Is it Fate or Coincidence?

Several months ago I got a call from DSS about a soon to be three-year-old boy who came into care. The worker went on to tell me all the challenges this little boy has and I thought it’d be too much for me to handle right now. It’s always difficult to turn down a child.

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A month or two later I got a call saying the same boy needed a new placement. The foster mom fell ill and was unable to care for him. I felt horrible turning him down again! Buddy is a follower (monkey see, monkey do!) and I was so afraid that I would have 2 little boys exhibiting negative behaviors and it’d be too much! Not to mention, Buddy needs a lot of attention and it sounded like this boy would need even more. That wouldn’t be fair to Buddy.

Last week, we attended a foster care appreciation dinner. We’ve never attended one before. We don’t need to be thanked or told we’re appreciated, but thought it was a good opportunity to get out and have a free dinner! Well, who sits next to me but the woman who took the little boy they called us for twice! She said how she actually just wanted to foster children and had no intention of adopting, but DSS was already talking adoption! While he does have many challenges, he’s very resilient and doing really well.

Is this a coincidence or is fate telling us that this little boy is meant to be in our lives in one way or another? We set up a play date and I’m excited to have another foster mom to talk to and it’ll be nice for Buddy to have a boy his age to play with.

Giving Myself Permission to be Selfish

Again we sat in the waiting room as lawyers were allowed into the court room. It’s really starting to sound like Groundhog’s Day isn’t it?
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When we were allowed in, it was just a repeat of the month before. Bio-mom wants a chance to prove herself once she gets out of jail in June. The fact-finding porting of the TPR is still set for next month, but they’re holding off until August for disposition. My heart sank. August? Why? The caseworker said that it’s a really big deal to take away a parent’s rights. They want to give her every possible chance.

Oh, and by the way, they heard from supposed bio-dad. UMMMM, WHATTTTT????!!!! He is on a ship (Navy, Marines?) until June. The DSS lawyer had a cell phone number. The caseworker didn’t even know about it. I’m hoping that he’s just sick of the letters he’s been receiving for the past year and a half and is going to sign a paper saying that he wants nothing to do with Buddy after never seeing him or having contact with him in 3 years. They did the same thing with bio-mom’s estranged husband a few months back. DSS is all about the drama, I swear!

Anyway, I understand that it’s a big deal to take away a person’s rights to their child. I couldn’t imagine being in bio-mom’s position. The thing is that, I never would be. I’ve never tried a drug in my life and I’ve got a very supportive family. I’ve thought before, how selfish I am for wanting her to give up her child to me. How selfish it is to think I am any more deserving than she is. In the end, what it comes down to is that, she will go right back to her old ways. She will go back to her old friends. She unfortunately has no family to support her. This is about what is best for Buddy and being with us is what is best for him. That might be selfish on my part, but he deserves the safe, secure, nurturing and loving home that we can provide. She is dragging court out for herself, not for him. She didn’t even send him a letter for Christmas or his birthday. How is that being a parent?

So again we wait, but I thought about it and said, so, we’re looking to adopt him in the next six months. That doesn’t sound too bad! We’ve got a lawyer now and he even coached the judge’s son’s soccer team and they’re good friends! These are all positive things.

Hurry Up and Wait

I wrote this after last month’s court date, so here it is, better late than never.

We all filed into the court room with nervous anticipation of what the day could bring. Would we be celebrating the end of Buddy’s 18 months in foster care or disappointed when we’re strung out until another court date?

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When the judge asked the court appointed lawyer about bio-mom’s intentions, he commented that despite having sent her a letter at the jail, he received no response from her and had only met with his client moments before court. He was however, able to find out that she wants Buddy back when she gets out of jail in June.

I know bio-mom will not get Buddy back. It’s too late for that. I’ve been told numerous times that this is a really solid case. I also see her side of things and realize that the closer we get to her release date, the more she thinks she can get him back. Gone are the days of sentimentality surrounding the Christmas holiday and any hints to the possibility of surrender. The lawyer for DSS said that they would offer her a picture and a letter on the condition of a surrender, but had no incentives for her. The judge set up a pretrial date for April to give her one last chance to surrender. She also set aside two full days for the TPR hearing in May.

So, not surprisingly, we were strung out for more court dates. Yes, I’m desperately hoping for a surrender, but I will try not to keep my hopes up. The part that bothered me was actually before court even started. I like Buddy’s caseworker and lawyer. They’re probably among the best, however they are not without their faults. While waiting for court to start in the little waiting room, my husband and I are on pins and needles in anticipation of what the future holds with our little man. Buddy’s lawyer was more concerned with a criminal trial he had to get to and pick a jury for. The caseworker was shooting the breeze with the court police officer. I know it’s just another day for these guys. I’m sure that they have to distance themselves in order to keep sane. However, I couldn’t help but feel that it was all really unprofessional to do in front of us. We felt like nobody cared about Buddy. It was just another day for them.

My husband decided to call an adoption attorney. There are only two in our city that specifically deal with adoptions. I met the woman attorney twice before and wasn’t impressed. She fostered teenagers and basically just let them run the streets. She wasn’t in it to be a “mom.” The other attorney came highly recommended. However, I’m still not working, and the thought of having thousands of dollars in attorney fees just didn’t appeal to me. However, Hubby said he’d work all the overtime he had to, to make sure we had a voice. As it turns out, there is actually a grant available and the costs will be minimal if anything at all! This was good news.

Why?

I thought we had skipped over the “why?” stage because Buddy has been in the “what’s that?” Stage for at least 6 months now & I figured that pretty much covered it. Uh….no.

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The other day I hear my husband very patiently answer a half dozen why questions before he threw it the “because I said so!” Now it was my turn. Buddy will play with anything that has a character on it, it doesn’t matter if it’s a sticker, a pez dispenser or a plate. When he saw that he had a Spider-Man plate when his pancakes were finished he started to play with it. I told him no. “Why?” Buddy asks. Because it’s sticky. “Why?,” he retorts. Because we had maple syrup. “Why?” Because that’s what you put on pancakes. “Why?” This time I just stared at him. In a silly, mocking voice he says, “because I said so!” Ha!

So, I called my husband right up at work and said, “Guess what your son just said!” Now, whenever my husband gives that response it’s, “Because Mommy said so!” Gotta love it!

One Year Ago Today…

One year ago today we opened our home and our hearts to a little man who has forever changed our world. Our Buddy came in with his bright blue eyes, long eye lashes and a head full of blonde curls. He immediately got out some toys and quietly began to play. We were smitten immediately.

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I didn’t think that I could ever foster again after the pain of losing a previous foster baby. Yet my heart longed for a child so badly that I was willing to risk the pain one last time. I’m so glad that we did. Buddy had already spent six months in the system with another family in another county, so he was half way through his year. We have had some rough moments, but there have been plenty of good and I know that it’s a combination of his past and just being three years old. Now, in 10 days we go back to court and hopefully bio-mom will sign the surrender and he will forever be ours.

I love you Buddy, and even though I think of you as my son already, I can’t wait for the day when it’s official and we can celebrate your adoption! Happy One Year Buddy!

My Love Has Attitude

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I was warned about the “three’s.” My friend said, “They are sooo much worse than the two’s, didn’t I tell you!” Buddy is all attitude! Holy cow!

Sometimes the hardest part about being a parent is keeping a straight face. I got this at the dinner table the other night: “PUT-MY-MILK-DOWN-RIGHT HERE!,” said in a very punctuated and matter-of-fact tone. Eye’s blinking, stifling a smirk, I said, “Don’t talk to your Mommy like that young man!”

Then, after my house was suddenly littered with toys, I told Buddy he needed to clean up and started singing the clean up song. “Don’t sing, don’t sing! I won’t clean up my toys, I don’t know how!” Yes, you do know how. You will clean up or we can give your toys to a little boy who doesn’t have any!

My husband was trying to talk to me about his stressful day. He travels for work and the roads were horrible. “Shhhh Daddy! You need to quiet down, I”m watching TV!” We can turn the TV off if it’s going to be an issue.

Another time, when we were at the grocery store, I let him play some of his games on my phone. “I HATE this game.” OK, then play something else. Again a few minutes later, “I HATE this game!” No problem, and the phone went back into my pocket much to his chagrin.

Of course there are plenty of sweet moments. The other day we went upstairs to use the bathroom. While I was washing my hands I heard a crinkling of a package. “What are you doing?,” I asked. “I have picnic Daddy’s snacks on your bed!”

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Then there was another day where he had my leopard-print snuggie wrapped around him. “Oooooo, I’m a scary ghost! Ooooo!” How can you not eat that kid up?!

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Anyway, despite the attitude (I’m really hoping it’s a phase), I love both of the men in my life with all my heart and am so grateful to have them as my Valentine’s.

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The Waiting Game

I so wish you could see the expression on his face! This boy has swagger!

I so wish you could see the expression on his face! This boy has swagger!

Our TPR court date was postponed again. We don’t know why this time. The caseworker just got an email saying that the date was pushed back to March.

At our last home visit, she also told us that, even if bio-mom relinquished her rights, the adoption probably wouldn’t be finalized until around November (so much for my hope of summer). I figured it would happen right away. So much for what I know. I guess I can always keep my fingers crossed for a really efficient adoption caseworker.

I don’t know about other people, but my earliest memories in life are from when I was three years old. So, with Buddy turning 3, I just want all this to be over for him. I want him to have happy memories. I don’t want him to remember jail visits and having anxiety from different workers coming to the house. I just want him to be “our” kid and not a “foster” kid.

We also found out that bio-mom’s felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors and her sentencing is running concurrently, so she won’t get more time. What that teaches her; I don’t know. It made me sick to my stomach, but it is what it is.

The most ironic thing has been the visits. I was really upset when this program started, and now he’s only had to go once and we got a different worker! So, things have really worked out in our favor as far as all that stuff is concerned. Which is great! How crazy is it that we have had snow days on 3 separate visits (the program follows the school districts)?! Fingers crossed, the last scheduled visit can be a good bye visit and we’ll be done!

We have a call in to Buddy’s lawyer asking him to persuade bio-mom’s lawyer to go talk to her about relinquishing her rights. The caseworker said that her lawyer is lazy and probably wouldn’t see her until five minutes before court started. Buddy’s lawyer is awesome and said that he’d do whatever he could to help the process, so we’re hoping he has some influence.

So, more waiting until next month.

Super Birthday

ImageLast weekend was a special one for us all. It was Buddy’s 3rd birthday and the first one we’ve gotten to celebrate with him. We decorated the dining room with a big Avengers backdrop. There were Spider-man balloons and a banner that said Happy 3rd Birthday. I made a big 3 and decorated it in red, white and blue. Silver spirals hung from the ceiling with dangling stars.

ImageI made him a shirt with his name and superheroes inside a big 3, with a cape (see pics). I requested that everyone wear a Superhero shirt if they had one to go along with our theme. Buddy always calls me Wonder Woman and I actually found a shirt (with a cape, he, he!) on sale at Walmart. Daddy was Batman (of course, that’s his favorite). My sister outfitted the whole family with super shirts; it was awesome!

ImageBuddy requested green frosting for his cupcakes that he brought to daycare the day before. I decorated them with Spider-man faces and wrappers. They played birthday games and sang to him. We invited some friends to the bounce house and played for a couple of hours. He jumped, ran, maneuvered through obstacles and went down the slide to his heart’s content. Then we all came back to the house for pizza and salad and a chocolate (his request) Avenger’s cake. Still not understanding how presents work exactly, he came into the room singing Jingle Bells thinking that Santa had brought him his birthday gifts. We got him a train set and a play set that’s interchangeable with a workbench, school desk or kitchen. He got lots of super heroes and more. It was a great day.

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A Buddy for Buddy

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In a little over two years (boy it seems longer!), we have gotten calls for 9 foster children and accepted three into our home. Yesterday was the first time we have been asked to foster a girl!

Let’s see… 1. A medically fragile child call during the night but was placed by the time we heard the message. 2. A 12 year old boy we took; which turned out not to be a good fit. 3. A boy who was a run away and truant in school that we declined since we were having enough problems with the current child. 4. A few months later we got a call for a newborn who ended up going with family before even being placed with us. 5. A three month old baby who stayed with us for six months. 6. A baby on respite, but two babies would have been too much. 7. After the baby went back to his parents we got a call for a three year old, but it was just too soon. 8. Our beloved Buddy. 9. The baby girl.

I started to wonder if there was something written in our file saying that we didn’t want girls or something, since we’ve never been asked to take one. We had been out running some errands when I saw that there was a message on my phone. It was Child and Family Services asking if we would take a baby girl for a few weeks. By the time I had called back, someone had already taken her. The worker asked if we were going to take her and I said I would have liked to ask a few question first. No, we most likely wouldn’t have taken her.

I know, that’s what we signed up for, to foster children, whether they stay or not. I don’t know what the circumstances were surrounding this child since someone already said they’d take her, but I think a baby would be too difficult for me to take into my home and then let go, no matter how long.

Today we went to Wendy’s for dinner so Mommy didn’t have to cook. There was another little boy Buddy’s age and he immediately gravitated toward Buddy and they wanted to play instead of eat. As we left, my husband said, “it’s too bad that we’re all strangers, it would be nice to set up a play date. It looked like that little boy could really use a friend.” Buddy chimes in, “Yeah, me too!” To which we both went, “Awwwwwww!!!”

As he gets older, I’m sure he’ll have many more little playmates from school. I’d love for Buddy to have another little brother or sister, but I don’t know how he would feel if we had another child in our home and then they had to go back into foster care. I know I wouldn’t do well.

Photo credit: mikebaird / Foter.com / CC BY

Small Blessings

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Yesterday was our TPR hearing. We were told not to expect much. It would be to just go over paperwork and schedule a date for the trial.

For some reason bio-mom wasn’t brought over from the jail. Then she was given a back-up attorney because hers was away on National Guard Duty. So, then after the paperwork was in order, the judge said bio-mom should be there with her attorney. So she rescheduled for next month.

The judge asked us if we had any questions and I asked if that was the trial date and she said no. It’s basically a re-do. So it seemed like a complete waste of time. One nice thing was that Buddy’s lawyer made a really nice comment to the judge. He said he thinks his client is just where he needs to be for a very long time.

Afterward we talked with the caseworker and she said that she talked to bio-mom on Christmas Eve and she asked her what she should do about the TPR! The caseworker couldn’t come right out and say that she should relinquish her rights, but she told her that they had a really solid case against her. They offered her numerous services and chances and she did nothing. She needed to talk to her lawyer. They offered her lawyer one picture and letter a year if she agreed to give up her rights. Buddy’s lawyer said that he’d do whatever he could to get her to sign them over.

By the time the next court date comes around, bio-mom will have been sentenced for her felony charges as well. That will most likely tack some time onto her June release date.

So, while we’re going nowhere fast and these court dates are always very draining, I felt semi-positive that bio-mom is finally looking out for Buddy’s best interest.

I can’t imagine what it feels like to give up a child. I haven’t wanted to think about that side of things. I wish we could have gotten to know her better so that she could know us better. Unfortunately that was never possible. Maybe jail really has been good for her and she’s had a lot of time to think about the choices she’s made in her life. I hope that, if anything, she will feel good in knowing that she’ll be doing the right thing for Buddy.

Hopefully Feb. 3rd will be a very good day!

Photo credit: symphony of love / Foter.com / CC BY-NC