Wednesday, July 21, 2010

FWL Episode 03 - A Dead Sprint, Then Pacing Ourselves

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A lot has happened since the last blog post. As you know we've been placed with a little three month old boy, and in addition we were placed with his older three year old sister. They share the same bio mom, and they wanted to keep the siblings together. However, she only ended up staying with us for a few days and then she was reunified with her mom. It was determined by the court that baby, however, was not really bonding yet with bio mom, or gaining weight under her care. We have been able to get him to start eating more and so he has gained weight under our care. So for the time being he will be staying with us. We're not sure how long that will be or where it will lead, but we really like the little guy and are happy to provide for him a safe home. So, you read in a previous post that we did not want to change the birth order in our family, and yet we took in a three year old while our bio son is two. We did this because they wanted to get the siblings together, and we wanted to keep caring for the three month old. So we said yes to caring for her. It was an adventure. Also, she really liked her little brother and knew him well, so that was another reason they wanted her to be with him. While she was in our home she played pretty well with our son. Day time was loud and busy, and meals where a lot more work; but for the most part it was just a louder and busier household. Also we had to deal with tantrums every once in a while. For example they would fight over who's baby brother the three month old was. Our son would say "my baby!" and the three year old would say "that's my baby brother." This was very sweet, but it started to become a fight so we explained to our son that he was his friend, but her baby brother. They would fight over toys here and there, and it was good for our son to get more changes to learn how to share more, but it started to become a tantrum. We explained to our son that he is his friend, and her baby brother. They would also fight over toys here and there, and that was good for our son to be around so he can have more opportunities to learn how to share, but it was challenging. The other challenging thing was bedtime. The first night went pretty smooth, the three year old girl was scared at first when we left. We found out she was scared of the dark, so we turned on a lamp for her and she was ok. She did say, "do you promise to come get me in the morning, even if I don't wake up?" That was sad, but we said, "yes we promise to come get you, and we can hear you so if you need anything we'll come right down. She went right to sleep, but the next night was not so easy. That afternoon a little before bedtime she had a visit with Mommy. Her mom had given her some gum, which we thought was nice and said to her "oh you have such a nice mommy to give you some gum," but we couldn't let her go to bed with gum. My wife explained to her how the gum could end up in her hair if she went to sleep with it in her mouth, and that we wouldn't be able to get it our of her hair so we would have to cut your hair. She wasn't buying it. After a long back and forth my wife had to take the gum from her, hoping not to get bitten. She mom had given her more, so we told her that she could have more gum tomorrow but not while sleeping. She fell asleep eventually, but our usual ten to fifteen minute bedtime routine took about an hour that night. So that was a little rough. If you really want to hear about some challenging bedtime situations though, you need to check out the Foster Parenting Podcast with Tim & Wendy. They have two little girls who have given them about as much of a challenge as I can think of for bedtime. I'm mentioned it before, but this podcast is a huge inspiration for my blog and podcast - so I'm plugging it again.

Something we realized while this little girl was in our care was that we weren't able to give our bio son the time and attention we want to give him. We tried bedtime together for the first night, books and songs before bed, and she kind of took over the time. He wasn't able to point things out or answer our questions of what colors or kinds of animals were in the books because she would beat him to it. So the second night we ended up splitting the two, I laid our son down and my wife laid her down. Also her tantrums were starting to rub off on our son. Luckily she didn't use any foul language, but if she had he would have been repeating her. He mimicked everything she did. All of this helped us know that our initial thinking of not bringing in someone older than our bio son was a good call. As mentioned he is two right now. We learned that right now we would also only like to take in one child at a time. This way we can focus on our son and his development, and also provide enough love and time for a foster child under our care.

Something else that helped us come to this decision was the time we had together as a family while the foster children were at their first visit with their birth mother. It was so quiet, and it showed us how different it was caring for three as opposed to our one. We had thought we were super busy with one child, but now we saw that it wasn't much compared to having three.

The next day after that rough bedtime we were going camping for the weekend. We were going to leave in the morning, but that day there was a court date in which the decision of the children being reunified was decided. The social worker felt like they were holding us up and told us to just go ahead and go camping. We decided, however, that the kids probably wouldn't be getting in good naps while camping so we laid them down for a nice long nap around noon at home before leaving. Then when they woke up a few hours after the hearing was to have taken place we had not heard from them. So we decided to pack up and head out. About a half hour out from our house we received a call letting us know that the older three year old sister was to be reunified immediately with birth mom. So we took an exit, turned around and drove back into town. They met us in a hot parking lot, about 45 minutes after we arrived there, and she rode off to go back with her mom. We were happy for her because she had been saying how much she missed her mommy, but it was also sad. We felt bad because we had been telling her that she was going camping with us, and she didn't want to go home at first because of that. She wanted to go camping with us, but then we told her how excited her mom was to see her again, and before she left us she was happy to be going home. The camping with one infant and our son ended up being a lot easier. We had a blast riding a four wheeler, and camping out in the middle of nowhere in tents with friends and family.

One awesome thing that happened the first night camping was that the baby slept through the night for the first time. Wonderful right? That said, one of the dogs was up barking at something at 5:15 to the whole camp was up for the day around the campfire and making breakfast at 5:20, but still he had slept through the night. We had not been looking forward to getting up in a pitch black tent to make a bottle and feed. It may have woken our son up, it would have been really hard to see with just a small bottle, but we were able to sleep. He slept through the night the next day as well. Our two year old did really well to, which was great. We didn't know how well he would do in a sleeping bag, but he did great laying next to me while the baby was next to my wife in a bassinet. We were on a blow up mattress between them. One cute thing - we've found our son asleep on the floor a couple times since the trip, and when my wife has asked him, "what are you doing down here on the ground buddy?" he has responded "I'm camping." We thought that was pretty cute. We're going again in a couple weeks. One thing we thing has contributed to the baby being able to sleep through the night is having him on a schedule. It has helped him to eat more, and there for sleep for longer periods of time. Again, my wife is amazing, and our foster child is doing so much better thanks to her getting him on schedule. we have changed him from someone who snacks all the time to someone who chugs up to six ounces in one feeding.

That's all for now, thank you so much for reading and/or listening!

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God bless.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

FWL Episode 02 - More Waiting, A False Start, Off To The Races

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In this episode the audio is a little more off the cuff, and differs slightly from the blog post text.

Hello Everybody, and welcome to episode 2 of Fostering With Love. I'm Dan, and today I'm going to talk a little bit about my family, the next steps we have gone through in the foster care process after becoming certified, and what it has been like bringing a foster child into our home for the first time.

More Waiting

When we were going through the P.R.I.D.E. training classes, which was meeting for about 4 hours at night twice a week for a month, we were told that as soon as all your paperwork goes through, they are going to call you. This is because there are so many kids in foster care waiting for homes. As an example I found this information my local paper's website at:

Fostering hope
Taryn Brodwater and Jody Lawrence-turner • Staff writers
Published April 27, 2007 in The Spokesman-Review

In Washington, there are 5,841 licensed foster homes, according to the Children's Administration. It would take 30 to 40 new families each month to fill the need for foster care in Eastern Washington, Rogers said.
About 80 children a month are placed in foster care in Spokane County alone. Two years ago, that figure was 30 kids a month, according to Rogers.

"As a recruiter, I'm not asking people to take in 10 children," Rogers said. "But if everyone would make a difference in one child's life, that would be huge. This community really needs to step up for the children." - Linda Rogers, a Spokane foster parent who has also adopted and recruits foster parents for a 13-county region, including Spokane County.
So we were told all of our paperwork had all gone through, and that everything was complete. I thought for sure that we would be getting a call that afternoon, but we didn't get a call. I told my wife, I'm sure we'll hear from them tomorrow, give me a call when I'm at work and tell me all about it. We had talked about exactly what age and level of special needs of children we would both be comfortable bringing in to our home, especially for the first placement. So I called her the next day at lunch, and there was still no news. So she called them. They said, "oh yes, I don't have your name and number on here, I guess I should hit refresh for new foster parents." Our name was now in front of them. They simply had not hit refresh. I'm sure the reason they had not hit refresh is that these honorable people are extremely busy, you've heard the stats. So rest assured, once you are certified, you will get that call. If it's not right for you, don't worry about it because you'll get another call, and if that one's not right, you'll get another call. There are so many children who need safe homes.

A False Start

The case that was brought to us first we were told would be a good first placement for us. A little guy had been taken away from his parents a few months after birth, and had been with a foster family for quite a while. He's coming up on being a year old, but this other family wants to bring in a sibling of another foster child in their care. Both of these siblings are special needs and they did not think they would be able to handle two special needs children and this little guy. So we said, yeah, we'll take him. We were told that we would probably get him the next day, but that the court was waiting to decide if he could be reunified with his parents who have been doing all the right things to get thier little boy back. Within a few months they would be able to get him back. When we got the next call, however, the parents who have been caring for him decided to keep him so he wouldn't have to go through the trauma of being placed in a brand new home after living with them for half a year, and then being reunified a few months later with his parents. Very commendable I'd say. So that's good news for the little boy. As we learned in our training, the number one goal of foster care is reunification. Before I go any further, I want to talk about the feeling I had after hanging up the phone with my wife when we thought we would be getting our first placement the next day. It was encouraging to see my off the cuff reaction when my wife called me and told me about this child and, at that time, that we were going to get him the next day. We would have him for a few months and then he will be reunified. So I heard about his situation, and what he was like, and the reaction I had immediately after hanging up the phone with my wife was just pure excitement. I was giddy. That felt great, it was so reassuring. I know that it's going to be different than I'm expecting, and that it's going to be challenging, not just sunshine, and bottles; but I was truly excited. And that felt great. I thought, you know, we are doing the right thing. I have gone over it so many times in my mind, and have felt that it is what God is calling us to; but knowing what God is calling you to do and being excited about it are two different things. So it was really cool to have that reaction.

I just mentioned bottles, and I'll use that as a segway to tell you a little more about my family and what age of foster child we are looking to bring into our home. My wife and I have been married for over three years now, and we're creeping towards thirty, but we still have as many years to get there. We have one biological child. He is two, and we just couldn't have a better little boy. He is so easy going and fun. He is a really sweet boy, and very well behaved thanks to my wife and her diligence. He is just a joy to be around. So since we have a two year old son, we do not want to rearrange the birth order, so we want to bring in any foster child that is under two. So, we have that unique situation, some people feel like taking in any age child, zero to eighteen years, some take in toddler, some take in only babies, some take in teens. It's all about what you know you can handle, because we're all human. For me an example of something I can't handle, from experience babysitting for friends, is a colicky baby. So we're going to try not to take in a child who is colicky. Also, since we have a two year old, we don't want a child who is older than two. Another things that comes into this is the fact that we have not parented a child who is older than two. That said, parenting really is a learn as you go deal, so if we would of had no children and we became foster parents and took in teens as our first placement, I say hey that's great. You have been a teenager yourself. The fact that you want to become a foster parent means that your heart is in it, so I would say go for it. Maybe you have a heart for teens. Every age group comes with its own particular difficulties. At the end of our P.R.I.D.E. training class we had foster parents come in and share some of their wisdom with us. One older lady explained that she took in teens so she wouldn't have to deal with puke and diapers. Another single mom shared how she had a heart for little babies and special needs children. Thank the good Lord that he make us all different right? We all have different gifts and abilities.

Off To the Races

We have officially had our first placement. Today is Tuesday the 13th, and it was last Friday afternoon that one little 3 month old guy was placed with us. For the most part it has been great, he is a very easy baby. He only cries when he needs something, which is wonderful. We have been able to quickly meet his needs, and have been learning what he likes; it's been good. I haven't really handled a three month old since my son was that old two years ago. Almost everything has come right back, except one thing that was kind of funny. I was feeding the baby for the first time, and I was telling my wife, "yeah he's doing good he drank this much but now he's stopped and doesn't want to drink anymore." She asked me "have you burped him yet?" "Oh yeah," I had totally forgotten about burping when feeding a baby their bottle. So I propped him up on my shoulder and got a nice big one out of him right away, which was excellent because then he drank a whole lot more of his bottle. The one thing that has been rough is that we think this baby has learned to sleep in mommy's arms because if you're holding the little guy he'll fall asleep real easily. As soon as you put him in the little cradle we have, however, he's awake and flailing around and crying. He does not like it. As foster parents, at least in the state of Washington, we cannot have foster kids in our bed. This is something that comes with the territory, many foster children have been abused, some sexually, so our bed is off limits for foster children. It's kind of like the whole spanking thing. With our biological child we use spanking, and it has worked really well. We don't have to do it often but sometimes a two year old needs to know that he isn't the one in charge, and that there are consequences for directly disobeying after he's been asked nicely to change his behavior. Again, many foster children have been physically abused, so spanking is off limits. Some of these kids have been through so much, and at such a young age, that as foster parents we need to be extra sensitive to these kinds of issues. All this to say, we cannot let our little guy fall asleep with us in our bed, not that we would do that, our son always slept in a bassinet, but it has been rough at night. Luckily, as I mentioned in the last podcast, my wife is amazing. What we've been doing under her astute guidance, is letting him cry for about a minute, and then giving him his pacifier. He self soothes with it for just a little while, and then spits it out and cries again. The crying is good for his lungs and helps him become more sleepy, and we go right in and help him calm down with a pacifier again. In these few days, he still needs our help, but he has learned how to fall asleep by himself in the bassinet. Another problem the little guy was having is not eating as much as we would like him to when fed. We don't want him to be snacking all day, only drinking an ounce in a half every hour. So we have slowly made him wait just a bit longer so that when he does get a bottle he eats much more. When he's waiting we're holding him and distracting him, so he's not just sitting there crying with a hungry tummy, but just as he's learning to sleep he is now learning to eat more in one feeding. Getting him on a schedule has also helped with this. The feeding and sleeping go together for a successful schedule for babies. When he came to us he wanted to eat when it was time for him to sleep. This makes it difficult because he's falling asleep while eating and he doesn't eat much. Also since he doesn't eat much, he'll wake up sooner wanting more bottle. So my wife has been getting him on a schedule of eating as soon as he wakes up, and eating a lot. He has been sleeping longer, and my wife has been able to get a whopping five and a half ounces down the little guy in one feeding. He's a happier baby because he's getting more food and more sleep. So the first night we had him it was really rough, we were both pretty much up all night with him, but now he is going down for bed in about five to ten minutes. Last night I believe he was only up once in the middle of the night for a feeding instead of several times. He eats more, he sleeps for longer periods of time, he's not always hungry and tired, he's a happier baby. And we are happier foster parents because we're getting more sleep, and more fun time with him when he's awake because he's in a good mood.

Now I'd like to talk a little bit about what it was like to have a child placed with us for the first time, it was a very interesting experience. There have been several times where my wife and I have just looked at each other and said, "someone else's baby is living with us." We had nine months to prepare for our son while he was in mommy's tummy, and this guy was literally dropped off at our doorstep. The social worker came to our house, gave us as much information on him as she knew, saw where he was going to be sleeping in our house, and then headed home. The whole afternoon, until the late night, felt like a dream. Somehow it just didn't feel real that we had someone else's child in our house, and that we were caring for three month old again, making bottles and burping him. So it has been a big adjustment, but it has been great, other than the not sleeping through the night part. We are both pretty wasted, but it's getting better as he's getting on a schedule.

By the time I release the next podcast episode and blog post we will have learned some big news about this little guy and what's going to happen with him and his mommy. As of now, we have no idea what visits with birth mom will be like, how often, or how long we may have him with us. I will say that there is a possibility that we could be giving him his forever home, so there's lots of exciting times to come. Until then, thanks for stopping buy, I would love to hear your comments on the blog, and also you can now follow me on Twitter @FosterWithLove. I'll be posting when a new podcast episode and blog post goes up, as well as little updates throughout the week. A big thanks to the fine people over at the Foster Parenting Podcast for kindly leaving me comments on my last blog post. So encouraging to have those you are inspired by leaving feedback after one episode! Thanks guys, and thank you for reading and/or listening - and God bless.


Music Used was "Fresh Deep Drum and Bass Vol. 2" by DJ Krauss found here: