Behavioral Assessment

I got a call this afternoon that the kids will go for their behavioral services assessments tomorrow… roughly a half hour to forty-five minutes per kiddo. I have been pushing for every service/therapist/help I can get these kids. Being in five different foster homes with at least seven other foster/adopted kids at each, I feel like they have fallen through the cracks. I don’t know if they had anyone to advocate for them before. So I am, like 150%. Anything the agency mentions, I jump on. I am hoping to get an emergency clothing allowance for them too. Most of their clothes are at least one size too small and very used. They are very used to wearing too-small clothes. 

The seven year old boy cannot tie his shoes. Hubby has been working on it but he just does not grasp the concept. He came to our home with zipper sneakers so it seems that someone has been enabling this behavior. He also has trouble reading. I have all of the kids working in workbooks for their previous grade. All but the youngest seem to have issues completing a task without help reading/comprehending the directions. Our son seems to be having the most trouble, as he reads so quickly he skips words or confuses words. He writes many of his letters and numbers backwards before I correct him. I don’t think they do educational assessments at the behavioral services office but he definitely needs some help here. 

Behaviorally I have the most trouble with our son. He’s a sweet kid but his maturity is about the same as Little One–a four year old level. Literally I can treat them the same and punish them the same and it is appropriate for him. I think he is stuck mentally and almost physically when they pulled him from his biological family. I have him in soccer camp this week, which he loves. And he really excels. He hustles every minute that he is there. He raises his hand every time they need a volunteer. He runs when the other kids walk. He is completely enthusiastic. It is wonderful to seem him work hard and excel because he is opposite at home. He whines that no one will play with him. Then when they do play with him he whines that they aren’t good or they don’t do it right. Today I took the girls grocery shopping while he was at soccer camp and man, was it quiet! I couldn’t believe the difference after just removing his distracting presence. I am hoping that we can work on this with him. 

The oldest girl is having the hardest time with their mom being pregnant. She is convinced that her new baby brother is coming to live with us. I have been told that there is not a plan for him to go into foster care immediately because the mom voluntarily terminated parental rights. This, for a nine year old, is too much. I get “why can the baby live with mommy and daddy and we can’t?” Which, I mean, how do you answer? She legitimately understands why they have not been allowed back home, for safety and health reasons. So why should this new baby go there? It’s tough. 

The littlest girl, who is six, is my instigator. She knows exactly what to do to stir up trouble and push everyone’s buttons. She is also very good at doing it behind my back so I think that someone else is the problem. I am working with her on positive behaviors. 

We are doing great and I see progress in them every day. I worry about them in school, at least the oldest two. I don’t think they have learned last year’s information let alone starting to build upon that foundation. I will keep working to get them services and any help they need, especially once they start school. 

Phew! Now it’s time for me to get some rest…. recharge for tomorrow!

 

Rearranging

This weekend we re-arranged the rooms. Since we had so little time to plan and organize, we went with our gut instincts. The two little girls, Little One and the 6 year old, were together in Little One’s room. The oldest girl who is 9, almost 10, had her own room in our old guest room. The middle boy, who is seven, has his bed/dresser/desk in part of the play room. Well, Little One’s sleeping habits have left a lot to be desired. Not only does she keep up with these kids twice her age all day, she also took on their sleeping habits. So in effect she was waking up over an hour before she would normally. This left for a very cranky three year old! The older girls decided they would like to put the bunk beds together and share a room. I thought that this was a perfect idea, considering that school starts in less than a month and I don’t want Little One getting up even earlier! The kids have to be at school by 8:00 so I am envisioning a 7:00 wake time. They will be in school before Little One usually wakes up! So we will see how the new sleeping arrangements will be. Little One was fine with a new room all by herself. Although the bunk beds are so enticing!

Tomorrow our boy starts his soccer camp. Tonight during his prayers he said “I hope I don’t suck at soccer camp tomorrow.” He’s hilarious! So sure of himself and excited for camp until the day before and he gets cold feet. He’s an excellent athlete and the other kids seem to like him easily so I don’t think he will have any issues. 

This week we should hear about in-home services and in-home therapy. I asked for all three to have assessments. We had lots of BIG feelings this weekend about “mommy and daddy” and we’re slowly getting stories of home out of them. It has to be hard and they don’t have an outlet for it. I’m just glad that they can be together to remember and work things out together.

PHEW!

I’m alive. The kids have not eaten me or crushed me or hidden me away in a closet for all time. Yes, there have been rough days/moments/hours/minutes but there have been really great days. And really great moments. And I already see progress, not even two weeks in. Some days they miss home (even though they haven’t been there in over two years). Some days I long for the quiet house with only one child. But I wouldn’t trade this new family for the past. We work together and scrape through and survive each day together. We learn new things together each day, we try new things. And we’re ok!

Today was fairly rough compared to the last week or so, I think mainly because we had our first visit from the case manager and it stirred up a whole bunch of emotions. We are working to get them passport cards in order for them to come with us to Canada for my mother in law’s wedding in a month. They are enrolled in their new school. They are signed up for soccer and riding lessons and we’ve gone to VBS. They are learning to live together after two years apart. They are learning to sleep alone in their own rooms. They are learning to play independently and with each other after being in homes with over seven children. We discuss proper ways to gain attention and not shout or call for mom without trying to work things out. 

They keep me on my toes! We take walks and they ride bikes and we have major dance parties. We swim in the pool and eat snacks and do crafts. They do pages in their workbooks and we go to the library and we read. 

I don’t think bringing three new children into your home at one time is for everyone. It’s definitely been a major adjustment and challenge. We’ve been lucky that our daughter has been excited for new siblings from day 1, and has totally rejoiced in new-found friends, playmates, and helpers. She has adjusted to their earlier morning schedule and could probably benefit from an afternoon nap but we’ll try for that once they’re in school.

I have hardly done any work. We don’t have anyone cleared to watch the kids if neither one of us parents is home (our summer sitter is done in a few weeks and our fall sitter hasn’t started). So that has been tough for me. I have cleared all of my appointments, work projects and I take the kids everywhere I go. I have actually found that I have an easier time with them than with our sitter. When she is around the kids just vie for her attention and get overly jealous. 

I will try to update when I can but this place is crazy! I only had a chance to write tonight because I put all the kids to bed early tonight because they were so badly behaved today. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!

 

Referral Call

I got the referral call for the three siblings on Friday afternoon at 1:00.

I hadn’t heard anything from the agency or county leading up to it, and was under the assumption that the children were already placed. The social worker called with the referral from the county, specifically for us.

He gave me the background on the kids, why they came into care, the situation with TPR and their parents, their current services and information on any IEPs that are ongoing. He asked if we could take the kids the same day (on Friday). Of course we did not have 3 beds set up. And my husband was two and a half hours away for business! I guess that’s how it works, the worst possible time and when you are least prepared!

We slept on it. We discussed every angle. We weren’t hung up on the kids, we were hung up on the number. Four seems like a lot of kids, especially coming from parenting only one!

We finally just decided that this was the whole reason we started applying to adopt from foster care. Because we can provide for a sibling group that might be otherwise split up. We also thought down the road six months and wondered how we would feel if we hadn’t found a match like these siblings. Would we regret not trying? The answer was yes. Yes we would be sad that we had not even attempted to make it work for them and for our family. So there you have it! We have three kids coming to live with us today that we have never met and never seen. I’m very nervous. I’m a planner and there is just no way to plan for this! 

We set up the rooms as best we could with only two days notice. We bought mattresses and hauled them home on Saturday. We bought sheets and pillows. I will do a post later in the week on what I purchased and what I actually needed!

I spoke at length with Penny, who was going to adopt them, about what they had and what they needed. She said the oldest two are set on clothes but that the youngest only has one pair of summer pajamas. Penny hadn’t bought them yet (despite her living there for two weeks) because she hadn’t gotten her check from the county yet. Sigh. She also said that they have four bikes. I don’t know about any other toys but four bikes!!! So I went out and tried to find some summer 5/6 pajamas (not the easiest thing, as I like to find 100% cotton and what the heck Target with all your polyester clothes!). I am assuming that I will need to buy all of them sneakers and fall back-to-school clothes. That will come. My mother in law has offered to get them whatever they need, so that is nice to be able to send her a list of some items they need for school!

I researched upcoming day camps in our area to introduce them to some new activities if they want. I looked up places to take them and keep them busy until school starts. I searched for lessons in the fall in case they want to do sports or other activities, since sign up for most things starting in the fall was held in June.

My google search was on fire! I looked up bedtimes, how much sleep kids need by age, when kids lose their teeth, when to buy kids cell phones, school schedules and bell times, etc etc etc. Having only a three year old I don’t know about these things because I haven’t lived through it as a parent (and it’s been a while since I was 9!). 

We are excited and nervous. We don’t really know what to expect today and I don’t think anyone can be totally prepared for this. 

Foster Mom Penny and the Three Kids

I keep thinking, after talking with Penny and Sally, of how the system is failing not only the kids in foster care but also the adults. I think of some of my favorite bloggers like Rebecca at Fosterhood and Carrie Ann/Andrew at Fosterwee writing about their experiences as foster parents. Let’s use Penny as an example. As a caveat, I don’t know all of the facts surrounding this case or this woman’s life. I am judging solely on the facts and first-person information that I have received!

Penny is a middle aged woman. She is divorced. She has two teen sons that were adopted from foster care (I made the assumption that it occurred while she was married but I do not know this for sure, only an inclination I got from both Penny and Sally). She does not work. I do not know her financial situation, only that she told me she has to start babysitting to make money since the sibling group will be removed from her home. She has been fostering and doing respite care for a number of years. She is a nervous woman, people pleasing, and eager. She is loving and thoughtful. She planned the whole summer for the sibling group, signing them up for various camps and a summer musical. She stated many times that she would adopt the nine year old alone, but it was too much with the siblings. She is heartbroken that she has to have the children removed, but also frustrated at the time it has taken the agency to remove them from her home.

The children are six, seven and nine. They have been in and out of foster care. It is my understanding that they were never placed together in foster care, that the younger two were placed and the older girl were placed separately. On June 26th, they saw the termination of parental rights and moved in with their new forever family. Their world was rocked. They would be going to new schools, living with new siblings (three or four new siblings each to get used to), living with a new foster mother, getting adjusted to their new life. Then they go to counseling and it’s determined that they will be moved out of their new forever home. They don’t know when. They don’t know where. We are failing these kids.

So how did we get here? How did we get to the place where parental rights were terminated for three children and within the first weeks at their new forever home they are being removed?

Why didn’t they live together before TPR? Who decided if it hadn’t happened in the past (the three living together) that it should start now?

Should a single mother with no (obvious) outside income be approved to raise five on her own? I’m not judging her ability, but considering the best for all children involved, especially as jealousy and attention has been a big factor in the removal.

Was Penny pushed to take the other two siblings? Did she ask to take them?

Did she have access to appropriate post-adoptive services? I know it’s not post-adoption, but it’s a similar concept.

How is a family with three existing (small children) given the option of taking three more children, one of whom definitely has an issue with jealousy and lack of attention?

 I feel badly for the kids. I feel badly for Penny and her two boys. It’s such an upheaval. There has to be a better way!

Rollercoaster Ride

Update: Potential Match. 

I have to update my post yesterday to explain that these children are actually with the county youth services, not one of the outside non-profit agencies. 

This morning I called the director at our foster/adoption agency to explain where we stood on matching with this sibling group and to also find out when we would be approved. She said that we would be approved no later than tomorrow (Friday). Good. Then she said that she totally understood that we were not trying to go behind anyone’s back or go rogue on the agency. It was important to me to make sure that she knew we were not seeking placements from other agencies, but friends contacted us directly. She totally got it. She said that they work with the county social worker assigned to the case very frequently but they had not gotten a call regarding this particular sibling group. Our agency director said that if they hadn’t gotten a call, that might mean that the county already had a backup family in mind within their own pool of candidates. She offered to call the social worker on our behalf and offer our profile as a potential match. I told her, go for it! I explained that we did not know a lot of background on the case but it was almost a favor to friends to at least somewhat pursue this option. She agreed. That was 10:30ish this morning. I haven’t heard anything back.

After I talked to our agency I called the foster mom, Penny, to let her know that our agency would reach out to the social worker. She had asked me last night if I would follow up with the social worker myself today, but since our agency was going to call I did not feel the need to do so. She was apologetic and said that another foster mom from the county had called Penny this morning to set up a time to meet the sibling group and have them move in with her. So when I talked to her at 10:30 this morning she had already talked to the new foster/adoptive mom and they planned to meet at 3:30 so she could meet the kids. This foster mom has three small children so Penny is convinced that maybe playing/helping with the small children might help her jealousy. I’m not sure how moving into a home from three children to five children to six children would help the jealousy, but I am not judging. Penny was working hard to pack up all their belongings and she said she was doing a bunch of laundry for them. She said that at least if our agency called the county that they would know we are available if anything else came up. I agreed. She said the kids have been asking her every day if they are leaving so she was anxious to get them placed. She had them signed up for summer camp and a summer musical so she was very sad that they will be leaving. She also said that she would have to take on some babysitting to have enough money to reach, as she’s a single mother and has two adopted sons. She does not work outside of the home. So it sounded like she was relying on the money from the stipends as her income.

I have lots of feelings about this foster mom and how she was approved to take this sibling group. I am upset that these kids have been moved into a forever home that is unsuitable. I don’t know the whole story but I will write a separate post on how it makes me feel from an outsider’s perspective.

Penny called me back this afternoon, around 2:00. She asked if I had heard from my agency or the county. I said no, that our agency would follow up with me if there was something to talk about. She said that she got a call from the county saying that the kids are not being moved to a new placement today. They said that they had not decided on where the kids would be placed and they had two families to consider. So it sounds like this other foster mom knew she was being considered and thought she was getting placement today, so she set up everything with Penny without the county knowing it!! All around, a mess. Penny’s a mess. The kids are a mess. No one knows what is going on or what they thought was going on is wrong. I haven’t heard anything so I don’t even know if we’re being considered!

The poor kids. They just had TPR not even two weeks ago and thought they were moving into their forever home. Now they don’t know when or where they will be moving. Ugh! I have so many thoughts and emotions I can’t get them all out right now. I have to process them. But mainly, I just feel so sad for the kids. And Penny. She’s sad too.

 

Potential Match?

Tuesday, in the middle of the storm that would knock out our power for over 24 hours, I received an email from the foster mom that I met at the local library. If you recall, she is the over-sharer. Super nice and helpful, but TMI always. So, we’ll call her Sally, emails me that the other foster mom that I met last Wednesday at the library decided not to adopt a sibling group of 3 and asked if we would we be interested! It was a lot to take in. I didn’t know if we could even do it, but I told her that we were definitely interested. I also let her know that we do not have official approval yet from our agency.

Sally sent me the name and number of the social worker on the case and gave me a basic explanation of what was going on. I left the social worker a message and will call again today, as per Sally’s direction.

I also emailed our agency, to see where we are in terms of approval and let them know that we were contacted regarding this situation. The director said that she thinks she can get her “administration” to sign off on our approval this week. She also said that I could call her to discuss this “exciting” opportunity. I will call her today as well. 

 

According to Sally, the foster mom, we’ll call her Penny, fostered a nine year old girl who had come into foster care several times. Sally knew this girl already because Sally provided respite for her original foster family when she was first in care. The local foster agency knew that TPR was coming and wanted to place this nine year old with her two siblings, who are 6 and 7. Penny agreed to take all three children since she’s had the nine year old and is committed to her long-term.

Penny’s been having weekend visits with all the siblings for over six months. TPR occurred on June 26th and all three came to live with her permanently on June 28th. Right away the nine year old started acting up. Not only did she just go through one of the hardest days in her young life, but now she has to share her beloved foster mom with her siblings, who she has not lived with for a long time. She kept telling Penny that she did not want to be placed with them. The agency kept saying that they will all be placed together. So when the three came to stay with Penny full time, she had total chaos in her home. She has two older adoptive sons and the nine year old started being aggressive with her siblings, jealous of the attention they received from the older boys. They had counseling sessions and Penny and the foster agency decided that she could adopt the nine year old or they could be placed with a different adoptive family.

Of course, it was decided that they needed to try the three siblings in a home where none of them had lived previously, maybe keeping them from harboring jealous feelings towards their foster parent who now has to split attention. Penny told the agency about us and the agency has called around to other agencies for other potential matches. 

So this could go quickly for us or we might not be a match. But it is very exciting to be nearly approved and also to have other foster families thinking of us when sibling groups need to be placed.