Oh Happy Day.

Who’s a happy girl?
Well, Jade is, but so am I, and MM is just as happy.

Why?

Well, we caught up with Jade and her new family for her birthday.

What an amazing experience.

Jade at first looked at MM and I,and you could see the cogs in her brain working overtime trying to work us out. You could see that she was trying to work out where she knew us from. It’s been 7 weeks since we’ve seen her royal cuteness. It didn’t take long and we were getting a few little smiles, and once she was out of her stroller, I asked if she wanted to come for a cuddle.

The little chubby arms reached out for me and my heart melted.

Jade was happy to have cuddles with both MM and I, but we never got the flappy arm wave. But, NM (new mum) did. She was out of sight for a few minutes and when she reappeared Jade gave her the big grin and flappy arm treatment. It was both awesome and a little sad at the same time. Sad because that was how she always reacted to us, but happy to see that excitement has been turned to her new family.

While we were at the barbeque, Jade was so cute with little Harry. I was sitting on the ground holding him while she played and she crawled over….yes our little bubba can crawl and has 2 little teeth poking through… to come and sit on my other leg and look at Harry. Then she wanted to touch Harry, and then, to share her toys with him. She had a toy biscuit in her picnic basket, and you could have knocked me over when she took Harry’s dummy out of his mouth, and instead of putting it in her mouth, as I was expecting, she tried to feed him her toy biscuit. What a little sweetie!

It was so lovely to have this time with her and her family. I thought they may have invited other family or friends as well, but it was just us. They really are so thoughtful and sweet.

It was a magical day.

In it for the money

Ever been accused of that?

Or asked if that’s why you foster?

Do you just smile politely?

Do you roll on the floor laughing in reply?

Do you bother to give them an answer?

Anyone who fosters knows it’s not about the money. It can’t be. Because there isn’t any!

What do we get?

We get a carers allowance, and it’s not a lot.

For babies, from this allowance comes formula, nappies, the extra costs involved in the washing, clothes, baby food, did I mention all the extra washing – which no one warns you about, and seriously it should be right up there with the sleepless nights!

For school aged children the allowance is $2.40 a day more than babies/preschool age, and considering for an older child there’s the costs of taking them school, the massive amounts of food they eat (I haven’t met a child in care that couldn’t out eat me, and I’ve got a healthy appetite!) and while there’s no nappies for an older girl there are the personal hygiene products, hair accessories, and the water bill for the excessively long showers!

The biggest problem we’ve had is Kelly telling us we do it for the money. That when we had Harry and Jade at the same time it was for more money. Never mind the fact that the first few nights was almost zero sleep and me going crazy and ready to give it all up, and the amount we get ‘paid’ sure as heck doesn’t make up for you losing our mind with sleep deprivation. It was clearly a view expressed to her by her foster dad (oddly, he gets paid to look after her why would he have a go at us over caring for children?) We’re constantly explaining to her that it’s not about the money, where the money gets spent and reminding her that we also don’t look after her “just for the money”.

How awful that she thinks we care for children because of the money.
How awful that her foster dad, or someone else close to her, has filled her head full of this rubbish.
Does she think the same about her foster dad?
That the people caring for her only do it for money?
What a horrible way to be thinking about yourself…you’re not loved for who you are but because someone is paid to.

What are some responses you’ve given people who ask or tell you that you just do it for the money?

What do you see?

big grin

What do you see when you see this smile?

Do you see a child that came into this world in a home of domestic violence?

Do  you see a child born testing positive to different narcotics?

Do you see a child happy with life?

Do you see a child that looks loved and cared for?

What do you see?

I see our darling Jade’s big gummy smile that made people stop and talk to her in the shopping centre.

I see a beautiful little girl who has known nothing but love in our home and is happy and content…but, that’s just me.

I see that beautfil smile every time I look at my phone as that picture is my screen saver and it brings a smile to my face.

MM uses that photo whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed as a mum with our little Harry and his colic. His crying breaks my heart and knowing that I’m doing everything I can for him and still he cries. MM reminds me with that photo that together we make happy, healthy babies and this time will pass and Harry will go back to being his normal happy baby self and in no time he too will be giving us big gummy grins.

I see that photo and forget that Jade had such a hard start in life.

I see that photo and smile with a tear in my eye.
How can one little girl be so darn cute?
How can we love her so much, even though she isn’t our biological child?
How can one little person make such a huge impact on so many people with that gorgeous smile?

I see that photo and think how lucky we were to be blessed with her in our home.

What do you see?

Freeze

Flight.
Fight.
Freeze.

The standard responses to stressful situations.

We’ve seen them all, and I must say that I find Freeze the hardest to pick up on and deal with.

Our first introduction to Freeze was Mork, about 18 months ago. I know at the time we didn’t have a clue what was going on or how to deal with it. He was the king of shutdowns. No eye contact, no speaking, nothing. Nothing but silence if he thought he’d done something he was in trouble for.

We saw it with little Jade. Our normally bubbly, chatty, little wiggle worm would become the quiet, placid baby when in a situation she wasn’t sure about, like access visits, especially with her father.

Most recently it has been Kelly. And I have to admit, after 3 years of respite with Kelly, it was a shock, and it took talking to “Rex” (placement support worker) to identify what was the cause of her shutdown. We thought perhaps she either just didn’t understand what she’d done, or she just didn’t care. But after my chat with Rex the following day, it was clear, she shut down and froze, waiting for whatever explosion was going to come from us.

So, what did Kelly do?

She didn’t turn the shower off properly. She has issues with her hands, and while she is getting occupational therapy, she doesn’t do her exercises as often as she is supposed to and also doesn’t try to use her hands to improve them. The outcome. The shower dripped (slow trickle) all day while we were out. We got home to find water dripping through the floor upstairs, through the ceiling below and onto the couch. It must have been some trickle as the couch was soggy.

When we talked to her about it, she never said sorry. She never tried to make an excuse. She just sat on the couch and said nothing. The next morning, again, no apology, nothing. Just acted like nothing had happened.

I must say, I was furious. I know it was an accident, but its not the first time she’s done it. But it’s the first time there’s been significant water damage as normally we catch it quite quickly. We’ve told her many times if she has any problems with the taps to let us know after she’s done in her bathroom and we’ll go fix it for her.

Her regression this year since speaking to the police about what happened to her as a young child has been massive.

Not being able to follow more than one instruction at a time. Having to be reminded to go to the toilet, to use toilet paper, to flush, to wash her hands. Taking an insane amount of time to get ready. Being unable to open a carton of milk. Not wiping toothpaste from her face (one day we sent her 4 times to the bathroom to wash it off) and now, we’ve added in freeze behaviour.

Traumatised children.

Sometimes I feel like we aren’t the place for Kelly. That we don’t have the skills to help her. Rex said that the opposite is true. We are a stable place for her, we are consistent, and despite feeling frustrated by her regressions sometimes, we are helping and we are reporting to her case worker which is giving them a bigger picture of Kelly and they are getting her more help.

We have a week before Kelly comes back for respite since the flooding drama.

I wonder what the next weekend will bring.