Thursday, October 23, 2014

Foster Care Update: MAPP Class #8

They told us that classes 2 and 8 are the decision making ones. I can't even remember what class #2 was about! But 3 hours of information on foster children who have been sexually abused was truly difficult. I told Ms. F (our caseworker) that I left this class feeling sad and unsure of my ability to handle a situation like this.

Will we be able to keep our family safe and at the same time help a child heal from this kind of hurt? Will I be able to hear about what has happened to these kids we're caring for, then take them to a visit with the very person that hurt them?

A couple days later, I had a good conversation with a friend that left me feeling encouraged. We have a strong family unit, a great support system, and Jesus! I feel like with a team like that, we'll do just fine!


*There was soooo much more we heard about than I'm writing here. I just don't feel comfortable sharing it in a blog.

Sexual Abuse

One of the reasons children come into foster care is because they've been sexually abused. Sometimes they're removed from their homes for different reasons, and the foster parents are the first ones to find out about the abuse after they've been in care for a while.

If the child does disclose that there was sexual abuse, or they do or say things that make us suspect there was abuse, we leaned some important things about our role.

Don't ask questions- Leave it to the professionals. If we start to ask questions than we can be subpoenaed if it goes to trial. We can say something like, "Tell me more about that."

Fix your face- Don't react by crying or getting emotional in front of the child. Remain calm.

Contact both of our caseworkers- Don't take things into out own hands and call the cops or their doctor. Call the child's caseworker (They already be aware of it) and our own case worker to find out our next step.

Things we should say:

I'm sorry this happened to you.

I'm glad you told me-I believe you.

It's not your fault.

Things we shouldn't say:

I promise I won't tell anyone about this.

I promise____will happen.

We went over ideas of how to make a child feel comfortable and how to make everyone in the home safe.

No forced affection- Don't make the kids feel like they have to hug a relative.

Have privacy guidelines.

No secrets- Make everyone aware that there are no secrets in our family. This will help if a child discloses abuse to us or other children in the home.

*Even though we will only be taking kids 0-5, we will be making a lot of changes in our home to ensure everyone's safety.

False Accusations 

I wasn't kidding when I wrote that this was a difficult class!

Foster parents have child protective services called on them more than the general public. One foster parent they told us about has had 18 investigations! Birth parents call CPS to make trouble for the foster parents and sometimes because they're honestly worried.

Some tips about false accusations-

Don't take them personal.

CPS has to investigate no matter how silly they seem. *They will not remove our foster child while they investigate.

Forming a relationship with the birth parents will lower the chances of a accusation.

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We spent last weekend moving Ethan's room to the attic and getting the bedroom all ready for kids.
I hope to post some pictures soon :)












Monday, October 20, 2014

Foster Care Update: MAPP Class #7

Class 7 was kind of a downer. And they warned us that next week will be even worse :(  I guess we don't really need any preparation for the good stuff that happens as foster parents. We need to be as ready as we can for the bad.

We started off by learning how to help with transitioning foster children back home. I was shocked to hear that sometimes the judges don't give anyone much warning when sending a child back home. We could go to court and be told to have the child ready to leave by that evening! They say that doesn't happen very often though. Usually everyone can kind of tell where they are in the process and be able to sense if the child is close to going home.

So when a return home is close, we came up with some ideas to help make it a smooth transition like:

-Keeping the kids informed about the plans (this may not be very helpful if we have babies)

-Make a calendar so the kids can see a countdown.

-Be in contact with the parents about the child's daily schedule.

-Talk positive about the transition

Another reason why a foster child my leave a home unexpectedly is because of a disruption.

Disruption: An unplanned move from one foster or adoptive home to another out-of-home situation.

Disruptions are usually something that's avoided if at all possible. It can have some serious negative effects especially if an attachment has formed.

Recognizing Stages of Disruption or Dissolution


Once foster parents start "going public" with their displeasure with the child, it's hard to go back. If we start telling those people who are close to us how unhappy we are with our foster child then they have less of a chance of ever really fitting in the family. Everyone starts looking at them as the root to all the families stress and problems.

Things that can help stop a disruption are:

Respite- When a foster child goes for a short stay at another foster home to give everyone a break.

Ask for help- Professional help for the child or parents may be needed.

Support system- They keep encouraging us to connect with other people in our MAPP class. If we need to vent these are the people who will be able to understand what we're going through.

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The end is near! There's a couple in our class who already have a foster child! He has some special needs that they're familiar with and was the reason why they wanted to become foster parents to begin with.

Our caseworker (Ms. F) said that we could possibly get kids before we're certified at the end of November! It all depends on the need. For something that has taken so long, this is all happening really fast!




Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ethan's First Job

At 13 years old it's only volunteer work, but it's still a job.

My mother in law had a stroke a few years ago that left her in a wheelchair and very different than she was before. I'm always touched when I see how Ethan is with her. He's so loving and not timid in anyway. So when I got an email a few days ago from another homeschooling mom asking if any teens would be interested at volunteering at a near by nursing home, I thought Ethan would be perfect! I contacted the volunteer coordinator at the home that day and she agreed to meet with Ethan the next morning.

It was so cute watching him get ready for his "interview"! He spent waaay too long fixing his hair and added waaay too much gel! He was pretty nervous when we got there, but the lady really liked him and asked him if he wanted to start THAT AFTERNOON! We already had plans that day so he signed up to come back the next morning.

If I ever have to be put in a nursing home, I want to go in one like this place! It's beautiful! They took us on a tour and showed us the beauty salon, the cafe, and where they set up the bowling alley. The rooms are huge and they all have big flat screen TVs! Some of them even have patios. And this isn't an assisted living home where they can come and go as they please! It's a nursing home. A nursing home that I kind of wanted to move in to ;)

So for the past couple of days I've been dropping Ethan off at "work". He stays for just a couple of hrs and helps with things like transporting the ladies to and from the hair salon, helping the residents with activities like bingo, and just spending time with them. On Monday he's helping a lady with their cooking show :) 

The way it's all set up is really nice. They just send us an email and Ethan just puts himself into the schedule for whatever and whenever we want. No pressure. Because there's no pressure, and he has so much control, I told him that he should try and stick it out for at least a few months but I'm hoping that it turns into something more long term. 

I am soooo proud of him! He loves it as much as I though he would and he's already received some positive feed back from the activities director. I love hearing him talk about the residents he's meeting and the funny little thing they do! He says it may just be volunteer work, but at least he's doing something that makes a difference!

 





Foster Care Update: MAPP Class #6

I'm a little behind with my blogging because my laptop is a piece of junk that only works when it wants to. Sometimes if I hold it just right then I can get it to work for a few minutes before it dies on me. But if I move even a little, or the dog brushes against my chair it's dead. It makes typing difficult when I have to hold the laptop perfect with one hand while I try and type with the other. So I try and squeeze in a blog post or 2 when I can.
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MAPP class #6 started off kind of crazy! I don't know if it was because we know we're over half way done, but we were all a little excited and chatty.

We began by talking about foster children's identity and culture and how important it is to recognize and support it. We went over ideas that will help keep that cultural connection like starting new traditions and making certain foods. This is important because it's part of the children's identity. They've already lost everything else in their lives so keeping that connection is very important.

If you were asked to write down the five connections that you'd never want to lose what would you write? I wrote down things like my family, God, and my friends. Then one by one we were asked to take away those connections as if we'd never have them again. The first one or 2 weren't too hard to let go. But when it came to my last 2 (family & God) it wasn't as easy. Most of the people in class picked God or their family as the last thing we'd give up. Children who are put into foster care lose everything in a moment. Their family, friends, schools, everything! We have to try and do as much as we can to help them feel connected to what makes them the person they are. One way to do that is to help make their visits with their parents successful.

We spent time going over visits and how to prepare the children. We'll probably only meet the birth parents at an initial "ice breaker" meeting. This meeting is to help us get to know each other and hopefully start to work together for the good of the child. The visits will be supervised by someone like a case worker, and we'll either drop the child off or Medical Motors will come pick them up. We can't cancel visits but we may send the child only for the parents never to show. Even if that's the case, we should NEVER say anything negative about the parents in front of the kids.
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I bought a crib! After a bad Target shopping experience that left me vowing to write an angry letter, we now have a crib!

A crib...still in a box.

Next step is setting up the foster kids room :)



Thursday, October 2, 2014

Foster Care Update: Home Visit

On Tuesday we had our first home visit with the caseworker that will be writing our home study and licensing us. I wasn't sure what to expect during this visit. Before we were first approved to start attending MAPP classes, a different caseworker (Ms. R) came over and did our intake interview. During that visit she toured our house and made a list of things that we need to buy/fix before we can be licensed. I thought Ms. F might want to go through the house and make sure we took care of the things on our list so bought a couple new fire detectors, got a fire extinguisher, and had most of the other things done. I also did lots of deep cleaning and had this house looking great by the time she got here!

I wasn't sure what to do with this thing so I shoved it under the kitchen sink.

She didn't even step foot upstairs :( All she wanted to do was interview us and get to know us more. All that work and she only saw my dinning room. My my really, really clean dinning room!

She started of by going over what paperwork she still needs from us which isn't a lot. Jonathan still has to go for his check up and we have to have something notarized saying that we won't use our fireplace, but that's about all that's left. Go team!

The only big thing we have left to buy is a crib. They told us at our intake that we needed a new one because our old one is a drop side and those are now considered unsafe, but Jonathan was sure that it would be fine as long as we bought the parts to convert it. Nope. We need to get one that's up to date and doesn't need any adjusting. We also need 4 more fire detectors because we didn't realize we need one in each bedroom. I hoping that I can get those from a local fire department though.

After we went over our to-do list she asked us questions about things like how we grew up and what our families were like. We talked about how we're going to help prepare our own kids, discipline, and how we feel about working with the birth parents. She said that she doesn't think I'll have a problem dealing with birth parents because I have such a warm and welcoming personality. I thought that was such a sweet compliment and I hope she's right! The entire visit lasted about 2 hrs.

The best part of the visit for me was that she was able to give us a loose timeline. We'll be finished with our classes at the end of October and as long as we're able to finish our to-do list, she estimates we'll be licensed and have our finished home study by the end of November. That's so close! This entire process has gone much smoother than I expected. I thought there would be a ton of hoops to jump through but it hasn't been bad at all!

Ms. F won't come over again until we call her and tell her we're ready. My goal is to have everything done 2 weeks from now which will put us 2 weeks before we're finished with our MAPP classes. I feel so excited but also very nervous! Kind of the same feelings I experienced when I was pregnant. Excited to start a new chapter but nervous and sad to finish one. One step at a time...One step at a time.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Foster Care Update: MAPP Class #5

Jonathan was away on his annual fishing trip so I has to go to this week's MAPP class alone. Because the classes are mandatory, he'll have to make class #5 up before we can become certified. It works out OK though because he'll be able to do that right before our last class is over which means we won't have to add any time on to our wait.

I can't believe we're half way through! Part of me is nervous that 10 weeks isn't enough time for us to be as ready as we'll need to be. The other part is pretty sure we'll never be able to really prepare for what's coming!

This week we learned all about disciplining foster children. There was a ton of information packed into those 3 hours! By the time we had a break to eat, I thought my brain was going to explode!

We talked about the difference between discipline and punishment.
And the side effects of physical punishment.

Children who have been sexually abused, physically abused, or neglected respond to physical punishment in one of the following ways:

-They are so used to being physically and emotionally hurt that they don't "feel" the pain. Therefore, they have to be hit or spanked harder and harder to feel any effects. 

-They may find pleasure, or relief in getting the spanking, because it's the only way they have learned to get attention. 

They told us that kids in foster care may do everything they can to try an get their foster parents to spank them because that's what they're used to. One of our teachers said that she had 2 little girls in her home that told her if she really wanted them to go to bed she'd have to beat them first. I think she said they were 3 and 5 years old. For those little girls, a "normal" bedtime routine included their parents beating them.

They also went over New York's policy on discipline of children in foster care which we'll have to sign before we're certified. Most of the Don'ts are pretty obvious like verbal abuse and locking them in their room. Some were less obvious (at least to me) like we can't make them stand in the corner.

This one is the one that had my head spinning. No forcing a child to crawl on knees across a floor strewn with rice.

I've never even heard of that happening before! But I guess in some cultures it's a common form of punishment.

Then we went over different ways to discipline foster children and would leave them feeling: lovable, capable, worthwhile, and responsible.

They told us that it may be confusing for a foster child to be disciplined differently then our bio children. If the foster children see us spanking our own children it could bring up bad memories. It might even make the child feel jealous because where they came from spanking = attention and normalcy. We haven't spanked our kids in a long time but one of the disciplines we do use is making them stand in the corner. We can't do that with our foster kids though. So we need to decide how we're going to come up with a good balance that works for all the kids.
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While Jonathan was away on his trip, I went to a big sale and got a really good deal on a baby swing! I think there's just a couple more things that we still need but I feel like we're making good progress with our list of things that we need to buy and paperwork we need to turn in. We'll find out more when Ms. F comes for a home visit on week 6. This will be the first of 2 (maybe it's 3) visits before she writes our home study and we're officially foster parents!! I seriously can't believe how fast this is all happening!


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Foster Care Update: MAPP Class Week 4


In this week's class we learned a lot about the importance of attachment.




A child has to have it's needs met by the same person continuously in order to form an attachment.

Here is some of the article we read about bonding and attachment.

-Children cannot grow up normally unless they have a continuing stable relationship, an attachment to at least one nurturing adult.

So it's actually healthy for foster children to form attachments to their foster parents.

-Removing children and putting them in foster care is extremely damaging to children because it disrupts the basic developmental process of attachment to a particular adult.

Lots of times children who come into care have never formed an attachment to anyone. No matter what behaviors they tried (crying, hitting, tantrums) their needs were never or rarely met. They're never able to relax and trust that their need will be met the next time.

-We need to protect children's attachments to their birth parents.

We should never say anything negative about the children's birth parents. They'd always rather be back home with them no matter how bad the situation was.

I felt like learned a lot this week. After every class I feel stronger about reunification. If there's any way possible, these kids need to be reunited with their family. I hope I'll still feel as strongly when I'm holding a child and know of everything they went through to bring them to us....

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-Good news! I don't have Tuberculosis! We won't talk about the "You need to lose weight" part of my checkup.

And I got to drive downtown twice to get fingerprinted because I forgot my license the first time. I realized that after I had already paid $5 to park :(   But I'm not a felon! So yay!