Why foster parenting is like having a terminal disease

I love being a foster carer (we don’t call it foster parent here in Australia, lord only knows why) but sometimes all the things that are completely out of our control get the better of me, and that’s when I thought…this is like having some horrible disease where I can’t  control the situation.

Social workers are like doctors. They all seem to have their own opinion on the case and they don’t always agree.

Like a terminal disease, no one can tell us how long we have the children for. Even a GOM 18 placement has no certainty as the birth family always have a right to contest this in the future.

Attitude makes a huge difference. Do you sit around wallowing in self pity or do you enjoy every minute that you have together because you don’t know when the last minute will be?

We go through the 5 stages of grief.

Denial – denying that the child is going to be removed at some point in the future

Anger – getting angry at the system that allows you to pour your heart and soul into the little children and then takes them away because ‘they would be better with a family member’

Bargaining – trying to bargain with social workers to change their mind. Contemplating writing a petition to the court that your opinion should be heard and you are the best placement for the child.

Depression – spending time thinking about and mourning the loss of the child, who hasn’t left yet, but preparing for them to leave.

Acceptance – accepting that hopefully the powers that be have made the right decision for the child and knowing when the call comes to say goodbye you’ll do it with the best smile you can muster, have a break, and then do it all again with another child.

Losing a child you have loved and cared for breaks your heart  just as much as losing a family member, because for the time they are with you, they are your family, and in may cases, once they leave our care we have only our memories of the time they have been with us as we often don’t get to see them again.

So why do we do it?

Because we are prepared to grieve for our loss knowing that we have helped the children in their time with us.

Light Bulb

Don’t you love when you have that ‘light bulb’ moment and everything becomes clear and you feel like a genius at first, until you wonder why it took you so long to work it out and then you wonder why no one bothered to tell you?

“Kelly” has been having respite here for almost 3 years now. For over 2 of those years she has been coming here fortnightly. That’s a lot of respite.

In that time we have seen some amazing changes in “Kelly”. Seeing that progress lets you know she is healing and all the brain connections are starting to join the right way and it’s so exciting to watch.

But, the last couple of months have been a struggle. A real struggle. She’s not just made any progress, in fact, it’s almost been the  complete opposite of progress.

This morning was so frustrating. Yesterday we talked to “Kelly” about the new basket in her bathroom for her dirty laundry and that she is not to bring her laundry down and dump it on the kitchen floor anymore. This morning her towels were hanging over the balustrade, I mentioned that is not where they belong and her reply was “I’ll take them downstairs in a minute.” After 5 minutes of discussion about where the towels should go I got her to go in the bathroom and asked her to look around and tell me where she should put them. I have to give it to her, she had a lot of suggestions. Hang them on the shower. over the bath, fold them and place them on the toilet, or the hand basin. “Kelly” even suggested hanging them on the door, I don’t know how that would work, there’s no hook there. Eventually she worked out to put them in the basket, but it was one of the most frustrating experiences seeing as we talked about it less than 24 hours ago.

I dropped her at school, and called MM to debrief and it was when I hung up that I had the light bulb moment.

A few months ago “Kelly” disclosed to the police what had happened to her when she was little. Her Foster Dad let us know after talking with the police that her bed wetting had returned, proof that we were correct, it was trauma related and not a medical condition. We had never really had much of a problem with “Kelly’s” bed wetting, and since disclosing, she hasn’t had any problems here so we haven’t given much thought to her having any follow on problems since having to relive her trauma.

That was until today.

When “Kelly” first started coming for respite she couldn’t follow more than one instruction at a time. You couldn’t just tell her to get ready for bed as there were too many steps involved. It had to be broken down into singles steps, and eventually she was able to link them together as one. We seem to be back there. Telling her what needs to be done tomorrow will be forgotten by tomorrow (as shown by forgetting about the washing basket), and many reminders need to be given.

Now the light bulb has gone off it will help us remain cool under pressure, because it is a pressure situation when you have to explain the same thing…again, when it’s something we assume a much younger child could do without instructions.

Now the light bulb has gone off we just have to remember all the things we did in the early days with “Kelly” and start doing them over again and hope that by taking the step back with her we can help her make those forward steps back to where she was, much faster.

Now the light bulb has gone off I wonder does her dad know about this regression? If so, why has he not bothered to tell us? Does her social worker know? Why hasn’t she passed along the information? Are we the first to put 2 and 2 together and work out that she’s not being lazy, not being a pain in the neck teenager, but her mind is struggling to deal with her trauma all over again? Are we on the right track? Time will tell. In 2 weeks time we’ll be able to put my theory to the test and see if we have any more success.

The Baby Diaries Part 15

This is a memo for my chefs. Milk lady. Milk man. Nana. Anyone that wants to make me food.

I’m almost 8 months old now. I’m not a baby.

I just want to be like you.

I want to eat big people food, because, let’s face it, I’m almost a big person myself. I can sit on my own, I can put food in my mouth, mostly, and I watch you and want what you have.

I love veggies – mashed not pureed, just like you.

I love meat – cut into little tiny pieces because I have a little tiny mouth, even if I do try and stuff lots in there at times.

I love cheese – grated because I don’t have teeth to chomp it yet.

I love toast – but please, don’t try to trick me with plain toast, I want peanut butter like you milk lady.

When we go out for dinner, I know what you’re up to, you feed me before we go and then try to make me sit in the high chair just chewing on a rusk….like a baby. Nope, Sorry! I want to try your garlic prawns, and your salt and pepper calamari (maybe with the batter stuff off) and that chicken parmigana looks soooooo good you just have to share it with me. I know you will only let me eat foods that aren’t too salty or too spicy, but I want to try new things, new tastes, new textures, and things I can play with and try to feed myself.

All this talk of food, I think it’s time for a nap while milk lady makes me some lunch….mmmm…veggies would be nice I think.

My first mothers day

As a mummy. Obviously I have celebrated my mum on this day for many years, but this was my first mothers day.

It was a lovely day .

No sleep in, but that’s ok. No brekkie in bed, and that’s ok too.

I did get a lovely new dressing gown, seeing as Jade has a tendency to puke and drool all over mine, it’s nice to now have a spare so when one is in the wash I still have a nice snuggly dressing gown for the middle of the night feeds.

I also got a lovely card, which made me cry. MM’s goal with his card buying is to always choose one with sentimental words. What I thought was strange was the card on the front said from both of us. I thought perhaps it was from Jade and the dog, but no, the handwritten message reads “To my special mum, Lots and Lots of love on this special day. This card is from me but it’s also a thank you from all your other foster kids. Lots and Lots of Love and hugs and kisses from Jade”

We got ready and drove up to the farm where I got another card and gift (Mum made me some lovely Christmas decorations) from Jade (did Mum think that MM would forget or did she want to make an extra effort?).

It was a lovely day with only a few tears from me. Both from being overwhelmed with love and from sadness that this time next year we may not have our little angel with us, but mostly it was a most beautiful day.

My highlights would be

– Jade saying something that sounds an awful lot like “Mama”, so I’m going to take that as her first word on mothers day!

– Having an hour to ourselves while Mum and Dad looked after Jade while we went and looked at a couple of properties for sale in the area.

– Dad’s comment for the day “Jade knows who her Mother is it would be wrong for the department to take her away from you just to place her with a brother she doesn’t know.”

I hope you all had a lovely day to celebrate the people special in your lives.

Mother’s Day to be

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and I fell sorry for MM.

I have no idea what I’ll be like.

In the past, Mother’s Day has been depressing. Wanting my own children and celebrating my Mum, yet mourning my own inability to be a mother.

This year, we have “Jade” and I am so truly blessed to have that little person in our lives, but the reality is, she probably wont be here forever, despite wanting her to be, so I get the Mother’s Day I’ve longed for, but also know that it might be my only one with “Jade”.

I had a conference today, so MM was on baby duty and they went shopping together. He did ask me last night what I wanted for Mother’s Day, and that, I couldn’t answer, because I just don’t know.

I can’t think of any ‘material’ thing that I would want to mark tomorrow.

A full nights sleep might be nice.
MM to hear the baby during the night and do the 2 am feed.
“Jade’s” social worker to call and say we can keep her.
“:Jade” to come out with Mum-mum (MM spends so much time with her saying Mum-mum over and over. He is determined she will say Mum first, and before she leaves our home.)

Thinking of all the mums on their special day tomorrow.

Thinking of all the women like me who would give anything to have their own baby and the difficult day you have ahead of you.

Thinking of all the husbands who hold our hands and hug us and support us on our bitter sweet day unable to make the hurt go away, and love us and our broken bodies.

Argh…Grrrrr

No I am not trying to be a pirate or tigger.

I am frustrated.

Thursday is a big day.

I have an early start for work, 100 kms away, and since they changed bubs access to this day it’s harder because I not only have to pack her day care bag, but a separate bag with her goodies for access.

So, off we go to day care. Hand over notes given.

An hour later they come and collect bubs to take her to access, an hours drive away.

“Jade” was due for a bottle on arrival at access (yes, I time it so that “Jade” either has a bottle or a solids feed at each access so she has that special time with mum) BUT…TM didn’t show up. In their own frustration at having driven over an hour to collect baby, and then an hour back to access they now had to turn around and drive her an hour back to day care, they forgot to give “Jade” a bottle and a nappy change.

Imagine the day care lady’s surprise at receiving back instead of her normally happy smiling baby, a crying hungry little mite.

So frustrated that TM didn’t show up.

So frustrated that she didn’t bother to call them.

So frustrated that they forgot to feed “Jade”.

So frustrated that the only person who is really affected by all of this is the little tiny person in my care who has no voice for herself.

Now to write a polite, yet firmly worded email of complaint that they forgot to give “Jade” her bottle and made her wait 2 hours past her feed time for it. My poor little poppet.

The journey so far

7 months ago today a small pink bundle arrived on our doorstep.

“Jade” or Squeaky, as she is affectionately called by us for her little kitten like squeaks.

When she arrived, it was just for 9 days of respite. Her emergency carers had already planned a holiday and couldn’t take her royal cuteness with them, then, after she had been with us a whole 24 hours we were asked if we could continue caring for her until she was reunified with her tummy mummy.

Reunification was going well, and she should be moving back with mum late March to early April, giving the department a few months to support TM before the court order was up.

Everything was going well until the new year. Something has happened, I don’t know what exactly, but access with mum has been cut back to only 2 90 minute visits per week.

Today I find out that on Thursday this week there will be a meeting between “Jade’s” social worker and her supervisor to discuss the case as “Jade’s” brothers court order is up in under 2 months and between now and then they need to decide what direction the case is going to go in.

Has TM made enough progress in the last year to give them reason to apply for another 12 month court order?

Or do they apply for what is known here as a GOM18 order, meaning the children will be placed in long term care until they age out at 18.

If they are placed on a GOM18 order the department then look to family and friends of TM to see if there is anyone suitable and able to care for BOTH children.

If there isn’t anyone suitable, the department will then look to the list of foster carers in the state to see if there are any carers wanting to take in both of the children.

Then, there’s us. While we aren’t presently registered for long term care, it’s just a form to be filled out.

So, our little 9 day placement, has now been here 7 months, and now we are waiting to hear if we might be considered for the honour of caring for her royal cuteness “Jade”, for the rest of her life.

What a journey so far!