Subsidy Agreement

Today I had several crazy roller coaster phone calls regarding our adoption finalization next Friday. Our county case worker called early this morning to tell me that she wasn’t sure the paperwork will be done on time because the courts and the county are closed next Tuesday because of election day. While our petition will be filed in time, we are at the mercy of the orphan courts and their workers to get the rest of the paperwork completed.

Then the paralegal for the county who is working on our case called and said that it should be done on time. Sigh. So we’re still up in the air. Our adoption petition was filed today and we meet with the attorney on our case Monday to sign all of the papers. We had to give the paralegal information that wasn’t in our profile like the location of our wedding. We also had to give the paralegal the kids’ new names! We hadn’t finalized any of them so I had to do it quickly this afternoon so that the paralegal could get the petition in quickly. Most of the children had decided but I wanted to verify because they have been apt to change them on a whim. It was our family decision to let the children chose new middle names if they desired. While they were told at their previous pre-adoptive home (which didn’t work out after two weeks) that they could change their first names and they had those names picked out, we were concerned that those names were too trendy and based on their likes right now, not good for long term. They all have good first names, most are biblical names, so they work for children or adults. They will all take our last name.

All three children chose to change their middle names. Huck is taking Hubby’s middle (his choice). Anne is taking the name of Madeline’s best friend (I guess she hears it a lot and likes it). Scarlett is taking the name of her birth month, which also happens to rhyme with Anne’s new middle name and which happens to be an old family name. So those have all been submitted and are ready to go!

The paralegal also let us know that our subsidy agreement was approved. Because there is little to find on the Pennsylvania subsidy online, I want to make sure I am clear about what we could ask for. If you foster or adopt from foster care I hope you ask for the most money/insurance/services as we do, even if that is not what you are granted. While we can support all of our children on our own, with two jobs and our savings account, it is our understanding that we will advocate for these children however we can. This includes making sure the kids are taken care of. And if we have money that we can save for cars, weddings or college, even private school for a short period of time or tutors, then we will negotiate whatever we can for these kids. After five years in and out of the foster system, after years of neglect and abuse from their biological family, these kids deserve whatever we can negotiate for them. This includes health insurance, vision and dental insurance, and behavioral health insurance until they are 18 or we renegotiate their insurance until they are 21 depending on their student status.

With our agency currently, we receive $23 per day per child. The county that we foster in and will adopt from allows a max of $21 per day per child in the current age range (until the age of 18). This subsidy is renegotiable as the children age as long as there are extenuating circumstances. The age ranges that apply to our child are 6-11, 12-14, and 15 or older. So for each of these steps, we can renegotiate our subsidy with the state as long as we have cause to ask for more. The paralegal explained that sending a kid to the school dance is not a cause for renegotiating your subsidy agreement but something like new behavioral health services or new allergies and treatment would apply. At 12 the subsidy goes to $28 per day and at 15 the subsidy goes to $31.

As I said, I am writing about money because it is important. I have luckily never met anyone that fosters children for the money. I hope I never do. I’m sure there are ways around the system but $21 a day per child feeds and clothes them. They get one extracurricular activity. That’s about the end of the money. I hope you find this information helpful!

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Comments

Susan wrote on my last post regarding attachment and counseling:

“I have wondered about that emotional regulation. I might be reaching here and only guessing, but 3 years seems like it would be a normal amount of time? Non- adopted, never taken from their family kids go through the baby, then the terrible twos, then the more terrible want-to-jump-out-a-window 3’s, and then about 4 I think they seem like they morph into a small human. So, and again just reaching here, but older kids starting at a baseline level might be at a baby level and then move through the same process when in a safe and nurturing environment to emerge as a not so small human. As we have been working through the process of figuring out if we are right for adoption I have been wondering about this but really haven’t been able to find out anything, or I am not looking in the right spot. What do you think? Am I way off here?”

This is what I wrote to her in return:

I definitely did not think that the 3 year window she gave me was abnormal. I didn’t get the chance to pick her brain and see whether that time frame is usual for children with this kind of attachment and regulation issues because she is just so scattered.

I hate the 3s. I would take two years of the 2s over a year of the 3s any day. At three is also when children really have attachment issues, which we are going through with Madeline right now. I know that the psych eval placed Huck at a maturity level of a 4 year old. I don’t know much about childhood development but it’s hard to say they start as babies with each new home and grow from there, so that it would be three years as if they were maturing from infancy. It almost seems more complicated than that. They are attached and have attached already, but it wasn’t to us as their new parents, it was to their biological family. So instead of just growing from infancy and working on attachment/maturity until the fourth year that seems to be golden in terms of emotional regulation, they are fighting their biology and trauma past with road bumps that they just might never get over.

For example, Scarlett will attach to any adult that will pay her any attention, and goes through about four heart breaks in a day when she has to leave said adults. But I am concerned that she will never truly attach to anyone, including future partners, because she does not understand/can’t commit to actual attachment and love. She seeks love and attention whether it is positive or negative. Granted she is still young but I do worry about that for her.

It’s interesting to consider and it’s so complicated. Maybe I’ll have more answers in a year or so!

Good luck with your journey, it sounds like you would be a great resource for kids!”

Anyone have some resources regarding emotional regulation/attachment in children with a trauma past? I’m doing a search tonight so I will share anything good that I find!

Family Based Health Services

Today we started in-home family based counseling for our son. Of course he was a perfect angel while each of the girls melted down in their own unique and maddening ways. I don’t know why I wished that he had melted down as well so that the therapist could see what we are working with, but that would have been an extra amount of stress that I surely did not need!

Madeline was going crazy because her schedule was off since the kids had early dismissal and so she was pushed way out of her comfort zone.

Scarlett was on a huge sugar-high from celebrating Halloween at school and my attention was occupied on someone that was not her, so she was craving attention no matter which direction it came from. Or whether it was negative attention!

Anne was by far the worst mess of all. She was being picked up in the middle of the counseling session to go to her own counseling, which she normally has after school. She threw a huge fit that she did not want to go. I could not figure out why she did not want to go to counseling because usually she loves it. I finally realized that she did not want to be left out and all of the other kids got to be at home and play while she went to counseling. I literally had to walk her out to the van so that she would go on her way!

The therapist, we’ll call her June, was middle aged and was just the amount of hippie-dippy that I expected. We got through about half the paperwork she needed to have done because she kept forgetting where she was in the middle of a story and because of the amount of time she was talking to our dog, Chuck. She said that she expects it to take us about three years of rollercoasters of emotions before attachment occurs and we feel like we can parent from a place of security. She said that because of the age of the children when they were pulled into foster care, their emotional regulation is all messed up. Children learn their emotional regulation from their parents. Well, when you live in six different houses before you are six years old and have weekly visits with your addicted and aggressive parents, your emotional regulation is all messed up. She wants Hubby and Huck to get to that buddy place where Huck was with his dad, since that has been Huck’s greatest loss. So she recommended small bonding activities like watching football or running errands together.

We did an exercise where the kids all drew their “family.” Oldest trick in the book, right? Well for some reason I haven’t done it with the kids and it actually turned out pretty convincing. The girls all drew their nice neat families with me, Hubby, themselves and their siblings, and the dogs. Huck drew me and a shadow figure, who he names “Dad.” Then he started drawing words that he turned into footballs. Then June asked him where he was and he said “I’m not on there, I don’t need to be.” And then he said “oh I forgot Madeline” and he drew her over everyone else on the paper, making her a giant figure on top of everyone else. If there’s anything that tells you about this child, it’s that he doesn’t believe he belongs on that paper with his family and that he loves Madeline the most and thinks of her in giant ways! (Also that he gets jealous of her the most, especially relationship-wise and so I am not shocked that he drew her in giant).

Next week we get to meet the male counselor and have two sessions! I hope we get more accomplished and that the male counselor is better with the details… Who knows!

Daddy Dearest

I wrote last week about the kids’ reactions when I went out of town last week… the older kids sobbed like I was dying and Madeline did not speak to me when I returned home. Hubby went out of town for yesterday through tonight and not one child asked where he was at dinner last night! Poor Dad!

Anne did ask me this morning where he was and why he didn’t come home last night. But no one else seemed to notice!

Keeping Home

This afternoon I got THE call from a gentle but fruity lady to schedule Huck’s counseling!! Finally the call that I’ve been waiting for! Maybe it was karma because I blogged about it yesterday??

We have a counseling “team” assigned to our family. One is female and one is male, which I like especially for Huck. The counselor asked if we were ready for this intensive of counseling and I was like, YES! Please yes! We need help! She actually has met and counseled the children before (she didn’t say when but I am guessing from the services that this program provides that it was when they returned to their bio parents for a year in 2011) and she said she wasn’t shocked that Huck had so much developmental issues but she was shocked at how quickly we asked for help and requested such an intensive service. I was shocked that four months is quick, especially for a child that has been in care for five years! She said that we will have sessions just for Huck, we will have sessions with the whole family, we will have sessions with just Huck and me, and some sessions will just be Huck and Hubby. So it sounds like it’s a long but badly needed journey! Because the kids have a half day of school tomorrow she said they’d love to come out.

I can’t wait to meet the counseling team tomorrow and see how this will play out!

Working Hard for the Money

Yesterday I was super bummed about work. Before I left for North Carolina on Friday I talked to my boss about how things were working out with the position. I know I wrote about my concerns last week. Everything came to a head when I had to start signing paperwork and booking travel for my AmeriCorps training (scheduled November 18-21 in Boston).

Here, they wanted me to sign a waiver that said I was not taking on their health insurance. But that was a super big deal for me! I did not get many details prior to accepting this AmeriCorps VISTA position and I really wish I had! Here, I had to sign that I did not want to take on their insurance for the year that I was under contract with AmeriCorps. This was all well and good until my current insurance through my husband’s company said they would charge us extra for both myself and my daughter each month because I was waiving insurance from my employer. I can’t switch insurance! Not only would it be a huge pain (for just a year contract), but I had a stroke in January and heart surgery in May so I am not prepared to give up relationships I have with these doctors. Therefore, this AmeriCorps position was just not cut out for me. My boss totally understood the issue I had with spending an extra couple hundred dollars a month a month while basically having a volunteer position. But she also did not have extra funding available to bring me on without the contract with AmeriCorps.

So my boss emailed me on Sunday and basically said that she would have to let me know in the future when they had enough funding to bring me on. I was super bummed yesterday. Despite helping them since July, I haven’t been paid. I had to wait until November and the AmeriCorps training before my contract officially started. I felt kind of duped, like I gave them all this advice and developed strategy for them without keeping compensation in mind. It’s a cause that I wholeheartedly believe in, so it was hard to be too mad. I was just frustrated at myself for not being more careful.

Then this afternoon my boss called me! Unfortunately one of the office staff members whose main job is case management resigned effective immediately because his mother has cancer. So my boss needs to restructure the office and bring in someone to help! She asked if I would consider a part-time position with both marketing and case management. I said of course! I think the local and National CASA do great advocacy on the part of the children and it fits in my goal of helping as many kids possible get what they deserve in terms of help and services. I have never done case management but I would love to learn. This week is crazy with Halloween parades, our last visit with our case manager and touring the private school so I will not get a chance to go into the office but that will give my boss some time to restructure and figure out where I will fit. Here I’ve gone from a year “volunteer” contract position with AmeriCorps to help the CASA office develop to actually being an employed (probably still contract) member of the staff!

It’s amazing how much can change in one day!

Counseling: Update 20192358332749082

First, I have updated the “About” section of this blog to include all of the kids’ pseudonyms in case it gets a little confusing. Make sure you check it out!

https://fosteringourhope.wordpress.com/about/

Second, let me rant some more about counseling. Soon we will have placement of our kids for four months. While Anne is two months into her trauma-based intensive counseling, our son has yet to start his counseling. The initial referral was sent in August. He had his psych evaluation for his counseling three weeks ago. That is the last piece that we were waiting for in order to have his in-home, multiple day a week counseling. He NEEDS it so badly. We are having so many issues and we just can’t get through to him. He is broken. His soul is broken. He is sad. He’s having trouble at school. He’s having trouble at home. He doesn’t listen. He seeks negative attention. He’s having toileting issues, the kind that comes from major anger and frustration and a last-ditch effort for control. He’s been broken. I don’t know how he lasted in foster care for five years without any kind of intensive counseling. I don’t know why someone didn’t help him before. But I will advocate forever so that these children and others like them have the services that they need.

Foster children (really, all children) need to have counseling EVERY time they move homes. Foster children need to have counseling as soon as termination of parental rights (TPR) occurs. These should be automatic. A referral needs to be sent and processed immediately for children who move homes or who have been through TPR. We need this in writing and it should be a rule for all agencies and counties. New foster/pre-adoptive families can only do so much. The families/parents need back up from professionals and people who have degrees in childhood development/trauma/neglect. I only wish that we had as much help on the counseling front as we did from our case manager. Our case manager came out once a week for the first month and every other week since then. The kids need someone like that who comes for THEM. Just them! I have someone that I can call and bounce things off of and ask any silly question that I can think of. But these kids have me or my husband and each other. But they have a lifetime of questions to ask. And they have a lifetime of needs that have not been met. Why is there not some regulation on the mental health front? There needs to be closer monitoring so the issues don’t get too bad and then it takes years to fix. My children need healing from their childhood. Their childhood! My childhood was fun and exciting and these children have to recover from what happened during their childhood. Does that make any sense to you? It certainly does not make sense to me. They should be healed or in the process of healing. But they haven’t even begun counseling!

We are also waiting on the referral for the adoption prep class. Our permanency specialist recommended this class. It’s particularly for kids who have just gone through TPR. It’s an attachment process and helps them work through their often hidden emotions.

When I saw my dad over the weekend he kept saying how excited the kids must be for adoption day. And I couldn’t get it through to him that no, they are not. They are not excited. They might be excited for balloons and candy or cupcakes, and they are certainly excited that they get to miss school. But they are not excited to officially leave their old world behind and join a new one that they’ve only just met! It’s bittersweet for everyone involved. The kids are old enough to have been affected by this mess, but they also aren’t old enough to remember all of the bad times. They remember seeing their parents at visits and getting to eat McDonald’s and getting new presents. They don’t remember what the home conditions looked like or how bad the youngest had diaper rash. They don’t remember how many times their water was shut off or their parents were under the influence while caring for them. I am thankful that they don’t remember specifics but I am also aware that every behavior they have is due to survival. They were badly neglected and they act like they were. I only hope that time will help to heal their deep wounds. Time, and some really good counseling.