Sunday, December 23, 2007

Better and worse

We finally got to go visit Niblet at her aunt and uncle's house. The visit, although great, has left me reeling and I'm having a really hard time pulling it all together again.

The worse:
We got the specifics of the injuries her "parents" inflicted upon her that day. She was severely beaten. She has a diaper-area injury that still hasn't healed because she's still in diapers. Her aunt changes her uber-frequently, but the cut still opens up regularly. Based on a description of the injuries, an online friend of ours said that Niblet's mother (the one we all assume did the harm) should be sent to prison as a sex abuser and made to register when she's released. I can't say I disagree.

We also found out what poor Niblet has been enduring over the past year. There have been other bruises that we never saw. Her aunt saw them, and on one occasional called CPS, but nothing was done. She was basically starved. She weighed 18 lbs when she was in the hospital. She's 2.5 years old. She weighed exactly the same - 18 lbs - when she left us at 1.5 years old. They apparently sold her WIC checks - for drugs for the mom (and probably the dad, who knows) - and most days she was given a cup-o-ramen and that was it. This is a girl who was eating us out of house and home at 18 months old. Her mom was taking the dad's monthly check (social security?) and using it for herself.
We couldn't have known this. Almost everytime we picked her up, they were in the process of feeding her. Either shoving mac & cheese in her mouth, or she was sitting in front of the TV with a frozen dinner, or something. They must have been doing that on purpose.

And all the guilt I've felt for not calling CPS for the various little things we've seen, well, there's no point in that. Get this...the aunt said she saw hand-marks on Niblet's face, and choke marks on her neck, and she hotlined it. Called CPS about it. And NOTHING HAPPENED. WTF!? We have a foster child with random bruises on the outside of her leg, and we get pulled into a months-long ordeal...they obviously slap and choke their child and they get to keep her long enough to beat the f*ckin' crap out of her?? CPS is totally at fault for this child's injuries.

A year ago, when she left us, she was a happy, healthy, normal little girl. Now she's still the strong, smart, happy girl she was, but she has scars. She has eating/hoarding issues. She is seriously delayed in speech. She's already slated to get PT, OT and speech therapy. They can't even do psychological counseling because she's pre-verbal and we don't live anywhere fancy enough to have good shrinks who work with pre-verbal abuse survivors. Who knows what kinds of issues she's likely to have in the future?

To top it off, she now has the same case worker she had when she was with us. The one that sent her back to her father. The one who, initially, told us that we would adopt her, that she was going to convince the father to surrender, that she was going to TPR the parents. Then when the county changed it's mind - she changed her tune and never gave us the time of day from there on in. Now she's giving the same song and dance to the aunt. Granted, they have a better case against the father this time, and she might feel responsible in some way and actually give this little girl safe permanence, but I'm not holding my breath. What I do know is this - if they make motions towards sending her back to her father or mother, you're going to see this story on the evening news. That's our only recourse - shaming the county into doing the right thing - and we're going to use it.

Now the Better:
Niblet is wonderful. She is flourishing in a loving family. She was all smiles and Niblet-ness during our visit. We hadn't seen her in a long time, and not since she was hospitalized, so it was probably a little confusing for her to see us out of context and everything, but she was so happy. She sat on fostermama's lap and hugged her for a good 10 minutes, but then started playing with Squeak and let us show her how to open the presents we'd brought for her. Then she was running around, being silly, and basically being our little Niblet. It was so good to see. Her cousins are 8 and 11 years old and obviously love her. And she them. She didn't act scared around them like she did around her parents. Her aunt told us about some of her issues and how she's made sure to teach her that she can always eat as much as she wants and there's always more. She brought her to the supermarket and showed her that that's where food comes from and that they will always buy more.

She's teaching her not to be afraid. Not to hide. And helping her find her words. She'll copy a word if she's told to: "Niblet, say whale,"..."whaaale". It's cute. But she doesn't talk on her own. We're pretty sure that it's because she was trained by her parents not to express herself at all. She wasn't allowed to cry, to laugh, to be loud. So why would she have learned to speak for herself? It would have just gotten her in more trouble.

We're so thankful that Niblet is with this loving family. We are crossing all our fingers and toes, and praying to any gods we can think of, that she gets to stay there forever.

Now for the feel-good, holiday-ish part of the post:
During our visit, Niblet's aunt complained that the agency that was going to provide some christmas gifts for Niblet sent over 3 small, lame toys for her, and gave Niblet's *parents* a bunch of stuff for their new apartment - plates, towels, etc. The aunt and uncle live in a nice, but poor, part of town and have their 2 boys to shop for, as well, so while they do have some clothes and a couple of toys for her, they were feeling bad about it.
We have some clothes in her size that we were going to offer them, so we did and the aunt said they'd love them and that "every little bit helps". So we mentioned this to some family and friends who have known and loved Niblet since she came to us, and they are pulling a few toys and books out of their attics, or sending us a little cash to shop for her with, and we'll bring it all over to Niblet in the near future. It's not quite a Christmas Miracle, but I'm happy to be able to show Niblet and her new family just how large and extended their "Village" really is.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Niblet is safe and with family

Yesterday at court, a couple of people surprised us by doing their jobs.

The private agency social worker who was responsible for Niblet's parents' counseling last year has shown up and gotten involved, and she ironed out the differences between Dad and Aunt (aka Godmother) so that Dad would support Niblet going to Aunt. So it was even more clear, and that's what happened.

Also, the County lawyer brought up a subpoena for Niblet's medical records from when she was hospitalized 2 weeks ago, and a restraining order against each of her parents. For her father, so that his visits will be supervised until after his abuse trial. For her mother, so that she cannot see her at all until she's appeared in court.

It was a relief and a disappointment to know that we wouldn't be trying to get Niblet placed with us. We had changed our minds 2 nights before (in the middle of the night) and decided we would take her even temporarily. But we didn't want to deal with that if it wasn't necessary, and it's better that it's not.

We're hoping that Aunt will let us see her, and that maybe eventually Dad will surrender his parental rights to Aunt. Or at least let Niblet stay there indefinitely. With kinship foster care, the parent doesn't actually have to lose their rights at any point, it can just go on forever. At least that's my understanding.

So yay for Niblet. At least as yay as anything is for a kid tied up in the foster system.
We do feel like she's lucky. She has us, she has this social worker who was her father's counselor who clearly cares even if she doesn't agree with us about everything, and she has this aunt and uncle who are willing to take her in who seem like really good people.

It's not over yet, because her father could get her back and neglect her some more, or her maternal grandmother could somehow prevail in court and get her moved to her maternal aunt's custody in a far-away city (her birth siblings live there, but this aunt has turned Niblet down before and has only met her a few brief times). Those don't seem like the most likely outcomes, though, which is nice.

We are anxious to give Niblet hugs of our own, but we are happy to know she is getting all hugged up by people she knows and loves.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Being a parent means feeling guilty

Nobody related to Niblet's case is doing their job properly (if at all). fostermama and I have been going above and beyond, because we love Niblet, and it's just not enough. We need the case worker and the legal guardian and the judge and the father's lawyer and the father's social worker to all do their jobs. Or at least ONE of them. And they're not. And, yet, I feel guilty. Yes, I know I shouldn't, but I do. So there's no point in trying to convince me out of it.

See, we've decided not to fight for Niblet to be placed with us for foster care. There was court today and nothing happened. The judge "decided" that she should remain in foster care, but didn't place her with the family members who want her, nor with us, nor make any decisions about her long-term plan. He basically just continued the case until next week. Lovely. So Niblet is still with the new foster parents. I'm sure she's happy there, because she's a happy, loving, friendly girl, but it's not like being with family or people you think of as family (like us). Eventually she's going to wonder what happened to everyone else.

What we're hoping for is that she get placed with her family members next week. We met them and they seem like sincere, good people. They want the best for Niblet and cried at the end of court when they realized they couldn't take her home today. We were going to call the caseworker's supervisor and whatnot and try and convince them to place her with us until she can go with her family, but then decided against it.

The thing is, this is driving us crazy. What happened to her, what's continuing to happen to her, the fact that the county will probably work for "reunification"...again...and that Niblet will probably languish in foster care for a long time again and then probably go back to her father. We just can't deal with that. Not with Squeak and ourselves to take care of. The stress of it the first time around was not-quite-bearable.

We're not totally giving up. We're going to call Niblet's father and talk to him. Ask him what he wants and, if it seems like he might be willing to surrender Niblet to us (he has some sort of beef with the other family members and has said he doesn't want them to have her), then we'll say whatever we have to (including some little white lies, if necessary) to make that easy for him. But he'll have to do it FAST, because we're just NOT doing temporary foster care anymore. If he wants to hurt Niblet by making her get attached to people over a long period of time and then ripping her away from them, again, I'm not going to be party to it. And we don't have any power to make sure it doesn't happen that way, no matter how much we wish we did.

Then, if her father doesn't want to surrender her, we're also going to talk to the legal guardian and make sure he understands why placing her with her family members is the right decision. We don't want her to stay with these unknown foster parents, really. The legal guardian is relatively useless, but apparently if we feed him information to help him look good, he might actually use it.

On the plus side, if her family members do get her (temporarily or permanently), they've already said we're very welcome to visit with her. So she won't lose us and we won't lose her. It really would be the best possible outcome for this little girl.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

There's no end to the way the system can hurt a child

She's not with us. They sent her to another foster home.

And they won't tell us why.

They verified that we are NOT being investigated at all regarding the injuries, so that's a huge relief, but they won't tell us why they "changed their minds" and sent her to be with strangers when she should be with us.

We are hurting for her so much that I can't even begin to explain.

Our only consolation is that she is safe. That is huge. She hasn't been safe for a year, apparently, and now she is.

She just should be safe with us. And she's not.

If this doesn't get resolved by next week, we're going to the media. The system is so f*cked up, there needs to be huge changes. It's not just Niblet.

Stay tuned.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Update

She's definitely coming into care when she gets out of the hospital tomorrow. And the homefinder director (who used to be our social worker before she got promoted to head the unit) has made it so we're back in the system and we will be the ones getting her.

So she'll be coming to us tomorrow. Until at least early next week (with the holiday and all, they don't know when the court hearing will happen).

She is hurt. Her eye is swollen shut and has a hematoma ("she hit her face on a radiator") and she has extensive bruising and chafing all over her thighs and crotch ("they have no explanation for that"). I can't even begin to try and process that.

This is EXACTLY what we didn't want to happen - for her to go home all happy and "fixed", and then come back to us later on totally broken. We thought she was going back to a safe home. We weren't worried for her in that way. We knew her life wouldn't be the same as if she had stayed with us, but it would be a good life.

I feel like we failed her. We should have fought harder for her. I should have known that, if her parents were rough and yelled and her while we were there picking her up or dropping her off, then they must be even worse when we're not there.

But, of course, it's not my fault. It's theirs. I just want to turn back time. I want to give this little Niblet another go at the past year.

I don't want her back. It wouldn't be the best thing for our family - fostermama, Squeak and myself. But it *would* be the best thing for Niblet, so we'll do it if that's what it comes to. Her aunt & uncle have said they want her, so she may very well go to them if they check out. I'm feeling not-so-generous about that, as I'm sure they know more about what was going on with her than we do, but if they really want her and they're appropriate, then so be it. But if we get any inkling that they're NOT good for her, we're lawyering up. We'll fight for her. She deserves it.

Niblet back in care?

I just got a call on my cell from CPS. They want to talk to us because Niblet is in the hospital. Something happened on Friday, I don't know what, and she's been in the hospital since then.

Unfortunately, sort of, we saw her on Friday afternoon for a few hours. So, of course, they have to talk to us and see if we're part of the investigation or not. The CPS worker and a detective will be by our house this afternoon to talk to us. Mostly about Niblet's father, she said, but I know (gee, how do I know...?) that they'll be looking to see if we're in the wrong in any way.

She said Niblet will be released tomorrow, and may be put back into foster care. I made it clear that we want to take her if that happens, and she said that a few people have stepped up and that we'd have to go to court and talk with the judge.

Anyway, I'll keep you updated. Keep little Niblet in your prayers.

I'm shaking with the news. I don't know what to do or what will happen.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I wish she could talk

I wish we could ask Niblet what she wants, how she feels. I know that, even if she were talking like an average 2.5 year old, she wouldn't be capable of that kind of conversation. But I wish it anyway.

Lately, we've been not as anxious to see Niblet. We've skipped many weekends. Sometimes it's been because she's with other relatives and her parents forgot to have her back in time for us to pick her up (which is great, in that she's getting to be with various family), and sometimes it's just because we're too busy to see her. Or we really need to relax or get things done.
Being with Niblet is great, but it takes a lot of work.

It's becoming additionally hard as Squeak is getting older and more possessive. It's actually kind of cute. The last time she was over, Niblet and Squeak literally fought over EVERYTHING. Toys, our laps, the same square of rug, anything. And Squeak's not really old enough to win these battles, but he sure does try.

So to avoid possessiveness, and keep our sanity a little bit, we like to spend most of our time out of the house. Which, with the colder weather, is becoming harder. Especially since Niblet isn't really old enough to enjoy things like museums or other indoor kids' stuff.

Really, the main problem is our continued lack-of-relationship with her parents. It's getting easier to plan visits, but anything else - like talking about what new words she has, what things she likes to do, or how they keep her from throwing everything - is nearly impossible. So we end up with a 2.5 year old who we basically don't know anything about. Which is a hard thing to do, regardless of the situation.

From Niblet's point of view, as far as I can tell, she still adores coming to visit us. She pulls out every ASL sign we ever taught her (more, please, apple, food, light). She loves visiting with our friends. We'll usually give her a nap by laying down on our bed with her, and she just closes her eyes and goes to sleep. It's miraculous, considering our year-long sleep deprivation when we had her.

She still gets emotional when we drop her off, though. And often will start tearing up when we go to pick her up, as well. But everything is all-or-nothing with Little Miss Niblet, and I try to talk to her about her feelings, as best I can, so that's all there is to do.

I guess the thing I'm skirting around, is that it seems like it might be easier to stop seeing her. I don't think I'll ever be able to actually make that decision and follow through on it, but it might actually be the best thing. I don't know...

Our biggest goal at this point, is to make sure she gets into HeadStart as soon as possible. She'll be 3 in the Spring, so she can either start then, or in the Fall, I'm not sure how it works. Her parents just got an apartment "out of the ghetto" (as they put it) by a few blocks, but I'm sure it's still near a HeadStart program. If they're still here when it's registration time, we're going to bring them the information and forms and ask if they need any help getting her set up in a program. I think that's the best thing we can do for Niblet. So, I guess, in order to do that, we have to stay in her life at least until then.

It's just such a weird situation. And, to top it all off, I can't stop myself from occasionally daydreaming about the "what ifs". I would take her back in a heartbeat and really want to stop hoping for that, but I can't yet. It actually annoys me, but there it is.

Alright, that's it for now. I'd like to keep up on posting here, but I don't know what to write about. I almost signed up for NaBloPoMo, but it seemed like too much. So if you guys have any questions or would like elaborations on anything, please speak up. I know I have one request out there for an adoptive breastfeeding post, and I'll get on that, but what else?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

I'll be a killjoy...

As awesome and relieving as it is to be cleared, it feels somewhat hollow as well.

We still can not do foster care again, because we'd risk the same thing happening. I'm really sad about that!

And we know this is happening to lots of other foster parents in our area and around the country. Our placement worker (the one useful person at the county) said it's happening a lot right now. Craziness! As I said to her, this is one sure way to get rid of all good foster parents.

Someone posted on a listserv I'm on about how Alameda, CA has this approach to foster care that really prioritizes the kids' rights (silly things like permanency and safety), and I am so jealous! I wish I felt I had some power to create change here.

Plus, the huge (for us) amount of money we spent on this is a real sore spot. We really need that money, especially with all Squeak's medical issues.

The caseworker who screwed us is spending her days harrassing other bio parents and foster parents around the county, with her inept supervisor smiling and nodding and being clueless. I'm sure there are no repercussions for her for how she handled this. Nor any training on how to do it better in the future.

It's just SO upsetting.

I started out doing foster care after MAPP class feeling really good about the system here and thinking it worked as well as it could given the crazy situations it handles. Oy, was I wearing some rose colored glasses! If the caseworkers and their supervisors were to actually **receive MAPP training**, maybe things would be better. But they don't. They have no idea how it's even *supposed* to work, much less how to get it there.

UGH.

I wish I could be a foster parent. I wish I could recommend it to my friends and acquaintances who show interest. I wish my life hadn't had this cloud hanging over it for *half a year*, and I wish I hadn't spent money I don't have on getting cleared.

I really appreciate everyone's enthusiasm about us getting cleared. It's nice knowing we've got cheerleaders. :) I just can't quite get behind the "hooray"s. :(

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Unfounded!!!

We came home tonight to find 2 very thin envelopes from the state office of children & family services. I ripped one open immediately and scanned it to find the words "As a result of this review it is our decision to legally seal the report. Therefore, in accordance with the law, the report has been amended to show it is unfounded..."

WOOHOO!!!

We are NOT child abusers, and now the records show that!
It is such a f'ing relief. I don't honestly know how much of my psyche has been muddled up with this over the past 6-7 months. I suspect I will, eventually, feel so much more relaxed.

So much of our future plans rided on whether we were cleared or not, and now we are free to do whatever we want.

I can't believe that we had to go through this, but at least it's over and it won't rear it's ugly head ever again.

Friday, August 31, 2007

SNAFU is just our status quo

What's been going on Chez Fostermoms, you ask? Everything and nothing.

First, the Niblet situation:
Niblet's not going anywhere any time soon. The last time we picked her up, fostermama asked Niblet's mom about the whole moving-out-of-state thing. Her mom said that her dad just got approved for Section 8 and there's a rule that you can't transfer your Section 8 out of state until you've been living in your current state for one year. So he can't move for one year. So we have Niblet for at least one more year. As we know, a lot can happen in a year, so whatever. We're just enjoying her in the moment. We've actually skipped a week here and there because there's been a lot of other stuff going on with us and it's pretty all-encompassing to have her around. We don't really get anything else done. Hopefully, though, we'll take her for an afternoon/evening over the long weekend.

Niblet herself is still CUTE. She's enormous, in my eyes. Still only about 26 pounds soaking wet, size 3 diapers fit her very well, but she's tall and mature-looking. She's slowing communicating more, but she still doesn't initiate words. She'll copy back words and she uses ASL signs with us that we've taught her, and she babbles and is a huge fan of NO!, but no real "talking" as I would define it. She's behind in that regard, but I suspect she'll eventually catch up. And she UNDERSTANDS everything, no doubt about that.

In SqueakLand: Squeak is now 7 months old, sitting like an uber-pro, and thinking about becoming mobile. He launches himself at the world and is really good and getting stuff that we think are out of his reach. Silly moms!
We found out recently that he has many food allergies, as well as allergies to our cats. This has created a lot of problems to be solved in our lives. Our cats are our "first children". We're "those crazy cat people", truly. We're devoted to our fuzzies. But between them and our kid, well, there's no contest. They're going to live with a family member, for which we're eternally grateful. The idea of having them go to a stranger and possibly never seeing them again was killing me.

Otherwise, we're learning to live with a baby who lives to put everything in his mouth and who needs, for the safety of his life, to be kept away from anything with food on it. (Okay, not all food, just anything that might have any possible traces of: milk, egg, peanut, other nuts, wheat and soy - see that's not everything, right?) It's complicated, especially since most of our friends have toddler (which, by definition, are constantly sticky with food).


Because we're breastfeeding him, we've cut all of these things out of our diet and are on a crazy elimination diet so we can test everything else slowly and make sure he doesn't react to anything else. You can only test for a few things in an infant blood test, because you can only take a small amount of blood. Next time we'll test for more, but for now we just have to test them the old-fashioned way - by mouth.

It's hard to even know how I feel about this, because it's just become a part of my life so quickly, so easily it seems. We carry around an Ep1-pen wherever we go with him. We wipe his hands (and anywhere else he can reach with his mouth) whenever we've been out in the world, just in case he got something on him. We're still in the hypervigilant phase. I know we'll always be like that, unless and until he grows out of the allergies, but I think it will eventually be subconscious instead of the first thing on my mind.

And, in case you thought it had just gone away of it's own accord, we're STILL waiting to hear the result of our adminstrative appeal for the stupid indicated abuse report. We sent in our lawyer-written letter about 45 days ago and they have 90 days to give the decision. We don't expect an answer until the 90th day.

That's how it is here. Any other questions?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Goals

Inspired by the other fostermama. For context, check out this post..

What a good question. I was about to start listing, and I realized I didn't know what to list. I am an obsessive plan-ahead-er, but the chaos of our lives for the past few years has muted that a bit. At the moment our big plan is to get FosterMommy through grad school to be an OT starting fall of 2008. Assuming we're not determined to be child abusers :P There are other plan-type things along those lines (adopt another child, beginnings of plans for me to be a lactation consultant for adoptive moms...).
But that's not really the kind of goal setting your post makes me think of.

I personally detest self-help books. I have only recently conceded that they sometimes have something useful to add, but then only because FosterMommy reads them and shares some of their better ideas. I guess I have rejected this type of goal-setting, but I really like this exercise you set us. Here are my results so far:

For each of us to be in a career & job that is fulfilling and enjoyable.
To have a strong family unit, full of mutual support and warmth and good communication.
To feel energetic more often than exhausted.
To actively think about what I want to teach my kids and how I want to be with them as they grow up, and then do it.
To remain healthy into old age.
To live in community (this one I feel like we're already doing, but I want it to continue to be true).

I think that's a long enough list for now. I will have to set myself to thinking more about each of these, and to thinking about the question of Goals more often.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Good news at the County

The head of the adoption and homefinding unit in our county retired recently. She was not all bad, but she had serious interpersonal challenges. You could learn how to work her and get out from under her shoe, but she also scared off a lot of people and treated us like crap way too often. She had a hard job, granted, but she didn't have to be so hard on "her" foster parents. She also had no concept that it was more important to retain good foster parents than to recruit new ones. She had an obsession with numbers of new recruits, but didn't do a good job supporting those of us already doing it.

Anyway, her senior underling is amazing and awesome. And she just sent out a letter announcing that she got the promotion! She is now head of the unit! So exciting. I really hope she can do a good job and make some good changes in the dept. She doesn't have enough support from above or laterally (bad supervisors in other units, and clueless and politically motivated supervisors above her) but she is an amazing woman and she manages to be sane and insane in a good balance and to always be warm and supportive. I hope she manages to find good staff for under her, too (there's so much turnover, and often long vacancies). This job is a set-up for failure, but I think this woman can do it as well as anyone. And she's not going to give up. I'm just excited to have someone who is genuinely supportive of foster parents in this position. And who really seems to get it about what our lives and responsibilities and challenges are like. Yay.

Our appeal on the Joy situation is going out in the mail today. If we get cleared (please!?!?!?!) then I could see us doing this crazy thing again some day. Especially with this newest development.

Here's hoping this County can turn around and become a much better place to foster. I know she can't do it alone, but she can be a big part of good change.

Pray to 'em if you've got 'em

Today we're mailing off our letter to the office investigating the Joy Fiasco. This is for the "administrative review" portion of the journey. If you'll recall, they already found us "indicated" and decided that we either beat her, causing her bruises, or ignored her while she did them herself. Neither of which is true, obviously, but certainly both can't be. Anyway...

So this lawyer we hired (a fellow foster parent, actually) wrote this 9 page letter that is VERY VERY good. We ended up paying him more than we expected (isn't that always the way), but really, it may have been worth it. There is no way that we could have written this letter. And he also wrote a letter for our placement coordinator to sign. That one is really good, too.

Now we just have to wait for them to read it, review the case, and decide to uphold or reject the "indicated" finding.

If this letter doesn't convince them that we are FAR from the child abusers they label us as, I don't know what to do.

So, yeah, light a candle to the Blue Fairy, or whatever it is that you prefer. We need all the good thoughts we can get behind this letter.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Niblet moving away??

We have Niblet for the afternoon today. She is so super cute and very sweet, if a bit overtired and cranky cuz she didn't get much of a nap (our fault - sometimes it's really hard when we have both babies!). FosterMommy is out with her hanging out with friends right now, and I have Squeak home asleep, cuz he wouldn't nap much at all during the day today and doesn't sleep well away from home currently, so we couldn't justify keeping him out past his bedtime.

When I went to pick up Niblet today, her dad told me in passing that he was thinking of moving down to North Carolina. He has a son who lives there and rents a whole house for $250/month, and I guess dad's had a bunch of housing difficulties (they just had to leave their old apt and seem to have temporary housing at the moment). I asked if all 3 of them would be going, and he said no just him and Niblet. So he'd be taking her away from her mother. I have no idea what mom thinks of this, or if she realizes that she has a say (she never had her rights terminated, we don't think, so she could get joint custody if she has completed her drug treatment - we don't know if she has). I doubt she wants her baby taken away. I wonder if she even knows what he's thinking.

He's planning to go down there in a couple weeks to see if he likes it, and I think from what he said that if he does the move would be almost immediate.

We might lose our baby again.

I can't bear to think of it.

We have had such dreams of her growing up with us in her life, of us getting to see her grow up and be a part of it... I want that so much! We really thought we were going to have it! We knew we had no control, but we had no reason to think he was going to up and move many states away all of a sudden while she's still young enough to forget us, either. She doesn't even say our names yet. Can't ask for us. Can't talk to us on the phone. If she goes, we're really losing her.

Our friend had a foster kid (and then her brother too) for 3 years, and then the girl went to her mom. Still, our friend was God-Mother and was still practically raising the girl. Much more than us with Niblet. Mom recently sent the girl to live with her father (the boy had been sent there months ago) in a far-away state. Our friend is going to be going there to visit soon (or maybe already has). But that girl is 5 or 6, so she can write letters and everything. And our friend doesn't have other kids so it's easier for her to travel.

I don't want to lose Niblet.

I pray that he decides to stay, and finds a good housing situation here.

The temptation is strong to ask if he has Section 8 or what and then figure out if we can manage to rent him our apartment. I don't really want them to live downstairs from us (the floors are thin), and I don't really want to have that kind of involvement with someone with whom I have a monetary relationship. Not to mention that we totally can't afford to take anything less in rent than we charge currently. And that we currently have tenants we really love. I just want her to stay so badly. I'd do anything.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Summer's here.

I don't have anything to say about summer, really, just that it's going to get up to 97 degrees here today - ouch. We'll be hiding out in the baby room with the a/c on, thankyouverymuch.

A couple of weeks ago, we took Niblet overnight at our house and it went really well. Actually, Squeak was the biggest problem that night - he was up for a couple hours for no particular reason. Niblet went to sleep in the crib pretty easily, then woke up once and fostermama sat with her until she fell fast asleep again. Then later on, I she woke up and I just brought her into our bed (since fostermama was on the couch with the not-sleeping Squeak) and she slept like a rock for the rest of the night. I don't mind snuggling with her, and I'm sure that sleeping with me one night every few weeks is not going to mess up her sleeping at home, so it's all good. Her mom tells us that she still wakes up in the night crying and nothing calms her down. She has always done that. She's not the kind of baby who wakes up in the morning and happily babbles to herself until someone comes to get her. Nope. She's always been a full-force crier. Unfortunately, it pushes her mom's buttons. So that's why she's very happy for us to take her overnight sometimes. As she put it, "I need a break!"

Her mom has started talking/venting to us more. I'm glad. It means she's comfortable with us and knows we're not going to give her advice she's not asking for, or look down on her, or whatever. She even said to fostermama, on the phone the other day, that she tried talking nice to Niblet when she was crying non-stop, but that didn't work. If she yells at her a couple of times, she stops, so that's what she does. I totally understand needing the crying to stop.

Niblet's mom also asked us to take her WIC farmer's market coupons and get some fruit for Niblet. She said she doesn't really give her fruit, so she doesn't know what she likes. We got those coupons last year and we go to the market every week anyway, so we're happy to do that. Last year Niblet was a plum FIEND. She would eat 2 or 3 of them just on the walk home.
We're thinking that, this year, peaches will probably be good because she can probably bite through the skin herself. Plums are a little harder, but I'm guessing anything will be fair game once it's cut away from the pit and in a few pieces. She really loves fruit.

One time, we were in the local supermarket for...something...we usually shop at the food coop, so I don't remember why we were in the supermarket...anyway, Niblet was in the stroller and we passed through the produce section. She spotted the apples and flipped out! She didn't calm down until we took a bag of them off the display, opened it up and handed her one. She was the happiest baby in the world.

I can't wait until she has more words. Once she's more verbal, she's going to be sooo much happier. She can say a few things and she has a few signs, but she still gets really frustrated because there are so many things she understands, so many things she wants to say, and she has no way to get any of it across except by yelling/crying/pointing. Hopefully the words will come to her soon.

Last weekend we went to pick up Niblet, and she wasnt there because she had spent the night with her aunt and wasn't back yet. It wasn't a big deal, because fostermama has been sick and we even thought about cancelling the visit because we're pretty overwhelmed right now. Anyway, when we got there and Niblet's dad was really sorry we had wasted our time. His phone is broken, so he couldn't call us. He told us that they're moving this week. It's unclear if *they* are moving, or if just *he* is moving. He said he'll have to put stuff in storage and stay in a hotel until the county finds them/him another place. It's very confusing, because he hasn't been there a year yet. So maybe he and the mom are splitting up and he's moving out? Well, hopefully we'll find out more soon. fostermama's going to pick up the farmer's market coupons this afternoon, hopefully, so maybe she can find out more.

We already realize that, if they're all moving, we may very well lose contact with them for a few weeks or more. We're going to give them all our phone numbers, again, so maybe they won't lose it. And if we don't hear from them, we'll send a letter to their address and hope it's forwarded. But, really, it's a small town, and if they don't contact us, we can find them. I'm just glad we have some warning.

Being Niblet's godparents is an adventure, that's for sure!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Baby!

No, not for us. One is plenty for now, thankyouverymuch.

But please click on over here and take a peek at baby Seli, the newest addition to Peter's Cross Station.

Sounds like it was a whirlwind match. I'm partial to those, now, seeing as that's how we got Squeak.

I'm so happy for all of them and look forward to stories of Nat-as-Sibling.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

"Want" is a strong word.

This weekend I learned something.
I don't want Niblet to come live with us.

Here's what happened.
We went camping this past weekend with a bunch of friends. We asked to take Niblet with us, and her parents were pretty psyched to get a weekend's break. We picked her up on Friday afternoon and drove out there (1 hour away) that evening.

We were going to keep her until Monday afternoon.
Instead, we brought her back Saturday night.

Niblet *loved* the camping. She loved having all our friends around (all of whom she knows very well). She loved running free. She fell asleep really easily in the tent with all 4 of us snuggling together.
She didn't, however, stay asleep. She woke up 5 or 6 times, crying at the top of her lungs. She wouldn't calm down for anything. Each time she eventually just stopped and fell back asleep. One time she had made a huge poop that leaked, and then after she was changed she stayed up for almost 2 hours.

The next day we were all exhausted. I took a 2 hour nap with her mid-day, but it was so hot in the tent I thought we'd both get heat stroke!

It's possible that the subsequent nights she would have been more used to the tent and to being with us, but we just couldn't take the risk.
The main problem was that we weren't taking proper care of Squeak because we were both pretty focused on Niblet.
Squeak has a skin problem that needs lotion put on it multiple times a day to keep it at bay. Friday we did it once when we should have done it 3-4 times. Overnight, I didn't change his diaper because I was afraid of waking Niblet - and then he woke up with a diaper rash. It's a bunch of little things, but they added up to the fact that we weren't able to properly be there for him and her at the same time.

Yes, we were both recovering from colds and certainly camping with 2 babies is hard, but really it was easier than if we'd been at home. We had friends around who were very helpful with both kids, and Niblet certainly wasn't bored for a minute.

We realized early on Saturday that, if we wanted to actually enjoy the rest of the weekend and come out of it relaxed, we had to bring Niblet home.

So we called her parents, told a little lie about why we needed to bring her back, and I drove her home. Why did we lie? Because it was easier. If we had better communication with her parents, we'd have admitted to getting in over our heads, but we don't.

I feel guilty. Guilty that we lied. Guilty that we offered her parents a weekend's respite and then rescinded. And guilty that I can't picture a way that we could possibly parent Niblet and Squeak without losing our minds and doing a crap-ass job.

What I want is to parent Squeak to the best of my ability. What I want is to spend my vacations with fostermama and Squeak - my complete family.

I do *wish* that things were different. That I was a parent more capable to take on a toddler and an infant. When they're both older, taking her for longer periods of time will be more possible. But she's where she belongs. Squeak is ours and Niblet is theirs and that's the way it's supposed to be.

Would we still take her if she needed us? Of course. I'm just not hoping for it anymore. And that's a good place to be in.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Fight the Power

[Button removed on 9/12/07...thanks everyone for your help and support!]

In response to my previous rant, Beth asked if there was a way that people who wanted to could throw a few bucks our way to help pay our lawyer.
So I figured out how to make a PayPal button and put it up on the sidebar.

I feel weird doing it, but I know that people aren't going to help us out for any other reason than that they want to. I mean, really, since when did savvy interneters ever pay money just because a button told them to?

So, please, feel free to ignore it. I just wanted to let y'all know why it's there. And if you feel the urge to click, thank you so very much. Really.

Monday, May 21, 2007

In the criminal justice system...

...foster care-based offenses aren't really considered especially heinous.
(Can you tell what TV show we watch all the time?)

We got the results of the investigation against us in the mail the other day. It was worse than we thought. They've been lying to us for over a month (act shocked, I dare you!)
They told us, over the phone, that we were found "indicated" due to "lack of supervision". Basically that we should have been hovering over Joy's crib all night long so she didn't hurt herself. Instead, they found us indicated due to that and ALSO indicated due to "bruising".

They think we hurt her on purpose. Or, at least, they think it's a possibility. So they're covering their bases.

Either we hit her OR she hurt herself while we weren't watching. They can't have it both ways. It's f'ed up. Also, I really think that, if they think we hit the kid, that it should be a criminal matter. If I hit an adult, I'd be arrested for assault. But hit a foster kid? Eh, just put 'em on a list. Doubly f'ed up, says me.

Anyhow, this new information makes it a much more serious case and much harder to prove our innocence. At least according to our lawyer.

Yep, we have to hire a lawyer. We met with him yesterday for 2 hours. Fortunately, he's a fellow foster parent. Unfortunately, his firm won't take us on pro-bono (because it's not a criminal case - see above). He's going to do this as cheaply as possible, but we have to give him $1000 retainer. ONE THOUSAND F*CKING DOLLARS. To clear our names. To fix what the bitch evil case worker has done.
Can we afford it? Nope. fostermama and I both work part-time, by choice, so we don't have to put Squeak in daycare. We're frugal and budget well. We have savings. We have no consumer debt. But we just paid for an adoption. and, face it, who has $1000 just sitting around collecting dust?

I just find it so unfair. We make around $40,000/year between the 2 of us. If this were a criminal matter, we'd each be eligible for a court-appointed lawyer. But since this is extra-judicial, then we have to pay.

So this Friend-The-Lawyer (FTL) says the next step is the administrative review. We're allowed to submit a letter and whatever supporting material we have. FTL is going to write the letter for us. He's also going to talk to our Placement Worker (who has worked with us since MAPP class) and write a letter for her to sign. He will probably take statements from Niblet's daycare worker and Niblet's OT, and write letters for them to sign, as well.
Our $1000 covers all this. If we're not cleared in this step, and we have to go on to an in-court hearing, then we'll have to sign a new contract and pay additional money.
Here's crossing our fingers that he writes good, convincing letters, cuz all this money's coming out of our small savings and we were planning on using that to, ya know, de-lead paint our porches and good stuff like that.

On the upside, a friend of ours made a very good point that might win our case for us. He said that the fact that, the same day that the daycare person mentioned the bruises to me, I not only went straight to a visit with Joy's mom, but then happily allowed her to go change Joy's diaper, means that I didn't have anything to hide. I could have easily said "oh, you're 9 months pregnant, let me change her for you!" and she never would have seen the bruises. But I didn't know they were there, and had no reason to keep her mom from changing her.
Really, why would we have pushed for visits and allowed the mom to see the bruises if we were beating Joy? We wouldn't have, is the answer. Case closed.

I hope.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Not to overwhelm you...

...but I'm overwhelmed, so you get to share.

Yesterday, as we were getting ready to bring Niblet home, we did our normal routine of changing her back into the clothes she came in. We always change her into "playclothes" that we keep in a drawer for her, because we like her to be able to get dirty and we don't want to worry about her dirtying the clothes her parents put on her. Plus, most of the clothes they have for her are still a bit too big (because she's a skinny, skinny kid) and they often fall down.

So anyway, we were at our friends' house, in their well-lit living room, and I stripped Niblet down and changed her diaper. When I did, I was confronted with a large, healing bruise on the side of her stomach. My heart dropped, but she's a toddler, and toddlers get hurt. As we well know. I pointed it out to fostermama, but there are a million explanations, so, yeah...

I had to keep looking, though. And I found more. On both of her upper arms, there were big bruises. Either from someone grabbing her too tightly, or from someone smacking her arm hard. We tried to document them, just in case more show up, but the only camera we had access to didn't end up working very well.

There's nothing we can do about it. Yes, they probably grab her too hard sometimes. She pushes their buttons, she's a handful. In the year we had her, I often felt the desire to toss her out the window. I didn't, but different people have different breaking points and different lines that they're willing to cross. Smacking a kid or grabbing their arm are things that some parents find acceptable. They're not a reason for a call to CPS.

The bruise on her belly, I have no idea how that got there. Hopefully it was self-inflicted. She's clumsy and falls all the time, so she could have fallen onto something.

Now we're in the weird position where we'll be looking at her for bruises every time we see her. We'll be taking pictures of whatever is there. And if something really crosses the line, we're going to have to mention it to her parents. Niblet spends time with a lot of different relatives, so it's possible that the bruises aren't from her parents. Anyway, we're not going to go behind their back and call CPS on them, because then they'll never trust us. We would probably never see her again.

When we still had Niblet living with us, fostermama and I used to dream up elaborate ways to "kidnap" Niblet and start our lives over elsewhere. Last night, as I was falling asleep with my son safe and secure in my arms, my mind was whirring again. It's not going to happen, but it's much easier to think about ways to take Niblet from them, than to think about watching her grow up being yelled at and hurt.

To top it off, if she did end up getting pulled from their home, currently we couldn't take her in. Because of the Joy Fiasco, we're not currently allowed to foster.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Any suggestions?

We're pretty sure Niblet needs some physical therapy, and maybe speech therapy, and we have no idea what to do about it.

We don't know exactly what she "should" be doing, but her legs are very tense (she still has the high tone from being a drug addicted preemie), and she walks very stiltedly. She can't run, really. I could imagine maybe just suggesting to her parents that they get an Early Intervention evaluation, but I'm not sure how I would explain *why* I'm suggesting it. I suspect that, if we say that her walking isn't as good as it should be, they'll just say "she's fine!" Or that she should be saying more words than she is, they'll disagree with that, too.

I don't want to come off as telling them what to do. Or even as knowing more than them about kids in general, and their kid in particular.

I'm just worried about Niblet and don't want her to get worse because I'm too scared to say something.

I'm just a barrel of laughs

I've had a really good Mother's Day, really. I'm not complaining. I got to go to the park with my boy, fostermama & Niblet. It's beautiful out today and there's a festival in the park, so there were vendors and music and tons of people. We all enjoyed ourselves. Now fostermama is in the other room napping with Niblet and Squeak is playing on his floor gym.

But (you knew there was a but, right?) I was very upset by what happened when we went to pick up Niblet. We got there and they weren't quite ready for us yet, which was fine. Niblet's mom was finishing her hair and starting talking about how Niblet's been crying a lot and "I just can't stand that! There's nothing wrong with her, she just wakes up crying and cries whenever!" Some of it was just venting for my benefit, as proof that she's glad that we're taking her for the day, which I understand, but some of it was not like that. Some of the things she said to Niblet were upsetting to me, and obviously not how I would ever talk to a child, but that's not the worst part.

The worst part was Niblet. She was standing there, arms tense and hands balled, face squished up in a silent almost-cry, while her mom finished her hair. Her dad kept yelling at her to "turn that off". She really wanted to cry, for whatever reason (maybe because she was excited I was there and knows that her parents yell at her when she gets too excited) and she knew she wasn't allowed to cry. It was the most painful thing I've ever seen. She looked at me and I smiled at her and said that we'd go out and play once her mom was done. She smiled a little, but her face was red from holding in the cry.

I understand she's a handful. I know her mom was venting, and I get that. But it's hard not to take it hard. And Niblet obviously does take it hard. She's always been sensitive. When she was with us, she always cried when she woke up - unless we were already holding her.

Niblet's adult sister, and the sister's mom, were both there, as well. She gave them kisses before we left.

And, amidst all this, one of the things that Niblet's mom said was "you want her back? You can have her!" She totally didn't mean it, and it was just part of the vent, but, obviously, it stuck with me. They know we wanted to adopt her. They know we want to be a part of her life. They must know that we would take her if need be - really, what else would be the reason of asking us to be her godparents? I think it's probably even good that her mom feels secure enough to blurt that out without being afraid that we'll take her up on it.

Oh, how I want to take her up on it. Everytime we have Niblet, fostermama and I both comment on how *right* it feels. The 4 of us hanging out, being together. It's very hard not to imagine what life would be like if she were ours again.

While we were getting ready to walk away from their house, Niblet's mom stuck her head out the window, called Niblet by a nickname I've heard her use before, and said goodbye again. She loves her baby, I know she does. It's just all so damn complicated that it makes my brain hurt.

Monday, May 07, 2007

A broken heart doesn't heal

Yesterday I had a Very Bad Day. Snafus just kept happening, left and right. I was out, unexpectedly waiting for a bus, for a very long time, with Squeak in tow. And once it came, I couldn't just take it home and flop, because I had to pick up Niblet for our visit and didn't have time to go home first.

I didn't mind. The whole crappy morning was going to be okay, because I was going to pick up Niblet and have her almost-2-year-old kinetic happiness for the rest of the day.

But, of course, there was a snafu in that plan, too. Her dad answered the door and said that there had been some family emergency and Niblet was with his sister (or his daughter, I forget) in a town about 20 minutes away. I confirmed that there wasn't anything wrong with Niblet and said I hoped everything turns out okay. He said we could come get her next Sunday, same time.

Next Sunday is Mother's Day and I don't think her dad realized that. I'm not certain that they'd want her for Mother's Day, but chances are they would. And her birthday's coming up, too, and I meant to ask them if they're doing anything for it, but I was so exhausted and upset and he didn't really want to talk to me at that point, so I just left. He did say that he'd left me a message a few hours before, but of course I hadn't been home all day, so I didn't get it. Argh.

Walking away from his house, pushing Squeak in the stroller, I started crying. I couldn't stop. My day had already pushed me to the edge and I had no coping strategies left.

I miss Niblet. She's growing and changing. She is not the person she would have been if she stayed with us. And I mourn for that lost person. I mourn for the lost opportunity to raise her. I simply miss seeing her precious face every day.

I wish that we were in a place in our lives where we could offer to be their backup in an emergency. I don't know if they'd accept that offer, but I'd like to be able to do it. Unfortunately, we'd still be pretty overwhelmed having her around for a full day or more.

I think what I'm feeling is my broken heart. It's still broken. No matter how much I love Squeak (which is a lot, to say the least), Niblet was my first baby and I lost her. There's no fixing that.

"Making the decision to have a child—it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body."
—Elizabeth Stone

This is particularly true of fostering. It's deciding to have your heart broken into many pieces and then never see those pieces again. With Niblet, she has my heart, no doubt. And it's okay, most of the time. But when I expect to see her, to reconnect with my heart, and then I'm denied, well, it's a strain on the pieces of my heart that are left behind.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Only slightly meta.

I've decided to keep this blog. The reason, you may ask? Because I want to.

And, really, that's the only good reason to have a blog, isn't it?

I figure there's always going to be some stuff that I want to put out there that I don't particularly want to do in the blog all my friends read. I'm still going to be vague about where I am and who I am, so I can pretend that this is still relatively anonymous.

So there you have it.

In other news (isn't there always "other news" Chez Fostermoms??), we finally got the determination letter from CPS. Even though we got the call that we were "indicated" like, what, 3 weeks ago? We finally got the letter stating it. The letter also told us where to write to get a copy of our file and to request an "administrative review". Which is basically Evil Case Worker's uber-supervisor looking at the file, saying "yeah, they're Big Ol' Child Abusers" and then giving us a date for a fair hearing where we get to argue the point.

A friend/fellow foster parent, who happens to be a lawyer (not that there's anything wrong with that!) convinced us this past weekend that we need to talk to a lawyer about all this. Which makes total sense (why didn't you guys suggest that?!) since we really are going into this blindly and putting a lot more trust into the system than it really deserves.

He thinks he'll be able to help us with it, and he's friends with one of the heads of CPS, so we're going to start there. If he can't help us, he's also looking into who else might be able to do so. Shit, I was supposed to fax him our letters today...dammit. Well, maybe fostermama can bring them to work with her and fax them from there.

Whee, aren't you glad I decided to keep the blog? You get to read what's going on in my mind as it happens! What could be more thrilling than that?

On to more cute things...Squeak is busting out all over! This week he turned 3 months old and decided that he couldn't possibly do anything as banal as wear "3-6 month" sized clothes. No, not our Squeak! So we had to pull out the 6-9 monthers and, lo, he fits into 'em just fine. Plus, he seems to be on a growth spurt. He rolls from front to back, chuckles like Ernie, and is just so damn cute it's disgusting.
Stay tuned...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Where do we go from here?

I don't know what to do with this blog now.

The title is increasingly fictional, as we're not adopting through foster care, nor are we planning to try (at least for a few years). Sure, if we get cleared of these "charges", we might try again once Squeak is older. And we'll definitely keep our license active, if possible, in case Niblet ever needs somewhere to go.

I started this blog to have an anonymous place to talk about the process and my feelings without all of my family and friends knowing about it. To talk unfiltered about it all. And to gather support from the community at large. It's been wonderful and I don't particularly want to stop, but I don't know what to post about anymore.

We have a family/friends-only blog elsewhere where we can wax poetic about Squeak's cuteness, so I don't feel the need for that specifically.

I could see the need for, at some point, needing a place to vent about people making stupid adoption comments/race comments. Or simply venting about wanting to throw myself out a window when the baby spends (seemingly) hours on end being too tired to eat and too hungry to sleep.

Or I could continue writing about foster care, in the abstract. Or start blogging reviews for pay, like Baggage does.

Or keep it here for Niblet stuff, our relationship with her and her family, etc.

Obviously, there's still the little matter of the child abuse charges to deal with and I'll definitely keep you all in the loop about that. But after that....?

What do you think I should do? I know you all would love to keep up on Squeak and his progress, but I just think there are enough blogs like that and I am not sure I have much to add, especially considering that I'm not going to post any pictures for your viewing pleasure.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

(P.S. Squeak is doing well. He's 12 weeks old, filling out his 3-6 month clothes, and growing out of his small diaper covers. He munches on his hand whenever he has an opportunity, and is still nursing like a fiend.)

Niblet & Squeak

We've had 2 visits so far with Niblet since we got Squeak. It's gone really well both times. Really, it's all Squeak's doing. I think he goes into self-preservation mode, because each time he has slept, in the sling, for the majority of the time Niblet's around. Then there's her nap and then we go to our friends' house for the evening until it's time to take her home.

Since he's just a lump now, she's not all that threatened. She "makes nice" and pets his head. She is used to her little cousin, who her mom babysits for occasionally, so the whole baby thing isn't new to her. I'm sure she'll get more upset the older he gets. At some point he'll start playing with *her* toys and then all hell will break loose!

Having the 2 of them for an afternoon sure is tiring, though! We, smartly, realized that we shouldn't take her overnight, at least for a while. She wasn't sleeping through the night for us as of the last time we took her, so mixing that in with Squeak would leave us quite tired here at Chez Fostermoms.

This past weekend, when we went to pick up Niblet, we brought Squeak along to meet her parents. They were very excited for us once we explained that he wasn't a foster baby and that we were keeping him. They thought he was super cute and huge (well, compared to Niblet, he is ginormous, for his age.) They joked that we should leave him with them while we took Niblet. We laughed and said that it would be great for him to visit with them when he's older. I really can picture Niblet and Squeak growing up together, like cousins.

We're hoping to be able to bring Niblet with us to this music festival this summer. It's over a holiday weekend, so her parents might not want her gone the whole weekend, and we can't plan on being able to take her every year, but it's really nice to be able to make long-term plans that include her. She may not be our daughter, but she's our god-daughter and I'm really enjoying that relationship.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

He's ours! And DSS be damned!

The relinquishment period for Squeak's mom to change her mind passed without a peep from our agency. This means, except for the legal finalization, he's OUR SON!!!

YAY!!!!

And! and! and! We spoke with a lawyer who told us that it's totally up to the adoption agency to decide whether we can adopt in light of our Child Abuser status. Which was totally good news because our agency is run by people who have brain cells.
Which was proven when we called, told them the whole horrid story and they said "wow, what a horrible thing to happen to you. Of course you can still adopt him. No problemo." Or something to that effect.

Can we all take a big breath together? Now let it out.

Everything's okay. We'll win at the appeal, anyway, so our records will be clean, but even if we lose, it doesn't matter at all in our adoption of Squeak.

He's our son. We're his moms. Forever.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

We're big ol' child abusers - beware!!

Mommynay wants an update, so here we go.
We visited family this weekend and Squeak was a hit all around. He's started making more cute cooing noises and has a sense of humor, so he smiles when you do something he considers amusing. He's growing like nobody's business and has apparently gained more than 1 pound per week that we've had him! Go mom-milk!

On the drive home, I checked the voice mail on the cell phone and picked up a message from Joy's Evil Case Worker (who is also the CW handling the CPS case against us). She just called to let us know that they made their determination on the "Joy matter" and that it is "indicated against Fostermommy & fostermama".

That is to say, they decided we did something wrong.

We don't have all the info yet, so we don't know how we go about appealing it and getting it expunged (which is what our placement coordinator already told us is the next step), but we have calls in to all and sundry so we can get this taken care of, like, yesterday.

It's just so ridiculous. I want to laugh, but we're worried. We're worried about what would happen if the Evil CW finds out we have Squeak. We're worried about what happens if this isn't expunged and it's on our record forever. If it's not expunged, it will show up when we file in the court to adopt Squeak, and who knows if we'd be allowed to actually adopt him!? It's craziness.

What I really want to do is drop a dime on Evil Case Worker for the emotional abuse she has perpetrated, and continues to perpetrate, against Joy. Unfortunately, things don't work like that. She's just "doing her job". We're the ones who are supposed to be perfect.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Things are Good

Not much to say 'round here. The little one ("Squeak", I'll call him) is great. He eats (nurses like a champ! Go adoptive breastfeeding!!), he sleeps (in the sling on my chest right now), he poops & pees like mad in his stylish cloth diapers, and he's just generally CUUUTE.

Does he sleep "good"? Well, for a 7-week-old, he does pretty well. Better than Niblet did for most of the time we had her, that's for sure. He gets a mite gassy at times, but he's a trooper. And did I mention cute? Yep, he's a cutie.

He's filling out a bunch, too. He's finding his hands a little bit. He loves it when we sign to him, and he smiles almost everytime I play this little nose-beeping game. It's super-adorable.

We're enjoying having a "normal" baby. It doesn't take 2 hours to get him to fall asleep. He eats a healthy amount at every feeding. He's 2 pounds lighter, at 7 weeks, than Niblet was at 6 months! And he's not a porker, for sure.

We haven't seen Niblet yet. She was out of town with her mom the first weekend we had Squeak and this weekend she and we are all sick, so no visit. We're on for next weekend, though. I know she's going to have grown a ton by the time we see her - and next to Squeak, she'll be HUGE. :)

On the DSS inquiry front, I called the woman heading the investigation about Joy and she said they will likely make their determination by the end of this week. That will be a huge relief. Even if if comes out against us, then we just go to the judge and argue it and we'll win. So there. It might even all be over and done with by the time we find out if Squeak is ours for keeps or not. That will be excellent.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

We're home!

After transit delays galore, we finally got into The Big City on Thursday evening and made our way to the agency's office where the director was sitting in a rocking chair with Our Son.

(Okay, so he's not Totally Our Son, just Probably Our Son...28 days to go!)

I'll tell you right off that he's the most beautiful baby in the world. I apologize to all your children or future children, cuz he must have been a real pig at the Cute Buffet.

I sound like a mommy, don't I? :)

We stayed with family Thursday night and came back yesterday afternoon.

We got to bring him to services last night and introduce him to our Rabbi. She always knows the right thing to say and, being familiar with foster care and adoption, said, in Hebrew, the thing you say when someone tells you they're pregnant (not that I'd ever say that "I'm pregnant", cuz that's weird.) It's something along the lines of "good luck". She knows congratulations aren't quite in order.

We're feeling really good about it, though. It doesn't hurt that the chances of his first mother deciding to parent him aren't very high. She's young, has her family's support in the adoption, and had actually originally placed him with another agency and then changed her mind. Once she had him home for a while, she realized she really needed to go back to her adoption plan. So she called our agency and dropped him off same-day. I can't imagine how hard it was for her. People often talk about their child's birth mother and say "she's the strongest woman I know" and it always sounded fake to me. But faced with what our little guy's mom did, the choices she made because of her love for him, I know she's a very strong young woman.

She didn't want to meet us or see our profile, because she said it would make it harder to stick to her decision. She finally did decide that she wants us to send pictures/letters a few times a year. I'm glad for that, because it leaves it open for her to decide to contact us or him. And, in the future, if he wants to talk to her, at least he can write her a letter. Even if she doesn't write him back.

We really were geared up for a very open adoption, but this is okay. It's his life and, if we turn out to be his permanent parents, we'll be there to help him navigate it all.

Okay, you want to know about the baby, right? He's cute. He's a little under 9 pounds and he's 6 weeks old. He's got a lot of dark baby hair that will probably fall out and kink up. He's been, so far (crosses fingers), an easy baby. He eats, he sleeps, he burps, he wets like a monsoon. He's currently in a sling on my chest. He's healthy, happy and seems to be adjusting to us pretty well.

The comparison to Niblet and her constant need for attention, motion, quiet, is...well...striking. We're calm. We're not worried about him.
Niblet, however, is coming over tomorrow afternoon and we're guessing she won't like sharing us with the interloper. We're going to go pick her up a little brown baby doll of her own to hold and take out her agressions on. Wish us luck on the introduction!

We're just happy campers right now.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Have I mentioned the rollercoaster?

Previous baby situation is no more.

But we're getting on a train tonight to head to The Big City and get a baby boy who was born at the end of January. His mom has had him since birth and decided to make an adoption plan.

They want us there early tomorrow morning tonight to do the paperwork and take him home.

Could this be IT? I can't make assumptions, but it seems likely. It will still be 30 days until the surrender is final, but considering how long we had Niblet without knowing, 30 days will be a breeze!

In other news, CPS can bite my big patootie. They're doing their thing with the investigation and I just don't care anymore.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Possible adoption match

There's a woman due at the end of March who contacted our agency.
The financials are a little higher than we'd wanted, but otherwise it sounds perfect.
We haven't gotten to talk to the agency yet, as they emailed us on their way out the door at 5pm. Obviously we'll be on the phone at 9am tomorrow.
She'll be shown our profile among at least a few others, and she may or may not pick us.
If she does pick us, she may or may not actually place with us - it is our understanding that chances are less than 50% for pre-birth matches.

Yet, it is still very exciting.
The baby will be a full African-American girl.
And since it's only 2 weeks til her due date, the wait wouldn't be very long.

EEP

Monday, March 05, 2007

Want a laugh?

They're doing an investigation regarding the bruises Joy has.

They took her to the ER, took our statements and removed her to a different foster home.

Just when she was starting to get used to us. Poor kid.

They have 60 days to decide if there's anything to blame us for. Then we'd have to go to court. Unless they clear us. Who the hell knows what they'll decide.

Everyone - our placement worker, our friends, other foster parents, everyone else at DSS who has met us - knows that we didn't hurt this baby. It doesn't matter. (and, yes, I understand and respect that they have to apply the same rules to everyone and investigate, but I get the impression that they could have de-escalated it early on in the process and chose not to.)

Well, I guess we know we won't be getting any new placements for the next 60 days, eh?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Cuz I know you're all wondering....

Here's how the visit with Joy's mom went.
Good and bad.


Joy was ecstatic to see her mom. She was smiling, babbling, playing. She'd had a good time at daycare, too, and was just so psyched to be with mom. Her mom said she was even more animated and talkative than she is usually.

Her mom is young, early 20s, and lacking in much common sense. We met at McD's and Joy happily ate a bunch of fries, 2 mcn*ggets and chocolate milk. So maybe if we get her healthy chicken nuggets, she'll eat those? Her mom said she pretty much doesn't worry about what she eats except at dinnertime when she "has to have some real food". She said that Joy liked the Tuna Helper she made one time and that she put green beans in it and she ate them. And that she likes the toddler entrees (she pronounced it "entries") from the supermarket.

My thought is that she likes to eat in social situations. Cuz she ate some at daycare while the other kids were eating. Now, there's nothing particularly wrong with chicken tenders and toddler entrees, except that they're wicked expensive. But we're health nuts. We shop at the food coop, we eat vegetarian, our meals are mostly beans/grains/veggies. We're happy to buy meat for a foster kid if that's what they'll eat, but I'm just not feeding a kid McD's on a regular basis! So hopefully we can find some stuff that isn't very expensive and that she'll eat.

Joy's mom said that she usually lets her stay up until very late at night and then lets her fall asleep in bed with her. So, basically, Joy has never had to fall asleep by herself in her crib. Which is exactly what we had been expecting of her. Which is why she was flipping out and crying so much. I feel really bad about it, but really, if the cw had set up visits or phone calls BEFORE Joy came into care...or even let us talk with the mom the day we got her...then we would have had this information and we could have taken better care of her from the beginning. Last night I stood by her crib for 45 minutes while she got up and down, drank milk, cried, relaxed, cried, and then finally fell asleep. It wasn't too bad.

But the last straw? Bruises.
Yep. Joy's mom went to change her diaper in the well-lit bathroom and came back to get me and show me these pretty big, really weird bruises on the sides of her legs.
Did I freak out? Yes. But not outwardly. All I was thinking was, well, there goes our foster care career, down the drain due to unexplainable bruising. The mom said she wasn't blaming us, but that they were weird and "if it were me, I'd take her to the doctor". (Um, it's your kid.)

I know she didn't have them when we got her, because I gave her a good once-over. But I had no idea where she got them. To make a long, stressful story short, I did eventually figure it out.

Seems that, while she was crying in her crib, she was trying to climb out and kept getting her legs through the bars of the crib. Her thighs aren't quite thin enough to slip through easily, so she'd get up to her thigh and then pull her leg out. and then try the other leg. We never knew she was doing this, because whenever we'd go in to give her another hug and lay her back down, she wasn't doing it. While I was with her last night, she did it a few times while she was trying to get me to take her out.

So, of course, we called her mom to let her know. We called the case worker to let her know, and to ask if we should still bring Joy to the doctor, and we emailed our social worker so that she's in the loop in case the cw freaks out anyway and says we are bad foster parents.

Those bruises are physical evidence of how f'ed up the system is. If they didn't have their 3-step plan for creating RAD, this child would not have these bruises.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Update

fostermama called our social worker and told her that the case worker hasn't set up visits yet. She was kinda surprised and thought it was ridiculous, so she gave us the mom's phone number and said to call her directly. fostermama double-checked that this wasn't going to get us into huge trouble, and the sw said it would be fine (which basically means she'll handle it if the sh*t does hit the fan). So we have a meeting set up for this afternoon.

I'll pick up Joy from the daycare and bring her to the local McD's where we'll meet up with her mom. She'll have about 30-45 minutes with her mom and then we'll go home and the mom goes to some class she's taking. The mom didn't feel comfortable having me come to her house, so that's why we're meeting at McD's. I totally understand, except, um, we have her kid. How could she feel fine giving us her kid, but not want us to see her messy apartment, or whatever? Anyway....

I know Joy's going to freak out when we have to leave her mom, but it'll be good for her to see her, anyway. I'm going to bring our camera so we can get a picture of mom and print it out for Joy to have.

Additionally, our SW was saying how there was talk that the placement might be for 6 weeks. Um, no. We signed up for 3 weeks. I would be fine doing 4 weeks, but more than that is ridiculous. It's not any good for Joy to be with us and longer will just make it worse. If a couple weeks post-partum isn't enough recovery time, then the mom needs to place one or both kids for adoption because she just can't hack it. And, realistically, it would be better for her to place the newborn and keep Joy because Joy needs her mom.

I just hope the visit goes well and I get some info on Joy so we can take care of her better.

DSS - Creating attachment disorders in 3 easy steps!

1. Take a 13-month-old child from her mother and place her with foster parents with no transition at all.
Even though the county has been working with the mom for over a year and knew exactly when her due date is and probably knew a while ago that it would be a good idea for her to "voluntarily" place the child while she recovers from giving birth, they made no motions at finding foster parents until the due date. and then, once found, made no motions at any kind of transition.

2. Don't allow the mom and the foster parents to contact each other.
We told them to give her our phone number. We asked if we could call her in the hospital. We need to know her routines, her likes/dislikes. We need a picture of her for the baby to look at. The mom hasn't done anything wrong and should still be intimately involved in her daughter's life.

3. Don't set up a visit right away and delay doing so until it looks like the kid is going to go at least one full week without seeing her mom.
The mom asked, yesterday afternoon, when there would be a visit. The cw didn't just pick up her cell and call us. Instead she said she'd "call tomorrow", which most likely meant she'd call Friday. And I bet she'll want to be present at the visit, which is completely unnecessary, so it won't get to be until Monday or Tuesday.

This poor little munchkin, who I'll call "Joy" (because she's completely lacking any joy in her life, so I'd like to put a little bit into her via this blog), is in full-on baby depression. She doesn't eat, she doesn't smile, I haven't heard her laugh. She cries unless we're holding her and cries occasionally even if we are holding her. We had to put her in daycare part-time because we can't rearrange our schedules for such a sort period of time. She was fine at daycare yesterday, but cried when each child left. She doesn't understand what's going on and doesn't want anyone to leave her. Hopefully this won't scar her forever, but I don't know how long she (and we) can handle it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The house, she ain't empty no more.

On Friday, we got a call from The County asking if we'd take a placement of a 13-month-old for 3 weeks. Seems that her mother is 9 months pregnant and has no family or friends to help her out or watch the older child, so she's voluntarily placing her in foster care for the first 3 weeks so she can recuperate and get settled in with the new baby.

We said yes, obviously.

It wasn't certain when the placement would begin, but her due date was this weekend.

So on Sunday we had Niblet over to play, which involved us not getting a lot of sleep because she still wants us to give her a bottle and snuggles when she wakes up at night. Monday we went to work, but both planned on taking a nap the second we got home. fostermama picked me up from work and said "so now we go home and wait for the baby!" (She hadn't even gotten there yet and we were losing sleep over her!)

We went home, cleaned up a bit, started some laundry and muffins, and waited.
Finally the call came that they were on their way, and there they were!

fostermama and I had been taking guesses as to what race the little girl would be, as they hadn't mentioned it to us on the phone. That fact, alone, led us to believe she was white, because when it's not a white baby, they usually say "is that okay?" or something else stupid like that.
We're just used to our babies being not-white. But, anyway, when I saw them getting out of the car, I saw her little hand poking out and, sure enough, she's white.

She was a little hesitant at first, but once we got her interested in the cats and the toys, she didn't even notice when the case workers (one of whom she's known all her life) left. It didn't take her long, though, to start objecting if we got out of her range of vision. She figured out that we were "her people" and, though she doesn't know why, she's okay with it.

The evening went pretty well. She worked on getting to know all the toys. She drank her sippy cup like it was going out of style. She wouldn't eat much food, but we got a little bit into her. Then we decided it was time for her bath and bed. There's where the fun ended. She saw the bath and started crying. She didn't seem to dislike the bath, actually. I think it was just the "hey! where's my Mom! Why are you doing Mom things?!" She became very clingy after that, and developed a slight preference for fostermama, so she put the kiddo to sleep. She went down really easily, with slight fuss, and was out like a light.

Then, an hour later, she was up and screaming and there was no calming her. We brought her out with us and she lay on fostermama, sipping her cup and occasionally crying a very angry cry. Poor little chicken. There was really nothing we could do. She wanted her mom. She doesn't understand where her mom went or why she's with us. She was willing to be comforted and would start to fall asleep, but then she'd come awake a little and scream anew.

It went like this for about an hour. Then, after standing by the crib, rubbing her back while she cried, I left the room again. It seemed that having me there was possibly unhelpful because she would look at me and scream louder.
She cried for what seemed like an hour (but was probably more like 15 minutes) and finally fell asleep. She slept straight through until a little after 8am.

I feel so bad for this little girl. She likely has never spent the night away from her mom and isn't old enough to understand in the slightest. We're hoping we'll be able to visit her mom in the hospital soon, and then there will be frequent visits home during the rest of the time, but I suspect that each night will re-open this new wound and she'll have to go to sleep without the one kiss and hug she really wants.

Monday, February 26, 2007

AA Culture Question

I'm shy, but I'm going to try to get up the nerve to ask around about this more than just online. I love our group of friends in this area, it's the strongest I've ever had. But we're all white. I'll probably ask this of a co-worker, but I'd like to get more than one perspective so I'll ask it here as well in case anyone has anything to say:


Niblet's dad is a Northeastern African American man in his late 60's. When I drop her off after a visit, as I did this morning, he asks, "How did it go?" or "How was she?"
I tend to say something like, "Oh, she fussed a little yesterday, I think she's getting a new tooth, but she did fine and she had a fun time."

In Jewish culture, if you don't complain a little then something is wrong.
In mainstream Midwestern culture, even a small amount of complaining is quite taboo.

So, obviously much is personality, but if I say the above to him - what is he likely hearing?
We have never had friends from Niblet's family's background(s) before. I suspect that having a personal relationship with folks like us (white middle class lesbians) is pretty new to them too. And we're all shy. So things can be a bit awkward and we almost always feel like we don't really know what they're thinking or what they want. So while this appears to be a pretty inconsequential conversation, it's a good 1/3 of our total communication with them and I'd like to make sure I'm coming across as saying what I really mean.

Thanks for any input.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Here they are....

Cute Niblet stories!

Niblet was with us this weekend for a bit, including an overnight. We haven't seen her in 3 weeks and WOW did she mature! She's way more interested in looking at the actual pages of books (instead of just listening to the story and flipping the pages as quickly as possible).

Two of her new words this time?
"WOW!"
"Oh ge ga!" (translation: Oh my god!)

She's still the kissingest, cuddliest kid on the planet. You ask for a kiss and she puckers up and plants one on you, complete with kissing noises ("mwah!")

And, as I predicted, she is full-on into "NO!"
As of last time we saw her, she would say "no" when she was about to do a "no-no" thing and she would shake her head when she didn't want something. Now she knows she can say NO and she says it!
Of course, she doesn't always mean it. She just really likes the way it sounds.

Luckily for her, one of her favorite books has the word "No!" in it. She already has a few parts of the book that she "reads along" with, and now she's added this part. She loves it.
Reader: "Shall we stay in and play?"
Niblet: "NOOOO!"
Reader: "No! It's sunny outside, follow me!"

A lot of things have been clicking for her, language-wise, it seems. I'm totally psyched for her to learn more words and be able to communicate with us even more.

She has matured a lot in other respects, as well. I don't know if it was the 3-week-lapse or what, but she no longer freaks out when one of us leaves the room. Or even if we both leave the room. We're even working on getting her to sleep through the night for us, and our first night went very well!

I really think that it just takes a long time for a child to adjust to a transition like she had. She's 20 months old and she's only been back home since October. It's definitely a good thing that we're still in her life (she was sooo excited to see us), but I think there was a lot of confusion in her little brain. It's not suprising that, on some level, it freaked her out whenever we left the room. Of course, she was like that before she started transitioning home, soooo.....

More likely, her parents took a harder line on that kind of behavior and ended up teaching her that the world won't collapse if your caretaker pees alone. We were the suckers who would continue to take her in with us, so she helped herself to our hospitality for as long as she could.
*laugh*

Either way, I'm glad that she's so secure in her world. She's growing up, but the same smart, loving, strong personality is still there.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The waiting game

I know you're waiting for a post, but really I have nothing to report. That's the way it is when you're on The List. And we're on 2 lists! We're waiting, ultimately, for our adoption agency to call, but we're also waiting for the county to call. Honestly, I could do with a foster baby to take over my life and help the time pass more easily.

Shouldn't I be enjoying this time to myself? The time to reconnect with fostermama, deep clean the house, have adult conversations with friends, see movies...shouldn't I be relishing this break? Well, I'm not.

I'm probably preaching to the converted, but let me tell you - I'm bored! I don't do all those other things because what I really want to be doing is parenting!

We took ourselves on a little vacation to try and get our minds off of babies and all that. But it didn't really help. And since we're doing adoptive breastfeeding, and had to keep pumping on vacation, it was a daily reminder that we don't have a baby.

Anyway, all this to say that there's no news.
We haven't seen Niblet in 3 weeks, and are planning on seeing her this weekend, so I'm assuming she's talking in sentences and gained 10 pounds. We're going to have to ask her parents if she has any new words, because we won't necessarily be able to figure out what she's saying if they don't tell us.

Oh, one cute thing for you:
We used to teach Niblet ASL signs. She recognized a few of them during her time with us and actually used a few on and off. She's a big fan of the sign for "more". We're pretty sure her parents don't use signs with her at all, but we still use them with her when she's with us. Last time she remembered/learned the sign for "milk" and the next morning, when I went into her room to get her from the crib, she sat there signing milk at me. It was super cute, and of course I immediately got her some milk. She just looked at it like I was crazy - she didn't want milk, she just wanted to show me her word!

She actually does a good job of remembering signs from one week to the next. She has 3-4 signs that she uses regularly with us. She has forgotten the finer points of the signs and mutated them to her liking, but we know what she means.
I was worried that her language skills weren't "up to par", but when we counted up her signs and her english words, she has about a dozen and her receptive skills are really good, too. So she's fine.

Hopefully I'll have a cute Niblet story for you next week. All in all, this waiting game would be much worse if we didn't have her to fill in the gaps.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sunday, January 14, 2007

We're parents - godparents, that is.

It's been a few weeks now, but we're still somewhat in shock.
This is how it went down:
We went to pick up Niblet for a visit. Her dad answered the door while her mom was still wrestling her into her outdoor clothes.
He says "she [meaning the mom] wanted me to ask you all if you want to be her [meaning Niblet's] Godparents."

After picking our jaws off the floor, we said that of COURSE we would and that we were honored that they asked us! fostermama was more brain-ful and remembered that Niblet had been to church a few weeks before with her "godfather", so mentioned that we thought she already had godparents. He said that that "didn't work out".
fostermama also hastened to mention that we aren't Christian, but that didn't bother him, either.

That was it.

Then we took Niblet, fastened her in the carseat and drove off. Totally dumbstruck. I mean, WOW.

Now we haven't had any more conversation with them about it, so we're not quite sure what they want our role to be in her life (godparent means different things to different people), but the one thing we're sure of is that they appreciate us being in her life and want that to continue for a long time.

It's more than we could have hoped for and all we wanted to hear.