Foster Parenting - How the Matching Process Works

I have the best little foster girl this weekend!
This is the text conversation I had with Andrew:
Me: FYI-I am keeping this little girl. You have a sister!! Her name is (we should change that) and she turns six in February and we will celebrate our birthdays together and I will never beat her. She is wonderful!
Andrew: No.
There are some really amazing people fostering children - I am only doing respite care on weekends, which is nothing really, a 72 hour commitment. Others are taking in a child full-time, with no idea how long the child will need care. It's the foster care situation you probably think of - some police officer or social worker calls you at all hours of the night and lets you know they are bringing by a child in need. And now you have a scared child in your house...and you just go about your business...with someone else's child in your home.

My role is much easier. Around Monday or Tuesday, I will get an email and it will have intake forms for 1-3 children who need a place to go on the upcoming weekend. I can look at the forms and decide which one sounds like a good match for me.

I don't know how other respite foster parents do it, but I look first to see if the child has any history of fire-setting or animal abuse.  These are potential deal-breakers for me. I keep an open mind because the intake forms are completed by one underpaid, overworked social worker who is probably getting their information from an exhausted, overwhelmed parent or foster parent looking for assistance. It's possible that they started a fire accidentally while playing with matches because they were in a home with no parental supervision and they were just curious (aka being a child). Or maybe they were in a tantrum, completely out of control of their body, and while flailing around, they hit an animal nearby. Social services forms don't tell the full story and it's not fair to judge someone based off some random check boxes completed during a stressful period.

The next thing I look for is bathroom issues. I'm just not in the place in life where I can mentally deal with dirty diapers on a half-grown child. Bed wetting at night isn't such a big deal if they wear something, but bathroom issues during the day aren't something I want to take on right now.

Sleeping difficulties is another checkbox I focus on. I'm just not able to function at a good level when I get minimal sleep. If the child is known to be one who wakes up every two hours, then I probably won't be the best match. I would prefer to find the form that says: sleeps for 12-14 hours, but I have yet to see that come through. It's not just being in a functional state while the child is with me on the weekend - I need to be alert and prepared for anything that may come up with the child. If they suddenly go into a tantrum, I need to be alert and prepared to prevent them from hurting themself or others-which may include being in the right position to prevent them from accessing something harmful or may include having to put them in a physical hold for ten minutes. And also - this is my weekend. I can't start my work week exhausted from my weekend.

Other information I'm provided:
  • Clinical Diagnosis Axis I-V. Usually one of the diagnosis is PTSD. PTSD!!! In small children??!! Sad.
  • Positives: what does the child enjoy
  • Challenges: potential triggers
  • Community: how does the child do in public
  • Can they be around other children, and specifically male vs female, and what age ranges.
  • History of stealing
  • Tantrums
  • Sexually acting out
  • Hygiene issues
  • Medical issues
I usually am given a recent respite report as well. Every night a child is in respite care, a respite report is required. The respite report is the most current information I will get, so it's important to see - if a child had a really rough time at respite for one worker, it potentially means that I will have a challenging time as well.

I have the right to ask for the therapists evaluation, or I can call the therapist and talk directly to him/her about the child. I did this for the first child I had, only because he was suicidal, coming straight from the hospital, and I wanted to know HOW suicidal he was and if I really needed to be worried while the child was in my house for a weekend. The therapist felt that the boy would be fine and it was mainly being around his bio mom that was causing him the major stresses in life. If I was going to take a child in for more than just weekend care, I would definitely need to see the therapists eval, but for just a weekend, I don't need an in-depth report. And honestly - these are REALLY sad stories!!! I don't need to hear all the heart-breaking details.

This is the matching system for the non-profit I work with - I'm sure that other agencies do things slightly different. I like our system. I feel like I have enough information and I'm always able to say no, I don't think that would be a good match, and then I get different options.

BUSY BUSY BUSY - Notes from my World

In bulleted format for your convenience:

  • I saw a man at a food cart downtown two days ago that looked just like Samuel Jackson. I pretended to be reading the menu nearby him so that I could hear his voice and confirm. It was definitely Samuel Jackson - if Samuel Jackson is now muttering under his breath about the amount of the pollution that he is breathing in, and if he randomly stops muttering to ask a pedestrian for spare change, and if he smells like he's been living on the street.
  • I also saw a man who was all business above the waist, typical dress shirt, carrying a briefcase, but wearing a flowing red velvet skirt. Just walkin along, no big thang.
  • I love being downtown.
  • I've worked about 10-12 hours a day this week. And will have work to do this weekend as well. Boo. Luckily, I love my job and I know this schedule is only sporadic.
  • I'm traveling again for work in early December-YAY!
  • My hammock is still outside and I fear the rainy season may be here until next June. It's cloth. It's big. And it's starting to grow mold. I should have known better-I live in Oregon- and I should have brought it in a couple weeks go when the sun was shining for days on end.
  • I have a foster kid coming for tonight. She has a history of sexual abuse and is developmentally behind. I'm not sure how tonight is going to go...but she's only with me for about 18 hours and hopefully she will sleep for at least 8 of those.
  • I need a haircut.
  • I am totally addicted to the tv series, Homeland. ADDICTED.
  • I had a caramel apple, wrapped in plastic, on my kitchen counter the other day. Three days later, I had a caramel apple covered in tiny little black ants, wrapped in ant-covered plastic, on my ant-covered kitchen counter.
  • I had the most delicious gardenburger for lunch today - even more importantly, I had the most amazing sweet potato tater tots with them. SWEET POTATO TATER TOTS...pure bliss.
  • I miss seeing this kind of bird:

Therapeutic Foster Parenting - When Everything Just WORKS

Now that summer is over and my month of work travel is behind me - I'm starting back up with being a therapeutic foster parent for kids in the community. I've missed it, but in a way, it's been pretty peaceful.  Getting back involved again though reminds me of how hard the world has been to some of our children, and how much need there is for adults to make a difference, to make the world a little less unfair.

This weekend, I had a lovely young girl stay with me. She was probably the "easiest" foster child I will ever have. EVER. Her story is a bit different, in that she qualifies for therapeutic respite care due to struggles in the past combined with a current challenging home life - she has four siblings living in her house with special needs. She has her own history of this and that, but the stress of home is a lot for any child I'm sure. 

And so she came to my house...and we got along splendidly. I adored her-there was never a time when I felt I had to be on edge, or leery of what she was doing, or worry that she was going to flip a switch and suddenly start throwing things at me. Which is nice, right?

Speaking of violent acts by children - Saturday was a required training for foster parents called Intervention Skills. It's two parts, in this first part I learned about some legal requirements I'm supposed to follow when  have kids in my care, and we started learning a little of the physical part - such as, what to do if a child grabs your shirt - there's actually a special technique to remove someones grip from your clothing. We also covered how to handle if a child grabs your arm, grabs on with their teeth (aka biting), or puts you in some kind of choke hold. There were a lot of great examples and stories by the instructor, who has worked with therapeutic children for years. And by great - I mean horrifying. 

Interesting thing about biting - if someone latches on with their teeth, you hold their head in place with the back of one hand, and then you just wait. As soon as you feel any kind of give by their jaw/teeth, you push the limb being bitten into the top of their mouth, and then you push down while rolling the limb out. If you just try to pull your arm or leg out while it's being bitten, you risk them breaking your skin, and it can tear as you're pulling out. So you just wait..and as soon as you get a chance, push in, push down, roll out. Easy right? 

Oh - and pinching -if someone grabs your skin and pinches, holding on with their little angry pincers - you just take one of your hands, keep it flat and push it down against the back of their pincer hand, while pushing up into the pinch. That causes the little pincer to open up and you can peacefully just remove your skin from their grasp and step away quickly. Easy right??  It's a cool trick. Find a partner and try it, you'll be amazed.

Anyway - this weekend, I needed none of these new skills. I had the sweetest little girl staying with me and I hope I see her again as a repeat for respite. We went to the pumpkin patch and she faced her fears of the corn maze- the corn stalks are twice her size! We picked out pumpkins from the patch and we had the most delicious corn on the cob ever. 

While at my house, we did some crafts, we colored, and we spent quite a bit of time playing with playdoh. Of which, I have 43 containers. FORTY-THREE!!! I got a great deal on a box of 36, so that really supplemented my stock.

I discovered that I have the most amazing play-doh skills EVER. I'm considering a future in playdoh sculpting. It was really hard to have to pack everything up at the end of our playdoh time and say goodbye to these creatures:
We also went to see Hotel Transylvania - highly recommend seeing it!! It's a really cute movie, great for all ages.

It was a great weekend....I only wish all foster care weekends were so wonderful! I have the next two weeks off and then I'll have a different child at the end of the month. We can only hope it goes as well.

I Survived Carmaggedon II - Some Of Us Vomited, Some of Us Didn't

The other day, the state of California shut down the busiest highway in America - the 405 in Los Angeles. They call it Carmaggedon and they talked about it nonstop on the news that week. It was like a big fun event was coming...but then here was no fun involved. This was the second time they had to do it, hence: Carmaggedon II.

The first morning of Carmaggedon II, I was just hanging out with a friend of mine, who would like to remain anonymous...we'll call him Andy.
Or Drew.
Or Pandrew.

Names don't matter....but just know that names have been changed in this story to protect the not-so-innocent.

My friend Andy/Drew/Pandrew goes to college. And as sometimes happens when you are a young college student, my friend drank some alcohol. Nothing shocking, nothing excessive, nothing out of control (that I'm aware of), but sometimes when you drink, you sleep in the next day and sometimes you drink and you have to get up four hours later to go to an amusement park with your mom friend.

Many people would think - maybe drinking at 4am is a bad idea with plans at 8:30am, but when you're a young college student, you don't always remember such logic.

And so it was - my friend Andy/Drew/Pandrew headed out to Universal Studios for a fun day in the sun, complete with fast rides, lots of walking, and more fast rides.

We were in the car, on the LA freeway, going about 80 mph when my good friend said to me: I think you need to pull over. I said, no, not at this exit, right? He had the GPS on his phone, but I had to question it as I was certain he was wrong.
But he wasn't wrong. we really NEEDED TO PULL OVER.

Young Andy/Drew/Pandrew wasn't feeling very well.
In fact, he was slightly green.

And so I attempted to talk him out of the decision that I knew was no longer a choice. I told him to put the window down and take some slow breaths and I would pull over shortly. And seconds later, as I was changing lanes at 70mph, my funny young friend stuck his head out the rental car window...not to take a deep breath. But to "exhale." A lot of exhaling was done. He exhaled all over the side of my little rental car. All over the yellow line that I crossed. And slightly on the truck directly behind me that didn't want to let me get over in his lane, even though I used my turn indicator.

And then I took a second to see how green Pandrew was looking, and it seemed like he was no better, so I proceeded to try and get into the next lane on the right-only 3 lanes to go before I was able to pull over....and as I proceeded to cross that dashed yellow line again, Andy stuck his head back out the window and exhaled deeply again. All over the side of my little rental car. All over the yellow line. All over the car that didn't want to let me get over, even though I used my turn indicator.
And then....guess what happened next?

That will teach those aggressive California drivers not to let someone merge after they used their turn indicator!! Welcome to Carmaggedon II, mofo's. Or as we called it all weekend: Karmaggedon.

Anyway, by now, I am finally in the far right lane so I really can pull over and stop the car. And this is when Pandrew said - I'm fine, we can keep going.
So we did.
And he was.

Visitin' My Boy, Makin Faces All the Live Long Day

Wow – it is October already?! So crazy to think 2012 is almost over already. Time goes so much faster as an adult.  Remember the summer days as a child where you wake up whenever, maybe shower and eat some cereal…then you just do *whatever* the rest of the day. Go meet some friends at the school, pick some berries in the backyard, play with your paper dolls, read a book, swim at your lucky-to have a pool friend’s house. And then you still had the ENTIRE NIGHT to do *whatever*.
Sometimes it felt like the day was dragging on f-o-r-e-v-e-r. And then you grow up and suddenly you have to go to work all day and then you rush home to dinner, then you have dishes, then you have to clean, then you have to go for a short walk, then you have to do laundry, then you have to watch the new episode of The Amazing Race while sorting your mail that you only get every few days cause it’s all junk or bills, then you have to get ready for the morning, then you have to clean up cat puke, then you have to shower, then you go to bed-and you do it all over again! I miss the days of *whatever*.

September went by quite quickly with the travel. I got back from South Africa on a Wednesday and the following Wednesday, I was back on a plane headed down to our corporate office in Long Beach. Which happens to be less than 30 miles from my beloved bouncing baby boy, Andrew-so of course I stayed through the weekend and hung out with him. We had a nice dinner on Friday and decided we would splurge and go to Universal Studios on Saturday morning. Universal is fun-it’s not ridiculously crowded, it doesn’t take an hour to get to the park from your car, you can spend less than 6 hrs there and feel satisfied, and did I mention there aren’t a gazillion people there? There’s not. We bought a photo package which allowed us to have every single photo taken of us available online.

We took some classic photos, such as “so terrifyingly scary our faces are melting off”


“Just playing it cool”


“We died on this ride and nobody noticed”


“Fighting in Jurassic Park”


We also have a couple mainstream (boring) photos:
He's so handsome!!

Saturday night, we went to a show at a club in LA – a comedian/magician who also happens to be the host of Cupcake Wars. Funny guy. He had a few tricks where the entire room was a bit bedazzled. A couple of the tricks were so amazing that people didn’t even clap directly after-we all just sat there. He pulled up a bunch of random people from the audience and random like – he threw a Frisbee in the crowd and whoever caught it came on stage, or tossed a ball out in the crowd and had someone toss it to the next person and so on.  

It was fun – but mostly it was nice to just be with Andrew. When you’re with someone for 18 years nearly every single waking day and then suddenly you are not, it’s a weird feeling. Empty nest is no joke, yo. 


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