Posts tagged ‘foster parenting’

November 19, 2010

And so it happens

Today, on the eve of National Adoption Day, I sat in a small room and had one of the most emotional conversations of my life.  I couldn’t help but think of all the people strengthening and growing their families on this special day while I discussed disassembling the one I’ve spent the past year building.  The reunification ball has been set in motion. 

Now is when my test truly begins.  I knew how to welcome them.  How to embrace and attach to them.  I knew how to parent them (mostly) and how to love them. 

Now I need to learn how to let them go. 

How to live the next few months of my life with a pit in my stomach and a lump in my throat with tears that fall with the slightest breeze.   How to miss a child that is in my arms.  How to fill them to the brim with love so that no matter the days, months, years that distance us, they will always know they are so very lovable.  How to celebrate the same thing that is breaking my heart.  How to have faith in a system that I generally have very little faith in.   How to have faith in a God that I’m rather angry with right now. 

Today I don’t know how to do any of those things, but I will figure it out. 

Because I am a foster parent.

This is what I do.  This is who I am.

August 9, 2010

Complain and You Shall Receive

I frequently complain about mention the absolute lack of information that is provided to foster parents in my state.  We have no idea when the kids have court dates, have never spoken to their attorney, have not one clue about mom’s progress, ect.  We are expected to be caregivers to the children and not involved in any other part of the process.  Its maddening, really.  And not terribly realistic or sensitive to the children because who do you think Sprout asks when he’s wondering where he’ll live next summer? His social worker? His attorney? Of course not – he asks me. 

Well, it looks like our judicial system agrees! We received notice that a new law has been put into effect which, among other things, requires that foster parents be informed of court dates involving the children in their home.  So guess who’s going to be sitting in the front row of an upcoming permanency hearing?  That’s right – its time to start figuring out what the heck is going on with these kids.

July 27, 2010

Written in tears

I believe in rehabilitation.  I believe that people can change and should always be given the opportunity to do so.  I believe in my role as a foster parent and the goal of reunification.  But tonight, oh Lord tonight, all my beliefs have been tested.

It began when we found out they were having a later than normal visit. Not a good idea, I thought…

Then it continued as I paced anxiously waiting for them to come back home more than an hour past when I expected them…

And then it all came to a head when they were dropped off.  Two hysterical sobbing masses left at my doorstep. 

Rosebud was soothed with a change, a warm bottle, and a couple of sweet lullabies.  But when you are 4 it’s not that easy – you remember too much. You understand too much.  So I collapsed with him on the kitchen floor. I clenched my eyes and rocked that sweet boy as he cried his heart out.  He cried a darker pain than I’ve ever known despite having 7x the years he does.  I whispered to him because I knew that if I were any louder, he’d crumble right there in my arms.  A while later I carried him to his bed and made up stories of spaceships and water slides to breathe into his ear.  An attempt to transport him far, far away. Even just now when I left him, he still trembled as he drifted into sleep.

Please help me remember what part of this is right.

June 17, 2010

Tantrums 101

I’m going to open this post by saying that I’m not putting myself out there as any kind of expert.  Every kid is different and there are a million different parenting philosophies, all most of which will work for some kid somewhere.  Truth be told, while it would be great if someone was helped by this post, most of the reason I want to write this is so that I can come back and remind myself what works on days I’m feeling overwhelmed, because surely they will come again.

Now for a little brag…in prep for our case management conference, I was reviewing Sprout’s behavior journal and I couldn’t help but feel really good about the progress he’s made.  In his first month with us, Sprout had at least two “regular” tantrums per day and two to three “severe” tantrums a week which was defined to include property destruction, urinating, and/or screaming until he lost his voice.  Well, he has been with us six months now and recently we’ve barely touched the behavior journal.  His last severe tantrum was in March and now he averages less than 1 tantrum per week.  Way to go Sprout! 

So here’s what appears to be working for us…

  • There are 2 distinct reasons for Sprout’s tantrums and recognizing which we are dealing with is the crucial first step.
    1. Overstimulated, sensory explosions: these tantrums come at the end of a busy day, following a visit with bio mom, or when we’ve spent 10 minutes too long shopping in a loud and crowded store.  He’s tired, he’s hungry, he’s had way too much sensory input and attempts to balance himself by expelling it in the form of yelling, screaming, crying, kicking, you get the idea… Of course the best way to handle this type of meltdown is to prevent it – any mom reading this already knows that.  But this is real life which means that it will inevitably happen at the least convenient time.  So what do I do? First step is to drop whatever I’m doing and get him to the calmest environment immediately available, then I wrap my arms around him in a big bear hug and rock him gently.  I coach him to listen to my heart (studies have shown that a child can actually match the tempo of their heart to their mother’s) and take deep breaths.  At first this type of thing was foreign to him and it would take a long time for the storm to pass, but with some practice on both our parts, we can now go from full-blown rage to centered in 5 minutes flat.
    2. An attempt to control his environment.  Mainly: manipulation, task avoidance, and seeking attention.  This is that naughty kind of tantrum that makes the hair stand up on the back of our necks and our lips purse.  There is only one thing to do during these types of tantrums: ignore, ignore, ignore.  Make sure he is in a safe space, and walk away.  One of the most powerful messages we ever taught Sprout is that he will get nothing out of a tantrum.  And even more, we will not allow ourselves to be treated like that.  I know that this response will put a sour taste in the mouth of some.  It may feel like you are letting the child “get away” with the misbehavior, but I assure you that is not the case.  The middle of a tantrum is not the time to address the poor behavior – I promise that the child is not listening and you’ll just end up in a shouting match.  There is plenty of time to discipline later.
  • The Achilles’ heel of any tantrum is calm.  Calm works for the overstimulated tantrum because it specifically models what you want the child to achieve and doesn’t escalate the outburst.   And calm works for the naughty tantrum because they aren’t getting the one thing they want.  I’m certain that there is nothing more motivating to Sprout in this world than getting me mad.  He is a pro button pusher and as sad as it is, he’s grown to be most comfortable when he’s power-struggling with his caregivers.  It used to drive him crazy that he couldn’t make me mad but now he hardly ever tries, knowing it wont get him anywhere.  The truth is, he’s made me mad plenty, but by staying calm he was none the wiser.  During the worst, I just reminded myself that staying calm would not only benefit me through the one tantrum I was facing, but it would also lessen every one to come. 
  • Parenting takes first priority anywhere any time.  In the privacy of my own home or in the middle of a crowded store – I will parent that child no matter how many eyes are watching. 
  • The tantrums are his, not mine. I don’t own them. I’m not burdened by them – he is.  This relates to one of my primary parenting rules: I can’t control my child, nor do I want to.  The only person I can control is this world is me.  My job is to guide and to teach, but he is his own individual spirit in control of his body and mind.  There is no power struggle because I freely give him all the power he needs and deserves – but that also means he gets the responsibility of his actions. 
  • Don’t hold a grudge.  Tantrums happen. Its part of a child’s job description.  But if you are thinking about it and simmering over it for the rest of the day, they will too.   There is no more powerful teaching tool than modeling, so just let it go.

Parenting is hard and insanely complicated.  The overwhelming truth is that even though this post ridiculously long, dealing with tantrums is just a tiny piece of my parenting and discipline puzzle.  Also, I’ve screwed up on every single one of those bullet points up there.  But like I said, this is just one small piece and the sum is so much greater than its parts.  Keep calm and carry on!

Questions? Reactions? Disagreements? Real-life scenarios? I’d love to hear ’em!

May 17, 2010

May is Foster Care Awareness Month

When I tell people I’m a foster parent, I’m usually greeted with one of two responses:

1) Awww, you’re doing such a wonderful thing. Those kids are lucky to have you.


2) Isn’t it hard to give them back? How do you not fall in love with them?

I appreciate and understand the responses, but they both tend to give me the deer-in-the-headlights look because, honestly, they are missing the mark all together. 

Foster Parenting is not right for everyone.  We all contribute to this world in different ways and that’s okay.  Would it be helpful and wonderful if everyone who was able donated blood? Sure! But you will never catch me standing in line at a R.ed C.ross blood drive – it’s just not something I can do.  Give me 5 drug addicted infants and a max of 2 hours of sleep at night? That I can handle.  A and I decided to become foster parents because there was a need that we knew we could fill.  As simple as that. 

And our kids? Let’s face it…they aren’t lucky at all.  They are foster children before they are even old enough to know what that means. They have zero permanency or control and they are at risk for severe attachment issues.  They’ve been abandoned by all the family they’ve ever known, including the woman that birthed them.  Sprout has been bounced from house to house, literally just dropped at doorsteps and has had to put away his fears and open his heart to complete strangers knowing his survival depended on it.  He has seen things and knows things that 3 year olds never should.  Rosebud has been saved from much of the heartbreak and struggle that Sprout has seen, but that may change when she has to say goodbye to the only mothers she has ever known.  These children are very, very unlucky. 

It’s A and I that are the lucky ones.  We are privileged beyond explanation to have the opportunity to parent them and love them.  Those children are amazing.  They are resilient and powerful.  They have a light that captured my heart and changed it forever.  A tiny three-year old taught me more about bravery, faith, and love than I had ever known.  I am so lucky to be their mommy.  They made my dreams come true.  Contrary to popular belief, foster parenting is not a selfless act – you get so much in return.

Will it be hard to give them back?  Have I fallen in love with them?  If you read this blog, you already know the answer to both.  But like I said before, those questions miss the mark entirely.  The thing is, I love those children so much that I can not imagine not being there for them when they need someone the most.  I pray that being foster children is the hardest thing they need to endure and  I love them so deeply that I will break my heart for the honor of being the soft place for them to land.

 I also have a beautiful video to share for Foster Care Awareness month, but really it deserves its own post, so it’ll be a little something to look forward to.

May 12, 2010

This is the heartbreak

Coming up on 5 months with us and Sprout is starting to understand this whole foster-kid thing and the temporary nature of it all.  Last week he told me he didn’t want to go to visits anymore.  Ironically, he got his wish when mom cancelled out of the blue this week.  And recently, every time we pull into the driveway, he announces that this is his house – the house from which he’s going to walk to school when he’s big big bigger.  Just like that.

On the way to school today, a little voice piped up from the back, “I don’t want to live with Aunt M again.  I want to stay with you.  And I can see Mommy T only a little bit.  On Sundays.”

Anything I can think to say in response, its just not enough to answer the question that’s begging at his heart.  Right now that question doesn’t have an answer and it’s not going to any time soon.   So I wrap him in my arms and remind him that he’s very special and very loved and no matter what roof we find ourselves sleeping under, he will always have a home in my heart.    What else can I do?

If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, what do you do?

February 16, 2010

What I do know

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”

As a parent, there is a lot I don’t know.  I don’t know much of Sprout’s history.  I don’t know what their future will hold or where they might be next month.  I don’t really know the dark demons that live in my little boy’s heart.  I don’t always know the best way to respond to behavior challenges (let me tell you, this child thinks of things that aren’t in any parenting book).  I don’t know the right answer to all the questions I’m asked.  I don’t know if I say the right things or if I do the right things.   Heck, I don’t even know how long I’ll be able to call myself a parent. 

But, what I do know is that my love is stronger than his anger.  And that’s all I need to know to get up tomorrow and do it all again.

February 2, 2010

The Joke’s on Me

On Friday Sprout came down with the stomach bug.  We’re not usually big TV people, but since it was in his best interest to rest and stay mellow, we let him watch the movie Cars.  Then I proceeded to spend the weekend complaining to anyone who would listen about the improper language in the movie and why in the world can’t anyone make a nice, appropriate, children’s movie anymore??

Fast forward to yesterday evening.  I get home from work and Sprout is excited to show me all the treasures his bio mom gave him during their visit (she didn’t show last week so I guess there was lots of making up to do).  A monster truck.  A duck for the bathtub.  A dollar.  And, a movie.  He was especially psyched about the movie. 

You know why the joke’s on me?  Well, after I spent days complaining about a G rated kid’s film, his mom gives him a DVD thats rated PG-13, and full of violence and sexual innuendo (no, we didn’t watch it. I had seen it before).  Apparently he’s 3 going on 13?  As an added bonus, he also told A no less than 5 times that we’re not his mommies and that Rosebud belongs to his mom only. 

Ahhh, the joys of coparenting.