Monday, October 16, 2017

It's Not All About the Kids

In a perfect world, the things that happen in the foster care system would all be based on what is best for the children.  In reality, that often does not happen.  Sometimes it is because procedures are set up otherwise.  Sometimes it is due to the huge caseload that the workers have.  Sometimes it is because logistics don't allow it (or make it much easier to do otherwise).  Sometimes people just don't care.

Some examples that I have personally encountered (or had local foster mama friends encounter) in the last six months or so:

I received a call for a 20-month old when Elmer was 18 months old.  I said that I would accept the placement.  I started asking questions, including if they already had the child in the office (often they are not there yet so it may take many hours before I am needed; and sometimes they don't actually end up needing placement in my home).  "Well, actually he is already in another home now, but they felt he needed more one-on-one attention."  Excuse me?!  This is my personal licensing worker so she has been to my home for my licensing visits and is familiar with my situation. 

I said, "Do you remember that I have an 18 month old in my home already?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Well, he definitely wouldn't be getting one-on-one attention, since that is such a demanding age."

"Well, that's just what the other foster family felt."

So I would think that, for the sake of that child, you should abide by that when trying to place that child.  I ended up saying that I was not comfortable taking placement of that child unless I could talk to the previous foster family and/or caseworker and determine if it would be a good fit for the child.  And they ended up finding another place.

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My friend got her first foster placement of a 3-year old.  After he had been with her for about a month, she knew they were having court and that there was a chance the child would be moved to the grandmother's home.  She tried to prepare the child that morning and told him that he might be going to stay with his grandmother but that she would pick him up and tell him goodbye.  She never heard anything from the caseworker, and then when she arrived at daycare to pick the child up, they told her that the caseworker had already come and picked him up to take him back to grandma.  Of course she was devastated she couldn't say goodbye, but was also sad and worried that the child had been scared or traumatized because he didn't know what was going on.  If it had been an infant, the child probably would not be affected one way or the other, but being that this child was three, he should have had a little smoother transition. 

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TT adopted Twin in Feb 2016, and then a new little girl (Spark) in Feb 2017.  In January 2017, when Twin's half-sister came into care, TT requested placement with her so the two sisters could be together.  It is pretty obvious this case will go to adoption as well, so shortly after Spark's adoption, TT called the adoption office to see what she needed to do to keep her adoption file current/up-to-date.  The adoptions worker's response?  "You know... we do like to give other people a chance at adoption!"  Because it's about letting people adopt, not what is best for the child - to be placed with a sibling and ultimately to be adopted by the foster mom who she has been with since she came into care.  

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So in early September, when I decided that it was just not going to work with PB placed here and that I needed to request new placement for him, I was VERY hesitant and nervous.  Especially because of the first situation that I described above.  I did not want them to just find him a warm bed to get him out of here.  Things were not so bad that he had to be moved "TODAY," so I wanted them to take the time to try to find a place that was going to be a good fit for both him and the family.  

I made the request to his caseworker, who said I also needed to let my licensing/placement worker know.  So I did (both via email and voice mail), on a Wednesday/Thursday.  Sunday night I checked my email (I usually only check personal email once or twice a week) to find an email from the licensing worker that I needed to call his caseworker and she would then contact Foster Family Licensing and Support.  Ok.  I already did, and YOU are part of Foster Family and Licensing Support!  So this is just the runaround.  And then it was Labor Day.  And then Hurricane Irma (almost) came through so all hands were on deck to make sure all the kids were taken care of for that.  So over two weeks later, I emailed to check and make sure the placement change for PB was still in process (and hadn't gotten lost in the shuffle of everything else), and was told "We continue to search for new placement for him." And then a few hours later, the caseworker called to say she would be picking him up later that day.  

Fast forward a few days when a new foster family posted in our Facebook group asking about daycare.  I figured out that this was the family who got PB.  And through private conversation, found out that they had been told he was 4 years old.  When a 20 MONTH old arrived on their doorstep and their age range was actually 3-6 years, they said he could stay but they would give it 30 days and see how it went.  

As of now (more than 30 days later), he is still in that home.  But it makes me SICK to think that he might have to get uprooted AGAIN because someone either A) lied about his age to get him placed, knowing this family's range was 3-6 years, or B) took so little time to get the details about the situation that she didn't even check his file for his age. 

Definitely NOT all about the kids.



Tuesday, September 5, 2017

I Want to Go to Disney World

Elmer LOVES Mickey Mouse, and really has for at least the last year.  The thought has been swirling around in my head for about six months now that I would like to take him sometime.  Then I thought, "Going in celebration of his adoption would be fun." 

I volunteer with a baseball league for kids with special needs, with many of my former patients.  Each spring, a local car dealership draws the names of ten players that will get a trip to Disney World.  This is an all-expenses paid trip for the child and three family members.  It amazes me that they continue to do this year after year.  This year, three of the ten winners were former patients of mine, and two of them posted a bunch of pictures of their trips this past weekend. 

Several other friends were also taking a trip to Disney this past weekend and posted pictures. 

I was so happy to see the moments of joy as these girls have the trip of a lifetime! And enjoyed looking at my other friends' pictures as well!  But every time I logged on and saw more Disney pictures, a part of me was sad that our Disney trip is not even on the horizon yet. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Court Continued

We had Elmer's TPR Hearing court date on June 16.  The week before, his caseworker asked if I had heard anything from his mom, and said that when they tried to serve her at the address on file, someone said she didn't live there and they didn't have a current address.  (The address is her mom's house, so... yeah, right... they didn't have a current address!  And then when the caseworker finally got in touch with mom a couple of days before court, she gave the exact same address they already had on file!) 

So court was already continued (cancelled for that day) because they were unable to serve the mom.  But then there was also an issue with the state-appointed lawyers of mom and dad, so they had to get that straightened out as well.  So I think that court would have been continued no matter what. 

Mom ended up showing up about 15 minutes after court was over.  We talked, and she wanted to know if I would let her see Elmer if I adopted him.  I told her that as long as she was clean, sober, and safe, that I would allow contact.  She also asked if I would change Elmer's name.  I did not want to discuss this before the actual adoption, but I wasn't going to lie to her face, so I told her that yes, I would probably change his name.  (Separate post about the name change to come.)  She mentioned that bio dad says, "That's my Junior" but I mentioned that even if I didn't change his first name, his last name would change and so either way he would no longer be a Junior.  Mom also told me the street she lives on and a pretty good description of the house, and it is about five minutes from my house, so I am going to drive by and see if I can get an alternate address for Legal to use to serve mom next time. 

So now we wait... again... for another TPR Hearing date.  And I anticipate that parents will contest the TPR at that hearing, which would mean that we would have to go to a TPR trial.  Such a long process for a case where the parents never had a treatment plan!

 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Life is Hard Right Now

These two sure can be cute! 
Snack break in their matching swim trunks at the pool

Banging on my bedroom door

But in reality, THIS is a more accurate snapshot of what life is like right now:
video
Elmer sing-songing "pizza, pizza" on the way home from my friend's house because we had had pizza there for dinner... and PB screaming intermittently the entire twenty minute drive home. 

Overall PB cries and tantrums a lot throughout the day.  He does not like the car - he intermittently screams every minute or two on most car rides, and is usually pulling at the shoulder straps of the seat, or pulling at his shoes when he does so.  I think he was probably rarely in a car seat - whether that be because he never went anywhere in a car, or whether because he was in a car but not made to be in a seat. 

He has no words other than "mama," "ball," and "uh-oh."  (And I am not convinced that he hasn't picked up those last two words since he has been here.)  But even more importantly, his attempts at non-verbal communication are virtually non-existent.  For example, we were at brunch yesterday and I took a fork out of his hand.  Just to get it out of the way, not because he couldn't have it.  He did not resist my taking the fork... but he did turn around in his seat and start screaming and having a tantrum.  Obviously he wanted the fork. But he made no attempt to communicate that before having a tantrum.  Most kids would first resist the fork being taken, then reach for the fork, then maybe fuss about it, and finally have a tantrum if they were still not getting the fork back.  He just jumps right for a tantrum.  Maybe in the past that was the only way that he ever got anything.  Maybe he knew that if something got taken away, he was never going to get it back so he might as well have a meltdown. 

If PB doesn't get what he wants immediately, or if I provide any direction whatsoever, he screams and throws out, including at times jumping, throwing his head back (and hitting it on the floor if I don't protect his fall), head-banging, or throwing himself into a wall.

A lot of his screaming centers around food.  If he sees food and is not getting it (like when I am trying to put leftovers on a plate and heat them up for dinner), he screams.  Or if I give the boys a snack in the car, PB devours his quickly but then gets mad and screams when he sees Elmer still with food and doesn't have any.  I assume that he probably didn't get food regularly, so when it was available, you better eat it fast because you never knew when the next meal was coming.

I have tried to take them outside, but it is stressful for me and usually not safe.  PB will run away and think it is funny when I try to get him (even if I just walk casually over to where he is rather than chase him).  And he is FAST, so it is not ok to let him wander too far just to see how far he would go, and I do usually end up having to run after him by the time it is all said and done.  (He was taken into DSS custody because he was found wandering, so I really don't think he would care about where I was, and would just keep going without any regard for me.)  And then when I go to get PB, Elmer usually thinks it is funny to run in the opposite direction.  I live in a townhouse so there is no fence, so it is just not safe to have them outside when they do that. 

Bedtime is rough.  I used to be able to just put Elmer down and he goes right to sleep.  But PB does not self-soothe well, and screams off and on, while tossing and turning for usually 20-30 minutes, and usually ends up crying straight for several minutes and I have to go up and help him situate himself before he can go to sleep. 

And they fight!  But not just toddler fighting over toys.  PB is very aggressive - bites, pulls hair, and/or tackles to get the toy he wants.  (I am realizing Elmer is pretty aggressive, too, but not to that extent.)

PB has had upper respiratory congestion pretty much the whole time since he arrived, and has coughed so much in the night that he has thrown up at one point.  Other nights he has not been able to go back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night, for up to 2 hours.  And the two have woken each other up at times (because of the coughing or otherwise).  Sleep has been hard to come by pretty much the entire last two weeks.

Things have already started to get a little better in some areas, and I'm hoping that as he is here longer, things will start to smooth out even more.   



Friday, June 9, 2017

PB

Last Wednesday at around midnight, I received a voicemail for a placement of a 1-year old and 5-year old.  I called the placement worker back on Wednesday morning and said that I could take the 1-year old if she hadn't found placement.  She had found someone to take them for the night, but was still looking for a permanent place for them.  She said the plan was for me to take the 1-year old if she couldn't find a permanent place for the two together, which she ended up being able to do. 

But when another one-year old came into care on Thursday, I think I was probably one of the first people she contacted since I had just said I would take a one-year old the day before.  I said I could take him, and around 5:45 that afternoon, "PB" (for "Peek-a-Boo" because he loves to play peekaboo and just laughs when he does) arrived from a county 1 1/2 hours away.  He is three months younger than Elmer but just as active. 

When I was getting the boys ready for bed, he climbed INTO the pack n play, which I figured did not bode well for him staying in it during the night.  And when it was bedtime and I walked out of the room, as suspected, he immediately climbed out of the pack n play and tried to open the bedroom door.  I did end up getting him settled that night into the pack n play, and he slept all night, but decided that even though he was only 17 months old, he would have to go into a toddler bed the next night.  One of my patients' moms had just given me a toddler bed a week or two before, so I was able to get it set up the next day.  He has mostly stayed in the bed, although getting to sleep has been a little rough (he usually tosses and turns for about 20-30 minutes, and often cries off and on as well). 

The boys have gotten along pretty well.  The first few days, they REALLY fought over toys, including some pushing, hitting, hair pulling, and biting; but this has improved in the last few days. 

PB didn't cry (except for bedtime) for pretty much the first two days.  Now he cries A LOT!  He is very easily frustrated and angered when he does not get his way (or even when he does not get something he wants IMMEDIATELY when he wants it), and jumps and throws himself on the floor.  This morning it was because I made him back up a little so I could get the gate open at the top of the stairs for us all to be able to go down them.  He doesn't say any words, other than "mama," so I'm sure this has something to do with his frustration level. 

He is really really cute, and smiles and laughs at times (especially when playing peekaboo), but is also very emotionally labile (totally as expected for this age). 

This Tuesday, PB coughed in his sleep so much that he ended up throwing up a little, so on Wednesday afternoon I took him to the After-hours pediatric clinic.  They said there was fluid on his ears, but no infection - yet.  (And then when we were at the pediatrician's office this morning, he said the ears were "about" to get infected so wrote a prescription for antibiotic.  Elmer was also checked on Wednesday (because he had had a low-grade fever on Tuesday afternoon), and both ears were infected again! First in 2 1/2 months, but still very frustrating.  So we have had a rough couple of nights sleeping-wise!

Overall, we are settling in!  I talked to the caseworker today, who doesn't have a whole lot of information.  But I have a feeling he will be here for a good while. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

This is Foster Care

Getting a call at 4:30 and responding that you will accept the placement.  Being told that the caseworker will call with more information.  The caseworker does not call, but finally shows up at the door at 8:30 with the child.  This is foster care.   (At least the child is the age that I was told... I've heard stories of a 6 year old showing up when they said they would accept a 2 year old!)

A little 22-month old who is scared to walk into a house.  Hugsy (the new little boy) resisted walking into both my mom's house and daycare on Monday morning (which was converted from a house), and made me pick him up.  The last time you walked into a house with the person you were most familiar with (the investigative caseworker), she left you with a complete stranger and didn't come back, so you don't really trust walking into a strange house anymore.  This is foster care. 

Hugsy crying in his sleep, which then wakes up Elmer, who points to the crib and says, "Happy...happy!" (wanting Hugsy to be Happy).  Elmer crying because I have to go take food off of the stove, which then wakes Hugsy up.  And then finally just putting a comforter in the middle of their floor and lying down with one on either side so they would both go back to sleep.  This is foster care.

Less than 72 hours after the child arrives, the caseworker picks him up and takes him back home after the probable cause hearing because the judge rules that there was NOT probable cause to remove the children.  This is foster care.  (At least I was told they were picking him up and was able to say goodbye.)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Correction to TPR date

Remember when I posted that Elmer's TPR trial date was going to be June 16th?  I was wrong.  That is his TPR HEARING date.  So if either of his parents show up and contest DSS's recommendation to terminate rights, then there will have to be a separate court date to have a TPR TRIAL (I'm guessing probably 3-6 months later, based on recent history of how things have progressed with mine and other cases).  If the parents don't show up, the caseworker said they may be able to proceed with having the trial on June 16th and terminating rights. 

I had gotten excited thinking that we actually may have an adoption date this calendar year, but now it's looking again like we probably won't.