Tuesday, August 15, 2017

scurry scurry

The general public - generally - doesn't "get" what it means to parent kids that have a past filled with trauma. And kids IN foster care...they're still in the thick of trauma IMO.

Take, for example, the visit yesterday with our CPS caseworker.

She came right as the boys were waking up from their naps. The timing was fine. I was able to put the boys in their high chairs for a snack during most of the visit. Typically that helps Whiz feel a little less nervous.

It didn't work though. I could tell, as the visit went on, how dysregulated Whiz was getting.

Only my redirection had to have looked weird to the caseworker. All he was doing was copying his brother by waving his hands in the air and banging his sippy cup. He was also squealing nonsense noises. All of those behaviors are incredibly normal for a two-year-old.

But they aren't Whiz's normal.

So I tried to redirect. I touched his hands and told him he was OK. I did this several times.

The caseworker looked at me with a puzzled look but didn't say anything.

I tried to explain to her that he was nervous. I'm positive she didn't see it.

Then Whiz finished his snack. And Rex finished his. And I was stuck. She needed to leave. Having the boys running around the house while we talked was a recipe for disaster. I knew this!! But I also knew that neither boy would cooperate and play in baby jail. I knew neither boy would engage with any of the toys out of baby jail. All I could do was watch everything unfold.

Sure enough, Whiz got himself so upset that when told he couldn't have both his ride-on motorcycle toy AND the popping ball push toy that Rex had - he threw a huge temper tantrum.

Thing is...Whiz wouldn't have been trying to do half the stuff I was redirecting if the caseworker hadn't been there.

I know that my job as a parent is to be the external regulation for my little kids. They aren't capable of self-soothing. It's my job to notice when they're struggling and to meet the needs so they can stay regulated.

One of the "tricks" I have is to redirect with short phrases specific to the exact behavior that needs to change. I also work hard to come up with a phrase that isn't something the general public might use. I want my redirection to be taken seriously. Therefore, I almost never say anything like "calm down".

One of the things Whiz does when he's nervous is to run around aimlessly. I can tell he's nervous. My kids can tell he's nervous. But to the general public, he looks like a hyper two-year old.

I don't want to tell him to "calm down". It is entirely too generic of a phrase and means nothing to a two-year old. It's also something that people might tell him when we're out and about and I want to redirect a very specific behavior. I don't want to tell him to "stop running" because some running is absolutely, perfectly OK to do. I needed a phrase to redirect him from the nervous running.

After much thought, I came up with the phrase "scurry scurry". It's specific to the behavior I'm trying to redirect. It's nothing that a stranger might ever tell him that would make it confusing. And Whiz has learned that when he's told "no scurry scurry" he needs to get engaged. I usually tell him "no scurry scurry" and he stops running right away. Then I tell him, "Find something to do." He has learned that this means play with toys. If he still wanders aimlessly, I put him in baby jail. Though, I never call it "baby jail" to the children - I reserve that phrase for adults. For Whiz, I tell him he's going to have to "play with toys". And when Whiz is really dysregulated, he often calms when put in baby jail with toys (after a small tantrum letting me know that's not where he wants to be, of course).

Somehow I'm hoping to help teach Auntie Carla how to recognize the difference between when Whiz is playing and having fun (running and making nonsense noises) and when Whiz is getting dysregulated and a tantrum is bubbling underneath. I know she'll have to figure out most of it on her own. But I'm going to try.

And in the realm of CPS *might* do something right....
I told our CPS caseworker that I'm willing to travel to do the transfer from Texas to California when the time comes. All I need is for the State to purchase my plane ticket. After all, they're going to have to pay two people to travel with these boys anyway. If they send me as one of them, I won't cost the State any wages. I traveled with Pumpkin when she went from our part of the state to El Paso. So it's been done before. Our caseworker seemed very pleased with the idea.

Monday, August 14, 2017

a monthly visit with CPS

CPS has to come to my home monthly to see the children and, basically, interview me. The caseworker over this case never sets things up in advance. I just get a call and if I'm available, she's at my doorstep 10 minutes later.

She came this afternoon.

Things I know to be true:
  1. The children are full siblings. (The DNA test came back.)
  2. The case is moving forward toward TPR with a goal of relative adoption.
  3. Court is next week. (It's the pre-trial. As of right now, the trial is set for September 5.)
  4. This is the first TPR hearing our caseworker has ever done.
  5. That makes me really, really nervous.
  6. Nothing that's been happening or not happening with visits is going to matter.
  7. In fact, very little of the incriminating evidence of domestic violence, substance abuse, and overall instability is going to be able to be submitted to the courts. Horrific text messages and photos aren't credible because the lawyer for the parents will simply say that no one knows when the photos and videos were taken. And no one is going to do anything about verifying the accuracy of any photos or videos. So they won't be used as evidence.
  8. It's all up to the judge and CPS has no idea what will really happen.
Auntie Carla and her husband have started the process of getting everything they need for their home study. They've been interviewed. They've had their fingerprints taken. They've taken one class. There's still more paperwork to do. They have at least one more class. But things have started.

Most likely CPS in Texas won't move the children to California until termination happens. So if this case is extended, the kids will stay with me.

NO ONE knows how long it will take for Texas and California to work together to get the home study done and approved. It could still take months.

But the ball is still rolling forward. No one from CPS is recommending that these children go home. And this is good...because they would be going home to a very volatile environment riddled with domestic violence and substance abuse. I'm not in love with the lawyer for Mom, though. I've met this lawyer (she was Daisy's lawyer and was instrumental in Daisy being reunified with her mother the first time). This lawyer will work hard to not allow termination of parental rights. She does her job well when it comes to getting kids back home based on technicalities and minor oversights on the part of CPS.

There wasn't much for CPS to report to me overall. And I just gave her the basic details she asked for to fulfill the standard form she has to fill out at every home visit.
Whiz ended things by throwing a nice sized tantrum as the caseworker was leaving. I just shook my head and explained that it's normal and it happens a lot. I tried to explain how her presence escalated his emotions. He was super nervous when she came and it just got worse the longer she stayed. I don't want to make the caseworker feel bad. But workers need to understand how their very presence affects the kids they're advocating for.

Foster care sucks.

Children need as many reminders as you give them

I don't have a library full of books from Love and Logic, but I do try to put a lot of their parenting strategies into play in my home. One of the things I learned from L&L is:
Children need as many reminders as you give them.
That means that TT and Bart (and even Herman) know that if I usually nag them about doing a chore, they don't "have" to do said chore until I've nagged "x-many" times. If I do a good job of telling once and then following through with a consequence, they need fewer reminders. I don't always have to have a consequence either! Sometimes all I have to do is physically get up and look them in the eye and tell them to do whatever it is that needs to be done.

I call that "physical parenting". I physically have to move my butt to where my kids are. I can't just holler up the stairs and tell them to get ready for bed (for example).

Oh how I wish I could just holler up the stairs.

But it almost never works.

I basically have a choice. I can keep hollering and keep getting ignored until I lose my shit and MAYBE my kids listen. Or I can physically move my body, make sure I have eye contact, and then be very concise and direct with my expectations. My kids are 12, 13, and 20. And they all still need directions like this at home. If I holler and holler, I lose every time.

I need to do the same thing with chores. Tell once. Then follow through with whatever is supposed to happen if said chore doesn't get done.

I struggle with this because my kids don't have much in the way of "currency" that means anything to them. They aren't motivated by money. There isn't much I can take away from them other than media time. But this problem is on me...not them. I either need to be OK with them not getting the chore done or I need to have a plan in place of how I'm going to handle it when the chore doesn't get done.

The whole reminder thing gets used even with Whiz and Rex.

Whiz and Rex like to whine and/or cry at transitions. (Especially Whiz!!) It's not a full blown tantrum. But damn...by the end of the day....I'm usually pretty tired of being fussed at during every transition.

And there's only so much I can do about this. I can do my absolute best to prepare them for transitions. They only understand so much. But I try. I try to remember to tell Whiz that it's almost time for whatever it is we're going to be doing next. Sometimes that helps.

But sometimes Whiz just cries. It's normal 2-year old stuff...sort of. (The intensity, frequency, and/or duration is often more than a "normal 2-year old reaction".)

When Whiz is crying, and I simply can't change his world to make it better, he is given a choice.
Do you want to cry or play?
And then I follow through.

It might seem harsh to people outside our home. But I'm not doing this to be mean. If he's hurt, I comfort. If he's tired, I comfort. If it's something that is out of his control, I comfort.

But sometimes crying is how Whiz chooses to communicate. And I have to maintain my own sanity as well.

A typical scenario would be something like this:

The speech therapist comes over. Whiz goes first. He has 45 minutes of one-on-one time with his therapist. He's playing with her toys. He's interacting. He's the center of her attention.

When therapy is done, I move Whiz to his high chair for a snack so Rex can start his 45 minute session without Whiz interrupting. A snack is appealing to Whiz so this transition usually goes smoothly.

Whiz finishes his snack in about 10 minutes. That means there are still 35 minutes where Rex needs to be allowed to play in the living room on the floor with his therapist alone. That's how this works. They aren't doing joint therapy. Whiz would dominate entirely too much.

So Whiz has a choice. He can go in the baby jail and play with toys or he can cry. Now, it's up to me to make sure the play area is appealing. I have it clean. I have new toys in it compared to the last time Whiz played in the area. There is variety. And I don't leave him alone there. I stay close by.

Most of the time Whiz will throw a tantrum.

I totally understand where he's coming from. He wants to play with the therapist. He wants to get that one-one-one attention. He doesn't want Rex to get it.

But Whiz isn't going to get what he wants. It just isn't going to happen. So I give Whiz the choice, "Do you want to cry or play?"

Whiz and I have been going through similar scenarios like this since he came. He knows what's going to happen. I don't ask him the question over and over. (I don't give him tons of reminders to stop crying.) If Whiz answers, "play," he gets to stay in the baby jail with his toys. If Whiz keeps crying, Whiz gets moved somewhere less desirable until he stops crying.

I call this taking a break.

I really don't like the words "time out". They are overused and over threatened. And by calling something "taking a break", it can look different every single time. It can be what Whiz needs in the moment. It's an opportunity for Whiz to simply take a break from whatever is upsetting him.

Sometimes Whiz needs to take a break and be held by me. Sometime he can take a break and sit on a chair next to me. I'm not opposed to moving him to the corner of a room that I'm in if he's crying. (I've done "nose in the corner" when a child - old enough to understand - is crying. And ONLY during the time they are crying. The minute they stop they get to leave the corner so they are always in control. And I never leave them alone.) And sometimes Whiz needs to go in the other room.

Right or wrong, Whiz will get put into Rex's bed if he's throwing a huge tantrum. I hate using a bed for this. But I justify it in my mind that it's not HIS bed. It's just a safe place for him to go.

When Whiz is overstimulated, he often needs the quiet of a room by himself.

The thing with all this is, though, I don't warn and "remind" over and over. I don't look at Whiz and say, "If you don't stop crying you're going to X-Y-Z." I simply ask once or twice, "Do you want to cry or play?" And then I follow through.

Children need as many reminders as you give them.

Now...to figure out how to keep track of all the little things I do to help Whiz and Rex stay regulated during the day. I want to teach their aunt, in California, these things. I want her to know how I can ward off a tantrum simply by asking Whiz if he wants to play or cry...that Whiz really understands this...and that Whiz will often calm down on his own and get engaged when he knows that he's not going to to be allowed to spiral out of control.

I'm going to try and blog about a few of these things. Get my thoughts on paper. Get feedback. And then compose something in writing specifically for Auntie Carla to keep.

Auntie Carla is so awesome! They started their kinship classes this past weekend. She's literally doing her homework - taking everything seriously - and asking me about things she's learned and how the babies relate. She and her husband are the total epitome of what kinship care should look like. I'm so thrilled to get to be a part of a healthy transition to a relative.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

TPR for Kori

Court was held this Monday for Daisy. The State was asking for a move from her current placement (to us) and for Kori to pay child support.



I had to send a text to Daisy's CPS worker asking what happened. At 11:54am I wrote, "Any word on the outcome of today's court yet?"

Daisy's worker responded, "She will be staying at her current placement and parents relinquished their rights."

That is ALL I will ever hear about Daisy again. It is over. There will be no more hearings. The case has been closed. (I have to assume that Daisy's current guardian will eventually adopt Daisy now that parental rights have been terminated.)

The photo above is a snippet from the public court documents that I can pull up online (because I know Mom's name). As you can tell, a "safety plan" was put into place for Daisy's current guardian. The State has reason to believe that this man has allowed contact between Daisy and her mom.

Mom's criminal trial continues to get "reset". She had court today. Nothing happened. (Again, I can access the public records online. The county this all took place in puts a lot of information up as it happens.)

I do not know Kori's official role in the death of her child, Dandelion. I will never know that.

I have to pray that I'm wrong about everything. I have to pray that the man now in charge of Daisy for the rest of her life truly loves her. I have to pray that he will keep her safe if Kori is unsafe and that he gives Daisy everything she needs to grow and heal from her own abuse.

I can't say that I desperately wanted Daisy to come to our house. 

I do want Daisy to be safe and loved and well cared for.

But there was also a certain relief when this didn't happen.

I feel a LOT of guilt over that relief.

I was scared to death to take on a severely disabled little girl who has gone through so much trauma. We would have done it because it was the right thing to do. We would have done whatever it took for Daisy. We had discussed this at length with all the kids. The nerves were there because none of us are stupid. Four year old little girls that have been bounced through many homes who are still recovering from nearly dying themselves aren't easy to take care of. But our entire family was committed to doing whatever we would be allowed to do for Daisy.

The State determined they don't need us.

The chapter with Daisy is officially over.

Foster care sucks.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

questions I'd like an answer to

I sent the following as an email to the director of our licensing agency:

In order to best prepare for a kiddo like Daisy, I am hoping that someone from CPS could answer these questions for me.

fully realize that the placement is not guaranteed!! But in order for the potential transition to be a smooth one, the more I know about Daisy, the better. Also, there is the issue of moving a child with severe special needs to all new medical providers.

And maybe none of these questions can be answered unless the placement is going to happen for sure. It would be helpful to know sooner, though. I honestly have to go into this knowing as much as possible. Daisy was a very challenging child when we had her before. Her neurological needs were not being met. And as a result, she had a lot of sleeping and behavior issues. (I didn’t sleep for 10 months. I honestly can’t do that again.) I will need to know if I have to drive to a neurologist in Central Texas or if I can get her on the waiting list for the pediatric neurologist I want to see here (where we live).

1. What medications is she on now?

2. What doctors/specialists does she see regularly?
(Names and addresses would be helpful so I can start updating her files on my end.)

3. What therapies is she currently receiving?
Would it be possible for me to see her most recent evaluations or talk with her therapists?

4. What procedures, if any, has she had in the last two years?

5. Has she had any vaccinations? (I wasn’t allowed to vaccinate her at all when she was in Care the first time.)

6. Since coming back into care in May 2016, how many placements has she had? I was told she had at least two foster families and now she’s with fictive-kin. Were there more placements?

7. Will sibling visits be required with her half-siblings?

8. Why is she leveled “specialized”? Is it due to medical needs, behavior needs, developmental delay, or????

9. If possible to describe, what is her sleep like? Please be honest here. I need to know exactly what to expect so that I can arrange the best bedroom placement for all the kids in my home.

I appreciate any information that CPS can pass on to me.
Thank you!!
Cherub Mamma


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I'm not honestly expecting an answer right now. I'm betting they won't tell me anything because the placement is not guaranteed - it's only something they are "strongly considering". 

If that's the case, I'll do my best to make sure that someone does answer these questions before I officially agree to take placement of Daisy. I mean, I've said "yes". But like all things foster care...they can't just bring her to my home. They'll have to talk to me about this again before she is moved.

If at any point in time I'm met with hesitation toward answering my questions - or pressure to move quickly to adoption - I'm going to take a LONG HARD pause before I agree. I will not destroy my family by deciding to do anything without getting the proper supports in place. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

a slightly more official call

The director of our agency just called me.

"Um...Cherub Mamma...do you know a child named Daisy?"

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Whoever Martin called yesterday must have listened to him. It seems there might be a special court hearing called concerning Daisy's current placement.

I was asked, on a more official level today, if we would take placement and consider adopting Daisy.

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I said yes.

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That is all I know for now.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

interesting phone calls and texts

A couple days before we left on vacation, I got a phone call from Ricky. We don't talk a lot anymore. He's a 20 year old man doing his thing. He knows our family is always here for him. But really, he lived with us for just about six months. We served him for a season in his life. I'm not going to push for extended contact for the rest of his life unless he wants it.

Anyway...Ricky's little brother, Michael, has gotten himself in some trouble. Ricky wanted to know if we were still doing foster care.

I told him yes.

And then, without going into detail...because my gut says nothing is really going to come of this...I said we could be a resource for Michael if he needs us. It would HAVE to be through the foster care system because I would need the financial assistance and structure that foster care brings to the party. But he could give the people involved our information.

Ricky knew we were going on vacation. I haven't heard anything new about Michael since that phone call - and the one that followed from Ricky's older brother, Peter. They know we'd help. But the people in charge of Michael haven't called.

I have no idea what will happen. I'll check in with Ricky when we get back home.

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Whiz and Rex's mom and dad finally learned that we were on vacation out of state. This information was not taken well. Auntie Carla sent me a text letting me know her brother is not happy!

I know that CPS told Mom before we left. But, it was somewhat indicated that Mom might not have been in a mental state where she would remember said information. I really wish CPS would have called Mom back and discussed it again to make sure Mom and Dad understood.

Either way - Dad is PISSED. He also now knows that the babies have been doing video chats with his sister, Auntie Carla. He's not thrilled with that either.

Auntie Carla doesn't think that Mom and Dad fully grasp where this case is going.

I'm not really looking forward to the next visit drop off after we get back from vacation.

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I got another out-of-the-blue phone call today.

Remember Daisy?

Well...things are still a hot mess with her case. She's still in foster care. Mom and Dad have barely started their criminal trials - despite the fact that Dandelion was killed over a year ago.

I "follow" both the CPS case and the criminal cases online by looking up the public information that their county publishes. It's definitely not all the details. But it's enough. I also may or may not have used some other resources to figure out exactly where Daisy is living right now.

But Martin, the caseworker that Daisy had when she was reunified the first time, just found out where Daisy is currently living. And he's not pleased!! In fact, he said ever since he heard it yesterday he hasn't been able to rest or focus on anything. He's super angry.

Daisy is currently placed with Kori's husband.

Kori never divorced her first husband. She just hooked up with Daisy and Dandelion's dad without officially ending her first relationship. Her legal husband is also the parent to Kori's older two children.

Kori and her husband have a unique relationship. Kori told me after the first RU that she was leaving Daisy's dad and going back to him. Seemed strange at the time.

Anyway...Martin does NOT think it's good for Daisy to live with Kori's husband.

And for what it's worth, neither do I.

Martin is no longer with CPS as a caseworker. He's now moved to the adoptions unit. However, when the TPR trial actually happens for Daisy's parents, Martin is going to have to testify as a witness. That's why he's still involved.

And he wants to get further involved. He asked if we would still be an adoptive resource to Daisy if the State could get things straight and get Daisy into a better home. He wants to move her away from Kori's husband and place her with us. He indicated that he'd do whatever it takes to move her as soon as possible.

I said, "yes," we'd take placement. I indicated that we would need support from the State. I'm quite confident that her neurological needs have not been met for over two years.

Again though, much like with Michael, I'm not holding my breath that anything will happen. Martin told CASA, and the lawyers, and anyone that would listen about us a year ago - right after Dandelion's murder. No one from that county has ever contacted us. Not once! So I'm not holding my breath that they will now.

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We're still on vacation for a couple more days. Here's to praying Rex gets to feeling better. He just woke up from his second nap of the day. I offered him a bottle and he drank four ounces. He then proceeded to throw up most of it all over me.

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Oh the joys of foster care.

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For new readers...
You can click through the labels on the actual blog page to read about Ricky and Daisy. They joined our family in December of 2013 (totally separate cases). Ricky stayed for about six months. Daisy stayed about ten. I'm still in contact with Ricky. I haven't spoken to Kori, Daisy's mom, since Daisy and Dandelion were permanently placed with their aunt. CPS let me know about the murder of Dandelion somewhat off the record. But because it happened in a different county, we have never been formally contacted in any way.