Are You Somebody?

Have you ever read one of those stories about the toddler who was critically dehydrated after being left alone in a crib for days, crying while her mother got high?  Or the one about the eight year old boy who was hospitalized after being beaten by his father with a baseball bat?  Did you think to yourself “somebody should do something about that?”

Did you find yourself outraged after reading a story about a child being taken from their family on trumped up charges?   Did you wonder why someone doesn’t help grown ups deal with addiction or mental illness so that their children could live safely with them?

What about that story about how the foster care system is filled with cold, uncaring social workers who lose track of where children are placed? Or about the greedy foster parents who spend the foster stipend money on themselves while feeding the kids just once a day? Did you think to yourself “somebody should do something about that?”

I read these stories.  I was outraged.  I thought somebody should do something.  Then, I realized that I am somebody.  I became a foster parent.  A good one (or least to the best of my ability).  I love the children, care for them, advocate for them at their schools or therapist’s office or in the courts.  I advocate for their biological parents, too, helping them get their voices heard, their needs met, and have a real chance at getting their children back.  I volunteer to help out the foster care agency and help train new foster parents.

You could do this, too.  All you have to do is Be Somebody.

If you want child abuse to end.  If you want families going through hard times to be given a fair chance.  If you want the “system” to work as well as it can.

All you have to do is Be Somebody, the somebody who steps forward to be a foster parent.

enhanced-buzz-4861-1366095741-3

This post is part of the Adoption Talk Link Up on the topic of foster care / adoption memes.  Check out the link for other great voices on foster care and adoption!

10 Foster Kids and Counting!

We’ve seen 10 kids come and go since we started our journey as a foster family in 2013. Some have stayed with us for nearly a year and a half, others just a handful of days. But one thing has become abundantly clear to me. I love being a foster parent!

I love cuddling the ones open to a hug. I love playing in the sand at the beach with them. I love teaching them how to cook, how to use a bicycle pump, or how to dust the furniture.

maxresdefault

When kids in care are in our home, there’s a hustle and bustle that energizes me. Is there a family visit, a social worker dropping by, a sporting event, school science night? Have the children been bathed, is it time for homework, time for meds, oops ran out of milk let’s’s run to the store?

There’s the thrill of meeting of a child and learning his or her distinct personality, likes, dislikes, needs, and rhythms. Joyful loves spaghetti and would eat mounds of it, but Turkey doesn’t care for pasta. Helper wants to say bed time prayers every night with us, but Jumping Jack doesn’t believe in God and is weirded out by the whole concept of religion. Watchful calms down best when left alone in his “safe place” for a few minutes, but Explorer wants to have his back rubbed. Excited and Watchful are both early risers, but while Excited wakes up in a sunny, bouncy mood, Watchful needs the quiet routine of setting the table before engaging with others.

When you have foster kids in your home, there’s the joy of watching them overcome the trauma in their lives. Joyful stopped burying her nose in a book all day long and was willing to reach out to make friends. Harry Potter started using words to encourage his brother, rather than constantly insult him. Another learned that bed wetting as a pre-teen happens to some people and that wearing appropriate undergarments is not a big deal.

I love watching my husband and permanent children develop even greater kindness, empathy, and understanding as they are confronted by our foster children’s more challenging behaviors. My husband searched out the recipe, got special ingredients, and cooked a Filipino dish to help comfort Big Ben with a familiar, favorite food. Sassy willingly worked out differences with another child who was being aggressive. Silent One has learned to be unruffled by tantrums.

Last weekend, we said goodbye to Harry Potter and Explorer. We’ve been asked to take two brothers for two weeks in August, which we’re debating as the timing is not great for our family and we would prefer a long-term placement. We were asked about a four year old girl, but luckily her grandparents have stepped up and she won’t be coming into care. We talked with our social worker today, who asked us if we’ll be home over Memorial Day weekend in case there are any emergency placements.

But at the moment, it’s quiet. I’m seated on my sofa, sipping tea, with my dog beside me. And while that’s nice, I can’t wait to see who will walk in the door next, get to know them, care for them, and watch them transform their inner hurts.

Of course there are days when I wonder “why the heck did I sign up for this,” but all in all….Life as a foster parent is a joy and a privilege!

Prepping for New Foster Kids

Today we’re welcoming two energetic brothers to our home for a short while. We can’t wait until Harry Potter, age 6, and his little brother, Explorer, age 5, arrive. I’m attending a work conference today and am distracted, just wanting to get home and do some childproofing before they arrive. (Don’t worry. I’m not slacking. I’m writing this during our coffee break.)

Last weekend we rearranged bedrooms to meet the line of sight supervision and separate room requirements. Lots of lugging mattresses and washing sheets. Whew!

harry-potter-philosophers-stone

Since we were getting a little tired of having to disassemble bed frames and schlepping bedding, I broke down and got a new bed frame. But for free, so yay!

When the boys came for a pre-visit, they ran from room to room looking for toys. It became apparent that our toy assortment did not match their interests.

So this morning I sent out a message to my network of friends, asking for a short term lending of kid entertainment items. Cars, play dough, balls, and books are being dropped off as I type. What an outpouring of friendship!

The toys are so necessary as I’ve been requested to keep their tv/ video game time to just 15 minutes a day! And it’s predicted to rain for the next few days – meaning the boys will be cooped up inside. Please, weather gods, let there be some sun, so we can run the very active Harry Potter and Explorer around outside to burn off some of that excess energy.

When I get home, it will be a mad dash around the house to put up all the breakables. Then it’s a phone call for pizza delivery and hopefully a quick run to the grocery store for ice cream. Giving kids something they like upon arrival is a great way to make them feel welcome.

Ok. Gotta go welcome those boys!!

Foster care and line of sight supervision

Two boys in foster care just visited our home to help prepare them to stay with us in about a week.  Harry Potter, age 6, and his little brother, Explorer, age 5, are pretty gosh darn adorable… and overflowing with energy!

These sweet boys have lived in four – yes four! – foster homes since they came into care just six months ago.  I’m sure their excessive energy, tantrums, and other behaviors have been challenging, but my guess is that the need for constant, line-of-sight supervision is what really tired out the foster parents.  We’re super happy that the current foster family has asked us to do respite so that they can re-charge their batteries and continue on with the placement.  These boys need stability in their lives!

teenbins_massonstock_istock_623

Children can need line-of-sight supervision for a variety of reasons.  They may get rowdy and knock over lamps, use the couch as a trampoline, and accidentally launch projectiles at the tv – in other words they have not yet developed safe indoor playing skills.  When toddlers engage in this behavior, it’s age appropriate and fairly easy to redirect.  My friend who has an older, developmentally-delayed son who gets too exuberant says she feels like they are always five minutes from an emergency room visit.  Whew!  Imagine constantly being on edge, feeling disaster is lurking just out of sight.

Other children need help with social skills and need adult intervention to help them have good interactions with other kids.  They might be prone to fighting or hitting or saying mean things when they get irritated.  As foster parents, our job is to see when a child is beginning to become agitated and either help them calm down, think through their actions, or remove them from situations.

Another reason for line-of-sight parenting is sexualized behavior, which can occur if a child has been sexually abused and hasn’t yet learned the rules of appropriate sexual behavior for children.  Children may masturbate or try to touch other children.  A child who is masturbating can be given a choice of going to their room as sexual self-touching is a private activity or the child can play in the living room without touching their privates.  A child who tries to touch another child is reminded to keep their hands to themselves.  The trick is to not shame them while ensuring no other kids are touched in appropriately.

canstockphoto2038055

When we are parenting kids who need line-of-sight supervision, we use a tag team approach.  My hubby, teenaged kids, and I take turns watching the little ones and ensure the adults get some down time.  Why?  Frazzled parents have a harder time keeping calm and being a good role model.  We never have our teens watch more than one, and usually only if we’re near by.  For example, 15-year-old Savvy might do a craft project with a child while I prepare dinner.  If an issue comes up, I can easily intervene.  Such a method teaches the teens how to interact with others without putting too much responsibility on their shoulders.  At the same time, the little ones see a “cool,” older kid practicing good behavior and they naturally want to emulate them.

A Hard Foster Placement

Over the years, we’ve fostered children with many challenging behaviors. But an upcoming placement has given us pause.

puppy-love-feature

We’ve said yes to kids who self harm, have medical issues, are depressed, lack empathy, wet the bed, tantrum, refuse to eat, disassociate, and more.

But we just said yes to two boys who can’t have pets in the house. And we almost said no.

I am embarrassed to say that trying to parent kids without our trusty, loving dog around just sounds really hard.

The thing is, our puppy is always eager to love on us. She’s quick to forgive. She always there with a cuddle when you’re feeling down.

God knows when you foster, this kind of unwavering support can be in short supply.

So, for the limited time that the next two boys are with us, our dog will be vacationing with a friend.

And we’ll have to rely upon our all too human selves to muddle through.

Fostering and Easter Basket Overload

Celebrating holidays with foster kids in the house can bring unexpected experiences.  Yes, there is the trauma sometimes, but that’s not what I’m talking about (this time).  Let me explain.

easter-basketHelper and Excited are staying with us over the Easter holiday.  These are the same guys who stayed with us over New Year’s, two delightful boys aged 13 and 7.  So, when I was at the store, I stocked up on some Easter basket treats.  Their regular foster mom asked that we make sure that Helper doesn’t eat chewy, sticky food, on account of his braces, so this year, I picked up individual serving size bags of chips, mini packets of crackers, and the like.

Their social worker wanted to stop by and see how the boys were doing.  Sure that sounds fine.  Ding dong.  There she is at the front door, holding a very large bag.  Inside?  Five Easter baskets filled with candy.  Yes, we have two kids in care and received five baskets!!  Two for the boys, two for our permanent kids, and one for my husband and I to share.

The regular foster mom asked that we take the Helper and Excited to a local Easter egg hunt.  Sure.  No problem.  Boys running around out in the fresh air sounds fabulous.  And they had a great time, finding lots and lots of eggs until their Easter baskets were near overflowing.  Guess what?  Every plastic egg was stuffed full of jelly beans.

The court appointed special advocate (CASA) called up.  She wanted to take the boys out to lunch. Yup.  I like that idea.  Having the a break for an hour sounds heavenly.  Come and pick them up.  The boys walk back into the house after their lunch, excitedly chatting to one another, each carrying another Easter basket!!

So these two boys now have a total of 8 Easter baskets between them.  Chocolates, marshmallows, chips, crackers, Nerds, Whoppers, Peeps, Mike & Ikes – the list of candy goes on and on.

Did I mention that the boys start going a bit crazy when they have sugar?  That’s why there foster mom suggested we don’t give them any.  Ah….  Well.

Now we’re off to Grandma and Grandpa’s for Easter lunch.  I sure hope there are no more baskets.

How to Make a Bed for Foster Children

Many things go into preparing to be foster parents. Having been a foster mom for a couple of years to eight different children, I recommend giving some thought to bedding for the new kiddos.

1. Waterproof Mattress Pad. A waterproof mattress pad is a foster family essential. Bedwetting is more common with foster kids, even into their teen years, because bedwetting can be aggravated by stress . Kids who didn’t get enough to eat may also hoard food in their rooms. Depending upon the food, you could end up with some gloppy messes. Protect that expensive mattress!

2. White Bed Sheets. Why white? You may want to bleach those bed sheets – see the reasons in #1 and in case of lice (happens to all kids). Boys and girls are equally fine with white. White is good for all ages – those super cute Elmo sheets are awesome to little kids, but the older set would be mortified. Kids may come with a favorite blanket and white will match it guaranteed. If every sheet is white, you can wash them all at once – no worrying about sorting lights, darks, and whites. And trust me, you’ll be doing enough laundry as it is.

3. Soft Blankets. A little extra comfort from a soft blanket can help ease a child’s troubles. Children in care have gone through trauma and night time can be particularly difficult for some. Perhaps the night was when bad things happened, like sexual assault or their parents reached maximum drunkenness or it was when they were left alone. Kids often keep themselves too busy in the day to think about the trauma, but the memories surface as they try to fall asleep. Kids can also be prone to bad dreams. A child can snuggle, pet or rub a plush blanket or one with a satin trim to help soothe themselves.

8b393a4a1ba446b9e6dded68f3b88e71

4. Neutral Bed Spread. Again, neutrals work with both boys and girls of all ages. I like blue for a bedspread, but gray, green, and black could work, too. The right neutral can be mixed and matched with a variety of paint on the walls and other beds. Why is that important? Because you might need to reconfigure your bedroom set-ups if you take in more than one child. A sibling set of two could be one boy and one girl, meaning separate bedrooms. But it could be two girls (or two boys) and you want to put them together, so that when your family comes to visit you have a guest bedroom – or when their third sibling comes for respite.

5. Flare: Stuffed Animals and Throw Pillows. To rescue your foster child’s room from becoming too blah or too sterile, you can add easy-to-swap-out “flare.” I often put stuffed animals on the bed. Most kids like big stuffed dogs or teddy bears, though I’ve gotten some “older kid” items like animals or characters from popular video games. Throw pillows can do the same trick.

141159

6. Hypoallergenic Pillows. If you’re going to buy new pillows, play it safe and get hypoallergenic ones. Why run the risk of red eyes and runny noses if you don’t need to?

7. An Extra Throw. We do both long-term foster care and short-term, respite care. Some kids are used to cool bedrooms and others prefer warmer. The easiest solution is to provide an extra blanket folded on the end of the bed for them to use – or not. It can also add a bit more flare to your neutral bedspread.

8. Bed Furniture. If you need to buy more beds, but don’t have lots of money to spend, consider buying twin beds from a flea market or garage sale. A few quick coats of black, white or grey paint and they’ll all match each other. [Note: Don’t paint cribs as teething babies may chip off the paint and eat it.]

9. Bedrails. A twin bed can work for little ones if you add bedrails that keep them from falling out of the bed.  If you don’t what these are, Amazon has some examples, though you can easily get them at Walmart, Target, or other such stores.

So, now you’ve made a bed for a foster child.  Let’s hope the kiddos will make their bed, too. 😉