Keeping Track

We have our annual paperwork blizzard foster license renewal coming up really soon. I’m fairly sure that at this point, I could write the whole darn renewal packet over again from memory. It has all the things that we have to keep track of during the year, from fire drills to animal vaccinations to med logs to placement history. It isn’t hard of course, because it’s pretty rare that I don’t have all my documentation in place.

What always gets me the most is the placement history. I go through and record on their form the names and ages of all the kids we’ve had come through our doors in the past year, and it’s always a trip down memory lane. It’s very bittersweet to bring each kid’s face to mind because there are so many of them that I don’t know where they are or how they are doing. I just sit back and pray that God’s got a hand on them, and that their time with us had a positive effect.

There are always those that we DO keep in contact with, of course. ML is over pretty much every week, and we get weekend visits with T once every two months or so. We also get updates every now and then on kids like N.E. that we’ve had for respite. The thing is, if I’m being entirely truthful, sometimes keeping in contact is completely exhausting. It hurts to miss a kid and be reminded regularly that I didn’t have the resources to care for them the way they needed. It hurts to have a kid ask straight out to come back to us and to have to look into their eyes and tell them no.

We do it as much as we can though, and keep track of every kid we can, because we have seen the effect it has on a kid to be thrown out and forgotten by someone they have lived with for months or years. The family that T lived with before he came to us did that to him. They dropped him off with his worker without telling him he was leaving for good, or why, and then refused to even talk to him on the phone. Despite living with them for a year, in T’s world, they just vanished. And let me tell you, that MESSED HIM UP. He cried because he missed his foster brother (they were so close). He cried because he never got to say goodbye to his school friends. He cried because he missed their dog. There wasn’t even any closure, one day he had them and the next day they were gone without warning.

Moving from family to family is traumatic enough without losing the entire relationship in the process. So, as much as it sucks, we’ll just continue to keep track of our kids and keep contact where we can. I don’t know if it makes all that much of a difference in the life of a kid who keeps moving and struggling and hurting, but I like to think that it mitigates just a little bit of the damage that is done.

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Tonight, Respite Sucks

You know what sucks? Looking into the eyes of a 12 year old kid who doesn’t know where he’s going to be on Monday, who needs something to hold on to, and having no words for him.

N.E. is a kiddo we’ve had for a few days before on respite. He’s SUPER high needs though – like, do not leave this child alone for more than ten minutes. He’s always done okay with us, but he’s had near constant issues in his foster home with aggression, destroying things, and fighting with other kids. In short, not a kid that we could ever safely take for more than a few days. It would be a huge safety risk, and no one would be getting their needs met.

But with all that, he’s still just a 12 year old kid. He likes skateboarding and playing video games. He eats too much junk food, he loves superheroes, and he laughs at fart jokes. He’s a kid like any other kid, but he’s been subjected to such terrible things that he doesn’t know how to cope with the world and his own feelings.

The fact that he’s just a kid is why tonight sucks so much. N.E. is with us for the next three days, until he is moved to a new foster home. His old foster mother, a sweet elderly lady who has been fostering for 20(!) years, no longer has the physical wherewithal to keep N.E. or herself safe when he is in a rage episode. She’s held on for a long time and done her best, but it just wasn’t safe for N.E. to be with her any more. So he came to us, and then is going straight to a new place on Monday.

So what am I supposed to say? When this infinitely angry kid, with tears in his eyes, says that he wishes he could have stayed where he was. His foster mom loves him and he knows it, so he’s heartbroken to have to leave. He looked at me and said “I wish I could stay here at least.” He didn’t ask to stay because he already knew the answer, he just wished it was different.

I did what I could to be compassionate. I agreed that it must be really hard for him, and told him that I believe he’ll make it through. I told him he’s an awesome kid and that I think he will find a home to stay forever. What little I have is so inadequate. I wish I had something more.

Respite Time!

So, Awesome Worker has been teasing me recently. She keeps asking me to do respites, but then they get cancelled. Not Awesome Worker’s fault of course, but I was getting antsy. We haven’t had a new placement since the SP incident, which was obviously a nightmare. Truth be told, I love doing respites. All of the fun of a new kid in the honeymoon phase and none of the fallout afterwards. Plus, I love knowing that I can give another foster family a break and hopefully help them not to burn out.

So, finally Awesome Worker ended the yes-no-yes-no cycle of aborted respites, and today we’ve got a 15 year old girl with us. Sweet kiddo, although boy can she TALK! In my experience, nervous kids tend to go one of three ways. Silence and fear, “happy” and smiley, or crazy nervous talking and energy. It appears this kiddo is in the last category.

We’ve only got her until tomorrow morning, but it soothes my kid-wanting itch a bit longer until Awesome Worker finds us a long term placement that is a good fit. We really do want to adopt again, so we’re just waiting for the right kid to come along.

Cutting Losses

I got some bad news today about a kiddo we’ve had for respite before, and it sucks. Royally.

This kid is 17 and had been in the system from when she was in diapers. Last year, she was placed under guardianship of this awesome (if somewhat overcrowded) family. They had their ups and downs, and the kid gave them a run for their money, but they always stuck it out and made it work.

Yesterday, I found out that that kid is now back in the system.

Apparently some physical violence went down between the kid and the foster dad, and DCF pulled her. The kid has been violent before and is very physically strong, so it’s unclear how much may have been the foster dad legitimately defending himself. The real kicker is that the family wants her home, the judge wants her home, and DCF wants her home…but the kid won’t go. She wants to “cut her losses” and run. Now, this kid will be starting her senior year in another new school with another new family, purely because she doesn’t understand the fundamental concept of sticking it out when it’s hard.

In reality, how could she understand that? A lot of people can’t really comprehend what it does to a kid to move not only houses or cities, but families, every few months for years. How could this girl, and the other children like her, possibly be expected to know what it means to stay? If the only kind of family you have ever known is the kind that you never see again after there is any kind of problem, how could she understand how to come back to the same family? Having had so many people cut their losses on her, it’s not surprising that that is what she knows how to do.

So now it’s in this kid’s court. Her (guardian) mom and dad are missing her, her little sisters are missing her, and her pets are missing her. They are begging with her to go back to them even though it’s hard. I’m hoping and praying that the kiddo can look past her fear and figure out what it means to have a home to go back to.

An Epiphany

Every now and then, a problem that I have been beating my head against gives me an epiphany of epic proportions. I’ll be staring it down for the thousandth time, and suddenly I’ll see it in a completely different light and everything will fall unexpectedly into place. Last night, I had one such moment with A.

For the entire time she’s been with us, A has lashed out harder at me than at anyone else. Nothing I did was right. Nothing I said was right. And most notably, nothing I did or said had any value whatsoever. Last night, R and I called her out on it (again). She’d been driving me up a wall and harping on how I “don’t actually work” and how I “don’t really matter”. Joy. Thanks, kid.

R and I talked with her for a long time, about a lot of things, and we were in the midst of talking about how her fear of failure comes from her abandonment when she was only 12. She started crying and, regarding her abusive bio mom, said “I just want to prove her wrong about me”.

Boom, head shot.

Lightning bolt of inspiration: A wants to believe I don’t matter because she wants to believe moms in general don’t matter. She wants more than anything to believe that her bio mom, the person who abandoned her, doesn’t matter.

In other words, if A can prove that no one needs me in my capacity of mom, then she has proved that she didn’t need her bio mom.

So yeah, it still sucks when A stares me down and tells me that no one needs me, and it hurts when she says that I didn’t do anything worthwhile all day. BUT I get it now.

And if I get it, I can circumvent it. While A is busy proving her bio mom wrong, I’ll be over here proving A wrong.

On the Subject of Birthdays

It’s my best friend’s 29th birthday today, and she’s annoyed that I’m baking a cake. Although maybe annoyed is the wrong word. She is, essentially, simply humoring my quaint idea that birthdays should be celebrated. Here’s the thing, my friend had a pretty messed up childhood that wasn’t far off from what a lot of my kiddos go through.

In their world, birthdays are ignored, or used as an excuse for a parent’s drinking or partying. Maybe parents don’t show up at all, and the birthday is spent alone and afraid. Any presents tend to be the unwanted type, and sometimes wildly inappropriate. All of this culminates in birthdays being hated for life.

So many of the kids that I have had who hate birthdays, as well as my dear friend, can’t seem to understand why I work so hard on birthdays. In their minds, I must seem like I just want to replicate the birthdays of my childhood. They think I’m being sweet, if eccentric. After all, don’t I know that birthdays don’t really matter?

Here’s the secret though: birthdays are actually incredibly vital. I am not looking for an excuse to eat cake and have fun. If cake is what I was after, I would make my own! But birthdays aren’t just a party for a party’s sake. Birthdays are literally birth-days. Day of birth. Day that said person came into the world. When a birthday isn’t celebrated, the message being sent is clear. The fact that you are here doesn’t really matter. Your presence in the world is irrelevant. YOU aren’t worth celebrating.

So that’s why I celebrate birthdays. I don’t go overboard, as so many of my kids would be genuinely uncomfortable with a big, over-the-top celebrations. But a cake, some candles, and a few presents are 100% mandatory. The reason my kids are uncomfortable with birthdays is because they truly don’t believe that they themselves are worth celebrating. That is a mindset that I work to overthrow every day, so getting to do it with cake is just a bonus.

Also: my friend is getting a funfetti cake with homemade buttercream icing. Bwahaha.

 

A2 and T: Dumb Idiots

Teenagers are so, so stupid. I love these stupid kids…but damn.

Less than 10 hours after T arrived for his birthday party (my baby is 14!!!) he and A2 got caught smoking. Because they brought it in the house. Because they are dumb idiots. A2 breaks my heart, because right now she is trying SO HARD to drive us away. That’s not conjecture either, she said straight out that she is trying to drive us away. She’s currently pissed at her lack of success.

I’m so glad that she has the opportunity to be pissed about it. We were talking to her about the dumb idiot incident and she said “You should just stop worrying about me already, I’m going to hurt you.”

I said “Yeah, you are. All of our kids do. We do this on purpose, and that’s because every kid deserves someone that hurts when they hurt, and still doesn’t leave.”

She did not like that answer.

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T, on the other hand, we’re finally getting through to. After we talked with A2, I went up to talk to T. I asked him if he knew we loved him, because I wanted to make sure that he knows we love him even though he does dumb things. He thought I was crazy for asking.

He said “I know you love me! You put all this work into keeping track of me, and getting ahold of my worker for visits, and making this birthday party for me every year. Jeez, you guys drove four hours in the snow and ice to come visit me when I was in that residential hospital. I know you love me.”

T breaks my heart in an entirely different way, but what I told A2 holds true. Every kid deserves someone who’s heart will break for them.

They are still really stupid though. I love them so much.

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