Itchy and Scratchy

Back in OCtober Kelly came for a respite weekend.

The morning after she arrived I found *gasp* an head lice in little Tyla’s hair. I was mortified. How could my little bubba have headlice. Then, I was brushing Bonnie’s hair and *gasp* found she had some too. What!? I went striaght to David and went through his hair. Nothing. What? Where had they come from? How did my gorgeous little girls get head lice?

Sitting at lunch I found the answer to my question.

Kelly had them. I could see them from across the table. How I didn’t see them Friday night I’ll never know. Her head was literally crawling with them. Thousands of them. It was the worst case of headlice I’ve ever seen. I took Kelly for a walk and we had a chat about the situation.

I was furious. Not with Kelly. By no means was this any of her fault.
But with her foster dad.
Kids get nits. It happens, but, how could he let them get this bad without proper treatment? How could he send her to respite without any consideration for us or more imortantly the other children in our care? How could he not bother to tell us in advance so we could decide if it was ok for her to come and also be prepared to deal with them.

Needless to say, EVERYONE in our house got nits. No one was spared. The following weeks were filled with hours of conditioning and combing the girls hair to remove the little critters and checking and rechecking everyone to make sure we were rid of them. Kelly wasn’t allowed back for respite until we were all clear and so was she.

It was 3 months before we saw Kelly again for respite.

3 weeks ago Kelly was here for respite and a few days later I found more head lice on the little ones. *Sigh* I couldn’t say for certain it was from Kelly, it could be from day care, but, I had a feeling it was Kelly.

I reported the nit problem to my support worker and we agreed that when Kelly was due again for repite I would check her hair, treat it if necessary, keep her the following day to comb those eggs out and send her home early Sunday morning, instead of the evening.

She came.

I saw.

I treated.

They haven’t been treated since she was here last, you can see that by the number of them. According to Kelly her dad knows she has them as he treated his bio-ddaughter during the week but told her to treat herself, which she can’t do because she has mobility issues. If that’s correct, and he knew, he sent her anyway, without checking to see if it would be ok, and again didn’t tell me at drop off.

We have on many occassions talked about stopping respite for Kelly because her foster dad is so difficult to deal with and has no consideration for our family. Knowing we have small children in our care he has sent her ( numerous times now) with head lice, a couple of times with gastro, and also with terrible head colds. It means we often cancel our plans for the weekend and then have sick small children to care for after Kelly has gone.

Kelly deserves so much better than the care she is recieving.

Our girls deserve so much more than the fallout from a Kelly visit.

This weekend the girls missed out on going to our foster agency Easter picnic and also to visit my parents. Why should Bonnie and Tyla miss out because of Kelly?

But, if we don’t provide respite for Kelly who will? Respite carers are in short supply. I know of carers who have waited years for respite, and being 15 makes it even harder to find someone to provie respite for her. If we don’t provide respite for Kelly, who is going to make sure she’s ok? Who’s going to advocate for her?

I’m torn between helping Kelly and keeping Bonnie and Tyla free of whatever bugs she brings with her.

My priority needs to be the little ones, but, how would we explain to Kelly we can’t provide respite for her anymore?

 

 

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.

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.

“Kylie’s” Birthday

About a month ago we got a text from M inviting us to “Kyliie’s” birthday party. Awesome.

Can we bring “Kelly”? Well, it’s not a Kelly weekend but maybe we can switch weekends or ask if she can come too, we just need the details, when, where, time.

So, it gets to 3 days before the party and we’ve had no information so I assumed we had been uninvited (there’s a reason that might happen, that’s for another post). Then, bam. We get a text from M with a picture of “Kylie” and her new pet bunny.

24 hours later (just 2 days before the party) we get an invitation and the party is at 6 pm. What! Who has a kids party at 6 pm? There was no way with only one business day we would be able to organise to switch “Kelly’s” weekend and being a 6 pm party we wouldn’t be able to borrow “Kelly” for the party as it would have meant getting her home way too late.

It was lovely to go to the party and “Scarlett” fitted in well with all the other children there and “Jade” was her normal cuteness giving her best gummy grins to people. My highlight had to be “Kylie” giving us the biggest hugs when we got there and introducing us to people as ‘her’ Cee Jay and ‘her’ MM and ‘her’ “Jade”. Was lovely to have people come up and tell us that they’ve heard all about us from “Kylie”.

It’s nice to know we haven’t been forgotten.

Needing my Angel

I miss Angel.

I don’t know new PSW as well yet and it’s a weird situation I find myself in.

“Scarlett” spent 9 days with an emergency carer before she came to us and in that time she was introduce to religion.

I’m a bit worried about how much she is throwing herself into it. Every day she has read a daily devotion book and she’s been reading the bible. It seems a lot for someone who’s not been to church before.

I just don’t know how to handle this situation.

MM and I aren’t churchy people, so this is a little out of our depth.

We don’t object to her asking questions, and reading and learning, but, we both have concerns that she is reading it literally.
I mean, literally believing people live to 969 years of age.
How do we explain that to her? How can we explain it when we don’t believe that it’s humanly possible.

Angel was Christian. She would have the most amazing advice about this. She understood MM and I and would be able to help me with “Scarlett” and her sudden interest in God.

I don’t want to stop her from looking at other possibilities, for suggestions on how to live a better life. But, how can I promote the bible when I see so many discrepancies there and know so many people that are so called Christians, but are actually not very nice people.

Why would someone who is only going to have a child for 2 weeks buy them so many books about religion knowing that they wont be there to help and guide the child once they leave their care?

What am I to do?

The best laid plans

It was one of those days. Anything that had been planned got unplanned.

The weekend that should have been.

“Jade” was asked to go to respite to spend time with her brother.

We asked for “Scarlett” to go to respite (which ended up approval as sleepover at Ma and Pa’s to give us a weekend child free.

I had a first aid refresher course to do.

MM was going to do a few odd jobs around the house without little helpers.

We were going to go out for a nice romantic dinner (seeing as we had 3 children for Valentines day).

We were going to sleep through the night…Ok I was, MM always does.

We were going to sleep in. MM is up at 4.30 am for work and bubs is up at 5.30 am for a feed.

Then we were going to mosey on up to Ma and Pa’s farm to collect “Scarlett” feeling all refreshed.

Well, that was the plan.

The reality of our weekend.

“Jade’s” respite was cancelled.

MM got asked to work Saturday morning.

The hot weather came in and that meant not taking “Scarlett” to the farm for her sleepover as it was going to be too many hours of travelling in the heat for “Jade”.

My first aid instructor didn’t get to the course. We were going to be sent home, but, fortunately the other instructor found a room and took us all in. What a task for her, teaching 2 different courses at the same time.

Morning played out like this…..
MM went to work. I got the girls up and ready. We went to MMs work, picked him up and he took us to my course and dropped us off. He was then going to go back to work and the boss was going to provide ‘crèche’ for the girls. Ok, “Scarlett” had activities to do and can work unsupervised, crèche was more about “Poppa Paul” having cuddles with “Jade”. MM and “Paul” must have worked like crazy, because they had all the work finished by the time we got there, so after I was dropped off at my course MM took the girls home for a quiet day inside, keeping cool.

Romantic dinner…called for pizza.

Sleep through the night. “Jade” had the sniffles during the night, so I was up a couple of times to see to her.

Sleep in. “Jade” and I got up at 5.45 am for a feed, and that finds me watching old episodes of the Thunderbirds on TV and writing this post while I have some quiet time.

What have I learned since becoming a foster carer?

That making plans is nice, but things never go to plan as there are so many things beyond our control.

I think I might go make myself another cuppa while the house is so quiet, and now I’ve said that, you know as soon as I put on the kettle someone will wake up!

Oh, Sugar!

Sugar, sugar, and more sugar.

“Scarlett” is the sugar queen!

She’s lucky, at the moment she burns off her sugar intake being active, but, she’s still setting herself up for a really unhealthy life later on with poor food choices.

Don’t get me wrong. MM and I are FAR from perfect. But, we do put a lot more thought into the food and drinks available to children (and while were at it, what we consume as well) since becoming foster carers. We’re trying to teach making healthier choices and moderation.

We’ve noticed that “Scarlett” consumes a lot of high sugar content foods and highly processed foods. Even 5 month old baby “Jade” eats more fruit and veggies than “Scarlett”.

Last weekend “Scarlett” and “Kelly” helped themselves to drinks on the Sunday. Nice, they’re 11 and 12 years old. Not nice, they drank almost 2 litres of juice between them. So, for dinner, I served them each a glass of water and a separate glass with 22 teaspoons of sugar in it. When I explained that’s how much sugar they had helped themselves to during the day they were shocked to say the least.

This week we have insisted that “Scarlett” try some new foods and some that she doesn’t like. Her lunch box contains one treat food and healthy choices. She only takes a bottle with water to school.

I must say, she’s taking to it quite well. “Scarlett” has tried a small piece of broccoli and cauliflower when we’ve had veggies with dinner. When we’ve had salad, she still picks out her tomato, but we’ll get there. We had chinese takeaway for a treat over the weekend and “Scarlett” tried my satay steak and the baby prawns shrimp) in the fried rice. We’ve also made it that “Scarlett” alternates a drink of her choice with a glass of water, and we also role modelled that….yes our coffee intake over the weekend was drastically reduced, which can’t be bad for us either.

Hopefully when “Scarlett” does leave us she will take with her more information to make healthier choices.

 

Mum and Dad

How soon is too soon for a child to choose to call you Mum and Dad?

4 days is all it took “Scarlett” and seeing as she is 11 years old with no developmental delays (none that we’ve noticed at least) we thought that was a bit odd. Actually…..a LOT odd.

Don’t get me wrong, it bought tears to my eyes. As emergency, respite and short term carers, the likely hood of any children ever choosing to call us Mum and Dad is slim to none. That’s ok. That’s the types of care we have chosen to provide.

It started at bedtime one night, when we both got a hug with a “goodnight Dad” and “goodnight Mum”. We smiled and said “Goodnight sweetie”. We didn’t think much of it. Just had a bit of a smile together once she was in bed and commented on how cute was that. The next morning at school drop off, I got a hug and “goodbye Mum”. Hmmmmm. That’s lovely, but very strange, in front of her friends? What’s up with that! Then “Scarlett” called me twice from school that day. The first to let me know it was meet and greet night with her teachers after school, the second to tell me she’d given me the wrong time. That’s fine, it was her finishing the calls with “Love you”.

OK. Now I’m concerned, so it was time to call our Support Worker.

After a chat with SW’s supervisor (SW wasn’t available) she suggested chatting with “Scarlett” about boundaries and that it’s not ok to call us Mum and Dad and that it was a concern because she isn’t going to be with us for that long.

So our chat at the end of dinner was something like this:

We love that you call us Mum and Dad. It’s an honour. But, we need you to understand that you aren’t here to stay forever. The department are looking at your family members right now that you might be able to live with, and that’s the best thing for you. Whether it’s your father, or grandparents or maybe an Aunty and Uncle, family is the best place for you to be. It might not feel like that at the moment, but if you lived with us, it would be very hard for us to organise times for you to spend time with your family, if you are with family, you get to keep in contact with the rest of your family so much more easily. We are right at the bottom of the list of people the department will ask to look after you. We’re here for you until they find a suitable place for you, and we will be so sad when you do leave, but, you will be better off with family. It might not feel like it right now, but, later, when it happens, you’ll know it’s the best thing. We’re worried that by calling us Mum and Dad, you are going to find it really hard when you do need to move on. We’re touched that you would give us this honorary title, and it’s ok if you do want to call us Mum and Dad, but, you need to remember that it doesn’t mean that you will get to stay though.

Such a hard conversation to have.

Any other suggestions on how we could have handled this?

 

Filters

Is it just me, or do children in care have no filter?

“Kelly” once said to my mum, “if you get sick again you’ll go to hospital and probably die.”
Sadly, at the time it was true. Mum has been back to hospital once since then and is still with us, but at the time she was very ill and it was quite probably the case.

The dear “Kelly” also told me once to give up drinking iced coffee and go on a diet so I could be skinny.

“Scarlet” stayed with us last night. She’s a child presently placed with another carer in the same agency who happened to get food poisoning last night so we got a call to see if we could look after her.

MM went and collected her while I stayed home with the sleeping bubs (thank you MM, I was so tired from bubs the night before I lacked the energy to go get “Scarlet”). Somehow in the car on the way home the two of them were chattering away about school and “Scarlet” mentioned they were doing growth and development in class at the moment and she was telling MM all about ‘girl stuff’ and how she hasn’t got her periods yet, but the teacher said it’s ok because sometimes girls don’t start until they’re 16, and if they haven’t started then they need to see the doctor. So, the awesome MM reaffirmed this and let her know each girl is different, and it will happen in time. They also talked about feminie hygiene products and she mentioned her social worker gave her some sanitary pads and she didn’t like them because they were thick and uncomfortable.

Where is this girls filter?

Who discusses this with a) someone they’ve just met and b) a man at that?

From what I can gather, in the conversation somewhere MM mentioned he has 3 daughters and 4 grand-daughters, so he knows some things about girls and girl stuff.

You’re a legend MM, you take what ever these children throw at you and for the most part, handle it with the greatest of ease. I tip my hat to you because I am still getting used to dealing with “Kelly” and her cycle (it happens to fall when she stays here) and helping her with ‘girl stuff’. There really should be an instruction manual!

Anyway, back to filters.

Why is it that so often these children don’t have a filter?

Is it because they have developmental delays and so, like a small child, any old thought that pops in their brain pops straight out their mouth?

Is it because they haven’t been taught to think then speak?

Is it because of the trauma they have suffered and personal rights of theirs that have been violated that they don’t have ‘mental’ boundaries?

What’s the strangest thing a child has told you when their filter was not functioning?

Story time with “Kylie”

It’s almost a week since “Kylie” left us to go to her (hopefully) forever home so I thought I’d reminisce a bit about the little lady with the crazy, infectious laugh….I do miss that laugh of hers.

We’ve had a couple of text messages earlier in the week, a general hello, and a ‘what is the special toothpaste she uses?’ Made me giggle. Missy is starting with her mystery illnesses telling M she has sensitive teeth. Sure she does…not, she eats ice cream and frozen drinks and even chews on ice cubes. Early in her stay with us “Kylie” claimed to have about 5 different medical issues that she didn’t have.

“Kylie” did have a tendency to expand on the truth, A LOT.

Pa took “Kylie” for an adventure walk on the farm, looking for gold. They came back and when”Kylie” was telling us about her adventure she mentioned that there was a treasure box in the cave. Really? We were up there not long ago and there was no treasure chest. “Kylie” was given a few chances to change her story and remove the non-existent treasure chest but she stayed firm with this story until we said we would call Pa and ask him. We had a chat about telling tales and talked about the story “The boy who cried wolf” and explained that her adventure with Pa was exciting and awesome without adding the treasure chest.

Our other tall tale was worse. Somehow “Kylie and Kelly” got to talking about spiders in the car on the way home from the farm and the girls got to trying to out-do each other. “Kelly” mentioned she had been bitten by a spider once and her leg went purple (not the first time she’s mentioned this so it must be true as she can’t like to save herself as her long term memory isn’t that good) so, “Kylie” not to be outdone told us about her sister and that she’d been bitten by a red-back spider and died. Really? That’s unusual, No one has died in Australia for about 60 years from a red back spider bite. “Kylie” was given multiple opportunities to say that she made up the story but she stuck with it and it got more and more elaborate. We had to check it with the department. All of “Kylie’s” sisters are alive and well. The social worker even giggled about her vivid imagination. The problem, “Kelly’s” mother and sister are both deceased so we didn’t think it so funny. When “Kelly” wasn’t around I had a quiet chat with “Kylie” about her story telling. Normally we wouldn’t share “Kelly’s” info with another child, but I thought it was important for “Kylie” to know that she’s just made up something not very nice and a) how would her sister feel about her making up a story where she featured but died in it and b) how does she think “Kelly” feels thinking that they both have lost a sister. How does she think “Kelly” will feel knowing that she made it up.

As a ‘consequence’ we talked to “Kylie” about her amazing imagination and how that is a good thing to have but there’s good and bad ways to use that creativity. To give her an outlet for her creativeness we gave her a blank book and asked her to write a story where she could make up anything she liked. I sat down with her, she dictated her story to me and I typed it out for her so she would have the correct spelling and page breaks. She then wrote out the whole story, complete with title page and illustrations. She was so proud of her story. She took it to show Pa and explained to him the true parts and the made up parts and in true Pa style he oohed and aaahed and praised her for her work.

I don’t know if “Kylie” ever said sorry to “Kelly” but hopefully we’ve pointed her in the right direction. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll see a book in the stores with a dedication to us.