Friday, August 30, 2013

Only in Foster Care...

"That Awkward Moment When Your Children's Bio Moms are Jail Buddies..."

Yep!  I received that late night message from my unofficially "adopted" daughter, Heaven, a few months ago.  Turned out her mom and Bug's mom met in jail and became fast friends.  Neither one had any idea that they were connected in any way.  Poor Heaven made the connection as she was visiting her mom and had to play dumb until she had a chance to talk to me.  Our 2:00am conversation went a little something like this:

Heaven:  "So...  Really weird visit with my mom today...  Wanna guess who my mom's new friend is?  ...That awkward moment when your two kids' bio moms are jail buddies..."

Me:  "Shut up!  Are you serious?!?"

Heaven:  "Dead serious.  She told my mom all about Bug and how she's considering adoption for him.  My mom doesn't know you have her kid, but they bonded when she told his mom that her grandson (Booger) was in foster care as a baby and had a loving home, blah, blah, blah..."

Heaven made the connection as her mom told her the story about her friend's (then) 8-month-old son named (Bug's real name) in foster care and a few other things that helped her make the connection.  Heaven said that it sounded like Bug's mom was going to be incarcerated for a while because she was being transferred to the same jail that her mom was being transferred to (another reason they became fast friends).

Heaven:  "My mom told her that you were a great mom to Booger and that you are there for me because she can't be and a lot of nice things about you.  She's accepted that you're my mom too.  :-)"

That whole statement made me want to cry because I've always worried that Heaven's mom didn't like me at all.  It would be totally understandable for her to resent me because Heaven and I are so close.  The fact that she was saying such nice things about me when she had no idea that her daughter had a vested interest in what Bug's mom ultimately decided meant a lot.

After talking for over an hour, we came to the point of trying to decide how to handle our new-found knowledge.  Part of me wanted Bug's mom to know that the awesome woman that her new friend had been talking about was actually the woman raising her son too, but at the same time I was worried that the connection might look like I was trying to sway her in some way.  It wasn't as if we'd planned this though!  I mean, really!  It's not as though Heaven's mom deliberately got arrested and put into the same pod in the same huge jail for the sole purpose of convincing Bug's mom to voluntarily relinquish her rights so I could adopt him.  The chances of them becoming jail buddies was so ridiculously minuscule that no one could possibly accuse me of anything, right?

By 3:30am, we had decided that Heaven would go ahead and tell her mom what we suspected - that the baby we call "Bug," the little brother that Heaven talks about babysitting all the time and who Booger and Banana talk about seeing at Mimi's house, is actually (Bug's real name), her new friend's baby.  Heaven was going to see her mom that weekend, and was going to tell her.

At this point, Heaven got frustrated about the whole situation.  Heaven loves Bug something fierce, and having this new development come up five days before the permanency hearing put us all in a bad predicament.  Heaven was terrified of saying something that might get me in trouble, but at the same time we were so very anxious to see what might come of the friendship that was developing between her mom and Bug's bio mom.  We still couldn't believe that they had even met!  There are hundreds of women in the jail that they were in at the time.  What were the chances?!?

That's when the conversation turned to more specific things like what Bug's mom was charged with, things that she told Heaven's mom about her past, how she felt about Bug, her feelings about her mother intervening for custody, her thoughts about adoption, etc.  Heaven's mom told her that she had a soft spot for Bug's mom because she was so sad and that no one ever came to see her.  I learned more secondhand from Heaven's mom than I had in the previous six months from anyone in CPS!  A lot of what I learned made me feel sorry for her.  My family and friends always tell me that I have a soft spot for bio moms, and they're usually right.  Heck!  I brought one home with me early on (Booger's bio mom ended up living with me as a foster placement for seven months)!  The more I learned about Bug's birth mom, the more I wanted to at least talk to her and tell her about the son that she had abandoned (although I certainly wouldn't use that exact word) and let her know that he is loved.

We finally said goodnight, and the next morning I immediately sent Nice Lady a message asking her to call me when she had a few minutes because I had an interesting predicament that I wanted to talk to her about.  She called me right away, and started laughing as soon as I told her that Heaven's mom was in "such and such jail" because she knew immediately what I was going to say.  We talked it through, and she talked to our agency director just to get his input, but the general consensus was that nothing bad could come from Bug's birth mom finding out that I'm his foster mom.  I had the "okay" from my agency, so the plan was in place!  Heaven was telling her mom!

That Sunday, Heaven went to visit her mom and told her what we had figured out.  Her mom ended up sneaking Bug's mom into the visiting area and Heaven held a recent picture of Bug up to the window so she could see him for the first time in six months.  When she saw his photograph, she yelled "Oh my God, that's really my son!" and she fell to the floor and sobbed.  Heaven's mom told her that he was very loved, and his mom had to leave right after that.  The whole thing broke my heart (you know...  that soft heart that I have for birth parents...)  As messed up as so many of these parents are, most of them truly do love their kids.  Some of them just can't seem to heal (like Monkey's mom, Bug's mom, and Heaven's mom for that matter).  It doesn't mean they're bad people.  They just can't raise their children in the way that their children deserve.

Heaven and I tentatively made plans to go up to the jail to visit both moms the following Wednesday morning.  I wasn't about to bring Bug with me.  I really wanted to avoid bringing my baby to jail if at all possible.  Heck.  I had hoped to avoid ME going to jail, but in this case I thought that Bug's bio mom needed to be able to talk to the person who was raising her son, and going up there before she was transferred to the other jail five hours away was probably the only way that was going to happen.  I knew I needed to let Bug's caseworker know what was going on first though.  I had no intention of doing anything that might jeopardize Bug's potential adoption.

The conversation that Heaven and I had while planning the potential visit was hilarious.  I was asking tons of questions about how the jail visit thing works, and Heaven was all worried about me being nervous meeting Bug's bio mom asking me "What do you say???  Hi.  I'm the person raising your son because you can't???"  I laughed and told her that I have had this conversation several times before (just not in jail), and that I probably wouldn't be using those exact words.  ;-)

I had to keep reminding myself that this was the same woman who never once asked to see Bug in the past six months that he was with me.  I had to keep reminding myself that I could have compassion for her because it was the right thing to do, but that didn't mean that I had to put her feelings before my son.  If I went to visit her, it would ultimately be for Bug.  Not for her.  It would be so I could tell Bug in the future that I met his birth mom and give him whatever information I could about her.  It would be so I could tell Bug that I had told his birth mom what an awesome son she had.  It would be so Bug could see me (his Mom) showing compassion to someone who needed it and hoping that he would do the same in the future.

As it turned out, I didn't need to worry about any of it because Bug's caseworker was hesitant for me to go.  I think I completely confused the poor woman when I tried to explain who was who and how everyone was connected.  She wasn't at all upset that we had made the connection, but she had the same initial concerns that I had when Heaven first told me about her mom's new friend - that it might be construed as me trying to pressure Bug's mom into voluntarily relinquishing.  In all honesty, I was relieved!  Court that day ended in setting a date for TPR (termination of parental rights), and things were looking very good when it came to Bug staying with me permanently regardless of what his birth mom wanted, so I'm guessing that visit wouldn't have gone too well.  ;-)

The next week I got another message from Heaven letting me know that she had talked to her mom again.  Apparently Bug's birth mom decided to tell Heaven's mom all sorts of things that you probably shouldn't be telling the mother of the young woman who loves your child like a fiercely protective older sibling.

... That awkward moment when your children's bio moms are jail buddies - and then the younger one  infuriates the older one to the point of screaming at her, so the younger one tells the guards that she's afraid the older one is going to hurt her, so they separate them and they never speak again ...

Apparently those jailhouse friendships don't last all that long.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Foster Care "Bucket List"

After nearly five years living in Foster/Adopt Land, I've come to the realization that I'm not going to be leaving anytime soon (even though there are some days when all I want to do is run screaming in the opposite direction).  Will I be a foster parent forever?  Probably not.  But foster care is where my heart is, and I know that I will continue to be heavily involved in this world for years to come.

Over the years, I've developed a sort of "bucket list" of things that I would love to do, become involved in, and accomplish when it comes to foster care so I thought I'd share it with all of you in "A-Z Thing" form (just to challenge myself ;-).  Some of these, I've already done, some I continue to do, some I am just beginning, and others I plan to do in the future!

Adopt a caseworker - I think all foster parents can agree that if/when we are lucky enough to find a good caseworker who clearly does their best for our kids, their families, and for us, we want to cut them a little bit of slack.  Caseworkers are overworked, underpaid, and generally unappreciated for the work they do.  I've worked with all kinds over the years, from bitter and angry and clearly hating their jobs to overworked but doing the best they can with limited resources.  When I find a caseworker who clearly wants to do their best for everyone involved, I want to help them out however I can.  I would love to be able to "adopt" a caseworker every year after I'm no longer fostering (that whole "conflict of interest" thing and all).  Find out what they need help with, offer to shop for their kids around birthdays and holidays, show up with office supplies, etc.

Become a CASA volunteer - Only three of my seven kiddos so far have been lucky enough to have a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) appointed to them.  A volunteer whose sole mission is to speak for an abused and neglected child to make sure they don't get lost in the System.  For many children, their CASA volunteer is the one constant during their time in care.  I definitely plan to volunteer in the future!

Clothing/supply swap for foster families - Over the past five years of fostering primarily infants, I have accumulated more baby gear, clothing, and other odds and ends than I know what to do with!  Now that I'm leaning more towards fostering PreK-1st grade next, I need to trade in the baby things for older child supplies and toys.  Wouldn't it be great to have a weekend where foster families could get together in one place and swap clothing, gear, toys, etc?

Donate supplies to foster agencies - Have you ever sat in a training class at your agency and watched a video on VHS released in 1980 three years in a row because your agency couldn't afford to purchase new material?  Have you had to bring your own pens and paper?  Does your agency case manger have to buy her own office supplies?  I love my agency, and love to show up with goodies whenever I have a chance.

Establish a foster/adopt ministry at my church - I know this would be a huge undertaking, but I truly believe that we as a church can do more.  Not everyone is called to foster or adopt, but I do believe that every person has the ability to help a hurting child and the families who have opened their hearts and their homes to the children who need them.  We can do more, and I think it just takes one person to step up and call others to action.

Fundraisers for deserving families - I'm a sucker for a worthy cause, and my heart is all about children.  If there is a way to help a family in need, I'm all for it!  I'd love to help organize fundraisers for families who need specialized vehicles for foster or adopted children with special needs or help families with legal expenses.  $20,000 for one family can seem like an insurmountable expense, but if everyone who cares about that family donated just $5, we can do our part to help a child in need.  And who doesn't like a good bake sale?!?  :-)

Go-to girl for a fostering family - When I get to the point where I need a foster parenting break, I would love to volunteer to be the "Go-to Girl" for another foster family.  I would be the person they could call to make that initial Walmart run for diapers and formula while they're getting the house ready for a new placement.  I could help out with babysitting their other children while they do all of the initial doctor and dental visits.  I could bring meals on stressful days, do their dishes, or just be there to lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on.  Being a foster family is a hard and often very lonely road.  I love that I have several people I can call on when I need the support, and I'd love to be able to be that person for another foster family!

Hospital sit for foster children - My first agency hired people to be part of a rotation of sitters who would go and sit with children in the hospital, talk to the doctors, fill out paperwork, etc.  The children have someone with them 24/7 while they are in the hospital, and it gives the foster parent (if they've already been placed) a little break.  I hate to think that a hurting child is sitting alone in the hospital waiting to be placed with a family or that their foster parent is exhausted and stressed out trying to be at the hospital as well as home with their other children.  If I could be a comforting presence for a child in a strange and scary place, why wouldn't I?

Inspire a family to foster or get involved in some way - Foster care has my heart.  While I have seen it at its worst, I have also seen it at its very best.  I have watched as a 12-month-old, sad, self-soothing little girl transformed into a trusting little girl full of smiles in a matter of weeks.  I have watched a young family grow into something great.  I have co-parented with a single father who just needed someone to help his raise his son.  My foster care journey has changed me in ways I never could have imagined, and I pray that my journey will inspire someone else to get involved.  Become a foster parent, become a CASA volunteer, help a fostering family, donate do a local agency...  It would be something special to know that my journey has inspired someone else to get involved with something that means so much to me.

Join some foster parent organizations - I can't believe I've been a foster parent for nearly five years, and still haven't joined a foster parent association or any other organization geared towards fostering families!  It's a great way to network and meet other families.

Keep an eye out for businesses and organizations offering discounts to fostering families and pass the information on to my foster mama friends.  Every little bit helps, and if you're like me and send your children home with complete wardrobes, toys, books, and supplies, restocking with every child can get expensive.

Lobby for positive changes in the foster care system - I know that foster care can work.  I have seen it first-hand more than once.  But I have also seen it fail miserably.  It is a broken system, and changes are most definitely needed.  If I don't stand up to fight for positive changes, who will?

Mail care packages to foster youth in college or the military - Teens and young adults aging out of care often have no one to look to for guidance or support.  They are sent out into the world with a small stipend and expected to make it on their own.  I'd love to ask the caseworkers who I'm close to if they know of any former foster youth who are trying to make lives for themselves and could use a little support and knowledge that someone out there is pulling for them.

Newsletter or online magazine for foster families - I'd love to put together a monthly newsletter or online magazine for fostering families.  Find authors experienced in handling the issues that are important to us, provide tips, have encouraging stories from foster families, etc.

Organize an annual foster/adopt mom's retreat and conference - This is my biggie, and is something that means a lot to me and a group of my closest foster mama BFFs.  There are retreats for moms.  There are retreats for adoptive moms.  There are retreats for Christian moms.  But we have yet to come across a large conference and retreat that is geared only to mothers who are fostering or who have adopted hurting children from hard places.  We're in the "how are we going to make this work" phase right now, and are tossing around ideas.  Hopefully in the next couple of years we will have our first go at it and grow from there!

Photograph foster children and their foster and/or biological families for their lifebooks - I love photographing every moment of my kiddos' time with me.  I want them to know that they were loved and happy while they were here, and I love capturing those moments on film (well, digital anyway ;-).  I'd love to be able to do that for other foster children and their families as well.  Photograph birthday parties or family outings...  Photograph children with their biological families during visits...  In some cases, these children won't ever have a photo of themselves with their biological families, so if I'd love to be able to give that to them.

Quit my job and foster full-time - Well, that's not going to happen, but a girl can dream!  I've always wanted a house full of kids and a crazy busy life.  Maybe I need to find myself a rich husband so I can be a stay-at-home mom!  :-)

Respite care for fostering families - I tend to do respite care when I'm between placements.  I know it's definitely needed!  For me, it's also a fun way to be involved with some great kids and be a part of foster care without having to deal with all of the stress, appointments, visits, caseworkers, etc.  You just get to be the nice lady with the fun house.  :-)

Send thank you cards and encouraging letters to foster families, caseworkers, volunteers, etc. - One thing that I have tried to do over the years has been to send encouraging letters, cards, emails, etc. to people I have met along the way in Foster/Adopt Land.  A "thank you" or an update to a CASA volunteer or caseworker letting them know they made a difference...  An encouraging word to a fellow foster parent going through a difficult time...  Several months ago, I sent Monkey's CASA an email update letting her know how our lives were going a year after he went home to his dad.  I thanked her for her part in making our unconventional little family a reality, and wanted to let her know that she made a difference.  I was shocked to find out from a friend going through training to become a CASA volunteer that Monkey's CASA read my letter during a training class!  I was so happy that I had taken the time to send it, and that it had meant so much to her.  A simple "thank you" or "you make a difference" goes such a long way when we need encouragement, and it only takes a few minutes to type an email or address an envelope.

Teach training classes - My agency is always asking me to teach a training class on documentation and organization telling me that they never worry about anything that I send them because they know it's right.  Flattery works, and I am awaiting further instructions on when I need to teach my class.  :-)  I've also offered to speak during PRIDE training for new foster parents.  I think one thing that was sorely missing from my initial training was practical advice from long-time foster parents, and I'd love to be able to provide that advice and support to new families now.

Unconventional family - It wasn't something I had planned, but the family that I have gained through foster care (though unconventional), is one that I wouldn't trade for anything.  If I had been able to adopt Booger Bear, I wouldn't have Heaven, Kelly, Kama, Banana, Monkey, or Bug!  And while I'm not a "legal" forever mom to any of my kids, I am a "forever" Mom, Mom-in-Law, Mimi, Mommy, Mama to all of them!  I can't imagine my life without my family, and I can't wait to see who we add to it over the years.  :-)

Volunteer at my agency - I love my agency, and as a fairly new agency, they are definitely in the "please help" stage.  I love to be able to help in any way I can, whether it's offering to file, helping Nice Lady with paperwork, offering to put together training materials, sharing information on area conferences or discounts, etc.

Write a book (or two...  or ten) - Book #1 is actually in the works as I type!  It's a (not-so) secret collaborative book written by myself and several other (somewhat) anonymous foster mama friends.  We are sooooo excited!  We are in the editing phase, and are hopeful to go to print (and Kindle) in the next month or two.

X-pand I Must Be Trippin's' content (yes, I cheated a bit on this letter) - I suppose before I add to the blog's content, I should make the time to sit down and write regularly again, huh?  Lol.  I post on the FB page at least once or twice a day, but sitting down and writing has been tough lately (especially while I'm working on the (not-so) secret book.  I'm trying to get better!

Yearly get-together with my favorite online foster mama friends - I think this should be on top of our annual foster mom retreat and conference.  I've been "friends" with some amazing women for the past five years, and meeting some of them in person this year was the best!  I want to start planning a yearly get-together with my foster mama BFFs so we can just sit and relax and laugh and cry and pray and act silly together before heading back to our crazy busy lives.

Zoo, picnic, or waterpark event for foster families during National Foster Care Month (May) - I know there are agencies and organizations out there that put together events during National Foster Care Month.  I just haven't really searched them out until now.  Next May, I'll be looking around and taking my kiddos out to enjoy some of them!  Maybe I'll be able to meet more amazing families in the process.  :-)

So that's it!  My Foster Care "Bucket List..."  I'm sure glad I've got some good years left in me because it looks like I'm going to be one busy woman!  Lol.  :-)  What about you?  What foster care-related things would you like to do?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

8 Months Here & 10 1/2 Months Old

Bug and Kitty Cat Tommie
Buddies, Rivals, and Partners in Driving Mama to Drink

My little Bug has been with me for eight months today, and I know I haven't really blogged much in that time.  For some reason, I'm hesitant to write too much about him or his case.  Things have been different than all of my others from Day One, and it's really looking promising that Bug might be my first LEGAL "forever."  TPR hearing is September 17th, and if everything goes 100% smoothly and in our favor, I might...  Just might...  be able to adopt my little Bugmeister on National Adoption Day (November 23rd).  I'm not holding my breath seeing as how this is foster care and all, but I'm cautiously optimistic.

At 10 1/2 months old, Bug is outgrowing the "baby" stage and turning into a little "person."  :-)  He's my lazy Bug, just learning how to crawl this month!  Something has happened over the past two weeks though because he seems to have suddenly decided that he's a "big boy" and wants to crawl, stand, eat table food, feed himself, drink other people's drinks, play with Monkey's "big boy" toys, etc.

I wake up hearing him laughing to himself in his room every morning.

He loves playing Patty Cake and Peek-a-Boo, gives THE BEST bear hugs and slobbery kisses, thinks that the big kids (Monkey, Buddy, Ka-Diva, Pooper, Butterfly, Booger, and Banana) are just about the coolest people ever (other than his Sissy Heaven, that is...), has Nana and Papa totally wrapped around his little finger, and is 100% a true Mama's Boy.  :-)

He loves to swim in the big pool, go for walks in the stroller, ride the big kids' rocking horse, play "Hot Potato" with his favorite ball, and stand up with help.

We walk in the front door every evening, and Bug immediately looks for Kitty Cat Tommie.  He shouts, "Hi, Cat!!!" clear as day over and over as soon as he sees him.  Those two are inseparable!  Now that Bug is mobile, he can move at lightning turtle speed.  He sees the cat (who deliberately flicks his tail in front of the baby's face just to get his attention), and practically FLIES across the room to latch on and pull Kitty Cat Tommie like a pull toy by the tail.  Tommie then flips around and uses Bug's head like one of those boxing bag things.  I separate them.  They immediately start the process over again.

Tommie has also become a permanent fixture under the highchair waiting for whatever food Bug decides to throw his way.  Bug waits until I'm not looking and drops peas, carrots, cereal bars, etc. over the side to his buddy.

Bug has perfected several "faces" including the "Ornery Face," the "Pouty Face," the "Inquisitive Face," and the "I Don't Understand How You Could Possibly Be Upset, I'm Totally Innocent Face."  (and as soon as my little Buggy is officially adopted, I'll add photos of said faces for your viewing pleasure ;-)

He recognizes several words, and thinks he says them (although I'm fairly certain he's speaking "Baby Spanish" as Ka-Diva used to say).  Hi, bye-bye, cup, ball, Mama, patty cake, bath, night-night, bottle, cat, kiss, and icky (lol).

I am crazy, crazy, crazy about this little guy, and I can't wait for the day when I can introduce him (FULL FACE VIEW AND ALL) to the world!

34 days to TPR!!! 
(Not that I'm counting or anything...  Lol :-)

Friday, August 9, 2013

"Foster Friday" Panel - You Know You're a Foster Parent/Sibling When...

Over the past few years, I've compiled and collected lists of characteristics and similarities that most (if not all) foster parents possess.  (Part OnePart TwoPart Three)

My personal favorite has always been, "You know you're a foster parent when your heart is bigger than your brain!"

For this month's "Foster Friday," I asked our panel to add their own!

Dena (

You Know You’re A Foster Parent When…

You have a rented storage unit that holds all of your spare clothes, outgrown baby furniture, extra carseats and strollers and toys.  Yes, every month I pay $40 for a storage unit to hold all of these things because I never know when I’m going to get a call for a new baby and if I do how long it might last.  My needs change so often that the only solution is to store everything.  I have a total of 5 carseats:  one infant, one convertible, one booster with 5-point restraint, one booster that fastens with a seatbelt, and one backless booster.  I have 3 strollers: one umbrella, one single, and one double and I’m currently looking to get another double or sit and stand.  As for clothes, I have girls and boys clothes from ages newborn to 4T and ages 7-12.  You might say that I’m going a little overboard, but as a foster parent you never know what call you might receive.  My age range is infant to 13 years of age.  That’s a huge range and you never know if you’re going to get that call at midnight and then have to be prepared.  If I do get the call, at least I’m well prepared.  

You become obsessive compulsive every time the phone rings because you are constantly checking to see if it’s the agency, a doctors’ office, a caseworker, or someone involved with foster care.  

You register for everything last minute because you don’t know if you can do it and if you can you don’t know how many kids you will be bringing.  For example, I want to do The Color Run in September, but I’m hesitant to register because I’m not sure if I will have an older child and if I do then I will need to register both of us at the same time or not go at all.

You buy cute baby clothes or shoes that are on clearance, just because you know you will eventually be able to use them.

You watch The Fosters on tv and mentally track everything that they are doing wrong.

You find creative recipes to use all of the beans and tortillas that you get with your WIC vouchers, to entice your picky toddler to actually eat them.

You make up cutesy names to describe your foster children in your blog or on facebook, so as not to get in trouble with your licensing agency. is a blog about my journey as a single foster mom living life the best way that I know how.

Karen A. ( -

You know you're a foster sibling when…

  • Going to a store and only getting one receipt is a huge deal (because we have to submit our receipts for reimbursement)
  • You know how to read a WalMart receipt and the tax codes better than the employees at Customer Service
  • To your peers, prom means dresses, limos, and dates. To you it means an increased chance of a new foster sibling in nine-ish months.
  • On December 20th, 2012 when people were preparing for the end of the world, you were thinking about the increased chance of a new foster sibling in nine-ish months.
  • Jerry Springer and Maury have nothing on the stories you could tell
  • Sitting in the parking lot at the child welfare agency with your sister and playing "Who is who?" (volunteer, social worker, foster parent, or birth parent) is your favourite car game
  • You get to see new parts of the world without a passport and only have to drive to the other side of town
  • When you arrive at your university dorm, you start a checklist in your head of what you need to do to baby-proof
  • You're the only one at your school who thinks about how impractical it is to only have one baby change table in one washroom on campus
  • When you are told how many ounces of an alcoholic beverage equals "one drink", you compare it in your head to amounts of formula in a bottle
  • People think your brother is your son and think your sister is your daughter
  • When you go out in public with your foster brother or sister, you know you're going to be congratulated, told to enjoy it now because they grow so fast, or asked "Is this your first?" (and sometimes you'll want to say "no, my third (foster sibling)" just to see how they react)
  • Your favourite stores don't even have clothes in your size
  • Your newsfeed is filled with pictures of partying classmates, and you were up that night too...with a baby
  • You pack for college in diaper boxes
  • When you register your siblings for sibling weekend at your school, you don't know who your siblings will be when the weekend finally rolls around
  • The guys in the church youth group want to hang out with you because they realize your babies work well as "girl bait"
  • People ask you who "your" baby looks like and your response is, "Ummm…. I don't know."
  • When people were upset about the baby name "North West" you responded "Oh yeah, well I've heard of kids named Karma, Sparkle, and Lazarus just to name a few".
  • You have a frequent urge to critique people's car seat safety (even the royal couples) because yes I could put that baby in safer than you
  • Quick phone calls before class with mom involving the words "court, lawyer, worker, paternity test, arrested, warrant" are not uncommon
  • You have a hard time writing a six-page double-spaced report on the book you just read, but could write a twelve-page single-spaced report on your view of problems within the child welfare system
  • You'd love a Chicco travel system and Ergo for Christmas (and you know what those are!)

Andrea (Live with Laughter) -

You know you're a foster parent when:

  • You can't cut your child's hair without permission.
  • You get asked "Are they all yours?" Every single time you go out, you learn to make a game of it. 
  • You hear "Will you get to keep them?" way too many times. 
  • You have to write in "I don't know" at least five times at every doctors appointment.
  • You want to scream when you hear "I could never do it, it would break my heart."
  • You look at your calendar on the 1st of the month and all you can do is laugh at how full it already is. 
  • Your kids have to go to three different places, just so you can leave the house without them. 
  • You get told, "They don't look alike." When one is black and one is white. 
  • You ask strangers in the hair care aisle how to care for African American hair.
  • You have friends and family drop everything to bring you dinner and supplies.
  • You break the rules by having the newborn sleep in your bed. 
  • You clean more in the hour before a social worker visits than you do all week. 
  • You jump every time the phone rings, even if you're not expecting a call. 
  • You fall in love in an instant when the door to the car opens to a new member of your tribe.
  • You have a "after the call" ritual. Mine involves showering and laundry. 
  • Your other children wake up to a new sibling that was delivered overnight. 
  • You never get use to the stares, but learn to ignore them. 
  • You have binders and folders and paperwork. Everywhere. 
  • You get excited at back to school sales, you can stock up on binder and dividers. 
  • You have a new knowledge of medical fields. 
  • You learn on the job.
  • You have a community of women online that you've never met, but who your trust and love. 
  • You just have to scream sometimes. 
  • You just have to laugh sometimes. You cannot make this stuff up. 
  • You cry. More than you thought possible.
  • You get involved in birth families lives, for better or worse. 
  • You take pictures. All the time. 
  • You want to laugh when people ask "You're paid for this, right?"
  • You research subjects you never even knew about the day before. 
  • You fight the insurance system, sometimes daily. 
  • You hate filling out the "Is your child doing....." form at check ups. 
  • You just can't find the words sometimes. 
  • You get the immense pleasure and heartache of raising a child not born to you. 
  • You cry at what they don't have and never will. 
  • You own one nice court outfit and hope no one notices that you wear the same outfit every time. 
  • You get annoyed you have to waste your babysitter time on a court hearing. 
  • You know there's a good chance this child you love will leave. 
  • You rejoice when they stay, and cry for what that truly means. 
  • You are amazed at the people that come into your lives. People you would have never met otherwise. 
  • You read. A lot. Really. A lot. 
  • You have become a pro at researching and know who has the best websites. 
  • You weep when they leave. 
  • You know the best places to get baby gear at a discount. 
  • You're amazed at how quickly they become part of your family. 
  • You troll the waiting children websites, even though you know it's crazy. 
  • You can rearrange a room and make a Walmart run in an hour.
  • Your heart always skips a beat with the social worker calls. Always. 
  • You have to realize you can't save them all, and that sucks. 
  • You have such comfort when you hear "It's okay, I understand" and you know that they do. 
  • You are filled with love when your family claims the child as their own. 
  • You are amazed at how loving your own children can be to a new arrival. 
  • You pray they stay. 
  • You pray they go where they belong. 
  • Your heart leaps when you get a new picture of a love you said goodbye too. 
  • You dread visitation day. 
  • Your anger at birth parents can shock you. 
  • Your love for birth parents can shock you. 
  • You're on first name basis with half of DSS, the police department, the judges, and even the bailiffs. 
  • You can't believe the support you get. 
  • You can't believe the support you don't get. 
  • You amazed at the kindness of strangers. 
  • You get to live in this crazy, messed up, loving, hateful, hurtful and healing world of foster care and wouldn't imagine it any other way. 

You know you’re a foster parent when:
  • Your cell phone is with you at all times so as not to miss “the call”
  • You’ve mastered the art of making sure your caseworker knows who you are, but not being so annoying that they ignore you
  • Your storage unit looks like a kids’ consignment store
  • You still use a baby monitor with your 12 year old
  • You can’t imagine taking a vacation without permission
  • Family and friends have taken to asking you if you have any new children every time you talk
  • You don’t bother trying to explain why your family includes three 6 year olds. You just tell people they’re multi-racial triplets 
  • Taking an Advil requires locating the key to the medicine box
  • Everyone comes to you for parenting advice because they figure you’ve been through every possible child-raising scenario
  • You pre-screen tv shows, movies and books not just for age-appropriateness, but also for possible triggers (Despicable Me 2, anyone?)
  • Your house gets cleaned on exactly the schedule your caseworker visits and you’re kind of grateful for the motivation
  • You’ve forgotten what it is like to sleep through the night because you’ve had a newborn/toddler/angsty, sleepless child in your home every day for 5 years
  • You wouldn’t dream of getting in the car without your custody or medical permission paperwork in case of emergency
  • Every room in your house has a smoke detector and fire extinguisher
  • Bedtime snuggles at your house often include long, tearful discussion about big feelings
  • You’ve finally convinced your friends you aren’t a saint for fostering, and you’re well on your way to recruiting them as respite homes
  • Every time your child says something goofy, you consider how the statement will sound from a bio-parent or caseworker perspective
  • You know there is no better feeling in the world than helping a child heal

You know you're a foster parent when:
  • You wonder what people must think when they hear your conversations you have in public.  Saying things like "you'll have to ask your attorney about that" to your 6 year old, "the CPS caseworker is coming over tonight" to your husband, and "if you're still with me next year I'll make you a chocolate birthday cake" becomes completely common and yet every once in a while I'll pause to realize the people next to me in the grocery store line probably think I'm a horrible parent.
  • You carry a binder with you to the doctor/dentist/therapist/etc. office.  Office staff, especially at the hospital, almost immediately recognize me as a foster parent because I carry my kids' paperwork around in their binder.  Afterall, they need to make sure the kids are with you legally (placement paperwork) and that you have the ability to consent to treatment (Medical Consenter form).
  • You honestly can't answer simple questions about your child.  Speaking of doctor's - this is most common then but can happen at other places.  I remember once when a doctor or nurse asked me what my child's middle name was and I was genuinely stumped.  Sometimes it takes me a while to remember birthdates.  Sometimes my challenge in answering these questions is that my brain has trouble processing through the 24 children I've had to remember the right one.  Other times I honestly don't know the answer, like when they ask if the child was born full-term, breastfed or formula fed, vaginal or c-section birth...these are things a parent usually knows about their kids but I often have no idea.
  • You find yourself planning a birthday party for a child you've only known for 7 days because every child deserves a good first birthday.
  • You welcome a child (or two, or three, or more) into your home and no one in your circle acknowledges it in any way.
  • You have a child(ren) in your home for more than 2-3 months that friends & family don't remember.  Afterall, it's hard for them to keep track of all your kids.  Speaking of that...
  • You challenge your family to games that involve remembering all of your children's names.  (Ha!  Love that...)
  • You cringe when daycare/childcare asks you to label everything that belongs to the child before dropping them off.
  • You get excited about finding homeopathic remedies that work because you might be able to avoid medication logs and doctor visit paperwork.
  • People around you tell you your crazy and a saint in the same conversation.
  • You feel like you must be crazy for signing up for this journey over and over again and yet you wouldn't have it any other way.

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