Friday, November 30, 2007

Visits with Frankie

The letter from Frankie obviously raises the question of visits.

What will happen is complicated, or maybe it is very simple. I would like to visit Frankie. The rest of the family does not (yet). It would be wrong to confuse Frankie about the possibility of him coming back here.

Simple, huh?

It is feels very complicated because I don't know what Frankie understands or how he will process any information I give him. Remember, Frankie was saying that he wanted to go. He liked us, would miss us, but he was unsatisfied with his education (and at one point with the fact that he kept losing things) and so he needed to go. During the last few days he was here, Frankie felt like he was in control of the process. He was getting what he wanted because he wanted it.

In those days I was trying to keep him calm and feeling agitated that there wasn't a bed for him at the adolescent psych unit. If Frankie believed that he was in control and that helped him feel calm, I was not going to argue with him. I didn't like deceiving him, or playing into his delusion, but I decided the need to keep him safe trumped everything else.

When he left I made a point of telling him that I had known where he was going, even though I had said that I didn't. I told him that I thought he needed to be at the residential center because I couldn't keep him safe. I wanted him to know that I had been lying to him, not because I wanted to hurt him but because if he was willing to have any sort of relationship with me I wanted him to know who I was.

At the very least I did not want him imagining me as the nice lady who would have kept him if he decided to stay and who had been lied to just like he had. No. I was the woman who agreed that he needed to be somewhere he didn't want to go, lied to him for three days, and then told him at the last minute that she did it because she thought she had to for him to be safe. He had every right to know that, and to be angry at me for lying to him and for patronizing him. I hoped that he would come to forgive me for lying to him and be willing to see me, but I wanted any future contact to be based upon honesty.

And I am not going to lie to him again.

So I am going to call Diane (the agency worker) and have her talk to his state worker and the wonderful counselor he still gets to see. I'm going to ask her to make sure they both know that Frankie cannot come back and then take their advice on what sort and how much contact to have with him.

I will continue to write letters to him indefinitely. I will drive up to the center and take him out to lunch a couple times a month if they think it would be good for him. I will meet him in The City before his appointment with his counselor and take him to the science museum or to the pool. If the workers and counselors are agreed that it would be good for him I will persuade or bully my family into letting him come here for a weekend.

What matters is what is best for him, what helps him to feel cared about and connected without being confused about what is possible. And I don't know right now what that will look like.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Note FROM Frankie

One of the things I gave Guy from the residential center was a self-addressed stamped postcard -- one of the kinds with no picture so one side is just for writing. Today, that card arrived in the mail:

How are you doing? are you fine, I know I am. everything is going fine, I miss all of you. to day my caseworkr talked about maby me visiting you. thanks for the card.
Frankie :)

It is good to hear from him.

Evan Updated

Did I say at one point that I wasn't going to tell you every time Evan updated? Notice how I haven't done it every time?

He needs some understanding -- most especially from those of you who have been there.

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Navigating the Maze is still off-line, but if you weren't aware of it, there is a second blog Navigating the Second Maze, which concentrates on homeschooling and which they ARE UPDATING. You won't hear anything about the case, but you will at least get evidence that they are alive and well coping.

I am assuming that FosterAbba would prefer for you not to refer to the case in your comments on that blog.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

News for Frankie

I'm sending Frankie a note and I would like to find an interesting short news article to send along. It really needs to be short -- a couple of paragraphs -- and it would be good if there was a picture. I've found a bunch of magazine/news sites for kids that would be perfect, except the articles are not printer friendly. I'd like something science-y if possible.

I'm also interested in sending him some sort of easy puzzle -- like a decoding puzzle.

Anybody know of a web site where I could print something off?

FosterAbba and FosterEema

If you've gone to read Navigating the Maze recently you will notice that it has been made into a private blog, which means only invited readers may read. FosterAbba said to tell you, "[W]e've had some unexpected developments in the case that have caused things to heat up. We are taking the blog down temporarily, but hope to have it back online soon."

Don't worry about not receiving an invitation. They are not sending them out. I'll let you know know when the blog is back up.

FosterAbba and FosterEema read here so you may leave them messages as comments to this post (which will stay on top for a while).

A Name for Hubby

So I started calling my husband "Hubby" here, though I never really liked it. I felt uncomfortable giving him a name. I don't know why I can give a blog name for anyone else, but not him. It seems especially odd when I am quoting something, like when one of the kids say, "Will you ask Hubby for me?" I mean, that just sounds wrong.

Yondalla is a D&D goddess of the Halflings. She's all about goodness and protection. I've considered using this picture of her for my avatar but I don't know if I could get into trouble for copyright infringement. Andrew suggested the name for me when I was looking for one.* There really didn't seem to be a really good name in the D&D world for Hubby though. "Mr. Yondalla" is pretty silly and gives an impression of our relationship that I would rather not create.

Jo calls her husband "The Bald Man." Another blogger I read recently called her husband "The Carnivore." I can't think of anything appropriate. "The Teacher" would probably be confusing since there are other teachers that get mentioned.

So then I had an idea. What if I asked him?

I did. He said, "How about 'Roland'?"

Um...okay. I don't think the name really fits, but I asked and he answered.

So... Roland it is. I hope I can get used to it.

I know Yondalla is, as goddess of the halflings quite short. Though I have had to explain this to other women my height, I am of AVERAGE height. Almost exactly. I am not short. I may be shorter than everyone I work with and now the shortest person in my family (Brian at 13 1/2 just past me). I however am not myself short. Got that? Okay then. (And as long as we are on the subject, my hair is going silver. It is not grey.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Talking to the family developer

I took Andrew out to pick up a few things, mostly as an excuse to get us out of the house. I really haven't left since Thursday morning when I went to buy ... something essential at the grocery store.

Anyway, we ran into the family developer at the store. In the back of my brain a voice was saying, "It's her day off; she should not have to stand in the store and listen to you talk about Frankie." However that voice was powerless to stop me talking about Frankie.

She told me that they felt initial stages of the placement were rushed and they were committed to not doing that in the future. I told her that I couldn't take another kid like him, but that I was glad that I did take him. We chatted about it for a while, and about how we were all recovering -- still tired but but not so sad. Although my voice cracked just a little as I said "I'm not feeling as sad as I was." So I wasn't very convincing, but that is okay. This is one woman who needs to know how I am really feeling.

She said something about it sounding like I still needed time to heal.

I said, "Part of me wants to tell you not to call me for months, at least until after the holidays, maybe even later. But you know, David and Evan both came home for Thanksgiving and I kept thinking that if one of them were 16 and needed me, I would want to be called, even with the way I am feeling."

"So it is about the right fit."

"Yeah. If a kid who is a good fit comes along I want you to call, but it is really okay if that kid doesn't come for a few months at least. Don't go looking for one for me."

She laughed and said they were always looking for kids for the program, but she understood what I meant.

And it is true. I am feeling much better. When I think about Frankie I feel sad, but I don't think about him all the time. The idea that they might call me makes me want to go curl up and hide -- but the thought that there might be a kid like David or Carl or Evan who needed me and they didn't call me seems ever so much worse.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ann's Story

At one point there were about 50 posts on this blog about Ann. I created them from emails I had written to a friend and so social workers. They told the story of her short placement with us. I moved them to the private blog at a time when it seemed wise to do so. At this point I would have no trouble with moving them back, but I know of know easy way to do it, so I shan't.

But I mention her often, and I decided to write a post giving the whole story.

Ann came into care at age five. She had a rough time of it and was finally taken by my friend Mandy (who became my friend only at the end of the story I am telling you) when Ann was seven. After a couple of years they tried to adopt her and her reactivity became genuinely frightening. She did things that could have resulted in serious injury to her, Mandy and the others who lived in the home.

So in 2000, when Ann was ten, she was brought into the permanency program. Mandy and her husband and worked for them before but had to come back for the new training. That's how we met, in our foster parent trainings. I think everyone in that class had some experience. We were not even far enough along to be naive. I did not think that we would bring Carl into our home and fix him with love. I didn't think he needed fixing. I just liked him and knew he needed a place to live. But I digress.

I don't know when I first started doing respite care for Ann, but it was soon and pretty regular. Mandy and her husband are in a therapeutic program and take girls who are chronic runaways or just out of rehab, or otherwise extremely difficult to place. Their program offers 4 days of respite a month, and most of the parents I know who work in the program take it. They need to. The girls are only supposed to be there for 6 months or less, but some stay for years.

In any case, after Carl left we knew that things were getting tough for Ann at home. She was fighting with the other girls more. At this point we had worked up to the point where we could be naive. She was always good at our house, and so I concluded that the problem was Mandy's house. We talked to the social workers and told them that if Ann needed a place, we wanted to provide it.

We got a call in December of 2002 telling us that Ann had got into a "bad" fight and could she come over now. We said yes.

That was just supposed to be an emergency respite but it turned into three months. There was talk of her being placed with us, but more talk about the possibility that we would set up a "circle of families" for Ann. Mandy and I would share her. Mandy and I both thought it might work and we still both agree that it should have been tried. It wasn't. During that time Mandy told Ann every time she saw her that she was fighting to get her back, which I understood. My position with Ann though was increasingly difficult. Ann had attachment problems anyway, but any affection or happiness she felt with us made her feel disloyal to Mandy. Ann started insisting that she be sent back.

Everything at home just kept getting worse. Andrew told us how difficult it was for him. Brian's teacher and the mother of his best friend expressed concern for how Brian was withdrawing. I called the social worker and said I would keep working on it, but they should have a back-up plan. That was, I think, on a Thursday.

The next Monday, Hubby took her in for an appointment at the agency. She laid into him, in front of the social workers so loudly and with such venom that Carl called us the next day from Job Corps to see if we were okay. There had been another youth from Job Corps in the building and the story he heard about it frightened him.

Of course what the social workers saw was a girl who was demonstrating her willingness to do whatever she had to do to be moved. Tuesday they called to say she would be moving as soon as possible. Wednesday they told me to take her back to Mandy.

She was able to stick it out there until the beginning of the next school year, and then she was sent to a residential treatment facility. While she was gone Mandy and her husband were convinced that the best thing for her was to let her go and perhaps be adopted by someone else. I was able to remain in contact with Ann for a while, even when Mandy wasn't. It was clear to everyone, including me and Ann, that Ann was never going to live with us. So it was thought not to be confusing for her.

She went through multiple placements. She was never adopted.

In the past few years I have gone through times when I hear from her regularly and stetches where I do not hear from her at all. She will be 18 in June.

The Feeling of Failure

Some of you may wonder why I wrote the post about Ann. I wrote it because I wanted to talk about feelings when placements end. Carl and Evan moved out with their own plans. They were each a bit past their 19th birthday. They had graduated from high school and were headed off to something else.

That's the way I like it.

With Ann I had told the social worker things were not going well. I expected her to be moved in a month or two, but she left within one week.

David, I believe, really wanted to move out on his 18th birthday but could not bring himself to do that. The only way out for him was for us to kick him out. We fought that for a long time. In the end I complied. He of course would not see it that way, but I do.

Both of those endings were hard. I believe that they were hard in part because I fought the kid so hard. Both Ann and David were attached to me and wanted to be somewhere else. The endings were emotionally exhausting. I spent a lot of time going back over things wondering what I might have done differently. I was miserable. I felt that I had failed.

And when Frankie left, when I sent up the red flag and asked for them to find him a more secure placement, I was confident I was doing the right thing. When I wondered later if there was something else I could have done, things were much more clear to me. I knew some things that I should have done differently, some services that I think it would have been helpful had he been provided, but I don't think it would have made a difference in the end. It would have been a different path to the same place.

But I still struggled with the feeling of failure.

The rhetoric around foster care does not help. On one hand we know that moves are not good for kids. I hear some foster parents and some advocates say that we should have a system in which a child's first placement is his or her only placement. When I hear accounts of a child's past and hear about the times the child has been moved I always shake my head sadly and feel that someone has failed the child.

Moving a foster child = failure.

And yet sometimes children need something that one home cannot provide, and sometimes families need things that are not consistent with meeting the needs of this child.

And the fundamental truth in the heart of this is that there is a child who has been traumatized who will feel once again that he or she is being thrown away. No matter how good, how reasonable the explanation of the move is, it is still true that there is something wrong about moving a child from one home to another trying to find the "right" one. When you have children by birth you don't get to pick what they will need. You don't get to match one child to the children already in your family.

And yet... and yet.

I don't know.

Emotionally I am feeling better than I did just after Frankie left. I was slowly feeling better anyway, but spending the day with Evan and David was what I needed.

And yet...still there is a boy in a treatment center who has no real family. There is an aunt he can talk to on the phone, a mother who says she wants him back who will not get him back, a father he could send a letter to if anyone can find him.

But if and when the doctors and therapists tell him that he is ready to leave, there will be no home for him to go to.

And I cannot help but feel that we have failed him. I believe we did the right thing, and that right thing was not enough. So I feel better than I did before. Big woop. I felt sad. Poor me. In all that time when I felt sad I could pull my family close to me. I was safe and confident that I was loved. I was never in danger of anything worse than having a face made splotchy from crying.

It is Frankie who is alone in this world. Social workers, counselors, treatment center staff, foster parents all come and go. No one stays.

And that is the reality of foster care.

Recommended Reading

Cindy's biodaughter wrote a post about BEING the biological daughter. Okay, it is about more than that, but those of you who like Andrew's writing might also be interested in what she has to say.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Finishing Up

I keep trying to write a good post to express how GOOD today was, how much I loved having at least four of my boys together, but nothing quite gets it.

The food was good.

I could tell you about how the boys teased each other, played video games together, helped in the kitchen, and ate with good appetites. David played cards with me; Evan lugged the 25 pound turkey from brine to pan, to oven, to counter, to oven, to kitchen table. Jane fulfilled her holiday tradition of being an hour later for dinner because she insisted on answering an emergency call to repair a furnance and save a family from freezing. I fulfilled my hostess obligation by stuffing myself a second time to keep her company (Miss Manners would be proud).

I could try to tell you about the funny moments. How Evan shook his head asking me how I could not know that you should pull over when your car is billowing white smoke and laughed when I said, "Well, in my defense there really wasn't that much smoke, and the car was bouncing up and down so badly that the smoke just didn't seem that significant."

But somehow none of this gets it. Though I have worked on this post for an hour, writing and deleting it, and trying to write it again, I have yet to find the words to convey what I want to tell you.

See, I adore these boys. There were times when I wanted to strangle them, days when I cried with frustration, stretches where people who loved me wondered why I put myself through this.

And then there is now.

How can I tell you how much I loved spending the day with them? How can I tell you how much it means to me that they are part of my life, what a gift they are?

Are there words to express it?

Would you understand if I just told you that I am very, very happy?

For the others

There was this boy on the photolistings in my state a year ago. He was 17 and hoping against hope that he might get adopted.

I don't know what made me check again, but I did. I tend to keep an eye on the over-10 kids, especially the boys. How many of them will find homes? The under 10's, boys and girls, come and go. Especially the cute ones.

There was something about that 17-year old boy though. I half expected to get a call about him, and I expected not to. For some reason I can't quite articulate his profile and his interviews added up to "gay boy desperately trying to be straight." My heart hurt for him.

I checked every now on the "happy endings" page, just in case....maybe...just maybe he would be there. I know the chances though. He was seventeen.

And now it has been a year and he is off the listings.

So I wish for him a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope wherever he is he is warm and preparing to stuff his face. I hope he is safe.

Today I am so thankful to have four of my five boys with me.

I pray for all those kids who are waiting -- may they soon have families to be thankful for.

Getting Ready

I've done what I can to simply our traditional meal. Jane and Evan are bring pies, so I didn't have to make those. I eliminated the more complicated vegetable. I think it won't be too overwhelming. Carl isn't here so I won't have to even look at that NASTY green bean casserole (and no, I DON'T apologize to all you who love it! Yuck.)

Besides David came last night and Evan will be here later this morning and they will both help without being hounded. Andrew will do what I ask him to do, but without really thinking about it, he will just do that thing and then wander off.

David got here last night and spent a couple of hours in the kitchen cleaning up while I made one mess after another. He is much tidier than I am. He kept asking where things that had been left on the counter belonged. When he put them away he would straighten out the cupboard. It is nice having so much help.

I spoke to him about how much I dislike one of the kids in the carpool. (I can confess that to him.) He kindly reminded me of other young people that I have had little to no patience for, and I remarked that it is surprising to me that I have wanted to work for the permanency agency when I so often don't have patience for other people's kids. He grinned and said, "But I'm your kid."

Well, yeah. He's mine.

It is healing to have him here and I am looking forward to having Evan too. I miss Carl deeply, but I know he is doing well where he is. Have I said recently how amazing these boys are? Excuse me, young men. They range from 20 to 24, afterall.

I think it will be a good Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Full Feed?

Someone asked me to start publishing a full feed, which I have done in the past and stopped doing. I get the advantage, you can read the whole post on your feed reader. So here's the deal...I'll do it if you promise that you will still comment just as much as you do now. 'Cause see, I like comments -- a lot. And only about 1-2% of the people who read any given post comment as it is, but well, promise full feeds won't make it worse?

About feed readers: Google Reader is better than Bloglines. It doesn't periodically lose a feed for days or weeks. If you are using Bloglines, it is easy to switch. Just go to the Google home page, click the carrot next to "more" and the top and select Reader. The instructions are very easy, I promise. You can pull your whole subscription list over in one fell swoop.

When Google Reader gets a post, it keeps it. Inside my reader I can click on someone's blog and see every post for as long as I have been subscribed. I can even know in case I want to know how many times Innocent Observer has mentioned that she is STILL PREGNANT. [Answer: eleven posts since she hit the 9 month mark. Keep 'em coming though's the best fascinating story on the web. I'm considering starting a pool.]

ETA: Google Reader also does not mark a post as new every time it is edited. This is good if you are reading someone like me who regularly goes back and fixes typos, adds labels, and sometimes even links. It is bad if you miss important added paragraphs like this one -- although if you are missing it because you are already using Google you don't need to read it!

To be fair, Google Reader has one significant flaw: for some reason it tends to get blogger blogs HOURS late. It doesn't lose a feed for days, but they can come in 3 to 10 hours late on a regular basis.

Don't know what a reader is? If you go to Google Reader (or one of the others) you can "subscribe" to all the blogs you read by copying the URL (eg. http:/ and pasting it into the window that says "subscribe." Do that with all the blogs you read and you will thereafter be able to read all your blogs on one page - no more surfing and checking endlessly.

ETA 2: Oh...and by the way, the point of this post was to find out if y'all really want me to publish a full feed and if you promise to comment at least as much as you do now if I do.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Reflecting on Andrew's posts

I came home from work, on what is now yesterday, quite early and climbed into bed. I think I slept for two hours.

It seemed absolutely necessary at the time, but now it is 1:00am and I am not sleeping. Since I left exhausted I also do not have the materials I need to prepare, so I will just have to cope, I guess.

It was interesting reading Andrew's blog posts. He asked m to read them before he put them up in order to get all the pseudonyms right. (I tried to refrain from proof-reading).

Still, two things struck me in what he wrote. One was that he kept coming back to the point that when a placement isn't going to work it shouldn't be drug out. That at least has been his experience.

He and Evan really did not get along in the beginning. My judgment though was that it was not unlike the ways that siblings sometimes did not get along and they would just have to work it out. Eventually they did. That is not the sort of thing that Andrew is talking about.

What Andrew remembers as the really bad parts of doing care is dealing with kids who really don't want to be here: like Ann the entire time and like the last couple of months of David's time with us. Ann made him miserable. David just pulled away and I made myself miserable trying to hold on to him when he wanted to go. In either case though, tensions in the house were just too high. We were fighting a losing battle. A teenager who has grown up in and out of the system knows that they can't be made to stay in a home. If they want to go, they can go. The only real question is how much hell they will put you through before you will let go.

Frankie we never tried to fight in that way. When he said he wanted to leave so that he could switch schools we said that we would miss him and hoped he could find a way to stay. I tried to make it clear that I wanted him to be with us, and that we were not standing between him and the door, so to speak.

I don't necessarily recommend that others take that approach. I do know that it is what we have had to do in order to make the situation workable for the boys. You can live here even if you break rules, but we are not running a prison.

The second thing that touched me in Andrew's recent posts was his casual comment that we did not yet have too many kids in the family. What he actually said was, "I could potentially see a point where there would be too many kids but that seems a fair ways off."

It made me happy -- Andrew doesn't think we are done, not even close.

Of course he would not be the least bit bothered if we did not get a new kid in the house during this, his senior year. There is a lot going on and a quiet house is a good thing.

Still, he just expects that there will be more kids.

Cool, huh?

Can you tell that I want to want it? I want to get back into that place where I want to bond with another youth.

Keep asking him questions, if you please. He is hoping to "find" his college essay in his writing to you. So please feel free to push a little deeper, get him to dig, really think about it. He won't publish your question if he doesn't want to answer it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Andrew's Updated!

Andrew I think may take after me, just a little. He has two big papers of course he wrote several blog posts.

Makes perfect sense.

To Mrs. Butter B

To Innocent Observer and Wen


Evan Came By

Evan dropped by today. He doesn't have classes, but he still has to go to work and laundry to catch on.

He is just a college student, you know? He is working in his classes, having trouble with one room (suite) mate, getting along with others. He has a job, is thinking about his future, changing his major. (Maybe he will blog about it. Since he has been blogging I hate to write about anything he might want to write about.)

The point is that he is doing well and looks good.

I am really so proud of all three of the boys. It is good for me to see them and talk to them.

I really believe that we did the right thing with Frankie. I think that the best thing we did for him was allowing him to bring his desire to be a girl out in the open. We helped take away the shame so that he could express it and explore it.* I think that was a good thing. And I think that he really needs a sort of environment that we cannot provide him. I am glad that he left without rancor. It was all very civilized.

And yet still it drained me emotionally in a way I cannot explain even to myself. It has left Brian cured of any desire to have a younger brother and genuinely appreciative of a quiet and calm house. Though any of us might be feel differently if there were an actual youth in question, right now none of us are wanting for there to be a youth who needs us. (I am closest in wanting to want it, so to speak.)

So I feel good about what we did, and yet I don't feel "up to" doing it again. I can't quite explain it.

But it does me good to see Evan.

He, David and Carl are all such amazing young men. I am truly privileged to be part of their lives.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

They're All Our Children!: Books For Children In Foster Care#links

Nicki Mann has put together a fantastic list of books for children in foster care. I that in order to see the presentation I had to click on the link in her blog, give them an email address for logging in, then go back to her blog and click on the link again to get to the file. (There may have been an easier way, but that's the path I took). It was well worth the couple of minutes I spent getting access to the file.

They're All Our Children!: Books For Children In Foster Care#links

Saturday, November 17, 2007


I think I have used foster parenting as a shield, and I'm not sure to what extent that is a good or a bad thing.

See, there are things about my job that I love, and there are things that I don't like and don't really think are important. I often look at the people around me and wonder how they can find it important. I think that my colleagues don't have a sense of proportion. Everything is taken very seriously; everything is debated; every argument is considered. We get caught up in issues and forget that nothing hangs on them.

There are tasks that must be done, but doing them or not doing them is just not going to make much of a difference.

And when I was doing foster care I had a buffer between myself and all that. I allowed myself to avoid the most (to me) meaningless of tasks and even to feel a bit scornful of people who took them seriously because I did things that Mattered In The World. I did things that changed people's lives, at least some people's live.

Now though I am not doing care and not even committed to doing it again.

It is a strange place that I find myself. I expect to care about it again. I predict that I will want to do it again, but at this point I don't. I don't even want to plan a quilt (which is a pretty big deal). I wouldn't be surprised if it is information about a particular kid that shakes me out of this state. I have a feeling that I could get energetic about caring for a particular youth in a way that I can't get energetic about "doing care."

But in any case, I have not plans to do care again in the near future.

So I have no reason not to invest time in some of the things that I have tended not to do. I have no reason not to join my colleagues in their dedication to minutiae. I too can dedicated hours and hours to doing a very good job on reports that will go no where and affect no one. I can prepare and invest energy in debates that result in nothing. And I do it well, too. I suppose that is what bothers me the most. I can fall into that life again and start believing that all the petty politics is important, only periodically waking up and realizing how absurd my life is.

My bioboys are growing older and becoming more independent. No one is demanding hours of time and deep energy of my soul.

So now I too can join the pod people. I can go to sleep and wake up as one of them. I will care about what they care about. I can think the trivial is important and forget that there is real human pain and suffering in the world. Just keep walking and show no emotion and you won't get caught.

Don't take that last paragraph too seriously. My husband rented Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) last week. I don't really feel like that.

But I almost do.

Last Car Post -- As far as I know

We got the car. Hubby got the color he wanted. I think I could have got the price down another $200 if Hubby hadn't given me sad eyes in front of the saleman. Still, I know from my research that we got a fair and deal on a good car.

But there is something sort of slimy about dealing with a salesman who is so very nice, sincere, and concerned for my well-being. He didn't seem to be faking it at all -- which somehow didn't make it better.

But Hubby is happy with the little car. Brian likes it too. Andrew hasn't even seen it yet, busy as he is with his life. It is fun to drive a little car after having had a large station wagon and a mini van for several years.

Thanks to those of you who gave me info and advice.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Car Update

Well, the car is on it's way to a salvage yard. We were not all that excited about the idea of saving it. It was at that point where lots of things seem to be wrong with it: the new air conditioner we had put in a few years ago has sprung a leak; the rear defroster/wiper has not worked since I can't remember when; handles and door panels keep coming lose and need to be screwed back on.

Now the nice car guys say that they can't tell us how much it will cost to fix the engine until they start taking it apart, but it will be at least $800, probably more.

We just don't like it that much.

We had already started the search for a vehicle we could afford. Then we started looking to see how inexpensive we could go and still feel like we were getting a reliable vehicle. The Internet certainly makes it a lot easier to do research. I think it is bringing at least used car prices into line. I remember when I bought a used car some years ago. I had access to the Internet and to sites like ( that would give me good information about how much a certain car should cost. I couldn't search inventories though and so I had to investigate what was at the lot, come back and calculate the price and then go negotiate. It took me hours of sitting at the desk and repeating, "No, I won't sign that deal. I can only spend this much today. If you can't give me that price, then I have to go home and re-figure my budget." Seriously, I said that over and over for three friggin hours. They never brought down the price of the car, but my trade-in mysteriously went up in value. It seemed to make a difference to them, but it didn't to me.

Now I can search the inventories and the prices are all within the ranges the on-line sources tell me they should be.

So I'm getting myself all psyched up to deal with surprise non-sensical fees or unnecessary services that will get slapped on at the end.

We've found a certified used car that will do. We will test drive it and expect we will like it. The advertized price seems fair. Now I know some of you have gone bought used cars recently and I think one of you has experience selling cars.

Anyone know what sort of things they are going to try to sell me that I should resist? Any fees they may try to convince me are non-negotiable but aren't really?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Caught Mid-Leap

Someone mentioned to me that I don't talk about G-d very much on the blog. The person who brought it up was just making an observation, but I thought I would try to write a post about me and G-d and our rather odd relationship. I've talked about it a couple of times, but not recently. But maybe I will now since, you know, I don't have anything foster care related to talk about out.

Neither of my parents are religious. My father is probably atheist. My mother, well, I don't know what she believes. She took us to a church for a few years after she and my father got divorced. That would have been somewhere in the 3rd-5th grade years for me.

My counselor talked to me once about all the "foster parents" I had had; adults who I recruited to parent me in one way or another. Many of them I found through the church. When I was in high school I started going to a Lutheran church. I fell in love with the liturgy. I went to a Lutheran college and was active with the religious activities there.

So from 14 to 22 I hung out with intellectual, liberal Lutherans. I was one.

After college I went to graduate school and grew increasingly uncomfortable with faith, with the whole G-d thing. I felt like I couldn't answer important questions and that if I couldn't answer them then it was somehow hypocritical for me to be in church.

I missed it though. I tried different things. For a while I went to a silent Quacker service, but when I moved to where I live now that was not an option. I thought about converting to a religion where belief was less important than practice, but I never could bring myself to do that. I have no problem with conversion in itself, but I felt like I couldn't pull it off. I would always be a Christian girl trying to be Jewish or Buddhist or whatever. My relationship with my faith is somewhat like my relationship with my country. I may disagree with it deeply and wholeheartedly. If I felt free to pick any one I wanted, I probably wouldn't pick the one I'm in. I certainly don't think it has a better claim to truth than any of the others. On the other hand, it's mine. Or I am its. I'm allowed to say what parts of it are important and valuable and what parts are silly. I'm allowed to say what I think is purely symbolic. If I jumped ship and joined someone else I would have to be all humble and let other people tell me what was important.

AND I would have to choose one of all the alternatives, and that would be really tough.

So I never converted to anything.

My husband had never stopped attending church. I learned from my sister that he continued going to the Lutheran church because he figured I would want to come back some day and that was where I would want to be. Turns out he was right. When Andrew was four and I was thirty, Andrew was in the Christmas pagent. I went to the service.

I cried. I missed the liturgy, the candles, the hymns so much. It was a deep ache. I wanted to come back. But I wasn't sure I believed in anything.

So G-d and me and a little talk. G-d said, "Come back." I said, "But I don't think I believe in you." And G-d said, "Come back anyway." And I did.

And things have changed little over the years. For a while I wondered if I believed in G-d like I believed in Santa Claus -- as a symbol for something. I have also wondered if I believe in G-d like I believe in my marriage. Maybe G-d is something that exists because we believe; something real but something that wouldn't be real if we didn't believe in it.

I don't know exactly what I do believe. I do know that I do not believe in a being who has everything planned out. I certainly do not believe in a being who has the suffering of children part of a plan for the greater good. If I did believe in such a being I would believe it was my moral obligation to fight it. And if such a being threatened to send me to a fiery torment because I fought, I would take that as confirmation of the being's basic evil nature. So that is one thing that is off the list.

In general though I find both belief and non-belief impossible to quite pull off. Neither position is comfortable. I am stuck half-way in the leap of faith.

But G-d doesn't seem to mind too much. Sometimes, like when we decided to ask to be Carl's parents, I have felt very much like G-d was pushing me to do something.

It's like that sometimes. G-d says, "Yondalla, I want you to do this thing."

And I say, "You know, I don't really believe in you."

And G-d seems to sigh and say, "I know. Do it anyway."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

ND Fostermom

Do you read ND Fostermom?

Well, whether you have in the past or not, you might want to go give her a little love and support. Her posts will remind you of posts I have written recently -- right up to desperately needing a respite, which reportedly goes well, but is followed by extreme behavior. Last night she had to admit her daughter.

I'm so glad they had a bed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Car Blues

This has nothing to do with foster care at all. It is one of the sorts of posts that I occassionally am annoyed by on other people's blogs. Many of the bloggers I read I feel that I have come to know. I start to care about the rest of their lives. Others though, usually ones I have found more recently, I read only because of the main topic. When they start whining about cars or talking about gardens I skip the post.

I'm going to whine about cars, so you might want to skip this post.

My 14 year old station wagon may have died.

We will find out tomorrow when we have it towed to our repair guys, whom I really like. I heard one time about a study where the experimenters did something to a car that was really easy to fix, unfastening a wire or something. They had a man take it to three garages and a woman take it to three garages. The man was charged nothing or very little at two of the places and "taken" at the third. The woman was charged at least $50 at each place. One time I took in our car that was making a terrible racket to our favorite place and the guy came out and looked and did something I did not see or understand, grinned at me and said, "All better! No charge."

So I like them. They've worked on our cars for 14 years. They have told us what has to be done for the car to be safe, and what we should do if we want it to last, and advised us on when fixing it might cost more than the car was worth to us. Last year we fixed my wagon. We spent a lot of money fixing it, but considerably less than we would have spent over the past year paying for a new car (or even a new used car). But now it is in sad, sad shape. The symptoms add up to something called "a blown gasket" which turns out is not just a metaphor for losing your temper. It is a real thing that can happen to your car and involves impressive quantities of white smoke. And apparently since I did not catch the problem before the billowing smoke phase, it is either an expensive repair or a REALLY EXPENSIVE repair. (And no, I did not pull over to the side of the road in a sensible fashion. I drove home slowly, praying that the car would not die in the street. In my defense, there really wasn't billowing smoke, just some white smoke coming out the back when there should be none. That and a truly excessive amount of jerking and bouncing.)

Hubby is agreeing that of course we need to take it to the nice car guys, but he does not think we are going to repair it.

I'm really bummed because I have been researching new cars. See, if we have to sell the property in Maine, the consolation prize was that I would get a new car. I was imagining nice, pretty shiny cars with cool features like hybrid engines and maybe even built-in bluetooth systems for your cell phone. I have looked at smaller, less expensive models which I would prefer, if I no longer had to drive car pool, and larger very grown-up and responsible-looking models that I would buy if I did have to drive around a pack of annoying pubescent humans. I even allowed myself to imagine that would be able to pick the color. I was very excited about that -- getting to have a real new car and pick out the color I wanted.

I am really a very shallow person.

In the end of course, I would almost certainly have bought something sensible and reasonably priced. I really wanted new though. Really. There's just something about getting to pick out the color.

But now the wagon may be dead, and we may have to buy a car, which we really cannot comfortably afford. So it becomes all about what is available used, and whether we should get an older model of a more reliable car, even if it has more miles or a lower mileage, newer car. And should we get one big enough for car pooling, or should Hubby be the primary driver of the new/used car and should I take his mini-van with the door that sticks.


Maybe one of the sensibly-priced used cars will come in a pretty color.

Or maybe my wagon isn't dead? Anyone have any guesses? It only has 105,000 miles, which is low considering it is 14 years old. It ought to be good for a few more years.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Behaviors 4: House Rules & Real Growth

After the last three posts, some of you may be thinking that I think we can't have any control over kids. I don't in fact think that at all.

I want to make clear, that enforcing basic house rules is a different topic. Trying to make a child into a person who cares about things being neat and tidy is not a project I would recommend taking on. Requiring that kids hang up their coats when they come home is perfectly reasonable. It will probably mean reminding them to do it every day for months, if not longer, but it is a reasonable rule that you can have in your house.

Though I find that it makes sense to have as few rules requiring specific behavior as I can live with, we do have them. Everyone has responsibilities, things like chores and homework, and though some down time is allowed after school, for the most part kids are not allowed to do the things they find fun until after they do the things they are required to do.

The sorts of things you learn in classes like Love and Logic can be really helpful. All that natural and logical consequences thinking can really help lower conflict as you get children to follow basic rules. I would just recommend that you keep it simple. Don't have too many rules. Think seriously about what battles you want to fight. Better yet, use the whole consequence thing so that you are not fighting at all, if possible.

I think when get in trouble with it when we start to think that the techniques that helped us to get our children to hang up their coats and help with the dishes will help us to change their characters or heal their traumas.

You can set out to help a child make a significant change that you want them to make. Margaret has an excellent post she wrote recently about helping her son become comfortable with touch and then trying to teach him boundaries around touching. It is clear that it is the sort of goal that it takes months, if not years, to help a child reach. I would guess that one of the reasons Margaret is having success (though of course it comes slowly) is that Slugger also wants it. He craves physical closeness. So helping him to accept it, and then accept boundaries around it, is a long, slow, process that will likely have a lot of success.

Since I started writing this I have read another post by Margaret, this time about enuresis (bed wetting). Margaret again shows a great deal of patience and understanding and talks about what she has tried and how well it has worked. My guess is that Slugger does not have a similar craving for a dry bed. If I am right, and I have been wrong many, many times, it is going to be much more difficult for Margaret to find a solution that she can implement that will "work." This issue is much more complicated as it is not clear why Slugger does it. If he doesn't want to stop, or even worse (for Margaret) if the activity is somehow satisfying or helpful in accomplishing a goal, well, trying to change it is going to be much more difficult.

To put this all simply, my whole advice to new foster parents about managing behaviors is this: That stuff they taught in class is really helpful for simple house rules. Don't expect too much from it.

You can be part of a process in which the children in your care go through amazing growth. They may make you so proud of what they have done that you can barely talk about it without crying. When that happens though, at least in my experience, there were a couple of things that were always true. First, it only happpened after the youth felt safe in the home, and even then it was a process that took a long time. Sometimes it is so gradual that you don't even notice it happening, until you back to your blog or old emails and realize what the kid was like two years ago! Sometimes it only got started while they lived here. In fact, with all the boys the most amazing growth they have accomplished has been after they emancipated.

The second true thing is that the youth wanted it. It was important to him and he was willing to work. I may have guided or offered suggestions, but in the end it was clear that I did not change him. He grew and healed while I did little more than listen when he wanted to talk and offer encouragement.

Nagative Behaviors 3: Boundaries

For those of you who were hoping that I would finally get around to talking about something that would work, allow me to dash that hope. I want to talk about boundaries and though sometimes using boundaries results behavioral changes, but their success is not judged by that. The point of having boundaries to protect yourself from behaviors that are unsafe for you.

The problem is that I am having trouble writing about. So let me say here simply that a boundary is not a rule or an attempt at controlling other people's behavior. It is an understanding of what you will tolerate and what you will do about it if the boundary is broken. A boundary is "working" if you are safe from those behaviors. So let's say you have told someone that they cannot come to your house if they are drunk and that if you do you will lock them out or call the police if they don't leave. They test that once or twice and find that you really will call the police, and then they only come over when they are sober but still drink themselves into a stupor twice a week somewhere else. That is a boundary that is working. The consequence of calling the police was not intended to change them. As a boundary, it was not supposed to stop the person from drinking, just from being drunk at your house.

But like I said, I am finding myself uninterested in talking in details about what a boundary is.

So if you are curious or confused click the label "boundaries" at the end of the post for a list of posts. Or consider these:

A general discussion about boundaries that I wrote as a follow up to a post about not judging parenting by the results.

A series of three posts in which I try to talk about boundaries in general.

Usually when I have really tried to think in terms what rules do I need to keep me safe rather than what do I need to do to change the child, I have been "successful." The kids understand the difference without it being explained. When I tell them that I won't engage in conversation with them when they are screaming at me or calling me names, they tend to put some real effort into addressing me in ways which are respectful.

If the kids understand that this a behavioral limit or requirement is something I, Hubby, or the other kids need to be safe, they are more likely to respect it, or at least put some energy into trying. If they think I am trying to improve their character for their own good, well, we've got the makings of a power struggle.

Having thought so much about boundaries, really made my journal with Frankie easier. The boundaries did not "work" in any traditional way, but they made my decisions easier. I knew what was acceptable. I knew what I could deal with and what was outside the boundaries.

In Frankie's case his violation of the boundaries was not a matter of respect. He really couldn't live within them. His behavior was consistent with his safety or ours. I did not have to go through a period of time in which I felt angry at him for not being a "better" child or at myself for not being able to fix him.

It was what it was. review...I've been trying to write a series of posts about negative behaviors. Though I have more I want to say, so far I have tried to argue: changing behavior is not nearly as easy as some would have us believe; some behaviors are not changeable; and we have the right and ability to protect ourselves from behaviors that are not safe for us.

Everybody in a really good mood?

See Jo, what happens when you ask for tips for new foster parents? I bet the newbies are really encouraged by this, huh?

Friday, November 09, 2007

"Negative" Behaviors 2: Acceptance

So I already wrote about why what I at least think of as "behavior modification" doesn't work.

And sorry, I am not going to talk about something that has "worked" here either. I'm going to talk about accepting what I cannot change.

Some of our kids' most troubling behaviors are strategies they needed to develop to survive their trauma and abuse. And when that is the case, I find that the question is not generally, "how can I make them stop doing this" but "how can I live with it" because that behavior ain't going away any time soon. I can report it to the child's social worker and counselor. I can hope over time it will go away, but it is not going to happen quickly.

If they hoard food, eat compulsively, have PTSD responses to strange things, lie without even thinking about it, twist their hair until they pull it out, wet the bed, give you wide-eyed princess look in reponse to everything, then, in my experience, you pretty much have to accept and deal with it.

I've never had a food hoarder, but people I know who have tell me that sometimes letting the child keep a stash of food of their own helps, but mostly it doesn't. Most of the parents I have talked to say that they just have to have a regular time when they sweep for hidden food so that it doesn't become a health hazard. I'm told that eventually the behavior fades away when the kids feel most secure but can come right back when the kid is under stress.

Youth are embarrassed by these sorts of things. Evan did not know why it was so important to him not to let me into his room. He just did. I took a step into that door and a panic button went off inside and he HAD TO GET ME OUT. It aggravated me. After he went to rehab it made me worry that he was hiding drugs. Once I identified it as a PTSD symptom I relaxed.

It just was what it was. I couldn't make it go away. I just had to find a way to accept it.

The problem was that Evan would take things that belonged to everyone (dishes, scissors, towels) into his bedroom and leave them there. Of course I prefered that he not take them into his room at all, but if did, all I wanted was the stuff to come back out. For whatever reason, he never brought it out. He would claim he did, but he didn't. I wanted to deal with that by going into his room with him and help him collect the stuff. I wanted to respect his privacy, and it seemed the best way to do that was to collect things when he was there. In my mind it was simple. He however could not bring himself to let me.

We had one quarrel in his counselor's office in which I proposed multiple compromises. "I'll stand in the hall and point and you can bring me things" and he accused me of being unwilling to compromise and tried to explain how important his privacy was. When he got to the point where he was actually trying not to cry I said, "Okay. I'll just go in when you aren't at home." He shrugged.

And that is when I realized that though he could not give me permission to do that, though he did not WANT me to go in when he was gone, the idea did not panic him. That's when I got it. It all made sense. I don't know what adults going into his bedroom meant for him when he was young, but I can guess. All the rational stuff about how me being a safe person who just wants to get the dirty dishes had nothing to do with the panic alarms inside him. And if anyone can understand that, it ought to be the woman who gets a pass on taking CPR even though she knows full well no one is going to drown in class.

Now, a youth collecting dirty towels and dishes in his room is hardly a crisis situation. It is an example though of a behavior I initially wanted to change and eventually realized I had to accept.

I've got better at that as the years go by. It is still difficult though. There are things the kids do that I don't want them to do, things that bug me, things that I think responsible adults don't do, but they are often not things that I can change. If they are going to go away, it is going to be because the youth decides to work on it.

All I can do is provide the environment in which that change could happen. And generally the the first step is helping the youth realize that they are loved and accepted the way they are.

And this may all sound wise and wonderful, but with every child it has taken me a while to get there. I have had to struggle. I have wasted a good deal of energy stomping around the house saying things like, "All I want are the d*mn towels! Is that too much to ask? If he didn't let them pile up in there, I wouldn't have to go in!"

Negative Behaviors 1: Behavior Modification

When I was thinking about just not writing Jo suggested that I write 5 tips for foster parents. I might, but I am going to write about one topic, the general issue of kids doing things we don't want them to do. This one is I guess a downer. It's why so little of what I have learned about formal rewards and punishments just doesn't seem very helpful.

There is a line of thought that you can "extinguish" any behavior by ignoring (or possibly punishing) it and praising what you want. My dogs bark when someone is at the door. I am supposed to teach them first to sit/stay. Lots of rewards. Then I practice with a friend of family member. They stand outside and knock on the door. I put the dogs on a sit stay and reward them. We keep practicing. Whenever the door rings, I interrupt their barking with a sharp sound, then put them in a sit stay and reward them. Gotta remember that reward part, which is difficult when you were angry at them a second ago. Eventually they hear the door bell ring and they put themselves in a sit stay and I reward them like crazy.

I have no doubt that it would work with the dogs if I was diligent, but it is really exhausting. It is more difficult with humans because so many of the things that we do are not easily rewardable. If I want a kid to stop lying to me, rewarding them for telling the truth is not as easy as it sounds. First, it is difficult to know when they are telling the truth, that difficulty means you can almost never reward them immediately or even give some sort of "negative consequence" for lying because you just don't know when it is happening. And then there is the artificiality of rewards that older kids see through. A smile and pat on the should is more of a reward then we think it is. Saying "Good Boy" is insulting, and they probably are not going to be pleased if I toss them a grape every time they do what I want.

Anyway, all this is behavior modification, and I am really, really bad at it.

I suspect that it would work better with small children. We are watching them constantly anyway. Making a small sharp noise when they start to mishandle the cat, showing them how to pet the kitty nicely and then saying, "Oh...good. Nice kitty. Kitty likes you when you pet her gently" every time you see the toddler petting the cat correctly, is a great idea.

And it can work with older children. I've recently considered having a system by which the Brian and Andrew can earn extra privileges for doing chores without being asked. Brian could get screen time, but I can't really think of any reward for Andrew except money. I like this idea, in part because it is easy for me. I could require them to make the check marks for doing the chores.

Of course the downside is that it is not the sort of behavior that is likely to continue if the rewards stop.

When they were toddlers and I praised them for petting the kitty nicely, they also learned that the kitty would stay with them when they petted her nicely. The behavior had an intrinsic reward. If a child has any aptitude for music or academics or whatever, rewarding them for practicing until they find that they find the activity intrinsically rewarding might also work.

Given that Brian does not find a tidy kitchen intrinsically pleasing, I have a feeling that the day I stop rewarding Brian for doing the dishes without being asked, he will stop doing the dishes. And it is highly likely that whatever reward I offer will become less valuable. I used to be able to get Brian to search the house to find something I lost for a 50 cent reward. Now he wants $5 and even that only motivates a cursory search.

So, I think that a conscious system of rewards can work, but if it is going to have long term effectiveness, the behavior itself has to become something the child finds rewarding, or the rewards have to continue and probably have to change.

My husband, as many of you know, is a special education teacher. He uses explicit behavior mod techniques all the time. Every day the kids get a print out of the tasks that they are to accomplish in the room. For some of the activities are relaxing and fun. Some are work. So the kids might have to work on a math lesson with one aide, and then spend 5 minutes at the free choice art center. They carry around their little pieces of paper on clipboards and he and the aides stamp them if they completed the activity without misbehaving in any particular way. They get lots of stamps. A certain minimum number are required to go to recess (so if a kid has been horrible, he or she has to stay in for recess, but it is not that someone "took it away" just that they didn't earn it). More stamps earn them free time, or balls or jump ropes to take out to recess. If kids prefer they can save up extra stamps (ones past those that earn recess) and "spend" them on pencils or other prizes.

When he had very young children he actually rewarded them with individual pieces of sweetened cereal. When everyone was told to gather for circle time they each got handed a generic fruity loop when they sat down.

And he finds it works. When evaluators come they are always impressed that the kids are actually being rewarded so much.

And we have talked about why it works so well for him at school and so poorly for us at home. My theory is that it is partly because of the developmental age of the kids, but it is also that in his classroom there are adults whose total job is to watch the kids and give them the bleeping stamps all the time.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


They are celebrating (or decompressing) with family and will give details on the blog later.

Goodbye Danielle

I have written recently about policy regarding removal of foster children, but not today.

All my thoughts about what is appropriate and when and how it should all work, have nothing to do with today.

Today I sit here with a copy of a photograph that Danielle asked to be taken. She and I are sitting in her mothers' RV. I have another that I took when she wasn't looking. Unfortunately she turned to play with the puppy as I took it, and it is a very clear shot from a very unfortunate angle. There are more photographs. Most of them are Danielle with FosterAbba and FosterEema, all smiling. A loving family.

And today that family is likely to be separated. They may be reuinited. They may not. Whatever else happens, Danielle knows there are people who think she is worth fighting for and who have loved her enough to give her permission to love others.

I thank G-d for the love that FosterAbba, FosterEema and Danielle have all shared. I hope that love is part of Danielle and that she knows she is loved.

Today I know their hearts are breaking, and mine breaks with them.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Foster Placement Removal and Confidentiality

I wrote this post earlier today, and then I saved it as a draft (which takes it off the blog, for those of you who don't blog) because I was nervous that FosterAbba, who is a friend, would be hurt by it, even though that was absolutely positively not what I intended. And it isn't even about her...

Then I remembered that the last time I asked FosterAbba if she was offended by something that I said, and I laughed and decided I had to publish it. And since you don't perhaps know her as well as I do, this is the conversation I had with her in my imagination today.

Me: "FosterAbba, I sure hope my post doesn't hurt your feelings or anything. It isn't intended to, I was just thinking about the whole topic and started writing..."
FosterAbba: "Yondalla, are you going to grow a back bone or do I have to drive out there and slap you?"
Me: "Um, I'll work on the backbone thing."

So here's the post:


I've been thinking a lot about when social services is justified in a removal. Most of you can guess why I have been thinking about this. I've been thinking about what friends of mine are going through, about how Carl came to me, and how Frankie and Ann left and my brain has been running in circles as I try to puzzle my way through what policy should be, how it could work out, and what it might look like.

It does seem to me that the standard for natural/adoptive families and foster families should be different.

Moves, disruptions, severing of attachments are all hard on children, but at some gut level it seems right that if you are going to take a child away from his or her first or adoptive family, you better have an overwhelming reason why. If nothing else, it is an issue of how much government interference we want to have in our lives. I am opposed to any suggestion that people required to be licensed before they have children (although I understand the frustration that leads people to complain, "You can't drive a car without a license, but anyone can become a parent.") I'm opposed to it because I don't trust the state the decide who the good parents are. We need to be able to disagree on what makes a good parent. Families have different values. And the state should not be able to remove a child from a natural or adoptive home because the family has become pagan, or does anything else the rest of us find weird.

In short, even if we had a plethora of fantastic foster parents, even if foster care was what it should be, we should not remove children from weird or even mediocre homes to place them with "better" parents.

This is a hard truth for foster parents who sometimes, even often, find themselves saying goodbye to a child they love so that the child can return to parents who they believe, perhaps rightfully, will not care for him or her as well as they have.

But what about when the state does take custody of the child? The standards then seem to me to be different. The state has the obligation to put the child in what it believes are good homes. It worries me greatly that the state may have very different ideas about what constitutes a good home. It angers me to hear that a gay or lesbian couple are not foster parents because they are judged unfit, or are afraid that they will be so judged. It frustrates me to learn that some family who would be good at care is denied a license because their house does not and cannot meet the code in some relatively minor way.

In general though, I accept that the state has an obligation to the children in its care that it is right to hold foster parents to a higher standard than first and adoptive parents.

I had a responsibility to report Frankie's self-destructive behavior. Had I not myself said that I thought he needed a safer place, the social worker would have come out to judge the situation for herself. She might have talked to Frankie and to my kids. She might have concluded that Frankie needed help. Even if she didn't, it is also possible that she could have spoken to Brian and that Brian might have said that he was afraid, but that he didn't want Frankie to be taken away and he didn't want to make us mad.

If that second thing had happened, if she and I agreed that Frankie was safe with me and that I was well-equipped to care for him, but that Brian told her secretly that he was afraid (or even felt neglected or ashamed to bring friends over, or couldn't sleep well anymore), the social worker might decide to move Frankie and might or might not tell me everything. Knowing the soical workers I work with and the relationship I have had with them, I think she would say, "I talked to Brian and I think this is harder on him than you realize." But if she thought that I would be angry at Brian for making Frankie leave, she might not tell me. She might just say that she thought it was in the best interests of all concerned.

When I imagine that happening, I imagine that all sorts of other things happening. I would be upset. My friends would be upset for me. I would keep asking for more information, and the more heated it got the more hesitant the social workers would be to announce that it was all because of Brian.

Of course they might believe other things about me, or about my husband, or our family dynamics that might make them think we were not the best place for a particular child or any child.

And they wouldn't have an obligation to tell me.

And that means that if they were wrong, I wouldn't be in a position to show them that they were wrong, because I wouldn't know what to show them.

The natural family has a right to know. They have the right to be told what precisely they need to do in order to keep their kids or get their kids back. They have the right to services to help them do it.

And we don't.

And sometimes that sucks beyond the power of words to describe.

When I think about how that might affect me or a friend I get angry. I want more rights. I don't want to be treated like a babysitter who can be discharged for no reason. When I am attached to a child I want to be part of the team that makes decisions. If the social workers disagree with me I want to know why and I want the chance to convince them I am right.

And at the very same time, I know that it is very possible that I will receive a placement after something like this has happened to someone else. It could easily happen that a GLBT kid will come out to his or her social worker and that the two of them will decide both to move the youth and NOT tell the foster parents the truth about why. In fact that is basically what did happen with Carl. He had been living as a temporary placement with the TTFM. He did not want her to know he was gay. It was different because he came to her as a temporary placement, but it was the same in that she said "I would like to keep him" and the social worker said, "Sorry, but despite your 20 years of excellent work with us, we are placing him with this brand new family. Yes we know they have a five and a ten year old and that is not recommended with a fifteen year old, but we are doing it anyway. Sorry, we can't tell you why." (Come to think of it, it is no longer so surprising that she treated me they way she did.)

And all of this that would make me so angry when I think of it happening to me, and I agree with it when I think about it from a policy perspective.

And now my brain is beginning to hurt.

It could happen to me.

If it did, given my agency and my relationship with those people I would visit the supervisor in her office. I would say, "Please tell me, was this necessary? Are you convinced that it would hurt someone or violate confidentiality if I were told why?" And she would probably say, "Yes, Yondalla, it is necessary, and I can't tell you why." And I would cry, and she would hug me.

I would ask her, "Did I do something wrong?"

And the only small comfort that I have is that I know whatever she would tell me would be the truth.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

How we seem to be doing

Is it wrong that I find myself thinking that I have to do care again so I have something to write about?

I think we are all beginning to come out of the emotional shock and depresssion we had over Frankie's last days and departure. That we were the first to recognize the situation and initiate the move did not make it easy, though I am sure it would have been far more difficult to go through a removal that we did not agree with.

In any case, life feels more normal.

Andrew is still the busy high senior, rarely seen but doing well. I think his position on doing care again is that he would just as soon we waited until after he moved out, but would not protest if "the right kid" came along.

And that is pretty much Hubby's position too. If they (the GLBT kids) don't need us then he will be happy to turn the extra bedroom to a different use. If a youth does need us, well, we are here.

I joked with Brian about being an only child, seeing as how we don't see Andrew very much these days. I asked him how he liked it and he made a face and shrugged, which I interpretted as indicating an eventual willingness to consider care again.

And me? Well, before Frankie I was impatient. I had mixed feelings about being impatient, but I felt ready and able and didn't like waiting. And now I feel like not being needed is fine. I've got other things to do. I am not going to tease the social workers about finding me another kid. I have no desire to get a quilt done, "just in case." In fact, I think I would really like to get through the Christmas holidays before thinking about it, but I don't feel strongly enough about it to tell the social workers not to call for a while.

And I feel like I just don't have much to write about. That's okay too. I can let the blog slide into a state of quietude. I can write whenever I have something to write about, and if that is not often, that is fine.

But since I have no ideas, no inspiration, you want to ask me questions? You can ask anything, but I will probably only answer questions that are foster-care related, since I try to keep most details about the rest of my life off the blog. Although I might be persuaded to get philosophical on topics about which I know nothing.)

Or not. My Google Reader fills up daily with all these folks doing that write every day thing. Perhaps my falling into semi-silence is a good thing right about now.

Busy, busy Andrew

I happen to know, because he told me, that he only approved comments that did not ask a specific question. The rest he intends to save to publish along with his answers. I don't know how many he got, but he has some material to work with. (This doesn't mean you shouldn't add one, if you like).

In any case, tonight he has a practice concert and tomorrow the band leaves for a trip. They will sleep Wednesday night in a the bus. I don't know if they get one or two nights in a hotel, but then they will get back home from the bus sometime over the weekend. I'll be sure to find out before he leaves!

Anyway, the kid is really working hard this semester. I'm proud of him. He's been studying like crazy.

He does intend to write answers to the questions, but it won't be for a while. I will let you know here when that happens.

Thank you to all who wished him luck and gave him questions.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Some Good News

I got some blank note cards that you can put through the printer so that I could send something to Frankie that I thought he would like. After I finished it I could not find the address so I emailed the agency worker to ask if she had it.

She did. And she told me that Frankie was doing well, whatever that means.

And Frankie gets to keep seeing the same counselor!!!

Oh, how I love my agency. Even though Frankie is not placed with them any more, they are going to continue to pay for the counselor who does not accept Medicaid AND pay for the transportation costs. I am aware that it is not so much that my agency is filled with exceptional people (though they are) as that they are exceptionally well funded. They are ABLE to do this.

Still, this counselor is so good and so perfect for Frankie. Frankie trusts him. He was in no way part of the decision for Frankie to move, which is good. It means that Frankie has no sense of having been betrayed. This guy is just in his corner, all the way.

I'm just so happy.

It's the sort of happy that makes you want to cry.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Andrew's Starting A Blog!!

Cool huh?

It may be a short term project, but he is interested in doing some writing and he thought answering your questions would be a good way to start. So go on over, and ask away.

Thoughts from a Fostering Brother

I wonder how he came up with that title?

THREE nights in a row

I slept again last night and I even used a less powerful sleep aide. Next step is to attempt to slowly reduce the dosage.

I did dream. I dreamed that the agency called us to take another youth. Except she (yes, a female) turned out to be 25. She had a young son whom she had placed with the agency, and she was going to live with me while she got her stuff together and got her son back. Oh! and her abusive husband had just gone to jail. Interestingly, this is the sort of thing that I had argued should be possible -- although in my imagination the mothers and young children would be kept together. I guess even my dreaming mind couldn't make me live with a three-year-old boy.

I expect to have some fun blogging news in a few hours.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Angry for Danielle

If you read here, you probably read Navigating the Maze and already know that they have been told that their daughter will be removed in seven days.

If you have been reading here for a while you know that we are friends with FosterAbba and FosterEema. This past summer they stopped by on their way through my part of the country, scaring my dog and generally having a lovely time.

I know them. I know their daughter. I've seen them together. I know the trouble they have had with the county. I know they are not perfect, but neither am I.

I'm sad for FosterAbba and FosterEema, but I'm outraged on behalf of Danielle, their daughter.

FosterAbba and FosterEema will have a piece of their souls' torn out. I understand, as well as one can, I suppose. They will hurt. I will hold their hands and listen to them on the phone and email and chat and they will go on. They will probably never do foster care again. They may never attempt to become parents again. They may never trust the social services agency in their county. They will however survive, and their ability to form trusting relationships with other people will not be significantly changed.

But what of Danielle? How shall she respond? She thought she had a home. She hoped, expected, to be adopted. Now, she has been told that someone she barely knows has decided to move her, and the people who are making the decision are not talking with her.

Okay, so they are not talking with FosterAbba and FosterEema. That is wrong. It should not be that way, but well, they and I are adults and we can deal with it.

But how can the social worker not be talking to Danielle?

How? How can the social worker even begin to think that doing this to Danielle helps her?

Imagine for the sake of argument, that the social worker has reason to believe that FosterAbba and FosterEema are not the best long-term parents for Danielle. What should the social worker do? If Danielle is in immediate danger, she takes her away.

If there is somewhere that Danielle would be better cared for then the social worker should tell Danielle, explain where she is going and why, and then give her the time to say goodbye.

Danielle is a little girl who has learned to trust and feel part of a family. She is not a possession to be reclaimed.

She is a child and the social welfare workers who profess to care so much about her should be taking care of her.

I just don't understand.

A Quick Report

So the monthly potluck was nice. We ate our spaghetti with Paul Newman's sauce and soft french bread slathered with garlic, salt and margarine, pretended that a pasta salad from the deli was an appropriate side dish, and remarked how wonderful it was that you could buy a complete salad in a bag with dressing and everything. I drank a glass from a good bottle of wine (the rest of which was kindly left here) and smiled and passed on the sweet stuff with the screw-on cap (the rest of which went home with its owner). After dinner we all agreed that the chocolate which could have been bought here was much better simply because it had traveled in some one's carry-on all the way from San Francisco. Okay, we didn't really talk about the food (except the chocolate). We just ate. The point is that none of my guests cook. Some of them don't even shop very well. But they are kind and wonderful people and I love them very much.

Then they left, the family watched a kiddie movie with me at my request, I took a physician-approved sleep aide and slept for 9 hours.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Some sleep

I slept a complete 8 hours last night, with a little help from modern chemistry. (Don't worry, this comes with my physician's approval).

Brian had another event last night. With Brian's concert last week and Andrew's final band concert a few days ago, that is three in one week. Hubby whispered that we seem to be kept quite busy with the kids we have.

Brian has the blues. I asked him what was wrong yesterday and he said, "I woke up and my silly and spontaneous spirit had left." I told him that that wasn't surprising considering how difficult the last two months had been. He said that that was true, but that wasn't what was bothering him. When I asked what was he said, "Well, it's really more of a father/son thing than a mother/son thing." It turns out that it wasn't much of a father/son thing.
By which I mean that he did not have much to say even to his father, not that it wasn't an important thing. All Hubby got out of him was the name of the girl who does not return his affections.

Tonight is our monthly potluck. I'm not quite feeling "up" to it, but we are only having spaghetti, which is easy, and it will probably be good to sit with friends. Some of them know Frankie has gone away and some do not. All will be kind. Hubby has a half day so he will get the house into "casual company" shape. All I have to do is boil water, and heat up jars of ready-made sauce, and then relax in the company of my friends. We've been doing this monthly potluck for quite a few years. It is a long time since it had anything to do with trying to impress each other with our culinary skills. And several of the people who come really don't have any culinary skills. Even the salad and dessert will probably be bought already made.

But that is all good. Hanging out with friends will be very good for me.

And then I think the family needs to do something fun together this weekend, though I can't quite think what. It's tough when they are teenagers. When they were little there were so many things they enjoyed.

I wonder if they are too old for the children's science museum.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Trouble Sleeping

I slept well two nights ago, last night was another night of waking and dozing and waking and sleeping and getting up feeling like I had not slept at all.

So tired of being tired...

My closest colleagues know about what happened. My closest colleagues are the biggest non-gossipers around. Other people don't know. I am not trying to keep it a secret; I just don't have the energy to tell it matter-of-factly. And I am not close enough to them to be blubbering in their offices, but I am close enough to later have to deal with conversations like, "He left a month ago? Why didn't you tell me?"

Why don't I know any good gossips? Don't people realize that all gossip is not bad?

Of course, it is entirely possible that my life is just not that interesting. And it really isn't that big of a deal, especially as I told people when he moved in that we were less confident about this placement. It's just strange when people that I normally share some with walk by and say, "Good morning! How are doing?" and I respond, "Okay. Tired, but okay." Then they say, "Yeah. It's that point in the semester isn't it? We are all getting a little tired." And I nod. Sure. Whatever. I feel like a piece of my soul was ripped out, but we can pretend.

Lordy, I need sleep.

It's a good thing that a bunch of you are committing the writing a post a day, because someone else is going to have to keep the blogosphere pumping away.

I'm going to take a nap. For a month.

No seriously, if there is anything to tell, I will post. If you don't hear from me as often it is because I am doing nothing more interesting than sleeping, or trying to.

Exercise is supposed to help you sleep right? But how do you make yourself exercise when you feel like the walking dead?

Am I rambling? I think I'm rambling.