Another sad goodbye, more thoughts on foster care, some progress with private agency adoption

R went home a week ago. It was bittersweet. He was so, so attached to D (which is something D and I are going to have to talk about before we get another kid – more on that below). When we dropped him off, he didn’t want to go with his mom, he didn’t want to go with me, he only wanted to stay in D’s arms. It’s a one-month trial, but I’d be willing to bet at the next court date, reunification will be made permanent. And I’m happy for them both. His mom is not a bad person, she’s actually very sweet and had some very bad luck in life and is now getting the support she needs. And knowing ahead of time that reunification would be happening means we were all prepared for it.

We’ve had a LOT of calls in the last week for sibling sets. There were two that we almost took, but they turned out to not be good situations for us. In both cases, it was extremely likely the kids would go to relatives soon and we’d be stuck picking up the pieces. I have some thoughts on the new(ish) preference for relatives to be caregivers. In cases where the kids know the relatives well, I think it can be good. In cases where the kids don’t know them, I don’t always think it’s the best. For one thing, the parents are likely to pressure the relatives to break the rules and let them have access to the kids, which can make things very uncomfortable and possibly dangerous for all parties. Also, the kids often go into foster care first until a relative is vetted and commits to doing all the training, which then results in additional moves for the kids, which I don’t think is the best option. If the kids can be placed with the relatives on an emergency basis while the relatives get approved for kinship care, I think that can work out great, assuming the relatives are able to maintain appropriate boundaries with the parents, but otherwise I think it’s best for the foster family to just help create a relative relationship with the kids in the same way it would happen normally. That’s something that D and I have ALWAYS supported – we loved it when our kids’ relatives wanted to be actively involved in their lives.

After the call we got yesterday, though… I’m about ready to give up. It’s hard to be foster parents when we both work full time, but I’m willing to try to go with it. I still miss N horribly and wish that case had turned out differently, considering we were told when he came to us that it was likely to be permanent. It sucked that he was moved to a relative without any warning whatsoever. It sucked that I don’t believe the relative was fully vetted, although I think he’s going to be ok. It sucked that we weren’t able to give two weeks’ notice to daycare, although luckily our daycare provider didn’t make us pay for the extra two weeks. It sucks in general that we aren’t reimbursed enough to cover our expenses. I don’t want to make money off of foster care, but I don’t think we should be paying out of pocket, especially when we’re also using a lot of our vacation time to take these kids to visits (in D’s case, almost all of his vacation time) and that we’re risking our jobs when we’re always taking time off. But yesterday we got a call about two little boys who were just coming into care. I specifically asked if it was a long term situation, and was told there was no information. I said yes, even though I was a little worried how soon it was after R going home. I left work early to pick up the toddler bed I had loaned to my sister and to clean up the house a bit. A few hours later, I got a phone call from the social worker, who asked what I knew, and I said I was told there was no information. She told me the kids had been in an emergency home and needed to move to another home while relatives were vetted, and that they would be moved to a relative as soon as they were cleared. I was pretty angry. We’ve been pretty specific about not wanting short term placements, and as much as we REALLY want to take sibling sets, it’s a lot harder to coordinate than just one kid. If the kids had already been in care for several days, why weren’t we at least told the basic information? So I told the social worker that we couldn’t take a short-term placement. If we did that and D got attached again and the kids went home, I’m pretty sure that would be the end of foster care for D.

So the reason R was so attached to D is because when we had our first foster kid, I would cook dinner as usual. Then I would take her upstairs for bathtime, playtime, and bedtime (because at first she would only let me put her to bed). I would finally come downstairs hours later to find that D had done NOTHING the entire time I was upstairs, other than watch videos on his tablet and/or play video games. The kitchen was a mess, nothing had been prepped for the next day, and I was exhausted. I finally insisted that he had to start doing bathtime at the very least, so I could clean the kitchen (which I don’t really think was fair, but it was the only way the kitchen would ever get cleaned up, and I was tired of trying to cook in a messy kitchen day after day). That pattern has continued to this day, with D doing bathtime and evening playtime while I am by myself downstairs cleaning and doing chores. Gradually, all of the kids got attached to D more than to me, and in some ways I didn’t mind because it meant it wasn’t so hard to say goodbye.

I don’t think this is a pattern that should continue though. D really should be pulling his weight more, and I should be bonding with kids more. For one thing, it’s been harder on D than on me to see the kids go (except for N, who was really attached to me). I’m not sure how to bring it up though, since D gets really resentful if I imply he’s shirking chores. He DOES do a lot around the house, but I usually just do all the difficult/unpleasant tasks myself and let him do all the easy ones, just to avoid a fight. He will generally only do a chore if it’s something he can do while watching videos on his tablet or phone, and it’s honestly starting to drive me a little nuts.

All in all, I think we need a break from fostering for a while.

Speaking of taking a break from fostering, I have two things on my schedule that are keeping me busy:

1. I’m taking summer school! Both classes are online and both are great for my job (and can possibly be used for a certificate in my field if I decide to go for it).

2. We’re moving along with prepping for private adoption. We have a social worker to do our homestudy update (and that has been the biggest headache of the year, between our original homestudy missing a page, never to be found, and our adoption agency dragging their feet interminably with helping us to update our homestudy) and we actually have all the forms we need to update our criminal clearance which, surprise!, needs to be updated. But the end is in sight! I’m really hoping we’ll be able to go live with our profile in August, when I will be turning…. old.

We’re moving along with prepping for private adoption. We have a social worker to do our homestudy update (and that has been the biggest headache of the year, between our original homestudy missing a page, never to be found, and our adoption agency dragging their feet interminably with helping us to update our homestudy) and we actually have all the forms we need to update our criminal clearance which, surprise!, needs to be updated. But the end is in sight! I’m really hoping we’ll be able to go live with our profile in August, when I will be turning…. old.

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Another mother’s day to endure

I’m not looking forward to mother’s day. I’m not a mother, I don’t have a mother, I don’t really see the point. But I do kinda feel like I owe it to my MIL, since she (along with my sister) have been the only people who have been supportive of us as foster parents, so I think I’m going to suck it up and go. The rest of D’s family didn’t come to R’s birthday last weekend. They didn’t even bother to RSVP. I’m really not excited about seeing any of them, especially on a day where we celebrate motherhood.

We’re trying to move forward with private adoption, but I’m running out of patience with our adoption agency. I email them about something. 5-6 days later, I get a response for half of my question. So I email them back. Wait 4 days, get frustrated, email again to see if they got my email, get a slightly more helpful response. Now I’m waiting for them to start the next step. My guess is they won’t start it until I email AGAIN. I already have a job! I don’t need a second one managing them.

Speaking of R, he’s going home in about a month, we think. Nothing is ever certain in foster care, but that’s the most likely scenario. I recently met a woman who got a baby from the hospital whose mom didn’t want him. She told the hospital staff to call CPS to find him a home, and that lucky woman got the call. We later got a call for an 11-month-old boy, but then they called back 90 minutes later to say a family member had stepped up. A call went out this week for an 8-month-old boy, but by the time I called back 20 minutes later, someone had already taken placement.

I’m losing hope. And I’m really not looking forward to mother’s day.

Heartbroken

We got a call yesterday at noon that N is going to live with a relative. We’re leaving to drop him off in an hour. I can’t stop crying. For the last six months I’ve loved this baby like he was my own. I really hate the Foster Care system.

Losing weight and getting (back) in shape

So. I wrote about being closer to 40. I probably neglected to mention that a few weeks ago I sprained my ankle and was unable to exercise at all, not that I really have that much time to exercise. Ironically, I sprained my ankle a few days after I joined a gym that is basically a kickboxing circuit gym. You spend 3 minutes each at 9 different stations – one involves a warm-up that is usually some version of jumping rope, which I am apparently not coordinated enough to do, then there’s usually one station with weights or body weight exercises, then you move on to six stations of various punching and kicking exercises with different types of bags, then finally the last station is core exercises. There’s 30 seconds of “active rest” between each station, which I personally don’t find very restful, since it’s things like lunges, squats, crunches, push-ups, etc. I joined for two reasons: 1) I’ve been steadily gaining weight since I got married, my clothes barely fit and I don’t want to keep buying new clothes, and my joints hurt more and more. I obviously need to weigh less, and 2) I’m going on an overnight backpacking trip this summer with some friends and I don’t want to die in the mountains because I’m so out of shape.

Anyway, spraining my ankle put a little kink in those plans, and now I’m struggling to get back on track. Hitting the halfway point to 40 has really made me realize it’s now or never. I did some reading on losing weight, and I’m trying to do a better job of planning my eating. I know counting calories would work for me, but it’s really hard when I make almost everything myself and I really don’t know the nutritional information for what I’m making. I know I could figure it out with enough time and effort, but I don’t really HAVE that time. So after reading a blog about portion sizes, I’m trying to commit to just limiting the amount I eat. I’m definitely guilty of telling myself, “it’s healthy, I can eat as much as I want!” But calories are calories, and I’ve been eating WAY too much. It’s time to cut back and get realistic about the amount of food I’m eating.

My new goal is 40 by 40. That’s lose 40 pounds by the time I turn 40, which is 25 weeks away. I don’t actually HAVE to lose 40 pounds – I’m about 35 pounds overweight right now, but 35 by 40 doesn’t sound as good, so my sister suggested I call it 40 by 40 and give myself the first 5 pounds for free. I know, I know. It’s kind of like cheating, but it does help me feel like I’m already partway there (1/8 of the way, to be precise) so now I only have 7/8 more to go! 35 pounds in 25 weeks is totally doable, right? That’s 1.4 pounds per week, 6.3 pounds per month, give or take. I feel like I HAVE to do it if I ever want to feel healthy again. My mom died because of her incredibly unhealthy lifestyle, her poor relationship with food, and her complete lack of exercise. I don’t want to follow her footsteps.

In other news, I follow a number of bloggers that are not writing about infertility. It’s mostly home décor, organization, or some sort of lifestyle blog (healthy eating, vegetarian cooking, etc). In the last few months I’ve been blindsided by pregnancy announcements on those blogs. Today, it was a blogger who got pregnant their first month of trying. I’m not sure what to do now. I’m tired of reading all about their happy pregnancy journeys, how they’re setting up their nurseries and whatnot. But I don’t want to withdraw from the things I like. Being infertile is really rough.

Photos for adoption, getting older

We have our photo session for our adoption profile book next week. I have NO IDEA what to wear. I haven’t done a photo shoot since I was a kid, and since I was not allowed to pick out my own clothes until I was 10, I think the only time I worried about what to wear for photos was for my senior portraits, and those were just me. Now I have to worry about coordinating with my husband, and not blending too much or clashing too much with the location. I’m also hopeless when it comes to hair and makeup, so does anyone have any tips for me?? The photographer recommended that we think about color families so we don’t clash with each other, and he suggested layers. I’m having a hard time deciding if I should wear a skirt, leggings, and boots? Jeans or corduroy? A sweater? I don’t know!!!

I’m realizing that with how much weight I’ve gained in the last 2-3 years, it’s obvious that our photos that we’re picking out are older (even though sometimes they aren’t). I look at pictures of us from a few years ago and we look SO MUCH OLDER now. The foster care system has really aged us.

I’m considering joining an infertility support group. I’m having a hard time making friends, although the support group is in the city where I used to live (and where I hope to move back to), so I won’t necessarily make friends close to where I live. But I’m guessing a fair percentage (if not most) will go on to have kids. How hard would it be to sit there and know I will never, ever be pregnant, that my only choice is to adopt, and see everyone eventually getting their rainbow baby? I don’t know if I can handle it.

Anyway, last Friday I was halfway through my 39th year. I’m closer to 40 than my 30s now (I guess I’m still in my 30s, but ugh). I always told myself that people over 40 shouldn’t have kids, because my mom was 38 when I was born and my dad was 54 and dealing with aging parents when you’re in college is really no fun. I spent my 30s visiting my Dad’s grave and taking care of my elderly mom, while all my friends were having families and their parents were helping them out with everything. I put off getting married and starting a family and just about everything else because of my parents’ age. My parents weren’t really able to teach me much about modern life because they didn’t really understand, so I had to figure it all out for myself, so I feel like I’m behind professionally as well. Heck, my grandfather was born in the 1880s (yes, you read that right). Obviously, I didn’t really grow up with grandparents (much less great-grandparents). It sucked having parents that old. I don’t care what people say about older parents being able to better provide for their kids. Kids don’t NEED that much stuff. They do need stability, but I think that if you can afford the basics, you’ll be fine. With everything my parents were dealing with, there was not a lot of stability, that’s for sure, and I really didn’t need all the extra STUFF that I got because my dad was so much farther along in his career that he could afford it. What I did need was parents who were there for me with more than just money.

I thought I was over being jealous of other people who are starting/expanding their families, but the last few days have proven otherwise. First, several fellow foster parents have announced their upcoming adoptions. Several of them have adopted several times, a lot of them adopted the first placement they ever got. It makes me wonder, why haven’t we ever had a placement we could adopt? D says he thinks the universe is against us, and maybe he’s right. Then, when we had to evacuate the building where I work yesterday, I overhead a discussion between a former co-worker and someone else, and she was being asked about her baby registry. Argh. I don’t even LIKE registries or showers, but of course she got married and now she’s pregnant. My grad school roommate is pregnant and about ready to pop. I honestly thought several of my friends from college and grad school wouldn’t have kids, because they didn’t seem like the maternal type, or they waited so long to get married (longer than I did!). They’re all pregnant or have recently given birth. ALL OF THEM. I feel very isolated.

It’s been a crazy day

Last night I got a call from N’s old social worker, from before he transferred counties (have I mentioned he transferred counties?). I just read back through my blog and realized I never talked about some of the things that happened. For one thing, N’s case transferred to the neighboring county, but he’s still staying with us, and the county is being incredibly helpful with visits and such. So far, things haven’t changed much at all. R is still not as happy a baby as N, but he’s WAY happier than he used to be! He smiles a lot, he laughs, he LOVES the dogs, he finally started crawling and then a week later was pulling himself up to standing, so he’s catching up really, really fast. He’s not as cuddly as N, but he’s finally starting to put his arms up for me and crawl to me for hugs. It’s a wonderful thing to see.

Anyway, N’s old social worker called last night. She knows we want to adopt a younger child, and every time she hears about one as a possibility, she calls us. Last night she called about a little 2-year-old (who I first heard about in the fall, so I think she might actually be close to 3 now) who needs to find an adoptive home by next month. I’m honestly not sure what to do. For one thing, she was kicked out of her first foster home, but I’m having a hard time imagining what could possibly have happened to have someone kick a 2-year-old out (she may not even have been 2 then). She’s with another foster family right now, but that family is not an adoptive family. The foster mom and I have lots of mutual friends, although I’ve never actually met her in person. That foster mom called me in December asking if I’d be interested in taking the little girl. She mentioned the little girl was autistic and had five appointments a week. The sheer number of appointments made me panic a little. We hadn’t even had R one month yet at that point, and he’d spent a good 10 days sick since he’d been with us (vomiting and diarrhea sick, not just a runny nose). We were supposed to meet her at the foster care Christmas party, but so many people RSVP’d that they had to split the party into two separate times, we got stuck in traffic and were really late to the second half of the party, and we never did meet up. I mentioned all of this to the social worker, and she said that there was no official autism diagnosis in county records, that the little girl was developmentally on track based on her screenings, and that she just had normal trauma that any foster child might have. I agreed to talk to the girl’s social worker, but with two babies already in the house, I’m not sure we can handle more right now (and if you’re wondering how we’re going to handle adopting a baby with the two we have, I’m assuming at least one of them will have gone home by the time we’re chosen and the birth mother gives birth).

N’s social worker also went on at length about how much she believes N shouldn’t go home. As a foster parent, I know very, very little about the case, but from what I do know and what I’ve seen, it seems likely he will go home. I don’t even know what to think about it anymore. I just try to love him as much as I can, and do my best for him.

In other non-foster care news, I’ve been going to interviews in my chosen field lately! I’ve been out of the field SO LONG that I’ve had to do a lot of prep work to get ready. Since I can’t really neglect the babies, the rest of my life has been awfully neglected instead. The house is a disaster, laundry is piling up, my car is disgusting, there’s yard work to do, and I’m just trying to ignore it all and focus on preparing for these interviews. This is probably the last chance I’ll have to get back into the field, and if I fail, I’ll have to figure out what I really want to do with my life after this. It’s a little daunting, considering I’m turning 40 this year, not a great age for starting over.

OMG you guys!!!! I wrote that last paragraph this morning and then a little while later I got a call that I got the job!!!!! OMG! I can’t believe it! I’ll be working in my chosen field, and I’ll be getting a raise!

Musings on infertility and foster care

I haven’t been writing much lately, because I haven’t had a lot of time what with two babies, working full time, and commuting. And they’re foster babies, so they require an awful lot more time (more on that below). During the rare weeks where we only have one or two visits (as opposed to 4-6), I’m always so grateful to not be at work all day and then spend my evening running all over the place. I think to myself, “this is what it must be like for a normal family, just go to work then come home and do normal stuff” and I get so jealous. That leads me to what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:

If you are infertile and you want to adopt, you should not be a foster parent.

I said it, and I mean it. It’s funny, because I thought I did my research before becoming a foster parent. I talked to people who fostered-to-adopt and they all told me how wonderful it was, etc, etc, etc. Well, none of them knew that foster care had changed in the time since they had adopted. It’s not foster-to-adopt anymore. The goal now is ALWAYS reunification (except in a few very special cases), and adoption is a last resort. As the foster parent, you are considered an interim caretaker. The babies you’re taking care of might think that you’re their parent, but you know better. You know the situation is just temporary. Even if you do eventually get to adopt one, the first 6 months or year you spend taking care of the baby isn’t the same as a real parent’s would be – you’re not bonding with your forever child, you’re just providing them with a place to live and as much love as you have to give, knowing that they’ll probably be gone by this time next year (that doesn’t mean you don’t bond with them at all, but it isn’t the same). And until they do leave, you spend your days taking them to visits with family, who may or may not show up, counseling appointments, doctor’s appointments, social worker visits, lawyer visits, parenting classes (so their real parents can practice), and on and on. And you’re missing so much work to do it, and you or your partner is always gone in the evening because of a pick-up or drop-off, and there’s no more family time. You spend all your free time driving kids around, and no one cares if it’s convenient for you. Sure, you get a reimbursement, but it’s not even close to enough to cover your expenses. They’ll tell you that you can be a foster parent even if you work full time, but after you and your partner both getting in trouble for missing so much work, you know it’s not true. They’ll tell you that foster parents shouldn’t pay for anything out-of-pocket, but you’ll see soon enough that all those promised subsidies just aren’t there when you need them (who in the world can possibly afford to be a foster parent for the money???). You’ll want to do your best for these kids, but you’re draining your future to help them in the present, and soon they’ll be gone, and your house will be empty again.

It is not the responsibility of the infertile to save the world’s children. The deeper into this I get, the more I realize that it’s the people who already have their own children who should be doing more. (Note: I don’t believe anyone should feel like they have to take on more than they are capable of, even though I detest the attitude of so many fertile people that their own children are so important that they can’t help out other children in need. This was recently hammered home to me by a childless friend-of-a-friend online who berated me for considering international adoption when there are (apparently) so many children in need in our own country and for preferring to adopt a baby. In her view, if I wasn’t adopting an older child from within our borders, I was a selfish jerk who didn’t deserve to have kids.)

I’ve said before that this is the last time we’ll foster, but I’m pretty sure this time I mean it. For one thing, I’ve been missing 1-2 weeks of work PER MONTH to deal with the kids, and that’s just not sustainable. And I’m so incredibly lonely. We’ve been taking the kids to the climbing gym on the weekends, and they LOVE it. They get excited as soon as we walk in. On weekend mornings, a lot of people with little kids go, so it’s really fun for them. All the kids play on the exercise mats, and build and destroy towers made of yoga blocks, play with the foam rollers and the balance balls, and a good time is had by all. The last time we went, I talked to a women with a son whose age was right in between N and R, and I thought to myself that she was a perfect person to get to know, because we obviously had things in common. But then I remembered that it’s likely we wouldn’t have these babies anymore by summer. It’s impossible to make mom friends when your kids are temporary. And we’re not having a lot of luck making friends with other foster parents either. A lot of them are religious, and we’re not (and I have no problem with religious people, but they already have their “tribe” through their churches). The ones in our town tend to be stay-at-home moms too, while the working moms live in the other towns in our county. And on top of all that, the fact that I’m so desperate these days to be done with fostering makes it hard to even try to be friends with them, knowing that the one thing we have in common will probably disappear by the end of the year. And I’m so busy with work and foster parent obligations, I don’t even have time to make friends. You’d think I wouldn’t have time to get lonely, but that’s not really how it works.

Anyway, in case you couldn’t tell, I’m a little burned out on foster care. I love these babies, more than anything in the world, but they’re not mine, and they probably never will be.

In adoption news… We finished the text for our profile book (FINALLY) and we’ve booked a consultation with a photographer a week from tomorrow, and I really, really need to pull out my old laptop that doesn’t have a working screen or battery and go through the hard drive to find all my pictures. At least having the text done gives me an idea of what pictures to look for.