Our Imperfect Lives


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It’s Not Just Bottles and Playtime

Our days are packed with a lot of “parent-y” duties like preparing bottles, changing diapers, kissing booboos and playing blocks, but we have a lot of other duties too. We’re foster parents, so the children are actually wards of the state which means they aren’t legally our children and we have to adhere to certain rules and fulfill specific responsibilities. For example, we can’t cut their hair, pierce their ears, or make changes to their appearance (other than clothes) without expressed permission.

Bottles

Additionally we must make sure that any and all caretakers for the children (e.g. babysitters) have been CORIed (had a Criminal Offender Record Information check), so there will be no calling up local teenagers to hang out with the kids while we take in a movie or grab a bite to eat. Instead we’ll have a carefully thought out list of family and friends who we’ve asked to complete the necessary paperwork for the CORI check. Thankfully the daycare situation is a little easier since we can use any daycare we wish – as long as it is a legally licensed facility.

Another important responsibility we have is to meet with social workers – lots of social workers. Last week we started off our parade of professionals looking out for the kids with a visit from Sport’s social worker. She spent about an hour at our home chatting with us about Sport, what’s going on with his case, and available daycare options. We’ll follow up this visit with another one next month and each month after until he’s hopefully adopted, or removed and reunited with his biological family.

The next social worker on our list last week was the Supervisor for Sunshine’s worker (her actual worker was out of the office attending to other cases), who we briefly met with as we delivered the children for their weekly supervised visit with their biological parents. These visits take place at the DCF office and are supervised by a social worker, usually Sunshine’s worker. And for this particular visit we dropped the kids off at the office, before the biological parents arrived, and left. We later picked the children up after the visit ended and the biological parents had left. Currently these visits are scheduled weekly, but we’re hoping to get them changed to biweekly or at least have them relocated to a closer office (now they take place at an office about 45 minutes away without traffic).  In the future we may also only be responsible for providing the children’s transportation in one direction for these visits. The social worker may provide it for the other leg of the trip.

Next up was yet another visit to DCF, this time for a review of Sunshine’s case and it included a small army of DCF employees, each fulfilling a specialized role in the case. Since Sunshine’s goal is not yet adoption she has a different worker from her brother and she has these review meetings, which are intended to go over how she’s doing in foster care and to check in on the progress her biological parents are making. Meg attended the meeting as a representative of our foster family while Marcy stayed with the children. The meeting provided us with a bit more information about Sunshine, and Meg got to finally meet Sunshine’s worker in person for the first time. Meg also met Sunshine’s biological mother. This was a little odd – meeting the mother of the children you hope to adopt, while discussing the efforts she’s making to get her child back.

While Sunshine’s review was a lot to take in, we still weren’t done with social workers for the week! We still had to meet with our worker; she’s required to meet with us within five business days after our placement. She stopped by the house on Friday, met the children for the first time, and chatted about how we’re doing with the transition and the resources available to us as pre-adoptive foster parents. And just like Sport’s and Sunshine’s workers, we’ll be seeing her again in a month and every month to come in the near future.

Needless to say, week one of parenting was busy and week two is just as packed. Sunshine’s worker will be stopping by the house for a meeting and then taking the children for their weekly visit with their biological parents. We’ll then make the trek out to the DCF office and pick the children up following their visit.

This week is also filled with phone calls to Early Intervention providers, daycare meetings, coordinating paperwork, doctor’s appointments, and trying to get more information about WIC (Women, Infants and Children – a government food and nutrition service), which the children are eligible for as foster children.

So basically we have a lot of appointments and rules to follow as foster parents but we’re happy to do it. We want Sport and Sunshine to be happy, healthy and together and this is something we can provide as foster parents and, if we’re lucky enough, as adoptive parents.

Now the burning question people have is when will we be able to adopt them and put all of these appointments and rules behind us? The simple answer is we don’t know; we don’t know if it will even ever happen. They will stay with us until we adopt them, unless they are returned to their birth family – which looks unlikely at this time. We certainly hope to adopt them and be their permanent home, but we understand that there are processes in place for a reason. We also understand that it will be helpful for them to maintain a connection to their birth family even if/when they are adopted. So – we are not rooting for the birth family to “fail.” If they stay with us, the birth family will experience a loss; if they are returned, we will. In the end, if the kids have a safe and happy home, then things have worked out as they should. We are going to treat them as if they are ours forever – because they deserve it.

Now after all of this boring and serious talk, here are some photos (we know that’s what you really wanted!):

Sport, Meg and Emma

Sport plays soccer

Sport on the slide

Sport the Pirate

Meg and Sport make cookies

Marcy helps get the kids buckled in

Meg, Sunshine and Bella hanging out on the couch

Marcy's and Sunshine's hands

Marcy and Sunshine at the Library

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Our New Normal

We’ve been foster parents for a whole five and a half days, and boy have our lives changed! We thought we were busy before we had a nearly four month old baby and an energizer bunny disguised as a two year old boy, but that was nothing. Luckily, we’re both taking several weeks off from our busy work schedules to figure out our new normal and bond with the kids – and we’re loving every minute of it. Although, we admit we wish a few more of those minutes were spent sleeping!

Sunshine

We’ve barely had any time to take our feet of the gas pedal since we picked the kids up on Saturday. And that Saturday trip was a whirlwind. We spent only about ten or 15 minutes at their previous foster home, just enough time to exchange email addresses with their previous foster mom and load up the car with a couple bags full of their possessions. We snapped a photo of Sport and Sunshine with their previous foster parents, so they can have a nice photo to hold onto for down the road, then the foster mother, who was still confined to the couch after her knee surgery, started to cry and soon after the foster father’s tears came, followed by Meg’s tears. Then it was into the car and off we went. It was such a sad moment for the previous foster family, but at the same time it was also an exciting and happy one for our new family. Of course, the kids were pretty much immune to all of the emotions, since they really didn’t understand what was going on.

Sport

One of our first acts of parenting after we got Sport and Sunshine to their new home was putting them down for a nap: we failed miserably. We hoped this wasn’t a sign of things to come. Although, in reality we knew Sports unwillingness to go down for a nap was likely due to all of the day’s excitement. He had had his life moved to a new city and when he arrived he saw he had new toys, a new room, and two new dogs. It was a lot to put aside for a nap.

Sunshine, however, had no such qualms with taking a nap. She napped in our arms, in her new swing and in her new crib.

Thankfully our first bedtime was relatively painless. Sport loves the bath. He loves everything about getting clean; he loves washing his face, washing his hands, brushing his teeth, bathing, and he even licks tissues and scrubs his face. So, it was pretty easy for us to get him in the tub and changed into PJs, he wasn’t as keen on the idea of getting into bed and falling asleep but after a few stories we were successfully able to coax him into bed and he was out like a light only a few minutes later.

Then with Sunshine all we did was give her a bottle and she was fully entranced in a formula driven deep sleep. However, she is supposed to eat roughly every four hours so after we easily got her down to sleep we just as easily found her awake in the middle of the might for her next bottle. It wasn’t as easy on us. We never fully appreciated those eight hour nights of sleep we used to have.

Morning comes very soon with Sport and Sunshine. They both wake around 6:00 to 7:00 AM – so far it has generally been closer to 6:00 AM. The first morning we both woke at 6:00 AM to Sunshine quietly stirring for her early morning bottle and we were soon followed into her room by her big brother Sport. We’re not entirely sure if he was reacting to her crying or was just looking for his own attention, but it was cute either way.

We can’t help but fawn over how cuddly and loving they both are, but when we think about it, it’s also a little sad and troubling to know that this may simply be how they’ve evolved to cope with the changes of their primary care takers – of course this may also just be their natural demeanor, foster care or not. Every man they encounter is Daddy and every woman is Mommy. But still, what pre-adoptive mom doesn’t melt when the little boy in their care calls out “Mommy!”?

Our busy schedules are starting to feel a little more normal; waking up early, planning meals, preparing bottles, playing with blocks and balls and reading stories. We also like to think we’ve officially been baptized into the motherhood club because we’ve both experienced the storied “diaper explosion,” which brings up another change in our lives – a continuous flow of dirty laundry.

While it has only been a few days we’re thrilled with the bonds we’re starting to develop. Sport seems to find some comfort in knowing we’re there as he turns to us for comfort when he’s upset and smiles in delight when we praise him. Sunshine giggles and smiles in our arms and seems to be thriving. We now have two and a half weeks in our leave from work and we have a lot of exciting activities in store for these two kiddos.

So far we’ve gone to two local parks and a local farm and we have plans to visit our city’s public library for story time and sign up for toddler swim lessons at the YMCA. We know this is a special time and we intend on cherishing it the best we can – even if we are never able to move beyond the title of foster mom.

Meg and Sport

The whole family at the farm

Meg and Sunshine at the park.


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It’s a Big Day

Earlier this week, after speaking with 3 different social workers, we finally met them – Sport and Sunshine.* Sport is a two year old boy and Sunshine is a just-shy-of-4 months old girl. And since those phone calls last week it’s been a hell of a whirlwind!

On the phone we had made a plan with the workers, which included a brief schedule of events: an initial introductory meeting with the children, their foster mother and the adoption social worker on Wednesday. We also scheduled follow up meetings on Saturday, where we would likely bring them to our house and introduce them to our dogs, and on Monday. Then Tuesday would be when the children would move in to our home.

The first meeting went pretty much as planned and it was wonderful. We had a nice chat with Sport’s social worker and the foster mother. Then we took the kids to a nearby indoor playground. Sport is a high-energy toddler who loved playing with balls, walking up slides and stepping down the stairs, and rolling around on a tricycle that was just a little too big for his tiny feet to completely touch the pedals. He was well behaved; he respectfully held hands while walking in the parking lot and complied when we insisted on “inside voices” while eating lunch at a local restaurant. His sister Sunshine was also a sweetheart. She hardly fussed except when she was hungry and after giving her a bottle she was content with being held, looking around and napping in our arms.

Our first meeting was the only thing that went exactly as planned; the rest of the plan simply went out the window. After meeting us, the foster mother felt comfortable enough to move the time table up because she felt it would be easier to not prolong her goodbye. She also worried that if the children stayed with her after the weekend she would have trouble caring for them as her husband was returning to work on Monday and she was not completely mobile after her knee surgery.

This accelerated time table means today is a big day – instead of just a long visit we’re picking Sport and Sunshine up and bringing them to our home to stay. They will officially be in a pre-adoptive home. So the last few days have been busy to say the least – we’ve been hurriedly preparing our workplaces for nearly a month of leave, while at the same time preparing our home for the needs of tiny people.

In addition to preparing our lives, we’re working to prepare our friends and family for some life changes as well. We’re starting our family in a manner that many people may not be familiar with and so it’s natural to have questions, which is in part why we’ve started to share our story through this blog. However, there are parts of this story that won’t be shared on this blog because it’s not our story to tell, and that’s the story of how Sport and Sunshine got to where they are in their lives. So, we ask that our friends and family not ask why they’ve been placed in state care or the details of what they have experienced in their short lives that lead them to our home. We also ask that no one speaks ill of their biological family.

This journey is about to get very interesting and we’re excited to share these adventures with all of our readers, family and friends! We hope that we all can learn and grow and have a great time!

*The real names of the children have been changed for their privacy and protection.


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Holy Cow!

We’ve gone from a slow saunter to a speedy sprint in our journey. We had our home study submitted several weeks ago for a sibling group of two – a two year old boy and a then 3 month old girl – and yesterday we were contacted regarding their placement.

We were told that the children’s worker was looking to move them quickly. They were in respite care while their foster mother had surgery and the ideal situation for the children would be to move them both to a pre-adoptive foster home while the foster mother was still receiving medical care. Of course just because something is ideal doesn’t mean it’s meant to be. The children will return to their foster mother after her surgery. However, the move will still happen soon, very soon – hopefully.

Adoptions through DCF are frequently imperfect ways to create beautiful families and this so far is shaping up to be imperfect or at least a little irregular. Normally, or the prescribed plan anyway, is for a family’s home study to be selected and then for the family to have a disclosure with the worker. At that point the worker will share everything DCF knows about the child or children to the adoptive family. Often the family will even be provided an opportunity to speak with the foster parents, teachers, doctors and other caregivers before making the decision to move forward with the placement. However, this will not happen for us, at least not yet.

Since the worker would like to move the children quickly and due to the fact that the case has recently been handed off to a new worker, the disclosure will happen at a later date. We were amenable to accepting the placement without a disclosure first, but we weren’t going to do it with our eyes closed and just a wish and a prayer (although the wish and a prayer are important no matter what the situation).

After getting as much information about the children as we could from our worker, she then got us in direct contact with the children’s ongoing worker and their adoption worker. After getting enough information to make us feel fairly comfortable with proceeding, we scheduled a meeting with the children.

After a couple meetings with the children, probably a full day and an afternoon visit, and assuming all goes well, they could come to live with us in as little as a week.

Now while the quick pace of this placement makes it unusual, it’s not the only thing. Only one of the children officially has a goal of adoption. The young girl still has a goal of reunification with her family. Now, it is probable that her goal will be switched to adoption in the next month or so, which is why they want to move the children together – but it adds an extra layer of risk to this legal risk placement.

Even with the irregularities of this placement we’re very excited (and a healthy bit of terrified!). When one of the workers joked that as long as we like ball sports and teddy bears we’d be fine with the young boy, we couldn’t help but giggle and feel optimistic – these are things Marcy loves. Marcy has a love for sport, particularly those with balls like soccer, and still has a soft spot for soft teddy bears. In fact, Marcy can’t bring herself to part with the scruffy teddy bears she always had tucked under her arm as a child.

We look forward to meeting this young boy and girl, learning more about them, and keeping pace with this sprint, because holy cow is this journey about to get interesting!