Friday, May 1, 2009

Time to Say Goodbye....

This will be my final blog on this journey in our foster adopt process. I realize it’s been awhile between postings, but once you read through this, you will understand why…

Some highlights over the last few weeks:

1. We were reported to CPS
2. Oldest child was caught lying, cheating, and making other bad decisions in the course of a 3 day period.
3. Daycare tells Mark that Angel has told another child “Daddy is going to kill Mommy, but it’s a secret….”
4. Flu bug and Pink Eye hits the home…
5. The Tooth Fairy Reluctantly Cometh…

As I had posted before, we had been notified by the county that the children would re-unify with their father. At that point, Dad was pretty much taking them every weekend.

Once we realized reunification was in the cards, we started working with the kids and their therapists and social workers on transition. I would check in weekly or more with the therapists to discuss behavioral issues or things that we suspect the kids might be going through.

Unfortunately, the reunification process was tough...not bad tough, just tough on the kids in general. Bobby was his normal oblivious self and aside from his normal coming home from dad attitude issues that we have to break, was pretty resilient.

Jenna on the other had, became quite a handful. Screaming, kicking, and crying when it was time to come back to our house after a weekend with daddy. This cumulated in a major cry fest on Easter Sunday evening. I’d gone over to pick up the kids, and bring them back to our house. Once we get out of sight of daddy’s house, she’s fine, but it was a whopper!

Monday morning we wake up, and Jenna’s eyes are swollen, I’m thinking from all the crying, and the kids are always tired when they come back.

Monday night, Mark notices some reddish marks around her eyes…even in the sockets. By Tuesday morning, both eyes are blazing. Something is going on, but we’re not sure what. I push around the seemingly bruised area, and she says it doesn’t hurt. We asked her if anything happened this weekend, she said she fell at Daddy’s (which we already knew about). She’s acting totally normal.

So, I take her to school, come to work, and call the public health nurse. I explain that it doesn’t really look like bruising, but something is going on and she needs to be seen. The only appointment in the county is at 10 am (it’s now 9am), and happens to coincide with an appt she has at her school with an orthopedist. So I take the 10am, and call the school and let them know that I will be cancelling her 10am appt, and that I’m taking her to the dr for her eyes.

I arrive at the school about 9:20, and need to GO in order to get her to her appt at 10am. They ask me to wait while they get Jenna. So…I wait, and wait, and wait… After about 10 minutes, I tell the secretary that I need to go or we are going to miss this appt, and then I’ve got to take her to hospital as there were no other clinic appts available today.

The secretary leaves, and about 2 minutes later, the principle comes in and shuts the door. She said they have made a CPS report, and that they have been told to detain me. I said…ok…so you’re telling me that I cannot take this child to the dr for which you are reporting me to CPS. So I’m going to miss that appt? She said yes…they are sending an investigator over.

At the same time, I’ve told work that I will be gone a max of 2 hrs…laughable at this point….

So…an hour later, I’m still waiting for the paddy wagon to come and haul me off to jail. So I call the social worker we normally work with. She picked right up recognizing my cell number. She asked how I was doing and if I was ‘scared’. Scared of losing my job I replied. We’ve done nothing wrong, nor do I believe this is an abuse issue, and I’ve missed about 4 days of work in the last 2 weeks, and it sounds like this is going to be another one. My company has been more than flexible, but I need to know when this person is going to be here so I can provide information to my employer.

With that said, she made a call, and 5 minutes later the investigator assigned to the case called me back. She said that she was over at the elementary school interviewing the oldest child to see if she knew of any incident over the weekend, blah, blah, blah. Then she was going to head over to the day care and talk to the 2 year old, and then come to us. Who does that???? I told her that I’d just like to take her to the hospital at this point, and she can just interview us there, as we’ve been waiting all freaking day (by this time, Jenna has missed lunch and her nap).

The CPS worker agreed, and we headed off to the hospital.

Any walk through the doors of the ER is a minimum of 4 hours, and this visit was no exception. I think we checked in at 11am and checked out at about 8:30pm.

The CPS worker met us there, and actually laughed when she walked into the room. She said it had been described to her that she would be seeing a child that had gone 10 rounds with Rocky Balboa. This was clearly not the case.

Finally, we saw the dr, and did some scans, only to be told that it actually looked more like broken capillaries from her crying so hard, or maybe she smacked the bridge of her nose in the right place. Either way, the dr could find nothing wrong, and we were finally cut loose…There’s 9 hours of my life I’ll never see again….

We were cut lose, only to have to run to Target at 9pm because the oldest child told Mark that it’s Pride day the next day, and she has to wear an orange shirt. Okay…it’s the middle of spring….where am I going to find ORANGE. Thankfully, our Target had an option, and I was able to grab a burger for Jenna at BK, and we headed home to do battle another day.

As a side note. The discoloration around her eyes cleared up immediately, and did not turn colors like normal bruises do. I’m convinced it was broken capillaries.

Later that week, I had to pick up Angel for a dr appt. As I went by to get her, imagine my surprise to see her sitting on a bench on detention at recess. What did she do? She lied…didn’t get a lot of detail out of her, but suffice it to say, the punishment fit the crime…..or so we thought. About a week later, we find out the full extent of her ‘crime’. She’d signed her dad’s signature to a packet at school. Our forgery lessons hadn’t paid off, as the teacher busted her right away. It took a few minutes under the hot lights before she confessed.

I of course was stunned that she’d even think to do that at 7, but I’m so out of touch with kids today, nothing seems to phase me anymore. I of course tell her father, who was going to have them that weekend.

Imagine my surprise when I pick her up on Sunday evening and she asks me why I told daddy. I said because he’s your parent, you’re going to be living with him, and you forged his name. “No I didn’t” she says. Then who’s did you sign, I ask? I signed Mark’s name she replied! I said, What, you think that makes it better???? It’s just as bad…. What a train wreck!

That following week, Mark picks up Angel at daycare on an evening where we happen to have a therapist at the house. When he gets there, the daycare worker took him aside, and said that Angel had made some disturbing comments to another child. The comments that were made:

“Mommy said that Daddy is going to kill Mommy, but it’s a secret, and I’m not supposed to tell”….

Alrighty then…By the time Angel got home from school she was close to hysterical. Even the family therapist was having problems calming her down, so I took her into her room, and sat her on the bed, and got her calmed down. The cat was out of the bag, so she was sure the world was coming to an end….

Knowing what 7 year olds say, and what they mean and hear can be different, I wanted to make sure we got the story straight as this would put the nail in the coffin for the dad if he actually did say that.

I sat her down, and we talked about good secrets and bad secrets. I told her she really needed to tell this secret so that everyone would be safe, blah, blah, blah… To make a long story short, HER daddy didn’t threaten to kill mommy…the Baby Daddy of the baby that mommy is pregnant with threatened to kill her. And I guess mom felt that was okay to share with her 7 year old….

In any event, we’d been informed that Baby Daddy was abusive and mom wasn’t supposed to be around him. I immediately called the social worker and reported it. She calls Mom who denies it all. I also called the therapist of the child and let her know about the comment so that perhaps she could probe further or help her work it through any issues. At that point the issue is dropped on our end.

The following week, I’m having a follow-up conversation with the therapist as we are getting closer to reunification. Somehow we got on the topic of the threat, and the therapist tells me she got a slightly different story. Without divulging privilege she mentioned that it had to do with Angel seeing her mommy kiss the guy. I told the therapist, ‘So…you’re saying that Angel actually saw her mommy and this guy kiss?’ The therapist says yes…. I then told the therapist that I believe she needed to report that to the SW as I believe that was a condition of her visitation. That she not to be around the guy, nor could the guy be around the kids. The therapist did the heavy sigh thing and said oh dear… I told her that it’s her call, but I’m 90% sure it’s a violation. 2 days later, we hear that mom left re-hab and has been thrown out of the homeless shelter…

Because Angel was having such a traumatic week, she got to spend a little extra time with dad so he could probe some of her issues. When we went to drop off her siblings she had the beginnings of a raging case of pink eye. We had some drops, but they weren’t working with that strain. We picked the kids up on Sunday, and all had slight temperatures. By Monday, the flu hit full force; we had to pick both Bobby and Angel up at school. This happened to be the last week we were having the kids, and I knew they weren’t going to be able to go to school the next day. I had also already scheduled a half day off on Wed to take Angel in for her eye, and half day off on Friday as the kids had MAJOR dental appts.

Luckily, our wonderful neighbors had a referral to a college student who was able to come to the house on Tuesday and watch the kids. On Tuesday night the dad calls to check up on the kids. I give him an update, and he casually mentions that maybe on Friday he’ll try and pick them up early at daycare so he can spend more time with them. Not thinking I heard him right, I said what? He said it again….I said you do realize that you committed a MONTH AGO to go to the dentist with me and the kids as they are all having MAJOR dental work done…teeth pulled, cavities filled, etc. I told him if he can’t come, then I need to cancel the appts, cuz I can’t do all 3 at once with just me. He did some major backpedaling and said he’d figure something out.
Thankfully, he called me about 10 minutes later, and said that he’d gotten the day off, and that he’d meet me there. He was there promptly on time, and even brought the kids grandma with him. It worked out well, as he went in with each child while the grandma and I waited with the other 2. After all were drilled and pulled, we drove the kids back to dads and got them unloaded.

It was somewhat emotional but the kids were oblivious to what was going on…and what they were going to be living in. The place is just a horrible apt complex. The dad isn’t happy with it either, but it’s what he can afford.

The plan was for dad to keep them for the weekend, take them to school on Monday and then head to court for the final hearing. I had made up a book for him that included their schedules for when they wake up, go to sleep, take a bath, etc… Basically everything that we figured out worked for us. Our hope was that would make it an easier transition.

Mark was able to attend the custody hearing and to his surprise, got called in front of the judge. The judge asked him some questions, and then told him that he’d never seen such glowing reports of foster parents, and he thanked us over and over. In addition, the attorney for the children stood up and asked that we continue to have any visitation that we’d like. The dad’s attorney also re-iterated that point. We would like to continue to see the children, however they have to work now on building their own family dynamic, so time is needed on both sides I think…

As I mentioned before, I provided Dad with a book that included schedules for the kids. Sometimes, people need to learn on their own….On Tuesday, I begin to get text mssgs from the dad. Apparently, the county hadn’t worked out all the daycare issues, he was told by one of the providers if they didn’t have the contract by 6pm Tuesday night, he couldn’t bring the kids on Wednesday. This ticked me off somewhat as I’d actually outlined this exact scenario in the booklet I made up for him…because it happened to me. The county will be all nice, and everything is okay, etc…but it’s the PROVIDER he needs to check with to make sure all is well. And of course, he didn’t. In any event, his SW was on vacation, so I inundated him with phone numbers and contact people. Finally at 4:30pm he sent me a text with a big thank you and said that it was taken care of…

On Wednesday, Mark was a bit late for work, so drove by the school at about 8:15. Imagine his surprise when he sees Angel pulling up with Grandma. Her school starts at 7:45, so she was at least ½ hr late. Obviously, they weren’t following the schedule. That seemed to not last long, as the next day, I left for work at about 6:40, and I saw grandma unloading her for daycare. Looked like they were back on schedule!

Dad was still texting asking questions and such which was fine. He was getting frustrated as he makes $100 too much per month for food stamps. I pointed him to the food bank, and they will be able to assist him to a certain extent. So sad…

In any event, on Sunday, we packed up the rest of their cloths and got ready to go. Then we decided to do a pantry/freezer purge of our own, and packed up any extra stuff it looked like we had. We also did a stop at Costco and got some pantry staples, eggs, etc. Hopefully, this will help them out for awhile.

We then got to their appt to unload. After getting a contact high walking up the stairs with the boxes (someone downstairs was toking), we got to see the kids. It was really sad, as they were all in mis-matched clothes, runny noses, etc. We’d feel so much better if they were in a better place….not better than us, just better than where they are now…it was tragic…

I also had a photo album for the kids of all the pics we’d taken since we had them (the same that are on the slide show), and they were excited about that. They gave us big hugs, and we said goodbye again. Their dad was very grateful for everything, and we pray that he is up for this challenge.

I did find out that the schools hadn’t been notified of the change in responsibility yet. I gave them his contact info, so they were going to contact him. What’s intuitive to ‘normal’ folks, just isn’t intuitive to him. He needs to be ‘taught’ that it’s his responsibility to make sure his children’s schools know his contact info, etc. It’s just sad in general.

Mark and I drove home on Sunday somewhat depressed. Things did not turn out the way we expected, but we think they turned out the way God intended. Maybe our role was to make sure they were able to stay together for the 18 months that they were in Foster Care…..we don’t know. What we do know, is we did the absolute best we could to give them a foundation for a healthy, happy life. We hope they remember what we taught them, but know that their challenges will be huge. We pray each day that they are all able to weather the coming months, and develop into productive members of society.

What we will take away most from each child:

Angel: The huge smile on her face when she saw and tasted her first hot fudge sundae.
Jenna: Asking me if she can help me make dinner and empty the dishwasher (this from a child who they initially told us was non-communicative and would need to learn sign language. Also, showing me her dance moves, after her first dance class and kicking her soccer ball like a pro…
Bobby: Getting up in the morning, and after Mark had him all dressed and ready, running down the hall with his arms wide open yelling Mommy!!!!

These are the things we will miss the most. Mark and I are going to take some time off, and decide later what the future brings to us.

To all of our friends and family who have helped us on this journey, we are truly blessed to have you in our lives. We count our blessing everyday that we are surrounded by such wonderful people. Please keep their children and their family in your prayers. They will always be in our hearts as well as they journey through life. If nothing else, we hope we made a difference for them…

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: The Kids
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Shannon said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again. You and your husband are truly amazing. You did do something wonderful. You gave these children a little stability in their obvious unstable lives.

Anonymous said...

I've been following your story from the beginning and I wanted to share with you a bit of my own childhood in hopes that it will bring some hope and peace from your situation.

I was placed in foster care for a few months with my siblings when I was 10, my sister 4 and by brother 1. Our foster parents were amazing. We came from poverty and a drug/alcohol addicted home. My dad cleaned up and was able to get us back. He provided a stable loving home after foster care and remains clean today. I went on to graduate valedictorian, get a full ride to college and now have a an amazing job that pays enough so my husband can stay home with the kids.

My foster parents taught me what a family was supposed to be like--a regular schedule, responsibilities, expectations, eating well, spending time together as a family. I credit my foster parents for teaching me to set expectations for my parents. My entire family benefited because of our foster home experience. I hope those children take the same thing away from their experience.

Stefanie K. said...

Amazing. I'm so sure your influence on their lives will be apparent in due time. You guys are just amazing and awesome and wonderful people.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry that it ended the way it did...I was hoping they'd get to stay with you. If anything, know that you and your husband gave them your all. I'm sure the kids will hold on to those memories you made for the rest of your lives. The two of you are trully AMAZING!!