Saturday, September 30, 2006


Anyone know what happen to Rossecorp? Her blog, Process, is it a fluke, or did we loose another good social worker's blog?

Pumkin I knew was gone for sure because Cindy said something, but does anyone know what happened to Rossecorp?

Ann's Story

Ann started coming here for respite almost as soon as we began doing care. She lived with us from December 2002 until March 2003.

It was more difficult than I expected and in the end, though I never stop loving her, it was more difficult than my family could handle.

In Spring 2006 I used the emails that I wrote during that time to tell the story of her placement with us. Because she is a minor, those posts are on the private blog.

Problems with the private blog (update)

So this what happened.

I set up the private blog and spent a couple of hours yesterday moving over 50 posts about Ann. I couldn't move the comments, but I moved the story.

However, posting 50 messages over the course of a couple of hours got my blog flagged as a potential spam blog.

So I got hit with word verification for each post (you know, like we turn on for comments). Now that would just be inconvenient, but the word verification isn't working. When I try it I get sent to a log in screen which also doesn't work.

There is a question mark at the word verification window. When I click it I get taken to a screen that says the document I requested is unavailble and then get shuttled off to a screen that explains what the word verification for posts is and tells me that if I am having trouble with it I should click the question mark next to the word verification window.

So I don't know if the problem will just go away after a while or what. I have looked it up in the Google Help forums and been advised to just write to them and ask them to fix it. I have.

If it doesn't work, I am actually thinking about renaming that blog "Ann's Story" and just starting up ANOTHER private blog.

Jeeze Louise this is a mess.


It's fixed

Private blog set up

I sent out invitations to people for the private blog. I have transfered Ann's Story to it.

There are two problems: first the blog has got word verification for posting and for some reason it is not working so I can't post.

Second, I am having trouble digging up all the email address I wanted for invitations. I will be visiting some of your blogs to get your addresses, but the fastest way to get on the invitation list is probably to sign the guestbook.

Friday, September 29, 2006

It is okay (update, thrice)

I deleted the previous post.

There was a lock-down at the local high school.

The school resource officer (police officer) has informed the local police department that it is over and there is no danger to the students although we are also asked not to all go to the school and take our kids out.

The police station cannot confirm why there was a lock-down, only that is over and the kids are safe.

The news story is this: a young man, not a student, came to the high school with a loaded gun. There was an altercation between him and four other students in which the gun was dropped without being fired and handed to a teacher. The boy who brought the gun to school ran and the police are looking for him. The gun-toter was looking for a particular person. He was not intent on shooting people in general.

Update the second:
--the kid originally carrying the gun is in police custody.

Udate the third:
Andrew was very calm about it all. Yeah, so a kid brought a gun to school. A teacher got it right away. The kid didn't even get a chance to point it at anyone. He said that parents came to pick up their kids, but most of the kids told their parents to leave them. One boy got dragged home but after his mom went to work he just walked back to school.

I have some contrary feelings here. On one hand I am glad my kid wasn't upset. On the other hand, what does it mean that someone can bring a gun to school and my son thinks it is no big deal?

How does one respond when one's (almost) seventeen year old kid says, "Mom, it was just a gang thing. He wasn't trying to shoot up the school; he was just going after another gang member."

Lifeguards on Duty

Bacchus of Family of Choice mentioned this blog. I love it when people mention my blog. I feel all warm and fuzzy. (Of course I am waiting for the day when I get mentioned on some conservative site and the hate mail starts coming).

ANYway, since I have been talking about taking the blog private I have been getting emails from regular readers (that is SO cool). Several are gay men.

Now this may be hard for me to explain well, but I can't tell you how comforting it is to know that there are gay men who read this blog.

See, I hope to help my boys to grow up to be responsible, caring, healthy gay men (well...not my straight know what I mean). Having some around to keep an eye on things and give me perspective when I need it makes me feel better.

It's like you have been trying hiking through unknown territory and doing okay, but often being uncertain, and then suddenly find out that there are people who know the land who have been keeping an eye on you. Or maybe it is like swimming nervously in the ocean and then suddenly seeing the sign, "Lifeguards on duty."

I don't want to make my readers nervous, make them feel like they are responsible for me, but I want you to know that I am really, really glad you are all there.

It reminds of a story...

When Carl moved into our home at the beginning of summer. He had been out to only a few friends and when he went back to school he decided to come out. He bought and wore make-up. The social worker thought it was absolutely inappropriate and must be stopped. She thought he was would provoke hostility. Hubby thought it would provoke ridicule. I was a new foster parent, and had never been a parent to a teen and was really uncertain. I wrote a long email to the leader of the youth group for GLBT kids (who happens to be a gay man). It went on and on, but ended with, "I keep wondering if we are blowing this out of proportion. Would it be better just to ignore it?"

His response was, "Yes."

There were so many times when he gave me this sort of calm, reassuring feedback. "Don't worry about this. It's normal." A couple of times he did warn me that a kid was acting out in ways that worried him, and more than once he clued me in to the fact that I was being conned. He is not a parent, but I am a much better parent because of him.

When I started the blog I wanted a place to pour out all the things that I think and worry about and I believed I thought I could be helpful to others.

I had no idea how much support I would receive.

Thank you all.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Talk with the director...

moved to private blog

Why I am "just" the foster mother

My counselor periodically expresses interest in why, pyschologically speaking, I wound up as a foster parent. What is it about me that makes me go down that path?

I think about it periodically as I read the foster-to-adopt blogs. What they are doing really does make more psychological sense. Most humans seem to have an ingrained need or desire to parent. For some people, for a variety of reasons, becoming a foster parent is (or for a while seems to be) the best way to get to that goal. But why would anyone do foster care intending to be "just" the foster parent?

Yesterday I told my counselor how deeply FosterAbba's story about Danielle had affected me. How I went to church the Sunday after Danielle first arrived and had to leave. I felt so angry at God that such a thing could be allowed to happen. I realized I was actually less angry at Danielle's abuser than I was at everyone else who should have noticed and done something. I told her that I knew she (the counselor) would ask me, "Why does this bother you this much?"

"Yes. That is what I would ask you."

She even joined me in the last half of the answer, "Because nobody rescued me."*

Our conversation eventually turned again to all the people who in one way or another did notice. People who gave me temporary emotional shelter, people like Bart and Clara. My counselor has started refering to them as my "foster parents" and says that they explain to her why I became a foster parent. I am a foster parent because I survived my childhood by finding adults to bond to. At almost every stage of my life there was some woman into whose kitchen I was always welcome.

And as an adult I became that woman. I did not go looking for unhappy children. I just noticed them. I said hello. I introduced myself. We chatted. If they liked to read I loaned them a book. To my surprise one of them did not just need a book, but needed a home, and I became a foster parent. Like Dan, I realize now that being a licensed foster parent is just an one of the ways that some of us reach out and parent children around us.

I admire Cindy and Claudia and all the other parents who adopt large numbers of children, but I know that that is not my place. For me, becoming a permanent part of some of these children's lives is a bonus, the proverbial icing on the cake. I accept that for most of them though, that is not who I am. I am the nice lady next door, the aunt, the maintainer of the oasis.

*When I was fourteen I told my mother that I was not going to visit my father any more. She said, "okay." It haunted me for years, still does sometimes, that that was all I had to do. I finally rescued myself and that was all it took. I could have done that when I was ten.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Good touch/ bad touch limits in foster care

My organization is very specific about rules regarding touching and modesty. I've mentioned it before, but every time a kid is placed with us everyone in the household has to sign a document called, "The LastName Family Safety Plan."

Most of it is pre-written: no one outside of their bedroom or the bathroom in naked or in just their underwear; the boys are to wear at least a tank top at all time; if more than one person is in the bathroom the door must remain open; no tickling. back rubs, or "play fights."

You are allowed to modify it. When we signed it for the first time Brian was just barely 6 and we wrote that Dad was allowed to be in the bathroom with the door shut when Brian needed help washing his hair. (Of course Brian immediately decided that he did not need help). We told them that wrestling with Dad was something that the boys really enjoyed and we did not want to give it up so they allowed us to add, "wrestling will be allowed only when everyone agrees and Dad is involved."

There is a place where the social worker helps the kids to list the sorts of touch they feel safe with. That's where we find out if the kids likes to be hugged and if so whether it is only one or two arms.

The rules sort of slide into the background for after a while. For instance we are not supposed to be in a bedroom with the kid and the door shut. Sometimes though the conversation is private and I tell them I think we should talk in a bedroom (mine or theirs -- their choice). I then sit away from the door (so that they are closer to it) and tell them that they are in charge of where the door is. The agency would probably advise against it because I put myself at risk for false accusations, but I will take the risk when it is necessary to protect the privacy of the kid.

Given that I have birth kids and bio kids in the house I do also get careless about other rules. If Brian were to lay down with his head in my lap I would almost certainly start scratching and rubbing his back without thinking about it. If Andrew were sitting at the table getting anxious about life (again) I would probably give him a quick shoulder rub. Come to think of it, last month he had a pulled muscle in his back and I put him in a chair in front of mine in the living room and massaged the painful area for a long time two nights in a row.

Would I do all these things with a foster kid? Well, it would be against the rules, but I might. I would certainly ask them first. (When Andrew was dragging himself around and whining I did not ask. I think my exact words were, "Okay...that's enough. Get into this chair so I can rub the ointment into it. Tell me if it makes it hurt worse." If it were Evan I would definitely ASK.)

The agency makes it clear that these rules are not about protecting the kids from dangerous behavior. It's not like they think that if we tickle a child or rub a their sore shoulders that we will loose control and start touching them in bad ways. It is that they want the kids to FEEL safe. They also tell us that they are interested in protecting us against false allegations. They tell us stories about kids who were sexually abused who seemed to need to sub-consciously "test" the adults. You've heard them, "The girl seemed to crave physical contact and initiated cuddling. She and the father started making a habit of watching TV together. She would snuggle under his arm and he put it around her shoulders. One day, having a cramp in his arm, he stretched and let his arm relax, and his arm slid down from her shoulder to her elbow. The next day she called the social worker and said that he had hit on her."

So our agency has very clear guidelines, designed to make the kids feel safe and protect the parents from false allegations. Given that this is an agency that rarely takes anyone under the age of 12, they rules mostly seem reasonable.

But I was wondering what the rest of you think. What would you tell new foster parents about touching? How do you decide when it is safe to cuddle and tickle?

Conversations with the worker

I talked to Evan's worker the other day. She has accepted the position of family developer. She would like to "keep" Evan as he is so close to moving into transition anyway, but she knows and I knows that if he has any crisis that requires time, she will have to hand him over.

I am not happy about her being the family developer. I am actually more than a little annoyed at the agency right now. The family developer is the person who teaches the classes, arranges on-going training, reminds me (again and again) to send in copies of my car and home insurance, notes from the doctor, take TB tests, and visits me every six months to make certain I have changed the batteries in the smoke detectors and haven't done any renovation on the house that I did not tell her about.

The problem though is that it seems to be a revolving door position. The person in the position when I started was there for two or three years, I believe. In the three or four years since there have been (let me count...) six developers. Each one seems to move out faster than the one before. If you are a regularly leader you know that I like Evan's worker and also think she is very young and inexperienced. She is good and shows the potential to be great, but she is young and inexperienced.

Shouldn't the developer be some tough older worker who has been through the trenches and knows what it takes to survive? Someone whose idealism has turned into tough, unrelenting realism?

The school for which I work just hired someone to coordinate accommodations for disabled students. She came to a faculty meeting the other day and said that when students hand us letters telling us what they MAY need, we are to smile and say that we will sit down with them and work out the details, no matter what we think. "Then you can call me if you want. I've been doing this for 20 years and have big, strong shoulders. You can rip me a new one if you want. I can take it." THAT's the sort of person I want to be the family developer.

But once again I remember that I do not run the world. I hope she does well in her job, but mostly I just hope that she stays.

Oh...I also asked her if anyone was disturbed that the multiple boyfriends in the house thing went as far as it did. Was anyone disappointed with me? Her response was, "Oh no...not at all." She then went on to tell me the responses of the out-going family developer (she's staying in the agency, just working a different job), her supervisor, and the very nice director of the division (who happens to be gay). Every one of them were very impressed with how calmly I handled it; how I did not get upset and let things escalate.

That was good to know, but what was less good was realizing that this issue was not just discussed in "peer review". It apparently went "all the way up." Yep. The whole division talked about it.


Of course I told you all, so I guess I shouldn't complain.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"You mean my aunt"

That's what Evan said to one of the social workers when he called to ask if they could help with transportation to counseling. "You mean my aunt. No, she can't drive me because she is working."

The social workers encourage the kids to call us foster parents "mom" and "dad". At least they refer to us that way.

It made me remember how important that is to him.

I sometimes get calls from the school where someone ask's "Is this Mrs. Kid'sLastName?" I figure that's just another way of say, "Is this the right adult to talk to about Kid's problem?" So I just answer "yes." I don't correct them about my name unless I think they are going to be writing it down. It just is not all that important to me.

But it is important to Evan.

It is important for the reasons we originally suggested it. Being his aunt means that he does not have to feel any particular emotion for us. There is no suggestion that he has some sort of attachment problem if he simply likes us or even if he were to merely tolerate us.

It is also important though because he has a mother, and I am not her.

It's one of the differences between doing foster care and adopting. I am not the real mother. I became (one of) Carl's real mothers; I am the closest thing that David has to a mother (which is not the same thing); but I am Evan's aunt.

And that is fine with me.

Thinking about the next kid

I went and looked at the photo-listings for my state.

I do that sometimes. I look at the teenagers and notice a couple of faces that were there when I looked last, usually months ago. I wonder how many of them will find adoptive homes and how many will end up in permanent foster care. The eleven-year-olds have a chance. Odds are not good for the older teens.

I had been thinking about our "next kid" as though he (it could be a she, but that is less likely) does not quite exist yet. Possibly as early as November, but maybe much later, we will get a phone call. "There's a kid we want you to meet, would you like to come down and look at the file?" For me that is where the story starts. I had been wondering who that teenager will be.

Suddenly I realized the obvious, that young person already exists. He or she is living in a home right now that is not going to last. It is possible, but unlikely, that he is living with birth family. It is much more likely that he is living in a foster home, or a pre-adoptive home that is not working out, or is in the teen shelter. Right now, today, the child who will be next in my home is living some place that is not working.

It is a troubling thought; one I could easily get obsessed by. Why is the home not working? Is it because the adults are homophobic? Or is there some other reason?

It is easier to think about the next part of the story. The youth's social worker will know the he or she is queer. They will consider putting the youth on the photo listings. The youth, being at least 12, may refuse to go through that again. Or they may try it, be trying it right now, and nothing comes of it. The social worker will sit down and talk to the youth about the private permanency foster care program. She (almost all the social workers are women) will explain that if she can get the youth in, he will have the best transitional services available in the state when he is ready to emancipate. He will consider it and agree. His social worker will warn him that it is a long process and that there is a waiting list. The social worker will warn him that it can take a long time from applying to being placed. She may tell him that many foster families join the program with their kids, just because those families want to keep the kids. But then again, if she is telling a kid that, then that kid is probably not my kid.

But maybe in his paper work it will say that he (or she) is queer. The file will be presented along with many others to the committee who picks kids for the waiting list. Someone will notice and say, "Did you say that young man/woman is gay? Let me see the file. We may be able to get him into a family very quickly."

All the social workers will think that that is wonderful. They will think that the youth is so lucky.

They will tell the youth about us.

The youth will not feel lucky, nor should he. If anything he will feel resentful that the social workers think he should be grateful that there is a family that won't treat him like garbage. He will be tired. He will have moved before. He will have heard the promises before. He will agree to hear more about us, but he will not be enthusiastic or grateful.

They will tell him a little about us: how many kids we have had before; how we have had three gay boys all of whom emancipated from our house and still like us; how we have two bioboys; that we go to an open and affirming church, but do not try to push the kids to share our religious beliefs; that we are educators.

And after the youth has heard all there is to know about us he will say, "They live where? Oh no. I said I wanted to stay in The City. You aren't going to make me move out there are you?"

Monday, September 25, 2006

Quick update

The exciting news from our family is:

We had to cancel our debit cards because someone stole Hubby's number and was buying car parts in Sydney, Australia. Not high-priced electronics. Not huge cash withdrawals. Car parts. Whoever it is even returned a few purchases. Whoever heard of a thief returning merchandise? Maybe s/he expected to get cash back instead of just putting the credit back on our account. Whatever. It's a major pain in the bee-hind, but the bank tells us that we should get the $300 back. I am glad that our thief did the returns. It would have been $400.

Andrew is dropping band and moving out of one of his three AP classes into the regular section. We had a long talk about living versus accomplishing. I assured him that he could get into college with a less insane schedule. He will no longer have zero period, so will not be traveling with me to pick up Miss E.

Evan told me that he his thinking about turning down a job. Someone offered to pay him a tidy sum to install some computer equipment, but he suspects that they are engaged in not-quite-legal activities. He wants to know if I think he could be charged as an accomplice (accessory?) if all he did was install the equipment. Sigh.

Brian is still having a blast with the kitten, who is having a blast teasing the dog.

Otherwise, life here is pretty stable, which is almost boring, but in a good way.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

More odd conversations with Evan

Evan periodically confesses something to me, although "confesses" is not the right word. He reports things to me. He reports that he does something that he knows I will find to be unethical. He seems to want to talk about it, and wants to defend it to me.

Okay, sometimes I am the initiator of the conversation.

Evan has owed me a little bit of money for a while and never remembers to pay. Yesterday after we shopped I told him that if he payed for our lunch we would be even (a terrific deal for him given that half of the money was going towards his own lunch and a fair deal for me because I would have paid for his otherwise). While we were eating I asked, "so how many guys are you seeing right now?"

He thought and said, "Only two."

I did not say anything and he volunteered, "Of course, it would not be okay for them to do that."

So we had a conversation about behaving in ways one would not tolerate in others. He attempted to defend it. He told me he only lied by omission, for instance. Of course nothing he gave as a defense was something that he would accept from someone else. Like all of our conversations about such things, it was light and even jovial. Someone at the next table might have thought we were talking about a movie we had both seen.

Later last evening he said that he was getting better telling each boy exactly what that boy wanted to hear. "It doesn't bother me at all. Do you think that's bad?" As the conversation continued he told me that it was okay because he could usually believe what he was saying in the moment, but that it was a little troubling because he gets confused and is not really sure about what he really believes and feels.

These conversations are disturbing, but probably healthy too. Evan seems to be genuinely uncertain about what I would think, or maybe that is not it. He must know what my position will be. I think he wants to hear the argument for it. He wants the rationale.

Our conversations could be scripts in a science fiction movie. The alien from the far off planet says, "Why do you speak truth even when it causes you pain?" The local tries to explain the nature of friendship or honesty and why she values it. "But would it not be simpler just to enjoy each person while you are with them, saying what makes you both happy in the moment, and then move on to the next moment?" The local struggles to explain the greater value of relationships grounded on trust, on what it means to know that the people you are with really know who you are and still want to be with you. She tries to explain why she thinks it is important to be honest even when doing so causes her pain. The alien is not certain that she is sane. The alien wonders how many other humans really think this way. Is this human somehow deviant?

Except that the alien sees why she would want other people to be honest with her. The alien would like for other people to give him what the alien does: acceptance and love even knowing his faults. He has come to enjoy it.

What he wants to know though is, does he really have to treat people that way in order to be treated the same? He knows, and knows well, that offering that treatment is risky. It does not guarantee comparable treatment back. In fact, among some from his home world it would invite very bad treatment. He would be the one tricked. Would it really be so wrong, he asks the strange local, if he continues to treat people in the way that comes naturally to him, while wanting them to treat him like the alien does? Perhaps it is better to play by his own rules. Is it not more likely that people will like him if he appears to be what they want him to be? He has always believed that that was the best way to secure the affections of others.

But he likes the idea of someone both knowing and liking him. That is attractive, but it means taking risk. He wonders, "Is it worth it?"

The Doggie and the Kitty

Our Doggie is an Australian Cattle Dog, often called "Heelers." They are common in our area. They are not really recommended as family pets. They are working dogs. They round up cattle. They tend to be aggressive towards other dogs, and need to be exercised daily. They respond very well to training and are very obedient -- if you train them. They are smart.

They were bred in Australia from Dingos and a variety of other dogs, including Dalmatians. The idea was to get a dog that could herd cattle in the hot dry conditions of the outback. Dingos cannot be legally removed from Australia, but some people (not ranchers) think that Heelers are Dingos. Every now and then we will have someone ask us if Doggie is a "Dingo Dog" and tell us that they met a "Dingo Dog" at someone's ranch a year ago.

Doggie is very sweet to people. She has several male dog friends with whom she loves to play. She has killed a pet cocketiel (in her defense she was sitting politely while Hubby held onto her collar when the cockatiel practically flew into her mouth). She has also killed some sort of weasel animal in the backyard and once brought down a crow.

Kitty and Doggie want to play. Kitty dives under furniture and waits for Doggie to look away. He (Kitty) then charges out, runs through Doggie's legs, and then dives under another piece of furniture. Doggie's part of the game seems to be to attempt to stop Kitty. She pushes him over with her nose and tries to hold him down with her nose. Once she sat on Kitty. I have seen Kitty play with his brother and Doggie play with her pals. They both play exactly the same way: chase and tackle; a little bit of mouthing; release and repeat. They want to play that way with each other.

The problem of course is that Kitty is maybe 3 pounds while Doggie is 45.

We let them be in the same room for a few minutes every day. On one hand they are having a wonderful time. It is clear that this is a game. Doggie is being very gentle. On the other hand it would take about one second for the game to get out of hand and for Kitty to suffer badly.

So we watch them. The second that Doggie opens her mouth (probably to lick Kitty) we yell, "Doggie!" and she comes running and sits in front of us. (The first three times we called her we told her to sit and stay and kept her there until she was relaxed. She figured out the routine).

Their play is both adorable and anxiety-producing.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Shopping with Evan

Took Evan shopping today, although it turned out that he took me.

We split up in the mall and went to buy pants.

Has anyone out there tried to buy pants lately? It seems that someone figured out that women are more likely to buy a pair of pants if they are size lower than the pair they wore last. A little of size drift is one thing, but it has got the point now where the size numbers are meaningless. I have pants now in three different sizes that all fit me. Very frustrating.

I was just getting ready to pay for the pants when Evan found me.

"Are you finished?"

"I thought I might look for shirts, but I don't know if I have the energy."

"I'll help. We can find you something stylish that's still middle-aged."

It took a little while, but he did manage to find some clothes that I liked, were cute, and respectful on someone of my advanced age.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Second private blog

I am on the edge of starting a second, private blog. The way that works is that I type in the email addresses of people who I want to let read the blog. Blogger then sends an email to them which allows them to enter as a guest for two weeks. After two weeks they must have established a google account in order to continue reading. Readers would have to be logged in in order to read, but you don't have to remember any password other than your own.

I think that Blogger is going to force everyone into Beta (which involves having a Google account/email) once they have finished working out some of the bugs. I will probably wait until then to do it. That means that the people who would be primarily affected would be those who do not have a Google account (duh). Such people who have to decide whether reading my private stuff is worth creating a Google account (which they don't have to use).

In order to convince me to put you on the list, I just need to know a little about you. Those of you with whom I have already developed relationships, commenting on each other's blogs and such, will have to tell me if they DON'T want an invitation, because my plan is to add you. Anyone else will have to send me an email asking. I anticipate that most of the dozen or so people who will be clammering to read will be foster and adoptive parents.

My intention is that this blog will remain as it is. I would like to move the posts about Ann to the private blog if I can. In the future I would continue to do my sharing of general thoughts here, but anything that has to do with the issues of minor children -- and probably anything that has to do with the sex life of anyone -- would be on the private blog. If moving the Ann stuff is not to much of a pain in the hind quarters, I may move a lot of the recent Evan stuff too. I'll get this blog down to a PG rating, if you know what I mean.

Nothing will happen quickly, but I am putting this out there for feedback.

And by the way, if I follow through on this it will not be so much because I think that what have been doing is wrong (I don't). It is primarily because Pumpkin being shut down frightens me. I have grown to depend upon this blog too much to take risks.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Breaking the news to Evan

Moved to private blog.

Conversations with counselor and social worker

moved to private blog

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Comments appreciated

Margaret writes in a comment to my Becoming a little more anonymous:

That's one of the hard things about blogging. Sure we give our kids nicknames and so forth, but if someone really wanted to they could figure out a lot about us.

I think censoring yourself a bit is smart. But if you go password-protected, please, please keep me in the loop. Your experience and knowledge is valuable for me. I've already learned a lot from you. I've been able to "forgive" myself for saying no to Boy Wonder largely because of your blog.

So maybe it is because I am a little sleep-deprived, or because I just came from the counselor where I talked about Evan's issues, but Margaret's comment actually brought tears to my eyes. Really.

I write for myself, but I also hope that what I write helps someone else.

It is wonderful to know that the blog has done that. Really.

Thank you for saying so Margaret.

Becoming a little more anonymous

After Pumpkin closed down her blog (I will assume that she is keeping her reasons confidential, but I have suspected since it happened that someone decided she was breaching confidentiality), I have been thinking about what I perhaps should do to protect myself and my blog.

I am in the process of purging the name of the agency for which I work from the blog. Though I love them, if anyone there decided to do a search for blogs mentioning them, they would find mine and it would take no time at all to figure out who I was.

Right now I think I am on safe ethical grounds with respect to all the boys, as they are either legally my own or are 18 and have given me permission to write. I don't know that social workers would necessarily agree, but I feel fine about what I have written.

I think I am okay with the respite girls because I have not said very much about them. I think that my writing has focused on my own experiences and not on revealing anything particularly confidential about them. Certainly if someone who knew them read the blog they would not learn anything they did not already know.

I may be on thin ice with respect to Ann though. I am planning on going back through my posts about her and delete anything that can't be defended as a discussion of my own experience and/or reveals something that is confidential about Ann. I hope it does not gut the story too much. I think it is good for there to be a complete story about trying to parent a kid with attachment disorder. I think that it is good that there is a story from someone who tried to do it and discovered she could not. I think that we foster parents need that. I need it. I know that the stories of success and happy endings are good for me to read, but so are the sad stories. It is good to remember that we are only human and that we cannot parent every child.

I am also thinking more about what I will do when the next kid comes along. He or she will almost certainly be under 18, and therefore not able to give me permission to say whatever I feel like saying, and writing this blog has become part of my support system that I do not want to give up. I don't know that I could write it in a way that will satisfy my self-imposed standards.

The best solution I can come up with so far is to have a second blog with privacy protection. I know I can password protect a blog. Baggage did that for a while. If I did that I would not give up this one, I would just put some things in the other blog.

Fortunately I do not have to decide that for a while. I did however want to mention that the name of the agency has already disappeared from about 25 posts. Blogger tells me I have another 70 to go...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Considering responses

Well, I've got lots of feedback and it's been pretty consistent. Everyone agrees with the part of my brain that says, "No people in my house I have not met."

Life really is easier when they go to school during the same hours you do. This going to night school and being unsupervised all day long is for the birds.

And of course that is part of the issue to be negotiated. I am in the position of making a rule which I cannot enforce.

This means that there a couple of options.

1. I can simply proclaim this to be the new rule.
-- I believe I have the authority/right to do that and am willing to if I decide that it is pragmatically the best option. Pragmatically I have my doubts though. The truth is that I cannot supervise him during the day. I can threaten to do drop bys and even do a few, but if I do I have to have consequences and I have to be willing to follow through on them. I have not worked that part out for myself yet.

When he was in rehab and we visited I told him that he could only live with me if he followed the house rules and worked cooperatively with his counselor and social worker. That was non-negotiable. If he were to announce to me that he was tired of seeing his counselor and wasn't going anymore, I would ask him if he needed help packing. I meant that then and I mean it now. I say this because I guess I want people to know that my debating here is not about being afraid of confrontation or unwillingness to enforce consequences.

I also know, and this is something that I just know about myself, that he could get away with a lot between now and the end of October -- as long as he continues school. I want him to finish high school so badly that I know I would forgive things that I would not be willing to forgive later.

So if I make this the rule, I can only do it after I have answered the questions, "How will you monitor his behavior and what will you do if he disobeys?" I don't have answers to those questions yet.

And of course I am thinking that the more Evan disagrees with a rule, the more likely he is to just get sneaky. Hiding boys in his closet or having them climb out his bedroom window whenever I show up unexpectedly for lunch is not the result I am going for.

2. I can enlist the help of the counselor to help me talk with Evan about why I am worried and what I need to happen to feel safe. I can allow that to be an open-ended conversation in which the rule that emerges is not exactly the one that I originally considered.

This, you may have already figured out, is the way I am going to go. It has the disadvantage of being a longer process. It has the advantage, however, of being more likely to result in a rule that Evan will follow without being heavily monitored. It doesn't guarantee compliance, but it helps.


It occurs to me that the best consequence for breaking the rule is losing the privilege of being home alone during the day for a certain amount of time. But there are logistics that must be considered. Do I drop him off at a foster home with a SAHM/F? Do I take him to work? Or do I simply lock him out (from 7:30am-3:00pm) and let him figure it out?

And though I do need to have a consequence that I am willing to follow through on, I am not all that worried about him breaking a rule if he helps to make it. Evan has been very good about following the explicit, agreed-upon rules.

Oh...just in case anyone has wondered. Evan's social worker was part of the presentation Andrew and I took part in on Saturday. I did tell her that Evan was "taking full advantage of all of his time home alone." She knows that I was talking about sex. As I agreed with Hubby, I will not give her all the details until after I have spoken to the counselor.

I have wondered if Evan is exaggerating his sex life just to mess with me. It is not the sort of thing that he has ever done, so I doubt it. On the other hand I do find myself hoping that he is.

Happy Birthday to Evan

Today is the day. Today is the day I stop saying that Evan is almost 19. He has arrived. He is 19.

Another Excellent Post

I just love Bart's blog. Today I started reading and thought, "Oh well. I guess he is allowed to write about his personal life even when it has nothing to do with the kids. He is not writing in order to give me personal insight."

But then I got to the last part. Never fear...Bart knows how to write and he brings it home.

When Twenty-Five Years Comes Rushing Back

Monday, September 18, 2006

Update on the update

I just re-read my last post and I realized I was not clear about the nature of my various anxieties.

I have concerns for Evan's safety: physically and emotionally. Those however I can "let go" of. I will probably continue to worry about him, but I accept that he has to make his own journey.

My other concern is this: there are men about whom I know nothing in my house.

When I originally gave Evan permission to have his boyfriend over I was imagining one person whom Evan knew fairly well who would not rob me blind. Now I just don't know. It is not clear to me how many men we are talking about, how old they are, how Evan finds them, anything.

I know what my next step is: a conversation with our shared counselor. I think Evan is more likely to be honest with her and she is more likely to be able to get him to agree on some clear standard for determining trustworthiness.

Anyway, I will allow those conversations to happen and make no decisions until after that.

Conversations with Evan can be so bizarre. The reason that I am dealing with this anxiety is that he was trying to reassure me. Part of the conversation we had the other day was:

Me: "And of course you know that multiple partners increases risk."

Evan: "Well right now there are only about four or five."

Does anybody, anybody, think that I would find that reassuring?

Update on Evan's hobby

moved to private blog

Sunday, September 17, 2006

So what did I throw away?

Evan, complaining about his back hurting grinned and asked me if I had any codeine.

I told him that I did but that we had thrown it all away after he revealed his addiction.

"No you didn't."

"Yeah. I did. I was there. We got the bottles out of the lock box and we flushed the pills."

"None of it was codeine."

"You mean you took it and replaced the pills?"

"I'm not stupid!"

Brian's new pet

The parakeets did not last. Brian was under the impression that they had been hand raised and were tame. Not so much. So he returned them. They were here for maybe 24 hours. I don't like the idea of him regarding pets as returnable, but I also don't want to be trying to force him to care for a pet that he does not like.

Anyway, we broke down and let him adopt a kitten from a local rescue organization. It is a cute litte grey tabby. He will keep it in his room a while, but we did make the rounds and introduced it to the various animals. The big black neutered male cat (large enough to drink out of the toilet like a dog, back feet on the ground) growled and hissed. When the kitten ignored him, Big Black walked off.

Flabby Tabby (she was enormous when we adopted her from the same rescue group, has lost a lot of weight and now is in deparate need of a tummy tuck) did a lot of sniffing and, I think, was quite prepared to make friends.

Doggie left the kitten fairly damp from the sniffing and licking. Hubby was worried about Doggie because she chases strange cats, although she and Flabby Tabby are pals. This is, I believe, because Flabby Tabby gives Doggie permission to get on our bed with her whenever the humans are all out of the house. We were careful to adopt a kitten that had been fostered with dogs.

So now we are one more...

By the way, the animals all said I could talk about them on the blog, as long as I did not use their real names. I compromised with Flabby Tabby as that is her real nickname.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

conference and Evan's birthday

The conference session was good. There were two social workers (one whose parents fostered for most of her life...are still fostering), me, Andrew, and another sweet girl (14 years) whose parents started fostering about a year ago. It was really good we had her along, as the social worker's parents work for the same agency I do and so also do long-term, one-kid-at-time fostering. The other girl's family is in it to adopt and do some respite care, but mostly have littles. Right now they have a 9 month old that they are "planning, not hoping" to keep.

Only about 10 people came our training session. Apparently only about a dozen went to the alternative session (how to make a lifebook), so there must have been another 30 or 40 participants who were just taking the morning off. Foster parents are such late night partiers, you know. Even though the session was small, it was good. There were a couple of foster parents who were worried about their biokids and I think we gave them information that was helpful. One person there was actually starting a Children Who Foster support group and getting our information to him was really good. Besides, we were all happy to "practice" on a small group. The next conference is close to home and in a much more heavily populated area. We should have more people then.

I am looking forward to the close to home part. We left the house at 6:40 so that we could get to The City in time to buy Andrew disgusting fast food breakfast (a rare treat) and meet everyone else. At 7:30 we all piled into one van and were off to the conference. We arrived at 9:30, which gave us time to look around a bit before the session. We were back on the road after a fast lunch and back to The City. Andrew and I got part way out of town when he realized he had left something in the van, so back around we went. Fortunately one of the social workers was still there waiting for the girl's parents to pick her up.

I'm not exactly sure what time we got home, I just know that when I woke up it was 4:45pm.

Evan demanded that I look at his bedroom, which he had spent the day cleaning. "It looks like a gay man's room, almost, doesn't it?" It hardly looks like one of the Queer Guys lives there, but it is remarkably tidy. He found his original set of house keys, the keys he borrowed from Andrew a few months ago, and the key that we normally keep hidden outside.

Evan's birthday is later this week, but with our messed up schedules, I decided that it was really better if we celebrated this weekend. Evan, it turns out, is working today, so last night was the night. I usually just cook something special for the kids' birthdays, but yesterday was just too exhausted. So we went to Red Robin's. It was his kind of place. The USC football game was playing on TV's in all the corners, and even in TV's set in the floor at the entrance. "No way! Cool!" They made a big fuss over him -- balloons on the table, staff standing around him singing. Brian asked how they knew it was his birthday. We laughed. The three birthday presents (one of them over three feet long) was a pretty good clue.

He had been afraid we forgot, or did not care. For about two weeks Evan has been saying things like "I can't believe that I'm almost 19, can you?" or "Wow. Do you realize my birthday is only X days away?" I've responded to all these with a "hmmmm." Meanwhile of course I had his birthday present (the big one) in my bedroom closet. I ordered it a few weeks ago. Hubby and I have a cool sort of lap desk that can only be ordered from a particular catalogue and Evan keeps using them. So I got him one. He liked it very much. On my suggestion, Hubby took the boys to an office store to buy Evan appropriate gifts for someone excited for college. Brian picked out a fancy three-in-one pen/pencil/pda stylus. Andrew got a neato, zip-up calendar/portfolio thing.

Evan really liked the combo pen and the lap desk, but was really impressed with the portfolio calendar. It was so grown up and professional looking. It really was much, much more fancy that a student going to technical college needs. But Evan liked it, and was surprised that he liked it. "I must be growing up if I am getting so excited about things like that, huh?"

So the day was a big success. The conference went okay, and Evan was delighted that we remembered him.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Off to the conference

Tomorrow Andrew and I are off to the first of three foster parent conferences. He is going to be on a panel of children who foster. There will be one other teenager, a girl, and two young adults.

I am going to be giving a little presentation too...and they will be handing out my Allegory. Of course that means that it will be out there in the real world with my real name on it. I may have to take it off the blog. If I do I suppose I will have to come back and edit this post so that there is no mention of it...

Oh well.

I'll let y'all know how it goes, but maybe not until Sunday.

Oh, by the way, Miss E was almost cheerful this morning. I wonder what could be going right in her life. It was nice. She chattered the whole way to school about how spinach was killing people, but she did not complain about her life. Like I said, it was nice.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Conversations with Evan

So Evan and I seem to just pass each other.

Of course that is not surprising. I leave at 6:40am to take Andrew and Miss E to school. Evan starts school at 4:00pm. I try to get home to drive him, but about half the time he rides his bike. He gets out of school at 9:30pm.

I should go to bed around 10:00 (getting up at 5:30 and all), but I don't. I stay up to spend just a little time with Evan.

But it does not give us much of a chance for heart-to-hearts.

He seems to be doing okay though. He says that he will still be seeing the weekend playmate, but that they both needed sleep. He asked me to buy him condoms. I did of course.

Today during our 15 minutes of quality time he talked to me about college. He said he wanted to clean out his room (which looks like a teenager's room, forget every stereotype you may have had about gay men) and sort his clothes. He wants to figure out what he has and what he needs and get it while the foster agency will still reimburse clothing expenses. He also wants me to help him to make a list of things he will need for living in the dorms.

It was a good conversation. It was good to see him thinking in such a postive and happy way about his future.

Oh...and he says he is more than half-way through the first of the two courses he is taking in night school.

Dare I hope? Perhaps everything will work out just the way he should.

Too many thoughts too little time

1. If you have not been reading Lionmom's posts, go now. Her daughter ran away, was found, and is currently in a treatment facility. Reading Lionmom's recent posts makes my mind churn. I have one thought which leads to another and I can't, right now, concentrate on any one of them long enough to write a coherent post.

2. I am remembering that the local hospitals official policy when a foster child is admitted is to warn the nursing and medical staff that though the foster parents may visit, they are not the parents, are not to be given any medical information, and are not to be included in any decision-making processes. The foster parents are reminded that as long as the child is in the hospital, the child is not "placed" with them. They are, for this period of time, not even the child's foster parents.

3. My agency recently put me on a contract to pick up a foster child and take her, along with my son, to zero period at the high school. It requires me to leave the house 10 minutes earlier and drive a couple miles out of the way. Their policy is to pay for a minimum of one hour for each trip. SO, what they are paying me for that 10 minutes is $1.50 more than what they pay me for one day's worth of room and board. I'm not complaining about either sum, but I do think I will remember this for the next time some one suggests that we foster parents "do it for the money."

4. I am of course thinking about attachment disorder again. My mind turns to Ann, and to "Miss E" (that name was cute when it was in the title "Driving Miss E", but is beginning to sound a little negative to me now. I think I need to go back to just using "E.") How do we get through to these kids? Lionmom's description of S's "I love you, don't leave me, I never want to see you again" routine is just becoming to d*mn familiar to me.

Can RAD be cured? Can a child who in infancy learned to equate love with pain ever get over that? Or will the internal panic always resurface? Is the best we can hope for that that the reactive periods become further apart and/or shorter?

5. And I find myself almost chanting a prayer, "Let S go back home. Let S go back home. Let S go back home." Ann and E both lost long-term homes even though the people who had had them fought to keep them. E had been adopted and Ann was officially in permanent placement foster care. I don't want to even see it happen again. I want one of these stories with a RAD kid to have a happy ending.

6. I want to make everyone understand that when placements with RAD kids disrupt it is not always because the parents get wore out. E's adoption was terminated because she was so afraid of being loved that she convinced people that she would kill herself to get away from it. I am not being metaphorical or hyperbolic. I mean that in the end the social workers, the judge, and the adoptive parents agreed that the adoptive parents were good and loving people, and that E could not feel safe with people who loved her. The only place where E has felt safe, where she has not reported that the adults were abusing her, was the teen shelter. She could only relax and be a little bit happy around people who were paid to care for her and with whom no emotional attachment was ever expected.

7. And I know that when S goes home, it will not be because Lionmom and Cebii proved that they love her. I think that S already knows that. It will be because S will get a chance to calm back down, some time for the irrational feelings of panic to settle, so that she can believe what she knows: she is safest with the people who love her.

Goodbye Pumpkin

The author of "Life Unscripted" who signed her posts "Pumpkin" has disappeared. Cindy tells us that she is no longer blogging and asked for us to send our prayers.

For whatever reason she has gone, she will be missed. Her blog from the social worker side helped all of us to remember that when we don't hear from our social workers for a few hours, it may be because they are on the road chasing down someone else's runaway, or doing an emergency visit to a child who may be in danger, or just sitting somewhere, as frustrated as we are, waiting for someone else to show up for a visit while trying to keep a child from being too anxious.

She sometimes left us comments, which I always found helpful.

It is not just that she has stopped writing. Her blog is gone.

So...wherever you are, for whatever reason you stopped writing, we miss you.

I for one hope that you are still reading. Maybe we will even hear from you now and then.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

My parenting questioned

"Sometimes it seems like all your parenting energy goes into Evan, and Andrew and Brian just live there."

Yep. Someone said that to me. If she wasn't a dear friend, I would ... probably have done the same thing, which was to respond politely and then go home and cry and ask everyone to reassure me. (Dear sweet Hubby found the idea that I neglect Andrew and Brian funny enough that he actually laughed.) But still it hurts to be told that.

It hurts to know that someone who is my friend might think that. I wonder how many other people think that? It should not matter, but it does. It is one of the things I have had to deal with from the beginning. And it is not easy.

I do understand why it seems that way to her.

There are not a lot of people that I can talk to, really talk to, about Evan. That is one of the reasons the blog exists. This friend is one of the people that I can talk to about Evan. She is a gay rights activist, the person with whom I have been running the local PFLAG chapter for the last five years, and she is always interested in the struggles of gay youth. She however does not seem especially interested in children in general. So I don't talk to her a lot about the other boys. She does not have children and when I have told her cute stories about, for instance, how Brian got parakeets, her eyes glaze over with that polite look that non-parents have when they are hoping that you are not going to keep telling stories about how adorable your kids are.

So she hears all about Evan, and I catch her up on David and Carl, but she hears precious little about Andrew and Brian. So it seems to her that Evan gets all of my parenting energy.

She is not the only one who gets this impression of my parenting life. For all I know, many readers of this blog may imagine it that way. The truth is that I don't talk about Andrew and Brian as much, and I don't blog about them as much.

First, they rarely drive me crazy. This past week Brian figured out how to get around our system and get parakeets; Andrew felt overwhelmed by school and I let him take a day off on the condition that he come to work with me and do the homework in an empty office near mine; and Evan left the house in the middle of the night three times to have rough sex with a man he barely knows. I mean ... really ... which story would you be most likely to tell?

And it is not just the shock value; it is that I have no struggles with how I feel about Andrew being overwhelmed and wanting to take a work day. It's part of my life. It was cool having him around. My colleagues all were amazed at how tall he is now, but I just don't have a pressing need to sort out my feelings by writing about it.

Second, I don't say much because I have always hated the competitive bragging that parents fall into so easily. If I do mention my children's achievements I am likely to put a negative slant on it. So I am more likely to complain about these stupid standardized tests the schools give yearly and how Brian has TERRIBLE work habits and is not helped AT ALL that his sixth grade teacher told him that his scores were already high enough for him to graduate from high school. (See how I buried the information that Brian is brilliant? We did have him tested a couple of years ago to see if there was any reason for his scattered performance in school. The $700 answer was "He's really smart and bored." There was more, but that was the heart of it.)

And finally, I also don't often share any troubles that they have because so many people, sometimes it seems like EVERYone, is determined to think that whatever problem they have is a result of my doing care.

"Brian keeps trying to get him more pets. No matter how many animals we have in the house, it never seems to be enough for him."

"Poor thing. Do you think he is not getting enough attention? You put so much into Evan, is there really enoungh left for him?"

"Andrew is having a hard time with school. It is not that he can't do the work; it's just that it feels it is meaningless. It's like he's got a bad case of senioritis and he is only a junior."

"I you think he feels like he has to have a crisis to be interesting to you?"

You get a couple of responses like that from well-meaning folks and you learn to shut your trap.

But still it hurts.

At least it does until I get mad.

Why Brian is smarter than I am

Several weeks ago Brian started campaigning for another pet. This time it was a parakeet. He saw a hand raised one in the store and really wanted it.

Hubby and I sighed and talked about it. Brian had decided to drop band, which we were afraid that he was going to regret. Hubby and I agreed on a deal: if Brian took band and saved up (no loans!) all of the money for two birds (because one would be lonely), the cage, toys, everything, then he could do it. We were very, very clear: you have to have enough money to buy everything at once and we will not loan you any.

Brian went on the Internet, figured out how much everything cost and agreed.

Hubby and I smiled at how clever we were. Brian has never saved money. As soon as he gets it he spends it. This would be a good experience for him. If he actually managed to save up for half a year, then we would be happy for him to have the parakeets. Well, not thrilled, but okay with it.

Two evenings ago he asked if he could look at pets on the Internet. Sure my darling. This will give him incentive, I thought.

An hour later, "Mom! Dad! I found classifieds for animals and there is a woman 10 miles away who is moving and she will sell me her two parakeets, with two cages, and toys and everything for [one month's allowance]!!"

So now we have parakeets.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Evan's new hobby

moved to private blog

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Worried and uncertain

I keep composing and deleting posts. I'm not sure what exactly I want to say. More accurately, I am not sure how to say what I want to say in ways that are respectful of Evan's privacy and not in terribly bad taste.

Here is the short, vague version:

Evan's behavior in the house is fine, and he is still going to school and work. He is officially within all boundaries.

He is also engaging in behavior which I regard as high-risk in every possible way. I don't know if it is (just) stupid teenager mentality that makes him think he can play with fire and not get burned, or if it is more than that. Certainly the stress related to his mother leaving prison is part of the equation.

I don't know what to do about it.

I don't know if I should continue my Al-Anon acceptance of what I cannot control, or if I should "lay down the law." I don't know if "laying down the law" would work. I don't know if in refraining from confronting him I am merely being afraid of confrontation, or if I am being wise.

I don't know if I should report it to the social worker. Well, actually, I am pretty sure that I should. It's just now I wish Evan had an older, wiser social worker and not a sweet young thing.

The only person in the world whom I completely trust to guide me here is the counselor whom Evan and I share, and she is out of town for another week.

I am considering leaving her a voice mail. I have her cell phone number. "Evan is doing X. Should I freak out now?"

update: just after clicking "publish" Evan came by and asked if I would take him shopping at the drug store. Thank God. His behavior has been risky in more ways than one, but at least his is planning on minimizing one set of risks.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Respite Kids

The Respite Kids

I never kept a record of the kids who have been here on respite, but I thought I would try to remember as many as I could. This record is mostly for me, but maybe some of you will be interested...

Ann: started as a respite, but was placed with us for a while.

Bella: came with one of the "Christy's" when Carl still lived with us. She fell asleep on the floor and Christy and Carl put make-up on her face. That would not have been such a big deal, except that she was allergic and woke up with quite a rash. We saw her often. She was the one who overheard Ann yelling at Hubby and informed Carl of what was going on the next day at Job Corps. She is now married with a small baby. First visit: summer 2000.

Christy: The name I will give in retrospect to cover 3 to 5 (?) girls who came for just one weekend anywhere from 2001-2005.

Debra: A very responsible young woman who did very well at Mandy’s. She appreciated the structure and lived there for several years. First visit: 2001.

X: A boy who spent one weekend with us and whose brother stole Andrew’s handheld gaming system. (I actually think he was in on the plot and I don’t want to give him a real name.) Only visit: Spring 2005

Miss E – A girl who came for the first time in early 2006. She has come for respite on multiple occasions. I drove her to school during the 06-07 school year. Post on her start here.

Faye: a girl who at first was sullen and pouty who blossomed under Mandy’s care. Her aunt got licensed and Faye lived with her for perhaps two years. She visited here first in 2004 and was back in June 2007 for two weeks. Click the label "Faye" for posts from those two weeks, bad boyfriend and all.

Georgia (previously “N”): a young woman dear to all our hearts. Everyone’s favorite. She surprised everyone by fighting with Mandy and landing herself in detention for a couple of months. Is currently living on her own, working, and hoping to start college. First visit Spring 06. I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII

Helene (previously “T”): a girl for whom I did respite while her foster sister had a baby, and then did day care for in the summer of 2006. She was moved to a residential facility and has run away. I, II, III

Irene (previously V): frightened girl of perhaps 13 who came with Miss E the night Georgia hit Mandy. She was moved quickly. I remember thinking that Miss E was not good for her.

Jackie: Young woman who came in October 2006 for a long weekend. Presents as responsible and dependable, but comes with a warning label. She and Evan know each other from the teen shelter. Jackie did really well, stayed with Mandy until her after 18th birthday and is now (May 2007) transitioning into independence. I, II, III (and many more, search or click on Jackie label).

Kellie (previously S): Young woman who stayed for a while in June 2006.

Linda, a young woman who almost stayed with us in Nov 2006 when Mandy took her foster sister Jackie to a family funeral. I had her for an evening and had to take her to a teen shelter because her social worker said my license wasn't good enough. The social worker later apologized and said that I could have taken her.

Maria, a 17-year old who came with very little notice when she got out of detention (November 2006). I, II, III, IV

Nancy, a 16 year old who joined us suddenly after a blow-out with another respite provider.

Olivia & Pam, who came together in May 2007. Olivia is Mandy's neice, Mandy being the woman for whom I most often provide respite. As of January 2008, Mandy is hoping to get legal guardianship of her and her younger sister, Sara.

Quiana and Rhonda, who came together in June of 2007. Rhonda suffered from a severe case of princess syndrome.

Sara, Olivia's younger sister who came with Olivia for the first time for New Year (08). Sara was just eleven, very young for me.

Evan back from the prison ceremony

Evan got back home in the middle of the afternoon. I had expected him to be with his family longer, but it looks like no one planned a party or anything for his mother. There was the ceremony at the prison, for all the women who had completed the 15 month rehab program. Then they got a fast lunch, and went home.

His mother is staying with abusive-boyfriend's mother for a while. She is telling Evan that she has no interest in abusive-boyfriend, but he is not sure whether to believe that.

He thinks baby sister will be staying with the guardian until mom gets settled, but he does not know for certain.

Anyway, he seems to have survived the day okay. He did tell me that someone pulled in front of them, causing them to slam on their breaks. Evan rolled down his window and yelled and made obscene gestures. The driver of the other vehicle responded in kind. They both ended up outside of the cars behaving in threatening ways. Evan one the face-off, being bigger and more intimidating. No blows were thrown.

Evan tells us these stories asking for our perspective on them. I wonder how the various father-figures in his life have responded to Evan's periodic outbursts of temper. Did they think it showed he was a man? Were they torn between being proud and thinking that they should not encourage it?

We of course are not torn. We are gentle, but we tell him that such behavior is not acceptable. We try to communicate that there are better ways to solve problems.

It is interesting to note that Evan has told us three stories in which he acted in ways that could have had him arrested for assault. In every case he perceived himself as coming to the defense of someone weaker and helpless. Yesterday he said all he was thinking was that his baby sister was in their car and that guy could have got her hurt.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Problems in perspective

As Gawdessness pointed out this morning, what FosterAbba and FosterEema are dealing with right now makes every problem the rest of us might have seem trivial.

I warn you. If you are like me you will have to lock yourself in the bathroom to cry for a while, so don't read it just before you have to go somewhere looking presentable.

If there is anything to be grateful for, it is that little girl made it to their home. Let us hope that the nightmare is over and she will never be in danger again.

Foster parents for teens

My whimpering about there not being many other blogs by foster parents of teens brought me to comments from readers who do not themselves have blogs. I am very excited and pleased to know that I am reaching other foster parents, and even more pleased that two have decided to reach back.

Since they don't have blogs and have chose, wisely, not to publish their email addresses, I can only use this space to say, "Thanks for saying hello, Chad and Jane!"

Please consider joining the progressive foster parent discussion list (see sidebar). It would be a great place to get to know you better.

Prison release today

Hubby finally got Evan off to stay with his baby sister in The City. Today they go to Mom's graduation. I think, but am not really positive, that the graduation is from a special rehabilitation program. In any case, it is at 11:00 and at noon she walks out a free woman.

She called last night, worried that Evan might not make it, worried that her daughters wouldn't make it. On one hand I think I do understand the why she was putting so much pressure on Evan. She does not have unlimited phone calls. She was able to call one person, who won't be able to call her back. She wanted Evan to tell her that he had talked to his sisters and everything was set; they would all be there tomorrow. What he did have to say was that he would be there, and he was sure his baby sister would too, but that he had not heard from the 14-year-old and could guarantee nothing. Mom was upset, wanting Evan to promise that he would make certain middle sister would be there, but of course that was not in Evan's ability to promise.

It was upsetting for him.

He also has mixed feelings about the rehabilitation program, and I am right there with him. I remember when my father first joined AA and I felt like everyone would expect me to happy about it. I was not. I did not think it would stick and even if he did manage to get/stay sober I did not expect his behavior to me to suddenly be better. (I was right on both counts. His sobriety is a fragile thing and though he stopped being mean, he is still capable of being very hurtful.)

At least I did not have to go to a party and celebrate the beginning of his new life.

Evan has clear evidence that his mother is not rehabilitated with respect to him. She has taken no responsibility for what she has done, or rather what she has failed to do. It appears that if her relationship with Evan's abuser is over (and it might not be) it is only because the abuser has moved on. She seems to think that Evan is being silly in refusing to be anywhere near the man who beat him.

She does not understand that Evan does not owe her anything. It is not his fault that she is is prison and separated from her daughters. It is not his job to make life in prison more comfortable by sending her books and money. It is not his job to bring her street clothes to wear when she leaves prison. It is not his job...

You get the idea.

So today, Evan will have to be with his mother and the rest of the family. He anticipates that his mother will be self-congratulatory and self-righteous. He is not certain how the rest of the family will act; and he is not positive that his abuser will not show up at some point. At least the abuser will not be at the prison ceremony -- what with all the warrants out for his arrest and all.

But I wonder what she expects will happen next with Evan. I don't know how much was explained to her about the premanency program Evan is in. Does she think he will move back with her? Has she been imagining that he will be there, as he was before, to care for the baby (now a four-year-old) while she does whatever she does? Or does she understand that he is not coming back? He is nearly 19 afterall. And how will Evan cope knowing his baby sister is with his mother, and with whoever she is with, without her big brother to protect and care for her?

I have so many questions, but no answers.

[For those who are not long-time readers of the blog, the boyfriend beat Evan in an attempt to keep Evan from attending a support group for queer kids. Evan went anyway. The youth group leader called the police, and the resulting investigation turned up parole violations on his mother. His mom quickly gave temporary guardianship of baby sister to a friend, in whom Evan has confidence. Middle sister was already in her father's custody, so Evan was the only one who ended up in care.]

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A tense evening

Every one's a mess.

I spent all day today meeting my first year advisees and helping them make changes in their schedules, and in many cases working to calm them down. School starts tomorrow and I am not quite ready. I could really use a calm house and kids who don't need anything so that I could be nervous about my own life.

Evan is tense. Tonight after dinner Hubby is taking him to spend the night with his baby sister. Tomorrow is the his mother's graduation and he is anxious on more levels and in more ways than I can express. Waves of anxiety emanate from him.

Miss E is being moved on Friday and they are asking me if I will keep driving her to school. I am happy to do it, but it is on the other side of the high school and it just does not make sense to get her and come back for Andrew, so Andrew will have to leave with me 10 or 15 minutes earlier than usual. Now that would not be a big deal if it were a little later in the day, but there is a big difference between 6:35am and 6:50am. I am willing to pay him a bit of what they are paying me (after all it is his time too), but I don't think I can pay him enough to make him happy without the other boys being upset because he is being paid to get up in the morning. So Andrew is irritable with me.

And then there is Brian. What to do about Brian? Dear lord, what to do about Brian? Brian has another minor, real illness that he is trying to turn into a brain tumor. Okay, he is not claiming to have a brain tumor, but he is pretty sure he is going blind. He really can't go to school since he can't read or find his bus. Of coures he sees perfectly well at home.

Since I started this Evan's mother called. I would blog about it, but I am in no mood to be understanding and I don't want to blog things I will later regret saying.

Next: turning down a respite

Email from Ann

A while back I was concerned about who might be at the Youth Ranch. I have now made contact with everyone that I can think of...including Ann. I got this email from her today:

Don't worry he [my new boyfriend] is the nicest person I've dated in a while. You should tell the boys hi for me and that i miss them. I still have that Afghan that you made for me on my birthday i love it I cant sleep with out it. I miss you guys so much i don't get around to letting you know as often as i should. I know that i screwed up big time when i was in that region but i cant change the past(but i wish that i could) That is the one thing that keeps me from talking to the "Mandy and John" as much as I'd like i know how much i hurt "Mandy" and it kills me.
Well love you all,

Monday, September 04, 2006

Why I don't do "littles"

I take teens. I said in the last post that I take them because I can. Some people take little kids and can't imagine taking teens.

But I can't imagine doing little kids.

Part of it is the job. Hubby and I both work outside of the home. Day care around here is pretty awful, and I just don't want to go back to dealing with that nightmare.

It also just sounds so overwhelming. Kids who need their shoes tied, and help blowing their nose, who want to crawl in bed with me or (horror of horrors) wake me up in the middle of the night and aren't even bleeding to death. Toys everywhere. Sticky handles. Kids who whine because they are hungry and can't even be trusted to pour themselves a glass of milk because they will spill it all over the kitchen.

Geeze. Been there; done that.

You read my blog. As the mother of "bigs" I can sound pretty wonderful. Oh I have my bad days, my snappy days, my I-want-to-run-for-the-hills days, but mostly I am pretty good at what I do.

Give me a baby or adorable little toddler for an hour or two and I will thank you. They are cute and cuddly and feel GOOD when they rest on your shoulder. When they laugh they laugh with their whole being. I will tickle their tummies, read them a story, and hold them while they sleep.

But after an hour or two I will happily give them back.

Then I will go home cheerfully to my recovering addict teenager who sleeps through the night and packs his own lunch.

Foster Care for Teens

Everynow and then I do a search hoping to find more blogs written by people who are fostering teenagers. I did that again this morning. Once again I found a list of really wonderful people who are or want to adopt. They are hoping for not too damaged, not too old children. Cuteness is not required, but greatly appreciated. Some have tolders in the house. Some are waiting. All want to be parents.

And nothing could be more reasonable. Why would anyone go into foster care? What possible reason could ANYone have for actually wanting to give temporary care to teenagers? The idea that one would do it for the money is laughable, or cryable. Even if the monthly payment is more than the average monthly expenses (an unlikey prospect), it will be eaten up when they run away taking a cell phone and ripping a window screen rather than walking out the door (FosterAbba & FosterEema), or when their older brother visists and steals another child's new handheld gaming system (our story).

So if not for the money then why? Probably because you want to be parents. You want to love a child who will, eventually, love you back. You have accepted that you will miss something, but their entire lives are precious, and you want to miss as little as possible. A baby would be wonderful, but can you survive the heartache of loving them and losing them until you finally get to keep one? What about a pre-schooler? Certainly there will be more damage, but they are still small and hopefully you can still reach their hearts. You will have missed the precious beginning, but in the end you will be the only parent they have clear memories of.

Maybe, maybe you can take an older child: six, eight, even ten. Such a child will come with a history. Such a child will be hard to parent. You will have missed all the early years, but they are still children. You will still get to be a parent. There will still be evenings in which you get to sit on the sofa, reading a story, and smelling that just-from-the-bath smell as the child snuggles under your arm.

Some will be willing to take children who are not yet legally free while they wait for one who is. If it increases their chances of getting a child who is free, then they will do it.

Oh but who is so insane, so codependent, so willing to subject themselves to abuse that they will take teenagers?

You will never really break into their hearts. They may come to love you at some level, but they will never let down that wall that protects them from being hurt by you. There will be moments when they will let you in. After months or a year they may relax and trust you, but they will never completly let their guard down. They will always be ready to walk away and not look back. Always.

Why would anyone offer a home to such a youth? Why would anyone agree to be a stopping place, a temporary safe harbor in some teenager's path to adulthood?

Most people say that it is something they could never do. I am not some sort of super-hero. There are plenty of things on my list of things I can't stand the thought of doing.

Take, for instance, going to a PTO (aka PTA) meeting. The very thought makes my stomach clench. I don't know why. The college where I work takes the freshmen on a wilderness experience as part of orientation. I went once. I went so that people could not tell me that I did not know what I was missing. I do know, and I don't like it, and I'm not going again. (My not going does not make a lot of sense. I enjoy the wilderness. I enjoy the students. Why don't I enjoy being in the wilderness with students? I just don't, okay?)

But I can be a foster parent for teenagers. I don't just mean that I have the bedroom and a job that gives me just enough flexibility in my schedule. I mean that I can do it and be a happy person at the same time. Not happy at every minute, but happy.

But that is no reason to give to other people. And I would so like to be able to give a reason to other people. I would so like to have a few more people on this particular journey to share stories with.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Constant combat

Lately Evan has been quarrelsome. Hubby says that I am not imagining it. Evan really is ... it is hard to find a word for it. The conversations hardly make sense.

Last night my computer was giving me grief and I ran a spyware detection program. Evan said, "Your memory is running slow." I said, "Well, spyware has slowed it down before, but you're right. This computer has a lot of problems." Then Evan said, "OH COME ON. You have to give me this. You have to allow my authority here."

Say what?

Today we were driving to his interview (he got the job). Before we got in the car I asked Brian if he would like to go along and we could run an errand while Evan was in the interview. Brian said no, and in the car Evan said, "Are you going to run an errand while I'm in there?" "I thought I might." "Why can't you just wait?!" "I don't have anything to do." "Couldn't you have brought a book!!!" "Evan, when you are done call me and I will come get you." "GAWD! I hate arguing with you."

Do these conversations sound bizarre to anyone else?

Now the interview thing I would just leave out, except that it seems to be a really good example of my interactions with him the last few days. Evan is arguing with me, even when I am not arguing with him. I don't even have to say anything. Really.

Earlier his cell phone made a strange buzzing noise. I looked over confused because I did not know what the noise was at first. Evan said, "Oh you are not going to tell me that was too loud! I put it on vibrate for you. I will not let you get on my case for that. So leave me alone."

"Evan, do you realize that I didn't say anything?"

"Yeah. But you were going to. I just got you first."

"I was not going to complain about the noise."

"Oh yes you were. You can't deny it. I know what you were going to say. You just won't admit it because I had a good response."

I did not respond. There were two options here: I could either let him think he won a non-existent argument or I could have an actual argument about what I would have said had he given me a chance. I let him think he won the non-existent one.

I am getting so tired. Nearly all of our interactions are like this. I am beginning to look forward to getting back to work.

There are possible explanations:
1. Evan and I have just been spending too much time together. Everyone else started school on Monday and we have been alone together most of the time all week.
2. Evan is stressed because we are on that last leg of the placement. He is beginning to make definite plans for leaving and it is so much easier to fight with me than to deal with the real emotions.
3. Evan is stressed because his mother is getting out of prison on Thursday and she has cornered him into attending her "graduation" whether he wants to or not.
4. Evan is beginning to use again and these bizarre conversations are the result of an addled brain.

Did I mention about her getting out of prison? She called last week and told him when and where to be. When he said that he was not certain that he could make it she said he had to. She had already listed him as the chaperon for his younger sister and if he did not go then his sister could not go. Evan's mom also told him that he "had" to buy her some street clothes and bring them along because all of her things are at the boyfriend's and there is a warrant out for his arrest so he can hardly bring clothes to the prison, can he?

Sigh. I will practice deep breathing exercises and try not to play this game. We will see what happens.

Evan has to go into The City tomorrow for orientation for the job. Since it is Labor Day Hubby has the day off and says he will take him. Evan and I could certainly use the time off from each other.

Responding to a melt-down

Yesterday Brian had a bit of melt-down.

Remembering what these were like a year ago I have to admit it is a lot better. He did not stay in his room crying loudly. He came upstairs, sat next to me and cried softly. He did not want to tell me what was wrong though. He would only say he was having bad thoughts. I ran though a list of categories of "bad thoughts" and hit the jackpot at, "thinking about bad things that might happen to people you love." He nodded and cried louder.

Hubby wanted him to tell us what the bad thoughts were. I thought Brian just needed to distract himself, think about something else. We tried talking to him for a while and then told him that he would have to take care of himself.

I cleaned up the kitchen reminding myself that this is what the professionals had advised us to do (not give him too much attention) and that Brian has not had nearly as many melt-downs as he once did. I reminded myself not to mention it to all the people I know who will instantly think I am a bad parent or wonder how on earth I can do foster care when it affects my child this way. (I have been assured by both a pediatric psychiatrist and pediatric psychologist that this is just the way Brian is. Brian reports that he likes having more people in the house and the professions do not think that not doing care would change things at all.)

Evan kept asking me what was wrong. I just told him that I did not like it when Brian was this upset. The truth was I was reviewing every bit of parenting training I had ever had. How could I not know how to handle this situation? How did I end up with a twelve-year-old who cried over nothing? What was I doing wrong?

Anyway, after about half an hour Hubby went and fetched Brian from our closet, where he was still curled up crying over his "bad thoughts." They went for a ride and came back cheerful.

I asked Hubby how he pulled off the miracle.

"I was hungry and stopped to get something for us to eat. Brian was hungry. As soon as he ate he was fine."

THAT's right. I remember now! They left that tip out of all my recent foster parent trainings.

Parenting Tip 101
Children must be fed on a regular basis or they get cranky.

[For those wondering how it is that a child in a house with responsible parents could get this hungry the answer is pretty simple. Andrew made us black beans and rice for dinner. It was wonderful, but Brian hates it. When Brian refuses to eat what is prepared he is responsible for getting his own food. He didn't.]

Just an update

So here's a quick update on the life of Evan.

He went to school every day all week. He complained a little about the instructor, but not much. He has to take two classes in order to finish high school. In alternative high school he must spend a minimum of 90 hours (18 days) on each class, although he may spend longer if he needs. All work is done on-site. So five days down, 31 days to go.

There is reason to believe he used on Monday, but no evidence that he used after that. I did not, and have no plans to search his room, or require drug tests. Though I do think that as a parent and a home owner I have the right to search if I need to, and I will continue to go into his room to get things that belong to me. However, I don't think that either searching or drug testing would be helpful for either of us.

He turned in an application to the fast food place, but only to the one. Though they were advertising they are hiring they are not moving very quickly. He calls daily and is told the manager is still working her way throught he applications. The only reason this matters much is that a requirement for funding for college is demonstrating that he can work at least 10 hours a week while going to school. So far he has either worked or been in school.

He has applied to the technical program. He took the placement test and his math score is good enough to give him provisional admission. It is not high enough to allow him to take the required math course. He will either have to do some tutoring and re-take the test or he can choose to take the remedial math course. I don't know if he has applied for campus housing. Housing is completely full this fall, and I have no idea if he will be able to get in for the Spring.

Hubby and the boys are already back in school. I start this next week. This of course means that Evan will have the house to himself for most of the day. I will try not to think too much about the implications of that.

In general I would have to say that things are looking pretty good.

Of course that always makes me nervous.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Dealing with ... stuff (update)

Warning: this another post about teenage sex. Except I actually think I can communicate my confused thoughts and feelings if I pretend it is not about teenagers at all.

Pretend your mother who has been divorced for a year or so was coming to live with you for a few months. She is going through what can only be described as a promiscuous stage of her development. You think that this is unseemly for a person her age and hope that she will grow out of it. On the other hand you don't think it is your place to tell her that she is behaving poorly. It really isn't any of your business.

But she is living with you. You have younger children in the house and she has agreed that having sexual partners in and out of the house while they are there would be confusing for them. She completely understands and assures you that she will not have sex in the house unless she has the house to herself. think, that was an awkward conversation, but I'm glad we had it. It's weird, but it is good.

Being a school teacher you have been home all summer, but finally you are going back to school. You casualy mention that you guess tomorrow you ought to spend some time in your office preparing for classes.

Your mom is pleased and an hour later is on the phone, pausing to find out if you are coming home for lunch. When are you going to leave in the morning? Are you sure? You will definitely be gone from 9:00am until 12:30pm? You say yes, because it is the truth, although even at the time you know why your mother is so pleased.

Mom is excited about her new sexual freedom. She also values honesty and though she does not want to tell you much about her partners and certianly does not want you to meet them, she feels a need to be perfectly honest about what she is planning on doing while you are in your office the next day.

Msybe you know that your mother was taught to hate herself and that in some ways you really do think it is healthy that she can talk about her sex life and stop feeling the shame that was instilled in her. You think that this experimental stage she is going through is normal In some moods you are really pleased that you have the sort of relationship with you mother in which you can talk about sex. In some ways it feels really healthy.

On the other hand, you realize that if you had forgot a book you really could not go home to get it. You also realize that you know nothing about who she is inviting over to your house. Is this the boyfriend from last spring who moved away and came back? Is this someone she met on-line and is meeting in person for the first time? Surely not that, you think, but maybe. Probably it is one of the people she was so very pleased to run into the day before when you were in The City. But you don't know. There could be an axe murderer in your house.

What do you do? Do you decide it was a bad idea to agree that it would be okay for her to have her boyfriend over when you are not in the house? Do you insist that she first has to introduce you to her boyfriends? Even though you don't think you can tell if they are axe murders by meeting them.

Of course, you think, life would be so much easier if she was like all the other mothers and just hid her sex life from her daughter.

And what if it were not your mother, but a young man two weeks shy of his 19th birthday?

And would you tell the social worker, who you know is going to be more freaked out than you are?

I have made some decisions, BTW. I am definitely going to talk to him about how well he knows the people he in inviting into the house. That much at least is clear.