Torn

One of the hardest things I find is access visits.

Regardless of a child’s age, there is always fallout from seeing their birth families.

Little Camryn, at just 3 months old comes home and is more clingy and harder to get to sleep. Plus her feeds are out of whack as she wont take a bottle from her birth mum, at best a part bottle, so she comes home tired and hungry.

Bonnie and Tyla have always had issues surrounding access visits. In the early days Bonnie would have terrible night terrors for days after access. When she had 2 days access per week, back to back, getting her in the car the second day was a nightmare. She would kick and scream, like she knew where I was taking her. Potty training took FOREVER. Access was by now fortnightly, she would make good progress, then go to access and go backwards for the next week. Then, she would start to improve the second week and back to access we would go and the cycle would start again. We got a lucky break when her birth mum was away for a week, so we were able to push hard and by the time we went back, she was in knickers.

Tyla has her own issues around access. As a baby she would flat out refuse a bottle at access and we have now gotten to a point that she wont stay in the room unless I am there too.

Whats interesting is that I cant see anything that birth mum does to cause this. The poor woman just walks in the room and Bonnie stops speaking and Tyla gets clingy.

So, I had ana idea but now I’m torn.

I understand the reasons for access, but at the same time it is so very hard to see the girls struggle to cope afterwards.

Part of me wants access to be cut back to once in the school holidays, so we can have more sunshine days between visists, but the other part of me has seen that when access is 4 or 5 weeks apart, how it is so much harder on the girls and the fallout is worse, much worse.

I came up with with an idea,  that I am yet to run past the girls case worker, but now I dont know as birth mum didnt come to access this week.

I thought I would ask that visits be cut back to 30-45 minutes long, rather than an hour, and just for good measure, ask for earlier in tbe day as access is currently at lunch time and birth mum doesnt bring lunch when she is supposed to so I end up with two hungry and tired liitle girls whose nap is delayed even later because i need to get them fed. To make up for the shorter visit time I was going to offer that on the off weeks to their scheduled visits, I take the girls to meet her in a neutral location for another half hour visit that I supervise.

My thinking is that shorter more frequent visits might make it easier on the girls. The visits in the off weeks wont be in a department office building, but somewhere more child friendly. Plus, letting the girls see their birth mum and I having a coffee together while they play might help them see her in a different light, and she might learn from seeing me with them, better ways to interact with the girls.

But I’m torn since she didnt show up this week. And worse than that, she called the office in the morning to confirm she was coming and after we were on our way, she called again and cancelled. I had two little girls wno had been happy to go to see her because we had done some crafts for her for mothers day and i now had to explain she wasnt coming. Do I really want to put the girls in a position that they potentially have to deal with that every week? Mum has missed 3/9 visits since January. Would she be better or worse for reliability? Would it help lessen the fallout for the girls and make access a more positive experience?

I wish I knew what was best for the girls.

After the last visit little Tyla told me she didn’t like going that day and when asked whay we could do to make it better she said “sissy go out me”. When I asked what she would do while I take sissy, she said ” I go day care”. Yes, I know what you are going to say, she’s only 2 and could change her mind next time, but seeing as it has been a struggle to keep her in the room without me the last few visits, I think she is bang on. She really doesn’t want to go,  but could shorter visits help? What else can I do to help the girls cope? Is shorter more frequent access better or one session a couple of hours long in the school holidays?

So many questions and so few answers.

I want to do the right thing by the girls, but what is that?

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And the answer is…

I am not done having babies, apparently.

Last week I rang our agency  to chat with my support worker and who should answer the phone? None other than the placement lady. It feels like forever since we spoke.

I mentioned that the purpose of my call was to chat about maybe a baby in about a months time and what do you know, she has a baby girl needing placement within the next 2 weeks.

In a strange turn of events it has been me putting up the reasons why we should say no to this placement and it’s been MM talking me into it. So much for him being my voice of reason.

Bonnie and Tyla are excited. I’m enjoying preparing for our newest addition and MM keeps adding more girls to his family. That poor man! We really need to foster a little boy, just so there is another boy in the house. Even our new dog is a girl!

So, tomorrow, little Camryn will be joining our little family for an undetermied amount of time.

If anyone had told me a few years ago when i started on this journey that I would find myself with 3 children,  I would have laughed at them.

If anyone had said I would have 3 under 4 years of age, I would have laughed so hard I would have done that snorty laugh.

In a weird way, I thank that gynecologist for telling me to find a new dream because I would never have planned to have 3 children, much less so close together in age, but, this is our crazy life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

 

 

How do you know when enough is enough?

The dilema so many families face.

How do you know when you have enough children?

Did you always know how many children you wanted?

What is that moment that makes you say,  “yep, all done, no more children”?

As I pack away little Tyla’s size 1 clothes, I wonder will there be another little girl to wear them or is it time to pack them up and donate them to another family?

I’m not sure that I want another long term placement, but what about emergency placements? Or short term?

While I would like to take in more children in the future, we have to think of Bonnie and Tyla first. How will they cope with other children coming and going? Are they old enough to understand?

Then there’s sleep. I mean, Tyla is finally sleeping through the night. Do I really want to go back to night time feedings?

MM is amazing. He just reminds me that I will be doing most of the work as he will be working and he really doesnt hear the babies in the night. He hasn’t said enough is enough. He did get me a bigger car. I take that as a yes vote for more babies.

We recently watched Dumbo, something I had never seen as a child, and later Bonnie was playing and told me that this little fella (her toy) had lost his mummy. So the conversation we had was about us looking after him until we could find him a new mummy. She thought that was a good idea. So, I continued on with telling her that sometimes little babies lose their mummies, and maybe we could look after them until we find them a new mummy too. She asked if it would be a boy or a girl baby, because she would like a boy baby.

So, we’ve started chatting with the girls about the prospect of maybe looking after a baby, and with the school holidays coming up, I’m thinking it might be a good time to take a short placement, just for the holidays, to see how we all cope.

How will little Tyla go with being promoted from family baby to big sister and middle child? She LOVES babies. We cant go anywhere without her finding a baby to smile at and wave to, and if one should cry she will tell you they need food. But thats very different from living with a little tiny person.

How will Bonnie go with two little siblings?

Now the girls are in big girl beds we have not one but two empty cots in our room. Looking at me.

Looking empty.

Looking very empty.

Is it time?

 

 

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.