Posts Tagged 'kids'

Was That It?

Like the three that came before, we didn’t plan these children.  And, like the others, we wanted them very much once we found out they would become part of our family.  The waiting was a little longer this time though; I could have had three more babies from the time our girls first came to live with us until the day their adoption became final.

While I gained the inevitable weight that comes with pregnancy, the journey this time through the famously flawed foster care system helped me to lose weight.  Of course I’m older now than I was when my boys were little, but I’ve learned that most kids in “the system” require a little more effort than the ones the stork brings.  You may have to “undo” some bad habits, teach things they should have learned long before, reassure them and comfort them above and beyond what your own newborn ever required.  In addition, you have many different appointments and visitations to cram into your schedule.  Neglected teeth may require extensive dental work; poor nutrition or general lack of health care may have you spending hours in doctors’ waiting rooms.  And unless they’re placed while very young, they almost always are referred for counseling.  These poor babies don’t understand why they’re separated from their families (even dysfunctional families are sorely missed by their children) and often they are moved several times from stranger to stranger, requiring them to adapt to new schools and different family rules.  Is it any wonder they act out in frustration and anger?  The kids can keep you jumping!  But they are the easy part in the equation.

Don’t consider fostering if you relish your privacy.  Just to be considered, every facet of your life will be pried into and investigated.  You will be asked where you resided and with whom you lived with for the past 30 years.  They will do a background check and fingerprint every person living in your home.  Each year they want copies of your pay stubs, W-2’s, car registrations, and home and auto insurance policies.  It’s amazing that an inappropriate foster parent slips through these rigorous background checks!

Once a child is placed, you can expect weekly home visits and phone calls from at least one caseworker.  We didn’t work directly with the county so we had our agency caseworker and a county caseworker.  They are supposed to be there not only to ensure the safety of the child, but to guide and help the foster parents.  Sadly, this is just a dream.  In our experience, most of the caseworkers knew less than we did.  At least we knew how to raise kids!  They often couldn’t even help us with the things we needed to know about the foster care rules–which was supposed to be their area of expertise.  Even the few who actually cared often gave us wrong information or didn’t know enough to guide us to resources that I somehow managed to find on my own through dumb luck or sheer desperation!  Yet we were expected to complete all of our paperwork and monthly trainings on time–while taking good care of our kids, getting them to bi-weekly family visitations an hour away, and breaking in brand-spanking new caseworkers every few months.

The adoption process was even more intense.  Even though our kids had lived with us pretty much for the past two-and-a-half years and we were currently approved foster parents, we had to get more references, more background checks and fingerprinted again.  We had home inspections requiring the craziest things (like all meds–even refrigerated Amoxicillin that the kids may be taking–had to be in a separate LOCKED container) and weekly visits with an adoption caseworker (thank goodness my agency found this wonderful knowledgeable woman they hired as an independent contractor who led us through this whole process because our agency didn’t know squat and we never saw or heard from our county worker). We waited…and waited…to get our adoption date after completing all the requirements.  We signed the papers at the attorneys office.  We waited some more–pretty much giving up on the hope that it would take place before the end of the year has it had been semi-promised.

We finally got the call in mid-December.  One week before Christmas (and five days after hubby’s knee replacement surgery) we took the hour drive with a borrowed Handicapped placard so I could park across the street from the courthouse and help Big Daddy hobble to the door with our girls in their pretty dresses and tights.  We signed some papers.  We each sat at the witness stand and answered some questions.  Bonus Child hugged and clung to me while we sat and listened to Big Daddy answer his questions.  A caseworker led Bonus Baby to a back room to color when she got too antsy to sit still.  We got some pictures with the judge.  And it was over.  Months of prep.  A half-hour in court.  The girls are legally ours!

Bonus Baby flashed the biggest smile when I told her she’d never have to see another caseworker.  And last week, when I called her my little friend, she looked at me like I was nuts and said, “I’m not your friend, I’m your daugh-ter”, dragging out the last word slowly and deliberately just in case her poor mommy was too dumb to understand.

Two Years

It’s almost exactly two years to the day that two precious little girls came to live with us.  In less than four days, we’ll find out if they’ll be staying with us for good.  I could have never imagined, in my wildest daydreams, all the amazing, funny, scary, stressful and joyful events that have been jam-packed into these two years.

The journey wasn’t supposed to take this route.  The plan was to keep using our very kid-friendly home to its fullest advantage by temporarily taking in a foster child or two for a few months here and there.  Our three boys were all still home, but only during college breaks or in between Army-reserve deployments and trainings.  It was getting quiet.  I was getting lazy.  And Big Daddy and I were disgusted when we read about some poor kids that had been mistreated while in foster care.  (With all the background checks and monitoring that goes on, this is not what usually happens–but sadly kids do get placed into inappropriate homes!)  The ad looking for foster parents just seemed to jump off the page while I was looking for a temporary job to fill up my time between tax seasons. 

The kids all thought it would be pretty cool to have a “little brother” around.  We all assumed we’d be getting a boy even though Big Daddy and I had only mentioned we’d prefer an elementary school-aged child with mild to no behavioral problems, although our boys had written on their little survey that they’d prefer a boy. I loved having sons and never even had any desire to have a daughter.  I never imagined having a house full of glitter and baby dolls–and actually enjoying it!

I remember asking the first guy from our agency that came to do the initial home evaluation and application what the kids call the foster parents when they come to live with them.  “Mom” and “Dad” didn’t seem right to me since most of these kids have moms and dads, yet I didn’t know if the kids would feel weird calling us by our first names and it seemed to undermine the position of authority I thought we should have as guardians and disciplinarians.  I don’t remember what his reply was but I DO remember him saying that usually the very little ones just say mom and dad.  I thought that was kind of cute, and sad, but I wasn’t planning on getting a “little” one so it didn’t really apply to me.

I introduced myself as “Miss Leslie” to the girls.  Bonus Child refrained from calling us anything for the first week or so.  She quickly made excuses for her little sister that first week when the little Cherub called me “mommy” the first time.  Bonus Child froze when she heard that, her brown eyes darting glances between me and Big Daddy to see if we’d heard it, then apologetically explaining that her sister was still little and sometimes little kids get confused.  I think she thought we’d be angry, when in fact I was starting to fall in love with that little baby.  My heart was also going out to Bonus Child, the big sister who always looked after her younger siblings.  Neither one ever called me “Miss Leslie” but I do occasionally get called by my first name, most often by Bonus Baby, when I don’t hear her calling for me or if she’s peeved at me, which happens quite often.  Bonus Baby is not quite a baby anymore.  She’s gone from a diaper-wearing weapon of mass destruction to a kindergarten-bound girl with lots of attitude.  She’s quite like a rebellious teen with PMS in a toddler-sized body. 

The ride with Bonus Child has been a little slower, but also a little bumpier.  There was a lot more baggage weighing things down.  But we’ve come to a wonderful place, and I finally know what it’s like to have a daughter.  I feels so honored that she’s let her guard down enough to allow herself to finally be mothered.  I love to hear her giggle and sing in the shower and just be a kid. 

I know how things should end up this week. But there’s still no guarantee.  Stupid mistakes are made. But like I wrote in the letter to Bonus Child after the CYS supervisor realized that perhaps they should have never played Russian Roulette with these girls’ lives and removed them from a home where they were cared for and loved–“you will always be our daughters–even if you don’t live in the same house with us”.  And this is the honest truth.

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