Change is good

54 long days had past since Baby Boy left our care. It’s safe to say I was going insane! We had taken some foster classes and listened to everyone talk about how busy they were in their counties. We were beginning to consider switching to a more needed county. It drives me insane for my beds to be empty when another foster parent tells me there are more kids than foster homes in their county. So we did, we looked around and were told we must be licensed for at least a year to switch and can only foster ages 5 and up! What!? I felt like I wasn’t good enough.We even talked to the Case Worker about increasing our age limit.

So I sat eating breakfast with my husband and said we need a change! I was made to be a Mom. I thrive on the crazy of tiny humans. They are my fuel and my reason for living. I’ve felt a lot of guilt about needing to go back to work when no one was here calling me Mom. I needed to help pay the bills and move on, but I grieved harder than I thought I needed to. Baby Boy’s Grandma had not kept in contact or responded to me like she had promised, crushing me harder knowing I probably will never see him again even if its a picture.

A big piece of my heart was missing and I needed to figure out how to live on. A bit dramatic it seems but its the truth. I know what I’m getting into every time I take a placement, this isn’t for me.

I was just about to rearrange my living room furniture just for anything to change. My husband was moving the couch so I could mop my hard wood floors as the phone rang, it was children services. They have a 4 month old baby girl hospitalized from abuse. My husband mouthed “a 4 month old!” Butterflies take over you knowing your life is again changing in the matter of minutes. A new life, new story, new family, new culture. We accepted to take her in and visited her that evening. My heart is filling up again.

I seem to be more at peace with this placement and the possibility of reunification as again grandparents are involved. Maybe its experience and each time I hand them back it will easier not because my heart will hurt less but my understanding will be better.

On Christmas day Grandma of Baby Boy sent me a picture reporting he was doing well and thanked me for my love and care. The few and far between moments that make this all worth it.

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Sacrifices

I didn’t believe it was ever going to snow this year, but it finally did. I was on my way to see my dad. He was scheduled for surgery. I watched the snow fall from his hospital room window as we waited for the nurse to tell us it was time to take him to the operating room.

I wish as a child you could understand the deep love parents have for you. I remember being a moody teenager refusing to talk to my Dad. I made him cry and broke his rules. I wish I could go back.  I’ve always loved my parents but now as a adult I truly realize the sacrifices they have made for me. I now know that they were the only ones who really ever had my back.

My Dad taught me how a man should treat his wife and provide for his family. How to play with your kids and teach them about life every chance you get. I become that much more passionate about being the best foster parents we can be when I think of the love my parents show me. I want to be those people there for them in the worst times of their life.

He laid in his hospital bed cracking jokes about which son can have his rolling tool box and who gets his saw. Probably mostly to keep my Mom calm. We laugh along but deep down inside terrified of the day that will actually happen where his things will be inherited.

His surgery had been pushed back several hours. We were enrolled in a continuing education class that evening for fostering. Mid surgery we had to leave to get to this evening class. On the way we were stuck in traffic at a complete stand still due to a accident. We called the instructor to let them know but had to run into the building to avoid at 15 minute cut off. We made it in time. We sat in a room with a group of other foster parents with bags under their eyes in their work uniforms eating a bite really quick for dinner. My Mom text me during class a picture of my dad giving the camera a thumbs up! Thankfully, he got through his procedure without any complications.

I have changed my status from working full time to be able to stay at home with my kids. Now that our home is empty we have felt that financial strain of that sacrifice. Our case worker said there has not been any little ones taken into care in our county and things have been slow so I have been back to work part time.

2016 goes down in history. It’s been hard and messy but has shown us the intense love a parent can feel. Our hearts, time, jobs and relationships have all been sacrificed to make our dream of fostering come true and we don’t regret it one bit.

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.

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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