Friday, July 12, 2013

"Foster Friday" Panel - Letters

As foster parents, we ride a roller coaster of emotional ups and downs with a wide variety of other passengers...  Some join us on the journey willingly...  Others are paid to be there...  Some are dragged onto the ride kicking and screaming...  And the smallest passengers are there due to circumstances completely beyond their control.

Often times, it is easier to express feelings in writing than to voice our thoughts aloud.  This month, our "Foster Friday" panel joined me in writing letters to people we have (or will) encounter along our foster care journeys.

Cherub Mamma (Cherub Mamma) -

Dear Dolly,

Right now you are a beautiful, trusting, loving five-year-old. Someday though, you will be a beautiful, angry, frustrated teenager. I am positive that there will be a day in which you will scream at me that you never wanted to be adopted. You will swear that you never wanted to be a part of our family.

This is hard stuff. I know that. And our decision to intervene in your CPS case was not made lightly. We waited for the state of Texas to do right by you. But time after time it seemed less likely that their plan was best. After a lot of prayer Dolly, we decided it was necessary for your long-term emotional health and physical safety to step in legally.

I’m sorry your first mom did not keep you safe. That’s the biggest issue of all, Dolly. Every child longs to be with its mother. Unfortunately, your first mom did not do anything she needed to do to bring you back to her. The option of that reunification never really existed. Your first dad walked away from you too. I am so sorry. I will never be able to fully comprehend the abandonment you must feel. The people that came together to make you, due to the pull of a destructive lifestyle, were unable to stay in your life as your parents. I will never claim to understand how that makes you feel. But I do empathize with how difficult it must be.

I saw you grow in amazing ways after joining our family. I will never claim that our family is “better”. Well, at least I’ll try not too. But Dolly, from everything I could tell, our family was safer. We offer you permanency in a family setting surrounded by people that want you. I believe our desires to care for you through all of this are stronger than those of your biological family.

I hope that your grandma and other family members will choose to stay in contact with you after adoption. I hope you will know your entire life that it was never our goal to steal you away from your family. As long as they are sober and safe, I want more than anything for you to stay connected.

Right now though, everything is quite confusing. Foster care doesn’t make sense most of the time to me. I’m sure it’s a total mess to you! All I’ve ever wanted for you Dolly was for you to be safe and loved and cared for by family that genuinely wants you.

You deserve permanency, Dolly. And that’s what we are fighting for now.

I don’t know where this adventure is going to take us. I pray our intervention is successful. I pray that we are able to celebrate your adoption soon. I don’t know what it’s going to be like when you’re a teenager though. I don’t know what the future holds. Just know I’m with you through it all, Dolly. So even if you scream at me twelve years from now that you hate me and you wish you had never been adopted, I’ll still keep on loving you.

I love you! I’ve loved you since I met you. And I’ll never stop loving you.

~ Mommy

Karen C. (Our Foster Journey) - 

To my extended family,

Without your permission Ron and I signed up to be foster parents. We have taken you along for the craziest 4 year journey that you could ever imagine being on. We have taken in 23 placements in such a short amount of time. 

You have stood by us, supporting us, loving us. You pick up these babies and hold and love them with no questions asked. You have submitted all your personal information so you can babysit for us. You didn't willingly sign up for any of this, yet here you are, along for the ride. 

You have helped us throw birthday parties together last minute knowing in a couple days those kids will leave us and we will never see them again. Yet, your generosity sent them away with 5 times as much stuff as what they came with. You are truly a blessing in our life.

You have mourned the loss of our first foster placement (and many more after). This little guy had crawled up into all of our hearts and we all ached when he left. You suffered loss right along with us. Yet, you continually stand by us faithfully as we continue this journey. THEN, 3 years later you are celebrating BIG with us when that little guy all of a sudden gets placed back in our home. Counting our blessings and God's great miracle when we finalize his adoption 4 short months later!

Of course this journey is still not over. There is a little girl who has been a part of our lives for over 2 1/2 years. We have watched her grow from a 4 pound preemie to towering over her siblings who are older than her. She calls you aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa. She's the best snuggle bug and gives the best kisses. Every single one of you know the love of this child. Yet, here you sit holding your breath right along with us not knowing if she will ultimately be ripped out of hearts and family forever. You are once again standing by us faithfully. Giving us the encouragement and support we need. Even more, you weren't surprised when right in the midst of this crazy case we find out there is another baby on the way. Never for a second did you question us when we said of course we would take baby too if we get the opportunity. 

Thank you family for standing by us, loving us, and ultimately loving 23 children! We could not have survived this journey called Foster Care without you. The ride is not over yet so keep your seatbelts fastened!

Ron & Karen

Amanda S. (Fostering Hope & Love) - 

Dear pre-foster parent me,

Honey, you think you know what you’re getting into, but you have no idea. And that’s okay. Turns out, you could have spent a year in training and still not been prepared for this journey. You’ll see and hear things that are more confusing and screwed up than you ever expected – and that’s just from the agency and court system! Right now, sitting in PRIDE classes, they seem like they know what they’re doing. It’s all an act. They have NO CLUE, and they’re going to pass that confusion and frustration right on down to you and your kiddos. You’re going to learn to advocate for yourself and your kids like never before just to survive the system.

The kids’ bio-families are not what you expect, either. Turns out, you’re going to like most of them (you’ll be lucky and have pretty good bio-families, though). You’re going to want to get to know them and build relationships, and not just out of obligation. And that’s going to make it harder on you when you see that they are in no way competent to raise children. It’s painful to hope that people you like don’t get their children back. You’re going to figure out the best thing you can do is support them the best you can and help them feel confident that their children are in good hands. That’s really all you can do for them.

Then there’s the kids. Having not been a parent prior to this journey, you won’t be expecting to fall as totally, head-over-heels in love with them as you are going to. You don’t know how you’ll be torn between protecting your heart against the inevitable goodbyes and giving into to that love. Really, though, there’s no choice. You’ll love them fiercely because that’s what they need. And that’s what is best for you, too, even when it hurts.

Finally, there’s one aspect to foster care you never, ever expected. The support system. Since you and hubby don’t live near any family, you basically expect to be doing this alone. You will be amazed at the friends, both in real life and online who show up to help out. Sometimes they’ll provide physical help. Sometimes it will be mental and emotional. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR SUPPORT! Foster care is not natural and everyone needs help coping with it. You’re never afraid to support hubby, or to walk through fire to get the kids the help they need. You’re just as important, and you deserve support just as much.

That’s it! Back when I was in your position, I’m not sure I’d have believed half the stuff we’re going to experience. So consider this letter a heads up. And here’s my advice: be kind. Be kind to yourself, hubby, your bio-families. You can’t go wrong if you default to kindness, even if it sometimes takes the form of pushing back or standing strong against the system (that’s when you’re being kind to yourself and your family). You can do this, and it will be the hardest and most rewarding thing you’ve ever done.

Yourself in 3 years

Andrea (Life with Laughter) - 

Dear T,

You gave birth. In no way does this make you a mother. How dare you call yourself her mother! You have a lot of nerve to harass her aunt. The only one who tried to keep her. The one you left her with. I cannot get over your gall. You chose to walk out on her. You literally packed your bags and walked out the door, the day you turned 18. I just received a chest of her baby items. In there was a picture of a beautiful smiling child. The frame said "Happy Mother's Day" You left that sitting on the dresser when you left. You took a precious child that should have had a full and healthy life, and you destroyed it. You left a massive mess for everyone else to clean up. However, we don't consider her a mess or a chore. Your lawyer said you considered her "an inconvenience" we certainly do not. We are sad of course, for how she has to suffer and the things she won't be able to do. To us, she is an angel, a miracle, and a survivor. She's had to be a fighter to survive her life with you. You didn't even care for her while she was growing inside of you. The safest place for a baby is the womb, you made your womb a dangerous place that she escaped from at only 28 weeks. Even then you couldn't care for her, giving birth in the toilet and allowing her to stay in there, you didn't even know to lift her out of the water. 

We have fought long and hard to get her the services and help that you denied her. Trying to fix the damage you did. My anger boils over at you today. The child you gave birth to is suffering! She is laying in a hospital bed, she's hooked to an IV, morphine, and a feeding tube. The feeding tube is needed because you broke her insides. She cannot eat. She cannot drink. Her lips are chapped. Her throat is dry. And it is all your fault. She is now having to get her nutrition through a tube into her intestines. She cannot enjoy food. She just had her third birthday, she was able to enjoy her cupcake. That was her last treat for the foreseeable future. And it is all your fault. All you had to do was say "I have this infection, protect my child." That's all you had to say. You didn't. You damage your child. Your precious daughter. She just had medicine by mouth, she sucked on that syringe like a person finding water in the desert. And you made this happen. You made her suffer like this. You dare suggest her Aunt is at fault. You find blame everywhere except right where is belongs, with you. 

This sweet amazing child will be having more doctors appointments, blood draws, X-rays, MRIs, EEKs, EEGs, and pain than most adults will in their entire lives. She has lived on this earth on 36 months. Our goals for her are the simplest of things, to drink from a cup, to look when her name is called, to track an object across her field of vision, and to wash her hands with help. The goals of a 6 month old. 

But that's okay. We will clean up what you left, what you broke. We will be rewarded with her smiles and her giggles. We will rock her and snuggle with her. We will smile when she runs to us. And we will weep with joy if we ever hear a word come from her mouth. You can continue living your life. I just beg of you that you don't drag your other children with you. Your twins are already suffering the same affects as her. The new baby growing in your womb, already 20 weeks along, please, I beg you, go to a doctor and take care of him or her. Stop this. Stop leaving these hurt children all around you. Can you be a good mother? I don't know, so far the answer is no, you seem to crave babies, and leave them when they become children. Just leave them with someone who will care for them. Just walk away, it's what you're good at. Leave before you hurt them even more. 

People ask me "Aren't you happy you have a girl, finally?" Of course I am. However, I'd rather her be happy and running around with her family, laughing and being three, than laying strapped to a hospital bed with me. I love her with all my heart, but I would trade having a daughter to have her healthy. But she's not. I will love her anyway. I will do everything within my power and rely of God's gracious love to give her the best life possible. And she will thrive, without you. 


Dear Bug,

You were the first placement we had.  We knew we were going to get you even before we were licensed as foster parents.  I started calling you Bug because I didn't know your name and didn't want to keep calling you Baby Boy.

We have been blessed to be your parents for over a year now.  You have learned so many new things in that year, but I think we have learned even more.  

You taught us patience.  You were the fussiest baby ever.  You did nothing but scream and cry every second you were awake for almost five and a half months.  You taught us that no matter what we were feeling, you needed our calm presence.  You needed us to be in control to help teach you to be in control.

You taught us understanding.  Through you, we learned to really like your bio mom.  She has a lot of problems, but most of them weren't her fault.  She never had a mother of her own to teach her how to do things.  She never learned HOW to be a mom because she didn't have one.  Hopefully we've taught her a few things that will make her life easier.

You taught us love.  We weren't sure if we could love a baby that we would one day have to say goodbye to.  We didn't know if our hearts would always be on guard, and leave just a little bit of love held back.  You taught us that we can love deeply and fiercely, even if that means we will be hurt beyond measure if you have to leave us.

You taught us that we could survive on very little sleep.  Sleep is a big deal to us, but you taught us that we do OK for months on end with very little.

You taught us the value of friends.  We couldn't have made it through those first few months without those friends who would hold you for an hour or so giving us a little break, or those friends who gave us encouragement that we could do it.  

You taught us joy.  We were so happy the day you first smiled, the day you first coo'd, the day you gave us your first laugh.  We rejoiced over every little thing you did.  You had to work harder to do almost everything, but that only made it more special when you did them.

I could go on and on, my son, but I think you will get the idea.

You are so loved by us.  We don't know if you will stay or go, but I want you to know that we will love you until we breathe our last breath.  You are my heart and soul.  You are mine, little Bug, now and forever.

Dena ( - 

Dear Former Party Girl,

You used to think you had it made.  Sleeping in when you wanted, hanging out with your friends every Friday and Saturday night, going on cruises at the drop of a hat, and so much more.  So, who would have thought that a year and a half later you would be enjoying staying at home all the time with a 1 ½ year old and your fun time is going to the park or the mall.  

Remember, stumbling in at 1 am on more than one occasion from a little too much partying?  Now, you’re stumbling half asleep into the baby room at 1am for a quick diaper change and snuggle.   No more happy hour as your meals are now either eaten in a hurry or after baby girl goes to sleep.    Your long dangling jewelry has now been replaced with teething necklaces or eliminated completely.

With all of that being said, you are the happiest that I’ve ever seen you.  You wake every day with a smile and go to bed every night thinking happy thoughts of laughing, giggling and dancing with your baby girl.  I know you have recently been faced with some challenges regarding foster care and the possibility of losing her, but just remember how happy you are and how happy that little girl is.   


Hopeful Forever Mommy

Karen A. ( - 

To my future self,

Right now you're a foster sister and social work student with no clue as to what the future holds. In fifteen years, maybe you'll be working as a social worker for a child welfare agency, maybe you'll be a foster mom, maybe you'll be married and have biological children. The person you are in the future is being shaped so much by this fostering journey. I hope that you will remember some things, and I hope that you will change some things.

As a child welfare professional, I pray that you will remember what it's like to be in this place that you are today, as this letter is being written. Remember what it's like to be the foster family. Remember how it feels to have no control but to pour your complete being into loving these children. Remember how much you long to feel respected, important, and be acknowledged for the role you play in these children's lives. I pray that you will treat the foster families the way you wish you could be treated now. I pray that you remember to take off your professional hat sometimes and just see the injustice- in other words, may you not become apathetic. Talk to the foster family, keep them in the loop. And remember that they know a lot more about the child than you do- they are a great resource. I hope that the experiences you have had today with birth families will remind you that you too could have had a series of bad turns in your life, or been born into an intergenerational cycle of disaster. Be humble, be thankful, and be kind.

As a foster parent, may you be organized, love whole-heartedly, and use your "strong voice".

If it be the Lord's will, then as a wife, I hope that the experiences of today will help make you so much more grateful for your husband. Through fostering, you've seen men stand up and take more responsibility than they ever needed to. And you've also seen men who haven't come close enough to know that they have responsibilities to step up to. You've also seen both of these sides in women. I hope that you can find a husband who will be the first kind, and that you will strive to be that person also. Through fostering, you've had a crash course in grace, forgiveness, encouragement, and loving when it's hard to. I'm sure these will be lessons you will be reminded of in the years to come, and I hope that you will be thankful for the opportunities God gave you now to learn these.

As a mother, I just hope that you will remember that no matter how a child comes to you- through the local foster care agency, off an airplane, or from your own womb, remember that these children are never "yours". They are God's children, and tomorrow is never a guarantee, whether they have your last name or not. Fostering has taught you that every day is a gift. I also hope that you will remember how much it has shaped you to see your own parents say "yes" even when many would say "no". It has been a wonderful opportunity for your faith to grow, and when you say "yes" it will also be a chance for your children's faith to grow.

As a person, I hope that you will be loving, forgiving, willing to take risks, open to new situations, and organized.

Finally, if you're reading this in the future, it means you made it through many times where it felt like the end of the world because of all the "crises" that kept arising. Remember to keep the big picture in mind, and that in the will be okay.


Yolanda (The Path Chosen for Me) - 

Dear Mom

I tried to call you yesterday, there was no answer.  I wanted to tell you that I’m ok.  I miss my Squeaks everyday but the days do get easier.  I wanted to tell you that I am going to do it again.  I am officially a mom in waiting again.  I know you worry about me.  Worry about my heart ache when I have to give them up.  I always tell you don’t worry so much.  And you would say.  It’s a mother’s job to worry about her children.  I get it now.  I get that when you are a mom, worry is not something you can control.  I worried about my babies’ everyday they are not with me.  I worry if they are safe, loved, if they are happy.  I worry that if something happened and I wasn’t there who would comfort them.   I even worry about them now, even though they have gone to live their lives with others.  A mother’s love doesn’t stop.

I wanted to tell you that I am going to do it.  Because not doing it again is not an option.  Not being a mom is something that I cannot even imagine.  I know being a single mom is going to be hard, there will be days that I just want to quit and give up.  Then I will look at you.  You are a single mom you raised 3 children as single mom, and at times made it look easy.   I didn’t feel any less loved than my friends or family who had 2 parents.   I know my kids will be loved and we will be fine.  I don’t plan to always be a single mom.  I do hope to find a man who will love me and my child.  But if that doesn’t happen it will be ok.  

I wanted to tell you I can’t wait to make you a grandma again. You already have 5 grandkids, and many others that you claim as your grandkids.  But I want to make you a grandma.  I can’t wait to call you and tell you that I have signed the paperwork, that we are now a family forever.  It is coming.  I know it.  I have faith.  God knows my heart.   He is the one that put the love in my heart.  Gods plan never fails. 

I tried to call you yesterday and there was no ringing, no answer, only a voice on the other end that I didn’t know, a voice saying your number was disconnected.  Then it hit me.  You are not there, you are not here, you are no longer in this life. Everything that I want to tell you, everything I need to say, I can’t. My heart is shattered.  I still can’t believe you are gone.  With one phone call I have lost my mom, my children’s grandma, my friend.  I am an orphan in this world.   Who will worry about me now?  Who will tell me that they are proud of me and encourage me when I am down?  Who will just listen to me just talk?   

It has been one month since you took his hand when God called you home.  I know you are at peace, I know you are no longer in pain. I know that you are enjoying the comfort embrace of your parents.  But I miss you.  I miss your voice; I miss our Saturday morning calls.  I miss you.  I will be ok, I promise.  You have left a legacy of love, and strength.  Your work is done.   Now you will have a front row seat when I sign the paperwork.    You are now my angel.  You can spread your wings and fly and be my protector in the sky. 

You are forever in my heart, I love you Mom.

Your daughter,


Julie (Our Thrive Life) -

My Allie Girl,

I have waited and procrastinated writing this letter to you. I’ve thought many times on what I would say. I thought that in waiting somehow the words would just come freely. As I sit here on the evening before you go to live with your forever family my heart is full of so many emotions.

I want you to know how loved you are. How special you are. You are a strong and spirited young child and will be a great person in life. I know it because I have looked into your eyes and seen both the beauty outside and within. You are a spirit daughter of our Heavenly Father. He loves you and he wants you to be happy. I want you to know that you have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who loves you so very much.

 In the short six months that you have been a part of our family I have grown to love you with the same love I have for my own child, my flesh and blood. Everyone says that it is impossible. But it isn’t. I love you as a daughter and I always will. I know that Tricia and David, your new Mama and Daddy, will love you with this same love. As much heartache as I have in letting you go, I know that the love that they have for you will carry you throughout life. I have complete confidence that you will turn out to be a radiant and lovely young woman.

I want you to know that as an infant you have always been strong. You held your head up when you were just days old, you rolled over earlier than most other babies. You are even beginning to crawl before you are six months old! You are healthy and developmentally on track. You give us so much joy. You love people. You enjoy being held and tickled and read to. You are inquisitive and want to know what is going on. You babble and screech to let everyone know that you are around and will not be ignored.

You sleep through the night and have since you were two months old. You are patient and loving. You love to play with Isaac, your brother in our home. He cares very much for you as well. He walks around asking where “Sissy” is and is always happy to give you hugs. You both spend a lot of time laughing at each other’s silly antics. He will miss you.

Most of all my sweet Allie I want you to know that you are a blessing to our lives. We are grateful to have had this time for you. We have seen you grow from a newborn only 8 lbs 13 oz to a healthy and robust 6 month old. I am grateful to have been your Mama for a season. You have taught me so much about motherhood, especially being a mother of a little girl. Thank you for sharing your life with us. I have great hope that our relationship will continue. That you will always know our family.

I have so much more that my heart cannot even say. I love you my sweet child.

Love, Your Mama

Mama C -

Dear younger me,

I know you badly want children.  Do not cry, do not doubt God, HE has a plan for you!   One day you will sit in the doctor’s office and you will be told you cannot conceive a child-DO NOT FRET, DO NOT WORRY!  This is all part of HIS great plan!  By 2013, you will have four sweet princesses that have at some point called you “Mommy.”  To three of them (and many more to come), you will become Aunt “Mama C.”  Your marriage will become stronger than ever!  Your husband is truly a rock & together y’all are an unstoppable team!  This journey will be the hardest, but most rewarding journey of your life!  Enjoy every moment.  One of the princesses will one day legally become yours (Lord willing).  You will remain in contact with the other 3 sweet babies & their families will become part of yours!  Do not give up on HIM or on HIS plan!  Through this journey, you will be blessed more than you could ever imagine…remain in HIM always & HIS plan will be revealed!  You will also meet some wonderful “friends” through the blogging world…I know you are anti-meeting people online, but these people will become your support group!  You will all go through everything together, you will cry when the others go through a hard time and they will do the same for you!  You will pray for each other like you are family!  Just always remember one thing: 

Jeremiah 29:11
New International Version (NIV)

11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."


30 something Mama C :-)

"Mie" (Letting Go of Mie) - 

Your Honor –

Thank you for serving our county by presiding over family law cases, particularly those regarding the status of parental rights brought on by our great state.  I know you are passionate about the rule of law but also about the impact these cases have on families, both the parents and the children.  I too am greatly concerned about the legal status of parental relationships and the real-life consequences these cases have on all involved.

As a foster parent, I don’t have the opportunity to address you regularly in court.  I certainly wish I could though and so I show up to court as often as possible to show my support to the case and, most importantly to me, the children.  These children are beautiful.  I have known them now for 6 months and even though they have only been placed with me for several weeks they have definitely grown on my heart and I care deeply for them.  Like you, I want what is best for them and strongly believe that for any child what is best for them is to be raised by their biological parents who are healthy, stable, and can provide them a safe and loving home. 

Your honor, these children are in desperate need of permanency.  They have been in the court system for more than 2 years now.  Their family has let them down time and time again.  They have lived in at least 8 homes, having moved 5 times in the past 6 months.  They are so young and vulnerable your honor.  They need someone to stand up for them and their needs, someone who understands that they are at a pivotal point in this journey.  We watched helplessly as they were moved around before coming to our home and saw how at each stop they became less attached and more volatile.  Now that they are in our home we’ve watched their defenses fall, healing begin, and progress made though at each visit they fall apart and exhibit scary, uncontrolled behaviors.  Your honor, I have carefully parented these children since they have been with me to support healing.  I’ve also spoken with them several times and even they can describe it clearly – they love their mother and father but do not feel safe with them, even now after the changes they have made.  The children have described to me the times they have gone without food where they’ve had to literally search the streets to find something to eat.  They have shared with me how their parents made them drink alcohol, how their mother sleeps all the time and won’t feed them and how their father frequently uses bad words with children.  One of the children looks forward to seeing the parents at visits in order to hit them because that is what their relationship consists of.  Do they want to have a good relationship with the father and mother who birthed them?  Absolutely, but they also know that they are not safe with them and are genuinely fearful of being around them without additional supervision.

Recently, your honor, the kids came home from their unsupervised visit telling us about their encounter with the police.  They told me in painful detail about the interaction – they had to see things kids their age should never have to see.  This experience is just yet another one to confirm that their parents cannot keep them safe.  Your honor – recently you gave this parent permission to see the children unsupervised to provide the opportunity to see what would happen if/when the children return home.  This is the answer.  Everyone watching can see that these beautiful children will face further insecurity, both emotionally and physically.

In our home things are different.  They are provided healthy food on a regular basis, as much as is needed.  We repeatedly tell them how loved they are and how hard we will work to keep them safe.  They are getting their first normal, healthy family relationship possibly in their entire lives and they are not only healing but are thriving.  Consequently, they are asking to stay forever.  They want to know when they can talk to you to tell you that they want to stay with us forever and never have to leave. 

Your honor – when will you give them their wish?  When will they be able to have a safe and loving home, permanently, so they can live healthy and fulfilled lives?  I appreciate that you are trying to give their family every possible opportunity to reunite – if I were in their shoes I would want the same opportunity – but at what cost?  I’ll tell you the cost – everyday these children go without permanency with the lack of complete security in knowing where they will spend the rest of their childhood they take one more step toward a dark place – a place many foster children are pushed toward through the system from which many are never fully able to return.  Their ability to love and be loved, to function in society knowing they have a safe family supporting them, to overcome their difficult beginning and become the shining stars you see when you look in their eyes...all of that disappears just a little bit every day they aren’t given forever.  We know the life they face if they return to their biological family who has proven historically and recently that they lack the ability to provide security.   Please, your honor, consider the childrens’ requests to stay with us forever and their needs for safety, security and love.  Help us provide them what they need and deserve, forever.

Sincerely - A humble and desperate mother

Tammy aka. Mimi (I Must Be Trippin') - 

Dear C,

The last time I saw you a year and a half ago, I was comforting your hysterical infant while you cried silent tears.  It was your scheduled supervised visit with Monkey, and for once you showed up.  You stood there and watched as I tried to reassure your child that he would have fun with his Mommy, to which you uttered the words that broke my heart.  "It's okay...  To him, you are Mommy."  You weren't angry or bitter like some birth mothers would be.  You were utterly defeated.  That visit was your last.  You never came back.

There are so many things that I want to say to you...  So many things that I want you to know about our little boy...  At 28-months-old, sixteen months after Monkey went home to live with his Daddy, I am still his Mommy.  Monkey's no longer the newborn who you held in your arms in the hospital.  He is a non-stop bundle of energy, talks like a 4-year-old, and is so full of love.  Your "American English baby" as you once called him is picking up bits of Spanish from his Daddy, and definitely keeps us on our toes trying to follow his conversations in a mix of his two languages.  I know you'd be so proud of what an amazing little boy he has turned out to be.  

I think of you every day, and pray that you are okay.  Every time Monkey throws himself into my arms and smiles up at me saying, "There Mommy is," I think of you and grieve a little for what you are missing.  I grieve for what Monkey is missing by not knowing the Mama who risked her own life to have him...  The Mama who always cuddled her baby boy and smelled like Loves Baby Soft perfume...  The Mama who immersed herself in English lessons because she wanted him to understand her...  The Mama who hung on my every word to learn even the smallest details about her baby boy...  The Mama who won her battle with cancer and who tried so hard to overcome the addictions and depression that resulted from that fight...

I want you to know that I love Monkey with a Mama's fierce love.  I want you to know that I will try to love him enough for both of us.  I have no doubt that you love him.  During the year that you tried so hard to overcome your demons, I saw that love firsthand.  I know that the only reason Monkey is here at all is because of the love that you had for him even before he was born.  You carried him against medical advice.  You fought so hard for him before he was even born.  You fought so hard during the time that he was in foster care, but as hard as you tried, you just weren't able to heal.  You fought for him though...  As hard as you could...  And I want you to know that I will make sure he knows that when he's old enough to understand.

I pray every day that you are still fighting to heal.  I pray that you can feel our hope for you even when you don't have that hope for yourself.  I told you one time that Monkey needs you, and I still believe that is true.  My hope is that one day, Monkey will be walking the stage at his college graduation and looking out to see both of his moms loving and cheering him on.  The mom who gave birth to him and who fought and overcame her demons in order to be a positive influence in his life...  and me, the mom who raised him, who kissed all of his hurts, and who loved him with a Mama Bear love so deep that I was changed for the better.

Until that day, I will love our son for the both of us.

With love and hope for the future,

Thursday, July 4, 2013

When He's LEGALLY Mine Forever...

With a TPR trial date set for mid-September, and CPS firmly on the side of adoption by me, I'm finding myself daydreaming more and more about what it will be like if/when Bug is legally mine forever!  I have a whole tribe of "forever" kids with Monkey, Heaven, Kelly, Kama, Booger Bear, and Banana, but I'm not legally responsible for any of them, so this will be a totally new experience for me.  Lol.  :-)  I recently posted a question on my FB page asking readers who have (or will be) adopting from foster care what they were/are most excited about, and got some fantastic answers.  I decided to take some of them (along with my own) and write an A-Z Thing post listing all of the things that I am most looking forward to when Bug is legally all mine.  :-)

Accessible medications and cleaning supplies - I don't mean leaving the aspirin sitting on the couch or the bleach in the middle of the kitchen floor.  I'm totally pro-safety when it comes to things like that, but being able to get to my bottle of Tums in the middle of a dark night without having to unlock multiple locks will be heavenly!

Babysitters of my choosing - I have a couple of 17-year-olds in mind who would be excellent sitters, but my agency requires that all babysitters be over the age of 18 and background checked.  It will be so nice to be able to leave my child with anyone I deem fit without having to ask for their personal identifying information to run a criminal history check.  Background checks are great and all for scoping out potential husbands, but there's no way I would leave my child with someone I didn't know well enough to know whether or not they'd done jail time.

Calendar-free - I have already decided that I will be tossing the dayplanner and wall calendar in favor of an occasional sticky note on my fridge reminding me of an upcoming dentist appointment.  No more color-coded appointment books with notes about bio family visits.  No more having to coordinate schedules with caseworkers, attorneys, birth families, case aides, case managers, work, etc.  If Bug has a checkup, I'll just tell my mom and she can remind me.  I will officially be banning calendars from my home after those adoption papers are signed.

Days off work that don't involve CPS - I inevitably end up taking at least one day every other week off work for something CPS-related.  I honestly don't remember the last time I was able to take a day off of work that didn't involve at least one CPS-related appointment or task.  I can not wait for the day when I open my pay stub to see that I have actually accrued Paid Time Off to be able to do something wild and crazy like...  Oh, I don't know...  Go on a vacation!?!

Education how I see fit - Foster parents have no say in their children's education.  In my state, children over the age of three are required to attend public schools.  I've always dreamed of homeschooling.  While that option won't be easy for a single working mom, I want to at least have the choice.  Public school, private school, homeschool, performing arts school, underwater basket weaving university...  I don't really know!  But you'd better believe I will carefully be weighing all of my options because as a legal, forever mom...  I will have options!!!

Fearlessness - No more fear that Bug will be returned to an unsafe situation...  No more fear related to every tiny bump, bruise, and scratch...  No more fear of Monkey using Bug's new name in front of the "wrong" people...  No more fear that CPS will change their minds and try harder to place Bug with family...  No more fear...

Getting to become involved in foster care in other ways - I need a break from fostering, but I don't want a break from foster care.  Foster care means way too much to me to step away entirely.  Adopting Bug will give me the opportunity to volunteer at my agency.  I will have time to teach some of the training classes that they have been begging me to lead.  I could start a foster care/adoption ministry at my church.  I can write a book (or two or ten).  The possibilities are endless!  Foster care is most definitely where my heart is, and I plan on staying.

Haircuts when he needs them - Monkey's hair has been the bane of my existence for the past two years.  Early on, it was the "troll doll days," where he had this fuzzy mop that stood straight up on top and began to grow long over his ears.  I asked multiple times if I could just get it trimmed around his ears to no avail.  His dad teared up any time we mentioned cutting it, so I gave up and prayed that he would have it done after he went home just after his 1st birthday.  My son now sports quite an impressive mullet on occasion.  At this point, I can no longer imagine him with short hair.  But I must admit, there have been times when I've been highly tempted to let him loose with a pair of hair scissors and see what he comes up with on his own.  At 9-months-old, Bug is already beginning to develop quite a cowlick and hairy-looking ears of his own.  I am praying that we can get his adoption finalized before that first haircut is truly necessary.

Insurance - Like real, honest to goodness insurance that I have to pay for myself!  I am so over Medicaid and having to take my kiddos to doctors a half an hour away who barely look at them after waiting in the office with fifty snot-nosed kids for four hours before filling out paperwork and sending us out the door.  I can not wait for the day when Bug will get an actual age-appropriate checkup from a real pediatrician only a block away from our house!

Joining all of the "Mom" groups and signing up for "Mommy and Me" classes - Sign me up for the PTA!  Find a playgroup!  I'll even volunteer to bring the snacks three months from now...  because Bug's not going anywhere!  :-)

Keepsakes - Give me a refrigerator covered with paintings and stick figure drawings.  Give me handprint stepping stones and colorfully-painted pet rocks.  I want a ceramic coffee mug that looks like a three-legged moose and a necklace made out of macaroni.  Forget the Christmas tree that looks like it came from a department store!  Give me popcorn and cranberry garland, paper angels, and reindeer made out of clothespins.  It doesn't get any better than that!

Legally changing Bug's name - I've had a pretty good idea that Bug was going to be here to stay from very early in his case.  I also knew that I would definitely be changing his name upon adoption.  Because he was so young, and because we have so many 2-year-olds in the family who see him on a very regular basis, I decided to have my family call him by his new name so it wouldn't confuse the little ones by changing it a year later.  Bug's new name will be a combination of his current legal name and one that I chose, and I can't wait to be able to use it everywhere!

Mama, Mommy, Mom - Being Mama, Mommy, and Mom to a child who I never have to worry about being taken away and given to someone else.  My biggest fear with Monkey is that there is always the unknown of what will happen in the future.  I've been his Mama since he was two months old.  I'm his Mommy today at 2-years-old.  But what about when he's 16?  Will I get to be his Mom?  What if his dad moves away?  What if he remarries?  Monkey is as much my son in my heart as anyone could ever be, but there is always that fear that he will be taken away.  When Bug is legally mine forever, I will be finally be able to be Mama, Mommy, and Mom without that fear.

NO MORE PAPERWORK!!! - I am fairly certain this one is self explanatory to anyone who has ever fostered in my state or read my blog for any length of time.  Though to be honest, at this point I'm a little uncertain as to how to give medication without immediately writing it down.  I'm sure I'll learn.  I have faith that I am smart enough to figure it out.

Ordinary childhood for my boy - Sleepovers with friends, climbing trees, sports, sleep away camps, pool parties, bumps and bruises, family vacations, Saturday morning cuddles in Mommy's big bed while watching cartoons...  All of the things that children should be able to experience, but can't without an act of Congress if they are a foster child.

Pictures - Pictures everywhere!  Bug is stinkin' cute, and I think the entire world should be able to bask in his adorableness on a daily basis.  Believe me, you will all have more than enough of your fill of the preciousness that is my Bug the second those papers are signed!  I'm fairly certain the few people who have access to his pics right now are beginning to run out of ways to say, "He's just perfect in every way" every time they see a new photo.  :-)

Questions that don't involve me asking things like, "Did Bug smell like pot when he got back from his supervised visit with Grandma today?"  F'real.  I've asked that question more than once.  Then there's "Just how long will bio parents be incarcerated?" and "You don't expect me to take my 9-month-old through the metal detectors at the Federal Penitentiary for a visit, do you?"  I will be ever-so-happy when the most pressing question I have to ask each day is, "Did my kid poop?"

Redecorating Bug's bedroom - I'm not really sure why I've been so hesitant to change the decor in Bug's room.  Probably because the last time I decorated specifically for a child was right before Booger Bear was returned home with no warning.  I suppose there's a part of me that's hesitant to make such a major change until I know that I won't have to walk into an empty room that was decorated specifically for my little guy.  But OMG, am I dying to get in there and do up his nursery in the best "bug" themed decor that I can find!  I'm fairly certain I'll be pulling from this "Cute as a Bug" line because you know...  "Bug."  :-)

Starting an annual foster/adopt retreat with some of my foster mama BFFs - When Cherub Mamma, MamaP, and several other foster moms and I went to a mom's retreat earlier this year, it was very clear to us that we were out of place.  Our parenting experiences, our children, our struggles, and our triumphs are rarely "typical."  Over the past few months, we've been praying and brainstorming, and I can't wait until we are all in a place to be able to make our dream of a retreat for foster/adoptive moms a reality.

Telling Ka-Diva and Buddy that "Yes. Bug is ours forever!" - My 8-year-old niece and nephew have been amazing over the past 4 1/2 years that I have fostered.  They have loved every single one of my kids, and they hurt when they leave.  They are constantly asking, "Do you get to adopt him?!?"  I can not wait for the day when I can finally tell them with 100% certainty that "Yes. Bug is ours forever!"

Using my minivan for its intended carpooling purpose - Lugging Bug and his friends to football practice, loading up the back with camping gear and joining the family for a long weekend at the lake, taking a group of kids to church camp, or weekend roadtrips.  The minivan has been purchased, and it's ready and waiting for years of adventures!

Vacations without permission - Yep.  I fully intend to take Bug out of the state...  Heck!  Out of the COUNTRY even...  and not ask a single person if it's okay.  No judge's signature.  No begging his birth parents for permission.  No providing a complete itinerary to my agency, his CPS caseworker, his attorney, his birth parents' attorneys, etc.  I'm just gonna book the tickets and take him!  That's right!  I'm a rebel that way.

Watching Bug grow up - When you only foster infants and toddlers, it often seems that your children never age.  I have spent the past 4 1/2 years swimming in a constant stream of diapers, bottles, and yogurt melts.  Being able to watch Booger Bear and Monkey grow up has been such an amazing gift, and I can't wait to experience that with my baby Bug.  I'm looking forward to potty training, preschool, school plays, field trips, band, football games, graduation, college, his wedding, and grandbabies, and I pray that Monkey and Booger Bear are here every step of the way.  I am one proud Mama, Mommy, Mimi, and I love those three boys something fierce!  I can only pray that they will be able to grow up loving each other just as much as I love them.

Hopefully I'll be able to remove the star on Bug's face soon.  :-)

X-tremely large bonfire of CPS-related paperwork, binders, manuals, emergency escape floorplans, training certificates, old medication logs, recreation logs, clothing inventories, calendars, etc.  I might just toss my license in there for good measure (but probably not...  We foster parents are all big talkers when it comes to saying "we're D.O.N.E," but one middle of the night phonecall later, and we go from a family of three to a family of six by morning.)

Yearly traditions - When you foster, you live day to day.  Rarely do you have the same child(ren) with you for more than one Christmas, birthday, 4th of July...  I want to know that Bug will be here for every holiday and major event for years to come.  I want to start our own family traditions.  I want Bug to know that every Christmas Eve, we'll spend the night at Nana and Papa's house in our brand new Christmas pajamas.  I want family picnics and Sunday dinners.  I want a lifetime of memories.

Zzzzzz!!! - Sleep!  Sweet sleep!!!  I'm not sure foster parents ever really get a decent night's sleep.  We worry.  We take on our children's struggles.  We lay in bed, tossing and turning, and trying to find ways to keep our children safe.  Actually, the more that I think about it, I'm not so sure the sleep thing will ever change.  I think parents in general must lie awake at night worrying about their kids.  Goodness knows, I spend just as much time thinking about Monkey and Heaven and the kids as I do thinking about Bug.  Guess that's called being a mom...  :-)

There's so much to look forward to when Bug is legally forever mine.  I'm almost afraid to dream too big, but things are looking promising.  Maybe...  Just maybe...  I'll get my honest to goodness, no matter what, "forever" after all.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

And the Winners Are...

And the winners of the Fundraiser Giveaway are:

Karen A.
Rosa M.
Diane D.

I will be contacting each of you directly to work out delivery of your prize(s). CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who donated and shared the word about Dude and Dolly's Fundraiser! We are only $1,585 (317 puzzle pieces) away from our ultimate goal. Please continue to sponsor puzzle pieces over the next two weeks. I would LOVE to have the puzzle completed before the next big court date on July 15th.
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