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?

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7 more sleeps

The time has finally come.

It’s time for “Scarlett” to move on.

Well, almost. And by almost, I don’t mean just the 7 more sleeps. We have to wait for her father to be approved to take her, tomorrow is his assessment so we have everything crossed. If that goes well, then, it’s just a few more days and he will fly down to pick her up and they will fly back ‘home’ together.

It’s been a long time coming.

For such a simple thing it has ended up with 2 social workers from here having to fly interstate to do the assessments as they have been waiting weeks for the interstate office to do it. Poor “Scarlett’s” court order runs out next Tuesday and the department don’t want to have to go to court for yet another extension (nor should they, she’s going to a family member it shouldn’t take this long) so the poor social workers have to drop everything and go do the assessment.

We are in for an emotional rollercoaster of a week I think, if the last few days have been anything go by.

Friday was her last day of school as we are now on holidays, so she had to say goodbye to all of her friends.

Sunday we went out to lunch with Nana and Pa and then on to the farm for the last time, finishing with goodbyes to Nana and Pa.

Today “Kelly” went home from respite and she had her last goodbye with her.

Tomorrow we start packing up her desk and school supplies, and bit by bit we will pack her up ready for her big move.

Saturday we’ll go out to the movies and Sunday night we will go out for dinner for the last time as a ‘family’.

She’s been with us for 9 weeks, not bad for a one night emergency.

From “Can you please look after this girl for a night because her carer has food poisoning?”

To, “Can you keep her for the weekend?”

Then “Her placement is about to finish with the other emergency carer, could you please have her until the end of March when her order finishes and in that time she should move to be with her dad”

Finally “We’ve applied for a one month extension, would you be able to look after her for another 4 weeks?”

t’s definitely time for a break after this one.

We will still have “Kelly” for respite and of course the adorable “Jade” but for a while we wont take in another child because things are changing for “Jade” at the moment and until we find out what’s going on there we need to focus on these two young ladies.

Well, with 7 sleeps to go, I better get some sleep to deal with all the emotions we’re going to see this week.

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?

It’s time to go…..

Dramatic pause for effect like on the reality shows……..
“Kylie”

The call came yesterday. A long term placement has been found for “Kylie”. It’s really such great news. The new carer is a school teacher, perfect for her inquisitive little mind. She will be an only child, perfect for getting to know each other and feeding that mind some more so she can catch up on her schooling. The new carer is in the same agency as us, so we get to see “Kylie” at agency functions. It sounds perfect, it really does. And somewhere deep inside I know it, and I’m so happy.

But still I keep crying.

Damn this is hard work!!!

The plan put to me yesterday is to get this moving FAST. Meet and greet today and a couple more this week and move “Kylie” on Saturday to her new home.
What!!!!
Whoa!!!

We’ve had fast transitions before, but it’s been because the children were going to relatives they already knew. But to a stranger?

On Saturday?

When do we get to say goodbye? What about my family?

So…..I put forth the following suggestion.

Meet and greet today. Day off tomorrow. Thursday we go to see new carer at her home for a while. Friday I drop her there for a few hours. Saturday is our day. We’ll go say goodbye to my family, we’ll go out for dinner to celebrate the exciting new chapter in her story. We’ll pack up her stuff and hang out together.

Sunday is moving day. Then I’ve got MM home to support me because, let’s be honest, I’m going to be a wreck. I know it. It’s the way I roll. MM even said last night when I was having a cry that it’s one of the things he loves about me. That I love the children and am so passionate about their well being.

I’ve gotten permission for “Kelly” and “Kylie” to stay in touch with play dates, phone calls and as pen pals. I think it’s so important for both the girls to continue to have contact as they’ve been like sisters.

It’s all happening so quickly, it’s like a blur.

Is there anything else we should be doing?

2014 – the year that was

And what a year it was.

We applied to also do emergency care and found out with “Hey, congratulations. You’re approved for emergencies. So what are  you doing today?”

In this year we’ve taken 2 sets of siblings as emergency placements. “Mork and Mindy” and “Thelma and Louise”. Our ability to take in emergencies is restricted a bit due to us both working and quite a bit of time is often needed for taking the children to access visits or court appointments so we only take them when one of us is available to be home for them all day.

We’ve continued our respite with “Kelly” every other weekend and managed this year to also provide respite for “Blake”, “Catelyn” – the gorgeous baby that got me to wanting our own bubby, “Amber”, “Johnny” and “James”.

In the course of time after many discussions we asked what we had to do to get an emergency baby placement. It was simple, we needed to also be short term carers as baby placements start at 6 weeks. So, there was only one thing to do….become short term carers. Then it was a matter of letting “Angel” know when we would be able to take in a baby. Within a week of that meeting arrived cutie pie “Jade”.

To finish out the year we took in one more emergency placement “Kylie” who is now a short term placement as it’s taken longer to find a long term family for her.

I couldn’t write this post without talking about the challenges and highlights of each child.

“Kelly”

Biggest challenge would be communication with her foster dad , but with “Kelly” herself it’s keeping her motivated to do things. It took us 11 months to knit her Nanna a scarf for Christmas. Just as well we started last January.
Highlight has to be seeing how much she has progressed with her ‘healing’. Seeing those brain cells repairing pathways and watching the improvements in her is amazing.

“Blake”

Most challenging child we’ve had to date. The screaming at bedtime was a real test, but this was balanced out by the good kid that he is during the day. Hope that the little man finds some stability and peace so he can settle.

“Catelyn”

The challenge with that gorgeous bubba was giving her back. The highlight, just her. She was a beautiful baby, so easy to fall in love with. Feeling blessed that we’ve been able to see her at foster care functions.

“Mork and Mindy”

The heat wave we had when we had these little cuties made their time here more difficult as we were stuck indoors out of the heat. Unlike “Blake” and his screaming, these two treated us to the silent treatment which is even more difficult to deal with as you have no idea what the problem is or how to fix it. The highlight for me is at some stage in their short stay here, they both told us they loved us.

“Thelma and Louise”

It had to be the stealing of the clothes that challenged us most but the highlight was definitely them taking so quickly to MM. The girls who at home slept with knives and scissors under their pillows and shared a bed for safety came to depend on MM for safety. The wouldn’t go to school without him driving them and taking them in and talking to the principal. So nice to see them feel so safe so quickly.

“Johnny”

The little boy who took no talking to a whole new level, often going a couple of hours a day before words would come out, knowing that this was about him feeling safe and comfortable and not because he had a problem was helpful for us in dealing with this. Highlights, getting him to speak and finding inside the shy little man a chatterbox and the other highlight was catching up with him at the agency Christmas party and him coming and spending time with us.

“Amber”

What a delightful little lady and so smart. In the four days of respite we provided for her she was a delight the whole time the only challenge was seeing her at the Christmas party and her foster mum not allowing us to take a photo of her to add to our scrapbook of “our babies”.

“James”

Ah….the little card player and “Let’s play again”. We had such a lovely weekend with him and his super infectious giggle.

“Jade”

The only challenge is getting used to less sleep and worrying about ‘am I doing ok’ all the time. Highlight is just having the gorgeous little lady with us for such a long time. She is a delight and I spend so much time just watching her and talking to her.

“Kylie”

A super smart girl who has an amazing imagination which is our biggest challenge as she embellishes things (a lot) and makes up stories to have some life experiences, so we’re working on reinforcing that she is special as she is and she doesn’t need to be anyone but who she is. We’ve also given her a book to write her own stories so she can use that amazing imagination of hers.

Such an amazing year. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings us.

You can say No

What’s the best opening line from your agency?

That has to be mine.

I had that call yesterday and now we have another young lady here with us.

Actually we had many calls yesterday.

It began with “Hi, you can say no, but I just thought I’d ask if….”

The first was to explain there is a family of 3 that needed a placement at which point my brain went into overdrive. Yes we’re registered for 3, but baby would make 4 and “Kelly” is due on the weekend and that would make 5, and that’s a LOT more than our registered 3.

I was reassured we were only being asked to help with taking one, so, of course, that’s a yes from me, so the next question, which one do we want. Seriously, I got to pick. With 3 to choose from I had to choose who I thought would fit best into the house taking “Jade and Kelly” into account.

The 5 year old wouldn’t really work, 2 car seats we can do, but I don’t think “Kelly” would fit in the car in between them.

The 11 year old wouldn’t work, too close in age to “Kelly” so I didn’t want to deal with any potential pecking order problems on the weekend.

So that left the 8 year old as being just right. Too big for a car seat, but small enough to not be a threat to “Kelly”.

Then we were told that another family had offered to have the 2 older children, could we take the little one and as terrible as it sounds I said no, it just wouldn’t work in my car. So, I was told thank you but they probably wouldn’t need us at this stage.

Next it was, the other people would take the eldest and youngest and could we take the middle child after all.

Then we got the, actually they are going to try to keep them all together in residential care rather than splitting them up, but again, thank you.

So in all of this, I’ve rung MM to see that yes he’s ok with taking in a munchkin and then I haven’t kept him updated with all the changes. We know that this happens, so I waited until the call that says they were going to put them together. And then…….

10 minutes later the phone rings, and I answer with “I’m just going to call  you troublemaker from now on” as I knew it was the lady from the agency, and guess what….There were no residential care placements available that could have all the children together, so could we please?

So this weekend we will have “Jade” (11 weeks old, short term placement) “Kelly” (12 years, ongoing respite placement) and now “Kylie ” (8 years old, emergency placement)

And almost all of the calls start with, “you can say no” because for one reason or other we probably should have.

“Jade” was a 9 day respite that changed, and because of work we could have said no when requested to keep her, but, seriously…how could we?

“Kelly” was a one off respite that became monthly and is now fortnightly and at any point in there when things changed, again we could have said, no, no to monthly or no to fortnightly.

“Kylie ” we could have said no to because we already had “Jade” and with “Kelly” due for the weekend, that would mean 3 kiddies, but, again…how could we?

How do you say no?

How often do you say no?

What do you think of when you think baby?

Do you think about very premature?

Do you think about drug withdrawals?

Do you think about twins?

I know I wasn’t thinking about that.

But now it’s in my head.

We had another meeting with “Angel” this week about the Dear Santa letter. Work is slowing down so now is the time to jump into this next stage of our foster care adventure.

A few months ago I went to an emergency carer support group meeting and all of the other carers there do 0 – 1 year emergency, with 2 exceptions. One other lady does 0 – 4 years and then there’s MM and I who do 0 – 13 years of age. I can tell you sitting there with all those other people who just do little tiny people made me wonder if we are a little bit nuts being prepared to take in such a wide age range of children.

When talking with these lovely ladies I got the impression that you get “A baby”. One lady is a retired neo-natal nurse, so she quite often gets the babies with health challenges, and will often have 2 at once (not unlike being at work for her I suppose) but, none of them mentioned twins, or sibling groups. I did have a dream about getting twins but didn’t really think that would happen to us.

Our meeting with “Angel” was great for making us think about options.

Would we be prepared to have twins? What about a sibling group with one of the children being a baby? Or maybe a very prem little baby or one going through drug withdrawals?

So I have a question for all of you.

What are your thoughts and opinions?

What experiences have you had?

What advice can you offer us?

 

On this day…

2 years ago I had my first respite placement. Little “Terrance”.

So much has changed in the last 2 years.

MM has moved from interstate and become a foster carer.

We’ve gone from one respite placement a month to an average of 3 placements per month.

We added emergency care to our registration and had a few emergencies.

We’ve also now added short term care as well.

“Kelly” was my second placement, and it was initially a one off placement, and now we have her every other weekend. Blessed to be able to see this girl grow up into a young lady.

All up, we’ve now had 14 children in our 2 years.

There have been some challenges, some really challenging challenges, but I don’t think we would have it any other way as the joys far outweigh the challenges.

I think we are improving in our care as we learn more from both research and experience.

What will the next year hold for us?

Well, there is the hope of a baby placement but other than that, who knows. One of the joys and challenges of this journey is our favourite saying…

Foster Care is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.

 

 

 

Can you get a child to keep?

A question I’ve been asked a lot by well meaning people who see me sad at having to ‘give back’ a kiddy.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s crossed my mind, a lot.

The answers.

No, we wont be getting a child to ‘keep’. Our registration is for emergency and respite, and hopefully soon, short term as well.

Which means I get the question “why don’t you have long term registration”

Because to be the foster carer I would want to be, I would have to change or give up the work that I love and it is part of what makes me, me.

Also, we know that the care we provide is important to those we care for.

Emergency care is important for children first removed from their dangerous situations to have a safe home to come to.

Respite care is important for the children and carers we help with respite placements. “Kelly” for instance, her time with us gives her time with a ‘mum’ figure. “Blake” has some seriously challenging behaviours so for his carers, respite is needed so they don’t burnout and the placement can continue long term.

We are kind of having our cake and eating it to.

We know we are helping all the children that come into our home in some way, and we also have the flexibility to go interstate to visit MM’s kids and grandkids without the mountains of paperwork that come with wanting to take foster children over state lines.

I get to have children and do the work I love without feeling like I am not doing my job right or giving enough to my kids.

What sort of care do you do?

Do you work and have foster kids?

How do you juggle the two?

 

Where are the girls?

I was doing a stint at the school Thelma and Louise went to and bumped into the principal, who I knew from the previous school they were at and couldn’t help myself. I had to ask about the girls.

Were they now living with Grandma interstate?

No. They were interstate, but a different one, with their Dad.

Yah!! They wanted to live with him and he had rung quite a few times in the few days they were with us to check on them and even put credit on “Thelma’s” phone so that she could call him whenever she wanted to.

We had a little chat about them and how quickly the move happened for them.

It was so nice to get an update. I am certainly blessed to have had so many updates on our emergency placement babies.

Happy to hear the girls are safe and where they wanted to be.

Another happy ending.