When Notice Comes Due: Grief and Loss with Foster Care

baby_FotorOctober 1st of last year, we took in a 4lb 2oz foster baby girl. She was the tiniest little thing. She was a preemie -about 6 weeks early. She grabbed our hearts and off we went to be her foster parents. Length of time unknown. Or as my daughter would say: till further notice.

For months we grew this baby girl. Night time we got up and feed her every 2 hours-then 3. Slowly she grew. Her plan for her future went in many different ways. That’s her story. But if nothing worked out in the end: we were prepared to adopted her-giving her the continued stability she already had with us. This sat in the back of our minds as everyone fell more in love with her.

Foster to adopt. The children we foster-if they come up for adoption we have the first choice of adopting if we we feel this is what is best for all in our family. This concept helps keep children in stable loving homes longer if possible. We have our three beautiful children through this way. While we don’t set out looking to adopt-God places them in our lives.

We have had foster children come into our home that didn’t stay. We have said goodbye to many. It doesn’t get easier.

This one was the hardest goodbye. The abruptness of it threw us. Yet we know in foster care, children can be moved just like that. We had little time to prepare ourselves. We found out at 2pm in court that the next morning our sweet foster baby was moving home, just about a year after moving in with us.

And just like that our family was broken. The kids cried. We cried. We held her, loved her, spoiled her, kissed her. We treasured every moment with her.

‘Till she was no longer ours.

My heart ached.

I was just sad.

I became numb.

It was like our world stopped.

Then I saw the words “God is Good all the time” and thought -yes. He is. Even in my sorrow I have to find goodness. I have to my strength in Him.

So we stayed busy. I read scripture and sang. I prayed-even when I had no words. God has a plan- I just have to wait and see. I called on trusted friends to help in my sadness.

Soon there was laughter. My kids were looking at pictures -smiling. We found that we had to trust that God was looking out for our sweet Squeakers, and that there were other children who needed us to help them along their way.

Foster Care comes with sorrow not only for the foster children, but for the foster families also.  When I teach perspective families, we teach them to treat the foster child like their own.  So many of us do.  And when they leave it is almost like a death.  We grieve.  Yet knowing these children are still out there.  Sometimes some foster families have the benefit to build relationship with the birth families-we did not have that benefit in terms of reunification. Grief and loss with foster care comes in many different forms and knowing that they are there will help foster families understand what it going on after the loss of a foster child.

God is Good all the time.  Two weeks later we had a vacation planned.   A Disney Cruise.  We as a family needed that time to be away to heal, to relax, to unwind.  It was just the timing.  And as a family we would every now and then bring up our Squeakers, and a tear would flow.  It is part of the healing process.

Do I wish she would just come back.  Of course.  Do I pray that her family situation will be stable and healthy for her.  Yes.  Do we continue on the road with foster care? Absolutely.  Our journey is already continuing.


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Until Further Notice: A Child’s View on Foster Care

foster careWe have an ever-changing family.  Every year it seems we are different in number of children we have living at home.  Between our children, granddaughter and foster children, people never know how many to expect.  Saying we have 6 kids doesn’t bother us.  Somedays we are down to only 3 in the home.  That seems way too easy!

We are a foster family.

We are an adoptive family.

We are God’s family.

This is our family.

We have been fostering over 7 years, over 20 kids in and out.  Some for just a few hours, some for over a year.  Some babies, some teens, some became our forever children.

For the last two years we have done respite care.  We have done longer foster care, but we were dealing with our older son and his new little family.  They needed more of our attention.  But recently we have been placed with a small little preemie baby girl.

It is amazing how when you are placed with a foster child, one of the first questions people ask is “how long are you going to keep them?”  I think this comes from the fact that we had done respite and we knew how long.  I always tell people till the family figures things out.

We do foster care to provide a safe loving home while families figure out what they need to figure out. Our job is to love the children and care for them.  In this case, care for baby girl.  My kids have many questions.  It is normal.  We talk freely with our kids and they know that baby girl is with us till her family is ready to care for her.  We do not know how long.

So people ask our kids how long are the kids going to be here.  The best line that our little girl (7) gives them.  “Till Further Notice.”

The first time I heard her say that-I though perfect.  She understands this.  We were her third placement.  We are now her final notice because we adopted her.  But she understands that many kids do get to go back with their family.  We have seen it happen.  And we are happy and thrilled.  My kids of course want to have more children in our family (like there is not enough!  LOL)

So how long will we have baby girl?

Until further notice as my kids say.  And that is how foster care works. Till then we will love and take care of our newest bundle of joy.  Along with the lack of sleep, bottles that need washing and poopy diapers (no one said it was easy!)


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Is Mom Healthy or Not?

Is mom healthy or not

I was listening to the radio today and they were talking about how parents-moms could not wait till their kids went back to school.  Then the conversation went on to say something about stay at home moms and working moms.  I heard what was said and then I said to my husband driving “What did I just hear?”

My husband replied “I think they just said a mom is healthier if they work and spend time away from their kids.”

“Huh” I said.

It seems that ever study always says that women are happier if they go to work to bring a pay check home.  And if you stay at home you will sit in front of the TV and eat bon bons and get fat.  And feel worthless.  Oh yeah don’t forget the kids and where ever they fit into happy healthy mom-lazy fat unhealthy mom equation.

Is mom healthier if they work and spend time away from their kids verse moms who stay at home with their kids all summer long and can’t wait for their kids to go back to school?

Here is the deal.  It totally disagree.  While I could get into the whole “what is better for the child” argument, and many will throw different views and opinions at me, I am not.    Working or not working, being with your kids all day or not being with your kids all day isn’t what makes a mom healthy or unhealthy.

 I homeschool.

I don’t “look forward to sending my kids away to school” every year.  I look forward to activities starting.  I look forward to finding a few hours through out the week for myself.  I look forward to time spend with just my husband. I look forward to time alone at Target and Starbucks.   I look forward to bedtime.  But most of all I look forward to spending time with my kids.

Am I unhealthy for homeschooling and being home with all my kids?  If I don’t take care of myself I could be.  But that is the same truth for any mom in any situation.  You have to take care of yourself.  A working mom can be unhealthy for working to many hours and not spending enough time with her family.

As a mom, regardless of whether you homeschool, stay at home or work being healthy is important.  One vs the other does not make a mom any healthier or unhealthy.  Being with my kids full-time does not me unhealthy.  I am healthy because I take care of myself and balance my time.  I am not perfect at this.  Some weeks are worse than others.  But that is not the fault of being with my kids full-time.

It is the old tired out debate of should moms work or not.  It is tired.  If we stopped focusing on this and focused our attention on other pressing issues like children who don’t have a mom  at all, wouldn’t that be a better way to use our time than always worrying about which mom is happy or should a mom work or not?

What do you think.  Does working or being away from your kids full-time make you healthier?


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The Bond of Siblings -Does it Matter in Foster Care and Adoption?

My sisters mean the world to me.  They are who I grew up with.  Now we are raising our children together-even though separated by many miles.  One day we will be old and our parents no longer with us, but we will have each other.  We have a special bond.  Regardless of where we are in life, that bond is there. 

One of the unique things about our three adopted children is they are from a sibling group of 11 children.  I know what you are thinking.  For a while, I had the oldest and the youngest, at least for two weeks.  3 days before Isaiah was 1 number 10 entered into this world about 9 weeks early.  He is now a bouncing happy boy!

Out of the 11 -6 are together in one family.  They live not far from us and we see each other often.  The kids need each other.  One of the things I have watched over the last 5 years is they don’t wrestle every time they get together now.  They can play together, talk, and laugh.  They tell stories and are silly.  They have grown so much.  There are two siblings they don’t get to see as much as they like to.  For various reasons it does not work.  But they know who they are.  And my kids say prayers for them every night.

We have pictures of all the sisters and brothers hanging on the wall so my younger ones, who were babies when they were taken away, know who every one is.  We talk about how everyone grew in their birth mom’s belly.  How she was the one that made them all siblings.  And the bond of siblings was going to keep them together forever, regardless of their last name.  We have become a huge extended family.  Last August we welcomed another baby into the family.

Keeping these siblings together is important.  Even thought the youngest of the group won’t remember all the stuff that happened, they will know they have a HUGE family to grow up in.  We pray that the birth mom is done having babies, for her health, and for the children already here.  We are not sure that is the case now and of course we will do our best to keep siblings together.

Last year we fostered two of five siblings.  They had a very strong bond together, but all five were separated.   They were a handful to handle, but in the long run, the goal was to get them back to parents so the kids had to learn how to be together.  I ended up with two, (we were 3rd placement for one) and that help those two bond more.

But many people believe that siblings need to be separated in foster care, that it is better.  People want the younger siblings, but not the older ones.  The older ones have seen more and are more “damaged.”

Again I had the oldest of these five kids and I could tell that he was very attached to them.  He knew everything about them and even though he wasn’t together with them, he looked forward to their visits.   He would look forward to seeing his siblings more than his parents at first.   This bond is very tight and very special.  And even though the bond each child has with their foster families and adopted families is tight and special, siblings cannot be over looked.  When siblings are not together it is like a piece of the puzzle is always missing.

It does not always work to keep all siblings together in one home.  I had two of the sisters come into my home.  After a few month it was obvious that they needed to be separated, but they needed to sister, and friends.  Working with our dear friends who had some of the other siblings we have been able to do the.  Each girl needed a different kind of attention.   They also need each other.  They were in two foster homes before coming into mine and they were bonded, but there was a lot of unhealthy stuff going on too.  Keeping them in contact with each other again is a key to keeping the bond strong.

There is a great document of the Ten Myths and realities of Sibling Adoptions  

10 Myth: There are higher rates of failed adoptions in families who adopt siblings.

Reality: Siblings who are placed separately are more likely to demonstrate greater emotional and behavioral problems. Research indicates that when siblings are placed together, they experience many emotional benefits with less moves and a lower risk for failed placements. (Leathers 2005)

Siblings together do matter in foster care and adoption.  Also foster parents and adoptive parents keeping sibling from larger groups connected is important too.   As much as it hurts some foster parents hearts to lose a baby they have fostered to be with a sibling, in the long run it will be  better for them.  Adoption is not a black and white type of thing.  It come with many challenges and obstacles.  While it would be nice to shut the door of any relations to the birth family it isn’t always that easy.

There is a story of siblings who waited 80 years to find each other.

Put up for adoption to relieve the pressure on her family, Barbara Miller spent decades searching for her biological relatives. She was unaware that she had eight brothers and sisters looking for her at the same time.

Imagine that family they all just found with each other.  Those pieces missing, nieces and nephews that they never knew.  At what point do we say it is ok for them to know each other.  These were 80-year-old siblings who still could not open up their adoption records cause they were sealed.  I think that siblings have a right to know who their other siblings are.

Yes, it does matter!

 


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Cups, Sippy cups and Breast

Robby is our first born in our family (not oldest). He came from my tummy as the kids define it. The only three things that set him apart from my other kids is he grew in my tummy, he slept with us in bed and I nursed him.

Those first four years before other children entered into the picture I was able to research-books and Internet which had a huge wealth of information exploding on it. Maybe just a little too much reading. I was always ready for what was next not wanting to miss something!

I breast feed Robby 80% of the time. I did use bottles for juice and organic soy formula to supplement. (I was a little to crazy green then, I have balanced out to help the pocket book and the fact that I can’t feed every baby that comes in our house organic formula-we get WIC)

I had two theories being throw at me-leave them on the bottle till they are ready to stop sucking-followed the Let them lead the way to stop nursing or stop at one years old.

I introduced the Sippy cup at 10 months with some watered down juice in it and no stopper in it. Robby was in the high chair. By a year he was done with a bottle and it was breast or Sippy. We still nursed another 6 months and he stopped. Sippy cups where given at the table or out side. Never was he allowed to wonder with it-or goto bed with it.

At two we started a tupperware cup with a sipper seal on top. Outside I would give him open cups to drink from.

By three we used Sippy cups or cups with straws for traveling in cars long distances or when visiting others houses.

By four sippy cups are now water bottles. Which all my kids have.

I follow this path for all my babies minus the breast. I only had two that I had to wean off of bottles to Sippy cups. One went happy at 14 months. The other at 15 months. Each other were passy babies, which by 18 months for Isaiah we would give only when tired and then it lived only in the crib-then it just fell out….about 2 1/2.

There has been a lot of talk about no Sippy cups or pacifiers.

1. Teach kids at an early age not to walk around with their cup. Drinking is done at our table. Or sitting with daddy or mommy. (and yes when they are really cranky sometimes they had one more to hold on to) but our rule is drinks and food at table.

2. Fact is if you give a 14 month old baby a cup of milk, they will dump it out. That’s what they do. So have them sit at the table. Or outside. With just a diaper on. And towels all around.

3. Let them run with anything in their mouths and they fall-it will hurt.

4. Babies/toddles get hurt. Their mouths bleed alot, which freaks new parents out. Apply pressure to cut. If any of the teeth seem wiggly or not right, call your dentist. Most lip/tongue cut are minor but seem huge cause of the amount of blood that comes from them. . If in 10 minutes after apply pressure there is still a large amount of blood call your child doctor.

5. While baby/child lead is good-you are the parent. Learn this now. When you say no-do no feel guilty -you are the parent. You need this skill now so when they are teens…..you know how to say no!

6. No baby or toddler is going to get hurt being breast feed.


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Am I Really Mom Enough?

I have not read the article. I get Time magazine. Just not the one flying around right now.

Am I really mom enough.

I never heard the term attachment parenting till after Robby was born. I knew I was going to breastfeed cause it was a healthy, not to mention free, choice for my baby. I never intended Robby to come to bed with me, but when we did we all slept better. I wore him in a sling. I did what I felt was right as a parent.

I was finishing my Master’s degree and while working on a project for life span development I stumbled on the term attachment parenting! “Hey hon, there is a name for how we parent! “. I thought it was funny! We were AP’s!! I researched and found a group of like minded moms in town. I also found Attachment Parenting International.

I nursed Robby till he was almost 18 months. I remember the last time he nursed. I didn’t stop him. Yes I am mom enough regardless of how long I nurse. My foster babies are bottle fed, still securely attached.

I carried my babies. Robby was three and I would tote him through the airport in a sling! The sling saved Isaiah. He was stiff as a board when he came to us. We held him all the time! I used the sling with him all the time! Yes I am mom enough.

I used cloth diapers and Pampers. I am mom enough.

I didn’t spend my first night away from Robby till he was 3. Now he is secure to be away from me for a week or two. I am mom enough.

Robby slept with us the first three years and in our room in a toddler bed for a year after. He is perfectly fine in his own bed! I am mom enough.

We homeschool. Our family choice. I am mom enough.

Am I more of a mom than you? I don’t think so.

The key to parenting is to follow your instinct. Do what you all feel is right-not what the world tells you. Too many moms try to be like the perfect mom. Not everything works. Do what’s best for your family. Books are great! I love many leading parenting experts. Including Dr Sears. I love his books. But I don’t live by them. I take what works for us. If breast feeding works for your toddler-then that is right for you. Our society needs to stop judging.

Be educated, read, but most of all, follow your gut when parenting!

Enjoy being a mom! They are only little for a short time!

I am mom enough really-my kids love me, I love them. And in our family that’s all that matters.

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Developing a Sense of Trust Makes Strong Families.

4. Develops a sense of trust

When babies are born, the first thing that they learn is trust. Trust that when they cry their needs will be met. Crying is their only form of communication. When our babies cry, we pick them up, love them, feed them, and care for them. This teaches them that every thing is ok.

This little guy above is my nephew Jon Jon. My daddy took the picture!

When you get married you form a bond of trust. For better or worse. I promise to be there.It is wise for you to create hedges or fences to make sure that trust stays true in your marriage. Listening to each other and keeping communication strong helps keep trust strong. Respecting each other creates a sense of trust.

Divorce is not in our vocabulary. We never have to worry about if we have a bad day with each other that it may end it all. We trust each other that we can make it through those tough times. We trust that God has given us the strength. But it takes work. All the time.

That trust we have in each other is something we have to teach Jeremy. He makes comments that Dan is cheating on me or me and the pool guy. Coming from a normal back ground kid, I would be mad. But we know his back ground. We know that we have to teach him, that Dan and I are strong and together. I do not go to the store to “cheat”. I goto the store to go to the store. But if you understood the history of where he grew up, this is what people did. They didn’t commit to each other for ever. They came and went. They cheated. They were not there when you needed them. Sometimes the only person you could trust was yourself.

Robby grew up with a strong sense of trust. He was hungry, I fed him. He was wet, I changed him. Yes there were times he cried and I didn’t know why. Sometimes babies cry. But we gave Robby that sense of trust.

Isaiah came to us stiff as a board. We popped him into the sling and carried him. He cried all the time. He was sick. He spit up all the time. We only fed him 3-4 ozs at a time. But in time he wasn’t stiff any more. We invested a lot to help him learn to trust. To teach him how to attach.

We did not know he was going to be ours forever. Just that he needed this. To trust.

This trust is a two way street though.

While teaching children to trust, parents trusting children is important to. Mr. Isaiah has been at it again with food. This time hiding food in the dinning room under a dresser. This brought in an ant parade. Right now I do not trust him in the kitchen. He is not allow in the kitchen. He had to get really strict with him about the kitchen and food thing.

When Jeremy move in with us I didn’t trust him. I loved him and wanted him. I just didn’t trust him. He was coming from a back ground where he had done many things and I didn’t know yet how much I could trust him. As time went on, I slowly trusted him more and more. But then when things would happen, certain trust would fly out the door and slowly had to be regained again.

Trust in the Lord you God with all your heart, mind and soul.

Trust is a funny thing. Here one day gone the next.

Why don’t you take your kids on a Trust Walk? or better yet, let them lead you!

Check out my Pinterest Board on Strong Families for more ideas on trust

How do you develop a sense a trust in your family?


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Whose child you got?

There I was, leaning up against my car in the parking lot of the ball park.  It wasn’t a bad evening, kinda, but I knew that I had to cool down and take a mommy breather.  The three kids inside, one screaming and one knocking on the window.  Me, just counting with my eyes closed.

Earlier we had Isaiah’s t-ball game.  We won, but it was a tough game to watch cause Isaiah was all over, beyond anything I had seen out of him.  He doesn’t do well with transitions and t-ball is a fast transition game.  Batting he did great, but some how in the field…Oh it was hard to watch as a mom.  Some thing was going on in that little brain and I don’t know what it was.

After I went over to Mia’s(an other sister) softball game where AnQuenette and Robby were.  We were going to stay to watch it, but then AnQuenette start melting down cause I finished her drink (I didn’t know she wanted the rest of it) and I told her we would get more when we went home.  It was an hour after her bed time and knew she was tired.  I informed everyone it was time to go home and AnQuenette just lost it.  I left with her screaming and refusing to walk.  I picked her up (she is heavy) with her screaming, and kicking and starting leaving the park.  This was not the first time I had done this with her.

It is at this moment I wonder who is thinking “Whose child you got?”  I mean I am the white momma carrying the black screaming kid.  What do people think I am doing?  Most by now know us, but not everyone.  Most of me is not worried about this.  I have my child screaming.  Period.

I have paper work if needed.  It is called a birth certificate.  We even have their passports for when we travel.  That gives us the peace of mind that if we are traveling out-of-state or country, I have proof.   So when I certain child starts screaming as I have to remove them, and some one asks “Whose child you got?” we have proof.  I don’t need proof.  I know these are mine kids.

My oldest today at lunch said he was going to have some dude yell “Whose child you got?” while I was walking out with a screaming child.  I had to laugh cause I was really thinking about that today.  I was like “sure you go for it, I’ll let them know whose kid!”

So after about 4 minutes of  a mommy breather, I got back into the car with a screaming 6-year-old and headed home.  By the time we got home all tears were done and forget, two little ones got ready for bed and climbed in.  And I just smiled cause I know whose children I got.


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The Stares

Our family is as normal as normal can be to us. But we are unique and we know it. Our two youngest children are bi racial, and many times we travel with one or two extra. Its amazing how many stares we get.

I have noticed this before but not as much as I have on this cruise. Walking along I have my beautiful “brown children” in front of me bouncing and hopping and calling me momma. My oldest behind me and as we walk along the heads just turned. I am not sure what they were looking at, but the looks always start with my two little ones and go to me.
What’s funny about this is it really is not that uncommon for a black and white to have babies together. In fact in England and Bahamas’ it is more common than I knew.
It is always more fun the stares when the whole family is together. Dan went grey early in life, so when they see two white people with two black babies….different ideas pop up.
Like maybe they are raising grand babies. Or foster care or adopted.
My favorite is when we are asked “so where did you get them?”
I know what they mean and chuckle inside when ask that question. And little do they know it opens the door to share my story!
The stares bother me more when it is directed in a mean way, typically directed toward my youngest. Isaiah has issues with transition and has quite the mouth on him. But I am learning to ignore the bad stares and smile at the curious ones.
This is my family….stare all you want cause we got a story to tell.

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Adoption, Foster care and Attachment

I have friends who have decided to take a leap of faith and adopt out of our foster care system.  What a wonderful decisions, and a scary one too.  Knowing that we have fostered and adopted they asked a few questions looking for advice.  Instead of just emailing her I decided to blog so others could read.  One question was what does she need to know about adopting?  They are looking at a boy preschool age and also asked what books to read.
I have been thinking about this…what is the most important think to first learn about.   I decided it was attachment.  When Robby was born I already had 9 months to bond with him, then he was born and I have to attach again in different ways.  I did all the things I felt were right, regardless of what “society” told us.  Robby was breastfeed, slept with us, I carried him in a sling (oh I loved that sling), he was with us 99% of the time.   And when he was not, with me he was next door at the day care while I worked.   I was working of my masters degree and was studying what was important in parenting.  I learned that by instinct we were practicing Attachment Parenting.     As Robby grew we held him, loved him and took care of him all the time.  He soon moved out of our bed and unlike what some people said he grew up to be a stable normal little boy.  He does things independently of me and while he does take some pushing (I blame the male trait on that one) he loves lots of things.
I think of when Isaiah came to us at 4 months.  He was a very big baby, with no neck.  He had a terrible yeast infection in his neck cause it was moist and dark.  He was stiff and cried a lot.  But he was cute!!  And we started holding him.  And caring for him. I help him in the sling a lot.  Many nights I would be sleeping in a chair in the living room with him.  And after a few months we saw improvements.  We forget now all the things we did at the beginning, but he is a normal typical little boy now.
Each of our kids old or young, we work on attachment…and it is different for each one.  When you adopt any child, you adopt their history good or bad.  Children that have been neglected are hard to attach to or have had so many attachment broken they have issue that are even worse.  Attachment disorders can be hard to cope with when these children come into your house, so being educated will give you a step up.
So the first step I would advise is learning about attachment and young children.  Read as many books as you can.  Find out about attachment parenting and any other organization that talks about attachment.  I also like Dr. Sears.  


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