Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Lesson Learned: Pacifiers

I thought of a new series: little mistakes in our foster care life that I vow not to repeat.

Lesson #1: When your foster child arrives with a pacifier, take a picture of it.  Otherwise, you will intend to buy extras, but not bring it along and buy the wrong ones, which will be soundly rejected.  You intend to take it along and go shopping, but don't get around to it.  Pacifier goes missing.  Baby hates all replacements.  Trying to search online for "pacifier with a straight nipple and maybe some ocean-related design" will not be successful.  I'm just praying when we meet the birth mom she has more.

The More You Know!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Lag time

Two out of three placements we've had something I did not expect at all after a new placement arrived: eerie calm.

Okay, it's not entirely calm.  Babies need fed, changed, comforted constantly.  Older kids get less attention.  It gets noisy.  But the calm part is the contact with our agency.  Child arrives with basic information, and soon we're on our own.  It doesn't feel weird at first, but then hours pass by, and it just feels odd that we have someone else's baby without anyone checking in with us.  Family visits aren't set up yet, and we haven't met the birth parents.  We usually don't know who our agency caseworker is (I remembered to ask this time, no luck).

If we had an emergency, I know what number to call, but it's not that.  It's just this weird lag where we feel like we aren't in full swing with foster care again... and yet there's a baby in our house.  There are lots of non-urgent questions.  What solid food has he tried?  How has he been falling asleep?  Is there a special way to care for his hair and skin?  Has he been evaluated for developmental milestones?  I'll ask these things eventually, but it will feel a little late.  And I won't meet birth parents until after I hear answers secondhand and they've been separated from their child for days.  A friend was talking about how to make faster contact with birth parents to learn more about the child's daily life right away.  Could we ask the CPS worker to call a birth parent and answer a few basic questions, all in goodwill of just wanting to help ease the transition for the child?  Or is right after removal never the right time for a foster parent to talk to a birth parent?  I did talk to Pterodactyl's mom in the hospital, so technically that was right at removal.  But she asked to meet me, not vice versa.  And even then, we really couldn't manage to say anything to each other.

So, during this lag time, I'm writing daily journal entries for birth parents.  We shopped for the basics, knowing that clothing may or may not be coming.  I'm keeping my week open, knowing it could fill up at any minute.  And Caterpillar keeps giving me this look that I just know means, "Where is my mom?"

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Hello, Caterpillar

4-month-old baby boy Caterpillar* joined our home this week.  He's our first placement that's had a home before ours besides the hospital.  Also my first real interaction with Child Protective Services, as so far I'd only dealt with my private agency and hospital social workers.

He's big!  Yet he fits into 6-month clothes, so maybe he just seems big because we had Beetle most recently, who was both a little younger and on the skinny side?  He's had some sad spells, but overall we're shocked at how you can actually lay him down and he stays. asleep.  Even if he doesn't sleep long, it's still amazing compared to Beetle.  I guess I'm a comparative parent.  Sorry, kids!

Dinosaur and Rhinoceros are thrilled, though Rhinoceros can't say his name.  He did start pulling his baby doll on a wagon around the house and putting it down for a nap in the closet.  Dinosaur has been asking more questions about why babies stay with us than he has before, but I think it's going well.

I hold Caterpillar close as he experiences the loss of his home, his mom.  I was rocking him and started singing, thinking it would put him to sleep.  He perked right up and started cooing back!  Mom must be a singer.  So I've been singing all day, especially He Knows My Name, which I'd never connected to my foster babies before but now it'll always remind me of them.
I have a Maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
my life was in his hands

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
and hears me when I call

I have a father
He calls me his own
He'll never leave me
No matter where I go

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
and hears me when I call

*I have a knack for choosing nicknames that are hard for me to spell, and I'm a pretty good speller.  I always want to type Rhinocerous and Pteradactyl, now Catepillar.  But I like it too much to change it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pterodactyl update

I am usually sensitive to the fact that people are busy.  Probably oversensitive, and assuming people don't have time to talk to me when really they would enjoy it.  I rarely chit-chat unless it's clear that the other person has nothing else to do.  But my heart that has loved and bonded to these kids just might be overriding that tendency, because I found myself keeping Pterodactyl's caseworker from using the bathroom while I drew updates out of her.

I didn't mean to.  But she opened the door just a tiny bit in asking about our family, and I might have swooped in a little too eagerly.  Then I apologized a lot for delaying her.

It was so good, though, to hear that Pterodactyl is doing well.  And though still the queen of serious babies, she laughs more, though with the same low-pitched "heh heh heh" that she had started when she was with us.

Her twin siblings might be born any day now.  I have a feeling they need prayer for good health and few complications, and prayers for the family they will be with.

I told the caseworker what I had planned to e-mail this week, a reminder that we would love to see Pterodactyl and/or do respite.  I still hold a little hope this might happen sometime, but since it's been three months since I've seen her, and knowing how difficult it is to schedule things with her grandma, I know I should probably just let go.

It's hard.  I miss her, especially in these times when we're a family of four.  I know she was never meant to be mine, but she's pretty solidly mine in my heart.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A new earth

Isaiah 65:17  For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.
2 Peter 3:13  But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

I've reflected this Lenten season on Jesus being the plot twist to the story that our worldly minds couldn't grasp.  When you reach the middle of the book and find that the real story was reading every tenth word, and in another language.

But what amazed me this morning was the beautiful, glorious picture of holiness and love in the new earth that awaits us.  I've been discussing a book about heaven with my small group, but I've often forgotten that heaven is not the end of the story, either.  This creation in front of us is good in so many ways, and Christ has redeemed it.  It is only a matter of time when we get to experience creation as God intended it.

I'm reading The Connected Child, and interspersed with the valuable strategies for parenting children who have suffered loss and trauma are short little profiles of these children.  A child who was never fed enough in the orphanage.  A toddler that experienced chaos and violence at a young age that may never remember it in a way that he can articulate, but it is wired into his brain.  A baby that had nothing to stare at but a white ceiling, learning that no one comes when she cries.

Oh come, Lord Jesus.

No more loneliness.
No more violence.
No more abuse.
No more hunger.
No more addiction.
No more generational poverty.
No more mental illness.
No more fear.
No more death.

And as we wait, we wait on our good and loving Lord, who already has the victory.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

We need another baby

"We need another baby."

Dinosaur said this after a conversation about what twins are, as he always thinks that his cousins who are also 5 years old are his twins.  I responded, "Well, we might get a call soon and then we will take care of another baby or little boy or girl."  While that response was fine, I think I missed an opportunity to turn the comment on its head and say, "Another baby needs us.  We don't know when, but when there is a baby or child who needs a family to take care of him or her, we'll be ready."

Maybe it's because in waiting for another placement, I slip into seeing things as Dinosaur does.  When is OUR next placement?  Who is next for OUR family?  I mentally picture upcoming events with different imaginary children of different ages and how they would fit into OUR plans.

This Easter I've reflected a lot how God's plan for us is not how we would write the story, and the Messiah He sent is not the Messiah people had planned on.  Yet He is the Messiah we need, far beyond our understanding.

So, I pray that God will use us for His plans, far beyond our understanding.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

What our placement calls are like

We said goodbye to Beetle on Saturday, his foster family home from their trip.  When people ask how the week was or if we enjoyed the time with him, I have to say that mostly we're happy we could do this for his foster family, but the week itself was hard.  Grueling.  He really, really wanted to be held 24/7, and not even in a carrier sometimes (which is usually my lifesaver).  However, I know deep down that the mundane moments of foster care have their own beauty, to hold a baby that needs us to make his life a little better.

As we wait for our next placement, and just said no to the call we got last week, I was thinking about placement calls.  First, the process is probably different everywhere, but our county changed recently.  Private agencies handle a large number of foster care cases, so they had them on a rotation of weeks: if it's your agency's week to be first in line, CPS calls them first, and they contact families.  If they don't have anyone, CPS goes to the next agency on the list.  While this is practical, it wasn't placing children necessarily with the best fit for a family, but the best family that the agency on call had.  They also used a shelter for a temporary place for kids, and so "emergency placements" aren't really common here.  Most agencies wouldn't call you after 11 pm, but just have the kids go to the shelter.

Now, CPS contacts on-call workers from all the agencies giving a profile of the child who was removed.  The agencies have a short amount of time to find their best placement options, then they have a conference call and decide the best among all the options.  They are also doing this at any hour, so the shelter will be much more rarely in use.

So, we're getting ready for our first 2 am call.  They say they aren't very common, but I'm not convinced.  I'm okay with being woken up, but I am a little concerned about making a good decision when I've just been woken up.  Also, comparing the one placement call we've gotten since this change and the placement calls before, the new system seems to have the pressure of time.  They've got to find someone quickly to make the conference call on time, so with our call last Wednesday, I barely got in a hello before I heard a string of information about the child, no time to find a pen.

I've been surprised at how I've responded to the calls.  When we have said no, I have said it pretty quickly and firmly.  I am usually an indecisive person, plus of course I want to say yes to every child, so this was not what I expected.  B was about to say yes to one placement when I told him to stop and ask the birth date.  Sure enough, though we were licensed 0-2, this child was almost 3, which at the time was older than Rhinoceros.  That's a line we decided not to cross.  I said no.

I have, however, felt bad about those words five minutes later and have to be talked down from calling back.  But each time, I think my gut reaction, which has been set on the parameters we've set for our family, had been correct.  It's so hard, though.

So far, I've made sure to consult B before saying yes, usually needing to call back.  We've decided that unless there's some aspect of the placement that we haven't discussed and decided on, and the placement isn't anything we've already ruled out for now (more than one child at a time, older than or very close to Rhinoceros' age, known violent behavior or history of sexual abuse), I will say yes without talking to B.  I know they want to find placements quickly, and I don't want to slow it down unnecessarily.  The changes in the placement process have happened to avoid kids being in limbo longer than they need to be, and I want to help with that as much as we can.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

8th Day - Respite with Beetle

Whew, what a week.  Beetle is really, really intense.  Dinosaur is home for Spring Break when he's used to being at school all day.  I'm subbing for two classes this week.  We even got a placement call when I didn't think we were even on the list (we said no).  It was hard to say no, but I figured if we were barely hanging on with Beetle this week, we needed to wait until he left to add someone new.  That and if I told my sitter for tomorrow that she was now caring for four kids under 5 plus her own, she might have stopped returning my calls.

So here's the 8th day of April in this crazy week, starting with morning methadone for the baby.

 Morning tummy time with Beetle is a favorite activity.


My kids' reality: I am the best mom ever for putting their snack on Luigi plates. My reality: there were no clean plates and these leftovers from a birthday party were the first thing I saw when looking for paper plates.

 No foster care appointments today, so we did all the other errands.

Necessary tool for survival.

 Sometimes I have a lovely devotional time with my 1 pm coffee, as all kids are resting/sleeping.  Sometimes that lasts two minutes before it's obliterated by screaming and poopy pants.

This seems like the most boring educational "game" website ever, but the kids eat it up.

Finally our park is not covered in snow!!!  Dinosaur and Rhinoceros already ran ahead to the merry-go-round.

95% of my parenting success this day was in snack form.  We did a reading of Fat Frogs on a Skinny Log while acting it out with pretzel rods, peanut butter, and green jellybeans.

I'm still in work clothes, just home from work.

Gathering materials for tomorrow's lesson on reading nutritional labels (I work in adult education).

And sleep.  Until my 2 am-onward shift with Beetle.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Baby in my lap!

Beetle is here for respite!  Dinosaur and Rhinoceros were all over him for the first hour, then moved on to whatever else it is they do.

He didn't look much bigger until we picked him up.  Little guy has been growing just as he should!

Today is the lovely day that I'm not too tired from getting up with a baby to appreciate him.  I tried to clean up the house and clear our schedules so we'd have an easygoing week, which is good, because he doesn't seem to want to leave our laps.  He's still a fussy guy, but I love that I'm seeing some smiles!