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:
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


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. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Calls Galore

It has been a heck of a roller coaster day!!

Around 1:30 I got a call from foster care placement saying they had a disrupted foster home - the foster parent was being investigated and the kids removed - and needed to place six children.  I recently gave my twin bed to Bop because his mattress was VERY old and lumpy.  So I told her I could take one if they could go in a crib.  She had a two-year old she needed to place, and I said I could take him.  A little over an hour later, she called back and said that she was able to find a home that could take both the 2-year old and his sibling, so he would not be placed with me.  BUT she has a 4-year old she would like to place with me.  I said no since I did not have a bed and a 4-year old is likely to outgrow a toddler bed very quickly. 

Then about 45 minutes after that (around 4:30), she called back again, saying she needed to place a 22 month old boy.  I again said that I could take him, and he finally arrived just after 8:30. 

I asked if he needed to eat, and she said that yes, he did.  (Um, was this child seriously in custody for four hours - surrounding dinnertime - and no one had fed him?!  I'm hoping this was not the case, but...)  I gave him some graham crackers and he just stared at them, picked them up (many times), tried to feed them to me, and a couple of times put one in his mouth but then acted like he didn't know what to do with it.  So then I gave him some yogurt.  He opened his mouth for that, but then made a face once the yogurt was in, like he didn't like it; but then he ate 6 or 7 bites of that, making a face every time it hit his tongue but otherwise seeming to like it.  He did drink some juice, and eventually started tearing up in the high chair so I got him down. 

He was overall clean except his feet were dirty and stunk (because he was wearing sandals), so I just gave him a quick swipe with a soapy washcloth (except I did scrub the feet!) and then put his pajamas on.  We walked back downstairs, and I held him on the couch in the mostly dark room, hoping he would go to sleep.  Well, he sat on my lap without hardly moving for at least 15 minutes but never even seemed like he was going to doze off.  My leg was falling asleep so I decided to try to put him in the pack n play (which I had temporarily put in my room, since Elmer was already asleep when they arrived and I had no clue if the new one was going to scream throughout the night).  He laid down without crying and I laid on the bed.  He laid there for about 30 minutes with me, playing with the stuffed dog I had given him, or tapping the canvas side of the pack n play, but never went to sleep.  I finally sneaked out of the room and if he noticed, he did not cry.  That was a little over an hour ago, and I am going to go up there to bed now.  I did check a few times and didn't hear anything coming from my room, but we will see if he is actually asleep when I go up. 

We will see how the "Twins" interact tomorrow!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Elmer at 18 months

Well, Elmer is now 19 months old, but this should be mostly accurate as of 18 months since I actually made notes without writing the whole post!  I'm going to write it from the point of when he was 18 months. 

- He weighed 23 pounds (33rd %ile)  and was 32 inches (34th %ile) at his 18-month checkup.  Two hours later at WIC, he was 31 inches (9th %ile)!  I trust the WIC measurement more, though, because they used the slider measurement device, rather than just marking on the paper on the exam table.

- He is so smart! 
At 18 months, he said more than 80 words on his own, and keeps adding more every day!
He connects concepts and has a really good memory. 
One day while climbing the stairs, he picked up a piece of debris, and I said, "Oh, yeah, I need to vacuum."  Then when he got to the top of the stairs, he began grunting and motioning toward the vacuum cleaner.  The time between those two things was enough that I had already forgotten what I said on the stairs and had to take a minute to figure out why he was pointing to the vacuum cleaner!  There was also a couple of weeks that we had been to the pediatrician several times.  On one of these visits, I had pointed out the fish's big eyes on the mural in one of the treatment rooms.  Ten days later, when we were there again, I drew an eyeball on the magn-doodle and said, "eye."  He quickly turned to the mural on the wall, looking for the fish's eye!  We were in a different room with a different mural, so it wasn't there. 

- We are doing "Mommy and Me" gymnastics class every week, and he loves it!  The first class we went to, the teacher thought we were making up the class from a different day rather than it being his first time because he was so cooperative. 

- He loves to help me!  He will put the laundry into the dryer when I pass it to him, scoops out and dumps the cat's food, and throws things in the trash when I ask him.  One day he also helped me clean out and organize the pantry - he put things in the right piles as I told him, or took things to the trash can. 

- He feeds himself with spoon and fork pretty consistently, and usually does a good job with it.  Sometimes I have tried to feed him so we can do it quickly or not end up with oatmeal in his hair, but he CRIES and points to his high chair, or goes to the silverware drawer to get his own spoon.  I guess I can't hold down independence! 

- Speaking of independence, he has hit the Terrible Twos early!  When I tell him to do something he doesn't want to, he will say, "NO!" and hit at me.  He also has started throwing some tantrums.  {Thankfully by 19 months, this has improved a good bit!}

- He imitates EVERYTHING!  For example, I was vacuuming the blinds and he picked up one of the vacuum attachments and started doing it, too.  He pays attention to even the very little things and imitates - like when I licked my finger to turn some magazine pages, he did the exact same thing!  And every little movement my six-year old nephew Bop does, he does too.  Bop fell down on the floor on top of a book and rolled around kicking his legs; Elmer found a book to put on the floor and did the exact same thing.  When we were at a baseball game, Bop walked over to the fence; so did Elmer.  Bop squatted down on one knee while holding the fence; Elmer did the exact same thing. 

- He LOVES balls of all types and sizes.  Anything that is remotely round is a "ball" - eggs, a pregnant lady, my chest!  LOL  One day I got a watermelon and a cantaloupe at the grocery store.  From the minute I put them in the cart, he kept saying, "Ball!  Ball!"  He was DEVASTATED when I put them on the counter at home and wouldn't let him play with the new balls we had!  He also has quite the arm and leg for throwing and kicking. 

- I have learned when brushing his teeth that I need to give him his own toothbrush because otherwise, we are fighting over the one toothbrush.  He has gotten pretty good at brushing his teeth.

- He has started trying to jump, and occasionally gets both feet off the ground at the same time to really jump. 

- He discovered his shadow!  When he first saw it outside, I was trying to get him to make the connection that it was his body and was showing him how to wave and make his shadow move, while saying, "Hi."  He spend the next couple of weeks almost obsessively saying, "Hi" to his shadow on the floor, wall, or wherever else (and sometimes when there really was no shadow but he was expecting one). 

- One of his favorite activities these days is to sit on the curb outside and re-arrange the leaves that have gathered in the corner. 

Elmer is growing and developing so quickly.  I continue to be truly amazed at all of the things that he is able to do, and the fact that he is age-appropriate with everything (and ahead of his age for most things).  My sweet baby is such a joy!