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.

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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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In the Home Stretch

We can see the end of the tunnel – the completion of the process of becoming eligible foster parents is in our sights. Our first two home visits (well really three as we ended up having to split our one-on-one interviews with the social worker into two separate visits) are as they say “in the books!” Next up is our final visit, which we will hopefully set soon for the next week or two, and then just paperwork on DCF’s side.

Our last two visits with the social worker were different because she met with us individually, so we’ll each give you a brief, and I’m sure riveting, account of our experiences. First up, since she had the first one-on-one meeting, is Meg:

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This is my first attempt at blogging (I usually act as the editor) so bear with me. The purpose of our individual meetings with our social worker was to shed some light on our individual experiences, perspectives, concerns, and so on. What I have found surprising about this process is how detailed some of the questions were.

When asked about my fondest childhood memory I had to say summer camp. Not that the rest was unpleasant, but camp was my favorite place. I have always enjoyed being independent, so living on an island and choosing my own schedule of activities (usually sailing, archery, crafts, swimming, and outdoor education) was the best. There was something simpler about camp friendships – maybe due to the lack of phones, hair dryers, make up, boys…? In fact, I still dream about being at camp pretty often – even though I last attended as a counselor in 1998. I hope we can (afford to) give our kids a similar opportunity.

When it comes to parenting I imagine our kids will have more “baggage” than we did and will therefore be more challenging to parent. We didn’t really have rules or punishments that I can recall growing up – but we didn’t push the limits too far either. (Did we?) I think one of the most important values that I learned about parenting from my parents was the importance of spending time together, and I feel very lucky to have so many great memories – whether at home, museums, camping, or spending time with our cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. We were lucky to have so many people that cared about us. We are lucky now to have so many friends and family supporting us as we become parents.

Last, but of course by no means least, is Marcy:

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Well my one-on-one was short, sweet, and pretty dull. I generally don’t have much to say, particularly to people I’m not close with, but I also have a tough time looking back at my life and picking out singular moments as being the happiest of my childhood or the toughest. Thankfully my sad attempts at self reflection shouldn’t have any effect on our abilities to become foster parents.

I had a happy childhood. Like everyone I had fights with my siblings, I skinned my knees, and I had bouts of getting teased at school – but nothing that I can look back on and say, “Oh, that was a very difficult time to overcome.”  The mythical idea that high school was a torturous experience wasn’t true for me, I rather enjoyed high school. I loved being a high school athlete and I had a small but great group of friends – many of whom I’m proud to still consider good friends.

I also struggled to answer questions about my parents’ parenting methods and how my methods might differ. This again comes down to my recollection of my childhood being pretty great – I don’t have many, if any complaints. I think I turned out pretty well rounded and the same pretty much goes for my siblings.

It is interesting to note that our social worker observed something Meg and I have recognized for a long time, which is that we balance each other out. Meg is the “ying to my yang.” Things that I struggle with are often her strengths, and vice versa. We’re a perfect match in so many ways.

 


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One Down Two to Go

Last Thursday we had our long awaited first home study visit.  It was more or less what we expected. We were asked to answer a lot of personal questions about our relationship, how we interact, how we deal with conflict as well as questions about what we foresee our parenting style to be and more.  Many of the questions were difficult to put our answers into words, but we trudged through the hypotheticals and self-examinations.

While we discussed our perspective on our relationship the social worker probably came to many of the same conclusions on her own by simply observing how we answered the questions and interacted – Meg answered most of the questions and I filled in anything that I thought was left out or simply confirmed what she said. It was likely pretty clear that Meg is more of the talker in the relationship while Marcy tends to listen more; Meg is more of a type A take control person while Marcy is more laid back and willing to follow if she doesn’t disagree with the situation.

We discussed that we envision our parenting styles to reflect how our parents raised the two of us. We both had mothers who were the disciplinarians and developed more of a structured life while our fathers were more laid back. Marcy tends to reflect our fathers’ attitudes while Meg’s personality is more indicative of how our mothers acted.  We were both fortunate enough to have two parents who cared for us and were involved in our lives and we absolutely intend to be the same way with our children.

In addition to answering a number of very personal questions we were given a bit of homework to do – a Family Preference Checklist. The check list is essentially a list of potential physical and behavioral problems a child might face and our task was to go through the five page list and try to decide if each of the items were something we’d consider accepting in a child or not. The list included everything from a heart murmur, to a paraplegic, to down syndrome or a child that lies from time to time.

We checked off the majority off the items as “willing to discuss” but left off the more serious items as “least acceptable.” We don’t want to get in over our heads with a child/children’s needs but we also want to keep our options open. We don’t want a social worker to not consider us for a child/children simply because we didn’t check off a certain box on a sheet.

We’re making a lot of progress in this process towards becoming eligible foster parents. Tomorrow we have our second visit of the home study which will include each of us having a one on one meeting with the social worker. Then we’re really in the home stretch.

We’re also making progress in our process of preparing our house for a new addition to the family. We’ve started putting down our new floors. Right now it’s like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle as we’re laying out all of the pieces. Hopefully tomorrow after our home study appointment we’ll be able to start nailing down the floors in the first room we’re tackling.

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We’re moving ahead at full speed now!