My life always has an interesting story, never stagnant, always something, whether it’s funny, annoying, productive or inspiring. Never stale, never boring. It occurred to me today that I should blog this stuff so that I can go back some day and read about the chaos that I live through every day and also remember the joys that I get to experience through this thing called motherhood and life.
So just to catch you up…my husband and I and our three children took in a foster child 7.5 months ago (in June). She’s great! She’s a beautiful little girl full of life, smart and is almost better behaved than our own children. Over the course of the past 7.5 months, we have had ups and downs and all sorts of crazy happenings with being foster parents. We’ve watched mom go through extreme lows (including drug addictions and attempted suicide) to normal highs (not with drugs, but with life and picking up those broken pieces and beginning to put them back together) to dad who was making a very minimal effort to show up for his weekly visits to not being reachable via phone or email at all and essentially hasn’t made an attempt to see his daughter since November (it’s February).
This little girl has been in the foster system for almost one full year this month! We have seen her blossom in ways that DCS didn’t think she could. When she came to us, she had been in the foster system for 4 months and we were her third placement. She was initially placed with an uncle who failed a drug test, then went to grandma and grandpa’s where things were a little more normal, or so they seemed. When the grandparents wouldn’t leave her side during DCS visits, it became evident that something was going on, including dad staying with the grandparents (which wasn’t allowed). There was domestic abuse happening in this home too, along with drugs. Sadly, she had to be taken from her grandparents’ care and brought to us.
She was having nightmares and couldn’t sleep by herself. Her grandma gave her a plate full of food at bedtime and a phone and tablet to comfort her until she fell asleep. She came to us with two large cavities, one of which required a baby root canal and a cap. At first, she slept in the same bed as our daughter until she had been with us for a couple of weeks and was comfortable enough to begin sleeping in a bed by herself. She has only had one nightmare in the 7.5 months she’s been with us and sleeps in a bed by herself EVERY NIGHT! She goes to bed with clean teeth, no snacks, no electronics. After just a couple of weeks, she began to relax and play and laugh like she hadn’t done in the 4 months before being placed with us.
So fast forward to now…mom has been clean for 6 months, she’s been succeeding in the umpteen million classes and programs she’s been placed in, has filed a no contact order against the father, and is beginning to get a glimpse of getting her life back. This is fantastic for her! She has now earned the opportunity to have semi-supervised visits with her daughter, only requiring a visit supervisor to be there on site for 15 min of each hour. Her daughter can ride with her to go places during their visit time and gets to do somewhat normal things again as long as they are following the guidelines and parameters given and she is being accountable to DCS and the visit supervisor.
What I didn’t realize about being a foster parent is that it would break me. I knew it would be difficult, but dang! not THIS difficult! I am a strong-willed mom who accomplishes most tasks I’m given – I survived cancer while raising 3 children, getting a master’s degree and working full time. I’ve got this “mom thing” down! Or so I thought. What I didn’t realize when I started this journey is that taking in another little human being to care for (even though she isn’t from my very own womb) is pretty much equivalent to birthing my own child. I am protective, I am loving, and I am not about to let others hurt her, manipulate her or us, or make plans for her that aren’t executed well and could bring potential harm to her.
The current caseworker is filling in for our regular caseworker while she is on maternity leave. The fill-in caseworker does well with managing the birth parents and progressing them through the system; however, he is overloaded with other children in the foster system and trying to manage everyone’s schedules and reunification plans for each of them as well.
So, here we are, mom is ready to start semi-supervised visits, but we don’t have a plan for who is picking up/dropping off, where we are supposed to pick up from, who the visit supervisor will be, contact info for the visit supervisor (because it’s supposed to be someone different than before), a booster seat for mom to be able to transport to/from visits and actually go out into public. Can you hear my stress level rising? I can!
We survived through the first day of semi-supervised visits thanks to the previous visit supervisor agreeing to fill in until after we have a team meeting with all of the key people involved, and for agreeing to pick the child up from daycare and transport her to mom’s apartment for us. We’ve had one semi-supervised visit and I already lost my sh*t! I freaked out because of the lack of communication and planning for this child and her visits with mom. The only people on board 100% with this new plan are the mom and the case manager. Everyone else feels the way I do…we need to have a meeting with everyone involved FIRST to make sure everyone is on the same page BEFORE launching this into action. However, instead…I’m sitting over here – eye twitching, stomach in knots, fighting off anxiety attacks, sending freak-out texts to the case manager, cradling the idea of cancelling the visits until we have a meeting.
Why did I freak out so bad? This all is happening after not being communicated to about the fully supervised visits being extended from 2 hours to 3 hours a couple of months ago. Well guess what? The times everyone else agreed on for us to pick her up don’t work with our schedule. Um, don’t you think that since we are to provide transportation for her that we should be included in a meeting when times and dates of visits are changing?!?!?! This is why I lose my sh*t! Um yes, it’s happened more than once!
So, when you get on board to be a foster parent, I’m warning you that the train is rocky and rusty and feels like you will be on a long ride. While this ride is long, it’s rewarding, and it makes me happy to know that we are making a positive difference in this child’s life. Does it terrify me to think about her being reunited with her birth mom? Yes, to the point where I lose my sh*t. But I know that she has 8 hours a day at a safe place called school with friends and “siblings” like my children who she can trust and she knows well. She knows that our home is safe and she is always welcome in it. And she now knows what it looks like and feels like to have a family that loves her, loves God and has her best interest in mind. She has a family that will fight for her and who will lose their sh*t when things aren’t going according to the safest plan. So is it worth it? YES!