Sunday, June 28, 2015

More sibling sadness

Crocodile has two older sisters, who are still quite young kids.  They are in a foster home together with a foster mom acquaintance of mine.  As soon as I found out who it was, I made contact with her and we decided to do a sibling visit right away.  We especially wanted to do this because there are no parental visits scheduled yet, so sibling visits are the only way they'd see each other.  Crocodile had not mentioned them in any way like "sissy" or by name that I could understand, but he is just 2 years old.  When we got in the car to go to the sibling visit, I said his sisters' names and he lit up and shouted out his way of saying one of the sister's names.  I think he's consolidated them into one name, actually.  He lights up in the same way when I show him pictures from the visit.  It's very sweet.

But with the sweetness comes sadness.  Neither we nor the other foster mom can take all three kids.  And conversations with kids this age about foster care are just so sad.  They're young enough that they'll just talk about it uninhibited but old enough to have the language that breaks your heart.  It reminds me of Caterpillar's sister and Pterodactyl's oldest brother.  Big sister asked about her mom when she first saw Crocodile.  I told her that she wasn't coming, that this was just to see Crocodile.  She said, "They took us away from her.  They took us away."  Little sister pipes up: "Crying."  That's all she said, crying.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Between placement call and arrival

Crocodile is a busy boy.  He is sleeping better, but the days are tiring.  I'm trying to keep them simple, but they're still just full of "We don't climb on that" "Wait, where did you go?" "This is your plate.  This Rhinoceros's plate."  These early days are full of teaching how we do things here, and of course I have no idea what is brand new and what is known but pushing boundaries.  And really, he is such a sweetie, just FULL of energy and he is EVERYWHERE.

It feels like such a long time such his placement call already, a crazy fast-paced night.

You get a call for a child, you're chosen for placement, you get the child.  Seems straightforward, right? Yet every placement has been quite different for us.

Pterodactyl: We get the call, but it's not certain she'll need a foster family, as there is a possible relative placement.  We say yes if we're needed.  She's a newborn and discharge is expected the next day.  Next morning, we get the call that yes, we are needed as a foster family.  I meet her at the hospital and she's discharged into our care.

Beetle: We get the call.  We're chosen for placement.  But he's a newborn in the NICU and still has several days before discharge.  We meet him at the hospital and eventually he's discharged into our care.

Caterpillar: We get the call at 3:30 pm.  We say yes, and soon get a call back that we're chosen for placement and CPS will call us when he's on the way.  But then we hear nothing.  Our agency closes.  We go to bed.  11:00 pm, we get a call that they're on their way.  He arrives asleep in his car seat.  We have some medical questions and the two tired CPS workers have to hang around awhile, calling around to mom, to the hospital.  Eventually they leave sometime after midnight and call us back when they hear from the hospital.

Cricket: I get the call late morning I think, I don't remember exactly.  We say yes, and soon get a call back that we're chosen for placement.  She was removed the night before and is at a shelter.  I still don't know why they didn't call us when she was removed; I asked recently and got no answer.  I had a work meeting and asked if I could pick her up afterward since she was at the shelter, and that was fine.  I met an agency worker there, a few things were signed, and we were on our way.

Crocodile:  B gets the call around 6:40, and I find out around 7:15 when I get home.  After Caterpillar's placement took so long, I start "nesting" and cleaning up a bit, but I'm thinking we'll probably go to bed still waiting.  Then by 8:30 a CPS worker calls to say she is in our driveway and wasn't sure if we were home.  I'm totally caught off-guard by this, thinking we'd have a few minutes to prepare that yes, Crocodile was on his way.  Crocodile was a bit scared and quite reluctant about coming to us.  It just crushes you to see a small little boy backing away from you, knowing the hurt he's going through.  We slowly got him settled with a show and a snack after a few attempts.  Maybe the CPS worker didn't want to drag things out so that he'd settle better with us, or maybe she was tired and just wanted to be done for the day, but she definitely didn't give us a chance to ask questions.  I'd hoped to give her our Google Voice number to pass on to his mom, but by the time I thought of it, she was out the door.

So, it was a whirlwind.  And then, as usual, a weird lag time.  After 3 days, we had a home visit with his caseworker, still with little information.  No contact with mom, no visit schedule yet.  Just us, adjusting at home, having to learn about this kiddo as we go.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Introducing Crocodile

I sat at Dinosaur's baseball practice, telling my friend that we'd surely get a placement call the next day, because I had plans to babysit my baby nephew all day.

I came home to B sitting expectantly by the door with some news to share.

So, now we have a 2-year-old boy in our family, who I will call Crocodile.  Thankfully not for biting (though, hey, if that's going to show up I'm not worried), but for his first toddlerspeak conversations with me centered on his Crocs.  "I want them off.  I want them on.  I want them off."  He wore them to bed.  I just checked on him while writing this post as he's not asleep yet, and he was walking around his room with them in his hands.

He's a strong and coordinated little guy, but with these wonderful tiny chubby fingers.  He has some heart-melting big grins.  He gets quiet around other kids, but when it's just me or sometimes just Dinosaur or Rhinoceros, he starts a long toddler monologue.

So far he has not been wailing about bedtime, but he has not been sleeping either.  Very restless, just can't settle.  He was pretty scared and reluctant when he came through our door.  Poor guy.

Dinosaur and Rhinoceros are slowly adjusting to him.  Rhinoceros seems a bit confused, as he's not the partner for conversation and play that Cricket was, but he's also not a baby.  They've got some big brother roles to figure out still, but no major issues yet either.

I am tired.  I am cheered by friends' support and surprise fresh-picked strawberries.  I am charmed by this little one, my heart warm with affection for him.  I am hurting for this little one and his family.  I have no idea about the future.  I am a foster parent in the first week.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Conversations with Young Kids about Race

This was the topic of a workshop I attended recently.  I drove a ways to attend it, but made it a priority.  Why?
  • I've read the research that tells me I need to TALK to my kids about race.  "Everyone is made special by God" is not enough.  Putting them in diverse environments is not enough.  Research shows that these things will have minimal or even negative impact if not accompanied by conversation with adults about race.
  • My kids talk about race.  Cricket and Rhinoceros pointed out skin color differences now and then.  Dinosaur has asked questions about segregation and discrimination.  He also caught me completely off-guard with one question.  He was talking about bullies at school and I told a story about being bullied.  He asked, "Did the bully have brown skin?"  And then I connected that he had called Cricket a bully (despite being half his age and size).  Had he somehow internalized that people with brown skin are mean or bad?  And if so, what do I need to do and how?
So, I went to the workshop and it further solidified what I mentioned above: we need to talk to kids about race.  A lot of background was given, unfortunately much of it repetitive for me because I've attended extensive diversity trainings through my education, jobs, and just by my own choice.  Thinking about internalized oppression and internalized privilege was interesting, and did help me see that I'm watching out for different things in my white kids and my kids of color.  The actual part discussing HOW we talk to kids was way too short.  But it did still give me some ideas and action steps.
  • Use puppets to talk about skin color and differences.  I'm thinking I need to pick up a set of puppets with different colors of skin.
  • Use skin tone crayons to talk about skin color and differences.
  • Watch how I react when questions catch me off-guard.  I think my responses so far to some "yikes" statements or questions have been okay, but I know I probably get a bit of a too fast, too high-pitched voice.  And I need to add that it's okay to talk with me about skin color and any questions they have.
  • Gather more toys and books representative of different colors of skin.  Yes, I bought Cricket dolls that looked like her.  But they left with her.  Why didn't I just have them in the first place?
  • Do my own research on talking with elementary kids.  The workshop did not address this and this is where I see some of the most challenging issues.  How do I talk about racism and the reality of discrimination?  How do I bring up that if a person fits a stereotype, that does not mean that the stereotype is valid?
We're a work in progress around here in anti-racism.  Any resources or suggestions are appreciated!

Monday, June 15, 2015


I think honesty is some weird involuntary part of my brain.  Sometimes I overshare and don't realize it until the words have escaped my mouth.  Sometimes I give vague answers and then realize later that I trust that person and could have been more open. 

This makes foster parenting interesting, as we are not supposed to share case details and identifying information.  So sometimes I've not wanted to say a specific birthday and say the month instead and get a weird look.  Sometimes I start the answer the "how long is he/she staying with you" with a short answer that I realize makes no sense without a longer answer.  Or I should smile and nod when someone says something about "such an interesting name" but I end up explaining the origin of the name, which usually leads to more information or questions.  I'm a name nerd; it's hard to hold back!  And every person I have to weigh in my mind: what level of information should I give to this particular person?

A commenter said it must be hard to have a blog I don't share with local people.  It's true, only B knows it exists.  I've considered sharing it with a close foster mom friend, but then I know with that door open I'll have trouble not sharing with others, like those in our informal foster mom support group, who are a part of larger Facebook groups that often link to blogs and have agency employees as a part of the groups... I just decided to make tight boundaries and then my involuntary honesty won't kick in at the wrong time.  At least it hasn't so far.

And Tadpole is a teeny, tiny guy, so he has attracted attention everywhere we've gone.  I got some questions with Cricket (as it's clear she's not my biological child), but I've definitely gotten the most with the babies, especially newborns.  He also looks like I could have given birth to him, so I start answering basic questions and then get stuck needing to explain when I can't answer something like "What was his birth weight?"

It's all a little messy.  I'll keep doing my best.  Maybe I need to do puppet role-play like with my kids with polite short answers like, "I'm not comfortable sharing that, sorry."

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Neighbor conversation

Me: I better go check the door and make sure no one's waiting for me.  Someone's coming soon to drop off a baby.

Neighbor: I'm not surprised.


Our little respite guy, Tadpole is here!  He's teeny-tiny and still almost has some new-baby smell on that fuzzy little head.

Dinosaur adores him, of course, and asked about making a photo book like we did for the other kids.  He's only here for a week, but how can I say no?  Maybe I can just make a little one with a pictures from the week.  He asked the foster mom, "What's your favorite thing about Tadpole?"  Melts my heart.

Rhinoceros is a mixed bag.  He's either indifferent or positive toward Tadpole, but he's struggling with my attention being more divided.  He hasn't had an easy time the past month or so, very upset any time I don't answer his needs or questions immediately.  But we'll all get through it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

First Day June 2015 - Foster parent groups, etc.

Sometimes it's a bit tricky to show my life when I'm trying not to reveal to anyone local that I have a blog for confidentiality reasons.  So, pictures of my calendar will have to do.  Join in with First Day.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Our role as advocates

I attended the first meeting of a foster parent advisory board for our agency.  It has me thinking again about how I can do more than just be a foster parent.  I started getting distracted by hopes of adoption during our first placement.  It's not to say that it's bad to hope for adoption.  I hope that children who are adopted are deeply wanted and hoped for.  But we realized we wanted to be "career foster parents," maybe not quite the 30-year type, but get a number of years and cases under our belts.  Be able to see more of what is going on as a whole and make a greater impact. I pray that instead of being run down by the system, we will have much more to give by hanging on and hanging in there.  I pray we will be able to consistently speak up for justice for kids, to get what we need to better care for kids.

The meeting was mainly about foster parent recruitment, support, and retention.  I'm very encouraged by the agency employee that is starting this group.  She is exactly who we need.  It was a small but good group to start things off, then the next meeting will invite any foster parents who want to be involved.  Should be interesting. I do feel a little silly about having two years of experience and being in an "advisory" role.  It's still really not that much experience.  It was a good meeting, though.*

There's also a statewide group of foster parents connecting to speak to legislature, to do more advocacy.  I've written my senator about one issue since becoming a foster parent.

What have you done advocacy-wise that wasn't about particular case, but the system?

*Bonus: I figured out one of the other foster parents at the meeting has Pterodactyl's younger siblings.  I got to chat with him and see a picture of the babies.  The one that looks quite a bit like Pterodactyl also has the same ultra-serious personality.  Love it.