Friday, October 19, 2012

"Foster Friday" Panel - Foster Favorites

Anyone who has fostered for any amount of time tends to discover their "foster favorites."  Books, people, moments, items, and other resources that we just can't imagine our lives without (or that we actually do remember our lives without and are eternally thankful that we discovered them :-)...

For this week's "Foster Friday," our panel has compiled their own lists of "favorites."

*** Pay close attention, and check back on the blog tomorrow as I announce "Trippin's" latest Giveaway consisting of items inspired by our panel's favorites! ***

Heather ("Us")

My favorites:
*A strong support group.
*At least one person that will still love you when you say "I don't like my children right now."
*A big "desk calendar" to put on your wall or fridge,that way anyone can tell what is on the agenda for the day. I also save my pages so I can look back if I need to.
*Car seats that go 5-100 pounds and are easily adjusted. These have changed my life!
*A comfy chair that rocks. I have found a lot of our kids crave the rocking motion, it also make for perfect cuddle times.
Order This Here
*A closeable expandable file "thinger" like this. I have found I prefer ones that tie or use an elastic because the snaps break too quickly for my liking. I have one for each placement that stays in the car or diaper bag with all the papers I always need, health visit report forms, medicaid forms, caseworker info, all those MOUNDS of paper we need to present at a moments notice.

My favorite moments are when you hear that first REAL laugh and when the twinkle comes back in their eyes, it is what really keeps me going moment after moment.
I received a new book recently called "A Family for Eve."  My 4 year old and I sat right down to read it.  It was a little bit too long for her (she got a little antsy towards the end) but as soon as I was done she asked to read it again.  And a few minutes later she said we could read it every day.  So it was a hit with my 4 year old.

Like many kids' adoption books there is a point where my eyes started to fill with tears.  For me it was this line;
Cleo felt it happen.  Her heart grew bigger once more and she knew that she wanted to be the chick's mommy from that moment on.
Cleo is the cat and she has two biological kitties and has adopted another kitty, bunny and a duck.  I love how it mentions her heart growing bigger because that's what I've been trying to tell my daughter.  That when a new child comes our hearts grow to make more room.

After Eve, the chick, sees another member of the farm, the goat, pregnant she starts to ask questions. And her mom answers her questions and shares the poem she wrote especially for Eve.  Sweet poem that ends with;
There's room in your heart for all kinds of love, even your birth mother you may never know.
We have an open adoption with her birth mother so I asked her if she knew her birth mother.  She said yes but got shy when I asked who.  But it was a very easy way to just start talking about her birth mom.  It also says that it's okay to miss her birthmom and even cry.  I think that's really important right now with my daughter's understanding of her story.  We need to let her know that it's okay to be sad and miss her if she does.  And that it's okay for her to tell us that.

And now that we are fostering with the hopes of adopting this book will be perfect to read to our next child as well.  I have a feeling we will read this book often.  Seems like it will be a good one to have conversations with.

A couple of my other favorite adoption books for kids are:

Rosie's Family: Adoption Story LINK
Beginnings: How Families Come to Be LINK
Maybe Days (great for explaining foster care to kids) LINK
My Adopted Child, There's No One Like You LINK 


One Day, MamaP WILL Send Me a Pic!
This topic was hard for me to write!  I love everything about foster care, even the drama that is brought upon our families by DHS.   Besides being a loon, this is because I believe in the Bible, and the Bible tells us to count our sufferings as a joy (Romans 5:3) because it builds perseverance.   If a foster family doesn't have perseverance, then no one does.

My *very* favorite foster care moment was the day we celebrated our very first foster son's first birthday at his home where he had been returned his biological family.  He was with us from six weeks until he was just about seven months old.  We worked very closely with his biological father to reunite this family that had been broken by some poor choices of the biological mother.   On the day that we showed up at his family's door and were welcomed with hugs and love as part of their family, I looked around and was blessed to have our first foster care placement be the one example of exactly how foster care should be between biological and foster families.   The dwelling was beyond unacceptable for my own standards, the clothing "our" baby was wearing is something I'd have never chosen, and the food was... well... typical Southern unhealthy fare (AKA Koolaid in a bottle).   There may or may not have been a roach I had to pretend like I did not see as I squashed it with my foot.

Then it dawned on me.  They laid out their very best for us.  They trusted us to open their home to.  They welcomed us as well-loved members of their family and felt comfortable enough to treat us as such.  There was no air of uncomfortable.  There were no awkward silences.  There were no judgemental glances from either party.   The only thing in that moment was a mutual love for one very special little baby boy whose first year had been uncertain and hard on all involved.

One more favorite of mine is a book.  I picked it up at a foster care conference I attended, and I love reading it to the kids.  It has also been very useful in explaining foster care to our friends' children who frequently visit our home!

"Kids Need to Be Safe" by Julie Nelson

It is geared toward very young children and speaks in brief, unelaborate terms.

I wish I could say I had a favorite foster care "organization" tool, but in *OurState* we are not required to keep any paperwork or log books or anything.  It is very sad for our children that no one cares to have basic standards of documentation, but at the same time it makes this ADD-unorganized mama's life very easy.  I have impressed our workers with the few documentations I do make when I pick them up from the wonderful blogs I read!  I definitely would not be able to maintain the organization that Tammy does.

Melissa ("Fostering Love") -

Foster care is often referred to as a “roller coaster.”  Oh can it be!  The tough times tend to get vented and documented on a lot of blogs (including mine!) but then….OH THEN…there are those moments when you know it was ALL worth it!  These times have happened for me in different ways.  A few examples would be when a child that has not slept through the night because of sheer terror and what is happening to them FINALLY sleeps through the night feeling secure where s/he is.  Another time for me was when I did respite for a 2 yo girl.  She had difficulty with bonding/connecting with her foster mother.  I had her for 5 days and her foster mom was sure that “C” would care less when she returned.  Much to her surprise “C” jumped into her arms and yelled “mama!”  It was the sweetest thing!  It’s also when we get those rare “thank you’s” from birthparents where they recognize you are doing this for their child.
By far my favorite moment of foster parenting is when you realize that never again will you have to say goodbye!  As much as we try to guard our hearts as foster parents there is no holding back when you have a child for as long as we did/do (over 2 years).  Our Michael was with us for 2 years and 3 months before his adoption was final.  That moment when I realized that I never would have to say goodbye again or worry about the next court hearing was an indescribable feeling!  The next morning when he called me “mama” my heart sang!
We have not yet had a reunification situation, but I imagine that when the parents do what they need to do to be great parents and work hard to get their child back that would be a great feeling too.  We have had 4 placement s in 3 years.  1 has joined our family forever and another is headed that way!  Our hearts are full of love for our children and that by far is the best “high” of foster care!

Andrea ("Live With Laughter") -


My favorite physical item for foster care is my leather 2 inch binder.  I have tabbed sections for each child, making it easy to flip from section to section.  Each child gets tabs for their medical papers, their doctors' notes, their court papers, and their foster care agreement.  It has pockets and a page to keep business cards.  I was given this binder at a foster care appreciation dinner.  Some people laughed, but as an office supply junkie, I love this binder!!!

My favorite support system is Facebook!  Wow, all the moms I've met in my groups are amazing.  While my real life support network is, well, supportive, they don't always understand or have advice.  Having a network of people that understand our vocabulary, situations, and frustrations, it's the best!

My favorite thing to do after "the call..."  I'm not sure this is a favorite, but I've done it every time.  I speed clean.  I fold the laundry pile.  I throw dinner on.  And the strangest, I feel the need to shower.  As if I will never shower again.  I don't know why.

A favorite that I don't have that I wish I did.  A freezer full of meals.  Oh, how nice it would be that first week or two to not have to worry about dinner while I'm getting used to a newborn or a crabby two year old.

My favorite foster care moment is equally terrifying and just the best news I've ever gotten.  After raising M from 35 days old to one day shy of his first birthday, we said goodbye.  We said hello to Carleigh just one week BEFORE M left.  When I called to check on M's status, our social worker asked if he could come back to our home.  I was initially horrified, what had gone wrong, was he okay, for how long, can he stay, 5 kids, 5 kids, I can't say goodbye again.  While these thoughts ran into my head at warp speed, I said yes.  And now we're weeks from adoption.  So that is my favorite moment for now.  My favorite moment for always will be the day those papers are in my hot little hands and M will be my son forever.  (not to mention I will blow up Facebook with photos of his adorable face!)

Cherub Mamma ("Cherub Mamma") -

Cherub Mamma has a houseful of out of state family this week, but she has written a few posts in the past about some of her personal foster care favorites, and was kind enough to allow me share them with you here as well.

* 3-ring Binders - Cherub Mamma wrote a fantastic description of her binder system and organization method that I shared with you before, but I know that this is also one of the things that Cherub Mamma couldn't live without.  Her area of her state is extremely strict when it comes to documentation and minimum standards, and I know her binders tend to become additional "limbs," and are especially helpful when she has special needs placements with tons and tons of medical conditions and appointments.

Find This Here
Vaultz Locking Letter/Legal File Chest - Another of Cherub Mamma's "favorites" are her locking storage boxes.  Her area is very strict about keeping everything potentially hazardous under lock and key (or double combination as the case is here!).  These storage boxes are the perfect size for cleaning supplies and other larger items.  She wrote about them here.

* Christine Moers, author of the blog "Welcome to My Brain" - Cherub Mamma (along with many of my foster/adopt parent friends of children from hard places) has always highly recommended Christine's blog and videos on therapeutic parenting.  She wrote a great post earlier this year talking about some of her favorite "Christine" techniques and links to some of her favorite "Christine" videos.  Great stuff!!


Foster care gets a (much deserved) bad rap. There are so many things that can absolutely suck, like having to double-lock the medicines so the kids don't get into something they're not supposed to or not being able to have a trampoline in our backyard for our kids to play on. But it's worth it for so many reasons. The great things FAR outweigh the problems (most days). 
One of the hardest things about foster care - we have to be ready to change our family routines on a moments notice and usually no one in the system really cares. It's what we signed up for I guess - that's what some people say. In all honesty though, this is the source of my favorite thing about foster care. 
My family has taken so many shapes. As a mom, I've had the chance to raise 14 kiddos, at least temporarily. I've had boys, girls, babies, toddlers, and preschoolers of both genders. I've had "twin" sister toddlers, boy girl twin babies, twin girl toddlers and twin boy preschoolers, and plenty of stair-step combinations most recently 0, 2, 3, 4, and 5, one of my ultimate dreams (yes, I'm crazy).
You see, in normal parenting situations, you usually get what you get. When you're pregnant you get the chance to be excited about what "could be" for however long you wait to see what you're having. Then, that's it. That's what you get. In our world we get a (much) shorter time to be excited, while we're waiting for a call and then waiting for the kiddo(s) to arrive, but it's enough to wonder and enjoy the excitement. While the normal parent does that 1, 2, 3 or in "large" families 4-6 times, we've done it 14 times and with it brought at least as many sibling group combinations.
For a mom who as a girl could never imagine my last pregnancy, the endless possibilities of what my family will "look" like really is one of my favorite things about foster care. We recently made a scrapbook for my son for a school project and included a section for our family. I loved going through all of our "goodbye family portraits" - the picture of our family taken right before a child left - and reminiscing about all of our families. Its an experience that not many get to have in their lives and we're definitely blessed with the experience. 

aka. Mimi -

When I think of all of my "favorite" foster care things, so many come to mind!  After four years, I have a good list of "must haves" and resources.

  • - It might sound crazy, but I use Snapfish at least once a month when I have a placement.  It's a great place to upload and organize photos.  Inexpensive prints and lots of good photo gifts.  I always make it a point to send monthly prints to my kiddos' parents as well as try to send photo books with all of their children's milestones and fun moments.  I'm a little frustrated because I used to get free prints and photo books by using MyCokeRewards, but they recently stopped partnering with each other, and now my "freebies" will have to come from Shutterfly.  Hopefully I'm just as happy with them as I am with Snapfish.
Buy It Here
  • My Online Bloggy/Facebook Foster Mom Friends - I have no idea what I would do without all of you ladies!  I have "met" and developed friendships with so many of you, and really am thankful for each and every one of you.  It's so nice to have a core network of women who completely understand the emotional roller coaster of foster care and who can offer practical advice and support because they've "been there" themselves.
  • Local Organizations That Support Foster Children/Families - Over the past four years, I have learned about multiple non-profit and volunteer organizations that specifically help support local foster children and their foster families.  I can't post the specific ones that I use here because they would narrow down my location too specifically, but they are out there!  Organizations that provide winter coats and shoes...  One that provides Christmas gifts and books...  One that helps with initial placement "emergency" items like diapers...  One that helps with the costs of summer camps... etc.  Ask your children's CASA, caseworker, or agency.  Search specifically for "organizations for foster children in *** County."  You might be surprised what all you can find!
  • Children's Consignment Stores - I don't know how I could afford to provide multiple children with complete wardrobes several times a year without my local children's consignment stores!  Always make sure you get on their mailing lists and use their frequent shopper cards if they have them.  Several of my local stores also offer discounts for foster parents!  It never hurts to ask!  My "big shopping sprees" usually occur when my stores have their huge "Grab Bag Sales."  All of the clearance clothing that you can fit into a bag for $10 or $15!  It works great for foster parents because we aren't totally limited to genders, sizes, etc.  I sift through all of the racks for clothing with the original tags still on them, and usually get out of the sales with about $250 worth of clothing for $30!
But, of course, my absolute favorites have to be the amazing moments and the awesome family that I have only because I chose to foster.  Not every person can say that their "core" family consists of blood relatives, current and former foster children, their foster children's blood relatives, their foster children's step mom, and their foster children's step mom's extended family!  I love how my honorary family embraces and loves each of my foster and even short term respite children from the moment they come through my door.  I love that my honorary daughters call my foster children their "brothers" or "sisters" and that Booger, Banana, Monkey, and my nieces and nephews consider themselves "cousins."  I love that I have a "son-in-law" in Booger and Banana's daddy.  I love that my parents, sister, nieces, nephews, grandma, and some of my extended family love my kids (almost) as much as I do.  ;-)  

For me, there is nothing better than experiencing the love that foster care has brought into my life in ways that I never could have imagined.  In short.  It's my personal "favorite!"  :-)

What are yours?


Anonymous said...

My absolute favorites are my Ladybug, Lovebug, Doodlebug, and Buggie - all sibs (from a group of 11) that came to me at different times and in different circumstances. As each joined our family, my organization methods changed, my housekeeping changed, my sleep patterns changed, and I changed, but I wouldn't go back for anything in the world! Adoptions should be final on the first 3 in the coming weeks, with Buggie following up in the Spring. I can't imagine my life without them! But I do wonder how things will change when their newest sib makes his/her appearance in the Spring.....

Jessica Miller Kelley said...

I'm not yet a foster parent (maybe another month or two to go until approval!!) but I expect I'll need some good organizational supplies for paperwork and whatnot. A good binder at least, plus some folders for easy on-the-go transport of documents!

Phoenix said...

I don't have a lot of favorite anythings yet. (Other than my favorite blogs, that is.)

We don't really have to do/keep a lot of paperwork. I have binders for each kid that pretty much sit empty. But I LOVE books, so reading about "favorite" books is always something I love. Thanks Tammy and crew for another good post!

Debbie said...

I love this post. Thank you so much for doing this.
So many wonderful favs here.
And now I'll be adding that book MamaP recommended. Need more that help explain foster care to kids in our home.

Anonymous said...

My favorite resource in foster care is other FOSTER MOMS (like you!!) My agency hosts a Foster Moms Night Out once a month. We all bring a dessert or snack to share and talk for hours. Up to this point, my family has only done respite care. Hearing the trials, tears, frustrations, celebrations and joys of other foster moms' journeys has taught me more than any class. I simply couldn't do this with a great community of other foster mamas to encourage, teach and support us.

Felicity said...

Love, love blogs and forums! that where I get so much information :)

Carrie said...

Foster care blogs and forums have been something I couldn't do without. Just to know that there are people out there that understand-ahh!

Also, my favorite time of day? Naptime ;)

G said...

I have that Mom's planner calendar, too and love it!

My favorite resource...other than that calendar and my Sandra Boynton Mom's wall calendar (similar to the Mom's planner--I've got 5 columns to work with for each date) agency's support network. They recruit volunteers to be part of small groups supporting 3-5 foster families. So we have a good shot have having consistently the same people to do respite, offer transportation, bring us last minute stuff when a new placement comes it, etc.

aka. Mimi said...

G - That volunteer support group would be AMAZING!!! We're all kind of on our own, and something like that would be AWESOME. I might just have to see about putting something similar together.

CandCFamily said...

Car seat was a great one! When I got the call for a baby at 10:00 am, was still at work and didn't find out for sure until 12:30 we were getting her at 3:00 pm. I was glad I had a convertible car seat in my car to adjust to her. I went straight from work to the local agency and picked up our now almost 2 year old.

kate said...

Not a fosterparent, but am an adoptive parent. And as a parent of a child with trauma, there is a lot of overlap.

I think all the organizational bits are interesting. I had no idea how much medical info *I* was supposed to keep up with. I thought the doctor did that. Not so much!

I love reading about foster care!

Clean, shower, cook--excellent plan in any circumstance, really.

kate said...

Neglected to say, please enter me in your contest.

And please let me win. I could use a win about now... ;>

Foster Mamalion said...

This has ben awesome. I must add Karyn Purvis and the Connected Child. The book as well as the Empowered to Connect website and videos are INVALUABLE because our kids don't work well with "normal" tactics.....chore charts, behavior charts, time outs....they need almost the oppositel This is a great quick resource to go to when I need extra help! I get warm fuzzies with comments on my blog too. I guess I should open it up on search engines, but just haven't. Another day....

G said...

Yep -- love our support group. My agency is faith based. So their selling line is something along the lines of "The church is called to serve these children. You may not be called to be a foster parent, but you are called to help. Here's all the little things you can do."

Dena said...

I have the convertible carseat and mommy binder. I would love to have one of the foster care books that were discussed, so I'm going to look into them on Amazon.

I do the same thing when I get "the call": clean, clean, and shower. When I got my first two, I got them on a Friday and I didn't feel comfortable with my schedule until Sunday. Now, I get up early and take my shower before the baby wakes up then all is good. :)

Tracy Stittleburg said...

I have only had one foster kiddo, and we ended up adopting him too! I used a binder to keep all of his files handy. We live in a county that also does not require alot of paperwork, but it was nice to have all his birth-3 stuff and medical and agreement all in one place. So I could easily take it to wic or share the info with his ocm whenever needed. Our county does have a rule that info needs to be out of reach of the children, but I never got in trouble for having it out & available at all times. I also think a calender is essential!! I would be interested in the mommy planner!

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