Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Traumatized as a Child

As foster parents, we see the results of true trauma in our children.  It reminds me daily of how very fortunate I am that my scars are minuscule and were unintentionally inflicted.  Oh, I was traumatized alright!  Just not in the ways you might immediately think if you are in the foster parent mindset.

The Big Scary Barn
The Barn that Moo-ed - It looks innocent enough, right?  A fun little barn with cute little animals and farmers and such to entertain a young child for hours...  Not I, my friends!  That stinkin' barn let out a "moo" louder than fighter jet every time you opened the door.  If my animals couldn't fit in the hayloft, they just had to hang out in the elements because you'd better believe I wasn't about to let whatever giant monster cow that was hiding inside out of there!  Here I sit, a 38-year-old grown woman, and I'm having heart palpitations just thinking about it.

Oh, How Sweet...
The Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Movie - Sure...  Rudolph and his little girlfriend look all sweet and adorable.  They lure small children in with his shiny red nose and make them feel sorry for the poor little guy when the big reindeer make fun of him.  Just when you're feeling comfortable watching and are fully invested in cheering the sad and lonely mammal on despite the odd claymation setting, they throw this in your face!

What the HECK?!?
WHY?!?  Why would they DO that to unsuspecting little children?!?  That is seriously uncool.  To this day, I flip the channel to something else...  Anything else...  any time this made-for-television movie comes on.  That googly-eyed abominable snowman still gives me the heebie jeebies, and you'd better believe I will not be subjecting Bug and Monkey to this kind of childhood trauma.  Not ever!

The Face of Trauma in the Making
Spit-Cleaning - There are certain things that I swore I would never do to my children.  Licking my fingers to clean their faces was one of them.  I still remember the feeling of slimy fingers to my face as my mom scrubbed away at one thing or another.  I think she must have missed the memo declaring spit-cleaning must stop by the age of 2 (3 at the very latest) in order to ensure those memories remain locked away and never remembered.  I remember watching in horror as Ryan Seacrest did the unthinkable to Idol contestant Haley Reinhart one fateful evening and spit-cleaned red lipstick off of her face in front of millions on live television.  If that isn't trauma, I don't know what is!  I can almost guarantee that poor girl still has nightmares.  I know I do, and I haven't been spit-cleaned in well over thirty years!

Can't Believe I Did This to My Baby!
Yes, I was traumatized.  Fortunately, not enough to need psychiatric intervention...  I was lucky in that my mother never once took me to see Santa Claus at the mall.  "Lucky," you might question, "Don't all children want to see Santa?"  I urge you to take a look at what I did to poor Monkey for his first Christmas, and tell me if this looks like "he wanted to see Santa" to you.

What about you?  Do you have PTSD flashbacks from seemingly good things gone wrong from your early years?  Please tell me you do so I don't feel so weird about sharing mine!  Lol!

Friday, November 22, 2013

"Forever" Mom...

Today is National Adoption Day, and for many families today was a celebration.  It was a day to dress up in their Sunday best with their loved ones gathered around, stand in front of a judge, and after months (sometimes years) of waiting, be granted legal status as a permanent forever family.

Today was supposed to be that day for Bug and me...

When I first learned that Bug's adoption wouldn't be occurring today due to typical problems with red tape and paperwork, I was heartbroken.  I have been a foster parent for five years.  I have loved children with everything I had and let them go.  I have suffered loss.  I have mourned empty arms where my little ones should have been after they left my home.  I've been a mom for five years, but not one of my children is legally "mine."  I had myself a nice little pity party upon turning the calendar to November, seeing "Adoption Day" circled in red, and knowing that I would have to continue waiting to be a "forever mom" a little bit longer.

That's when it hit me like a tons of bricks.  I am a "forever mom!"

I have three amazing young people who know me only as "Mama," "Mommy," and "Mom."  I have a beautiful 20-year-old daughter who I never would have met had Booger Bear not been "mine" for a year.  Heaven is everything and more that I ever could have asked for in a daughter.  I have absolutely no doubt that Booger Bear was brought to me because the girl who would later become his mommy was meant to be the forever daughter of my heart.  She's a grown woman now...  a mother herself...  and I am so very thankful that she is a permanent part of my life.  There's no piece of paper telling us that it's "forever" - just a bond and the love that we know is there.

I have my 2 1/2-year-old Monkey who has been my whole world since he was two months old.  This little guy has brought me more joy, laughter, smiles, and love in the past two and a half years than I ever thought possible.  He has brought out a fierce "Mama love" inside of me that I never knew I could have.  His father and I work hard to give him the most normal and loving life possible, and I challenge anyone to ever tell him that I am not his "forever" Mommy.  I am the only Mommy he knows.  I am the Mommy who has kissed every hurt, snuggled before every bedtime, and put his favorite toys in Time-Out when he starts pitching fits because they won't do what he wants them to do.  There is no piece of paper telling us that it's "forever" - just a mutual understanding between his father and me and a shared love for an amazing little boy who needs us both. I am most definitely his "forever" Mommy, and for that I am eternally blessed.

And then there's my Bug...  He's my 14-month-old bundle of daredevil stubbornness with the most amazing smile and huge hazel eyes that you've ever seen.  This little one will soon be my only legal "forever," when his adoption is finalized (hopefully) before the new year, but he has been my forever son since I opened the door last December to a tiny barely 10-pound two-month-old with an "old soul" face.  He is the one who's going to give me a heart attack before the age of 40 due to his "have no fear" attitude and fierce determination to accomplish whatever task he is attempting at the moment.  This little Bug has a firm grip on my heart, and I am so thankful that he is going to be my first legal "forever."

So on this National Adoption Day, am reminded in the best of ways that I am a "forever mom!"  I might not have a signed piece of paper declaring that by a judge, but I have a blonde-haired Bug sawing logs in his crib, a laughing Monkey hugging my leg and asking "You want we sing 'Jesus Loves Me,' Mommy?" and an email from my amazing daughter just checking in with me today.  I am blessed!


Enter Giveaway Here

Please check out the other foster/adoptive parents who have contributed to the National Adoption Awareness Month Blog Tour and Giveaway by clicking the photo above!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Race is On

It's been two months since Bug was legally free for adoption, and not a darn thing has happened since!  I think I would have a lot more patience had they not dangled a National Adoption Day adoption in front of my face, but ever since the day that I turned the calendar to November and saw "Adoption Day" marked in red knowing that it's NOT going to happen that day, I've been a thorn in the backside of all of my caseworkers, supervisors, directors, etc.  Today, I decided to take matters into my own hands and create a "contest" of sorts between the different agencies and CPS to see who can get Bug's adoption finalized the fastest.  Could this be considered bribery?  Perhaps.  I call it being proactive!

I currently have emails into two different agencies and CPS directly (not so) patiently awaiting responses from someone...  ANYONE...  giving me some idea of who will actually be handling the homestudy portion of Bug's adoption.  Contestants in my little contest include:

1)  My agency - When I changed agencies last year in order to follow Nice Lady (aka. The Greatest Case Manager of All Time), I didn't realize that the new agency was not yet licensed for adoptions.  When it became clear early on that Bug's case was heading that way, we weren't all that concerned because the agency was just waiting to get its adoption contracts approved by licensing.  That was six months ago.  We are still waiting.

2)  Alternate Agency - My agency director (who is a foster parent through a different agency) spoke to the director there and asked her if it would be possible for her agency to license me strictly for adoption so I can finalize on Bug.  She said "Sure!  No problem!"  That was two months ago.  Nice Lady and I both asked again last week, and never received a reply.

3)  Bug's FAD Worker (DFPS Adoption Worker) - I have spoken to him one time since Bug's case was transferred to him.  I know he's swamped with National Adoption Day coming up, but it sure would be nice to know what (if anything) I can do to speed this along!

Potential prizes for whoever gets me my baby the fastest may or may not include one or more of the following:

1)  My initial thought was a cash prize, but then I realized that DFPS might frown upon that.  No money will exchange hands, but no one said anything about a generous donation that might include:

2)  Office supplies!  I know that my agency workers all end up having to buy their own office supplies.  I'd be willing to bet they'd be doing a happy dance of joy if some generous benefactor (or grateful adoptive mother) were to bestow upon them a multitude of Sharpies, notebooks, mechanical pencils, gel pens, binder clips, etc!

3)  Training videos created after 2010!  I have been with three different agencies.  I have seen the same video of the boy destroying the rose bushes and his foster mom in her plaid wool skirt and button-up, long-sleeved, ruffled blouse at all three agencies over the past five years.  If I have seen that video five times, can you imagine how many times the agency workers have had to watch that thing!?!  I do believe the promise of a fashion-forward training video might just be enough to sway one of them into doing my bidding.

4)  My services in the organization and paperwork department!  I have been with three agencies over the past five years, and every one of them have asked me to train their foster parents in paperwork, organization, and time management.  Get me my kid, and I'll have plenty of spare time to lead those training sessions...  Just sayin'...

5)  Cookies!  When all else fails, you can never go wrong with the promise of sweets.  :-)

So I sent Nice Lady an email earlier today telling her about my scathingly brilliant idea and letting her know that the game is on!  I have no idea if it will lead anywhere, but a little proactive maneuvering never hurt anything, right?


*** UPDATE - In the midst of writing this post, I received messages from ALL THREE of the contestants within approximately fifteen minutes of each other.  I think they must have heard about my little contest.  I guess now we'll just see who gets me my baby the fastest and becomes the lucky winner of some awesome free-flow ink highlighters!  Apparently office supplies talk in the not-for-profit world of Foster/Adopt Land!  ;-) ***

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Friday, November 8, 2013

"Foster Friday" Panel - Saying Goodbye

The world of foster care is full of "goodbyes."  Foster parents, birth parents, family members, friends, and most of all, the children have to say goodbye to people they love time and time again.  This month our "Foster Friday" panel touches on their personal goodbyes.  For some, the emotions are still raw as their goodbyes have been recent.  For others, what they thought were goodbyes turned out to be new beginnings.

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."  ~Winnie the Pooh

Debbie (Always and Forever Family) -

March 2012 we knew we would soon be saying goodbye to our foster daughters who we cared for and loved for almost 5 months. We were happy to see them united with their Grandpa but at the same time very sad to say goodbye.

As I was packing up the things for our little Ladybug who had just turned 2 she sat on our bed with me and looked at me questioningly. I tried as best I could to explain to her that in two nights she would be sleeping at her Papa's house but how can you really explain that to a 2 year old. She started picking up her things and asking me if it would go with her. I answered yes and then she picked up her doll. I was reminded of how little they came with when she and her older sister came to our home 5 months earlier. This doll was one of the things. The emergency foster mom had purchased it for her. She was so attached to this doll I hunted down a second one for fear of this one being lost. This was her security item. It was then that I scooped her up and held her tight. To reassure her of my love and trying for a moment to just stop time and keep her safe from anymore loss and pain.

Two days later we loaded our van with all their things and barely had room enough for all of us. We spent some time with the family and even had dinner together before it came time for goodbye. I told our almost 4 year old daughter to say goodbye to her sisters. And then we watched as she walked over to this precious Ladybug whom she had struggled with loving while she was with us and she gave her the sweetest hug knowing just how much she was going to miss her.

We tried to hold back our tears as we prepared to walk out the door. The oldest was doing great and understood what was going on. Little ladybug however wasn't all that clear. We had visited their home before a few times but she always came home with us. As we opened the door to leave she was in her Papa's arms and we said "Goodbye Ladybug" and she finally realized what was going on. She turned quickly to look at us with concern as we closed the door. All we could do was cry as we walked back to our empty van for the long quiet drive home.

Thankfully, it wasn't goodbye, it was only see you later. We have seen them a few times since that day and were even able to be there when their grandparents finalized their adoptions earlier this year.

Dena (Momat40.com) -

Saying goodbye is a really difficult subject for me right now, so this post has been hard for me to even start.  On September 27th, my Baby Girl left to go live with a great grandmother.  I’ve had to say goodbye to other foster children but none of them affected me the way this one did.  From the moment that I found out about it, I tried to prepare myself mentally for the moment that I would have to say goodbye to this child who had been my complete joy for the last 16th months.   The day before she left, we took her to dinner at her favorite restaurant and then took her back to my parents so that she could run and play.  She loved playing in my mom and dads sunroom.  When it came time to leave, my mom and dad gave her big hugs and kisses and then I took her home.  We played a little at home, and then it was time to put her to bed.  The next morning I woke her up and got her ready for school and took her to school as normal.  The only difference is that this time, I wasn’t going to be picking her up in the afternoon.  After I dropped her off, I was an emotional wreck.  

Over the next few weeks, I tried to be strong for my new foster daughter (she arrived on 9/23, so I didn’t want to take the chance of upsetting her).  However, I don’t think I really believed that she wasn’t coming home until this past weekend.   Once I turned over her things to the caseworker, I just piled my baby gear into her room and shut the door so that I didn’t have to look at it.   Probably not the healthiest thing to do, but I wanted to be strong.  When it hit me this weekend, I decided that the first thing I needed to do was tackle her room.  

Just recently, a friend of mine told me that I could pull some pictures together to add to her file in the event that when she turns 18 and requested them, she could learn about her time with me.  That fact has really helped me over the last couple of days, so I have been preparing some pictures of my family and I with her.  It’s bittersweet to look through those old pictures, but I honestly have to say that I feel better knowing that if she ever requests it she will be able to know just how much I love her.   Every person grieves differently but for me, it’s more about remembering the good times and then focusing on the positive that I had 16 amazing months with a beautiful child who completely changed my life.  

Now, I’m trying to move on and looking into straight adoption from other foster care agencies.  Fingers crossed that I will soon be able to fill this hole in my heart.  

SWrkr24/7 (Eyes Opened Wider) -

Wow, tough topic! But one I have been thinking about more and more as I anticipate a long term placement. 

So far, good-byes have been relatively easy. None of my voluntary placements have stayed longer than a week, most more like two to three days. So, while I always adore playing, snuggling, and nurturing each one - it is very easy to keep the end goal in sight. 

But as I keep hoping for a long term (someday adoptive) placement, I admit it is getting harder to let them go. That was definitely the case with my mos recent placement. Five months old and so darling. I called her "The Magical Sleeping Baby" because she was SUCH a good sleeper. (Having a non sleeper is my biggest parenting fear!) 

But I really hoped she might end up being a long term placement. Not that it is at all appropriate to hope that a child can't be safe in her parent's care! In fact, even as I hoped I felt guilty! But I was still very sad when it became clear that the eventual plan was for her to go to her aunt. 

Until I met her Aunt. 

She was wonderful. She was loving and nurturing. She was so excited to have her niece come stay with her. 

And while my hope melted away...I was filled with a sense if peace. 

I believe children belong with their families. If they can't be with their parents, extended family is the next best thing. Keeping my focus on my core values about family is imperative for me to get through all the goodbyes that foster care is likely to throw at me. 

At least until the child comes and I don't have to say goodbye. 

Karen A. (Nuggets from the Nut House) -

The feeling of "goodbye" is fairly fresh- Savon left our family two weeks ago today, at the time I'm writing this. Our goodbyes have been so different. The one that devastated and damaged us the most was our first...

Piglet had been with us for ten months. Mom and I took her and dropped her off at her parents for what was to be her first overnight visit. I don't think we even had a planned return date, visits were just being increased and we were going to see how things went. When Mom and I arrived back home after dropping Piglet off, my little sister was crying. Dad came into the kitchen and quickly told us why. Piglet's parents' worker had called. The judge had signed some paper, and she was officially back in the custody of her parents. Wait, she was in the custody of her parents. She had been with us since birth, so they had never had custody for her to go "back" to. I can't even describe the emotions we went through. The only reason we are still fostering is because of Piglet's parents' reaction. They said it wasn't right, that we didn't get a chance for a proper goodbye. They wanted us to come pick her up the next day as we were supposed to! We did. We've maintained a very unique relationship with Piglet's family. Since then, she's come back to us- many times to visit, and then one day as an official foster placement. Then we said goodbye again (I said goodbye over Skype as she left the night before I came home from finishing my year at university). And since that second goodbye, we've had her come for more visits so that we can continue to be there for Piglet and her family- wherever the future takes us. 

Thankfully, we haven't had any real "goodbyes". As I've said, we've maintained close contact with Piglet and her family. With our second, B, we've had some contact- some phone calls, a Christmas visit, and attending her first birthday. Since Savon went home recently, we have not had contact with his dad yet. We don't want to scare off Savon's dad, or make him feel like we're intruding or examining him. We want to wait for a visit so that Savon has time to bond with his daddy.

One practical way to ease the transition for the baby is that sometimes Mom will sleep with a few receiving blankets before the baby leaves. That way they smell like her, and when baby goes home, their caregiver can use those blankets for comfort in the early days. When one of our babies goes to their "forever home", we send along the outfit that they came home from the hospital in (for the ones that applies to). We put it in a Ziploc bag and label it. We also buy Baby's 1st Christmas ornaments for each of our babies- 2 identical ornaments for each baby, and we pick ones that can hold photographs. One ornament goes on our tree each year, and the other ornament goes with the baby when they leave. The last "goodbye tradition" we have is so special to our family. We go to Build-a-Bear. We get a sound piece, and gather around it as a family. We record ourselves saying, "We love you, ______!" That sound piece goes in the hand of whichever teddy we choose for that baby. The staff has been so great with us when we do it. Having us rub our dreams into tiny velvet hearts, kiss it for all the boo-boos to come, hug it for when they need a friend, and on an on. Yes, we cry. For Piglet, her Molly bear has been with her through a lot since she left us. And when needed, a simple squeeze of the hand will remind our babies of the message we want them to always remember, "We love you, _____!"

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