4.03.2014

Just Some Clarification

Thanks to some recent comments on a Facebook status I put up recently, it appears that Bill and I haven't been sharing our foster parent story clearly enough.  Here's the back story:

A little over a year ago, Bill and I finished all the paperwork and training to become licensed foster parents for the state of Indiana.  We did so after coming to the decision that being biological parents would be both expensive (fertility help would be required) and potentially health threatening to me (a Type II diabetic with blood pressure issues). Add that to the growing number of children in the Marion County area that are in need of loving, safe, temporary homes.  June 12, we received our first placement, a terrified brother/sister pair who couldn't believe what was happening in their life at that time.  They've been with us ever since, and until recently had a pretty rock solid reunification plan in place.

For those who aren't aware, the purpose of foster care is to be a TEMPORARY home for kids whose parents have been deemed unfit to care for them.  The goal of foster care is 99.9% reunification, not adoption.  There are laws in place to keep kids from being in the foster care system forever, one of which provides for the termination of a parent's rights should it be obvious that the parent isn't going to get it together.

Our goal with becoming foster parents is to be a revolving door of sorts.  I've joked that we want to be able to decorate our rear car window full of those stick people decals.  We entered this process specifically to be foster parents, not foster parents hoping to adopt children.  There are those out there who want to foster only adoptable children, and those parents are just as necessary as the ones like us, who want to help as many kids as possible during our foster parent journey.  That being said, we did, as part of our license renewal process, take a class that discussed the adoption process and are technically able to adopt children from the foster system.

I posted on Facebook that I was looking forward to a meeting that would hopefully provide us with a new timeline for our placement, as the reunification plan had to change drastically given some pretty heartbreaking circumstances.  For the past 9 months, we have been aware of the lack of effort being put in by one parent towards getting the kids back, and with the changes could have been looking at making a forever decision regarding our current placement in the very near future.  One of our friends commented that it wasn't fair of us to be "test driving the kids" which did more to expose his ignorance than make us look bad.  However, it should be noted that foster care isn't test driving anything, unless perhaps you're talking about Ozzy Osborne's crazy train.  It certainly isn't test driving kids.

A forever decision has to be one that works best for all parties involved, and if forced to make a forever decision today, we'd most likely say "No."  First of all, because there's not any sort of agreement among the siblings regarding being members of our family forever, and second of all because one of the two members is beyond disrespectful, bordering on verbally abusive towards me.  For my self care, and the welfare of my marriage, that sort of thing isn't going to fly on a permanent basis - especially given the aforementioned blood pressure issue.

We are more than willing to talk anyone's ear off regarding our decision, our goals, and our plan for our time as foster parents.  Just ask, and we'll tell you as much as you want to know.  Please know, however, that if you don't ask, and you say something that displays your ignorance, I have an entire support system that will call you out on it.  So while I could do it myself, I don't even have to!

3.22.2014

And Now What?

***NOTE: The commentary on this particular post is going to be raw, and I am not at any point going to apologize for it. ***

Three weeks.

That's all we had left of our current foster placement.  Things were going splendidly, and reunification was on track for Spring Break. Then last week, there was an incident at a visit that moved reunification back to the end of the school year.  Bill and I were bummed, but still hopeful for some much needed "only us" time that included a vacation, a move, and a whole lot of quiet evenings at home.

And now this.

Yesterday in the early morning hours, birth father passed away.  The whole house is devastated, though for vastly different reasons.  The kids (ages 10 & 5) no longer have a dad.  Bill lost a friend, someone who was trying desperately to put his life back together.  And I lost something to look forward to.

Last week I said that the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be a train.  Yesterday, the tunnel collapsed.

We don't know what's next.  We don't know any details. We don't know how much longer we'll have the kids.  We don't know when our next "kid-free" moment is going to be.  I don't normally have to be the kind of person that has it all planned out, but I do need to know when/if an end is in sight.

I've cried tears with and for the kids. After about 5 minutes of feeling guilty about it, I started crying tears for me and Bill.  And I'm not sorry that this is the case.  We are mourning with the kids, and mourning for ourselves.  And at some point we'll figure out the details.

2.27.2014

Saying Goodbye

Kerry enjoying the cool of the sink (2013)

Today we are saying goodbye to our kitty, Kerry.  Unlike her younger sister EJ that we lost roughly 4 years ago, this goodbye is not unexpected. And as we have no biological children, this loss (and any of the pets we have said goodbye to previously) is for us the loss of a child.

Kerry came to us the month after we got married, having been a stray that wandered into my in-laws garage in Iowa.  As a senior citizen cat (she's nearly 16 years old), life has been getting rough for her the past few months.

Named after former Chicago Cubs pitcher, Kerry Wood, she originally was the most anti-social cat that I have ever seen.  Not just to strangers, but even to us.  In some ways, that made her the perfect pet because she didn't demand any attention, and it didn't cause us any guilt when we sometimes had to leave her alone all day due to work and school schedules.  She wasn't even necessarily fond of any of the additional pets that we have added (and sadly subtracted) from our family, yet outlasted all of them - the exception being TC, who we "adopted" when Bill's sister got married.

She loved to eat people food, especially chocolate, popcorn and anything cheese flavored.  She also was very sneaky about getting such things, since we don't make a habit of feeding our cats off the table.

When we broke the news to our foster kids, they were as upset as we are.  In her old age, Kerry became more social, and would even lay with the kids on the couch during movie nights.  More than once she would wander upstairs and lay on their beds with them.

The decision to put down a beloved pet is super difficult, and one that we didn't take lightly.  However, Kerry's health has been on the decline, and we felt it more humane to go this direction as opposed to letting her suffer for however long it would take.

We will miss her dearly.

2.05.2014

Science Vs Faith - A Battle That Shouldn't Exist

I said this on Twitter and I'm going to say it here.  I didn't watch the Nye/Ham debate yesterday because I don't think that Ken Ham is the best representative of creationism.  The debate I would rather watch would be Hugh Ross and Neil deGrasse Tyson, who are both astrophysicists.

Here is why: It is my personal belief that science can do nothing but confirm the existence of God, since God created it.  

I also believe that the rift between science and Christianity is more the fault of Christians than the scientists, because we're so dogmatic about things like 24 hour days at the beginning.  Even in English the word "day" has 10 different definitions and only 1 of them has to do with a time frame of 24 hours.  Since English has such a variety, and it's proven that Hebrew has the same variety, why in the world would we think that Genesis is discussing a 24 hour day?

I have long held that Adam and Eve were in the Garden much longer than the Bible leads us to believe.  I like to give a little benefit of the doubt that they weren't created and then the next day sinned.  I believe that the purpose of the creation of humans included us living for long periods of time, in close communion with God, and that an idea of time (such as keeping track of age) didn't really occur until after the fall because prior to then it was unnecessary to monitor.

In his book "A Matter of Days," Dr. Hugh Ross discusses a variety of creation related topics, and actually opened my eyes to the fact that some things that Christians hold to (like the rapid re-population of the earth following the flood) couldn't even come close to happening scientifically. On the other hand, the way the fossil layers have revealed periodic explosions of very specific and similar types of animals, confirms the step by step process of creation as described in Genesis.

Anything else is, in the words of Spock, "Illogical."

1.09.2014

Even When It's Gonna Hurt Someone

You're probably wondering where if I have fallen off the planet, and in some ways, the answer is yes.  In other ways, I feel like the planet is spinning so fast, and I'm like those people who try to walk on logs in the water without falling in.  But here I am, not to rant or rave, but to share a little of what is currently on my heart.

As you're aware, we have been foster parenting an adorable couple of kids.  They showed up at our door in June, and have been in our hearts ever since.  There's been ups and downs and each day I feel like we're making strides towards figuring each other out.  It's been a huge adjustment for me, and an even bigger adjustment for them.  We're learning how to balance teaching them to be the best kids they can be, while knowing that when they go visit their parents, they see something so different that they just don't know how to reconcile the two.  They are very well mannered kids (90% of the time) and truly want to do what is asked of them, but at this point they have soooo many adults giving them instructions (and sometimes extremely contradictory instructions) that I'm surprised their heads don't just twist off.

The current plan for the kids is reunification, which is the ultimate goal of the foster care system, and each time the topic of the kids moving back home comes up, I feel a very strong compelling to pray that the decisions that are made are what will be best for the kids.  I have piled blanket upon blanket of prayers over each family team meeting, court date and therapist visit pleading with God for what is best for the kids.  I'm grateful that God has an endless supply of prayer blankets. Every team meeting has had some topic that was to be discussed (such as moving to the next step in the reunification process), and within a week of each meeting, an incident has occurred that changed the topic of the meeting to discuss how that incident will delay the process.

Based on the most recent team meeting, reunification may be delayed for several more months.  And while, I know that these kids want to be home yesterday, I have a peace that this is exactly God's plan.  We are grateful to have had a case worker who takes our opinions and concerns seriously, and we have expressed some very serious concerns we have with reunification at this time.  It will stink when these little ones go back home, but it would be even worse if they went home too soon and had to be removed again - especially if we have another placement and aren't able to take them again.

In the meantime, we'll keep doing what we do, and praying for what's best for them.

10.04.2013

No Posts for a Month.....And Then a Rant

In the brief time I've been interacting with those involved in the foster system, I've decided that that there are a lot of people (starting at DCS and going down the chain) who refuse to say anything that might upset the kids - even when there is a definite answer that exists to the question. 

The kids in care have had too many promises broken already, and they deserve a bit more respect than hearing "we're working on that" or "we'll have to see." JUST TELL THEM ALREADY! It is infinitely easier as the ones trying to parent the kids for the word NO to come out than this wishy washy crap. The timeline is pretty well set (barring any bad decisions by the bio parents), so when the kid says "I'm going to be home by my birthday." and the birthday is sooner than the best case scenario, it's really OK to say that it's not going to happen.

I'm not saying they need to know all the details of the plan, or even to be told what the best case scenario is. But if you have the info, then the answer shouldn't ever be "we'll see" or "we're working on it." Saying no is infinitely easier for a kid to work through than getting hopes up (again) only to have them crushed. 

8.19.2013

Words

This past week I learned twice in one day the importance of words. This isn't really something new for me, as a person who tends to be pretty straightforward with my words.  Oddly enough, both happened at the same time - but in two different places.

Let me set the scene. We were being visited by your foster kids' case manager for her monthly "how ya doing."  During this visit our foster son was showing her how well he had been behaving during the first two weeks of school.  We have been very impressed with him and the return to school, and so he's pretty proud of himself.  He then asked her something to the effect of: "Since I've been so good at school, does that mean we will get to go home sooner?"  There are several ways that the case manager could have responded to this and she opted for the least thought through answer of "Your good behavior isn't going to get you home sooner.  You can't go home until Mom is better."  As you would expect a 9 year old to respond, he said "Screw it, then I'm not going to behave any more." And, he didn't.  The next day, we received 3 emails and a phone call from his teacher about his behavior.

Her response should have been something like "It is awesome that you're doing so well!  That's one less thing for mom to have to worry about while she's trying to get better." Anything but "what you're doing doesn't matter."  That one sentence undid everything we had been encouraging him to do over the past couple months. Needless to say, because of her poor choice of words, this past weekend, we have had to deal with the worst behavior ever from him.

While that was going on at my house, I was meeting with friends to discuss student loans and other financial aid related things. My one friend was feeling super overwhelmed with things and since they had recently gotten married, they're still trying to figure out the whole "ours" instead of "mine" concept.  Having talked with her previously about this topic, I knew it was a sensitive one (when isn't a money conversation sensitive?) and that she really was taking some of this situation as a blow to her self esteem.  I also understand that to a person such as myself, finances are a pretty straight forward thing, and sometimes I forget that it's not as straight forward to others.  Which is why Dave Ramsey is rolling in the cash, in my opinion, but that's another topic for a different day.

So while reaffirming that things looked much better that the last time we talked, I offered up some tips to family finances that Bill and I have learned in our almost 15 years of marriage.  One of those is that there's usually one person in the relationship that is better with numbers, due dates and remembering things.  That person should be the one to actually make sure things get paid.  It's not to say that both can't do it, or that it hasn't been getting done previously, but when you get married, the least stressful method is the one where each plays to their strengths, which generally means that weaknesses (or not as strong strengths) are complemented by the other person's strengths*.  My wording at that moment, was apparently too direct and I noticed that I was on the verge of causing tears.  I'm a bit like Sheldon Cooper when it comes to tears, so I quickly said some truthful and reassuring things to prevent that from happening. By the end of the evening, everyone was feeling better about things, and no tears where shed.

There's a Hawk Nelson song on Christian radio that says "Words can build you up, words can break you down. Start a fire in your heart or put it out."  We would all, myself included, do well to remember that each time we open our mouth.

*Please note: I am not advocating for one spouse taking over all the finances and the other never knowing what is going on.  As a way of maintaining a level of accountability, it is my opinion that both spouses should be involved in the budgeting process, and then also in the bill paying process (namely the what to pay and when planning part), but that the one person who is better with numbers, due dates and remembering things actually pays the bills.  If only one person does all the finances, there are some very deep pitfalls that can occur such as things not really being paid, a spouse who would have no idea what to do if something unfortunate would happen to the other, or a spouse using that role to hide spending from the other.  Each spouse should have full access to the bank account at all times (smart phone apps make this extremely easy now) and should always question when something doesn't look right.  It's generally a joint bank account, and should be managed jointly.*