We have a date

On June 11, A moves in with us. After 6 months of visits we are making the transition to being a family. PA agreed to take custody of her and now the states are figuring out the transfer of her insurance and other administrative things. She will finish school on June 8th and then have the weekend to pack up and say her goodbyes. We are waiting to hear back from the school district about registration. There are so many administrative parent things I need to do!

I feel nervous more than anything. I’m anxious about her feelings and ability to relax and care for herself amidst all this. Everyone talks about letting kids have their feelings and learn to move through disappointment or difficult times. I don’t know how to watch her struggle like I think she will. After several years in the same home and her entire life in the same community, this is going to be hard. Though she knows us we aren’t as predictable to her as her foster mother. I worry about my own emotions as we adjust to adding a member to our daily lives but I worry about her more.

There have been issues with her foster mother recently opening up visits with her first family. On Monday we attended a hearing where the judge issued a stay away order against all natural relatives. He was clear the foster mom will face repercussions if she continues this contact. I think she is trying to give A space to say goodbye or whatever before she moves but it has likely been what has caused her regressing with us. I’m really annoyed that this contact started so close to her moving in with us. We can never compete with the love for her family and we wouldn’t even try. But we do need to bond with her and help her feel secure in our family.

I am going to be a mother person but I bristle when someone calls me mom. Is that normal? I don’t ever expect A to call me mom so other people saying that is weird.

This photo was taken on a dog walk last weekend.

Advertisements

10 days later

Sometimes life hands you hurricanes and you just brace yourself knowing that you will get through the storm. That’s where I’m at in life right now.

Things with A are getting more real and the closer we get to her moving in, she feels the changes coming. Some of her reactions are increasingly difficult to witness and process afterward. After we were given the news that we are one step closer with the adoption, we asked her team not to tell her so that we could ask her to adopt us. Knowing things she has said about adoption we knew we couldn’t do something like “will you be my daughter” so we approached it with ” will you adopt us, we’d like to join your family.”

That approach didn’t fly with her either. She read the card we left for her and said “what the hell is that” and then proceeded to get more and more upset about adoption. We explained that we know she has a lot of people she cares about and we would like to join that tribe. This conversation was really awkward and tense, I must confess. She asked questions and we asked questions and in the end she shrugged, said she was uncomfortable and said “okay, sure” before walking off to eat her feelings.

She, naturally, does not believe us and questions our intentions. She has had a lot of neglect and let downs by people she trusts and we are just more adults who say we will do right by her but actually we won’t. She can’t see beyond today and believes she has no chance at a future. She has said that she won’t be happy as the years go on and how annoyed she is when people tell her she will find happiness some day. We are reading up on and trying to focus on reflexive and empathetic listening/response rather than assurances that we aren’t the same as “those people.” It’s hard though.

A is really good at giving the cold shoulder and acting like a cool cucumber. I have learned it’s hard to be in a car for 2 hours with someone who is ignoring you. As a result of these tantrums and her increased stress, we told her team that we do not want to take her to Alabama. I don’t think she can make it in a car for 14hrs one way. Car rides are definitely not her thing and it is awful to deal with that level of negative energy for so long. I also worry about her being emotionally and socially exhausted by dad’s memorial, the car ride, and my relatives. Her adoption worker agrees that it is a lot of new things all at once and her foster worker says that we can’t back out now because we told her she was going with us. So they are not on the same page but we are positive that it’s not a good idea to pull her into that emotional time in our lives. I don’t want to add any strain on our budding relationship. Things are tough as it is and adding new layers is not going to make it easier.

I’ve been stuck in my own feelings for the past 24 hours, including a little hyperventilation after the visit was over. I was relieved and it was really hard to be okay with my feelings as they were at the moment. Today was a struggle as I have been feeling overwhelmed about her reactions and my reactions. Plus add in friends who are constantly judging my every move and I’m drowning. It really feels like I can’t do anything right and that’s hard for me. I need a win, just one little win.

Nobody tells you that you can survive it when you are at the hardest moment. They just say “this shit is hard.”

When the phobes descend on your family

This post contains a lot of info not previously disclosed. I’d appreciate it if you know us in real life – please do not share this on my facebook or refer to this information. 

We had our first overnight visit with A this weekend. Things are moving fast towards April 12th- the day we are presented to the adoption committee for approval.

On Thursday I was given the email address of A’s twin. Yes, our daughter is a solo twin. Her sister, S, was adopted in December by a family that can provide her with what she needs. The agency that works with the girls thought it would be a good idea that our family and theirs get to know one another as we near adoption. The other family has known the girls for at least a year, I think longer than that. I did a quick Facebook scan of the family and realize I HATE THEM! They boast about creating an “army for Jesus” with regards to adopting foster kids. They have a set of twins they adopted, S, and 2 biological children. They are very religious, VERY RELIGIOUS, and that’s just where they are coming from. I can’t do much about their beliefs but I guess I just have to love them through it. The dad posted an anti-trans joke and something along the lines of “kids today don’t know their gender and eat tidepods” which I didn’t think was particularly funny. Also so many videos posted publicly of aborted babies and pro-gun things. These are all things that I’m NOT comfortable with. These parents want to arm the school teachers to protect the kids.

So, I freak out (like you do) that these people are going to find out about us and tell S she can’t see A and cause a whole big barrier between the girls. After I freaked out, I emailed the mom. She responded pretty quickly with excitement about connecting with me and telling me a little about her experience with S and A. She throws in there that my kid triggers her kid and I get offended but through further emails with her I learn they have a really hard time with S. She was recently diagnosed with reactive attachmend disorder (RAD) and that she can be rather explosive. A had told us her sister could sometimes act out and that she had been in a child psych center at one point after running away. So I think when the twins are together they activate each others insecurities and their longing to be together- and then they are separated again and the devastation sets in. I cannot imagine what their daily situations are like knowing there is a person out there that they are so close to but who they can’t see regularly. It’s gotta be tough for a tween to have so many big feelings! Anyway, that family is weird but we are going to be tied to them for the rest of our lives so we are going to get our act together and have a coffee date with them soon and get the low down on the family history and info about the twins.

Meanwhile we had a visit with A Saturday night- Sunday afternoon. On the drive from her house to our house (1 hour) she told us she was worried we were too good to be true, that we have some fake side she hasn’t seen yet. We reassured her that we are just normal people and what she sees is what she gets. She shared that her foster grandmother told her to take precautions at our house because men will come into her room at night and do things she doesnt like. This was a WOAH moment for us as what adult says that to a kid?! We also assured her that Cole is not going into her room in the night. She asked if she could sleep in the livingroom instead of in her bedroom and I said sure, no need for her to be uncomfortable. In the end she did sleep in her own bedroom with Chewy. On Sunday she told me that her foster mom knows we are LGBT and she attributed it to her adoption worker telling her. She told me to talk to Mrs. Amy, her worker, to find out what really went down as she wasn’t really sure what was said between Mrs. Amy and her foster mom.

Today I email the visit update, like we have to do every time A visits. I mention the abuse questions and A’s nervousness. I also talked about some hygiene issues that we observed and discussed with her foster mom. The agency is REALLY concerned if someone is telling her to brace herself for abuse – and it really hinders her ability to bond with us. The immediate response was “we know we would all like a slow transition but maybe this needs to be faster” and I could read between the lines that they want to get her out of that house. I decide I need to call Mrs. Amy so we can discuss the fact that the foster mom knows our LGBT status and get some clarity on this “speed up transition” talk. We had a nice chat in which it was revealed that A outed us, I think in an attempt to convince foster mom that LGBT people can be good too. Anyway, her foster mom did not like what she heard and the conversation stopped immediately. Foster mom calls Mrs. Amy to the house to scream at her (literally) about how she doesn’t believe in that kind of thing. Mrs. Amy said it was BAD but that it doesn’t really matter because all of A’s team supports her transitioning to us as a permanent resource. That was reassuring but what the fuck do we do about the foster mom?! We had known that she was a homophobe even before we came out to A. We had a family plan not to tell the foster mom but A isn’t so good at keeping things to herself, she’s really honest about everything. (We reinforced that outing us isn’t always safe when we were talking yesterday but we will need to revisit that over and over again.) Mrs. Amy is concerned that her foster home is going to sabotage our bonding. With the abuse talk and the anti-LGBT stuff the foster family is going to make this transition way harder on her. In a time when she needs to be surrounded by love and people who support her, she’s being torn between really liking us and feeling like she has to deny us because her foster mom doesn’t approve. That isn’t healthy for a little kid. There is going to be a team meeting with us, Mrs. Amy, the attorney, the foster worker, and her therapist to discuss next steps. As we are the permanent resource we have more say than her foster mom. And given that right now foster mom might be detrimental to her mental health and attachment, I think they are going to move her soon.

I honestly hate this situation. As a parent figure, I feel like her foster mom is screwing her over royally but A really loves her anyway. She knows this mom more than any other person in her life, besides her twin. They’ve been together for years. As a gay person, I am really hurting about people who can’t accept us and I hurt for A who is bearing the brunt of this right now. As a social service worker, I feel like this kid has got to get out of there! I feel personally attacked and also like I have to protect her from these idiots. Not only do we now have to battle with super religious twin’s family but also with her foster family that loves her but who is trying to brainwash her that we are bad because we are queer. We are thinking that maybe they brought up the molestation thing because of that saying that transgender people are child molesters. It’s not a far jump from what A said and now knowing the full background, I have a better sense of things. That misrepresentation does NOT help us at all. We want to teach love and acceptance not hate and judgment.

Being a parent is hard even if your kid doesn’t live with you. Knowing that she’s in a home with an adult who is judging you is really hard. Knowing that the other parent is telling your kid you are bad for them, whether directly or indirectly, is fucked up. I am so upset by the adults in these situations but I’m trying to love them through it. Being angry won’t help A or help to grow these relationships with the important people in her life. Hopefully we find out soon when the team meeting is to discuss next steps and then, I imagine, we proceed with adoption and probably a move in sooner than June. Moving her before the end of school will really be a hassle but we will burn that bridge when we get to it. Ah, the life of a foster parent!

When things got real

Rereading my last post I hear some optimism there amidst the struggle. A few days later, everything had turned on its head. I had indeed been diagnosed with the flu and would get a secondary infection on top of that. Let me tell you, I was not at my parenting best.

We insisted that our foster child be removed on Friday. After a very traumatic visit with his mother on Wednesday this was not the same child we were bonding with. It’s really easy to fall in love with a kid. If you haven’t done it, you should try it. It’s also pretty easy for that delicate relationship to be ripped to shreds by forces outside of your control. His mother said something very specific to him about us that made him terrified of us and the only way he knew to deal with that was to physically act out. He didn’t just act out in the traditional ways associated with boys. He acted out aggressively against our pets, against me, and against Cole. There was only so much restraining we could do when he was in the throws of an episode. He would deliberate kick, punch, bite, and pinch us with the intentions of harm. This little guy ripped his room apart on more than one occasion. On the final day, we had removed almost everything from his room because he was tearing it all down.

There was a lot of verbal abuse, things I’ve never heard a kid say. He is really struggling with the emotions of being in care, of seeing his mom after a long separation, and of the cruelty of what she said to him in their brief encounter. Though he has been in care for a while, previous families had not brought to the agency’s attention that he struggles emotionally and with self regulation. No one but the school had made them aware that he is deeply angry and really needed some additional supports. There had been no referrals for behavioral health, therapy of any kind, so trauma assessment, nada. With no outlet to process what was going on, he literally exploded.

We just barely got him to school on Thursday. The school didn’t think he would make it home with us so we were escorted by the agency behavioral health worker. Let me tell you, getting him out of that school and into my car that day was an act of God that involved a lot of little helpers. It was really terrifying. The worker stayed for a few hours to get him calm so we could put him to bed. That was a rough night with he and I sleeping on the couch together at his insistence. Just what I needed when I was exhausted physically. On Friday, the school didn’t want him to come in so we kept him home. The behavioral health worker came over in the morning to check in. They left saying he was no imminent danger and have a good day. By now I had emailed our worker, his worker, and the supervisor. We were scared of this kid, felt like hostages in our own home, and knew that none of us were safe together. No one was listening to me. This entire experience came to a head when our kid threw a large heavy glass object across the living room. He also fought me, literally, just for the fun of it. All while calling me names I wouldn’t come up with for my worst enemy. The agency was refusing to remove him and we were out of options so we called the police. They were able to calm him down and talk to him about being respectful and following house rules. He even apologized to us. Then the call came that he was being moved. The worker told him over the phone and then told C. They also sent the same behavioral health worker out and her colleague, a mental health therapist. The team stayed with us until a transport worker came to get him. The transporter was not particularly friendly and was in a huge hurry because her shift was ending soon. She wouldn’t let him take anything but his football and one set of clothes. That has been continually stressful as I can’t imagine what it was like for him this weekend to have nothing of comfort. Just one set of clothes and lime green football.

They told us he would be going to a hospital to be assessed for commitment due to his behaviors. I doubt they kept him or really even assessed him, that’s my experience in the system. He’s also very young and they will chalk it all up to one thing or another. By now we assume he is in another foster home and settling in. We have asked where we can take his belongings but have been ignored by his worker. The behavioral health worker said someone would come by tomorrow to pick things up. We will see if that really happens.

This experience has been extremely overwhelming for us emotionally and physically. Our doctor prescribed us anti-anxiety meds on Friday to help us to relax and rest. It’s very hard to accept that you are a failed parent for a kid that clearly needs you. And to realize that a kid was hitting you, that’s really new to me, the feeling of abuse and knowing it’s coming from some deep fear and hurt. I don’t think we could have done anything different on our end. We gave everything we had for him to feel safe and cared for but we couldn’t combat the unforeseen factors. It will take quite some time for him to be able to work through the damage that has been inflicted on him by adults in his life. I hurt for him way more than I hurt for us right now.

In the deep end

We have an emergency placement kid with us right now. He is 8yrs old and really sweet mostly. He is also a terror half the time. I’m pretty sure he has ADHD but he has no IEP so no special services. K is going a hundred miles an hour all day and night. We have barely slept in 8 days. Last night I came down with what I think is the flu, the kid is sick, and my love had a panic attack. We are freaking out about parenting and we are exhausted by it. This is a temporary placement that needs a long term home but due to our pre-adoptive situation we cannot be a resource for K long term.

I never imagined all the things that could go awry with a foster kid. He has stripped naked in the middle of the street screaming I’m kidnapping him. He had tried to throw himself into traffic because he feels no one loves him. He gets angry at himself and packs his stuff to move out. He has a lot of negative reinforcement in his life at school and with previous foster family. We are working on building him up with positive messages and reassurances. But his school is one of those really awful ones where no one wants to work or focus on the kids, and it’s overcrowded. One employee called him names to us and it really jaded me about this place.

He needs love and kindness and attention. He does so well when someone is 1:1 with him reading or doing homework. He’s a lot of fun to play with and watch tv with. We are trying to prepare ourselves for when he leaves us and I can’t imagine how that’s going to suck. He will internalize it like he did something wrong, I just know it. They are trying to find a family of color so that he feels more confident. He has struggled with our whiteness and I can’t blame him. He has zero exposure to white people before us. It’s a new world for him.

Meanwhile we are floating along, hanging on by our toenails.I’ve never felt so inadequate or stressed as I do being a caregiver. It’s a constant stress that I can’t really explain. I’m sure other parents understand that weird anxiety under the surface constantly. Here’s hoping we can keep K safe and loved until his forever family is identified.

To be..parents

Today we got an email from the adoption worker for the child we met last month. They want us to have an all day date in January 13 in the child’s home community. Then a visit in our community after that. After those day visits they want to move to overnights.

Sounds great, right? Well, it would be if things seemed more organized. I have reservations about having overnight visits with a child that we are not officially matched with. We should have some information about the history before we all get attached, right? It feels like the child’s agency is moving past the administrative stuff and treating us like we are a sure thing. I have asked for clarity and what the steps forward will be. I have no reason to think we won’t be a match for adoptive placement but want all the cards on the table. 

I hope we get some clarity next week and that we have a great visit. 

Making lemonade

I can definitely see why so many people give up on being foster parents. The process is really frustrating just to get started. We’ve been dealing with our agency for 6 months now and we still aren’t technically foster parents. What we are is a pre-adoptive home. Our social worker wrote us a few days ago to say we have graduated from her services and our next agency contact person will be the matching coordinator.

Though we have been talking for 2 months about her getting us on the list for foster children, we are still being steered towards pre-adoptive only. Maybe this is a sign. Perhaps they think that we have more to offer a child/ren that need a forever home? I don’t know. I have been holding on to this frustration for months now and yesterday C and I finally talked it out. What do we want to do? Our options are (1) force them to start referring foster children to us or (2) bide our time until we are matched with kids and take it from there.

Option 1 pros: we’d get more familiar with the foster care system, would get to use our parenting skills, offer a refuge for kids in crisis or need of caregivers

Option 1 cons: if we take in fosters and then get matched, we’d likely have to remove the fosters to make room, we might have several kids in and out which would disrupt our adult routines/jobs, we might really get fed up with the agency and quit altogether

Option 2 pros: we’ll have a better chance of being able to offer kids a forever home, less in and out of short term foster kids, less time with daily/weekly agency contact once kids are placed and eventually adopted

Option 2 cons: we could end up matching on paper but not in person and that would disrupt the kids, we might be waiting months or years to be matched, our kid rooms sit empty

Given all the pros and cons that we considered, we decided not to force the agency to place foster children with us for short term stays. If there is a child that needs care long term, we will take that one child. We would like to reserve our other rooms for children that we match with. We don’t want to disrupt a settled foster kid for our pre-adoptive kids. We also don’t want to deal with our employers being difficult about needed time off for various kids if they were coming and going frequently.

So, we wait. We will sit tight and wait for the matching coordinator to call and start the process of pairing us with available children who we might click with. Then we’ll wait some more, probably a long while, to get the call that there are children whose parental requirements match up with who we are. This is not the decision that we started this process with and I’m still sitting on it to be sure that I feel okay with it. I know that I have so much energy for parenting and would love to help children. The truth is that I can’t save them all and I need to take a different perspective on the situation. Waiting for pre-adoptive kids isn’t a bad thing.

I know there is a lot to be said for “foster to adopt” and I understand the intricate issues and delicate nature of the term and people’s feelings about families who build their family this way. I hope that folks won’t be too hard on us for waiting for the right child who doesn’t have parent options on the horizon. I think that any child could benefit from our open and loving home environment, not to mention our cute dogs. We aren’t going to take anyone’s children away from them and if we ended up with a failed match, we are okay with that. Time isn’t that important and though we aren’t getting younger, we aren’t worried about not having time with kids that are in our home.

This was a hard decision for me, harder than for C, I think. I’m going to try not to look into the kids rooms too often so that I don’t get that empty feeling of “why aren’t there kids here.”