You see this big, huge smile? Well, I got to see it last week... Not on Monkey, but on HIS DADDY as he came to pick up his son for his very first unsupervised, all day visit. :-)
I've been trying for two months to get unsupervised visits for Monkey, so when I got a call from the Invisible One last Thursday afternoon saying that she finally tracked down his attorney on a beach vacation to get permission, I was thrilled silly! The plan is for Monkey to go to his dad on monitored return at the next court date (March 21st). Time is slipping away quickly, and if he is going to be able to go to a home that he knows and is comfortable in, and to a parent who is familiar with his schedule, likes, dislikes, etc., he needs to start spending a significant amount of time there!
So last Friday was his first, all-day, unsupervised visit. We scheduled the initial transfer at the CPS office where we had been having visits all year. The office wasn't open yet, so I was sitting in the backseat with Monkey while we waited for his dad. He didn't realize we were there, and I saw him get out of his car and head towards the office. He was positively beaming. My Monkey's grin on a grown-up face... :-) I called to him, and he came running over. He was so excited. It was Monkey's 1st birthday weekend, and this was the first time in nearly a year that he and his daddy would get to spend more than an hour together, and unsupervised at that! It was a great birthday present for both of them.
His dad told me that Monkey "was born on a Friday, so in days, today is his birthday!" He had ordered a birthday cake for him as soon as he found out that he was going to get to spend the day with him, and was so excited. We went over Monkey's schedule and the list of favorite foods, sizes, etc. that I had put in his diaper bag for him. Then I shocked his dad by saying, "If you'd like to spend the day with Monkey tomorrow as well, the Invisible One said that it was okay with her."
*** Sidenote - This is the first time where I have had a caseworker tell me, "Honestly, I think CPS sucks at transitioning infants and toddlers home. I'm totally willing to follow your lead on this. You know what's going to work best for Monkey better than anyone. You make the schedule, and I'll back you on it!" How crazy-awesome is that?!? The Invisible One might drive me to drink most of the time, but I'm all over this one! ***
So the schedule that I went with for this first week was 8-4:30 on Friday, 8-4:30 on Saturday. I invited Monkey's dad to his birthday party on Sunday afternoon, but he's pretty shy, so I wasn't surprised when he said he didn't think he'd make it. We did a 7:30-4:30 visit today, and he will have his first overnight this weekend. I wanted to try to get three good day visits in before we tried an overnight. He's starting to get used to taking naps over there, so hopefully bedtime won't be too horrible for him. Monkey is rather particular about his bedtime routine, so I'm a little worried. But hopefully he will be okay with everything being different if he's not here at the apartment. He won't be expecting "normal" if he's not in his "normal" place, right?
Monkey's dad will pick him up at 8am on Saturday and bring him home at 4:30pm on Sunday. If the glazed-over look of pure exhaustion after two day visits last weekend is any indication, I have a feeling daddy is going to be T-I-R-E-D! :-)
So far, the visits have been going really well. Monkey is always excited to see his dad, and never cries or has any hesitation about going with him. He claps when he sees him, waves "bye-bye" to me, and they seem to have a great time. When he comes home, he claps when he sees me, throws himself at me, and waves "bye-bye" to his daddy. His dad gives me a rundown on what they did during the day, lets me know how his meals and naps went, etc.
Honestly, if this is any indication of how it's going to go when Monkey goes home and I go from "foster mama" to "nighttime caregiver," I think things will work out well. His dad has always been nothing but respectful, appreciative, and thoughtful with me. He might have the emotional mood swings of a drama queen teenager, but I suppose I can be the "dude" in the working relationship if I have to be. ;-) He really is a good guy. And I can definitely understand his desperation when it comes to being separated from his child for so long. I'd be a basketcase too!
I guess, for me, even though I am once again going to suffer the pain of losing one of my babies, I think I've been one of the lucky foster parents who has been able to see foster care work the way it was meant to work. I know so many of you haven't been able to see that when it comes to your children and their cases. So many of you have had multiple cases go to TPR or worse, had to return your children to the same situations that they were removed from to begin with! As horribly flawed as the foster care system is, it can work! I've seen it several times already with my own kids.
I hope that those of you who desperately need to hear good foster care stories can look at my kiddos, follow our journeys, and see that good does exist in foster care. And I hope that those of you who have your own "good foster care stories" will comment here on this week's "Foster Friday" (on a Thursday night ;-) post and share a little of your own experiences with us.