Stella’s parting gift to Harry and I

You remember how I said Stella was up all night Saturday night, sick as a dog?
Well, part of me thought it was what she ate that day.
We took the kids out for a treat for lunch…Maccas…before going on to the farm to visit Nana and Papa. Papa couldn’t help himself. Hearing Stella was on her way he went shopping and bought 2 types of ice cream, strawberry milk and biscuits for her. Of course, before dinner, she apparently looked in need of ice cream so everyone had an entrée of ice cream…nice work Papa.

MM just reminds me “What happens at grandma’s stays at grandma’s”. He’s right. These kids need a bit of spoiling, lord knows they’ve had a hard enough time in their little lives. So when Stella was sick, I thought it was too much spoiling from my parents. It turns out, she had a tummy bug, and Monday lunchtime Harry got sick. Monday night, I was up all night with it too. MM must have a cast iron stomach, he’s been fine!

Hindsight says it worked out for the best Stella leaving on Monday. I struggled to look after Harry and myself Tuesday, I can’t imagine how I would have coped with a toddler running around everywhere. In fact, I’m looking at Harry having a little nap and thinking how nice that might be too.

Little miss is always in our thoughts, and it takes all my self control to not call and find out where she is and if she’s ok.

MM reminds me that where ever she is it is a far better place than she came to us from and that from the time she spent with us she got to see what life in a family can be like.

Stella sadness

It was a difficult decision to make.
It was a difficult conversation to have.
It was a difficult handover to the case worker.
It was heartbreaking made even more so with little Stella screaming as she was placed in the car seat to leave.

We decided that Stella did indeed have to move on from us because of my work commitments.

I called the placement worker at our agency on Friday morning and with tears in my eyes told her that on Monday Stella would need to go. PW was so supportive. She had spoken with me every day last week to make sure we were going ok and to let me know it was ok to say “No” to continuing the placement at any time. I was constantly reminded that we were called when we were on their ‘do not call’ list and that we were only asked to help out for one night. Taking Stella for 6 nights was giving them 500 % more than we were asked to.

I thought by calling first thing Friday it meant that the placement unit in the department would have ample time to find a family for Stella.

I wouldn’t have been more wrong. At 5.20 pm, close to end of business hours for the agency, I got a message on facebook from another carer in our agency. They were still looking for a place for her.

I so desperately wanted to call and ask for her back, but, as my voice of reason -MM-  reminded me, then it will be one more night, and another, and another.

Stella was up Saturday night, sick as a dog, vomit everywhere. We went through 4 pillows and almost every cot sheet and blanket we own. Sunday we were all flat, tired, exhausted. And I knew then, it was right for Stella not to be here during the music festival. What if she got sick again? A sick baby and 14 hour work days aren’t something that go together very well.

We don’t like children leaving our home unless there is a plan and a placement for them to go to.
We don’t like children being bounced around from carer to carer like they aren’t loved, aren’t special, aren’t wanted.

Stella is the most adorable little lady. Yes, she was becoming quite the expert on tantrums, and me, becoming the expert on defusing them. Yes, she has a problem with nap and bedtimes, but we don’t know what traumas she underwent at bedtime.

I know this is the right decision for us, for now. But why does it feel so wrong?

Cyclone Stella

Like a cyclone, Stella will blow into our lives, cause chaos, confusion, commotion, and then blow out again.

Stella is a one night emergency placement little girl, who is on her second night here, and our lives will never be the same again.

We got the call, late in the afternoon 2 days ago. 15 minutes before ‘close’ of business time. Could we please help and take her just for the night. There was no where else. We are on the ‘don’t call us’ list with our agency at the moment as we have Harry and every other weekend Kelly, and I have a busy next couple of weeks with work. They know after the next music festival they can pester us as much as they like, so to get the call means they were desperate.

Of course we could help for a night, knowing full well the reality is it would be more than one night. Kylie…1 week turned out to 6 weeks. Scarlett…1 night turned out to 9 weeks and one night. Kelly…one off weekend of respite, now fortnightly respite for 3 years.  But we did put in a clause. We have Harry, so this is 2 little people under the age of 2 as Stella is only 18 months old, so the clause was, if it wasn’t working out, they would need to move her.

Well, Stella is a delightful little girl. Not the quiet and placid little girl the department ladies told us she was when they dropped her off from hospital, but a bouncy, effervescent, never quiet or still little girl. She was quiet and placid the first night, and MM looked at her sitting meekly n the couch and just said….3rd F. Yes MM, you called it in minutes, Freeze mode. Stella has defrosted and is almost impossible to have a phone call around now as she has a loud voice wanting to be heard. A shame she has no vocabulary yet, just really loud babble.

Stella was brought to us from hospital. The police had removed her from her home, her circumstances are unknown to us, and the department took her to hospital. In our 3 years of foster care, I have never seen a child with so many bruises. Most are fading and yellowy in colour now, but, it broke our hearts to give her a bath the first night and see all of the bruises that are covered with clothes. Her poor little face looks dirty, but it’s many small bruises on her cheeks and under her chin that make her look dirty. She has the face of an angel, and it is beyond our comprehension how anybody could do this to such an innocent little person.

Our house has been turned upside down with the introduction of Stella. Poor Harry. He’s doing remarkably well for having such a noisy house companion, but his naps are disturbed a bit, and the little man who was sleeping 8-9 hours solid at night before a feed and then sleeping another 3-4 hours to get his 12 hours for the night is now waking after just 6 hours of sleep and then going back for another 4 hours.

I am now faced with a horrible dilemma and that’s what finds me sitting up at 3 am writing this post.

In 2 days…Friday…Stella needs to leave us. I need to get Harry back into routine before my really busy week for work. But, to my knowledge, there are no carers available. 6 children that I know of came into care the day Stella did, and that’s just in our local intake office of the department. 6! That’s insane right?!?

So, the options for Stella?

Well, I don’t know if there are family or friends that could take her, the case is so new, I doubt the department have had much time to look at that as an option as yesterday they would have been in court getting the guardianship of Stella. That leaves residential care. A word that to me sounds a lot like orphanage. I say a group home by any other name still sounds like an orphanage. I loathe the fact that we need residential care facilities. That there aren’t enough people willing to care for our most precious little children. That the department are willing to fork out the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to keep a child in residential care each year, instead of helping families care for these children. I loathe myself for the fact that Stella may have to go to one. It’s the worst place I can imagine sending such a beautiful little girl, who needs love and stability, not rotating shift workers. A little girl who needs a female carer as we are pretty sure the perpetrator of her injuries is a male judging from her behaviour around poor MM. A little girl who I would love to keep, but has arrived in our home at the most inopportune time.

I wish I knew what to do about Stella. MM will say, by keeping her 3 or 4 days instead of just one, we’ve helped both her and the department by giving them time to find a better solution. I wish it was as simple as saying, she could stay as long as is needed to find her a forever home, if that’s what the plan is going to be for her. My dad would say it is that simple. He popped in for a quick visit to meet the little angel yesterday, and is already trying to think of how he and mum can help support us in keeping her. But the reality is they live an hour away. Mum can’t just pop in so I can have a shower. She can’t just pop in and go to the shops with us, so we have a stroller each (yes we have 2 single strollers, both given to us, if only they could magically be joined together).

How do I live with myself if I allow Stella to go to a resi care facility?

How do I cope with the next 2 crazy weeks of work with 2 tiny ones if I don’t?

How do I make such a decision?

Waiting waiting waiting

So much of what we do as foster carers involves waiting.

Waiting for updates of the case.
Waiting for social workers to return calls and emails.
Waiting for the next placement.
Waiting for children to be picked up or dropped off at access visits.

At the moment we’re waiting to hear about Harry’s case.

It went to court over a week ago. They were applying for a GOM18 order (placing Harry in a long term placement).

Sometimes these cases are adjourned for months but as we learned (the hard way) they can go straight through like Jade’s did, if the parents consent to the child being placed on a long term order. We do know Harry’s mum has consented so in theory it should go straight through, but, it will depend on the judge. The judge may decide that she is too young to consent and make the case go to a 12 month reunification order. Hopefully not. In the two months we’ve cared for Harry he has only had two visits with her, so I’m guessing she isn’t interested in being a mum at this point. So, we’re waiting to hear the outcome of the hearing.

Then, there is the family that the department are beginning to assess to have Harry long term. They are extended family of his, so it would be lovely if he could go there. So, we’re waiting to hear the outcome of the assessments.

If all of that goes ahead we have to wait to hear how the department want to handle the transition for Harry. The new family live about an 8 hour drive away from us, or a 90 minute flight. They have asked if I would be prepared to fly him there, and of course I said yes. I couldn’t let our little man fly with strangers to go and live with strangers.

But, MM has other ideas.

MM is worried about me being in a strange place, no car, and of course, having to make the long journey home, without our little man on my own. So he has a plan. I love my plan man.

His plan is that he takes some time off work and we drive Harry to his new family. We will have our car, Harry is a great little car traveller, so no problems there, and most importantly, I will have MM there to support me and supply me with tissues when we have to say goodbye.

So, now we wait to hear if Harry’s case has gone long term.
We wait to hear if his family is approved, and then we wait to hear if the department will approve us driving Harry to his new home and if they will pay the fuel cost.

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.