Monday, September 3, 2012

And the winner of the kids is...

Let me start this by saying that we are foster/adopt.  Our goal is, and always has been, to grow our family through adoption.  Having said that, I have heard some foster parents bashing the system and birth parents involved lately.  They don’t understand why the parents are getting second (or fifth or sixth) chances.  They want to skip the court and the visits and the appointments and go straight to adoption by the foster parent.  I understand the love we feel for the kids in our care and how frustrating it all is but it really bothers me when I hear foster parents who feel like they are entitled to the children in their care.   

The grown ups in our cases have all screwed up.  They did things that we can’t comprehend and it’s easy to make it some kind of competition between us and them.  But, children are not some prize to be handed out to the winner of a parenting contest.  They don’t go to the one with the nicest house, the mom who volunteers the most hours at their school or the dad who coaches the most teams.  In case your fuzzy on my stance, let me make it clear. My family makes significantly more than our Little People’s birthparents.  That doesn’t matter.  We go on trips that they can’t.  That doesn’t matter.  My kids go to private school and wear nice clothes.  That doesn’t matter.  I love them to the moon and back.  Even that doesn’t matter.  Because, none of that is a reason for another mother to lose her children.  It isn’t a competition of whether we or the bios are better for the kids.  It is about whether they can do what the state expects them too in the time allowed.

 If you cannot understand that, then you need to be straight adoption because until the ink dries on the adoption decree they are not fully our children.  As long as TPR hasn’t happened, the birth parents have a chance.  We understood that when we got into this.  So it is one thing to advocate for our kids but it is another to try to push for us to keep them.   It is our moral and ethical duty to push for what is best for the children and most of the time that means reunification.  I don’t even let people pray that I get to adopt my little people because doing so is praying that another family will fall apart.  Adoption is a beautiful, wonderful thing that is also extremely painful for kids and adults.   It’s not ever the best case scenario.  Someday when my kids are older and they start asking questions, I want to be able to look them in the eye and tell them that I did not steal them.  I did everything in my power to help them stay in their birth parents.

Part of doing everything means doing visits.  Yeah they suck but we knew that when we signed up.  Our job is to help our kids handle them and do what we can to make them successful.  That means we support the bios.  We send notes or pictures.  We stay up late those nights and rock our crying children while they try to process a world that doesn’t make sense.  We work towards reunification as long as that is an option even if we cannot stand what they did to the children we love. 

Fostering is hard.  This is a slow and hard process and there are no guarantees.  We all have tough moments but our general attitude has to be that we want what is best for the kids even if that hurts us.  I believe with all my heart that every child deserves to have someone that will be devastated to see them go.  If you can be that person who opens your heart knowing it will be broken, then maybe fostering is for you.  But if you can’t, then you should look for another way to help kids or grow your family.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mom on the Run

I ran away from home the other day.  I did it in flip flops, with no money and on a 4 wheeler.  I know that’s not really something that 29 year old moms are supposed to do but before you recommend me for commitment, let me explain.

I’ve had a rough couple of weeks.  Things have been crazy hectic.  My neighbor killed my dog.  Then, my dad got hurt really bad.  And, on top of everything Little Miss has been extremely difficult and Hubby has been working nights so it’s been me against the masses.  So, all of that led up to Monday and a very frazzled mommy.  Little Miss woke up in a bad mood and she doesn’t believe in being miserable alone.  She screamed constantly.  She broke things.  She hurt her brothers.  She hurt herself.  She was rough. 

                That evening I tried to get the kids together to take Captain to karate class but Little Miss dislikes karate since it’s the one time each week that the world revolves around someone other than her.  That’s a big deal to me.  I am in a constant state of guilt and worry that Captain is suffering because of our choice to foster.  I really think he has benefited from it overall but he doesn’t get near the amount of attention as he did as an only child.  It’s important to me that he feels like a little star at something. Little Miss has all of this figured out so any time we go to karate she has meltdown either on the way or as soon as we get inside.  This means that I have to be one of THOSE moms that sit in the car waiting for their kid to come out of class instead of the cheerleader that I desperately want to be.   I feel like I’m letting him down when I miss out on watching him fall down three times while they are running laps and his uncoordinated attempts at round houses. 

                Back to Monday.  I was insisting that we really were going to karate and getting Captain dressed and finding shoes for the baby when Little Miss got mad and let our new dog out the front door.  So, I’m running around outside frantically trying to catch the dog before the neighbor shoots her too but apparently in corgi-world it is hysterical to run right up to your owner and then bolt just before she can reach you.  She kept running in the road so I was going that direction when I looked back and saw the baby walking barefoot through the yard.  I ran back for him and the dog chose this moment to disappear.  So, then I loaded up the kids and we drove up and down the road looking for the dog, who you wouldn’t think would be that hard to spot in a hot pink dress.  After several minutes I went to Hubby’s mom’s house up the road and woke him up to make him help (he sleeps there when he’s on nights cause our house is so loud during the day that a deaf man couldn’t get any rest).   We drove and drove till we finally caught Princess Minnie Mouse Firedog and brought her to safety.  At this point, karate was over and we had missed it. 

                Hubby knew that my nerves were frayed to when we went back to his mom’s to get the 4 wheeler he had driven over there, we agreed that I would drive it back while he followed in the car with the kids.  That was the plan.  I intended to follow that plan, I really did.  But then I got to our house and I just couldn’t make myself turn into the driveway.  Instead I just pushed the throttle in and kept right on going.  I had this moment of exhilarating freedom.  It was awesome.  And then it back fired, the 4 wheeler I mean.  And then it backfired again.  Within just half of a mile, I was stuck on the side of the road with an ATV completely out of gas.  Let me tell you that it was awkward calling my husband to explain that I had attempted to run away from home but ran out of gas and now needed to be rescued.  Luckily, he’s a good guy so he came right on down.  Unluckily, we had no gas at the house.    But we stood in a driveway with the dead 4 wheeler while the kids sat in the car and talked for a few uninterrupted minutes which was actually pretty nice.  We were just about to start pushing it to a safer spot when one of my neighbors drove by.  She’s another oilfield wife so she understands having the occasional break down.  She didn’t judge at all.  She just got me some gas from her house and invited me to bring the kids over for pizza next time hubby is on nights for a hitch.  When we finally made it home, Hubby thought it would be a good idea to let me ride while he took the kids for burgers.  I raced around our pasture till my thumb hurt and the world made more sense.  Then I sent an email to our foster adopt specialist and reminded her that we had to get respite this weekend.   

                Fostering isn’t easy.  It is rewarding and I usually think it’s worth it but it is not easy.  Foster parents need help and we need breaks.  When we don’t get that, we sometimes throw 2 year old style temper tantrums.  I’ve seen a lot of debate recently on whether it’s ok to send foster kids on respite.  Some people think it just isn’t fair to these kids.  I’ll write more on that some other time but let me just say that I think my kids will benefit more from me spending the weekend with hubby and some really good friends than they would from me tolerating them without any rest.  If nothing else, it has to be better to plan a short getaway than to randomly have a mini nervous breakdown and run away from home in flip flops, with no money and on a 4 wheeler with no gas.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Paid to Love

I write a lot of blogs in my head.  I have addressed all sorts of issues, berated many frustrating individuals and solved most of the world’s problems through my blogs over the last few months.  Unfortunately, by the time the kids are in bed and the laundry is going and my homework is done and Facebook is checked, it seems like my fingers are just too tired to tap the keyboard.  So, most of my rants haven’t made it to the here.  Come to think of it, that may be a good thing.  Anyway, here’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks now and actually managed to get typed.  I would like to say that there is more on the way but I hate to get you all excited and then leave you hanging for another 3 months.  So, without further ado, here is my humble opinion on a common foster care myth.

When I was a kid, I spent hundreds of hours watching The 3 Stooges with my dad and brothers.  So, I was excited about the movie and went to see it with them, Hubby and Captain (our bio 6 year old son) a few weeks ago.    The movie was full of cheesy, slapstick comedy but I think the funniest thing was watching Captain doubled over, laughing in his seat at Larry and Curly getting poked in the eyes.  Anyway, I’m not here to do movie reviews, there is a point.  I promise.  The movie is set in a children’s home and has a lot of negative comments about foster care and adoption.   I’m not the type to crusade against every movie that gets their facts wrong but there’s one comment that just stuck with me.  A little girl was told that she would be going from the group home to a foster family and yelled the she refused to go to a home where they were paid to love her.

Here’s the thing, foster parents DO NOT get paid to love our kids.  We get paid to feed them and clothe them and be a stable force in their unstable lives.  And, when I say we get paid I don’t mean that we make money.  In some states, foster parents get as little as $300 a month to care for our charges.  (Luckily Texas is higher because I spend more than that on gas in a month going to visits.)  We’re asked to do a lot for those few dollars but we are never asked to love these children and really, if we were smart, we wouldn’t.  Opening up your heart and loving one of these kids means that it just might get ripped out when someone who doesn’t seem to care shows up for two visits and an overworked caseworker decides they can have our baby.   Loving one of these children means taking off your rose colored glasses and getting down on their level and seeing the world in a way that will change your forever.   It means holding them while they hit, kick and bite you because you know that they need to know you aren’t going to leave when they implode. 

It is not easy or comfortable or required that we love our foster kids.  But, a lot of us tend to think that these kids deserve someone who is willing to cry with them and for them.  I believe with all my heart that my babies should have at least one person in their life that would miss them if they left.  In the ideal world, that would have been their parents and they wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with.  That world doesn’t exist for these guys though so foster parents are the next best thing.  It’s not that we have this amazing superpower to unconditionally love every child that comes through our doors.  Some are easier than others and some don’t stay long enough for us to really develop any true bond with.  In spite of that, regular people from all over America get up every day and open our hearts to children who desperately need a mommy or daddy’s love.  That isn’t because that is what we are paid to do.  It is because that's what we are called do.  There’s a big difference there. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Seek justice... Defend the fatherless

Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.

Throughout this whole foster care adventure, I’ve tried to have a hands-off mentality.  I truly believe that God will give us the forever child that we are meant to have and I don’t want to intervene and mess things up.  Lately though, I’ve been really stressed about the way that they have been treating Little Miss.  She has become nothing more than a number to some higher ups and they have been pushing for something that any sane person can see is a bad idea.  I’m not just talking about sending her to birth parents that I don’t like.  It’s much worse than that.  And to make matters worse, the people who are supposed to advocate for her either didn’t care or were being silenced.  So, after much prayer and a phone call from gotandem with a verse I haven’t been able to stop thinking about for 2 weeks, I felt like I was supposed to speak up for her.

That brings us to today when I found myself in court, terrified at the prospect of speaking to the judge but feeling like I had no choice.  For those of you who have never been to family court, let me tell you it’s chaotic.  Well, today was my only experience with it so maybe it’s not normally that bad.  But today at least, court was chaotic.  There were all these backroom deals going on and negotiating and the judge calling everyone back to a little room to talk about what each party wanted.  Fortunately, we have a great agency and an awesome caseworker who stayed with me the whole time and advocated for Little Miss to all the big players.  The actual hearing only lasted maybe 10 minutes but we were there for 2 ½ hours.  In the end, they decided against what they were planning… for now at least.  We have another court date in April and I think we’ll know more about the long term then but we have gained some powerful allies who plan to fight for her to stay in our family.

So, I learned that family court is chaotic and long and confusing… and sad.  It’s sad because no matter who wins, there is always a loser.  There is someone on the wrong end of the verdict who has to come to grips with the fact they are running out of chances and there really is no one else to blame but themselves.  Even worse is when there are kids that lose.  Little Miss has 4 half siblings that lost big today.  They went woke up this morning in kinship care (staying with a relative) and tonight they are foster children.  There was screaming and crying and this feeling like their world was falling apart because really it was. 

I remember the day they brought Little Miss to me.  She was dirty and hurt, confused and terrified with a vacant look in her eyes.  She cried for hours before she finally fell asleep.  She didn’t speak for about two weeks.   She was traumatized more than her little mind could process.  She’s a completely different child these days.  The fear is gone for her but it is escalating for the others.  So, tonight when I prayed with Little Miss, we thanked God for keeping her safe in our home but we said an extra prayer for her brothers and sisters.  Tonight I know there is some other foster mom trying to help 4 other kids believe that there is still hope.  I pray God gives her the right words to say.  Tonight, I pray that those children can find peace when they close their eyes.  I’m still praying for a perfect ending for Little Miss’s story but tonight I’m praying for 4 new foster children.  Please join me in that.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Little Moments

Little Man has started dancing.  It’s the funniest thing.  He just bops his little butt along to any beat he finds, especially that new Pizza Hut commercial with the guitar.  I know it isn’t a major skill like walking but it’s one of those parenting moments where they make you stop and smile and forget about the fact that you survived from Sunday till Friday on 14 hours of sleep.  To me, those little mile stones are bittersweet.  They are a part of what makes being a foster parent so rewarding.  I experience the joy of watching this little person develop right before my eyes but that means that someone else isn’t seeing what I see.   In a few weeks, he’ll go live with his dad and start this whole new relationship with a year’s worth of missed little moments.
   When I think back on all the moments that have made being Captain’s (my 5 year old bio son) mom the best thing to ever happen to me, it isn’t the baby book milestones.  It’s the time that he asked me to get him a ladder so he could climb up on the roof and practice flying with his Buzz Lightyear wings.  It’s the way he looked when he and his daddy took a nap together in the recliner.  It’s the way his tiny fingers used to wrap around mine.  All those little details are what make being a parent such an amazing thing. 

   I’m glad that Little Man was somewhere safe while his dad worked everything out.  I’m also glad that there were some serious consequences to his actions that will hopefully serve as a reminder to put being a dad before the urge to give in to addiction.  At the same, I empathize for him as a parent.  I can’t imagine all the little moments that he’s missed with this baby.  It must be horrible to know that your actions caused you to miss his first Christmas, first words, first steps and even his first birthday.  For the moment though, I think I’m going to ignore all of that, rewind the TV and dance to a Pizza Hut commercial with my temporary baby boy.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Will the real mom please stand up?

   There’s a story in the Bible where King Solomon has to decide who the real mother is of an infant that two women claim.  There were no DNA test back then.  They had both recently given birth.  I’m guessing the baby didn’t obviously look more like one than the other.  There was no real way to know for sure so the whole court stopped to see what the wisest man to ever live would decide.  His answer… cut the baby in half and let each woman have part of him.  Sounds crazy right? But just like he thought, one woman began screaming and immediately tried to relinquish all rights to the baby in order to spare his life.  That one, according to Solomon, was the real mom.  More on this in a minute.

   When Little Miss came to us in September, I gave her a choice to either call me Mommy or by my name.  Within a few days she was calling me mommy and has ever since.  In fact, its something that she’s really proud of.  She doesn’t always talk much but she’s constantly telling people, even strangers, that I’m her mama.  That hadn’t caused any problems until a few weeks before Christmas.  That day, she forgot her birth mom’s name.  I should note that I have never told Little Miss anything bad about BM or asked her to call her anything different.  Anyway, the mom went nuts and yelled at me in front of everyone.  She told me that I needed to start correcting Little Miss whenever she calls me that because SHE is her “real mom”.  (I’m trying to keep this blog family friendly so I’ll spare you what I thought about that.)  I kept my mouth shut and after a few minutes the caseworker finally noticed.  She said I can have Little Miss call me whatever I want.

   Yesterday, when I picked Little Miss up from an especially long and hard visit, she announced to her family that she was “going to go ride in Mommy’s car”.  Birthmom freaked out again and yelled at her.  When she realized that everyone was watching she suggested that Little Miss start calling me Stepmom instead, a suggestion I have no intention of implementing.  So, after that I put my 3 year old in the car and spent the hour long drive home trying to get her to stop crying.  Today’s been even worse.  She’s screamed, kicked, hit, cried and got so overwhelmed she had a seizure because as little sense as this makes to a grown up, it’s even harder for a toddler to understand. 

   Back to Solomon.  He knew who the real mom was because she was willing to be completely devastated for the good of her child.  If a woman is so selfish that she can’t see the pain it would cause Little Miss if I suddenly said she can’t call me mom, than she’s not a real mom.  If she can’t accept that it is not her toddler’s fault she doesn’t know to call her mom, than she’s not a real mom.  If she can’t understand that at some point she should stop dragging her children through the courts when she really has no intention of reform, she’s not a real mom.  I’m sure it completely sucks to hear your baby calling someone else mommy but until she’s willing to suffer because she knows that it means Little Miss is in a family that adores her, she doesn’t deserve the title.  I understand that I’m a foster mom and I have no real hold on my little girl but right at the moment I’m especially frustrated with a system that places the wishes of selfish adults above the rights of an innocent child.  So for now I just rock my temporary baby and assure her that she can always call me mommy, even if it is mommy with an asterisk.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Not Average... Just Normal

I was joking with another foster mom the other day about how much more work our kids are than bio kids.  Our kids are not average.   They have issues and baggage.  They demand more than others their age and have quirks that don’t make sense until you get eye level with them to see how it helped them survive. When it comes to what they require, what it takes to earn their trust and how they process things, foster kids are anything but average.   I remember right after Little Miss came to live with us.  I bought her a high chair for her dolls and was all excited because I was sure she’d love it.  Instead she cried.  My little 2 year old cried because she didn’t have any food to give her baby doll.  Average kids, who have never been hungry, don’t think about things like that. 

                But here’s the thing… my kids are normal.  Little Miss begs tries to negotiate for more stories at bedtime every night just like every other 2 year old.  She is convinced that she is a real princess and twirls around the dining room in her sparkly dresses.  Little Man gets into everything he can just like every other 11 month old.  He wiggles during diaper changes and lays his head on my chest when he’s sleepy.  I kiss their boo boos and pull stickers off the walls.  They run away in WalMart but come running up with sweet hugs and kisses.  We play hours of peek-a-boo with Little Man and cheered when Little Miss overcame her fear of bounce houses.

                Out of everything that I’ve learned during this journey it has been how absolutely normal foster kids are.  They are regular kids with scars from selfish adults who didn’t treat them right.  Like many other people, I was scared of foster kids.  Especially the older ones just seemed too dangerous to have around my family.  True, some of them have worse issues than others but really these are just regular kids that got a rough start.  Not average…  just normal kids.