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.