Lizzy got so mad at me about this whole sitting on the potty thing that she screamed and cried so hard she broke a few small blood vessels on the top of her cheeks. She has done this one other time and it floors me every time.
Two out of the last three Christmas' we spent living like a foster family.
2009: Our first foster child is granted a 2 night visit with her bio family (her FIRST overnight visit ever mind you). She left on Christmas Eve and returned the day after Christmas. We didn't see her at all on Christmas. This child that lived with us and on every other day that year and was treated as our child did not get to spend Christmas with us.
We also had our second foster son living with us at the time. He was 4 years old and very potty trained, but during his nap on Christmas Day he decided to pee his pants and not tell anyone (and we did not notice) until we had arrived at my in law's house for dinner...with no change of clothes of course. We ended up driving back to our home and missing most of dinner so that we could get him changed.
Welcome to caring for traumatized children.
2010: We had 3 foster children living with us (none of which were with us the last year) and one child that we thought we were going to adopt visiting with us. One of our foster children was allowed to go visit her bio family for Christmas, but many stipulations were in place. Number 1 was that she could NOT spend the night with them and if we were not willing to transport there would be no visit. Her social worker (we are talking about Lizzy by the way) called me after the lawyer had already called me and told me what was really going on and tried to tell me that Lizzy was going to have a 3 hour visit on Christmas. I said no. I was NOT going to spend my Christmas transporting her to and from a visit. I told the social worker she could either go very early and come home very late so that it did not effect my other children's Christmas or I wasn't doing it. She kept trying to make me do what she wanted me to do, but I just told her no. She finally gave in and said I could do what I wanted. I met up with her bio mom and dad early Christmas morning (which they also tried to get me to do it later, but I told them no) and then picked her up when they called and asked me if I could pick her up early (because it ended up working out ok for us to do that, other wise I would have said no).
That was the first time I ever told anyone "No" when it came to these crazy visits that they came up with.
2011: This was our first year doing foster care that we had to do nothing concerning visits or anything. It was REALLY nice. Lizzy's bio dad texted me and I just texted him back and told him I was too busy to talk. He texted me later in the evening and I ignored him. I'm sorry, but I am having issues with him right now. When my husband called him to tell him that Lizzy was not allowed to see anyone now that the visits were canceled and he tried to give my husband an attitude when my husband told him "We will NOT be doing anything that could jeopardize Lizzy" I am not as sympathetic towards him as I have been in the past. He needs to worry about what is best for HER, not how he wants things to be. Anyway, Lizzy's mom called the morning after Christmas. I spoke with her briefly. Mostly she wanted to know what Lizzy got for Christmas. I have noticed that she has a "thing" about this. Last Christmas and at her birthdays she seems to get a lot of satisfaction from all the loot Lizzy gets and I think she tries to brag about it to her family...as if it shows how well taken care of she is or something. I don't know.
Anyway, It was nice to have a visit free Christmas...after the last two we needed it.
We had a great time seeing Sabrina the other night. She was SO excited to see us. She kept looking for me. When I got there she gave me a big hug then hopped into our car and had to sit as close to my son as possible. It was adorable.
When we got to the mall she hopped out of the car and searched me out to hold my hand on our way in. It has been a while since she acted like that. I think she always felt like she was betraying her mom. She seems like she has been able to move past that and I am so glad.
When we are together I tend to pay way more attention to mom than to Sabrina. I have always tried to make her feel welcome and included. This visit was SO nice because mom acted practically normal. That sounds like no big deal, but it really is. She held a great conversation and wasn't too socially awkward like she normally is. She is still a step or two away from what I would call "normal", at least behavior wise, but she seems to be doing better mentally.
Sabrina was also acting more normal which I was happy about. She seemed more calm and less ready to throw a huge fit at her mom. I was really proud of her. She did have a moment or two where she was trying to be the boss of her mom, but it could have been worse. During those moments I try to support her mom by letting her know that my kids behave that way too sometimes and that when we are out we just have to have a united front.
We try to spoil them both when we come to visit. We got them dinner and then paid for all the kids to ride the carousel (twice) and for all the kids to go on this little train too. Mom always tells me that she is broke before we come and I always tell her not to worry about it. I know she really is broke.
It was also neat to hear that Sabrina's grandma's work all got together and bought Sabrina a ton of stuff for Christmas. They had just given it all to her the day we came over and she was wearing a whole brand new outfit. At first I was sad that she is "that kid" from "that family"...you know, the ones that can't afford their own Christmas. Then I just decided to be thankful that God has brought other people into their lives that want to help them. Sabrina's mom also told me that some one has been leaving one gift a day at their door step. It started 12 days before Christmas. It sounded like it was a neat thing for them to have happen and I was glad to see all these people that God is using to brighten their lives.
Sabrina's mom told me, "She asks for you guys EVERY SINGLE DAY. A day doesn't go by that she doesn't talk about you." It has been around 14 months since she left our home. It has been around 4 months since we came to see her and hearing that really made me think about how much more effort I need to put into making her a priority. They live an hour from our home and when we go to see them we need to plan on paying for everything. So it isn't the easiest thing in the world, but I will be trying to make it out there once a month to go see our girl who just will not stop asking for us.
I have been wanting to call Sabrina's mom and arrange to get together with them before Christmas comes and goes. I have been SO busy I hadn't had any time to call her.
Yesterday I texted every number I had for them and it seemed that all their phones had been disconnected. I was a little bummed out (would have been more bummed out if I didn't have their address and could run over there when ever I felt like it), but I also thought maybe it was time to move on and let them move on.
Well, this morning I was deleting those numbers out of my phone and when I got ready to delete some old phone numbers of Lizzy's mom out of my phone I saw a number saved under "Sabrina's mom"...I texted it. I got a text right back from Sabrina's mom. I couldn't help but smile.
I texted her with "Are you free tonight? Want to get together?" and she texted back "Sabrina's been asking about you guys, she would love to."
That is why I try. That is why all these people have my phone number. That is why I talk to them and get to know them. That is why I put myself out there.
Because tonight I get to spend the evening with a little girl who spent 16 months in my house living as my daughter. She still asks about me. I still love her. She lives with someone else, but that doesn't change the fact that she was my first daughter and there is nothing that changes that.
I just received paper work in the mail saying Lizzy's termination trial has been scheduled for January 12th, 2011 at 10 am!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Who would have thought.....
I hope this is a quick thing that ends up the way that is best for Lizzy. Because both parents like to only attend the hearings via the phone (as in, not in person, but on speak phone from where ever they are at the time) the Judge said that if they did not come in person they would not need to participate because they are too distracting on the phone. (They like to sit there IN COURT, ON SPEAKER PHONE and fight with each other in front of everyone and when the judge tells them to be quiet they don't listen)
So, a few weeks ago my hubby and I were talking. I brought up how we had an open spot for a foster child in our home.
(we had initially put a "do not call" on our home because I only wanted little ones and the Dr. had put me on lifting restrictions because of being pregnant)
Well, we started kicking around the idea of letting them know that we felt like we could probably take a 3-4 year old little girl because their wouldn't be much lifting involved with that age.
That conversation happened and so did other things and I never did call to open our home back up. This morning I got that nagging feeling. The one you get when, perhaps, God is trying to get your attention. I had a horrible morning and was not feeling well and all I could think about was a child that might need a home, our home.
So, in the middle of working on a business project, I waddled my pregnant self out to the kitchen to hunt down my cell phone and called. Big shocker that I actually reached who I wanted to speak with immediately...you know, unlike if I needed a child moved or something. Anyway, I told him about the 3-4 yr old girl, which he noted next to our name...and then...
You know what is coming next.
The opposite of what I had called about.
He asked me if I might be willing to do respite care for a 1 year old, 2 year old and 5 year old over Christmas for 7 days. Their bio mom refuses to let them go our of state with their foster family for the holidays. So, pending a hearing that was called to see if a judge will over rule the bio mom (which I hope happens) I am cautiously awaiting a phone call telling me that we will have 3 extra little faces for Christmas...pending my husband killing me for saying I would even consider it.
Today is not about waiting to see if Lizzy's biological mom or legal dad are coming for a visit.
It is not about clearing my whole schedule in case they decide they want to show up.
It is not going to consist of me calling her social worker to see if she has heard from them.
It has nothing to do with them today.
It is amazing how much that changes MY life on Mondays. I can sit down to do something and not worry I will have to stop to run Lizzy to her visit. I don't have to bump up her nap time by an hour in hopes she will get a decent nap before the visit. I don't have to worry about washing her from head to toe (especially her mouth) immediately after getting out of the visitation room. I don't have to check her for fleas sometime today.
Today is Lizzy's birthday, her second birthday that she will celebrate in foster care...technically. She is here at home with us and was for the 2nd one too, so at least her memories will not be tied up in paperwork like my memories are.
Today, her bio mom called to talk to her.
I am a coward.
I had my husband call her back and say, "Here, you can say happy birthday to Lizzy and then I need to talk to you." He let her talk to Lizzy and then told her what the lawyer and social worker told me...that there is to be no more contact.
I listened from behind a closed door and my heart raced. Her mom acted like it was nothing and said ok. I know she probably got off the phone and cried. She has had to act so tough her whole life and she holds it in until she explodes.
Then my husband called her bio dad. He told him what was going on and bio dad kept trying to say that it didn't apply to him because he wasn't part of this case. My husband said that regardless of anything we will not be jeopardizing Lizzy's life (getting moved to another home or things of that nature) by doing things that the lawyer and social worker told us not to because we have to do what is best for her. Bio dad acted as though he didn't understand...which he doesn't. He thinks the most important thing is for Lizzy to be able to see him...or maybe the opposite, for him to be able to see Lizzy.
From day 1 this is the issue that my husband has had with them. They are willing to risk Lizzy's life being flipped upside down so that THEY get what they want. They don't focus on what is best for her, keeping her safe and with people she knows, it is about them.
It is so hard because I would let them see her, but is that worth risking Lizzy loosing everything she knows as normal? Loosing everyone that she loves? They just don't get it.
I told my husband that I was sorry that I planned the party, especially after him not wanting to. I am glad that it presented the opportunity to HAVE to tell them how things were going to HAVE to be. I never dreamed that the lawyer would call me up and tell me that none of them were allowed to see her. I thought visits would go on until TPR.
What a sad day to have to hear all of that. Can you imagine on your child's birthday you hear that you cannot see her.
Monday, for the visit, mom was a no call no show. Didn't call me or the agency. She called me on Tuesday, which I missed, and I called her back today and she was just confirming the time of the party on Sunday.
Legal dad did come. Holy. Cow. I do not know what he has been doing for the last 6 weeks, but I seriously think he may be officially homeless now.
I can guarantee you that in the past two weeks he has not:
Brushed his teeth
or taken a shower
Seriously, it was BAD. He stunk up the whole waiting room. He was acting weird and must have forgotten that he was mad at me because he actually talked to me. I don't know what happened to him, but he did not look this way 6 weeks ago.
6 weeks ago he was out of it, like he was on drugs, but he was MUCH cleaner than this. The social workers have complained about how bad he smells before, but this was the first time I noticed it like this. I seriously think he may be homeless. And may be on LOTS of drugs.
Of course, Legal dad is "coming" to this visit...unless they call me and tell me that something happened between now and 1 pm.
He is such a shady one, this legal dad wouldn't miss this visit...you know, there is court this week so that should be enough to keep this case going even though the rest of the time he doesn't want to see her...jerk.
Anyway, Carol mentioned something on the last post that is true. The GAL, or lawyer as I refer to him, is supposed to visit the child AT least one in between court dates...up until the last court date that I took Lizzy with me to, he had NEVER SEEN HER. He has been her voice in court for 15 months and has never met her. Under the circumstances, he has done an ok job communicating with me and if I was being totally honest I would tell you that the first time he ever called me he told me that he would probably not visit her because she was placed out of county. Nice.
Over all I don't want to complain about him though because out of my 7 kids he has done the best job. There is not much to compare him to...but oh well.
Today is the last "visit" day before court on the 15th.
I wonder who is going to come. After last week when Dad had transportation drive an HOUR to come get him and then never showed up to get in the car and actually have his visit I wonder if the agency is going to try again for this week.
I will call around noon to find out. I don't think that mom will come, she is planning on coming to Lizzy's birthday party this Sunday so I am pretty sure she will skip out on this one too. She has come to one visit in the past three months and the last couple have been recorded as "no call no show" because she refuses to call the worker to tell her she isn't coming, she only calls me.
Court should be interesting. I have a feeling it will be pretty lame BUT I think I will still go so that I hear what is going on myself. When I call to ask about the visit today I will also ask the worker about court...I know the time and date, but will confirm that and will also ask her if she turned in the report that she was supposed to and what the status of the petition for termination is. That should be interesting.
I also guess I better put in a call to her lawyer to remind him to call me before court too....
This whole bio parent thing is not something my husband and I agree on. I don't think he is wrong, I just think that I am closer to that part of Lizzy's life so it is different for me than it is for him.
My husband is disgusted by their actions. He has every right to be. Bio mom, for example, could come see Lizzy every week if she wanted to, but she doesn't. That is her choice. Based on this, my husband cannot understand why it is then on us to make special allowances for her to see Lizzy at other times if she doesn't even care enough to show up to the other visits.
He is right.
Yesterday when I called him to ask if he would totally be against me letting them see her for her birthday/Christmas he was not at all thrilled with this idea. He has a very hard time making allowances for people who truly make no effort towards this child that he now feels like is HIS child.
He is right.
By the end of the conversation I told him that I needed time to think about if I really wanted to try to get him to agree to this because it is always me asking him to change his stance and that didn't seem fair and maybe I was wrong. At that point he decided to agree to a party at McDonalds for an hour. That seemed more than fair to me.
I only tell this story because I am sure that there are other people in situations like ours that have to deal with this stuff within their marriage as well. It is hard to lobby against your own husband for people who have not earned it. It is hard, as a husband I am sure, to watch people use and abuse your wife and her sympathy for them AND watching those same people not think about their biological child that lives with you as your daughter.
I can tell that my husband and I will never be on exactly the same page, but I think that we do balance each other out in this situation. He is the voice of reason and I am the easily manipulated voice of compassion. I need him and he needs me.
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I saw this post and it made me think about what I may end up going through with Lizzy once all these visits are done and over.
When Lizzy was first force to be in the visitation room with her Legal dad (who she did not know) she would literally have to be dragged in there kicking and screaming by the social worker. One day as I watched her face turn blue as she screamed and clung to my leg I said very loudly "THIS IS NOT RIGHT!!!"
Lizzy's social worker at the time then told the "higher ups" that I was being uncooperative. That was a fun meeting. I got the last laugh though when I told them everything the worker had been doing and they ended the meeting telling me "Please don't feel like you are in trouble" and "We will be addressing these matters with her."
AND better yet was the day they had a special court hearing to address this issue of her being scared and the JUDGE looked at the worker and said "This DEFINITELY should have been brought to my attention." because she had not brought up this issue at all to the court, I had through Lizzy's lawyer.
I am so glad that worker is gone. She did nothing but damage this case.
Anyway, when I read the post that I linked above it was a good reminder of what situations like this do to the kids long term.
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My first experience with Christmas and Foster care was devastating to me...at the time.
Sabrina was granted her first unsupervised visit with her mom ON Christmas. Not only was it her first unsupervised visit, it was for TWO over nights, the night before Christmas and Christmas night.
Oh how I cried. I just didn't see it coming at all. I thought because she had NEVER had an unsupervised visit that the court would not do that, but they did.
From what I have seen where I live, the courts seem to let the sentiment of the holiday perhaps skew their view of what is safe and what is not. They seem to think that because it is Christmas "it will be fine". In retrospect, I am glad that Sabrina got to be with her mom on Christmas ONLY because she WAS eventually returned to her, 8 months after wards to be exact.
Was it a "safe" decision? I don't think so.
Was it a "Christmas miracle" for that family? I think it may have been.
Looking back it is easier to think that it wasn't the worst decision that the court could have made, but on the other hand, it has made me VERY scared of the decisions that the courts make around the holidays.
For example, there is NO reason why Lizzy would have a visit on Christmas with ANYONE...but, I still worry that somehow it would get granted if someone asked for one just because of the holidays. I wasn't planning on going to the next court hearing (Dec. 15), but now I am pretty sure I will just to make sure I am there to speak up if that comes up at ALL.
What have your Christmas experiences been with foster care?
*Today is the dreaded visit day. Mom claims she has to work (yeah, I bet) and Legal dad is coming because court is right around the corner. I am trying to remind myself that this is foster care still, but I am so mad that he is doing this. :(
*Today's visit didn't happen. The agency's transportation drove an HOUR to go pick up Legal dad...and he never showed up. I guess he later called and said he had the time mixed up. The social worker was NOT happy and didn't accept his excuse. The visit was cancelled.
Mom was a no call no show, according to the agency because she refuses to call THEM and not just me. Mom did call me and left me a voice mail that sounded like she was still in bed.
To the social worker's credit, she called me before I left the house to come to the visit, which I thanked her for several times.