Whirlwind!

If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that we have been on the quest to find another family member, someone looking for an adoptive home. You’ll also know that the search has been an emotional, and fruitless, adventure. I’ve sent out more than 20 homestudies and I figured my door would be beaten down by all of the responses. But…no. Recently, I dealt with the disappointment by fooling myself into thinking the ‘1st and 15th’ rule (homestudies are typically reviewed the 1st ans 15th of each month, not as they trickle in to the DCS caseworkers hands) applied to us. The 15th came and went, in the last week I had only received 2 calls, both in Arizona. WTF. The first child was not a match per my criteria and the second one was a courtesy call letting me know the the child would only be placed in the Phoenix Metro area. Oh, and shortly after this disappointment I was notified that my agency would begin charging me a flat rate or or per word rate, depending on which option I chose, to send out my homestudy to other states. Fabulous. Now I’m being penalized for attempting to find a child a forever home. This whole adoption search is a pain in the ass.

I am no longer seeking out a child via adoption listings or CSR’s. I feel like it is emotionally drained me, changed my outlook on adoption via foster care, and made me more of a pessimist that I’ve ever been in my adult life. In fact, I feel a lot of negative feelings regarding the foster care system and how the adoption sector is managed in general. I found myself saying, for the first time since I’ve become a foster parent, some things negative about foster care. That’s unheard of! I’m a huge advocate for children, how the foster system works, etc. And there I was, bad mouthing something I truly believed in.

I believe that a successful foster parent will always let the child in their care know that they are supported, care about their feelings, and truly want them to go home. A successful foster parent will fight for what the child wants (older children) or what is in their best interest (younger child.) A successful foster parent will never badmouth the system, the immediate working staff, nor the parents of the child…despite how much we dislike their parents choices or treatment of the child in our care.

Foster care works, reunification happens. Oftentimes parents don’t do the things required to regain custody of their children; adoption via foster care works too. Family is family, blood or bond. I need to remind myself of these things because I feel sad and let down about this adoption photolisting ordeal. Maybe this is part of my plan, God is pushing me elsewhere because it’s where I’m supposed to be. Maybe I’m not to be adopting via photolistings and God has called me to only provide temporary care for children in need. I hate to be a pessimist, but I should have heeded warnings about photolistings and other people’s personal experiences. For some reason I thought I’d do better… I was wrong. I didn’t do better, I am not better.

Onto a brighter note! My licensing agency forwards me CSR’s (adoption flyers from in state and in house) I have struck out there too. I’ve inquired and gotten responses fairly quickly BUT often times the children in these CSR’s have severe behaviors or are sexualized in some way/shape/form. I’m not equipped to deal with that, or a plethora of other things that our household had deemed unacceptable. Anyway, our homestudy had been dropped onto a desk, a desk of a coworker within our agency in the Phoenix office, and we received a call about a child. A child that has not been listed yet on any adoption sites, that currently lives in a group home nearby. I had played phone tag for a week or so with a stranger, unfamiliar number = no answer. There was never a voicemail left, I never thought twice about it. That is until Husband had called me and let me know that this adoption recruiter was looking to communicate with us regarding placement.

Placement is the operative word. This child is not legally free for adoption but the state and case team anticipate rights to be terminated. I was given very little information regarding the child and then a host of proceedings, including a 2 hour phone interview set up for Monday evening.

The information I was given is as follows: female, 12, wants a large family. My interest was piqued, I like kids and I have a large family.

Once the phone interview is completed and they feel we could be a potential match they will disclose all the information regarding the child during the same phone call. I wonder if they’ll let me see a picture of her? Not that it matters much, I’m merely curious. After the interview and information exchange my homestudy and interviewers opinion will all be presented to a board of people who decided if it’s a good match. If it is a good match we can facetime/phone chat with the child then move onto meeting her in person shortly after. If things go well transition to our home happens.

I also received a placement call around 1am regarding a sibling set. Naturally, I was sleeping at 1am! I returned the call this morning and the on call placement person referred me to the DCYS, I’ll likely hear from them tomorrow unless they’ve found placement already.

What a ride it has been.

Five.

5. 5. 5.

Soon, I’ll have only 5 kids at home. Biscuit, Blue, Boychild, Bunny, and Lemon. I’m freaking out, how do I cook for only 7 people?! What will we do with the copious amounts of leftovers?! There will be extra time, room, and finances. Weird. There will be less stress, chatter, and traffic.

We will enjoy our time together until we are needed. I love my community, I love children, I love foster care. There are lessons to be learned about humility, compassion, and pain. My kids understand the importance of helping people and also, witnessing me fail, has shown them that even though you can desperately want to help it’s okay to say ‘enough’ and have a child removed. My kids have helped transition foster kids to our home and comforted them in times of need. They have also disagreed and fought with them. It is all give and take, understanding others circumstances and remembering how blessed you are to be taken care of in a standard in which society deems normal. My kids don’t take much for granted these days because they understand that things change in the blink of an eye.

I’ve been sifting through adoption listings, looking for potential matches. I’ve sent in several inquiries and have gotten very little feedback. Our system is flawed; caseworkers are busy prioritizing and adoptive kids are being pushed to the backburner. I understand that the removal and reunification are high on the totem pole, they are critical to child safety, but having a child wait in limbo for months or years just isn’t right. My licensing worker has assured me that my homestudy has been sent to all of the inquiries that I’ve sent in and even he says he has gotten very little feedback. It shouldn’t be this hard to find an older child, in the United States, who is legally free for adoption, to find a match. It shouldn’t be this hard to help.

On the other end of the spectrum I’ve gotten leads on some foster placements. Unfortunately, they weren’t a match for our home. I do have a strict criteria that I follow as my children are my number one priority. I do not want to expose them to some things nor have them possibly become victims in any way. It’s hard. Often times it breaks my heart but I’ve developed a firm understanding during my years of foster care of knowing when to say yes to a placement and when to say no.

Luckily, when you seek out adoptive children via photolistings or through your agency you can get every detail of their case/life since being in the foster care system. That makes finding a fit easier for families and agencies. I’ve gotten a few responses stating we weren’t a good fit for a child and I’ve sent responses saying we wouldn’t be a good fit for a child. I’m okay with that, I’m all about the best interest of the children. My older girls have taken an interest in looking at potential siblings online, Blue loves to watch the videos and Biscuit wants to see their faces.

Only God knows what will happen next, we may stay with the 5 kids and be done. We may foster more. We may adopt. Until then…we wait.

Universal Sonics Challenge

We are headed to Orlando in just over a week, I’m really excited for our gym and all of our athletes. Go Sonics! On Facebook we have a Summit Sonics Challenge; counting down the days until The Summit and reasons you like Universal Sonics. Unfortunately, I’ve got commitment issues and time struggles preventing me from playing along all week so I’ll pay my homage here. 

We’ve got 8 or 9 days until we head out (see, I’m a crappy cheer mom) and seeing as I’m making my own rules for this game I’ll just give you 10 reasons I LOVE our gym, Universal Sonics Gymnastics and Cheer.

1. Controlled environment, it’s priceless. The staff and the coaches know all of the kids, who they hang out with, if there are problems, and they encourage the athletes to look out for one another within our gym and in the community. I know my kids aren’t getting into trouble or put in situations that are risky. 

2. Universal is a safe place for the kids. If the athletes have a problem that they’re not ready to share with their peers/parents they have several adult options as they’ve established relationships with families within the gym and their coaches; we are a family. 

3. Respect. It is critical that children learn to respect other adults, adults you trust. I understand that the coaches will push my children to achieve their personal best. I’ve seen many different techniques from tough love to praise…each child is different and I’ve witnessed triumphs and failures as coaches learn as much as our children do. 

4. The kids earn their wins. If you’re into participation trophies this place isn’t for you. Everyone is not a winner. In real life our children will suffer through failures and understanding how to deal with failure is an important lesson, a lesson a lot of children missing out on with the whole ‘everybody is a winner’ sports. The athletes at Universal bust their butts perfecting routines, learning new skills, and pushing themselves to a limit they never knew existed within themselves. 

5. We are small but we are fierce. We live in a small town, we typically have less than a hundred athletes in cheer. Our coaches and our athletes like to be pushed to greatness, they want to compete with the best of the best! Our small town generates epic wins, I mean 5 of our eligible teams are going to The Summit. Holla!

6. Heartache. You’ve got to have some good to go with the bad. Having families who move away or watching athletes head off to college is bittersweet. I feel this is another lesson that can be carried over into adulthood, people come and go but they’ll always be part of your heart.

7. Accountability and teamwork. 

8. Traveling. It’s awesome to go places and make memories with your kids! 

9. Family goes beyond the gym setting, from facilitating carpools to organizing meal trains to help local families. Universal looks out for their families. In addition; our gym gives back to our community by organizing food drives for the holidays. 

10. Friendship and sportsmanship. The athletes have established a bond much like siblings. They fight often but make up quickly as they’re encouraged to rise above the petty stuff. No matter how angry the kids get they always pull it together for their routine, they respect their team. Our athletes also befriend other teams from all over the United States and display excellent sportsmanship. 

Done and done! 

The dirtiest word in Foster Care.


Can you guess it? Nope, it’s not the ‘F’ word or even the ‘B’ word. it’s actually the ‘D’ word, disruption. What is a disruption? In short; it’s when a foster placement isn’t working out in your home and you ask your agency or DCYS worker to remove the child from your home and place him or her elsewhere.

Oh  my  goodness, there is so much negative sigma associated with the dreaded ‘D’ word. I have heard about foster families being blackballed from fostering children, I’ve heard of licensure removal, I have heard that foster families have been gossiped about by their peers, and so on. To be honest, I had been terrified that I could one day have a disruption and my dreams of helping children in my community would be crushed, it seemed like that was what always happened…I had read stories upon stories about how a foster families were in trouble because of disruption and the threads online in forums didn’t make me rest any easier. Simply put, if you have a disruption then your foster career was over. 

Well, I’m here to tell you different. I have experienced disruption first hand and I am not feeling victimized in any way. First, let me tell you that having a disruption is absolutely devastating. I had self doubt, I felt like a quitter, I felt like I failed my community, I felt like I failed that child. It hurt, it hurt like nothing I’ve ever felt before. I wish I could explain it but there aren’t words that can fill the void of emotional despair I had felt. 

I felt like a child in my care was a danger to himself and others, I had absolutely no help from the mental health provider as he wasn’t yet enrolled in my area yet. I had reached out to my DCYS caseworker trying to get help expediting the child’s mental health care, she suggested I call and start enrolling him myself and I did. The entire case was a hot mess, there were wrong case workers, wrong names, wrong cities, it just wasn’t right in so many ways. I had gotten my placements set up for an appointment 9 days away. This was after calling and making several pleas to help, I specifically said ‘I need help, this child is out  of control.’ That wasn’t a big  enough cry for help, they pretty much told me to wait until his appointment. Unfortunately, 3 or 4 days before the appointment there was an incident and I requested to have the child removed. That was the hardest phone call I had ever made to date. I  cried, I begged for help, I demanded that the child be picked up immediately. I am extremely thankful that my DCYS worker was quick to help and quick to have the child removed. I suggested that the child needed a higher level of care and the DCYS worker took me very seriously.

After a series of phone calls, interviews, papetwork, I met with my licensing workers through AZCA. I was terrified that they were coming to meet with me to revoke my license, to scold me, to lecture me on how I had done everything wrong. I was terrified. Was this it? This one incident is going to rip my dreams away…I was incredibly nervous. I didn’t like feeling this way, even though I knew I had done all the things I had been trained to do, sheesh, I still felt like a kid in the principals office. I dreaded seeing my AZCA workers. 

When AZCA had come to my home a few days ago, I was an emotional mess. I tried to keep my composure but I failed, I ended up a crying blubbering mess. They weren’t there to scold me, they weren’t there to take my license, they weren’t there to point the finger at me. They had come to educate me, to make sure I knew I had done all the right things, and give me extra resources. The most important and critical thing they had told me was to always use the key word “CRISIS” when dealing with mental health providers (because begging for help, explaining the situation, crying, and saying a child is out of control isn’t enough.) Per Jacobs Law the mental health providers are to see anyone in crisis within 2 hours, but if you don’t say crisis…it doesn’t count. Mental health providers are required to asses mental health within 7 days, in addition; they’ve got 21 days to set up a service appointment.

Mohave County Mental Health Crisis: 928.214.2370 or 877.756.4090

When mental health fails you, call the Tattle Line (a/k/a Member Services): 800.640.2123 or 800.867.5808

Would you rather email? DCS@azahcccs.gov

I asked what was the definition of crisis, unfortunately it’s a case by case/person by person definition…however there are some red flags that should always be considered:

  • Increased anger outbursts
  • Withdrawn behavior
  • Inappropriate bed wetting (wtf?)
  • Nightmares 
  • Harming animals
  • Refusing to eat
  • Acting sexually towards others
  • Threatening self harm
  • Self mutilation 
  • Frequent tantrums 
  • Starting fires
  • Talking about death
  • Aggressiveness towards others

These are things I’ve taken directly from the paperwork I’ve been  given from AHCCCS. I know some of it seems bizarre but it’s been outlined so I’m sharing.

In addition to all of these services for the children there are services offered to foster families that will be covered by the child’s insurance. 

  • Family support services assist the  family who are caring for the child.
  • Individual, family and/or group counseling; including trauma informed practices.
  • Respite services 
  • A broad range of in-home supports bases on your family’s needs.
  • Assistance in dealing with a family loss and separation when a child leaves your home.
  • Referrals to peer run organizations, support groups, community services and workshops.

In other news, I’m currently on hold. I’m not ready to have any other placements just yet. I need time to re-enter my family and heal emotionally. We currently have one placement and late December we will think about reopening our beds. 

I hope this post is informative and helps someone, had I known that these things were avaliable I would have used the key words and possibly could have avoided a disruption. I’m happy that the child now has a level of care that he needs, that’s the only thing that helps me feel better about the situation. 

Hopefully I won’t experience any long term affects from the disruption, I have been assured I wouldn’t but I won’t know until after I reopen our beds. I’ll definitely keep my readers updated as the process continues. 

Have a wonderful day!

Update!

The Husband and I had a wonderful time in Chicago. It was a nice little retreat, it was deserved. We went on a treetop adventure course and zip lining and spent the rest of our time wandering around the city. We ate fancy food, drank lots of beer, and slept in. Best. Trip. Ever. 

Now we are gearing up for Minnie, Shy, and Bells to move out. Tomorrow is a big day, our sweet Bells and Shy are moving into their new home! We love them and we are estatic that they’ve got a forever home, their new home is amazing and their new family is exceptional. They will have a great life; I’m sure of it.  Minnie will be with us another week but she will be hopping back and forth between our home and her bio parents home. I’m really happy all of our foster babies are leaving and moving on in their lives. 

We’ve already got placement possibilities! I’ve got calls and emails, I love that we are already on the minds of case workers, licensing workers, and such. I love my community. I’m proud to be a part of something! I love being a foster parent. Speaking of being part of something…I had go to Chicago for 4 days and when I returned I had to take the girls to gym to practice. When I walked into the gym I was greeted by several girls who said they had missed me and wanted to know where I had been and what I had been doing. I was hugged a lot too. That is a beautiful feeling. I love, love, love, that I’m part of something. I am part of a family that’s pretty big and downright splendid. Guys, community is something that is irreplaceable and has such value; community is everything. I can only wish for everyone that they’re part of something, have a solid network of people they can count on, and feels supported and loved. 

We are gearing up for our trip to Knott’s Berry Farm, we leave tomorrow! Yay. The kids are excited and I’m happy to be spending time with them. Once we return from our trip we are going camping, Boychild is excited. Husband took Boychild’s dirtbike to be serviced today and it’ll be ready for the camping trip. The boy lives to ride, I love him! Speaking of Boychild, he is doing exceptionally well in school. He’s never been an A type of student, he’s a B and C kid. That’s okay with me, he does his best and it’s perfectly fine. Well, he pumped up his grades and definitely exceeded our expectations. We rewarded him with a TV and an Xbox in his room. For most people their kids have a TV in their room…ours don’t. We have only one TV in our home and it’s in the family room. This is huge! He feels really good about his hard work and we want to convey that excellent grades will pan out in a positive way. I’m proud of him, he’s doing good things and working on making good choices. I simply cannot sing his praises enough.

Holygeezebestnewsever!  In just 5 short days we will pick up Murphy, our dog! I’m excited, kid-on-Christmas-morning, excited. Husband and I had gone to pick our puppy 2 weeks ago, we were under the impression that there just 2 puppies to choose from but when we arrived there were 6 gorgeous silver lab puppies to choose from. We knew if we took all the kids we would have never gotten out of there…heck it was hard to get me out of there. Imagine this: 6 playful puppies rolling around in the grass, jumping, playing, biting. Now imagine yourself laying down on the grass and having those cute puppies all over you. Bliss, people, complete bliss. It took me about 2 hours to decide which puppy was mine. She’s got a big head and a dopey disposition. She bounds instead of running and she was circling the parameter. Even after I picked our newest family member…I stayed to play with the puppies. It was a dream come true. Technically, I was rolling around on the ground with over six thousand dollars. Ballin’! 

Don’t you just want to boop her snoot?! I’m in love; the kids are going to love her. 

I said no.

I’ve always struggled with saying no when I get the call from my agency trying to place a child. I’m the yes woman, I always want to help. Short term, yes. Out of my age range, yes. Possibly permanent, yes. Both Husband and I agreed when we first started providing a home for foster children that medically fragile, sexual behaviors, or extreme anger just wouldn’t fit in. We want to keep our family safe and we want to be mentally sound and not constantly stressed out. Oddly enough, the case that was presented wasn’t any of those things. You see, I’ve learned about family dynamics, I know that taking on this case could potentially take something from my current placements or my bio children. I wanted to say yes but that would be selfish of me. I wanted to say yes, my heart hurts.

I’m feeling sad right now, I wanted to say yes but with the case presented I knew it just couldn’t work. I feel more sad that I was specifically requested by my agency to take on this child; I said no. I feel like I let a child down, I feel like I let my agency down, I feel like I let the DYFS down. Deep down I know what I chose was the right choice; it still hurts. I want a third placement, I want to help my community, I want to help a child.

This is not part of the training, no one said I would feel these ranges of emotions. No one told me I would feel like a failure. No one told me that I would feel like I personally let a child down. Foster care is hard.

I’m going to try to hang onto some positive feelings, I’m going to build a blanket fort with my kids. I’m going to laugh, smile, and play, with them and try to remind myself that I did what was right. I hope we get another call soon.

Havasu Magazine

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I love my agency, I love what I do, I love my community. Buck did a great job on this story! If you’ve ever though about being a foster parent…stop thinking about it; do it. I know foster care has negative stigma but I’m here to help YOU. Message me, email me, stop me at the grocery store, ask me questions!

I’m pleased to report that the newest children, we had agreed on taking into our home, from out of the area have been placed with family members. That makes me feel happy; the less trauma the better. But, I’ve learned a little bit more about how foster care actually works versus how the PSMAPP ‘taught’ us it would work. We had been taught that the caseworkers reach out to family members first then when they’ve exhausted family options then they call foster families to see if they can place them in their homes. It seems as of its the exact opposite, they call foster homes until they get a ‘yes’ then they call family members using the foster family as a back up plan. That is absolutely fine with me but I figured I would let you In on this ‘secret.’ I’ve decide to keep it up with a yes answer when my licensing worker calls with a placement because I can always retract my yes after speaking with the case manager. The more you know, cue rainbow.

In other news; I’m pleased that members of my community have reached out concerning foster children, placements, adoptions, etc. That makes my heart happy. I got word this morning that some of our cheer girls were involved in a serious car accident last night, one of the girls is Bunny’s coach, luckily they’re all okay. They’re still going to the Summit tomorrow, viva Florida. Go Sonics! Tonight is our weekly date night, I’m looking forward to it. I’ve made sure to have the seven most recent pictures from my Instagram account show up on my sidebar on this blog. Boy, this was one hot mess of a paragrap