Saturday, August 16, 2008

Take my survey?

FosterMommy and I were recently asked by some friends to talk to other friends of theirs who were going through a similar foster care hell to what we experienced with Niblet. We did, and we hit it off great and we wish them tons of healing and strength as they go through the worst of losing their little boy. I also talked a bit with the mom about foster care reform and activism.

Foster care is such a broken system. My personal strong opinion is that it should be abolished completely, 100%, and all the money and resources that go toward CPS type services should instead go toward poverty-alleviation measures. I'm 1000% sure that it would keep kids safer, and it would obviously keep families together, and help adults and communities as well.

Anyway, that's not about to happen. But, I'm not going to spend all my energy pushing for foster care reform. Still, I'd like to do something.

As a foster parent, I wished for a national organization for foster parents. Mutual support, referrals for local lawyers, a blog roll, ASFA information, whatever. I'd like to try to create this, starting with a piece aimed at foster care system improvements. Since foster care is regulated at federal, state and local levels, and done differently in every area, it's complicated. But I made this simple short survey focusing on foster care reform and I'd like to use it to get an idea if what I think are the general big problems are the same things others see, and if not then what are.

If you're a foster parent who thinks the system needs to change, would you take it? And send your own blog readers over here to take it, too?

Click Here to take survey

Thanks all!!

Sorry for the crappy sentence structure here - I'm tired.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Family Court is good for something afterall!

Squeak's adoption is final!

For some families, this is a big event, but we weren't all that excited by it. We feel that Squeak has been ours since the 30-day-wait was over, last April. Since then, there has been no doubt who he is and who we are to him.

The weird part was going into the Family Court. The same court we've been to with Niblet. The same court that screwed her over numerous times. The same court that, hopefully, will make it as right as can be and leave her with her aunt and uncle and cousins. I imagined, eons ago, that we'd be in that court some day finalizing Niblet's adoption.

Fortunately, we were in front of the 3rd judge, the one we've never met, so it was easy to focus on the present. We met our lawyer there (for the first time) and she gave told us what to expect, and then all 4 of us went into the courtroom. There was nobody else there, just us and the judge and the court reporter. I think I expected a county representative, for some reason! The judge asked verified that we all were who we said we were, said hi to Squeak, and then "made it so". It took about 62 seconds. No biggie. We hadn't brought a camera (because we didn't really care about memorializing the day), but the lawyer apparently did, so we posed with the judge for a picture.

The exciting part came after we left the courtroom. The lawyer was packing up and said the new birth certificate should arrive between 6 week and 6 months and to let her know if it didn't. fostermama asked if, by any chance, there was a way to get a copy of his original (real!) birth certificate. She said "well, if I have it, I'll give you a copy" and then realized that she probably had it on her, if she had it at all. After shuffling through our file, she pulled out an official birth certificate, told us to wait a minute, and went to make a copy.

And that was that. The paper that we aren't supposed to have, the paper that is no longer official (because, officially, fostermama and I "gave birth" to Squeak - um, there are so many levels on which that's impossible), is now in our possession, laminated and ready to go in our safe deposit box.

Although we knew Squeak's birth name and his mom's name, we now have his time of birth (estimated, I'm guessing, as he was born at home and then transported to the hospital), and his mom's address at the time of his birth.

We still send pictures, etc., through the agency, and his mom didn't want any contact with us, but it's still interesting to have her address. It might come in handy when Squeak is older. At the very least, we can visit the address and show him the neighborhood where he was born.

Anyway, we already received the adoption certificate in the mail, and we're planning on keeping copies of it with us, in case we ever need to prove to someone that we are a family. But anyone who sees us can tell. Just one look at Squeak's little face when he's running towards us is enough for most people.

Friday, May 09, 2008

"How long? How long must we sing this song?"

I can't imagine why I have this U2 song stuck in my head...

Niblet's birthday is coming up. She is going to be 3 years old and she still doesn't have a permanent home. Never has. It makes me so angry and so very sad. The county had a choice. They could have kept her where she was, with us, where she had been for as long as she could remember and where she was safe and loved. Instead, chose limbo. To send her to her very old father who maybe-kinda-sorta-might be able to handle an energetic 18 month old and, ya know, see how that goes. Well, it didn't go very well. And now she's with a family who loves her and cares for her and keeps her safe...and they're still allowing the father to "work his plan" and try and get her back. As far as we know.

I thought I might run into Niblet's father today, because I do occasionally. fostermama and Squeak and I went to the store this morning and got her a birthday card, slipped our phone number in it, and a picture for her family from her 1st birthday. I was hoping to give it to him and ask him to pass it along to her. No guarantee that he'd do it, but if he did, then at least they'd have our phone number. Not that I really think they'd use it, but whatever. I want them to know how much we miss her, but it's impossible to convey. Why should they care, even if they did understand? As far as I know, they could be in the process of losing her back to her father. We're not their family or their friends. All we are is a reminder that the system sucks and that they could lose her. Would I want to be in contact with us if I were them? I don't know. I'd do it for Niblet's sake, but as far as we know, the caseworkers have actively told them not to talk to us.

As I read Baggage's description of the Federal laws and how her county follows them pretty well, I became overwhelmed with sadness for the thousands of kids who live in counties, like ours, that don't give a crap. If Niblet had simply been born in a different county, she would very likely have a permanent family and not be in need of multiple therapies each week. It makes me afraid to continue living in this city that, otherwise, I love. It boggles my mind.

I hope we can find a way to keep up on Niblet's case. We made a promise to do something if her father manages to get her back, and I need to be able to make good on that promise.

This Mother's Day, send a little mothering energy Niblet's way. She needs a permanent, safe, loving mother to raise her into the wonderful, vivacious woman I know she will be. In exchange, I'll send you a little bit of that Niblet Hug I'm keeping in my heart.

The Last Time

A few weeks ago, I ran into them. I haven't posted about it because I'm having a hard time processing it. Squeak and I were headed to the local playground and when we got there, I saw Niblet's aunt and uncle at a picnic table. I almost fainted, the physical impact of seeing them was that strong. I immediately scanned for Niblet and there she was. Her cousin was blowing bubbles for her and she was watching them and batting at them. The aunt and uncle saw me and I said hi. Her aunt said "Niblet, look who's here. Go say hi."

And Niblet turned around and saw me and ran over. She said "hi!" and I scooped her up and she gave me a big hug. The Certified Niblet Hug. With her legs wrapped around my waist and her head resting on my head. She's still so light, she barely felt heavier than Squeak. I didn't want to put her down. She didn't want to get down. But I could feel her aunt watching us and I felt it was better to put her down. I whispered in her ear that I love her and was so very glad to see her.

I put her down and asked her if she was having fun at the playground. Then I asked her aunt how they were doing, how the move went, etc. She gave friendly, but short, answers. I said that we'd tried to call them, but their phone wasn't working. She said it still hasn't been turned on and it's been a while. I asked if they had our number, she said they'd lost it, but I didn't have any paper (I actually did, but I forgot!) and they didn't make any move to put it in their cell (which was sitting on the table) or otherwise seem to care about it. It was possibly the most uncomfortable conversation I've ever had. I didn't even ask how Niblet's therapies were going or how the case was going or anything. I did compliment Niblet on her hair, and asked her aunt if she'd done it, which she had. I asked Niblet if she sat still while she got her hair done and her aunt said "say 'yes', Niblet." and Niblet said yes.

Oh, and Squeak was there, too. Niblet was very happy to see him and patted him on the head, just like she's done every time since she first met him. Her aunt was happy to see him and how big he's gotten.

I called fostermama to see if she could make it to the playground to see Niblet, but she was stuck at work. I took Squeak on the jungle gym and played around, but all the while my stomach was in my throat and I was jittery.

They started packing up to leave, so I went over to say goodbye. As they walked to their car, Niblet kept looking back. I waved each time she did, and she liked that, so she kept doing it. It felt so surreal, like a movie scene. I felt, in my heart, that it was the last time I was ever going to see her.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Nothing yet - grief continued.

After trying to call Niblet's family at the phone number they said they were keeping when they moved, and getting no answer or answering machine, we decided to write them. We sent them a simple Easter card and said we hoped they were settled in at their new place and that we'd love to see Niblet soon, so please call us. We put my cell number, as our home voicemail sometimes craps out. (VoIP is cheap, and that's it's only redeeming factor.)

Even though they moved, it was within the same zip code, so even though we don't have their new address, it should get to them with very little delay. So they should have received the card by now and we haven't heard from them. Granted, it's only been a few days and they have 3 kids keeping them busy.

However, we're bracing ourselves for the possibility that they're not going to call. The real fear is that someone, the county caseworker, one of the other social workers on the case, etc., has told them not to allow us to have contact with Niblet. Or that it would be a good idea to not allow contact. If that's the case, then we have very little chance of ever seeing Niblet again. Because, really, of course they would do it. They don't know us from a hole in the wall, and they want to adopt Niblet, so of course they would do whatever the People In Charge say to do. I'd do it, too.

My next plan is to call the county case worker (the same Evil One who was Niblet's worker when we had her) and cheerfully say that we've lost touch with Niblet since they moved and would she please pass our phone number on to them. It would give her a chance to hem and haw and say whether she thinks that's a good idea - at which point I'd probably argue with her, because what do I have to lose?

Fostermama's on the fence. She's not sure she wants to pursue it. And I see her point. Niblet is in a safe family now. She doesn't need us. She would, I assume, be happy to see us, but really it's all about our need to see her.

I feel selfish, but, really, it's such a weird situation. We basically had our child taken away from us. Sure, we knew it was happening, we knew she was going back to her father, but by that point she was already ours. And we were hers. The county fucked up. They never should have returned her to her bioparents. They never should have returned her and NOT CHECKED UP ON HER. They should have left well enough alone.

And then I would have my baby girl. She would be here right now, playing in the living room, or eating dinner. I would be with her, because I wouldn't be here blogging about losing her. She is almost 3 years old and we would be working on her application to the Montessori preschool nearby. She would be adopted and we would have changed her name to the one we chose for her, the one we called her by for most of the time she was with us. We might even be thinking about getting ready to adopt a sibling for her.

Instead, she's out there somewhere living her life without me. Yes, we have Squeak. And I don't, for one second, wish I didn't have him. I love him with all my heart. However, I do wish I had her. If everything had worked out as it should have, we would have her and not him. And that would be okay. Because I wouldn't know what I was missing. This way, we do have Squeak and all the goodness that he is, but we also know what we've lost.

Sometimes, it's really the worst pain I can imagine. I can't sugarcoat it. I feel horrible crying for the baby I lost when I have my wonderful son sitting right there, being his wonderful little self, everything I ever wanted. I feel horrible thinking about a world where I didn't have him, and wishing for it. It makes me wish I'd never heard of adopting through fostercare.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Niblet: Losing touch

Niblet's family moved a few weeks ago. Her aunt said they were keeping their old phone number and that we should call after they moved and we could see Niblet. We've been calling every couple of days since then, and there's been no answer. No voice mail. No answering machine. Nothing. Previously, they were without an answering machine for a while, but we very often caught them when they were home and they'd answer.

Our next step is to send a card (a "welcome to your new home" type card) to their old address and hope that they have their mail forwarded.

If that doesn't work, we're kinda SOL. We could call Niblet's caseworker and ask her to ask the aunt to call us, or send a letter through her, but that's not very likely to work, either.

Hopefully we'll get in touch, but what if we don't? I think about the last time we saw Niblet and I really don't want that to have been The Last Time. I mean, we live in a small enough city that we *could* cross paths at some point, but it's unlikely.

In related news, I found out that Niblet's "father" is seeing the domestic violence counselor at my workplace again. He was doing that when we had Niblet, as part of his case plan. He continued for a while after she was placed back with him, but had stopped. The fact that he's seeing her again suggests to me that he's trying to work his plan again. He's trying to get that poor baby girl back into his care again. He just needs someone to tell him to give it up. He's 70-fucking-years-old. She has a family who loves her and takes proper care of her. Let well enough alone.

I really need to get back in touch with Niblet. I need to hug her. And I need to stay informed about her case because, if he gets her back, there are things we need To Do.

Right now Squeak needs me, so I'll end here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

We don't need to borrow trouble, we have enough of our own.

Sometimes I think that it's a good thing we're not doing foster care anymore. Too much trouble. There's only so many times I can watch the system screw up a perfectly good child.

But things Chez Us have not been calm and relaxed since ending our relationship with The County. Nor has bringing home our beloved Squeak been everything we hoped for and more.

Okay, that's not really what I mean. Squeak HAS been everything we hoped for. And more. He's beautiful and loving and sweet and the best little Squeak ever. He's my boy. I love him with every fiber in my being. Definitely deeper than I loved Niblet or any of the other foster kids. (I can't say that I love him *more*, though. It's complicated.)

Squeak, however, is sick.

I mentioned his eczema in the last post and a few of you who have been down this road brought up allergies. Oh yes, eczema is a huge red flag for allergies. Squeak came to us at 6 weeks old. By 8 weeks he had a little spot of something on his cheek. Then his chin. Then they got bigger. Then they started to ooze. We tried anti-fungals, we tried soothing ointments, we tried a shitload of stuff. We eventually realized it was eczema and we tried a shitload more stuff. We went to a dermatologist, a homeopath, a naturopath. We wanted to avoid using steroids, because that just suppresses the reaction and can lead to worse problems, like asthma. If you can find it on the internet or buy it at a drug store, we tried it.

We found out about the eczema/food allergy link and went to a pediatric allergist looking for a prescription for a blood test. Because we are breastfeeding Squeak, we had already put ourselves on an elimination diet, eliminating the top-8 most likely food allergens. We got the blood test and, when it came back, it showed that Squeak is, in fact, allergic to quite a number of things.

milk, soy, wheat, egg, peanuts, most other nuts. We were also told to stay clear of all other beans, as well. Any of these are liable to give him an anaphylactic (life-threatening) reaction. Good times.

We didn't eat meat to begin with and, although fostermama is happy to eat some chicken and fish, I have spent my whole life as a vegetarian and my body just doesn't react to meat very well. I tried, even. No good.

You may notice that this list doesn't leave room for much in the way of protein. Add to this that the test only covered a dozen or so foods. He may very well be allergic to other things not tested for. So our best option was to put ourselves on a Total Elimination Diet. Where we eat one protein (in our case, nutritional yeast), one grain, one vegetable, one fruit, one oil. For a Really Long Time. And see if his reactions (the eczema) go away or calm down.

This is what we did. When faced with a child who looked very much like a burn victim, eating 6 things for the foreseeable future didn't seem like such a bad idea.

We also started topical steroids. Squeak was just TOO uncomfortable from the constant itching and pain. We were exhausted from spending all day keeping him from scratching himself. None of us were sleeping well. We tried a couple of anti-histamines, but they didn't do much of anything. So we were out of reasonable options. Steroids and an elimination diet were IT. (Yes, we could have weaned him to a non-allergenic formula like Ne0cate, but that stuff is expensive and disgusting, so it wasn't a choice we were willing to make.)

The steroids, and two 20-minute baths per day, cleared him up very quickly. Within a month, he had picture-perfect skin. He was no longer miserable. Then we started the long road toward introducing foods and healing his body so he can, hopefully, reduce his allergies and keep his skin clear even without the steroids.

Basically, that's where we've been since the summer. After a month or so on the original diet, we started adding in foods one at a time to test for a reaction. We couldn't add a food when he had a cold (which happened pretty often this winter) and when he had a reaction (we've found allergies to a few other things that weren't tested for) we had to wait a few weeks until that cleared. Now we have about a dozen foods we can eat. We have to buy all our brown rice in 25-lb bags so we know it's not cross-contaminated with wheat. We buy gluten-free (wheat-free) rice pasta. We don't buy anything packaged until we've contacted the company and asked about their processing and packaging and if the food is ever in the same room as one of his allergens. It's a PITA.

This whole process has thrust us into the world of food allergies in a way we never expected. We took a ton of books out of the library and read the internet for hours trying to figure out how to manage his life from here on in. Whereas, when we had Niblet, we spent time researching the effects of prenatal cocaine on a child, that was something that had already happened to her. This is something that is bound to get MORE dangerous as he grows up. It's a whole new level of scary.

So, yeah, we're not likely to get back into foster care anytime soon. We have enough going on.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Squeak: Sleep and diapers

In other news, the reason we've taken the coming week off is because we're TIRED. Squeak, as much as we love him, is a pain in the butt when it comes to sleeping. He's still nursing, and still waking up every 1-2 hours to nurse. All. Night. Long. And it takes him about 1 hour to fall asleep to begin with. We're not the let-them-cry-it-out kind of people, so that means one of us is in there with him while he unwinds from the day...for an hour. Naps usually take about 15-30 minutes, which isn't too bad, but could be better. He just doesn't fall back to sleep on his own. We've read the No Cry Sl33p Solution and are implimenting many of her suggestions, so it's gotten a teeny bit better, but we're still running on a full year of sleep deprivation. Which started shortly after the year of sleep dep we had with Ms. Niblet (who qualified for EI, initially, because of how poorly she slept).

And, as I'm sure you know, when you're tired, the rest of your life goes down the crapper. The house is a mess, we've both been messing up at work, we forget important things, etc. Chronic sleep dep is a torture technique for a reason, folks. It's driving me crazy, that's for sure.

This week is an attempt to catch up on those things - sleep and housework. Hopefully it will be worth it.

The one thing that makes me smile, besides Squeak himself, are my his diapers. We cloth diaper, and ever since I started researching them, it's become something of a hobby for me. I like to know what's out there, how to troubleshoot, etc. We initially got them for Niblet, which was great because we used a couple months of her diaper allotment for the investment and then ended up with free diapers! They were great for her, except for overnight, and they're great for Squeak. I ended up having to sell our original ones because Squeak was irritated by the polyester lining, and I replaced them with similar ones with cotton lining. And I spent the money getting kickass nighttime diapers for him, as well.

So, since the other day was a rare one where ALL the diapers were clean at once, I decided to take a picture. Here are my lovely pocket diapers, plus one of the night diapers and it's cover (top left). Not shown are a few night diapers and a bunch of prefolds.
You can also see Squeak's tub o' Vanicream off to the right there. We slather that on his body a few times a day to keep the eczema at bay.
And, to prove that we are, in fact, radical, commie dykes, here's a picture of our Red Diaper Baby.
I'll end with a question for all you fellow cloth users. What do you use at night? We've been using Very Baby Simply Nights with a Bummis Super Whisper Wrap cover. When that started leaking, we added a wool wrap over the whole thing. That's been working pretty well, but the diaper is still soaked in the morning. It would be nice to keep his butt a little dryer overnight. I've got a bamboo VBSN coming in the mail, so maybe that will help, but what do you all use?

Niblet: nothing new

We haven't seen Niblet in over a month.

It's the longest we've ever not seen her since she was placed with us over 2 years ago. We've been busy, out of town seeing family and friends, and her new family has also been busy. Yesterday they moved to a new apartment. I'm assuming it's bigger than their last, so that's a good thing. They had 3 rambunctious kids, and 2 adults, in a very small 2 bedroom apartment (they turned the livingroom into the grown-up bedroom.) When fostermama called to see about a visit, and heard they were moving, she asked if they wanted us to take Niblet off their hands during the move. But they already had plans for her, which makes sense, but still pointed out to me that they really don't need us in her life.

They are functional, good parents. They have family and friends and resources. They haven't told us not to call them, to the contrary, but they don't need us. Now it's all about our need to continue to see Niblet. And, I guess, Niblet's need for us not to disappear into the ether. At this point, though, it wouldn't harm her to never see us again. She has a good attachment to her new family and they treat her well.

Since the last time we saw her, she started Early Intervention services again. Four times per week, her aunt said. They're not fooling around. She's getting speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy. It makes me so sad to know that, at 18 months old, she was caught up and after a year with her "parents", she is so behind that she needs more services than she'd had before. This is not from being born with drugs in her system. This is from total neglect, pure and simple. I'm excited to see her again, though, because I bet she is talking more. There's nothing I want more than to hear what Niblet has to say for herself.

Her aunt told fostermama to call back during the week and we could make a plan to see Niblet. We've taken this coming week off from work, so hopefully there will be a time soon we can see her. She's a busy girl, what with all her appointments and naps and such!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Watch this spot!

I've been ruminating on a post. Nothing exciting, but it will have pictures! There really isn't much to say lately, especially on the Niblet/fostercare/etc. front, but I'll come up with something.

So, for those of you stalking Chez "FosterMoms", come back soon and this will replaced with a real post.

Why am I warning you? I have no idea. Must be the sleep deprivation of having a 13 month old who wakes up every hour (or so) all night long...