Vacation

It has been a little over a week since baby man was placed with his Grandma. I don’t even like to open up my picture gallery on my phone as it is completely full with his sweet face. A new question I noticed our foster care specialist asked is “are you taking pictures often?” YES! I wonder if it has been a issue of foster parents not? I joke around and say his ratio to pictures to the days of life is way off! I just watched a comedian talk about how the baby boomers only have one, black and white, thumbnail size picture of them as a kid. That made me lol. Us ‘millennials’ take a picture each hour of the day with so many devices to store and print them. Anyways, I’m getting way off topic here 🙂

We finally got ourselves a nice long vacation booked later this month! I’ve been picking up hours at work because there’s only so much cleaning you can do to your house, although it never gets clean enough it seems. We haven’t been asked for any placements or respites. Its kind of weird. We were asked about a respite case before our license even arrived in the mail! Then a sibling group and a baby over lapping each other. It’s been quite around here this past week. I figured as soon as I booked something we would get a call. But I think were going to finish out the end of this year focusing on us again.

We were denied a vacation earlier this year by the birth parents. Yes, they have the ability to decide if their kids can go or not. However, our FCS said if given enough time they could present to the judge it would be in the best interest of the kids to remain with the family for vacation. We we’re not comfortable with respite care. I didn’t want to confuse or upset the girls more, and I would spend my whole vacation worried about them.

So were going to take this quite time and really enjoy ourselves. It is annoying as a young adult when people tell you “wait before you have kids. Enjoy life!” I’m thinking I enjoy kids, they will be my life! That is very true, I do love having kids around but some things you have to take a short cut on with kids. Your food gets cold so theirs wont be, you may leave a store sooner because of crying etc. So I’m going to take my last few moments before the next adventure to slow down, read signs, take pictures and fall in love with my husband more.

Unnesting

It began pouring cats and dogs when we placed the baby with his grandma, in the parking lot of Arbys. This is foster care, awkward and messy. I carried the boxes and bags to her quickly. As we stand in the cold, pouring rain exchanging things she begins to thank me, she tells me she will keep in touch with us “because he loves you too.” I almost lost it. This made the transition a little easier. The worst part is the fear you’ll never get to see them grow up and they’ll forget your face. She told me she would put a picture of us on his dresser and always tell him how special we were. That is the best thing you could ever say to a foster parent.

Later that evening we picked up some dinner and came home. I don’t think it really hit me yet. We have had kids in our home for the last 10 months. We had no break in between placements and were denied vacations from birth parents. I walked up the old wooden steps quietly, half way up remembering I didn’t have to anymore. This morning I’m kind of lost but I continue to watch the clock and think hes probably hungry or sleepy right now.

When you’re expecting a new baby you wash all their new clothes given to you from a baby shower and hang them up by size. You set up their crib and put all the newborn diapers in place. But when you foster, you keep putting things away. You may take it down and prepare to restart. When each time a child goes home I feel the need to go through their closets organizing, I clean everything for the next children. I put away the bottle rack and warmer, the bath tub, swings and jumpers. I call it ‘unnesting’.

You pack their things and put away what you may use for the next. You move the coffee table back where it belongs because there’s no babies rolling around today. 🙂 Its crazy to go from potty training age, then back to infant and with each child you have to learn where they are with their milestones and maybe start all over again.

Here are 5 quick tips for nesting and unnesting for foster care:

  1. You can never have enough storage bins! I feel like I’m always buying them and still can’t fit all my clothes. I even send home lots of outfits. I love shopping for kid clothes. Sorry, not sorry.
  2. Convertible everything. I have the 4ever Graco seat that we’ve used on our newborn and our 18 month old and we love it. Only down side is when they’re tiny you gotta wake them up to go into a store. We kept a carrier in the trunk for the cart. Convertible baby tubs with a sling that is removable. Cribs that break down to toddler beds to twins. Bottles that turn into sippy cups. There are even high chairs that turn into little desks, its getting crazy guys! Not only are you saving, its very convenient to always be ready no matter the age.
  3. Try to Stay organized. Key word try. This makes it easier to find what you need, when you need it. One way is with toys, I keep a bin with baby toys, one with baby dolls and girly things and ones with trucks and boy things for the living room, everything else stays in the playroom. That way toys are not taking over your floors and you can take down what you need. Although most of the time kids will play with whatever.
  4. Make a kids kitchen cabinet. This one is full of the colorful plastics. Their sippy cups, bottles, plates, thermos etc. This has helped with loosing lids and all the little pieces and I’m able to find what I need.
  5. Keep diaper boxes. They become very convenient when you need something to transport their clothes and toys in, if they move.

What do you do when a placement leaves? How do you unnest?

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Kids Cabinet

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Toy Bins

With Heavy Hearts

We knew this day would come, but hoped not so soon. Our little guy is going to be placed with his Grandmother while his birth parents work through their issues. So many emotions are going through my head right now. I’m not sure if I should be angry? Happy? Relieved? Depressed? I loved this boy with all my being but the thought that he wasn’t ‘all mine’ was always right there. I get overwhelmed thinking I have to perfectly articulate his transition. I spent several hours today typing out his daily schedule, what calms him down and the foods hes tried so far. I type, and then back space again and again. Am I going over board? Does this make me look like I think shes incapable? I wrote a brief letter thanking her for someone stepping up and loving him but do I sound sarcastic?

I started getting some of his things ready to go. As I keep these kids, I look at all their toys and clothes and think what I’m going to send with them when they go home. I remember what they came with and what has memories. That day is always on my mind. How is there a correct way to tell a five month old, I love you but Mommy and Daddy won’t be back to get you. It feels like you’re letting them down.

I’m disappointed in the way things are handled and the lack of care given for these kids futures. Blood is best, repeat that and remember it. The only question we were told that had a wrong answer on the home study was “Do you think its in the best interest of the kids to be reunified with family?” I may answer this differently depending on the case, but I know the answer they want to hear.

I question myself, would I rather grow up with my grandma or adoptive parents? A question I’ll never be able to answer. I read another blog that someone so selflessly stated why would you want to keep these kids away from someone else who loves them? That is how I’m looking at it. I’m not going to get in the way of his Grandmothers love.

I do this for the kids, and I’ll keep doing it. Not for the birth family, not for the case workers, not for the state but for each individual little soul that walks through my door. As long as I loved them as much as I could and raised them as best as I can, I’ve been successful. I’m trying to not think of ourselves as failures.

He has certainty touched my life. I’ll never forget his sweet morning smiles and ticklish giggles. May his Grandmother soak in every sweet moment and milestone he crosses. I will let my heart grieve but try to remain positive.

School Age kids in Foster Care

If you’ve read some of my previous posts you know we were not expecting a kid that was in school! No one told us what to do, we didn’t know who to tell she was now in care or how to even get a bus to pick her up. We expected a little guidance but besides the monthly short visits and maybe the occasional email, we don’t have much contact with the Case Worker. So we just dived right in. With our first placement we relied a lot on our Foster Care Specialist, she is the Foster family’s worker. We went to her for things we probably could of just asked the case worker. We’ve come to learn some case workers are more involved than others but if you have questions, just ask!

The only information we received was the name of her school. We did keep her home the next day after she was placed with us just because everything was still so crazy. After being taken away from your parents and moved into with strangers with nothing, I’d say they deserve a quick break. So we called the school and spoke with the receptionist who was very understanding and concerned. I’m not sure how often they receive calls saying their student has been taken into Foster Care, but it does touch a lot of people. The next day my husband and I brought her to school, we had her little sister with us. We met her teacher in a conference room they had in the front office. We asked if there was anything supplies she needed and the teacher said no. Even though I’m sure she could have asked us to bring something she needed. She was the sweetest teacher, even she cried for her.She told us she had young kids herself and it broke her heart.

She was doing very well in school. She was very, very intelligent for her age. I think sometimes when their home life is so bad they really enjoy school more than the average child. It is a safe place with nice people and food. Her lunch was free, which helped. She had never had her lunched packed but really wanted to. So we got her a new book bag with a sparkly matching lunchbox. I packed her lunch and left a note in there for her, she loved it. She couldn’t wait to do her homework and would always ask if she could play her ‘school games’ online. She was five and able to read books very well. We couldn’t even spell things in front of her because she could figure it out :). She knew all about different animals she has seen on the show Wild Krats. She was mastering math and knew all about the solar system. It blows my mind that a child who lived in such neglectful situation was so bright. Even though she was very smart, she tend to ask to watch more infantile shows or grab a baby toy first.

Everyday they wrote in a journal. What she wrote shocked me. It was very deep for a five year old. She drew a picture of the hotel room with the room number and she wrote “One day I had to leave home.” Drawing was a great way for her to express herself. She started to draw more and more about life living with us and you could see her journal getting happier.

We tried to participate as much as possible. We brought in snacks when she was Super Star of the week and made posters. We attended her musical program, where she was the only kid not singing lol. We sent money for field trips and put her in the team color t-shirt for field day. We kept the teacher informed on the days she had visits with her birth family and we would talk briefly with the teacher as we picked her up from school. Her teacher often praised us, which meant a lot. So many times it feels we go unseen. Her positive attitude kept our spirits high when they were getting low.

One day she was having a huge fit, the school counselor had to actually pick her up and put her in our car. She would talk to the counselor weekly, which helped some. It was nice to know the school had a understanding. She spoke with her and told her why she couldn’t live with her birth mom right now. She told her something that she often repeated. “Your Mom did not make good choices.” I kind of thought that was harsh to a five year old, but she accepted it. She was way too intelligent to beat around the bush. This girl wanted answers, and rightfully so. I would too!

Her attitude was very bad in the beginning. This little girl would look at you like you were stupid and roll her eyes. She went through a bad period of tattling. Which in reading further into behaviors, tattling is often a way to gain control. Although it was rough at home, for the most part she behaved well at school. She always came home with smiley faces but we noticed a clear change in pattern as soon as visitation with Mom began.

I’m sure it was hard for her as much as it was for us. I think often how its a shame her birth parents missed out on almost all of her Kindergarten year. In the end we survived! We finished off the school year with a nice picnic with her classmates and took a picture with her teacher. That teacher gave her that much more love knowing her story. Thank you to the teachers who maybe themselves often go unseen for the unconditional love they show our students everyday in the classroom. This Foster Mom appreciates you!

 

What is an NAS baby?

david-103The nurse looked at me and asked “have you ever had a NAS baby?” Nope! As a matter of fact I am a nurse and I have never heard of this acronym, not even in our foster classes. NAS stands for Neonatal Abstinence syndrome. Our girls were starting to spend over night visits with their birth mom and getting closer to reunification when we received a call for a 3 week old baby. We were told his mother left the day after he was born. He tested positive for heroin and other opioids. We arranged with the intake caseworker to see him that evening.

He was in a special care nursery. I’ll never forget the day I first saw that sweet baby. The nurse just finished feeding him and turned him around to us introduce us. She placed him in his bed making sure to bring all his wires with him. He had leads on his chest and a pulse oximeter to his foot. He began to cry and I could only try to imagine the pain this little boy has had to feel withdrawing. My eyes filled up with tears. At this point we could not sign for him to be in our care until he would be discharged. However, we decided we were going to take him in when he was ready. He needed a mommy and daddy. For three long weeks he had been fighting on his own. The nurses were great but he had no constant familiarity with their schedules.

It was not easy but we managed to arrange our work to be able to transport our girls to and from visits and take turns staying with the baby. Children under two were not aloud in the Special Care Nursery and only immediate family.  Thankfully they did consider our girls his foster sisters and twice they were able to see him in the hospital. We had to provide proof they were up to date on vaccines and have their temperature checked each time.

I stayed late nights with him, this made me feel guilty I wasn’t home enough for our girls. We took advantage of the girls overnight visits with their birth mom so both of us could stay with the baby. They provided us with guest rooming and we were able to be called in for all his feedings at night. We didn’t do much sleeping! If he slept for 15 mins straight it was a blessing. Each day he would be scored on a finnegan scale. Depending on his scores he would be weaned on his medication. This scale looks for common withdraw symptoms such as high pitched cry, lack of sleep, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, increased muscle tone, and tremors to name a few. His first two week treatment with methadone was unsuccessful. He was also taking phenobarbital to reduce risk of seizures as well as clonidine to help control NAS symptoms. When children services got involved the doctor tried subutex which slowly began to help him. The nurses told us they could begin to see improvement when we stepped in. We held him and talked to him for hours. Love is a powerful medicine.

I have videos of him jerking, these are called myoclonic jerks. Some things we tried to calm him down were swaddling, soothe pacifier, laying on a warm blanket on his belly, walking down the halls, music, & warm baths. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, nothing was his ‘go to’. We often would feed him laying on his side on a pillow in our lap to help him eat a little slower. A lot of times they have trouble coordinating their suck, breathing and swallowing.

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It was exhausting mentally and physically. He was the loudest on the unit. You could hear him screaming at the ward doors as they buzzed us in each time. It takes a team! After many hours and days of weaning off most of his medication a week later he was finally approved for discharge. We got to take our little guy home! He was sent home on one medication and he would need to follow up with a high risk neonatologist as well as physical therapy evaluation. It was not the typical discharge, here we come walking out with two CPS case workers, the hospital social worker, a nurse and our now three kids!

It was a relief to be home, all of us in one place but just for the weekend, our girls would be going home forever on Monday! He brought much happiness in such a hard time. The girls were our first foster children, our first to be reunified. They loved to help out and give him lots of cuddles.

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We got to cut his wrist and leg bands off that were getting tight on his little limbs, we saved these for his life book. For the first time in his life he wasn’t attached to any cords, no beeping, no scores, no lights on 24/7. He could relax, he slept for six hours!! Although I’ll admit being home was easier on everyone it was still very hard, and still can be.

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Through many trial and errors we learned what helped soothe and what didn’t. Today we have reached many milestones and victories. He is a happy, healthy five month old baby boy. We are unsure of his possible upcoming developmental setbacks but he is thriving now with appropriate love and care. We love you buddy! 🙂

For more information on NAS babies visit:

http://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/neonatal-abstinence-syndrome-(nas)

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Mom & Dad?

2-galaxy-2016-573There is a lot of awkward moments you come across in foster care and the title of Mom & Dad is a huge one. For babies, its more natural but for a 5 year old, it is not. This is a difficult age to the contrary of what we thought. A 5 year old knows shes not with her parents, and something bad happened but not old enough to be able to understand why she had to be taken away. We have a 5 year old nephew. He is awesome, easy going for the most part and oh so lovable. We accepted up to this age in hopes that he could have someone to play with. Actually we originally agreed to ages 0-4 but we pushed the limits for this sibling group. We had to change our paperwork and resign it. You also have a character check list your family decides are some things you’re willing to consider. These things can be as simple as a peanut allergy to sexual abuse victim. It seems harsh to go ahead and uncheck the more complex life’s these innocent kids have been burdened with, but you HAVE to be honest. You need to really understand what you are mentally, physically, emotionally ready for. In retrospect we were probably not ready for the whole Kindergarten thing and all of the hard emotions she came with but I do not regret our decision to take them into our home. This 5 year old had a really hard time dealing with emotions. She would shut down when you tried to show any sort of affection. We did not overwhelm her with hugs and kisses but we did continue to tell her we loved her as she walked into school and tuck her in every night. We rented the Tangled movie and she covered her eyes and hide behind the couch when they mentioned love. I know, I know this is the cooty age, but this was something more. It made us incredibly sad to see her uncomfortable with a very natural part of life. For a long time she has not felt that love. She was simply in survival mode. She loved being tucked in at night. This became a time she would usually let down her guard. She began to ask every night to be tucked in. I would cover her up, tuck her in and tell her I loved her. Then one day as I walked out of her room and flipped off the light she said “I love you!” With a huge smile, I told her again that I loved her. This is a huge milestone. These are things you picture yourself doing as a foster parent and showing them loads of love but I guess I never considered, what if they wont accept our love? She never called us mom and dad, although sometimes we would refer to each other as so. When speaking about her biological parents she would say “my other mom and dad…”, she viewed us as her parents. I’ll never forget the day I took the kids to the park. They were playing the classic freeze tag. This boy ran up and froze her. She playfully cried “help!” I ran over and unfroze her and she yelled to the boy “my mom unfroze me!” Time froze for  me. All those sleepless nights and tantrums paid off. I can never replace her birth mother. I just want her to feel the love a mother can give. The safe person a mother is.

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The first 72 hours

Our foster children were placed in our home. Now what? It was getting dark, I ordered a pizza for dinner. Something easy and who doesn’t like pizza, right? Our oldest sat on her bed, looked around her room and said “I love this!” However she was not going to put on pjs! No way! At this point I was picking my battles. For the first few nights she piled books on her bed and wanted to sleep with every stuffed animal in site.

Their first night in care was with another foster family and then they were transferred to us because we were closer to her school. The previous night at their first placement foster mom told me it was almost 4 am before they got to sleep. The first night is a time to just meet each other and slowly build trust. Don’t go too hard on the rules. Yes, they will need to follow a schedule eventually but for now, we survive. I had just finished putting on the baby’s pajamas as my husband came up the stairs. He got to meet our girls, we were instant parents. The most scariest and excited moment. The youngest just stared at you and had not made a peep. We weren’t sure if she even talked yet. The oldest was protective and mothered her little sister. She often worried about adult things like laundry and making sure things were out of reach. We always reminded her to let us worry about her little sister while she just worried about being a kid and enjoying life.

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My husband read the oldest a few books and then it was time to at least try to go to bed. The oldest cried and screamed. We watched with a baby monitor that she didn’t do anything that would hurt herself. It was a rough night to say the least, she kept coming into our room and this lasted for weeks. She was used to sleeping in a hotel room, all in one bed together so sleeping alone was a major adjustment. The youngest at 18 months would not go to sleep unless she was held and rocked, as soon as she hit the mattress she was up and at it again! Night time took the most work and required a ton of patience.

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We received gift cards to Walmart for initial clothing, shoes and diapers. This was extremely helpful as most of the time they come with absolutely nothing! The police did take their stroller from the hotel room and a few blankets. These blankets went straight to the wash as they heavily smelled of smoke. We kept the stroller on the porch to air out. I ended up pitching the baby’s shoes as they were unwearable. We took the girls shopping and let them pick out a few extra things like hair bows and Frozen hats. Their hair was beautiful. It took a few weeks for the smoke smell to get out and I had to learn how to maintain long, curly hair.

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Through out the day the girls were very hungry. The oldest would obsess over the next snack before she had even finished her first one. The youngest was extremely picky and only wanted junk food and absolutely no water! She also hated the high chair. We had a lot of work to do.

They were congested and overall ill. When kids are taken into care they are required to be seen by a doctor within the first 72 hours. You are provided with documentation that they are in your care, however most places will still call Children Services to verify. Most likely you will also not have their medicaid card yet but places are usually understanding and they can back pay. They were seen at a clinic who thankfully has walk in hours and prescribed antibiotics, nose spray and allergy relief. We picked these up from the pharmacy and paid out of pocket, we saved the receipts to turn in to be reimbursed.

On the 3rd day we had meet and greet with the girls father. Here we would let dad know how the kids are doing and he could maybe give us more information on the girls such as likes, dislikes and allergies. After the meet and greet dad was allowed supervised visit time. The agency would then transport them back to our house when the visit was over. It may very from county to county but here foster parents are required to provide up to at least 50% of the transportation.

Our oldest was also in school, we had to call and explain to the school she was taken into care. We came in to meet the teacher who loved her and was so understanding and loving. We’ve gone from no kids to straight to kindergarten.

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