Friday, August 26, 2011

"Foster Friday" - You're Stressing Me Out! Maintaining Our Sanity in a CRAZY World...

We all know that Foster/Adopt Land can be extremely stressful.  It causes a roller coaster of emotions, puts huge demands on our time, thrusts us into a world of rules, regulations, and restrictions, and yet expects us to provide "normal" homes for our kids.  We spend months, even years, waiting.  Waiting for a placement...  Waiting for a match...  Waiting for caseworkers...  Waiting for judges to make decisions...  And then in the blink of an eye, decisions are made and we are expected to immediately adapt.  Our children often suffer hurts that we cannot begin to understand, so we research, we listen, we counsel, and we love them to the fullest.  We try to take their hurt on ourselves in an effort lessen their pain.  We worry for those of them who have been returned to questionable situations every day.  I have never heard the phrase, "Foster care/adoption is a breeze!"

So how do our panel members and their families maintain their sanity (or at least attempt to) in this crazy world of Foster/Adopt Land?  See what they have to say...

Diane - How do I stay sane as a foster parent?  It is difficult at times, especially because I can be a control freak.  When you are a foster parent, you are most definitely NOT in control.  Therefore, the stress level can rise quickly if not kept in check.

Here are some techniques I have adopted to attempt to maintain my sanity in this crazy world of foster care:
  • Pray, A LOT!  Turn things over to Him, because He is ultimately in control and loves this child even more than I do.
  • Take time for me.  I try to have one activity that I do at least once a week just for me.  For years it was church choir, but that no longer works with our hectic schedules.  I guess now it is blogging.
  • Pick my battles, both with the kids and with the system.  I won’t win most of the time, so I spend my effort on the ones that really matter.
  • Ask for help.  I can’t do everything on my own.  Friends and acquaintances, especially from church, often offer to help “if you ever need anything”.  Several years into foster care, I had to make that phone call when a child was admitted to the hospital.  Multiple friends helped at a moment’s notice.  Since then I have learned that many people really do mean what they say.  Ask, but in moderation.
  • Stay organized.  Sometimes easier said than done, but being organized really cuts down on the stress.  Set and track appointments ahead of time.  This includes doctor’s appointments, case manager visits, therapy, even home repairs.  Last minute calls have to work around previously scheduled appointments.
  • Be involved.  Stay in frequent contact with all of the people on the case.  This sometimes helps prevent big surprises.  It also seems to help emotionally prepare for separation when it occurs.
  • Give myself permission to cry.  The stress and craziness will ultimately get to me at times.  I now recognize this and occasionally let myself go.
  • Schedule a future vacation.  I used to cringe trying to plan ahead, because I never knew if today’s child would be here when the event arrived.  Now I just plan ahead, 6-12 months out, and try not to worry about who is going until the time is closer.  Having that trip to focus on is a good distraction when things get rough.

I still struggle frequently, because so many times, the system just doesn’t make sense (and yes, I’m still a control freak).  Ultimately, I focus on the child in my care and remember why I am a foster parent.  My goal is to make that child’s life happier and less stressful; ensuring his/her safety and security is well worth the frustration and stress on my part.

Kylee - Foster care is full of many stresses, most of which I have only observed from the sidelines. I think I would be dishonoring all of the wonderful foster mamas out there in a big way if I pretended to know all of the stresses that are involved in this ministry. While I do know many of the trials, and have lived through some of them, I have never been the one directly dealing with bio families, scheduling appointments, sitting through meetings with caseworkers, writing progress notes, and filling out endless amount of paper work. I do not want to pretend that I know all that it entails when I have never been directly in that position or had that experience. 

I will say that I believe there is a different set of stresses that come along with being a foster sister. Obviously, those things are small in comparison to what you ladies go through, but they are still there, and since that is all I have experienced, I will go ahead and take this opportunity to share a little piece of my heart. 

Growing up, I was attached to each one of our foster children and formed a special bond with them. We always fostered under-five, and usually they were infants or young toddlers, so the "competition" aspect of fostering was really never an issue with me. Instead, I found myself bonding with them in a sisterly way as I helped care for them, changing diapers and feeding bottles. After "our" first child left, I quickly began getting nervous each time a child moved in with us. I loved our first little girl so much, and, even as an eight-year-old, cried buckets of tears when she left. In the early years, without the maturity to channel and control my emotions,  I developed, what I suppose could be called a "fear of bonding to a child".

As I spent time loving these kids, on the forefront of my mind was often the thought process of "What am I gonna do when I have to say goodbye?Sometimes, I spent much unnecessary time thinking about and stressing over what I would do when that moment arrived. I think without even realizing it, I was trying to find the perfect balance of loving a child enough, but not too much. It is an easy trap to fall into as a foster family, and I was no exception. 

Thankfully, as I got older, the Lord taught me a little bit more about loving because He has commanded us to, not because it makes me feel good or is easy to do. It is obviously something I am still learning and will probably be working on for a lifetime. 

So, just something to keep in mind- As you foster moms (whom I respect so much!) are dealing with the many logistical areas of foster care, there is a chance that your care-free bio child is focusing on only one thing- loving their new foster sibling just as they would a bio sibling or family member. Keep in mind that even if there is a child that you might not be particularly attached to, there is a chance your bio child has developed a strong friendship with that child and is trying to deal with what to do when the "goodbye" comes. 

And to some of us foster siblings, that's a stress of our own.

aka. Mimi - I don't handle stress well.  I tend to internalize and do the "fester, fester, fester" thing until I blow up or have a complete and total meltdown.  So when I made the decision to enter Foster/Adopt Land, I had to try to find ways to cope and to deal with the ever-present stress.  Some worked...  Some, not so much...  But I think after three years of trial and error, I'm beginning to get a handle on what I need to do in order to maintain a small shred of sanity.  :-)

 1)  Happy Pills - Yes, I take happy pills.  My doctor put me on them years ago when I was going through hormone therapy for endometriosis, and I asked to stay on them.  No, they don't take all of the stress away, but they do make it a little easier to cope.  I no longer feel a burning desire to strangle people who look at me funny.  Nor do I find myself bawling during cotton commercials ("The touch, the feel of cotton...").  Come on!  Don't judge!  Only people with no feelings don't get a little misty-eyed at cotton commercials! 

2) Stress Balls - Okay, so stress balls (at least for me) ended up being one of those "not quite as helpful" remedies.  I think it had something to do with the fact that I didn't have a stress ball.  I had a stress cow.  Said cow met with an untimely demise as I had a tendency to twist the little guy's head around and around rather than squeeze him.  (You see where this is going, right?)  Yep.  Stress cow was decapitated.  :-(  No more stress balls for Mimi, although I hear they are helpful for some people.

3)  My Super-Cool, Mega-Sized Day Planner - This thing is my lifeline.  Keeping organized seems to be one of my main forms of stress-relief.  I can't control much in Foster/Adopt Land, but staying organized and keeping on top of appointments, contact information, paperwork, etc. is one thing that I can control.  I can't imagine not having a system for managing all of the required appointments and monthly paperwork.  Just the thought of having piles of papers, business cards, information jotted down on napkins, etc. gives me the heebie-jeebies.  For a control freak like me, the day planner makes me feel a little more "in control."

4)  Blogging - It helps.  A lot.  Being able to vent my frustrations on the World Wide Web somehow makes me feel empowered.  Sure, it's fairly anonymous, and unless you know me personally and know about my blog, no one would be able to guess who I'm actually talking about when I complain about the "Invisible CPS Caseworker,"  "New Girl," Skinny Bitch," or "Olga."  (I love making up little pseudonyms for people.)  For me, blogging is therapeutic.  It helps to get it out.  It helps to know that other people have been or are going through similar situations.  Reading other people's stories helps too.  And my online foster/adopt support system has been one of the biggest stress-relievers that I have found so far.

5)  Respite Care - My agency offers respite care reimbursement for one weekend a month so that foster parents can get some much-needed, well...  Respite.  :-)  I have to admit that in the time that I have been fostering, I've only used overnight respite twice.  I have a hard time wrapping my head around sending my babies to yet another home when they are so comfortable with me.  But I do know that the two times that I've utilized respite care (once when my mom took Little Miss for a couple of days because I had the worst stomach virus in the history of stomach viruses, and again when the Angel Couple took Itty Bitty because I was in way over my head with two infants by myself) ended in me being completely rejuvinated and feeling as though 10,000 tons of stress had been lifted off my shoulders.  I do think I'd be more inclined to utilize respite care if I could convince a few more of my close family and friends to go through the training.  I don't want my kids to be scared in a new home with strangers, but one night every few months where I don't have to sleep with one ear open listening for a crying baby would be lovely.

6)  "Me" Time - Being a single parent is hard.  Add being a single foster parent to the mix and the stress levels can go through the roof!  If you're not careful, every hour of your day will be completely consumed by your children or foster care.  I've tried really hard to make it a priority to have just a little bit of "me" time every day.  I've mentioned before how I changed my work schedule to accommodate my cat.  But the change in schedule was also so I have about and hour or so of "me" time every day before I pick the baby up from daycare.  I have to admit, I felt guilty about leaving Monkey in daycare while I was off at first.  But I quickly realized that I'm no good to him if I'm completely stressed out and miserable, so I take that hour or so every day to relax, take a nap, watch a TV show uninterrupted, blog, shop, or whatever I feel like doing in that one kid-free, foster care-free hour of my day.  Believe me, it has made a world of difference!

But in all seriousness, I think the Number One thing that has helped me get through all of the stress and craziness that Foster/Adopt Land can bring has been in learning to "Let Go, and Let God."  It's an on-going process that I'm sure I will struggle with for the rest of my life, but I can honestly say that in the situations where I have given up fighting for control and trusted that God would take over, the stress has immediately washed away.  I may not always get the outcome that I wanted, but in the end, it's not my plan that matters.  And in those times where His plan diverges from mine, I know that He will hold me and help me through so I can be there for the next child who needs me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Dear Random CPS Employee Who I Have Never Heard of Before,

While I appreciate your many "kindly reminder" letters telling me that Monkey's 6-month well baby check is "overdue," I would like to take this moment to point out that Monkey is not yet 6 months old.  There is no need to send out the cavalry or to have me taken out back and flogged as I have not yet been remiss in my foster mommy duties.  With record keeping like this, it is no great surprise that children get "lost" in the foster care system.

Your due diligence is impressive however!  So much so that I would love to meet you in person, hunt down and introduce you to the Invisible CPS Caseworker, and pray that you become life-long friends so your persistence might wear off on her.  The woman still hasn't called me back.  Perhaps you could send her a "friendly reminder?"

Exasperated Foster Mama
(aka. "Mimi")

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Two Teeth & Very Little Doubt...

Yep...  Monkey got his SECOND tooth the week after Tooth #1 came in.
I thought this pic was perfect,
and left very little doubt that this is one super happy baby. 

Wish I could show his whole face because he is positively edible!

Funny story...
Went to the grocery store earlier, and had a very sweet woman comment on how very much my son looks like me.  I totally played along and thanked her profusely, all the while thinking...  "Really?  He's Hispanic and I'm somewhat Irish!  Other than the double chins and brown eyes, I didn't think we looked that much alike."  ;-)

Still no word from the Invisible CPS Caseworker as to how his case is progressing, but I'm going to love him to pieces in the meantime. 
How could I not?  LOOK AT THAT CHIN!!!
Positively edible, I say...
(Definitely think the double chin looks better on the baby than it does on me. ;-)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Self Defense and Militants and Scabies, Oh My!!!

Last Saturday was my annual "Emergency Behavior Intervention" training class.  You know the one...  Where we get to learn all about how to "remain calm" (a phrase which I believe at final count was used 34,273 times throughout the day) as our kids go crazy and pose an "imminent physical danger to themselves or others." 

(While probably very effective, this is NOT an approved method of escape when it comes to your child in CPS care. ;-)

This is my 4th year to take this required class that has absolutely NOTHING to do with me or my foster children seeing as how I only foster infants and toddlers.  While I will admit that Monkey is a "big boy," he is also 5 months old.  I think I can pretty much handle anything he's willing to throw my way.  ;-)  It is a required class, nonetheless, so I dutifully sat my happy butt down and was a model student all day long.

Well, that statement might not be entirely accurate. 
I met this awesome couple in my PRIDE classes when I first started fostering three years ago (They are actually the couple who had my Immobile Munchkin and her big sister when Munchkin left my house.).  Over the years, any time this mom and I get together we tend to be trouble.  Not the "class clown, acting out" kind of trouble (well, except for that one year when we decided to dance when we were practicing our therapeutic holds ;-), but the "extremely vocal about our experiences in dealing with CPS workers over the years" kind of trouble.  Most instructors don't like us much by the end of the class.  Our trainer that day started calling us "The Militants."  I, personally, think she was exaggerating.  I didn't think we were that bad!

You see, the longer you foster and the more experience you gain, the more you want to share your experiences with people who are just starting out.  I know that I wish some of the more experienced couples had spoken up and told stories during my initial training.  It has taken me three years of learning the hard way to know what I know now.  The horror stories or "straight talk" would never have scared me away from fostering, but it would have been nice to go into foster with my "eyes wide open" so to speak.  So we tend to relay our experiences when they pertain to whatever happens to come up during training...  I think that I was a little kinder than usual because at that point, I had only just begun my "CPS Week from the Underworld."  My dear friend, on the other hand, has be dealing with some rather interesting things lately.

My personal favorite was after I had relayed my story about Monkey's surprise 4-hour visitation, and she replied with, "Oh, girl...  That's nothing!"  She then proceeded to tell me a story about recently receiving a phone call from the caseworker after her kids' visit with their bio mom saying something along the lines of, "Um...  We're going to need you and the kids to go get tested for scabies."  Yep.  You read that correctly.  SCABIES!!!  They are all negative, by the way, but I can pretty much guarantee that was probably the most mortifying doctor visit she has ever had. ;-)

"Self Defense and Militants and Scabies, Oh My!!!"
... And so are the days of our lives in Foster/Adopt Land ...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

"You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry"

This past week in Foster/Adopt Land has truly tested my patience.  The Invisible CPS Caseworker has gone and driven me crazy to the point of nearly giving her her very own "label" on the blog.  No longer simply "frustrated," I am in full-blown "Mama Bear Mode," and she needs to beware the wrath of Bipolar Girl.
"Don't make me angry.  You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

It started last Wednesday when I went to pick Monkey up from daycare.  He has weekly visits with his parents every Wednesday morning from 8:30-9:30.  When I saw his daily log, I thought the note telling what time he was away had to be a mistake.  8:55-12:30?!?  No one told me he was going to be away for nearly four hours!  Thankfully I had a bottle and formula in his diaper bag, but no baby food!  Had I known he was going to have that long of a visit, I would have put everything that he needed in his bag along with a note detailing his eating schedule.  They know nothing about his regular schedule.  As is was, he arrived back at the daycare over an hour after his usual "lunch" time, fussy, and apparently drenched in sweat!  He barely ate the rest of the day, and he was super fussy.  It took a half an hour to get him to fall asleep that night (as opposed to his usual 5 minutes). 

Ordinarily, something like this would irritate me to the point of sending a nice little email asking if she could please let me know ahead of time if there are any changes to Monkey's visitation schedule.  This time, however, I was seething!  You see...  This isn't the first time something like this has happened.  I had already sent the nice email the week that they didn't show up on his regular visitation day and came and took him three days later without informing me of the change.  Clearly, she ignored my request.  So when it happened again last week, I was not a happy camper.

After I finally got Monkey to sleep, I called the Invisible CPS Caseworker.  She did not answer.  This in itself made me mad because she has on more than one occassion told me stories about looking at her caller ID and thinking, "I just don't want to deal with them right now," and letting it go to voicemail.  Probably not the best story to tell someone when you plan on letting their calls go to voicemail...  So I sat my infuriated butt down at the computer and gave her a piece of my mind.

Hi Invisible CPS Caseworker,

What's the matter with you???  Did you not comprehend my simple request the last time you thought it would be a good idea to take the 5-month-old on a visit without his bottle, diapers, food, or schedule?  All I asked was that you send me a simple email or text message ahead of time to let me know if his visits are changing at all so I can make sure his needs are met while he's away.  I didn't think it was that confusing!  You rode the short bus when you were little, didn't you?  That's the only explanation that I can think of that might help me understand your complete lack of comprehension of my simple request.  Let me use small words and type slowly this time so you get it.  C A L L  M E  I F  H I S  V I S I T S  C H A N G E.

Ticked Off Bipolar Mama Bear

After reading what I had written, I thought perhaps I needed to cool down a little before making contact with the Invisible One.  Probably not the best and brightest idea to tell your child's caseworker that she's missing half a brain, even if indirectly.  So rather than hitting "Send," I emailed Nice Lady and vented away instead.  I freaking love Nice Lady!  She is always on my side because she's totally in love with Monkey too.  She offered to contact the Invisible CPS Caseworker and voice our concerns, only in a nice, politically-correct kind of way.  ;-)

(Stay tuned for Part Two...  Because Part One is getting rather long, and I have oh-so-much-more to say...  Soooo much more...  That woman is something else, and I plan to tell all!  :-)

Monday, August 15, 2011


I'm not entirely certain when or how it happened, but I realized this evening that somewhere along the way, my home has been invaded by aliens or something. Well, more like invaded by little people who have brainwashed me into fulfilling their every desire.

Three years ago, I was a single lady with a cat.  I was "Fun Aunt Tammy" to a couple of 3-year-olds.  I had an art drawer with supplies for the kids and a bin of toys in the closet in the spare room that were neatly out of sight when Buddy and Ka-Diva weren't here.  I had an awesome 3.5' x 3.5' chest in the middle of my living room that offered storage and acted as a table.  I had knickknacks and a great seaside cottage decorative theme going.  Heck.  I even had doors on my entertainment center!  You know...  Like a grown woman should have!

And then I started fostering.  Within two days of Booger's arrival, the awesome chest in my living room found a new home on the back patio because he was learning to crawl, and tended to go into aerodynamic crawler mode where he put his head down and crawled at the speed of light...   Enough said.  Taking up residence in the living room was a new exersaucer and a bin of baby toys.  The spacesaver highchair gained a permanent spot in the dining room. Then Booger started walking, and the doors to my pretty entertainment center were removed and now live in my closet.  When Little Miss began taking an interest in the stairs, we put in a permanent baby gate.

Three years and six kids later (nine if you count Banana, Pooper, and Butterfly!), and I find myself completely overrun in baby gear, preschool toys, clothes, and other kid-friendly supplies.  And the worst invader of them all seems to be the 5-month-old!!!  I realized that this evening as Monkey was playing in his exersaucer and I turned around to see this:

Yep.  That would be my living room...  Formerly a mature, well-decorated oasis of calm for a single lady with a cat.  There's an exersaucer.  A bin of toys that you can't see in the picture.  A stationary bouncer.  The built-in baby gate behind it.  A glider for rocking.  A bumbo and hanging toys.  A swing.  And behind swing... The highchair!  There is even a stash of diapers under the dining room table that hasn't made it to the nursery yet.  Also on the table are two diaper bags (large and small) ready and waiting to be packed for this week's visits.

After the shock of actually registering what had become of my living and dining rooms, I thought...  Maybe I should take a look in the nursery.  Probably not my best and brightest idea.

You see all of those books, puzzles, and bins of toys?  Those aren't even the baby's!  All of that belongs to Booger and the older kids for when they come over.  Booger still refers to the nursery as "his" room, and makes a beeline for his toys immediately after giving me a hug every time he comes over.  What you can't see here is another tub of "older kid" toys under the bed!  This is just sad.  And then I looked in the bathroom.

And the closet...

Then I thought...  "Might as well take a peek in the kitchen."

(The rest of the bottles are in the dishwasher.)

I'm embarrassed to even mention my car. An infant carrier carseat for Monkey and/or Banana depending on which baby is in the car. A toddler carseat for Booger. Two boosters for Buddy and Ka-Diva. A stroller and a pack-n-play.  Most of which is stored in my trunk and rotated when needed.

I really don't understand how this happened.  There I was, a mature, semi-sophisticated, single woman.  I had Girls' Nights and grown-ups came to my house to visit.  Now I have playdates with three-year-olds and the only grown-ups who come to my house are with CPS or are babysitting so I can go grocery shopping in peace.

Seriously.  I have been invaded.

But who am kidding?  We all know I LOVE IT!  :-)

Friday, August 12, 2011

"Foster Friday" - Birth Family Relationships

When I first started fostering, I had high hopes of being able to develop close relationships with my children's birth families that continued even after my babies returned home.  Six placements later, I've learned that every case is different, and I gauge my level of contact and the extent of our relationships carefully.  However, I know firsthand that those close relationships are possible in certain situations.  Today's "Foster Friday" touches on the relationships between foster/adopt and birth families.

aka. Mimi -

(Ring, ring...)


"Hi, Tammy!  I come yours house?!?"

"Hey, Booger!  :-)  You want to come to my house?"

"Yeah, I do!  I miss you's.  I want to come yours house.  Oh!  And I went pee-pee standing up!"  :-)

This was the beginning of a thirty minute phone conversation that I had on Wednesday night with Booger Bear and Heaven.  A surprise phone call because Booger wanted to talk to "his Tammy" and learned how to use his Mommy's phone...  If anyone were to ask me what I thought the ideal after-foster care relationship would be like, I would answer in a heartbeat...  "I have it.  It's my relationship with Booger and his family."

I know that most foster parents don't ever get the opportunity to make one of their children's birth families a true part of their own.  Most foster parents aren't FB friends with their former foster kids' parents, grandparents, and great-aunts.  Most foster parents and their extended families don't have regular playdates and babysitting opportunities with their former children and haven't been invited to birth family gatherings.  Most birth families don't respond with "they're cousins" when asked if their children and my niece and nephew are related.  Most foster and birth parents aren't close enough to have inside jokes and secret smiles when someone asks who's who.  I love it when people ask if Heaven is my daughter.  We both just smile and say, "Well, sort of." just to confuse them.  :-)  I know that I am unbelievably blessed to have the relationship that I have with Booger and his family. 

I know that I will probably never develop the same kind of relationship with any of my other children's families.  But that's okay.  With each placement, I try to open the lines of communication by sending photos for my babies' parents in their diaper bags during visitations.  Almost all of my kids have transporters who take them to and from visits, so I rarely (if ever) get the opportunity to see their parents face to face.  Depending on how receptive they are to the photos and communication, we might send notes back and forth in the diaper bag.  I have had cases where the birth parents were absolutely against any communication at all.  I've had parents who welcomed opportunities to meet me and talk to me.  I've even had relationships with parents where everyone was comfortable enough to exchange phone numbers and meet for outings where I supervised instead of CPS.

For me, the key is to read my children's birth families carefully.  Not to force communication, but to subtly initiate it and gauge their reactions and willingness to develop more...  While I would love for all of my kids to leave my home with me still being a part of their lives, at least I know I've given their parents the opportunity to get to know me if they want that.  As far as I'm concerned, a person can never have too many people who love them.  But even if I never see my babies again after they leave my home, I know that their parents have photos and keepsakes to pass on to them from the time they were apart. 

Foster care is hard.  While there are TONS of manuals on "Minimum Standards" and more rules and regulations than anyone can possibly remember, there is no manual on how to foster relationships with your children's birth families.  Ultimately, it's up to each family to decide what is right for themselves and to work together to make each relationship (or lack of) become what is best for that particular situation.

Kylee - My family's relationship with birth families has always varied on a case-by-case basis. With most of my foster siblings, especially in our early years of fostering, my mom would drive the kids to their parent visits as opposed to having a caseworker come pick them up. This allowed weekly contact with the parents in a very minimal amount. It was a good time for my mom to meet the parents(s), learn more about the case, and sometimes take pictures with the mom and her child. That was primarily all of the contact we had with birth families during the actual time of placements. Our agency was one to advise against exchanging numbers, so as far as I know, that was never done. I know many people have positive experiences with that, but it was never what was right for us.

We did have one little girl, however, who was with us over the holiday season. Her mom and grandparents wanted to badly to spend Christmas with her, so my mom was able to set up a little bit of time on Christmas afternoon to allow them to see their baby girl. I was about 14 at the time and went with my mom to that visit. It was so special for me to see this family love on their girl and smother her with hugs and kisses! 

Each time (as in, 90%) a child left our home, my parents would send a lifebook with them, along with a letter which included contact information. Several times this led to further contact from the bio family, adoptive family, or relative. We have had contact with several of our children, which typically involved babysitting the kids or meeting for lunch. Primarily, this contact took place in the 6month-1year time frame after reunification, while helping the child's "two worlds" become intertwined. Other than this, or becoming facebook friends with several parents/relatives, there are currently only one or two children that we are still in contact with.

I'll end with this: Our very first foster placement was a 3-month old little girl. Our whole family fell in love with her and cried buckets of tears when she left our home. We sent contact information and her aunt called us a couple of times. Earlier this year, after not having heard from them in about 7 years, "our" little girl was looking through her lifebook, found our phone number, and decided to call. Ten-years-old now, and in 4th grade, she was able to talk to my mom on the phone. Such a special moment!

For us, minimal contact during the time of placement worked best. However, sending our information allowed the family to evaluate if they would like to remain in touch. We always loved it when they would call or e-mail, but understood if they decided not to.

Diane – Relationships with birth families are often difficult, but very, VERY important for the children in our care.  I have had good, bad and ugly experiences with birth parents, as well as some very positive relationships with extended birth families.  Seventeen years ago, interaction between foster parents and birth parents was unusual at best, until a child was returning home.  Over the years, philosophies have changed and training now includes “bridging the gap” and other models encouraging foster parents to work with birth parents. 

When a birth parent participates in the case, I try to build a relationship.  At first it is usually just courtesy and interaction at meetings or court for the case.  If visits progress to unsupervised, I volunteer to transport to some of the visits to have more interaction with the birth parent in hopes of sharing information so the transition will go smoothly and the birth parent can learn more about what the child is used to in my home.  Now, I usually exchange cell phone numbers with the parent once unsupervised visits begin, but I set guidelines for when they can call.  In earlier days, I would only call them (from a blocked number) and/or give them a pager number to reach me.  Since I take very young children, the parent doesn’t call to talk to them on the phone.  I have always used my licensing agency as my scapegoat, saying I can give the parent information about where I live only after the court closes the case.  This is just my preference, in case the reunification does not succeed.

Bad experiences usually revolve around the frustration and roller coaster that plagues these cases.  When you deal directly with the birth parent, the reason the child is in foster care in the first place, your stress level goes up considerably.  Many don’t understand the meaning of commitment or keeping their word.  Time is variable and punctuality is virtually non-existent with some parents.  Some things you are told, you may not want to know, and your worry meter gets cranked up as a result.  Before foster care, I never interacted with this segment of the population.  In fact, I can probably say I didn’t know it existed.

Ugly raised its head when a birth mom took her 1 ½ year old daughter to the hospital during a visit claiming I abused her, because the daughter would point to her diaper and say it hurt and “mommie (me) do it”.  This led to a full investigation against me and a very strained relationship with mom.  The investigation revealed that the daughter was trying to tell her mom to put cream on to take away the hurt of the diaper rash.  Eventually this little girl went home to her mom and I saw her a couple times afterwards until mom moved away.

Good happens when effort is made.  I drove a four year old back and forth for weekend visits for weeks before she returned to her mom, building a relationship throughout.  The case closed a few months later, but I kept in contact through her kindergarten year, even having her spend the night a couple times.  When mom and new boyfriend moved several states away and abandoned her, the social service agency called me because mom gave them my information and told them I would help.  Although I was not able to have her return to me, I do think she ended up in a good adoptive home that could meet her needs.

Sisters I had for two years returned to their birth mom at ages 3 and 2.  I was devastated when the case plan did not proceed to adoption as planned, because mom cleaned up her act at the last minute.  During unsupervised visits, we developed such a good relationship, that I fully supported the girls returning to their mom and was able to help her in many ways.  I continued to see them on a regular basis over the next few years.  Today the girls are 11 and 10 and doing very well.  We are still in contact and mom sends me very nice texts on special occasions like Mother’s Day.

In an effort not to further take over Tammy’s blog, I’ll continue with my relationship with my current children’s families on my blog.  For the rest of the story, visit me at…

Rachel -

How much contact do you have with your children's birth families during and after placements?

Baby Man has been our one and only placement so far. It is *extremely* unusual to have your first foster placement be a fresh-from-the-hospital newborn, and it's even more unusual for that placement to most likely become a permanent member of your family.

How do you determine how much contact you will have?

I know myself. I know that I tend to attract needy people. (OK, that was the understatement of the year.) I was born with a sign on my back that says, "This girl has trouble establishing boundaries. Work her over for whatever you need."

I know that I am very sympathetic/empathetic, and it can be a curse when you're dealing with drug addicts. These people didn't get their child taken away because they gave him too many puppies. Because of this, both Scott and I decided early on that we would not have a close relationship with the birth parents. It's enough emotional upheaval bringing him to visit them every week; I don't need to bear their emotions as well. I just can't do it at this point in life. Also, from the very beginning, Scott stated that he was uncomfortable having contact with the bio parents. If we were going to do this foster thing, I would be the one with contact. He has never even met them, and it's fine with both of us.

How do you develop and foster those relationships? 

We don't. More than a few people have mentioned that maybe we should be "ministering" to the bio parents. I don't know how much more ministerial or loving you can get than to take a perfect stranger's child into your home and love him or her as your own, for an indeterminate length of time. This is how we have chosen to minister to the bio parents. It works for us.

Have you been able to maintain any relationships after your children have left your home or have been adopted? 


 If you could describe your "ideal" foster/adopt relationships, what would they look like?

I'm not sure! Ask me in about a year. ;)

How "Booger Bear" Got His Name

It occurred to me after over two years
that I may not have ever explained how Booger Bear got his nickname...

Right after Booger came to live with me,
he got a sinus infection, and I quickly dubbed him the

"Booger Bear."

(See the loveliness coming out of his nose in this picture? :-)

The nickname stuck, and he was affectionately known as
"Booger Bear" or "Booger" until the day he went to live with his daddy.  
(Although he will ALWAYS be "Booger Bear" to me. =)

This past Mother's Day, Heaven and Kelly brought Booger and Banana
by the house because Booger had been working hard on 
special Mother's Day presents for me.

Mixed in with everything that Booger thought I desperately needed
(including a bell, a duck pen that stands on it's own,
picture frames that he decorated himself, and a flower)
was this...

"IT SAYS, 'BOOGER BEAR!'" he excitedly exclaimed.

I love that if I ask him who's my very special boy,
he responds with "ME!"

I love that he knows how much he means to me.

And I love that this kid will always be...
my "Booger Bear."

(Although he's probably not going to be so excited about
his nickname as he's walking the stage to get his
diploma and I shout, "MIMI LOVES YOU, BOOGER BEAR!!!)


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