Friday, October 30, 2015

No Calls

I haven't gotten any calls for placement since Tigger left. 

Except the one at 5 am last Saturday for a 15 year old girl with autism.  I did not say yes to that call. 

Since I'm such a planner, the waiting game and uncertainty is really no fun. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Not Knowing

At this point, I think the hardest thing about foster care for me is the not knowing when the next placement call will come. 

I expected the uncertainty and the roller coaster while the kids are here.  I didn't think about the fact that my life would be uncertain and in a kind of limbo when there wasn't even a child here. 

Since I don't have any kids of my own, my life looks very different when I have a placement compared to when I don't.  It is somewhat unsettling to think about the fact that my life could completely change today... tonight... tomorrow.  My life could be completely different this weekend compared to last weekend. 

I might go trick-or-treating next weekend with my nephew Bop or my goddaughter Boo, and be hanging out as the photographer and fun aunt.  Or I might have a new child trick-or-treating with us, after scrambling to find a Halloween costume along with everything else that child will need when he arrives. 

Even non-foster care involves the not knowing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Trauma vs. Previous Experience vs. Personality

As Tigger and I adjusted to each other, I began to think about different behaviors in my foster children and how, at the time, you just have no clue if they are due to trauma, their (non-traumatic) previous experience, or just to their personality.  As the days go on, and as the behaviors begin to change (or not to change), it starts to become a little more clear what their cause might be. 

It is especially difficult to tease this out with an infant when they have no words to give you clues; but even Evie at 4 1/2 years old had confusing behaviors. Some I initially attributed to her personality but later realized they may be due to trauma.  She asked A LOT of questions and needed a lot of attention.  I think a lot of that was just her personality but especially the questions were fueled a lot by anxiety as well, as they definitely slowed down as she became more settled and comfortable.

You never know what to think about an infant's sleep habits - it's especially difficult because you generally have NO CLUE what their sleeping and eating schedule was before arriving.  Are they needing to be rocked to sleep because that's what they are used to, or because they are feeling insecure since they have just been ripped out of the only home they have ever known?  I absolutely believe that infants, even at four months, sense that their world has just been shaken and know that something is different.  With Machine Gun, it was obvious that he knew he was in a strange place and didn't want to be put down because he had no clue where he was or who he was with.  For the first couple of weeks that Tigger was here, he would wake back up crying every night about half an hour after he went to sleep (not just laid down but was actually asleep).  At first I thought that it was always about that time that he would turn his head and lose his pacifier and then start crying.  However, one night that behavior just stopped - I think he finally just got settled with his sleeping.  Tank would grip onto me and not want to be put down when I tried to lay him down in his crib; and then I would just want to hold him and rock him because I thought it was highly likely that no one had ever snuggled him to sleep before. 

You also don't know about their eating habits.  Initially Tank would arch his head back when he was drinking a bottle and his feeding sounded unsafe.  I thought he might have had problems with his swallow, but then his feeding was normal.  I realized that he had probably been laid on the floor with a bottle propped up to eat, and he was used to having his head hyperextended as he sucked on a bottle; and had no clue how to coordinate his swallowing with his head flexed forward as it was when I held him cradled in my arms as he ate.  And at first I thought Tigger had reflux because he would arch his back and scream during or after his feedings sometimes; that, too, disappeared... making me think that it may have just been due to him not being comfortable in his surroundings.

And then there are other behaviors.  For example, Tigger would SCREAM every time as his car seat was buckled up - and then stop pretty much afterwards.  I wondered if that was just his personality or if it was something deeper - like, did he know that every time he got buckled in a car seat, someone different (sometimes someone who wasn't safe for him) would take him; or was he left buckled in a car seat all day long and was scared he would never get out every time he got buckled in?  This behavior, too, decreased significantly after a couple of weeks as Tigger became more settled.  Tank would not snuggle as he was going to sleep - he would become stiff and arch his back while I was holding him before bedtime - and then he ended up being a snuggler. 

I don't have the answers.  And I know every situation will be different.  My natural instinct is to have "tough love" and just power through the behaviors with consistent responses and consequences from me, since that is what works well with the children in my work and my life.  But I do realize that in many situations with a new foster child, that child just needs love and comfort and security, even if that means that the rules and situations stay flexible for a time.  In the future, I need to try really hard to consciously tell myself that it is better to err on the side of being too soft with these kids in the first few weeks than too rigid.  They deserve it. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Dear Tigger

Dear Tigger,
When you walked in my door on September 8th, you were smiling, and you haven't stopped since.  Everyone who meets you says how cute and precious you are - and they are right. 
You have made all my days in the last month so much brighter with your smile and your cute little laugh and just by being YOU.  I know it was just a short time that you were with me, but you have touched my heart and I will always carry a piece of you with me!  You have been an absolute joy to care for, and I have loved doing it! 
I am happy that you have people in your life who love you so much to fight for you.  I wish you a life filled with happy and wonderful days! 
I love you - always.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


I got a message late on Monday that there would be an emergency hearing yesterday at 11:30 due to a request by Tigger's aunt and grandmother that he be placed with them immediately.  When we got home, I started organizing his clothes.  Then I decided that if that was going to be my last night with him, I wanted to just spend time with him.  I cried as he crawled over to me and started reaching up to grab my legs.

The next day I got a call around 12:30 that the judge had ordered temporary custody with Tigger's aunt.  Thank goodness I didn't have any patients scheduled between 12 and 2:30 so I was able to get his stuff together and meet the caseworker at the daycare to tell him goodbye.  I'm not sure how this would have gone if I had been working all day. 

The family had hired a lawyer, and my understanding is that this is the reason they were able to get Tigger so quickly.  I don't blame the family, because I know that if my nephew was in foster care in another state because my sister wasn't taking care of him, I would fight tooth and nail to get him. 

I am so sad to say goodbye to that sweet baby.  But that is balanced out a little with knowing that he has gone with people who want him and love him. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

One Month with Tigger

Tigger has been here a little over a month and has adjusted really well.  He is so laid-back and generally only cries when he is tired or hungry.  He overall seems happier than when he got here (although he was pretty darn happy even then!) - I guess a better choice of words would be "more settled." 

He turned six months old, and now is army crawling EVERYWHERE, including into the bottom of the Exersaucer.  He will make a beeline to any shoe or cord.  He is still working on sitting - if he actually sits STILL, he can balance himself for several minutes; but he is usually trying to get some toy or wave his arms around and ends up falling over.  He still only has the two teeth he arrived with, but these are more fully grown in now.  And just last night he really discovered the fun of splashing in the bathtub!

He sat here for almost five minutes, entertained by me
moving my toes and banging my thighs to the music.

He goes to bed between 7 and 8 pm.  He wakes up one time during the night to eat, around 12:30-1:30, and then goes right back to sleep.  (He did sleep all night - until 5:45 - one time, but that hasn't happened since.)  He has started holding his bottle, but not for the whole feeding yet. 

He loves my cat, Pumpkin; Pumpkin is jealous - he often climbs in my lap while I am holding Tigger. 
He started crawling after Pumpkin, and
Pumpkin had to take shelter behind the table.

He is so attentive and interactive.  I have a board book that has real pictures of babies - each page is a baby doing a different thing.  One day, he was "talking" to the baby on each page.  He would look at the baby, smile, and make 2-3 "talking" noises to it; and then would repeat on the next page.  Something interesting was that he did not consistently "talk" to two of the babies - one that was looking down at the book so you can't see the eyes; and one that was a full-length picture so the eyes were not as obvious as in some of the other pictures. 

Cute Tiger Butt

After a little more than a week, we ended up in the doctor's office with a fever (which turned out to be just a virus), and he tore the table up!
He will grab my face and give the sweetest kisses!
He had a visit with his grandmother and aunt yesterday, and my understanding is that they are trying to get full custody of him.  He is such a good baby, and I will hate to lose him; but I am so glad that he has people in his life that are fighting to get him.  (It is so sad to me that so many of these kids have parents who can't show up to a visit for months on end, and have no one else that really cares to visit them.) 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

How Long?

There's a question I get all the time when I get a new placement: "How long will you have them?"

It's kind of an annoying question because almost 100% of the time, the answer is, "I really don't know." 

And when I think I have a clue, that often turns out to be not right anyway.  I thought Evie would be here a couple of weeks or maybe a month at most; she was here over thirteen months.  They said Tank would probably be going to relatives "in a couple of weeks" after I got him; he stayed four months.  They told me Tigger had no relatives that could step up and care for him and that mom's treatment plan would be at least six months; now they are doing home studies on both his aunt and neighbor so it is likely he won't be here much more than another month. 

There's no suggestion I have as to a better question to ask because I know that the question is in the forefront of people's minds.  It's actually in the forefront of mine, but unfortunately uncertainty and unexpected changes are the name of the game in foster care.  I guess I just need to get more comfortable with saying, "I don't know" and leaving it at that when I get asked the question, "How long will you have them?"

Friday, October 2, 2015

Merits Hearing

(I said in this post that the Probable Cause hearing was when the treatment plan for the parent was determined.  I was wrong; sometimes they both happen at the same time, but usually there is a separate Merits Hearing to establish a legal treatment plan.)

I attended the Merits Hearing this morning.  I learned that it is best to attend court hearings if possible because you can learn so much about the case.  This proved to be a challenge this morning as daycare was closed today due to torrential rains and flood potential; a previous co-worker that lives close to court was able to keep Tigger for me while I was at court. 

What I learned is that it is not likely Tigger will be with me much longer.  His neighbor has requested to be considered for official placement so they are completing an expedited home study (meaning it has to be done in the next thirty days).  (At first, I wondered why she would call DSS about this child and then request to get him back; but I guess at this point he would still be in foster care and mom would have to follow DSS guidelines and supervision.)  They are also completing a home study on Tigger's maternal aunt who lives in another state.  It sounds like mom has requested that he be placed with the neighbor so that she can still see him.  Dad is out of the picture and not capable of caring for Tigger.  From everything the investigator said about the situation with the neighbor when Tigger was removed, I don't have any reason to believe she won't pass her home study. 

I will be so sad to see him go, but glad that I went to court and learned that his leaving is a definite possibility in the near future so that I can prepare myself emotionally for that possibility.