Hi! My name is Clarise. I'm currently going through the process of becoming a foster parent. I started this blog to share my journey with readers. I am not a writer, an expert on parenting, or even a parent... but so many folks have asked questions, I thought I would share. I am also an avid runner, nutrition coach and devoted Sunday school teacher (which is where I learn most of my patience with preschooler's :-)). I also work for a small agency called the VA. I hope you enjoy!
Foster care can be beautiful. You receive a child in your home, you love them, you care for them, you bond with them, and then boom! You get a call that the child has to move. It really sucks and it is so hard. But not only is it hard for you, it is hard on the child too. They form the same bonds, love and care that you do. I understand what my role is in this system, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I got word yesterday that my two year old has to go back into foster care in her home state. It is an overwhelming feeling because there is nothing I can do to stop it or help her. If her plan was a little more permanent, like she was being reunited with a healthy birth family or adopted into a family, I would feel a little more at ease. This little one is going into another unknown, to another home to get to know a new family. She is a great little girl, smart, playful, and loving so I know that she will be fine. She maybe a little confused at first, but I know she will settle in well. For me, it is hard because she is going to another state and I will not know who she is with, if she is okay, or if I will ever see her again. I have to just trust and believe that the Lord will take care of her wherever she goes.
When speaking to her social workers supervisor yesterday, he was surprisingly empathetic to the entire situation. He was very comforting to speak to and thanked me for the care that I provide for the children in my care. It felt good to hear it from a worker because most of the time they are so “matter of fact” when relaying information to us regarding care that it often feels as though they forget that we are people with feelings. These kids are not a job to us… a name on a paper… a visit once a month, but a member of our family, so it’s hard to just get the call to let go. But I get it, judges and lawyers make decisions and we (including the social workers) have to abide by them. Social workers are really just doing their job.
One thing surprised me though. When the worker asked if I would consider being an adoptive resource for this little one, I answered “yes.” I shocked myself with the answer. LOL! I don’t know if he asked me for a reason or if it was just so that if anything happens in the future and an adoptive resource is needed, I will be on the list. He said he would pass my name as a resource to her new county in case they are willing to do a ICPC (I don’t know what that means). Who knows if anything will come of it. I told my worker today that I don’t get my hopes built in anything in this system. Things change so quickly. So right now I am in the flurry of packing up her stuff and getting ready to say goodbye.
It’s been exactly one month that she has been with me. Two year old’s are HARD!! LOL! She taught me a lot about myself and I will always be grateful to have known her. So, for now I will get back to living my single life (yes… the teenager is still with me). I will miss her a lot, but that’s how I get through the pain… I think of what I gain. I just pray that she remains safe.
I am stuck in between a “two-nager” and a nineteen year old. Lord help me! LOL!
A few days ago, I welcomed a two year old into my home. She is the cutest and the sweetest little girl. She loves to hug and tell me she loves me… it’s so cute! Although she is cute it hasn’t been all hugs love, she is two… and quite demanding! For the most part, she is a very easy toddler (from what I can see right now) and she is very happy. She goes to sleep singing and wakes up with a smile. Now, let’s talk about her wake up time really quickly. LOL! This little one woke up the first two mornings at 5:30 am! Today she woke up at 5:58 am… man, I don’t understand why she won’t sleep later. I put her to bed around 8:30 each night and her previous foster mother said she slept each morning until about 6:30. I hoping that once she gets used to my home, she will sleep a little later. I finally got her enrolled in daycare! She is such a social butterfly, I knew immediately that she needed to be with other kids. Enrolling foster children into daycare is such a huge ordeal! If you can find a place with availability that is the first win! If they take the voucher, that is the second win! AND if they don’t cost an arm and a leg… that is a third win! I know childcare is expensive, but the department pays so little and A LOT of providers don’t take the voucher because they have to wait so long to get paid. I had one provider literally run me off the phone, I was really embarrassed. I don’t know why, she just made me feel so unworthy of her services. I got over that because I wouldn’t want this little one to go to someone with that attitude anyway, I’m glad I got to see what the providers character was BEFORE I enrolled the child and then it was discovered she was a foster child. I wouldn’t want her to be treated poorly. So I mentioned her previous foster mother. This little one had to move homes because her foster mom moved out of my county and couldn’t take her. Both are/were very sad, my little one still asks for her.
So it’s back to the grind of “parenting.” Unlike the six year old and the teenager, the two year old is more like the baby I fostered last summer… but a little more work since she is mobile. LOL! Coming home from the gym, I used to set the six year old up in front of the television with her dinner while I went and got cleaned up… with the baby I was able to sit her in a swing in my room and take care of things. But this new little mamma is a busy bee! I have to wait until she goes to bed before I can clean myself up and eat dinner. I have to get back into meal prep for myself so that I can eat while she is eating as well. LOL! So needless to say it’s been an adjustment. I always struggle when a new placement arrives. I mean I love having the kids here with me, but the reality of the work it involves and the freedoms I have to give up… it makes me sad. LOL! I know parents reading this are like… “What’s new?” LOL! BUT I really struggle with it! I actually came to tears on Monday night going to bed missing my early morning workouts and running with my group, but as I laid there praying about it as I fell asleep… I woke up to a text from my running buddy’s teenager explaining that they would watch my little one while I go running in hopes to earn a little cash. Win/win! I can help a young one earn some money the hard and honest way and get to go running with my friends. It really was an answer to prayer.
The nineteen year old has still been great! Even though she can be snarky and rude sometimes, she really isn’t a bad young lady. Teenagers are not my gift area at all! It’s so funny that all of my friends marvel at my patience with these kids, the young ones don’t bother me because I know they are young and are still learning social and emotional skills. I can deal with that. Older kids, they just get under my skin (I’m just being honest). I just can’t take someone that is depending on me for food, shelter, and clothing that I don’t ask to do ANYTHING around the house except clean up after themselves… can still give me a stank attitude. I don’t know if she is upset or jealous that the two year old is here, but she has not been very social or interactive. One of my friends was able to get her to participate in a game night I hosted over the weekend… and she played and had a great time! But once the two year old arrived she has been a little “ugh.” Like, I just don’t get it. I had to set her straight a few days ago. She tried to walk out of the house and not speak to me and when I said good morning and asked her if she was okay, she blew me off and kept walking. UM NOT COOL! I let her know that was not acceptable behavior and even if she didn’t feel well she still should be cordial to the other members of the home. I do understand that she may not have gotten the advantage of a stable upbringing… that’s why I am not too demanding on her. Also, she will only be with me until she goes off to college (a few more weeks). Yes, she is a very focused young lady who works, goes to community college and just got accepted into a four year college for the fall! So I do praise her and give her props for all that she has accomplished. AND I am always sure to tell her. It’s just hard for me to deal with the attitude. ME… the one my family called “tude” for most of my teenage years! LOL! I have to try more with the teenager. My friend encouraged me to do something nice for her. My feelings said, “what… nice like clean up after her, making sure she has enough food to eat (even though I asked for a list of groceries she needed and she just didn’t write it) or trying to engage with her?! But my heart said, “okay… I will try to do a little more.” #help
So life with a two and nineteen year old has been interesting! Opposite ages, but with the same general characteristics. Both can be sweet one minute and have an attitude the next, both are fiercely independent… but still need help and both think they are older than they are.
Before I finish… does anyone know how to braid hair? I mean, this little one has hair and that is not my strong spot at ALL! LOL! Just asking…
I usually wouldn’t write so soon after another blog, but stuff just got real with my teenage placement. LOL!
Really in the grande scheme of foster care she is not bad at all, but I was really naive in thinking that this would be an uncomplicated “easy” placement. LOL! When my placement arrived (I feel weird calling her my foster daughter or my daughter because she is such a grown lady… lol!), I gave her a short list of rules that I needed her to abide by while living in my home. One of the rules was that she cannot eat in her bedroom. I don’t even eat in my room, so I am not asking her to do anything that I don’t do myself. Okay, so fast forward to 4 days into her placement with me and I come home from the gym to find a fruit loop on the carpet in front of her room. It was a little late and before I left she told me that she was really tired from taking finals and she may be in bed before I got back home, so I snapped a picture and sent her a text message reiterating the rule of not eating upstairs. A few minutes later she responds with this crazy story about how the fruit loop ended up in front of her door. She basically told me that she spilled cereal on her pants and went upstairs to change and clean up. Immediately my “parent” antenna went up and I smelled a lie. I responded to her text with “ok” because I did not want to accuse her of lying through text message. I mean, does she really think that I believed that a fruit loop had enough strength to hang on to her pants while she 1. stood up, 2. walked across the floor, 3. and went up two flights of stairs before it decided to give up and drop off her pants? OR she wouldn’t clean up all the fruit loops on her pants before she decided to go up the stairs. Yup… I was born yesterday and I surely believed that (I really feel like my mother, lol!). I let it go for the night, but I was really boiling that she thought I was so stupid… that I am such an idiot that believed her story.
Fast forward to morning, I was unloading the dishwasher and noticed that one of my bowls was missing. I got enraged again (silently) because now I KNEW she took a bowl of cereal into her room. Small infraction in the grande scheme… but an infraction non-the-less. When she came down to tell me good morning (I did exchange pleasantries first), I told her there was a bowl missing and asked her if she used it to take food to her room. She said, “no” she did not take food to her room and that she didn’t know where the bowl was. Again, I didn’t believe her story from the night before so I was already bubbling because I knew she was lying. She asked me if I looked in the dishwasher for the dish. I told her I unloaded the dishwasher and that is how I noticed the dish was missing. I asked her if she was telling the truth and she said, “yes.” **Side note** I now understand how parents can tell if a child is lying, I don’t know my placement that well yet… but I could tell by her countenance that she was not being truthful. **End note** She insisted that she did not know where the bowl was and that she could show me her pants where the milk spilled. I told her she didn’t have to do that and again… let it go. When I went upstairs to make lunch… guess what I found?? Ding ding ding! Bingo! The bowl. She placed it in the dishwasher. That sent me into another fit on the inside. Like I am so stupid that I would not notice that the dishwasher that I just cleared magically has the missing bowl. She spent the entire day in her room (I was working and was going to wait until after work to talk to her about it), which was not her usual pattern. A friend came over after work and she was sleeping by the time I could say anything. I figured that she was either embarrassed that I caught her not telling the truth or mad that I “spoke” to her about it. Either way, she did not speak to me the rest of the day. I made a note to speak to her in the morning.
This morning, she did not come down and tell me good morning (like she usually would), but I decided to be the adult and go up and speak to her. I asked her how she was feeling, how she slept, etc. and asked if she was okay because she was in her room all day. She said she didn’t feel well so she stayed in the room… okay. She told me that her worker called to speak to her about the “incident.” Okay, another side note – so my social worker emailed me to give me some information and asked me how everything was going. I told her that it was going well, but I just caught my placement in a lie and I wasn’t too happy about it. My worker told me to make a note and send it to my placements social worker… so I did. My placement told her worker that it was a misunderstanding. I couldn’t take it anymore so I asked her how the bowl ended up in the dishwasher. She told me that she put the dish in the cabinet with the plastic containers by mistake and found it and put it in the dishwasher. Do you think I believed that… NOPE! Remember, I had unloaded the dishwasher so I had put all the dishes away. I would have noticed if there was a bowl that was out of place. I told her this and her response was, “well, I don’t know what to tell you because that’s where it was.” So then I knew, she was not going to tell the truth… she was sticking to her lie. Instead of just letting me know that she made a mistake, she made a small incident about eating in her room a bigger incident of lying and broken trust. I know she doesn’t trust me yet, I don’t expect her to. BUT now, I can not trust anything that she tells me… I will take it with a grain of salt. As Judge Judy would say, “teenagers lie as soon as they open their mouth.” Now I believe that… LOL!
I spoke to two of my close friends, one is a foster parent herself and they both gave me a really good perspective. I always try to put myself in each of my placements shoes. I did it with the baby and the six year old, and now a teenager. I can never imaging what they go through so I try to speak to them with grace, mercy, and respect. Even though I cannot stand to be lied to and I cannot stand a liar, I have to accept the fact that lying is something she picked up up along the way to learn how to survive in foster care. As a kid when I messed up with my mom, I never would think or image that she would kick me out of the house. Kick my butt yes, but not kick me out of the house. These kids, they may believe that they are one mistake away from being removed from a home. One mistake away from a person tossing them back to the worker for them to deal with. I can’t imagine that. So, as much as I can’t stand a liar I have to understand that this is bigger than a bowl of cereal.
So my easy going placement, the one that I was just supposed to glide through for the summer… just opened my eyes to the reality of fostering a teenager. She’s not a bad person, not a bad kid, and she has a great head on her shoulders, but I have to remember that she had a total life before me and anything that she does or says I cannot take personally. Does she have to follow the rules, absolutely! BUT from this moment on I will be more aware that these things can happen… even when they are 19 :-).
Two months to the day my last placement left me, a new placement arrived. To be truthful, emotionally I am not ready to deal with another placement. LOL! I know, I am a big baby… big, big, baby… but I was sooo not ready. So what made me say yes? I will get to that a little later. As I wrote previously, the department gives you 30 days of no contact when a placement is removed from your home. Like I mentioned in my last post, on the 31st day I did get a call for a placement that I couldn’t take because I was leaving for trip. I received a called for a 16 year old, that I almost said yes to… but she had a physical altercation with her dad (in all honesty I do not know who started it… but I didn’t care) and I didn’t want to deal with it after my last placement and her physical violence.
Last Tuesday, I got a call from a social worker and she asked me if I would take a 12 year old girl… that night. When they called, I was on my way out the door and had plans for the entire night… so I couldn’t take the placement (and truthfully I didn’t want to). Once I said no, the social worker on the phone told me that my social worker had something she wanted to talk to me about and that she was going to transfer the call. I was expecting my social worker to talk to me about scheduling a time to come out and do my home visit. It’s been a year and my license is about to expire… I know, I can’t believe it either! Instead she asked me if I would consider taking in a placement that was 19 years old. Okay, so teenagers scare the bejesus out of me! LOL! I have no clue what to do with them. LOL! So, why did I agree? I was comfortable accepting this placement because I provided respite care for her last summer. She didn’t give any trouble, so I figured it would be a good fit. I felt good saying yes to the department and I also felt good saying yes to myself. Stretching out of my comfort zone, but still having a little peace while providing care. She’s a great kid! In school, has a job and is well behaved.
The question I get most often is, “how can you foster a person over 18?” In Maryland children can be in care up to 21 years of age. It’s called “Ready by 21.” Think about it, how many of us were ready to be out on our own at 18? I mean, some people are… but they still have support of some kind (sometimes). Research found that foster kids simply were not ready. So now they don’t age out until 21. My placement is applying for a transition program where (hopefully) in a few months she will get an apartment and start life on her own, but still have the support of her social worker and the department services.
We are on day four and it has been interesting. The first day she arrived around 2:00p and had to be at work by 5:00p. When she left for work, I kind of stood around for a bit… it felt weird to not be needed. Meaning, she is so self sufficient it makes me feel strange in my home. LOL! It’s kind of like she is my roommate… not a placement. Imagine if you had a 6 year old that you had to cook for, wake up, bath, etc and went to sleep and woke up and they were 19! It’s weird to go from having to “mother” to not…. hmph. Because I am me… there have been a few “things” that have made me raise my eyebrow. Food dropped on the floor, keys left in the door, binge watching shows and not eating what I cook. LOL! But overall, it’s been good, that is nothing to complain about (and I am not). I just need to find the balance of fostering a teen. She is an adult, but still not mature… I’m trying to figure it out. I am an introvert and so is she, we do not like the same TV shows, and she is studying for finals, so most of the time we have been in separate parts of the house. I don’t want her to feel like I don’t want to interact with her… but at the same time… I don’t know how. It’s a very interesting dynamic for me at the moment, but I will get through it!
So, the woman who in class said she would only foster ages 0-5 is now the foster “mother” to a 19 year old teenage girl. Wow! That is funny!!
It’s always hard for me to think of a title for my posts. It has to be catchy… telling part of the bigger story and captivating your audience willing them to keep reading. So… that’s what I could come up with :-). I chose that title because when I see people, one of the first questions they ask is when I am getting another child. Well, I knew I wanted to take a little break after my last placement and I was pleased to find out that the county allows you 30 days of no contact (if you choose) after a placement is removed from your home. I gladly excepted the offer and began to decompress from everything that happened.
It has been a wonderful time for me, I will get into a little later, but for my previous foster daughter it has had a more trying time. After she was removed from my home, she lived in a therapeutic foster home for about two weeks before she was moved again. I do not know the reason why she was moved, but I knew a few days after she left me that the new home was not the right fit. During my first call with this foster mom, she basically asked me if I could continue picking my daughter up from aftercare (um… no) because she couldn’t get off of work in time to get her. Well, when I told my social worker she informed me that was not my responsibility. I didn’t feel comfortable with that anyway because I thought it might be very confusing for my daughter. I can pick her up after school, but she is not coming to my home. Also, the new foster mom got my daughter kicked out of aftercare the following week after she left me. So, I am assuming that the move happened because having a placement just didn’t “fit” in her schedule. I don’t understand why a person would accept a placement, but not know if they can accommodate the child. It makes me very sad that for the most part, these children are not looked at as people… but just numbers moving through a system (that is totally my own opinion). I didn’t even know she (foster daughter) moved until one day I got a call from my previous placements social worker explaining to me that she (foster daughter) was having a rough time during the transition and if I was open to spending time with her. I had planned to spend time with her anyway, but my schedule had been hectic and I didn’t want to plan something and then have to cancel. But once I knew that she moved again and was having a tough time, I made a point to visit with her that week. So, on a Friday afternoon I went to her new foster mom’s home and spent about 2 hours with her. She showed me her room and we played games. She asked to see the bite mark scars on my arm and this time I did show it to her. She kept telling me she misses me so much and also kept asking me why she can’t live with me anymore and if I miss her “a lot.” My logical side wanted to tell her that I missed her a normal amount, but I realized she is a child and I should embellish… LOL! As I was leaving, I told her that I would come back and visit her soon. Her foster mom told me that she got approval from the private agency for me to pick her up from school and take her places, so I told her that I would take her to church one day. She was excited. About the private agency, since she (foster daughter) is in a therapeutic home there are a lot more rules and regulations to follow. It’s a bit weird, but I totally understand.
Her new foster mom and myself have formed sort of a team, it has been nice. The first time I spoke to her she didn’t know who I was. She said, “Oh… you are the mom from the photo album?” When she left, I gave my foster daughter a photo album filled with pictures of our adventures together and she kept showing it to her new mom and tell her “that’s my mom CC.” LOL! The new foster mom was so confused because my foster daughter was crying for her mom and when she finally showed her who she was crying for, she was like… “how can this be?” LOL! (I’m black and my foster daughter is Latina) LOL!
The most important thing I have gained from the relationship with the new foster mom is a sense of perspective. What do I mean? Even though EVERYONE, from my mom, friends, even social workers, told me I did a great job with my placement I still felt bad like I didn’t give it my best. It wasn’t until I spoke to the new mom, who is trained in therapeutic care, and she told me that this placement is A LOT (very demanding, screaming, throwing tantrums, and exhausting) is when I finally felt good about the care I gave. The new foster mom still tells me often how she has raised 3 boys and that this little girl is a lot. She says she doesn’t know how I did it for so long by myself. I had a lot of guidance, help (both physical and spiritual) and prayer. I am glad that I still have a relationship with my daughter and can still be a positive figure in her life! It’s so funny because I literally live about 6 minutes away from my daughter and her foster mother often says when they pass my housing development my daughter says, “CC lives down there!!”
During this time, I also got to see my first foster placement. I had her when she was 5-6 months old. She is a big girl now, 14 months. Of course she did not remember me, but she gave me smiles and hugs just the same. It made my day! Love that little one!
So, back to the original question. What have I been up to? Well, I have been hanging out with friends, running with my run group, and traveling. I also changed around the sleeping arrangements for any incoming child. I used to have a crib/toddler bed in a shared office space and used my guest room for older placements. I painted and now have the crib/ toddler bed in the room with a twin bed. It looks good! It has been a refreshing 30 days off. Right before I left to go out of the country, my social worker called me to ask if she could place two girls with me for a night. When I told her I was catching a flight that night, she asked when I would be back. So, I am officially back on the call list! We will see!
Today would have marked five months with my foster placement. She left me yesterday after a very tumultuous month filled with some highs, but mostly stress and lows. My last blog post detailed a tantrum that happened in the beginning of February, I wish I could say that the tantrums (even though they were bad) stayed on the same level. Unfortunately, the tantrums escalated and became much more aggressive and violent. During the week of 2/11, I endured three physical assaults. I sometimes scoff at the word assault because this little one is so tiny… and weights just a tad over 40 lbs., she is no heavy-weight contender… but her aggression coupled with the fact that I can’t do anything to protect myself really, made for a really sticky situation for me. I knew she couldn’t “hurt” me, but it was nerve racking just the same. There was slapping, kicking, punching, grabbing of my clothes, pulling of my hair, anything she could do to let her aggression out… that’s what she did. As I would reflect on each episode, the thing that would make me the most sad was the anger and rage I could see in her face/eyes. It made me sad because she is so young and dealing with so much, it was just too much for me to bare to see.
So how would these events start? It could be anything really, but mostly when she couldn’t get her way. If I told her to take a bath, brush her teeth, or that she couldn’t watch TV… I never knew what her response would be. Some days she would be fine, but most days… she would totally flip off. It was very stressful for me because I would never know who I was going to encounter, my nice sweet daughter or the other side. I would laugh with my friends that I was truly being abused, but then I really thought about it… I was in a way. I made excuses for why she would go off, wondering if things were my fault… maybe if I said yes when I said no, or maybe if my tone was little less edgy. I was living on edge most days. Dreading when she would wake up in the morning, dreading when I would drive to pick her up from aftercare, or when it was bath/bed time because I just never knew what was going to happen.
After the third assault, I sent pictures to both my and her social workers to show them what happened. This was by far the worst of the worst, she bit me and started throwing things around my living room… just trying to break things. The third incident happened on 2/16 which was a Saturday and of course 2/18 was a holiday, then we had a good sized snow storm, so everyone was basically out of the office. Once everything was back to normal, my social worker was the first to call me. She let me know that the behavior was not tolerable and that my daughter had to be removed (when I sent the email with the pictures, I told them that I was willing to work with my daughter, but she needed more therapeutic help). My social worker let me know that she could no longer stay with me and needed to be placed in a therapeutic foster home. She told me that she was going to talk to my daughter’s social worker to get the paperwork started for a move. I had no say in the matter. At that point I was sad, but totally relieved that soon I would not have to live in the chaos anymore. My social worker also told me that I should have called the emergency DSS number or the police when the event was unfolding. *** Side note*** Funny thing about me, I have a horrible gauge of things. Once, a doctor asks me what my pain level was after surgery and I said 3. I was asked what did 3 feel like and I likened it to stabbing. The doctor was like, no… that is a 10. LOL! Yeah, that’s me. So I couldn’t gauge if this incident was crisis line worthy. Plus when I picked up the phone to call, she calmed down… so I didn’t want to call for nothing. But I was told I SHOULD HAVE CALLED. Anyway her social worker told me she was putting in the paperwork that day, but ended up waiting a week… that is why the removal took so long. Not that I was rushing to get my daughter out at all, but it felt like ripping a bandage off slowly. I knew she had to go, but her being with me felt so normal. After a while, I just wanted the bandage to come off so I could jump in and heal.
The day finally came for her to move, I didn’t tell her because I didn’t know how she would react… so I waited for her social worker to come over. When I told her, she cried. She jumped up and wanted me to hold her, so I did (did I mention she is tiny) and she cried into my neck. I told her not to be sad and that I would still visit with her. She stopped crying when I told her I had something for her. She was so excited to see what it was. I made her a picture album filled with photos of things we did, people she met, and places we went. She loved it! I told her that whenever she missed me, she could always look at my picture in her book.
I am sad, I can’t say that I am devastated. This placement took a lot out of me. We were as opposite as opposites could be :-). She drained me a lot, but she was a lot of fun and always had a laugh or a hug when I needed it. I will miss her a ton, but I have begun enjoying my me time! So, the journey continues… but I will most likely take a break to regroup. It is really hard, and I am so grateful for the support of my friends and family. Especially my social worker/psychologist friends who have given me such great advice. Also my mom, who I would often call mid-tantrum just so that someone could be my witness to the chaos and my tone of voice. These kids have been through so much, I just feel so bad and guilty that this one had to move to another house. My goal was to keep her until she reunified with her family, but that just wasn’t in God’s plans for us. I just pray that what I did for the time she was with me will have an impact on her life in some way.
When she was leaving she asked when I would see her. I told her I would see her soon and she asked… “tomorrow?” Not that soon Chica… but soon enough!
This blog entry is not cute… or funny, well… maybe a little because most of my friends have laughed while I have reenacted each situation! These past few weeks have been very intense for me. I have dealt with tantrums nearly every day for the past two weeks, the only days that I have not dealt with a tantrum are when she is with her parents or out with another family. The last two days have been extremely difficult. I have been yelled at, screamed at, slapped, kicked, and threatened. It has been rough. I will describe yesterday’s incident just to give you a little glimpse. I actually documented this incident for her social worker and also recorded my interaction with her so my tone and voice can be heard. I try to stay very calm with her, but sometimes… I do want to “yoke her!” I don’t… but believe me… I want to so bad! LOL!
Yesterday when I went to pick my little one up from aftercare, she came out of the house not her bouncy self… but still came up to me and gave me a hug. She asked me if I had food for her in the car and I told her I did not since we are going straight home for dinner. She then asked if she could watch a movie when we got home, again… I had to tell her no because I was having people over that night, so we wouldn’t have enough time to watch a movie. She persisted in asking…. over and over again. I calmly told her that my answer was the same and that continuing to ask will not change it. She then started to get louder… I told her if she was able to calm herself down obey and behave, I will allow her to watch the movie when she came home from school the next day. She immediately screamed, “I DON’T WANT TO WATCH TOMORROW… I WANT TO WATCH A MOVIE TODAY!!” I again told her that we couldn’t watch a movie today and because she is choosing not to obey and to be disrespectful, she will not be able to watch television both that day and tomorrow. She started screaming and yelling, “I WANT TO WATCH MY SHOW!!” She then proceeded to kick my drivers chair and scream while I was driving. I told her to stop kicking my chair because that is dangerous (I was recording at this time). She continued to kick my chair and scream as we drove down the road. As we pulled into my community, she unbuckled her seat belt and started to get out of her chair. She taunted me saying, “Look… I am out of my chair!” I told her to sit back down and buckle up… but she wouldn’t budge. When I pulled into the driveway, she would not get out of the car. So, I walked towards the house… she still didn’t move, so I went in the house to put my stuff down. I came back outside and she started screaming… “YOU LEFT ME IN THE CAR!!” over and over again. I told her I asked her to get out of the car and she didn’t and those are the only two options. I told her I was not going to stand outside all night. So, I repeatedly asked her to get out of the car please and each time was returned with… “you left me in the car!!” I finally had enough and picked her up and removed her from the car. She then proceeded to slap and kick me while screaming. When she got into the house, she stayed in the entry way for around 20 minutes. I came in, went upstairs and ate my dinner. When she eventually came upstairs, she looked at me and started crying about how she lost her headband at school. I asked her if that’s what made her upset and explained if it was, that was not my fault and she should not speak to me that way. I had her apologize and I went and made her dinner.
So, you would think that is the end right…. wrong! While eating dinner she turns around like the events of just a few minutes ago NEVER happened and asked me sweetly, “Can I watch my shows?” I told her no and asked if she recalled how she had behaved earlier that day. That sent her into a all out tantrum. She started yelling, “I WANT TO WATCH MY SHOW!!” I said to her that even if she was allowed to watch her show, screaming at me would not be the correct way to ask. She then told me she would not eat and pushed her plate almost off the table. I told her that was fine and walked over to the table and picked up her plate. She then got mad and pushed her place mat and water off the table. When I didn’t flinch, she then pushed the table… broke it… and every thing slid off (it’s a card table… she is too small to sit at my bar stool table). So I then told her that it was time for her to take a shower. She started screaming “NO!” I told her then she had to go to bed. She screamed, “I WANT TO EAT MY FOOD!” I told her she needed to go get it out of the kitchen herself. **Side note, I really wanted to throw her food in the trash when she pushed it… but I decided not to at the last minute** She looked at me and said, “NO YOU GO GET IT” she actually yelled that to me. I told her if she wanted to eat, that she needed to go get her plate because I was not the one who tried to push it onto the floor. She kept screaming for me to go get it… I did not budge. She eventually got up and got her plate and was walking like a snail back to the table. I told her she only had four more minutes to eat (when she started the tantrum I told her in 10 minutes she was going to the shower regardless if she was finished or not) so she better hurry back to the table.
After she finished eating… she looked at me cheerily and asked for more food. I told her no, it was time for a bath. She was happy after that… like a light switched on and off and on again. It was so strange.
I have an initial intake for therapy for her on Monday. She has had 3 therapist during the four months she has been with me… and I always feel like we get nowhere. Hopefully this new place will be able to help her work through whatever feelings are on the inside. Because really… I can not take this everyday. I was going to title this blog entry, “I Love Her… but Do I Like Her?” but a friend of mine suggested that I change it… LOL! Thanks Cynthia!
Moms, aunts, foster moms, teachers dads too… how do you deal with your child’s tantrums? Any tips?
I haven’t written in so long, I don’t even know where to begin. Since I last wrote, we have enjoyed the Christmas and New Year Holidays and the little lady started after school care.
This was my first time ever having a child in my home on Christmas morning. The funny things is, little Miss doesn’t have the same connection to Christmas as most kids. She did not run into my room to wake me up on Christmas morning to open presents… I don’t even think she came into my room to wake me up at all. LOL! I woke up at a normal hour, but she was awake and asked me lots of questions about Santa and his visit the night before. I made breakfast, then let her open up one of her presents and we played a game while we waited for my mom to come over and open gifts. One of the funniest things to my mother and I was the fact that the little one would open a present, get so excited, and then rush to throw the wrapping paper in the trash! I was happy that she was cleaning up… but I wanted her to just enjoy opening all of the presents. After all of the presents were open, I sat around and played Legos with her and then she played with her dolls and the boxes her clothes come in… too funny. It was a great day, very low key… we didn’t leave the house because it was COLD and her dad returned her to me the night before WITHOUT her coat. *sigh* But we watched movies and ate and enjoyed the day together.
The next day we were scheduled to fly to Dallas to be with my family. Yes she did come with me :-). Of course I asked the department and had a special letter notarized by social services that gave me permission to travel with her. BUT before we went to the airport… I had to rush and buy her a coat. I think it was her first time on a plane. I gave up my coveted window seat to allow her to soak in the total experience…. yippee… middle seat for me. I didn’t know you had to download the AA app before take off, so the flight down was loooooong without Wi-Fi. She did good though and she enjoyed the flight. I think she was very confused when we got to Dallas because she was so upset that we had to get into another car that wasn’t mine. I tried to explain that my car was parked in a parking lot far away… but it wasn’t clicking. Funny thing is that when we returned home… she said, “I’m glad we are back in the black car… I did not like the other car.” LOL… who knows! It was great being in Dallas with my family. The little one got spoiled by my aunts and she loved every bit of it. She still says, “I miss Auntie” (one of my aunts) at least once a week. It felt good to see her meld into the family… and see what family can look like.
It’s been kind of interesting seeing the little one process the differences between her and I. She is from El Salvador and of course I am black. She often asks me why my hair is curly or why it can’t be as long as it looks in a picture she sees hanging in my hallway (when it is straightened). I showed her a few days ago, how I can stretch my hair out… and how it actually is long. She looked amazed, but couldn’t understand why it just couldn’t be straight like hers. She is also started to recognize that my skin is a different color from hers. My cousins had a baby, and while I was holding the baby my little one looked at her… then looked at me and said, “her skin is like yours.” She’s recently started to ask me, “who are you?” I ask her what she means, but I know what she means… she just can’t articulate it… she is asking me why I am taking care of her, who am I to her. I want her to talk more about it… and I am not sure if I should answer with “foster care,” but I do tell her that I am taking care of her for a little while. I promise this little one thinks she is going to be with me until she is “big.” She says she is going to drive my car and bring a dog into her room. I do not have any answers for her on if/when she is going home to live… so I don’t really say anything about that. She says to me often, “I want to be your mother!” What I think she is saying is… I want to be your daughter, but she doesn’t know the word daughter (she just learned English this year). She often says, “You are my mother” or “You are the best mother.” She’s called me mommy a few times, it’s all very surreal for me.
After school, the little one would come home around 2:30 each afternoon. It was fine for the short-term (I thought she was a short-term placement), but after court when I realized she would be with me for a little while longer… I decided to put her in after care. This little one does not like change. Almost every day she asks me why she cannot get on her bus and come home. I try to explain that I will not be standing at the bus stop waiting for her in the afternoon and she will have to ride back to school where they will call me to pick her up. I explained that it would not make me happy and that she would be in trouble if that happened. LOL! I had to say this because I was so nervous that she would get on the bus and smuggle her way home. LOL! She has been going to after care for two weeks now. Every day she tantrums and cries and tells me why she hates going there. I suspected that it wasn’t true, but called the center director to make sure that little bit was not acting up, withdrawn, or crying while there. I was told that little miss is happy, giving hugs, saying she has a bff, and laughs and plays with the other children. I knew she was guilt tripping me… but I just had to make sure. It has to be hard not having control or consistency in your life. I do feel for her, but I had to make a decision that was best for both of us. She’s a bubbly little girl with an infections laugh, but some times… every now and then… I can see darkness in her eyes and I wonder what she is thinking. It’s hard because she can’t articulate it… she just gets frustrated and cries or tantrums. I am hoping to get another therapist to work with her soon. She has been with me almost four months and this will be her third therapist… sigh… I feel like we get no traction.
Well, that’s all I have for now. Hopefully you enjoyed reading :-).
Yesterday was my first experience going to court as a foster parent. It was a really heavy experience for me… I wasn’t expecting that.
The court case was scheduled for 2:15 pm we didn’t actually go into the courtroom until 4:15 pm. Anyone who knows me knows that I am an on time type of person. LOL! So, I got to the courthouse around 1:30 pm because I over estimated traffic, the wait for the shuttle to the courthouse, and the security line. So, me and little miss were at the courthouse for almost 4 hours. It was a long day! I didn’t know what was going on with the scheduling delay until the caseworker told me that the judged was backed up.
My little ones parents arrived, so I got a chance to actually talk to them. Learn more about them as a family which was great! Usually during drop offs and pickups, we chat briefly and exchange children. I learned about their family in their native country, additional siblings of my little one, and the dads cooking skills. LOL! Although I am an introvert and really hate small talk, it was nice to get to know a little bit more about my little ones family. Sometimes were a little awkward as “little one’s” mom wanted to get something to eat and little miss of course wanted to go with her mom. It’s always awkward when her parents look at me for approval… I have not gotten used to that. But the reality is, I am her “parent” at this time. Strange feeling. It was also awkward as I fumbled through saying “no” you can’t go to my little one (she is not allowed to be with her mother unsupervised)… and the crying that ensued. We (myself and the foster mother of the boys) decided that we would just go with her to get some food… which is also super awkward because she doesn’t speak any English…. so it was mostly a silent walk.
When we finally get in the courtroom, there are so many people there! Social services, the children’s lawyer, two interpreters, the mother’s lawyer and the father’s lawyer… along with the judge, court reporter and clerk. My little one was asked to sit in the plaintiffs chair… her little legs swinging. She constantly looked back at me during the proceeding to give me a thumbs up or a wave. She looked so small in that chair and it hit me again how small she is and all this weight around her.
The proceeding began and the department and lawyers spoke. The heaviness that I did not expect to experience happened when I saw the look on the parents faces. I can’t describe the look, but I could feel it. It was like they thought that they were further along in the process and then hearing what still has to be done. They looked blindsided. It was heartbreaking. We (myself and the other foster mother) was asked to speak and I tried my best to advocate for the parents. I don’t know how well that was received.
The judge asked my little one to speak and she did a good job. The judge asked her how she likes living with “your foster mom.” She said, “who? OH you mean Ms. Clarise… her name is Ms. Clarise, but I call her CC!” LOL! The judge asked if she liked living with “CC” and she said, “YES! Because she makes good food for me!!” LOL! She always tells me that she likes my food. I’m glad that she doesn’t hate it! LOL! After the case we said goodbye to her parents. She was fine until we got outside of the courtroom… then she had a minor meltdown. She missed her mom. Of course she does… but what do I do? It’s always hard to hear because there is nothing I can do. I learned to redirect her longing for her mom by asking her if she wants to make a card or picture for her and we take a picture and send it to her. It has worked well so far. When I got home and got her settled and in bed, I realized that in her mind… going home with her parents wasn’t even thought of. She kept asking me when WE were going HOME. She calls my house “home” and her parents house… “her mommy’s house.” It’s hard for me to think of this little one’s reality… it makes me feel heavy. I will just continue to pray through it. That’s my method of releasing the weight.
So like I stated before, little miss will be with me for a little while longer. Not something that I expected. When the next court date was recorded, the other foster mother looked at me with “surprise” in her eyes I looked back at her with a “wow!!!” in my eyes. I was totally surprised by the extension of the case. We spoke today and we both felt the same weight yesterday. It’s a helpless feeling because we spend the most time with the children and the parents, but have the LEAST say in anything. But that’s how it goes I guess.
So for now, we are just focused on the holidays. It is my first time ever experiencing Christmas with a child in my home… so that is nice :-). I hope everyone reading this blog has a Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year! Thanks for reading and your support!
I would love to hear from you if you like reading… so drop a comment or a like :-).
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I am actually pretty neutral when it comes to celebrating the holidays. I understand the meaning behind them and I am truly thankful for the time I get to spend with my family and friends. I always thought that when I had a family of my own, I would get more into the spirit of decorating, Christmas carols, hot cider and all things “Holiday-ish”, but since that has not happened… I have remained my same ‘ole “neutral” self! LOL! Since I have owned my own home, I have never really decorated for the holidays… enter this little one! She enjoys EACH holiday and wants me to participate in it all! LOL! I have been adjusting and obliging… lol… just because I know it will make her happy. I haven’t written in a while, I have been busy with travel, work, fitness/nutrition and overall parenting. So let me see if I can make sense with this post…
Foster Parents Still Get to Travel
As I was preparing to go out of the country, the question I got the most was “What are you going to do with the little one?” It almost feels like most people think that when you foster you are not allowed to continue with normal life. I mean of course life changes, but you still get to go on vacation or do normal things that you would do in life without a placement. The department provides up to 7 days a year of respite care for all foster youth… and they urge you to use them. I started early with my caseworker trying to get respite care for the little one, but no one really seemed interested. Mainly because my little one doesn’t participate in before or aftercare, so most folks work schedules would not allow for them to get her to and from school. Luckily, my introverted self surprisingly made friends during my training class and I was able to call a couple from my class to see if they were interested in providing respite care. They had recently gotten their license (even though we were in the same training class) and they were eager to see how they could work their schedules for the time when they did get a call for a placement. A win-win for all! My little one did stay with them for the days I was away… and two days after she left them they received a call for the placement of two week old twin boys (swoon)! I had a great time away! I slept and ate whatever… LOL and got to spend time with my European family! It was a great time of refresh for me. When I got back, it was apparent that the little one missed me as she clung to me for most of the evening and next day. The night I got back, I told my mom that the little one missed me so much that I am sure she was going to let me know how much she missed me during the week… and boy was I right!
Tantrums, Tantrums, and MORE Tantrums!
During the first week I was back I couldn’t get a break, if she was not clinging to me, she was fussing or fighting with me. It was not fun! Coupled with jet lag… I was so tired and frustrated it took a lot of strength and patience to not yell at her or just scream. Some nights before I prayed, I would just yell into my pillow all of the things I wanted to say to her… then I prayed for patience to deal with her the next day. The first tantrum was because I asked her to do her homework. The longest 17 minutes of my life as she yelled, cried and screamed. She used her usual, “I miss my mom!” as a way of manipulating me to allow her to have her way. This time I quickly said, “NO!”, but then I auto corrected to tell her that I know she misses her mom, but that does not mean that she doesn’t have to listen and obey. The worst tantrum of the week was on Friday… it was a black Friday indeed! We were actually having a very good day. We got a Christmas tree, went to the movies, and then went to the library to read and play. While we were at the library, my little one started playing with another little girl. They were playing fine for about 30 minutes… then the little girl comes out crying to her mom. Oh brother….! I ask my little one to come to me… and she immediately has an attitude. I ask her if she wants to leave, she says no… so I ask her to tell me what is wrong. She tells me that the other little girl took her doll back. I try to explain that the little girl shared her doll with her for a long time, but if she wants to play with it… I can’t make her share. It’s her doll that she brought from home. I also told her that she still should be kind and say nice words, even when folks are not so kind to her. So I asked her if she wanted to continue playing with the little girl, but if she did.. she could just say sorry and continue playing. She didn’t want to, so I told her it was time to go. OMG!!!!!! She had a total meltdown. She wouldn’t put on her jacket, she wouldn’t move… so I held her wrist. She started hitting me and YELLING in the library, “GET OFF OF ME… YOU’RE HURTING ME!” I explained that if she walked I would not have to hold her wrist. Mind you, I was not holding her wrist tightly… she just didn’t want me to hold her. I did let go and told her to walk… but she wouldn’t move. So I had to pick her up and take her out of the library all while she is screaming, “GET OFF OF ME!!! STOP!!!” I was so scared that someone was going to call the cops on me. LOL! A black lady removing a Hispanic child out of the library. I always carry my placement letter with me… just in case I have to explain myself.
It was not fun, but I made it through. A friend who is also going through the foster process (but she is adopting) came over to my house to talk me through and reassure me that I handled myself properly. I beat myself up a lot because I sometimes just don’t know what to do. I actually take comfort in talking with bio parents that experience similar things with their children. It makes me know that I am not alone… and that I am really doing the best I can. She had no less than 5 tantrums/meltdowns during that week… FIVE!
Calling me “Mom” and sooo attached
Yup! Although she doesn’t call me “mom” she still says, “CC, you’re my mom.” I just look at her and say, “but your mom’s name is…” and she says her mom’s name. I let her know that I am taking care of her like a mom and I am happy to do it. She is also very attached to me… VERY. People comment on it all the time. I am not a very “touchy feely” person in general, I have gotten better as an adult… but this little one wants to hug me all the time, give me kisses and tells me she loves me. It is hard for me to take all of that in… LOL! I let her kiss me on the cheek a few times a day, but sometimes I have to say no. It’s a little much for me and I plan to speak to her therapist about it soon.
So… What’s next?
We’re getting ready for the holidays around here. Like I said, I never had a Christmas tree or had decorations so I’ve put up a Christmas tree and a few other things around the house… she LOVES it! I still don’t know what is going to happen with her case. She has a court date coming up next month… so I just have to wait and see. Her caseworker says that it will be a while, but you never know what the judge will say. I can be honest and say that sometimes, I just want it to be over. I know that parenting is hard, I’ve heard my friends say it, I’ve heard experts say it, I’ve heard other foster parents say it… and I feel bad for thinking it [the placement to end] sometimes. I think I just get so tired of “fighting” with her over things. I do pick and choose my battles with her, but for the most part… I am the only disciplinarian. I am the only one to tell her to brush her teeth, take a bath, do her homework, or go to bed. I am the only one regulating what she eats, making sure that healthy options are around everywhere. When she goes home on the weekends, I don’t know what happens… I do know that she for the most part gets her way and that they give her candy (she tells me that, lol!). It’s hard being the only one providing structure and discipline, but I am making it through with help from my friends and mom.
For now, we are just continuing to find our normal. I signed her up for gymnastics and she starts next week… she is so excited.