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.

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. šŸ™‚ 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

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!