Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day Quotes

Motherhood is full of sacrifices, love, and oftentimes GUILT wondering if you'll ever measure up.

Here's some quotes I've seen floating around the web recently which touch on the theme of motherhood and which resonated quite deeply with me:

One of the most important lessons I've learned specifically as an adoptive and foster mother and with my experiences with infertility is to cherish children and NEVER take them for granted. 

And if you haven't seen the following clip yet, Grab the Kleenexes!

Wishing everyone a GUILT-FREE Mother's Day!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dear Rose

Dear Rose,

Just yesterday I noticed a small object on the coffee table and I automatically thought  I need to move that.  The baby's gonna put it in her mouth!  Then I remembered that you were gone.  Silly Me. 

You've been gone for one week now and I miss you.  We all miss you. 

The last morning you were with us I walked into your nursery and to my surprise you were sitting up in your crib, as content as could be, happilly babbling away.   You looked up at me with a smile and when I changed your diaper I noticed {FINALLY!} a little tooth was making its way through the bottom of your gums.  You've been teething for months now and sticking anything and everything into your mouth and chewing away like a little puppy dog.  

You're a different baby than the frail little creature the caseworker brought to our home seven months ago.  You were just eight pounds then and last month at your 9 month check-up you weighed over 16 pounds!    Although you're still technically in the 10th percentile for weight you have been growing at a steady pace.  You have transitioned from learning to scoot like an inchworm to rolling around on the floor to crawling ALL OVER THE PLACE.  You are also pulling yourself up to furniture now, too.

You have a great sense of rhythm and much to our amusement, we would all bust out laughing when someone would start playing music and you would immediately bounce and rock back and forth to the beat.

You have learned to clap your hands and proudly say "Yay!" afterwards.  You also attempt to wave to people (although most of the time your chubby little hand and fingers are directed towards yourself when you do).  You babble and sing and even say a few words- including "mama", "dada", and "Hi", which you say quite enthusiastically whenever you greet someone.   You are a little charmer and a beautiful baby but I think you've figured that out by the way everyone looks at you and dotes on you when they see you.

Do you know who lights up the most when they see you?  Your parents.  Rose, I hope you know that your parents love you- they absolutely adore you- and they have both worked so hard to get you back into their care. 

Thank you for letting me be your substitute mommy for a short time (not that you had a choice in the matter- although I have felt at times like we have a connection from sometime or somewhere before).  You have taught me to be more patient-especially with all of your colic and spit-up.  Your reflux has greatly improved and you're eating solids like a big girl now.

You have taught me to sacrifice- as all mothers and caregivers learn- each time I would get up in the middle of the night to make you a bottle or comfort you when you were teething or sick.   And, of course, Murphy's Law for Sleep-Deprived Mothers states that "Even though a baby still isn't sleeping through the night they will regularly wake up at the crack of dawn!"

You have taught me to replace the urge to judge when I would hold your little body in my arms the first couple of weeks you were with us and you would twitch and tremble at night through no fault of your own.  The anger and blame I felt towards others about your circumstances were mercifully overshadowed by compassion.

You have reminded me that once you spend so much time with someone you forget that their skin is a different shade than yours until someone else brings it up and then you think, "Oh, yeah . . . I forgot."
Thank you for giving my little girl another chance to know what it's like to be a big sister and to learn to share her toys and time and attention with a sibling.  I miss hearing you two laugh together as you play.  I miss when I would hold you on my lap and you would grab her face with your outstretched arms and lean in and give her a slobbery open-mouthed kiss on her cheek.  She would laugh hysterically and you would smile and giggle and we'd repeat it over and over again.  Sometimes you would grab her hair and not let go and the harder she would squeal the bigger you would smile.  I would tell her that babies just like to explore but the mischievous look in your eyes makes me think that you knew what you were doing.   You would have that same look in your eyes when I would wear my glasses and you would try to grab for them.  I would chastise you in a mock tone and you would laugh.

Thank you for smiling as I handed you to the caseworker at the DCFS Building to drop you off for the last time. It made our parting easier and I have your smile and the look on your face permanently etched in my mind. Your parents had not yet arrived from the Hearing but they texted me letting me know what I allready knew- "Our baby is coming home today!"

Rose, you have taught me to cherish the sacred gift of motherhood and to never take family for granted.

Thank you for being part of our life and our home- if only temporarilly.  We are eager to see you again, but right now it's your parents' turn to take care of you and for your family to be together again.


(Your "other" mother)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The President's Proclamation on National Foster Care Month

Although it’s a couple of weeks old I just read President Barack Obama’s recent Proclamation on National Foster Care Month.

As for U.S. government involvement, I learned that:

*Through the Affordable Care Act, beginning in 2014, every State will be required to extend Medicaid coverage up to age 26 for former foster youth who “age out” of foster care.
*A program called the Permanency Innovations Initiative, under the Department of Health and Human Services, is investing $100 million over five years in new strategies to identify permanent homes for youth in long-term foster care.
Furthermore, the President of the United States said in his proclamation:

“National Foster Care Month is a time to reflect on the many ways government, social workers, foster families, religious institutions, and others are helping improve the lives of children in foster care, and it also serves as a reminder that we cannot rest until every child has a safe, loving, and permanent home. Together, we give thanks to those individuals from all walks of life who have opened their hearts and their homes to a child, and we rededicate ourselves to ensuring a bright and hopeful future for America's foster youth.”

Regardless of where you see yourself on the political spectrum- (conservative, liberal, moderate, etc.) I hope we can all agree that CHILDREN are our most precious resource and foster children, who come into care through no fault of their own, need our support to find safe and loving homes.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Rose's Trial Home Placement

When our foster children leave our home to be reunified with their families [four have been returned to the care of their parents, while two were placed in either short-term or long-term care of relatives rather than being placed back with their parents] I think my response to their permanency can be categorized into three different categories:

A)  Their parents have worked really hard and they definitely have some ongoing challenges ahead, but despite this, with the right support systems in place, I think things will work out.

This was true for Justin's case and Christian's case.

B)  One (or both) parent has made token efforts to get DCFS off of their back, and I have serious concerns about the future of this child.  In other words, Is the judge SERIOUSLY going to send this child  back to that situation? 

Thankfully, scenario "B" has only happened once and, as we predicted, our foster daughter, Molly, came back into state custody a year after leaving our home.  I wish I could say that she was placed with us the second time she came into custody, but one of the first things I learned about foster care policy is that placement with blood relatives almost always take precedent over foster families- even if the foster family has previously had the child in their care for months. Thus, Molly (and her baby brother) were placed with relatives the second time she came into care.

C)  The parents have worked hard and have some challenges ahead.  I want things to work out for this family, but I have some concerns that this child will come back into care.

This is true for Rose's case. 

And the thing that makes me saddest is not just Rose's welfare, but that I don't want to see her parents fail.  They have challenges ahead, but compared to where they were when Rose was brought into custody, they've made great progress.

Because I've had specific concerns the past couple of months about Rose's parents being ready to care for her full-time I addressed them with her caseworker.  In fact, instead of just telling our RFC "we're just fine" when he called to check up on us one day, I even brought up the concerns with him.  Fortunately, Rose's caseworker not only listens to me but values my opinion as well, and because of the concerns I brought up with her, which were valid concerns to her as well, Rose's caseworker requested a 90- Day Trial Home Placement for Rose rather than moving straight to Reunification at last week's Permanency Hearing.  The judge agreed which means that although Rose is still technically in state custody she can now live with her parents rather than in a foster home.  Then, after 90 days, if things go well they will have the actual Permanency Hearing to see if she can return to their custody without any DCFS involvement.

That's where we're at right now.  Rose has been gone for three days now.  We miss her.  I feel an emptiness every time I walk past our vacant nursery. 

As for continuing contact with Rose and her birthparents, I have very ambivalent feelings- especially since I've come to learn that foster care isn't just about helping your foster children, but about supporting their parents as well.  It's complicated and I won't go into details, suffice it to say that her parents have not only developed a lot of trust in us over the past couple of months and thanked us for caring for their daughter, but they've relied on me heavily in caring for their daughter, so much so that the caseworker had to kindly remind them that during this Trial Home Placement it's not my responsibility to care for Rose anymore nor can they rely on me as much as they have been the past couple of months (For example, supplying formula when they run out during a weekend visit or transporting Rose between her mom's house and her dad's house four times a week for transitional visits since they not only live in different households, but in different cities as well). 

I guess if I had to sum up my biggest challenge with Rose's parents in one word it would be:  boundaries.  They know they can text us in case of an emergency and that we would like to see Rose in say, two or three months, AFTER she has bonded with her parents and recognizes THEM as her primary caregivers, but we don't want Rose to be confused and we know that right now it's her parent's turn and responsibility to care for their daughter, which means in large part, that the best (and yet hardest) thing we can do right now is to let go.  We want them to succeed, but I also have my doubts and worries.