopt placement. If not immediately, it will most likely happen soon. Frankly, the most likely scenario I can see where the baby doesn't need a placement involves a different father with extended family that are available, willing and appropriate.

Second, I have no desire to take on another newborn right now. This summer, I am beginning some coursework to train for a teaching certificate with an eye towards working in the school system when M is old enough for full-time school. There is a list a mile long of why we "can't" take another placement any time before Peter leaves home for college in a little more than three years. On the other side of that scale is all emotion: how do I say "no" to M's biological sibling? How can I look an older M in the eye (at 10, at 15, at 22, at 30) and say we didn't reach out to provide for her baby brother/sister? If I try to be rational about this, there is no way I jump hoops to get back into this system and cobble together sleeping arrangements to fit 5 children into our home. But foster care, adoption, caring for children....none of those things happen when we only do what makes logical sense. The emotion -- the pull of "but I just have to do this" -- these are the things that cause us to get involved anyway.

I still don't know what we're really going to do. Right this minute, we're just trying to get our ducks in a row to keep all the options open. And praying a lot.

Oh, no.

I left my cell phone off overnight. (We have a land-line, so true emergency calls from extended family would call that number. Everyone who lives here was home.)

I woke up and turned the phone on this morning as I was getting Edmund's lunch ready for school. Mr D and M were still asleep.

I had a text. From M's half-sister's adoptive mother. M's biomother is pregnant.

When we told the agency caseworker we were closing our home, we said the only scenario where we could see taking another placement within the next 4 years was . . . if M's biomother had another baby and the child was removed.

Our foster license expires the end of this month. Our CPR trainings have lapsed. We didn't complete the required number of training hours over the past year. We have not done the annual re-eval process involving an agency caseworker coming out to inspect the home. We were letting it all go. Actually, I think it expires the end of this month. It may have expired today.

I don't know what we're going to do. I don't know when the baby is due. I don't know if CPS plans to remove the child at birth (probably?). I don't know if we can get hurriedly recertified in the next 6 days just in case this baby (M's sibling!) needs us. If we can't, I don't know what we'd have to do to get licensed again -- other than retake the initial 21 hours of training.

Right now, all I can do is breathe. Pray. Talk to Mr D. And wait for a reasonable hour to call our agency caseworker....

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Now what?

I'm feeling a little at-loose-ends these days.

Don't get me wrong, it's crazy busy around here. Peter is competing on the school track team and also assistant coaching an Upward soccer team of Kindergarteners. He doesn't drive yet, so that's a lot of transporting. Edmund is learning to play tennis (more transporting to lessons) and both Susan and Edmund are competing their respective (different) school's Academic Bowl teams. M (should I start calling her Lucy? can't decide) is busy, busy, busy. She's not walking yet, but crawls and climbs with great gusto to satisfy her seemingly insatiable curiosity about the world and everything in it. Mr D is just starting a super busy time at work, where two of his responsibilities suddenly get a lot heavier at the same time.

It's just me, feeling unsure what to do with myself. It's not that I can't occupy my time. There's laundry to do, a house to clean, small projects to complete. It's all stuff I've spent the last 4 years wishing I had more time to do, but now? Now that very time I wanted lays heavy on my hands. (There's something in there about being careful what we ask God to give to us, isn't there? What we wanted isn't always what we need?) 

I've been thinking about this a lot the last several weeks, trying to figure out why being "done" fostering has left me floundering. I think I've finally figured it out.

I've lost my job.

It's not the money. Fostering was never about the money. And it's not the changing cast of characters as children come and go. It's the work of fostering. As the full-time parent, I've always done the bulk of the appointment going and meeting attending and documentation writing. And that was a big chunk of how I spent my time from day to day, week to week, month to month. Go to this meeting. Listen in on that phone call. Email those people with everything said in the phone call. Document the behavior. Track the medications. All of that is done. Over. M is no longer a ward of the state; she's a member of our forever family. So, all the red tape is done. That should be cause for rejoicing, and it is, but... But.

But, right now, as I try to transition away from "we're a foster family" to a simple "family of 6," I'm also transitioning away from things that I did because they were "part of the job." And it's left me feeling, just a bit, the same way I did when I left the workforce to be a stay-at-home mother. I think the feeling is even stronger because, due to M's age, I don't feel that I have time to jump into a bunch of volunteer commitments to keep me "working" again. So, it's just me, just parenting, just home all day with a baby. And it feels a little strange.

Monday, February 9, 2015

"Out of Birth Order"

Cherub Mamma made a good point a while back about the question of what age ranges to take in as a foster parent when she said that someone's birth order is going to get messed with no matter what. (Unless you don't have any kids in your home at all, I suppose.)

I've thought about that because we have always had that as our general guideline for placement ages. "Younger than our youngest", however old he may be. For me, it wasn't so much about not wanting to go "out of birth order" as about not wanting to foster an age I hadn't parented. Although I know that foster-parenting a child can be (and usually is) wildly different than parenting a child you've raised since birth, I still have this sense that I would have no idea what to do with children older than the ones I bore. I wouldn't know what was "normal" behavior and what were red flags. There were so many times with the preschoolers we had here where I had to keep insisting that their behavior was not "normal" in order to get help for them; if I'd never had a child that age, I don't think I would have been so certain that I was seeing things that go beyond "normal." So, that would put us at "younger than our oldest." Our three birth children are less than 5 years apart, however, so mixing in ages older than the youngest but younger than the oldest has a high likelihood of making artificial "twins."Especially when you throw in the details that Edmund (the youngest) is a year ahead in school -- so the school year gaps between the Originals are all the same (They're currently in 5th, 7th and 9th grade.) -- and that Susan (middle) is on the autism spectrum and therefore sometimes behaves as "younger" than her chronological age.

Our first long-term placement was L & O and worked out that way. L was almost exactly 1 year older than Edmund. However, they were both in the 2nd grade during the school year that she was here. It was a disaster. L was not comfortable not being the "oldest"; she was used to being "in charge." She could handle not being in charge of the kids who were clearly older than she was, but she expected, maybe even needed, Edmund to bow to her authority. He wasn't having it. He knew she was "older", but they were in the same grade, so he saw her as "equal." They butted heads all year. Our take-away from that experience was that having two kids so close together didn't work well for us.

I also found, working with L and later with D, that I have much more patience with a frustrated, out of control child if they are preschool age or younger. I don't cope well with an elementary school age child manipulating me. Even though I know, intellectually, that it's really no different than the 3 year old manipulating me. Somehow, on some level, I have trouble letting go of the idea that someone is "too old" to behave in certain ways. Not fair to a traumatized child for me to take that out on them!

So, "younger than our youngest." M, at not-quite-a-year, is certainly younger than Edmund!

Of the Originals, Edmund's spot in the birth order has fluctuated the most. He spent 6 years as the youngest. R & A came briefly and Edmund was 3rd of 5 for that day, but it felt more like a play-date than a placement. Then they were gone and he was youngest of 3 again.  L & O came and he was 4th of 5, but also kind of "tied-for-third." (I think it was really the uncertainty of their places that made that so hard.) Then it was back to youngest of three briefly before S & D came. He was 3rd of 5 for the couple of weeks D was here, then 3rd of 4 for a long time. Summer before he went to 4th grade, she was gone and he was the youngest again for several months. Then N came and he was 3rd of 4 again, with a bigger gap than ever. When N left, he was back to the youngest. Then M came and he's 3rd of 4 again and will be for the foreseeable future. Whew! Quite a whirlwind! One of the first things he said when we told him would be adopting M is that he was excited about it because he likes being a big brother.

So, where do I ultimately come down on the "out of birth order" question? Solidly in the middle. I think this is one of the many parenting decisions where it really comes down to knowing yourself and knowing your kids and making the best decision for you. For us, only taking placements younger than our youngest was the ideal arrangement. If we were different people with different kids? A different decision might be the right one. I know a young foster couple that has no birth children and yet has fostered teens successfully. They worked extensively in youth programs before fostering and were very comfortable working with traumatized teenagers, in spite of having no personal experience "parenting"; the husband told me he didn't think he could handle working with kids who couldn't verbalize their wants and needs, so preschool and younger were off the table for them. They knew their strengths and weaknesses and set their guidelines accordingly. So did we. Ultimately, that's what I think all foster parents should do. Be honest with yourselves and your caseworker about what you do well and what you don't; know your limits -- but don't be afraid to push yourself; remember that what works for others may or may not work for you.