Thursday, November 30, 2006

Scarf for Evan

Evan asked if I could knit him a scarf. I said that I could if he could find a pattern that was not too complicated. He found one at another blogger's site.

Rainy Day Scarf

I'm making it in a basic dark smokey blue yarn left over from some one's afghan. It's about a foot long now. I may post a photo of it when it is finished.

Attack of the virus

We are definitely passing around a virus.

Brian and Evan got sick first. I didn't quite believe Brian. It is a bit of a vicious circle. He has had a history of phantom illnesses and so he tends to exaggerate his symptoms, giving us puppy-dog eyes and dragging his feet. I can see that it is clearly an exaggeration and so I don't believe him. So he tries to convince me by further exaggerating his symptoms... Evan sounds horrible and now I am beginning to get it. I came home early today and took a nap and then made soup from the turkey carcass which I put into the freezer last weekend. Andrew still seems to be fine and Hubby claims he is, but I know him. He just announced that he is caught up on his paper work. The virus is about to hit him. I know it is.

Evan has been particularly nice to me today, which is cool. Even when I have been grumpy he has not taken offense. He has been really understanding. I am actually relieved that we are getting sick. Maybe it means that the level of grumpiness we have been experiencing the past couple of days is not us.

It would be nice. It would be very nice if we could all be nice to each other for a while.

Anxiety and Exhaustion

I'm exhausted.

I'm not sleeping well.

He is so ready to be out of here. He wants to be independent, but he is dependent.

He needs rides to: the DMV to pay for another driving test; to take the driving test, and to go shopping for some clothes and toiletries; and to his counselor's office one more time; and probably for one last hair cut; and to take his boxed up stuff to his Grandmother's house. And he needs more boxes.

How many people think that he will need help packing?

He is anxious. I am tired.

We are like flint and steel -- we walk by each other and sparks fly. What should be little is huge.

"Dammit! You were home all day! Couldn't you at least unload the dishwasher?!"

"I'm tired. It's my day off."

"So yesterday you didn't do it because you had to work and today you didn't do it because you didn't have to work?"

"I don't feel good! You don't have to get mad ..." (suddenly he remembers my typical response to being told how to feel) "No. You know what? If you want to be mad, be mad! Just go ahead and yell at me...."

His tirade goes on and find myself too exhausted to respond. I notice that he is currently unloading the dishwasher while he yells at me. I remember something about not escalating, not needing to defend my authority or engage when teenagers begin to rage.

I don't respond to what he says. Finally he stops. I tell him he doesn't have to load the dirty dishes. I forgot that Brian stayed home claiming to be sick and he can do that.

Yep... my de-escalation teacher would be proud. That was the perfect response. Don't feed the escalation. Remain confident in my own authority and don't defend it. I am in charge. I don't have to get him to accept that I am in charge in order to be in charge.

At least that's what it looked like.

I reality I was just too damn tired to fight with him.

10 days.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Home in one piece

Evan got home fine. He called his social worker who picked him up and found him a comfortable chair to sit in in the building, where he had to wait until the end of the day to get a ride home. He assured her that he did not need to call me. He said he already told me that she was getting him. That was almost true since we agreed that would be plan A.

He was famished. For some reason he feels uncomfortable eating at other people's house.

He had a good time, and came back with pictures of his brothers. He doesn't have a lot to say about it, but that is probably good.

So now we have twelve days to go. He learned with great excitement that the house might have a family for Christmas, but probably won't have anyone until early January. That means several weeks of being paid just to help keep the house running. He did not say, "and being trained." Sigh. I still wish he should half as much interest in the work he will be doing as he does in the traveling around Europe he plans, but I suppose this is normal for someone his age.

But we are in the home stretch. His social worker is taking us all out to dinner next Monday. Usually the kids and parents go to a big dinner party to celebrate graduation and Evan won't be around for that next May, so she wants to make sure that he feels his accomplishments have been appropriately celebrated by the agency. That's cool.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


One of AidelMaidel's recent posts has me thinking about personal boundaries and how to teach them. That's not what her post is about, but that is where my wandering mind went with it.

Personal boundaries are a lot like that personal distance thing we all know about. In different cultures people stand at different distances from each other. Within a culture people stand in different places. We can experience people standing to close as acts of aggression and standing too far away as acts of unfriendliness. Sometimes we are correct about the message and sometimes we are just interpreting cross-cultural signals incorrectly.

Personal boundaries have to do with privacy. How much about ourselves do we share?

Kids in foster care have had their boundaries severely violated. It perhaps should not surprise us that they don't understand boundaries.

Many (all?) forms of child abuse are violations of boundaries: physical; emotional; sexual. Children are told that it does not matter what they want to be private. They have no right to privacy of any kind.

And so they are rescued by social services. Social workers, police officers, advocates and others ask the child to reveal what happened to them. It may be necessary and well-intentioned, but it is again a violation of the child's privacy. It does not matter if they do not want to reveal the details of their lives; they don't have the right to keep those secrets. They must tell and they must tell people whom they have just met.

Dear Lord, is it any wonder that Evan has no understanding of personal boundaries? He either does not want to tell me anything. He gets anxious and suspicious when I ask who he was talking to on the phone. "Why do you want to know?" he asks me.

When he decides that he is going to share, he shares. Man oh man does he share. He does not seem to understand that when I ask how his date went all I want to know is did he have a good time? If he has complicated feelings about his sexual activity and wants to talk about those feelings then I'm all his. That's what aunties are for. I do not, however, need to know the details of what he is doing.

But I understand. He has not had people respect his boundaries. Not even the "good" people.

Though I have known all this, I have just been putting these pieces together this clearly for a while.

The next question is "how do we teach personal boundaries?" I'm not certain of that. I know it will require modeling, and that it will require understanding of the children as the fail to "get it."

I need to think more though about how to teach a child that he or she has the right to protect their privacy, reveal only as much about themselves as they feel safe revealing -- while at the same time demanding to be told where they are going, who they are going with, and when they will be back.

Anyone have any good ideas?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Off to brother's house

He got off to see his brother.

He realized just before he left that he had forgotten to arrange for someone to pick him up on Monday. He transformed from the young adult who wants me to leave him alone and trust him and into the 10-year-old boy who doesn't know how to leave a telephone message right before my eyes. I resisted the rescue impulse though (all that codependency therapy was not for nothing).

It was in part a reaction to his cell phone being turned off. He wanted it to be turned off, but they said that it was best if he did it at the end of his billing cycle and that just happened to be right before his trip to see his brother. So he was already nervous about what he was going to do in an emergency.

I gave him a phone card and explained about pay phones.

If all else fails he can spend four hours in the airport waiting for me to get off work. When I told him that he transformed back into the competent adult and told me that that was not going to happen.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Entering into TheirSpace

David has told me that he wants me to get a MySp*ce account for a while. He wants me to see the photos he puts there. He thinks it would be a good way for me to stay in touch.

While he was here yesterday I let him set me up. I maxed up all the privacy settings, lied about my age and where I live (they have some places to choose that are clearly NOT where anyone lives).

Then David showed me Evan's site, just for fun of course.

I did mention it to Evan. I am not interested in invading his privacy. On one hand his site is available to anyone with an account, but I know he would rather I was not there. He's really disturbed by my ability to see it. There are things he really doesn't want me to see. He said that he was going to change his privacy settings so I could not get in. I did not tell him that I know he won't because he wants other people to find him. He said he could find my account. I told him that he couldn't. "I'll just search for women your age who live around here." "I lied." "You didn't! You wouldn't. You never lie."

I'm thinking he looked for me and could not find me because today he asked me to promise that I would not go to it. I told him that if I promised I would be even more tempted to look, but he shouldn't worry. "Really, Evan. I'm in a TMI* situation with you already."

His eyes got wide, "What does that mean? NO...Don't tell me. Gawd I don't want to know. Don't tell me!"

I didn't tell him.

But I'm still laughing about it.

*Too Much Information


We have been the victims of identity theft. As identity thieves go, our has fairly low ambitions. Given the relatively small numbers involved, people think it must one of our kids. Given the sorts of purchases that were made, we don't.

Hubby thinks that his information (it has all been in his name) was stolen through his computer.

I suspect my children's friends. I especially suspect Evan's friends. After all, I don't know them; they are easy to suspect.

All of this has left me feeling violated and frustrated. I have learned that if you want to put a fraud alert on your account and you are married you must do it twice -- once for each of you. I have learned that you can do it only after you have been a victim. You cannot require creditors to verify that it is really you unless someone has already made an attempt. Initial alerts are for 90 days and you can get those just by asking for them (and telling them that you have reason to believe you are the victim of an attempt). You can also get a seven-year alert, but that requires having filled out a report with a law enforcement office.

What the credit reporting agencies want you to do is is to pay them $10/month to keep a close watch on what is happening in your credit.

Now I like to keep this blog about foster care, so why am I writing to here about it?

Because if you are the victim of any sort of crime your foster children will be considered guilty until proven innocent.

It is possible of course that they are guilty, of course. They will however not be given the benefit of the doubt by your family or law enforcement or anyone. No matter how many times you say, "But Evan would want to buy anything from an auto-parts store" people will continue to think it is him. Although it does help if you can at least confess to suspecting their friends.

So here's the deal: you need to decide how much security you are going to put in place to protect yourself from theft and them from suspicion. In our house security measures include:

1. Keyed locks on every bedroom door (I have keys to them all).
2. A mailbox that can only be opened with a key, although the key in on a hook where anyone inside the house can get it.
3. Out-going mail always gets mailed from a secure drop-box or from our work-places.
4. We shred all financial documents before throwing them away, although they do end up piled up for a while before we get around to shredding them.
5. For a while, but not recently, I was very good about locking my purse in a toolbox whenever I came in the house. All our prescription meds are kept in a locked tool box.

Other families have a room, their bedroom or their office, in which everything is kept and whose door is kept locked. That is an elegant solution and one which we are considering. It would have to be our bedroom and one of my biggest reservations in the poor kitty cat who likes to sleep on our bed. Okay that and the fact that I would have to replace my lovely antique glass door knob and skeleton key lock with something contemporary and ugly.

Some families do not allow the kids to be in the house unless an adult is there.

I don't like this. I don't like that it is has happened and I don't like suspecting my kids and their friends.

I know we won't let kids stay here alone while we go on vacation again. It is not just that they might do something; it is that if anything happens everyone will think it is them.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Having David home is always so powerfully bitter-sweet.

I want to tell ask him to move back in. I want to tell him that he can come home and finish high school and then get into some kind of job training. He can live here while he does all that.

I want to help him live the life I want him to live.

But the life I want for him is not the life he has chosen.

Thanksgiving update

David called. He's on his way over. He says he will play cards with me. He is the only one who will. I'm fairly ruthless and David is the only person who can beat me half the time.

Evan plans on getting back at least in time for pie.

So we are six.

It is good to have my boys here. I'm thankful.

Now to get out the card stuff and prepare to take on my most worthy opponent.

Maybe I will even change out of my pajamas.

Thanksgiving thoughts

It looks like a quiet Thanksgiving for us.

I invited David, but he did not call last night, so he probably has other plans. That is okay.

Carl of course is in another state.

Evan is spending most of the day with teenage sister and the extended family on her side.

The usual adult "strays" who have had a standing invitation here also have plans elsewhere (which is good and healthy). One is coming tomorrow to eat left-overs with us.

So it looks like it will be just the four of us. Last year I think there were ten. It is okay, we have been tired, or I have been, and a day spent quietly will be good. Today we will just eat and relax and eat some more. Today I will not pull a child aside and say, "Hey -- you know you can feel whatever you feel, right? For a lot of people Thanksgiving brings up bad memories. If you feel sad, that's okay."

Thanksgiving has never been so traumatic for Evan as for many of the kids in care. He spent most of them at grandma's, as he will today.

Our meal shows the influence of doing care. There are all the things that we normally do, plus whatever the current kid finds essential. This year Evan has made us stuffing just like his grandma does it (extra wet and gooey) and a banana cream pie no one will eat but him. When David was here I believe we had to have some chocolate pudding pie dessert. Carl introduced the kids to crescent rolls from the refrigerator section of the grocery store, and they insist upon those now. Carl also always wanted that nasty green bean casserole (my apologies if you are a fan), but that did not stick.

Hubby took Andrew and Brian out for errands and a fast food dinner last night (Evan was at work and I got three hours alone in the house -- Woo Hoo!). He asked them about doing care and if they wanted a break. He reports that they are ready and willing -- as long as the next kid is closer to Brian's age than Andrew's. Andrew wants to be older than the next kid and Brian wants someone who won't leave soon.

Guess we will be looking for a fourteen-year-old.

When I think about the next kid I always find myself remembering that that kid already exists. He (or even she) is somewhere right now -- an unstable birth home, a foster home which will not be permanent, the youth shelter -- somewhere. I do not let the thought make me crazy, but like Margaret, this morning I am also thinking about the empty chair and (in my case) the teenager who will sit in it.

So today I will also say a prayer for all the kids who are not yet in their permanent homes, and I will be thankful for the empty chairs waiting for them.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sheeee'sss Baaack!

The blogging social worker previously known as Rossecorp, who mysteriously disappeared has returned.

Get in on the ground floor! Visit now!


A link for Little Wishes

I was hesitant to do this because who among you would read my blog and not already read Baggage's? But she asks us to link anyway and who can deny her?

Little Wishes

It's important. If you are one of the very few people who have not read it...check it out.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Early morning factoid from Miss E

Me: "How's your on-line class going?"

Miss E: "It's English. I would have prefered to do History first. History is easier because it doesn't change. It just sits there. They are always adding new words to English. Hey, did you knw that they put 'aren't' in the dictionary! That's not even a real word."

Me: "Do you mean 'ain't'?"

Miss E: "No, I mean 'aren't.' Neither of them are real words."

Me: "As in, 'We aren't going to the movies'?"

Miss E: "Yeah. If you say that everyone will look at you like you are stupid because it is not a real word."

Me: "How would you say it?"

Miss E: "'We are not going to the movies.'"

Me: "Oh." Long pause. "How's your history project going?"

Miss E is 17. She is quite bright and wants to go to college. She is confident of many things, and is often shockingly wrong. At the beginning of the school year she complained about the stupidity of our country and said that it shouldn't be surprising since we had only been around for like 100 years.

It is a similar problem to the one that Danielle (with FosterAbba and FosterEema) faces. These kids are not stupid, but they have major holes in their education. Sometimes because they did not go to school at all. Sometimes because they did but their lives were so traumatic and they were moved around so often that they missed big chunks of material.

They need so much. It is overwhelming.

It was sad when Miss E left on Sunday. Her FM did not get out of the car. Her foster sister came to the door, looked at her, and then turned around and went back to the car without saying anything. I helped Miss E carry her things out. Her FM is not that distant to all the kids; I think it has to do with dealing with Miss E.

She and I get along okay, but she does not live with me.

Miss E is so full of anger. Her defenses are so high and so thick.

I would like for this post to have a point, some sort of conclusion, but it doesn't. I just feel badly for this young woman.

Next on Miss E: update

Monday, November 20, 2006

Key word searches

One of the fun things about using a service that will tell you about the tracking on your blog is that they will often tell you what search words got people to you. Often they seem to be people who know the blog and are trying to find it again. They search for "Evan's Story" or "Pflagfostermom" or "thoughts fostering family".

I suspect the person who was most disappointed was the one who searched for

  • Cute teenage boy life guard

And what exactly were these people looking for?

  • foster mom cross stitch
  • Jews family email address guestbook 2006
  • Court reporting students "when will you be done"

Others I hope I helped
  • Several searches with "codependency" one of which was "Codependency anon Scotland"
  • Several searches on confidentiality in blogging and foster care
  • Separation anxiety in older children
  • Turning Eighteen (I get that one nearly every month)
  • The parentified child 'starting over'

Oh...and Rossecorp...someone's looking for you.

Evan and bonds with the boys

**This is a "rescued post." Something I wrote and for reasons I no longer remember did not publish. Composed 11/20/06. Published 5/6/07**

I've recently been updating on the private blog. Partly because I have been tired and snarky, and partly because there is something going on with my RSS feed, or Blogline's ability to read it. It is also happening with Granny's blog and a few others, so I am not worrying about it. I am waiting for the good mages in the Internet to defeat the gremlins who live there too and make everything better again. (My understanding of the 'net is much more sophisticated that Miss E's.)

Today Gawdessness said, "Turtle Girl and Spring are closer, there has been a break through, they are sisters because they know and feel it. I see it happening with the brothers too. Slowly sometimes, but steadily. "

It made me sad and jealous.

That happened with Carl. It really happened. No matter how bad things might have got, Andrew and Brian knew that Carl was their brother and things would be good again.

It happened to a lesser degree with David. Though David has a difficult time forming meaningful bonds, Andrew and Brian feel they forged one with him.

Evan though came in on different rules. He was going to be a cousin. He wasn't going to live here very long (one school year). We weren't going to expect him to be a part of the family in the same way. He and Andrew did not get along at all for months. Evan's rehab did a lot for their relationship. Andrew is not close to him, but they now get along fine

Evan and Brian though never did form a bond. Evan has said from the beginning that Brian reminds him of himself at that age, which makes it difficult for him. And recently all the tensions have been hightened.

It will be better soon.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Do you hear that?

Miss E went home.

Hubby took Evan and Brian to a movie. (They are, by the way, getting along today, at least so far.)

Andrew is taking a nap.

Golly I love that sound...silence.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

My baby gorilla

It only recently occurred to me to describe Evan as a baby gorilla, but since I did he has seemed more and more baby-gorilla like.

I confess that I did refer to him as "my baby gorilla" to Miss E the other day.

Yesterday he want his hair cut, "Give me a ride. Please Yondalla. Pleeease? I never ask for anything and I really need to get it cut." He holds his hands beseechingly out in front of him. "PLEEEAASSSE? Take me? This is the last thing I will ask for, I promise."

And then this morning, "Yondalla! I forgot to get cash! I have to pay the driving instructor in cash! Can you give me $11.50?" "I don't have cash either." "Can you get some? I have to have cash or I can't take the test. Pleeeaassse... You can go the store or something, right? You can get it." "Why can't you do it?" "I don't know my PIN." "Evan, you keep telling me how you are an adult. How are you going to survive as an adult in the world if you are incapable of getting cash on your own?" "I'll go to the bank on Monday and get a new PIN. I promise. Please will you get it for me???? Come on...I almost never ask you for anything!"

And then after the test, "I am going back out with [that guy] again tonight. You'll give me a ride there, right? I mean I can get him to bring me home, but you will give me a ride there, right? I don't want to ask him to come get me. You'll take me, right?"

And when can I take him back to the DMV?

And can we go shopping soon so he can buy socks and new underwear?

You know how it goes....pleeeaasseee. Because, after all, he hardly ever asks me for anything.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Permanency Crisis

Evan didn't seem to have one, well unless telling us he was addicted to codeine was it.

Carl went to a party he wasn't supposed to go to and got drunk.

David, not a licensed driver, borrowed a car.

Our licensing worker told me, after we had been doing care for about half year, that a good number of people who have worked for the state and then come into permanency care don't make it. He said they get used to having kids for about six months. Part of their coping mechanism is just to hold on for that long.

But also they had no idea that the kid was going to get worse, at least for a while.

It may be something special that happens with adoption or permanent foster care. It probably doesn't happen all the time, and maybe it doesn't happen as much when placements are indefinite and no one says to the child "you're staying here."

Think of it like this. You are on the edge of a cliff and someone puts you in a seat attached to a nice thick rope. You have been traveling over small, shallow gullies on similar devices for a while. Now however you are stepping off for a long ride. What do you do? Back away from the cliff and give that rope a couple of good hard tugs. Yank that sucker as hard as you can and see if it breaks.

Of course, if you are going to be doing this for years, you will have to stop every now and then to see if the rope is holding up, if you are still safe.

It is all perfectly reasonable.

It's just really, really tough if you happen to be the rope.

Reasons to be an imperfect parent:

  1. The Stepford wives were creepy.
  2. June Cleaver was boring.
  3. Nobody will like you.
  4. You give your children unreasonable expectations of themselves.
  5. Knowing that children learn best by watching what you do, you will never be able to teach them:
    -How to accept their own imperfections
    -How to take care of themselves emotionally when they need it.
    -How to forgive themselves
    -How to ask for forgiveness with dignity
    -How real-life relationships survive
  6. You're going to be one anyway, so you might as well have a positive attitude about it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Did I tell you that I've been having really vivid dreams lately?

1. I'm hiding a hotel room with a bunch of kids while a scary person is out there hunting us. Brian comes in (why Brian?) to tell me that Hubby and the other adults who have been fighting the scary person are trapped. I'm torn between the need to go help him and the need to stay with the kids. Then I wake up.

2. I'm in some mysterious empty space but I know that mobsters are after me. Fortunately I'm working on a log cabin quilt and I can keep adding bigger and bigger pieces of fabric and for some reason that will save me. I wake up.

3. I get a call about a new kid. He's fifteen and he has been hurt. I go to the emergency room and talk to him. He is very sweet and I tell him of course he can come home with me. Then the social worker comes in the room with his ten-year-old brother. I decide to go back to bed and dream about mobsters.


I'm trying to figure out how to blog about this without sharing more than I should on the Internet.

My father is a recovering alcoholic. My mother divorced him when I was seven. The levels and sorts of abuse I went through are not comparable to what most of my kids had to deal with, although I understand now that to my four-year-old psyche it did not matter. As an adult I could be in a car crash and walk away trembling and think, "Thank God for air bags! How much worse that might have been!" If I were four, the car crash would be the most horrible, terrible, life-threatening thing that had ever happened, and it would be possible that certain things in my adulthood would bring back all those four-year-old feelings. That other people had been in worse car crashes would have nothing at all to do with those feelings.

The point?

Well, since Evan got his visa and all his plans settled for going away his alpha male side has been coming out. "Cwalls" pointed out that he is being possessive, which wasn't an adjective I had used, but is really accurate. He is a 260 pound clingy, demanding, domineering baby gorilla.

I have been feeling bullied.

I am also feeling really sad because he is going to go, and really tired because of everything I have to do, and I have not gone to Alanon for more than a month. All of that has left me, well, less good at dealing.

So Evan has been doing his thing and instead of simply remembering I am the parent and shaking my head at his stumbling attempts to figure out how to be a grown up, instead of quietly disengaging his clingy fingers and giving myself some space, instead of calmly telling him the other morning at 6:00am "Evan, you need to shut your window or block your vent" with an attitude that communicates, "Yeah...I know you hate for someone to wake you up at 6:00am, but that is the natural consequence of banging doors and freezing drafts in the living room," instead of all that I have been feeling and sometimes reacting like a four-year-old.

I have wanted to stamp my feet and say, "I will NOT be bullied in my own home! Stop! Leave me alone! I will hit you back!!"

I forgot that I don't have to defend myself as the parent. I am the parent. I just get to make the rules. I get to enforce them. I can say no without being furious. I don't have to engage. I don't have to let the inner four-year-old who is afraid of being bullied and hurt be in charge. I can parent her, take care of those feelings, and also be a parent to Evan. (Can anyone tell that I got to see my counselor yesterday?)

And there is another point...

I had a pretty stable childhood. I had a mother who loved me and took care of me. I was never afraid that I would not be taken care of. I was never afraid that my basic needs would not be met (at least when I was with her). I have had a good adulthood. I have had a lot of time to understand my trauma and what it means. I have been in a safe, loving, supportive marriage for 21 years.

And sometimes the trauma that I experienced as a child takes over. Sometimes I react to a stituation from that experience, and not from the reality that I am currently safe, loved, and an adult.

So why would I expect that a child or a teenager who suffered more trauma for longer periods of time to be any different? Why would I think that the fact that they have been safe for one whole year, that they intellectually know that I will not reject them, mean that they would not react like frightened four-year-olds? Why do I think that somehow I can make them feel safe enough that all that will just go away? Why would I think they would be more healed at 15, 17, or 19 than I am at 43?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Feeling better

I'm better today. Still feeling sad, but not the pitiful pile of sadness I was yesterday.

When I finally dragged myself home last night I spoke to Evan as though it had never happened. We talked about when he wanted to take the driving test and whether the insurance will cover him once he is a licensed driver. "I'm sure they will understand. I'm only going to be living here a little while." "Honey, insurance companies don't tend to be 'understanding.' You will either be covered or you won't."

I'll check in today to see how much it would cost to cover him for 3 weeks.

There is a conversation that needs to happen between us. One in which we talk calmly and sensibly about the house rules and in which I apologize for my behavior -- and he hopefully apologizes for his. I'm still feeling too fragile for that one right now. This avoidance behavior is not my ideal way to parent, but I am giving myself some slack. I don't want to get into it with him and have it escalate again.

There is more that I want to write, but at the moment I have to get ready for classes. I should be back later.

Update: the insuance agent says he is covered. The nice woman told me that it is customary to give people a few weeks to get new drivers on their policies. He can drive for three weeks and if we don't need to make a claim then we never need worry about it again. If we do need to make a claim we will need to pay the premium retroactively. I don't plan on letting him drive very often, but he can make a couple of those ever-so-exciting trips to the grocery store all by himself.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A bad day as a foster parent

One of the reasons I read other people's blogs is that it makes me feel better when I realize that I am not the only one who is not always good at this. Foster parents are not either saints or demons. We are ordinary people, trying to do something really difficult and some days we do it better than others.

Some days, like today, I have a great need to write, to confess, to vent. Today I thought maybe I would just write to the social worker, but no, I never got into that practice with her (because she is young, because I had the blog, because I had a counselor) and she will over-react. I thought I would just write to my friend. I will write to her but I thought that no, I should write it on the blog too.

If the blog is going to help me remember what this time was really like, and if it is going to help other people who are considering being a foster or adoptive parents, then it has to be honest and I need to talk about the bad days too.

Yep. It is like 7:00am and it is already a bad day.

Evan has been inconsiderate lately. He has not been mean; he is just extremely inconsiderate. Hubby says he has been doing the "alpha male thing." Hubby dates it from the moment he got his work visa, which is the first moment at which everything he needed to do for his trip was finished. He now sees himself really as a grown-up just biding his time and waiting to move.

Like all adolescents he does not understand that the adults around him really have feelings. I mean on one level they know we do, but they expect that we will behave as adults and take care of them ourselves.

So it is little things. Like how he constantly interrupts me in the middle of a sentence to tell me something important to him that has absolutely nothing to with what I was saying.

Like last night when there was some complication with the TV and I told Evan that I would watch a certain program he had recorded on the DVR with him but first I was going to take a bath while he figured it out. Then he figured it out when I was walking down the hall and yelled, "I fixed it. Come back!" "I won't be long. I really want to take my bath now." "No. Come watch it with me! Come back!" "Evan! Don't give me orders!" "I'm not giving you orders! Come back! ... Please?"

And then this morning when I woke up early because there was some sort of annoying knocking noise. I realized that it was Evan's bedroom door. He had fallen asleep with his window open again. He had not blocked off his vent and there was a cold breeze coming from it into the living room and the furnace was running almost constantly and his door, though shut, was banging from the breeze.

I behaved badly.

He behaved badly in response.

If I were to write the transcript of what we said, not a single thing would sound terrible. However, neither of us has anything to be proud of.

So what is going on? Why was I unable to resist the urge to wake his butt up at 6:00am and yell at him? Why was he unable to say or do anything that might have calmed me down? Andrew or Brian would have said they were sorry and that they would not do it in the future, which they would know would shut me up and give me nothing else to say. They might do it again the next night, but they would do the apology thing again. David would say he was sorry with a look in his eye that said, "I'm just saying this to get you to leave and you will pay. Believe me, you will pay." Evan wisely shut his window as soon as I knocked (he's not that stupid), but why did he have to stand there and tell me in his freezing cold room that he did not know what I was talking about, the window had been shut all night?

The bright side of my morning? I may have mentioned that Miss E never makes eye contact. When I picked her up at 6:45am (herein lies part of the explanation for Evan's early wake up call) she didn't even noticed that I had been crying all the way over.

What is going on is that I am exhausted. I have agreed to do too many respites. Since the beginning of October I have had a respite or a conference, or both, almost every weekend. I went home yesterday and wrote Maria's name on the calendar for Thanksgiving and saw someone's name written on each weekend. "Maria" "Jackie" "Miss E" "Maria".

I have had a stressful report for work. I've mentioned it. Not the sort of thing that should be stressful, but is.

And Evan is leaving is 26 days.

And though writing this has calmed me down considerably, writing that he is leaving makes me start crying again.

I don't want him to go.

I think it is fantastic that I have a kid, for the first time, moving out with his own plan. I am proud of him for doing everything that was necessary to make this happen entirely on his own. I think it will be harder for him than he thinks it will be, and I think he might even give up and come home early. But in any case it will be good for him and I have moved to the point that I fully support the plan. In some moments I am even excited for him.

But I don't want him to go.

So my counselor would ask me what am I re-feeling? If my emotions of grief and loss are this strong, making me behave in ways I recognize as insane and out of proportion from the thing that I am purportedly sad about, what else am I mourning? My own separation from my mother? The loss of David and Ann? Carl?

No, not Carl. Carl is not really gone. He is far away, but he did not really leave me. He is still strongly connected to me. He still comes home.

My mother? Maybe, but I don't think so.

David and Ann? Yeah...I can start crying about them again right now really easily. I can move from thinking about Evan leaving and crying to thinking about them and I doesn't feel like I have changed the subject at all.

So now what? I'm grieving and it hurts like hell. I feel like a bandage is being slowly pulled off and I want to rip it off and get it over with.

I mean that. At one moment this morning when I was behaving badly, but not as badly as I might have, it occurred to me that part of me really wanted to say something to like, "If you can't follow my rules then pack up and get the h-ll out!" That was actually the moment that I de-escalated myself and left to cry in the kitchen until it was time to get Miss E.

Right now, at this exact moment (I know I will feel differently very soon) it feels impossible to live with him, waiting for him to go, for 26 more days. I don't know where or how I will find the strength.

I emailed Maria's social worker. I told her that I could not take Maria for Thanksgiving. Evan is going to be visiting his brother, and I need that time to take a little respite myself.

I only have one class this morning and my students don't have anything big due this week, so they won't be coming in for appointments, so I am going to run away this afternoon. I don't know where I will run to yet. Evan is going to be home so I can't go there to have a break from dealing with the pain of him leaving. But I packed up my quilting supplies so that I don't have to go back home for them. I'll call my friend who lives in the City. She will probably be working, but she might be able to eat lunch with me and she will let me stay in her house for the afternoon.

Some part of me registers that there is something about this that does not make logical sense. I don't want Evan to go and that is bothering me so much that I need to take a break from being with him. I know it doesn't make logical sense, but it is true.

It does remind of the last months with David when he was gone all the time and Hubby wondered if we could ask for respite for one weekend. David wasn't home, so why would we want respite? We wanted respite so that his disappearing would not be our problem for one weekend. We wanted him to be running away from someone else for a while.

So my blogging buddies...I wished you lived as close as it feels that you do. Because there are several of you whose door-steps I would be inclined to run to right now.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Shelter Home and the aging out problem

I started this post a while back... shortly after I had to take Linda to the shelter home. I seem to mention it often and always feel compelled to say a couple of things about it which gets redundant. So I have decided to put all my thoughts about the shelter home in one spot. Maybe then I can just keep linking to the post rather than saying over and over that it is a mostly a good place.

The shelter home used to be an ordinary house in an ordinary neighborhood. They could handle maybe six or eight kids ages 9-17. The staff is friendly and professional.

Just this year they built a new state-of-the-art facility. They now have 20 beds. We drove up in the dark and Linda thought it looked like a nursing home. It does look like some sort of professional building, although a pretty, modern one with lots of windows and interesting roof lines.

What is good: it is a safe and secure place. The staff is friendly and professional, and really dedicated to kids. Because they leave after an eight hour shift they are generally not wore out. There is also no expectation that the kids form deep emotional bounds to the staff. This is plus for many kids. Though I do think it is good for kids to have strong bonds to people, it should not be a requirement in order to have a safe place to live. A social worker I know says that she doesn't like sending kids there because they so often don't want to leave. The kids who end up there often have attachment issues and there they are not pressured to attach. The staff do not take it personally if they are having a bad day.

The bad: the kids have to move out when they turn 18. The shelter home was never intended as a place for kids to grow up. It is supposed to be temporary, emergency care for kids who don't have any where else to stay. They do that well, and that is all they do. Once a kid turns 18 they cannot live there any longer.

Kids in most states, including this one, are allowed to stay in care until they are 19, if they are still in high school. Kids don't stay though because:

-They don't want to stay. They are tired of social workers and other adults telling them what to do.

-They have clearly got the message that they are expected to leave. For years they have been told, "When you are 18 then..." My bio kids have heard things like, "When you grow up and go to college, then..." or "When you are living on your own..." I have never communicated to them that their 18th birthday meant anything other than that they could vote, be sued or be drafted.

-They may be legal liabilities and no longer considered safe to live with kids under 18. This is a real problem for kids in the shelter or in homes like Mandy's. They just are not allowed to live there once they are 18. If they are still in high school, they have the legal right to stay in care, but the social workers are not going to put forth the effort to find them another placement unless the kids are asking, and asking fairly forcefully.

-Once they leave they can't come back.

Though I changed the title of this post, it was really just supposed to be about the shelter home.

It is as good as a teen shelter home could possibly be. It is intended to provide short term care for kids 9-17. It does that very well.

More respite

So Jackie came and went. I will probably see her again at the first of the year. Mandy and her husband always takes respite at that time of year to travel to their adult children's homes.

Miss E is coming this weekend. I'm not certain if her FM has plans or just needs a break.

And I just got a call asking if Maria could spend Thanksgiving with us. She has permission to spend the day itself with her mother and her new family is going out of town for the weekend. I said yes. Maybe I shouldn't have. I've been doing a lot of respite recently and I getting to the point where I need someone to get some.

All three of these girls have been or are possible placements for us. None of them fit the profile of kids we are committed to taking, but they all are/were supposed to be short-timers.

Concerned as I am with the lack of good homes, I sometimes forget that there are other homes out there. There are other people who are willing to take these kids. Each of these girls is right now in a situation that is good for them. Worrying about whether it is perfect is not my job.

But of course I do think about it. Hubby and I talk about it. If Miss E disrupts from where she is would we take her? If Jackie is offered the chance to go into the permanency program would we take her? What about Maria?

Jackie is the hardest. She is the one that I am actually tempted to call and offer assistance for.

Mandy and John have decided to retire. They are committed to staying until Jackie turns 18 in May, but then they are leaving the state, moving to a place where they are not licensed and none of the case workers know they ever were. After 30 years of doing care they are ready to move on to the next phase of their life. Jackie is working on her GED and will probably finish before her birthday and so would not be eligible to stay in state care anyway. In May she is on her own. Her father is recently deceased, her relationship with his family is non-existent, and though she talks with her mother often, moving in with her is not an option.

Jackie was considering trying to get into the permanency program but has recently changed her mind. She's gone through a lot recently and changing programs would mean moving, and she does not want to leave Mandy. I believe that Mandy has told Jackie that if she wants to she can move with them, but they won't be able to do more than offer her a place to live. The transition/emancipation services she is currently eligible for are not great, but she will loose them if she moves out of the state.

So one solution is that she go into the permanency program and move in with us. She knows us, and I would support her seeing Mandy as often as she likes. Her 18th birthday would just be another day on the calendar. She would have choices, and more choices than she does right now.

But I am full of bright ideas and this is not my problem to solve.

I guess this is why I am a foster parent. I see these kids and I want to help.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Jackie, Evan, and only 28 more days

Jackie spent most of the weekend watching Veronica Mars, Season 2. I let her take the disks home since she had only a couple of episodes left and I couldn't just tell her who crashed the bus. I think the break in a new place was good for her. She was also very happy to see Mandy.

I kept calling her "Jackie" which is not good since that is not really her name. Then she accidently called me "Mom" and I felt much better.

We went shopping on Saturday and she completely backs me up on my story that it really was my turn at the fabric cutting table and that the woman who insisted it was her turn and with whom I actually started to quarrel before I realized how ridiculous it was, was completely and totally in the wrong. She also agreed that it was very, very rude of Evan to interrupt me in the middle of my story about the fabric store to say, "Oh...Look at these jeans I got!"

Speaking Even interrupting, he has been a real pain in the hind-quarters recently. There is nothing malicious about his behavior, or at least not intentionally so. He is just completely self-involved. He is failing to recognize that anyone else has needs. He has also been engaging in a lot of what Hubby calls alpha male behavior. It's odd, even when he attempts to make up for his behavior I feel bullied.

"Evan, I was in the middle of telling you something and you interrupted me again."

"I don't do it to make you angry. Here! I will give you a hug. You have to feel better now."

"I have to feel better?"

"Yes! I gave you a hug! You know I don't show affection like that very often! I'm really trying here. Give me a break. Be happy!"

Hubby thinks it started when Evan got his work visa. He has his passport, his visa, his plane ticket. He is all grown up and just biding his time.

I get frustrated sometimes and I think I will be glad when he leaves, then I realize how quickly the days are passing and I wish he weren't leaving so soon.

I never claimed to be rational.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Time's a flyin'

This weekend Jackie will be staying with us. Mandy is throwing a party for her mother-in-law's mega birthday (70, 80, something) and the house will be full of relatives Jackie is not all that interested in. Jackie is almost certainly mature enough not to engage in annoying attention-attracting behavior, but she will have more fun with us anyway. At least that's what everyone is telling her.

Next weekend Miss E stays with us. I think it is just to give her FM a break, but there could be something more going on.

Then it is Thanksgiving. Evan is hoping to fly away on Friday of that weekend to see his older brother whom he has never met.

And then we have a weekend with nothing planned.

And then the next weekend Evan leaves for Scotland.

That's 30 days from now.


I went out and bought fabric for another quilt. I have yards of white to use with all my brights to make the quilt that I will like. I also bought a pile of boring blues and off-whites to make a log cabin quilt that the boys assure me other kids will find more appealing. I have directions for doing the log cabin quilting-as-you-piece, which will make it a more interesting project than it would be otherwise.

I have no big projects for this weekend, so maybe I will be able to at least start cutting.

30 days.

Anyone know how to make time slow down?

Miss E speaks

I had a good ride with Miss E, this morning.

She had a rather large amount of stuff with her and I commented that it at least was not as bad as when she was running track.

Miss E informed me that track was in the spring. What she had been doing early this fall was cross-country. They are apparently completely different sports. Track is done on a track, for instance. It may also involve things like hurdles.

I am capable of laughing at myself, and I did. It seems obvious that I should have figured out at that these were not two names for the same thing (i.e. competitive running). In any case, laughing at my ignorance was fun for her too, and we spent the rest of our drive talking about her shin splints and the stupidity of her state worker.

It was good, very good, to be back in that place. Miss E has such high, thick walls around her. She alienates everyone. I figure that because I don't actually spend a lot of time with her I have a chance of being one person who is able to maintain an accepting and supportive attitude towards her for a long time. She needs that.

Besides, I was dreading the possibility that I would be driving her to school in stony silence every single day. I can take it, but that doesn't mean I like it.

Next: Early Morning Factoid

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The "ick" factor

I've been emailing one of you about what some of us call the "ick" factor.

You know, when people say something to indicate that their real problem with homosexuality is that it is icky. Sometimes you can just see them shudder a little.

I have a way of responding. I want to share. It's fun.

I tell them that I understand. There are lots of things that we find disturbing to think about. But finding something disturbing to think about has nothing to do with whether it is moral. Here's the proof:

Imagine that I am about to make you watch one of two videos. One is gay p*rn. The other is a home video of your parents having s*x. Which do you pick?

A comic that "gets it"

Silent treatment from Miss E

Miss E is now giving me the silent treatment. You may remember that I drive her to school every morning.

Until last week she spent our car ride complaining (often with a level of glee) about people and the world. Earlier this week I made the mistake of mentioning the respite this weekend. It turns out that I was off by a weekend. Jackie is coming from Mandy's this weekend, and Miss E is coming the following. Miss E knew about the respite but responded only by telling me, "No one told me I was going to go to respite this weekend."

Yesterday I told her that I was sorry about the confusion and that she was not coming this weekend but the following. She told me that she had wanted to stay with relatives and that she did not want to go to respite, she did not even like living where she was. I took this as partly her telling me that it was not me that she was made at. I sympathized and tried to change the subject by assuring her that she would have Internet access at my house. We then had a very strange conversation in which she insisted that she did not have to use my wireless service because her service was INSIDE her computer. I tried to explain that whatever she had inside her computer she had to be getting her Internet signal from the outside. This conversation was like many others that we had had. I gave up and we finished the last couple of blocks of the ride in silence. Just letting go and being quiet was in some ways easier because I was so upset about the elections and was happy not to talk.

And today she is not speaking to me. "Morning." "uuhh." "How are things going?" silence. Drive for a little. "Hey, did you ever get your ultrasound scheduled?" A noise that sounds almost like "no." "That's too bad." I pause for the sort of response she would normally give -- you know the one where she tells me that everyone else in her life is horrible and incompetent and won't do the things that she needs them to do, but she says nothing. I drive a little further, "Are you okay?" Silence.

It's frustrating, but it makes me sad for her. She is so unhappy, so angry, so alone. Her defenses are so high that nothing can get in.

You know, I actually think she is likely to succeed in certain ways better than a lot of the kids. She's tough. I doubt she is going to get pregnant and expect the father to take care of her. She works hard and she will figure out a way to take care of herself.

I feel badly for her foster mom too. It is not easy living with that much negativity. That is one of the reasons I will be happy to do respite for her as often as she likes. I suspect that the agency will even give her more than the usual 12 days a year. If what she needs to keep Miss E is one weekend a month off, I expect they will give it to her.

With all the time I have spent with Miss E, this is perhaps the first time that I have felt like the target. Previously I was the person to whom she complained.

I can take the silent treatment. I know it is not really about me at all. It is her pain and defense.

This is one of the things that makes caring for these kids so hard. The kids with deep seated attachment issues. There is no possibility of breaking through Miss E's defenses by loving her. If Miss E allows me back into the group of people who are not targets, it will mean only that she once again will view me as a willing ear for all of her rage and pain. If I am part of her life I can either be one of the people she is angry with or one of the people who hears, constantly, about her anger.

I know it is essential not to take anything personally. Writing this helps me do that.

But it is not like any movie you have ever watched. This will not end with Miss E in some great pain from which I rescue her. She will not break down and cry in my arms and finally release that pain and begin, just a little, to trust me. If I hope for that, work for that, if I try to break through her defenses and love her, she will only push me further away.

No. All I can do is not take offense. Not react.

Eventually, she may begin to heal. Maybe. Right now though she needs to be accepted exactly the way she is. Defenses and anger and all.

Next: Miss E speaks

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Where's the love?

The God that I pray to is a god of peace and love and justice.

What does the Lord require of you, but that you love justice, do kindness, and walk humbly with your God?
That is from what people in my tradition call the Old Testament. They will tell you that it is a book full of laws and punishment, not love and forgiveness, but they are wrong.

The Jesus I read about told people not to judge others, soicalized with the outcasts, told people to worry about their own sins, and love their neighbors.

What happened to that message? How can the message of love and justice be perverted into hate and condemnation and self-righteousness? How can this be?

Dear God, how can this be? How can it happen?

How can a religion founded on love and justice and acceptance be used to justify hate and condemnation and discrimination?

How can a country founded on individual civil liberties deny those liberties to its citizens, and argue it must largely based upon a religion of love and justice?

Someboday wake me up.

Surely this is just a nightmare.

Not today

Today I read the election results.

Can I be happy about anything happening across the country?

Not yet. Not today.

Today I will mourn that I live in the reddest state in the country. Today I will mourn that it is worse. Today I will try to believe that I can keep fighting.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Congratulations to Maerlowe, who has brought home a boy who will hopefully be available for adoption.

Very exciting.

Maria moves on

So after all my angst and debate the social worker called to say that they have found another placement for Maria, Mandy could drive her, and was it okay if they dropped by the house so Maria could get her things. I said yes.

I just called Mandy and the transport is done.

I would have liked to say goodbye, but the important thing is that they found her a home, not just a bed.


I want to give a general thank you to all of you who have commented in the past month or so. All of your comments get emailed to me, but since I switched to Beta all the comments come through with "no reply" addresses. In order to reply I have to get into your profiles and I confess I have been lazy. I do appreciate you all though, and I do plan on putting the email addresses of regular commenters in my email program so that I can respond to you.

I don't want any of you to feel ignored...I value your input far too much for that!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Still debating

Andrew and Brian are both absolutely willing to give up their bedrooms for five weeks. The hitch is that the person they would have to give it up to would be Evan.

Maria is a cute 17-year-old girl and though Andrew has never shown (around me anyway) any interest in boys or girls, I don't think having them in the basement level together for any length of time is wise. If for no other reason than that it is a perfect set-up for confusion leading to false allegations. So if Maria stays for more than a week, Evan will have to give up his room and move down to share with the boys. Evan is willing to do it, if Marie really needs him to. He sees it as the right thing to do, which he would rather not have to do, and I don't blame him.

I spoke with Mandy and she is willing to have Maria spend Monday while we are all in school with her. Maria and I went up yesterday for half an hour. Mandy's three-year-old and one-year-old grandsons were there. The baby slept while the older was running around putting lotion on his face -- and hair. He was quite silly and Maria laughed. I think it was the first time I have heard her laugh. Jackie, who was "fine, I'm keeping busy so I don't have to think about stuff", had a good-natured debate with Mandy which was interrupted by the grandson waving his arms saying, "No...bruzzer seep...shhhh."

So Maria is willing to spend the day there on Monday. She could even go several days in a row, or even all week, if necessary.

I will talk to her social workers and see what they want to do next. No one wants for this girl to keep bouncing from one spot to another. I like her and am on verge of telling Evan to pack up his things and move downstairs. I confess though that I hope the social workers find her somewhere good to be quickly.

The current situation isn't fair to anyone, but it is not like there is some authority to whom we can appeal the injustice. The truth is that there are not enough homes. There are especially not enough people who are willing to take teenagers, especially 17-year-old teenagers.

A note about the social workers. Right now Maria has two. First there is Evan's social worker, who I believed I have previously called "Brenda." She is the nice, young woman whom I really like and yet wish were more experienced who has now become the family developer. The second is new to the agency, but a bit older, who is taking over Brenda's case load. She's the the one who told the Sushi story. Anyone got any good suggestions for names for her?

Sopranos and parenting

Evan and I have been watching the Sopranos. We both enjoy it in different ways.

I got pulled in over the relationship between Tony Soprano and his therapist. I find the psychological complexities interesting. On the other hand, I regularly have to ask Evan who the secondary gangsters are. Is that the one who was with Tony's uncle before? Evan just likes gangster shows. He is re-imagining his father in the image of Tony Soprano, but that is a post for another time, and perhaps another blog.

Last night we were watching an episode in which Tony's teenage daughter throws a party in her grandmother's empty house (empty even of furniture). Cops are called and the house is full of trash, urine and vomit.

Tony and his wife have a late-night conversation about their powerlessnesss. The mother points out that if they deny her driving priviledges they will have to chauffeer her around. If they ground her they will have to stay home and be jailers. Tony said that phyical punishment is illegal and if they kick her out they will be the ones in court. Early in the episode the aunt lectures the parents about being too controlling. She tells them that the daughter is behaving normally, seeking her own independent identity and that they, the parents, need to accept that and not try to cage her. Later in the episode the aunt sees the house and explodes in rage. How can her parents let her get away with such things? The daughter shows no respect for other people's property. "If she were my daughter..."

Evan found the powerlessness of the adults to be hilarious. I shoke my head and hollered my own advice at the television. "You're not powerless, you lack creativity! Doors come off hinges! Take away her make-up and hair products!" In a calmer moment I said that it was obvious what should be done. The daughter should be dropped off at the house with cleaning products and be told she couldn't leave until the place was clean. (At the end of the episode, Tony finds his daughter cleaning. It is not clear if the mother or aunt made her or if the daughter is doing it voluntarily after hearing the adults argue about how horrible she is and what should be done to her.)

Maria was watching quietly with us and Evan started baiting me. "Yondalla's never done anything to me." "Oh, Yondalla, you know I can get away with anything. You never stop me." And then finally, "I have time. Five weeks left. I should be able to get in at least three strangers before I go." This reference to the sexcapades was about all I could handle. I paused the DVD.

--Before going on, I wonder if you know that if you have two remotes and you hold down the pause button on one of them the other person can do nothing except turn off the machine? --

"Evan, I need to tell me that you will agree to abide by the rules we have agreed upon."

"Yondalla...come on! I was joking."

"I'm not."

He pushes on his remote, frustrated and laughing about his inability to make anything happen. He turns off the TV. "Now no one can watch it."

"That's fine with me."

"You're being ridiculous." He tries to make light of everything. He grins and says, "You know there's nothing you can do to stop me anyway."

I consider telling him that I can cancel his Netflix account, refuse to let him practice driving in my car, help pay for his driving insurance, or I could toss his butt out on the street. I consider telling him that he is nineteen and should not need threats like these to treat other people respectfully. I know that all the bravado is about impressing Maria. As with Jackie, he wants to create the impression that he has no rules here; he can do whatever he wants and I have no control over him. I say only, "I need you to tell me you will continue to live by the rules to which we have all agreed."

He glances at Maria who is trying not to look too interested. Nervously he says, "I don't want to talk about this now."

"Neither do it. Just tell me that you will abide by the rules we have agreed to."

"Okay, okay. You know I would have anyway."

"Okay." I put down the remote and he turned the show back on. He quickly made some other joking comment about the characters, to which I replied in kind; our little way of demonstrating that there were no hard feelings.

Score one for parental authority.

I suppose it is normal for a 19 year old to be a mixture of 25 and 12. He is so responsible in so many ways. More so than many of the kids. He has entirely on his own, got his passport, his visa (that just got approved), and his plane ticket for Scotland. He just now got a job at yet another fast food restaurant. He is large and in charge.

The evening when Maria was dropped off, Evan got a notice that he had over-draft fines. He went on line to discover that with all the clothes that he had bought (for which he will be reimbursed) he had over-spent by $5. This resulted in fines which put him even lower. For some reason they had fined him $30 about a dozen times in the past three days so that he was now $300+ in the hole. He discovered this immediately after Maria and her two workers came in.

His face filled with panic and tears in his eyes he said, "Yondalla. I need your help."

I glanced at his computer screen and saw that he was at the bank web site. "Let me show Maria around and then I will be back."

"No. This is an emergency. I need you now."

"Evan, it is 6:00pm. However bad it is, it will not get worse in the next 12 hours. I will show Maria her room and help you later."

"I need you now."

I patted him on the shoulder, "I will be back." I walked out with Maria and the workers. After the tour, the newer worker said, "Evan is really upset." "Yeah. I looks like a banking thing. He's panicked. I don't know if he understands that it really can't get worse right now. I'll help him in a few minutes." I grinned at her, "This is a good lesson for him."

We all four came back to the living room and immediately Evan demanded that I help him NOW. I asked Maria if she had any questions and took Evan's computer from him. He said he did not know how this had happened. I told him that it looked like it happened $10 at a time. That is the way it usually does. You buy a lunch here, a fancy coffee drink another day, don't write it all down and suddenly you have spent a couple hundred dollars over what you thought you had. The workers and I all assured him that this had happened to us too. I would write him the reimbursement check for all the clothes (even though we would not get the check from the agency for a few more weeks) and he could take it to the bank early in the morning. At the very least, it would put him in the black and stop the piling up of fines. There was more panicked talk about whether they would forgive some or all of the fines, whether he would have any money, whether I could go with him, please? I reassured him the best I could but told him that I could not go with him because he needed to be there first thing in the morning and I needed to go to work.

His social worker called the yesterday to talk about Maria. She said, "I really got to see what you have to put up with all the time."

I was confused. What was she talking about?

"Evan. He was really not able to put his own problems aside at all, even for a minute, was he? I mean he just needed you to take care of him, no matter what was going on or who was there."

Yep. He's nineteen, which means something like a mixture of 12 and 25.


Now that I have written all of this I am wondering what the point was. Am I just babbling, venting the trials of the past couple of days? It started with thinking about the Sopranos and child rearing; something about punishment and creativity; or was it about control versus understanding? I don't know anymore. Parenting is complicated. Toddlers or teenagers it does not matter. They don't need you, until they do, and then they need you NOW.

Friday, November 03, 2006

What to do with Maria?

I hate this.

I hate that she has no home.

I wish I could ask her to stay.

I have even thought about the living arrangements. Could I ask Andrew to move in with Brian and Evan to move to Andrew's room? Would they do it? If they did, how difficult would it be for six of us to live together for five weeks? I have even considered bribing them.

She is on a waiting list for a residential program. She should get in early January.

We did tell the social worker that she could have Evan's room after he leaves, until she gets into the program. That is unlikely. They want to find her a place where she can stay. I want that for her too.

For all that I wish I could ask her to stay until January, I am having trouble figuring out how to handle her now that she is here. I did not really think this through when I said she could spend the weekend. She is not enrolled in school. Prior to running away and going to detention she was attending a GED program in the next town over. Bottom line, she doesn't have anywhere to be during the day.

I could take her with me to work. Neither of us is very excited about that option.

I will call Mandy to see if Maria can spend the days with her.

If Evan is not working (did I mention that he got a job?), I don't mind if she stays home with him.

If she were going to live here I could get her enrolled in the GED program at the local high school and she would spend her days there.

I do hope they find a place for her to stay, a place where she is wanted.

She did, by the way, come out her room for dinner and has stayed in the living room watching TV with Evan. She's a sweet girl. Anyone got a spare bedroom for a couple of months?

I casually ran the idea of shifting people around by both Evan and Andrew. They both are willing to do it, if I want to and Maria needs them to.

I don't know if it would work out well, but they sure are fantastic human beings.

The right to be sad

Since her social worker left last evening Maria has come out of the bedroom to ask to borrow the phone, shower, and (she claims) get something to eat.

But it is okay. She has had a difficult time recently and now she has also been dumped into a home where she knows she will not stay. I would not blame her if she spent the entire time in the bedroom reading.

I told her so last evening when she came in. I told her that no one would expect her to be more cheerful than she felt and that she could just chill if she wanted.

I remember being taken home for Thanksgiving my freshman year in college. My friend and her family spent four days trying to cheer me up and make me happy. It was so important to them that they help me not to miss my family and have a good time. I on the other hand did miss my family and was not in a mood to have a wonderful time. All I wanted to do was to catch up on homework and pretend it wasn't Thanksgiving. I didn't though. I pretended to be cheerful and participated in all the family fun. I reassured them over and over that I was not very homesick, while thinking that it would be easier not to be homesick if they stopped reminding me.

When Easter rolled around in the spring I declined invitations. I stayed in my dorm room and caught up on work. I called home and missed my mother. I went to a movie with a couple of people who were also stuck behind. On Easter we made a small and strange feast in my room with our various toaster ovens and hot pots. We had a blast.

It makes sense sometimes to try to cheer someone up, but sometimes it is just rude.

Imagine trying to cheer up someone at a funeral.

There are things in this world that are genuinely sad, and we have a right to experience our sadness. We have the right to move through our emotions at our own pace.

Maria has nowhere she can call home. She is spending the weekend with a family she does not know. She does not know where she will be living next.

She has a right to be sad.

Foster Care and Health Coverage

Gawdessness comments "I can imagine that a lot of people who might otherwise be foster parents are turned off by the amount of hustling they would have to do. It also certainly would make foster kids stick out in a family when they couldn't go to the same doctors etc. "

Those of us who mix bios and foster kids have to deal with that all over America. In the US we have multiple health care systems. Kids in the foster care system, throughout the country, are in Medicaid. The systems varies somewhat from state to state, but nearly everyone has the same basic issue it is difficult to find providers who will take Medicaid, and it is usually not the same provider that the rest of your family uses.

My family physician has agreed to take all of my kids, even though he does not normally take Medicaid patients. My optomologist regularly takes Medicaid patients, but then most of them do. It is just a single exam, afterall.

But that is where it ends. If the foster kids need glasses we have to go to the optical clinic at the Health department (which is open for a couple of hours a couple of times a week) and get whatever glasses are there. Dentists are a major pain as nearly none of them take Medicaid at all. A few, not in Our Small Town of course, will put a Medicaid patient on a cancellation list. If they get a last minute cancelation you can drop everything and rush your kid over. Of course since I work outside of the home that is not possible for me. There is a pediatric dentist in the next town over who will see children on Medicaid once each. He will do an exam and any work that is needed, but only once, and only for pre-school children. He says he would like to do more, but if he had any other policy he would do nothing but Medicaid work.

Medicaid will pay for orothodontia in extreme cases. David got that. Though there are two orthodontists in Our Small Town, and even more in the the next town over, I had to drive him to one just outside of The City because that is the one who takes Medicaid.

The private agency I work for will help us out in these cases. They have agreed to pay my dentist, for instance. They also arranged transportation for David for some of his appointments. They have paid for various things that Medicaid does not cover. Carl got contacts when he wanted them and some kids have had orthodontia even when Medicaid doesn't think their teeth are bad enough.

These issues are not just my state...this is the US. We spend two to four times as much per capita as most other developed countries and yet 16-18% of us have no health care coverage at all, and many of the rest have coverage which is beyond inadequate.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

And the respites keep coming.

So last night I took Linda to the teen shelter.

This morning Miss E's new social worker called to see if I could take her next weekend. I said, sure.

Early this afternoon Evan's social worker and Miss E's new worker called to see if I could take another young woman, "Maria." Maria is well, between placements. Can they bring her over -- today?


"How long could she stay?"

"Until you bring Miss E."

Poor Maria is a bit overwhelmed. She is a petite young woman and a little nervous about being dropped off in this house full of boys. I think she will be okay though.

Next: silent treatment

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I've been found out (update) here's the deal.

In my area in addition to state foster care, there are two private agencies (that I know of).

There is a private foster care agency that takes especially difficult kids. They are supposed to do short-term therapeutic care although some of their kids end up in their homes for years. I shall hereafter call them TCA (Therapeutic Care Agency). Mandy, I have just learned, is the only TCA provider that will take girls.

I work for a private foster care agency that does permanency care, hereafter to be called PCT.

PCT licenses. I have a PCT license. I have told the woman who runs TCA on multiple occasions that I have a PCT license. What I either did not say clearly or she did not hear was that I have ONLY a PCT license.

TCA does not do independent licensing. They only work with state licensed foster parents who are required to have more training.

The bottom line is that I can no longer do respite care for Mandy, unless I get a state license.

[Insert expletive here.]

I would have to take PRIDE training, and I don't know if they would allow me to take the version for experienced foster parents as I am not experienced with them. I would have to have a new home study, and fill out their version of the paper work.

That would be a major pain in the butt, but that is really not the main problem.

The main problem is that I don't want to work with the state. Evan got into PCT because I did not have and would not get a state license. I do not want to get a license because they will call me and ask me if I can take some kid or set of kids just for the weekend and then on Monday to say they don't have another place lined up, can I keep them for just a little longer? It will not work to say that I only want to do respite.

So I would have to say "no." And I could, until the next gay kid comes along.

We would say "yes." I know we would. And then we would be working with the state. We will have no support. When we go to Maine they will not purchase a plane ticket. If the kid needs rehab, or a counselor, or a dentist I will simply have to find one that takes Medicaid. If I need help on the weekend I will have to call the hot line and speak to whoever is on call, who will not know me or my kid. I will not get reimbursed for school expenses. I will have to buy all their clothes at the major discount chains with monthly vouchers.

Of course the room and board reimbursements will be less than half of what I get now. That is less important than the other sort of supports, but it has to be considered. I would like to tell you how far down on the list my state is for reimbursements, but if I did you could figure out where I live, and I am committed to remaining anonymous. So let me tell you that it is near the bottom. It is about half of what any reasonable study indicates that it costs to have the kid in your house.


Clearly I really do not want to do it.

But the alternative is never doing respite for Mandy again, and I don't like that either.

So Linda's state worker is very sorry, the TCA woman tells me. It turns out that PTC licensing requirement is equivalent to the training necessary to take care of E4 kids. She should not have moved her.

"She said that knowing that I don't have a state license?"

"Yes. But you know, she is very young. I think this might come up again."

So she wants me to mail her a copy of my license and every time I do respite care for Mandy she will make sure that the social worker is notified.

See why I don't want to work for the state? They don't even know what their own rules are.