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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Musical beds

Every night is an adventure.

Where will the girls sleep tonight?

In their room is a single bed for Bonnie, a toddler bed for Tyla and a spare cot mattress next to Tyla that I’ve been known to crash out on during the night if Tyla is having a problem sleeping.

Lately where the girls sleep has become a bit like playing musical beds.

Some nights Bonnie wants to sleep in the toddler bed, and Tyla seems happy in her sisters big bed. Other nights Bonnie wants to sleep on the mattress on the floor so Tyla gets to choose a bed for herself. One night they went to bed in the same bed….best night’s sleep I’ve had for ages, Tyla didn’t wake at all that night.

My favourite has to be when they both wanted to sleep on the cot mattress on the floor. They are just to big for that, but, i thought, maybe that could work. So i took the matress from Tyla’s bed and put it on the floor by the cot matress, the girls seemed happy to sleep next to each other. A little too happy. The tickling started, and the giggling. Then it was “hide, hide” and they were under their covers hiding from each other giggling away. I left them to it for a little while, thinking they might wear themselves out. Rookie mistake. I came back and ended that game.

Last night while they were working out who was going to sleep where i left them alone for a few minutes to see what would happen. No tears, no crying, just giggles. I went back and sat on the bed and Bonnie came and sat next to me and proudly announced “shoo shoo, we go to bed ourselves.” So I said goodnight and left. 20 minutes later little Tyla is calling for me. As i was climbing the stairs I tell her im coming and ask if she’s ok. Her reply. “Cold.”

No wonder. There is  my little nudist standing at the baby gate with nothing on. The cheeky little monkey has taken off her pyjamas, her singlet and nappy. Bonnie takes one look at me and says “I a good girl mummy….I still have my jammies on.”

Tonight in the process of choosing beds they tried Bonnie on the floor bed, Tyla in her toddler bed. Tyla on the floor bed, Bonnie in her big bed. Both girls under the bed. Both girls in Bonnie’s bed and now finally, back to Bonnie on the floor bed and Tyla in her toddler bed.

Now to fix this.

Our plan is to get the girls matching single beds.

Then there should be no dramas.

Right?

My new challenge

Life has thrown a curve ball.

We had made our plans.

MM was going to be home for the weekend and have some daddy daughter time with the girls this weekend as I have rehearsals on both Saturday and Sunday. Then MM got sent interstate for work, and now he won’t be home until the end of my Sunday rehearsal.

So, i have asked my parents to have the girls while i am at rehearsal. I offered to drive the girls there and pick them up Saturday afternoon and repeat the next day. Mum, realises this makes for over 4 hours of driving per day for me and says the girls can stay the night. Bonnie has been asking to for a couple of months now so I have one very excited little girl who bas been asking all afternoon if it’s time to go yet. Last year Mum and Dad had the girls for a night when MM was away and I was working and they stayed the night, with one small exception. I showed up at midnight after the performance and stayed too. I couldn’t help myself.

I’ve offered to go up Saturday night, but, I’ve been told they will be fine and if they aren’t Mum will call me to come and be with them.

So many conflicting emotions.

I’m  happy and excited for the girls. I loved staying at my grandparents house as a child and I know they will love staying with my parents.

I feel like I’m imposing on my parents though.  Is that because the girls aren’t biologically mine? Is it beacuse the girls are now both 2 years old? That has its challenges. Is it because my baby girls are growing up and for the first time in almost 2 years Bonnie is going to spend a night away from me?

I’m going to have the house to myself for a night. A full night of sleep without Tyla waking me up for a cuddle during the night. A night of a quiet bath, no interruptions, going to the toilet on my own, being woken by the alarm clock and not little voices calling for mummy.

A night with no funny little Bonnie stories at dinner, no hugs from the girls at bed time, no Bonnie telling me she will miss me until tomorrow, no Tyla sloppy kisses.

My challenge is to be able to drop the girls off and leave with a smile and not  go back to stay the night.

I miss them already.

 

One of those days

Today was just one of those days.

The girls decided that again they didnt need an afternoon nap. Yesterday it was because I (foolishly) told them that we were going to visit daddy after their sleep. Like they were going to go to sleep when they could be going to daddy’s work. What was I thinking?!? Today….I have no idea why they didnt nap.

So, it made for a long afternoon with two tired liitle girls.

While I was preparing dinner they were playing quietly and giggling away together, so I was happy listening to them from the other room while peeling the potatoes. I really should have known better. Toddlers playing together, giggling? I really should have run as fast as my legs could go to them to see what they were up to, but the sound of their laughter was so beautiful, I kept on with the veggies.

Until…..

“Mum….I cant stand up..I all slippery”

Yes…she said slippery.

There was one bag of groceries left in the hallway from when we had been shopping. I thought it was all non-perishable goods and would wait until they were down for their nap to put away. Well, there was a bottle of dishwashing liquid in there. Do you know how far one bottle of dishwashing liquid can spread? Both girls had been happily covering themselves, each other and the floor and really, slippery was an understatement. They couldn’t stand up for all the goo on themselves and the floor.

When i went to get some paper towel to start the clean up, I called MM to tell him what the girls had done. He was on loud speaker as i was cleaning them up. Laughing when I said ” hold still while i unslippery you” to Bonnie. His giggling helped difuse the situation and helped me see the funny side of it a lot sooner.

Once, the gooey clothes were removed and a safe pathway made to the staircase (including getting a splinter as i cleaned up the goo from along the skirting board) I took the girls for a bath to get cleaned up…..before dinner. Sigh.

The girls hate getting OUT of the bath, so by the time i got them out and in their pyjamas, i had burned the potatoes. So, in tears, I call MM who says, call for pizza. But it was now 6pm, and by the time pizza would arrive, it would be almost 7 pm, and with9ut having had a nap, there was no way that was an option. So dinner was chicken and peas, carrots and corn. They didnt seem to mind, but i was feeling like a mummy failure. So, when they had declared they had finished, I offered them yoghurt. Another Sigh.

I was hanging up some washing on the clothes airer  while they had their yoghurt and turned back to see Tyla with yoghurt on the wall, all over her face, her hands were covered in it as she had been finger painting the table with her yoghurt. After cleaning her up, the girls left the table and while i cleaned up that mess Tyla came in to tell me Bonnie had done a poo. Really?! Another mess.

At this point it was just all feeling a bit much and with MM away, as i changed Bonnie’s nappy I had a little cry and gorgeous Bonnie stands up, puts a little hand on each side of my face and says “Don’t be sad mummy.” Then she gave me a hug and said “I miss Daddy too.”

What a beautiful girl. The same words and actions she gets from me when she is sad that MM is away with work and misses Daddy.

Now more tears from mummy, but now because of her beautiful little soul comforting mummy and showing me that while I was feeling like it was a mummy fail day, that one sweet gesture from her let me know, in the things that matter, caring for others and empathy, she is doing so well.

So, at the end of a long day, because of a little 2 year old girl, I can sit here and count my blessings. One MM and two little girls who all love me, even on my mummy fail days.

I am one lucky mummy.

The itch continues

How long does it take to get rid of head lice?

Well, it would seem over 2 months.

9 weeks ago we found that Kelly had head lice, again.

We found out after she had gone home from respite when we found lice in the hair of Bonnie and Tyla.

6 weeks ago we found that Kelly had head lice, still. We sat her down on arrival and checked her hair. We treated her hair on the Friday night, spent an hour Saturday afternoon combing her hair to remove eggs and another hour that night combing again, and then sent her ome early Sunday morning instead of the evening.

3 weeks ago she had no lice, but….so many eggs. We spent hours over the weekend combing her hair to remove eggs, but, there were so many, we didn’t get them all, but we made a dent in them.

This weekend, on arrival, head check again. I would love to say poor Kelly was clear, but she still had eggs. Not as many as before, but, still there. Heart breaking. That poor girl.

I messaged her carer and asked him to come straight back and get her. Not a happy man. But, this has gone on for long enough. We had made the decision to cancel if we found any lice or eggs on arrival. Our thought being that the only way we might get him to fix this properly is to inconvenience him. Sad that the ones who miss out are Kelly and the girls. Bonnie loves Kelly visiting and Kelly really seems to enjoy coming here, but it’s not fair on the little ones to get headlice, again, from a Kelly visit.

We’re hoping that SOMEONE will talk to him about the best way to get rid of head lice. He wont listen to us. We’ve tried. All the people we’ve spoken to about head lice, the advice is always the same. Treatments might get rid of the lice, but to get rid of the eggs, the best treatment is comb, comb, comb. Yes, time consuming, but it gets the job done.

How long does Kelly have to put up with this? She can’t do it herself, and she shouldn’t have to. We even wonder if she ever actually got rid of the lice from back in October. We made it clear then that respite would only continue if she was clear. It was 3 months before we saw Kelly again, so we assumed that all was well, but it was only 7 weeks after her return to respite that we found them again. Could she be that unlucky to get them again so quickly? Or were they never really gone?

There are several things about this situation that make me sad.

Sad that Kelly has this as an ongoing problem.

Sad that Bonnie and Tyla have to have their hair combed and combed and combed after a Kelly weekend to treat them for “itchy hair” as Bonnie calls it.

Sad that all of the girls miss out on spending time together. Kelly seems to enjoy being the big sister and watching the girls grow and learn new things and Bonnie loves having a big sister to play with and chat to.

Sad that Kelly’s carer doesn’t seem to be doing just that….caring for her.

We are due to see Kelly again in a couple of weeks. Lets hope that her social worker visits her in that time to check her out, have a chat with her carer and get this sorted out.

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?

 

 

B.I.A.S.

B.I.A.S.

Brains In Arse Syndrome.

Who says that to a child with trauma and dyspraxia and learning difficulties?

Apparently Kelly’s foster dad.

That poor girl. Even in jest that’s a horrid thing to say to someone much less a child who has problems telling if someone is joking of not.

We reported this back to her case worker via the appropriate channels. I know they are working with him to help him understand trauma and it’s impact on children.

Kinship care is so difficult because there’s so little training and resources available for carers. Is it any wonder that 30% of the emergency placements we have personally had have been kiinship placements that have failed?

As foster carers we chose this path. We appilied to do it. We did the training and assessments, the home visits and interviews. We got into this with our eyes open, more or less, because all the training in the world sometimes can’t prepare you for this journey. But we chose to do it.

Kinship carers get a call, often out of the blue, to take in a relatives child, and sometimes it’s not a close relative. A cousin. A second cousin maybe. There is a mad scramble to get a background check done and a home safety check, but there’s no time to go through all the training. I’m sure in many cases there’s a cartain ammount of guilt that accompanies a kinship placement. It’s a relative, someone you feel obliged to help. They are innocent children. But, they are also traumatised children.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if the department recognised that just because a child is placed with family, it doesn’t mean that the family instantly know how to deal with these children and what they have been through. In David’s case, he went to an Aunt that hadn’t seen him since he was a baby. When she asked for respite because she needed a break it was unavailable. Would that placement still be going if she had been able to get respite?

Kelly has been with her carer almost 8 years now, and to try and keep the placement going the department is FINALLY doing something with her foster dad. Giving him help and support and teaching him about trauma and how it’s affected  her brain developement and why telling her she has Brains in Arse Syndrome is adding to her trauma.

But why should things get to the point where everyone is ready to throw in the towel before something is done? Wouldn’t it be far better to earlier in the placement provide help, support and training? Wouldn’t it be better to try to prevent problems in the placement early on, rather than trying to repair it?

 

 

 

 

Visiting Raj

What a lovely afternoon we had last week.
We went out to lunch with the not so little Raj and his beautiful new parents.
So much love in one room.
Boy has Raj gotten big in the last three months.
My lap was a little bit happy when I handed him over to MM, I think my leg was going numb. But, that said he is so round and squishy and snuggly, it was just lovely having a cuddle with him, even though he had absolutely no idea who we were.

It was lovely to hear that they have followed the routine we had him in and that it’s working a treat for them. They are still wrapping him for sleep, but he has grown so much they need to use a cot sheet….had a big giggle over that. Raj was only waking once a night for a feed when he was here, and is doing the same for them, and sometimes sleeping through the night, so they are super happy with that.

We have received a photo every month on his ‘birthday’ and the occasional phone call and chat. It’s probably he hardest part for us, not knowing how much we can/should message them. We don’t want to be a pest but at the same time we don’t want to not appear interested. So we wait patiently for the next month photo to come along and then have a catch up chat.

They are just so happy together. Raj is  happy and content and both of his parents just glow with the love they have for their little man and are already talking about a second.

It has been such a blessing to be able to care for this special little man while waiting for the process to do it’s thing and it’s even more of a blessing to still be able to be a part of his life with this lovely couple.

Being Unique

Being unique is great. Embracing  you’re own special traits and standing out from the crowd is something we should encourage our children to do. Isn’t it?

What if being unique meant that you were the only teenage girl at school with your school top tucked into your track pants and the pants pulled up so high you can’t help but think of Steve Urkel from “Family Matters”? What if being unique meant that you were the only teenage girl wearing a school uniform that was at least 2 sizes too large for  you? What if being unique meant that you go to school reeking of garlic because your parent put so much garlic in your food it takes 2 days for it to get out of your system? What if being unique meant your school jacket was so big it fitted a 6 foot tall man and you were only 5 foot 3?

Kelly is that child. We try to help her, but we can’t buy her new school uniforms just because her foster dad buys the wrong size. I know he means well by buying something she will grow into, but Kelly is 14, so doesn’t have a lot of growing left to do, and her uniform is so big she would have to put on about 30 kilograms to fit it properly. Her school jacket fits MM perfectly and looks like she borrowed it from her dad and then tonight she arrived for respite with her shirt (which is so long it comes halfway down her thighs) tucked into her pants, so you can just imagine how that looked, all that extra fabric shoved into a pair of track pants.

Last respite she arrived and smelled so strongly of garlic you could smell her from the opposite side of the table, and it was 2 days before she didn’t smell of garlic. Imagine being the kid that has to sit next to her in class?

I have no idea to help her. I mentioned the oversized school uniform to her social worker, but I don’t think there’s anything they can do about it either. When she shows up with greasy hair I suggest she wear it in a pony tail. She’s just the kid in class that’s standing out for all the wrong reasons.

Sigh.
I wish I knew how to make it better for her. The saddest part, I’m not even sure if she realises that her clothes are way too big for, other than that I comment on it. Her clothes have never really fit her in all the time she has been coming to respite. We’ve taken to buying her clothes to wear when she is here so she has clothes that fit and are age appropriate. Yes, some of her clothes look like they came from her grandmothers cupboard.

What’s the most frustrating part, is her foster dad’s biological daughter never looks like that. She has trendy clothes that fit correctly and there is a clear double standard going on in the house.

I wish I knew how we could help her just be a normal teenage girl, but sadly with her foster dad and her disabilities she is never going to be that. She will always be unique, for all the wrong reasons.

 

 

 

The greatest gift

“The greatest gift you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return”.

That really sums up foster care in a sentence.

It is the greatest gift we can give the children that come into our home, the love that they deserve and the greatest gift they give us, is their love in return.

While I sit with tears in my eyes because another baby has left our home, and left me broken hearted because I will miss that gorgeous little gummy grin, the little baby babble, and the cute little chuckle, I know that those tears are because I have given that little person the love they needed to start off their life in a safe, happy and loving home.

While I sit with tears in my eyes because that baby has gone on to their forever family, I know that they know how to be loved and how to love. Every time we walked into the room or peered into the cot in the morning and that little face would light up with a great big smile is proof that they will love their new parents and bring them as much joy as they did us.

I have people comment that they don’t know how we do it, and to be honest, there are times when I am crying my eyes out that I wonder how and why we do it. Then I look at a photo of one of the babies we have cared for, and see the smile and know that they are smiling because while they are with us they know they are safe and loved and that that is why we do it.

The joy and happiness that these precious little people bring to our home far outweighs the grief that we feel when they leave.

So, for another day I sit and grieve for the precious little man I will no longer have cuddles with, yet at the same time happy knowing he has gone to a beautiful couple who have been waiting for years for a baby.

For another day I sit and remember the smiles and giggles with tears in my eyes that now another woman will be blessed with those smiles and giggles.

For another day I wait for another little person to come into our home. Another little person to give our greatest gift of all to. The gift of love.