The Incident

It was a two part incident actually.

Part 1 was in the morning. MM had to intervene when the girls were having a yelling match, with “Louise” even smacking “Thelma”.

All that “Thelma” would say it was over was that “Louise” wouldn’t let her look in her back pack. The department very nicely give the kids a brand new bag with a few sets of clothes, underwear, crafty stuff and a toiletries bag with shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush and as we found for the girls hair ties and other bits and pieces age appropriate. “Thelma’s bag included deodorant and lip gloss.

Not much was said in the afternoon about it when I got home, other than we explained that we don’t like that behaviour here, if they have any issues, walk away and come and get one of us.

Part 2 came when “Louise” was getting ready for bed.

I heard CEEEEEE JAAAAAAY hollered at me, so off I went to see what could possibly be the problem. Her new pyjamas were missing. So, we sat on the floor and looked through her bag to find them, and lo and behold the first thing I found when I opened her bag was my nieces princess dress up dress. Hmmmmm. As we started taking everything out of the bag it rapidly became clear that EVERY item of clothing in the bag was from our collection of spare clothes for the foster kiddies. There was nothing at all of “Louise’s” in the bag. I put all of the clothes into an empty laundry basket, by the time we had emptied her bag, the basket was full.

It seems we had found why “Louise” went to battle with “Thelma” in the morning. She didn’t want to get found out. Just a shame she didn’t remember in the evening where she had put her PJ’s (yes, in “Thelma’s” bag, along with all of her other clothes).

MM’s time as a Mr Mum

So, we just had “Thelma and Louise” for 2 days as an emergency placement and MM was Mr Mum while I was at work.
I thought that seeing as this was his first real Mr Mum opportunity I would get him to answer some questions about his experience.

MM how did you prepare for meeting the girls knowing that they are scared of strange men?

I was a bit nervous about meeting them because I knew they would be scared, but that was the opposite of what actually happened. I was greeted with lots of smiles and they didn’t seem too concerned about meeting me at all. It was almost like I hadn’t seen them for a while and we were just catching up.

When the girls said that they didn’t want to go to school the next day as they were concerned about being ‘snatched’ from school how did you feel about the prospect of being home all day with two girls?

I wasn’t really worried about the prospect of looking after them at all. I was just a bit worried about how I was going to keep them occupied.

How did your day at home with the girls go?

It went surprisingly well. They only had one little “incident” all day.
It’s a bit of a foreign concept to me to spend the day alone with kids. In my previous life, I was always the one out working while the kids were looked after or taken on errands or taken to school etc.
We had to allow some time for the girls to go and see their mum and a little later in the day we had to go to the courts for the girls to see their advocate. Either one of those appointments could have spelt trouble but neither did, so maybe I was a little lucky.

How did you feel at the end of the day?

I was wrecked at the end of the day, but luckily we work well as a team. I tagged CeeJay “it” when she got home so that I had a break while dinner was being cooked (I cooked dinner).
We had a bit of a late night because the girls were a bit worried about school the next day. When we eventually got to bed, we were both very tired and just crashed.

Would you do it again while you’re working part time? Or would you prefer to do emergency placements during the school holidays when I’m home all day to share the load more?

I don’t have any preference at all. I’m happy to help out at any time. We started doing this together and I’m more than happy to help out and share the load whenever I can.

I can’t stay here

It was late on a Thursday night, I was just finishing work, and the phone rang.
Our agency.
It was odd to have a call from them after 7.30 pm because at this time we weren’t yet registered for emergency care.
There was a 13 year old girl needing a place for the night, could we help.
Of course we can, it’s only a night. We can do anything for a night.

It was almost 10 pm when “Diana” arrived on our doorstep. What happened next surprised me, she announced she couldn’t stay here. When asked why, she said because I had taught her when she was in primary school. And she’s right, she was a past student. I’d never had any problems with her, but you could see she was uncomfortable. It was late at night and the social workers didn’t have a lot of options, so they talked her into staying just for the night.

The next day we went to see her social worker at the department and she had a bit of a chat about where she wanted to live. She had been living with her grandmother and because of her running away and other family circumstances Grandma was unwilling to take her home. They explained how difficult it was to find foster families for teenagers and they talked to her about what options there were. Who did she want to live with, did she know what residential care was, did she want to stay with me.

The “I can’t stay with her” came back into play and it was nice to hear that it wasn’t because she didn’t like me when I taught her, but that it was just weird staying with me. Nice to know it wasn’t personal.

Little did we know this was to be the start of a massive learning curve for us and we see us embark on a new path with our foster care

Little Daddy

“Mork and Mindy” came to us and very little was known about their background. There were some suspicions that the department had, but they didn’t really tell us about them, it was when we were giving them our observations that we would get comments like “we’ve been wondering about that”.

One of these was “Mork” being little daddy.
These two little munchkins would wake up early but be really quiet.
Some mornings I would lay in bed listening to the goings on for a bit just to see what they would do in a strange house when left to their own devices.

A typical morning would be one of the kiddies waking up and then sneaking into the room of the other to wake them up.
“Mork” would then get himself dressed and select an outfit for “Mindy” and help her get dressed if she needed a hand.
They would then tip toe downstairs to put “Mindys” night nappy in the bin (the first morning I found it under a bed, so we had a chat about it and they were good about putting it in a bin) and then they would sneak back upstairs and play in “Morks” room.

They would play quietly at first, and gradually get louder as it got closer to breakfast time.

“Mork” used to spend ages everyday sorting and hanging Barbie doll clothes when “Mindy” wanted to play Barbies.
He cleaned up after her.
He played the games she wanted to play.
He watched ‘The Lorax’ everyday because she wanted to.
He came and got us the night we forgot to turn on her night light (our first introduction on the importance of night lights for foster kids).

You learn about children parenting their siblings in the training, but it’s not until you see it happen that you really get to thinking.

Did they get in trouble for waking adults at home?
Did they get in trouble for making too much noise?
Did “Mork” have to do everything for “Mindy” because no one else did? Or because he was made to?

Dare To Love

Have you ever found yourself doing or saying things that sound just like your parents?
Things that you told yourself you would never say or do?

I have just finished reading “Dare to Love” by Heather Forbes, a question and answer book following on from her books “Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control” volume 1 and 2. While I haven’t read those books (yet) it was easy enough to understand the parenting theory just by reading this book.

Our PSW loaned this book to me from the library of books available for carers and children at the agency. There is a section in the book dealing with sleep issues, and considering the trouble we’d been having with “Blake” she thought that it might be handy. So, I started with the section on sleep, jumped around the book and read the sections looking at hyperactivity, foster children and runaways before going back and reading the whole book.
This book is great as it looks at dealing with the underlying cause of behaviours rather than just dishing out consequences. The analogy that I love is that a childs behaviour is like the tip of the iceberg and to chip away at the ice berg, you wouldn’t start at the top, you would start at what is underneath the water, just as you should deal with the underlying issues of a childs behaviour rather than just chipping away at the top with bribery.

The book looks at dealing with the children’s fear, overwhelm and dysregulation as the cause of the behaviour, and validating those feelings, building a loving and safe relationship with them, rather than isolating (time outs) and reinforcing their fears.

I would recommend the book to anyone with children. Not just foster parents, adoptive parents, but biological parents also.

We’ve started applying this in our dealings with “Blake” when he has a meltdown when it’s time to leave the farm.
We ask him why, “’cause I don’t wanna leave yet”.
Validate “I know, we don’t want to leave either we’re having too much fun here aren’t we?”
“Yes” (at that point you can feel him starting to settle)
“We’ll come back next time and we can ride the horses then. How does that sound?”
“OK” (sulky face then skulks to the car)
But…once in the car he asked to give Nana a hug, through the window, which was a huge step up from the previous respite where we had a really tough time for all of us in getting him ready to go.

Thanks to my dear PSW for recommending the book.

No one wants us

“Leanne” was a huge inspiration for me to become a foster carer.
She was a student and there was nothing remarkable about her. She was a quiet achiever, no problems in rehearsal with behaviour, just a normal kid. As the year went on, she started hanging back after rehearsal for a chat. She would walk with me to my car chatting all the while. Time went on and she started telling me more about herself. The teacher that I worked with knew her background and told me that the things “Leanne” was sharing, she didn’t share with very many people and that I was very lucky to have her confide in me. I was told a bit more of her history by the teacher so that I knew where she was coming from.

The things this young lady had been through…oh my lordy!

One day, on our walk out to my car she was telling me that she was in residential care, because “nobody wants us”. My heart broke for her. This poor young girl and her siblings had been through so much and now to feel that no one wanted them. I told her that it wasn’t that she wasn’t wanted but that there is a massive shortage of foster carers, and as the department want the family to be able to stay together, finding a home able to take so many children is very difficult. She told me that I should become a foster carer, and thus the seed was planted.

On future chats I told her, that I had taken her advice and had applied to become a foster carer.

Over the next 12 months, I kept her updated and was so happy to be able to tell her once I was all approved, which happened to be at the same time she and one of her sisters had been placed with a family.

So to “Leanne”, thank you so much for taking me into your confidence and inspiring me to become a foster carer.
You were not just a light bulb moment for me, but more like a huge neon sign hitting me in the head.

Food Glorious Food

“Mork and Mindy”, a gorgeous brother and sister, were our first real introduction to children with food issues.
You learn so much in foster care training, but nothing really makes sense until you are living it.
These two darling kiddies, came to us as an emergency placement when their mum surrendered them.
They had two main issues we were dealing with on a daily basis and the one that sticks with me the most is their food issue.
I have NEVER seen two little people eat like them. Bearing in mind they are 4 and 7 years of age, a day in the food life of them consisted of:
Breakfast – cereal
2nd breakfast – toast (I’m sure they are little hobbitses)
Morning snack – fruit
Lunch – 2 1/2 sandwiches
Afternoon snack
Dinner and dessert.

These were skinny little kids, so like little camels, they were just filling their humps.
Obviously they weren’t used to having food on tap and we weren’t used to going through a loaf of bread a day.
This little problem came to light one morning. “Mork and Mindy” had had their first breakfast, and we would have toast with them at second breakfast, and one morning, it turned out there were only 4 slices of bread left. Seeing as the kiddies had already had cereal, I thought it reasonable that each person had one piece of toast, and then go shopping for top up groceries and if they wanted a second piece, they could have it once we got back.
“Mork” had a meltdown. There was no explaining to him that he could have more as soon as we got back, that, as he’d already had cereal he would be ok and not perish in the short time to get to the shops and back, and apparently completely unreasonable of me to eat a piece of toast myself.

It was such a dilemma.
Do I give him my piece of toast?
How does this help him learn about sharing (Mork was the 7 year old)
How do I reassure him that we aren’t purposefully trying to starve him?

In the end, MM went without his toast, and when we went shopping we got 2 loaves of bread so there would be plenty for breakfast in the morning.

Such a learning curve for us.
We now make sure we take kiddies grocery shopping as soon after they arrive as we can so they can help, we can get some of their favourites, and they can see plenty of food coming into the house. We also put a list of the main meals for the week on a whiteboard so they can choose something from the list for dinner. We’ve also got a plan if we find a munchkin hoarding food to give them a container of snacks that they can keep in their room so they have the safety net of knowing there is food just for them.

Any other suggestions?

Why didn’t we adopt?

Here in Australia adoption is hard.
To speak ‘Australian’…..it’s bloody hard mate.

At the time I was looking at fostering, I was single, and we can’t adopt here unless you are a couple and have been in a marriage relationship for more than 3 years and more importantly, “Since 1996, there have been 4 – 6 children under the age of 12 months placed for adoption each year in South Australia. No older children have been placed in recent years.”*

Adoption of overseas children here starts with fees approximately $11,000 yes that’s Eleven THOUSAND dollars, and that’s before you travel overseas to collect the child, so, it’s a very expensive process, not to mention lengthy. If you think becoming a foster carer takes time, try to adopt here. It can be years. I’ve met a lady that was waiting for 5 years, before she gave up and fostered.

So, because I wanted to have children in my life, fostering was the only option available to me.

Very few children who are in foster care here are ever put up for adoption.
Court orders can have a child placed in care until they are 18 years of age, and if you are registered for long term care, it would be ‘like’ adoption, except, it’s not.

I know that sometimes a child’s guardianship order can change from being under the guardian of the minister, to Other Person Guardianship, which is the closest to adoption you can get. It gives the carers the ability to make more of the day to day decisions for the child without having to go through the department for permissions. This is always on a case by case basis, and at the moment I only personally know of a few instances where this has happened. I hope in time to find out more about the numbers of children where this happens.

Still to come…why did we do respite and emergency care and not long term care….I’ll keep you posted (pun intended).

* From Adopt An Australian Born Child on the DECD website

How did you prepare for a new child coming into your home?

It was a big project.
I was single at the time and my three bedroom home was a one bedroom home with 2 rooms full of stuff, so I had to start by making one of the junk rooms a bedroom.
So, when I started seriously thinking about fostering I got into one of the rooms and chipped away at the clutter and made myself an empty space. Then, out to the shed to find my bed frame, it got scrubbed and bought inside and assembled, and then I realised I had no slats for the mattress to sit on so off to the hardware store for some wood and a saw.
It felt so good to assemble the bed and prepare the room.

By the time I had my first home interview I had one room prepared, and by the time I had my final home check I had 2 spare rooms ready to go.

Many thanks have to go to the people that helped with donations of a bed, cot, change table, bookcase, children’s books, toys and linens. This meant that I could be prepared for children from birth to 12 years of age with minimal initial outlay, having only to purchase a good car seat. Dad found a convertible car seat that goes from rearward facing for babies to front facing for infants and adjusts to take children up to 8 years of age. It wasn’t cheap, but because it’s suitable for all age groups I only have to have the one which is fantastic.

How did you prepare?

Mothers Day

The blessing and curse for all women.
I find it a difficult day.
We, well I, asked that we not have any respite placements for the weekend.
We were due to have “Kelly”, and while I feel badly that we didn’t have her, having her would have been very difficult for me, so it was a kid free weekend for us.
My sister and her tribe of kids were off doing their own thing, so I was even spared from dealing with her and her 4 kids.
We had a lovely day, cooking lunch for Ma and Pa at the farm, and having no kiddies around we were able to talk adult talk, a nice change I must say.

Had a most pleasant surprise when we got home and I logged into Facebook.
I had wished all the mums a Happy Mothers Day and got home to see a couple of lovely replies from friends which I have to share with you.

One read
“I thought of you with all the Mothers’ Day stuff. May you be appreciated and acknowledged! – and just share the love.”
and the other
“you too – enjoy!!
Making a difference for many lucky kids- ‘multi- mum’!!”

How blessed am I to have such thoughtful friends.
I may have an idea to make myself a super hero outfit now because I’m “MULTI-MUM”

What was your highlight of the day?