Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fostering and newborns

We're still in a waiting mode.  The transition for Pterodactyl to move to her grandma should be complete, but now we're waiting on some bumps in the road with child care that the grandma needs to have set up before she moves in.

When we decided to do foster care, I had never heard of anyone fostering a newborn that they didn't adopt.  Our age range for fostering is 0-2, and our first placement happened to be a newborn.  In listening to others and thinking of our own experience, here are some distinct experiences of fostering a newborn.

Lots of doctor appointments
Newborns are always at the doctor.  Our agency even required an extra visit beyond what the doctor's office required.  This makes the first month extra busy, because the first month of foster care is busy on its own, and then you have all these doctor visits.

Lots of birth family visits
In our state, birth parents have three hours per week of visits with children under three.  These start as soon as possible, so I was bringing Pterodactyl to the agency at a little over a week old.

Child care complexities
Daycare centers won't accept infants younger than six weeks, so if you are working, you need an alternate child care plan that you can put into place immediately.  Listening to others, some take leaves of absence, some have a family member or friend who can fill in for day care for six weeks.  Many stay home.  I kind of stay home.  I have a part-time job three evenings per week while B is home with the kids, plus a few more hours that I do at home during naptimes or whatever.  So, I am set up well to take care of a newborn at the drop of a hat, although it did get complicated when I took on a little extra work and planned on using a babysitter.  Babysitters need to be cleared by the agency with a background check, and this didn't get completed before I started that work assignment.  I had to call on some favors from people we had cleared and B took a day or two off.

Few questions for birth parents
For better or for worse, older foster children and even older babies are used to how they were cared for before arriving in your home.  So, the first questions many foster parents ask birth parents if they get the opportunity is about how they took care of their kids: schedule, sleep, food, etc.  I had the opportunity to talk to Pterodactyl's birth mom, but no questions.  She had only parented her for two days.  The way I cared for her quickly became the only thing she had ever known.  This makes my job easier in some ways, but it adds a sad and difficult element.  I am easily the expert on what Pterodactyl likes and dislikes.  This puts me in an awkward position if I want to share helpful advice or even just tell about what Pterodactyl is doing lately.  We both know it's not just two moms talking.

Extra-pitying reactions from non-foster parents
Whenever I say Pterodactyl's age or that we got her as a newborn, the reactions are strong and full of sadness.  I'm sure the same people would be sad about any abuse or neglect, but with a tiny baby?  I am also sad for Pterodactyl, but I'm also relieved that she didn't go home with her birth mom at birth, as much as I want her to go home with her eventually if she can.  I don't want to start a conversation about her case that I can't finish, though, so I usually just stand there not really knowing what to say.  I usually just look at Pterodactyl and stroke her hair.

Extra difficult early weeks
I mentioned before that when I became a foster parent, I had to face the fact that I'm rather selfish.  This was especially true with mothering a newborn that I knew was unlikely to be a permanent part of our family.  With the exception of buying tiny clothes and nuzzling my nose into a newborn's head, the newborn phase is not my favorite.  I lose track of days and nights as time blurs together.  Everything is guessing, guessing, guessing; is that normal crying, or is something's wrong?  B has to help more during the night, and B gets tired and crabby.  My downtime in the evenings is gone.  All of these were true for Dinosaur and Rhinoceros as newborns, but there was something different.  I don't remember picturing them walking in their graduation ceremony or riding a bike for the first time or making me a Mother's Day card when they were screaming their heads off at 2 am at five weeks old.  But I must have, subconsciously.  I kept looking at Pterodactyl while she cried, thinking, are we even going to see her come out of this phase?  Are we even going to see a smile?  Why are we doing this again?  Though I don't like to admit it, it was damn hard.  I would do it again, though I'm not sure how many times.  B thinks he has a limit on the number of times he can go through the newborn phase.  I think I do, too, but I don't think I've reached it yet.

She did smile, though.  And as if she knew we hadn't learned our lesson yet that this isn't about us and babies entertaining us, she smiled rarely.  She knows us and loves us, and yet she still gives us the "Are you people crazy?" look constantly.  And we kind of have to be.  She needed us to be.


  1. Yes! My parents age range is also 0-2 (although we've told Placement that the closer to "0" the better), and I agree with you on it all.

    Yes to the extra doctors appointments- and we also have a nurse from the agency who checks in a couple of times with newborns too (thankfully, they come to our home!)

    The visits- I would say we usually have about 3 visits a week too. Some foster parents think it's outrageous, I generally think it's a good thing. Think Piglet's first visit with her parents was at 4 days old. I'm curious- do you know how many visits the state requires for children over the age of three? And are there rules about how many times a week visits are to happen? Could they do 3 hours once a week?

    Childcare- most agencies here require one stay at home foster parent for homes that are open to infants. In Canada, maternity leave is generally a year long, so not many child care centers will look after infants.

    Questions for birth parents- so true. Generally, if the baby has any older siblings, we'll ask what the siblings were like as babies (found out both brothers of a placement had had tubes in their ears very young!), or we'll ask if the parent knows if they had/did something as an infant- just do our best to make them feel like they have information that they can give to help us, you know?

    Reactions from non-foster parents. Yes. Plus, "How did they know to take her so early?" and even if they don't know it's a foster baby, "Oh, they grow up so fast, enjoy this time now!"

    I'm glad you made it through the newborn stage! The only other grievance I would add to this list is caseworkers who use the excuse "She's just an infant, she's resilient!" for poor visit schedules/reunification schedules/anything else they think they can use it for! Being crazy is a requirement for foster parents, just stick with the "good" crazy ;)

  2. Thanks for your comments! I forget if I mentioned that my husband is from Canada and all of his family is there. My sister-in-law there has expressed interest in possibly fostering in the future, so I'll pass on your blog and comments to her if/when the time comes!

    I can't remember exactly how the hours of visits decrease with age, but I think it's something like 2 hours per week for 4-6, 1 hour for 7+. I've seen some flexibility with how the hours are spread out, as Pterodactyl has two 1.5 hour-visits instead of 3 1-hour visits. I think the agency has flexibility to decide according to birth parents' transportation and schedules, but they can't reduce or increase the hours without the judge's approval. I would question a 3-hour visit once per week visit for an infant, though, as that doesn't seem the best for bonding.

    I can see caseworkers brushing off infant cases, as I definitely feel like we're at the bottom of their lists. I know older foster kids' issues are very demanding. The caseworkers have insisted on a transition to the relative's home for Pterodactyl's sake, so I'm grateful they do think that way.

    1. Yes, you did mention he was from Canada! Do you feel comfortable sharing what province your sister-in-law lives in? Just a heads up- I'm probably going to be making some changes to my blog soon (I'm thinking of switching to a new one), but I'll write on my old one to let everyone know when I do make the change!
      I'm glad that the workers have insisted on a transition for Pterodactyl!

  3. So am I! Maybe one day we'll get to meet in real life!