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. 🙂 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

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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