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?

 

 

Role Reversals

How do they do it?

For 2 years we’ve been providing respite for children in care.

For 2 years no carer has called us to see how they’re going.

How do they not call?

If your child has challenging behaviours wouldn’t you call to see that the respite carers are ok in case they need some advice?

Now, the shoe is on the other foot and we had to get respite for little miss “Jade”.

I’ve had a crazy 3 days of work with a music festival I manage. Long days with rehearsals and performances in the evenings, so respite was the only option for us with a newborn.

I cried before “Jade” was out of the driveway.

I’ve woken up at 3 am each night she has been gone for feed time with a baby not there.

I’m now counting down the minutes until she returns home.

And in all of this, I did ask if the respite carer could call me and let me know how she was going, but sadly no call.

I did hear from “Jade’s” social worker who said that she was doing well, sleeping well and was a little angel, but it’s not the same as hearing from the woman looking after baby herself.

I would have called her, but wasn’t given her details, I know she had mine, I sent them in her travel passport in case of emergency.

It’s been a long 3 days. Not just the work, but also in my down time (what there was of it) wondering how ‘our’ little girl was going.

I just can’t wait for her to get home.

I just hope I don’t burst into tears when they drop her off.

Have you ever put a child into respite care?

How do you cope?

 

Always surprised

I am always surprised by this journey. Both good and bad surprises.

Our bad surprises, children coming for respite (meaning they are in a ‘loving foster family’) with little or no personal hygiene skills.
Teeth that don’t get cleaned.
Body’s that don’t get washed.
Children who at age 10 can’t wash their own hair.

“Blake” is the poster child for this.
I know he has come from an horrific background. Quite possibly the worst start to life a little person can have, but, he has been in care for 6 years. I know some of that was in residential care (group home for you US readers) and I don’t know how long he has been with his family, but at his age, I would have thought that he should have been taught along the way how to clean his teeth, that his teeth need to be cleaned more than once a day, that he would know how to wash his body, how to wipe his bottom. The basics really.

I would have thought that if these were issues for him that needed work, it would be in his notes for us so that we could help him with at respite.
Is it that we’re just respite carers so what do we need to know for?
Or is it that he’s just trying to get out of doing it when he’s at respite?
Shouldn’t it be a thing he just does?

Questions for me to get answers to, as it appears, this isn’t the end of our time with “Blake”.

Our good surprise for the weekend.
“Blake” announces on Friday night while I’m preparing dinner “I’m not going to cry at respite anymore”.

Well, after the 2.5 hour screaming saga a month ago, you could have knocked me over with a feather! This was the perfect opportunity to have a little chat with him.
Why is he not going to cry? because Mum didn’t go away this weekend. It seems Mum and Dad go away when he’s at respite and he thinks they aren’t coming back (nice he can articulate that now, would have been nicer months ago, but at least we know what was going on for him).
What about a bath at bedtime? No, but can I have a shower in the morning. Yes, we can live with that.
What about cleaning teeth at bedtime? I clean them at bedtime now as well.

So our weekend?
AWESOME!!!
He didn’t cry Friday night at all, and only a little quiet sob for about 10 minutes Saturday night and was quickly settled again.
When we went to the farm, we told him all about what things we were going to do when we went home from the farm, and agreed to a 30 minute warning when it was time to go, and again, he was awesome, even gave Nana and Papa a hug when he left, a first, which left them with beaming smiles (they don’t ask for hugs from the kids, but when they get them, you can see how much it means).

I have no idea what’s happened for “Blake” in the last month.
I don’t know if the feedback we sent through to the department has been forwarded on so that his carers know what’s going on for him at respite and if they’ve talked to him.
We wont know what has made the changes, but, it’s been so much less stressful for all of us.

The main thing I hope that comes from this awesome weekend is that “Blake” realises that respite can be lots of fun and he has the power to make his own happiness.

Wheeeee….splatt

The time was finally here for “Ben” to have a ‘sleepover’ at our house. “Jerry” wasn’t going to stay too as his ‘mum’ thought he was too young. We didn’t think so, and it’s not really respite for mum if she still has one of the kids, but, her call, so “Ben” only it was. The plus side is that “Jerry” is quite demanding of attention, in the cutest way. He will interrupt a conversation with “excuse me” and then proceed to talk without waiting to be acknowledged. We had to quickly work out what was going on and get tough by stopping him from interrupting. Cute that he says “excuse me”, but he had to be told that doesn’t automatically mean he can just start talking. By just having “Ben” on his own, we were able to spoil him and make more of a fuss of him, so, a good thing for him.

After “soccer” and lunch we spent the afternoon at a playground with a HUGE slide there. We spent over an hour ‘sliding’. I have never laughed so much and poor MM, came home with bruises and carpet burns, which of course, makes me laugh even now. I can hear you asking, how on earth did MM get carpet burns and bruises?

Well….
The boys started the afternoon ‘sliding’ in the regular manner. Individual slides and together, but as the time wore on we all got more creative.
In my infinite wisdom thought it would be good to get some action photos and videos of “Ben” on the slide, so I went down the slide backwards so I could film us. All you can hear is my squealing and “Ben” laughing, whether at my ‘girly’ squeals or just the fun we were having, I don’t know.
Then we had a race. I went down backwards to film it, and then the boys raced down. The result, a pile of bodies at the bottom of the slide laughing and being laughed at by all the onlookers.

“Ben” got quite creative with ways to slide.
There was the human sled…MM on his belly with “Ben” sitting on his back using him as a sled. Thus the bruises down MM’s thigh…car keys in his pocket!
The triple decker sandwich…MM on his belly, me laying on him, and “Ben” sitting on me. Poor MM.
The tummy races….both boys laying on their tummies and racing to the bottom. At the bottom of the slide there was outdoor carpet, thus MM’s carpet burn from, slipping of the slide and sliding on the carpet.

A great day was had by all.
A great way to tire out one little man and one not so little man.
A great way to ensure “Ben” got a good nights sleep.

I don’t think anyone at the park for an instance thought we were not a ‘real family’ and for the day, it felt good to be a ‘family’, having fun and being crazy together.

Respite for Easter. What the…??

It seems we are going to have another visit from “Blake”, the Easter weekend.
Now before you all hop up and down and call me all sorts of names, we’re happy to provide respite for the little man. We’re happy to provide respite over Easter. But, I’m not happy that respite is required.

Does “Blake” have some challenging behaviours…yeah!
Does “Blake” push your buttons….yeah!
Does “Blake deserve to spend a special weekend with his ‘family’ …HELL YEAH!!!!

Ok, so, I might have plans to spoil him.
I might be a bit excited about having a little person in the house so I can do the Easter Bunny stuff.
I might be happy to have him here so soon so that we can see if the sleep progress we made works again and
I know my family will treat him just like all the other grand babies (maybe more spoiled to be honest), but..

I believe he should be home.
I believe he should be with his foster family.
I believe he should be made to feel included, and that regardless of behaviour he is part of the family.

I can’t imagine how he must feel about this.
I can’t imagine how his behaviour is going to be that weekend.
I can’t imagine what must be going through his little head.

This isn’t our first Easter with kiddies.
Last year we had “Kelly” for the 4 days over Easter.
We have had kids due for mothers day, but that’s a no from me, I don’t always cope well with mothers day, so, having kids around isn’t a good plan.
We’ve even had a kidlet scheduled for their birthday, and it was going to go ahead, until a BIO-family member got the all clear to visit from interstate so they stayed home.

So foster carers……

Negotiate with your respite people. For us it’s school holidays. We could have provided care during the following week instead. Maybe you could have a different weekend.

I know these little people come with some pretty big baggage, and they have their challenges. That’s why we do respite. To help you, to provide you with some ‘sanity’ time so that you can continue to be the best carer you can be, to help keep these placements working so that these precious little peple don’t get moved on to the next person because they just got too hard. I know you need and deserve respite (and a medal) but they deserve to be a part of your family, to feel loved and wanted.

So, if your respite weekend falls on a special event weekend, birthday, Easter, Christmas, Mothers Day, Fathers Day…please think about the impact on the little person if you still send them off to respite.
Ok, they might have fun, they might get spoiled, but they aren’t with you, their family.

Ben and Jerry

“Ben and Johnny” were two little brothers we were asked to provide respite for.
Well, when you’ve seen them in action you can understand why their single foster mum needed respite. They were just full on, standard for their ages I know, but everyone needs a break and that’s what we’re here for. Filling in where grandparents aren’t able to.

“Johnny”, cute as a bug and very hard to say no to. A very affectionate and loving child.
“Ben”, older, not as cute, not as snugly, and generally a little more stand offish.

Our first meeting was at a park, neutral territory. Present were the boys, their “mum”, mum’s PSW, and us. Upon arriving we got greeted with a hug from ‘Johnny’ and well, ‘Ben’, he was in time out already. Not the best way to greet him, as we weren’t supposed to talk to him while he was in time out.

We spent about an hour at the park. We chatted with the boys , and when they were running around, we got the ‘goss’ about each of the boys from mum and PSW. It was a good hour. Time to work out what strategies we might employ with the boys and find out what they love doing.

The following week we had the boys come to our home for an afternoon, only a couple of hours. Just to spend some time with us without “mum” being there. We went to the park, did some jigsaw puzzles and checked out our spare rooms. The ‘boys’ room at that time was set up as a giant tent with sheets hanging from the ceiling and pinned to the walls and both mattresses were on the floor to make it like going camping.

A couple of weeks later they were back but this time for a full day visit.
We started with “Bens” first soccer game for the year. This was followed with a trip home to get changed and have a snack before heading up to the farm. We are so lucky to have the farm to go to. Always a crowd pleaser.

The boys had such a great day.
I had a couple of moments of freaking out, not being used to little boys.
Little boys that wanted to climb all over the hay stack.
Little boys that wanted to run around everywhere, seeming to be everywhere all at once.

Little boys with no fear. “Ben” just wanted to run around and pat all the cows, and yes, they’re quiet cows, but with their size, it’s better to err on the side of caution, so we introduced a new rule “need to hold the hand of an adult in the cow paddock” just to “Ben” down a bit. Nothing like being a human anchor! But, it was good to be able to slow him down and get him to learn to talk to the animals on his approach and teach him that when he’s just running over to them he can scare them, so just walk nice and slow, and they’ll let you give them a cuddle.

A really good first full day together.

Snoopy saves the day

We did it.
But how did we do it?

Well, that is the million dollar question. We don’t exactly know.

“Blake” has been back with us this weekend and we did it.
We got him to go straight to sleep both nights.
No “I want another drink”.
No “I need to go to the toilet”.
No coming downstairs.
No tears.
Most importantly….No howling.

So what did we do?
The answer is, we did a LOT of things differently.
We asked his PSW and social worker what to do. They actually didn’t help much other than to tell us that he does the ‘howling’ thing every night at respite, it’s not just for us (should that be a sigh of relief for us? or should we be frustrated that no one has tried to get to the bottom of this? I’ll do both!)
We asked our PSW what we could do.
We read books.
We racked our brains.
What we came up with was this:

From our PSW and the team at our agency – yes, a team approach. She asked around and they came up with – the little man is confused and not able to express himself, so when he’s unwinding in bed he’s thinking about loving being here and having fun with us, but misses his mum at the same time and can’t process that mixture of emotions.

Also, the fact that he comes from both a big bio-family and foster-family, then suddenly here he is an only child with 2 adults paying him attention could also be overwhelming him a little bit.

So, night 1, after dinner we had a chat about what changes were going to take place this weekend and why.

We explained that we were going to get him to have a bath at night instead of a shower in the morning, that he could have 2 short stories, or 2 chapters of a book, and what the ‘reward’ would be the next day for going straight to sleep.

Night 1, argh, who would have thought it would take him 20 minutes to get into the bath? We certainly didn’t. (that’s a story for another time) But, bathe he did, sort of. Out he got, and ready for bed, 2 chapters of his book and with a reminder about all the fun for tomorrow at the farm if he went straight to bed, we crossed EVERYTHING, and waited.
Waiting, waiting, waiting. 5 minutes, nothing. 10 minutes, nothing. 20 minutes, are we all clear?
It seems we were.
We checked on him just as we were going to bed, and wrapped tightly in his little arms was Snoopy. My poor old teddy, who is closer to 40 than either of us would like to admit to.

Night 2, and this time we’re sure we’re in for a long night as a couple of hours before bedtime “Blake” had a bit of a meltdown. We figured with our good fortune the previous night and the meltdown, we were in for trouble for sure. But we stuck with what worked last night.
Bath (straight in tonight, yah!) 2 chapters of a book and then bed.
As we were leaving his room a little voice followed us with “I miss my mum”
My turn to handle this one.
I went and sat on the other bed in his room and we had a quiet chat about how it must be confusing, having so much fun, and missing mum. “Blake’s” reply? “Yeah. Can mum come to respite too so we can have fun together?”
Instead, we agreed he should go to sleep and dream of all the fun things we did during the day so he can tell mum all about them the next day and Ta Dah!
Straight to sleep….again!!!

So what was the magic?
Well, it might have been the bath.
It might have been spending almost an hour unwinding and getting ready for bed.
It might have been us empathising and verbalising his conflicting feelings.
But, my money is on Snoopy.
Both nights Snoopy was in a bear hug, so Snoopy, this one’s for you buddy.

Thank you for all my good nights of sleep as a little one, and now thank you for helping our little one get some sleep.

The aftermath

I was not prepared for my reaction after “Catelyn” went home to her foster family.
They are lovely people.
She is loved and looked after.
But, I wanted to keep her.

I know that’s not what we do.
I know that what we do is important.
I know we are providing much needed help for foster families.
I know all of those things.
I know that my work doesn’t have room for a baby at this stage. Well, that’s not true, exactly. I know that my work wouldn’t allow me to be the full time foster carer I would want to be, and to do it any way other than I would want to, wouldn’t be right.

But, that still doesn’t mean I don’t want to turn my life upside down on occasions for the little munchkins that come into our home and keep them all.

Tears.
So many tears.
I cried to sleep, in the shower, during meals, on the way to work, between work appointments, for days.
MM was amazing, he never told me to “just get over it”.
He would just hold me tight at night and talk to me about the wonderful times we had with “Catelyn”.
I couldn’t have asked for more from him.
I even thought that maybe we shouldn’t look after babies anymore.
One was enough.
Enough for me to realise I do still really want a baby of my own.
Enough for me to realise that parting can be so hard.

My lovely PSW, I could just hug that woman, was so great. I talked to her, and she said to take time, to sit and reflect. She even went so far as to tell me that we are really good and self-analysing and working out what’s best for us. So we did, well, I did. MM is so amazing he would support whatever decision I made. Again, what more could I ask from this man?

So, a few days later, I was chatting with a friend and had a “light bulb”” moment. I was able to talk about “Catelyn” without tears. To share with her the beautiful weekend we had had. And the words that popped out of my mouth surprised even me. I said that it was such a nice change from the challenging kids we have, from troubled teens, screeming pre-teens to special needs kids. To have a lovely baby who cried just once for the weekend, was such a lovely change. Such a lovely balance to the more tricky placements.

So, I called MM and said…
I can’t guarantee there won’t be more tears (he replied, I can guarantee there WILL be more tears)
I can’t guarantee I won’t want to keep more (he replied, I can guarantee you will want to)
But, can we still do babies from time to time. Because it’s such a nice change of pace.
And, of course….he said yes.

Not sure how I would have gotten through this without him.
MM your love and support give me strength.
Thank you for all that you are.

The weekend

What an amazing weekend with “Catelyn” we had.
Such a beautiful baby.
And I don’t mean just a cutie pie.
But, smiled at everyone, talked herself to sleep, talked to me until I woke up during the night for feeds, very relaxed about being cuddled by lots of people. My favourite thing had to be, every time I walked in the room she would turn and smile at me.
She had her signs that we were able to pick up on quite quickly about what she needed, so it made understanding her different sounds easier to identify.

I got to do some of the things I’ve always wanted to do.
Sleep interrupted nights.
Take baby shopping.
Take baby to visit farm.
Learn to dress a wriggling worm.
Gag on poop smells…seriously, how do they make that smell? They’re so small!
Laugh at the tri-coloured poop…thanks mum for introducing her to banana after she’s had pumpkin. It was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Poop normal colour, with added layers of bright orange and then yellow. I just wanted to feed her beetroot and blueberries. Would we get a pink layer and a blue layer or would it come out a pretty purple colour??

MM was fantastic. He knew how special this weekend was for me. So he let me do as much of the looking after as I wanted as he’s had his own babies. I feel a bit guilty that I monopolised “Catelyn” but he assures me, that he was happy to watch me have my special time.
The first night when I was woken up by “Catelyn” I woke up MM to help me get her bottle and sit with us while she ad it, but the next 2 nights, I figured I’d have a go at doing it solo. No point both of us being tired during the day.

Babies hardly ever need respite care and there’s already a lot of carer’s who do emergency care just for babies, so we generally get the older kiddies, which is totally cool, but it was so nice to have a bubby for a change.

To MM
Thank you for never telling me I was doing things ‘wrong’.
Thank you for taking this journey with me.
Thank you for letting me have this super special weekend.

To my awesome PSW
I don’t know what strings you pulled to make this weekend happen for us, but thank you…a million times, thank you.

Tell us about your foster care role

What age do you foster?

We foster children from birth to 12 years

What type of care do you do?

We started with respite care, just weekends, giving long term carers a much needed break.
We did this for about a year.
After a year were touched by a story in the news that prompted us to look at doing emergency care as well.
We have now been doing emergency care for a few months as well as our regular respite placements.

Length of time?

We have now been providing care for about 18 months, and loving it!