April 24, 2013

Bringing Up Baby

I used to write a blog about our foster care / adoption experience (I started it in 2010).  Here it is below, in its entirety.  You'll want to start at the bottom of the post if you're interested.  Currently, we still have a social worker but we haven't received any phone calls about potential adoptees.  At this point, I am not desperate for another child but I'd definitely take one if he or she needs a good home and some kindness. I'm pretty sure that we can handle that.   I am beginning to think that it's unlikely that we'll ever receive a phone call and that's okay.  I signed us up for fostering / adoption because of a Wendy's placemat that I saw three years ago that said that CAS needed people desperately.  Dave Thomas founded a foundation (awkward phrase) called the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and after learning about it, that's why we signed up.

Here's the blog.  Reminder -- scroll down and read from the entry called "Hello World".

A False Accusation!

In adoptionfoster carefoster parent on May 19, 2011 at 1:00 PM
So – I’m getting those questions again, things like:  ”What’s going on?” and “Any news?” and “What’s happening with the fostering?”.  Right now, it’s a whole lot of nothing.  We are currently waiting for M to write up our family story / personal history.  I will have an opportunity to read and edit (yes!) it before it is written IN STONE. I enjoy editing. I am a picky editor, as most are, and it will be interesting to see just how much I enjoy editing my own life story. I predict that it will be painful.  I am really not looking forward to reading it. I’m sure that I am going to sound like an inept freakshow with multiple issues. Thankfully, I don’t have multiple personalities so that’s a boon.
Richard’s personal history is ridiculously “normal” and straightforward and so it’s me that is giving M the hard times, and not him.  Richard’s only flag is the year he taught in Korea in the mid-90′s.  He enjoyed the experience, as much as you can enjoy an unheated apartment, an American roommate with a predilection for ladies of the night and a completely dodgy working environment (ice cold classroom, small and ugly). M wanted Richard to produce a police record check from Busan.  We were both stumped as to how he might obtain this.  I told him to brush up on his Korean, call the Busan cops and ask them to send him anything relevant in the mail. Eventually M decided that she would write that we were “working on it” in the file. I am hoping that this is one of those things that will slip through the cracks, of which there seem to be many.  A funny sidenote: when M asked Richard about the Korean teaching experience, Richard relayed a very funny tale which involved dubious immigration authorities and him hiding out in a school supply closet.  We laughed.   I also thought that Richard should disclose the details of  his solo Macarena performance for upwards of a thousand screaming Korean youth, but he was not forthcoming. I think M would have enjoyed that.
Nathaniel has also been asking me a lot of questions about when we might expect to receive a phone call “about our new baby”.  Every few days, he asks again. Gwen has either forgotten that she might be getting a little sister or doesn’t really care. I’m beginning to wonder myself.
I should also tell you a bit about Gwen’s interview with M because it’s funny.  The phrase “kids say the darndest things” drives me somewhat batty, but in this case it definitely applies.  Gwen is actually too young to be interviewed but she knew that Nathaniel was having an interview and if it’s good enough for big brother, it’s good enough for Gwenzilla.  We had the option of remaining for the kids’ portion of the interview or leaving the room.  We opted to hide out in the kitchen and eavesdrop.  Sample questions:
M:  What do you like to do?”
Kids:  ”Play Lego.  Play. Kick my sister. Beat each other up!” (I’m not kidding; they actually said this!)
M:  ”What else?”
Kids: “Read, listen to books on cd, play outside, play with Jude” etc
M: (getting right into it):  ”Do you ever get in trouble?”
M:  ”What happens?”
Kids:  ”We get grounded.  They yell.  They get really mad.”
M:  ”Do they ever hit you?”
Nathaniel: “No”
Gwen: “Yes, my Daddy does.”  (choking sounds from kitchen)
Nathaniel:  "Gwen, you liar!!!!!!”
Gwen:  "Well, sometimes people hit me.”
At this point, I had poked my head around the corner and was shaking it in a crazed manner and mouthing the words “NO!” and “NEVER!!”  M saw me doing this and waved me away and mouthed “I know”.  Poor Richard, I’m sure he was appalled and confused.  If anyone is going to take a whack at the kiddies, it would be me.  Not that I do, of course.  M said that she could tell by the way that the kids interact with us and with her, that they are happy and well-adjusted and “not to worry”.  I think Richard felt somewhat violated.  Poor guy.
I just now asked him how he felt when Gwen said this, and of course, I laughed like a crazy woman because that’s the kind of wife I am and R looked a bit tired and said: “I could’ve predicted that”.  Not sure if he was talking about my reaction or Gwen’s words.

It’s Been Real, M

In adoptionfoster carefostering on April 20, 2011 at 10:36 AM
The home visits are officially over. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was relieved.  M showed up 20 minutes early yesterday, and of course caught me doing last minute tidying – “tidying” being a gross understatement.  I answered the door with a bag of poopy cat litter at my feet, right beside the shoe mat and two fluorescent pink rubber bunnies in my hand.  Who answers the door with pink rubber bunnies in their hand? If she had questions about my sanity before, she won’t now. When she came to the dining room table, the hand vacuum was plugged in and on the floor but at least the plug wasn’t dangling from the outlet this time!
Three o’clock was the appointed hour for our marital interview. Ick. Sample questions:
  • Richard, please describe your feelings about Christine
  • How often are you intimate? (seriously!)
  • Is there anything you would like to change in your relationship?
  • What do you like about being a parent? What do you dislike? et cetera.
Me, squirming in my chair:  ”Is this going to be in our file? Are people going to read this?”  I think you already know the answer.  M said that everything that we had discussed (my colourful history) would be written up by her in our home study report.  We would have the opportunity to read it and make additions and deletions (HeyI don’t remember saying that Richard was an animal in the sack!).  I’m really looking forward to reading THAT report.  The report will be read by all Social Workers who are thinking of placing a child in our home.  She said that our file will go to many SW’s who will start looking for a child under their care who will fit with our family.  M’s words: “they’ll have their favourites” and “families will get scooped up quickly – oh, the Brouwer family’s gone!”. Does this mean that she thinks we will be a favourite?  This is better than the alternative: “Those Brouwers are wack!”.
Of course, no interaction with CAS would be complete without the ubiquitous forms.  Today’s was a Records Release from the kids’ school.  I volunteer there at least once a week.  I also had to fill out another release for some counseling that I had after we had been burgled the second time (you’d need counseling too if the perp stole your jewellery and dirty underwear).  Other minor things we had to produce:
  • statements of liability from the home and auto insurance
  • a copy of our floor plan – I don’t think she liked my drawing. She said it was too busy. I politely disagreed. I like details!
  • a fire extinguisher
  • posted list of emergency contacts. This had to be very thorough: parents on both sides, neighbours, CAS, police + 911, Richard’s work
  • more labeled photos: us in Banff; Oma and Opa and the kiddies; my Mom, Gwen and I at her place last Easter; Gramps driving the Morris Minor, me with my new haircut; us on a camping trip at the Pinery. All of these photos show happy, smiling people – “good” people. When I look at the pictures of myself, I think that the woman in the pictures could not possibly be the same woman whose history is transcribed in our file.
After I had produced the above items, we moved on to discussing our matching form.  Its official name is Matching Form – Family Registrations.  Section A is just personal information about us, the applicants. Things like DOB, race and ethnicity.  Section B is Applicant Competency Levels or Acceptable Risks, which you have to rate on a scale of 1 to 5.   1 is very low competence, 3 is some competence (you’ll get a phone call asking if you want more information about the child) and 5 means that you’re very competent.  This is a list (and it’s by no means exhaustive) of some of the things that we had to rate:
  • conceived through sexual assault
  • unknown birth father
  • low birth weight
  • little / no prenatal care
  • HIV, hepatitis, cerebral palsy, Down’s
  • drug and alcohol exposures, short life expectancy, heart defect
  • depression, schizephrenia
  • autism, attachment disorders
  • developmental disabilities, sensory issues, learning issues (my personal favourite – “gifted” – I rated that a 5; bring on Einstein!)
  • special needs
  • every form of abuse you can think of
And the list goes on…
M said that we did a “good job” of filling out the form – like she’d say we did a “bad” job! Richard and I had both agreed that we really want to know who the child’s birth mother is and be provided with her medical history, if at all possible.  Knowing if there is a possibility of the child being affected by FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome) is vital, as is knowing the frequency of the mother’s prenatal drug use.  We were honest and we were also willing to look at quite a few less favourable situations (e.g: abuse, neglect, unknown birth father, mild drug and alcohol use etc).  Now we just have to wait for our home study to be written up and then wait for a phone call. M said that you can say no as many times as you like and that it will not affect future phone calls, which is good news.  As ridiculous as it sounds, I now feel like I have to say no to the first call!  I talked to a neighbour yesterday who has a friend (childless couple) who are waiting for a placement. They have only received one phone call, they said no and it’s been a year! She did say that they were very selective (meaning that they want something tidy) and that might be why they are not getting calls. I have talked to two friends of mine who went through this and they both said that they had to revise their matching form to get more calls.
As this was the last visit with M, I told her that I’d miss her and that she’d begun to grow on me (like a fungus?). She thought this was hilarious. We will still be in contact because she has to write up our report and then provide us with a hard copy.  Can’t wait to read that…

Return to Sender and a Fire Plan

In adoptionfoster carefostering on April 18, 2011 at 10:55 AM
I had a phone call today from D, my psychotherapist, whom I love dearly. She has been asked by CAS to write a reference letter stating that I am “not a… [slight pause] ” – “psychopath”.  I laughed and told her that I hoped that she would verify this in her letter.  She told me that she had only had one other client who had gone the FP route.  I wasn’t really surprised by this.  People in therapy probably figure that their fucked-up-ness might rub off.
I have been having worries recently about the child that will be placed in our home and how we will adapt.  Some days I think I must be nuts. I have two happy, healthy kids and we live a relatively worry-free existence.  Enter new child.  How will I know if the child that is placed with us is the “right fit”? What if I meet her and my heart sinks? Could this happen? It gives me stress.  Will I grow to love her? Will she be quirky and cute?  Maybe she’ll be cute and terrible.  Will she have hair? What if she is totally fucked up? What if my own kids are totally fucked up?
We also have another home visit tomorrow during which we will be discussing the dreaded matching form.  I had a fair bit of guilt filling this out. I do not want a child with fetal alcohol syndrome, cerebral palsy or AIDS. I will not welcome a child who harms animals into my home (sociopath in the making).  No schizophrenics, drug addicts, products of incest or Spina Bifidas need apply.  Ugh. I feel like a bad person.
I may be posting a bit more frequently lately because of the weekly home visits and because there is a lot to do right now. Yesterday I emailed several things to M that she needed to continue with our file – plans of the house and fire safety.  The floor plan had to include all three levels with windows and escape routes clearly marked. I love preparing for the worst.
Writing up the fire plan  was not without stress. Nathaniel is worried that our house is going to burn to the ground.  I blame the firefighter at the Safety Village.  I am constantly having to reassure Nathaniel that our house is safe and that our fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order… like the constant shrieking of the blasted alarm when I
burn things cook, isn’t enough to provide assurance.
Our fire plan assumes that when our house is ON FIRE that I will be sentient enough to alert Richard, grab the kiddies and make a mad dash through the front door to oxygen and cool night air. Of course the more likely scenario is that the house will be a blisteringly hot inferno of pernicious flame, requiring a “Plan B”.  Should there be a more aggressive fire, we will have to clamber onto the pergola-like structure / balcony that leads off our master bedroom and jump to the lawn below. Ouch. I told the social worker that my fire plan was to throw the kids off the balcony (“they’re resilient!”) and that a broken leg or mild concussion was better than a stay at the Shriners’ burn unit.  M smiled tightly. I think she thought I was kidding.
So the fire plan has been written and hey, I will cut and paste it here, because I’m like that 
If it seems ridiculous, so be it. My notes in  (bracketed italics) are not part of the fire plan proper.  I couldn’t figure out how to get the font the right size; I think its because I wrote the plan in Open Office. Sorry bout that.
Fire Plan
Smoke alarm goes off – stop, think, act.  (WTF? Is that the alarm?) Do not panic. (Jesus help me) Parents to go to children’s rooms to wake and assist them
(hysterical screaming: “GET UP!” while dragging them out of the fartsack).  
Alternate scenario: kids are to stay calm (stop hitting your sister! – our house is on fire!) and make their way to parents’ room (more screaming and crying for sure. Nathaniel: “can I get my Lego fighter?” Gwen: “where’s Veenie?”).
We will make our way out together, through the nearest exit (I don’t care if you don’t want to go out the window!) and not open any doors other than the ones we need to escape through.  If a door feels hot, we will NOT open it (like we ever close doors in this place – if the door was closed, you wouldn’t hear the wretched alarm!).  If the fire is fierce or we cannot use the stairs for any reason (ooh, HOT inferno from Satan blocking the way), we will use our backup escape which is the balcony off the master bedroom (this is where the hurling the children to the ground happens – this might hurt a bit).  
Meet at the big tree near the road (whaddya mean you’re cold, you wanna go back inside and warm up?). Call 911 from a neighbour’s house.  DO NOT GO BACK TO THE HOUSE for any reason until the Fire Department tells you it is safe to return (not tonight, lady)

Spring has sprung!

In adoptionfoster carefosteringUncategorized on April 12, 2011 at 2:00 PM
For my Dad, who used to recite this with glee every Spring:
“Spring has sprung; the grass has riz,
I wonder where the boidy is? (pronounced boy-dee, meaning bird)
The little boid is on the wing – but that’s absurd!
Because the wing is on the bird!”
I am loving the crocuses, snowdrops and scilla that have begun to dot most of the lawns in the Willage (my code for Wortley Village).  The previous homeowner apparently did not have a love for spring bulbs, so I am extra-glad that I mass-planted tulips in the front bed. I can’t wait for them to emerge! I planted four pots of pansies on the weekend and that certainly helps to freshen up the landscape.
Last week, we had our first visit with M, our social worker. I was somewhat apprehensive because I didn’t know what to expect, but she is a lovely and kindhearted lady so there wasn’t really anything to worry about once we sat down with her. Of course, there was MORE paperwork to fill out.  Jeez.  Will it ever end? She took a tour of our house and commented on a LOT of things.  She certainly knows how to cover her bases in the safety department.  When M came in, I invited her to sit down at the dining table and to my horror, I had left an extension cord dangling from the outlet and worse, it was HALF IN and HALF OUT of the socket! Mom of the Year! Duh! That’s what you get for the last-minute cleaning frenzy, trying to impress the foster parent police. Although I was inwardly cringing, we did laugh about that and she wasn’t outwardly appalled, although I am sure it was a first for her.
Other safety concerns that we will have to deal with at some point:
  • Putting away (hiding)the knife block.  I don’t know about you but I use my knives and therefore the knife block many times in an average day. I like to cook and I’m always chopping up fruits and veggies. The block must be tucked away in a cupboard.
  • Scissors. Are you kidding me? My kids have been scissoring up a storm since they were two. And forget about those crappy kid scissors – they suck. You couldn’t cut a wet noodle with those!  I have scissors in my kitchen on the counter in a cup, in Gwen’s arts and crafts station, on my dining room table, in the laundry area and as I write this, I can see six pairs of scissors on my desk (chucked there after a mad cleaning dash yesterday!)
  • The dreaded baby gate.  Can I tell you how much I hate baby gates? Stupid plastic waste of cash. In our old house, we didn’t even have a baby gate (ssshhhhhhhhh). Our staircase was a steep and ornate, handcarved antique that I was not about to ruin.  I taught the kids to go up and down the stairs as soon as they could walk. By two, they were managing fine on their own. That’s what a railing is for, people.
  • Outlet plugs. Something else that I didn’t ever use.
  • Lock on the basement door. See above. Of more concern to me is the homemade cat door, lovingly fashioned by the previous owners. Gwen got her head stuck in it one day, which caused Richard and I to laugh hysterically as she screamed like a maniac. We couldn’t help ourselves – it was ridiculous. She didn’t stick her head back in it again. Now that’s what I call learnin’!
  • Fire extinguisher – need to get one of these pronto. Richard started a grease fire not too long ago and that would have come in handy. He smothered the last fire with a pot lid, for those who need to know.
  • Gas fireplaces. I’m not going to lie. These get hot.  Really hot.  Gwen burned her butt on the one in our bedroom because she was nudie and was standing too close to it. I warned her.  Again, lesson learned.
  • Water temperature must be set to 49 degrees so no one gets scalded.  Check!
There are many additional details that must be covered; however, I am not going to bore you with the details. Think car seat safety, water safety, poison awareness and safe storage of medication. Whew!
M’s visit yesterday was quite lengthy.  I gave her our family pictures, which I had to label with names and relationship details (e.g: Hannah, niece on Richard’s side, age 13).  Adoption workers will be looking at these when they are deciding whether we might be a good fit for a child. I also had to hand in all my Pride Training Homework – all 8 weeks of it. It sounds much worse than it actually is. Each sheet of homework didn’t take much longer than 10 minutes to do.  And there are no wrong answers!  M will review the homework at her convenience and she might address some of it, but might not. Sample questions:
  • draw a family tree and comment on the relationships (if you like, you didn’t have to comment at all if you didn’t want to).
  • how do you feel that you are qualified to be a foster parent
  • write down the various losses that you have experienced in your life
The homework was usually quite introspective and it also made me think a lot about what it would be like to be a foster child.
The bulk of yesterday’s visit was my personal interview. It was just under two hours of questions that made me squirm, cry, laugh, get angry and occasionally  feel judged. Let me rephrase that, I did not think that M was judging me, but I did think that someone in that giant monolith that is CAS would be doing so in the not-so-distant future. For those of you who do not know my long and colourful history, let’s just say that I have experienced a lot in my 41 years.  M eventually cut the interview off because she had to leave but she said that her supervisor will probably have additional questions for me which I can answer next week.  She ended our visit by thanking me for my honesty and commending me for applying to be a foster parent. She said that if people are not forthcoming about their own experiences, that CAS always finds out about the baggage anyway, whether it’s through a reference or some other source.  She reassured me and said that she is happy that people like me apply to be foster parents. She also said a bunch of other nice things to me that made me feel like I was doing the right thing and that she understood me.  I had a little cry and she teared up a bit too, which made me like her a lot. At the end of the visit, I was emotionally drained; I felt like I had just related my personal history to a new therapist. I slept really well last night. I attribute it to exhaustion and before-bed rug hooking with a glass of Cab.

News, a Recipe and a Poem

In adoptionfoster carefostering on March 30, 2011 at 1:51 PM
So… what’s going on?
I have been asked this question a lot lately!  I’ll be honest – it’s not my favourite question and the answer, until yesterday, was “nothing”; however, we have some news which I will share with you in a few paragraphs.  It seems as though the tortoise-like pace of the process has suddenly begun to speed up. Hallelujah!
We attended a potluck panel at Children’s Aid in early March and listened to social workers, adult adoptees, children in care, and adoptive and foster parents speak about their experiences.  It was very emotional for me – both painful and joyful. Why did I sit in the front row? Damn my keenness! Every time I started to feel the tears well up in my eyes, I looked down and pretended to take notes.  At the end of the session we had an opportunity to ask questions, and one of the other foster parents-in-training asked one of the teenagers in care what we could do to make transitioning into a new home easier for them [the children].  The boy responded with:  ”Don’t make the kids do anything they don’t want to do (everyone laughed at this), “like go to your family reunion, for instance” – more laughs.  Then he became more serious and said “when they come home from school, ask them how their day was”.  This made me so sad and even makes me cry as I write it down. I think it’s because it’s so simple and basic and the last thing I expected to hear. Presumably, there are people who don’t ask and don’t care how their kid’s day was. It just boggles my mind.  I ask my children constantly about how their day was and try to get ANY information about it because I am genuinely interested and want to know about EVERYTHING:  the tests, the circle time, their friends, what they do at recess, how their lunch was et cetera. I must drive them nuts, I am so interested.  They of course, are oblivious to my desire to know about their day and just want a snack and to flake out.  So… the panel was informative and was my favourite part of training.
One of our friends brought a really delicious, simple and nutritious salad to the potluck and I have been making it and eating it like crazy! It’s a Napa cabbage salad and here’s the recipe:
Napa Salad
Dressing:  Combine 1/4 cup olive oil a couple of tbsp of rice / cider vinegar, 2 tsp ofsugar / honey, and half a package of the seasoning mix from a pkg of Ramen / Mr. Noodles. I also like sesame oil, so sometimes I use less olive oil and throw in somesesame oil too.
Salad ingredients:  sliced Napa cabbagetoasted almonds (sliced or slivers – to toast them, I do a ton at once, and throw them in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until they brown lightly or you could put them on a cookie sheet at 375 for about 5 -8 mins), sliced green onions, chopped Italian parsley and uncooked, crumbled Mr. Noodles / Ramen for crunch.  I have also added raw spinach to make it uber-healthy and I think I will add some chopped red pepper next time.
Back to the fostering bits now. Back in Jan., we received a letter from a social worker with some more forms to fill out – shocking, I know.  There is no shortage of paperwork to complete when one decides to become a foster parent.  Richard and I both had to have physicals and then have our Doctor fill out the medical histories. Richard’s doctor had died recently of bladder cancer and so he needed a new doctor.   We decided to try to get him in with my doc, who is a sweet, smart and hardworking lady. He had a “meet-and-greet” with Dr. B, she agreed to take him on, and now all four of us are at the same practice, thank goodness!  She filled out our forms (free of charge, no less!) and said that we would make great foster parents, which I will admit, did put a smile on my face.
About a month ago, I asked my references if they had received their forms yet, but not one of them had been contacted, even though I had submitted the paperwork in the fall. I was somewhat surprised by the pokey speed of the agency. I thought that with such a dire need for foster parents, our caseworker might be more on the ball!  I decided that I would call her and make some inquiries as to what we can expect over the next couple of months.  I left a message and she got back to me the next day.   She said that she had left a message on our answering machine, several weeks prior, stating that I would require two additional references, as I had some overlap with Richard (we put down the same couples as mutual friends and I didn’t know that we couldn’t do this).  We did NOT get this purported message. I would remember this information! Anyhow, stupidity / lack of communication / confoundedness aside, she emailed me right away with new forms, which I filled out that day and popped into the mailbox that evening.
All of our reference letters have now been received by our friends and family and I am assuming that they have been returned, as the social worker emailed me yesterday, wanting to set up our home visits.  In her first letter to us, she said that she wouldn’t start the home visits until our medicals, references and other snoring paperwork (my words, obviously) had been completed. OMG — does this mean I am footloose and form-free now? Doubt it.
Our first home visit is next Tuesday evening. M will be conducting a safety check of the home.  Ugh.  All I know about this is that I must produce a locked box that contains all of our drugs and medication (e.g.: pot, lsd, ecstasy etc.). Nyuk, nyuk.  I don’t even have aspirin in the house, so it’s going to be a light box.  I guess I’ll shove my beloved pot of Vicks (I love sniffing that stuff when I have a cold) and a greasy tube of Polysporin inside it. Oh and I mustn’t forget that we do have an inhaler or two.
I am certain that M will also be checking up on the cleanliness (dirtiness?) of our abode.  I hope she doesn’t have anything against dust bunnies.  I’ll update once the first visit has been completed.
Lastly, some of you know that I write bad poetry / poetry rather badly. I have great news – one of my superbad children’s poems has been selected to grace the LTC buses, beginning next month!  I am THRILLED! April is poetry month and so here is my winning poem.

Jug Band

A washing board, a red kazoo, a stick, a rusty fence.
I’m gonna start a jug band and I need some instruments.
Young Sam will strum the banjo and Griz will blow the jug.
We’ll brighten up midwinter and we’ll jam upon the rug.
The hound will slide his waggy tail down Grammy’s washing board.
And on the comb, we’ll have Sweet Bess while baby’s on the gourd.
We’ll whistle, shake and pop our joints, We’ll hustle and we’ll move.
We’ll boogie on the table and we’ll show the house our groove.
This shack will shake its windowpanes and grind its hardwood floor.
The stairs will flex their risers while the chimney gives a roar.
When Dad comes home, he’s sure to grump. He’ll howl: “YOU’D BEST BE QUIET!”
But we will pound our instruments and raise a jug-band riot.

No More Childless Lunches…

In Uncategorized on February 18, 2011 at 8:43 AM
Our Saturday series of training in January is over and it really flew by.  I’m a little surprised that there was no exam, test or oral presentation.  Shouldn’t we have to prove our “worthiness” somehow?
I never found the training to be dull; the trainers managed to liven things up with questionnaires, the ever-popular “groupwork” and even a game of Bingo.  Have you ever had a bingo card with the words “police”, “sexual abuse” or “bruises” on it?  I’m not kidding.  There were also positive phrases on the cards too and I should back up and say that police presence isn’t always negative (that’s for all my police officer friends out there!)
Every Saturday at lunch, Richard and I had a mini-date, which was great.  I love dining out with the hubs, sans enfants. It’s a nice break.  We noshed on Thai, diner fare, subs and Mexican (if you can call Taco Bell “Mexican”! We went there at Richard’s insistence as it is his favourite fast food). Good times.  The trainers also always had goodies – usually chocolate – for us after lunch. I guess they assumed that we would all crash and burn in the afternoon.
I’m looking for some clues as to what last week’s training was actually about as it was over a week-and-a-half ago. There’s something to be said for those organized individuals who rewrite notes immediately after their training so as not to forget the content. I did take notes during the training and as I review my mini-book of chickenscratch, I see that we covered many topics. I’ll start with the statistics, which are always my favourite part of training, as I find them to be very telling:
  • in 2004 – 2007, out of 150 foster with a view/ adoptive placements, only five were “disrupted” (usually meaning that the little one that you have attached to is to be reunited with their birth family.  Mull over that CAS mantra: “It isn’t about what’s best for you, it’s about what is best for the child”.)
  • 75% of toddlers are placed on foster with a view. (part of the agency’s plan of care for very young children – they need forever families!)
  • In 99% of the cases in care, the birth parents do not agree to crown wardship (not surprising, who wants to admit that they have failed as a parent?)
We also spent quite a lengthy amount of time on false allegations (being accused of  sexual or physical abuse by your charge).  I personally feel that we spent too much time on this as false allegations happen very infrequently.  I think that if you use your common sense and not put yourself into situations that could be misinterpreted, you should be just fine.  The example they used in class was of a man being asked by his 10 year-old foster daughter to apply cream to her genitals.  Well DUH! Tell her to put it on herself!  The dumbass actually did apply the cream, according to CAS, and the girl reported him. Sorry if this makes you uncomfortable, people. Just reporting the facts.
We also talked about areas to explore and ask questions about before placement or possible adoption:
  • physical and emotional health of the child (Do you want to raise a child with cystic fibrosis? or the child of a schizophrenic?)
  • abuse / neglect and placement history
  • attachment with birth parents, other family members, significant others (Are you ready to meet with the birth family every Christmas and birthday? To comfort and support a grieving 3 year old who has been taken away from his Mommy?)
  • Legal status, service or permanent plan
Definitely lots to think about.  We are also encouraged to ask for a complete prenatal, social, medical and family history of the child before we commit.  This makes total sense.
In my last entry, I talked about the importance of lifebooks. There are additional “gifts” to give to your child:
  • Pictures of the biological family. Even if a child has spent barely any time with their bio family, they will eventually be curious about their tummy-mummies and Dads.  The social worker can approach the birth family to obtain pictures.  It is vitally important to honour and respect that birth family.
  • Goodbye Visit.  The goodbye visit happens when a child is placed permanently with another family.  If possible, you should try to arrange a video of the “goodbye” visit. Just thinking about this makes me cry!
  • Gotcha Day.  In addition to birthdays, a family can celebrate the day that a child came into the home.
We finished our training by looking forward to the potluck panel in March.  Adoptive and foster parents, adult adoptees, social workers, birth families and medical workers will all be presenting on this evening. I am certain that I will have a lot to share after that session.
I will close with a rather cheesy poem that the trainers shared with us and a reminder to always look for the common bond… the one thing that unites you, that you share.  This can go miles in uniting children and parents.
The poem, We Pray for Children, is by Ina Hughs.

We pray for children who sneak popsicles before supper,
who erase holes in math workbooks, who can never find their shoes.

And we pray for those who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
who never “counted potatoes,”
who are born in places where we wouldn’t be caught dead,
who never go to the circus, who live in an x-rated world.

We pray for children who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
Who sleep with the cat and bury goldfish,
Who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money,
Who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink,
Who slurp their soup.

And we pray for those who never get dessert,
who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
who watch their parents watch them die,
who can’t find any bread to steal,
who don’t have any rooms to clean up,
whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser, whose monsters are real.

We pray for children who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
who like ghost stories,
who shove dirty clothes under the bed,
and never rinse out the tub,
who get visits from the tooth fairy,
who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone,
whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for those whose nightmares come in the daytime,
who will eat anything,
who have never seen a dentist,
who aren’t spoiled by anybody,
who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep, who live and move but have no being.

We pray for children who want to be carried
and for those who must,
for those we never give up on
and for those who don’t get a second chance.
For those we smother…
and for those who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.
We pray for children, Amen.
I find that these words put a lot into perspective.

Life Books and Time-Ins: Strengthening Family Relationships and Discipline

In adoptionfoster carefostering on February 3, 2011 at 9:24 AM
I have an old green photo album of my Mom’s that is full of black and white photos, most of which were taken in the 60′s.  The majority of the pictures are of my Mom and my Dad before they had kids. There are pictures of them at the beach, on a picnic, and hanging out at the side of the road smooching.  One of my favourite pictures in the album is the one of “Barf” – my Dad’s funny car.  I didn’t know my parents at this stage in their lives, having not yet been conceived; however, I loved looking at this book when I was a child.  I pored over the pictures and never seemed to tire of this activity.  The pictures fascinated me.
In training this week, we talked about the importance of creating and maintaining “life books”.  Life books are full of photos, clippings and other memorabilia that chronicle a child’s early years and provide glimpses into their history.  Anne, one of the social workers conducting the session, gave us an example of the value of a life book.  One of Anne’s charges was Tim, a young man who had been in and out of jail. On more than one occasion, he had asked Anne to photocopy his life book and send it to him in jail.  The book was obviously important to him – it showed him that he mattered.
Life books are usually started by foster parents.  We’re encouraged to take a lot of photos to add to our child’s book.  It is imperative that a child knows his/her background even if part of that history may have been only three weeks spent at a particular foster home.  They don’t want any holes. Apparently, even Venus (our very fat and ancient feline) merits a photo in the book!
Discipline also came up in training this week. We had to respond to statements about spanking, such as:
  • Sometime they just deserve it.
  • I was spanked and I didn’t turn out so badly.
This drove me crazy! I hated this activity.  ”Tell me how you really feel, Christine”.
For CAS, spanking is taboo. They will not tolerate ANY spanking or physical punishment. We are on the same page.  So how are you supposed to discipline kids? Hello, time-outs and time-ins.  For those of you more familiar with the much-reviled time-out, a time-in is basically the same thing except you are in close proximity to the child who is having a time-in. For children with attachment issues, the time-in is more effective. The child is not being “sent away” for punishment. They can sit in their naughty spot on the stair, or on the chair, and you can park it right beside them.
I’m not a big fan of discipline, so I’m not going to say much more about it, except that time-outs really do work in my house. Here’s a typical example of me giving one of the kids a time-out and this is exactly what I say:
“One, Gwen. That’s inappropriate behaviour”.  brief pause.  Gwen usually ignores me here.
“Two, Gwen. You need to stop sticking your tongue out at me”.  brief pause.  The behaviour usually stops because Gwen DOES NOT want a time-out.
“Three, Gwen. That’s a time-out. Go sit on the stairs.” I set a timer for a few minutes and Gwen sits on the stairs. I don’t interact with Gwen during the time-out and if the behaviour escalates (e.g. kicking, tantrums etc, I threaten her with extra minutes on the timer).
At the end of the time-out, I ask her why she had a time-out and if she can’t / won’t tell me, I tell her that she has to go back on the stair until she knows. Believe me, she ALWAYS knows why she had the time-out, I think she just despises telling me the reason for it.
Next week is our last Saturday of training! Hurrah!

Some Tears

In adoptionfoster carefosteringUncategorized on January 21, 2011 at 9:21 AM
Where to begin?  This week’s training was difficult to hear and process.  The topics were Attachment and Loss.  Both tearjerkers.  I would like to thank K and Q for presenting disturbing facts and information in a compassionate way.
We learned that children in care experience many losses:
  • biological family and foster family (from being moved around from home to home)
  • loss of friends and community (schools are frequently changed)
  • loss of belongings (the cops aren’t looking for a child’s favourite stuffy at 3 a.m.)
  • loss of sense of security and self.
All very sad outcomes for a small person.
There is good news though.  Most kids do attach to their parents, even if they’ve been treated like dogs.  This means that they will be able to experience future attachments. More good news:  if a child has a positive mentor (e.g. teacher, foster parent, neighbour, coach or parent of a friend), this person will make a huge difference in the child’s life.   Children with mentors will be much more resilient.  This is heartening.
We watched a brief video – Annie’s Story – about a child who had been verbally, physically and sexually abused. It was painful to watch and listen to and it made me cry.  I think that I actually felt myself shutting down a bit while it played.  It’s only a video, it’s only a video… Sadly, many of the horrific situations that we hear about in training are not fictitious.  The staff gave us many examples of the kinds of kids who end up in care and what they have had to endure.  I think that I’ll end this paragraph on a positive, albeit still disturbing, note:  only 7% of children in care are there because of sexual abuse.  I thought that statistic would be much higher.
I think it’s important to remember that children in care are there for a reason – they have been removed from parents and caregivers who cannot give them appropriate care. And it’s not enough just to feed, clothe and shelter a child.  Children need love and affection.  Remember the wire monkeys from Psych 101?
I am going to foster a child for all the “Annies” and wire monkeys out there.

First Training Completed.

In adoptionfoster carefostering on January 11, 2011 at 10:05 AM
On Saturday morning, my parents took the kids so that Richard and I could attend our first P.R.I.D.E. (Pre-service Training for Prospective Resource Families) session from 9-4 pm.  We arrived at Children’s Aid to find approximately twenty other people waiting for the training to begin.  Donuts and coffee were served and the trainers introduced themselves.  M is a social worker and Z is a foster parent, and has been for many years.
The Overview of Training is:
  1. Connection with Pride – describes skills resource parents (us) need to fulfill; legislation that governs foster care
  2. Teamwork Toward Permanence – Family Relationships. How families promote permanence for children
  3. Attachment
  4. Loss – separation from family and issues arising
  5. Strengthening Family Relationships
  6. Meeting Developmental Needs: Principles of Discipline
  7. Continuing Family Relationships
  8. Planning for Change – impact of foster care on family
  9. Taking PRIDE – Making an Informed Decision. Applicants will hear from a panel of experienced members of the child’s team. Foster and adoptive parents, biological parents, workers, adoptees etc.
We got some preliminary info on Child Welfare practice, the history of adoption in Ontario, the Child and Family Services Act, care  in London and some statistics.  I wish that I had written some of the stats down; what I can recall is that 71 children were adopted in London in the past three years.
I also learned that Children’s Aid will do all that they can to return children in foster care to their bio families, once the families have taken the steps to ensure that the children will be safe and secure in the home. That means that CA will help parents access detox programs, parenting classes, therapy etc.  Good news for children.
They will also remove children immediately from any home that is deemed unsafe.  Also good news.
I didn’t realize that we will get paid to be foster parents. The going rate is $950.oo + per month for one child in care. There are also additional monies for birthdays, Christmas, graduation etc. This seems like a lot of money to me!  The money is tax-free (!) and you can have up to four children living in your home. Once you have adopted a child, you are assuming responsibility for the child and as such, you are no longer remunerated. I still can’t believe that they pay this much to foster parents! I told two people about the money and they both said: “that’s why people do it – for the money”. It made me think.
We have our next training session this Saturday and there is some homework to do: A questionnaire about our hopes and dreams and some questions about our expectations.
I am still very excited; the training made me even more aware that we are actually going to have a new child come into our home!
In my last entry, I noted that I didn’t believe that the social worker had to use our washroom and that she was actually just wanting to check us out. My suspicions proved correct. She told me that we needed to store ALL of our medications in a locked box. I said “we don’t have any meds”, to which she replied, “Any?”.  I thought for a moment and said: “you saw the inhaler, didn’t you?” She responded in the negative, but since that was the only medication that we have, she must have noticed it (it was visible through the glass in a cabinet).  She said that our assigned social worker will ask to see our “locked box” and if we can’t produce it, we won’t be approved.

Hello world!

In adoptionfoster carefosteringUncategorized on December 11, 2010 at 10:25 PM
My husband and I have decided to add to our family and we thought our friends and family might enjoy hearing about our journey into foster care.  A friend of mine who is on sabbatical in Victoria, BC for a year suggested that I write a blog about our experiences. Initially, I pooh-poohed the idea but as an aspiring writer, I have decided to go for it!
I am a 41 yrs. young sahm and very p.t. librarian. My husband is a secondary school teacher in London, ON. We have two children: Nathaniel 7, and Gwen 5.  They are VERY excited about a potential sibling:  ”When do we get the baby?”, “Will it be a boy or a girl”, “Where will it sleep?”.
On the Monday that Gwen and I met with our social worker, A, for the first time, Nathaniel was upset that he would be at school and unable to attend the meeting. When we picked him up, he asked: “So… what are our options?”. I thought that this was a hilarious question from a seven-year old.
A was a pleasant, chatty woman who was armed with a sheaf of paper and full of good information. There was A LOT of paperwork to fill out. We needed to obtain police checks, had to provide a monthly breakdown of our budget (e.g. food, clothing, insurance, utilities, mortgage payments, vehicle upkeep, gas, – basically anything you can think of!), answer questions about our upbringing (Were you spanked as a child? How would you characterize your relationship with your mother? Are you estranged from your siblings? etc. Very up close and personal) and obtain several character references. We also had to provide detailed information on our finances, our health, and our insurance policies. In short, C.A.S. is very thorough. And so they should be.
A poked around our house a bit and also asked to use the washroom.  It is my opinion that she didn’t have to “go”, but was surreptitiously checking it out.
I mailed in our application package, last Friday and now we will have to sign up for Foster/Adoptive Parent P.R.I.D.E. (Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education) Training.  There are 9 classes that we must attend and each is 3 hours in length. I like that they serve coffee, tea and a light meal.  Yup, I’m all about the food.  There is also a potluck at the end of the training!