Be careful what you wish for

It might just come true.

“Angel” came last week and we discussed what we would be prepared for in terms of a baby placement and of course, these things take time.

Unless….

“Angel” goes on Holidays.

Over Christmas “Angel” went away for a month and in that time MM’s registration came through, our emergency placement registration came through and we got “Mork and Mindy” as our first emergency placement.

Now, “Angel” has gone away for 10 days. and guess what!

Yep, we’re getting a BABY!!!

It was 9.30 am Monday morning when the phone started ringing, and now in just 3 hours little “Jade” will arrive.

And when I say baby, I mean newborn. “Jade” is only 12 days old.

I’m starting to get nervous, I’m also excited, happy, terrified, elated, and curious.

What will it be like?

How much sleep am I about to say goodbye to?

How will I say goodbye in 10 days time?

 

What do you think of when you think baby?

Do you think about very premature?

Do you think about drug withdrawals?

Do you think about twins?

I know I wasn’t thinking about that.

But now it’s in my head.

We had another meeting with “Angel” this week about the Dear Santa letter. Work is slowing down so now is the time to jump into this next stage of our foster care adventure.

A few months ago I went to an emergency carer support group meeting and all of the other carers there do 0 – 1 year emergency, with 2 exceptions. One other lady does 0 – 4 years and then there’s MM and I who do 0 – 13 years of age. I can tell you sitting there with all those other people who just do little tiny people made me wonder if we are a little bit nuts being prepared to take in such a wide age range of children.

When talking with these lovely ladies I got the impression that you get “A baby”. One lady is a retired neo-natal nurse, so she quite often gets the babies with health challenges, and will often have 2 at once (not unlike being at work for her I suppose) but, none of them mentioned twins, or sibling groups. I did have a dream about getting twins but didn’t really think that would happen to us.

Our meeting with “Angel” was great for making us think about options.

Would we be prepared to have twins? What about a sibling group with one of the children being a baby? Or maybe a very prem little baby or one going through drug withdrawals?

So I have a question for all of you.

What are your thoughts and opinions?

What experiences have you had?

What advice can you offer us?

 

Festival Fiasco

How much notice do you need to give someone to have them be prepared?

2 days? 2 weeks? 2 months?

Apparently none of the above.

I sent home information to “Kelly’s” dad that we would be taking her to the theatre for a music festival. Nice clothes would be required.

Imagine my surprise when she showed up with her nice clothes of purple jeans, green t-shirt and sneakers.

What the…!?!

I was so frustrated. I had sent home information to dad 2 months before the event. I’d talked to “Kelly” on our way to dropping her off the previous respite weekend. I’d even gotten her to write it in her respite notebook about a month before.

I got frustrated because this isn’t the first time she’s come with inappropriate clothes.

Like the thick fleecy pj’s in summer, the long sleeved shirts for going to a picnic in summer, only having her school shoes for the weekend, having no jacket in the middle of winter, the onesie pyjamas that were about 2 sizes too small, and that’s the times that spring to mind.

As respite carers it’s a bit unclear how much we are supposed to supply for “Kelly” over the weekend but I’m sure it’s not supposed to be her clothes. Over the last two years I’ve bought bits and pieces for her, which stay here so I know we have some things for her.

I rummaged around and found a nice skirt and embroidered top and a pair of cute ballet flats for her. We tried to do something with her hair and to try and keep it under control I used some hairspray and  I offered her some lip gloss to complete her outfit.

One young lady all ready for an afternoon at the theatre.

MM joined us later and was so good at telling us how lovely we both looked.

I  have come to realise that my idea of nice clothes and “Kelly’s” dads are probably different. Maybe he’s never been to the theatre and doesn’t know jeans aren’t ok. Maybe I needed to be more specific. Maybe I should have sent him a reminder message the day before.

Whatever the reason, I was able to work something out without having to go and buy her a whole new outfit and I’ve learned to be more specific with information that I send home.

 

Q & A with MM

I thought it was time for MM to pop in and say hi and answer a few questions.

Sooooo…..

When I started on this path we were living indifferent states of Australia and it was initially a path I chose to take on my own. Choosing to move states to be with me meant you needed to go through all of the training and assessments.

Did you have any hesitations about moving states and doing all the training and assessments to become a foster carer?

No.

You’ve had 4 children of your own.

How is foster caring similar to raising your own bio-kids?

Apart from being children, everything is different.

How is foster caring different to raising your own bio-kids?

Everything is different. You discipline them differently, eating a meal is different, some children won’t let you look at them while they eat, or they hide their food. Even their vocabulary and the way they speak and think is different because of the trauma they have been through.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

Being a male because there have been lots of issues for the children involving males in their lives and all the publicity in the media focuses on the males that have done the wrong thing by children.

How have you dealt with these challenges?

I’ve relied on the training taught to me.

What has been your greatest highlight so far in this journey?

Just seeing little changes that happen along the way.  Like “Thelma and Louise” who didn’t want to be here, but they also realised this was the best place for them and we’ve also seen some big changes in “Kelly” such as she now is more often her chronological age rather than her global development age. We see something good in all of them regardless of how long they are here.

What’s the best thing about being a foster carer?

Knowing that the little that we do, even if it only makes a little difference, it’s still a difference.

Does anyone else have any questions for MM?

 

 

On this day…

2 years ago I had my first respite placement. Little “Terrance”.

So much has changed in the last 2 years.

MM has moved from interstate and become a foster carer.

We’ve gone from one respite placement a month to an average of 3 placements per month.

We added emergency care to our registration and had a few emergencies.

We’ve also now added short term care as well.

“Kelly” was my second placement, and it was initially a one off placement, and now we have her every other weekend. Blessed to be able to see this girl grow up into a young lady.

All up, we’ve now had 14 children in our 2 years.

There have been some challenges, some really challenging challenges, but I don’t think we would have it any other way as the joys far outweigh the challenges.

I think we are improving in our care as we learn more from both research and experience.

What will the next year hold for us?

Well, there is the hope of a baby placement but other than that, who knows. One of the joys and challenges of this journey is our favourite saying…

Foster Care is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.

 

 

 

Father’s Day respite

We had “Blake” for respite for father’s day.

“Blake” has hiss 2 regular respite carers and a new back up respite carer couple as there was a weekend we couldn’t have him. With 3 respite placements MM and I have decided he doesn’t need us anymore, he needs as few placements as possible, and as he can’t be placed with other children and we are looking at a short term placement with a baby, he won’t be able to stay with us anyway. The father’s day weekend was coming up and his respite carer due for that weekend was unable due to family commitments, his other respite carer was unable no reason given and the new back ups, one of them was out of state for the weekend so they couldn’t. So, when asked, I said yes. I can’t allow little “Blake” to go to yet ANOTHER placement.

I’d mentioned to his carers support worker that it was the fathers day weekend and did they REALLY need respite that weekend as I believe kids need to be with their families for special weekends. She said she would check, and apparently they did.

Poor little man. You should have seen his face when he realised he was not going to be home for Father’s Day. We tried to cheer him up by saying we were happy he was with us, but, you could see, he really just wanted to be home.

We had a hassle free weekend with “Blake”, even bath time was relatively stress free.

As a gift from Papa for his last respite weekend with us he scored Papa’s old Akubra hat and went home looking like a little farmer.

I will be putting in a recommendation to his social worker that if respite falls on a special weekend…mother’s day, father’s day, Easter, his birthday, that respite be moved. Maybe he could be home that weekend and he could then have respite 2 weekends in a row. We had “Blake” for both Easter and father’s day and we were scheduled to have “Kelly” for her birthday (fortunately her grandfather came from interstate for the weekend for her birthday so respite was cancelled). In my mind these are special family times and these little people should be home with their families, strengthening those attachment bonds rather than sending them away.

Do families need respite? Yes, absolutely.

Do the children respite? Yes, they do too. “Kelly” needs time with a ‘mum’ figure, and “Amber” needed some quiet time and I think even “Blake” benefits from having that one on one time.

But, does respite need to be on special occasions?
Don’t get me wrong, I loved having “Blake” for Easter and getting the opportunity to be the Easter Bunny, and I had a party planned for “Kelly’s” birthday, but, I feel badly for these children. I can’t imagine how they must feel about coming to respite for special occasions.

It has me feeling very conflicted. I know that respite is important for carers so they can recharge their batteries and that respite helps keep the placement intact, but I also wonder how it effects the children when it’s a special weekend.

What do you think?

 

Can you get a child to keep?

A question I’ve been asked a lot by well meaning people who see me sad at having to ‘give back’ a kiddy.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s crossed my mind, a lot.

The answers.

No, we wont be getting a child to ‘keep’. Our registration is for emergency and respite, and hopefully soon, short term as well.

Which means I get the question “why don’t you have long term registration”

Because to be the foster carer I would want to be, I would have to change or give up the work that I love and it is part of what makes me, me.

Also, we know that the care we provide is important to those we care for.

Emergency care is important for children first removed from their dangerous situations to have a safe home to come to.

Respite care is important for the children and carers we help with respite placements. “Kelly” for instance, her time with us gives her time with a ‘mum’ figure. “Blake” has some seriously challenging behaviours so for his carers, respite is needed so they don’t burnout and the placement can continue long term.

We are kind of having our cake and eating it to.

We know we are helping all the children that come into our home in some way, and we also have the flexibility to go interstate to visit MM’s kids and grandkids without the mountains of paperwork that come with wanting to take foster children over state lines.

I get to have children and do the work I love without feeling like I am not doing my job right or giving enough to my kids.

What sort of care do you do?

Do you work and have foster kids?

How do you juggle the two?

 

House rules

This was such a difficult thing for me to come up with.
Before foster kids it was just me and the dogs, and there aren’t really house rules when you have dogs other than, please don’t pee on the furniture.

I asked friends with children.
I looked online.
I didn’t like any of what I saw. Long lists of things kids CAN’T do.
I didn’t want children coming into my home to feel like they couldn’t do anything.

So, I thought and thought and thought.

Result…our house rule is:

RESPECT

Just the one word.
Just the one rule.
It covers everything…..seriously.

Kids yelling….are you talking with respect to other people?
Kids jumping on the furniture….are you treating the furniture with respect?
Kids hitting each other….are you treating the other person with respect?

And it goes both ways.

We have to treat them and their belongings with respect.
We don’t yell at them.
We do listen to them.

What are your house rules?
Did you have the children help you come up with them?

I had a dream

Ok, so I’m a bit ahead of myself, it’s September, so to be dreaming about Christmas might be getting just a little bit ahead.

In my dream it was the agency’s Christmas Picnic.

We went along, not having any kids, and me wondering if we were going to stick out amongst all the families.

MM and I set up our picnic blanket and up ran “Amber” for a hug.
Then over strolled shy little “Johnny” followed by “Terrance” and little “Catelyn’s” support worker helped her toddle over.

So, we were surrounded by some of our babies, laughing and chatting…well “Johnny” was watching and smiling.

Woke up with a smile bursting to tell MM.

I’ll keep you posted as to what REALLY happens later in the ear at the Christmas Picnic.

What a lovely dream.

What’s your favourite foster/adoption dream?

Not like them!

In a week for reminiscing about our babies an “Amber” quote popped in my head.

We took little “Amber” to a concert some of my students were performing in. There weren’t enough seats so we had one seat for the 3 of us to share. “Amber” didn’t want to sit on her own, so I sat on the seat and she chose to sit on my lap.

She was so good during the concert. The family next to us were not so good. The youngest child had her shoes off and was smacking her brothers with them, and the brothers were climbing all over the place and being rather noisy.

Part way during the concert I swapped places with MM and while “Amber” was sitting on his lap she leant over to me and whispered “I’m being very good aren’t I?”

“Yes sweetie, you’re being super good.”

To which she replied in NOT a whisper
“Not like them!” as she pointed to the noisy family.

I couldn’t help but giggle.

Out of the mouths of babes.

What has your little one said out in public that made you giggle?