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....